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I Say Goodbye by S.P. Taylor

April 16, 2021– You’ll remember last week when we asked writers to submit their stories to be featured on our blog based on the photo writing prompt above. It was all about pushing the envelope, and I’m pleased to say that one writer has certainly done that with her submission. Please join me in congratulating S.P. Taylor as our winner. We received 45 entries! Great work, everyone. Here is S.P. Taylor’s story, I say Goodbye:

I say goodbye.

The sun warm on my face. The breeze gentle. Hard to believe that I will never return but determined not to. The funny thing, a spark of longing already. But why? The knowing. The everyday. Is it routine? I am not certain. A comfort, maybe? I couldn’t find the words if I tried. The reality of it all a blur. Dazed, as if I have just awoken from a dream. That moment of wakefulness clouded by the mystery of sleep. Oh, how I wanted to break free. A promise to myself. Get out of this one-horse town, I joked. Deep inside, I felt as if I was a caged bird on a tiny swing, looking out through the bars wanting desperately to fly. And now, here I am. Packing myself into the old Ford pickup. Rusty and broken yet chock-full of memories. Dreams too. I had many of them while sitting in the rackety front passenger side over the years. I watch the blue country house fade in the distance, almost mystical. The sun beating down so intensely, waves breaking the sky like a matrix or a time machine.

I say goodbye.

Memories flashing before my eyes. The winding road overcome with dust that could be sliced with a knife. How it chokes me. My breathing laboured. Responsibilities hounding from the recesses of my mind. Reminding me of my place. Where I belong. Who I should become. Yet I say goodbye and with that close my eyes. Drown out the noise of the critics who pollute my conscience. Those unkind words that stop a being from moving forward. Akin to fear. Is that not the driving force for everything? Fear? It can change your life in an instant. Guide you down a path you may not have otherwise taken. In my case, I chose to embrace it. But I am scared as hell.

I say goodbye.

A picture-perfect town with its window boxes and tiny white picket fences. How would life have fared if I had been born to one of them? Those perfect families with their 2.5 children and model cars. I still wish it even though here I am alive and different. So far removed. The church bell rings in the distance. A sad bong that resonates, lifting the hairs on my arm as my heart hums in return. Row upon row, we pass like a funeral procession. Slow motion. Do the houses whisper as we roll by? She won’t be back. She will never be back. One, of course, will cackle and say loudly, oh yes, she will. She can’t escape. She is born and bred to stay. To that one, I lift my chin in defiance. Just watch me. I promise to never set foot again. This sleepy town. Charming but not for me. Never for me. I walk alone. Distinct. Separate.

I say goodbye.

A side glance at the driver beside me. My champion. My other half. We shared a womb. Every milestone met together. The hardest part of leaving would be leaving him. He will take my place so that I can go. He will journey in what should be my life while I escape. Why should it be me? I ask myself. A million times a day, it seems. It should not be me, but he won’t go. The voices so hell-bent on having him stay. The responsibilities keeping him rooted. And so, his sacrifice is my freeing. The very thought makes me want to change my mind again. A hundred times, rehearsed, and over and over again, I say goodbye.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. It sounds so comical. I hate to say it out loud, but it is truth. When I say I have never stepped foot at the great station, I mean it full heartedly. I never once even set eyes my eyes in it. The towering walls, the great hall. A staple to the town. How can that be, you wonder? Well, If I told you I was sheltered, that would be a bit of an understatement. Another story, for another day. Another picture. For now, I focus on saying goodbye. I hear the trains in the distance pulling in with a whistle, leaving with a sigh. Oh, how I imagined them. The tracks bright with golden dreams calling. Egging onlookers to take a chance. A boy once died on those splendid tracks. Did his family think differently of them after? Did they ride the train out to the great big world still? Each time passing where their loved one fell. Where a life was stripped and taken.

I see smiling faces all about. If you watch closely, the energy buzzes with love. Like a bubble encompassing each person, protecting and warm. Hands holding, tight embraces, kissing. I linger on the kissing. Heat rising on my skin like I am witnessing something holy. Families, lovers, businessmen. They are everywhere. Passing others like ships in the night. I watch intently and imagine their thoughts. I feel all my life I have people watched. A silent narrative and I, a fly on the wall. Or perhaps I am better described as a bee. A busy worker bee never stopping. Always moving, not straying far. And yet, I am leaving the hive, albeit not with a swarm. Alone. How will I fair? No thoughts such as those, I tell myself. And my eyes search the crowds again, intent to soak it all in. Dreamlike, I scan the people, the busy. I catch a glimpse of sorrow. If I am careful and really strain to look, I see it clearly. Mommas saying goodbye to their sons. Sadness. Goodbyes are hard. This I know.

