Story Starter November – Iwona Dufaj

Rite-Of-Passage

We had a tremendous response to our October Story Starter! Thanks and good luck to all who entered.

Our November Story Starter features a beautiful painting by Iwona Dufaj.

To enter, write a short piece (100 words maximum) inspired by the art featured below. It can be any form of writing (poetry, prose, dialogue, haiku, etc.) as long as it is original. Submit your entry in the comment section below. Check the full entry rules and format here.

Introducing our November inspiration piece:

Rite Of Passage

About The Artist:

Iwona Dufaj photo 2

Iwona Dufaj always sketched and experimented with different media, as well as with surreal imagery. She studied design and art direction at the Ontario College of Art and Design. Over the past decade, her career in graphic design has augmented her study of humankind.

Dufaj’s work has been exhibited in galleries all over North America since 1995 and in annual exhibitions for private collectors since 2003. She taught art at the Mavo Academy of Arts and Music from 2005 to 2009.

Currently, Dufaj’s main focus is on creating a body of work that represents the evolution of women’s role in society throughout history and into the present, combining them to create surrealistic stories that merge the two worlds together.

She has received a distinguished Award of Excellence from the Art Gallery of Clarington and People’s Choice Award from the Station Gallery in Whitby.

 Presently Iwona Dufaj works out of her studio in Pickering, Ontario, Canada.

Want to check out the October entries? Click here.

Feeling inspired? Paste in your 100-word entry below!

74 Comments
  • I had no business on that bridge.

    I should have stayed home but when she pressed her umbrella into my hands and begged me to go, I took one look at her tear-ravaged face and obliged. All the way I tried to talk myself out of it. After failing, I resorted to berating myself for getting so deeply involved.

    I held the umbrella low. From the ground I imagine it looked like a lover’s painted lips. I sighed and pulled my raincoat tighter. Still the cold seeped in. I stopped twice to sneeze then concentrated on walking like Kathleen.

  • The cry for help propelled me across the ancient bridge, despite the haunted feeling of the shivery mist. Rain pelted down upon my blood red umbrella as I disregarded the warnings of a murderer on the loose.

    I had to help! How could I ignore another’s desperate plea? The wind howled eerily. The mist engulfed me. Should I continue? Then I heard footsteps.

    Suddenly, I froze as a sinister-looking man in black skulked towards me. A knife glinted evilly in his hand when lightning illuminated the night.

    Too late, I realized the cry for help had come from me.

  • Slowly, I began the journey forward, building the road as I went. The stones beneath me felt and looked substantial, strong, sufficient to support me on my way, and my protective red umbrella diverted fine droplets of moisture away from my hair and clothing, so it was not a physically painful process. I couldn’t escape the certainty that something huge and insubstantial watched me pass through the fog with uncaring but not inimical eyes. I knew for sure that just beyond my visual reach, the stones supporting me faded away to nothingness, as wispy and slippery as the mists.

  • WHEN WINTER ENDS

    She cut a lonely figure as she stood on the bridge in the swirling mist. Her trademark red umbrella added a splash of colour to the bleak landscape. The collar of her coat was turned up high. Enchanted, many yearned to get close to the elusive, mystical figure. But she was as cold as the ice that froze the land over the long, frigid months. I startled her one day. Her icy veneer melted and a solitary tear ran down her face. Without warning, Lady Winter jumped off the bridge! I spotted Lady Spring on the horizon. “Enchantée”, I whispered.

  • No longer will I be tethered to material things:
    I will find my own path and make it strong.

    Free of guilt, free of debt, free of doubt,
    I will break the bonds tied to me and float.

    It is my right to choose, to explore, to succeed and to fail,
    I will do so with dignity and grace.

    Under my umbrella, I will weather all that I face,
    I will be a beacon for those who look for inspiration.

    They may follow, but this journey is mine.
    I will have faith.

