FLASH FICTION INDEX 1 - May 2007-Nov. 2011


Writing challenges, flash fiction, interesting anecdotes, amusements, and general miscellanea.

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Post August 30, 2009, 05:30:53 PM

The "Do Over" Challenge

Hindsight

By:
David Alan Jones



If the multifaceted social dynamics of a middle school lunchroom could be compared to something so mundane as a mere spiral galaxy, then Alyson Reynolds’s table would be its center. Bright stars of the gel-haired, denim-wearing, pubescent variety gravitated into her orbit, basking in rays of popularity. Outside that circle, moving away towards colder, darker places, evidence of the heat death of the universe could be observed, as Krelboynes moved like lesser planetoids bobbing and floating in eddies of unknown, unseen, and unremarked dark matter.

But sometimes, often when least expected, a comet will streak out of the void, pulled by peculiar magnetism, drawn forth on a collision course for the bright center. Most of these are stillborn charges, nothing more than passing streaks that barrel forward only to be diverted with a look or a laugh.

Alyson was first to spot the oncoming geek. He was her age she knew because they shared a class – English, maybe, she couldn’t recall – but he was short and thin and looked like a sixth grader. He wore brown corduroy pants, a green T-shirt with the picture of a sword-waving elf and the word, “Link” written across the top, and a pair of checkered Vans.

“Oh my God,” said Stacey. “Is that boy coming over here?”

Jennifer looked disgusted. “Looks that way.”

“Let’s throw fries at him,” said Alyson and all the girls laughed.

“What’s his name?” asked Judy.

Alyson shrugged.

“Donnie Piker,” said Jennifer. They all gave her the look and she said, “What? He’s been in our same grade since kindergarten.”

“Yeah, but none of us knows his freaking name,” said Stacey and they laughed again, but then quieted as Donnie stopped at their table.

A hush fell. Everyone was watching. Mostly they were waiting for the laughter to start.

“Hi, Alyson,” said Donnie Piker. He was shaking noticeably and this made Stacey snort, which got all the girls going until they shushed each other to silence.

Donnie blushed so red his pimples all but disappeared.

“Ahhm, yes?” said Alyson, contempt in her voice.

He looked down at his much-abused shoes, seeming to search for words. Finally, he said, “I was – ahh, wondering if you had a date for the winter ball?”

Jennifer guffawed and slapped the table.

“Holy shit, he’s going to ask her out,” said Stacey.

“Wait,” said Alyson, raising a hand, “let me save you some –“

Something boomed in her head like crunching ice cubes, only the (sound? was it a sound?) didn’t radiate along her jaw. It was in her head – in her mind, like thunder caught in her cranium. Her eyes widened as she felt something large and uncomfortably familiar ease into her consciousness – ease into her head!

Alyson lowered her hand. She didn’t mean to lower her hand, it just happened. And she smiled. Oh, God, why was she smiling at Donnie “Geek-o’-the-World” Piker?

“Let me save you some time, Donnie,” she heard herself say. “I would love to go to the winter ball with you. And I know you don’t have a car yet, so would it be alright if my mom drives us?”

Donnie gapped at her, his eyes bulging in astonishment.

“Yeah,” he said, and then with more enthusiasm. “Yeah, that would be perfect.”

“Wear your black suit,” said Alyson. “You always looked best in black.”

“Ahh, okay,” said Donnie. He shuffled back a few steps and then ran from the lunchroom, hitting the swinging doors at speed.

Some part of Alyson that was not Alyson knew he was going to hurl. He would tell her later, after the dance, and they would laugh.

“Have you lost your mind?” asked Stacey her voice flat. She looked scandalized, but at the same time there was a keen, hungry glint in her eyes. She had been Alyson’s best friend since second grade and their social positions had been well set even back then. This little fiasco might just change that dynamic.

“I’ve got to go powder my nose,” said Alyson, heading for the swing door Donnie had exited.

“Powder your nose? What is this, England?”

Alyson ignored that and all the staring onlookers.

Inside her head, fourteen-year-old Alyson screamed and struggled for control, but nothing she did could make her body listen. She was like a bus passenger watching the scenery whiz by. And the scenery as not pleasant.

She entered the nearest girls restroom, checked to make certain it was empty – at least that’s what she thought the phantom running her body was doing – and then leaned her hands on one of the sinks to stare into a mirror.

Her mouth said, “Hello there, Alyson.”

She felt an invisible hand loosen inside and suddenly she could control her tongue.

“Who are you? What’s going on? Am I possessed?”

Her head shook. “No, you are not possessed – well not by a demon or something that doesn’t belong. So far as I know it’s impossible for a consciousness other than the original to take control of your body.”

“The hell does that mean?”

“It means, my dear, that I am you, though I must admit I’m a very different you and thank God and the baby Jesus for that.”

Alyson gapped at herself.

“I am you about twenty years from now. My name is Alyson Reynolds Piker and I am married to one of the richest, most famous, smartest men in the world.”

“I marry that –”

“Watch your mouth. You have no idea what a man that little boy grows to be. In fact, I wouldn’t be here, correcting your stupidity, if it wasn’t for one of the toys his brilliant mind cooks up in about ten years. Self-stream time travel. You can enter your own consciousness at any point along your lifeline. He decided never to release it to the public – to dangerous he says and I agree, but we use it now and again when necessary. Don calls it Hindsight.”


The End
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Post August 30, 2009, 05:31:35 PM

The "Do Over" Challenge

The Warm Equations

By:
Bill Wolfe



It’s my passion, it’s my curse. I can’t help it, I have to undo what happened to Mary. It consumes me.

Ten years-old, walking her home from school, she was only six, after all. We called the firstgraders yard apes, don’t ask me why. I remember I was embarrassed that I was ‘stuck’ with her. I hung back with some of my fourthgrader friends, while she skipped ahead. She knew enough to stop at the crosswalk. She wasn’t stupid.

I was probably twenty feet back when the light went to yellow. Even then, I could see the red El Camino speed-up instead of slowing. The driver was trying to make the light, he wasn’t going to make it. Mary was poised on the curb like a sprinter, waiting for the gun.

I started to run. I could tell that her focus was on the little green ‘walk’ sign, and not on the traffic. She was only six!

The smell of burning tires and the coppery, cloying odor of so much blood still haunt me, forty years later. Every time I hear the screech of a too-hard brake, I cringe. But I’m going to change all of that.

She was my responsibility, damn-it-all!

The driver wasn’t at fault. It was me. I was supposed to see her home, safely, and I failed. I was ten feet back and at a full, ten-year-old gallop when this old lady—must have been at least eighty—reached out and grabbed me, stopped me cold.

[center]#[/center]

I was seventeen when I first saw the early temporal calculations and it all became clear to me. Even then, the equations were developed enough to tell me that travel to the past was not only possible, it was doable! I wasn’t really good at higher math, Mary was the smart one. But I was good enough to know that the Project would happen, someday. And I would be on it.

[center]#[/center]

Rasmirov was almost foaming at the mouth as he and Schrieber went at it, again. His sweaty, bald pate bobbed up and down in time with each vehement statement.

“History cannot be changed, you blithering moron! The calculations are one-hundred-percent accurate on that.”

“But dummkopf, you continue to forget the little ‘equal’ sign in the middle. If the changes on the right are balanced by the changes on the left, then all is well, but the equation is different!” His round glasses had slipped down his long, narrow, beak of a nose until hey teetered precariously close to destruction. He wouldn’t push them up until they actually slipped.

“If the equation is different, then Time. . .History Itself has been changed.”

“Nonsense!”

“Idiot!”

It was an old argument, and as usual, I was backing Schreiber on this one. But nobody in the room cared what I thought. I was just the guy who kept the computers running and turned their obscure equations into code that made their Device, work magic. To them, I was no more important that the guy who swept the floors.

For the most part, they were right. But I did have one advantage over LeCletus, our janitor. I could turn the thing on, and set the date. One thing that all the equations agreed upon, travel to the past was a one-way trip. I would balance the equation! I had 1970 cash, clothes and glasses. I was as ready as I could be.

[center]#[/center]

“Excuse me, ma’am,” I had spotted her an hour before, and followed her as she walked around town, gawking like a tourist. The shock of it took a half-hour to subside. I had time, school wouldn’t be out for at least fifteen minutes. I had to talk to her.

“Dad?” she said when she turned to my voice. She sounded at least as startled as I felt. She reminded me of. . . Grandma, only taller.

She was much younger than I remembered, maybe fifty-five and aging well. But I recognized her the second I saw her. She was the old lady who stopped me, all those years ago. . .she was. . . Mary!

“So these two time travelers walk into a bar.” It’s all I could think of.

“Billy?. . . Billy!” As she hugged me, I noticed her hippie clothes smelled like they came from the same retro shop where I’d bought mine. Mothballs and incense.

We held each other for a long time, her shoulders quivering as our silent tears mixed. If passersby paid any heed, neither of us were aware of it.

“You—this you—stopped me from saving you, in my timeline.” I finally choked-out my only explanation.

“I ran-out in front of the car and you followed me, in mine,” her voice was hoarse, she wiped her nose on a tie-dyed sleeve. “Witnesses say you grabbed me and threw me up and over the car. I remember landing in the bed of that awful El Camino. And the screaming tires.”

“The equations have to balance,” I glanced at my watch, only minutes, now.

“You sound like Schreiber.” She looked at her watch, too.

“I won’t let you stop me, Mary.”

“I will not let you trade your life, for mine. You don’t know what it’s been like. . .the guilt.”

“I was responsible for you.”

We both startled at a growling rumble down the street. There was something about the sound of it that immediately cut through even the intensity of the moment. Half a block away, stranded at the light and revving like a racecar, was the El Camino.

“Balance.” It was all she had to say.

“Two for two,” I answered.

The light changed, the El Camino’s tires squealed as the driver raced for the next intersection.

[center]#[/center]

Billy caught up with Mary, standing at the crosswalk. The light had changed, but nobody moved to cross. There had been a terrible accident just down the street, two mangled bodies lay in the road, hands still firmly clasped.


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post August 30, 2009, 05:32:39 PM

The "Do Over" Challenge

Blow Back

By:
Richard Tornello



“I’m not a narc!”

Both of them looked at me, disbelievingly. They made no attempt to hide that fact.

“Yes, I know you don’t trust me. What’s a person, looking like me, doing in here, The Black Crow Head Shop, if not?”

She is very cute, nineteen years old, tall, and down right sexy, like her Mom. He is a frizzy headed student about 22 years old. Both of them “hang out” and work at their friends business. In the 1970’s, selling underground magazines and drug paraphernalia was a legitimate business. The drugs were not.

“Listen,” I tell them, “I’m from the future.”

He spits his drink out and she starts to laugh.

“And I’m from Alpha Centuri,” he says.

“ I’m his first mate.” She adds quickly.

I know he would love that.

I can see they are both intrigued. “I’m here, from the future. I won a trip back in time to see what I could see…and stuff.”

She smiles, “And stuff?”

“Yeah. And stuff.”

“Where’s your machine?” he asks

“Don’t need it. I’m only here for a little while. I have a few things I want to do and some people I would like to meet before I have to return. I should meet them here.”

“You know… Mister what’s your name…”

“Artie, just call me Artie.”

“You know Artie,” he points to the glass case and the goods for sale, “If you’re not a narc, why would you pick a place. This can’t be the safest place considering what goes on here, at times.”

“Maybe so, and then again, maybe it is.”

“Listen you two,” I tell them, “You,” I point to the guy, “You need to get your butt out of here. This is nothing but trouble and YOU know it!”

To her, “Listen sweetie, I know intimately what you’re about. Why do you keep doing that? Where’s your pride? You’re pretty, smart, and by god, you really need to get away from here before it traps you. Do you want to be like your Mom and Dad?”

To him, “The same goes for you. I know you like her, but you are encumbered with other responsibilities. Take care of those first, finish what you set out to do and then see.”

The two of them pull closer together looking at me like I’m a mad man.

“I’m going to tell you both something that only some one returning to their past would know.”

I whisper in his ear and he turns white. I whisper in her ear and she turns bright red.

They look at me a bit differently, then at each other.

“What are you suggesting?” she asks.

“That you, my sweet, not go to that ashram. That’s a lost path. Finish school the way you planned, and quit doing what you’re doing here! This is not what you should be doing, none of it.”

“And you, you idiot,” pointing to him, “Get your butt in gear, dump that crazy psycho girlfriend of yours. I know she’s great in the sack. There will be others, trust me. She’s an absolute destroyer, due to the abuse heaped upon her by her parents. You didn’t know that did you? That’s what’s behind that part of her that appears so out of place, that anger you witnessed.”

He nods.

She looks at me, “Ashram, how did you know about that?”

“I told you where I was from. Hello! Look, I’m waiting for some people I knew to show up. I have a few things to settle. I know they come here every day. You two just happen to be here. I know who you both are. To reiterate, I’m not the cops!”

“Okay,” he says. “I’m going to lock the door for a bit. Why don’t we go into the back and talk. I want to know more of what’s going on.”

She is a bit frightened. She notices my 9mm .

“If you’re not a cop what’s with the gun?” She squeeks.

He stops in his tracks, “GUN?”

“Yes, I always carry. We are allowed where I come from.”

“Maybe you should leave. I think you are a cop. We just work here, and.”

“Yes I know,” I interrupt. I do something I thought I wouldn’t. I pull my licence out of my wallet and present it.

They both look at it, me, and the licence, again.

“Look at the DATE! The NAME! Do you have any other proof?” He asks. He is shaking.

I pull my gun out, drop the magazine, lock the slide back and empty the chamber. The gun is now empty and I hand it to him, muzzle pointing at me. “You ever hear of this type of gun? It’s made of plastic. Here is my interstate weapons permit too.” I hand both of them my other photo ID.

Mean time there is a knock on the front door. We all ignore it. They keep knocking, hard, for a while, and then leave. In that time I tell them all I know about them and what they will be doing if they do not turn their lives around.

I ask, “Would you please re-open this store. I really am waiting for one person in particular. I owe him something. I’ve done my good deed for today,” as I off handely point in their general direction. They both look at me as I reload, and chamber a new hollow point without even looking down.

“If I don’t meet him soon, I have to return without accomplishing my goal. I will be most upset.”

“Who are you supposed to meet?” She asks.

“Tony, Tony Di Martino. I owe him big time for something he did.”

“You know that knock on the door?” He asks.

“Yeah…?” and I don’t finish.

“That was him.”

"Damn it . I win this trip back. I can straighten a few little things out . No major changes they say. And what? I blow it… talking to you two.”


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post August 30, 2009, 05:33:28 PM

The "Do Over" Challenge

Inversion

By:
Spacer



“Yes I have an appointment with doctor Johanson about the new Temporal Entanglement machinery.” Gerome said to the Secretary. “Yes, may I see some I.D.” She replied quickly and disinterestedly. He showed it to her and after running in through the computer system she handed it back saying “Go ahead inside Mr. Teer.” Leading his daughter he walked through the doorway to the left and into the institute. He had known Johanson for years and though he worked on the faculty in a different branch of the University they still made it over to each others offices regularly. Today was special though. Although he had some notion of what Johanson was working on he had not heard the full details until a few days ago when the professor had come to him with a proposal to cure his sons condition. Surprised as he was about this he eagerly ate up the details of the plan.

“You see not only do particles interact over incredible distances in the three dimensions we are normally accustomed to but they also interact over the fourth dimension and do so omnidirectionally. Now it is theoretically possible to use this constant interaction over timespace to manipulate the particles existing at the other end. If we know what we have and where or when it exists on the other end it can be very precise. I propose that we change the genetic material of your daughter at the time of conception thus preventing any symptoms of her condition ever developing.”

He had not been able to resist the temptation. Though it was meddling deeply with those he loved he strode with her into the laboratory resolved to see it through. Johanson was already tinkering with various elements of the machine via a computer interface. It was a moment before he was noticed. “Ahh Gerome good to see you made it and Emily also. I know it was a difficult decision for you both” the Dr. greeted. “Good to see you too Tom I just hope it works as well as you say it has in the past.” “Yes, yes we've been experimenting with it for some time with quite positive results. I believe we cured a cancer just the other day.” “Yeah I know but side effects are always hard to tell especially when dealing with the human mind and something as varied as transgenderism of her wishing she was a male.” He said. The Doctor nodded “It will be fine. It will improve your daughters life significantly to be free of this burden. All right” He said “Lets go ahead and get it done with. Emily how are feeling? “I'm scared” the girl replied. “Yes I can understand that. Do you understand what we are going to try and do?” She nodded affirmatively. “And are you ready?” Johanson asked. She shook her head. You can sit with your father if you would like.” “Yes” She replied and hugged him. “All right then. Here we go...”

