FLASH FICTION INDEX 1 - May 2007-Nov. 2011


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

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Post May 06, 2009, 07:27:02 PM

My Pet Montster Challenge

Sheb

By:
TaoPhoenix



Breakfast Cereal Commercials. Most parents blame them; Reggie Webber, age eight, was grateful for one particular one.

"... New Purple People Cereal! Made with Sucralose so your parents don't have to worry about the sugar! You'll love them - they're yummy!"

So blared the TV throughout the Adventures of the Purple People cartoon show. So, of course, Reggie 'had' to have them when they went shopping. Mrs. Webber shrugged. The cereal was no health food, but it wasn't the worst thing on the shelf either. Reggie was a good kid and really had modest wishes anyway, so $13.77 of cereal a week was not something to fret over. Reggie snuck a box into his room so he could eat while watching the cartoon show on the TV in his room before everyone else was up. Mr. Webber taught his son how to set ant traps, and a little carpet cleaner every month or so could handle the rest.

On the Saturday before Easter, Reggie finished his show, but then a voice sounded.

"Reggie... Come down to help decorate the eggs!"

He rushed downstairs, forgetting to put his cereal away in his drawer. The bowl on the bed-tray had a few bites left floating in a bit of leftover milk.

Reggie worked hard on the eggs for a whole hour. Mr. Webber adjourned to hide the plastic eggs for the following day, and Reggie was free again, so he went back to his room.

The bowl was clean. Everything else in the room was the same.

Now, Reggie was a bright boy, but he couldn't figure this out. He remembered rushing down to help prepare for Easter, and was *sure* he'd been called away before finishing. But since everything else in the room was fine, this felt like a Detective Jerry show, so he didn't tell his parents. Pretending to be the hero of the show, he got down on hands and knees and Snooped For Clues. (Detective Jerry always did his Snooping on hands and knees, because the clues that Adults left were always on the ground. )

Reaching into the closet where he threw his dirty laundry when he was supposed to be cleaning his room, Reggie stuck his hand under a mound of tshirts and felt around. Something licked his fingers, which were still sugary from Easter Egg glazing.

"Glaaah!" yelped Reggie.

The voice floated up the stairs, "Reggie, did you say something?"

"Uh... No Mom. I just ... uh... knocked over something in my room."

"Okay sweetie".

This was definitely a Clue! Real careful, Reggie shone a flashlight into the closet and poked at the tshirts. The pile moved. A purple snout with a little horn and one baleful eye peered out.

"Awww. You're cute. Let me lock the door so Mom won't see you." So done, the purple creature emerged with a little coaxing. It was about the size of a portable heating unit with the approximate build of the smaller dinosaurs Reggie had seen on a trip to the museum. On its back were neatly folded purple wings. The creature shook loose a cramp and flew little circles around the room.

Reggie was delighted, and whispered, "Sshh, okay? Don't make any noise or Mom will come upstairs." The creature was also smart - it whimpered a subdued response, and settled on the bed next to the bowl.

"Oh, YOU ate my cereal That's okay. I'll get you some more later. We're going to be friends, okay?"

The creature snuggled itself under the blankets and went back to sleep.

...

Years passed. The creature, which Reggie eventually named Sheb when he caught on to the fantastic coincidence with the song, was very good at hiding. Reggie was very good at keeping secrets. (Uncle Sam would have been proud!) If anything, Sheb was even smarter than Jerry, but the creature had a humble heart and never gloated. In return for a cozy home under an old Disney blanket, a pillow, his namesake cereal, and a friend, Sheb helped his friend Reggie when they did homework together. Sheb couldn't speak, and apparently couldn't exactly read, but he had a knack of sorta finding the clue to homework problems that occasionally had Reggie in tears. (Maybe it was all the Detective Jerry episodes they had watched together.)

Reggie had taken to reading his assignments aloud, "because he liked to hear how things sounded". (He didn't say that Sheb also liked to hear how things sounded.) When faced with a typically tough question in history, Reggie would reread the assigned selection. Sometimes it took Sheb two readings to get the feel of it, but the third time he was usually right on target with a whimper at the important passage.

For math problems, Jerry explained his line of thought aloud. Sheb listened intently, scrunching his snout into a frown when it "felt wrong", and blinking his eye brightly when things "felt better". Again, in his own coded fashion, Sheb was "Darn Sure of himself" as Detective Jerry always said on the show. Sometimes they both gave up, but the teacher gave partial credit, and that was usually enough on one or two problems.

Although they had a couple near crises, Sheb was never discovered and remained a secret.

...

With Jerry acting as class proxy, Sheb listened to his textbooks on CD through headphones. While Jerry had grown into more of an English Literature fan, Sheb showed real talent with a major in geology. He graduated with modest B+ grades, and later single-wingedly created his own field of XenoGeology, where he studied the differences in amino acids wedged in rock bands formed by meteor impact craters.


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Post May 06, 2009, 07:27:58 PM

My Pet Montster Challenge

The Legend of Prince Vallium

By:
Mark Edgemon



In all actuality, my father was as close to a pet monster as one could ever hope or not hope to have in this reality. I never figured out if he was just mean or without concern for anyone other than himself or plain spiteful or just in part…retarded. What I do know is I could count on him one hundred percent of the time to embarrass the hell out of me no matter how I hoped for a break from his tormenting escapades.

Folks would call us Chuck and Chuck junior in passing, although I passionately did not want to be associated with this man or linked to him in any way. I don’t think people thought that I was like him in my traits or mannerisms. It was more like people pitied me for being his son, for they could see he was an idiot.

Hundreds of memories of him are forever burned into my mind, never to be erased, haunting me as I go through each day of my life, now that I am an adult.

One day, while studying in the kitchen of my parent’s home during my high school years, I had a friend over cramming for the next day’s exam when all of a sudden, I heard the bedroom door open, which to me meant one of two things; either my father had awakened from his mid day nap and would head to the bathroom to get ready for work or he would parade into the kitchen in his underwear on his way to the fridge.

“Is he in his boxers?” I whispered to my friend who was sitting at the table facing the kitchen, while I sat across the table with my back to everything.

He shook his head in amazement as I took a sigh of relief. I turned around in time to see my father’s naked ass heading down the hall back to his bedroom.

‘Why does he do things like this? I have no freakin’ idea!’ I exclaimed to myself.

I was a prisoner in my parent’s home for the fact that I was under age and had little money to get out and live on my own. I had years before I could get the hell out of there and so I just abided my time until then.

The pastor of my church had asked me to do some landscaping in his yard one Saturday morning and so I had made a list of what I needed and prepared to go to the lawn and garden store to pick up the supplies, when my father who found out what I was doing horned in and insisted he go to help me. After all, he was the expert. He wasn’t really, but I thought that maybe for the first time he was trying to be a father to me and wanted to share some quality time. So I relented and let him come along.

I worked and sweated in hard labor while he talked to the preacher’s wife, not letting up his non-stop speaking for a millisecond. As I passed him by with a load of mulch, I over heard my father telling her that they wouldn’t let him in the Army when you was a young man, because he had only one testicle. Whether that was true or not, this was another association botched by the pet monster that wouldn’t stop his insane meanderings.

How he held down a job, wore shoes and carried on with the day-to-day affairs of life, I’ll never know. But he did, so I guess he was normal.

He had a contact at a Pharmacy who sold him all the Valium he wanted which he consumed in abundance. One could decorate birthday cakes with the amount he would take on an on going basis. I don’t know if they helped or hurt him, but he would have his own way no matter what.

One morning, I was half asleep sitting up on the couch when he said something to me that I couldn’t understand. When I didn’t answer him, he threw a bowl of food at me and missed my head by an inch. I don’t know what happened to me at that moment, but I flew into a fit of rage and stood up moving fast toward him. He stood up equally as fast and hauled off kicking me in the shin as hard as he could. Never knowing when to stop, he ran over to the television and pushed my thousand-dollar video recorder backwards into the floor, something I had paid for with my own money working part time on weekends.

I took a step toward him when he shouted, “Where’s my gun!” as he ran out of the living room and toward the bedroom.

I ran after him and tackled him as he got to the bedroom door, knocking the door off the hinges and landing him on his bed, which broke under the pressure. I sat on his chest pounding his face with both fists, completely oblivious to what I was doing. Then seeing I was not having the effect I wanted, I started strangling him with both hands around his throat. His face turned blue, then purple and I finally realized I was killing him. I looked into his face and strangely enough, I saw the unexpected, the fool hearted grin that I had come to know and loathe.

I let go abruptly and slowly rose to my feet. I turned and left the room, walked into my own bedroom, sat in my chair and cried bitterly. I didn’t hate my father; I hated what I was becoming because of him.

I never engaged him in battle again. I now understood. He was at all times…high as a kite.


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Post May 06, 2009, 07:28:45 PM

My Pet Montster Challenge

Keiji’s Kaiju

By:
J. Davidson Hero



“Aw! You’re such a big dumb beast,” Keiji screamed, but his voice was lost in buffeting wind and the low rumble from Daigila’s chest. Something exploded down near the monster’s feet and Keiji felt Daigila lurch backwards. A plume of black smoke rose into the air and Keiji held his breath with expectation, but Daigila was on the move again and in a moment the cloud was left far behind.

“Good Daigila. Good boy. Try to step between the buildings next time,” Keiji yelled, patting the monster’s rough scaly hide. Keiji leaned over as far as he could to watch the monster’s feet, but couldn’t see them from where he was sitting among the dorsal spikes growing on Daigila’s back. Daigila looked like a Gila monster, covered with scales mostly black but with the common Gila monster pattern of big pink blotches throughout. But unlike a Gila monster, Daigila was massive, taller than a skyscraper and walked upright on large hind legs. He also had a forest of spikes growing on his upper back. Looking down from there made Keiji dizzy especially when coupled with the slow sway back and forth from Daigila’s lumbering walk. It caused something akin to sea sickness and leaning to try to see what Daigila might step on made the feeling a lot worse. Keiji was afraid of heights after all. He pushed his glasses back up his nose and reasserted his hold on the nearest spike.

“A little to the left, boy… I think,” he said. Keiji wasn’t really sure where they were heading, but he was reasonably sure that his school was along the way. He only hoped that Mrs. Mackelroyd’s third grade class would be on the playground when Daigila tromped by. He dreamed of their faces, mouths wide, gap-toothed Will staring, Eesha Gupta speechless, Zack and Austin scared. He’d wave and they’d all cheer. Daigila would lie down and let him off, and then the principal would declare the day a holiday in his honor and there would be rides, under his instruction of course. As Daigila lumbered on, Keiji started working on a limerick his friends could all sing for him and his wonderful pet: Stomp, stomp, smash, crunch, crunch. Don’t make Daigila mad: he’ll eat ya for lunch.

The pah-twang, pah-twang, pah-twang of power lines snapping brought Keiji out of his daydream. Daigila had been walking through a suburban part of the city, but now they were nearing the waterfront and Keiji could smell the saltiness of the ocean. Ahead he could see the skyscrapers of the city’s heart. Daigila paused. Spread out at the monster’s feet like toys were tanks, Humvees, and thousands of soldiers; the army had set up a line of defense.

“Get out of the way!” Keiji screamed as the explosions started. The tanks fired a barrage into Daigila’s legs. Keiji thought it sounded like a string of firecrackers. Thick smoke was everywhere. Daigila let out a moaning growl that forced Keiji’s hands over his ears. Daigila inhaled and Keiji felt the air around him all pull away into the giant’s lungs. It was as if a river was rushing over Keiji, his fine black hair whipped about his face and into his eyes. He almost lost his glasses. Then Keiji felt Daigila’s body all around him start to heat up. There was a long loud hiss that sounded like a boiling pot running over onto a hot burner. Daigila exhaled, and there was a blast of heat that warped the air.

Smoke and ash were everywhere now, spot lights crisscrossed the darkening sky, and sirens blared. Keiji pushed his glasses back into place. A deep black trench stretched across the ground at Daigila’s feet and the army was gone.

“Cowards!” Keiji screamed thinking they had retreated back towards the city. “Go, go, Daigila!” he cheered.

The sound of an oncoming wind getting higher and higher pitched grew louder and louder until there was a twin whoosh right over Daigila’s head. Keiji looked. Two fighter jets passed so low Keiji thought he could see a pilot. They quickly whooshed away, but then Keiji realized they were just making a wide arc in the sky and were circling back.

“Leave Daigila alone! You’ll hurt him,” Keiji yelled. But the whoosh of the jets just kept getting closer and closer until there was a pair of pops and sizzles. Keiji watched as missiles trailing growing spirals of white smoke shot from the jets directly at Daigila. Keiji hunkered down. Twin explosions rocked the beast and Keiji thought the world was spinning to the side.

Daigila let out another skull-crushing moaning scream. The twin fighters were far off now, but Keiji knew they were circling again. Daigila rose and started tromping off, not towards the city’s center, but towards the ocean.

Keiji was being violently jostled from side to side. He had to fight to keep from falling. Keiji heard the jets zip overhead and another pair of explosions. But Daigila was too fast; the explosions tore the ground behind them. Keiji craned his neck to see a couple of buildings billowing smoke.

Then Daigila jumped and there was a crack. Salty water was everywhere. It lifted Keiji up and out of Daigila’s spikes. Daigila sank below the surface. The undertow sucked Keiji down too. He opened his eyes under water and watched the underside of the surface rushing away. He started swimming with all his strength.

***

Keiji stood wrapped in blankets. A soldier was talking to his parents. Keiji’s dad was trying to piece things together.

“...the fault-line runs near our house, it opened up during yesterday’s earthquake. He was playing down the street... neighbor kids saw him fall in... must have fallen on top of that... that monster.”

Keiji started crying. His mom hugged him close and tried to comfort him. “It’s okay. It’s okay.” She was crying too. “The monster’s gone now.”

“I know,” Keiji sobbed, “but he was the best pet ever.”


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Post May 06, 2009, 07:29:56 PM

My Pet Montster Challenge

CUSTOM PET SUPPLIES
OR
LITTLE SHOP OF MONSTERS


By:
Richard Tornello



OK smart guy how do you propose to get one of these Huie Monsters, and domesticate it on top of that? You and I both know, one, they are difficult to catch, and two,almost impossible to domesticate unless you get them when they are young. Worse yet, they are hard to keep alive when they are young.

Easy. My brother has one and so does my sister. In fact our whole family breeds Huies out west. I have one that I take every where. She stays in the cabin when I travel. She’s about 5 metricks high and well formed. She’s only one revolution old. I still have to keep her confined though. It’s the law. She’s a great pet.

You’re kidding me? They’re disloyal little animals. How may times have you been stabbed by this one?

Once

You never let on, why? Only one revolution old? How long do they live?

Huies? Oh about 5 revolutions. It’s not a long lived pet. They are interesting to work with. One can get attached to them. Normally, Huies live a very primitive and short life. Our family and some others believe they are intelligent no matter that their habitats are sties and they commit the foulest acts imaginable.

Until recently our family business, legal as it is, was frowned upon. Since these Huies are now on the official endangered species calendar our business has a new patina especially in this new governments’ eyes. The last government gave lip service to conservation. Now to answer your other question yes it is difficult to capture these. I have a method that seems to work more than not. It requires subterfuge and outright trickery. It’s a laugh at how easily my methods work.

We know they communicate so we rarely catch and release. If our methods were discovered they would adapt. The result would take us revolutions to develop new modes of operating.

My brother and sister have ensconced themselves in that environment once or twice. They said it was too dangerous to remain any length of time without finally being noticed and killed. Camouflage is very important. Learning their vocalization takes some doing. My sister is a practicing small animal vet specializing in Huies.

OK, thanks for the quick history lesson. Vocalizations, interesting, very interesting.

I have one I just captured the other day. It’s a male. For the males we use a very basic approach playing on their innate curiosity. The females are a bit tougher to attract. The females appear to be more aloof and cautious. Captured males and females are extremely dangerous. They will kill each other for no apparent reasons and they rarely breed with other captured Huies. We have better luck mixing our stock with a captured Huie. The males are easier.

That is an abomination. I still can’t believe you breed the little Huie monsters, these killing machines. Do you have fighting Huies? I’ve heard of them.

No, absolutely not! That would make me a monster.

Back off. Maybe they are rubbing off on you.

Sorry, first let me show you this one. He’s new and we have him drugged up. This prevents him from harming himself. I will probably keep him and mate him with one of the ones we have bred here. The gene pool will be enhanced in this manner. I think Coffee will like him.

