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Asleep In the Mother's Bosom: My response to Bill Holland's Story Challenge (Updated)

Chris has written more than 300 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.


Bill's Challenge

Bill Holland recently issued a challenge to anyone on HubPages who wanted to write a 1000+ word story based on a series of five photographs. The story is to follow the order in which he posted the pictures. This is my response to that challenge. If you would like to see the challenge, visit

Asleep In the Mother's Bosom

Sleep has evaded me for weeks, and this remedial stroll through the trees of my Father’s country estate seems to be accomplishing what I hoped for. I feel so drowsy, I could lie down in the middle of this path and sleep the sleep of a weary warrior. Though not a warrior, I am a person to be feared on Wall Street, where I work 80 hours each week. I live in a Manhattan loft overlooking the Hudson.

People attend to my every demand, falling over themselves to be the first to fulfill my desires. I am like Caesar; Julius, not Nero. Right now, I would love nothing more than to fall into my luxurious bed, pull my duvet up to my chin, and sleep. But I am so tired, I would settle for a straw tick and a grain sack blanket.

This urge to sleep seems as unnatural as my recent bout of wakefulness. If I don’t find a place to rest soon, I might fall to the ground. Is this what it feels like to die? I stumble into a clearing, a meadow where the aroma of wildflowers invades my nostrils, and the prism of light and colors blinds me.

When my sight clears, I follow the faint remnant of a path through the flowers and weeds to a place where a bed of succulent grass and a two-hundred-year-old tombstone welcome me. The earth in which this lushness grows is so soft, I lie down, and it draws me into itself like a mother pressing an infant to her bosom. I sleep.


How long have I been lying here? I can’t move. I taste decay as dirt forces its way into my mouth. The same soil that is finding its way down my throat plugs my nose. I try to blink, and the grit of sandy soil scratches my eyeballs. Something is pulling me down, but to where?

For an instant, I see a twisted face barely more than a skull with worms crawling in and out of every crack and hole. The head twists on a bony neck, looks at me, and, if possible, I believe it smiles.

In an explosion of hot, moist, rank air, the same mother who drew me to her bosom for sleep belches me out onto the ground where I land on my back with a loud thud. Everything hurts. I feel sick. Not just my head, but my stomach and bowels as well.


I scramble to my feet. Like a drunk leaving the bar at two in the morning, I weave across the meadow, casting my arms around to gain my balance. I see a man and woman having a picnic. I wave to them and cry out for help. They abandon their things and disappear into the trees on a gravel trail. I continue to call, “Help me, Help me!”

The trail opens into a clearing where a barn and silo stand in desperate need of repairs and a coat of paint. I feel the same as the barn looks: old, twisted, joints separating, the inside filled with corruption.


Beyond the barn stands an old house. At the front, wooden steps creak beneath my feet. I drag my aching limbs across the porch until I come to the door. Over and over, I slam my fist against the wood. I scream and cry. But no one comes.

I need water. On my hands and knees, I crawl off the porch. By the time I reach the back of the house, I’m on my feet. A pond lies on the opposite side of the yard. I run toward the water. Several times, I trip and fall. At the water’s edge, I lean out, close my eyes, lower my head, and drink like an animal.


When my thirst is satisfied, I open my eyes and look at the pond’s surface. Water drips from my mouth creating ripples that distort the image. Clouds drift across the reflected sky. Trees create a dark border. Then I see my face and shove myself away. What has happened? I run back toward the house where a car is backing out of the driveway. It speeds away with a rooster tail of gravel spraying out behind.

I race down the gravel trail to the meadow and see the tombstone on the far side. Stretched out on the ground in front of it is the body of a man. As I approach the grave, the body does not move except for the rise and fall of his chest as he breathes. I crawl forward on my hands and knees until I am looking down into his face.

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It is me.

No wonder that poor couple fled and cowered in the house. It was not me who staggered through the meadow, along the gravel trail to the barn and house but the hideous corpse from the grave, and I was animating it.

I lie on the lush grass and the soft earth, still inhabiting the body of the corpse.

My face appears above me, looking down into the empty eye sockets of the ruined body in which I now dwell. With my voice, another speaks.

“After all these years, you have come to visit me.” He looks around at the meadow and smiles. “This estate should have been mine, you know.”

I open the mouth of the corpse to speak, but he goes on.”