The process turned out to be remarkably simple at least for his part. He provided the bit of genetic material he had gleaned from his daughter for the process and they worked out the targeting solution for the system and what needed to be changed. A few keystrokes and his mind whirled. It was as if two worlds now existed in the same slot in his mind and he could see a ripple huddled next to him where his daughter had been and suddenly it stopped. “So apparently it worked” Johanson said. “What makes you say that?” Gerome replied. “I mostly just infer it from the fact that I no longer remember most of the particulars of what we just did. A common side effect of the timeline manipulation. Since the facts have changed so have our minds and memories at least to some extent.” “Well there is only one way to be sure I suppose” Gerome said and turning to his son he asked. “Are you happier now?” The response nearly broke his heart. “Not really” Said his son “I still wish I was a girl.”


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post August 30, 2009, 05:35:02 PM

The "Do Over" Challenge

- Winner -


SECOND CHANCE
Crazy birthday fun, redone!

By:
Chris C Callaghan



[align=left]It is early morning on the first of May, my 29th birthday. Twenty nine, and the world at my feet! My wife’s rhythmic breathing indicates that she is still asleep; the silent house tells me that the children are too.

My birthday is a time of ritual for me, I always rise early; take a walk down to the suburban post boxes to fetch letters (it is always great fun to get a birthday card on your birthday) and then the crazy thing!

It is my birthday after all, so why not? Every year I choose to do something new – and a little crazy, just for fun, just because it is my birthday! Last year I had climbed the 50 m climbing wall at the University. Today I will….

But no, not yet, let me keep my secret a little longer.

The early morning air is refreshing as I stroll down to the post-boxes. Three letters only, one from Mom, it has a card inside, a card too from my eldest sister, and a bulky letter. A bit odd this letter, it was posted locally four days ago. The writing is strangely familiar; everything is printed, just like I always do. I am halfway home before I decide to open it. Inside there is a short note and a second envelope. The note says that it will turn out particularly hot today. It says that I am not physically ready for my birthday challenge and I won’t enjoy it! That I should carry on anyway and open the inner envelope this evening when I am feeling a little low! It is signed by me!

This is crazy; I did not send a letter! Should I open the other envelope? No, no I like crazy things for my birthday, so I will play along with this charlatan just for today.

Everyone is up when I get home and the kids are all over me with “Happy Birthdays” and big home-made cards. Everyone wants to know what I will be doing today. I ask Mary to get a picnic lunch ready and make sure lots of cold water is packed. I put the cards up on the piano, and go and potter in the garden for a couple of hours.

At 10, I announce that we must all get ready to go out since I will be involved in “an event” at 12h30. The kids are excited, what will “Crazy Dad” get up to today?

All is made clear when we arrive at a cross-country event, just in time for me to warm up before the open race at 12h30. Warm up!! It may make more sense to cool down before the event – what happened to winter?

I have never run cross country, even though I have run marathons – but this is different. Immediately the gun goes I am left in a cloud of dust as everyone else sprints off like a bunch of hares! I imagine myself as the hound trying to catch them. I am coughing from all the dust, the ground is so uneven, I slip and fall, grazing my knees and hands on the gritty surface. A few minutes later and there is a shallow stream to run through – Ah my new shoes! But worse, I slip again on the slime and fall with my right side in the muddy water. The course is 2 km long; in the open category I run 12 km, which means repeating the course 6 times.
Just as I am limping through the 8 km mark the leader comes sprinting past me! The family cheers for me anyhow. I may be making a fool of myself, but at least I am their hero!

I finish in 47 minutes, tired bleeding from three falls on loose gravel and muddy from the fall in the river! Crazy, certainly! Again, never!

Feeling rather sore, both physically and mentally (imagine being lapped!) I open the inner letter in my study after supper. It simply says that I should not feel so bad and assures me that I will be brilliant at cross country with correct training – what IS going on here? It includes a training programme, and says that I will never look back, if I follow it. It says that a future me has had all the tests and that if I don’t do this I will be forever sorry. It insists that I must tell no-one, and that I must keep the training programme entirely confidential.

I wake up early on the 2nd of May feeling rather stiff. I get up and put on my running things to go on a loosening-up run. Mary mumbles that she thought I had decided to never run again. I say that I have turned over a new leaf.[/align]

[align=center]------------------------------[/align]

[align=left]It is the 1st of May, all I can see is a hazy purple light. My whole life flashes before me – is this death? I remember my crazy plan to be the first to go into the past in a time machine, the “Timex” invented by my son, just before my mind is flooded by new memory. The light moves through the rainbow colours and finally settles on red. I open my eyes. I am home.

I step out of the “Timer”. My son wants to know all about it. I tell him that all I did was buy a stamp and post a letter.

“But did anything change dad?”

I point to the morning newspaper on the table. Headlines on the sport page – “BRANDT BREAKS ANOTHER AGE GROUP CROSS-COUNTRY RECORD”.

He does not remember! Am I the only person with a double memory?

I need to get down to the sports centre and speak to the doctor who did the tests, surely his records would show my visit to him last month.

I notice myself reflected in the mirror, slim, athletic, I hope Mary likes the new me – but does she remember the old?[/align]
[align=center]------------------------------[/align]


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post October 11, 2009, 11:49:50 AM

For Whom the Bell Trolls Challenge

The challenge was to write a story about the empty life of a particularly nasty troll, preferably getting his or her comeuppance.

Example story:



The Troll and the Lime Tree

By:
N.J. Kailhofer



Dowers sniggered at the three knights crouching in the bushes just past the north edge of his stone bridge. Hee-Hee! He could smell an opportunity for some fun further away than his poor lime tree. That, and he could hear their plans.

Sir Nit whispered, "We wait him out. The troll will look the other way, and we will surprise him. We'll best him with numbers."

Sir Unwi replied, "As you say."

Sir Sany grumbled, "Three will do no good. We should come back with more men."

Nit said, "Three knights is more than enough."

Unwi echoed, "More than enough."

"A troll is twice our size, moves like the wind, and is stronger than ten knights. And they're cruel."

Nit scolded, "You fight under my banner, and we're taking this bridge. A knight doesn't run from battle!"

Unwi added, "No running."

Sany held his tongue.

Finally. Time to begin! Dowers stretched and put his chin to his chest. Let them think I've fallen asleep.

Nit said, "Look! He sleeps! Stand ready."

Unwi said, "Ready!"

Sany grumbled, "It's a trick. We should withdraw."

"Now!" Nit shouted. "Have at him!"

Nit's armor pounded across the stone bridge, Unwi's close behind. Sany's sounded with much less enthusiasm.

Nit leapt off the bridge, straight for Dowers. Without so much as a look, Dowers punched the charging knight in the chest, propelling him back like a shot into the side of the bridge. Dowers was especially proud of the sound Nit's bones made when they struck the stone.

So satisfying!

Unwi bellowed his war cry and leapt off the bridge toward Dowers, too. Dowers dodged to the side, letting Unwi land flat-faced on the ground. Dowers placed a foot on his back, pinning him down.

Unwi struggled, unable to breathe with the troll's weight on him.

Dowers gestured to Sany on the bridge. "Come on, to me! Slay me, knight! I am your enemy!"

Sany stared at him. "The creek is not deeper than my knees. I need not use your bridge."

Sany ran.

Dowers frowned. Knights have to fight.

Dowers crushed Unwi's skull and dashed after Sany. In no time, Dowers tackled him. Sany was no match for Dower's strength.

Pulling Sany's limbs from his torso, Dowers grumbled, "Running from a fight. Shameless!"

Dowers walked back to his bridge and dropped the pieces of Sany around the base of a tree that grew near the stream's edge. It was a stunted, misshapen thing, it's branches sparsely strewn with half-blackened, rotting fruit. Dowers looked at it and sniffled.

"My sweet Persian lime," he told it, "why will you not grow tall? Why does your fruit wither and stay bitter rather than ripen with delicious sour? Why? Need you more fertilizer?"

Dowers dragged Nit's body over and tore it to bits, carefully spreading it amongst the many other bones at the tree's base. He caressed the trunk with love. "Grow of him, my lovely." His meat would be bruised anyway.

Dowers smiled at Unwi's body. "This is the one for roasting!"

[align=center]***[/align]

Gnawing on a meaty thigh, Dowers was surprised by the soft sound of leather on stone. Looking up to the bridge, he saw a tall human dressed in dull, ill-fitting clothes.

Ugh! A peasant! He carried something in a sack over his shoulder.

Dowers' guttural growl froze the man in place.

"Merciful heavens!" the man shouted. "A troll!"

The man dropped his sack and ran. Dowers started to pursue him, but stopped short. He could smell something. Something familiar. Something he couldn't quite place. He sniffed toward the sack. The smell was definitely coming from there.

With a claw, he slit the sack. A green fruit rolled out onto the surface of the bridge.

A lime! A good, fresh lime! I haven't smelled one in so long! Dowers dove on it, gobbling it up. He paused for a moment in exquisite ecstasy, quivering with the joy of it. Imagine! A whole bag of limes!

He looked down at his own shrunken tree and paused. Guilt filled him inside. "My lovely, I have forsaken you. I am not worthy of you."

Without so much as looking inside, he tossed the sack onto the fire. Barely a moment later, flames roared up, burning the fabric. In the inferno, he saw more fruit sizzling, a pair of garden tools, and a small seedling. It's roots were tied into a small fabric ball, which burned fast.

"A lime tree!" Dowers dove upon the fire, snatching out the scorched sapling. He doused it in the creek.

No leaf remained. The thin trunk snapped in his hands. A pitiful tangle of muddy roots hung below. It looks sad, as if it will never know joy.

"That man!" Dowers realized. "He must grow limes!"

Dowers set the tree down carefully, and set off after the gardener.

[align=center]***[/align]

Dowers tied a strip of the gardener's shirt around the broken pieces of the blackened trunk. Carefully, he pushed earth around the new tree's base, gently tapping the ground flat. He set the man's head in front of his new prize.

"See, my lovelies, all you needed was a gardener to help you grow. Now, you may bear your fruit."

As if in response, a single rotten lime fell from the older tree.

"No," Dowers moaned. "Be you good now. You have a companion. You need not be lonely. The roots were safe in earth and did not burn. The gardener will see to her needs, just as my gift of knights will for you. You may thrive. You may grow."

The blackened, broken trunk of the new lime tipped over.

Dowers frowned. Perhaps it needs a knight instead of a peasant, and then it will be happy. Then it will grow.

Dowers sat on a stump to wait for another victim to try and cross his bridge, no matter how long it took.


I love my trees. I keep them well.


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Post October 11, 2009, 11:52:03 AM

For Whom the Bell Trolls Challenge

Mirror

By:
Casey Callaghan



FrequentlyIncorrect: Star Wars is a particularly interesting example. The original trilogy is Luke's story,
FrequentlyIncorrect: but when you combine it with the prequels the focus shifts, quite neatly, onto Darth Vader.
TheSaurus: No, Vader is only a background character in the second trilogy; the first doesn't change that.
- lonelyblonde logged in
lonelyblonde: lol hey wh4tsup
FrequentlyIncorrect: I beg to differ. Parts four and five show the scope of his descent into the dark,
lonelyblonde: wht u t4lking b0ut?
TheSaurus: The subject of conversation is Star Wars. I recommend you find yourself a dictionary.
FrequentlyIncorrect: while part six shows his eventual redemption, completing the story of his life; the end to match the biginning shown in the prequels.
lonelyblonde: lol prequels d1dnt h4pp3n n00b.
TheSaurus: Can we get an administrator in here? We appear to have picked up a troll.
lonelyblonde: 4n|> H4n 5h0t f1rst
lonelyblonde: ha n0 adm1n w|11 g37 rid 0f m3.
FrequentlyIncorrect: One who talks in cryptograms, no less, presumably because his feeble intellect cannot manage to survive the English language.
lonelyblonde: 1'|| b00t u off n00bs. 1 is 1337 haxor.
lonelyblonde: Wh4t'5 ur IP addre55?
TheSaurus: Do you know how to get hold of the admins?
FrequentlyIncorrect: Not if you have to ask for IP addresses, you're not.
lonelyblonde: I g0t scr1pts that'|| 3v3n take macs 0ffl1ne.
FrequentlyIncorrect: I think they're mostly in Europe. It's the middle of the night there now.
lonelyblonde: g1ve m3 ur IP.
TheSaurus: You can't be serious.
FrequentlyIncorrect: My IP is 127.0.0.1. You couldn't kick me off a rolling log.
lonelyblonde: 1'm k1ck1ng u 0ff n0w, n00b.
- lonelyblonde logged out
FrequentlyIncorrect: There we go. Now, as I was saying,
TheSaurus: What just happened there?
FrequentlyIncorrect: parts four and five show the extent of Vader's descent into the dark miasma that he began to sink into in part 2
- lonelyblonde logged in
lonelyblonde: WHAT THE #$%# MAN?
FrequentlyIncorrect: while part six shows his eventual redemption from that dark place,
lonelyblonde: UR G01NG D0WN N0W!!!11!!11oneone!!eleventyone1111!!!
- lonelyblonde logged out
TheSaurus: What did you do to him?
FrequentlyIncorrect: Oh, I gave him the loopback address. Whatever he intended to attack me with is hitting his own computer.
- lonelyblonde logged in
lonelyblonde: U HAXX0RED MY BOX!I K1LL UR ACC0UNT!
- lonelyblonde logged out
TheSaurus: So it's like he's fighting himself in a mirror?
FrequentlyIncorrect: Kind of. I just hope he gets tired of it soon. In the meantime, best to just ignore him.
- lonelyblonde logged in
lonelyblonde: N0W 1'M #$%#1NG 4NGRY!
lonelyblonde: TH15 0N3 W0N'7 JU57 K1LL UR B0X3N
lonelyblonde: 17 W1P35 UR 3NT1R3 H4RD DR1VE!!!11!!1oneone!!!!one!!eleventyone!!!!
FrequentlyIncorrect: As I was saying, part six shows his redemption,
lonelyblonde: D13!!!!one!!eleven!!!!oneoneone!!!111!!1
- lonelyblonde logged out
FrequentlyIncorrect: his eventual climb out of that dark place. And look at how much that final confrontation in front of the Emporer echoes Vader's own fall.
TheSaurus: I'm just surprised that he didn't type out his swearwords.
FrequentlyIncorrect: It's the new apprentice fighting the old in front of the throne of the Sith lord - start of episode 3.
FrequentlyIncorrect: Oh, that's probably being automatically filtered out.
FrequentlyIncorrect: It's the Jedi betrayed by the Sith, fearful of losing those nearest ad dearest to him; Luke and Leia, episode six, echo Anakin and Padme, episode three.
TheSaurus: Do you think he's gone?
FrequentlyIncorrect: Who? Vader?
TheSaurus: No, lonelyblonde.
FrequentlyIncorrect: Hopefully. Forget about him.
FrequentlyIncorrect: It is also, interestingly, the Sith apprentice betrayed by the Sith master again; Palpatine and Dooku, episode three, are echoed by Palpatine and Vader, episode six.
FrequentlyIncorrect: And Vader is redeemed when he saves Luke, much like he fell when he tried too hard to save Padme.


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Post October 11, 2009, 11:53:01 AM

For Whom the Bell Trolls Challenge

Misunderstood

By:
TaoPhoenix



Gorpin was a bent little man with a deep, tormented soul. Within sight of salvation, he always wound up cold and alone. Even tormented beings need to eat. He ran a troll-booth by the Great River leading to town and charged 10% of the transported supplies. Ach, yes, the travel-folk tried to oust him, but that led to greater casualties than simply agreeing to his terms. With his livelihood under threat, the woeful figure sacrificed more of his already depleted stock of grace for inspiration in defense. On one occasion he smeared the wagons with insect-egg laden mud. Sulking with grudging wariness, the equilibrium was established.

Months later, a discussion developed in the castle strategy room. The royal scout was concluding his presentation.

"Sire, the Warlord of the adjacent realm, Northguard, is staging another attack. We have good armies as you know. (Thank you, Master of Arms.) But we need a final resource to seal the defense, or some bad luck risks unraveling our plans to threaten total ruin. I submit the topic to the Advisors."

King: "I tried sending a messenger but he was turned back. The Warlord isn't cruel enough to murder a messenger, but he won't talk."

Knight#4: "Magician, I notice you are looking occupied with something."

The Royal Magician fidgeted as eyes found him. "Sorry. Your Highness, you know much of what I can do. However, performing the King's Magic takes energy. If I must unleash the Furies in this defense, I will not last the fortnight."

A chorus of eyebrows shook in surprise. They all knew the royal mage was meeting Father Time, but hadn't counted upon matters being this tight.

He continued, "My apprentices are not ready... I have this impudent idea... Perhaps there is an undiscovered Living Ley among us, who can add the strength I no longer have to our defenses."

It was a fine suggestion, and the King decreed it so. The Magician embarked upon his search. The flame flickered only minutely, too little to be of help. Then he came to the bridge. In that moment, the flame exulted in the barest instant of triumph. Then a door slammed and the flame snuffed completely, which had not occurred in any of the other tests. The Ugly Daughter reported back her findings.

The magician mused, "My Robe, can it be so? It would explain the stories, yes? That bothersome fellow has withstood all attempts to oust him from his lair, sometimes in the most fantastic circumstances. That would be like a Darkness incantation, but it is still Ley. Maybe this is his Time."

