Freely Written: Short Stories From a Simple Prompt

Take a Seat

April 20, 2021 Susan Quilty Season 1 Episode 7
Freely Written: Short Stories From a Simple Prompt
Take a Seat
Chapters
Freely Written: Short Stories From a Simple Prompt
Take a Seat
Apr 20, 2021 Season 1 Episode 7
Susan Quilty

This week's writing prompt, Take a Seat, was inspired by yoga and meditation teacher Gretchen Schutte. Thank you, Gretchen!

Gretchen has a podcast and virtual yoga studio (where Susan also teaches!) both named Peace in the Pause. You can learn more at peaceinthepause.com

You're welcome to suggest writing prompts for future short stories. Otherwise, prompts are chosen in random ways.

More about Susan Quilty

Susan Quilty mainly writes novels, including two standalone novels and her current YA series: The Psychic Traveler Society.  Susan's short stories for Freely Written are created during quick writing breaks and shared as a way to practice her narration skills before she dives into recording audio versions of her novels.

Website:  SusanQuilty.com
Patreon: Patreon.com/SusanQuilty

Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/SusanQuilty)

Show Notes Transcript

This week's writing prompt, Take a Seat, was inspired by yoga and meditation teacher Gretchen Schutte. Thank you, Gretchen!

Gretchen has a podcast and virtual yoga studio (where Susan also teaches!) both named Peace in the Pause. You can learn more at peaceinthepause.com

You're welcome to suggest writing prompts for future short stories. Otherwise, prompts are chosen in random ways.

More about Susan Quilty

Susan Quilty mainly writes novels, including two standalone novels and her current YA series: The Psychic Traveler Society.  Susan's short stories for Freely Written are created during quick writing breaks and shared as a way to practice her narration skills before she dives into recording audio versions of her novels.

Website:  SusanQuilty.com
Patreon: Patreon.com/SusanQuilty

Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/SusanQuilty)

Below is the transcript for Season 1, Episode 7 of Freely Written, a podcast by author Susan Quilty:

 

Welcome to Freely Written where a simple prompt leads to a little unplanned fiction.

[Light piano music]

Hi, friends! I’m Susan Quilty and today’s prompt is Take a Seat

Here we are for another short story. If you’ve joined me before you know how this works. I choose a phrase as a prompt, write whatever comes to mind, with no planning and very little editing, and then share that story with you.

Today’s prompt was inspired by my friend and fellow yoga teacher, Gretchen Schutte. Sometimes people think meditation is a complicated or mysterious process. Gretchen often demystifies meditation by inviting students to simply take a seat. 

Here’s the story I came up with based on that simple prompt.  

 

Take a Seat

Sunlight bathed the forest, though little light made its way through the lush foliage to the winding turns of the hidden stone path. The stones in this path were old, cracked by shoots of green and half-covered by encroaching ferns. 

In some places, thin saplings divided the stones, leaving Hayden little room to pass without feeling the snag of brambles that had created an arching tunnel over the trail of stone. But Hayden was persistent. 

He did not know what he would find at the end of this stone path, but he believed it would be worth the journey. Just as he had believed he would find the path when others had insisted it was a myth. 

“I have a map!” Hayden had declared boldly, waving the scroll above his head. 

“A map you made!” Was the typical retort, as his friends laughed and ordered more ale. 

“It’s still a map,” Hayden had insisted, though with a softer tone. 

He knew the work that had gone into his map. The hours of research, the interviews with village elders, and the careful plotting against the landmarks of a starry sky. After weeks, he’d found the right patch of forest, though his friends had refused to believe.

“There’s nothing in that wild place,” his cousin Merle had said. “Not if you leave the Golden Road. Just twisted vines and branches and brambles, too thick to house a thing.”

“But it was there,” Hayden had asserted quietly. “Long before the Golden Road cut a swath through the forest. Before Moorvale connected through to Langshire. Before Moorvale was even a proper village. There was the old stone road that led to the soul’s desire.”

“Bah,” Merle had scoffed with a dismissive toss of his shaggy head. “Legends and nonsense.”

“But the poems…” Hayden had pleaded. “The songs… There can’t be so many references to something that doesn’t exist.”

Merle had not been convinced, and neither were any of their friends. And so, Hayden had set out on his own one dewy morning with nothing but a small pack of provisions and hope in his heart. 

Before the sun was fully overhead, Hayden had glimpsed the tunnel of brambles that were said to shield the remains of the stone path. He’d already been quite deep into the forest by that point and had collected signs of his toil. There were fine scratches on his face and hands, small rips in his shirt and pants, and bits of twig stuck in his braided hair. 

He’d been tired, but his discovery had spurred him forward, giving him the strength to hack his way through the thinnest bit of spiky branches and stagger out onto the unmistakable remains of an old stone road.

Now, as the hours passed and his steps grew weary, Hayden began to wonder why he’d ever come on this journey at all. What had made him so intent on finding his soul’s desire? What could that even mean? And how would he know if he’d found it?

