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Asleep In the Mother's Bosom: My response to Bill Holland's Story Challenge (Updated)

Updated on January 25, 2020
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Chris has written more than 200 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.

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Bill's Challenge

Bill Holland recently issued a challenge to anyone on HubPages who wanted to write a 1000+ word story based on a series of five photographs. The story is to follow the order in which he posted the pictures. This is my response to that challenge. If you would like to see the challenge, visit https://hubpages.com/literature/Billybuc-Photo-Challenge-Prompt-Installment-1#comment-17867482

Asleep In the Mother's Bosom

Sleep has evaded me for weeks, and this remedial stroll through the trees of my Father’s country estate seems to be accomplishing what I hoped for. I feel so drowsy, I could lie down in the middle of this path and sleep the sleep of a weary warrior. Though not a warrior, I am a person to be feared on Wall Street, where I work 80 hours each week. I live in a Manhattan loft overlooking the Hudson.

People attend to my every demand, falling over themselves to be the first to fulfill my desires. I am like Caesar; Julius, not Nero. Right now, I would love nothing more than to fall into my luxurious bed, pull my duvet up to my chin, and sleep. But I am so tired, I would settle for a straw tick and a grain sack blanket.

This urge to sleep seems as unnatural as my recent bout of wakefulness. If I don’t find a place to rest soon, I might fall to the ground. Is this what it feels like to die? I stumble into a clearing, a meadow where the aroma of wildflowers invades my nostrils, and the prism of light and colors blinds me.

When my sight clears, I follow the faint remnant of a path through the flowers and weeds to a place where a bed of succulent grass and a two-hundred-year-old tombstone welcome me. The earth in which this lushness grows is so soft, I lie down, and it draws me into itself like a mother pressing an infant to her bosom. I sleep.

#

How long have I been lying here? I can’t move. I taste decay as dirt forces its way into my mouth. The same soil that is finding its way down my throat plugs my nose. I try to blink, and the grit of sandy soil scratches my eyeballs. Something is pulling me down, but to where?

For an instant, I see a twisted face barely more than a skull with worms crawling in and out of every crack and hole. The head twists on a bony neck, looks at me, and, if possible, I believe it smiles.

In an explosion of hot, moist, rank air, the same mother who drew me to her bosom for sleep belches me out onto the ground where I land on my back with a loud thud. Everything hurts. I feel sick. Not just my head, but my stomach and bowels as well.

Source

I scramble to my feet. Like a drunk leaving the bar at two in the morning, I weave across the meadow, casting my arms around to gain my balance. I see a man and woman having a picnic. I wave to them and cry out for help. They abandon their things and disappear into the trees on a gravel trail. I continue to call, “Help me, Help me!”

The trail opens into a clearing where a barn and silo stand in desperate need of repairs and a coat of paint. I feel the same as the barn looks: old, twisted, joints separating, the inside filled with corruption.

Source

Beyond the barn stands an old house. At the front, wooden steps creak beneath my feet. I drag my aching limbs across the porch until I come to the door. Over and over, I slam my fist against the wood. I scream and cry. But no one comes.

I need water. On my hands and knees, I crawl off the porch. By the time I reach the back of the house, I’m on my feet. A pond lies on the opposite side of the yard. I run toward the water. Several times, I trip and fall. At the water’s edge, I lean out, close my eyes, lower my head, and drink like an animal.

Source

When my thirst is satisfied, I open my eyes and look at the pond’s surface. Water drips from my mouth creating ripples that distort the image. Clouds drift across the reflected sky. Trees create a dark border. Then I see my face and shove myself away. What has happened? I run back toward the house where a car is backing out of the driveway. It speeds away with a rooster tail of gravel spraying out behind.

I race down the gravel trail to the meadow and see the tombstone on the far side. Stretched out on the ground in front of it is the body of a man. As I approach the grave, the body does not move except for the rise and fall of his chest as he breathes. I crawl forward on my hands and knees until I am looking down into his face.

It is me.

No wonder that poor couple fled and cowered in the house. It was not me who staggered through the meadow, along the gravel trail to the barn and house but the hideous corpse from the grave, and I was animating it.

I lie on the lush grass and the soft earth, still inhabiting the body of the corpse.

My face appears above me, looking down into the empty eye sockets of the ruined body in which I now dwell. With my voice, another speaks.

“After all these years, you have come to visit me.” He looks around at the meadow and smiles. “This estate should have been mine, you know.”