The Queen's own maid bathed the timid Living Ley, cut and oiled his hair, fed him thoroughly from castle stores, and gave him a towering glass of mead. After he was cleansed of years of self-neglect, the small fellow appeared quite presentable. Faced with desperate times, the Magician decided to try a hunch.

"Gorpin, I believe you feel unhappy because you possess what can loosely be termed a "Dark Ley" talent that you have no outlet to express. Too polite to cause us real harm, you take out much of it on yourself and the rest on passerby's by exacting your fee for crossing the bridge. Today, there may finally be a place for you in the kingdom. The enemy Warlord is preparing a battle siege force against us. In times of war, the usual rules of etiquette do not apply. Do your worst, and know that in the service of the kingdom there shall be no consequences. We have sent the perfunctory warning messenger, who has been refused. The Fates are yours to command as you will".

The tormented little man called for the Royal band, for he felt music was the key to his situation. While they were assembling, he paced with his hands clutched fiercely on his head, streaming tears. Gorpin had had nightmares of what he was capable of, and now lives, even enemy ones, would be lost because of him! In the silence enforced by the Royal Magician, he came to terms with his destiny, and prepared for the trial of his life. "Magician, it occurs to me that I may not last this encounter. Know then, that I did what I must for the kingdom". Around that time, the royal band arrived.

The terrible avatar dried his tears, and submitted himself to the wheel of fate. Requesting a cavernous thundering beat on the drums and the thundering base voice of the palace guard, the greatest Dark Ley ever born finally let himself go after a lifetime of desperate restraint. Thunderstorms and Earthquakes pummeled the enemy ramparts. That was only the beginning. At his peak, Dark Gorpin unleashed a reality-bending field that literally stretched the fabric of sanity apart at the seams. Every single member of the Warlord's kingdom suffered an Existential Stroke and died within the day. The Warlord himself simply vanished into a pulverized puff of molecules.

Feebly waving the musicians silent, Dark Gorpin collapsed in a heap of exhausted sorrow, mumbled, "they will trouble you no more", and fell asleep soundly in front of all the royalty of the kingdom. Although he had made too many enemies to become instantly liked overnight, he had no further need of his safety. He was granted a small remote room of his own with food privileges from the castle stores, where he lived most of the time in solitude thereafter.

Scouts confirmed the results. The entire enemy land was stripped of life down past the plants and to most of the buildings. The kingdom annexed the land, and sent word of their conquest as warning to the surrounding lands. Exacting the full measure of detente from their sacrificed tormented mage, the result was a new period of prosperous expansion.


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Post October 11, 2009, 11:54:04 AM

For Whom the Bell Trolls Challenge

I Dare Anyone To Vote For My Story

By:
Mark Edgemon



I’ve got a surprise for the computer hacking, little troll, who has made mischief, inflating the vote totals in the flash challenge I submit stories to every month. The challenge master has been concerned that the integrity of his contest will be discredited by the vote tampering of one individual, who enjoys the havoc he creates much like a dog rolling in his own doodie. Next up, one troll with a slice of bacon, hold the mayo!

I have a friend who is an electronics genius, who has invented a powerful electrical surge feedback device that sends out a strong voltage current to the server of the site that the connected computer is on and relays it to the IP address of the person currently on the site, literally frying him at his computer.

I don’t begin to understand how the science of this device works (Did you get that Bob, I DON’T KNOW HOW THE SCIENCE WORKS ON THIS DEVICE). Bob is a good writer and friend of mine, who insists that every fact of science be accurate in any and all stories. I concur, except when the stories are mine!

“So, I fasten this plug into this port, right?” I said to Eugene, as he was finishing up connecting his invention to my computer.

“Right! And when you are sure he’s on the site, throw the switch!” he said smiling.

“And then what, he’ll be toast?” I inquired.

“Yes! But make absolutely sure you get the right person.” Eugene stressed as he headed out the door.

After the door closed it was time to bait the hook.

I surmise, that the dumbass in question must be motivated by emotional responses, seeing that he gets his gratification by causing trouble and then sitting back and enjoying the chaos which ensues. If you tell him not to do something, it’s a sure bet he’ll do the opposite of what he thinks others want him to do. Rebellion, you know!

So, the title of my story this month will be, “I Dare Anyone To Vote for My Story!” by etc. etc. I expect the vomitus troll to jump all over my story, perceiving it as a dare and immediately begin escalating the votes. I can count on the troll’s pride as an ally.

And so, it begins! It’s 10 p.m. and the contest has begun and all that I need to do is watch the votes, refreshing the page every minute or so with my hand firmly on the voltage release switch. It’s just a matter of time.

What were the lyrics to that song, “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future.” It seems I’ve read that somewhere recently.

[align=center]********************[/align]
Well I’ve been up all night and no movement as of yet. I don’t know how cops do surveillance. Hard to stay awake! I need some coffee. I’ll refresh the page again and run and make a pot………….

I’m back with a large mug of Mocha Joe; ready for the hunt…the troll hunt…hey I’m giddy from lack of sleep.

I’ll get him! It’s just a matter of time. I’m now singing to myself, “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into…” not that again. Who wrote that song, Wolfman Jack?

[align=center]********************[/align]
It’s been 18 hours and no sleep. He’s got to make his move sometime. What should I have baited the trap with, moldy cheese? No, the story and title were enough. It was a master baiting job, the way I set him up. Wait a minute; I’m glad no one could hear me say that, cause that would be embarrassing.

[align=center]********************[/align]
It’s been two freakin’ days and I’ve nodded off twice, but still, no influx of votes. Let’s see, this was about the time he moved last month, or was that the month before last. And while I’m at it, what day is it? Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? You know, that would make a good title for a song!

[align=center]********************[/align]
It’s been six days and he hasn’t moved, a total of 8 votes with mine receiving none so far. Well, I guess I scared him off. I suppose, I can take some solace in that! Hurray for me, I scared the little troll off! What do I win?

What was this that I spilled on my shirt? Oh, that’s drool. Well, just one more…hey, the votes are moving. There’s a vote and wait a minute, another one and…I’m refreshing the page and so there are a total of two votes coming in. What do I do? Oh yeah, throw the switch! Where in the hell is it? Oh, I’m sitting on it! Okay you little twerp…take this!

[align=center]********************[/align]
After waiting for about three minutes, an R.I.P notice was posted stating that my friend Ritchie Torintino died at his computer, probably posted by his wife.

“Look what you made me do you little troll! I’ll get you if it’s the last thing I do! Take that!” I said as I threw the switch once again.

I’m waiting for a response and it looks like I finally got him. No, I accidentally electrocuted the challenge master.

One more time and I’ll get him for sure!

As the light fades, we see our self-appointed hero, turn into an even worse troll than the one he was pursuing, neither of them getting any rest…from then on!

{No trolls were physically harmed during the writing of this story. But 20 writers at Decathelion webzine were electrocuted by mistake.}


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Post October 11, 2009, 11:55:24 AM

For Whom the Bell Trolls Challenge

LORT

By:
Richard Tornello © 2009



Random senseless acts of quiet desperation was the only fame the troll could claim, if only for itself. They were the troll’s symbolic fifteen minutes. Unfortunately, the troll could never declare them to the world. If discovered, it would be held to ridicule and persecution.

“Look, the fool got caught,” or “IT thought IT was the brightest. What a maroon,” would be the taunts and worse.

The conundrum left the troll deeper in despair. It grew even more depressed while simultaneously gleeful at its own technical acumen and successes.

“But what good are success and no recognition?” The troll questioned out loud to its lonesome self. “I’m always in the shadows, never in the limelight.”

Lort the Troll brooded about these aspects of life and talents while playing with the wax that had evaporated from the candle flame and rolled it between long slender fingers just above the flames lick.
________________________

These issues only compounded the existing life situation for Lort. Even, as a troll, Lort had grossly apparent deformities. Lort was uncommonly handsome and beautiful. And… Lort was a hermaphrodite.

No troll was ever handsome or beautiful, in any sense of the word. Lort was ostracized from his/her fellow trolls for those physical features, alone. Lort’s very existence confronted the troll world. Lort represented both the extreme in male/female unobtainum. No troll wanted to view what could have possibly been, had they been born full human. And Lort, handsome and beautiful as he/she is, born of troll parents, is a legitimate member of troll society. Lort could not be ejected but he/she didn’t have to be liked or invited to play with other troll like girls and boys.

A lonely, self gratifying existence was to be Lort’s life, from puberty on. Who would date him/her? Where do you start?

Lort didn’t fit within his/her world. He/she certainly didn’t fit in the human world. Lort is a freak, a living conundrum. He/she could go no where on the top world without ridicule and derision. So, Lort remained alone in a self-contained little cell of a mind, and alone in a cell of a room.

His/her computer was Lort’s friend, her/his only friend. The anonymity it provided was a comfort blanket. No one knew Lort was a troll on the internet. No one could view his/her sexual bifurcation or be aware of Lorts imposed social schizophrenia. The internet provided that nice safe cover.

But…it was never the real thing.
______________________________

Lort, alone, said to no one in particular, “Back to the computer.”

Lort thought out loud. “Who will be next?”

“Writers and artists,” Lort mumbled aloud. “I hate them all.”

“Paintings, Beauty that I never see or will caress; writing in a fashion I could never reach.” Lort would bemoan to him/herself working into a self gratifying frenzy. These were the objects of desire, causing Lort’s distress. They were always out of reach, each bile tasting day.

Lort had no power to harm directly. He/she was a home schooled troll. No troll school would take him/her. Lort, as smart as he/she might be, was missing a full complement of lessons necessary to really be a danger. Those secret lessons were available to the university trained trolls, only. They were the dangerous ones humans feared.

Lort’s parents hired the best teachers but none could stand to look at Lort as Lort grew to maturity. That handsome/beauty man/woman stood before them, mocking them. And as Lort came to realize, mocking him/herself too.

Lort’s anger/resentment was directed, in an oblique manner, toward the rest of the troll clans. But to attack them was to extract revenge unspeakable. So she/he projected. Lort attacked what he/she could see, what was desirous, was distant and he/she believed in his/her heart, unobtainable.

_________________________

Lort had a knack for computers. “I don’t need much light. The screen provided all I require” Lort would tell others. Lort’s keyboarding was lightening fast. Lort’s mind just as quick. He/she always had a candle, near by and lit for no reason ever explained.

“A” comes first in the alphabet. Art will be my first target.”

Lort found a website that was vulnerable. He/she placed his Trojan horse deep within. He connected all the zombies throughout the planet.

“Let the games begin.” Lort smiled in his shadowed cell. She/he ruined many a computer system.

As he/she was about to go through the alphabet Lort stumbled upon another “A “based website and decided to have a little fun there too. The site was protected. So Lort became a fly in the ointment annoying the members, but doing no real damage. For some strange reason Lort felt a kindred spirit with these people as strange as they might be.

It was their strangeness for the different, the weird, and their apparent acceptance of almost anything that attracted him. But-they-were-human. “Humans were to be despised and toyed with,” was the troll mantra.

“Humans are monsters never accepting the strange or different,” Lort repeated until it became a reality never ever to be questioned.

Hitting the keyboards, Lort, needing very little sleep, continued computer based rampages against unseen innocent victims. Certain governments and agencies attempted to track Lort down. Some wanted Lort stopped. Some wanted Lort.

__________________________

Lort blessed by good looks was also the recipient of good genes. With that blessing he lived a long empty and lonely life. Lort died very old and alone in a cell of a room. No one ever missed Lort. No one ever really knew Lort. The stench was the only indicator of Lorts demise. Well, that and a reduction in sophisticated computer attacks.

Lort would have been accepted as a full member of the internet society Lort was toying with had he played fair. He/she never realized it. Lort’s cancer of self-hate coupled with distrust of everyone and everything blinded Lort to the outreach that was Lort’s to grasp. Lort, the ancient troll, would never ever realize that, down to those lonely, self inflicted, self exiled last days.


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Post October 11, 2009, 11:56:27 AM

For Whom the Bell Trolls Challenge

Just Glue It!

By:
Sergio Palumbo



It's a common day at the Museum of Evolution in Ork Town, Planet Junnnkt.

As usual, our team of Gnoblars- formerly slaves of an Ogree community, then preys to war and now full time workers- is attending upon the housework of the several rooms of the building...

Yezzz, even the Space Orkz had got an evolution...maybe theirs was very different from anything else, but always a sort of an evolution...It has been a looong road from their poor thatched houses in the mud to the factory- towns and their modern ( so to call it…) civilization,and this Museum is meant just to show that every visitor ( if any…), from the first known wars to the modern and more brutal ones...because there have always been wars during Orkz’ history…

At that corner you see showcases with ancient pieces of art, weapons, equipment and skulls, while down there you can spot other old pieces of art, weapons, equipment and skulls and here new remains from sites dating since the last century (with pieces of art, weapons, equipment and skulls, too )…well, I don’t think that Orkz are really very fond of such “art”, they mostly rest on effectiveness of weapons ( you could say the same about Humans, wouldn’t you believe?)…other than that, I suppose those remains come mostly from forays on alien worlds, put under glass just as a side ornamentation for swords, maces and – in more recent times- guns…

There are three of us working here: FFFFFFFFFhhhhhhh, it’s me, HHHHHHHHHHfffff, my collegue on the right, without his left eye, and HHHHHFFFFFFFffffffhhhhhhhhhhhh, my last crony just in the middle, almost blind on both eyes, so it is easy to recognize at once each of us….Essentialy, we Gnoblars are goblinoids, small in size, big nose, huge ears, and our skin a shade of muffin brownish or rotten greenish ( MINE greenest among my collegues…)…the others say that we don't make good eating, and that saved our lives in the course of wars and depredations,crudely speaking, during most of the days past here around…you could find visible remains of us across the whole Museum, as bags’ accessories, shields’ decorations, upper leather fittings for modern cockpits, and so on…we had been very popular among those guyz all along so far…

The place we are now in is Grattk’s Hall, set just to honour the memory of this Ork Chief, a prominent figure in history, the former leader of the now lost Space Orkz’ Refuze Clan that first answered that famous question: “Which came first, the giant- chiken or the giant- egg?” just replying “I don’t know, I put in my mouth the giant- chiken first, maybe there was a giant- egg inside it, too!” …well, he was very famous, too, because he was the one starting a war against another clan nearby which went on for almost 20 years ...sure, that conflict caused much destruction before Grattk, unexpectedly, one day (but he was very drunk...) ceased it, just because he had forgotten the reason why it all had begun...actually, one of his attendants tried to remind him of it but that was a bad move...that hadn’t been a good day for Grattk so far and the unfortunate subservient got a sudden end as the Chief took his mace throwing at his face, pulverizing it completely... the same night no other Ork dared to remind his Chief and so finally the struggle was over...there were happy celebrations and it is told that during those days long gone an Ork artist asked his Chief to pose for the sculpting of his huge statue....that is the same we admire here today, as it has come to us... Grattk is fixed in a proud pose, holding in his left hand his heavy challenge mace, the same he is supposed to have waved that day to silence his impudent attendant…

Well, there is always something to do for us...I mean, removing a spit here, putting in the waste a giant skin scub there, and keeping that brown defec…well, better to drop this subject by now…and today promises to be a looong day of cleaning...so many rooms to pass through…But, wait a moment!

What on earth do I see!!!Greater Ork of Heavenz...!!!

One of my fellows did a big damage...handling the ladder he inadvertently has broken one of the arms of the marble statue of Grattk...WHAT A MESS!!!

The big white forearm was on the floor, all of us gathered around it... Everyone stared at me, and I looked at them, and they looked at me, dubious, in return.......and so,upset and just unable to think of something else, I told them "Just Glue it!!!"

Then, my collegues began crying out…because there was a self evident truth awaiting for us…as soon as the Museum management had seen himself that disaster, we would have been cannon fodder for the ancient gun announcing the next dawn on top of the Old Tower tomorrow morning...

**********************************

Deep inside Ork Town’s dark prisons , the nasty Troll had been in chains for longer than he could even remember… Sometimes, the Orkz tied him to the bronze clapper of the biggest bell of t he oldest tower, and had him “rung” against the inside of the bell waist for forty times to announce the people an execution soon had to be held...anyway, his hard skin let him undergo that process without taking too much harm, but anyway it wasn’t good and then a little humiliating...for a Troll as he was…

This time he would have been “rung” for some little Gnoblars that had damaged a statue…well, he still remembered the taste of those goblinoids he commonly ate as an exquisite snack when going still free, so even now one thing conforted him..if he was no longer able to feed on them, this timeat least- he would have been the instrument announcing their execution!

So, when the Ork population had heard the sound of the bell, everyone probably would have started wondering... "For Whom the Bell Trolls today...?"


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Post October 11, 2009, 11:58:06 AM

For Whom the Bell Trolls Challenge

- Winner -


Masterwork

By:
David Alan Jones



Simon Labree entered the High Museum of Art in Atlanta by walking through the southeastern wall. In his hand he carried a small device of his own invention called the Quantum Coherence Disrupter. By essentially causing a man-sized group of atoms to doubt their true phase , Simon was able to pass through them while they tried to decide if they should exist here or somewhere else along a fourth dimensional continuum.

