Blog Challenge: Prompt #1

As part of the continuing blog challenge I will be writing fiction from prompts. The first prompt challenge is:

"Write a story including the following three elements: A stolen ring, fear of spiders, and a sinister stranger." *Full post here.

For those of you that don’t know what a writing prompt is, in essence it is a short bit of text or an image which you use to inspire writing. Most people use them as a way to get out of their comfort zone and explore different styles of writing. They can be viewed as the writing equivalent of playing scales for a musician. In my case, I write my prompt response in one sitting and don’t allow myself to research anything. Sometimes I end up with a scrap, other times I end up with a short story or something I can weave into a bigger story later.

Prompt Response

“As you can see clearly in the picture here, the eyes of the spider are emeralds, and the ring itself seems to be made from a mixture of gold and silver known as electrum.”

Doctor Hartwright paused and hoped nobody noticed him shudder. Normally his work on Egyptian antiquities had him looking at birds, feathers, grass reeds which were pleasant enough to look at. The ever present scarab beetle was still slightly repugnant to him, but he could admire the beauty of the craftsmanship. However; this particular specimen confronted him with a rather lifelike spider, far too lifelike for his tastes. He had never liked them, something about the way they moved, and all those spindly legs.

“Now, the scarab beetle is known as a symbol of royalty, but the craftsmanship of this design indicates that the ring was made for a very rich person. Perhaps not royalty, but most definitely a high ranking official in court. It is a mystery which we have yet to unravel.” The professor noted the sound of chairs squaring as students leaned forward. This was why he had gone into this field, and why he loved teaching. They might be insufferable at times, but watching them light up with the same excitement he felt when he pored over the hidden knowledge of the past was what kept him going.

“For you see, the photographs theses slides were made from are all that we know about the ring. Shortly after they were taken, the ring went missing. There are some clues we have found in other sites that give us the slightest inkling about when it was made, but that is all.” He looked over the now alert students.”Perhaps one of you will be the one to learn of its secrets.” He turned the lights on and watched students blink and start to gather their books.

“But only if you pass your classes. Papers are due next Friday. Do well and you might actually get to see more than pictures. Do very well and I might even recommend you to help with future curations.”

Hartwright turned off the projector and gathered his own papers into a leather satchel. While he did not like looking at the ring, it did fascinate him. He was bad sad for and jealous of the students that made their way to the exits. So many discoveries had already been made, and he had been there for a few, but he knew there were more things hidden in the sands, and across the world.

He thought about all the artifacts that had made their way around the world; stolen, sold, displaced, lost, far from their ancient home, as he walked to the parking lot. He was getting old, but maybe he was still young enough for one last adventure.

The plane ticket was in his satchel. It was sent by an old friend, Jem Helmdall. A recent construction project had uncovered some promising finds already. Construction was halted and they were in the process of obtaining permits to increase the excavation site. The local experts would be pushing their way to the front, but Jem had connections, and was pushing hard to have his old friend along for the ride.

But with finals coming and retirement looming over the next year, Doctor Hartwright wondered if it was worth upending his life and plans. He could get a sabbatical for sure, but what if there was simply nothing there?

He was still turning over the decision as he saw somebody standing in front of his car. The stranger had a long coat and gloves, and though it was brisk, he seemed overdressed. Hartwright slowed down and clutched his satchel. The man was shorter than him, but younger, fitter, but he did not look like a student. Was he a new faculty member? The professor began to approach, but the stranger pulled a cellphone from his coat and started cursing immediately, then began kicking at the car. Hartwright stepped out and yelled at the stranger, momentarily forgetting his fear and worrying about his car.

The stranger noticed him and held up a finger, listening intently to the phone. Hartwright found himself waiting and irritated, but also realized that he had never been in a fight in his life. He began to back away and the stranger held up his finger again, and mouthed, “wait,” before returning to the phone call.

Hartwright didn’t want to turn his back on the man, and felt his legs trembling as he sped up, still moving backwards. The phone call apparently over, the stranger nodded, then began walking towards him. The terrified professor turned to run and walked into a column in the parking lot. He scrambled to get up but the man was on top of him, pressing his shoulders down with a firm grip.

“Please, I don’t know what you want, please, You can have my phone, I have money-“

“Doctor Hartwright, my apologies. I am not here to hurt you.” The stranger helped him up, and the professor let out the breath he was holding. “Quite the contrary. Jem sent me here. I’m your bodyguard.”

THOUGHTS: So I don’t actually do prompts as often as a lot of my other writing friends do, but I have been doing more lately. I used to be rather antagonistic to them, but they are growing on me. This particular prompt seems to have made me write a sort of Indiana Jones scene. Let me know your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter and Facebook.