F3-Cycle 50: “Castle Walls”


September 28, 2011 by Ray Yanek

The Prompt:  The story must start with one of the following lines:

First starter sentence: “You know Javier, poets say that in the spring a young man’s thoughts turn to love, but I think they’re wrong.”


Second starter sentence: “Taut and alert, she laid in bed with a cell phone in one hand and a candlestick in the other.”

Castle Walls 

Taut and alert, she laid in bed with a cell phone in one hand and a candlestick in the other.  It was too soon.  She shouldn’t have been hearing footsteps outside.  Not yet.  She remained still, listening and heard the
sound again—not footsteps, only the rain spilling over the porch roof that covered the sidewalk of the motel.

Her breath released.

She regarded the candle in the glow of the streetlight that slipped under the dingy curtain.  The wax began to warm in her hand, then get hot, so hot that the pads of her fingers began to smolder and smoke.  The muscles
across her back pulled taut, and she almost threw the candle across the room.

She didn’t, though.  The heat was a trick of her mind.  A wane smile broke as she twirled the candle like a drumstick and bent her head towards the shadowed ceiling.

In school, once—when she went to school that is—she learned that in olden times soldiers (or were they called knights?) lit canons with candles.  Seemed such a waste of time and effort.

Now, it took but the press of a cell phone button to fire the shot that would breach the castle walls.

And the castle walls needed to come down.  Those hiding behind those walls in their safety and comfort and arrogance needed to know the strongest of stone could crumble, that they couldn’t sit on their hill to preach and dictate to the rest of the world how things would be.  She  stopped twirling the candle.

She would be the one to do just that.

More sounds outside.  She started.  But it was only the rain. She cursed under her breath. The urge to clamp the candle between her teeth and bite down until the nerves left her body consumed her.

But that would be childish, and she was no longer a child. Not anymore.

The broken dresser carrying the webcam next to the TV called her attention. When she checked in, she went through the drawers in a nervous fit, just to have something to do.  The drawers were empty of course, save everything but the Bible.

Of course a Bible would hide there.   Bibles of some sort hid everywhere.

That’s how things were.  That’s what they did and that’s what they’ve always done.  They take what they believe is right and they make it right for every damn person in their path.  They impose it on people, thrust it on people.  And it wasn’t just religion.

Her breathing came harder.

Back to the web cam on the dresser.  News people had a name for the recordings a suicide bomber made before detonating the belt of explosives and ripping herself apart.  She couldn’t remember that name, though.

More pattering outside.  It didn’t sound like the falling rain.  Her nerves rumbled again, twanged in time with the rumble of thunder she heard somewhere out on the horizon, rumbled like the walls of a castle tumbling down.

Her thumb twitched on the phone.

When this was all over, when the smoke cleared, they would say they never suspected her, that she had been a good kid, that she always followed the rules.  She did as she was told.  She was a wholesome girl, a good citizen
even though school was never her thing, God-fearing and proper.  She was faultless.

But of course she had faults.  They made that clear when they imposed their will on her.

Footsteps now. Clear over the pattering rain.

It was time.

Her insides twisted like a wet cloth being wrung over a sink.  She wrapped the arm not holding the cell phone around her stomach.  Her breathing was coming fast.  Too fast.

This was it.  This was the end.  Here in this motel room.

A sudden fear gutted her determination.   Panic lanced through her chest like the pain of cold water against a sensitive tooth.

Another footstep outside.

She was trembling.  Worse now.  Thoughts of her room back home danced in her mind, of her own bed.  She
would never see it again.  She thought of the falling rain outside and wanted to run through it and let it drench her until her hair lay soaked and heavy over her shoulders…


She was not a child.  Not anymore.  She was what the teachers in her school might have called a patriot.  With
the back of her free hand,  she wiped her eyes.

Something hard clunked against her forehead.

The cell phone.

She froze.  After moment, her eyes darted around the room. Everything was still there. Everything was as it should.

Until she heard the “click.”

She squeezed her eyes shut and waited.  She wasn’t ready!  Not yet.  She still wanted more time.

Another click. Another click of a footstep outside.  Closer.  Almost to the window.

She wanted to cry.  What was she doing here?  How had she come to this?

When she found the answer to her questions, the urge to cry faded, was replaced by a grim and calm determination.

It was time.

She took her hand from her stomach and lifted the candle.  Leaning towards the night stand, she set the
candle in the make shift holder she crafted from the bathroom soap dish.  She took the lighter and touched the flame to the wick, vaguely surprised that no emotion kindled with the fire.

The door handle jiggled. She made one final adjustment of the candle and sat back in her place.

A key slid into the lock.

She looked down at the cell phone.  She thought she would hesitate, but she did not.  She hit the ‘send’ button as the key turned.

The message was on the way. The message to tell her mother to turn on the computer so she could watch all that her daughter was about to do in the glow of her baptismal candle.  She wanted her mother to know it would soon be all over the internet so everyone could see and know.

Now, the light shone green on the web cam.

She smiled as the door swung open.


5 thoughts on “F3-Cycle 50: “Castle Walls”

  1. Doc Shaw says:

    Wow! A potent read to be sure. You had me every step of the way. Excellent.


  2. Carmen says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. You had me puzzling over what was happening and why the whole time. Even after finishing it, I had to reread the story several times to catch all the little hints and double-entendres I’d missed the first time through. Very powerful and spot-on when it comes to portraying the dogged determination of adolescent rebellion.

  3. Jenny says:

    Woah, that was intense! Super sad that she went through with it, but it kept me on edge and I enjoyed it. Amazing job (:

  4. Gripping and suspenseful… excellent take on the prompt, Ray. I used the same starter sentence… I am please that we went in such different directions

    I loved the line about Bibles hiding everywhere… their insidious encroachment…spreading a version of ‘truth’? As a Christian, I can appreciate the sentiment. I thought this passage was particularly well done.

    The girl’s manifesto… an adolescent rebellion taken to extreme…. her protest against a predominantly Judeo-Christian society?

    Very well done… thought-provoking and emotional.

    Thank you!

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