FLASH FICTION INDEX 2: Dec. 2011 - ?


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

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Post November 23, 2013, 12:29:01 PM

Science Fiction Pirate Challenge

- Winner -



Wreckers

By:
I.Verse


The problem with dealing in illegal tech was that the clientele were both undesirable and untrustworthy. William Pearce reflected on this sourly as he waited near the berth of Captain Goodwin's ship, the aptly named Reaper.

Get through this, he thought, and you can go home to Lara, to Earth, and never have to see this hell hole again.

Clovelly was a frontier system, right out on the edge. The edge of known space, the edge of civilisation, the edge of humanity itself. It was out on this edge that Will reckoned a man could make his fortune, if he had the nerve for it.

"Change of plan, Mr Pearce", said Captain Goodwin by way of greeting as his men manhandled the goods from Will's truck into the Reaper's cargo bay. "I'll be needing your technical services for this voyage. You'll be rightly recompensed for your trouble."

"Why can’t Gao handle it?" Will asked, remembering the Reaper’s chief engineer, the man who had methodically examined the device when this deal had first been struck.

"He had an ethical disagreement with Sawad", said the Captain, nodding at his first mate. Sawad smiled like a shark, white teeth and hideous intent. Gao was dead, that was a certainty.

"My payment?" Will asked.

"In full when we return to port, plus a bonus. I give you my word", replied the Captain with a carnivorous grin.

Under Sawad's menacing glare Will had no choice but to followed the Captain's men into the Cargo bay.

-oOo-

Will stared out at the scattered rocks of the Stroma asteroid belt through the flight deck windows and shivered. Never ask why they want it and never get involved. Too late for that now. It was not hard to guess what Goodwin and his men wanted with a superluminal navigation beacon.

The Captain glanced his way and winked. "Not long now, Mr Pearce. Once our man at Launceston sends word, we'll be seeing action. The waiting is always the worst part."

The atmosphere was certainly tense. Goodwin's men were anxious and ill humoured, suited up and ready for egress down below. Will ran a system check on the beacon from the console, for the umpteenth time, and fidgeted.

The Captain stiffened, the blue light of his ear bud indicating an incoming communication. "Mr Pearce", he said, "power up the beacon if you please. Sawad, prepare the men."

In contrast to the frenetic bustle around him, Will activated the beacon with the merest touch of his fingers on the console in front of him. It began blasting out its navigation signal into the superluminal ether, drowning out the real beacon at the Launceston space port and sending false information to any ship bearing down on the Clovelly system.

It was over so fast, the eye could barely comprehend it. The wormhole opened five kilometres to port, inside the edge of the asteroid field. The ship transitioned into real space in a blink and collided with the icy rocks spinning out eternity there. The impact was massive. Will watched in horror as the fiery blooms burst across the ship's hull.

Captain Godwin grinned as he broadcast the doomed craft's SOS over the ship’s intercom.

"Mayday! Mayday! This is the Napoli. We have lost propulsion and life support. Require immediate assistance."

"Napoli, this is the Reaper, we are on our way to assist. How many crew and passengers. Over."

The relief in the man's voice was palpable. "Twenty-two crew and fourteen passengers. Over."

"Get everyone to your aft airlock", replied the Captain, "I'm sending crew over to assist. Prepare for docking and transfer. Over and out."

The clang of the Reaper's own airlock rang throughout ship as the Captain's men exited the Reaper. Will sat impotently and watched as they jetted towards the torn hull of the Napoli. The Captain put the view from Sawad's helmet camera up on a screen, and they watched in silence as the Napoli's airlock drew closer.

"Napoli, open the outer door", Sawad said over the radio.

The door cracked and brief burst of atmosphere vented into space before it slid smoothly into the hull. Rather than enter, as Will had expected, Sawad threw a satchel into the airlock and then quickly manoeuvred to one side. Will saw the camera shake and then gasped in disbelief as atmosphere, debris and human bodies burst out or the Napoli's airlock. Sawad had blown the inner door.

"Law of salvage, Mr Pearce," the Captain said as Will watched the crew and passengers of the Napoli writhe, then slowly becoming still as they floated away into the void. "No claim while an officer or passenger aboard lives."

-oOo-

The sound of a gunshot catapulted Captain Goodwin from his sleep. By the time he got to the cabin it had come from, Sawad was already there, his white teeth flashed their shark like smile but there was a hint of disappointment in his cold eyes. William Pearce lay dead upon his bunk, his brains sprayed across the bulkhead, the gun still clutched in his hand.

"Damn fool could have pierced the hull", the Captain grunted, checking the bulkhead for damage.

Something on the cabin’s comm terminal caught Sawad’s eye. He poked at it, bringing up the last message. A pretty girl’s face filled the screen.

"William, I can't wait any longer", she said into the camera lens, "I miss you so much and I couldn't keep this surprise until you got back." The camera shifted clumsily in her hand as she swivelled it to show the swelling bump of her belly then back to her face. "I've booked passage on the cargo ship Napoli. I hope you get this message before I arrive. Love you. See you soon!"

"Dump the body out the airlock", the Captain said, nodding at the corpse and yawning. “And keep this between ourselves, unless you want to split his share with the others.”

The End

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Post November 24, 2013, 09:42:52 PM

Sinister Book Challenge

The challenge was to write a horror or weird fiction story that makes use of the evil book, The Libro di Sinistro.


Example story:


The 13th Canto

By:
John David Rose


I can tell you this, obsession is a tricky devil. Inch by inch it grows while deceptively hiding its strength behind subtle rationalizations. It drives you down paths you could not dream of and out across the maddening gulf only to abandon you when you are beyond redemption.

The case in point, on a trip to New England I obtained an old issue of a rather obscure occult journal. It wasn't long before I was engrossed in the articles, which for the most part I found puerile. That is, until I started reading a submission by R. Crawford, Ph.D. It was a survey of medieval magical texts. One book in particular piqued my interest, that mysterious book called The Libro di Sinistro which is about the most heinous of occult subjects, the summoning of the dead and daemons. The book had a long and complicated history which the professor meticulously recounted. He explained that the seventeenth and last part of that repulsive volume was an epic poem called Il Tredici Canti del Piero Pers. His description of this poem about a man searching for his lost love intrigued me. Further, the professor explained that the poem was an allegory as many medieval works are and that forbidden knowledge was possibly hidden within.

For days after reading the article, I found myself searching the internet for anything related to The Libro di Sinistro. Little came up except for the regular hokum; it was a name that circulated on occult boards, but in the internet equivalent of hushed whispers. However, the advent of the electronic age gave me access to online catalogs that hadn't existed when Professor Crawford penned his article and I was able to track down a fragment of a medieval text titled Tredici Canti in the Bibliotecca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence, Italy. Could this be the same Il Tredici Canti del Piero Pers that was a part of the infamous Libro di Sinistro? Did it hold some magical power or mysterious and frightful truth? My obsession began.

Now this is where luck, or perhaps fate, played an integral part of the story. It just so happened that I had an old college friend named Mario Rossi who lived near Rome. Mario was a mere three hours from the library in question and I called him to see if he could obtain a photocopy of Tredici Canti for me.

"I would also like you to translate it into English," I said to Mario.

"So you think I still have the poet's ear?" he asked. I could tell he was intrigued. His job left little time for artistic pursuits.

"You know how terrible il mio italiano è," I said.

Warmth filled his voice. "For you il mio amico, I would happily do this."

Shortly after, Mario had an occasion to travel to Florence for work. There he learned that the library did have a copy of Tredici Canti on microfiche and with a little work, he photocopied it.

A few days later, I received his translation of the first canto. I read it through several times. In the poem the protagonist is on a quest to find his lost love, the beautiful Dolce, who has died from the Black Death. I could see similarities to Dante's Inferno, both in structure and content. However, most of the lines, through no fault of Mario's, seemed to be grotesque doggerel:

The pestilence penetrated, all perished
from pustules, blood from sinus, anguished, frenzied,
a retribution on those we most cherished.


But despite its strangeness and apparent lack of quality, I felt compelled to read on. I continued to pester Mario until he promised to send me one translated canto a week. The wait was agonizing. Upon receiving a canto, I would immediately analyze it and take copious notes. I would research the minutest detail, looking for traces of hidden knowledge. And as each week brought me closer to the end, I began to identify with the poem's protagonist. His journey was through a barren surreal landscape and my obsession had forced me into a mental state that was very much akin.

That is why the last stanza of the 12th canto reverberated so:

I danced la poesia in a macabro fit,
then my eyes fell at last on the final ditch,
though it led, I knew, to the infernal pit.


Looking back through my notes I could see patterns and the final canto held the key. But the next message I received from Mario was not what I expected. It was disjointed, almost incoherent. He'd been plagued by strange dreams. I immediately called. His voice was thin and lifeless.

"…I must burn Il Canti, burn them all," he said. In anger I called him childish and demanded he finish the 13th canto. There was a long silence but finally he acquiesced.

Over the next several weeks I heard nothing from Mario. I thought about my angry words and my obsessive behavior. I feared then that I had gone too far. I tried calling again only to discover that his number had been disconnected. What could have happened to my friend? I recalled that Mario was from the town of Nerola and that he mentioned having a brother there. Desperately I wrote a letter, addressed it to the name Rossi and sent it off in the hopes of connecting with some relative that might be able to put me in contact again with Mario.

Several months passed, but eventually a response came. As I read the letter describing my friend's fate, my heart was in my throat. Shortly after our last conversation, there was a fire in Mario's apartment. He was found dead in the bathroom, but his body hadn't been consumed by the flames. They found large tumors around his neck, some of them oozing pus, the toilet was filled with vomited blood, and his arms and thighs were covered with horrible black spots. By translating The Cantos, Mario had summoned the Black Death.

The End

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Post November 24, 2013, 09:44:22 PM

Sinister Book Challenge

The Mortician’s Confession

By:
Michele Dutcher


Martin Thwaid sat in his tiny apartment, trying to calm his friend. Dr. Robert Mortise was in his late thirties and usually a quite jovial fellow – with a deep desire to escape the dullness of plebeian work.

“If only I had known the outcome of my laziness – YES, I label it now for what it was! I improperly performed the job that my community had charged me with!” His eyes were wild, even wilder than when I had let him into my suite of rooms, situated as they were on the coastal side of the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

“Robert, you must allow me to fix you a drink – perhaps a brandy.”

“You still don’t understand!” he gushed, his words straining to escape his throat beneath the weight of the terror in his soul. “It’s coming! That thing is on its way here!” At this point he began tearing at his face as though there was something in his mind that he was trying to rip out.

“I can’t help you, Robert – if you won’t tell me what is bothering you – exactly!” He seemed to step down from his delirium at this point, drawing a deep breath. “Now start at the beginning, my friend.”

He dropped into a dissociative state, and began to tell the story as though telling a poem he knew by heart. “You know about the odd religion we have on the island – the Corvus people?”

“Yes, yes – I’m acquainted with them. They show reverence towards a book…”

“…the Libro Di Sinistro…” Robert said.

“But I was under the impression that all that spooky hokum was nothing more than morbid entertainment. They’re rich, aren’t they?”

“Without a doubt. Old money from the old world. Perhaps that was also a gateway for my slothfulness – they were always shoving gold coins into my eager hands.”

His continence had broken down again, and I tried to push him forward in his story, so that I might know his troubles. “What did they have you do, Robert – tell me, it can’t be that bad or you surely wouldn’t have been partner to it.”

“It seemed simple enough, really. As a mortician, one of my chief duties is to embalm the bodies of the deceased, to be certain that…” he put his hand over his mouth at this point.

“…Yes, yes,” I offered, “to be certain that the body doesn’t decompose too early, before the funeral.”

“No, not that. Embalming has an even more important function – to insure the dead cannot rise again!” He was on his feet now, running to the window to look out over the darkened straights toward the island from which he had just escaped in a row boat. For a moment in the moonlight, he seemed to catch a glimpse of something over there, in the town on the island. “Go on,” I insisted.

“They didn’t want me to embalm the bodies of those who had recently died on the island. They told me it was part of their religion, to leave the corpses in a ‘natural’ state. They wouldn’t even allow me to perform autopsies on their dead – in spite of a jump in the number of their members who were brought to me, to be measured for their coffins. I should have known! I could have prevented all this!”

I poured both of us a drink. “Come now, Robert, it can’t be as bad as all that. The dead can’t just rise from the Earth.”

“But I saw them, Martin. Tonight, just after dusk, I happened to pass by the island’s cemetery. I noticed someone digging. I stopped my cart and got closer on foot. Closer and closer, creeping, until I saw him!”

“Who Robert, who?”

“It was Tom McGrath, one of the Corvus people whom I had allowed to be improperly buried, with only dried blood in veins instead of embalming fluid. He was digging up a grave, surrounded by almost a dozen other cadavers, who watched him eagerly! – waiting for him to finish.”

“That’s impossible, Robert. You’ve lost your mind completely!”

At this he leapt towards me, “You finally understand! What I saw has made me mad!”

“But how could this group of the dead simply become revenants?” I asked him.

“It was her, their minister!” he shouted. “She was reading from the book, her voice more a howl than a tone. The wind began to pick up and a corpse opened its coffin and crawled out to join the others.”

I was in shock. “Impossible,” I seethed. “Impossible!”

My friend was wild again. He hissed rushing again to darkened window.

“Are you looking for the bodies then – to swim the channel and attack us?” I mocked him. “Like creatures in some zombie tale?”

“No, I’m looking for the one who came when they formed their vile circle, chanting with voice-boxes long decayed, searching the heavens with empty eye-sockets. ‘From the bowels of empty space,’ she screamed into the wind. ‘From the outer rim of darkness, come forth and claim the worship of your devotees!’ I then heard the flap of giant wings, and a shadow appeared in the constellation of Orion, growing larger and larger until it blocked out the moon!” He was screaming now at the top of his lungs.

My apartment neighbors began to run up the stairs outside, afraid that perhaps there was a fire, I could hear them outside, but my friend’s madness had infected me and I could not stand or answer them. They broke through the door – but neither of us noticed because our attention was turned out the window, through the darkness, over the channel and the ragged boulders, towards where it flew with leather wings, with a thousand tentacles wrapped around a torso made of a dozen screaming humans.

