If you haven’t participated in this fun little prompt before, it’s quite simple. Grab a book…any kind of book…and flip to page 16, then count to line 22. Use that line as a prompt for a post. You can take the quote directly as use that in a story, or simply find inspiration in the line and come up with something else.
Simply provide the quote (along with book title and author) and have fun 🙂
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
“…are you in much pain? and Mrs. Armstrong yelled…”
Toddlers singing and children growing tired after hours of rehearsals was enough for Mrs. Howard. This was the last year she would offer to lead the church’s Christmas pageant. It started off nice enough with the traditional reading of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and the Christmas story from the Bible, but it all went downhill from there.
No, the church didn’t have a family of Herdman running around wild, but after three weeks, Mrs. Howard was sure the church ran a zoo on the side. First, Billy and Gary volunteered to be two shepherds. That seemed like a blessing because no one ever wanted to be a shepherd. It turned into a head-shaking moment when Billy brought five of his own sheep into church for the pageant, but it turned into a nightmare when Gary brought his ram in so that the sheep wouldn’t get lonely.
Then the Harris triplets volunteered to lead the heavenly choir. That was wonderful because they are really good singers. Except Emily thought it would be really funny to teach all the preschoolers the wrong lyrics and rather than have ten crying toddlers on stage, Mrs. Howard let them belt out songs about Batman, snowmen, and a drinking Santa Claus. Parents called her cell from the pews.
Joseph and the Wise Men got into an anime fueled brawl, Mary and Jessica Harris decided that if there were going to be sheep, then there needed to be a mule and donkey, who did not want to be shoved on stage. Then Mr. Howard thought it a good idea to show The Littlest Angel movie before the pageant and, well, half the children were in tears because they realized the little angel died, and the other half were debating his present to Jesus.
By the time the pageant was over, Mrs. Howard was convinced she would resign and never have to go through another Christmas pageant in her life.
“Oh, Mrs. Howard,” Father Pikeman called.
Mrs. Howard fixed her hair and smiled. “Good evening, Father Pikeman. What did you think of the pageant?”
Father Pikeman beamed and clasped his hands. “It was beautiful! Everyone enjoyed it immensely. The children were little angels. I can’t wait to see what you do next year. You will do it again, won’t you?”
Next year? Next year! Mrs. Howard smiled and took a deep breath. “It would be my pleasure.”
Brian loved adding a little intrigue to his family’s life; however, he also had a wicked little sense of humor. Chocolate chip pancakes were actually chocolate covered ant pancakes…Easter eggs were often found uncooked in shoes or taped to the rafters…tickets to Disneyland turned out to be a trip to the dentist. The family loved him, but hated his immature trollish behavior.
The week leading up to Christmas was especially hard this year. Susan woke to discover her father swapped all her clothes for her brother’s clothes. John found his computer factory reset and as the tears streamed down his face, Brian laughed his ass off in the kitchen. Christmas cookies were ruined after Brian swapped salt for sugar, rum for vanilla extract, and baking soda for flour. Tensions ran high that week.
Brian’s love for intrigue reached its pinnacle on Christmas morning. The family woke to find the Christmas tree sitting in the front lawn and the presents scattered around the living room – including taped to the ceiling. Julie scowled at her husband.
“Open your, Susan,” Brian said, trying not to laugh.
Susan glared and took a deep breath. She slowly unwrapped the gift and the box exploded in a barrage of confetti. Brian laughed as he handed a gift to John.
John didn’t even want to open it, but he knew he had to if the day was going to ever end. He sighed and started unwrapping his gift…and unwrapping…and unwrapping. Brian laughed like a hyena as his son found he had destroyed his gift of wrapping paper.
Julie looked at her children and took a deep breath.
“I have something for you, Brian.”
Brian, still laughing, looked at her as his eyes lit up.
“Kids, go get your coats,” she said.
“Oh, is it outside?” Brian jiggled with excitement.
When the kids and Julie were ready, she whispered in Susan’s ear. The kids left the house and went to their mother’s car as Julie turned back to her husband.
“You’re not the only one who loves a little intrigue,” she said.
Brian watched as the smile faded from her face as she handed him a plain brown envelope.
“Merry Christmas, Brian. I hope you find a nice little troll to share the rest of your life with.”