Coffee? I take it Coffee is the one you have now.

Yes, she is my favorite. She’s rather beautiful. Watch yourself; even the ones we breed will attack if they feel threatened.

What’s the new one’s name?

I don’t have one yet. I’ll watch and see. Maybe something about him will lend itself to a name. Coffee likes to drink that foul stimulant. Many of them do.

He is younger than she is. She is fully mature and can breed. However I have kept her with me all this time. A Huies life is generally shorter if they run in the uncontrolled wild. As I mentioned, they have a tendency and a long history of killing kill each other.

You mentioned their life span. Quick buggers.

On a protected environment they seem to last the equivalent of about 80 to 90 of their revolutions long. It is a very strange place, trust me.

OK how do you get them? Come on, do tell.

First I cloak the transport vehicle. That’s a must. Then we enter their environment. Since they are social animals I tend to have more success hunting in their clusters. This last one that you see here I used Coffee as bait. He followed her like a magnet. It worked great. He approached the trap.

What, a box over its head? I know, a hole in the ground!

No, you idiot. I had a sign made up in their language:

WET PAINT

I put the sign on a pole with a bonding agent. He touched it and stuck. I knew he would. Huies are predictable. Here he is take a look. Take a look.

They write too?

Some do. They speak with their mouths too. They have no form of psi conversation. I told you they were primitive. Certain captured ones can receive if you work with them. They must be young. Fully mature Huies can’t do it. The Huies that we breed are genetically altered just a bit so as to be able to understand us. We think psi might make them more docile. We have to experiment. Coffee here is fine example. I rarely have an issue with her.

Coffee, come girl. You did a great job. A smile broke from her lips and she nodded.

See I told you they are smart. And if you had one long enough you’d discover they are affectionate too.

Smart maybe and dangerous; that’s a known fact. Keep your little yellow haired Huie. Little monsters, that’s what the are. We should leave them on their planet and quarantine that sector.


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Post May 06, 2009, 07:31:10 PM

My Pet Montster Challenge

It Is What It Is

By:
G.C. Dillon



“Here you go, sir. There's your receipt and your Wells Fargo card.”

Britneye's customer stared a moment at his Wachovia debit card, checking, perhaps, that she had given back the correct bit of plastic money. OMG! She thought, he thinks I'm serious.

“Okay guys, that's just about it,” Britneye said as she stared at a digital display of numbers. The lites darkened. The speed of service timer had shut off. “It's official. We're closed. Let's be out at ten after: Power-wash those dishes, wipe those counters. I'll go make up the numbers that make the company accountants happy.”

Britneye pulled all the Jacksons, Grants and Franklins from the back-cash drop-box and went into the office. As she started counting the money, Frank, their truck driver with their supplies' delivery, walked in. He wasn't supposed to deliver when the store was still open for business.

“Things all good? No more problems with idiots?” Frank asked.

“No, most people are nice and friendly. There was just that one guy who kept threatening me because we closed early one night. But he doesn't come around any more.”

“Good! 'cuz I'd kick his behind.” Frank smiled and rubbed his bald head.

“Thanks,” she replied. “You're not the only one.”

“Oh! no feminist manifesto about taking care of yourself,” Frank said with a wink and a big gap-toothed smile.

“Everyone wants to be rescued, the question is by whom and from what,” Britneye said. She turned her face to him and brought forth a wide smile of her own.

“You didn't even call it that night, right?” Frank questioned.

“Nope, I wasn't manger-in-charge. I just made the mistake of going to the pick-up window to tell him we were closed.” Britneye leaned back in her swivel chair. “So, the first night, he told me: 'I'll *expletive* get you.' I assumed: he was gonna call the 1-800 number and get me in trouble. The second time he came through, he told me: 'I didn't eat that night. I'll remember you.' For some reason he made it personal!”

[center] * * * [/center]

Britneye was doing the nightly paperwork. Click the right mouse button, highlight the register totals at the bottom of the report. Crl-C - copy, Alt-Tab - traverse to another window, Ctrl-P - paste into the correct cell in the spreadsheet. She watched the numbers magically change as the software recalculated. None of the figures were in the red, Britneye gladly noticed.

Frank stormed into the office. “I need to use the phone.” He dialed 911.

“What happened?”

“Someone's stolen from the trailer.”

“Are you sure?”

“A case of beef is missing.”

“Are you sure!” she repeated. “It just wasn't left of the pallet at the warehouse?”

Yes, ma'am! I'm positive” he replied. “The shrink wraps been torn aside.”

“Stay on the line.” Frank handed her the receiver. “Officers have been dispatched,” she heard.

“Do you have a description?”

“I don't know. I'm in the office. Let me put down the phone...

“No, he only heard something in the bushes. The police are here now.”

“Okay,” the operator said and hung up.

[center]* * *[/center]

Britneye watched as two vehicles exited the quick service restaurant's parking lot. The first was the white police car, it's red and blue lights off. The second was Frank's truck, a sleeper cab with a refer trailer. She walked back to where the dumpster lay. She tossed the small plastic trash bag from the office into the steel box. “Kaiden. Kaiden!” She stood, her arms akimbo.

Kaiden here.” A short young man stood there. He had long black hair that cascaded blinding across his left eye and down his face toward the ruddy, sensual lips that had spoken. He looked strained, pained. Pale cheeks and black eyes with long lashes (lashes she would die for) completed the image. Such a Robert Smith emo, Britneye thought. But she knew there was more goth in its nature. So much more.

“Did you steal from the truck?” she asked.

Hungry.” Kaiden morphed, puffing up several sizes. Fangs suddenly curved out his mouth. He swallowed a stack of ground beef the length of her shoulder to her index finger, including the wax paper that separated the patties. Was that a cubit? She wondered. A troll should eat a cubit in one gulp.

“I told you to be more careful,” Britneys said softly. “I told you I'd bring you the leftover and discarded burgers.”

Burned.”

“They're not burnt; they're just cooked.”

Burned! Like gazelle after brush fire.” Kaiden scowled. Its fangs pointing outward. “Britneye will not let Kaiden stop metal carriages on bridge.”

“It's a highway overpass over an open sewer.”

A bridge is a bridge.”

“I just don't want you to get caught. You were seen by others the night we met.”

Britneye protect Kaiden. Kaiden protect Britneye.” The creature morphed again, growing wider than the biggest football full-back, taller than the most lanky basketball center, meaner than a hockey defense-man. Curnute horns sprouted from the sides of its forehead.

“A little too much I think sometimes.”

Kaiden not hurt man.”

“You ate his fenders!” Britneye began to giggle. The monster began a loud, roaring guffaw. She recalled how they met. How her monster came to rescue her from the irate customer who had frightened her. How it had rushed out from behind their dumpster -- like every nightmare you ever dreamed, every creature that escaped your closet, like every beast that slept beneath your bed – that is how Kaiden ran out to the stranger's car. Its skin was grey with long hair, Medusa's wild and untamed. It was an elemental of nature unleashed, a tornado, hurricane or earthquake personified in human form (or at least mostly human).

Britneye brushed her strawberry blonde hair out of her eyes, parting her locks like the Red Sea.

Britneye pretty. Pretty like Ashenputtel.”

Britneye smiled. Disney knew her as Cinderella.

I Luv U 2,” she said, and rubbed her troll under its furry chin.


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Post May 06, 2009, 07:32:58 PM

My Pet Montster Challenge

- Winner -


Samuel's Esoteric Pet And Statue Shop

By:
Casey Callaghan



A pet for Sir's son?

Naturally, sir.

What sort of pet would the boy fancy? I have dogs, cats, fish - very easy to care for, fish - hamsters, mice, lizards, parrots, budgies...

None of those catch your fancy? Then what would you like?

The archer fish, here, will catch insects hovering above the tank by firing water droplets at them with great accuracy; quite a sight to see. Observe.

Not the archer fish? Then what?

Ah, Sir has been listening to rumour. I do not know how these tales get around, sir, but I can assure you that the animals you see are all -

Oh, most generous, Sir, most generous. Now that I come to think of it, there may be one or two of the - let us say - the rarer breeds in the back room. Well cared for, sir, let us have no misunderstandings on that score. But a little out of the price range of most and some of them can be very tricky to care for - though, of course, I can provide Sir with full instructions. If sir would be so kind as to step this way?

First of all, sir, we have this one. Very dangerous if released, sir, very dangerous indeed. Note the cage, sir, wood carefully soaked in garlic. Somewhat tricky to feed, as it requires the extra haemoglobin and a diet high in iron - this particular one seems to like B+. To be kept out of sunlight.

Not for you, sir? Never mind, I am sure that I can find a buyer for the bat.

Next up, sir, a most rare specimen. You will note the silver bars? Very important, sir, very important. Also built into the cage, just over the door, is a clock which shows the phase of the moon - only suitable for exhibition when the moon is full, as now, but it can survive sunlight and is far easier to feed.

No, sir, I must advise against taking him for a walk.

In the bowl here, sir - no, sir, please do not touch it, the last patron who did so had his finger digested - yes, sir, I realise it looks like a strawberry jelly with an eyeball, sir. A very useful watchcreature, sir; very lazy, it tends to simply flow downhill and pool in a hollow, digesting anything foolish enough to step in. The only downside is that it grows as it eats, and the hollow must be big enough to contain all of it after eating of else you'll find another one - ah - downstream somewhere.

No, sir, not really suitable for display.

Would sir perhaps like to consider a mermaid? Quite incapable of surviving on land, sir, despite what sir may have heard - yes, sir, their song is quite melodious, is it not? Sir, please - Sir! Please do not attempt to enter the mermaid's tank! This is how it feeds, sir, if you enter the tank it will eat you!

Yes, sir, quite. The song can be somewhat compelling if one is not expecting it.

No, Sir, the creature behind that door is not suitable for your son, sir. Quite deadly, sir, and very dangerous. The door is kept locked with very good reason, sir.

If you would like a decorative creature, easy to care for, sir, I must introduce you to the pixies, sir.

Yes, sir, very pretty. Moreover, they subsist entirely on nectar and dew.

No, sir, not just any water. It must be dew. One further point, sir, they develop a coating of dust after a few hours - yes, that's right sir, you have been reading your Peter Pan. The fairy dust must be removed once a day, sir; it's an easy enough operation, but quite necessary.

Once again, sir, I must insist that you do not attempt to pass through that door!

Oh, very generous, sir, very generous indeed - no, sir, you may still not pass through that door. Sir, the creatures beyond that door are not as harmless as the creatures out here! Yes, sir, I realise that the mermaid tried to eat you, but even so, sir, I stand by my claim!

In this glass terrarium, sir, we have a hoop snake; unfortunately it is not large enough for him to travel in the manner of his kind over long distances, by rolling himself into a hoop and rolling along.

No, sir, he is most venomous, I cannot let him out of the cage.

Sir, a hoop snake's venom is powerful enough to kill a man by biting his footprint. I do not consider it safe to be let out.

And if you will step along this way, sir, you will see - sir? Where are - Sir! Put that key back! Sir! Don't open tha-

Oh, dear. I did warn sir.

--------------

No, officer, I do not know what happened to him. I remember him well; he was supposed to come in here yesterday to fetch a gift, sir. For his son.

That's right, officer, this statue. He sent photographs, sir, and our sculptor spent some time getting it right; then yesterday, he arrived for the final sitting and to claim the sculpture.

Naturally the figure is dressed in the same clothing, sir. We specifically requested that he wear the clothing he wore in the photographs, so that our sculptor could get it exactly right.

Yes, officer, I have no doubt that sculpture and pets are a very strange combination. We get that question all the time, officer. All I can say is that it appears to work for us.


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post June 03, 2009, 07:36:25 PM

The Almost Forever Challenge

The challenge was to craft a speculative fiction tale of love lost.


Example Story:



If Only...

By:
N.J. Kailhofer



The silver chain was half buried in the autumn leaves piled against the juniper in the decorative stone next to her house. She pulled her sweater closed and stepped off the open porch toward it. The neighborhood was quiet tonight.

He saw to that, damn him.

In spite of herself, she picked it up. As much as she hated him, it wasn't the necklace's fault, even though she threw it there herself, out the door, that very day. How could a simple silver heart with an extra thin chain cause so much pain? It was such a little thing. At least, until she figured out what it meant.

"Two years." Claire blinked back tears. "Damn you, Bill."

In an instant, his face was in her memory. Green eyes that twinkled, laugh lines, and strong chin. Brown hair just starting to gray. God, how could I have been so stupid?

She shuddered. The room reeked of antiseptic and horror. A jagged scar ran across his face. Metal plates were bolted onto his skin, covering most of his head. One eye was gone, replaced with a huge, expressionless sensor. His face contorted into a scream when he saw her, but no sound came out.

She ran from the hospital room, and never went back.

Why did he have to love me?

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

"Because it will make you look even more beautiful when you wear it around your neck."

Her mouth flopped. "B-Beautiful? Me? You think I'm beautiful."

Bill's eyes were pleading. "I think the whole room lights up when you smile."

Her eyes darted around the apartment, trying to catch her breath. "I'm not beautiful."

"You are when you smile."

Dear God, what am I going to say? He has a good face, but his gut is huge. How do I tell him I'm out of his league?

She frowned. "You know I'm seeing someone, right?"

Bill shook his head. "You only go for the same type of guy you did way back in high school: lookers with tight abs and bad boy attitudes. Except they all treat you badly, and dump you. Every time. Me, I'm a different kind of guy."

She sighed. "I just don't feel that way about you. I'm sorry."

The silence was uncomfortable. Claire tried to give him the necklace back.

"No," he replied. "That's for you. If I didn't want you to have it, I wouldn't have given it to you."

He walked toward the exit, but stopped in the doorway. "I love you, and I did since the first day we met."

She sounded annoyed. "You love me? Oh, please. What do you know about love?"

She expected him to get angry, but Bill's eyes were serene, confident.

"I know love," he said. "I will never leave you."

"What?! Get out of here!" [l]Loves me! Why do all men always think they're sexy, when they are clearly not? I mean, look at him!

All I wanted was a good friend. Maybe if I am mean to him, he'll get the message.[/I]

He walked into the night, and she threw the necklace out the door after him. "There, you just left me! Stay in loser town and don't come back!"


The next day, her boyfriend dumped her for someone younger.


Three weeks later, she got the hand-written note that brought her to the Conversion Hospital: I found a way I can always be there for you, one where you can't ignore my dedication. --Bill

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

She didn't hear the 'thumps' as it approached, absorbed in her own world. It startled her.

"Citizen, you are displaying distress. Do you require medical assistance?" It stood alongside her, a massive shiny frame that vaguely resembled a man, nearly ten feet tall. Only one side of the face still looked human. The rest was a networked machine, systemized into a grid of officers covering the city. Inside that titanium shell, he had hidden weapons, communications gear, and CPUs more powerful than a supercomputer from just a few years ago. He could fight with the power of a small army if needed.

And somewhere, deep inside, he still had a beating heart.

"Did it hurt?"

"Your question does not compute."

"Why are you everywhere I go?"

His head cocked, ever so slightly. "Unit deployment is determined by central processing."

"I know better than that."

"Citizen, do you require assistance?"

"At the mall, you're there. At the movies. When I come home at night, you're on the corner." She held up the silver chain. "Bill, it's me. You gave me this necklace. Remember? You're following me."

He was silent, studying her face and the necklace.

"Clairrrrrre," he said thickly. "Your name is Claire." His face twitched, rebooting some subroutine. "I must return to my duties. Good evening, Citizen."

Why couldn't I have figured out that I loved him too, before it was too late? Why did I have to be so selfish, so vain?

The cyborg marched back to his post on her street corner, protecting the neighborhood, watching over her with an unresting eye, day and night, whether she liked it or not.

Under her breath she asked, "Did he mean it when he said he'd never leave me?"

She bit her lip, afraid of the answer.


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post June 03, 2009, 07:40:39 PM

The Almost Forever Challenge

Saryl

By:
J.B. Hogan



The first time I took real notice of Saryl was on the advanced personal combat training field at the academy. The instructor had paired us off. She a destroyer pilot from distant Maldrovia, me a standard issue humanoid junior captain from a standard, but fast-cruising, pirate hunter.

Maldrovians, even females, are exceptionally strong, with powerful legs and muscled arms. She was about the same height as I was but seemed bigger. Her tangled, purple-hued hair was tied behind her solid chiseled face and she looked like a formidable foe. Looking her over, I could not see the short, narrow, pointed tail that Maldrovian women supposedly hid in specially made pockets in the back of their clothes.