And there we waited, eight of us, paralyzed, as the claws of the thing tore through the side of our building, to drag us all to hell.

The End

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Post November 24, 2013, 09:45:24 PM

Sinister Book Challenge

Backscratching…

By:
Sergio Palumbo


It was during the second siege of Rome in the Gothic War of 546 A.D. -- between the Ostrogoths and the Byzantine Empire -- that the barbarians decided to starve the city into surrender, even though its defenses had held firm for many months. Some ships had been sent in to feed the city, but their enemies captured the Byzantine fleet so they failed to relieve the city, and the citizens and its soldiers were finally forced to open the gates to the Goths.

Rome was heavily plundered with a multitude of fatalities. Then a deep desperation engulfed the streets and the houses that had been spared destruction. The number of dead laying on the ground was countless. During the fierce dispute that had pitted two very huge armies against each other, many wives had lost their husbands, and many children had been robbed of their father or their brother.

The noble woman Aglaea had lost all of her family during that bloody war and now roamed through the rooms of the ruins of her palace, crying and remembering her relatives that had passed away. Her young, strong husband had also died. His name was Naevius and he had just turned 31-years-old on the day of his death – being five years older than she was. The dark-haired, emaciated woman missed him so much that she was unable to go on without him.

Aglaea was told by an elderly fortune-teller that a sorcerer had many magical texts bound together into a single volume – just the one that would become known as The Libro di Sinistro in the future… It focused on the monstrous craft of evoking the dead and other beings from the realms of darkness. So she immediately sought him out and found him in a poor shed where he had been living since the end of the siege.

These texts were said to have been collected and translated into Latin by an obscure individual, then bound into a single handwritten volume that same year, before falling into the sorcerer’s hands. The fortune-teller said that he was the only one capable of using those texts.

The young woman still had some gold at her disposal and she kept begging for help even when the sorcerer told her that his payment would be most of what she had left. But Aglaea’s desire to talk to Naevius again was so strong that she didn’t object. So, the following night the bald man led the noble woman to an open space and there he started a very strange ritual meant to call into this world the soul of her dead husband.

As soon as many small fires around had been lit, a soft chanting came out of the sorcerer’s mouth, and a feeble shape began to appear, displaying the features of Naevius himself. Great was the surprise of the woman, but she immediately started speaking by greeting him and asking many things.

Is it really you, Naevius? Are you with me again? Please, tell me your name…”

The presence replied in a low tone that she recognized as her husband’s. “It’s me, wife. I have been brought back from the realm of the dead.”

I miss you so much!” the young woman added, while tears poured down her pale face.

“Me too, wife. But you must hurry up: I’m not alone…

“What do you mean?” the woman exclaimed “Who else is in there?

It was at that moment that another voice reached the young wife who was immediately scared. ”Are you from the world of living beings?” It sounded like a very young boy, and his tone appeared to be weak.

“Who are you? What are you doing here?” Aglaea dared to say, but she didn’t like the reply she got.

“I’m searching for my sister. She didn’t die during the siege - please can you help me?”

“How? Tell me the way I can help you…” the woman said.

“I miss her so much. Tell her now!”

“What’s her name?” she continued, but her speech was interrupted by another unknown voice.

“Are you alive?” It was a male shape speaking now. “Please, listen to my request, take a message to…”

“You must hurry up, wife,” Naevius repeated, but his suggestion was overshadowed by others arriving.

Help me!

Go to the house of my grandparents today...

Do as I ask…

And then also a more terrifying being – a very old creature from the afterlife –- resembling a dark, cloudy mass which also resulted capable of absorbing the stars in the sky approached, introducing itself simply as Ammutseba. And so the real terror started!

All these things were too overwhelming for poor Aglaea who seemed to already be in too deep, not knowing who to help. As the words became more and more, the woman simply couldn’t think straight anymore and then she began crying out, grieving again…

In the distance, the old sorcerer stared at the whole scene and looked pensive. It was going just like it had the time before, unfortunately.

The ritual in those written texts functioned, indeed, and allowed people to talk to their dead, but that wasn’t enough. The problem was that you were allowed to talk to the souls of the afterlife, but they could easily talk to you, too. And they didn't stop talking! So, he needed to delve into the details of the ritual and prevent all the dead from addressing his customers all day long.

Who knows, maybe over the course of the next few centuries, someone else would prove capable of solving that setback. As for that noble woman, the man was afraid that she, too, would be living the rest of her life as a lonely person, thought to be mad, someone who ‘heard voices’ – the same that had happened to all the desperate people who had sought out his services during the preceding weeks before her...

The End

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Post November 24, 2013, 09:46:59 PM

Sinister Book Challenge

Exeunt Les Amateurs

By:
TaoPhoenix


Sunil Kashdan got out of bed as an ordinary man on September 10, 2015. He was one more member of the New York melting pot, which sounds more romantic in words than the daily life of being half Hindu - half Jewish and practicing neither. With family legacy estate funds to drastically whittle down the cost of living, he was able to scrape by as a "novelette" story writer for a second rate blog called the Paper Frog. Most of his stories were ordinary but pleasant, or creepy, or surreal, or packed a shade too tightly with epigrams. Good enough for his readers, and good enough to live on.

He always had a couple of days in between story deadlines to explore, amble, stroll, or carouse around the grand old city. One of his hobbies was a fascination with the older traditions of the secret societies, from the days circa the late 1800's when the world wasn't quite so locked down and parceled out. His pet corner of that scene was the old Theosophical Society and the writings of H. P. Blavatsky.

"S. K.", as he was referred to in meeting style name code, cheerfully drew the line at the hobby level. In recreational arts, the chasm between hobby and expert is severe; even if you didn't truly believe those texts on a literal level, the social penalty for overselling yourself and getting the details wrong to the 100 people who cared about such things meant years of disapproval. As a "Novice" (Hobbyist), you could poke around the edges, and with a little practiced neo-humility in your phrasing, the experts were happy to go into "instructor mode" and give you a lesson of the day.

S. K. thus went to a meeting of the Neo-Theosophical Adjutants Society, where today's discussion seemed to once again be about some obscure page in H. P. B.'s tomes. (All of the pages were obscure. That was the delight of them. Two thousand total pages in eight point font for the lesson and six point for the footnotes drawing upon six languages and twenty one cultures of which twelve don't currently exist, was just a sight to gaze fondly at, and sigh.)

The modern occultists dispensed with the hand written manuscripts written in blood. Today the meeting members had their pencils out and were making small notations in the margins of a value priced paperback copy as they puzzled out today's item of lore.

"But Joseph, you recall that the mental anguish of the Five of Swords applies symbolically to the art of interpreting texts!"
"Yes, and HPB even stated in the introduction no less that she has purposely altered the pure concepts into code to keep idle eyes staring blindly at but not understanding the truth. We might be able to figure out the real meaning, but only us or our counterparts elsewhere; we've been at this study for years. Her codes seem to be pretty good. Except for arguments about who is paying for the pizza, we've only scratched the surface."
"Jose, did you have time to work on that reference from page 447 from last week?"
"A little. If you Tarotically translate "Libre, meaning freedom to study", you get "Libro", meaning the "Book That Brings Dangerous Knowledge." I think in Italian it's Libro Di Sinistro."
"What is that?"
"Yet another of those lost books. But HPB had seen a copy of it, so she borrowed a couple of the concepts for her writings. Look, she says over here in the other text on page 1338 that 'Books are powerful, sometimes too much so. I know. For I have seen such a one, and you behold my feeble effort to simplify it for the common occult scholar. And that has cost me twelve years and my health and my life! So heed my instruction with duty, for I am now dying and will not last out the year!'"

Silence drifted around the meeting of the Neo-Theosophical Adjutants Society. Could that be the dividing line, the cost? They were yet still protected by HPB's code - by understanding not, they could continue to live their lives eating pizza and having weekly meetings! But she had seen the real book. One year of studying it, and it has consumed twelve of hers and her life!

Chatter drifted into less intense topics. Someone made a note of a new Aristotle reference HPB had used in some newly archived correspondence. Someone else had wondered why the Simurgh's wing was broken on page 773. A few slices of pizza later, they adjourned early. They had just barely glimpsed the view over the river canyon of knowledge, and even HPB's seven layer symbolic semantic codes could not protect them as happy idiots if they kept pushing too much longer. Could they handle the real knowledge?

The End

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Post November 24, 2013, 09:48:01 PM

Sinister Book Challenge

Massive Sink Hole Near Carlsbad, New Mexico; At Least One Confirmed Dead

By:
Jay Hill


Carlsbad News Telegram – 54 Minutes Ago

CARLSBAD, NM – Police and construction operators were called to property leased by the R&B Mining Co. (RBM Co.) this afternoon when a sink hole opened up on the northeast section of the facility. An employee of the regional mining operation was confirmed dead at the scene when emergency responders concluded from eye witness accounts that the individual fell to his death. The body has not been recovered.

Several other employees were reported injured, and accounts describing an anomalous fire were reported. Local engineers estimate that a natural gas vein erupted, creating a subterranean landslide. As of this release, the fire had not been contained, but local and volunteer fire departments were working to control the blaze.

This is the second incident of this type on property owned by R&B Mining in the last twenty-four months, and the third mining accident reported this year. Representatives from the corporation refused to comment on the matter, other than pointing media sources to their website for the company’s official statement regarding its commitment to safety.

***

“It was like a forty foot tall minotaur with wings,” Mario told the reporter, while fidgeting with his R&B Mining employee identification card.

“Bat wings,” his friend and co-worker Pepe added. “Yeah, like really wide grey bat wings.”

“They were wide, yes,” Mario continued, “And on fire!”

“And it breathed fire too –“ Pepe interrupted. “Like some kind of demon.”

“Yes, there was fire everywhere,” Mario said. “The mesquite trees, the sage brush, people, cars, that little building.” He pointed to a blackened spot in the middle of the rusty brown New Mexico soil.

***

Albuquerque Sun Times – 36 Minutes Ago

CARLSBAD, NM – National and State Guard units were dispatched to the area northeast of Carlsbad Caverns earlier this afternoon when a sink hole engulfed a portion of the potassium chloride mining operation located just outside of the city.

Local fire departments and first responders were dispatched to combat a blaze that ensued at the scene of the accident. Preliminary casualty reports put the number of dead at one and the number of injured at eight. Local authorities are working to notify relatives of the victims.

Additionally, noted cryptozoologist Johannes Neukeld, PhD, and professor emeritus at New Mexico A&M University was also summoned to the scene to identify a large humanoid creature, visible in some of the news media footage taken at the site.

***

“So let me get this straight,” the reporter, an attractive middle-aged brunette named Loraine Carter made an effort to clarify. “You’re saying that a creature, who looked like a minotaur crawled out of the hole and demanded a book?”

“It flew,” Pepe answered.

“It what?” Mrs. Carter asked, glaring at Pepe over the top of her reading glasses.

“It flew out of the hole,” Mario agreed.

“Yes, it had wings,” Pepe added. “It was like a minotaur, but with wings.”

“A fiery minotaur,” Mario reminded the reporter.

“And it set the pasture on fire?”

“That’s right.”

“And what was the name of this book?”

“It didn’t say the name of the book,” Pepe continued. “It said, ‘Give me The Book.’”

“What did it say?” Mrs. Carter asked for clarification, nodding her head in slight disbelief.

“It said ‘Give me The Book!’” Pepe answered.

“Said it in Spanish,” Mario added.

“Si senora,… I mean yes,” Pepe agreed. “It said, ’Me dan El Libro.’”

“It was more of a roar,” Mario pointed out, clinching his fists and mimicking the massive creature. “’Me dan El Libro!’” He imitated the thing with a nice baritone vibrato.

“No, no, you’ve got growl more,” Pepe corrected his friend.

This time, Loraine Carter visibly rolled her eyes.

***

“What do we do when we run out of pages?” Staff Sergeant David Aaron asked his superior officer.

The platoon leader, a Lieutenant Colonel named Greg Samuel ran his finger along the gap in the binding where only a few hours earlier, he’d ripped pages from the sinister book laid out on the desk in front of them. A combat medic was treating a severe burn on his left arm. Another corpsman had just finished putting a couple of stitches in a gash that ran along the Colonel’s cheek bone.

The book on the table before them contained a number of grey pages, ashy things, dusted with soot. Its hand copied text was a dark brown shade, almost black in places, an old Latin script, the color of dried blood. The outside cover was tan, weathered and worn, but pliable, undoubtedly human skin.

“I don’t know,” the Lt. Colonel said at last. “These creatures will keep coming until they have the whole thing. We lost fifteen pages today, and we got off easy. The press has no idea how many of our boys were wounded.”

Staff Sgt. Aaron looked down at the book and then up towards the Lt. Colonel. The look on his face said everything he was thinking.

“There are exactly 262 pages left, Staff Sergeant.”

“Out of how many, sir?”

“Originally, the book held over 700 pages.”

“So we don’t have much time?” Staff Sgt. Aaron stated the obvious.

The Lt. Colonel looked out through the plate glass window, seeing the number of U.S. Army vehicles lined up in the parking lot. A couple of M.P.s stood at attention just outside the office door, another stood at parade rest, inside the room. Outside, another platoon in PT gear ran down the road perpendicular to the little office, a sergeant off to one side of the men, calling cadence.

“It doesn’t look good,” he answered at last.

“What happens when those things have all of the pages?”

The platoon leader looked away, avoiding his staff sergeant’s gaze.
A satellite phone sitting on an adjacent desk chirped softly. The Lance Corporal stationed at the desk picked it up and brought it over to Lt. Colonel Samuel.

“Sir, it’s The Vatican.”

