[POLL] Vote: February 2017 Flash Challenge


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Post February 19, 2017, 11:03:22 PM

[POLL] Vote: February 2017 Flash Challenge

To vote, rate these stories on the form in the post following this one and send it to me via PM.

Please do not post comments about the stories until the vote concludes.



The challenge was to write about love with or from a zombie.



The following entries were received:



Beautiful Dreamer



He heard faint music playing like it was carried on the wind from far away. Then it stopped.

His eyes opened.

The night moon was high overhead and the air chilled him. There were palm trees all around him.

Lifting his head from the ground, Horace could feel grit in his mouth, and he chewed at it. As his jaw bobbed up and down, the dirt on his tongue dribbled out the side of his face. He put his hand to his mouth. His left cheek was a rough-torn hole, and he could feel his teeth right through the gap. There was dried blood hard-caked around it. He was going to need some kind of surgery.

Horace turned his blurry eyes towards his shoeless feet. He was half buried in the earth, his clothes torn and bloody, but he didn't seem to be bleeding anymore. The skin on his hands looked sunken and leathery, like it had burned. He was so hungry. So thirsty. His head ached.

Where am I? How long have I been here?

The last thing he could remember was Candy.

They met on the island, in the bar. She was a Caribbean knockout--the kind of girl who would have never given him a second look back in the States. She had great skin, black hair, and brown eyes. She wore a stunning, tight dress with a short skirt. Her busty figure and long legs wowed him, and he couldn't help but stare. She stalked over to him and said that he looked handsome, and that just about blew his mind. Candy had an intense, impish look on her face, like she was about to do something naughty. They had several drinks together, and then they were in her resort bungalow. He remembered she had him wind up a black, antique music box next to the bed, which played 'Beautiful Dreamer.' He remembered the strange runes and symbols carved into its cover.

Then Candy began to slowly, seductively, take her clothes off. They made love.

The memory made him sigh and smile.

Then he remembered a crash, like breaking glass, but nothing after that.

Horace wondered, Is Candy all right? Did someone hurt her, too?

He had to find her. His skin felt like pins and needles all over as he lurched to his feet. The world spun. Nothing made sense at first.

Which way? He grabbed the trunk of a palm tree to steady himself.

There! Horace heard the music box on the wind again. She must be close. His left leg didn't quite work right, and it dragged as he staggered toward the music. I--I love her.

I must make her safe, he repeated to himself.

His world spun, but he lurched on towards the music. So hungry. He was so very hungry.

Horace swallowed in a dry throat.

It felt like hours searching in the dark, but he finally shoved aside a branch and saw her bungalow.

The lights were on. He could see through the windows. Candy was on the bed, with another man.

Horace almost couldn't look. He loved her. How could she do that?

Around her wrists, he saw the rope.

She was tied down.

He didn't even feel himself start to run. Horace lurched through the open patio door and toward the man. The man looked up at him and shrieked, but Horace didn't care. He only saw the ashamed look on Candy's face, and he couldn't bear it.

The thing on top of her had to suffer.

Horace flew into him, knocking him off the bed. Horace tried to punch, but his hands wouldn't go into fists. He tried to kick, but his body wouldn't move right. He was desperate for a way, some way to hurt.

Horace bit.

His jaw and teeth worked. He bit and tore, again and again. He felt the blood slide down his parched throat and flesh settle in his stomach.

So good. He reveled in the taste. It's so good.

Horace's rapture was cut short by the man slumping. He looked down. The man was dead.

He deserved it.

"Good," Candy said from the bed.

She lay on her side. The ropes around her wrists were cut and loose, only a foot and a half long. They had made her look like she had been tied up, but she wasn't, really. Something... something about them looked familiar. He couldn't remember.

She rolled over and stood in front of him in all her glory. She stepped close, reached out, and pulled his head down.

She was so beautiful.

Candy kissed his forehead.

"You are mine now. Like the others." She sauntered to the antique, black music box and stopped it from playing.