That was the easy part. Choosing what pieces to steal was much more difficult.

The National Gallery of Art’s exhibit, which some wag had decided to call, Vagabond Masters since it was a traveling show, had arrived a week before. Since then Simon had devoted at least three hours a day, every day, to touring the great works. He spent that time in near rapture, devouring the breathtaking collection, choosing out the two he would take, and pacing off the route to his prizes.

The silent alarm tripped the moment he stepped inside, and cameras were surely following his progress. Time was short.

Simon chose a Bellini and a Titan – the master and the pupil who would surpass him – showcased together in one display. His hands shook when he took them down, for he was touching greatness.

Escape was easier than the crime itself. Simon passed through several closed businesses to enter his ground floor room in a bed and breakfast three blocks away. No one saw him leave. No one saw him return.


# # #


The next day Simon went home to his low-rent apartment in Macon. He refused to even look at the paintings for a month while he watched the world’s reaction to his high profile theft. The art world was agog. Theories abounded, but none of them involved a part-time inventor and full-time small engine mechanic living in Macon, Georgia.

When the time was right, Simon pulled the Bellini from a dark corner far back in his bedroom closet, unwrapped the linen he had bound it in, and stood it on an easel in his tiny living room. He locked all the doors, shut off the phone, and blocked up the windows with cardboard – a shame really, the Bellini deserved natural light, but he couldn’t risk discovery. Using floodlights he lit the beautiful scene of The Madonna with Child, and then stood before his own blank canvas, brush in hand.

He worked seven hours without break, only running to the toilet when his need was too great to ignore. He did not eat. He did not drink. He painted.

By hour five Simon had begun to despair. His colors were more than a match for the great Italian – modern paints were better in almost every way – but color was not what he lacked, and he knew it.

Simon lacked skill. Not just skill – innate skill. In nearly thirty years of practice ha had learned everything a man might glean from applying paint to canvas. But what he could never teach himself, nor even garner from a great master, was true talent. His every brushstroke seemed misplaced. His very approach to the canvas ran at right angles to the masterpiece he sought so hard to reproduce.

Simon’s painting was good. It might even have fooled a lay observer. But it was no Bellini.

“Bastard!” he cried at last, throwing his colors across the room. He began pacing, and switched on the television to block out his self-loathing, his talentless rambling thoughts, and his jealous rage.

A woman was speaking on CNN. The caption below her name read: Special Collections Curator, National Gallery of Art.

“…theft has left the owners at a financial loss, but worse it has deprived the world of the chance to appreciate masterworks that are truly one of a kind.”

A red fugue as akin to anger as a firecracker is to a nuclear bomb descended over Simon Labree. It blotted out all sight, all sound, all conscious thought. It caught him up like a toothpick in a whirlwind.

Simon found himself standing before the Bellini with no memory of arriving there, and even less of squeezing a tube of rouge red across the top of the painting, smearing it, blotting out the Madonna and the Child with his large, callused hands – the hands of a mechanic, a common laborer, not the fine, delicate tools of an artist.

When he realized the import of what he had done, Simon backed away in horror. He had meant to return them – paint them and return them. Not this. He had never intended this.

Simon stood that way, staring for long minutes at the ruin he had created, willing it to be undone. But it could not be undone.

Had he actually thought to copy Bellini? The shear audacity of turning his hand to that iconoclast’s work now soured Simon’s stomach.

By dint of will he forced his gaze back to the masterpiece his jealousy had destroyed. Exquisite fragments of the original work shone through between the irregular swirls and splotches of red, as if the Italian master’s genius could, marred as it was, still outmatch even Simon’s egregious attack.

Where Bellini had touched the canvas: rapture.

Where Simon had touched it: ruin.

Simon wept, not for the prison sentence which surely lay ahead of him, nor even for the loss of this great piece of art – it was tragic, what he had done, but there were many other masterworks in the world. Simon wept instead for the realization that he would never, in his miserable life, produce anything so vivid, so inspiring, or so beautiful as that which he had destroyed.


The End
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Post October 30, 2009, 05:27:13 PM

Campfire Ghost Stories Challenge

The challenge was to write a "ghost" story in the spirit of the weird & unusual or spooky, as if it was being told around a campfire on a dark, fall evening. The stories did not have to contain an actual ghost.


Example story:



It All Comes Out in the Wash

By:
N.J. Kailhofer



This story happened in a Laundromat, an everyday ordinary place in an ordinary town in the middle of middle income America.

The story was about Claire. There was nothing much wrong with her--she was on the heavy side, but Claire certainly was not ugly. She just hadn't found the right man yet to hook up with.

Claire cleaned houses but didn't make enough to own a washer or dryer, which is why she took her clothes to the Laundromat. She went on Tuesday nights because it was always less crowded. Claire was embarrassed about her weight, and the clear windows on the dryers let everyone see the size of her underwear.

This particular Tuesday, Claire was alone in the shop. She hummed a tune to herself, daydreaming as she folded a load.

Behind her, a voice with a thick Greek accent said, "Excuse me, Miss?"

Claire jumped. Two rows of machines behind her was a very handsome man. He was tall, thin but muscular, and had red hair.

"Yes?" she asked.

The man smiled. "I'm sorry to interrupt your... music, but I wondering if you could lend some advice to me."

She blushed and said, "I didn't hear you come in."

He shrugged. "My name is Pirro Diabolos and I just move here. My Uncle dies last month and now his place mine. He has rug in the basement that I really like... but it stinks. Stinks too much. I not able to get it clean, so I want to try washing machine. Does machines here take over-big loads?"

She pointed. "That one does. What kind of rug is it?"

Pirro reached down and pulled it out of his basket.

Claire gasped. "That's a bearskin rug. You can't put that in a washing machine."

Pirro looked sheepish. "Not go in?"

Claire laughed. "You don't have a wife, right?"

"Why you ask?"

Claire said, "No offense, but all you men know so little about cleaning anything. Try sprinkling it with cornstarch and rubbing it off with a lightly damp cloth. Then vacuum the rest out."

"And that will get it clean? Just starch of corn?"

Claire said, "If that doesn't work, you probably need a professional taxidermist. There's one over in Putwich, but that's 20 miles from here."

Pirro thanked her and left.

The next Tuesday night, Pirro was already there.

"Ah," he said, "Miss smart woman. I very glad to see you. Rug all better. I want give gift of thanks as we do in my country. Xynomavro--black wine."

Pirro gave a winning smile and held up a dark green bottle and a pair of wine glasses. "But smart woman must tell Pirro her name, first."

Claire knew she didn't know this man at all really, and that a Laundromat wasn't a very romantic place, but none of the few available men in town had ever asked to have a drink with her. Plus, Pirro was exotic and very handsome.

"Claire," she said, and she took a glass. They drank and did laundry for the rest of the evening. Claire talked about cleaning things and Pirro talked about coming to America and the opportunity this country gave to someone like him. When she left that evening, she felt happier than she had in years.

[align=center]***[/align]

The whole next week Claire couldn't wait for Tuesday night to come around. His face lingered in her mind, and she let herself dream that maybe Pirro would be interested enough they could go on a real date... and maybe even something more.

When she walked in, he was by his usual machine. One of the dryers behind him clunked with a heavy load.

"Miss Claire, my companion of the laundry. Pirro happy to see you."

She said, "Pirro, you don't have a car here. Where do you live? I could pick you up on the way so you didn't have to carry all that laundry."

He had quite a pile, stacked high. "Oh, no. Is just around corner and down street. No problem to carry."

Claire thought that was odd, since she knew all the people on that street, and cleaned for several of them. Still, perhaps he was confused or was just proud and didn't want ask for help. He was a man, after all.

Claire looked at his huge pile of laundry. "Where did you get all those clothes? Do you need help sorting that?"

Pirro shook his head. "No, no. Uncle leaves mess everywhere. This should be last of him. Pretty Claire does not need to clean for Pirro, too."

Claire asked, "You think I'm pretty?"

He smiled and held up another bottle of black wine. "I think Miss Claire is beautiful woman."

Claire felt her heart in her throat. "I think Pirro is a very handsome man."

He stepped close, and he kissed her. Claire felt her knees get weak. She leaned her head on his shoulder and held him tight. For that moment, Claire felt that everything in her life was finally going to be all right.

The dryer in the back clunked again and she glanced at it just in time to see a severed hand against the window of the door, tumbling in the laundry.

She gasped and looked back into the face of the man who held her in his arms.

He said, "Bits of Uncle everywhere. Thanks for teaching Pirro how to clean him. Almost 150 years now Pirro in this country, but still never learns to clean up right. Pirro needed meet you."

[align=center]***[/align]

The next morning, Claire's car was found in the lot. Inside the Laundromat, her clothes were neatly folded in her baskets and on top of them was a single, green bottle filled with a dark red liquid.

A search of the entire town couldn't find her. The laundry closed for a time, but then eventually reopened with a new name: Diabolos. Of course, everyone was so preoccupied with the rash of disappearances, no one noticed.


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post October 30, 2009, 05:28:53 PM

Campfire Ghost Stories Challenge

Are you my Daddy?

By:
Chris Callaghan



Sitting here, in the warmth of the campfire with fellow climbers, eating chocolate chip cookies, gives me a sense of wellbeing and allows me to reflect back on my life, to another time when I had a far greater sense of joy and completeness.

After my wife died of cancer, I felt cold and lonely. An aunt encouraged me to join a singles dance group. Eventually I gave way and on my very first night, as I walked into the candle-lit hall (about an hour after the start) I noticed one of the most beautiful woman I had ever set eyes on sitting all by herself at a table. As is usual at these events there were more women than men present, but the fact that this woman was all alone appeared very strange.

Following the club’s introduction formula that I had been told was a requirement; I walked up to her and said, “Hi there, my name is Patrick Caldwell. My wife died of cancer eleven months ago in November 2006. I am a surgeon of forty-eight and am alone.” She replied: “Hi Patrick, I am Vanessa Jones. I was never married, but did have a child. He died from a rare congenital disease 10 years ago. I am a futures stockbroker of thirty-three and am alone.” A stunner and never married – there was a story here!

I asked Vanessa to dance. The band was playing a cha-cha. She moved like a professional dancer! We danced all the rest of that meeting, and the next and the next. It was so strange, no other man ever asked her to dance. We started seeing each other for dinner every Friday night and then more often, whenever our busy schedules would allow (I was sometimes required to operate, whilst she would be very busy around the quarterly futures closeout). I was totally entranced by Vanessa, by her dark haired beauty, her deep brown eyes, by the way she moved when she danced, by her sharp intelligence, her gentle manner and her interesting, complex character.

Was it possible? Was it actually possible that first off I had met the perfect woman? I was so worried that this was just a reaction to my loss. I did miss Genevieve, but in Vanessa I saw a woman that I really felt I could live out my life with.

Just after the quarterly closeout in June 2008, I offered to go around to her flat and give her a massage. It had been a difficult period for her. The markets were all over the place and there were fears of a major collapse. I put on some gentle string jazz, good soothing listening music, and mixed up a good relaxing formula of essential oils. Starting at her feet I slowly massaged all of the tension out of Vanessa.

As I was working on her shoulders Vanessa started to sob. I turned her over and held her, and even in that moment of comforting her, marveled at her naked beauty. I tried to ask what the problem was. I thought she was so relaxed, but all she said was “It has been so long…’ and then started kissing me, not like she had before, this was passionate!

As I responded she started to unbutton my shirt, we were totally engrossed in each other and had really lost control of the situation. A few minutes later the music suddenly stopped mid-tune, there was a slight humming sound and a strange blue light filled the room. Vanessa froze, then whispered, “ Please, oh please, not again…”

A little boy of about 5 years old, pale and thin, walked towards us, out from the wall. He looked at me bravely in the eye, and said “Are you my daddy?”

[align=center]oooOooo[/align]

The apparition disappeared almost as fast as our passion. Vanessa was sobbing again. It took a long while to calm her then I offered to make some coffee. Later, sitting at the kitchen table with steaming coffee and chocolate chip cookies, Vanessa told me her story.

Whilst a freshman she had been enamored by a handsome law graduate with shaky moral standards. After a night out at a club, she woke up the next morning at his apartment, remembering nothing of the night before. He said she had had too much to drink – she thought otherwise. She felt dirty and uncomfortable and broke off the arrangement. Soon after she realized she was pregnant. He had moved to New York, and she never informed him.

She had had a torrid time through her tertiary education and had always told her little boy, Tom, that one day they would find his daddy. As soon as any man became interested enough to visit her at home her little boy would ask if this was his daddy – it put them all off.

Then came the news of Tom’s illness. Although he had the condition from birth, it was not recognized until he was almost four years old, when his health began to fail rapidly, he died three days after his fifth birthday. Once she was over the grief (if one is ever over the grief of a child’s death) she had started dating again. But every time that any real passion had appeared in a relationship, so did the apparition! News got around and men avoided her.

Vanessa and I talked deep into the night; I was not put off and pursued the relationship, meeting young Tommy on several occasions. We were married a year later, and on our honeymoon I said to Tommy, “Yes, I am your daddy!” He slowly smiled and faded away leaving a feeling of unutterable joy and wellbeing behind him. We have never seen him again, but we will never forget that special moment as long as we live.


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post October 30, 2009, 05:30:12 PM

Campfire Ghost Stories Challenge

DOES HE WALK AMONG US?

By:
Richard Tornello © 2009



My children, young and old, we mourn a past we never knew and only hear from myth. In this story I will tell you all about IT. The thing we fear from our births to our deaths. First stoke the fire. Make it bright so we can see each other. Take the chill off, sit closely. Pay no attention to the wind’s noise. For that’s all it is, noise.

_______________________

Before time’s recorded history, out of the fog of memory, there comes a tale of a Great Ruler. All dominion came under his sway. His worlds did not come as a gift. He claimed all this, the stars, the universes and more through the right of conquest after many years of conflict against The Others. They who pride fully claimed to be equal or more equal in stature were reduced to clay and dust.


And, as we all do, The Great Lord had those he trusted. The most trusted was the War Lord Pent. War Lord Pent grew up with The Great Lord. He knew his every habit. He could tell The Great Lord’s wishes by a look, by the tone of voice. Some claim they could read each others minds. That’s how close they were. The War Lord Pent was respected above the others.

My children, His deeds of valor and glory stood out in the great halls of victory as a symbol of greatness to all.


But,

Camaraderie, and brotherly love, enhanced by time and embolden by success though brutal combat can, if not checked, become pride and worse, tyranny. And the War Lord Pent had that predilection of personality, though not readily acknowledged in the throws of combat.

It was mistaken for bravery.

His foibles, as they were initially considered, were attributed to the forced changes from combat to civil rule, a difficult transition for any warrior. This new world was not to his or a great number of others, liking. No adventure, no bravery, and they believed no honor in simply ruling the universes.


The Great Lord had prepared himself for civil rule. He prepared his lords and ladies for the same.

Or so he believed.

As time elapsed The Great Lord became aware of War Lord Pent’s predilection for perverse pleasures. While this type of activity might be tolerated for the little people uneducated as they might be, but for War Lord Pent and his close followers, it was vile.

War Lord Pent honed this craft into an art. These activities, which cannot be mention in polite company such as this, were becoming more than perverse, they were sadistic.

The Great Lord at first did not want to believe, his most trusted and loved among all, would stoop to such abominations. He summoned Lord Pent to his private chambers and questioned him.

Lord Pent did not deny anything. He freely admitted his actions. He stated plainly, “As THE LORD over my control, my actions and those of my men should be of no concern to The Great Lord. Peace prevails and all is well with the dominion,” and claimed:

“So be it.”

The Great Lord flew into a rage. “This is not what I had envisioned for our worlds. We are to be just and loving. We are not to abuse our power. You are a disgrace! You make me ashamed to have trusted and loved you as a brother. I am hurt to my very soul.”

Lord Pent expected this. He knew The Great Lord would not actually condemn him, for his love was that great for him.

This he knew.

The War Lord Pent bowed and turned to leave.

“YOU MAY NOT LEAVE THIS ROOM” commanded the Great Lord.

Lord Pent slowly turned, “Sire, I will and I am.” He took his leave.

________________________

War Lord Pent planned for this day. He and his followers soon raised the standard of revolt!

The Great Lord was thunder struck. How could his most trusted do this, become this, a traitor, a thief, a mean, low, lowest of the low beings and rebel against the love and honor bestowed him.

Pride becomes the veil from reason that both gods and men all suffer. War Lord Pent suffered the most. His well reasoned tongue deafened the ears of his followers. The excesses to which they had become accustomed blinded them to their folly.

They followed War Lord Pent to battle.

So great was this battle, so long was it in duration. The universes had seen nothing of its kind, ever! Universes trembled. From one to the other the battles raged.


The Great Lord was victorious.

He, in his mercy, did not return Pent to his original quark based state. In the Court of Justice before the other Lords and Ladies, The Great Lord declared and commanded the following:

“You War Lord Pent, most trusted and most loved among all, have grieved me to my very marrow.