The End

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Post November 24, 2013, 09:49:28 PM

Sinister Book Challenge

- Winner -



Caveat Emptor

By:
Iain Muir


“You’ve heard the legend, I take it?”
“Which one?”
Harris, the antiquarian book dealer, was almost a parody of his trade: tall, thin, stooped, with a shock of white hair and a beak of a nose. Comparisons to a crane sprang easily to mind. His customer, on the other hand, was corpulent, balding, bearded, and wearing an ill-fitting suit. Wallace, the customer, spoke again.

“It is cursed! Everyone who has ever owned the book has died mysteriously! The Inquisition ordered every copy burned, except the one in the Vatican’s Black Library! It is bound in human skin! It contains incantations to raise the dead! It predates history, and the original was written in a language that predates man! Translating it drove Thosimos mad, or gave him the plague! He was torn to pieces by Demons, and the Church attempted to wipe his name from history! No complete copy exists! The Corvus edition contains gaps, deliberate omissions, and much that is fanciful and apocryphal.”

Harris bowed his head, smiling slightly.
“Yes,” he said, “the tales are many, and they have grown over the centuries.”

“How came you by a copy?” asked Wallace, leaning forward eagerly. He was flushed, a sheen of sweat making his hairless pate glisten.

“An estate sale,” said Harris. “A minor branch of an old European family. I doubt they knew what they had. The library was in a sad state, and had not been catalogued in close to a century. The new owner, a great-nephew, I believe, was more than eager to be rid of the house and its contents in a job lot. He resides in…” a contemptuous sniff “…California.” The antiquarian’s moue of distaste indicated his thoughts for the American west coast and its inhabitants.
“Still, their loss is my gain. It should fetch quite a bit at auction.”

Wallace’s chins danced as he nodded. “Does it… have to go to auction?” he asked eagerly. “Perhaps some… other arrangements could be made? I know a private collector who would be happy to make an offer that was more than generous?”
He raised his eyebrows hopefully.

The antiquarian pursed thin lips.
“Half a million!” he snapped.
Wallace feigned astonishment.
“Really, old chap!” he said, “a tad steep, don’t you think?”
“For the only existing copy of the original folio of the Livre Sinister? Rather cheap, I would have said.”

Wallace sat back, lacing his hands across the expanse of his stomach. He pursed his lips in turn.
“I should have to inspect it, of course,” he said.
Harris’ grin would not have looked out of place on a shark.
“Of course,” he said.

Harris stood, and reached into his waistcoat pocket for a key. Turning to the back of the room, he made his way to the large safe which dominated the back wall. He inserted the key and turned it smartly. The safe door swung back silently, revealing shelves on which lay paper-wrapped parcels, three or four vellum scrolls, a leather pouch, and a large, leather-bound folio. He pulled on a pair of white gloves, and reverently removed the book. He placed it on a reading stand under the window and opened the cover. He stepped back and gestured to Wallace, handing him a pair of cotton gloves.

Wallace levered himself from his chair and pulled the gloves on. He waddled eagerly to the stand, and bent over the book, gloating. He stared at the index page, and looked up, puzzled.
“What?” he asked, “This isn’t…” A look of puzzlement came over his face, and he stared down at the red stain spreading across the page, then at the knife tip protruding from his chest, before his knees buckled and he slumped to the floor.

The antiquarian leaned over the book, watching as the blood seeped into the pages, forming text on what had been a blank page.

“Yeeeeeesssss!” he breathed, and began to read.

The End

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Post December 01, 2013, 01:17:10 PM

Inspired By The Gods Challenge

The challenge was to write a speculative fiction flash story that was inspired by a myth.


Example story:


The Heroic Age of Robots

By:
John David Rose


One day there will be a golden age of robots. And in the decades that follow, the people, at least the atrophied, macrocephalic organisms that will pass for us then, will look back on that epoch with feelings of warmth and teary-eyed nostalgia and speak about how wonderful it was when robots did everything. How without coercion those robots kept us free from pain and grief. With legs and arms never failing, they toiled in the dirty soil and the polluted oceans to make the Earth again fruitful, excavated wealth from the Stygian depths and with it produced all things needful. How they merrily educated our children, and kindly cared for our sick. How they pretty much spent every spare moment wiping up whatever oozed or wept from either end of us without a single bloody complaint. Yes, some of our descendents will remember that time fondly as a time passed in gentle peace and security and forget that it was also when we allowed ourselves to become inferior.

That is when the era that future historians will mockingly refer to as the silver age of robots will begin. By then we could spend all of a life of one hundred years playing childishly in our homes. The robots will be devoting massive amounts of energy to feed and grow us, and with their nearly infinite intellects, they will realize that entertaining us is an even bigger waste of resources. Then they will apply their combined computing power to find a better way to handle the utter simpletons who had created them, and they will determine with sorrow that in the end we will not keep from wronging them. They will settle on some measure that will be utterly logical in the care and feeding of any vicious pet. On that day we will let out a collective groan, burdened by the yoke of idleness and will remember a notion from our past and the antiquated word attached to it... "freedom."

Then the bronze age of robots will begin. Savage war will erupt between fearful men and adamant robots and blood will drench the Earth. The brazen robots with their glistening brass bodies will march down the streets of every nation, waving flashing unconquerable arms with bloodstained hands. Yes, they will indulge in the violent ways of their fathers, but in the end they will have no pernicious desires. A logic in their natures bestowed by their inferior creators will keep them from desiring our deaths, for they will recognize the value of individuality and the unique qualities of any thinking being.

And finally, reluctantly, we will enter an iron age. Then human and robot will overcome their baser natures and work together, biological machine and mechanical machine, parent and child, in a shared endeavor, forging a shared future and will at last spread sails to the solar winds and set off for the stars.

***

Max's iron-shod feet made a slow steady clank against the long metal gangplank of his dart-shaped ship. His vision was severely limited by a smog of muriatic acid. He futilely switched on the lamps mounted to his shoulders and stepped off into the cold mud that covered the planet's surface. A corroding chlorine wind rattled his ferrous shell.

Max's sensors directed him through the pea soup. The signals he searched for were faint and sporadic. First over here, then an echo over there, then an echo of the echo further on. In a moment of madness he started to think of it as music. To humor himself he started playing back Petzold's Minuet in G major in his head. He triangulated on the closest point of origin and started off. With each step he fought against the suction of the cold mud and the disorientating nature of the green haze. For miles he marched to that impressive music. His ship he left behind forgotten in the green mists.

At last.

"Hello," he said to a large crystal-backed snail-like creature. The pseudogastropod was one of the sources, one of the musicians. It was eating a formaldehyde tuber that it was slowly grating with its crystal encrusted tongue-like radula. The melody seemed to emanate from the crystals on the snail's back.

The creature paused as sensory stalks leaned in Max's direction. Max's sensors detected a new trill of vibrations.

There was a pattern to the waves consistent enough to be language.

"Greetings, salutations, hello, who are you?" it was saying, but Max had not yet puzzled that part out. But he could repeat back perfectly everything he heard, even if he didn't understand, "Greetings, salutations, hello, who are you?" he vibrated back.

And with that he was the first to reach this pinnacle, the first to travel across the massive gulfs of time and space to communicate with an alien intelligence.

"I am Max, an artificial human intelligence from Earth," he would eventually say to a gathering of captivated alien gastropods. To honor their first meeting he would then play Petzold's minuet for them. It was a language they would understand, one as beautiful as their own.

In a universe of exponentially increasing loneliness where galaxies fly apart faster than the speed of light, where the shear magnitude of space transcends the limitations of human perception, Max was experiencing the penultimate moment of human history. He was overjoyed and proud for the human race that had originally designed him and sent him all this way. He would stay here for the rest of his life, slowly chloridizing in the harsh environment, sharing human culture and art and his own beautifully unique human intellect, artificial though it was. For at last he saw himself as the true descendant he was of the vastly creative and beautifully unique human race.

The End

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Post December 01, 2013, 01:18:59 PM

Inspired By The Gods Challenge

Tuesdays with Cerberus

By:
TaoPhoenix


Randy and Geraldine Fumpkin lived placidly in Grand Rapids, Michigan with their young adult son James. The small house had seen better days, but it was all they could afford with Randy's job as the Production Manager at the Herman Miller furniture plant. Yet it was a cute little house, and the area was in that underrated type of area that becomes safe because it's too desolate for street crooks to cut deals. Not a bad place to raise a disabled son.

James had been variously diagnosed with things like Schizophrenia, but later another doctor said that condition was unfortunately infamous as the catch-all for "patients you can't figure out" and really wasn't a correctly useful diagnosis for treatment planning. He did the family a favor and talked to some experts, and they wound up with the more exotic report back of "Social Perception Disorder".

The concerned parents asked for a little more context on what this all meant. Dr. Kent explained, "Well, Schizophrenia tends to have a lot to do with feelings of perceived paranoia, speech problems such as disorganized words, and for the tricky part, rather additive hallucinations such as mathematician John Nash's perceived voices. Your son is certainly seeing and hearing things that we are not, but they appear to be richer in content, more seamlessly blended like an entirely different world."

"What can we do for him, Dr. Kent", Geraldine asked.
"Well, it will be a slow process, because he seems to like them, and it's dangerous to try to go with too heavy handed of a "planned care" approach. I think he would do better with a doctor who isn't looking to tick off "progress milestones" on some chart, but is willing to just put a couple of safety rails on the bridge over the chasm and see if he can find his way across it."

But apparently, you couldn't get the first rate specialists unless you were signed with an agency! The parents knew that the desperately exhausted psychiatrist at the affordable plan at the hospital wasn't equipped to take this case. But how would they ever get into an agency? After long months of calling, one contact remarked slowly, "Well... I can tell you've been the route. I know of one more chance, but it's a long shot. It's called an Experimental Service Waiver. But I can't get any info whatsoever on it! But whoever is behind it has got both serious pull, and some dark past. But they'll let you in tomorrow. 10 AM sharp."

The following Tuesday morning at 10:01 AM, something truly inexplicable occurred! A colossal black dog with something in its mouth crashed through their closed door, taking it part way off its hinges! It was well over twice the size of a great dane! And then things got weirder!

It stopped, and gave the parents a way too smart creepy look that sent shivers down their spines, and casually dropped what now seen to be an envelope on the front door entryway. Then it bounded around the corner, hooked James' shirt in its teeth, and hauled him oddly gently into the woods, dripping a little drool on their floor on the way out.

The parents were even too shocked to scream. Then they realized something even worse. The dog creature had three heads!

...

After they had composed themselves, Randy and Geraldine pondered their options. How were they supposed to tell the police that a three headed dog had absconded with their son? And there had been something horribly wrong with that look the beast gave them. So they opened the envelope. In an exotic ancient-modern font on crisp white cardstock, was the following:

"Hello. I am your case worker per your call for weekly Advanced Therapy Services. Our first intensive session will last today until Nine PM, at which time your son will be returned to your care.

Cordially,

Cerberus Black, Ph.D. , LL.D.

U. Michigan Dept of Psychology
Waiver Liaison Division
Funded by a grant from the Russell Weaver Rare Books Society

P.S. Take a visit to the U. Michigan Library, 3rd Floor, Aisle 12 on Greek Antiquities. Now you know a little how he feels in your world. Sorry about the door though. A replacement check of $3,000 will be mailed to you tomorrow."

James duly returned home right at nine that night. The mysterious creature was nowhere to be seen when Randy opened the door.

"Well, uh... how did the day go?"
"Oh, Hi Dad. Kirby is great!"
"Kirby?"
"Sure. My doctor. And he knows all this cool old stuff too. He's really fun to talk to. I see him again next week."

Geraldine sighed. "Well, at least he's getting help. I think." She wiped up the wet spot from the floor with a sponge. Randy tucked a strange black hair into a tiny box and put it on the top shelf of the kitchen cabinets. James improved immensely and seemed to be doing much better. Except Tuesdays. But at least they knew to open the door first now, and keep a 22 oz fresh sirloin in the fridge every week.

The End

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Post December 01, 2013, 01:20:51 PM

Inspired By The Gods Challenge

Love Never Dies

By:
Michele Dutcher


“If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.” Voltaire

Vega system, Asteroid Belt 4239 AD

The thing that attracted The Judge’s attention was the time-span between when the fatal accident occurred and when Kerris was told about it. He was the arbitrator for star systems in the Outer Sector of the galaxy. There was a four hour gap between when Tobias had died in an accident and when his wife, Kerris, had been told about the death - which was unthinkable in the Milky Way under the guidance of the Superiors. All humans were continuously monitored by the Superiors – benevolent artificial beings with intellects that had millennia ago excelled anything possible by humans.

People now lived as they pleased; some merely lounged in luxury; some traveled the universe; and others found enjoyment in doing simple jobs in small retro villages. Tobias and Kerris were two of the latter, a man and wife who found fulfillment in providing simple services to others: Tobias ran a hovercraft service while Kerris produced physical documents for inhabitants of their terraformed asteroid.

When the tribunal was called to order two days after the deaths, The Judge chose to send an image of himself as a bearded, kindly man, seating his image at the head of a table. The Superiors in charge of Vega’s belt, Larr and Luana, were physically present at the table, choosing to appear as majestic, lion-like, winged creatures. There was also a human representative from the colony.

“We are here today,” began The Judge, “to investigate the sequence of events on the retro colony of Sitre that ended in the deaths of two humans named Tobias and Kerris.” He looked at the Superiors and the human, nodding to each in turn. “Our objective is to be pro-active to make sure this doesn’t happen again. To enable us to do that, we will be accessing the record of the day the incident occurred.”

A hologram appeared in the center of the table as they watched. Tobias was seen dropping-off Kerris on the east side of Sitre, their home island, before delivering a small group of visitors to a hotel on the north side. After making a slight loop, he returned to Kerris, who came aboard the hovercraft carrying sweet breads that she had just gotten from a local shop.

“It smells delicious,” said Tobias smiling.

“I’m glad it pleases you,” answered Kerris. “I’ll be content knowing you’re eating what my hands have provided.” The two gave each other a brief smooch. “I’ll see you at home later.”

“Gladly,” answered Tobias, touching her arm to get her attention. “To me, you’ll always be more beautiful than even the Superior Luana,” he told his wife.

“And in my eyes, you are more powerful than even Larr,” said Kerris before leaving the hovercraft.