I open the mouth of the corpse to speak, but he goes on.”

“It really is a fair trade. My body for yours. Yours for mine. I’m weary of lying here, and you are in great need of a long rest. Sleep well, my dear nephew.”

My body stands above me, turns on its heel, and walks away.

I, on the other hand, sink into the mother’s bosom.


Source

© 2020 Chris Mills

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    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      6 days ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

      Thank you Lawrence.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      7 days ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Chris

      Loved this story.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      2 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

      My brother Sean, I have missed you here. Welcome back. I'm glad the story seemed realistic to you. A fan club in Greece? That would take a miracle. haha. Nice to see you today.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      2 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

      Nikki, Bill's photos led the way so well, my story was fairly easy to write. It was like drawing a picture by following the dots. Thanks for reading and for your kind words.

    • Sean Dragon profile image

      Ioannis Arvanitis 

      2 weeks ago from Greece, Almyros

      I am so glad I finally didn't miss this little narrating masterpiece on my absent, my dear brother! I lived it! I still have the taste of soil in my mouth! I am so lucky having the chance to read your work. I intend to create a Chris Mill's fan club here in Greece! Thank you, my brother, thank you for the thrill!

      I wish Lady Love to fills your Heart, always!

      Sean

    • nikkikhan10 profile image

      Nikki Khan 

      2 weeks ago from London

      Chris, I didn't know you wrote this intriguing story too. Such a detailed description of a buried corpse speaking from his own mouth. Quite an adequate imaginary you have used here. I'm impressed with your creative talents once more.

      You have met the challenge very well.

      Brilliant!

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      2 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

      Thank you, Lora. I'm glad the end was satisfying.

    • Lora Hollings profile image

      Lora Hollings 

      2 weeks ago

      This story certainly drew me in and kept my attention all the way through! It reminds me of a bad dream that you really want to wake up from but you just can't because you are one of the main characters. A very creative and suspenseful story with a real surprise ending. Great job on meeting Bill's challenge.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      3 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

      Venkatachari M, Thank you for your kind words and for reading the story. Sorry I didn't get back to you right away.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 

      4 weeks ago from Hyderabad, India

      A good horror story, Chris! You have presented it so well!!! I enjoyed reading this unique take of yours with those photos provided by Bill Holland. Wonderful Response.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      4 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

      Paula, that's easy. I just don't sleep. That's probably where all the strange stuff in my head comes from. Thanks for stopping by. It is always good to see you.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 

      4 weeks ago from UpstateWestern,New York

      Well Chris...This amazing tale of yours, is what I call "certainly rising to the challenge!". Speaking of sleeping, after coming up with this incredibly creative, dark story, how do YOU sleep, my friend?

      Per usual, I'm trailing behind in information and activities. (Wasn't aware Bro Bill had presented a challenge) Looks like he has set himself up for serious work, reading through the massive talents participating. It also looks like you're right up there with the front-runners!

      Good Luck Chris! Cheers, Paula

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      4 weeks ago from SW England

      Yes, I will. I also have your challenge to do, so....

      Ann

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      4 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

      Ann, it's good to see you today. No excuses. I want to see Ann's story.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      4 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

      Brenda, thank you for reading and for your kind comments.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      4 weeks ago from SW England

      What an amazing response to the challenge, Chris! You've done so well at creating suspense and atmosphere. Each turn was a spooky surprise.

      I was going to have a go but I'm not so sure now!

      Excellent!

      Ann

    • Brenda Arledge profile image

      BRENDA ARLEDGE 

      4 weeks ago from Washington Court House

      Wow!

      What a great story. I could never have expected this from those photos.

      Your writing draws me in...wanting to read more.

      I love the ending.

      Congratulations on a successful write to Bill's challenge.

      Awesome!

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      4 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      4 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

      Dora, I appreciate your visit and your comment. Thank you.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      4 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      The mysterious unearthly events keep me reading to find out how it ends. Great read!

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      4 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

      Audrey, I'll have a revised version of this story in my compilation this summer. It will feature some of my horror, sci fi, and fantasy stories. I'm glad you enjoyed this story, and I appreciate your compliment very much.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      4 weeks ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Chris

      Your talent as a storyteller is off the charts! You had me hooked from the first line to the last line...a master with words. I'd be grateful for even 1/10th of your talent.