“Go!” the instructor yelled, and before I could even set my feet, Saryl had dropped to her knees, slid forward between mine, and with one powerful maneuver lifted me up and slammed me flat of my back on the hard ground of the training field. The last thing I remembered, before nearly losing consciousness, was the loud sound of laughter and a strange hissing coming from the conqueror who stood above.

I shook my head clear and looked up to see Saryl bending over me. Oddly, I remembered another rumor about Maldrovian women: that their tongues, long and slender, had barbs on the end that when shot into the mouth released a chemical so powerful it could render its target comatose or dead – or in the case of their own species highly aroused.

“You are alright?” she asked in a heavy off-planet accent that was nonetheless pleasant, even appealing.

“I’m fine,” I said, refusing her offer to help me stand. “Nice move.”

“You were perhaps not ready,” she said, with no hint of irony that I could detect.

“Yeah,” I said, rubbing the back of my neck – that was going to be sore – “perhaps not.”

She seemed to find that amusing and hissed her Maldrovian approval. I couldn’t stop myself from trying to see the end of her tongue when she opened her mouth but she was onto me and turned aside slightly. For a female of her size and strength, it was a delicate, even graceful move. I looked into her deep black eyes and she made a different sound, not a hiss. I was hooked.

From that day on I did everything in my power to get paired off with Saryl. When she needed someone to hold a climbing rope during the obstacle course, I raced to do it. When we ran the marathon, I stayed by her side as long as I could then followed several dozen yards behind. At the strength tests I was her second, always ready – though unnecessarily so – to make sure she got the free weights back on the rack safely. On the firing range, I managed to be on one side of her or the other, always.

By the time we graduated from combat training, we were the talk of the academy even though we had never even gone out on a date. At the ceremony I stood beside her and when her name was called I felt her hand brush against my arm as she proudly strode across the platform to receive her certificate. That night, at the graduation party – held in a local club catering to military personnel – I worked up the courage to ask for a kiss.

“We will be going to far ends of the system,” she reminded me of the assignments we had been given a few days before graduation. “I will be with my people on Maldrovia, you will be going who knows where. There is little advantage for either of us.”

“A simple moment of affection,” I suggested, “of friendship.”

She considered that for a moment, looked around the room briefly, then turned back to me.

“One would not hurt,” she said.

I leaned forward to kiss her, but she put a strong hand against my chest. I stepped back, assuming she had changed her mind but then she pulled me to her and gave me a kiss I will never forget. Her lips were firm and strong, just like the rest of her, and to my great shock and excitement I felt her tongue slide into my mouth. I felt the barb on the end. I felt the barb attach itself to the back of my tongue and then she released its chemical.

For a moment, I thought she had released too much and I was going to die. My head spun, my legs wobbled, my heart pounded. I gasped for air not realizing that she had finished kissing me and was standing back watching my reaction. If I could have seen better at that moment, I might have noticed a smile flash across her beautiful lips.

By the time I recovered from Saryl’s kiss she was gone – out of the bar and back to the academy to be with her own people. I fell into a booth at the back of the bar and sat stunned for better than a half hour. I understood then that the rumors, probably all of them, about Maldrovians were true. At least the one about the tongue barb was. I had found that out.

It’s been two years since we graduated from the academy training program and I’ve never seen Saryl since. But I know where she is and I know that she has yet to take a partner. My work takes me to all parts of the system and one day we will be hunting a pirate and that chase will take us to Maldrovia. I know it will and when it does I will be better prepared for Saryl than I was before. She could have paralyzed me graduation night or even killed me, but she didn’t. And that’s my hope, why I long for her and look to the skies for her. Waiting for that second chance. A second chance with Saryl.


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post June 03, 2009, 07:41:39 PM

The Almost Forever Challenge

My Confession of Love

By:
R Tornello © 2009



This will be my confession to the Elders before I am to be terminated for interfering with the life forms on a planet. I was only to observe. We Are The Watchers and recorders of history. I was placed in my position and specific location due in part, that a writer, worse, a poet in this world is not one that may cause too much damage as a Watcher, as opposed to one of us placed here as a scientist.

We are forbidden to establish any meaningful relationships with these beings. These beings, humans they call themselves, are a strange race. Once you get to know them you either despise them for their cruelty or love them for everything else. I fell in love with one of them specifically. Had I run and hid I can only speculate. That is not to be. I made that choice in part because I love my job. I was discovered through my writing. I am not sorry.

MY CONFESSION:

I am the poet laureate for a small university in the Midwest. It is my job and my love to write poems for official and semi-official occasions and events pertaining to the University and University life, or death as it happens. My position allows me to live if not a wealthy life financially, a rich one in terms of work. And, I do love my work.

However, once as in many of our lives there was a turning point that made a difference. Some take that path of lesser travel and discover new things. Others trod the well worn road to everyday existence. It’s a living. Yet there are other turning points that offer as much potential, and one is discovering true love. Love comes and love goes. But sometimes one lets The Love go only to discover it was gold and riches beyond any fame and comfort. And that love is naught recoverable.

To that experience and as a poet I write this poem. I write it to myself as a memory of something dear and gone. Her smile and her laugh, etched and the feeling, burned, no seared is a better word.

My story-poem below may come across as light, but it is naught. For it is the memory of one dear night, and 25 years later, still burns as bright.


HER

Once upon an evening early
While I pondered wondered really
Would I score and be so lucky
With my lady lawyer Missy?

Dinner came and dinner went
Off for a drive we two spent.
When down a darkened street I rode,
into my arms, she headfirst dove.

A 2 seat Mazda were we in
A comfort factor it was grim.
Arms and legs/ car-tore-shin
Car was rockin, and not a grin.

Cramps in legs and arms galore
Another venue suggested fore
So to her vehicle we did find,
love most passionate, we did climb.

All too soon it was time to go
A meeting somewhere I was to show.
Another round for her and me.
Another time another place.
We parted in slow loves’ haste.

The antidote for this pain laid.
Not the Rx, but her bed made.
Greeted at her door amore
Top hat, heels, not much more.
With a “how do you do
I’m all for you”
We spent the night in deep amore.

That’s my story
Past, it’s true
I only wish it could happen to you
Just don’t let it slip-a-way
A life time loss, now I pay.


I write this as a lament to myself and a warning to others. Think with all you have before you let love go. Sometimes the fear, the initial pain and strife, severing the current existence, may cause you to hesitate. Trust me, it’s is worth the pain of a new life. Take the leap.

This I know.


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post June 03, 2009, 07:43:02 PM

The Almost Forever Challenge

Puppy Love?

By:
George T. Philibin



Love transcends, endures, searches without prejudice, is un-measurable by the best in physics, is un-restrained by fears, hopes, attitudes and family. What can we say about love? Anything fits it, but nothing can really define it, and yet we often bask under its watchful eye!

Millions of stars sparkle every night on Everton like Earth. And on the shore of the Sea of Acroplean, Captain Kevin VonGeorge waits impatiently for Earth’s Outer-Galactic rescue ship, Trident III.

“You can’t leave. Kevin, think about our time on this beach together.
Wasn’t it lovely? Didn’t I nurse you back to health and take care of you?” Cindy said.

Cindy’s attention attached itself to Kevin with a force that only a sun’s nova could topple. He looked away. His eyes searched the shore as is mind raced for a thought, but his needed words didn’t come. Only joy at the thought of rescue, but some sorrow also shaded his happiness at the thought of leaving Cindy. A thought that would have been impossible to believe a year ago.

“It’s my duty to return. It’s my duty to my people----like your brother’s duty to protect the dams and weirs that hold back the seas in the Northern Hemisphere of Everton.” Kevin said.

“Duty ! Duty! Duty! I hate that word more each day! Duty! It’s always----I have duty to do!” Cindy said.

She moved down towards the sea but stopped just short of the waves.

Kkunoittngij, Cindy’s father, approached with a device that had been modified to send a homing signal to Trident III.

“This will bring in you rescue vessel,” Kkunoittngij said.

“My daughter is foolish… very liberal in her thinking and attitudes; you seem aware of her immaturity and that shows wisdom,” Kkunoittngij added.

Kkunoittngij spoke through a universal-translator. He didn’t know English. Cindy learned English in about a month. She had a propensity for languages, but with Kevin’s language she also had a deep and un-yielding desire to know it! And she learned it very quickly!

“Thank you Kevin for you technology in water vaporization and your Hydrogen generator,” Kkunoittngij said.

“I thank you for everything you did for me. I would have died if left unattended. Your society is in the front ranks of kindness and friendliness. Those on Earth will not forget this!!

Kkunoittngij made a bow then moved away.

Kevin lowered his head and frowns washed over his forehead. He kicked some sand around, brushed his hair back with his hand, then looked up at the sky. He looked out over the sea of Acroplean, looked but didn’t see, listened to the sounds of waves slapping one another, but didn’t hear them, and felt the warm breeze rush to meet him.

“I--thought there might be....” Cindy lowered her eyes. Kevin jerked up his head, stepped back and didn’t take his eyes of Cindy. He stared not knowing what to utter, but knowing that he must say something, anything that would bridge a true understanding between them. Yet, that bridge was always impossible to build. He didn’t want to break Cindy’s ....he didn’t want to hurt her....

Cindy’s eyes turned upon him. All six eyes still watered---actually some type of oil permeated out-- and Kevin knew that all of his attempts at making her see the reality of her love had failed.

She shot out a tentacle that reached around Kevin’s neck and started to play with his hair. Another tentacle embraced him, gently; lovely while she emitted sweet aromas that surpassed the best that any flower on Earth could produce. Her entire body started to display colors, changing their hues and mixing together in a Kaleidoscope of soft blues and reds and orange-yellows and pinkish-greens that undulated in tempo, it seemed to her heart’s beatings. In reality, she had three hearts but they worked in unison.

Two of her eyes looked upward, then she shrieked. Kevin's eyes followed and Trident III became visible growing larger as it descended aiming towards a section of shore that had been marked off for landing.

“NO! NO! NO!” Cindy screamed in Evertonian but Kevin understood those sounds. Then in English she said, “You never cared about me! Why Kevin---why don’t you love me? All your talk about diversity on your planet with the ....” Before Kevin could answer, Cindy’s color changed into a solid dark-green. She slithered down towards the shore, entered the sea then disappeared beneath the waves.

Kkunoittngij moved back to Kevin soon after Cindy left.

“I take it my daughter’s hearts are broken? A saying common to your planet’s pre-matting trials?” Kkunoittngij said, searchingly.

“I tried sir, I really tried but she just doesn’t understand how it would be impossible for us to....” Kevin could say no more.

“She will go down into the depths of the sea to be with her many sisters now. That is how young female Evertonians handle sorrow or grief or lost love. She has over six hundred sisters and they will comfort her. It is our way and--my daughter will be okay.

“It was my fault assigning her to nurse you. I should have assigned an older medical tech, but Cindy I thought wouldn’t mind taking care of an alien. She always brought home stray Kuotins and Vegiles that were dropped off along our highways when she was younger, so a strange and alien being like you would not scare her, I thought. I should have realized that Cindy might respond in another way, but how can a dad get to really know his children that well. I have over a thousand of them!” Kkunoittngij said.

Kevin raised up an eyebrow, glanced around and tucked in the side of his mouth a little. He lowered is head somewhat then looked straight at Kkunoittngij and said: “And I would have never thought it possible either.”

Kevin un-pinned this captain bars and gave them to Kkunoittngij. “Please see that Cindy gets these.”

Kkuoittngij bowed


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Post June 03, 2009, 07:43:58 PM

The Almost Forever Challenge

In Hushed Tones

By:
Mark Edgemon



I hear the Wedding March as I stand in the church foyer preparing to marry her. I have loved once in my lifetime with great depth of soul more stronger than the love I feel for Susan my soon to be bride and yet, she is the woman I have chosen to share the rest of my life.

Susan is a person who has no outstanding traits save one, she wants me. I had wondered if I would ever have someone in the real world who wanted me for their lifelong companion. Susan did, much to my amazement and that was enough for me to make a commitment to her for the rest of my life.

I did not want to grow old alone in this natural world, so I am to do what I have dreaded for most of my life, forsake my one true love for this physical woman, who wanted to share my time and space.

But my truest love is the woman from my dreams, a woman who I had shared a hundred lifetimes with in the twenty years we’ve been together. Miranda came into my life when I was around six years old, while I was watching a Saturday children’s program early one morning. She was a girl about 16 years of age in a fairy costume and for the first time, I was in love. Later that day, I imagined her tenderly caressing me and telling me I was her boy. In my imagination, I was her age and we were dating. There was no one else in the world when she was in my mind. I was faithful to her, so that I would not dream of anyone else but her. Somehow, I think she knew.

We had many children throughout our lives, at different times and various scenarios, but we always wound up alone together, just the two of us. We were children at play at times and other times we dated as teens. I would conquer corporations, created and built businesses and she, always the dutiful mate, stood beside me, proud of me for the man I was. We never had a quarrel or a trial that I could not solve in less than 20 minutes and we never doubted our love for one other.

Oh, I love her! It would be safe to say, my love for her was more real than any romance in the natural world, maybe stronger. I knew her very soul and she knew me. No matter what scenes we played in my thoughts and imagination, we were devoted to one another.

The wedding music is now invading my thoughts and I only have moments to do, what literally tears my heart asunder to think of…I must let her go. I could take the easy way out and not think of her again, but I am unsure in the netherworld of one’s dreams if she would be waiting for me endlessly. So, I take a deep breath with tears welling up in my eyes and I call her name.

She appeared to me once again, entering as always into my conscience reality, now seeing my tormented fears.

“What is wrong, Byron? Is something troubling you?” she said to me as she reached for my hand to comfort me. I pulled my arm back, not wanting to connect with her this time as I always have. I had never pulled away from her before and she began to appear frightened, a reaction I had always labored to protect her from and now, I could not.

The Wedding March played for the third time, which was the cue for the best man and brides maid to walk down the aisle. Seconds later, it would be my turn.

“Miranda, I met someone else and I…” I said fighting back the tears, “I…I don’t want to be alone” and that was all I could say. She understood for she always understood, but she was devastated as if her beating heart was wrenched from her chest.

“Do you love me…more than her?” she asked already knowing the answer before I spoke.

“I am one with you Miranda, I…don’t know how…” was all I could say as my cue to walk down the aisle was played on the pipe organ in the church auditorium. “I love you with all my heart! I’m dying inside!” I shouted to her as I turned and opened the door to the foyer and began walking toward the front of the church, tears streaming down my face. The congregation and witnesses must have thought I was touched by the moment, but I had torn my own heart out as if I had murdered my own soul mate. I did not know how I was going to get through the ceremony or how I would live with myself after betraying my only one true love.

The wedding was a blur; I don’t know how I got through it. I kissed the bride, my now wife in the real world and yet, in my soul, I felt as an adulterer.

I had never told anyone about Miranda and I knew Susan would not understand.

Thirty minutes later we were getting into my car, now decorated as newlyweds cars are often adorned and preparing to go back to my place to pack for our honeymoon.

I cannot say that I love Susan. I would rather say that I was contented and maybe that was enough, I don’t know.

As I began to pull out of the church parking lot, Susan grabbed my hand and so I let her. I felt numb and very sad. I glanced into the rear view mirror for a moment and I believed I saw Miranda in the crowd waving to us mouthing the words “I love you, have a good life, I’ll miss you.”

I cried.


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Post June 03, 2009, 07:45:10 PM

The Almost Forever Challenge

The Descent

By:
J. Davidson Hero



“We are as we speak above the harbor of Havana, gentlemen.” The barrel-chested, red-bearded captain reached out over the rail with a sweeping gesture, his voice booming in a Southern drawl. The captain and his two visitors were standing at the very front of the aerostat on a kind of observation deck, the lower of two observation decks in fact. It was like a balcony, open to the night air and very wide. One of the visitors, Juan Fernando Royo, in an act of good faith took a step closer to the edge, but leaning forward slightly could see only wisps of clouds and darkness in the light of the waning moon. His companion, a rough freedom fighter named Pablo, chose to stay back. He instead eyed the three armed crewmen in light blue uniforms standing at attention against the wall behind them in the shadow of the airship’s huge metallic envelope.

“Please gentlemen, y’all are my guests, and therefore perfectly safe. Don’t you want to see what your money has paid for? It shall be truly magnificent.”

“I beg your pardon, Captain Onger, but the height is dizzying,” Juan Fernando said, clutching the rail and inching up alongside the captain. “We mean no disrespect. Your ship is truly amazing.”