  • In her time-warped world she has trouble leaving. At first it made us laugh. I thought it was funny. She laughed to lessen the pain. Leaving is a process beginning with pre-contemplation and ending with seemingly painful action. She announces her intention then delays departure. She enters various stages of preparation – one, two and three – various stages of collecting herself, sometimes frozen in thought (contemplation), some times scattered and disorganized or frantic or minor panic. It can be entertaining to watch, and disconcerting at the same time. In time, in my now secret observations, I see she is building-up her courage, and this is when I become concerned. She builds courage to leave and obviously I have no idea where she is going to. Or maybe it is just her freedom-fight against the constrictions of time?

  • Today was the day that I finally decided to go back and gather all the important pieces of myself that I carelessly lost along the way to people and places that never deserved them. And I’ve learned that one thing is more certain in this world than the need for companionship and that is the need for self-love. Because although I used to argue that we live in a “we-world”, now, I cannot say. And if I don’t look out for myself with great intensity, I’m not sure who will. So, I am choosing to vigorously love myself first.

  • THE RED MILLENNIUM

    The 3rd millennium: Earth was plunged into darkness. Acid rain and volcanic dust scarred the skies. Human survivors were conquered by cruel aliens from a neighbouring solar system. As a beacon of hope, they wore only bright red clothing. This displeased the aliens. They summoned Earthlings to meet with their council upon an old bridge, threatening to promptly vapourise anyone wearing red. The Earthlings all wore red; they’d die for Earth! Later, a solitary figure left on the bridge, opened a red umbrella; this alien high commander was so impressed by the Earthlings’ tenacity; he had spared their lives.

  • She zipped up her black jacket, shielding herself with her blood-stained umbrella. “This was my battle.” she whispered to herself, walking carelessly towards the end of the bridge. It was as broken as her heart, her eyes closed and as she wished her life away, the bridge started swaying. She smiled as her soul descended into the dark abyss.

  • Tethered in mist
    as solid
    as the trail I once believed in
    I wander lost
    as skies close round me,
    erase path and any plans
    I followed.

    What need I
    of the straight and narrow?
    False pillars to prop up pipe dreams,
    when it is clear to see
    these hands that guide,
    help prop my corner of the sky
    under crimson guise.

    I provide my own shelter,
    believe in a path
    whether solid footing
    is guaranteed in next treads or not.
    It is the only way;
    Mist or no
    another step is the only one on offer.

  • Blind. Below the bright red parasol memories of youth and beauty evaporate into the blue mist. Innocence lost.
    Underneath the steaming warmth of her overcoat, already, she has turned into cold stone.
    Beneath her feet the moorings of her safe and certain life crumble into dust.
    Impassively, resolutely, she stares into the uncertain abyss and awaits, joyfully, to be carried away – passage to new, unknown, exciting universe!

  • MISTS OF CHANCE

    200 years ago: Dark Angel escaped from a trap in the Raven Forest and dragged her broken wings to a nearby bridge. Dark Raven saved her with a powerful elixir.

    They appear on the ancient bridge every night;
    At midnight
    Dark Raven strums his guitar
    His plaintive song touches hearts near and far
    “My Dark Angel with the raven-black hair
    And skin so fair
    Broken wings
    And suffering
    Magical red umbrella…”
    Desperately they dance
    Into mists of chance
    Together they fly; the umbrella gives Dark Angel flight;
    After midnight and till dawn, but only on a nebulous night

  • I was surprised to see acrophobic Jake Obee high up on the stone bridge, especially with his umbrella unfurled. He never opened that thing unless he meant serious business. But, I guess, destroying a rampaging dragon is serious, isn’t it? He attacked it honourably too, straight into the face of the monster, not like the last few magicians who tried to sneak up on it. I wished Jack well. If he failed, I was next, and the last.

    Sulphurous dragon smoke smothered the air. Fire belched. From the bridge, the broken, blackened skeleton of an unfurled umbrella fell. I ran.