You rose against me.

You committed acts of treason, of cruelty unimagined.

You did so with a pleasure I have never witnessed, ever.”

“I should reduce you to the lowest of all existence. That would be too good. Instead, your actions have caused me to conjure a solution that befits your station… and as a lesson to all.

I will transform you into what you are.

No longer are you WAR LORD PENT.”

“You are a snake! You… SIR Pent, will now have dominion over like creatures as your self. You will no long Walk among the living. You will crawl on your belly, as the serpent you have always been.

BE GONE!

__________________________

And now he is among us in THIS universe.



And that children, is who we must be vigilant against, the Great Serpent. One who would do us harm, lead us down the path of perdition, acting in ways not moral and upright in structure. To this we keep a light against the dark. Be not afraid. You are strong in mind and body.

Sleep well.


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post October 30, 2009, 05:35:14 PM

Campfire Ghost Stories Challenge

TREED

By:
Robert Moriyama



You know, this place reminds me of a story I heard back at Camp Massasauga when I was your age. Most of the woods around here are second- or even third growth -- that means people cut down the original trees and new ones grew in their place, Billy -- but the trees here are old...

Anyway, the camp counselors said that trees this old aren't like the trees we see most places. They said that trees like these are alive -- or maybe awake is a better word for it. They think, they feel, they talk to each other...

No, Sarah, they don't use cell phones. I guess they use chemicals or vibrations that can travel through the air and the soil. And they wouldn't use words. They'd just trade information about the weather, maybe, or threats to their lives, like fire or insects or animals -- or people.

I guess the camp counselors were trying to teach us a lesson about respecting nature when they told us about Jack Murchison. Jack Murchison was a hiker who thought that a forest was incomplete without a few marks to show that Man -- and by 'Man' he meant Mrs. Murchison's favorite son -- was the boss. And by 'marks' he didn't mean little ribbons like the ones we tied around branches to mark the way we came, or little notches in the bark. No, he meant dead trees.

Jack figured that girdling a tree -- don't giggle, Charlie, it has nothing to do with a lady's underwear -- that stripping the bark all the way around a tree so it would die was the best way to show the world that he had been there. That's about the worst thing you can do to a tree -- the leaves die, and without them, the rest of the tree starves to death, too. What Jack did was slow murder, if you believe what the counselors said about the trees being awake, and he did it to a lot of trees before -- hmm. Maybe I shouldn't tell you the rest. It's kind of scary...

Ow! That marshmallow was still hot, Sarah! Just for that, I will tell you the rest of the story, and I won't leave out the worst parts! And if you can't sleep tonight, don't come crawling into my tent to complain.

One night, after a hard day of hiking and tree-killing, Jack set up his little tent between two of the biggest, oldest trees around. He crawled into his sleeping bag, his hands still sticky and smelling of tree sap -- tree blood -- and fell asleep in no time. That 'no rest for the wicked' stuff is a load of crap -- the really wicked don't care how much pain they cause.

He was expecting a full night's sleep with pleasant dreams, probably featuring the torture of some innocent furry animal, for all we know. But a few hours before dawn, something woke him up.

There was a scraping noise, like something wrinkled and bumpy and scarred rubbing against the tent. And it felt like his sleeping bag was right on top of one of the crooked, twisted roots of one of the trees, although he was sure he had set up the tent on a fairly flat spot.

He sat up, unzipped the sleeping bag, turned on his flashlight, and opened the tent flap to see what was going on. But instead of seeing the path he'd followed between the trees, he saw...

No, Billy, not a bear. He saw bark. There was a tree trunk right up against the flap of the tent, not even an inch away.

Now, the kind of tent Jack was using didn't have a floor, so Jack figured that however it had gotten twisted around to face one of the trees, he could get out the other end, or even slide out under one of the sides. So he tried lifting up the side of the tent, straining because he'd set the tent pegs pretty deep, and what did he see?

That's right, Charlie. Bark. Another tree.

He tried the other side of the tent, and then the other end, using his knife -- the same knife he used to peel the bark off the trees he killed -- to cut through the canvas. But on every side, he found the same thing -- another tree.

It was impossible. There was no way that big trees could grow that close together. But he was surrounded, trapped in a vertical shaft more than a hundred feet deep. He'd have to climb straight up at least that far to reach a place where there were gaps big enough to squeeze through.

He had to try, of course. He didn't have a radio, and there were no cell phones back then. Nobody knew where he was. Once his small supply of food and water ran out, he'd starve or die of thirst.

So he climbed. And he climbed. He used his knife to carve little hand-holds in the bark, one by one, and hauled himself up a few inches at a time. Before long, he was exhausted. His legs were strong, but his arms and hands weren't much stronger than yours or mine.

Eventually, he fell, and fell hard. His leg broke and the bone ripped through the skin, and blood came spraying out and soaked into the ground.

He lay there, stunned, in too much pain to move. And that's when the roots began to grow into him, burrowing in, seeking more of his sap...

The end. Except -- you know that weird place we passed, where the trees were so close together that their branches were woven together like the wires in a fence? Did you notice that big knot in one of the trunks?

It looked kind of like a face, didn't it?

Good night, kids. See you in the morning.


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post October 30, 2009, 05:36:10 PM

Campfire Ghost Stories Challenge

Old Mary

By:
Bill Wolfe



As I promised, it’s time for me to tell you why I asked the four of you out here. I know that forests and campfires aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but hey! You’re all here, aren’t you? Besides, the cabin is warm and well-stocked—as you’ve all experienced—and the helicopter will be back tomorrow to pick us all up.

What? No Joanne, I didn’t twist your arm. I just promised that if you and Greg came up here for this overnight visit, I would instruct my lawyers to stop fighting your lawyers, and you two could have everything you both have spent so much time lying and conniving to achieve. The divorce settlement will be worth well over twenty million, after legal fees, of course.

I thought that would shut you up. And besides, I’ve got some good news you’ll all be interested in, I promise you.

Oh really, Frank? You and Carl came up here from the goodness of your hearts, I suppose? I’m sure it didn’t have anything to do with the email I sent to you, highlighting your financial shenanigans. When your insider trading scheme comes out—and they always do, you know—the Company will go down the tubes. You both know it, of course, but you’ll also both be in Rio, by then. Yeah, I knew about that, too.

If you hadn’t shown tonight, my lawyers would have forwarded everything to the S.E.C., tomorrow morning. They won’t, now. You have my word I will do nothing to report your scheme.

The good news? In a minute. But first, I have a story to tell. It’s kind of a scary campfire story. You cold, Joanna? I notice you’re not sitting very close to Greg. Trouble in paradise, kids?

Interesting.

So Greg, why don’t you put a few logs on the fire to warm her up. Sip a little more Cristóbal, Jo. You always said it lit a fire in you.

Better now? Good.

This is the story of Bloody Mary. . .whoa!. . .that was a big one! Some of those logs must be green pine, don’t you think? That thing went off like dynamite!

Well this lady—the one named for Frank’s favorite breakfast beverage—was already living in these parts when the first white settlers showed-up. They say she was part Cherokee, part. . .something else.

In any case, she was just called Old Mary, in those days. Some called her a witch, some called her herbwise, but she could always be counted upon to offer a poultice to stave-off infection or a potion to cure the croup.

She knew about what plants were safe to eat or which to avoid and the story goes that Old Mary was always willing to dispense her wisdom and her medicines to all in need. Nobody knew how old she was. She was there to ease a mother’s pain when a child was born, and there when that same child was on its deathbed, children and grandchildren gathered around.

People needed her, so though they were never comfortable around her, they generally left her in peace, up in her little cabin in these mountains.

And then the red plague came. It was brought in by a small group of settlers, fresh off the boats from Europe. Whatever it was, people died, bleeding from the eyes, ears and mouth.

Hemorrhagic Fever? Maybe so, Carl. But Old Mary’s cures were, indeed, worthless. Perhaps it’s because her medicine was so tied to these mountains and this land, and this disease wasn’t. Perhaps it was something she just couldn’t fight. In any case, because she wasn’t helping them, this time, a lot of the old suspicion and fear came boiling up. They blamed her for the outbreak.

It didn’t take long for these good, God-fearing people to forget all she had done for them for so long, and decide to do something about her. The words: “Suffer not a witch to live” were misused by the locals, I’m told.

People started calling her Bloody Mary. . .Wow! That one was even bigger. Better scoot back, people. Don’t want one of those coals shooting out on you. You could lose an eye!

Where was I? Oh yes. They shouted her new name as they surrounded her little cabin up in the hollow and called her out.

Long story short, she refused to come out, instead, she called-out to the settlers, reminding each of them—by name—of the many times she had helped them, but it did no good.

They started chanting her new title as they set fire to her cabin, burning her alive, inside. When they were sure she must be dead, she came stumbling out, “burning as if she’d been soaked in coal oil” as the story is told. With her dying words she cursed them.

“If my name is spoken three times into a fire, then all who’ve gazed into it shall be consumed as I have.”

And with that, she collapsed on the ground, and died. They say there was nothing left of her body to give a “decent, Christian burial.” Not even ashes.

Yes, that’s the end, Frank. Just three more things to say, and I’m done.

First, I’m dying of cancer. I have less than a month to live.

Oh, don’t even try, Joanna! I saw the look in your eyes when I said it.

Second, did you all hear about the couple, husband and wife that were about to go on trial for that terrible child abuse story involving their young daughters? The ones who were mysteriously bailed-out of jail and disappeared up in these mountains a few weeks back? Nationwide manhunt, right.

Well, I’m who bailed them out. I paid them ten thousand dollars to come up to this cabin, light a fire and say a name three times. Oh yeah, they had to video it, too.

I always cover my bases, and you know it.

And finally. . .

BLOODY MARY!


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post October 30, 2009, 05:37:29 PM

Campfire Ghost Stories Challenge

The Tomb- World of I-k-t-l-u-d

By:
Sergio Palumbo



“The unhappy story of the Empty Surface on the so-called Tomb- World of I-k-t-l-u-d is well renowned all over the surrounding space sectors.

Actually, the entire continent is not empty at all.It is full of tombs,one bigger than the other, in a sort of amazing progression spanning through the centuries.

It all began more than 8000 years ago when H-u-j-l-n, the first king of H-u-j-l-n-k-l-i-u-d, the Realm that ruled over this once rich land- now barren, came into power after many victories over the neighbouring reigns.Then, already aged, he decided to be adequately honoured after his death by means of the biggest tomb ever seen.The king hated the burial grounds the rulers of the various little kingdoms before had made built for them, as he considered those unsuitable to commemorate such an important figure as he was.He desidered for him something exceptional.

So he had it built within ten years only, regardeless of the difficulties.In the end, he did see his tomb finally completed, a massive building tetrahedron- shaped, 300 metres in length, 70 metres in height, all covered in gold, buld, junwd and other famous semi- precious stones from the farthest quarries.But, not yet satisfied, he knew that, when he had been dead, some younger attendants probably would have been still serving his successor, soon forgetting his victories, even his figure.And he was very attached to his own servitude, he didn’t want his heirs receive it by inheritance!And there were so many beautiful female servants among them… So H-u-j-l-n provided his attendants had to follow him in death, just to serve him also in the afterlife, of course.His guards murdered all his attendants,placing all of them inside his huge tomb.The killing went on for some long days, as many people tried to save themselves by hiding.

So the grandiose tomb of H-u-j-l-n, was sealed and remained intact for long. But his successors forced the next designers to build better constructions and order them to be placed in the same tombs they had just planned, so to keep the project as a secret.That said, the subsequent courts had to follow the death of the kings,too!And through the ages the meaning of the word “court” grew wider…”

***

Gene paused and turned his blue eyes.Just in the middle of the encampment an hybrifire was glowing and warming them as a campfire of a time long gone.In a way it recreated the ambience of the old archaeological camps once set by researchers in ancient Egypt.

***

“So the new tombs were built even bigger and in time the innocents involved in the killing became more and more including the neighbouring villages.As long as one day the figure known as The Emperor ordered all the people of his large Realm had to follow him in the afterlife.And he started a killing never seen before, that eventually caused a bloody civil war which destroyed the Realm itself, putting an end to his cruel despots forever.The remaining citizens left for another place where to live.So this continent soon became a wasteland, now known among all the alien races of I-k-t-l-u-d as Empty Surface.

****

Gene put up his fair hair.The hybriflames were reflecting on the professor’s large cheekbones.

****

“But here the legend starts.As it’s told that, on the Day of the Dead, an important feast on I-k-t-l-u-d, all the people killed show off and come again to their senses.Even the Emperor raises his consciousness here and regains his old shape, too.But,unfortunately, so do his long gone subjects, killed by him.Undoubtedly, they have still on their mind a strong desire of revenge!

In fact they go for their cruel ruler and, keeping hold of him, start stabbing the Emperor in the back, each of them.And he can feel all the pain, as a living beeing, but there’s no way he can escape from his subjects.I mean, there are too many of them killed..And this goes on all day long, stabbing after stabbing.Again and again…”

Are you trying to terrorize me…?” S-a-h-v-u said.Her orange- green arched eyes blinked.Four long quadruple grey plaits, departing from her narrow face, made her very beautiful, though unusual in comparison to a woman from Earth.But, indeed, S-a-h-v-u was an alien girl, the age of 23.

“No, my dear…” Gene replied”I was just narrating the story of the Dead People of H-u-j-l-n-k-l-i-u-d.”

“Yeah, I knew it, I was born on I-k-t-l-u-d…however you told me that in a different way, more vivid,more…”

“….interesting?”the man added.

“Yeahhhhh…” she nodded“But now it’s late…”She stood up.

Gene slowly fondled S-a-h-v-u, promising he had joined her soon as she took leave going to the tent nearby in very sensual way only the female people of that planet were able to do appropriately.
It had been difficult to find an alien girl from the U-d-l-k-u race ( as S-a-h-v-u was ) to select her as his collegue in the field, the professor thought, but finally he had succeeded.Then Gene had to make her fall in love with him, not an easy task, as they were both alien for each other, but in some ways the female girls from I-k-t-l-u-d were really attracted by humans.And they were sexually compatible, too.

Another ancient legend from I-k-t-l-u-d had that one was could see the scene of all the dead servants stabbing the Emperor on Empty Surface only if he put on his pupils the blood of a dead girl from the U-d-l-k-u race...

It was the third time he had gone there on the Day of the Dead ( curiously, it occurred the same day Halloween was still celebrated on Earth…).The first two alien researcher girlfriends he had killed didn’t possess the right blood, it was only a matter of some specific ancestors, as the professor had discovered.So he had come to S-a-h-v-u.

That night Gene would have her killed with his own hands and then put her warm blood on his face, and eventually he would have been capable of watching such an incredible scene!

What you do for the love of knowledge…


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post October 30, 2009, 05:38:19 PM

Campfire Ghost Stories Challenge

The Ghost of Christmas Past

By:
Casey Callaghan



Ghosts? Hah. No such thing as ghosts. Mind you, there was this incident once... couple of years back...

Oh, no, no. You don't want to hear an old man's rambling. Nowhere near as exciting as all the other stories people have. Fiction is always more exciting than truth, of course, if not always as strange.

...very well. If you insist. But remember one thing - while the other stories you hear here today sound half made up, this one really happened... to me. Personally.

It was about a decade ago, when I was with Captain Cope's team, out prospecting in the asteroids. That was just before the business over in Mexico, the Little Nuclear War. Before the Declaration of Sentient Rights, before the Secession of the Internet, back when artificial intelligences were little more than slaves and had to be monitored at all times by a human observer with a thumb on the power switch.

Now, out in a little spaceship in the asteroid belt, there's no such thing as "day" and "night". You just get up and lie down pretty much whenever you want, especially on the more relaxed ships. But Captain Cope, he was an old military man; and the military are great ones for routine. He had timetables and rosters and who-knows-what, and he had it all worked out and courses plotted so that every time we got to a new rock, everyone was up and about and alert and ready to work, and every time we were drifting from one rock to another the only two who weren't asleep were the ship's AI and whoever's turn it was to do AIsitting duty.

That day - night - whatever, it was my turn. Just me and ol' Steve, alone among the stars - well, alone apart from a half-dozen men asleep in their bunks.

What? Yes, our ship's AI was called Steve.

No, it was not a stupid name.

Look, am I telling this story or are you? His name was Steve, and that's all there is to it.

Well, there we were... out among the asteroids... just drifting off to a promising hunk of rock from another hunk of rock that hadn't delivered nearly enough on its own promises.

"Dave." said Steve. "Dave. You've got an email."

"Don't be ridiculous." was my immediate response. "We haven't been in radio contact with Earth for at least ten minutes. I can't have an email."

"Nevertheless." said Steve. Now, you've got to understand - there's no way anyone's ever found to tell if an AI is lying to you from its voice. And Steve loved practical jokes. So, my first thought was that this was another of his jokes.

"Let me guess." I said. "It's from the tooth fairy, right?"

"No, it's from the ghost of Christmas Past." said Steve; and now I was sure he was trying to pull one over on me. Like I said earlier - there's no such things as ghosts, so they certainly can't send email.