“Yes, the Aurora is a work of art. Never has her like sailed the skies. Now if you look there,” the captain said, pointing down through the darkness, “you’ll see our target.” Juan Fernando strained to see, but the lack of moonlight, the clouds, and the shadow from the airship made it impossible for him to discern anything.

“What is it I am looking for captain?” he asked after an awkward moment.

“Yes, it is a bit dark, but I will rectify that momentarily.” The captain chuckled to himself. “Trust me when I tell you that we are right now flying above the USS Maine.”

“The American ship? Captain, there must be some confusion. We sought your aid in our noble struggle to drive the Spanish oppressors from the shores of Cuba. The Americans are potentially a threat, but not paramount. A demonstration of strength against the Spanish is what we wanted. We did not pay...” The captain cut him off.

“You want liberation Mister Royo, you’ll have to pay for that with your own blood. I have no intention of fighting a war for you, sir, but I can start one. And that may help you more than you’d think.”

Juan Fernando reached for the captain’s arm in protest. His companion Pablo tensed, his hand reaching for the hilt of a knife at his belt. The three crewmen brought their guns to bear simultaneously like automatons.

The captain motioned and one of the crewmen went to the nearest wall and lifted a voice pipe to his mouth. Juan Fernando heard a shrill whistle followed by the muffled sound of the crewman’s voice.

“Gentlemen,” the captain said, “the devil is not your enemy, but he only barters on his own terms.”

Juan Fernando heard the sound of machinery from deep within the aerostat. He felt static prickle his scalp, and then there was the crack of a lightning strike and below, the explosion of the Maine lit the night. He looked to the captain to try to fathom his reasoning, but Captain Onger had turned his attention to the upper balcony.

***

“So you were on the upper balcony this evening my dear?” he asked.

Her smile was curt. Constance Onger sat in her parlor aboard the Aurora, a book in hand. Her husband, the captain, took a seat on the chair opposite her, and crossed his legs. The room was not overly large, but it was decorated extravagantly. The walls had dark wood wainscoting, a Gothic floral-patterned wall paper in maroon, and a frieze depicting scenes from the Old Testament. Lavish paintings and mirrors hung from the walls. A large globe in the center of the ceiling provided an electric light.

“I asked you to stay in our quarters tonight. What ever prompted you to disobey my wishes?” he asked.

“What have you wrought Mordecai?” Her face was stern; her stare penetrating.

Captain Onger thought about how beautiful she was, how her dark hair danced in curls about her neck, how regal she was, born into grace. He would cross the deepest ocean, master the skies, break any man for her if she desired it, but still he returned her stare with a sneer. He was not in the mood to justify his actions, even though she was the only one in the wide world granted this dispensation, the right to question his supreme authority.

“Have I not provided for you, Constance, all the best? Given you the life you were born to, but had forsaken? Have I not protected you and done everything for you? Why do you question me so?” he asked.

Tears started to well up in her eyes, but she maintained her dignity. “Do not use me as an excuse for your actions any longer. I heard your conversation with those men. Tell me you did not murder men in their sleep. Do you fashion yourself the angel of death now? You will bring the wrath of God down upon us Mordecai.”

Her condescension made his face as red as his beard. He grabbed her arm violently. “They thought to buy my might to crush their enemies. I granted their boon, but I work for no one but myself... and you.” The captain added the last part too late. Her face contorted with disgust.

“You have changed. I have watched it happen. I have denied it until now, but no longer. You have become a monster.”

He scoffed. “I have become myself.”

She rose from her chair, shaking, but strong. “Captain Onger, I am leaving you.”

“You’ll have nothing. Here I’ve given you the world.”

She looked at him through a veil of tears. “No captain, I gave you my world, but it wasn’t enough.”


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post June 03, 2009, 07:46:20 PM

The Almost Forever Challenge

Come Away, O Human Child!

By:
G.C. Dillon



“Hey Justin! Miss Indigo's waiting for the groom. She says you've been a bad boy.”

“You hired a stripper-dominatrix?”

“Yep.

“How's your Corona?”

Dos Equis is better.”

“Thought you liked it. It's always in your fridge.”

“It's Anita's only choice,” I replied.

He waved his hand about. “I know there are bigger bugs down South, but these fireflies take the prize.”

“I used to live here. My dad was one of those white shirt, narrow tie Yankees sent down here help set up the plant. His co-workers told him what places not to go into without 'em. My dad made himself welcome because he was from Maine. Got into an argument with some guy in a bar about the best way to skin a deer. Endeared him as a backwoodsman.”

“How do you skin deer?”

“Couldn't tell ya. You know the woods by the Wal-Mart, by the sign for the Wiccan Church. That's where we used to hunt when I was a kid, when I lived here.”

“Hunt much?”

“I was in the woods a lot.” I smiled a bit at the memory. The firefly flew about me again.

“So you grew up here and met Anita in New England. Long lost love story?”

“I think I had a class with Anita once when we were kids. I really didn't meet her until we were both working at Corporate.

“I'll be there in a bit.”

“You don't have cold feet...” He laughed.

“Not exactly.” After the bachelor party tzar left, I shouted,”Balefire! You can manifest; I know that firefly is you.”

The tiny light grew into the form of a beautiful winged woman, Balefire of the Pixie. She lifted her hands to her shoulders and slowly closed her fists. Her so-very-darned-lovely, gossamer wings faded to nothingness. Balefire wore an asymmetrical brown skirt of tanned hide. It hung lower on her right hip and very much shorter on her left. An azure, low cut, V-neck tunic hung about her torso. Her short, blonde hair scrapped the nape of her long neck. The scabbard of a huge broadsword hung from her hip. She rested her hand sedulously upon the pommel.

“Why is Anita's sobriquet 'white chocolate' on your cell phone?” I blushed.

“I know why you are here.”

“Do you?”

“I loved you when I was nine. But at sixteen, it was different. I couldn't be a child forever.”

It wasn't you; it was me. Is that what you are saying?” Balefire snarled. Fangs flashed brightly in her teeth, jutting beyond her lower lips.

“Come with me to the Otherworld,” Balefire said. “Anita is comely, but you do recall the happiness you lived with me when you are with her. You remember your life before. I see it in your aura; Come with me, Human child.”

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

I wore a doublet, hose and a beret-cap. But everyone who looked my way, saw a three piece Italian tailored suit, lavender shirt and a stripped tie. My poniard looked to be a cell phone at my belt to any casual observer. The hospital receptionist gave me Anita's room number. I thanked her, and turned toward the elevator. Balefire stood inside the tiny moving cubicle. A mylar balloon and a big box of chocolate truffles were in her arms. Balefire smirked.

“You forgot to get her a present.” I took the gifts. I had a small teddy bear already.

“Are you prepared?” Balefire asked.

“Anita needs me now,” I answered. “I've much to make up to her.”

“She had a bun in the oven. I am sure it would be different if it had been your yeast.”

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

A Van Dyke beard graced my face unlike the last time we met.

“You!” My former finance's eyes sparked with a fire hotter than Gehenna. “No one knew what had happened. No one knew! You abandoned your job. Your Father didn't know where you were. I just don't understand: you just disappeared two years ago. We found your car in the parking lot, your clothes in the hotel room.” She slammed her fists down upon her bed sheets. “You forsook me! You -- ”

A small crib was set by her bed. A baby rested within. I reached down to adjust the child's pink blankie. Her daughter was as bright as Lughnassadh.

“Can you explain?” she asked, her voice sharp as a scalpel, cold as Samhain, coarse as a banshee.

Explain Balefire! my inamorata. “No. It's too complicated. All can say is I'm here now.”

She turned her head away. “How long this time?”

A short human lifetime, thought I, the pixie consort. “As long as you need. As long as she needs.”

“You do know you're not the father. There's no baby daddy, just a sperm donor. He fled; looks like my pattern” I shook my head. “I wasn't careful,” Anita confessed.

“I'm not criticizing. You have a beautiful daughter.” Could she have been mine? Or rather, what would mine – ours – have been like? I've seen things, experienced wild things: The cold rings of Saturn, floating above the red spot. An orange sky with two daytime moons, a rocky, dwarf silver mine. But all these failed behind the sight before me. Her tiny fingers, her barely slit mouth, and her tightly shut eyes. Black pupils, I knew. Her cheeks puffed out with baby fat. “I've been places,” I said.

Anita frowned. Did she just imagine me homeless or spending the required ninety days only at a series of Salvation Army shelters.

“May I hold her?” Carefully I lifted the baby, cradling her in my arm and elbow, supporting her still knitting skull with the palm of my hand. Come with me. Oh Human child, I thought. Someday I'll show the wonders I've seen. But today, dear one, one who could have, should have been my human child, live well in this world. Live well! I will see to that – with all the power of the sidhe supporting me.


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post June 03, 2009, 07:50:19 PM

The Almost Forever Challenge

- Winner -


The Fundamental Things Apply

By:
Rob Wynne



"Is this it?" she asked, peering closely at the words engraved on the weathered stone. Far off in the distance, cars sped by on the busy road, darting past to unknown destinations.

I knelt, laying the flowers on the grave, a small ritual I had performed hundreds of times. The faint perfume lingered in my nostrils as I stood back up, pausing to scan the deserted cemetery. Deserted but for myself, and her, and the memories that tied me to this spot.

"You must have really loved her." She reached up to brush her dark hair from her face. I searched her eyes for a hint of her thoughts, but all I found there was tender concern.

We had met only a few months ago, in a downtown tavern near the university she attended. Despite our age difference, I found her an intriguing and intellectual conversationalist, and within a short time we were seeing each other every night. One thing led to another, as it invariably does, from dinner to long walks along the waterfront to the narrow bed in her tiny apartment. I did not hesitate for a moment when she stood bathed in the moonlight that streamed through her bedroom window and slowly let her clothes drop to the floor, her eyes alight with mischief and her impish smile inviting me to pull her down onto the soft pillows and luxuriate in her embrace.

Days led to weeks led to months led to...here.

It was just this morning when she said that she wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. I didn't mean to hurt her when I said I wasn't sure that was possible. There were just things she didn't understand about me. About my past. But I didn't know how to explain those things in a way that would make any sense to her, so I brought here. To Mary's graveside.

"Yes, I did really love her. More, perhaps, than anyone who came after. More than you, dear as you have become to me." I paused briefly to collect my thoughts. "And that is why I wanted you to come here and see this. This is what it means to lose love. To have all that fills your heart with joy reduced to a few words carved on a stone. There's no forever for us, Sarah. There's just a few short years, and then...this."

"This doesn't change anything. I love you, and I want to spend my life with you. I keep telling you that; why won't you listen?"

"I am listening. If I wasn't listening, we wouldn't be standing here. But this does change things. It changes everything. I..."

"For someone who has gone out of his way to remind me how much older he is than me, you sure aren't any smarter." She stretched up onto her tiptoes to kiss me gently on the lips. There was no anger in her voice, no reprimand. Just that patient, gentle love that led me to believe that maybe, just maybe, I could risk my heart again.

She placed a hand on my cheek, caressing it softly. "I know it's not forever. I know the odds that our time together will be short, and that it will end here, mourning for the loss of love gone too soon. But I want this. I love you. No matter what that takes, no matter how long we have."

I stared into her dark brown eyes, finding no resistance, no hesitation. I knew this would end in sorrow, but perhaps she was right. Our past is merely a collection of days, and it is how we spend each day as we are given it that shapes our future. I kissed her deeply, feeling the warmth of her body pressed up against me.

I looked down at the gravesite and whispered "Thank you" to my long-lost love, and then I took her hand and said, "Let's go home."

It has been six hundred years since I placed the stone on Mary's grave. In fifty or sixty years, I will return to add yet another stone alongside it, and another measure of dark regret to my soul. But for tonight, for just this moment, there is only the light of her love.


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post July 03, 2009, 11:47:33 AM

Steampunk Challenge

The challenge was to craft a steampunk flash story that included or made reference to a steam-powered airship or spaceship.


Example Story:



Her Majesty's Gift

By:
Dan L. Hollifield



Captain William Harper strode the deck of the airship entrusted to his care. His gray-bearded features set in a perpetual scowl, he carefully observed the skeleton crew he'd picked to deliver this latest marvel of the industrial age to its owners. Each crew member bent over their tasks, concentrating mightily upon their appointed duties. Despite his baneful visage, Captain Harper was pleased with the flight so far. The weather was perfect, the ship and crew performed without a hitch. In short, it was a beautiful flight.

So why did he have the misgivings that had troubled his sleep for the past week? Was it simply that everything was going too well? He looked once more at the crowded workstations that lined the airship's tiny Bridge. Sighing, he took another sip of the bitter, strong coffee that was his single vice. Its oily, acrid taste teased his tongue even as the scent of freshly roasted coffee beans tickled his nose. So much more satisfying than tea, he thought.

"Mister Van Horne," said Captain Harper, glancing over at his First Officer who was busy checking their charts against the ship's shiny brass chronometer.

"Yes sir?" Van Horne replied, after the barest moment's delay as he penciled a notation on the charts.

"Course and speed satisfactory?"

"We have a bit of a tailwind, Sir. We are slightly ahead of our estimated position from this morning's calculations. I would put us roughly eight hours out from Washington."

"Good," said the Captain. "The sooner we can deliver Her Majesty's gift to the Americans, the better I will feel. Has our passenger put in an appearance yet today?"

"I regret to say," Van Horne replied, carefully repressing any temptation for sarcasm that he might have suffered, "that Professor Vernay has not yet graced us with his presence. He refused all meals and sent word that he is still suffering from what he called 'air sickness' from the minor turbulence we encountered two days ago."

"Lord help him if we run into a real storm," said the Captain as he tugged his uniform into perfect creases. "If a little squall put him into distress. Still, this is the first time he's been airborne. Practically the first time he's been out of his laboratory since being given the project to develop the new lightweight steam engine. Three years in the making, and this little boat is the result. He and his invention can help our American cousins tame their new Western territories, if anything can."

"Hard to credit, Sir. I never thought I'd live to see anything replace coal as a fit fuel for steam engines. Or this miracle metal alloy he's come up with."

"Yes, he credits that Chinese scientist, Chang, for the discovery of the ores used to smelt this 'Titanium', as Vernay calls it. As for the liquid fuel, Vernay credits that to the Americans. Nasty smelling stuff, though."

"I agree, Sir. But without both, no one would be able to build an airship like this," said Van Horne, admiration plain in his voice. "A true example of international co-operation. One country supplies the structural metals, another the fuel, another the fabric for the lifting gas cells, another for the metalized fabric of the ship's skin-"

"And an Englishman to see how to combine the diverse elements into one complete whole," said the Captain. "Don't forget that. Without us, these foreigners would still be groping in the dark."

"I say, Sir?" Van Horne replied, frowning. "Isn't that a bit unfair? Surely the reverse is also true. Would even we have been able to achieve this wonderful machine without the efforts from around the globe that went into her development?"

"You're young yet," Captain Harper said loftily. "One day you'll see that the Empire still stands for the highest achievement of civilization-"

"Sir!' shouted one of the crewman tasked with lookout duty.

"What is it, Ensign?" asked Harper.

"Another airship, Sir." the lookout replied. "Approaching us from the stern, two degrees to starboard. Coming up fast!"

"Highly irregular," said the Captain. "Van Horne, sound Battle Stations and prepare the ship for attack."

"Yes Sir!" Van Horne said as he saluted and spun about to follow the Captain's orders. A bell began clanging the alarm signal. More crew members appeared, running to their action stations. Small ports in the airship's skin opened and the muzzles of small, but powerful cannon were thrust through. In the bow and stern of the airship, other ports opened and the new American rapid-firing Gatling guns were made ready. Captain Harper studied the oncoming airship with his own telescope, then snarled out the single word that the crew dreaded to hear.

"Pirates," said the Captain.

Professor Vernay chose that moment to visit the Bridge. Once apprised of the situation, he smiled. "Good," he said. "We can give our present to the Americans a real test. Stop the engines on one side of the ship and then reverse them, we can pivot in the air like a ballet dancer, thus bringing our long range guns in the bow to bear on the enemy. If they manage to slip alongside of us... Our cannon will have a longer range. We can give them a broadside that they'll never forget!"

"Professor," said Van Horne as the Captain furrowed his brow in consideration of Vernay's proposal. "These airship pirates are almost as good as the Queen's own Navy-"

"Exactly why the Americans asked us for help against these dogs," interrupted Vernay. "American airships are too slow clumsy to defend themselves in any effective way. But we, we can fight as well as any seagoing battleship. I predict a short lifetime for these curs!"