  • Bolstered by Faith

    The blood of Jesus covers me, an umbrella of security from the swirling mist of doubt and fear – a banner of confidence to my despair.
    The darkness presses in, wrapping me tightly like a cloak of death. Wisps of uncertainty follow me, endeavoring to trap me with words of hopelessness.
    I keep my eyes upward, undeterred by the crumbling foundation of my circumstances. Oblivious to the cracks in the veneer of my life, I forge ahead, undaunted.
    My steps are sure, my posture confident. I will make it to the other side, because I am bolstered by faith.

  • Wendy Barrick Rhead November 11, 2015 at 12:02 am

    Not many people knew that he walked this path every day. He left his old stone house and continued until the edge of town, then climbed the rock steps to the bridge. It was the only way he could reach the small woodland on the other side. At the far edge of the woodland a meadow covered with wildflowers and tall grasses expanded to the East. This is where his beloved lay. He sat with her, sometimes for hours. He told her the news about their grown children and of course how much he loved her.

  • A Rite of Passage is what we should all have
    And it does not matter if it’s good or bad
    You see it can be like an opening in the sky
    Where you choose to look up and try to fly
    Your red umbrella may prevent you some
    It can also help you to overcome because
    Up ahead is a bridge undone and we’re
    Fairly certain we have still won so really
    There is no need to fear as each day that
    Comes forward, you hold something dear.

  • When things fall apart and life seems hopeless, it is sometimes easier to keep your head in the clouds and pretend away the heart ache and brokenness swirling around you.

    In this state of mind you feel safe, unaffected by the chaos in your midst. It’s a defense mechanism to tide you through the dark periods of life.

    The sense of false security is further perpetuated when you cling to some element of your past that reminds you of the way things were before your now defunct life.

    Why not face the reality of your situation and deal with it?

  • After loosing the election Stephen decided it would be a good time to get away. He purchased insurance from Travelers and they gave him a red umbrella to hold over his head. He was directed to an unstable bridge that passed over his misdeeds. When he was half way across it gave way and he floated down gently holding his umbrella into the mire of his deceptions.

  • Below the bright red parasol memories of youth and beauty evaporate into the blue mist.
    Underneath the steaming warmth of her overcoat, already, she has turned into cold stone.
    Beneath her feet the moorings of her safe and certain life crumble into dust.
    Impassively, resolutely, she stares into the uncertain abyss and awaits, joyfully, to be carried away to something new, exciting and unknown!

  • Just after midnight, when most of the city is sleeping, I receive his call.

    “I need you!”

    He disconnects before I can respond. What does it really matter? I know what he wants. I’ve no other choice, but to go to him. Immediately.

    Throwing on my raincoat, grabbing my umbrella and the bag waiting beside the door, I race out into the torrential downpour, crossing Rialto Bridge toward St. Mark’s Square, searching for the boutique.

    He’s standing with the door open, waving me inside. He appears worried, but happy to see me.

    “Please help her, Madeline. The baby’s coming out!”

  • The rain was pouring so hard that the little man couldn’t see his hand in front of his eyes. He wiped the water off his forehead. He sat puzzled for a moment considering his options. A thunderclap loud and invasive startled him.

    He focused his gaze once again ahead of him. This time, the thin red line transformed into a blood red umbrella. His eyes squinted and his pointy chin protruded towards the sky. He hopped onto the side of giant tree as it came crashing down with a whoosh! “Tee hee!” he delighted and continued to walk.

  • Anger smothered me like a red umbrella
    Drawn tight to reflect the light allowing no one in
    Yet with each tentative step
    Across that stone bridge
    My resolve became stronger
    I am greater than the sum of any of my parts
    I will not let Cancer be who I am
    Shedding my umbrella
    I hurl it into the waves crashing below
    Into an unknown future I waver
    And see many outstretched hands to steady me

  • Joyce George-Knight November 14, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    Nothing prevents the agony of death, nor announces its arrival;
    Unknowing, she carries on, proud, bearing anger and hatred.
    All around her the world is crumbling, but she sees it not.
    Nature weeps for itself, the future and innocent victims.
    History may reveal the truth, or it may choose to keep it buried.
    Secrets become entombed in the rubble.
    The eye of destruction is watching, looming overhead.
    March on, one cautious step at a time, with trust and determination.
    You can win. Believe. Trust. Watch for the rainbow.

