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We find the dark unsettling because it’s unknown. We don’t like to be “kept in the dark;” we want to know. We want to see where are, where we are going. Darnkess snuffs the light and we quiver, afraid. And yet we face the darkness and the unexpected.
That’s where writers took their stories this week, into the dark. Like a ship coursing across the Great Lakes in the black of night, writers plowed onward.
The following are based on the November 29, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the phrase “into the dark.”
PART I (10-minute read)
Into the Dark by Michael
The old man struggled with every breath. In the past week the darkness he sensed was coming closer. He’d been a man in charge of his destiny throughout his life and now he was approaching what for him was uncertainty.
He realised he was no longer in control, “I don’t think I can get out of this,” he told his son as he gripped his hand tighter. Dependence was foreign to them both, but together they resolved to be together until the end.
Eventually, the old man’s breathing slowed and the son gave his father up to the dark.
His Final Descent by Anne Goodwin
When wood meets soil, only Barry’s left holding the rope. Even the undertaker scowls, throws him that look reserved for outsiders and lily-livered pansies with clean hands.
As a boy, Barry feared the cage that delivered working men into the dark. When they arose, skin stained with sweat and coal dust, it seemed a temporary reprieve.
Of course he’s glad his mother pushed him away, to a safer job on the surface of things. But it severed the tie to his dad, to the community that raised him. Now, his father crated forever in his coffin, it’s too late.
Darkest Destiny by Di @ pensitivity101
I cannot go into the dark alone,
Hold my hand, make me strong,
Help me face this cruel Unknown,
Stay with me, prove me wrong.
Emerge with me on the other side,
From darkness into the light,
Tell me that I haven’t died,
That everything will be alright.
You are the one that I embrace,
My rock, the one that I adore,
My heart and mind memorize your face,
Lead me through this unfamiliar door.
Into the dark, I am not afraid,
Knowing you are there beside me,
Senses enhance whilst others fade,
With you, I face my destiny.
Itinerary by Bill Engleson
Even my best-case scenario involved no light.
Oh, you bet your booties I gave it a lot of thought. Research, Man, that’s the ticket. Every trip I ever took, I planned to the minute, down to the second.
I wasn’t one of those guys, you’ve seen them, they can’t even plan far enough ahead to tie their shoelaces.
That was never me.
I hate surprises.
The not knowing.
Gives me the willies.
But this little adventure.
It had me going.
I started a blog.
Into the Dark.
I’ll pay well, I said.
Tell me, I begged.
What’s death like?
The Christmas Tree by Hugh W. Roberts
“Are you sure this is what you want to see?” sobbed Moriah.
Her daughter nodded her head.
‘It’s beautiful, isn’t it? You know how much I love Christmas,” Mummy.
Choked, Moriah could not answer her young daughter’s question. The tears in her eyes made the lights on the Christmas tree blur into each other.
As they stood together, holding hands, Moriah made a Christmas wish. A wish that would prove the doctor’s predicament of her daughter’s upcoming journey into the dark, because of blindness, untrue.
High up, in the skies above Trafalgar Square, a shooting star ferried the wish.
How Do You Choose to Look at It? by Reena Saxena
“There is an incredibly beautiful universe out there – the kind you have only dreamt about. And it will be yours soon enough …..”
“How much do we have to pay?” yelled an enthusiastic young lad from the back rows.
“It is free.”
“Then there is a catch somewhere. What is the hidden cost?” said another over-cautious person.
“Is it a game to be played?” a techie looked up from his device for a moment.
“It depends how you choose to look at it. One has to get into the dark tunnel first, to come out at the other end.”
Darkness Enfolds by kate @ aroused
The headaches are oppressive,
medication only dulls the pain.
Kids due home from school soon
and I haven’t moved from my room
Eight long years with this tumour
laser treatment stopped it growing
My wish to embrace death
gets stronger by the day
oh for relief from this constant pain
feels like my life is down the drain
The boys have their father
Mitch couldn’t cope
Government says I’m not disabled
I’m so tempted to give up hope
Have no training to get a job
car has died, I can’t cope!
Please give me strength to find the light
The Crate by H.R.R. Gorman
The smoke makes it difficult to breathe. Where is my human? Why is she screaming outside instead of helping me?