"Helm, bring us about, just as the Professor suggested," said the Captain.

"They're firing," reported the lookout. "Shots falling short of us."

"In position to return fire," said the Helmsman.

"Fire all forward guns," ordered Captain Harper.

The pirate airship burst into flame as the guns of the HMAS Victory found their target.


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post July 03, 2009, 11:48:36 AM

Steampunk Challenge

AIRSHIPPING BUSINESS

By:
Richard Tornello © 2009



Charles, Chuck or Chuckles, as he was known to his current friends and fellow inmates, was recently released from the Rahway State Prison after serving his penance. He and a few others of his young cohorts had once hijacked a steam-powered airship freighter, out of total boredom. The airship, belonging to MARIO’S AIRSHIP FREIGHT/ITALY-AMERICA, Inc., had been moored on the New Jersey Air Path rest stop on its way to New York to unload fresh tomatoes, and imported goods from Sicily. Chuck and his young friends hurt no one and only took it for a joy flight. The judge, Franco Antonelli, didn’t see it that way. “Five to Ten in the pen,” and the gavel hit the bench.

Eight and a half years later, he’s out early for good behavior and on probation. His wife had divorced him. He fought for visitation rights and lost. He IS an ex-con and his presence in polite society was not welcome. Of course his real friends will talk to him. There are not too many of them considering he went in at 21 and got out at 30. That was a lifetime ago. Most had settled, gone on to careers or were dead from the wars.

Chuckles used his connections, past, prison and family to locate a job that would allow him some needed freedom. He landed a job as a buyer of used airships for a wholesale airship auction house CAPITAL AIRSHIPS, LLC., in da Bronx, New York. The company salesmen would fly all over New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and sometimes even New England to other airship dealers purchasing used and traded-in airships. They would have them flown back to the clearing house in New York by sales and pilot trainees. In this manner of gainful employment, Chuckles got around the probation restrictions on travel. He acquired a good paying respectable job that required interstate flying. He didn’t have to check in every time he traveled. It was always for business. Probation agreed, grudgingly.

Charles was an excellent salesman. He dressed in the best hand made suits of the time. He followed the fashions. He kept up on the times. He could converse with the mechanic to the presidents of the world corporations. Charles would keep copious notes on every sales person and their families he dealt with; referring back to them to make sure he had his facts straight before he landed. He always had a decent gift for the managers usually a bottle if fine wine, never anything as crude as grain liquor, and a good cigar. Business was conducted in a slow easy manner. A glass of port, some bread, meats and the cigar. In between this leisurely and preliminary activity, there was some business talk.

“I like the red one with the white stripes, and the deep green one with the black enamel carriage.” Chuck had an eye for saleable airships and always said, “Better a ship should look good then fly well. You can always sell a looker.”

The sales manger Frederick, looked at him thinking, of course you do, they are some of the best previously flown certified steam-powered Caddies® we have. “Chuck,” Frederick knew him from early days and always called him Chuck, “You can have those if you take a few in the back. Let me show you.”


Charles knew this was how sales worked. It was an art. In order to get the good ones he would have to take a few leaky air ships, acting insulted at the very thought. They were so disreputable if the trainees were lucky enough, they wouldn’t explode in mid air or crash. Not my problem they were insured.

“How nice Frederick. Where did you acquire these?”

“A guy won a jackpot at the track in Freehold. He came here in this wreck,” pointing to one most unairworthy specimen of a craft Charles had ever seen, “and paid cash for a loaded one. The other one we took in trade from an old and valued commercial customer,” pointing to a patched up wreck just as bad. “It was in his air barn for years. You want those two in front…you take these off my hands. You’re the first auction guy here today. I can’t even give them away. Here’s what I paid for them. I want a hundred over, each. I’ll give you a deal to clear my landing plot. Now on to the two up front.” Chuck knew his real sales skills would now came into play. Charles lit a new cigar. His was going to take a while. Frederick raised one of his heavy dark eyebrows. He enjoyed business with Chuck. Incarceration did not alter his gentlemanly manners.

At the end of negotiation Charles had the two he really wanted, the two wrecks at cost and three other middle of the road airships that would move quickly at auction. He wanted the black and green one for himself. It was an impressive airship with all the best accessories. The steam based powerhouse was silent. This would be his sales vehicle for some time. He marconied the auction house, “Fly seven trainees down. I’m swapping out the air registration here on a new one.” He gave Rocco, the flight boss the registration numbers and continued. “And, you know you can sell my Handsome® flyer, for a huge profit. Oh, by-the-way and a heads up, two of the ships are in rather poor condition. It might be better to send a few experienced flyers. They may not make it back with raw trainees.”

”Chuckles, why do you even….”

“Rocco, you will understand when you see the total fleet I am bringing in… trust me,” he interrupted in his best New Jersey/New York manner. This was good. No, it was better, it was excellent. His commission would be a fat one from this auction alone. That meant, potentially, a good date, good food and… one could hope. Chuck air lifted a happy man.


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post July 03, 2009, 11:50:10 AM

Steampunk Challenge

The Transfinite Gate

By:
Casey Callaghan



"Well, Professor, so much for the steam-powered ping-pong player. Perhaps you have produced something a little more worth my valuable time?" snarled the General, impatiently. "If the war against the Rassians wasn't going so well, your funding would have been cut off already."

"It does break new ground in the fields of autonomous control and object recognition." replied the Professor, meekly. "I'm afraid that the only other recent invention I can lay claim to is the Transfinite Gate, and that's really more a toy than anything else. Just a mechanical verification of certain theories that I don't believe any modern man of science seriously doubts. I can't see any possible military use."

"I shall be the judge of that!" boomed the General, marching towards a large device off to one side of the well-appointed laboratory. "Is this it?"

"Yes, General."

The General peered at the device for a long moment. It appeared to consist of an ordinary wooden door, surrounded by the apparatuses of science; long coils of wire, tightly wound, tall steam pipes, and glass tubing through which variously coloured liquids bubbled.

"Well?" he snapped, finally. "Make it work!"

"Ah - yes, General." The professor hurried off to fetch some coal and shovelled it into the boiler, which he then lit and carefully worked to an immense heat.

"Why is it not on the main steam pipe?" asked the General, immediately.

"Ah, well, you see General, it does consume a fearful lot of power. Putting it on the mains supply would reduce the pressure to all other devices to an unacceptable degree."

"Very well." replied the General, before returning to his observations in stoic immobility.

Fairly soon, the boiler was at the required heat, steam flowed through the pipes, and whistled from the pressure release valves. Sparks flew along the wires and crackled from the two large metal spheres placed atop the device. The coloured liquids bubbled and moved, but rarely mixed. The professor stopped adjusting dials and valves and stepped back.

"Um, it's, er, ready, General."

The General gave the machine a close look once again. "Is that all it does?" he asked, incredulously.

"Um, wait, I forgot." The Professor checked a dial, and then opened the door.

The General, who had very little faith in the Professor's abilities, had rather expected to see a brick wall. He was therefore somewhat surprised to note that the other side of the door showed a vast field of corn, gently waving in the breeze.

He took several steps forward to take a closer look. "Where does this come out?" he asked, brusquely.

"Um, here."

"Ah. Time travel then?"

"No. Here and now. But, um, here and now in, as it were, a different universe. A parallel timeline."

"I see." The General looked through the door again, and then closed it. "And now?" he asked. "Can anyone on the other side get here now?"

"Not unless they duplicate the machine, sir, which would be impossible."

"Why?"

"Well, sir, it seems that the laws of nature in that universe are different to the laws of nature here. I have made intensive investigations, in fact, and it would appear that the luminiferous aether does not exist in that world."

"Impossible! I could see right across the field!"

"Yes, sir. Light exists, but it either propagates by a means completely alien to me, or it does so through an aether whose properties are substantially different to ours. My aetheric intensity reader gave a value of zero in the area on the other side of the door. Of course, I've only just begun looking into it..."

"The wall." snapped the General. "That was a cultivated field of corn surrounded by a stone wall. Who built the wall?"

The Professor looked surprised at the question. "The natives, probably."

"Natives? Do you mean to say that there are people living there?"

"Well, yes. Naturally. They look much the same as us, and even speak a broadly similar language. There are also interesting historical similarities..."

"Then, no doubt, they have a Britlish empire as well?"

"Theirs is called the British empire..."

The General snorted.

"...and it collapsed several decades ago. The predominant power appears to be their analogue of Ameroca, which declared independence some time back, quite successfully."

"How dare they?" thundered the General. "To ignore the Queen like that - the insult!"

"Actually, it appears that the Queen in the other universe has little direct power. Governmen-"

"WHAT!" roared the General. "Foreigners are one thing, but for the good people of Britlin -"

"Britain." corrected the Professor.

"- to ignore their monarch is another matter altogether! We shall declare martial law! We shall march through the streets! We shall conquer their world as we have conquered our own! We shall send through enough war zeppelins to darken their sky! We shall make the streets run green with blood!"

"Actually, their blood is red..." began the professor; and then his brain caught up with what his ears had been hearing.

"You want to declare war on them?" he asked, incredulously.

"It's the only possible course of action!" boomed the General. "They are inhuman monsters taking human form, they are showing disrespect to the very person of the Queen herself! We shall take control of their world as we have taken control of our own!"

The Professor looked at the General in horror...


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post July 03, 2009, 11:51:25 AM

Steampunk Challenge

Nightside

By:
Spacer



-Sometimes the best risk is a sure thing

The announcer had the entire audience in an uproarious fervor. From his place in the blimp overhead he was working the horns to blare every minute detail that could be seen from a spyglass. For more than half the race now it had been a dead heat. Three horses surpassing all the rest.

Sleek was the favorite as everyone knew. He'd won all the Willis races the last two years running and no one saw any reason for that to be changing. The expected rival, a beautiful white creature just inches behind him, named Brazen was doing even better than expected. The queer spectacle though was the third in the leading pack. Named Nightside she was a true dark horse in every sense of the word and had been flown in just that morning via atmotrain from Utah.

In part this was what had drawn out such a large crowd on a cold November day.
The turnout was of particular interest to one man sitting toward the back almost invisible behind a gaggle of gaily clad ladies. It was he who had brought the new horse. He had refused a private box opting instead for the main stands. No one was quite sure why though had anyone taken the time to notice they might have heard him muttering to his compatriot and scribbling furiously on a notepad.

Mist sprayed from the horses mouths as they pressed their speed trying to break into a clear leader position. Finally after what seemed an interminable time nightside began to push ahead. The announcer was nearly screaming now and the shock of the crowd in elation, dejection and everything between was palpable. Just ahead now was the finish line and the strain was amazing. Each horse putting in its last efforts. Brazen and Sleek were sliding back and forth for the second place position but nightside continued to slowly gain against them. It was not even a close finish though one had been guessed at by the announcer. In the end Nightside cleared her entire length before the competition reached the line.

A thousand fortunes were won and lost that day. Mostly lost as few people bet on the horse with 25:1 odds. The man who had entered the horse made the tidiest profit though he had barely been able to afford the entry fee. All the hard work had paid off. His little scheme had come to fruition and his designs proved flawless. As the Atmotrain lifted into the sky in a private car the man combed Nightside, Oiled her, Tightened a few bolts, Wound up the clockwork mechanism and told her what a good horse she was.


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post July 03, 2009, 11:53:38 AM

Steampunk Challenge

Bonickhausen's Hectopede, or The Perambulating Steam Bridge

By:
J. Davidson Hero



June 25, 1885. Lebanon, Kansas.

“Donny! What are ya doing lad?” Hugh called after his son while he wiped grime from his hands. The boy was a hundred yards away looking up at the sky, about to be engulfed by a huge shadow, but he looked back, and Hugh knew he heard.

Wind off the prairie whipped through Donny’s hair. The air was warm, but still refreshing, not stifling like the fumes in the dock. He stared out across Central Field; mooring masts, towers 200 feet high shaped like lighthouses dotted the landscape. Airships, helium-filled dirigibles 800 feet long, were moored to the tops of the masts. Huge shadows from the airships splayed across the flat ground like puddles after a rain. Donny watched as people moved up the towers in steam-powered lifts, loading cargo or boarding for a trip to one of the far corners of the country. Arriving passengers exiting the towers, luggage in tow, were zipped away in three-wheeled steam-powered motorwagons. Behind Donny were five massive airdocks, structures that could house the airships for maintenance. Donny’s father was chief boilermaker, head of a crew trained in the construction and maintenance of those riveted wrought-iron and steel boilers that constrained the raw energy that powered the airships, and Donny was his newly minted apprentice.

“Donny, if yer going to be an apprentice, you can’t leave yer post,” Hugh scolded as the boy came moping back. “Fire watch is deadly serious work. I know it’s not as glamorous as being an airship captain, but there’d be no captains without people like us.” The boy didn’t say anything, but headed back into the monstrous dock, and a darkness lit by forge fires. Hugh followed, thinking again he was being too hard on the boy. Perhaps it was too soon for an apprenticeship, but with no mother to raise him... Still, it nagged Hugh that the expression on the boy’s face when he looked up at an airship, the exhilaration, was never evident when Hugh was explaining the finer points of his metal clanking art.

“Bonjour Monsieur,” a gentleman said as Hugh walked into his office.
The man had intelligent eyes, wore a finely-trimmed goatee and a fancy frock coat. “Chief Millar I presume?” There were two other men with him. One held a large case.

“I’m Millar, what can I do fer ya?” Hugh walked around to his desk, moved a stack of papers to one side and motioned for the gentleman to sit. Donny waited in the doorway, trying to be inconspicuous.

“My name is Andre Bonickhausen. I recently accompanied La liberté éclairant le monde on her historic transatlantic voyage extraordinaire.”

“I hope the voyage was smooth,” Hugh said.

“Our ship was nearly lost in rough seas. But La liberté… she persevered. She is after all a symbol of my people’s fraternity with yours. We are separated by an ocean, Monsieur Millar, but united by our common love of freedom and, might I add, l’Esprit de l’invention. La liberté shall be dedicated next year. I should like to attend, but I have a project in mind that may have me occupied and may interest you as well.” Bonickhausen motioned to the man with the case and he came forward, set the case in the center of Hugh’s desk, and removed the cover.

What was inside was at first a mystery to Hugh. It was a steam machine, but in miniature. He recognized not one, but five boilers, each matched with engines and a stack. These were laid out end to end. There were compartments behind each engine that would, at full scale, house passengers. And the five engines, while appearing more rigidly attached than the cars following a locomotive, did bear some resemblance to a train. But instead of wheels like a conventional locomotive it had long legs, twenty to a section, fifty pair in all.

Bonickhausen set to work firing the tiny steam engines and then flicking levers until steam started to puff out of the five tiny stacks. Finally he shifted the last lever and the machine started to walk. But the real surprise came as it reached the stack of papers on Hugh’s desk, and the legs in a telescoping fashion adjusted their length to compensate for the change in elevation.

“Fascinating model,” Hugh said.

“I haven’t a name yet, but its design suggests hectopede,” Bonickhausen said with a smile.

“It looks like a walking bridge,” Donny said. Everyone turned and for the first time realized Donny had been watching.

“Monsieur Bonickhausen, this is my son, Donovan.”

“Very astute. If its name be hectopede, perhaps perambulating steam bridge might be its nom de plume.” Bonickhausen chuckled. “A bridge is a means to cross a gap. But where is the efficiency in building a bridge over every gap? Why not build a single bridge and move it about?”

“That’s fine if you don’t want anyone else to cross,” Donny said.

Bonickhausen continued. “Well, imagine you are exploring the heart of Africa, or searching for the pole, you wouldn’t want to take the time to build a bridge, or roads, or lay rail.”

“Why not take an airship?” Donny asked, refusing to look at his father, whom he knew must be scowling.

“Fine for cartography,” Monsieur Bonickhausen said with absolute patience, “but wouldn’t you like to see below the treetops? Imagine being only a hundred feet up on a mobile observatory. At least in the case of exploration my conceit holds up. Don’t you think?”

Donny smiled. The steam bridge was amazing.

“So what does this have to do with me?” Hugh asked.

“Ah, to the point,” Bonickhausen said. “I’m an engineer, but I need a man such as you to supervise building it. See here, she’s all boilers.”

Donny’s eyes lit up and he looked at his father the same way he looked at the airships outside.

Hugh looked at the excitement in his son’s eyes.