  • Both sides were losing soldiers, but we had fewer to start. All that lay between us, and our devastation, was the length of the weathered bridge. The boulders that fixed each span streamed with droplets from the downpour.

    Then, he came. The fighting stopped as he walked, and soldiers fell away from him. He held aloft a domed shape the colour of the bloodied ground. In the middle of the bridge, he paused, alone. We heard a great crack. The stones and bridge began to rise, with the figure upon it. We gazed upward and thought we were saved.

  • do you see now

    once upon a time
    i carried an umbrella
    to help me learn to hear
    the sound of rain

    in later days
    when drops became cold
    I much preferred to listen
    from the inside of a room

    later Still
    when i began feeling lonely
    i poeticized the out pour
    and told myself it had a slippery texture

    the other night
    a storm kept me company
    in Need of a reason
    its sound was so natural

    tomorrow is coming
    there’s a surge meant to be felt
    but i’ll probably only touch it
    indeed, God has closed his eyes

    • Amanda, I love your opening verse. The rest progresses so beautifully in some kind of sadness like the rain itself pouring down a window “pain”.

  • Standing there trying to make sense of what just happened, a door opened on the other side of the bridge Filling the surrounding area with a bright blinding light. Shielding my eyes from temporary blindness, I waited until it died down, and as it did I heard my name being called.
    Listening for a moment wondering where the voice was coming from I slowly let my guard down, moving my arms away from my face as the last of the light faded away completely. I noticed my wife and daughter standing there waiting for me on the other side, dressed as they were the day they died. Waiting for me, holding a red umbrella.

  • Today I walk alone.
    For years we had walked this path together. The rhythm of your long nails on the pavement was like music to my ears; now there is only silence. No transitory imprints remain in the early morning dew amid this bitter shadowy universe. I feel alone.
    Even the lilt of the songbirds has faded into darkness as I step over into uncharted territory. I cease to exist as the moistness whispers softly as I exhale. I am alone.
    With darkness, will come light. You will remain in my soul and will walk together again. I am free.

  • A Father’s Ashes

    Father: Where are we going?
    Son: I’m not sure.
    Father: How will you know when we get there?
    Son: Don’t worry. I will take care of you.
    Father: Toss me out here. I don’t want to be a burden any longer.
    Son: Life is a burden.
    Father: So is death. Let me fly.
    Son: I need to carry you further.
    Father: I fear more suffering ahead.
    Son: But you are dead.
    Father: Not mine. Yours.

  • She was won with promises and lost with deceit. While love flourished it intoxicated, comforted and vanquished envy but when secret shadows revealed guilty pleasures her world became a small and damaged place. Her anger swallowed the light and kept her preoccupied with plots of revenge.
    Others must know and understand that one so ready to slice a heart can not be trusted. Precautions must be taken, backs must be turned. Wear a heavy coat against the lying cold and be ready, always, to take flight from a broken bridge that once led to happiness.

  • DARK HORSE

    The unknown has always beckoned. But I ignored it; I was a good girl after all. Always did what I was told. The adults were always right. Afraid and insecure, I stayed close to the nest. But the raging inner tide became stronger than the fear. The hunger became too much to bear. I grabbed life by the horns. The blood roared through my veins like a hurricane. “Dark horse, steady on your course!” I finally cut the cord and crossed the bridge into the unknown. I’m strong and I have my own signature; I call it my red umbrella.

  • Future Lost

    Between history and awaiting abyss I journey.

    Born from the placentae of generations
    Hundreds of umbilici ripped from my past
    Ancestral radices lost in time.

    Living measured in periodic rhythms
    Shedding futility from petrified womb
    Womanhood spanning the emptiness.

    Cleft from my uterus benign progeny
    Entombed between crevices wither and grow
    Rupturing the foundation of self.