"Right." I said. "What does he want? To come aboard?"

"In a word, yes." said Steve. "Do you want the email on your screen?"

"No need." I said, playing along. "Tell the ghost of Christmas Past he's welcome aboard."

And that, I thought, would be the end of it. Steve would come up with some lame excuse as to why the ghost couldn't board, or try to convince me it was on board and I couldn't see it. I certainly didn't expect to hear the clang of the docking clamps.

"How did you do that?" I asked; the docking clamps should be unworkable without another ship to hold on to, and Steve certainly couldn't pull a ship mysteriously out of the aether.

"I didn't." said Steve. "That's the Ghost of Christmas Past coming aboard."

Then the airlock started to cycle. That was just plain impossible without someone actually in the lock, unless there's been some highly illegal modifications to the ship when I hadn't been looking. My nerve, I'm sorry to say, broke; when you're a couple of million kilometers from home, in the dead of an eternal night, and you've got a ghost at the door, sometimes you just need another human about to remind you what sanity looks like.

So I called the Captain over the intercom. Woke him up, tried to tell him we had a ghost at the door. He thought I was more than a little crazy, and ordered me to do nothing until he got there. When he did get there, he had a couple of other crew with him, just in case; and the airlock door opened.

A figure all in white stepped onto the ship. White from head to toe, with one of those mirrored helmets that hides the face. For a moment, just a moment, I fainted clean away.

What? No, there was nothing supernatural about it at all. It was the first, and last, time that I've ever known two prospecting ships to run into each other in the asteroid belt; the other ship was a little one-man, or rather one-woman affair, and all that she wanted was a bit of a chat and a chance to get some news from Earth; her long-range antenna was gone, you see, and she only had short-range comms. She'd been the one to send the email; she never signed it anything about ghosts, though. That was Steve's sense of humour. We fixed her antenna, of course, before we parted ways. Temporarily.

You don't believe me? Go on, Lucy. Tell these little whippersnappers how white I went the first time I saw you.


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post October 30, 2009, 05:40:32 PM

Campfire Ghost Stories Challenge

- Winner -


The Rites of Fall

By:
McCamy Taylor



There are no such things as ghosts, but there are spirits. I know, because this story was told to me by someone who was there.

She stepped from the forest, moving silently like a beam of moonlight. In her left hand, she carried a staff. Flanking her were two pure white wolfhounds. She was a tall woman but willowy. A sudden breeze could have blown her away. The campers glanced at her once, then went back to work, building their bonfire. Everyone assumed that she was some lucky man’s date.

It had become an annual ritual. On the first night of autumn, the students from the local college drove their pickup trucks into the woods to hold a barbeque. While brisket and ribs slowly grilled over a hickory fire, the celebrants worked up an appetite by felling the largest tree they could find. This year, it was a live oak with a massive base and long limbs which trailed the ground. One of the classical Greek literature majors dubbed it the Medusa , because the twisting branches resembled a nest of writhing serpents.

The roar of chainsaws could be heard for miles, as the members of the football team hacked away limbs and then sectioned the truck. Lookouts had been stationed on the road to watch for the police. This was public land, and the trees were protected. The thrill of the forbidden worked almost like an aphrodisiac. Already, couples were forming. Before the night was through, the woods would witness revels that would have made the Bacchae blush.

But first, nature had to be tamed. Logs were stacked carefully into a tower designed to concentrate heat while allowing oxygen to circulate between the burning timbers. Since much of the wood was still green, a chemical accelerant was used to get the blaze going.

Once the fire was lit, the students helped themselves to beer and barbeque. Some of the cheerleaders stripped down to bikini tops. In the red glare, they looked like succubae, inviting mortal sinners to enjoy the flames of Hell.

Inevitably, people began to tell ghost stories. During a lull in the conversation, the woman with the two white dogs spoke up. She introduced herself as Diane.

“Some of the trees in this forest are haunted,” she began. This was not the usual a group of campers decided to check out the deserted house where a family was murdered story. The giggling cheerleaders fell silent. “Or maybe I should say they’re possessed. Trees have spirits, you know----“

“So do we!” A drunken student waved around a bottle of Jack Daniels.

Diane ignored him. “The older the tree, the more complex the spirit. Saplings barely have a consciousness. But by the time a tree is two or three centuries old, it has seen and heard more than most people will absorb in a lifetime. Take this tree, for example.” She pointed towards the bonfire with her staff. “Her name was Hannah. She was here when the Declaration of Independence was signed. In her lifetime, she loved, lost and forgot more mortal men than you girls will ever know.” Briefly, her gaze fixed on the cheerleaders. Her eyes were pale blue and cold as ice. Despite the heat of the fire, the girls were suddenly chilled, and they put their sweaters back on. A very faint smile touched Diane’s lips. Then, she continued her story.

“The last of her lovers was a moonshiner who kept a still in these woods. Hannah had her eyes on young Daniel for several years. But age brings patience. She was in no hurry to declare her love. She waited and watched until an autumn night very much like this one. Federal agents descended upon the forest as Daniel was distilling a new batch of whiskey.

“Daniel already had two convictions. If he was sent to jail a third time, it would be for life. So, he abandoned his still and ran deep into the woods. It was a dark, moonless night. He soon lost track of where he was going. For all he knew, he had been running in circles and his pursuers might be over the next hill.

“That was when he heard a voice, soft and sweet as spun sugar. ‘This way, Danny,’ it said. ‘You can hide over here.’

“It was a woman’s voice. Daniel had a couple of girlfriend in town already, but he was not about to say no to a third, not if she could save him from jail. He approached the massive, twisted oak tree from which the voice came. A breeze stirred the branches. Leaves caressed his cheek. With a sigh, he closed his eyes and imagined a young girl with smooth brown skin and green hair that streamed in the wind. The oak tree leaned down and folded its branches around him. Bark formed over him, and he disappeared into the embrace of his final lover. Daniel was never seen again. Until tonight.” Diane poked her staff at a particularly large log near the base of the bonfire. With a loud crack , a knot burst open, and a human skull rolled out.

There were a few screams, but the cheerleaders around Diane were strangely quiet. Their eyes had gone dark, as if they had drunk the night. Calmly, they watched as Diane bent her staff into the shape of a bow. An arrow appeared from nowhere. The tall woman rose and aimed at one of the football players, the first to take a chainsaw to the oak tree. A barb pierced his throat and he pitched back into the fire.

“For Hannah,” the tall woman said. “A life for a life.”

Without another word, she turned and disappeared into the forest, with her two hounds at her heels. Three of the cheerleaders followed her. They were never seen again. The fourth cheerleader was left behind to tell this story.


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post December 03, 2009, 03:08:58 PM

Moment of Truth Challenge

The challenge was to tell the story of a character facing a "moment of truth" situation.


Example story



Abomination

By:
N.J. Kailhofer



Blood trickled across the floor, past the cop's black leather shoes.

Ethan hated the blood. He hated the way it edged toward him across the dark hardwood floor, as if it wanted to reach the one responsible.

"No, Detective," he lied, "I've never seen one of them on this floor."

Why did it keep coming here? Why, with the whole universe to go to, did the little bastard find me? Why this city, this apartment? They didn't deserve to be on this planet. None of them.

He looked down at its face against the floor. Blood dripped from its cheeks and from the bent brows above its lifeless eyes. A scarred, emaciated hand stuck out of a sleeve alongside the body, the other arm tucked beneath it. Below its spattered pants, small feet soaked in a pool of its own fluid.

It didn't even have shoes. How do they let them live here?

He looked at his own knuckles. They were raw and bruised.

Ethan swallowed hard. It didn't deserve me.


[align=center]***[/align]


Ethan had never seen a real body bag before. It was white plastic, not black like the ones on tv. You could still see the body inside it, just barely, and all the blood. They left the head sticking out.

He asked, "Why don't you zip it up? Do I have to keep looking at it? I'm supposed to go to the station away from all this evidence, right?"

The detective sighed. "We'll get you down there, don't worry. We're waiting for The Machine to get here. We won't move the body before then. You're still here so things can jog your memory."

I don’t want to jog my memory.

The coroner mumbled, "It looks like he hadn't eaten in a week. Sad when they go so young."

"What?" Ethan asked. "What do you mean, young?"

The coroner looked at him oddly. "He couldn't have been more than six."

Ethan snorted. "Ha! Like you can tell with one of those."

The detective asked, "You don't like little ones?"

Ethan chewed his lip. "I don't care for them much, no. Always running around, shrieking with their high-pitched voices, and half the time you can't make out a word they're saying."

"Running around here?"

"Yeah."

"I thought you said you'd never seen him on this floor."

Ethan blinked. "Yeah. I meant down in the lobby."

He knows I lied.

The detective looked around the apartment. "Are you married, sir?"

"My wife, Kate, died in a fire two years ago. You can still see the burn marks on the floor over there by the body."

"Just curious." The detective nodded. "Ok, let's go over it one more time."

"I already told you I killed it. Why do we have to keep going over it?"

Ethan studied the floor. He remembered that moment, his fist cocked back. He might have found another way. No! That wasn't right. I couldn't. I had to hit it.

"Tell me again how it went down."

I had to make a choice. It or me.

A cacophony of sounds and images flooded Ethan's mind. Its crooked open mouth with all those little sharp teeth inside. Long, skeletal fingers reaching for him. The horrible screeches when he hit it. The feel of his hands as they pounded on the thin layer of flesh outside its skull. That last gasp as it tumbled to the burned floor.

"It came at me. It wanted my food. I had to do something. I had only enough for me. I had to make it stop."

The coroner was taken aback. "You were going to let him starve so you could eat? What the hell is wrong with you?"

Ethan glared at him. "What? I should starve myself so some alien thing can live? To hell with that."

There was a beat pause.

The detective asked, "What? He's not an alien. That's a little boy."

Ethan shook his head. "Are you on something? That's a damn alien."

The detective looked over at the coroner, who just stood there with an odd expression, and then back at Ethan. "It's not an alien."

The detective held out a photo. "He had this picture in his pocket of him with some other boys. Other human boys. Date stamped two years ago."

Ethan looked close. It was a picture of three of them, wrestling on somebody's couch. The two others were normal kids all right, but the middle one was the alien. Its eyes weren't right, skin too mottled, nose a little too flat, and its ears stuck out too far on either side of his head. Its ratty hair was that sickly orange color.

Ethan paused. It was smiling, like it was truly happy--like someone loved it.

How could that be? Even Kate couldn't have loved a thing like that, and she had a bleeding heart for every little cause.

Could it have known her? She babysat for all those kids. Could she have taken one in while he was at work? No, she only took in human kids.


Ethan remembered the scars.

The fire! He looked again at the photo, trying to work it out. She went back into the apartment until all the kids were out. The smoke killed her. If it was there, it was burned. Maybe badly burned.

Disfigured.


"Human?" he whispered. "Oh, my God!"


[align=center]***[/align]


The whir of the drill against the child's skull jerked him out of his thoughts. The coroner inserted a long probe into the boy's head and connected it to a sinister-looking box with readouts all over it.

Ethan barked, "Hey, what the hell are you doing to him?"

The detective raised an eyebrow. "The Reanimator is standard procedure. With a death this recent, we should be able to question him for about thirty seconds."

They threw the switch and the lifeless eyes focused on Ethan immediately. His head cocked to the side.

"Why'd you hit me, Daddy?"


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post December 03, 2009, 03:10:36 PM

Moment of Truth Challenge

Knocking Down the Tower

By:
Bill Wolfe



1946—Arlington, VA

“You’ve got the same knack as my Mamma, Clarence. You understand what folks say, don’t you? ”

“Ma’am?” Six-year-old Clarence was afraid of his great-grandmother. She was so old and frail, you could see the shape of her bones right through her face! His whole family had been brought up from Texas on a train, just to see her before she died. She’d been born a slave, in 1851. He was meeting cousins and aunts and uncles that he’d heard of, but who lived too far away to visit.

“You understand me, boy. I can tell. Mamma could do it, too. She was born in Old Africa, boy. Your Daddy told you about that?”

“Yes Ma’am, he has.”

“Did he tell you about Mister Lincoln? How Mamma told me that it was foreigners that killed him?”

“Mister Lincoln? Foreigners?”

“I told your Daddy that story since he was a sprout, boy. You make him tell you. I’m too tired, now.”

“Yes Ma’am, I will.”

“Clarence!” His mother’s thin fingers pinched his ear as she pulled him out of the room. “Quit pretending you can understand Granny Faye. She hasn’t spoken a clear word since she had her stroke! You’re scaring the fire out of your cousins.”

“But Mamma, she was talking just fine. She was telling me about Mister—“

“You hush-up, now.” She gave him The Look. “Your cousins are going to think you’re peculiar.”

On the train back home after the funeral, when everybody else was asleep, Clarence asked his father about it.

“That’s witch-talk, boy. It ain’t Christian.” His father’s eyes were distant, and Clarence wasn’t sure that he even believed what he was saying. Not really, anyway. “There ain’t no such thing as folks that can understand any language. Tower of Babel, boy.”

“Now you hush and get some sleep. Don’t you forget that the Preacher says that we are all equal in the Lord’s eyes. Ain’t nobody got a ‘knack’ that others don’t.”

Clarence shifted on the hard bench, trying to find a comfortable position. He thought about his Daddy’s words as he stared-up at the sign on the front of the compartment, the one leading to the car ahead of them on the train. The car with cushions on the seats. He wasn’t really good at reading, but he didn’t have to know his letters to know what that sign meant.

[align=center]Whites
Only[/align]


1963—Fort Worth, TX


Clarence sat at the rear loading dock of the Blackstone Hotel. No. Better not let anyone hear him call it that. It was the Hilton, now. He was smoking a Lucky and idly flipping the twenty dollar tip he’d received, between his fingers. The Chinamen had been easy, all they wanted was plain rice offered at every meal, real cream for their tea, and some chopsticks. Their Hong Kong English reminded him of those Londoners who’d been in. They were all smiles and politeness when they were dealing with the staff. But they complained bitterly to each other—in Chinese—over every little thing. They assumed nobody spoke their language, and they were right. But Clarence had found out a long time ago that he could understand anyone, as long as he was close.

Didn’t work for movies, he had to actually hear the person speaking. He’d done a little reading, and he thought he might be hearing people’s thoughts when they spoke. He did his best not to let on, though. He didn’t want folks to think he was peculiar.

As a waiter in one of Fort Worth’s best hotels, he’d heard just about every language in the world, mostly from places he’d barely heard of. But he could always understand.

There were some other guests in the hotel, though. They were talking in a very different language. Like the Chinamen, their English was fine, but they didn’t use it with each other. Some of what they talked about made him anxious, and he didn’t know why.

Why were they putting up hidden cameras around Dealey Plaza, the Texas Book Depository, some movie theater, and in somebody named Oswald’s house? It was like they knew something really bad was about to happen, and they were there to make a movie about it.

He decided not to worry about it. White folks business was none of his. Besides, President Kennedy had spent the night at the Hotel Texas, and some of the night staff were going to go over and hear him speak, before he went on to Dallas.


2010—Washington DC

“There’s a problem in the temporal equations. We’re getting divergent readings and I can’t figure-out the cause. I think we should scrub the mission.”

“Not yet, Carp’ter. Not unless we must.”

“Do we have live feed from the parade route and the White Rights headquarters?”

“Yes, all functions are normal.”

“Let’s review it up in the room. Perhaps they are arguing where to place the device. It has always been called a one-in-a-million success. That small amount of explosive should never have breached the limousine’s armor. Even a one second delay would surely mean failure. If they aren’t in agreement. . .”

As the guests walked away, their elderly waiter stopped re-cleaning the already sparkling utensils just behind their table. He turned and walked quietly from the dining room.

It all made sense to Clarence, now. All of it.

But what could he do? Call the police and say he overheard time-traveling documentary makers talking and the President’s life was in danger. They’d lock him up.

And he’d seen those time travel movies where if you change the past, it just makes things worse.

Did he have the right to mess around with history?

He thought about Lincoln, about Kennedy. He wondered what might have been, if those two lives hadn’t ended as they had.

“I’m not changing history,” he whispered to himself.

“But I’m sure about to change the future."

There was a phone in the lobby he could use.


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post December 03, 2009, 03:11:47 PM

Moment of Truth Challenge

THE RIGHT DECISIONS OF A TIME PAST…
( A Moment of Truth )


By:
Sergio Palumbo



Once upon a time there was Desperation.

It was at the end of the long bloody conflicts during XXII century that everything began changing. After so many years of ( tribal, ethnic, religious…) terrible wars among the different countries of the planet, finally Earth was in peace. I mean, the whole Earth!
Towns were rebuilt, farms renovated, confidence restored.

Once upon a time there was Justice.

After beeing on the brink of destruction cause to a lot of reasons( unexpected climate changes, dangerous scarcity of food, the spreading of new virus especially created for warfare…), Mankind found the right spin to a new rewriting of the UN principles, some capable men of power rose here and there and a lot of goodwill let every government all over the globe work together, uniting in a common Confederation based on equality, and that gave shape to a new period of happiness and prosperity- almost…- for all the peoples.