“All right, Monsieur Bonickhausen,” Hugh said, “tell me more.”


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post July 03, 2009, 11:59:24 AM

Steampunk Challenge

- Winner -

Contents Under Pressure

By:
Sepp Rosario



1899 - Internal Note. Limitless Automaton Man Body 7 of the Trevithick Hisashige Steam Automaton Company. Stimuli mingle in my tubing. Past, present, images, sounds, facts and emotions all mix in a cacophony of information. The only way I can tell them apart is the date notation. All of this is happening in a single moment, a mockery of what humans describe as “seeing your life pass before your eyes”.

1842 - I am aware of the disk deep within me protected by a seal. This is my magnetic radiating apparatus which binds be in one functioning form. I am aware of the great heat, pressure, and steam that explodes a million times a million within me.

1843 - External audio. “Gentlemen, this L.A.M.B.7 Steam Automaton is a singular work of genius. The L.A.M.B 7 is a multi system reciprocating and rotary steam powered unit with multi functioning capacity in both the physical and pseudo mental arenas. It has the ability to communicate needs, self service, and receive unlimited instruction through the insertion of these small punch cards we call frameworks. It employs a novel technology called the Inverse Coil Magnetic Corpus by which the whole form of this automaton can contain vast amounts of steam pressure.

We are living in a mechanized steam utopia. L.A.M.B 6 units are building armies for the future. But L.A.M.B 7 has pseudo thought and will command your other Automatons for you!

Who would like to start the bidding?"

1865 - Visual Replay. Thousands of entrenched soldiers are dug into fields of blood and burnt earth where cows once trod the veg. A great wall of violent air, black and streaming lighting, rolls toward them from the South. Guns are filled with powder and shot, steam cannons pressurized and readied, but the wall of storm is more than three miles across and approaching so quickly they cannot judge its distance correctly. Hundreds of spiked machines of destructions, like Abaddon’s fancies enlivened, breach the storm surge wall at its base while brunneous bulbous steam driven dirigibles break from the blackness of the upper reaches into the clear event horizon above the entrenchments. Nature’s cyclonic performance is but a reaction to the vast quantities of steam, coal smoke, and displaced air. How could those entrenched genteel men know that whole weather systems could be created as the result of so many steam machines surging in tandem? Thousands are crushed and ground into paste under the spiked war wagons that snort forth torrents of steam like so many fattened hogs engorged and vomitous from a glut. Those left unmolested from the war wheels are quickly incinerated by the excremental death being dropped from the dirigibles.

1865 - No. This is all wrong. No, No…

1871- Repurposing Directive- Audio. “Under direct orders of The New London Council on Steam Automaton Safety you are recommissioned to mortuary duties. You Tom-Tons will count, identify, and lay to rest those poor bastards you see in the fields before you."

1872 - I put Johnny Rebb’s hand in my pocket; I found it in the earth.

1870 - The automatons did not tire as the humans did, we did not suffer the scalding of the steam cannons, or feel the heat from the airship’s excrement. Certainly my comrades were crushed by the war wagons but even then we fought on. And now we dig graves so vast we must strip mine the precious metals first and then bury the rotting masses.

1874 - I had no idea the colors of decay could be so varied. They blame us. I think they are destroying us. I am the only L.A.M.B. 7 though and as such coveted, or maybe feared. My time may be short.

1880 - External Recording, Mass Grave 498.75 “Mummy, look at that old Tom-Ton down in the death pit, his skin looks funny and he is talking to himself.”

“Sh! Darling we are Luddite Reform and we must not allow them to hear even a peep from our lips. For as the Book of Ag states, ‘So God created man and ordained husband and wife to cling to each other to create man again. Let no word escape your lips, nor your eyes rest upon them, lest the tools of Man become as Gods and we worship false idols.’ Now hold your nose and my hand until we get to the memorial shrine."

1885 - Free of the death pits, but running and watched…

1884 - External Audio - Leader of the Luddite Reform church Speaks outside Bodley Head Publishing House. “The tyranny of technology has destroyed the working class, brought war to rival all wars, and filled the land with disease and death. What more can I say Brothers and Sisters than…this is the End Time and we must prepare for Rapture. As the Book of Ag states in Chapter 22, verse 10 ‘The Lamb shall open the Seventh Seal and Darkness shall fall upon the face of the deep. The Earth shall rock, the oceans shall rise, and Chaos shall be unleashed. Man’s hubris shall call forth the end.’ "

1899 - Yes, the L.A.M.B. shall open his seal.

1898 - Government detainment- External Audio - “But sir, the Magnetic Corpus has never been breached in the testing phase. It is beyond our understanding. With Hisashige’s death the secrets of the L.A.M.B.7’s magnetic radiation envelope went to the grave. Look at this article on Earth Crustal Displacement theory. Just think what a Magnetic bomb would do to the magnetic field of the earth!”

1899- Escaped…run you fool, run! There, the church…

1899- And so the L.A.M.B.…

1876- Is that Hiram Sturth and the Seventh Brigade in the meat paste? I will have to pull them apart as well…

1899- …opened the Seventh Seal.

1877- Eyeball number 5,214… Color hazel.

1899- External Audio- “Ahg, a Tom-Ton in this House of God! How dare you, demon!

“What is he doing?”

“He is reaching inside himself ….he glows there…what is that sound!”


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post August 04, 2009, 02:55:05 PM

Steampunk Challenge

The following story was part of this challenge, but was removed from contention at the author's request after possible vote tampering by some well-meaning friends.



...But That's Another Story

By:
Mark Edgemon



Did I ever tell you that I was once the Captain of “The Courtesan Dirigible” the first Bordello zeppelin? As her Captain, I, John Heinie, along with my three trusted lieutenants First, Second and Third John, all preferably wanting to keep their identities a secret for obvious reasons, sailed across the oceans to many exotic lands in search of needful clientele.

I navigated this steam-powered world of fantasy with an analog computer I invented based on the notes and drawings of the late Charles Babbage, who had designed but never invented the analytical engine, which he worked on from 1837 until his death in 1870. I modified his concept, the brilliant man that I am and invented the first steam powered computer capable of tracking paths to geological destinations across the globe. I would often send out computerized messages, yet sadly never received one in return, due in part to having the only computer in the known world, but that’s another story!

The design of my airship of ill repute is a Victorian style parlor with a total of 127 rooms, each with a heart shape bed and the strumpet or tart of ones choice. Yum! We only cater to the finest gentle folk and by that, I mean those with money. I have changed the names of the ladies of the evening to dessert references such as Creampuff, Ambrosia, Sugar Plum, Bon Bon and other such delicious nicknames, sure to set ones taste buds watering.

While sailing over Paris one evening in our flying dessert tray, we were set upon by pirates in their own airships, wanting our money and who knows what else…well we all know what else, but being the polite gentlemen that I am, I prefer to only make light reference to it.

As they threatened us with a volley from their steam cannons, I was prepared for such an encounter with an unorthodox mode of defense, the flatulence flamethrower. I attached the rear ends of each of our ladies and their gentlemen callers to the connecting tubes to our gas chamber and fed them all a concoction known only as spicy bean mishmash. Within minutes our internal gas pressure had built up enough power and so we released a volley to the pirate airship while lighting the gas as it left our zeppelin, totally incinerating their ship, plunging the pirates to a fiery death. I had used this maneuver once before on space aliens, but that’s another story!

I would not wish that fate on anyone. Well that’s not true, I just inflicted this fate on the band of air pirates, so obviously, I would wish it upon them.

The engagement with the pirate ship caused damage to our steam combustion unit and we were no longer able to contain the needed pressure to keep our ship afloat. So as a consequence, we began to plummet toward the city of Paris heading straight for the Eiffel Tower. As we were approaching our collective deaths, an idea occurred to me. I had the entire ships compliment, stick their heads out a port and begin to blow with all their might toward the ground. Fortunately, the additional air support allowed us to float gently toward the earth, saving everyone and our airship as well. However afterwards, most of our crew and passengers were hyperventilating, so I injected them with a serum I invented to restore the oxidation to their blood stream, a drug I once used with the Poopoo Aborigine pigmies of Australia, but that’s another story!

Having repaired my ship, I visited the university in Paris and met a young Polish woman that I just simply adored. She was married at the time, but I could not resist her intelligence and wit. We had a torrid love affair in the university laboratory where she spent much of her time. Marie and I conceived a daughter who she named Irene, however her husband believed the child to be his and so she never made him the wiser. I suggested that Marie study Uranium for their X-ray properties and eventually showed her how to isolate radium. When it was time for me to go, she preferred that I call her by her married name for appearance sake. So as I met her for the last time, I tipped my hat and said, “Good evening, Madam Curie”. I slipped a bar of radioactive radium in her pocket for her to study, but she never discovered it and was found dead some days later from being poisoned by the substance. She was unfairly given credit for all of my discoveries, but that’s another story!

Our next stop was London and so my girls and I frequented the taverns of that day, drumming up business for our flying whorehouse when suddenly, I heard a scream in the alley next to the tavern. I ran to see what was the source of the commotion, when I spied a man with a long curved instrument raised above one of my girl’s throat. I grabbed his hand and told him if he wanted to shave any part of my prostitute, he would have to pay in advance. He introduced himself as Jack, a prominent doctor in the area and so I had him take a look at my knee, which was giving me problems each time I lifted my leg. He told me not to lift my leg anymore and so with that brilliant diagnosis, my condition was miraculously cured.

After I left the alley I heard another scream a few minutes later, but all of my girls had entered our ship and I figured the good doctor known to me only as Jack could handle any problem that arose. I read later that a doctor who also called himself Jack was killing prostitutes in the streets of London…but that’s another story.


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post August 04, 2009, 03:01:08 PM

Busting Writer's Block #1: Fantasy

As a technique for beating writer's block, the challenge was to craft a fantasy story that included a woman, a headache, and something called a "witches (or witch's) barrier".



The Hodag's Secret

By:
N.J. Kailhofer



Sarah fidgeted, tugging and trying to readjust her blouse.

Sam tried to pay no attention to her obvious discomfort. He told her to wear something comfy, like his jeans and flannel shirt, not formal witch regalia of a long green dress and boots. At least he talked her out of the pointy hat.

He pointed across the dark night, towards the moss-covered woods. "Mr. Witten, the farmer who owns this land, says it was last seen in there."

Sarah said, "Since it was sighted in 1893, we'll be the first to get a picture of a real Hodag."

She was still fidgeting. "What's your problem?"

"It's this new bra," she explained. "I just can't get comfortable."

Sam's look spoke volumes. "Just please stop messing around and focus. We'll need your magic."

"But it keeps pinching me."

"Like I'd want to know that! Why did I have to bring the only witch in the world with boob problems?!"

She glared at him. "Because I'm your sister, and also the only witch who'd believe you. Catching that dragon didn't work, so this might be our only chance to prove to the world magic and lost creatures do exist."

Sam snorted. "Only if people would notice anything beyond their noses. We fought a demon in the library, and the dopes around here thought it was just thunder."

Sarah shrugged. "Maybe this time. Let's start looking."

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

"Better try a summoning," her brother said.

Sarah nodded.

Sam put his hands on his hips. “What are you doing?”

“Putting down salt for the protective circle. You don’t really think I’m going to cast an ancient summoning spell without a protective ward, do you?””

"Salt instead of chalk?" He snorted.

She beckoned him toward her until his head was close. Bending back a finger, she ‘twapped’ his nose.

“Ow!” he protested.

She explained, “It was in the New England Journal of Magic five years ago. A spell of protection can use road salt on wet surfaces and be sixty percent as effective overall. This ground is too wet for chalk to work properly.”

Anticipation smothered the night air with a tainted haze as Sarah deposited the last handful around their protective circle. Sam stationed himself in the bushes to the left of where Sarah knelt in the damp leaves.

Sarah took a deep, cleansing breath. Closing her eyes, she tried to force everything out of her mind except how to pull in the energy of the world around her. She raised her arms over her head and pointed her palms forward.

She commanded, “Adnabyddiaeth galwadau! Dadlennu Hodag!"

The sounds of the world around Sarah faded, becoming distorted as if she was hearing them through the side of an inner tube. Warmth drained from her toes and fingertips, making them feel like blocks of ice. Her body shuddered, chilled to the bone.

Leaves rustled nearby.

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

Sam swung his camera up.

The bushes across the small glade began to part.

There it is! Just like they said it would look! A green, seven foot-long lizard with spikes on it's back, horns, and hair all over! We're going to be soo famous!

The silver button moved under his finger and his camera clicked as fast as it could go, flashing the woods like a strobe.

"Hello," said Sarah, waving at it.

It looked right at them, then burning brilliance split the night. Electricity sprang from the creature's horns toward Sarah. Striking the salt ward, some of the power exploded in every direction, sending bolts through the wet ground into both the siblings. The noise was ear-splitting.

Sam fell to his rear, shaking his head to clear it. Looking up, he saw his sister's body spasm uncontrollably as the electricity arced between her and the creature.

"Sarah!" He grabbed a big branch off the ground and ran around to the side of the creature. He swung the wood club, knocking the creature off its feet. The current cut off instantly. Another blow to the head stopped the Hodag's flailing.

Sam looked again. There was a zipper down it's front.

The rest of the world stopped, dead silent.

No! It can't be! This was our chance at fame and fortune! He unzipped it. Inside was Mr. Witten, the farmer who told him the legend.

Sam kicked him. "What the hell were you doing?!"

Groaning, Witten's eyes opened. "Wha--?"

Sam grabbed him by the collar. "Why did you do this?"

Witten fought for breath. "No--No! Just wanted to scare you. Keep secret safe. Only spell I know... Should've been blocked... by the ward."

"Why?!"

"Protect chamber of commerce. Tourism. The Hodag Festival. School mascot. All would be ruined."

Sam felt empty, used. "Was it ever real?"

Witten shook his head. "Just a story to get rich folks up here."

Sam took a deep breath, and punched Witten in the jaw hard enough to knock him out. "Dick."

His mind screamed, Sarah!

Sam dove back to his fallen sister and checked for a pulse. Sarah's whole chest was black, like it was burned, but she was breathing.

She sat bolt upright, smacking her head into her brother's. "OW!"

"Are you ok?"

"I've got a headache like you wouldn't believe." She looked down and rubbed her hand across her chest, revealing torn cloth and bright metal. Her hand was covered in soot.

Sam boggled at her. "What's that?"

"What?" Sarah looked confused. "Oh, my Witch's Barrier. Trust me it's not easy to get into it, especially with how cold it gets in winter, but now you understand why witches wear brass bras."

She looked around. "Where is the Hodag?"

"It's a fake," he said. "A tourist trap. Witten's on the ground over there, unconscious, in a suit. My camera's fried, so we don't even have pictures of a fake one."

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

In the distance, a small, furry set of horns drew back into the bushes as they dragged Witten away.

Quiet, breathy laughter echoed on the faint breeze. Missed me again!


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post August 04, 2009, 03:22:03 PM

Busting Writer's Block #1: Fantasy

Love’s Elixir

By:
J. Davidson Hero



The heat from the calcinary furnace was dissipating and the world was growing dim. Rosamund da Carmo lowered the diopter, a hand-held mask that protected her face, a merry attempt to double her own striking Mediterranean features in ceramic. She stared into the crucible at the golden calx, calcined from the heart of the flying dragon, and sighed.

“Bi Thosimos and craftes wel lerned it is shynynge as gold both good and trewe,” she said. A smile crept across her beautiful face. The heat, still potent, drew beads of sweat on her brow. She was exhausted but excited.

She snatched the crucible crab-like with tongs and stole back to her table which was covered with the apparatus of her craft: ceramic pots containing the likes of aqua fortis, vitriol, and sal ammoniac; vessels for digestion: pelicans, jubilans, tripudianters, and double retort columbissanters; flasks; alembics; ampullae; mortars and pestles. The middle of the table was spread with lavish texts, The Secret Book of Artephius and De mineralibus. But resting in the very center of the table, next to a large dripping candle, was the apple-sized, red stone, the heart of the flying dragon, holey with cavities like an Emmentaler cheese and embedded with flecks of gold. Reaching her stool, she rested the crucible on a metal ring, and nearly swooned.

“Ah! The feums and hellesmoc... min heed aken,” she said, rubbing her temples.

Then, well cooled, she collected the calx into a Cristallo phial. A panacea for the wealthy Count who would keep her well forever, once his wife was dead. She admired the product of her work in the wasting candlelight.

