THE SPINNERS • by Jennifer Campbell-Hicks

The Spinners resided in a ghost town with no name under big prairie skies. Grasses had reclaimed a strip of dirt that used to be a street, and weeds pushed through the porches of an old jail and an abandoned feed store.

Peter hitched his horse outside the saloon. He found the Spinners inside. They watched him from behind the bar while he stepped around broken tables and chairs, boots kicking up thick dust off the floor.

Legend had it the Spinners’ eyes saw farther and deeper than other men’s eyes and their hands could perform miracles. Peter hoped the stories were true.

His hands trembled as he tipped his hat.

“Why have you come?” asked the first one.

“My wife died in childbirth. So did the babe.”

“You want her back?” asked the second.

“Yes.”

“What price will you pay?” asked the third.

“I’ll do anything.”

The first laid an empty pouch on the bar. “There’s a cave in the mountains, due west through a steep pass and in the shadow of a peak shaped like a buffalo. Fill this with what you find there and bring it to us.”

Peter took the pouch and rode out, and after many days he found the cave. The mouth yawned wide and dark, with stalactites jutting like teeth. Inside was nothing. No treasure or mystical objects or even old bones. He filled the pouch with what he could and returned it to the Spinners.

They opened the pouch and breathed in its scent.

“Ah, what perfect nothingness,” one said.

“Go home,” said another. “Your wife is there.”

Peter tipped his hat. “Many thanks.”

He turned to leave when the last one said, “We cannot spin the dead back to life. Some barriers are impossible to break. We spun your wife here from a world much like this one but also different. She will not be exactly as she was.”

He remembered the warning — until he saw Eloise in the doorway of their small house, brown hair braided over her left shoulder just as she had always worn it.

The days that followed were good, but still Peter felt the itch of something-not-right. Eloise needed reminders of their life together. In the evenings, they sat beside a cast-iron stove and he told her about their wedding in the town chapel and how she had come every day to watch him build their house. He went farther back to their first kiss and first dance, both at a harvest festival when they were sixteen. Further back still, to their childhood, when the two of them and Tommy Miller shucked work to swim in the creek and skip rocks all summer long. But he could not ignore how his stories, kisses and assurances of love did not lift her sadness.

He asked what he could do to make her smile.

Her answer sent him back to the Spinners.

“She misses her baby,” he said. “Ours died.”

“Her baby did not.”

“I can’t bear to see her so sad. What must I do?”

They gave him a vase stopped with a cork.

“Bring us the innocence of a child.”

Peter took the vase, but he could not puzzle out how to take a child’s innocence and whether he would do it even if he could. The world had too little innocence as it was.

Still he searched from town to town. On clear nights, he lay with his saddle for a pillow, stared at the stars and thought about other worlds, places where Eloise and their child were alive and not buried beneath the oak tree on the hill. He yearned for such a world with a desire so strong it hurt.

After many weeks, he happened across a gunfight. A man fell dead, and a boy ran into the street to cry over his father’s body. Peter uncorked the vase and watched, fascinated and sickened, as mist of the purest white poured inside.

He took it to the Spinners.

“Your wife has her child,” they said.

His daughter’s name was Emily. She had brown curls, blue eyes and a cheerful disposition. Peter had never seen a more beautiful baby. He tried to forget that his own dead child had been a boy.

The three of them lived happily for many months before Eloise again, gradually, slipped into despair. She left the house less and less, and then not at all. She ignored Emily, stopped eating and lost weight.

Peter pleaded that she tell him what was wrong.

She did.

Her words chewed a hole in his heart.

He stood before the Spinners one last time. “I am not her husband. She married Tommy Miller. We were good friends, the three of us, until he died of small pox. He was 12.”

“We know this.”

“Why did you spin me an Eloise with a different husband and a child not my own? Why didn’t she tell me right away?”

“She made a deal with us, one we will not divulge. In coming here, in doing what she did, she fulfilled her part of the deal.”

“Will you send her home?”

“That depends on you.”

Peter sobbed. “I said I would do anything. I meant it.”

“You ask us to return her to her true home?”

“Yes.”

“We will do so on one condition.”

“What is that?” Peter asked.

They smiled knowing smiles. “Your life, freely given, to spin where we please.”

“You would do to me what you did to her?” he asked.

They nodded, and Peter understood how neatly he had walked into their trap. He yearned for a world where Eloise and their baby had lived, but if he agreed, the Spinners would twist his wish into something unrecognizable.

He hoped Eloise, at least, would find happiness.

“Send her home. I am yours.”

The Spinners began to glow. They raised their hands. Peter closed his eyes, clenched his fists and waited for the spin.


Jennifer Campbell-Hicks lives in Arvada, Colorado, where she tries to find time to write in between her two full-time jobs as a journalist and a mother of three.


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 average 4 stars • 4 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Dustin Adams

    I feel as if I’ve just watched an entire episode of the Twilight Zone – in five minutes.

    Well done.

  • I’m not sure I completely get this?

  • Very engaging, but a bit out there.

  • I read it three times and still find it a bit confusing.
    Am I missing something?

  • Jane Roop

    Agree with Mary. Just couldn’t figure it out.