Blaring noises and blinking lights scare me. I crawl away into the dark, to my crate, to safety. I curl up on my pillow and whimper as the smoke in the air thickens.
A monster bursts through the door. I bite at its thick hide, but it doesn’t care – it just grabs me and drags me outside where I see her.
“Human!” I bark. “Human!”
I break free of the monster’s grasp and leap into my human’s protective arms.
Darkness Comes by Roberta Eaton
She gazed into the dark depths of the water.
Why had he done it?
Christmas could be a time of great loneliness for people living alone. The good cheer and smiles of families around them resulting in deep despair.
She had received a call from a friend informing her of the death the previous evening. The body had been in the water for a few days making identification difficult.
Water was destructive.
She signed, recalling the message she had received from him a short while before.
Was it a cry for help? Maybe, but it was too late now.
The Black Hole Beyond by Chelsea Owens
Ethereal stardust touched her; tickling, licking, tempting her forward. A thousand thousand glittering steps pulsed the way.
She stepped. And stepped.
One hesitant footfall at a time led her past an eternal tunnel of cosmic shimmering, but also to the edge of inevitable, gaping nothing. Here, there was no stardust, no glitter, no shimmer. Not even a chill, poetic wind whipped against her hesitant spirit, paused on the edge of infinity.
With no eyes to close, no throat to swallow, no resolve to strengthen; she stepped over the edge…
Looking back only once, at the discarded Earth-body far behind.
At This Hour of Eve by Papershots
The world doesn’t have time for this street dancer, his white undershirt and black pants, his slowed-down watery Black Swan, his crystal ball rolling over arms, shoulders, hands, fingers – it never falls! There’s so much else, after all. Like people who turn into fashionable streets or buildings as if they lived there, striving to give that casual impression to those looking. And there are many. Being surprised, deceived possibly, but always to be kept in the dark about the person they glimpsed at rushing by being or not somebody important. Or, some day, a star. Étoiles, they call them.
Another One Through Ellis Island by JulesPaige
Into that dark of Adam’s ale, to hold onto
The waxed brass ships rail, and just look.
T’was a gentle rain that night when
She’d gone above, to walk the deck.
Feel the ocean rocking, breath clean air.
Into that dark of transformation
From old to brand new.
Every fiber of her being was
Excited to see and explore those
Gold paved streets.
Into that dark of all unknown things
To be enlightened, to see Lady Liberty.
The story was told that she had won
A writing contest… her trip to freedom?
No one could confirm her Grandmother’s story.
One Good Turn by D. Avery
He leaned on the doorjamb looking in on his sleeping daughter. His wife slipped under his arm. “She is so beautiful,” she whispered.
“She’s my light.” They walked back to the living room.
“You’re nervous as a cat tonight. What’s wrong? You’ve missed those awful ‘meetings’ before.” She twisted her blonde bangs, showing her own anxiety. “I wish you never went. No job is worth it.”
“I took Angela and that girl Celia to the vet’s. Celia’s cat got hit… Her parents met us there. Buzz saw us.”
Pulling the curtain aside again, he peered into the dark night.
Dark and Light, Black and White by Geoff Le Pard
‘Amanda’s a dark one.’
‘Do you mean she’s mysterious, or you’re being politically incorrect about her racial characteristics or she’s the primordial, sapient, cosmic force of evil.’
‘Probably, though the last one’s a stretch; it’s more she can be a bit of a pain if I forget she likes her coffee black.’
‘You wouldn’t say that.’
‘Why not? If you want a room dark you get blackout curtains.’
‘Are thin curtains whiteout then?’
‘No, that’s a bad snow-storm.’
‘That’s because going inside your head is always like going into the dark, Morgan.’
Darkness by Pete Fanning
I sleep with fear and cuddle with failure. My restless bed-mates jostle me awake, thrashing in the dark—in my head—as I pore over my words. Oh the mistakes, the holes, the terrible grammar. My own personal monsters in the closet.
My bed is where doubt and desire dual. Ten paces into the dark. My quickening heartbeats produce sweat on my brow, dread in my chest, an avalanche of worry.
But morning arrives, and the sunlight finds my window, squeezing through the sliver of curtains. New words are knocking around.
And so I must meet them.
Into the Dark by @DaveMMAdden
Coach’s voice, as if falling into the dark, could still be heard, yet he was nowhere in sight.