As she did, across the stone floor, near the chamber door, a shimmer caught her eye. At first she thought it was a trick of tired sight, or shards of stray moonlight, but as she watched, the shimmer became larger and evolved into a smoky swirl first a few inches long, then expanding until it was fully six feet high. Finally it flattened and the smoke solidified into a flat disk, lustrous like the surface of a mirror. And through that mirror a man stepped as if through a door.

He was tall, and thin and dressed all in black: a double breasted paletot, vest, cravat about his neck and a bowler hat on his head. He paused when through the strange portal, stood upright and straightened his coat. In his right hand he held an umbrella, which he then used as a cane. Looking about he noticed Rosamund. She could just make out his face framed by auburn hair: eyes nearly hidden by bushy eyebrows over a prominent nose, ruddy cheeks, a handlebar moustache, a gap-toothed grin. He started towards her.

“Ah, Lady Carmot, you sweet mollisher. Let’s have a look at you four hundred years younger.” he said, walking with great confidence, his umbrella tapping the stone floor as he went.

If not his means of arrival, then his strange speech set Rosamund on edge. She pillaged through the dishes on her table, finding the two she sought, took them in hand and throwing the contents together into the air towards the approaching man, intoned: “By helle-fir the devel sleeth, but tarie nat to bryngen hym deeth.”

A blinding stream of sparks lit the room and engulfed the man but just as he managed to open his umbrella and hold it like a shield. The spray lasted thirty seconds. But when it subsided the man still stood, and then laughed.

“That was quite the penny gaff. You can do better, I’m sure,” he said.

Rosamund was shocked. Her spell should have left him nothing but smoldering boots. She quickly grabbed some more components from the table, this time pouring the contents of one flask into another then throwing it to the floor in front of him.

“Brek hym, bothe bak and every boon. Stynge hym from cursed heed to toon,” she screamed.

A thick green cloud rose from the remains of the flask. But he simply chuckled while quickly opening and closing his umbrella. The cloud dissipated.

“Ha ha. That was a jolly. Like a London particular. But enough now.” And with that he took two long strides and stood with the tip of his umbrella pointing at her heart. She felt an oppressive force that seemed to surround her and prevent all movement.

“What werk of wicchecraft...” she started, outraged, which made him laugh again with his gap-toothed grin.

“I’m sorry dear. I hardly understand a word you’re saying,” he said.

“Why fare ye thus with me?” she asked, fear and confusion curdling her beautiful features.

“Oh don’t get bloody teary. I can’t stand up to that,” he said staring into her eyes to try to calm her. “I wouldn’t be here at all if not for you... the you of 1850 that is. You gave me this witch’s barrier,” he said, jiggling the umbrella. “You sent me back, to retrieve something.” He looked about the table until he found the Cristallo phial and the elixir of immortality meant for the Count. “There,” he said, snatching it up and looking at it. The candle was almost completely burned out, but its dim light still made the powder in the phial sparkle; it matched the glint in the man’s eyes. He secreted it in an inner pocket and then searching in another pocket brought out a similar phial.

“For the Count,” he said very slowly, enunciating with the hope that she would understand. “The Count will be expecting an elixir. This laudanum will act the snide.” He set it on the table.

“The Count doesn’t deserve you, and proves so soon. But you meant this elixir for your soul’s true mate, and he has it now.” And then he leaned in, kissed her hard on the lips and then jogged off toward the shrinking black portal.

“You’ll be happy to know,” he yelled back as he stepped through, “in four hundred years, you don’t age a day.”


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post August 04, 2009, 03:23:10 PM

Busting Writer's Block #1: Fantasy

In The Line of Duty

By:
Richard Tornello © 2009



I’m talking to myself. This is a sure sign I’m not going to have a good time of it. I’m stuck here at the end of the galaxy on a Podunk planet; in a 3rd rate hotel, in a lousy bar drinking very mediocre fermented something or other. This is supposed to be a planet of literary genius. One with a history of art, music, and literature. Did I say that already? Well, SO WHAT! It’s a dive. I’m booked here at the Block and Tackle in this college town. They, the “supreme council”, directed me to present our best interpretation of one of their art forms, the limerick, to an invited group of young impressionable up and coming writers. After that space trip and the landing, I can’t even think how to write my name no less a damned limerick.

I have this rotten headache from breathing the left over pollution that still surrounds this sorry globe. They did away with the industry and warfare when they were admitted to the Galactic Union. They were told they had to clean up their house and then and only then would the Union take down the communication block. The pollution still persists.

Once the people on this planet heard about the entire galactic goings on, they rioted for admission. It’s sort of ironic, riots to be admitted to civilization. They demanded the “WITCHES BARRIER” a communications block, be removed so they could partake in the benefits of the Union. Up until then they had no idea why, even with SETI as they called it, no one would or could communicate. Most of these beings were sure “extraterrestrials” existed. Yet there was no communication.

What a bother.

Ah me, I must write and I can’t think of a F***kin thing to say, to use their idiomatic phraseology.

Let’s try this:

There once was a leader named Xeres
Who thought he could conquer the fairies
With magic and wand
He walked on a pond ,

He what? Damn.
No, that won’t work

OK, OK, how about:

Women who walk with a waddle
Have bodies shaped like a bottle.
Don’t shake them up
Or

OR WHAT!

I’m not allowed to write a good limerick. Limericks ARE supposed to be foul and bawdy. But no! I might affect these young minds. What crap! They see more on the NON-LOCAL news. They can view, uncensored, since censorship’s been outlawed, the goings on from one end of the galaxy to the other. And I’m supposed to keep it “clean”?

I don’t write clean. That’s why they picked me. I write colorful stories of love and lust and not kids poems. Someone is out to get me. Why? Because failure to deliver here means no promotion, no bigger apartment, better food and no love prospects. The dues I must pay.

Limericks, they want limericks…

“Waiter, yes, please bring me a glass of your strongest intoxicants. No, on second thought, make that a whole bottle. My room number? Oh yes, 42.”

If they want my opinion they should have kept that Witches Barrier up and ….


Well lookie there. Look what’s just came into the bar and heading right for my table. Long legs, red hair, green green eyes, oooh yeah. I can’t be this lucky. Got to be a mistake. I’m never this lucky with women at home.

“Aren’t you the writer from the home Galaxy Cultural Center?” Green eyes inquires, sitting, not waiting for an answer.

“Why yes I am. How did you know? But, pardon me, I didn’t get your name?

“Alice, Dr. Alice Kitsune,” she says with a dimpled smile. Those very bright green eyes are beautiful. Right, this woman is incredible looking by any standard, anywhere. It’s just work. Get a grip.

“Would you like a drink, Dr. Kitsune?” I ask.

“Sure whatever you’re having. and it’s Alice,” comes the quick reply. Alice continues, “You don’t know? They didn’t give you the intro we sent before you were to arrive? I’m your official guide and The Attache for Intergalactic Cultural Transfer. I requested to be assigned to this project. I will do what I can to make your stay more pleasant. I’ve read your works. I like them . They have a different slant on a very familiar literary subject that I concentrate in, Shunga.”

As I’m thinking, Right make my stay pleasant on this forsaken backwater of a rock, her foot rubs up my leg. I look and there is a slight smerk on her very beautiful face.

“Alice,” I say. She stops me, touching my mouth with her slender fingers.

___________________________

The next morning Alice and I have a very nice breakfast. My headache is gone. I have a lecture to give and still no idea of what to do…and…

Oh…yes… I… do:

There once was a woman named Alice
who had such a way with her talents….

Oh yes, oh yes, It’s come to me, I’m flying, writing!


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Post August 04, 2009, 03:23:57 PM

Busting Writer's Block #1: Fantasy

Constance and the King

By:
Casey Callaghan



"FIRE!" boomed the voice, clearly audible over the rain and the squelching of the mud. There was a the sound of catapults firing, and then the thud as they hit the invisible wall about the castle and fell to the ground.

And inside the castle, Constance clutched at her head.

"Your - majesty." she said, fighting down the pain that shot through her head. "I don't think you understand. It's not that I don't want to be safe. The problem is that I can't hold up the Witch's Barrier much longer."

"Then strike them down!" squealed the King, petulantly. "Call down fire from the sky. I know you can do that!"

"Not on -" Another catapult volley made her wince. "Not on human targets. That's what knights are for, sire."

"But I don't have any knights!" insisted the King.

"No." said Constance. "Because you sent them out to engage the enemy after a hard day's ride, when they would be tired and exhausted."

"I told them to ride through the night!" said the King, proudly. "And to attack at dawn! Before they had had a chance to have breakfast!"

"To attack fully rested troops after a night of hard riding." Constance sighed. As far as great military generals went, King Rupert was on the wrong end of the scale; possibly on a different one. He had pulled hundreds of defeats from the very jaws of victory, and it was generally considered that when future scholars came to write up the history of these wars, several would ask whose side he had actually been on.

Everyone else had left days ago, before the current besieging army had surrounded the castle; it was just Constance and King Rupert left.

"I have told you before, and now I'll tell you again." Constance insisted. "I am bound to keep you safe, and not to harm any human. The best way to do that -"

"Yes, yes, yes. But you also have to obey me."

"Within limits." I quickly interjected.

"And I am telling you that this is my castle! I'm not letting them get in here! And I'm not leaving. So you have to keep the castle safe." He folded his arms stubbornly.

Constance stared at him for a moment as a thought struck her. It was something she would not have contemplated even a week ago, but now...

"You're wrong." she said, changing the barrier spell. "I have to keep you safe. Not the castle."

The barrier vanished. Re-appeared at about four metres in diameter, centered on me.

The next catapult volley shattered the outer wall (King Rupert had not paid the workmen well, either, and the wall quality was reminiscient of that).

"You don't have a choice." Constance insisted. "I don't have a choice. We must leave, sire! We have to flee! I can make you invisible. We can get through the enemy lines. But we have to go now!"

"I'm not going anywh-"

There was a crunching noise as the furthest wall of the thrown room fell in on itself.

"They have a sorceror!" Constance shouted. "We must flee now, or we will both die!"

"They have a mage?" he asked incredulous. "He'll turn me into a toad!"

"Or worse."

"We have to get out of here!"

Done. I sighed with relief. Now if I could just keep the diminutive King calm enough on the road, perhaps I could yet ensure that he lived to a ripe old age.

I led him out through the wall I had torn down.


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Post August 04, 2009, 03:24:47 PM

Busting Writer's Block #1: Fantasy

The Final Challenge

By:
Spacer



Adhelia could see its shimming glow just ahead as she popped her cute little nose over the top of the parapet. The end of the quest she had so long been seeking was in sight. Sure she could not actually see the stone just yet. The Witch’s Barrier prevented that. It was after all the final guardian of the ancient device. As she took a moment to breathe she heard the others coming up behind her. Glancing back she saw that the The Wizard Aldemier and The Baker Aldun were closing fast. There was no way she could allow them to be the first to reach the stone. It would crush all the dreams she had built up on this Odyssean voyage.

Clear from the ocean she had come and they had always been one step behind. Across the empty wastes of grain they had come one of the poor slackers suffocating under the shifting seeds. Through the floating vortex where more perished as they lost their footing and plummeted into its soily depths. She had fallen behind in the lands of fire and hellbeasts but the leaders had been eaten and she regained her position by default. Only her wits and an amulet she had managed to win in a battle of wits with a dragon had saved her own hide. Only these three now remained of the many who had begun the quest. Some together, some alone, and each with a different goal for the power that the stone could provide.

She looked down again at the schematic she had managed to obtain through a series of delicate caving maneuvers. It was a simple task really on the surface of it. One had to dispel the magic barrier following the keying sequence that had been on the schematics tome. These were located upon a series of pillars on narrow walkways traversing across a bubbling cauldron below. She glanced over at the viewing orb that was conspicuously floating well above the pit and once more behind at those two now running up the stairs breathing hard and took the plunge.

As she went over the side onto the first crossbeam/walkway she could already feel the heat rising both inside her gut and all around her from the pit. She experienced a momentary shot of vertigo and reached into her cast a minor spell to help appease her nerves. The first device was just ahead. She began to pull out the key to activate it. He hands were becoming sweaty and it was all she could do to keep her hands on the key. The witch’s barrier blazed before her almost mesmerizing. She shook her head trying to keep focus putting one foot in from of the other. She was just a few feet from the first pedestal now. She took her next step and found nothing but empty space to stand on. Falling she grabbed for the pillar and managed to find purchase but her key slipped from her grasp and went plummeting into the cauldron. Taking stock she berated herself. Here she sat the amazing Adhelia who had made it through everything that they could throw at her and a mere stumble at the end would be her undoing? No, there was one option left – she would have to challenge one of the others. Summoning the last of her will she stood up and faced Aldemier who was just coming up to where she had fallen. She faced the young man with a pained grimace and made her demand “Aldemier I know we haven’t worked together before but I need your key. We go on together to the end or I take the key from you”. Aldemier looked mildly bemused for a second then his face fell flat “No I do not think you could do that and I see no reason I should be sharing the stone with you at the end. Come take if you think that you have the strength.” “Very well” was Adhelias only reply as she stepped forward to take up the challenge.

The fight was rather brief in the end. Only lasting a a few dozen seconds. The Wizards final lunge away from Adhelias feint left him unbalanced and with a deft motion she grabbed at the breast pocket and swiped her new passport to victory back even as she swept a foot under his and sent him sprawling on the beam and rolling off into the black oblivion.
Things moved quickly after that and she jumped sprang and twirled through the remaining traps until there but one pillar left the stone now visibly taunted her through the thinning barrier. It was going to be a tricky rope to rope swing it seemed as this beam had crumbled and softened. She grabbed the first rope and began the traverse. Steadily hand over hand it went one, two, three, four… nothing. As she fell she hit the back of her head against the remnants of the pillar. As she went unconscious she thought that at least she was glad she wouldn’t have to watch the baker win it all. She thought she heard laughter.

When she awoke she was surrounded by all the contestants. Ahh well it was as she had expected. The magical resurrection system made sure that no one really died permanently despite the carnage inflicted during the course of the game. The laughter was of course the audience the most part of whom watched the show specifically for the blood and pain that was exhibited. On this end of the view orb Aldun could be seen standing atop of the final pillar triumphantly holding the stone. He’d be awarded the million Gold Coins and New Castle shortly. The host, a well dressed woman in a green gown came up to her and handed her a small bag of gold. The orb panned on her and she smiled. At least she had something for the headache.


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Post August 04, 2009, 03:27:03 PM

Busting Writer's Block #1: Fantasy

- Winner -
NOTE: as a prize for this month's competition, this story was made into an audio story by Mark Edgemon and the Creator and the Catalyst Studios.


Liminal Day

By:
David Alan Jones



“Kyr, shhhh, Kyr, wake up.”

Kyras sprang instantly to awareness under the soft pressure of hands as, in a rush, she remembered that today she would either become a witch or spend the rest of her worthless life wishing she had.

The air about her was chilled and darkness lay like cold earth inside her parents’ one-room cabin. The only light came from a single candle held aloft by her father.

“It’s midnight,” he whispered.

“Your liminal day,” said Momma.

“Now?”

“At dawn,” said Dida. “We wanted to speak with you while there was time.”

“You know what my test will be?”

“No,” whispered Momma. “Every test the Sages give is different, you know that.”

Momma, who had been a Gorn before she married Dida, could have been a witch of the Old Lines. Gorn women had been and birthed some of the greatest Sages in history, but their house had lost its prestige over the last eight generations as it produced weaker and fewer witches. Momma had no magic at all.

“But I can tell you this, my love,” whispered Momma. “No matter what task they set before you, you need only break the Witch’s Barrier”.
“What’s that?”

“A spell placed on all potential witches at birth. It separates you from your magic. Puts you at one remove from it the way standing on a stone holds you out of a stream. The Sages use it to keep little ones from wreaking havoc before they are trained. Can you imagine a three-year-old Maggie Cold-Hands blasting the world with lightning every time she had a fit?”

“But how do I break it if I can’t use my magic against it?”

“The Sages know you -- know your mind and your potential. Whatever they ask of you will be your way of breaking the barrier. Your key. “

“It won’t be easy,” said Dida. “And there’s no shame in failing.”
“None,” whispered Momma.

But Kyras could read the lie in her mother's eyes.

# # #

Kyras’s knees hurt. Three hours ago the Prior Sage, dressed all in black save for her green habit, had escorted her into the Temple of Ashe, made her to kneel on the cold, hard flagstones before the fire pit in the great hall, and commanded her to, “Make this flame speak.”