“It really is a fair trade. My body for yours. Yours for mine. I’m weary of lying here, and you are in great need of a long rest. Sleep well, my dear nephew.”

My body stands above me, turns on its heel, and walks away.

I, on the other hand, sink into the mother’s bosom.


© 2020 Chris Mills


Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 17, 2020:

Thank you Lawrence.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on February 16, 2020:


Loved this story.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 09, 2020:

My brother Sean, I have missed you here. Welcome back. I'm glad the story seemed realistic to you. A fan club in Greece? That would take a miracle. haha. Nice to see you today.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 09, 2020:

Nikki, Bill's photos led the way so well, my story was fairly easy to write. It was like drawing a picture by following the dots. Thanks for reading and for your kind words.

Ioannis Arvanitis from Greece, Almyros on February 09, 2020:

I am so glad I finally didn't miss this little narrating masterpiece on my absent, my dear brother! I lived it! I still have the taste of soil in my mouth! I am so lucky having the chance to read your work. I intend to create a Chris Mill's fan club here in Greece! Thank you, my brother, thank you for the thrill!

I wish Lady Love to fills your Heart, always!


Nikki Khan from London on February 09, 2020:

Chris, I didn't know you wrote this intriguing story too. Such a detailed description of a buried corpse speaking from his own mouth. Quite an adequate imaginary you have used here. I'm impressed with your creative talents once more.

You have met the challenge very well.


Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 08, 2020:

Thank you, Lora. I'm glad the end was satisfying.

Lora Hollings on February 06, 2020:

This story certainly drew me in and kept my attention all the way through! It reminds me of a bad dream that you really want to wake up from but you just can't because you are one of the main characters. A very creative and suspenseful story with a real surprise ending. Great job on meeting Bill's challenge.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 28, 2020:

Venkatachari M, Thank you for your kind words and for reading the story. Sorry I didn't get back to you right away.

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on January 27, 2020:

A good horror story, Chris! You have presented it so well!!! I enjoyed reading this unique take of yours with those photos provided by Bill Holland. Wonderful Response.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 22, 2020:

Paula, that's easy. I just don't sleep. That's probably where all the strange stuff in my head comes from. Thanks for stopping by. It is always good to see you.

Suzie from Carson City on January 22, 2020:

Well Chris...This amazing tale of yours, is what I call "certainly rising to the challenge!". Speaking of sleeping, after coming up with this incredibly creative, dark story, how do YOU sleep, my friend?

Per usual, I'm trailing behind in information and activities. (Wasn't aware Bro Bill had presented a challenge) Looks like he has set himself up for serious work, reading through the massive talents participating. It also looks like you're right up there with the front-runners!

Good Luck Chris! Cheers, Paula

Ann Carr from SW England on January 22, 2020:

Yes, I will. I also have your challenge to do, so....


Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 22, 2020:

Ann, it's good to see you today. No excuses. I want to see Ann's story.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 22, 2020:

Brenda, thank you for reading and for your kind comments.

Ann Carr from SW England on January 22, 2020:

What an amazing response to the challenge, Chris! You've done so well at creating suspense and atmosphere. Each turn was a spooky surprise.

I was going to have a go but I'm not so sure now!



BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on January 21, 2020:


What a great story. I could never have expected this from those photos.

Your writing draws me in...wanting to read more.

I love the ending.

Congratulations on a successful write to Bill's challenge.


Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 21, 2020:

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 21, 2020:

Dora, I appreciate your visit and your comment. Thank you.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on January 21, 2020:

The mysterious unearthly events keep me reading to find out how it ends. Great read!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 20, 2020:

Audrey, I'll have a revised version of this story in my compilation this summer. It will feature some of my horror, sci fi, and fantasy stories. I'm glad you enjoyed this story, and I appreciate your compliment very much.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on January 20, 2020:


Your talent as a storyteller is off the charts! You had me hooked from the first line to the last line...a master with words. I'd be grateful for even 1/10th of your talent.

Thank you.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 20, 2020:

Nell, Glad you liked it. Nope, I try to avoid taking the easy way out.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 20, 2020:

Verlie, I think you may be right. This might make a good comic book story. Thanks for the idea.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 20, 2020:

Linda, thanks. The ending was fun to write although I had to wait for it. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Nell Rose from England on January 20, 2020:

So creepy! And not one to read at night, lol! I thought he was going to wake up and realize it was a dream. Nice one!