“For all the practices coach berated me for being a little late, where was he for the biggest fight of my life?” The thought illuminated the hopeful champion’s mind, de the intersection where hopes and dreams are put on hold.
Coach’s voice was crystal clear now, but Travis couldn’t understand why he wasn’t coaching?
At that moment, Travis’ eyes popped open. There was coach kneeling next to him, haloed by the lights above.
“Ya got caught, champ.”
Lights by Anita Dawes
I watched as my soul sailed into the dark,
the thinking animated part of me disappearing.
A black cloud held me in a bubble,
my mind washed clean, my muse shut out.
There was no way for me to know
how long the darkness would last.
Would my muse be able to find her way back to me?
Would I pick a pen, touch my keyboard;
find those words to place inside a new cover?
It wasn’t too long before the scales dropped from my mind,
soon I could see beautiful lights
sailing across the blue black dark horizon…
PART II (10-minute read)
Voyage by The Dark Netizen
Into the darkness, I lead my ship.
It seemed like the best idea before it became reality: Escape the mundanities of regular life, and set sail on a voyage to explore the world. I wanted to experience the various adventures this world had to offer. A bunch of young ones who were influenced by my words, joined me on my escape from reality. This scares me now. What if I made a mistake? Will these young ones suffer because of me?
Not on my watch…
The darkness does not look so bad, with the moon and stars guiding me…
Trust by Jo Hawk The Writer
“Are you sure?” Lenore asked leaning over Artel’s shoulder to peer at the map.
“Damn it. Don’t you believe me?” Artel said shoving the map at her before stepping away.
“Of course, I do. But I didn’t expect this.” Lenore waved her hand indicating the opening in front of them. She wrinkled her nose at the dank smell.
“He said ‘expect the unexpected’. So, I guess the real question is…” Artel paused and looked hard at Lenore, “do you trust the oracle?”
Lenore glanced at the map, then nodded.
Together they lit their torches and stepped into the dark.
Stepping into the Unfamiliar by Norah Colvin
The car lights dimmed as she reached the door – timed perfectly. But, when the porch light didn’t activate, immersing her in total darkness, she cursed the storm. As she pushed the door of the still unfamiliar house, she rummaged for her phone. Dang! No charge. She inched along the wall, fingers seeking the corner and toes the step she knew was close. Stepping down, she dumped her bag and tossed her saturated scarf. She edged towards the sideboard and a battery-powered candelabra. As she fumbled for the switch, the room was flooded with light and cheers of ‘Happy housewarming!’
Snowy Vacation by Nancy Brady
On that first weekend in December, our family decided to spend a few days at our mountain cabin. We were excited to spend a last weekend away before winter.
Flakes fell, becoming a blizzard, and we were plunged into the dark, the power knocked out. Our old oil lamp became our only light, but we made the best of it.
The following morning, with impassible roads, we hunkered down, knowing we weren’t going anywhere soon. Still, we had plenty of food, but not much lamp oil. One night followed another, but our lamp continued to shine, lasting eight days.
Further Into The Dark by Kay Kingsley
We walked arms lengths apart scanning the forest floor, our heads sweeping back and forth methodically, praying to recognize anything out of place other than ourselves. It was getting cold as the night crept up behind us. Our hearts were racing as sticks and branches snapped below our feet from our weight. Flashlights turned on, we were nowhere near stopping. She’d already been missing for three days and was out here, somewhere. There was still a chance. The tension was broken as I yelled, “Cara, can you hear me?” Only silence responded as we walked further into the dark.
Gordian Knot by Kerry E.B. Black
Bonnie squeezed Michelle’s hand and begged, “Don’t go. It’s scary.”
Michelle’s eyes glistened with unshed tears, but whether formed of fear, sadness, or excitement, Bonnie couldn’t tell. She tugged on her sister’s arm. “Michelle, please. Don’t leave. Who’ll take care of me?”
Without a sideways look, Michelle tousled Bonnie’s curls. “You don’t need me,”
She pointed with her chin into the unknown, “but I need this.”
Bonnie clung to her sister, but Michelle loosened her fingers with ease, as though the Gordian Knot of reliance bore no challenge. She ignored Bonnie’s cries and stepped away and into the dark.
Into The Dark by Ritu Bhathal
Swaying slightly, she stumbled out into the dark.