    When I drop off the edge of life, I leave no legacy.
    With me the future dies.

  • Odyssey

    Matilda breezed into her favourite park whistling and swinging her umbrella like a cane. Hiking over a stone bridge, her crisp footfalls echoed in the still air. Abruptly her tune stopped, footsteps faltered. She reeled, gazing ahead then behind, clenching her hands. Opening her crimson umbrella, she hid beneath it, lost.

    Thoughts scattered like shards of glass. She searched amongst misty memories but was blocked by crumbling paths, bridges going nowhere, maze after maze of dead ends.

    The synapses fired again. Matilda walked in silence, head bowed, realizing that her odyssey of frustration and fear was just beginning.

  • Ignore the stone’s weight.
    I am buoyant; uplifted,
    Sheltered under red.

  • BRIDGE

    Follow me, I’ll lead
    It’s over there, you’ll see
    Mind that mound of peat. Peer through the mist, it’s sweet
    Behold a bridge-arc of bone, an ogre’s lair, its home
    Let’s cross

    Step up, look down
    A wicked gorge, cut ground
    Mind the narrow part. Covet the other side, its charm
    Remark that sharp edge of rock, the landing’s root; they’ll talk
    Let’s go

    Walk on, be wary
    It’s a trail, for fairies
    Mind that pile of dreams. Push apart the grass, there’s reams
    Shake off the ways of old, tread free on high, be bold
    Let’s fly

  • BLEEDING HEART

    Such a bleeding heart
    From the start
    Miss you forever,
    Dearest Debra
    You couldn’t bear the world’s pain and suffering
    The strife, wars and fighting
    So many things you couldn’t understand
    I wish I was holding your hand
    When you jumped from the bridge, Debra
    But I was just too late and it will haunt me forever
    Memories embrace me
    As I nurture the Bleeding Hearts I planted in your memory
    I still see you on the bridge in your dark coat and blood red umbrella
    In the uncertainty of this mist, I feel your bleeding heart, dearest Mommy Debra

  • I am scared.
    Standing on this cold bridge.
    My long coat cannot warm the cold within me.
    I can’t go back.
    The past is set in stone.

    The fog is thick.
    I can’t see the way ahead.
    The bridge cracks.
    My feet tremble.
    Time is running out.

    I should move forward on this bridge.
    But that does not feel right.
    Believe. In myself.
    Faith. In the creator.
    Leap. I jump.

    My red open umbrella carries me.
    I see so many possibilities….

    I wake up in sweats.
    I turn on the light.
    Breathe.
    I smile.
    I know what to do now.

  • When all clouds began to clear away, she discovered that the bridge to the other side had begun to rise up from the sturdy ground. Though it had been built strong, it was not invincible to the shear strength of her power and might. She was alone now and all that she had to lose had already been lost. As the rain started to let up she stood on the narrow ledge determined to make her own way and be the decided of her fate. Now she decided to create her own path.

  • Friend

    I’m walking in the dark
    with a red umbrella.
    Won’t you come?
    I’m sorry.
    I can’t see
    where I’m going.

    But really,
    I don’t care
    if there’s light
    above me,
    or if I’ve made it.
    I’ll just keep walking
    until I find you.

    It’s starting to break-
    the bridge
    I’m stepping on.
    But that’s okay.

    Don’t worry
    friend,
    I’ll keep searching.

    I can see where it ends-
    the bridge.
    Forgive me
    I’m walking
    as fast as
    I can,
    but can’t seem
    to reach it.

    Friend,
    please wait.
    Don’t leave me
    like I left you.

  • I had never questioned the tradition of wearing black after a loved one’s death. Today, as I automatically reached for dark clothing, I wondered. Here is grief, the layers of black proclaim. Here is emptiness.

    I hesitated, then, over the garish umbrella, and I grimly considered its evocation of blood. The rain, though, gave no choice. Outside, I wrapped my scarf around my face, making my outfit reminiscent of medieval mourners. Fitting. I felt beyond time or space. As I walked across the bridge, I had the sensation of floating. The world was not the one it had been.