“All set,” he says gently, and the reality begins to settle. A heaviness in my heart as I gaze at the ticket in his hands. Somehow the noise stops. The people disappear. We are alone. His hands are rough and dirty, I notice, but I am not appalled. Young hands tainted with hard work and determination. No one could imagine the strength in those hands. They carry a body. The train ticket stark white, beckoning. Sunbeams break through the thick train station windows that are trimmed all around the building. I can see particles floating slowly, filling the space, and I feel faint. That moment just before you know you are going to fall. A panic settles in my bones, and I tremble. He touches my face and lifts it so that I am forced to look into his eyes. My eyes. And he whispers softly. I hardly hear it, but my mind translates. You got this. You. Got. This. With every fail, I heard that voice, those words. With every worry, they came swiftly. You got this, a whisper on the wind that would follow me everywhere I go.

I say goodbye.

And turn to walk away. Onto the train. Towards my future. If I could but only see what will become of me. My head held high, shoulders straight.

I say goodbye.

Thank you S.P. Taylor for this wonderful story. I hope you stepped out of your comfort zone and pushed the envelope on what you thought was possible for this photo and for yourself. If you’d like to read more of S.P. Taylor’s work click here: Acts of Kindness: Bakker, Lacey L ., Goubar, Alex: 9781989506240: Books – Amazon.ca

 

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Photo Writing Prompt

December 1, 2020-WOW! Can you believe that it’s already December? Time flies. We’ve got a ton going on this month, but I wanted to start December with a beautiful photo writing prompt to keep our creative juices flowing well into the new year. Send us your 500-800 word story based on the photo below for a chance to be featured on our blog on December 15th! All you have to do is email us pandapublishing8@gmail.com to submit your work. Best of luck!

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Photo Writing Prompt

January 5, 2020– It’s been a while since we’ve done a photo writing prompt. For some reason, the picture below really spoke to me when I was looking for something to write about. I hope that it speaks to you too. If you would like to share your 500 words or less story with us, please email pandapublishing8@gmail.com and put Photo Writing Prompt in the subject line. We’ll pick one person’s submission to share on our site!

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Photo Writing Prompt…

September 25, 2019-This stunning photo writing prompt is full of inspiration! Look how gorgeous the landscape is! Will your story be romantic fiction? Will it be a mystery or psych thriller? Will it be poetry? There is no limit to creativity with this piece. I challenge you to write a story in 500 words.

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We Have a Winner…

June 6, 2019– As mentioned a week or so ago, we had a photo writing-prompt challenge for the chance to have your story featured on our blog; congratulations to Tonya C. for her story! Check out what she’s written below:

Isobel hummed as she surveyed ground zero and scanned the field full of yellow bio-hazard barrels left to rot for countless years.  Twisted, human-made, poisonous flowers oozed their diseased contents into the ground; smoke billowed up in thick, dark clouds from the incinerator chimneys and sent shivers down her spine.  Isobel knew they were burning bodies.  The army claimed everything was contained in the quarantined zone.  Those who were outside of the zone felt safe but were unaware that the borders continued to slowly increase outward.

Hot and uncomfortable in the heavy white hazmat suit, she reached a gloved hand down and gently patted the black Labrador that stood beside her; he pressed against her a moment before he resumed a high alert stance.  She saw his eyes track movement in the distance. She whispered, “Steady Ranger,” and prevented the dog from darting off and drawing the soldiers’ attention.

Months earlier, inside the facility, Isobel worked on finding an antidote to the virus. Her husband and son had been dragged in by the military who were desperate to know why some people were immune to the deadly virus. They rounded up people from inside of the quarantined zone where doctors treated them like lab rats; they performed tests, took endless tubes of blood, and deprived them of food and sleep to force them to cooperate.  Those that refused to cooperate were taken outside and shot and their bodies were thrown into the incinerator. 

Isobel was cut off from the outside world; she had no idea that her husband and son were inside the facility and by the time she found out, it was too late. An alarm sounded when suddenly her husband burst into her office. In his panic to escape, he slammed her against the wall but stopped when he heard her cry out in pain and fear.  He turned to face her and whispered, “It’s the well.  I tried to save him!”  Soldiers burst through the door with their guns drawn.  She screamed as they opened fire on the man she loved.  Shots rang in her ears and in the madness, she realized her husband had told her that the virus originated in the town well and that her son was in the building.  She searched for him until she finally found him in a heap of discarded, decaying children.  His lifeless, milky eyes stared blankly up at her. She knew that she must have revenge. She bottled up her grief and rage that burned brightly in her chest. Today was the day it would be released.

Ranger gave a low whimper as the light flashed in the distance. It signalled a message from the others.  The well water had been deposited into the army base cistern with the codes Isobel had slipped them.  In less than a week all in the base would be dead.

The virus had leeched from the barrels into the town water supply over many years. Like the others who grew up drinking from the local well, Isobel was immune to the virus.  As darkness fell, she slipped out from the unneeded protection. Finally free, she and Ranger jogged into the bush to join the group.

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Photo Writing Prompt…

March 22, 2019- It’s been a while since we’ve done a photo writing prompt. I’m especially in love with the photo that we’ll be creating a story for today; it’s simplistic yet very powerful. Happy writing! X LLB