With that, Julie and her children went to Grandma’s and had the best Christmas the kids ever knew.
Ask anyone living today what they would do if they had a time machine, and they would respond with, “stop him from destroying what we had.”
Their response was reasonable, of course, as it had only been fifty years since the fall of the United States and ten years since the world crossed the point of no return. We were doomed, and we knew it. Maybe that’s why we didn’t question when they came. No one questioned when they said we could go back and change things. No one asked what they stood to gain from offering the human race a chance to change the present, by changing the past. Maybe we should have.
It was a hot December morning when Tim was being interviewed. Tim wasn’t sure what to make of the experience. He was just a New America vlogger who had been very vocal about how, if he could, he’d love to go back to 2018 and change the course of human history. But here he was, sitting face to face — if you could call what the creature had a “face” — opposite an alien life form being interrogated.
“How would you proceed?” the alien asked Tim.
Tim didn’t know what to say. He wasn’t sure if these aliens could be trusted. What was in it for them? He knew he had to choose his words carefully. His life possibly depended upon it.
“The first thing I’d do,” Tim said, “would be to get rid of the power hungry leaders that plunged the world into chaos and I would get rid of him first.”
The alien interrogating him got up, and left the room. Before Tim could realize what was going on, green lasers materialized from the walls and targetted him. A flash of light blinded Tim and everything turned to black.
When his vision returned, Tim saw him sitting in front of him in a chair, bound to it. Tim noticed a gun pointed at the leader’s head, but no one was holding the gun.
Tim’s face went white with shock, and then red with anger, as he saw the man, and he was using the term loosely here, responsible for all the woes of their world trussed up like a turkey.
Tim now heard the alien’s voice whisper seductively in his ears, “You have the chance to start over. Get rid of him now, and everything will be back to what it was before. There would be no nuclear holocaust, no alien invasion to fill the power vacuum, everything will be back to normal.”
Tim got up from the chair in one smooth motion, and grabbed the gun in his right hand. His index finger started pressing into the trigger, when the carrot-haired cretin spoke up, “No, don’t do it, it’s a trap!”
Ashley loved history, books, fashion, and trains more than anything else in life. In fact, nothing made her happier than reading a book set in the Victorian age or roaring twenties that took place on a train. Not the modern electric trains or diesel trains that ran across the country today. She loved steam engines and the fantasy they carried with them.
These fantasies are what brought her to the derelict Franklin Depot thirty-five miles away from home in the middle of nowhere. There used to be a town here. Her history teacher loved to tell stories of the old mining town in its glory days filled with life. Now all that was left was the depot and a few lines of track.
As she walked up and down the depot, the morning sun was just peering over the tree tops and illuminated the station in gold. She smiled at the depot and closed her eyes.
“This must have been beautiful,” she said.
Suddenly a loud whoosh and whistle from behind her startled her. She grabbed her chest and turned around. There, behind her was a grand steam engine. Puffs of steam and the huffing of pistons engulfed her.
“Is this your ticket, Ashley?” a man in a conductor’s uniform asked. He smiled and held out a ticket.
Ashley wanted to say “no”…to scream…to run away…to say “yes”…to get on the train…to travel the world by train. She looked at the conductor and surrendered to her heart. Her head was still screaming to her that this can’t be real, reality doesn’t work like this. How did he know your name? She ignored these thoughts and reached out to take the ticket.
The Conductor then gave a polite cough and said “If you will excuse me for saying so, Miss Ashley, you’re not quite correctly attired. Could you make your way to the Station and see Mrs. Addams, she’ll ensure you are bedecked as a lady befitting a first-class ticket.”
Ashley glanced down at her clothes. She had on a pair of blue Jeans with her brown ankle boots. Her top half was covered in a loose-fitting red pullover. Of course, she hadn’t expected to be travelling first class on a steam locomotive that day. It wouldn’t have entered her wildest dreams.
The station building was carefully constructed to look like something out of an old western film or a theatre set. The wooden clapperboards were painted cream. As she wandered into the deserted waiting room, she spotted a lady standing behind the counter wearing clothes right out of the Victorian age.
She wandered over to her and asked, “Excuse me, are you Mrs. Addams?”