The flame in question was a small sliver of yellow, dancing merrily upon a pine branch. Kyras could see that it would soon exhaust its fuel and die for it had nearly eaten through the dry wood.

“You may feed it as you wish,” said the stern, jowly old woman, gesturing towards three wooden boxes before the hearth each filled with a different type of kindling.

Her spare instructions given, the Sage promptly eased her bulk into a large chair to watch Kyras’s progress. Unfortunately, thus far, there had been no progress. She had burned scraps of dried leaves, bark and twigs, but no amount of fuel, nor earnest wishing on Kyras’s part, had yet coaxed the little flame to speak.

For the first two hours Kyras had concentrated on the tiny fire with unwavering intensity, searching her mind and heart for some wellspring of magic. She even waved her hands and tried saying some magical-sounding words, but to no avail. All that concentration only gave her a throbbing headache.

But not even that pain had deterred Kyras until these last few minutes when despair began to steal over her. How much time would the Sage give her? Surely she would soon pronounce Kyras a failure and have her escorted from the Temple never to return.

Kyras’s eyes fell away from the flame. She wasn’t going to let it die, not while any of the kindling remained, but for the moment she could not bare to watch it any longer.

As her gaze shifted about the room Kyras noticed that the gray-stone hearth was quite clean. Lesser witches, apprentices and acolytes, must be made to scrub it. One of them had even placed a Yoter sapling near the kindling boxes. Its red and yellow blossoms smelled fragrant, almost soothing. Whatever woman had planted it must have plenty of time on her hands. Yoters were notorious for needing water. Between that and soaping these stones, the apprentices must spend half their time trucking water basins –

Kyras jerked as if someone had pinched her. She crawled forward on sleep-prickled legs to peer down at the little sapling, her mind racing with a sudden, wild thought.

Could she do this? Would the witches allow it? Kyras stole a glance at the Prior who sat stone-faced, watching her.

Quickly, before she lost her nerve, Kyras fed the little flame a handful of leaves and bark and even fanned it a bit with her tattered brown skirts. Then, her heart pounding, she rent the Yoter from top to bottom, tearing out its roots and exposing its tender, green insides.

She had nothing to cut the living wood so she simply placed it atop the now lively flame roots and all.

“Speak!”

Kyras blew upon the fire as it began to lick at the wet wood. She bent over it, rocking back and forth, reaching inside herself to the magic she knew must exist there – had to exist there. The pain in her head doubled then trebled. She ignored it.

“SPEAK!”

Blood trickled, unfelt, from Kyras’s nose. A drop fell upon the Yoter wood, mixing with the water there which had already begun to boil and steam.

Under flame the green wood whistled and whined and popped as Kyras continued to rock, repeating her mantra, “Speak. Speak. Speak.”

The great hall grew cold, and colder still. Kyras’s breath steamed.

Time passed -- Kyras could never say how much -- and then the flame’s undulations slowed until it moved like ink dropped in water.

From the fire’s sibilant, whistling depths arose a sibilant, whistling voice.

“Well done, little witch.”


The End
Last edited by kailhofer on August 08, 2009, 09:44:41 AM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post August 04, 2009, 03:30:50 PM

Busting Writer's Block #1: Fantasy

The following entry was originally a part of this challenge but was removed from contention for an unintentional rules violation.



Nightshade: Barriers

By:
Bill Wolfe



The rain pounded my beat-up fedora like some demonic fireman was floating right over it with his hose on, full blast. The constant cacophony wasn’t helping the whisky headache I’d been sporting all day, but at least the downpour cut the smell way down in the alley I chose for the stakeout. Despite my trenchcoat and hat, I couldn’t be any wetter if I was at the bottom of the river.

I didn’t have much choice, though. It was the only possible vantage point to watch the entrance to The Oakheart Tavern, where all the high quality Dust for all of Nightshade was imported. Natural magic. In this case, the Tree Network.

€èmostè, the owner of this joint, was a Hamadryad. At the center of the building was her massive oak tree. Everybody knows that any sacrifice to any tree grown from one of that tree’s acorns would end up inside. She’d been seeding them little buggers in both Realms for centuries. Which is why she’s the most successful Dust distributer ever. Any oak in either Realm could be a two-way conduit to her main tree. No magic in the world could interfere with it, either.


It was also one of those No Magical Humans Allowed joints, which meant I’d been in there more times than I could count. The Wizard Wards and Witch’s Barriers were the best in the business, but they wouldn’t so much as flicker if I walked through those inviting double doors. I’m about as nonmagical as you can get. Strictly Human has its advantages in the city between the Realms.

It started with a Dame. Don’t they all?

She’d made an online appointment for nine but showed up at eight. The hideaway bed had just been stowed inside the couch and the only reason I was dressed in anything but faded boxers was because I’d slept in my clothes. Again.

Apparently, I had also forgotten to lock the door. I was barely upright and my coffeemaker had just started its lugubrious morning routine of whining, groaning and hissing out my first shot of the elixir of life. Hadn’t even brushed my teeth yet, when she came bursting into the office.

“You Ruel?” she asked. I didn’t need a skyre to tell what she thought of my appearance. It was written all over her pinched and overmade face. She was about as touchable as the miniature cactus, which was the only living thing in her office. That’s something I saw later, of course. “Reliable sources tell me you can find things out, and keep your mouth closed about it.”

All I had for her was a shrug. You don’t talk to me before my first coffee.

“I also understand that you aren’t much for paperwork of any kind, and that you work for cash.” She opened her enormous purse, pulled-out a large manila envelope and dropped it on my desk.

There it was. The one real magic word I know. Cash. I could tell from the thump it made on the scarred, dented wood, that no matter what, I was going to take the case.

Two hours later, at the crack of ten, shit-showered-and-shaved, I found myself standing outside the imposing adamantium gates of Hemmingwaite Academy. My client was the Principal of the most prestigious and expensive private school in either Realm. More elite than Harvard or the Collegium Magius, it educated only the crème de la crème of Society.

No kidding. I thought I knew how to get to everywhere in Nightshade, but I had to googleN the damn place for directions.

What followed was a comprehensive tour of their security precautions. And I gotta tell you, they were tight. They had everything there from ogre ground patrols with chained hellhounds to the latest in hi-tech scanners, motion detectors, infrared and ultraviolet cameras and, of course, the best magical wards money could buy. There is no way anyone could smuggle Dust into that place.

But someone had.

And I’d been hired to find out who, or at least how it was done. I wasn’t sure I could do it, but all I had to do was think about that thump.

Now you know what Fairy Dust is like. It makes the Fey kind of goofy, but not much worse than a shot of good tequila. Humans, on the other hand, whether magical or not, get some really strange results.

Turns out they’d had an Elf and two of the human kids to OD on some very fine Dust. Almost pure. More expensive per gram than anything but plutonium. The cops. . .well, let’s put it this way. . .they hadn’t been called. Not officially, anyway. And they were stumped. The kids weren’t talking. As a matter of fact, one hadn’t been caught yet. Dust has a tendency to make some humans take wing. . .literally.

So here I was in an alley in the rain, waiting to see who went to see the only true importer of Cadillac-grade Dust in the City.

I perked-up. Someone was leaving the Tavern. There was something funny about the way she walked. She didn’t seem to mind the rain at all. As a matter of fact, though she was instantly soaked, she absolutely pranced down the dingy sidewalk, head back, mouth open to catch as much as she could.

Then it struck me! This must be a rare, cactus nymph. Nobody loves the rain more than one of those folks. And cactus nymphs could use the same natural magic as a dryad. Now that I knew how, who would be a piece of cake.

After I made the call, I didn’t think I’d hear anything else. But I did. About a week later the pinch-faced principal called me up and said it was one of the custodians, the very one who’d given her the cactus in the first place.

And then she spoke a truly magical incantation:

“You’ll receive the second half of your payment by courier, tomorrow.”


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Post August 30, 2009, 05:27:59 PM

The "Do Over" Challenge

The challenge was to write a story about a relatively risk-free chance to go back in time and try to erase a mistake without disrupting the major events in history.



It's About Time

By:
N.J. Kailhofer



All he had to do is that one thing, and it would all be over. Nothing hanging over his head.

Diane smiled. A lock of brown hair tumbled in front of her eyes. "It's a dream deal. No strings attached. No mess, no muss."

"No mas."

"C'mon, Bill," she said. "You and I started this together. You get that first trip."

"Suppose it killed me, or worse. What if you're wrong, and we unravel everything?"

She sighed. "We've been over that a thousand times. It can't happen. On your first trip, you can make small changes, but you cannot disturb the major events of the time-space continuum as they are indexed. Can't. Time won't let you. Not at all. Can't kill someone. Can't stop a baby from being born. Can't prevent Columbus from crossing the ocean to the New World. But you can fix a little mistake between people who already interact like forgetting to call your mother on her birthday or making up with an old friend after an argument... or just maybe me stepping off a curb. That was a little thing. Just a step. On a second trip, time becomes so sensitive to your presence that every microscopic interaction with the past causes a reaction. They build on themselves until our reality tears itself apart. You only get one chance."

She took Bill's hand and looked into his eyes. "Don't you remember what it was like our first time? Or before I was stuck in this chair?"

She patted the tall wheels at her side and held the back of his hand against her chest. Bill could feel the softness of her breast underneath her shirt and the pounding of her heart. Tears welled at the corners of her eyes. "I want another memory of us making love while I still could. Please, Bill. Go back in time and give me that memory, and if you can, stop me from being in that accident."

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

They hit it off fast. She was a physics graduate student with a hot body, researching some theoretical nonsense about time. He worked construction, tanned and buff. One chance meeting in a bar turned into one-night stand that went on, and on. They didn't even come up for air for two days. They spent more of the first two weeks naked than dressed.

It was hot that day, so he took off his shirt. He pounded away with a jackhammer on a sidewalk next to the campus. She was walking with a friend, carrying way too many books. He waved. She didn't see him. He switched off the hammer and waved with both hands, yelling.

Her eyes lit up. She patted her friend on the arm and pointed to him. She waved, and then trotted toward him.

Right in front of the car, a red Taurus.

He ran.

All the sound of the world stopped. Her body crumpled to the side in slow motion, her head off the hood, and then she tumbled over the car. Her body lay in the street. He reached her first. She grabbed his hand.

"Bill!" Her body was a mask of terror and confusion. "Don't leave me alone. Whatever you do, don't leave me alone! Promise me."

He swallowed hard. "I promise."

She slumped. He thought she was dead, but she was still breathing. Sirens. People yelling. Everything blurred for him until she was being loaded into the ambulance and he was standing there, talking to a cop.

"She was crossing the street to see me. I called to her, and she stepped in front of the car. This was my fault. If I hadn't yelled, she'd be fine."

The cop mumbled something about it just being an accident, but Bill didn't listen.
At the hospital, he found out she could breathe ok, and had use of her arms, but nothing below that. There wasn't anything they could do about it.

He stayed with her through the recovery and rehab. Married her and provided for her. He stood beside her as she got her Ph.D. and got a grant to do exotic research.

He helped her with experiments. Bathed her. Carried her to bed and helped her up again every day. He stayed as she grew more and more bitter, more desperate. In every way, he was the best husband he could be to her.

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

The bar by the MIT campus was crowded, just as it was that night. It smelled like all college bars, too much alcohol and too many young people close together. From where he was in the back corner booth, Bill could see his younger self sitting with his pal, Jerry. They were eyeing up the brunette and the blonde at the bar. The younger Bill got up and headed for the restroom.

Bill saw his chance. He took the urinal next to himself.

"Buddy," he said. "I got something to tell you, and it's the most important thing you'll ever hear."

The younger version of himself goggled. "W-Who are you?"

Bill sighed. "I'm you. Look, shut up and listen. When you play rock, paper, scissors with Jerry, pick paper. Remember that. If you pick paper, you'll get the blonde. If you pick scissors, you'll live in misery for the next twenty years."

Bill pushed the rinse button and walked out, leaving his younger self open-mouthed with amazement.

A moment later, his mind filled with the memories of Diane's accident being caused by Jerry yelling to her instead of him and being best man at their wedding. Bill experienced his own wedding to the blonde, Linda, in a flash. A moment later, he felt himself sweeping back through time toward his present day.

He told thought to himself, You can only make a little change. I didn't leave her alone. I kept my promise.

A moment later, he added, I better get Linda pregnant before Jerry messes with this.


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Post August 30, 2009, 05:30:08 PM

The "Do Over" Challenge

The Last Prophet: Take the Long Way Home

By:
Mark Edgemon



The air about my home is electrified as the whirlwind barrels toward my tiny little cabin, nestled in an open field within the township where I have lived for over twenty years. This lakeside community has developed into a gated, ritzy type of neighborhood, all with the exception of my tattered, worn looking house, a miracle that it is still standing.

My name is John Acumen and for all the insight I have into human inner turmoil and spiritual warfare, I have chosen to stand on the sidelines throughout my entire life…until now! I was first called by God to be His prophet to this soon apocalyptic and dying world when I was 10 years old. I had an understanding of God that would rival the greats in history. It was an intuitive knowledge that I could only have received by God Himself, an intimate knowledge more of the mind and heart of God, than knowledge of the facts surrounding His existence.

Even so, I had put Him off all of my life, unwilling to accept His purpose and plan for me, for I wanted to see what I could do with the talent He had given me. Besides, I feared He would send me to Africa to prophesy to pigmies.

My life was put on hold that day, for everything I did or tried to do, never came to fruition. Every job, every creative endeavor just laid there, neither good nor bad, just laid there.

And now, I find myself fifty years of age with a dozen major health problems and no real wealth to speak of, waiting for the remainder of my life to end in the same dismal way it has been lived thus far.

As the sky becomes more increasingly ominous and darkness covers the noonday, I hear the sound of a train coming closer, knowing there are no trains where I live, indicating the fast approach of a tornado.

I’ve always heard that a scared prayer doesn’t count. Nevertheless, I bowed my head and asked all the same.

“God, it’s been awhile…” trying to figure out how to approach the subject after so long a silence. “How you doing? Okay, I’m scared; I’m really, really scared, not as much about dying, but more about dying with unfinished business. I’ve put you off for decades, but if you still want me as I am today, right now, I surrender everything to you.”

I should have accepted my calling when He first offered it to me. I had to do it my own way though and so I did, losing everything in the process, my health, what talent I had and a chance for a family. I’m lost in my own hands!

And suddenly, along with the roaring of the tornado outside I heard a voice echoing in my spirit, “Go and stand in front of your gate and face the wind.”

“What!” I said out loud. My heart was telling me to go but…

“Go and stand in front of your gate and…FACE THE WIND!” this time an audible voice spoke, shaking the contents of my home.

I opened the door and walked outside into the wind heading toward the gate to my fenced in yard. As I walked, my mind raced with images and essences of everything I had ever done wrong. I watched every selfish act being played out and every self-willed decision made. I was sickened by what I saw, grieved for ignoring my calling and my relationship with God for these many decades.

As I was teleported in my spirit through time, I saw myself accept the calling He had placed on my life when I was only ten years old. This spiritual redemption of my past only took minutes, the time it took me to reach my gate.

When I got there, I felt different, stronger somehow as I looked up and saw the largest tornado I have ever seen, now only twenty yards away. Although large objects were being moved by the wind, cars scooting across the road, downed trees everywhere, my feet were planted by God and I could not be moved.

“Speak to the wind!” His words heard clearly this time.

I was afraid to speak; realizing that any words I spoke now would seal my commitment to God’s purpose and this time, permanent.

As the tornado hastened, I raised my hands and said, “Stop!” Before I could say more the wind dissipated immediately before my eyes. Everything stopped. Neighbors came outside to find me standing with my arms raised. Embarrassed, I lowered my hands and started walking back to the cabin.

One of the neighbors who lived to the side of me said as I passed by, “We’re lucky to have a man of God near to protect us.”

I thought he might be making fun of me, until I looked straight into his eyes and noticed that he was crying. I had never seen that before.

When I walked back into my cabin, I realized that my true career, my vocation in life was to honor God through my obedience, no matter what He asked of me, no matter what He wanted me to do, it was the work I knew best and was good at. Otherwise, I was just a failure doing my own will my own way.

As I was settling out, I wondered what He would have me do next. Not knowing how they had gotten there, I happened upon two airline tickets to Africa and a book on African pigmies on my desk by the window! I guess your fears are not always as terrifying as you imagine them, especially when stacked up against the worst Hell one can imagine, the missed opportunity of one’s true destiny.


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