It took Penny a few moments for her eyes to adjust to the dim light.
The door had slammed shut behind her.
Why had she decided to have that last drink?
She knew alcohol and her didn’t mix, yet all it took was the encouragement of a few mates, and she was knocking them back.
And with each drink, came confidence.
She danced, and smiled, and flirted.
But he took it too far.
The pushing to the toilets.
The clawing hands.
She shoved him and ran, fleeing via the fire exit.
The First Night by Juliet Nubel
The key turned stickily in the lock. She would get the knack of it soon, the twist and pull necessary to open the flimsy front door.
Reaching for the light switch she heard nothing. Silence was a bad sign. Where was the damn mains box to shed electricity on her new abode?
Her phone was so old that its unhelpful face was a small grey square and the one number she would have called in the past had been erased forever.
She stumbled blindly into the lumpy sofa and sat there, letting her tears fall quickly into the dark.
Into the Closet by Regina Davis-Sowers (The Humble Word Nerd)
Today, a new horror entered her life. Johnny Campbell had spitefully called her “Little Monster,” and the other kids had shouted the name at her in all of her classes. Caroline nearly tripped and fell as she raced for home, needing more than ever the solitude found only in the closet. It had been her refuge from her mother’s verbal abuse. Being in the closet was like moving in the dark of night, safely hidden from the light where people can see you to hurt you. She hated to return to school tomorrow, but the closet always awaited her.
Lost Compass by Sascha Darlington
The rainy days are the easiest. I turn over, pretend the sun hasn’t risen, the day hasn’t begun, except for the hum of traffic, mocking in its ocean-like rhythm.
At work, I cajole, pretend. At home, I sink, obsess over regrets that lure me into the dark, driving me to ask how did I get here?
When I was little, my granny would open a can of tuna. I’d eat the flakes from the can while she mentored. “You can be and do anything you want.”
Molten desire. Wrong road. Answered naïve prayer.
Gran, I let us both down.
Darkness by Frank Hubeny
We knew but didn’t know. Walking into the dark without a good flashlight on this road from our cabin wasn’t the smartest thing we did. Street lights at home were everywhere, but there were no lights here and then there were stars, bright and unbelievably everywhere, but not bright enough.
Our phones helped give some light and our feet felt for the edge of the road. We rushed back. We hoped it wasn’t too far. The Moon would rise soon. We saw it through the trees on the horizon. Would it help us see?
And then there it was.
Darkness by Floridaborne
“You can’t keep writing and rewriting,” my husband says. “You’re not learning anything and getting nowhere.”
“I’m searching in the darkness with my characters,” I explain. “As they learn, I learn.”
He continues to admonish me. “When you give an explanation, you must be concise!”
“What do you want me to explain?” I ask.
“Whether it’s right or wrong, you must present it well!”
“I know that during the holidays it’s best to steer clear of you,” I sigh. “Learn to take your own advice.”
He grunts and says, “Then you’ve learned nothing,” as he heads toward the door.
The Meaning of Life by TNKerr
Abelard Stiles turns his profile and strong jawline to the audience as he clasps both hands of Marissa Herring, his costar, playing Angelique. He looks longingly into her cerulean eyes, pellucid as gems of northwestern azure.
“Angelique, my love, I must go. I leave you now for the glory of Canada. My comrades await. ” He drops her hands and pivots melodramatically, walking out of the spotlight, into the dark at the back of the set.
Marissa pushes her hair back, clasps her breast, and collapses like a husk to the stage. “Oh, Neville; don’t go, come back, please.”
Upon reading Hawthorne’s “Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Saifun Hassam
Camilla sat on an oaken bench in the twilight of a fall evening. An owl hooted as the evening sky deepened into night. She rose quietly, drawn irresistibly into the dark of a crumbling arbor among whispering willow trees.
Once the mysterious and beautiful Esmeralda lived in a cottage there, among gardens of fragrant flowers. Exotic and poisonous flowers from her father’s botanical gardens. Esmeralda breathed in the wondrous and magical scents, and was drawn into the darkness and mysteries of the Dream.
The cottage was no longer there, the gardens had vanished. And yet a haunting fragrance lingered.
Into the Darkness by Irene Waters
“It’s good to have you here.” Her mother nodded agreement, squeezing Rebekkah’s arm.