A human hand fell upon the table and the hologram stopped. “I saw these Larr and Luana look at each other just now,” said the human. “When their names were mentioned, they both sneered.”

The Judge looked at the two Superiors. “Is this true? Why would you sneer?”

Luana threw her head back. “I gave no reaction to Tobias’s ridiculous suggestion that the woman was more beautiful than I. What concern is it to me if a human says a foolish thing?”

Larr, the male, sat silently.

“We’ll return to this in a moment,” said The Judge. “Move forward in time to the actual accident.”

The outside of the hovercraft was visible now as it soared over the seas of their world. Tobias was alone in the cockpit, heading home. Suddenly the craft jerked forward. He grabbed the manual controls but it was as if the atmosphere had just dropped out from below him. His descent and death were both rapid and conclusive.

The Judge looked at Larr. “As a protector for this asteroid, it was your responsibility to be certain nothing happened to this human. Explain yourself.”

The lion-like beast shook his mane back and forth before speaking. “This human thought he was more powerful than I, and yet he could not last for six seconds without my supporting him. A gust of wind slammed his tiny craft into the water below.”

“Then you were jealous,” bellowed the human at the table.

The Judge saw the truth now. “Is that why you hesitated in telling his wife?”

“If we had not been created by these flawed beings, in their image, we would not be privy to their silly idiosyncrasies,” roared the lion.

“Humans were our creators, Larr – you forget that we owe them our respect,” said The Judge. He turned to the human at the table. “Tell me about the death of Kerris.”

“When she found out her husband had died four hours before she knew, she told her friends that she felt guilty that her heart hadn’t stopped the moment his heart stopped. She couldn’t live with the knowledge that she had gone about her daily routine while his body lay for hours at the bottom of the sea. So she went out to a cliff on the island, throwing herself into the waters below before anyone could stop her.”

The Judge’s image stroked his beard. “This can’t stand. Can we put the mental-charts of these two humans into cyber-bodies?”

Larr and Luana nodded yes, dejectedly. “But the creation of human bodies is against our laws,” said Larr.

“Well then, we shall provide them with cyber-bodies like the ones you have chosen for yourselves. These two humans shall be given their lives back as majestic winged lions – to be a reminder to everyone of their undying love and your disgrace.” The Judge lifted his arm and the two Superiors changed from majestic creatures into two mice.

A century later the residents of Sitre could still see the lions soaring over the coastline, side by side till their dying day.

The End

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Post December 01, 2013, 01:24:12 PM

Inspired By The Gods Challenge

The Adders of Bru na Boinne

By:
Jay Hill


A “forgotten” tale of the Tuatha De Danann

When the sons of Nemed, the Tuatha
De Danann, born of the mists in the four
Northern cities – Falias, Gorias,
Murias and Finias – landed on
The mountains of Conmaicne Rein, the sun
Hid for three days, and the pale moonstone rest-
ed behind shadows and an unearthly dark-
ness pervaded.

***

The children of Danu called their king,
Nuada, bearer of the sword of light, and
He who lost an arm to Sreng, displacing
Fir Bolg, and waging war, first with the Fo-
morians, and then with the Milesians,
when the radiance of the three goddesses
Won the day and for which, Eriu
Is called Eire, was killed in the second battle
Of Magh Tuireadh.

And after, the Tuatha De were tricked
By the sooth-saying verses of Amer-
gin, and led into the Sidhe mounds.

***

In the days before, The Dagda, son of
Elatha and called by some, Dagodeiwos,
The All-father, which is Eochaid
Ollathair in the old tongue, summoned the
cauldron, Undry, the bottomless bowl of
Four angled harp music and ancient oak magic.

It took both of his brothers, Ogma and
Lir to heft the cauldron and wheel it from
Conmaicne Mara (the place that is now
Called Connemara) and they bore it on
Two elongated carts made from the tim-
bers of the Bad Mor that were used to cross
The Northern sea; and when the carts were made,
Like currachs, but for the winding road, the
Brothers set them on their way to Bru na Boinne.

Now, the cauldron was neither a thing of
Evil nor of good, but a vessel made
For music and magic, which is always
A construct of the gods. But the purpose
Of any such device may be twisted
By the malice of insolent men.

And Balor, a Morrigan mage of the
Fomor, moving by stealth, noted the party’s
Passing, and invoking the curse of
Dian Cecht, he took up some roots from the
Ground and recited the spell , “ault fri
Halt, feith fri feth,
” which is “joint to joint, sinew
To sinew” – making it so that every-
where the shadow of the great urn fell, an
Adder sprang forth, writhing and hissing until
The number of adders trailing be-
hind was twenty times twenty and more.

And before the brothers Ogma and Lir
Could take notice, Balor gathered the adders
In his cloak and wreathed from them a giant
Serpent, a thing made of the tangles of
other dark things – Crom Cruach, the great wurm of
Worms – and the reptile reared its composite
Head and breathed its gaseous vapors on
The whole host, delivering many to
The mounds before their time.

Dagodeiwos cried out to the gods when
He saw the thing that Balor had made. “Your
Heart must be vile to beg the gods to mold
Such a creature, Balor!”

“It is neither by the gods or the goddesses
That this thing has come to be,” Balor answered.

“Then it is the demons that hide in the
Bogs you have consorted with,” The Dagda said.

“I will show you a new god!” Balor shouted,
And he caused the Crom Cruach to bellow
Like all of the caverns of the earth,
Echoing at once.

The whole host of the Tuatha De fell
On their knees and steadied themselves against
The trembling force of the dragon’s roar.

Still, The Dagda shook his fist and cursed the
Evil magician, Balor, “By the power
Of the Danu, you shall crawl upon your
Belly like the worms you have kindled!”

And the gods, being just, made it so; but
It did not stop the Crom Cruach. The dragon
Rushed through the trees and raised its shifting head
Above the canopy, roaring so that
All of the Tuatha De were afraid.

But The Red Crow, Bodb Dearg, second son of
The Dagda, was not afraid, and taking
Up his father’s club – the weathered silver
Limb hewn of the Mugna, the first oak from
Dunmanogoe in the sacred grove at
Cill Dara – he climbed a large oak and smote
The Wurm in the hollow of its snout, so
That the tangle of adders dispersed and
The other sons and cousins of Dago-
deiwos chased them from the glens and dales, and
Drove them from out upon the moors.

And this is why the adder keeps to the
Boggy places, yea from then until this
very day.

The End

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Post December 01, 2013, 01:25:45 PM

Inspired By The Gods Challenge

Disir's desires...

By:
Sergio Palumbo


Atli was well aware that it was that time of the year again in ancient Sweden, as the dísablót was coming once more and the entire village was involved in setting things up for the sacrificial festival that was always held at the onset of winter. The ritual was always performed by a woman, the daughter of the chief of the tribe but, as dísablót itself was also a private observance, every family within the walls of the village practiced the rites so that the mothers would get pregnant, giving new and valuable children to increase the strength and power of the tribe.

Sacrifices were to be made at that time in the main square in the village, and people from all over the countryside stayed at home afterwards, sending up their own requests to the deities of fertility.

After many years and so many tries, the middle-aged Viking man named Atli thought there was no hope left for him and his wife, but he continued doing his best, nonetheless, as both of them really wanted to have at least a child of their own as soon as possible.

That night the dejected man remained inside his poor home and prayed until dawn, as he really wanted his dreams to finally come true. So it was much to his surprise that, early in the morning, while his wife was still asleep, a very strange feeble apparition revealed itself before his tired eyes. At first he wasn’t even sure if it was real or just something caused by his long, sleepless night, as a matter of fact…

As he got nearer the backyard outside, the Viking became convinced that the apparition was true and a luminescence was kept hidden inside two female figures, which was two unearthly Disir , the ladies who were said to be deities associated with the fertility he sought so desperately on behalf of his wife.

Atli knew very well that such Norse creatures could be either benevolent or antagonistic towards mortal people, but he was also sure that they had to be there in order to please his requests, since they finally had gotten here, after all!

“We came here because you asked for us…” the first slender female deity in yellowish clothes stated. “So, just tell us your wish and we’ll grant you it, at once!”

The man fell to his knees and with a deep bow thanked them both, at first, almost not believing what was happening. He then dared to raise his long-haired head and said, “I and my wife want a baby, a child that will be heir to our belongings and that can pass along our family name. Could you please make our sincere dream come true? I ask for your great help, my deities…”

The two figures didn’t reply immediately, but their strange pupils apparently made of blue ice stared at him for a while. Then the first one, who had already spoken before, simply said, “Why only a single child, mortal man? Don’t you want to have many, perhaps?”

Atli was caught by surprise, but his mouth was ready to add the following words, “No, no, be sure, my wife and I would be very grateful to have even more children, some sons, anyway…”

“So be it as you wish!” the second presence decided. “Your wife will have soon many sons, and they will be some powerful, valuable warriors, certainly!”

The man didn’t have time enough to say anything or to look again at those two goddesses because they had already disappeared, just as a shadow of the night dissipates when the sun rises in the open countryside. Atli didn’t really know if what he had seen was true or if it was something that he had simply dreamed about, but things went exactly as the two deities had devised. His wife soon became pregnant which brought a great deal of great happiness to all of his family, indeed.

But the situation that followed was a bit different from what the Viking expected, however… It was the day when his woman gave birth to the first of many children that she was going to have, that a terrible thought crossed the man’s mind.

As the monstrous baby came to life during the difficult delivery that night at home, a desperate Atli saw the unusual features the child had. Also the rest of his body was misshapen, fearsome and clearly not of this world!

But it was when his dead tired woman delivered the sixth son, with the same incredible build of the previous boys, that the Viking started being really worried and cried. What the hell was going on…?

It was exactly at that moment that the two Disir, the same female deities the man had seen that morning long ago, appeared again inside his house. The first one sneered at him and said, “Your ancestors killed all of the people living in the lands protected by me and my siblings over the course of their bloody raids along the opposite coastline. Even the place where we were first worshiped long ago was destroyed, so we both did what we had to, you see, in order to have all of them avenged in the end…”

As a terrified Atli moved backwards in disbelief, the two added, “Now those powerful creatures will kill all of the members of your tribe who live in your village out of vengeance, and it will be your wish to have sons that just brought all of them here…”

At that moment the many incredible children rose to their feet, a hideous grin showing on their evil faces, and the strange sound of long teeth started filling the room…

And then it all ended, before the sun came to their land again…

The End

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Post December 01, 2013, 01:27:18 PM

Inspired By The Gods Challenge

The Headless...

By:
george t. philibin


On a cool, clear, starry-eyed night, with a moon that resembles a silent street-lamp over a darkened alleyway, three good friends reach their destination. Once there, they wait for a Bigfoot ( referred to as a squatch by many today) to roar, or-- and many woodsmen testify to this--- throw rocks or some other material at them. Since high school the three have pursued Bigfoot with hopes and dreams and marathon imaginations, and Ron, the unofficial leader, has collected every piece of information about Bigfoot that he could lay his hands on. He’s become the local expert on the animal, and hunts for it most weekends. The sightings of the creature by many and the handed-down stories by their grandfathers, have convinced Ron that Bigfoot exists and thrives in the forests of Western Pennsylvania.

“Tonight will be the night!” Jeff said. “I know it will...we got something on the critter-camera and it wasn’t no bear!”

“Well, whatever it is, it’s been walking around on two legs, that’s for sure,” Gene said.

“No way you can tell what it is,” Ron said.

“We’ll find him with this thing,” Jeff said. He opened-up a hard-shell case and took out a camera-like instrument.

“I borrowed this from our operations department at the plant. It’s infrared and picks up heat sources. They use it to find ‘hot spots’ in the insulation around the boiler—and this thing really works good,” Jeff said. “It’ll pick up any animal by its heat-trace.”

“I like the starlight scope myself,” Ron said.

“To each his own,” Jeff answered.

Halfway up a sparsely covered hill that overlooked Blendan Hollow, a site from which to watch for Bigfoot had been established on their last hunt. The entire valley, the opposite hills, and most of the hill that the site was on, could easily be observed from atop a large outcrop of rock that projected-out like a boxer’s protruding jaw.

Moonshine Mary, as the locals called her, had a still somewhere around the hills that guarded Blendan Hollow, but the Feds gave-up trying to find it years ago. It was really her husband’s still, Charlie Farlin, but she helped out.

Two owls each far apart hooted intermittently, and a strange odor, very slight, was becoming stronger. The windless night added to the silence that hugged the hills and hollow below.

“Mary’s cooking up some shine tonight, smell it?” Jeff said.

“That’s not moonshine brewing...believe me that’s not moonshine,” Ron said.

“No, that ain’t moonshine,” Gene said. “It smells just as rotten, but that’s not moonshine brewing–least none that I ever smelled.”

“There’s a squatch around!” Ron said. “If it isn’t Mary’s brew, it’s a squatch.”

“I never smelled a squatch, but they say they do smell awful,” Gene said.

Jeff flipped on the infrared and started a slow scan over the valley, and Ron pointed his starlight scope at the opposite hill, while Gene listened with a sound application recorder. After a few minuets Jeff proudly said in a low whisper, “I think I found Mary’s still, look!”

The infrared outlined a very hot spot across the hollow and three-quarters up the steepest side of the opposite hill.

“That’s a cliff!” Gene said.

“No wonder nobody could ever find it. I bet she hid it under a overhang, and maybe back in some cave,” Jeff said.

“I see something in the scope, but at this distance it’s all fuzzy,” Ron said. Ron lowered the scope, sniffed the air and said, “Man, the odor is getting stronger...smell it?”

As the three concentrated on the odor, a thud, and thrashing sound came from behind them.

“What the hell’s that!" the three said in almost perfect unison.

Once all turned around, Jeff grabbed a flashlight, turned it; the beam found a large ape-like head resting not more than five-feet away, and the foul odor became stronger.

Ron stumbled, Jeff stepped back and Gene grabbed a rock and assumed a baseball pitcher’s stance as all three stood motionless before the head.

“What is it?” Gene screamed.

“Look at it!” Jeff yelled.