  • I was finally there. After a journey of ill-fated symptoms which produced a pendulum of misdiagnoses, emotions, and a battery of tests, grim-faced doctors and loved ones, confirmed the unthinkable. I was terminal. On a personal trajectory. Destined to pass from a world I loved, to one unknown. Polarized from disbelief, to fighting for life. Peace and acceptance emerged, to replace the fight, with the realization we enter and leave with nothing, but love.

    I let go, on the suspended bridge between this world and the next. But clutched the red umbrella which symbolized my love. I was finally there.

    • …what I’ve read thus far, leaves we wondering what took place during your ‘ride’ on the pendulum and what you look forward to in your final descent into the unknown – have you really arrived? will you experience some glimmers of hope along the way or will you choose to give hope to others on your new pathway…

  • “If you fall, I will catch you.”
    I’d believed him so completely.
    Now, look at me. Just look at me!
    Alone. Wet.
    And worst of all, no closer to the truth than when I’d started.
    Still, I keep going. Keep hoping.
    For a rock to trip me up, a crack in the bridge to be my undoing.
    For anything, anything, that would make him keep his promise.

  • BEACON OF HOPE

    Mist is descending
    I‘m crying
    I often do, but I hide it
    Behind this wall that I built
    No-one can take a glimpse
    Of my unhappiness

    I’m strolling across the bridge to the past
    There were good times, they just weren’t meant to last
    There were many disappointments in the human race
    Certain things were so hard to face

    My smile disappeared
    In shadows of everything I feared
    I’m a loner now and all I want to do is write
    Desperately hoping to make everything right
    I’m invisible in my black coat
    “Red umbrella please be my beacon of hope”

  • As the fractured bridge carried its passenger upwards, a thick fog kept the scene below covered… for now. Her job was complete. The red-printed umbrella was open again. She hated the colour red – so bloody, so cheery, so confusing. She bit her lower lip as the bridge swayed slightly. Soon she would be with them again. In no time at all, new orders will fill her head. Nothing ever changed… not the fractured bridge, or the red umbrella, or the ugliness she tries to erase.
    How long will it be until she will rest in peace?

  • On a bridge I cross
    In a world so grim

    A vibrant red umbrella I hold
    In a world so dim

    Most colours fade
    Not the one in my hands

    I hold on to hope
    And here I still stand

  • She walked across the bridge, holding the umbrella in her hand. The mist that surrounded her didn’t seem to bother her. In fact, in made her feel content. She crossed the bridge, her heart beating faster with each step. She didn’t understand why she was so nervous now. With each step, she felt as if cement was building up in her chest. When she crossed the bridge, holding the umbrella even firmer, she noticed that the mist around her started to disappear. However, she didn’t look back once, continuing to walk on, as if nothing could possibly harm her.

  • Faith’s right hand still trembling, she walked on not seeing where for her tears. She recalled just an hour ago staring into the toilet as it evacuated her soul. All that was left was anger. It filled her like a raging tsunami of red. She hated him. All Faith desired in life was a family, a man to cherish and a child to love. Now Faith’s life was collapsing all around her—again.

  • Shutters snapped, jolting her out of her musings.

    For a split second she had forgotten where she was – suspended on a shaky bridge, above the sheer drop of the rocky gorge.

    “Lift your chin a little, and tilt the umbrella to the right so it covers your face,” he instructed.

    She shifted subtly, allowing the red umbrella to hide most of her face, her smile in place, her posture relaxed.

    A puff from the mist machine sent smoke into her eyes. She blinked furiously.

    “Focus!” He snarled.

    She gritted her teeth, her panic attack rising as the bridge started swaying.

  • Caleb sobbed and starred into the cavern below. He rushed away from Michael’s graveside service before he was asked, ” How did you know Mike ?”
    Neither had been ready to confess their love to the world . How could he grieve when it’s a secret ? He was gone. Forever.
    Caleb’s chest heaved with despair as he inched his way toward the edge. He starred into the cavern below.