The thump of a plant tipping over turned Horace's head. By the doorway were three men. Their clothes were torn, eyes cloudy, skin withered and dark, and their bodies ripped open.

They were dead.

Horace looked down at his bloody, leathery hands. He knew. He was dead, too.

She smiled at him, and his concern melted away. Nothing else mattered if she was near. He would do anything for her. Anytime. Anywhere. Dead or not.

"Now," she said, "all of you take this one and leave him in the grove of palm trees where you woke. Then come back here."

Her grin was just plain evil. "He will join with you soon, when the next one winds the music box."

Horace forced air into his lifeless lungs and whispered, "Yes, love."


The End



In Passing



“Hello…”
Pictures matching disjointed words appeared in Kate’s mind. Such strange pictures. Naked people wearing strange hats. Animals talking. Vivid colors… And conversation. Words coming clearly into her mind as she slept in a bed once belonging to her husband, Lee.

Lee was now no longer a part of her life. He had decided other lives, prettier lives, lives of young beautiful women were much better to be a part of. Divorce was an easy choice for him and he left Kate the bed, the house, everything except good memories of their time together.

“Hello…” Again, the greeting coming into Kate’s sleeping mind. The voice came from a shadowy figure; blurry, out-of-focus, yet somehow, soothing.

“Who are you?” Kate murmured in her dream while in the reality of the dark room she had kicked the blankets and sheets off her body. Kate enjoyed sleeping naked and tonight was no different. Though, tonight she was sweating profusely. This was due to the strange pictures appearing in her dreams. Erotic, horrific, and strange.

“I am in love with you.” Definitely a male voice. Deep in tone. Husky. And soothing.

“Who are you? Why would you love me? I don’t know you, do I?” Kate felt a tingle of pleasure tease her breasts. This along with the sweat cooling caused her to sigh. Inside her mind the shadowy figure took a more male appearance, his hands touching her.

“I once was a man who sought love but was tricked by a witch. This evil woman cursed me to live among the dead. She was beautiful and I fell in love with her, but she hated men. She took pleasure using her voodoo magic to torture men. Many such as myself have been doomed to live the life of a zombie.”

The rest of that night was one of many dreams. It was one of many passions and thoughts. That night was the beginning of something special between Kate and a cursed man looking for love.

When Kate woke in the morning she felt tired. Rising she took a shower and wondered about the previous night. Never in her life had she experienced such vivid dreams. They were so real she could still hear the man’s voice. She could still feel the tingles in her body as if he really had touched her.

Feeling good and very refreshed, though yawning a bit, she headed off to work.

The next night Kate fell asleep wondering if he would return. Green numbers on LED clock next rolled through time. Twelve, one, two…As the number, three, appeared, the dreams started in earnest.

“Hello…” he said.

“Hi.” She smiled in her sleep. More strange shapes. More erotica. More talking animals, even a laughing penguin. Only, tonight the man appeared as a man. A handsome man. His muscles large, his smile -beckoning.

The two talked and in her mind, Kate fell in love.
Kate fell in love and looked forward to each and every night as each and every night, he was there. He was constant and reliable. He was soothing and wonderful. He was in love with her and she, with him.

There is much to know about Zombie’s. Much has been written about zombie’s, even love between people and zombies. The truth is though, a normal human cannot truly love a zombie nor a zombie a human. There must be a change in the situation. Either the normal person becomes a zombie or the zombie becomes normal.

Kate studied many books about the topic. She asked many questions to those dealing with the ‘strange’. Hearing many answers, she was not happy about any of them. It was starting to appear she could only live her love with him in her mind. While it was nice, she wanted more. She wanted it all.

People in love do strange things. Not as strange as listening to penguins laugh or falling in love with zombies but they do strange things anyway. For Kate, she turned to a voodoo witch. After all, one had been responsible for turning him into a zombie so it was only logical one could change him back.