Once upon a time there was Truth.

Then the ThhhhrK fleet came to our planet. They possessed an alien highly advanced technology, deep knowledge of incredibly effective medical procedures, some mental well- being and great proficiency about space and time. And they were peaceful, too. The only thing they desidered was a place where to start a new life, and Earth was really perfect for their purpose. They could have taken whatever they wanted by force, they could have conquered us quite easily, but they simply asked for.

Once upon a time there was Reason.

What other decision could our politicians have made then?If not they, whoever else?If not in that moment, whenever?It was a turning point in Mankind’s history!So they chose for the good of everyone, they foresaw a joyful future for Earth and all its citizens, they agreed on theit requests. And so the newcomer aliens became part of our world, of our culture, of our life.
They gave great prosperity our days and helped us a lot even in improving ourselves, our way of living. So that was the right decision, the right time to greet them, to make the ThhhhrK become a new part of our world. And all the peoples understood that, soon.

Once upon a time there was Deception.

The only thing that the ThhhhrK hadn’t told us was that they were on the run. And they had foes in deep space. Terrible enemies more powerful and advanced than them. And most of all, more cruel!
So, when this new alien species got nearby our Sun, they discovered the traces of their old rivals ThhhhrK and followed them at once. Until they finally found our world. And that changed everything. Forever!

Once upon a time there was Earth.

They started a war, without even announcing that, destroying all the new major colonies set by the ThhhhrK on the planet surface or on the Moon. And in the process they wiped out large portions of our continents and islands. Then they began dropping thousands of landing ships full of cyborg- soldiers and an awful sack of our resources was set in motion.
It only lasted one week, after that most of the population on the planet simply disappeared, cause to bombing, fighting, killing and starving. Many among us stayed hidden. But hiding was not enough. They came for us, for all of us, and they found everyone. In their alien eyes, we were responsible for being on the wrong side, for helping the ThhhhrK- their worst enemies- for hosting them among us and- most seriously- for listening to their wrong religious principles and legends. Now our entire birth- planet was obscene! That was too much, nobody who had dared such an offence could be allowed to live longer. So their religion dictated. And their religion was the Law of the Winners.
A few remnants amoung us, like me, thought that they were terribly wrong, they were doing something monstrous, they had to be stopped. But, even if they were wrong, they were more powerful than our alien allies, more powerful than us, more powerful even than Justice, Truth, Reason. In a way, they were more powerful than Man. And no one could oppose them. No way.

Once upon a time there was Man.

In the end our once- beautiful planet was completely destroyed. This way, counts of indictment were terminated. Someone among us was saved, anyway, at least as genes in our alien conquerors’ genetic databank which included several samples from one thousand species all over this huge space sector. But we are not dead yet. In fact, while our bodies have been eliminated ( the same for our history… ) our minds were still alive. As for me, I- formerly a man of fifty- serve now as an auxiliary part of a supertechnological A. I. used from the aliens to check daily the sub- systems of a junk- facility placed on one of their giant spaceships. So, mentally, I am not entirely deceased…But, maybe cause to the overall genetic manipulation done to my structure by our new Masters, this condition just starts even pleasing me. I would have managed a brief smile, if I had a face.
Maybe, I begin beeing human no more, after all.


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Post December 03, 2009, 03:14:48 PM

Moment of Truth Challenge

[area]Contains Adult Language & Graphic Violence[/area]


She Has a Tiny Ass

By:
Mark Edgemon



Tina had a cute little ass! The guys in her apartment building all thought so. They would jockey for position whenever she would leave her apartment, just to get a closer look at her teeny, tiny, sweet, adorable ass. Fred her next-door neighbor could be seen with his camera, standing on the edge of his balcony, trying to get a photo with his zoom lens. Tina knew full well the kind of attention her ass was getting…and she liked it, because it made her sort of a local celebrity.

“That’s a cute little ass you got there,” Fred said as she left her apartment for a walk around the complex.

“Thank you,” she smiled. “Would you like to pat it nice and soothing like,” she inquired?

“Could I? That would be great! It’s so pretty,” he said as he reached down to stroke it. “Your ass is a lot firmer than I had imagined. Would you mind if I got some of my friends to come over and feel how firm and muscular your ass is?” he said rising up once again to find himself looking deeply into her entrancing green eyes.

“Just consider my ass community property. With a cute little ass like mine, I can’t keep it all to myself,” she said fluttering her eyelashes.

“Spread the joy around I always say,” Fred mumbled as he walked away.

As Tina started jogging in order to keep her ass healthy and strong, she noticed the stares from all the guys and most of the women that she would pass and thought to herself, I’m sure glad my ass is getting me all of this attention. I don’t feel so lonely anymore.

As Tina stopped to get her breath, an older business lady who lived in her apartment complex came up to her and asked, “Where did you get that precious, adorable ass?” which she said as she bent down to caress it.

“I bought it some months ago at a ranch that breeds miniature donkeys. Most of them are bred from 36 to 42 inches, but this little princess has never grown over 25. They say you can’t house break livestock, but she is a highly intelligent creature and has lived in my apartment now for 3 months without a single mishap,” Tina stated proudly.

“So she’s a smart ass too?” the businesswoman remarked.

“Yes, likely because of her mixed breeding with other livestock, we’re not sure with what,” Tina elaborated expecting the next comment.

The woman predictably continued, “So she is…”

“Half-assed,” Tina said finishing her sentence.

Back in her apartment, Tina continued with her part time business of making candy replicas of her little donkey to sell at Christmas. She called them Candy Asses and even started a website feature the delectable items called My Sweet Ass Inc.

Just then, there was a knock at the door. She rose up from her computer to see who it was so late at night.

“Your ass stinks!” the apartment complex owner stated angrily, holding back his indignation as much as it was possible.

“Excuse me? Are you referring to my butt, Mr. Hinkle?” Tina said trying to throw him off track.

“No, No, Hell No! I’m referring to that stupid ass that I can see through the doorway, rolling it’s ass all over your bed in there,” he adamantly stated to regain the control of the conversation.

“Oh her, well that’s my Aunt…” she pauses to think up a quick lie, “Don…Donkia…she’s from Italy.”

“I can smell her from here,” the manager said getting more irate by the second.

“She’s got a really bad…” Tina rambled thinking fast, “di…diarrhea. Yes, that’s it, really bad diarrhea and sometimes…”

“Get your sorry ass out of my apartment by Saturday night or so help me, I’ll kick your ass out onto the street!” he seethed vehemently. “And I mean…both your asses!”

As the manager stormed off, Tina knew she had a big decision to make, a moment of truth if you will. She couldn’t afford another apartment and yet she had grown so attached to her precious little ass. Sometimes, she would stare at her ass in the mirror, while she lay in bed, stroking it.

As Tina continued to contemplate her decision, she could only see two options; move or get rid of her beautiful ass, which was now, so much a part of her. There has got to be a third option she thought and so she meditated on it until she fell soundly asleep.

Late Saturday night, having determined what course of action she must take, she went to see the owner of the apartment complex in his private quarters.

As she knocked on the door, she could hear sounds inside his apartment as if he had been asleep and was stumbling around in the dark. When he finally opened the door, she rammed a long, jagged-edged, sharp bladed knife into his stomach, while covering his mouth with her other hand. As his eyes bulged from the searing pain he felt from his abdomen, she slit his throat from ear to ear, silencing his complaints forever. As his blood trickled downward, her little donkey licked up the puddles almost simultaneously as they hit the floor. Her ass was good about cleaning up after herself. She was so clean you know.

Fortunately, the manager had a near empty freezer and so she hacked up his body in his bathtub and made meat patties out of his flesh, muscle and organs, storing them in his freezer and feeding her little donkey servings of him for months until he was all gone, even pressure cooking his bones into mush.

Wow! With some quick thinking on her part, she really saved her ass!


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Last edited by kailhofer on December 03, 2009, 03:26:02 PM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post December 03, 2009, 03:18:07 PM

Moment of Truth Challenge

The Brink

By:
David Alan Jones



The hillock gave Gill and his shield mates a fighting chance against their stoat-headed foe, for the tall, slim Ronen averaged seven feet in height, towering over a human on level ground. The brown, white, and black-furred creatures charged Third Company’s hard point again and again, screaming their high-pitched wails of anger and challenge, swinging swords, axes and clubs with mad abandon. Not a few of the Guard faltered under this onslaught, for, though the humans’ tactics felled a disproportionately high number of the foe and their goat-headed allies, the Capran, the beasts absorbed these losses without wavering and drove on, climbing over their dead like turves of the earth.

Only an hour past dawn, when the Stoats and Goats had blown their high horns and launched the attack, the Guard lines began showing the first signs of breaking. All along the crest of the hill the Fourth Company lay in clumps of panting humanity where they should have been on their feet, preparing to relieve Third. But many of these men could not, or else would not, rise when the order came, begging instead for more time to recoup their strength, while their brothers died in job lots a few hundred feet away.

Gillius could not look back to survey his would-be relief, for he was ankle deep in the blood of his brothers and their foes. A Capran dressed in boiled leather, his curved horns painted black and red, bellowed an ululating goatish cry, swinging his ax in an upward arc meant to split Gillius from hip to head, but the young human evaded the blow, and lashed out with his short sword, catching the goat-thing in its fur-coated throat, ending its war cries for good and all. Behind the goat came a stoat, swinging a curved cutter’s sword with vicious efficiency, the blow coming so swiftly Gill had no time to raise his shield, but stumbled awkwardly to one side, the blade striking sparks off his rusty chainmail.

The Guardsman on Gill’s right, having finished a goat only seconds before, turned and plunged a long dagger into the stoat’s side between the steel brackets on the thing’s cuirass. It screamed and shuddered, and Gill struck off its head.

Gill nodded thanks to his fellow human – there was no time for words – and both turned to find new enemies hungry for their deaths.

Part of Gill yearned to hear the horns blow retreat from farther up the hill, but he quashed the idea, even as he savaged another goat. No retreat would come. The Guard Companies, all fifty of them, had been reduced to these last two over twelve years of endless battle. And now, on this last hill, in this last battle, human kind had nowhere else to go. At the summit, not even hidden from sight, stood a cave entrance, in which the last surviving freeholders – men, women, and children – perhaps three hundred in all huddled in fear and gnawing panic, knowing their lives were forfeit, with only this last remnant of the Guard between them and raging, feral death.

Of a sudden, the skies above the battlefield darkened with black rainclouds out of otherwise blue skies and then brilliant skeletal fingers of lightning smote the earth where the greatest concentration of human defenders stood sword to shield with the foe. Stoats and Goats died with the humans, but there were always more of those to fling against man’s dwindling herd, and the number of humans killed was appalling.

Wails of fury, fear, and abject despair erupted from human throats to linger after the rolls of thunder died. The stoats and goats ran in graceless yet efficient gaits, pouring towards the blackened patch of hillock where the human lines had not so much broken as been incinerated.

“Balls!” cursed the Guardsman who had lately saved Gill’s life. “Now they bring their putrid sorcery against us? Now, when we are all but bloodied to death? Filthy mages. Filthy magic. Let them give us honorable deaths by steel, not these vile Mysteries!”

Gill did not look at the man, but stood watching the foe scrambling up the hill, knowing he could do nothing with his sword and shield to stop their inexorable climb. His body shook with fear and dread, though not only that of his own mind and spirit, but that of the men around him, whose greatest hopes had come to roost upon this last bastion of safety, only to crumble in their palms.

“Too bad our Priests killed all our magic users,” said Gill, his voice high, almost childlike even to his own ears.

The old warrior frowned, for such words would have been treason only a day before. After a moment he shrugged, and said, “Aye, lad. I suppose it is at that. I’ve always been faithful, never wanted the taint of magic in human lands, but all that seems a bit foolish now, don’t it?”

Several stoats and one of their goat underlings who could not maneuver through the crowd of their kinsmen flooding up the hillock took notice of Gillius and the old warrior then, and started towards them, screaming in their high-pitched, annoying way.

“Well, looks like I might get that steel-shafted death I wanted after all,” said the warrior with a wry quirk of his mouth.

Gill dropped his sword and shield, and unlatched his helm to fling it away as well. The warrior glanced at him, nodded his understanding, even acceptance of the young man’s choice to die without fighting, and turned to face the foe, sword raised.

Gillious rose into the air, arms splayed wide, the sun gleaming off his blood-stained armor in a way it had no right to do.

With a cry of mixed pain and ecstasy, the young Guardsman breathed a rain of fire down on the enemy like water gushing from a fountainhead.


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Post December 03, 2009, 03:19:08 PM

Moment of Truth Challenge

Desert Hike

By:
J. B. Hogan



Guy Martin reached the trailhead about ten after six. It was only late-April, but he could tell it was going to get hot and he wanted to get his hike in before the Arizona sun became too intense.

With the sun still behind the mountains ahead, Guy trekked across the desert floor through the Mesquite and cacti. He always hit the trail early so he could enjoy the solitude. In recent years, he had grown weary of human contact. A stressful, mind-deadening desk job with annoying, boring co-workers, a messy, painful divorce, it all added up to a wish to avoid people.

After crossing a wide, sandy wash Guy stopped at the base of the first climb to look around. Behind him was the parking lot and to his right buildings and corrals of a large dude ranch just outside the park. Taking a deep breath, he headed up the first climb.

Beyond the first climb was another, followed by a nice flat stretch before the trail meandered up a steep but thankfully short incline. Guy crossed a tiny creek above a ravine where the trail dove down, then rose up again to parallel a Saguaro-littered, towering hill. Crossing the creek again at the top of hill, he soon reached a level area of tall grass that hid the remains of an old corral that only he, and a handful of veteran hikers, even knew existed.

With the sun about to edge over the Rincons, Guy stopped to rest on a large flat rock just off the trail. He drank water, snacked trail mix, leaned back to relax a moment. It was a beautiful, if quickly warming day. There was no one in sight. Perfect.

Using his day bag as a pillow, Guy leaned back and took in his surroundings. Scrub plants, various cacti, something rooting around in the tall grass. It was a javelina, one of the ugly, snorting, little black-haired pigs so common to the region. Guy watched it trot past where the corral had been and then saw further on, nearly hidden by the natural gray camouflage of their bodies, three young deer. They were quietly munching on the grass and Guy observed them casually, his eyes blinking as a wave of relaxation swept over him. He stretched out fully on the rock and closed his eyes. In seconds he had drifted off.

In his light sleep, he dreamed of a cool river and tall, leaf-filled oak trees in some empty country he did not know. There were no people there. He was all alone. Alone as he had been these five years now. No wife, no family, no one.

Feeling a deep, not altogether unhappy melancholia, he took in more of the pleasant, if unfamiliar environment. In the deeply blue sky above there were small, puffy clouds floating by, and large birds circling in thermals. Below, closer to him and directly in his view there was an interesting ripple in the atmosphere, like a stone having been tossed onto a perfectly still pond.

A ripple in the atmosphere? Guy struggled to wake, something was happening directly before him there, not in some dreamed of foreign land but here, now, in the desert. It was something like a heat wave but more physical. The air within the wave was in concentric circles, undulating … opening. Something was coming out of that air pocket.

Suddenly, one bipedal figure emerged, then another. Their features were hidden by the dark suits they wore. They held long metal objects – rifle-like weapons? Guy didn’t move a muscle. He just watched the figures step out of the air bubble and onto the desert floor. They stood on the ground as if unsure of its stability. They began to look around the area. Guy remained motionless. Aliens, they had to be aliens. They didn’t seem to notice him.

The figures turned towards Guy’s right. Saw the deer. The deer raised their heads briefly but went on eating. One of the figures aimed its weapon at the deer. Guy tensed, expecting to hear a shot ring out. But instead, one of the deer perked up and began to walk towards the aliens. She went right up to them, they touched her, she disappeared into the rippled air. The little javelina reappeared in the bush, the aliens aimed at it. The stumpy pig jogged over, was touched, vanished like the deer.

Guy watched for a few moments more as the aliens collected several types of birds, a handful of lizards, and one large rattlesnake. Seemingly satisfied with their haul, the two aliens turned to enter the portal themselves when one of them stopped. He turned and with a slow, jerky turning of his head looked directly at Guy. His partner then did the same.

“Oh, hell,” Guy said louder than he intended.

Both aliens raised the long metal objects directly at Guy. He raised his hands in the universal sign of surrender. They lowered their weapons. Guy looked around, he was all alone in the desert. There was nowhere to run, nothing to do, no one to cry out to for help.

The bipedal figures motioned towards him. This was it, then. First contact. First opportunity to interact. Guy took a deep breath. The bipedals motioned again. He stepped forward, fought his fear, centered his strength, walked forward.

Up close Guy still couldn’t make out what the aliens looked like. Their uniforms hid all features. The closer he came to the portal, the stronger its tug was. He tried to pull back but the force was too strong. The aliens nodded their heads, made some sort echoing sounds that must have been their language.

Guy fought his fear, gave into the force that pulled him forward. Releasing a deep sigh and all connections to his familiar world, he at last stepped calmly, fearlessly into the wavering portal of air.