  • I stand alone
    Covered with shroud
    On this cold stone
    Below the cloud
    Despite the grey
    I must stay
    Weather the storm
    Against the norm

  • Sexism, Genderism, Misogynism,Terrorism, too much for me
    These words, too much for me
    I know the day you broke your back
    You severed your fount, “Men’s world” you say,
    I watch, wondering beneath blue sheaths

    You glide on air, your grounds are ephemeral
    Look between your legs, no, beneath
    You dangle
    An emissary of death, toppling into sheoul
    You build a caricature, made to fail, your world

    I crave more space
    To cuddle the ruins, the stains, blood stains
    On my breasts, seize wars, the hell
    Its words, yield the swords, the bom.. oh mine!
    We can heal all these

  • They told me to follow,
    They told me to love.

    I listened to all the words they said,
    I held onto to every letter.

    When it was time to leave,
    I felt everything fall away.

    All those instructions,
    Why did it take until this moment?

    To be free …
    The walk of freedom.

    Freedom reigns,
    Now beautiful silence.

    Vicki Bruce
    November 25, 2015

  • The fog smelled like mugwort; a herb my grandmother grew in her garden. The crude odour clutched me, compressing me into a timid girl again. I used to visit grandmother every Mourning Moon. I observed her from the gap between my mother’s legs, her foreign words and smells frightened me. The further I walked on the Bridge of Mnemosyne, the more I wished I were on the Bridge of Lethe instead. An umbrella cannot protect me from the imminent storm. I straightened my collar to shield my nose. I chose this path, I will crawl if my feet give in.

  • There will be storms ahead, but you have your red umbrella.
    Be wary of the massive storms; do not let them suck you in.
    The stony bridge to the past dangles roots; these form connections to things hidden. The underworld grounds you and informs you, and keeps you from flying into the storm.
    The crumbling bridge to the future is suspended in air, and yet it does not fall beneath you. This is the nature of faith. You must accept the surreal.
    Balance is essential in all things.
    Try to live in the moment for it is the brightest sport.

  • Torn from the anchor of reality,
    It’s time to go – no longer earth-bound
    The swirling black hole awaits, through the clouds

  • Rising untethered
    From the anchor of real things
    The storm centre rips
    An eye in the sky beckons
    The traveller returns home

  • The synopsis seemingly unrepairable,
    a shadow of her former self.
    Her thoughts not reaching but forever trying to find the peace she once knew. The shield holds fast as hope runs red.

  • Elsie pulled her covers closer and tried to remember her dream. She could recall a woman with a red umbrella walking on a bridge and many faces but no one she recognized and then it faded into a pool of blood on the floor. Now she heard a man’s voice.
    “You’re in the hospital Elsie. You’ve been given a sedative. Try to sleep. I’ll be back later.”
    What had happened? Why did she tense up when she heard his voice and more so when he touched her arm?

  • My bridge is crumbling. I am compelled to abandon the world I know. I cannot clearly see the other end. Is it crumbling too?
    A storm is brewing. Or is it the eye of God watching to see what I will do? My red umbrella shields me …
    When this is done I can never go back. Wrapped in pink butcher paper so none will see. It is not a fitting end for one conceived in what I believed was love and bereft of life at birth. May the water below save your soul.

  • Paris October

    Misty days
    red umbrella
    lives that peak at 20

    Rise in hope
    café en main
    chocolate croissant between teeth
    smart phone on high
    Pass landmarks
    as clear as the history
    that brought you here
    It’s all new, this past and future
    marked by the stone bridge
    that holds you up, against
    black figures

    Cowards shoot
    freedom, cheek to floor
    The cell phone dims
    the image goes out

    Only Misty days
    red umbrella
    lives that peak at 20

  • Doctors said they could not help him.
    Misery annealed itself to his skin, a poisonous grey armor that blocked out all humanity.
    Though torn from the normal world by its severity, he continued to go to work. The people there shunned him. In his solitary, neglected paperwork was competed, though he didn’t know why he bothered.
    A gut-wrenching coughing fit stopped his grey trudging. When the dizziness faded, the sweet smell of the sewer infiltrated his nose.
    He could breath.
    And see.
    His cold had run its course.
    Hello vacation.
    Why is my umbrella red?