Traveling to New Orleans she met with Zarla, a wise old woman she had learned about from some of those she had questioned earlier. It was a bit scary as she entered the witches home. There were various dead animals hanging outside the door while inside all sorts of smells and pictures assailed her. She even heard a penguin laugh…

“Welcome Kate,” an old witch said without even giving the courtesy of raising her head to see who had entered.

Kate was surprised the witch knew her name but it all was so strange anyway she did not query why. Instead she,“I come to you for help because I’m in love with a Zombie.”

“Ha! Love. You people and your love. Waste of time if you ask me, but I have what you need.” The witch handed her a small glass bottle while adding, “Take this home with you and on the third day of your bleeding moment during this next month, drink everything in the bottle before going to bed.”

Kate was shocked. How did the witch know? With this look of surprise on her face the witch smiled and said, “No charge.” Then the old woman turned and started humming, completely ignoring Kate.

Arriving back home the dreams and romance continued. Then, three days into her period, Kate drank the contents and fell asleep.

Outside, lightning crashed and in a grave the zombie in love reached his arm to the surface. His arm no longer a zombie arm; now a normal man’s arm.

Inside, on the bed, Kate changed too, she now became a zombie…

Ah, love. One voodoo witch hated men, one hated women.

In New Orleans, Zarla cackled, knowing the beautiful woman was now an ugly zombie, while her male lover was free now, to find love.


The End



Small Carcasses on the Floor



The Thar Desert stretched for miles forming a barren boundary between India and Pakistan. Its soil remained dry for much of the year, being prone to continuous wind erosion. There were only a few shrub species that could survive in such an environment, although you really had to keep your eyes peeled if you wanted to spot any life from where their small Hindu temple stood.

As he did every morning, Jyothi cleaned the vast entrance of the stone building, sweeping the floor and removing the dust that the wind gusts brought inside. It was a struggle that never ended, which many might have considered to be worthless, but it had to be done if you didn’t want the sand to pile up in huge heaps.

Once the young bald monk had completed what was needed in that part of the building, he remembered something else he had to do elsewhere, and walked into the basement of the temple.

The old building’s basement was bleak and niffy. However, it was exactly those conditions that seemed to attract some peculiar guests – namely the voles. They had a stout body that grew up to 9 inches in length, a hairy tail, a round head and tiny ears and eyes. A person might have thought they were weak and inoffensive; in a way you might even love them, though in modern towns nowadays people only wanted to kill those using any means possible.

But monks didn’t kill such creatures because doing such would be against their religion. They simply allowed them to live in the basement and eat whatever they could find.

The fact that nobody could get rid of those small creatures made everything more difficult, a wary Jyothi considered. He knew exactly what must be done: he had to wait until the right moment came, which didn’t happen every day, of course - but sooner or later the opportunity would present itself and he had to be ready.

His eyes focused on the darkened floors and it took him half an hour before he found what he was looking for: the dead body of a vole. Of course, none of the monks killed voles. But animals died, just like humans died, and when this happened it was a reason for Jyothi to be joyful.

As the young man approached the small carcass, he considered himself lucky: this vole had just passed away, so its blood would be perfect to meet his special ends.

His capable hands went for the tools he always brought along with him and drained all the blood out of the tiny body, collecting it in a small vase before putting it under his lungi, an orange wrap he wore around his body. Then he quickly moved away to get back to his duties before his superior came to oversee his work.

“Peace and love for all creatures be with you, brother,” said Mahesh, a monk of his age, as he arrived on the ground floor again.

“And with you as well, brother,” Jyothi replied, before quickly going to his small room, where he immediately treated the blood contained in the vase with a special anticoagulant that was meant to keep it in liquid form until night came…

As he was doing this, memories filled his mind. He remembered the aspiring young monk who had reached their temple one year ago. Akshay was the name he used when he introduced himself to them but he was later discovered to be a young woman called Neha, and not a man at all. When their superior found out, he immediately drove her away, yelling that only male monks were allowed into their community. The woman begged to be let back in, but the superior proved to be unwavering. So she eventually moved away from their gate deciding to live alone in the desert.