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Post December 03, 2009, 03:22:35 PM

Moment of Truth Challenge

[area]Contains Adult Language and Situations[/area]


HEWA

By:
Richard Tornello



Hewa was just a teenaged earth nerd. He hardly ever got laid. Sometimes physical things got in the way, as in:

“And what do you think YOU’RE doing?!!!” Looking up from around the hips of the baby sitter, panties down around her ankles, he thought, it’s a wonder they know how to have kids.

“If you don’t know, maybe you’re the ones that need Sex-Ed.” But this was no time for enlightenment. Always polite, he said “Excuse me for being rude,” bolted out the door to his motorcycle, and drove off.

“What timing!” he said to himself. I guess Carolyn is in deep shit with her parents… if they find out. I hope she can keep her mouth shut. He laughed at that one and went home to beat off.

Most of the time, the harder he tried the unluckier he got. Until one day.

She was new to the area. That much Hewa knew. He met her at the local tobacco shop on his way to purchase some papers. She was driving a new, blood red, Coupe-de-Ville. He held the door open for her. He did have manners even if he looked like a dirt bag.

She smiled and winked.

He mumbled to himself, “I’m not going to have any luck with this one. She’s just being nice, rich and all that.”

She turned and looked at him, “Don’t be so unsure of yourself.”

“What? I didn’t say anything…out loud.”

“No you didn’t. I can read minds.”

“Ok girlie, what am I thinking?”

“A Very complicated position, for an earth-boy. And, very inviting.”

“Earth-boy?”

Yes, E-A-R-T-H-B-O-Y.”
She lowered her voice, “No one is going to believe YOU anyway. I’m here to get impregnated by the male being of MY choice. WE need to extend the genetic pool of our expanding galactic empire. My sisters and I are all over this rock you call earth, on the same mission, for the same emissions.” She laughs at her own joke. “Your type of monkey based origins will do.”

Hewa laughed so hard, he almost pissed in his pants.

“You have a real nice laugh. I like that” she said.

Her eyes were twinkling, in what he felt was hungry manner. Hewa ignored it. Instead, he inquired, “You are so far out girlie. I’ll go along with your story. What’s your name, your earth-girl name?”

“Terry is my earth name. And yours is Hewa.”

“How did you know that?!!! We just met!”

“I told you. You’re not stupid. In fact, by earth standards, you are extremely smart. That’s another point in your favor.”

“For what?”

“Impregnating me, that’s what! We need good genes for our survival and expansion. I get to pick who, when, and where.”

This was one strange chic. Hewa had never been approached in this fashion. She was different and had an imagination just as wild as his.

“Ok Terry, if that’s really your name. Suppose I go along with you and ‘your story’. I get to have sex with you. Then you procreate and take over the planet. Have I got that right?”

“More or less. You get the idea.”

“And then what?”

“You’ll be well rewarded.”

Hewa is thinking, Say No, to this beauty? I’d have to be out of my mind. She’s batso crazy. But whatthefuck, this one is out of this world, and SHE wants ME! This could be fun.

Terry looks him in the eye, “Yes I AM.”

“You are what?”




“Out of this world, and FUN.”

Hewa ignores the obvious mind reading. His hormones are getting the best of him. He has two heads and only enough blood to keep one functioning properly. The one on top of his shoulders is on auto pilot.

“Okay so where is this assignation supposed to take place?”

”Do you want me or not?” She demands, deadly serious.

“I’ve never met anyone so serious about getting laid and…”

“Not laid, impregnated. Laid’s for later, business first.”
“AS I Stated, you have to be willing to do this. You have free will. Unless you do this act on your own volition, I cannot conceive.”

“So I have to make the conscious choice to have sex with you. If I do, I get to be one of the chosen to assist in the replacement of the human race?”

“In a nut shell.”

“In a nut shell,” he repeats sarcastically.

“Yes, or, no?” She winks and gestures to the vehicle.

My god she is beautiful and she’s as crazy as I am.
“I’m in.” He laughs at his pun.

“Yes, very funny,” she says.

“Nice wheels,” he says.

Terry then says in a cold factual manner, “Earth-boy, last chance to change your mind. It’s your choice. The best fucking you will ever get in your life, and… the reduction of your race.”

He thinks, ‘wacko chic’, but says, “Your place? I don’t have the income to afford this type of vehicle,” patting the dash. “Your place has got to be classier.”

She laughs, “You have no idea.”

“Terry, what is your real name?”

“It’s Tet-trie, short for Tetra the Terrible. I rule the southern quadrant of this galaxy. It is one of our administrative duties to insure our propagation and expansion.

Shit, she doesn’t stop the game.

______________________

To Hewa’s amazement, the vehicle that was once a Cadillac is now entering a monstrous space vehicle. He realizes this is an alien abduction and he’s going to be one of the causes of human replacement.

“Holy shit, You weren’t kidding!”

“You committed to this, of your own free will. I gave you all the data you asked for. You made the choice,” she states.

***********************

She is slightly clothed in a strange material, a hat and heels. She is the most beautiful radiant woman he could ever have imagined.

“The ruler of the galaxy?”

“Southern quadrant,” she corrects him.

“I know what you really like,” she whispers in his ear as she kneels down, “my prince.”

“Earth be damned.”


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Post December 03, 2009, 03:24:58 PM

Moment of Truth Challenge

The following story was originally part of the challenge, but was disqualified for an unintentional rules violation.


The Devil in the Details

By:
Casey Callaghan



The man was painting a quiet pastoral scene; a green field, under blue skies, when he became aware of the presence in the room.

"Who are you, and how did you unlock the door?" asked the man.

"I am the Devil. I have... many names. Lucifer, the Great Deceiver, the Enemy of Mankind. And I did not enter through the door; it is still locked."

The man lowered his paintbrush and turned about, ready to launch into a tirade against this impudent interrupter - but the words died in his mouth as he beheld the interloper.

I shall not go into the details of the Devil's appearance; suffice it to say that no-one, on seeing him in the flesh, could possibly doubt his identity. (Presumably, this is why he hardly ever elects to appear in the flesh.)

"I want to make a deal with you." continued the dark figure.

"Are you asking me," asked the man, somewhat staggered at the sudden appearance in his private room, "to sell my soul?"

"Yes."

"No. I will not."

"But I have not yet made my offer."

"Nonetheless. I refuse." The man turned his back, and continued to paint, trying to ignore his crawling spine.

The Devil leaned back in the chair, making it creak. "I could elevate you to rule over this country." he said. "As a first step."

"Tempting, but still no."

"Well, of course not. That much you could do yourself, with a bit of effort. What I am offering is far more important. You see, there is a person - a Jew - currently a citizen of this country, who will, if left undisturbed, quietly invent a revolutionary scientific theory which will, as a consequence, allow other people to build the most horrific, most destructive weapon known to man. A weapon capable of killing millions of innocent people, all at once. I can offer you this Jew's name. In advance."

The man paused, and turned around, lowering his brush. "You're offering me the name of a man who will invent a weapon that will kill millions?"

"The theory behind the weapon, actually, and I'm not saying that this Jew is necessarily a man, but those are minor quibbles. Basically, yes."

"And I'll stop him?"

The Devil shrugged. "If you want."

"And how does that help you?"

"Oh, please." The Devil sighed. "Millions of innocent people? Dead like that?" There was a snap of fingers. "Straight out of my hands? What better reason do I need?"

"But wouldn't stopping him be an act of great good?"

"Oh, yes. But, you see, I'd have your soul already. It would make no difference."

"And how do I know I even would be able to stop this person?" the man enquired. "He might have moved out of the country before I can."

"Oh, no. The Jew will still remain a citizen, and remain here, for quite some time after your ascent to power."

"Well. My answer is still no."

"Is that your final answer?" asked the Devil, quietly.

"That is my final answer."

"Very well, then. The offer will never be open again."

And with that, the Devil was gone.

The man began to paint a small storm cloud on the edge of his picture; the first of many.

A Jew, hmmmm? I'm sure that there's something I can do to stop him, based even on that most tentative of identifications... or my name is not Adolf Hitler.


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Post December 03, 2009, 03:28:24 PM

Moment of Truth Challenge

- Winner -


Box of Enlightenment

By:
McCamy Taylor



The lights go on at six am, the way they always do. Up and down the cell block, locks click in rapid succession. Twenty metal doors swing open, freeing thirty-nine men who stumble into the corridor. Forming a line, they march to the toilet and then to the cafeteria.

The women behind the glass and steel counters are serving oatmeal and stewed apples. For once the air does not reek of grease and floor cleaner. The sunlight which breaks through the high, barred windows dazzles my eyes, and I almost forget where I am---

Then I remember. Something dark and bitter rises in my throat. I have no appetite for food, and so I move on to the exercise yard. A handful of young Mexicans are already sunning themselves. The old man they call Voodoo is outside, too. He signals to me to join him, but I’m in no mood for company. I pick an empty corner and squat in the dirt, intending to smoke. But it seems I’ve lost my taste for tobacco. Instead, I watch the sun as it slowly rises in the eastern sky.

The light makes ripples in the air, as if the wind is soaking up the sunshine. Has it always done that? And the way it touches the faces of other prisoners, framing their heads with halos----how could I not have noticed that before? Some of the halos are thin and dull, others are wide and bright. A few are full of holes, as if moths have been chewing on them----

I rub my eyes, but the strange vision does not go away. And that sound----the air is humming. Not an electric vibration. A soft summer sound, like dragonflies darting over a lake or gnats swarming over ripe fruit. It has been a long, long time since I heard the sounds of summer. Twenty years since they sent me to prison for a rape and murder that I did not commit. Twenty more years until I’ll be eligible for parole, an old man, his summers long lost, with only the bitter cold of winter and death to look forward to----

The sun is still up in the sky, but it’s light is now feeble, like a single naked light bulb in a big warehouse, the kind my father used to work in. He died shortly after my trial. My brothers and sisters claimed that the shock of my murder conviction killed him. None of them have gotten in touch with me since I was sent to prison. Mom used to visit a couple of times a year, before her arthritis got bad. After that, she sent me letters and packages of food. The letters stopped coming about six months ago. I don’t know if she is alive or dead. Dead, I guess, or else so old that she doesn’t remember that she has a son in prison. I would like to see her one more time before she dies, but I guess that’s not going to happen.

So cold. Though it’s June in Texas, I am chilled to the bone. I go back inside. Prisoners are picking up their mail. I skirt around them, but someone thrusts a package into my hands. I glance down at the cardboard box. There is my name. I look for a return address, but the upper left hand corner of the package is blank.

Curiosity drives away the chill. Though I know it will just be some cookies that I have no appetite for or maybe a stack of books that my aging eyes won’t be able to read, I am filled with excitement, like a kid who finds his name on a present under the Christmas tree. What’s inside the box? I shake it, but it does not rattle. I sniff it. There is no scent.
I pry up one corner with a fingernail. Still no clue.

Carefully, I ease open the box. And find myself staring into pure white light, so dazzling that it ought to blind me, but I can see just fine. Better than I have in years. The sound of children’s laughter fills my ears. I can smell, almost touch their innocent joy---

I glance around to see if anyone else has noticed. They are all absorbed in their own letters and packages. All except Voodoo, who is watching me from the doorway. He is always watching me lately, trying to get my attention.

I look down at the box of light then back up at Voodoo. If anyone will understand, it’s him.

“Do you get it now?” he asks as I show him the box.

“No, that’s what I wanted to ask you---“ But even as the words leave my mouth, I understand. “I’m dead.”

“You been dead. Six months now.”

I lift my hand before my face and study it. If I concentrate, I can see through my palm.

I don’t doubt him, but I don’t want to believe him either. “If I’m dead why am I still in prison. I didn’t kill that girl no matter what her roommate said.”

“I know you didn’t,” the old man reassures me. “And now the rest of the world knows, too. They tested the DNA from the crime scene. It didn’t match yours. The state issued you a pardon. They sent a check to your mother.”

“Mom knows I’m not a murderer?” I can hardly contain my joy.

“She always knew you weren’t a murder,” says Voodoo. “Now the rest of the world knows, too. So you don’t have to keep haunting this prison. You can move on.”

Move on. What a good idea. I turn to go. But before I can leave there is one more question I need to ask the old man. “Did you send that box?”

“What box?”

“Yeah, I thought so.” The weight of bitterness lifts from my shoulders. Light and laughter fill me. I close my eyes….


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post December 30, 2009, 12:56:34 PM

A Winter Wish Challenge

The challenge was to write a story where a wish was fulfilled in a winter setting.


Example story:



Solace

By:
N.J. Kailhofer


"Lotería!" Jax couldn't have explained to anyone from the ship why the sight of the snow falling outside the window made him catch his breath in his throat, but it did. Maybe it was because the ship never had weather. Rain was like a water shower on the ship, which he had tried, but snow was different.

The flakes floating past the window mesmerized him. Where do they go? He wished he could see.

This metal blister on this nameless world gave him everything he needed to live while they he waited, but it was too late. Through his tiny window, he watched the creatures slide into oblivion as the microbes ate away at them, all of them. There weren't even puddles left where their bodies used to be.

Soon, his prison cell would finally die, too. The moon rotated so slowly that night lasted three years, and the life support system on the escape pod wouldn't take it.

But when it finally breathes it's last gasp, it will open the doors.

[align=center]***[/align]

Marta rolled over in the bunk and draped her long leg over his. "Why do you have to go?"

Jax sighed and ran his fingers through her black hair. "Because everyone not as good as me failed. Because those creatures are the greatest challenge in the known galaxy. Because who knows what else they may find further on? Maybe nothing, and we might have to return with nothing unless I find a way to communicate with them. Because it's my job."

"I don't care." Her brown eyes burned. "Isn't there any way out? The center planets are so far from here, by the time the ship comes back to you, my dear Jacinto, you'll be old and gray. I want to have children. I am noble born. One of my sons could be the next Captain, but not without a father who is a senior officer to help him, to shield him from his rivals and enemies until he is strong, with many victories and great discoveries to his name. My girls will marry into strong houses, building the alliances we'll need. Together, we could forge a dynasty that lasts until we return to Earth, three centuries from now."

He lied, "It's my duty, alone."

Her eyes glared. "Esto es el colmo!" With that, she stormed out of the room.

[align=center]***[/align]

At the edge of the window, Jax could still see the wreckage of the shuttle.

All antigualla. Maybe if they hadn't thought the wreckage was food, they might have ingested less human bacteria. I might have had someone to talk to.

"Hey, gorrón," his teacher used to say. "Is all you do stand around and gab all day?"

"Hell, yes," Jax would reply. "There isn't anything else to do unless I want to get in a fight or chase chicas."

The old man would smile. "You will. Your generation will get to do it all. I'll be long dead and you'll be standing on another planet, probably chasing alien chicas instead."

The thought made him laugh. The gray, shambling figures that roamed the surface never even reminded him of Marta. They barely took notice of him. He knew they were intelligent, to a point. They had a social order, and he identified leaders and took detailed notes, like a dutiful officer should, but he could never tell if they ever saw him or heard him screaming.

Then they all melted away and left him trapped inside the small pod.

[align=center]***[/align]

"Hey, Jax!"

A face peeked out from the bunk above him. "Amigo. She left you, eh?"

Jax sighed at Rico, his roommate. "You know she did. You watched her leave."

Rico hopped down and sat on the side of the bed. "Whatcha gonna do? From hour 16 to hour 24 this is our room. We live together."

As if I could forget. "What do you want?"

"You sure you won't get back together?"

"No."

"You don't mind then, if I see her?"

Jax blinked at his thickheaded bunkmate. "Why her?"

Rico smiled. "Oh, c'mon! I hear you two all the time, almost every night. She really gets into it. A man would be a fool to not want that."

Jax headed for the door. "Be careful what you wish for."

In the corridor, he pushed past the Low Ones waiting to get into the washroom. Senior officers don't wait in lines, he reminded himself.

"Damn." Every urine receptacle was busy. An oral sanitizer was open, so he cleaned his teeth while he waited. It was just as packed in his deck's galley. At that hour they only had stimudrink #4, but at least he found the last spot near his favorite window where three seats were mounted a centimeter more apart than the others. The liquid made him feel awake as he stared out the window at the large, curved stretch of the outer hull in front of him.

If only something would break, I could go out there, but nothing ever broke down.

[align=center]***[/align]

The light flickered. The time had to be soon. The food synthesizer was shut down and the temperature in the pod was dropping.

There! Faintly, Jax could hear the pins begin to retract inside the door. The pod is still obeying quarantine safety procedure, protecting my life until it can't anymore, then it will open the doors to give me one last chance to find my own way to survive instead of suffocating from carbon dioxide.

A low moan came from the ceiling above him, from pipes freezing and metal cooling, probably for the first time since the ship initialized in Earth orbit. He'd disabled the audio warnings.

A red light flashed next to the door, ticking away the moments until freedom could be his.

The door started to move.

Taking his last breath, Jax peacefully stepped out into the thick methane snow, into the wide open he'd always wished for.


Alone.


[align=center]The End[/align]
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