Well, first, I’d like to direct your attention to this article about writers and procrastination – particularly the part that hints that successful artists are ones whose “fears of turning in nothing eventually surpasses their fears of turning in something terrible.” A valuable distinction (-:. It helped jump-start me this weekend. Another form of motivation is that I’m writing this because I believe in the cause Jilly blogged about last week: encouraging kids to write. This post gives me a great excuse to plug the contest again. And the third form of motivation is that I made a deal with Jilly. (-: I can’t let her down! I’m sure you’ve heard of the buddy system for motivating you to exercise. Well, this is along the same lines. So, with no further ado, I present my story, such as it is. If you remember the rules, it has to be a short story, 500 words or less. And I decided to try to use the prompt words wind, bunny, cheetah, hospital and relieved. OK, really, seriously now, no further ado:
Bunny Blavatsky, Psychic Photographer, and the Cheetah Girl
Before Bunny Blavatsky could wind her way down the long row between the iron hospital bedsteads, she saw her quarry in the last bed sit up, the sheet slipping down to reveal the freckled angry flash powder burns on her neck. The girl pulled her sheet up, hiding her neck, and Bunny felt a twinge of guilt. Chelsea’s eyes widened with what looked like fear as Bunny made her way to her bedside.
Bunny was relieved to see that Chelsea was still alive, but the girl’s nervousness disconcerted her. Nobody was afraid of Bunny. Bunny carefully cultivated an absent-minded harmlessness that served her in good stead. Chelsea, on the other hand, was a well-known virago who bent the bounds of New York society. It was 1899, an exciting time of freedom, but there were still limits to what a young, unmarried girl could do without being shunned completely. Bunny, living on the edges of society because of her humble birth, well understood the rules, but her camera had allowed her access to almost every walk of life. As long as she was harmless. The young girl shrank back into her bed, but her eyes refused to drop from Bunny’s. “You!” she exclaimed. “How dare you show up here?” Bunny silently handed Chelsea the photographic print. In the photograph, Chelsea was dressed in African garments and looked shocked as the flash powder rained about her. But instead of a pale beauty, the face of a cheetah stared back out of the print. “Oh,” Chelsea said, and let the photograph fall on her white covers. “You have ruined my face for this season, and now you have ruined me forever.” She growled low in her throat. “I could kill you for this.” “I haven’t shown anyone this photo,” Bunny said. “But you must leave James Randolph alone.” “His father owns a publishing fortune! And James would take me back to Africa, where my parents died. He would do anything I asked of him.” Chelsea twisted the odd, heart-shaped stone that was around her neck. “His father is my employer,” Bunny said. “If James really cared for you, that wouldn’t matter, but I know you’ve cast a glamour over him. You must release him, and leave this city.” “I can’t. He’s my only hope,” Chelsea said. “I must get back. And you will not stop me.” Chelsea touched the stone in her necklace again. “You will help me. You will love me, and you will let me go with him,” she said in hypnotizing tones. Bunny touched her own breast. Hidden underneath her shirtwaist was an herbal sachet her granny gave her when she left home. Would the old mountain magic be enough to overcome the mysterious African powers of Chelsea’s stone? She felt Chelsea’s glamour flare and tingle around her, then suddenly break as her granny’s protections established a boundary. “You must leave,” Bunny said. “The nursing sisters here tell me that a Canadian contingent of nurses are leaving for South Africa in the morning.” “The war against the Boers? Me, a nurse? You must be joking!” Chelsea said. Bunny held her gaze firm. “No. You will get what you want. You will return to Africa. But you will also free Mr. Randolph. He is not yours.” Chelsea dropped her gaze. Bunny wanted to sigh, relieved, but she knew she must not show any weakness in front of the were-cheetah. Chelsea looked again at the picture, then handed it back to Bunny. “Burn this. I will leave with the nursing sisters tomorrow.” Bunny thanked her, and backed away from the bed. When she reached the door, she turned and ran. James’ father would make sure Chelsea got on the boat. Her part in this was done. And James would be free. Critiques welcome — and you may have noticed that I cheated a little. The story comes in at 629 words. Any suggestions about where I could cut things?