  • An interesting fable. They are always difficult to pull off. My compliments to your skill.

    The world is somewhat like the Dark Tower series.

  • I liked this VERY much. Here is my take on it, and I apologize to the author if I’m off a little.

    The spinners are multi-dimensional beings, able to exist across any number of different realities. Peter is of Dimension 1 (lets shorten that to D.1). The spinners are able to take power/sustenance from esoteric things but they must be collected by others. He makes a deal and is given Eloise from D.2. What deal she made with the spinners in D.2 we do not know, but somehow like our Peter is in the end, she is in their debt. She longs for her lost baby and Peter makes a deal to get Emily. Is she Eloise’s actual baby from D.2? I doubt it. They probably took her from another bad deal a Peter and Eloise in D.3 made. In the end Peter will be taken up and given to an Eloise that lost her Peter in D.4 where Eloise(D.4) has made her own deal with the devil.

    From a single tragedy, the spinners have sown misery and discord along at least 4 different dimensions. I can only imagine that if they gain power/sustenance from such as the innocence of a child, then the suffering of Peter/Eloise/Emily must be an banquet of ice cream an lollipops to them!

  • Debbie Gillis

    I like this alot. The first paragraph was a little slow for me but it set the scene. After that, I was hooked. By the time I got to the end (which was very quickly), I wanted more. I wanted to know where the spinners sent Peter and what his new life was like. I wanted to know the stories of others that the spinners had “helped”. This could be a series. Great job Jennifer.

  • Loved this!

    A creative premise and a haunting voice. As #1 said, like an Episode of The Twilight Zone in just 5 minutes. Nicely done Jennifer.

  • Joseph Kaufman

    I liked the way The Spinners are epic and evil (amoral, at least) enough that they could fill a six-book set of fantasy, yet they were also very effective in under 1000 words. I suppose that is the very point comments 1 and 9 are making! Great stuff.

  • an intriguing premise which seems to get lost and unbelievable in the middle.

    The beginning sets the scene well. Good evocation of place in so few words.

  • JenM

    A creepy twist on a ghost story. Five stars.

  • Johanna Miklos

    I’m a little lost. Tommy died when they were 12 – did 12 year old Eloise go to The Spiiners and ask to have a life with Tommy?
    I like the idea of Spinners – I’m just baffled that a 12 year old would seek their help.

  • joannab.

    well, it was baffling. it was also mesmerizing. i thought brian j. hunt’s comment (lucky #7) is possibly an outline for a whole book for ms. campbell-hicks. she’s already on her way by creating an upstanding hero, a wife of loveliness, sorrow, and deviousness, an anti-hero in tommy miller, and a group of creatures who are aching to be developed further. go for it.

  • Thank you, everyone, for taking the time to read and comment. I appreciate the honesty — the compliments and the confusion, too.

  • Jim G

    Jen, a great story. Like someone else proposed, the Twilight zone or even the Outer Limits. You are becomeing another Rod Serling (but better looking.)

  • Oooh, I like this a lot! Inter-dimensional surrogates, people surrendering themselves to become playing cards in the quantum shuffle–and others being tricked, even for the best of intentions. Lovely read and a great concept!

  • Loved it. Perfect tone, sweet and scary at the same time. Clever idea, very well executed. Great stuff.

  • This does grab me. I would read a much longer story. It kind of remInds me of the Hulu series “last booth on the end” or something similar… Where the man in the booth arranges favors from many people and as long as the tasks are completed it fulfills the wishes of others.

    Well done.

  • Liked this a lot. Don’t see why people are confused.

  • I really enjoyed this piece. I’ve been struggling to find my “voice” in my works and this work is an outstanding example of an author’s voice. Amazing that she accomplished it in under 1000 words. Bien hecho. I would love to read more of your work!

  • Gretchen Bassier

    Totally awesome – I love alternate universes!

  • Evan Odds

    Spinners – thought they were good guys hanging out in a deserted town bestowing gifts of restoral on broken (but worthy) souls. Turns out they are really nasty scoundrels messing with the space-time continuum in at least two different dimensions or realities. Or are they actually white hats like I first thought, but I just can’t get a clear image through the murk?

    What’s their motivation? Why do they do this? I’m totally intrigued and need some answers. Ahhhggg!

  • Compelling and compact. There is a ton of narrative arc in these 1000 words, yet it never feels hurried or overburdened. Good voice, strong concept. And, yes, a feel of fable. Very nicely done. This is the merest tip of a vast story world.

  • I enjoyed this clever tale. It gives a brief but powerful glimpse into an intriguing story world.

  • Pingback: Podcast EDF083: The Spinners • by Jennifer Campbell-Hicks • read by Folly Blaine | Every Day Fiction - The once a day flash fiction magazine.()

  • Roli Bhushan-Malhotra

    I loved it! So didn’t want it to end. Beautiful!

  • SarahT

    I, too, enjoyed this piece.

    #13…interesting take. I think you may be over thinking this one. The 12 year old Tommy died in THIS dimension, not necessarily the others.

  • S Conroy

    Really glad this was on Joseph Kaufmann’s ‘Looking through the archive’ list. Well worth the read. Good writing and great imagination.