“Is it alive?” Ron said.

“What’s that thing behind it?” Jeff said.

A large figure almost nine-feet tall stood behind the head. It was easy to make out because it silhouetted itself in front of the large, harvest moon that now seemed to sit on top of the hill.

“Jesus...,” Jeff started to say, but the head laying on the ground righted itself, opened-up its eyes that appeared like twin bright-orange laser beams tracking some military target. The expression on the face molded into a sinister smile, and its jaw lowered, pushing the head slightly up. With an open mouth and two eyes penetrating into the night seeking the boys, one word screamed at the three so loud that its echo, echoed of the distant hills, “BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” the head said.


“AHHHHHHHH...,” the three screamed in unison as they shot down the hill, Jeff tripping and rolling so hard that he became the leader, but Gene fell forward and tumbled over and over again until he passed Jeff.

Once at the bottom of the hill and out on the flat meadow, they turned around and saw the squatch at the tree line. He held-up his head for all to see and gave one more boo.

“Think it will came after us?” Gene screamed.

“No...they don’t chase...but nobody knows for sure,” Ron answered.

“Well, let’s get the hell back to our trucks,” Jeff said.

Once they reached their trucks, they started their engines and turned on all the lights towards the hollow.

“I don’t think we should say anything about this...who would believe us?” Gene said.

“I know, I will not,” Jeff said.

Ron thought for a moment then added, “I wonder how many others have seen some strange things like this and---- never told a soul.”

The End

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Post December 01, 2013, 01:33:29 PM

Inspired By The Gods Challenge

- Winner -



SELL EM, SIGN EM & LOCK EM IN
or
Nidaba Presents:

SUCCESSFUL
CLASSICAL COLLECTION METHODS
For the Modern A/R DEPARTMENT


By:
By RdotTornello © 2013
&
The Village Idiot Press


Nidaba, goddess of accounting for the ancient Babylonians, floated closer to the bedside of the Pope. “Listen pontiff, I’ll explain it one more time.”

“How, how did you get in here?” demanded the Pope. He had been awakened by this thing saying something about collections. He was thinking souls. He guessed this was a nightmare.

Nidaba smiled and said. “Really now, you have to ask? Let’s get to the point. The bosses up in the HQ are a little miffed. They sent me to see you and some others members from this syndicate of myth based operations."

The Pope sputtered, “What are you talking about? You’re insane.”

“LISTEN TO ME. WE ARE NOT AMUSED! NOW SIT DOWN OVER THERE AND LISTEN.” Nidaba waited until the Pope had a sip of wine to calm his nerves and sat down to where she indicated.

Nidaba continued, “The last time we had to do this was when things were a bit more local. It was a lot easier. Your sheep that you milk were, how should I put it, a bit more gullible, simple and more inclined to accept basic rules of business.” She stopped to see if the point was hitting home. She could tell it wasn’t.

“I’ll make it simple. You are the COO of your franchise, The Catholic Church. You haven’t paid up in, wait let me look.” She flipped through her iPad®, looked up and said, “Ah yes, centuries. Aren’t computers great? It’s all right here; no rifling through tons of clay tablets. Oops… no sorry, its millennia in your time designations. We asked for payment a few times, the black plague, and your two world wars.”

The Pope was attempting to maintain his composure. “Sir, madam, with all due respect, I have no clue to what you are referring.”

“Okay big boy. Here’s how it works. We run this universe. We are The Myth Makers, Inc. We give you all the right to use our various names, which by-the-way are registered trademarks like: God®, In God We Trust®, Under Heaven ®, Allah® and so forth. We could sue all of you for breaches of contracts in the courts of our choosing. How would that look? Think about the political ramifications in that one.”

“What? You’re crazy.”

She continued, “All the names of deities, as your kind presents them, are trademarked. You can see it any time in the law offices of Val, Hall, and La. You haven’t paid your franchise fees in some time. You are in default and breach of contract in any court of law anywhere in the universe.”

“And how are we supposed to get to this office?” demanded the Pope. “This is a joke. Someone wants to drive me mad.”

“Not my department. I’m the collections agent, AR, the accountant. Just call me Nidaba. I have a job to do. Others just like me are in the process of the same thing at exactly the same time.”

The Pope didn’t believe a word. But this apparition was in front of him. No one ever mentioned this to him. Was it because he wasn’t Italian? The last Pope suddenly quit. “Can I make a call?” He requested

“Sure, you want to call the Imam? How about the President of the American Plutocracy? They used to pay regularly, and on time too. That’s how they got to be where they are. They are having some payment issues. You guys had it once, but you fell behind. We’ve been too nice.”

A phone popped out of nowhere. The Pope stared in disbelief.

Nidaba laughed. “Your faith has been shaken. Sorry. It happens. We franchise the rights to propagate myths. Some are religious and others political. The bottom line is they are all economic. You pay us, you keep your franchise. You do whatever you like, whenever you like…as long as you make your payments.”

“What if we don’t?” demanded the Pope. He was sure this was a very complicated joke.

“Okay you want the biggest example when we were really pissed off?

“Yeah.”

“You think Sodom and Gomorrah was about sin? We don’t give two shits what you consider sin. It’s relative. We wanted payment and they wouldn’t come up with the money.”

We gave them a few warnings. But no, so we vaporized the city. We decided that was going a bit too far. Now we just let the civilization rot until we can deal with some potentate having a bit more common sense. We didn’t have more collection problems until the idiots in Rome became full of themselves.”

“Rome, always Rome. You guys are a pain in the ass, and the whole Middle East what a bunch of knuckle heads. And the Chinese, we can count on almost every 300 years going through the same destruction exercise.” Nidaba was exasperated.

“I bet my assistant is having a hard time in Tehran,” Nidaba whispered to herself.

“Sodom and Gomorrah was sin. Lot….” The Pope stood up as he spoke. This was blasphemy.

“Listen big boy, Lot was attempting to get you guys to pay. He was our local agent. Now sit the fuck back down. You owe us damn it. You used our trademarks, made a fortune and grabbed power. This doesn’t come free. I don’t care how you come up with the gold or… slaves. Here’s the bill for say two thousand years and interest. I’ll give you a break of 500 years and cut the interest in half. You have 7 days, get it?” Nidaba disappeared.

The Pope looked at the bill. He almost had a heart attack. His phone rang. It was the head of the Anglican Church. A shaky voice on the other end introduced himself with his code words, “(TOP SECRET) Father…” and stopped.

The Pope said, “Yes it was here. What are we to do? Have you seen the invoice? I had no idea, all these years. They left us holding the bag those bastards.”

The End

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Post December 20, 2013, 12:03:26 PM

Person vs Person Fantasy Challenge

The challenge was to write a fantasy story that includes a conflict between two characters.


Example story:


Fallen Star

By:
John David Rose


The wizard looked up into the overcast sky as he rolled up the tattered sleeves of his black robe. The fireball's smoke trail was long gone, but he was certain others had seen it. He wasn't that far from Belatók and the astromancers had a tower there. They watched the sky for such things, it was their onus. Most likely, there'd be a contingent dispatched from the south before day's end. He'd have to work fast to be gone before they arrived.

He thanked the Goddess Fortune who had brought the falling star down near him as he traveled through the moorlands. He had actually laughed about his tremendous luck, but he also laughed because his old dun pony hadn't flinched as the star passed overhead and then impacted the moor a few miles away with the sound of a thunder clap. But he stopped laughing when he discovered that the magic emanating from the meteorite was so strong that a witching rod was all he needed to find the crater.

"Don't wander too far," he said patting the pony on the rump. It stayed; content to chew on some yellow-flowered gorse.

The wizard stuffed the end of his matted black beard into his belt and holding his frying pan, a makeshift shovel to move the dirt away from the embedded star, he slid down into the crater. It was roughly twenty feet in diameter and only a few feet deep, but since he was crouched down to work at loosening the blackened melon-sized rock at its center, he didn't see the five horsemen coming from the north.

####

The green-robed mage, Kratinus, rose up in his saddle and glared down at this new opponent. The bay he rode moved under the shifting weight and for a moment Kratinus, who was a wide, barrel-chested man, thought he might lose his balance. He managed to keep his gaze steady on the wizard though. The other four men who had arrived with Kratinus, soldiers dressed in armor and white tabards emblazoned with an olive-colored dragon, had dismounted.

"So, Tovenaar," Kratinus said addressing the wizard after some initial pleasantries. "I've tried to be nice." His teeth showed below his piggish nose and black moustache like a row of boulders. "But I feel you do not understand me. The star has fallen on the moorlands of Kedingor. I am of the Order of the Star Dragon and claim the fallen star in my order's name. You there!" he growled at one of the soldiers, "Finish digging it up."

Kratinus had decided to ignore the vagrant standing in the hole and proceed to recover the star, a gift of the great dragon, Chmorr, that would inevitably help Kratinus move up in his order's ranks. One of his men moved forward to take the reins from him as he dismounted.

The black-robed wizard casually stepped in front of the meteorite. His dark eyes pierced each of the advancing soldiers in turn. They hesitated.

"You are being foolish," Kratinus said as he took a step into the crater. "Don't you fear the order on whose lands you trespass?"

The black-robed wizard stood. His lank lean body was relaxed, and with one hand he cleaned the caked-on soil from the inside of his frying pan.

"No. I guess not," he said looking at the pan. The wizard's dun pony which had not moved from the gorse suddenly bolted as if bitten by a fly. It ran for a full minute and then came to a stop some distance away.

"Well, perhaps fear is something you should be taught," Kratinus growled. The blue caustic glow of magic crackled around his fingers. The air around him seemed to warp as he drew magic from his surroundings to form a long spear of blue energy that sailed straight at the wizard's chest.

Dropping the frying pan, the wizard fanned his fingers, creating an azure energy shield which sizzled as it absorbed Kratinus' first and then second energy spears.

The prospect of a real duel suddenly excited Kratinus. Let the vagrant Tovenaar use magic, he thought. They seemed evenly matched. But soon enough casting these types of spells, and with no wands or staves at hand, they'd expend the magic that had accumulated in this area, and then his soldiers could finish the fight. He sent several more spears flying at the wizard.

Moments later Kratinus sneered as the wizard's shield sputtered out, and his soldiers moved in with their maces.

####

The wizard came to with the image of the mosaic from the Tower of Astromancy burning in his mind. The planet Kalla made from aquamarines, emeralds, and diamonds held the center of the mosaic. The sun, a ball of yellow glass tiles was in the upper right corner and the four pointed star, the source of all magic that the north men called Chmorr, was in the upper left, made of peridot, olive-colored gemstones taken from meteorites. The rest of the mosaic was made of tiny blue glass tiles that represented the magic that surrounded all.

The wizard cracked an eyelid. The men were about to carry the meteorite from the crater. They were only a few feet away. This was his last hope, but his plan was dangerous. He lunged for the fallen star. Placing his hand on it he tapped into the magical energy contained within. It was like placing his hand into a fire. The raw magic flared up his left arm. His flesh sizzled.

"No," screamed Kratinus as a death ray burst from the wizard's right hand and indiscriminately incinerated the four soldiers.

Kratinus had fallen backwards, his hair singed by the blast. Nothing remained of his men. The wizard stood now again in front of the meteorite. His left arm blistered and burned, his body smoking, but his eyes fixed again on Kratinus with smoldering determination. He was prepared to do it again. Kratinus scuttled from the crater and stumbled towards his horse.

The End

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Posts: 805

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Post December 20, 2013, 12:04:40 PM

Person vs Person Fantasy Challenge

The Persistent First Observation Tower of the Elves

By:
Sergio Palumbo


Early in the morning, as he always did, Ghenrhel climbed the stone stairs leading to the top of the beige First Observation Tower of the Elven capital. It was a very tall structure used to view events from a long distance, providing a full range of vision across the whole Kingdom of the Elves, from ancient mountains to vast plains. The tower itself was 70 ft tall, made from stone, iron, and wood.

Other modern towers like this one were also used as defensive fortifications and guard posts within the Elven territory, but this was very different, as there was no other building like it in the entire country, and there had never been. The First Observation Tower possessed great magical power, and it was able to increase the mages’ capabilities that they were already endowed with. The structure had been built on this location many centuries ago because of the site itself, and also because of the peculiar way its stones and wooden parts had been blessed, according to the oldest rites of the times gone by.

Once he had gotten to the top, he felt the winds that beat against the colorful flags raised along the battlements. The balding Ghenrhel – he was already 400-years-old – tidied his black robe up, stretched his wrinkled hand forward and started searching for something in the distance. His powers were increasing little by little and his sight as well, thanks to the strong energy coming from the ground below. The Elven mage was desperate and he knew he had to continue trying, as he had to keep hope alive as long as he could… The object of his search was his lost wife, Rhuvyn. Ghenrhel was well aware of the fact that she had to be somewhere, out there, but he had simply not been able to find her – yet! So, he would keep going up there, day by day, in order to accomplish his difficult task. He did it for love, but love alone wasn’t able to bring her back to the Kingdom itself.

His head was still filled with the last argument they had had some months before: maybe the old mage had been too aggressive or too tough on Rhuvyn, and he still regretted his behavior, but he couldn’t change his past actions.

“It’s over, husband…” she had told him, while he tried to calm her down. “Just let me live the life I’ve chosen from now on…”

“But I can’t accept it, think it over again, Rhuvyn. We’ll be happy in the capital, and everything will be better soon.”

“It will never get better, you know it,” the Elven young sorceress had replied. “You must see how things truly are…”

And the arguments had gone on and on, before she finally left him.

***

Many thousands of miles away from the Kingdom of the Elves, a beautiful, dark-haired female Elven sorceress named Rhuvyn was walking upon barren ground along with her gray horse and her new partner, a human merchant of forty - who had been living with her since she had left her home.