Verlie Burroughs from Canada on January 20, 2020:

Oh! Chris, this is great horror. So graphic. I can imagine it as a 'Weird Tales" comic book. Impressive write, with the way you weave the action in and out of reality.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 19, 2020:

This is a great story, Chris. I love the mystery in the tale and the unexpected ending. You did an excellent job with Bill's challenge!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 18, 2020:

MizB, I am happy to have given you a boost today. Thanks for reading the story.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on January 18, 2020:

Chris, what an imagination! You really have a flare for the macabre. I wasn't sure about the ending, so I had to keep reading. Wonderful stuff, just the boost I needed for this afternoon.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 18, 2020:

Lee, it is a pleasure to meet you. I'm glad you stumbled onto this story. Thanks for taking time to say hello.

Lee Yael from Philippines on January 18, 2020:

II stumbled upon this article and I wish I can write something as good as this. Very well made.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 18, 2020:

Linda, thank you.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on January 18, 2020:

Wow, Chris, you are the master of the macabre and you have the praise of one of the best storytellers I know. I can't add anything here but WOW!.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 18, 2020:

Thank you, Bill. I humbly accept your words.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 18, 2020:

Chris, if I don't like a piece, or if I'm ambivalent about writing style, I'll say something vague like nice job...good effort...blah blah play in a different ballpark. If I use the word "excellent" that means we just left a AAA stadium and walked into Fenway. :) Seriously, we all have weaknesses, and we all have things to work on....but you are an excellent storyteller.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 18, 2020:

Bill, I respect your knowledge and skill as a writer. I always have. That is why it floors me every time you compliment one of my stories. Because I know your in depth knowledge of this craft, I also know that you see the same weaknesses in this piece that I see. I'll be working on those parts as I prepare it for publication. I just appreciate that you know when to let a person find their way. I'm sure that in private you would push a person to the limits of their ability. I'll just keep finding my way. Thanks for the encouragement.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 18, 2020:

I commented yesterday and alas the comment is gone. Bottom line: you are an excellent creative writer. Over the years I have had the opportunity to watch you grow in your craft and it has been a joy to do so. Well done my friend.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 18, 2020:

Pamela, Thank you. I had to wait a little while on this ending, but I think it was worth it.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on January 18, 2020:

You had me hooked after just a few words and I would never have suspected that ending for this scary story. You certainly rose to Bill's challenge, Chris.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 17, 2020:

Liz, With this imagination, I can guarantee you I was never bored as a kid. Thank you the comment. Nice to see you.

Liz Westwood from UK on January 17, 2020:

You have really plumbed the depths of your imagination in this story and created a piece around the photos that I would never have dreamt of.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 17, 2020:

Hari Prasad S, I appreciate you taking the time to comment after reading. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

Hari Prasad S from Bangalore on January 17, 2020:

Captivating write. Loved the imaginations of linking a man in need of sleep and corpse in need of action. Wonderful.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 17, 2020:

John, thanks for the compliment. This would have been a good one for us to collaborate on. You can do this, John. haha

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on January 17, 2020:

This was a captivating but macabre tale, Chris. Your imagination knows no bounds. I am trying to come up with an idea for this challenge but so far my muse isn’t cooperating.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 17, 2020:

Eric, bring somebody with you. haha

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on January 17, 2020:

Wow! no comment until I come back and read it again.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 17, 2020:

Manatita, when I see a grave, I think dark thoughts. haha. I hope you decide to take part in the challenge as well.

manatita44 from london on January 17, 2020:

An eerie or surreal sort of tale. A spooky one, Bro. I don't quite get Bill's idea. I'll go over and have a look. Peace.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 17, 2020:

Shauna, I had to wait for the ending. I had a vague idea what I wanted, but it took a few hours of doing something else, like sleeping. Thanks for the comment.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 17, 2020:

Thanks, Ruby. This was a blast to write. Sleep well, my friend.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on January 17, 2020:

Wow, Chris. You really rose to the challenge. I didn't see that ending coming in a million years!

You used some very creative, descriptive language in this story, which made it possible to put myself inside and watch.

Great job!

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on January 17, 2020:

Wow! I was spellbound throughout this exciting and spooky story. I hope I never need sleep that bad. lol Perfect response to Bill's challenge.

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