Jyothi didn’t know how Akshay could have ever been mistaken for a man, as she was attractive even though very skinny and with her head shaved. Maybe this was love, he wasn’t sure…

Sadly, she kept her promise and stayed in the desert. She then died after suffering a lot of hardship over a few months. Jyothi had desperately wanted her to be allowed back in – but that didn’t happen.

He was very surprised when, late one evening while he was outside the temple looking for shrubs for their community, he stumbled into a strange creature. From the first impression he got, and the pale features he saw, the young monk immediately thought it had to be a fabled Preta: an undead creature, once human, that had passed away after undergoing an extreme level of hunger and thirst, according to legends. Moreover, the strange being’s torn clothes made him figure out that it was Neha, or what was left of her!

Jyothi was happy to see her again, though he was sad about the miserable end she had come to. He knew a few things about a fabled Preta: it was said to be afflicted with an insatiable hunger for a particular substance - blood from corpses. So he knew he didn’t need to be afraid for his own safety, but he also knew that there were not many ways for a Preta to get the blood she needed in that desert.

He had to help her! After all, wasn’t the love for all Earthly creatures, even the undead ones, among the key principles of their religion?

Since that day, he had started searching for carcasses of small voles, waiting for the right moment to take their blood after they died. And then he left that vase with the reddish liquid in it outside the door of the temple, waiting for the night to come so the Preta could satisfy her unearthly hunger…

It was comforting to think that Akshay - the male name which that woman had used when they first knew her – just meant ‘Undecaying’ in the oldest language of their country.


The End
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Post February 19, 2017, 11:04:07 PM

Re: [POLL] Vote: February 2017 Flash Challenge

To vote, rate these stories using the long form below with scores of 0-10 (in whole numbers) and send it to me via Private Message (PM): (when logged in, copy it into memory, click the 'PM' button below my avatar (or depending on your board style, mouse over the green username by my avatar and a menu will pop up with an option to send a private message), paste the form in, & then fill in your scores.)

Categories:
1) What overall score would you give the story?
2) How good was the Characterization?
3) How effective (or original) was the plot?
4) How clear was the setting to you?
5) How good was the use of dialog?
6) How well did the story meet or address the challenge as it was given?

NOTE: you may need to have posted at least one message before you can send a PM. If the system won't let you, all you have to do is join in a discussion or just say hi in a thread before voting via PM. We'll be glad to meet you. If I suspect a voter of being a false identity (i.e. a troll), I won't count their vote.

Author scores for their own entry will not be counted.




Beautiful Dreamer
1) Overall:
2) Characterization:
3) Plot:
4) Setting:
5) Dialog:
6) Challenge:

In Passing
1) Overall:
2) Characterization:
3) Plot:
4) Setting:
5) Dialog:
6) Challenge:

Small Carcasses on the Floor
1) Overall:
2) Characterization:
3) Plot:
4) Setting:
5) Dialog:
6) Challenge:


Please do not post comments about these stories until the vote concludes.
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Post February 20, 2017, 10:12:15 PM

Re: [POLL] Vote: February 2017 Flash Challenge

After day 1, we three authors have voted, but we're interested in what the rest of you think, not how we'd rate each other.

So please vote and tell us how we did.
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Post February 26, 2017, 11:08:31 PM

Re: [POLL] Vote: February 2017 Flash Challenge

Voting has closed.


Thank you to all the members who voted.

Congratulations to... well, to all the authors, not just me.

My story, "Beautiful Dreamer" may have topped the charts, but it was in a month that saw a technical glitch that may have kept the voting rates lower than they have been in years.

Aphelion was migrated to a new server, which locked the staff out of some things initially. It prevented ftp access that would have let me update the "Flash Challenge" button. Instead, potential voters were routed to the contest announcement instead of the list of stories. I didn't get a workaround until Sunday morning, the last day of voting.

I guess these things happen. Once in ten years isn't so bad.