  • Even with eyes closed, I know it’s morning. I lie motionless, feeling dreams and possibilities recede. Then slowly, reluctantly, I lever myself upright. I take one tentative step and another, the surface under my feet becoming firmer, more defined.

    I open my eyes. I am on the bridge that leads from night’s inchoate realm to the waking world.

    The dream-world is without boundaries, all is possible. Can I leave that?

    I pause, consider, sigh, then choose. Then, as I do each day, I continue forward to the world outside my mind.

  • The bridge is a cold and desolated place
    Deprived of any warmth
    The sun abandons thy place
    Only a cold mist remains now

    The entity of vast canyons is engulfed
    The air is dense and thick
    I can’t see ahead
    But its alright
    My eyes are already fogged up

    I wish it would rain
    So it may hide my tears
    And wash away my withered past

    I wish to be reborn anew
    So that the angels can finally send forth the sunlight
    To bring life in this wretched place again
    So there can be smiles for a bright tomorrow

  • “An umbrella, and a red one at that,” He harrumphed. “Does he think a flimsy piece of crimson cloth can save him from the peril that lies ahead?”

    He blinked, then continued to admonish, “Blind fool… look down! See the crevice that widens with every step. Peer over the edge. Notice the pillar? It was jarred from its footings eons ago. Only my hand, wedged between its jagged edges, keeps the bridge aloft.”

    Sighing, “No more,” He withdrew His hand. The bridge crumbled, and the umbrella slipped from the man’s hands, as he toppled into the abyss.

  • Faith

    I feel the hard brick beneath my feet, trust that it will hold me up in my crossing, trust what I cannot see for its moorings are shrouded in mist. There is only my next step, and the one after, and the one after that. Is this a kind of faith? Am I on the right path? I carry my red umbrella, to shield, maybe even to balance between here and eternity. What holds us up, keeps us going when all’s lost? It must be faith, in ourselves, in our greater selves, in the best of all of us.

  • This is what I do
    Every day I walk
    I walk in the heat—the cold—the wet
    a hat for the sun
    a toque for the snow
    an umbrella for the rain
    I walk
    over the bridge
    the day is dull, the clouds dark
    the only colour my red umbrella
    bright in the rain
    A walk in the storm
    –Did you see that?
    –Oh my God. The bridge…
    Air split by sirens
    flashing lights brighten the swirling dust clouds
    Just one red umbrella
    a beacon in the dark

  • The glow of the street lamp invades the dense fog, casting only enough light to cross the bridge safely into the heart of the ghetto. Desperate hands reach out from the shadows begging me for something, anything, even my umbrella. The hidden homeless sprawl across cardboard boxes in dark alleys and no one here is donning an official uniform, unless you consider the nomad wearing the wrinkled, filthy SWAT shirt, lying on the park bench. Walking here alone, after all the night clubs are closed is asking for trouble, but I need to find her, before it’s too late.

  • I’m confident I appear as simple as any random tourist walking the cobblestone streets at night, wearing my slicker and a pair of green wellies. I grip the giant umbrella, fighting the fierce wind and lean into the cold, wet railing on Kingston Bridge. I have the perfect view of my husband’s bedroom window and the candlelight flickering behind the intertwined silhouettes of two passionate lovers. It’s quite a show. I reach inside my pocket, feel the edge of my wasted boarding pass, before wrapping my fingers around cold steel.

    ‘Surprise, my love, I didn’t go to Edinburgh after all.’

  • **CONTEST NOW CLOSED** (12:03 a.m. Dec. 1st)
    Thanks and good luck to all who entered. Check out the December contest here: http://thewritersconference.com/story-starter-december-sally-thurlow/

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