“See you in the restaurant sixish for breakfast love.” The elderly couple turned and walked away, heading to the burré they had been allocated in their daughter’s hotel. The dim lights from the house disappeared plunging them into the dark.
“I didn’t know blackness like this existed.”
“No stars. No moon. No electricity.”
“Wish Beccy’d given us a torch.” They stumbled into trees, down ditches unable to find their way.
“We know the light always comes. Let’s just sit and wait. We’ll sing.”
“Two blind mice.”
The Night Before by Liz Husebye Hartmann
“What have you got there?”
“Special order for Daniel, in Minnesota!”
“Minnesota is too general, see? The original says Minnetrista.”
“Check the database. Where’s your tablet, Kringle?”
“Dammit, I’m a driver and a toymaker, Rudolph, not a techie,” He pulled his beard, frustrated.
Apologetic, Rudolph bumped his belly with an antler. “You’re also an innovator, Santa…the guy who saw promise in a young buck’s red nose.”
“I’m good with elves, but those consultants in the brown uniforms creep me out.”
“You’re fine. Just do your Ho-ho-ho routine, and go bravely into the dark.”
“Still guiding my sleigh, Rudolph…Thanks!”
Sunrise is Expected by Ann Edall-Robson
Sunrise is expected
Over the ridge
Of towering pines
Shades of melon and lemon
Touch blackened sky
Clear blue whiteness
Scattered by the wind
Lofty darkened clouds
Destined to where
Colour turns to flattened gray
Scurrying with speed
Driven by turbine winds
Time evolves in minutes
Welcoming day colours gone
Pushed from sight by gusts
Distant thunder rumbles
Mountain peaks push
Up into the dark
The subtle warning spoke
Of what is yet to come
Relentless prairie winds howl
On into the stormy night
Until their quiet song settles
The towering pines
On the ridge
Where sunrise is expected
Light in the Lode by D. Avery
“Is Shorty a spelunker, Pal?”
“More like a miner. Why?”
“Jist wunderin’. She’s often talkin’ ‘bout caves an’ dark places. What’s she do, dig in the ground, mine fer copper?”
“Nah, but she does gather rocks, right in the light a day at the shore.”
“Shorty selects stones in the sunshine by Superior’s shore?”
“Sure as shift, Kid.”
“Then what’s she a miner of, Pal?”
“Yer thicker an’ a Superior snow squall, Kid. Shorty works words. She mines stories. Heard she hit a mother lode that starts right here at the ranch an’ reaches all ‘roun the world.”
All Write in the End by D.Avery
“Course we’re ‘here’, Pal, we’re always where we’re at. Uh, where we at?”
“That spot I was tellin’ ya ‘bout.”
“This’s more ’n a spot. This’s a big ol’ hole in the hill.”
“Gateway ta Hell?”
“Why? It’s darker ‘n dark’s night.”
“Shorty says, that’s why. Anyway, what’s the worst thing could be in there?”
“Bats, bears, spiders, snakes, catamounts. Mebbe a pack a writers, think nuthin’ ‘bout killin’ off characters.”
“I’m thinkin’ on it. Let’s go. We’ll catch a story.”
“Ta bring back ta the campfire?”
“Yep. Write light.”
The last of the turkey and wild rice soup is gone. Officially, Thanksgiving has ended, and the break at Carrot Ranch is over. The barn doors open, the campfire is stoked, and we are ready to share stories.
My mind wanders like a sailor on the inland seas of the Great Lakes. From wooden craft to steel ones, many a ship scatters across the floor of Lake Superior. Writing something big is like navigating dangerous waters — it can be sink or swim, and when the gales of November come early, well, we ride out the storm. We write into the dark of night.
I have a confession to make: I’ve felt frozen since March of 2016. If I looked at a calendar, I could probably name the exact date. Just weeks before, I had led a successful BinderCon live event in Missoula, Montana. I was flowing between two manuscripts, developing sketches for another, writing a weekly history column for a regional magazine, and writing a quarterly publication for a client.
Every morning I rose to more migrators on Elmira Pond. Mergansers, buffalo-heads, widgeons. A research room flanked my large office where I dreamed that one day I’d have a custom table for small workshops in North Idaho. Already I had a writer’s room where guests could stay to write and experience my “peace of Idaho.”