Still, thanks to Robin and Sergio for giving it a go with me.




For the record, these were the authors of the entries for this month:

Beautiful Dreamer by N.J. Kailhofer
In Passing by Robin B. Lipinski
Small Carcasses on the Floor by Sergio Palumbo


SCORES: (Overall next to the story title, then the average score next to each question #.) -


Beautiful Dreamer: 198
1) Overall: 9
2) Characterization: 9
3) Plot: 8
4) Setting: 7
5) Dialog: 8
6) Challenge: 9
# Zeroes: 0
# Perfect 10s: 8

In Passing: 161
1) Overall: 7
2) Characterization: 6
3) Plot: 7
4) Setting: 6
5) Dialog: 6
6) Challenge: 9
# Zeroes: 0
# Perfect 10s: 3

Small Carcasses on the Floor: 160
1) Overall: 6
2) Characterization: 6
3) Plot: 8
4) Setting: 6
5) Dialog: 6
6) Challenge: 9
# Zeroes: 0
# Perfect 10s: 3
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Post February 27, 2017, 04:35:43 AM

Re: [POLL] Vote: February 2017 Flash Challenge

Congratulations to the winner, indeed!!!

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Post February 27, 2017, 02:35:44 PM

Re: [POLL] Vote: February 2017 Flash Challenge

That was a fun challenge. I personally gag when hearing about zombies as I think they have saturated the consciousness of the 'zombie' masses around the world.

Along with zombies you can add werewolves, vampires, and super heroes such as Batman, Superman, and all the rest of the commercial shlock to the list of 'overdone' or 'been there done that'.

At least this Zombie challenge was a good one as it was different. Good job Nate.

Maybe in the coming challenges there will be more writers. Maybe there will be a challenge about an alien colony finding residence inside a belly button or rocks that mate with other rocks once every ten-thousand years.

Speaking of belly buttons...Yikes! What the hell is that coming out of... OMG! (ack, gag, gurgle...)
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Post February 27, 2017, 03:53:19 PM

Re: [POLL] Vote: February 2017 Flash Challenge

Beautiful Dreamer - From the beginning, the scene is painted onto the canvas with imagery of the world Horace finds himself in and we the audience can see his shock over his disintegrating appearance. We are taken along with him through the horror of his discovering the permanent nightmare he is now living (so to speak). I like it when the audience is taken by the hand through a story's journey.

The story's imagery is revealed hand-in-hand with the plot development so it has a movie like visual to it.

This story is definitely deserving of a longer treatment.

The title is tied into the story by the music box and is steeped in irony. Horace was anything but beautiful and his existence was more a nightmare than a dream. I like the metaphors.

What appears like unrequited love develops into Horace being used like a slave for the whims of a seductress.

Great story!


In Passing - The story uses powerful images with a conservation of words, words of impact that jolts the reader time and again into sudden feelings without transition...a good thing. A great roller coaster ride. The story evokes eroticism through descriptive narrative.

Kate was having sexual dreams about a man she did not know, but was as if she knew him.

The story is peppered with phrases of the absurd which adds to the quirky enjoyment of the piece.

There is philosophy built into the world view of the story which adds depth to the plot.

Memorable.


Small Carcasses on the Floor - This story has a strong narrative that covers an immense plot in a short time. The description was good and believable. I liked the setting and the clarity in which the story is told. Jyothi was an interesting character. He was thinking outside the norm for the religious environment he was in.

This was an intelligent piece with extensive world building and a interesting plot.

Insightful.
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Post February 27, 2017, 11:46:19 PM

Re: [POLL] Vote: February 2017 Flash Challenge

Thanks, Daniel.

One thing I'd add is that most people don't realize the song "Beautiful Dreamer" is actually a Civil War song written in 1862. The lyrics (a lot of people don't even know there are words to it) were written as if the singer was addressing someone who was dying or perhaps is already dead. When I found that out, it was definitely the icing on the cake for choice of song and the title for a zombie story.
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