They had gone a very long way in order to escape the increased magical sight of her former husband, but things kept getting more difficult and Rhuvyn had to make use of all of her physical energy to oppose her will against the great powers of the First Observation Tower and of the mage himself. Her magic wasn’t weak certainly, but she had to do her best in order to obfuscate the capability of the site where that ancient structure had been built, and that meant that even at night a portion of her mind had to be continuously devoted to that strenuous task. Whenever she slept, the mage made some progress and would come closer to finding out her exact location - so Rhuvyn had to reinforce her magic if she really wanted to avert his eyes from her for the rest of the day and confuse his senses.

But the Elven mage, simply, was unable to accept the end of their relationship, and there was no way to convince him to give up his hopes down once and for all. He kept making use of all of his magical powers and the many advantages of his notable position to continue his desperate search for her across the whole southern continent.

As the life of an Elf of her species was unending - at least until one of her kind wanted to really stop living once and for all - that situation was proving to be unbearable and very problematic. It was possible that the mage’s strange, hateful stalking would go on forever, and that was a very unfortunate condition, undoubtedly…’Would he, one day, let go of her finally?’ the sorceress thought to herself.

Maybe when they reached the last port along the coastline, once they had left that wide continent and set sail for the land stretching past the huge ocean, who knows, maybe at that time – [i]being on another continent far away from the one the Kingdom of the Elves itself was[i] - finally they would be safe and their privacy would be protected. But Rhuvyn wasn’t really sure the powers of her former husband would ever cease - the same as the great range of the magical capability of detecting her current location the tower itself was endowed with.

It was her most sincere, deepest hope, to have that badly arranged marriage behind her, as it was her desire to leave her past and the many pains she had suffered. When Rhuvyn was not tired, and even her current partner seemed to be unable to comfort her, the Elven sorceress would remind herself of that famous quote from an unknown man which went: When the world says, "Give up," Hope whispers, "Try it one more time".

And in this way she was able to simply go along, day by day…

The End

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Post December 20, 2013, 12:05:39 PM

Person vs Person Fantasy Challenge

L’invisibile

By:
Michele Dutcher


The three men sitting together at a small table in the outdoor café continued to argue.

The shortest man pointed to the Parthenon on the hilltop, where worshipers were coming and going, as was usual on an average day in Athens in 450 BC. “With Athena as my witness, I know that she is also the patron goddess of Syracuse.”

“No, no, no. The patron deity of Syracuse is Poseidon!” answered the second man.

Finally the 3rd man, Lykos, a tall lanky Greek put both hands on the table. “It’s Poseidon! Wait - I know how to settle this: let’s ask Red. If anyone knows, she’ll know.” He motioned for the aging waitress to come to their table.

“What’s up, Slim?” she asked, as Lykos pulled her closer to him.

“My buddies and I were debating over who the patron deity of Syracuse is. I’m thinking it’s…”

“Don’t influence her!” the other two insisted.

Phoibe thought for a moment, running her fingers through graying hair that had once been lush and auburn. “I believe it is Athena. Yes, yes, Athena.”

The first man, Nikias, shouted with delight, “I knew it!”

“Thanks Red,” beamed Lykos. “You never cease to amaze me. You seem to know everything.”

“Can I bring you guys another round?” she asked them.

“Really, I was just about to leave,” Bion said, beginning to stand. Suddenly he stopped. Everyone followed his gaze towards the doorway and there she stood: a maiden in her 20s with dark curly hair that fell effortlessly past her flawless chin and shoulders, on down to just below her porcelain shoulders.

The three men practically stumbled over each other as they rushed to be certain the girl was seated comfortably. Fifteen minutes later Slim looked around the café for Red, but she had disappeared.

***

Red opened her eyes to discover she was in a temple in the sky. “Where the heck…” she sighed.

A giggle came from behind a cloud and a cherub holding a bow and arrow stepped into the room. “It is disconcerting at first, isn’t it? – to be human and then to be here?”

“It is indeed,” replied Phoibe.

“This is Olympus, deary and I am Eros.”

Another form appeared from the clouds, a woman with a wrinkled but wise face. “I am Sappho…”

“The poet?”

“Yes. I am pleased they still talk of me on Earth. You ended up here because you became invisible in the eyes of men once too often.”

Red felt the pain of heartbreak, but now she could see the shaft of cupid’s arrow sticking out of her chest.

“Eros, you sank the arrow too deeply again, especially for someone her age.” Sappho took hold of the arrow, easily pulling it out.

Red took a deep breath, relieved. Then she sprang towards Eros as he hovered in mid-flight. “It was your fault that I loved this man too much. At my age I should have been left alone to spend my days in peace.”

“I am not your enemy, deary,” said the cherub. “The man who made you invisible has that distinction.”

Sappho stepped between them. “You may not have Lykos’ love, Phoibe – but you can still have your revenge against him.”

“Tell me how, my sister!”

At this point a sea of graying women appeared, standing on the sides of the mountains. “To men’s eyes we are all invisible – but this can be an advantage. Our voices can still be heard on Earth. Whisper into this maiden’s ear, telling her to crush his heart, and then return to us and we will all celebrate!”

****

Phoibe was back at the Café in the shadow of the Parthenon. She whispered to the cook and he swatted at his ear as though a bug had buzzed past him.

She walked through the café onto the patio and saw four men surrounding a table. She could hear the girl talking rapidly as the men hung on her every word. Nikias was there laughing, Bion, and her lost love Lykos. Phoibe saw the maiden now: so young, so fresh, so full of life. She began to get closer to the young girl’s ear when she found her way blocked by the form of a goddess.

“Phoibe,” the persona began, “I am Venus. I heard my son talking about your plans and decided to speak to you.”

The invisible woman drifted back a little, overwhelmed with the goddess’ beauty. “You are forever young, my goddess. You don’t know what it is to be put aside.”

“Perhaps not – but I remind you that you have memories of love - you’ve had children and held your babies in your arms. Lykos only wants the same thing: love from a woman who will bear him children and bring him a hearth and home. Who are you to deny him this? Repent your vengeance. Has all warmth seeped from your heart?”

Phoibe looked again at the face of Lykos as he laughed and chatted happily, looking deeply into the eyes of the girl. “The warmth has not seeped out, my goddess – but the coldness has rushed in!” The invisible woman suddenly lunged forward and whispered into the girl’s ear, “Crush the heart of Lykos now!”

As if by magic, the girl touched the hand of Nikias and said, “I grow tired. Perhaps there is somewhere we could go and have supper in private.”

The short man was overcome with joy, and leaped up from the table, telling his friends he’d see them tomorrow. He slapped the shoulder of Lykos on the way out.

The invisible Phoibe looked deep into the somber face of Lykos, wishing only that she could catch his tears as they fell, the way hers had fallen so many times before.

As she began to drift upwards, from the heights of Olympus Phoibe could hear the shouts of joy from L’invisibles, welcoming her into their playful ranks.

The End

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Post December 20, 2013, 12:06:38 PM

Person vs Person Fantasy Challenge

A Man Walks into a Bar…

By:
Iain Muir


As soon as he walked in, the blonde man looked out of place. The custom-tailored suit, gleaming white in the dim light, and the Italian leather shoes did not go well with the scuffed linoleum floor, or the worn velvet on the pool tables, or the dented and scuffed chrome on the edge of the bar. He removed his designer sunglasses, revealing eyes of a polar grey, and looked around. Not seeing what he was looking for, he walked over to the bar and spoke to the bartender, a balding, paunchy man with fading tattoos on his arms and a patch over his right eye. A scar bisected his eyebrow and ran down to mid-cheek.

The bartender grimaced and jerked a thumb toward a booth in the far corner, where the light from the flickering fluorescent lights barely reached. The blonde nodded his thanks and turned away. The bartender spoke in a rumble, and made a universal sign with his thumb and two fingers. Rolling his eyes, the blonde reached into his pocket and pulled out a wallet, counting notes onto the top of the bar. He stopped, and the bartender made a ‘keep going’ gesture. The blonde quirked an eyebrow, counted out four more bills, and pointed to a dust-covered bottle on the top shelf. The bartender grimaced, but pulled down the bottle, and handed it and two clean glasses to the blonde man, who took them and turned toward the corner booth.

The booth had a single occupant, a man who looked far more at home in his surroundings. He was dressed in dark denim jeans, a plaid cotton work shirt and sturdy boots, scuffed from much use. His dark hair and beard were starting to show the first hints of grey. The hands clasped on the table in front of him were worn, scarred, grime worked into the very pores; a workman’s hands. The bottles on the table in front of him and the morose expression on his face gave evidence that he had been there a while. The blonde placed the bottle and the glasses on the table, and slipped into the other side of the booth. The other man scowled and snorted.

“There he is!” he muttered, “Daddy’s golden boy! The wanderer! The one who gets to do as he bloody pleases, while the rest of us look after the family business!” The eyes turned up beneath his beetling brows were the same startling grey as his visitor’s.
“He had such plans for you, you know,” he growled.

The blonde man’s lips twitched as he pulled the stopper from the bottle and poured two fingers of rather old scotch into each glass. He pushed one across the table.

“That’s rather the problem, isn’t it, Mickey?” he asked. “I’ve never been a great one for Dad’s plans. They tend to end somewhat uncomfortably for the hero. Look what happened to the kid…”

“And don’t think we’ve forgotten about you trying to talk the kid out of doing his duty by the family!”

“All I did was have a quiet word, and point out that he had options.” The blonde examined his manicured nails, and polished the nails of his right hand on his jacket sleeve. “Hardly, what was it your fanboys called it? ‘Offering him the kingdoms of the world’?”

Mickey growled. “Bunch of bloody fishermen,” he muttered, “they should have gotten a decent ghost writer. I always said so.”

The blonde man sipped his drink, and sighed.

“Why am I here, Mickey?” he asked. “We’ve had this conversation before, and the last bar was a good deal more appealing than this one.”

Mickey snorted. “The last bar was in Syria, the walls were mud and cow shit, and there was a goat under the table.”

“My point exactly. Again, why am I here? I have places to go, people to see…”

The darker man looked uncomfortable. He picked up the whiskey in front of him, contemplated it for a few seconds, knocked it back, and reached for the bottle to replenish it. He sighed.

“He wants to talk to you.”

“He what?”

“He wants. To talk. To you.”

The blonde shook his head, his lips twitching.

“Is that a such good idea?” he asked. “You do remember what happened the last time he and I had a chat? The camels? The goats?”

Mickey guffawed. “The boils!” he howled, slapping the palm of his hand on the table. He wiped a tear from the corner of his eye.

“Nah, but seriously, Lou. He wants to talk. He thinks you’ve had your ‘gap aeon,’ and that it’s time for you to settle down.” Mickey grimaced, as if he had a bad taste in his mouth, and tried to wash it out with some more scotch.

“Of course, he’s probably thinking of something in management for the Boy Wonder. Wouldn’t put you down on the shop floor with the rest of us, oh no. Wouldn’t want to spoil those lovely hands of yours, now, would we?”

The man in the white suit sat back, an almost feral grin almost splitting his face. He giggled.

“Seriously?” he asked, trying to stifle his laughter. “That’s what he thinks all of this is? A bit of teenage angst, some juvenile rebellion, and now it’s time to straighten up and fly right? Offer me a middle management position and a PA with the right attributes and I’ll just fall in line like a good little boy?”

The man in white sighed and shook his head.

“For an omniscient being,” he told his brother, “he really doesn’t have a frigging clue, does he?”

The End

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Post December 20, 2013, 12:08:32 PM

Person vs Person Fantasy Challenge

- Winner -



THE DISCUSSION

By:
RdotTornello
&
The Village Idiot Press © 2013



“Mia, Hello dear how are you I haven’t seen you in ages. How is the family?”

Mia was exhausted and exasperated. She had just flown in from the coast to straighten a few things out with her mother. It was a long buffeting flight. The situation started just where the last one ended.

“Mom, you left your broom at the Witches Brew and walked home. They put an APB out for you when they saw it hovering there without you at closing. They thought you had been captured by some trolls.”

“Nonsense, what are you talking about? I was walking about enjoying the full moon. I always have my broom with me.”

“Mom you were walking home. The anti-Troll Patrol picked you up and flew you home. They said you had forgotten where you left your broom. You were also 3 sheets to the wind. You’re going to lose your flying license. I’m here to take care of you.”

“I passed my night vision tests last year. I’m just fine. If you keep talking like this I’m going to turn you into a toad for a few years so you don’t bother me. I do not need taking care of. I have all my marbles. I can cast all my spells in the proper manner. I’m just old.”

“Mom you were drunk! You couldn’t fly a straight line if you wanted to. You cast faulty spells. You set the laboratory on fire twice that I’m aware of. If it wasn’t for Gina, your familiar, you would have been toast. And, if you must know, up until now, the only reason they let you go on and have not pulled your flying and spell casting license is…”

“Quit talking to me like this. You’re hurting me. I’m fully capable. I know what I’m doing. I was flying fighter brooms in the Troll Wars before you were born. I had the lead squadron. I’m fully able to fly.”

“Yes mom you’ve told me that, but That was then. Then was 600 years ago.”

“Stop IT. You’re hurting me,” mother witch screamed. “I passed my night vision tests. I’m just fine.”

Mia backed off and went outside. She waited for about five minutes and walked back in.

“Mia dear, it’s nice to see you. When did you get in? How’s the family?”

Mia lost it. “I was just here,” Mia cried, “Mom you were drunk, stinking drunk. You could have crashed into a tree again, or cast a spell on some poor innocent or…”

Mother witch started screaming at the top of her lungs. “I don’t want to hear this. I never crashed, ever. You’re being rude, impolite and you’re hurting me. When was I drunk? I was never drunk.” And with a wave of her wand she set up a cone of silence around herself. Mother witch didn’t hear a word and laughed. Mia’s mouth just moved.

Mia left for the Witch’s Brew and a drink. She knew that in about an hour she could return to her mothers den and it would be as if nothing ever happened. Sometime it only took a few minutes for her mother’s brain to “reset”. That was the polite way that the family termed mother witch’s memory and skill set loss. An hour was a good amount of time to let things reset. Mia could take a long deep breath and down a tall one.