I froze that March day when our landlord sent me an email informing us our lease was up and the owners were planning to sell. All along I had wanted to buy the place, but they weren’t interested in selling. The long-term lease was fine with us. We had no intention to move. Now what? That uncertainty seeped into my bones the way I imagine the sound of the final bell ringing on the Edmond’s Fitzgerald.
Of course, the journey that unraveled was so far from anything I thought would happen. Early on I knew I could succumb to bitterness.
“This hand is bitterness
We want to taste it, let the hatred numb our sorrow
The wise hands opens slowly to lilies of the valley and tomorrow”
~from Natalie Grant’s “Held.”
In the midst of losing our rental, it was apparent something was not right with my husband. What had been easy to dismiss could no longer be ignored. I never thought we’d actually be homeless long, but it’s been two years and five months. Of course, we finally made it to our daughter and her husband after wandering the west, and we finally got the Hub the medical help he needs.
My North Idaho has given way to my Keweenaw. And I’ve rediscovered wander and peace. My Carrot Ranch community never faltered, and like wandering bards we continued to flash. Many circled the wagons when I needed it and have become cherished friends.
But my confession that I froze is an essential lesson in tenacity. I’ve said before that writing is more about tenacity than talent. You know I’ve hung in there, but I also lost my writing mojo — that magic I felt when I chased stories and worked with my characters. I lost my joy.
Last year I signed up for NaNoWriMo to jump start my missing spark. And I couldn’t get past 17,000 words. I experienced a great freeze when I tried to get the flow of my WIP moving. Several months later I asked for help from a few close alpha-readers (these are readers you know and trust and differ from beta-readers who are less familiar with you as a writer and more familiar with the genre you are writing).
Even with their honest feedback, I still couldn’t thaw. Frustrated, I turned to work on other projects. More recently, I asked a few more alpha-readers to look at my original manuscript. Maybe I should go with the original story and setting. With feedback and indecision for a setting, I signed up for NaNoWriMo again.
TUFF was my tool. Flash fiction is not part of my deep freeze, so I used that to flash my way into writing 1,800 words a day. Then something magical happened. Oh, the joy, the writing mojo returned, and I cranked out 91,000 words. Not that they are great words or even a cohesive draft, but from their depths, I salvaged a new perspective, a new character to carry a burden that wasn’t working on my protagonist.
The world of Dr. Danni Gordon, archeologist and reluctant wife of a warrior who doesn’t know it’s time to quit, came to life.
It’s important that I retain and share two important lessons — first, just because you can’t feel the creative magic doesn’t mean you quit writing. Second, community is everything. We cannot be writers in isolation. When I went into the dark of night, I never felt alone. I was like a ship that could send and receive signals.
Don’t quit and don’t quarantine yourself from your tribe.
How amazing our technology is and how it can connect us! I’m choosing to celebrate technology because it’s so easy for us to curse it and wonder if it’s complicating our lives. We, humans, are complicated. Technology is not going to simplify anything for us. But it opens doors of wonder for the creative and curious – right now, I’m communicating with Carrot Ranchers all around the world from a remote shore with waves and ships we can all monitor while listening to a favorite station from our resident yarnist in New England and reading a book that arrived from (old) England by an author and friend who reminds us all that we write because we are in the process of “becoming someone.”
Keeping connected to creative expression is one of the tenets of Carrot Ranch. It has helped me, and I hope it helps you. Now, we are going to write about what it is to go into the dark night.
November 29, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the phrase “into the dark.” What must a character face? Write about an encounter, journey, relationship, or quest. Follow the ship’s lights on gloomy seas. Go where the prompt leads you.
Respond by December 4, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. Rules & Guidelines.
Rescue in the Dark of Night (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills
Shivering, Danni danced with both her hands flash-frozen to the chukar cage. They ignored her. Danni breathed deeply, wiggling each foot, swaying. Blackjack stomped in his stall, lowered his head and nickered. Danni cocked her head, listening for a vehicle. She told her horse, “Wishful thinking, boy.” In the dark of night, Danni marched, thought about hot chocolate, and imagined a noon-day sun overhead. Blackjack’s head rose, ears perked and alert. Danni strained to hear soft crunching in the snow. She crouched, helplessly stuck to the cage when the barrel of a rifle opened the barn door. Ramona arrived.