      Thank you.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      4 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

      Nell, Glad you liked it. Nope, I try to avoid taking the easy way out.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      4 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

      Verlie, I think you may be right. This might make a good comic book story. Thanks for the idea.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      4 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

      Linda, thanks. The ending was fun to write although I had to wait for it. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      4 weeks ago from England

      So creepy! And not one to read at night, lol! I thought he was going to wake up and realize it was a dream. Nice one!

    • snakeslane profile image

      Verlie Burroughs 

      4 weeks ago from Canada

      Oh! Chris, this is great horror. So graphic. I can imagine it as a 'Weird Tales" comic book. Impressive write, with the way you weave the action in and out of reality.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      5 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a great story, Chris. I love the mystery in the tale and the unexpected ending. You did an excellent job with Bill's challenge!

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

      MizB, I am happy to have given you a boost today. Thanks for reading the story.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      5 weeks ago from Beautiful South

      Chris, what an imagination! You really have a flare for the macabre. I wasn't sure about the ending, so I had to keep reading. Wonderful stuff, just the boost I needed for this afternoon.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

      Lee, it is a pleasure to meet you. I'm glad you stumbled onto this story. Thanks for taking time to say hello.

    • Lee Yael profile image

      Lee Yael 

      5 weeks ago from Philippines

      II stumbled upon this article and I wish I can write something as good as this. Very well made.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

      Linda, thank you.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      5 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Wow, Chris, you are the master of the macabre and you have the praise of one of the best storytellers I know. I can't add anything here but WOW!.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

      Thank you, Bill. I humbly accept your words.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Chris, if I don't like a piece, or if I'm ambivalent about writing style, I'll say something vague like nice job...good effort...blah blah blah....you play in a different ballpark. If I use the word "excellent" that means we just left a AAA stadium and walked into Fenway. :) Seriously, we all have weaknesses, and we all have things to work on....but you are an excellent storyteller.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

      Bill, I respect your knowledge and skill as a writer. I always have. That is why it floors me every time you compliment one of my stories. Because I know your in depth knowledge of this craft, I also know that you see the same weaknesses in this piece that I see. I'll be working on those parts as I prepare it for publication. I just appreciate that you know when to let a person find their way. I'm sure that in private you would push a person to the limits of their ability. I'll just keep finding my way. Thanks for the encouragement.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      I commented yesterday and alas the comment is gone. Bottom line: you are an excellent creative writer. Over the years I have had the opportunity to watch you grow in your craft and it has been a joy to do so. Well done my friend.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

      Pamela, Thank you. I had to wait a little while on this ending, but I think it was worth it.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

      You had me hooked after just a few words and I would never have suspected that ending for this scary story. You certainly rose to Bill's challenge, Chris.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

      Liz, With this imagination, I can guarantee you I was never bored as a kid. Thank you the comment. Nice to see you.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      5 weeks ago from UK

      You have really plumbed the depths of your imagination in this story and created a piece around the photos that I would never have dreamt of.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

      Hari Prasad S, I appreciate you taking the time to comment after reading. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

    • shprd74 profile image

      Hari Prasad S 

      5 weeks ago from Bangalore

      Captivating write. Loved the imaginations of linking a man in need of sleep and corpse in need of action. Wonderful.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

      John, thanks for the compliment. This would have been a good one for us to collaborate on. You can do this, John. haha

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      5 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

      This was a captivating but macabre tale, Chris. Your imagination knows no bounds. I am trying to come up with an idea for this challenge but so far my muse isn’t cooperating.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

      Eric, bring somebody with you. haha

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      5 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Wow! no comment until I come back and read it again.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

      Manatita, when I see a grave, I think dark thoughts. haha. I hope you decide to take part in the challenge as well.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      5 weeks ago from london

      An eerie or surreal sort of tale. A spooky one, Bro. I don't quite get Bill's idea. I'll go over and have a look. Peace.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

      Shauna, I had to wait for the ending. I had a vague idea what I wanted, but it took a few hours of doing something else, like sleeping. Thanks for the comment.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

      Thanks, Ruby. This was a blast to write. Sleep well, my friend.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      5 weeks ago from Central Florida

      Wow, Chris. You really rose to the challenge. I didn't see that ending coming in a million years!

      You used some very creative, descriptive language in this story, which made it possible to put myself inside and watch.

      Great job!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      5 weeks ago from Southern Illinois

      Wow! I was spellbound throughout this exciting and spooky story. I hope I never need sleep that bad. lol Perfect response to Bill's challenge.

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