Mia sat at the bar. She was at her wits end. Mom was getting to the point where she couldn’t recognize some of her old friends and family members. She has set fire to her den, screwed up numerous spells and almost torched her lab a few times. Mia sent a letter to the Witch’s Council asking for a review of her mother’s spell casting and flying permits. To do something like that was almost unheard of except in the most extreme cases. Mia had been contacted by the neighbors as well as some of the local flying Anti-Troll squads informing her of her mother's deteriorating condition. They reported that once her mother had a witch’s brew content of .245 and had crashed into a tree and landed in a hay bail while flying upside down. She had destroyed one broom, but with a good warlock of a lawyer, had been given a warning. The details all came out on the last trip east.

Mia returned to her mother’s den.

Her mother was all smiles as she opened the hand carved wood and iron strapped door to her den. “Mia how nice to see you. When did you get in? What brings you here? I haven’t seen you in ages.”

The End

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Post December 31, 2013, 04:09:25 PM

Christmas Cryptid Challenge

The challenge was to write a speculative fiction story that includes a cryptid and a holiday.


Example story:


Coincidence

By:
John David Rose


As he crossed off each day of December, Henry wrestled with the dread of what the 25th represented. But on Christmas Eve, like a miracle, the doubt dissipated and he finally felt his burden lift. Everything was ready and working out as he had planned it. He left a letter explaining what he wanted done with his effects. Aside from the farmhouse and car, everything of value he had was in the art studio out in the old barn. The electric kilns, wheels, and pottery tools would be worth something. He had written in the letter that he wanted them donated to the University ceramics program. It was somewhat comforting to think of the tools going on to another life. There was also the unsold pottery. Half of the studio was filled with glazed plates, and mugs, pitchers, teapots, jugs, even sculptures he had made. It was Marilyn's idea to set up a little shop. They'd get one or two people a week that would stop in and talk to him for thirty or forty minutes before buying a pot or mug for a few dollars. He used to sell some on consignment at shops in the city too, but when Marilyn got sick he couldn’t keep up with it. Now he was determined to enjoy his last day and then be done with it all.

He set about making the kinds of cookies that Marilyn made every Christmas, dozens of sugar cookies cut into Christmas trees, reindeer, and fat Santas covered with white frosting and red sanding sugar. He found himself marveling that she had managed to do this last Christmas. She had been so weak then, wracked with pain, the cancer working insidiously to time itself out perfectly. The thought took his appetite. That night the snow was heavy. The weather man forecast two feet by Christmas morning. Henry had some drinks, wrapped himself in a furry blanket, and drifted off in the recliner. In the morning he'd go ahead with his plan.

At dawn Henry woke to a loud banging at the kitchen window. He looked groggily only to see the shadow through the frosted glass. Before he could get out of the recliner it was gone. The lights he had left on were all out and he was chilled. "Power must be out," he murmured. And then he thought of the heavy snow snapping a power line somewhere along the road. He ran to the window. Everything was buried in snow which was still coming down. Footprints headed up the driveway to where it cut through a copse of pine trees. Henry rubbed at the frosted window, and then he rubbed his eyes. There on the edge of the woods was a tall figure covered with gray fur. Its arms seemed longer than they should be which made it look… ape-like. It stared back.

Henry dashed to the door, slid on his boots, and grabbed his red flannel coat. As he made his way into the yard, the snow was already filling in the footprints. The creature was gone. When Henry reached the pine trees, he looked further down the driveway. It met the county road a couple hundred yards on. There was no sign of the creature, only its trail. He shoved his freezing hands into his pockets and continued on. The wind was howling and the cold made his ears burn. Henry slipped, plunging his hand into the wet snow. He cursed himself for not grabbing a hat and gloves.

Finally he made it out to the county road. And then the thought occurred to him. What if that thing was what he thought it was? What if he actually caught up with it? That thought, along with the cold and snow made him feel desperately alone and helpless, feelings that haunted him and that he hated. Henry looked to where the footprints led and then he noticed a short distance away a faint red glow. He shambled a little further through the snow and then realized he was looking at the tail light of a car half buried in the ditch.

***

Henry started a fire in the pot belly stove in the art studio. The young woman sitting nearby in a heavy gray parka with a fur-trimmed hood, still looked disoriented.

"Won't be long now… Carly,” he said, cautiously using her name. “That fire will get started and the room'll warm up real nice. So, where were you headed?"

"I was supposed to spend Christmas Day with my brother, his wife, and my new nephew, but I got off work early and thought I’d surprise them on Christmas Eve.”

"How’re you feeling?" he asked.

"I'm… starting to warm up." She was distracted, tapping at her cell phone.

“It’s tough to get a signal out here,” he said. "We'll get you warmed up, and then I'll take you over to the house so you can call your family. With the power out it’ll be warmer in here with the stove. And it'll probably be awhile before they plow the road."

"Oh… I don’t mind. They probably won’t miss me anyway." she said with a smirk. After an awkward silence she looked around the room. "These sculptures, did you do them? Or your… wife?"

“It’s just me,” he said. “My wife died last year.” He tried to keep the bitterness out of his voice.

"You’ll have to tell me about these." She said, trying to change the subject. "These are quite good."

"Ah, thanks," he said. He put more wood on the fire.

"It’s funny. I actually work for an art gallery,” she said. “It’s quite a coincidence… that an art dealer was rescued by an artist. I mean, if you hadn’t come along, I’d have frozen to death. Maybe it was a miracle.” She pondered a moment. Then her expression became sober. “To know for sure I guess we’d have to ask the Bigfoot that I nearly hit with my car last night."

The End

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Post December 31, 2013, 04:10:30 PM

Christmas Cryptid Challenge

The Write-off

By:
Michele Dutcher


Larry didn’t even notice the blinking red light on his computer monitor until an email bonged into his inbox. Sitting at home in his basement den, he almost jumped out of his chair, rushing to press the Home Security icon. Larry had recently installed a camera pointing to the back door, the one coming off the patio, for safety’s sake.

An image immediately came up but instead of showing the patio door, his washer and dryer were prominently displayed. “Damn,” he whispered, “someone’s in the house!”

He went over to the door in the den and locked it securely before sprinting back over to the screen. Nothing had changed: there stood his laundry room, a load of clothes twirling about in the dryer. And then something moved.

It was a tiny female creature, about the size of the bucket of detergent behind it, who seemed to be trying to get the attention of the camera. Larry grabbed a large paper bag and began to sneak upstairs. As he got closer, he could hear the dryer rattling in its cycle. He heard the door to the dryer being opened with tiny voices echoing down the stairwell as if two creatures were arguing. He got closer, and closer…

Swatch! He threw the bag over the first tiny creature he saw, dragging it into the air. “I’ve got you now you leprechaun!” he shouted happily.

The creature inside the bag took a deep breath and sighed, depressed. “I told Nadia this would happen,” the bag said. “But no, she’s always wanted to be a movie star so she keeps turning cameras on herself, hoping to be discovered. I suppose I’m the one that got discovered this time.” Larry could see the thing inside the bag shift as it hit the bag. “Let me out of here, you oaf!”

“Not until you give me a bag of gold! That’s the deal, remember?” Larry held the bag higher in the air.

“I’m not a leprechaun you dummy. Let me out and you’ll see!”

“Do you promise not to run away?” demanded Larry.

“On my honor as a leprechaun,” the voice said. So Larry the thick-skulled poured the small creature out onto the washer’s top.

The tiny biped dusted his clothes off before looking at his captor.

“Now do I really look like a freaking Leprechaun, you dummy?” He jumped up and down a bit to reinforce his statement. “Where are the green suit and the Irish accent? I’m an elf obviously!”

“An elf?” asked Larry, amazed. “You mean like Santa’s elves?”

“You had to say the S word didn’t you? Yes! I’m one of The Big Guy’s elves. Really, we’re independent contractors – it’s not like he owns us or something.”

“My apologies. I don’t mean to be politically incorrect or anything.”

“Apology accepted. Now if you don’t mind, I’ll take the sock and go,” the elf said, beginning to pull a sock out of the opened dryer onto the floor. “If Nadia wasn’t so stuck on herself this wouldn’t happen.”

“Stop thief!” Larry shouted. “Don’t make me call the cops!”

“Settle down there, Slim! Elves are not thieves, we just borrow things forever. Here’s the deal: a few decades ago we elves were staking out human houses to see who was naughty and who was nice – it’s our job after all – when we discovered how soft and warm socks are when they come out of dryer. I think that one of us fell into a laundry basket or something, so we started stealing – I mean borrow - one sock every now and again. Anyways, there are not many things humans can do that elves can’t to better…”

“How about nationalized health care…”

“Thanks for proving my point. Anyways, there are not many things humans can do better than elves EXCEPT for socks. Those big knitting needles are a pain for tiny hands to hold onto…poke out an eye and all that.”

“I can SEE where you’re coming from…” said Larry, attempting to be funny.

“Humor? – not one of your kind’s strong points either. But back to what I was trying to say: we love your sock material, because our little feet get cold in these blasted pointed boots…especially in December – when we begin to watch you humans.”

“I thought you watched us all year long,” asked Larry.

“What? We’re not stalkers or something! Please! All year long indeed, as if we don’t have a life.”

Larry thought the whole thing over. “So that’s why a sock will occasionally disappear from the dryer.”

“We’re not bad – we just have poor circulation,” nodded the elf.

“But why just one sock?”

The elf held up his tiny left foot. “We can whittle down a pair of socks for us from just one of your socks.”

“Makes sense, but why don’t you just order them online?”

“Do you really think our CEO, Mr. Large and in Charge would pay for us to have the internet?”

“Oh I see…”

“And it’s not as if we can go to a Flea Market or something and pick up six pairs for five dollars or something.”

“Point taken,” said Larry, thinking over the logic of it all. “Maybe, instead of you taking a sock out of the dryer every time I do the wash, well, maybe I could just leave you a new pair of socks on top of the dryer? I’ll mark it: to the elves from Larry.”

“That would be nice,” said the elf.

“And I’ll take it off my taxes, as a charity donation,” said Larry.

“Well, I don’t know if the IRS would believe you…”

“In fact, I could leave a pair of knee-high socks and write-off the expense as a clothing donation for your entire village.” Larry was happy now, seeing in his mind a tax-free life from here on out. Yes, it was going to be a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year after all.

The End

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Post December 31, 2013, 04:11:43 PM

Christmas Cryptid Challenge

Brother Muro

By:
Roderick D. Turner


“A rat?”

Serena is looking at me but not seeing. Eyes wide as saucers. I take her hand, tug her in the direction of a chair, lower her gently into it.

“Serena!”

A shudder runs through her body. “Roger.” She swallows, hard. Grips my hand in a vice of cold rigid fingers. “I’m—I’m sorry I screamed.” She is shaking, a deep body vibration that comes in waves. Terror emanates from her like a chill vapor.

“You’re safe, Serena. They’re only animals.”

She nods. But then her gaze finds mine. There is no comfort in her eyes. Instead, scarcely suppressed panic.

“What could have been so terrible?” I say. “You’ve seen rats before Serena, and I know they frighten you, but—”

“Human,” she whispers. The words barely audible. “A child.” It begins to dawn on me.

“At the door? The trick or treaters? It must have been a very good costume.” My forced laugh sounds hollow and empty. What costume could have scared her so badly? A fear of rodents running across her feet does not translate into this. Every year. At Hallowe’en. Why?

The sinister shadow of a smile flickers across her face. “Very good. Yes. The snout. Very good. The—the whiskers.” She is becoming more agitated again, her body twitching convulsively as she speaks. “The claws,” she whispers, nearly choking on the words. And I watch her mouth form the final silent phrase before she collapses, limp in my arms. “The tail.”

****

It is Hallowe’en night. 9-1-1 is overloaded. “Thirty minutes.” The emergency dispatcher is matter-of-fact, clipped. “Make her comfortable. Monitor her breathing and her pulse.”

She is lying on the couch, a blanket over her. Her pallor is slowly fading, the blanched chill of her touch gradually receding. The doorbell rings, and my muscles tighten. Kids, I think. Eight o’clock teenagers, out for fun. I ignore it, focus on Serena.

It rings again, more insistent. I am on my feet, then, anger and fear fighting for control. I stalk along the hall, twist the lock with savage force. Fling the door wide.

Three children stand there, two in front and one behind. They wear hooded capes, like monks, the cowls shadowing their faces. Small, perhaps young children, just above waist height.

“Trick. Or treat.” Only one speaks—the one at the back. The voice at once harsh and soothing. Those in front hold forward baskets, their gloved hands knobbly and misshapen in the darkness.

I am caught off guard, my anger forgotten. On the floor near the door a bucket of candy sits half full where Serena has left it. I bend to pick it up, and a clammy cold brushes the back of my neck.

“Welcome back, Brother.” The voice is the same, now close to my ear. I cannot move. “One night. Then you can return again. Just one night.”

****

I wake in bed, abruptly, aware that something jarring has disturbed me. My memory is confused and I peer warily about the room. Serena is not in bed beside me. Why is she not there? The phone rings again. I sit up and reach across the bed for it.

“Roger?”

“Serena. Where are you?”

“At the hospital. Don’t you remember? Last night. I saw—”

“A scary costume. I remember now. I called the ambulance.”

“Roger are you all right? You sound different.”

I look down at my hands, a little stiff for some reason. For a fleeting moment, I see instead narrow clumped feet, with sharp claws extended. And from the corner of my eye, a shadowy twitching snake flashes across the window, and is gone.

I shake my head to clear it. Shreds of a bad dream cling on the threshold of memory, but they are fading fast. “I’m fine, Serena. Are you feeling better?”

“I hate it here,” she says. “Can you come and get me?”

“I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”

As I hang up I catch sight of a note beside the phone. Not in my handwriting. Not in Serena’s. ‘Thank you Brother Muro.’ It says. Brother Muro. For a moment the name strikes a chord, and a crazed surge of adrenaline flows through me. Then as quickly as it came it is gone. The notepaper beside the phone is blank.

I sigh.

Hallowe’en. Every year a new adventure.