As he walked, deep in shadows, he noticed a beam of sunlight streaming across an upcoming bend in the path. He’d seen similar rays break through the brambles from time to time, but nothing as wide and promising. His feet itched to run, but Hayden willed his legs to keep their steady pace. He did not want the hope in his heart to burn too bright, for fear of it being extinguished by too large a disappointment. 

Yet when he reached the bend in the path, there was no mistaking the source of the light. As the crumbling stones turned to the left, they opened onto a small clearing draped in lavender and alive with the flight of blue butterflies. 

A smile broke across Hayden’s tired face. He dropped his pack at the edge of the clearing and lightly stepped forward to bask in the sunlight. As his long arms extended, Hayden closed his eyes and turned in a grateful circle. 

A soft laugh startled his movement. Hayden’s arms fell by his side and his head whipped toward the sound, freezing at the sight of a young woman with light coppery hair and a dress made of gauzy white linen. 

“Welcome,” she greeted graciously, her voice like warm honey. 

She settled herself on the soft grass, letting her dress billow and rest around her. Two dragonflies hovered near her left shoulder and she offered them a friendly smile before they flitted away. 

“Take a seat,” she invited, gesturing to the grass before her. 

Hayden hesitated, unprepared for this discovery. The elders had spoken of finding his soul’s desire, yet none could say what that would be, and none had suggested there would be a beautiful woman waiting to bestow it. 

“Come,” the woman encouraged. “It isn’t difficult to take a seat.”

Her words surprised Hayden, though he knew she was right. He’d sat down plenty of times in his life. At home, in the fields, at the tavern. Never in a mystical clearing with an enchanting woman, though he supposed the act of sitting was still the same. 

Hayden settled to the ground across from the woman, taking care to leave a respectful distance while still being close enough to speak comfortably. He could not see her legs beneath her flowing dress, though she appeared to be sitting with her knees bent and shins crossed before her. Hayden assumed the same seat. 

“Close your eyes,” the woman invited, lowering her own eyelids. 

With her eyes closed and her shoulders relaxed, the woman appeared entirely at ease in the forest clearing. Hayden was less content but forced his eyes to close. His face squinched with the effort and his shoulders tightened around his ears. The sounds of the forest grew louder, every rustle and chirp caused Hayden to flinch, but he was determined to keep his eyes shut. 

This is it! He thought eagerly. I’m about to get my soul’s desire. He wondered if he should turn up his palms or hold out his hands, but no further instruction came. After seconds that felt like hours, Hayden cracked one eye open to see the woman still sitting serenely before him. Though her eyes were closed, she smirked lightly.

“You do not have to close your eyes,” she offered, keeping her own closed. “You can simply soften your gaze.”

Hayden let his eyes stay open, unsure what it meant to have a soft gaze. His entire body felt tense and hard, shaking from an effort to control his expectations. The woman stayed silent, simply breathing deeply in the late afternoon sun. 

After a moment, Hayden tried to follow her example. He took a deep breath in and let it out with a trembling shudder. He took another breath, telling himself to be patient. After his third breath, his shoulders began to relax, and still, the woman was silent. 

“Excuse me,” Hayden ventured softly. 

The woman opened her eyes, still lightly smiling. 

“I, uh, I was told that this is the place where I would… uh, find my soul’s desire.”

“Yes,” the woman agreed pleasantly. 

“Well, uh…” Hayden did not want to seem impatient. 

“You have found it,” the woman assured him, though her words had the opposite effect.

“This?” Hayden looked around in disbelief. “This is it? Finding this clearing?” 

A worrisome thought occurred to Hayden. 

“Am I to stay here forever now?” He thought of the long journey through the woods, the scratches of the brambles, and the exhaustion of his endless trek. “Have I died?”

“Died?” The woman laughed merrily. “Oh, no, my friend. You are quite alive, and you will return to your village. But you will take a piece of this clearing with you.”

Hayden looked around again, eyeing the lavender and passing butterflies. They were lovely, but not unique to this clearing. If he brought them back, his friends would say he’d only collected them from the meadow. 

“I don’t understand,” Hayden admitted.

“You will,” the woman assured gently. “For now, it’s enough to take a seat and simply breathe.”

Hayden blinked rapidly, unsure of her words but feeling an unfamiliar glow in his chest. It wasn’t the hope in his heart, but something deeper. 

He yielded with a sigh, closing his eyes, and feeling the warmth of the sun on his face. His shoulders softened. His jaw relaxed. And, for the moment, Hayden’s soul was at peace. 

  

The End

Thank you for listening. If you’d like to take a seat yourself, you can visit Gretchen at PeaceinthePause.com or look for her on Insight Timer. 

To learn more about me and my books, you can visit my website, SusanQuilty.com, find me on social media, or support me through my Patreon page. Until next time, try a little free writing of your own. Let go of any planning and see where your imagination takes you. 

[Light piano music]