“Why, yes my dear. You must be Miss Ashley. Please come on through that door and I’ll find something suitable for you. You’ve got a few minutes before the train departs.”
Mrs. Addams selected a simple but elegant green velvet dress trimmed with black around the hem. She also helped her into a corset which squeezed her slim figure into the typical hourglass shape of the late 1800s. Once she put on the dress, she instantly felt more comfortable. She’d never worn a corset before, but it made her feel more secure and whole. It was like a miracle, the clothes were inspiring her to feel a level of confidence that she’d never felt before. She loved the way the dress swished as she walked. Mrs Addams then fixed her hair up, with about a dozen pins and affixed a wide-brimmed black hat with a green feather, on her heat with a large hat pin.
At that point, a loud whistle from the train echoed through the empty station.
“Oh, quick dear, you don’t want to miss the train,” Mrs. Addams said.
“Thank You, Mrs. Addams,” Ashley said as she ran to the train.
She climbed up the iron steps and opened the carriage door only to find the strangest man she had ever seen in her life! Ashley simply couldn’t get past the fact that this man only stood about four foot high, wore a long black coat that ran from his neck down to the floor, where she could just see the bright red toes of what she assumed was a pair of boots peeking out from the bottom. But it was his top hat, it was enormous! it must have been his height again and bright pink!. Ok, so that’s not so strange, but his face was made up only by a big bushy green beard and two plate sized eyes glaring unblinkingly at her.
“Ticket please?” He asked in a squeaky voice, almost high pitched.
Ashley stared at him in wonder, “I err, um, aah yes, I have my….”
“Look love l don’t have all day you know, have you got your ticket or not?” Squeaky voice asked.
Without any more fussing Ashley handed over her ticket, and as quick as lightning a clawed hand shot out and snatched it from her trembling hand before shooting back into the dark overcoat., if Ashley didn’t know better it looked a lot like a lobster claw?
“Where ya wanna go then love?”Squeaky voice asked.
“Um, well l don’t really know. you see, l was just walking down the track and the…” Ashley started.
“Stop right there love, does this face look like the face of someone who is interested in hearing your life story? No? Right, then just move your frilly frocked booty down the corridor and plonk yerself down alright! I am the conductor for this carriage and what l say goes okay, we got that settled? So when l says sit, you sit!”
Before Ashley had time to consider this, the squeaky voiced conductor had both his hands on her behind and was pushing her down to the seats.
“Excuse me, if you don’t mind, l can seat myself thank you!”
“Then what are you waiting for love? A pass? Do it already!!”
Once seated, Ashley watched the conductor walk back down to where she had first got on, and continue to trundle, yes she thought he most assuredly wasn’t really walking, he was trundling. Before long she couldn’t see the pinkness of his hat! Where on earth was the friendly conductor? The one who had given her the ticket?
She sat there is the semi-darkness wondering what on earth she was doing here? Maybe she had slipped on a sleeper and knocked herself out? This had to be some kind of dream! She slowly found her mind spinning off in a millions directions, when she felt or was it smelled someone else was sitting opposite her. She couldn’t see anything, but she could smell something that was a little whiffy, offish, it smelled of sort of fish, or actually dead fish. The smell was getting stronger, and just when she thought she was going to throw up, it went, just like that!
“Sorry about that, it’s my stomach see, makes me burp a lot ………. by the way you look quite lovely in that there green dress of yours, nice enough to eat actually!”
The arrival of both the voice and the content of what was said made Ashley jump almost a few feet into the air!
“What? who, how .. where are you??!” Ashley shouted quite shaken, her head and eyes combined darting backwards and forwards sidewards and downwards trying to secure voice to location. Before an answer came, there was that foul smell again!
“Ere, no need to panic, my love, l don’t mean eat you, l mean eat the dress like.” The voice laughed. “I am a vegetarian, but l do like me a nice bit of velvet, especially when it’s trimmed with fur! That’s proper lip smacking stuff that is! I don’t suppose you might like it off?”
Before Ashley could answer, a pair of orange glowing eyes appeared in front of her face, followed by a bright yellow mouth filled with gold teeth! Ashley felt all a quiver, and once more before she could say another word, the voice said …. “Welcome to the Ghoulare Express!”