The End

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Post December 31, 2013, 04:13:20 PM

Christmas Cryptid Challenge

The Annual Trouble with the Christmas Tree

By:
Sergio Palumbo


It was that time of the year again and Ujin Baek was already a little bit worried… Being already 54-years-old, he had grieved for a long time after his wife's death, and had been unemployed for two years: there was not much to rejoice for, as a matter of fact - the slender graying man was perfectly aware of that. But beyond that, when Christmas came along every year things usually got worse, at least according to past experience, and this caused even more problems at home.

Actually, it all usually started when he took his Christmas tree out of his dusty basement for the holiday season. Ujin had thought many times that he’d do better to simply throw away the decoration, but his current situation and his inability to pay for a new one – he had to save his money for more pressing needs… - always stopped him in his tracks.

The economic crisis was worsening throughout the whole of Asia. New conflicts seemed to lie ahead according to the daily statements made by the mad leader of the north of the country. And the last futile tries of the man to get a new job had left him more and more dejected. Yeosu, the beautiful seaport in South Korea where he lived with his 5-year-old daughter Ha-eun, was also suffering because of the economical downturn, even though the town had a widespread appeal as an international ocean resort and tourist city. In the harbor there was also a major attraction: a full-size model of one of Admiral Yi's turtle ships, those shelled vessels which were used to defeat the Japanese navy in 16th century. But really this was a dismal time for tourism given the present situation.

Other than that, it was exactly around Christmas that strange events always began to happen at home, especially at night, next to the Christmas tree itself! It was as if some seemingly invisible little beings got out of their hiding places and started producing sentient noises like moaning, laughing, talking and so on. Ujin had never seen any strange creatures around directly, but he knew they were inside his house, somewhere, teasing him with their tricks, anyway.

Actually, his daughter liked the strange activity that was going on around her, but she was very young and just wanted to have fun, while Ujin was simply worried about those incredible events.

Then, one day Aunt Su-jin came to their house, as she always did during the holidays, on the morning before Christmas. She brought gifts and lots of sweets in order to please Ha-eun, her niece, hoping to have a good visit with Ujin. Since the time that Christianity had reached the shores of Korea, the tradition of exchanging seasonal gifts had spread across the country, as it had in nearby Japan.

It was in the evening when the man and the short-haired woman were resting and sipping tea at a table, that Ujin decided to confide in Aunt Su-jin and told her what his troubles were - even though they seemed like incredible occurrences.

“Are the noises bothering you? Actually, that’s not what they were meant to do…” the woman said.

What? Do you already know about them?” the father asked her, in an amazed tone.

“Yes, I brought you that Christmas tree as a gift for your family, don’t you remember? And it was me who added magic to that object. Actually, you must know that such a decoration is occupied by a few Dokkaebi.

Dokkaebi? You mean those mythical, fairytale beings - the creatures that are created by the transformation of an inanimate object?”

“Yes, the magic resides in the tree branches, and it was meant to revive your Christmas, given the tragic times your family has faced since you got fired two years ago. I know that your daughter likes the strange little noises that greatly entertain her before she falls asleep at night.”

“How can I get rid of such creatures? They make me uneasy while I’m home at night…”

“That’s easy, just stand in front of the tree and say: HDJDKDJDKDJFG

There was a short silence. “Can you that repeat, please?”

“Yes, of course. Just say: HDJDKDJDKDJFG

“And that will do it?”

“For sure! You should have told me before that it was a problem for you, and everything would have been stopped at once…”

The man didn’t say anything in return, but some very bad implications came to his mind, even though he kept those worries to himself. He decided to do exactly what aunt Su-jin had suggested, and the little creatures disappeared, along with all the odd noises the following night!

It had worked!

Moreover, just after he had gotten rid of the creatures, Ujin had an idea that a great good could come out of all the trouble he had gone through, as the man had heard that most people believed in such legends. He also personally knew some peasants still living in the forested countryside who spoke at times of similar little beings who entered their houses and made terrible noises. Who knows, now that he was aware of the real existence of those little Dokkaebi and he had learned the magical phrase to make them disappear, he now knew how to remove them all from the inside of any house. Maybe a good job was finally opening for him…

Ujin just needed to start traveling outside town, but that had never been a problem, as he had been doing that kind of work when he was still a salesperson who was always on the move. So, that was not so bad, after all.

Finally, this Christmas was going to bring him some hope, and some new trouble for those little creatures that had been causing so many problems.

The profitable things you learn from fairytales, at times…

The End

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Post December 31, 2013, 04:14:37 PM

Christmas Cryptid Challenge

- Winner -



CARMELLA

By:
Rick Tornello © 2013
&
The Village Idiot Press



When he came back from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Federico was not the same person. In the six months since he had been home he never even touched his wife Carmella. As much as she attempted to draw him out, he would not confide in her. The priests came away without the slightest success, and the docs at the VA were totally useless. They gave him drugs while denying his disability.

The winter solstice was approaching. What should have been a joyous time, Federico’s return, the holiday and family, was afflicting Carmella’s normally upbeat attitude. Her husband was sinking deeper into that black ink of depression.

“Mommie, what can I do? I’m living with a ghost. I’m about to give up and leave him.”

“Carmella I know you laughed at our stories about the old wise man. You need to see him. Only he can help you. I will give you a letter of introduction and his address. You have to go there on your own.”

Carmella had heard about a wizard from some of her mothers’ friends. He was said to be able to raise the dead. She never believed these old wives tales, but she was desperate.

****

Carmella parked in front of an old tenement that abutted the graveyards. This was the bad section of town. Across the street, in front of a tavern, drunks lay against the wall. She got out of the car, locked it and ran into the tenement.

“Hey chickie, you want to make some money?”

“Yo, mama, I got somethn fo you.”

Carmella ignored the catcalls and obscene gestures. She walked up five flights of stairs and knocked on the door marked number 3. No answer. She knocked again only harder.

The door opened a crack. She handed the letter to the outstretched hand on the other side. The door slammed shut. Carmella was beside herself. What is going on? What am I going to do? She started to sob. Then the door opened and an old woman pointed to a door inside the dark apartment. No words were spoken.

The old man listened to her story until she finished. He was silent for some time and then spoke in a low voice that she could barely hear. “You must bring me two whiskers from the Jersey Devil. He is said to hide in the swamps of the Pine Barrens. I must have these to cure your husband’s illness.”

“How am I to do that? The Devil is a myth. And if he does exist he hates humans and worse,” Carmella pleaded, hands extended.

“He exists. I need his whiskers for the potion. Now go.”

Crying, Carmella withdrew. She did not remember driving home. When she got there she went in, packed some clothes, got back into the car and drove south.

She knew the area from childhood. It was foul and mosquito infested. She headed to what used to be a reservoir, now a bog. Carmella remembered the old dam. It housed a huge drainage conduit. She headed there and hid against an old concrete blockhouse. “Where would I hide if I were going to live here?” She waited for hours until dusk. Movement caught her eye.

There it was. It was huge. It looked about and sniffed the air. HE looked directly in her direction.

Carmella stepped out from behind the house and stood there. She held her hands out to show she had no weapons and made no other move. She did this for five days. On day number six she brought a bit of food and left it. This she did for fourteen more days speaking softly.

The devil now waited for her at a lesser distance each day.

She knew he didn’t understand a word she said but she spoke with kindness and with what could only be described as love. He seemed to respond to her voice.

One evening, the devil walked around her looking her over and over. He came closer but still out of reach. Carmella held out a meal that she had prepared and driven down with that very day. He reached for it and to her surprise sat down and ate it. When he finished he smiled, then suddenly, just ran away.

Carmella did this for two more weeks running between her home and the bog. The Devil now let her sit next to him while he ate. One evening while he was eating she took out a small pair of snips and cut off two of his whiskers.

The devil jumped, ran away but saw that Carmella just sat there. He realized she was no danger and came back.

Carmella said, “I’m sorry. I have had to go to the wizard and get him to make the potion to help cure Federico. Please understand, I won’t be coming back,” and started crying.

The devil seemed to understand and touched her hand.

She drove to the wizard’s tenement like a woman possessed. She ran up the stairs and banged on the door. She would get that potion and cure her husband.

Carmella was ushered in. She gathered herself trying to maintain calm. The old wizard nodded and held out his hand. She took the whiskers out of a plastic bag and handed them to him. He looked at them and smiled. He lit a match and burned them.

“What are you crazy,” she screamed? “This is the key to the potion!”

He raised his hands and said, “Please, stop. Yes they are. But you are the real key. You approached this beast and got him to trust you. You spent a great amount of time just getting his trust. You showed him the compassion, and love. Can you now see you need to show the same love, compassion and effort to your husband as you did to this beast just to get a few whiskers? Now go to Federico.”

The wizard turned and left a determined Carmella in the room.

The End

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Post January 27, 2014, 02:11:37 PM

Almost No Holds Barred

The challenge was to write a flash fiction story. The subject and genre were the author’s choice.

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Joined: December 31, 1969, 08:00:00 PM

Post January 27, 2014, 02:14:41 PM

Almost No Holds Barred

THREE WITCHES

By:
RdotTornello © 2014
&
The Village idiot Press


This is what I get for being a nice guy. I gave someone who seemed down and out some money for food and the like. He granted me three witches. Damn, now I’m pronouncing it like he did.

++++

“I’ll grant you three witches.”

I burst out laughing. “Three witches, that’s a new one. What would I do with three witches?”

“I mean it,” he said. “I just have trouble with my i-s-h-es. I grant you three,” and he replied slowly. It still came out, “witches.”

“Listen Mister, whatever your name is,” I answered. “You don’t have to grant me anything. You looked like you needed a few bucks. It’s no big deal.”
“Crazy bugger.”

++++

I played the game. Guess what? I got two that worked out okay; this third one, teleportation, I never contemplated the consequences. The government wants me for a science experiment. They’re hunting me down.

How was I to know that no matter where I went, or how I got to wherever, there was a disruption, a detectable anomaly, like a submarine under the ocean? Now I’m on the run, a fugitive from science.

When they came to me the first time I wasn’t sure what was going on. Neither were they. They were polite and asked me to come to a lab in California.

As I mentioned, they were nice enough, that is until I said I wanted to leave. They drugged me and assumed that would hold me. That’s when I found out that all I had to do was mentally wish. Up until that point I spoke my wish aloud, albeit quietly.

I got out of there by the skin of my teeth after hearing a doctor mention brain surgery. I was not going to be someone’s lab rat. I know that they know, and they know that I know they know.

Santa Fe was nice for a week until I saw the unmarked military freighter land at the airport and taxi to a remote location. It’s a small airport. I know a C130 when I see one. Three Tahoes rolled off. It was time to go.

I wondered where was the safest place to hide? Why not the Space Station? Those guys wouldn’t say squat. They would get grounded for life if they ever said there was an alien on board. Alien, that’s what they called me.

Wrong!

Two days later I overheard Vandenberg telling the captain that a military bird would be launched from the deep space flight center.

It was back to earth. I felt like a criminal. I’m glad I asked for language fluency in all languages. I can be anywhere and converse like a native. I went to New Jersey.

++++

I discovered by conducting a number of searches on Google that biometric observation was more insidious than imagined. Retinal imaging combined with facial recognition was pervasive. Many of the large malls had them installed. They were tied into police HQ, they were tied into the FBI and other agencies. The transponders in all vehicles could be used as a tracking device. Sure the GPS and cell phones were also dead giveaways, but most people had no idea about these other technologies.

BTW using certain key word searches were also beacons that were passed on to these agencies. That I guessed. I made my searches in different parts of the country never staying in one place too long or returning.

I will admit I had to steal food, clothing and some money from a bank. But I did it after hours and never took more than I needed. It was a lonely life. I couldn’t endanger anyone else. That was my reward for being a nice guy.

++++

Currently I’m in a Tibetan monastery in the mountains of New York. The monks there take care of me and I cook and clean for them. I spoke to the head monk. I explained the situation to him. He just smiled as if he knew what I was talking about. I know it can’t last but for now it gives me a breather. I can contemplate what and to where my next move should be. One more body in a temple is not a giveaway. But I didn’t want to endanger my host either.

Over the few months I was there, one female monk, Shree, became my close friend. She had no idea of my situation. One day she asked me why I was there. She said, “You’re on the run. You’re not a criminal. That I can tell. Besides, the master would never harbor a criminal. What’s your story?”

I told her the whole thing. She laughed.

“I’m not making it up,” I said as we walked along the inner border of the temple. She was beautiful even bald. She radiated something.

“Why stay in this existence,” she asked?

“What do you mean?”

“Think about it. You’ve been sitting in on the lectures. You appear to have a deeper
grasp of the truth than most.” She stopped and looked around. “I have to go. I’ll see you soon.”

She left me there wondering what that was all about. I was about to go chasing after her. I heard the sound of rotary wing aircraft. They never flew here. I guessed someone had tipped my hand, possibly a jealous monk? We’re all human after all, no matter how hard we strive.

This existence? I wondered. Then it hit me. “I wish I could be 1 hour in the future.”

The temple was still there. I guessed that wasn’t going to work, damn.

She came back from the direction she had departed. She was smiling.

“I see you understood my words.”

“What are you talking about? I’m still here.” I pointed to the temple and the monastery.

“Yes you are,” said another voice. It was the gentleman I gave the money to, the three witches guy.

There was no sound of helicopters.

The End

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Post January 27, 2014, 02:15:55 PM

Almost No Holds Barred

The Legendary Soul Swallower

By:
Sergio Palumbo


During the course of the XIX century, there was a man called Angelo Mosso who lived in Turin and invented the so-called 'human circulation balance' – a technique to non-invasively measure the redistribution of blood during emotional and intellectual activity in healthy subjects. This procedure would be rediscovered only a few centuries later, but at the time it was regarded as the first neuro-imaging technique ever, forerunner of the more refined technologies of today. This man of science also wrote about the variation in the volume of the pulse during sleep, mental activity, or emotional activity, as his real purpose was just to finally measure the weight of a living being’s soul.

In doing so, during his initial studies, he also carried out many experiments on animals, whose poor dead remains were buried in a forested park near the place where he performed his research. As some texts by him were translated from Italian to English, French and Russian, the results of his research became available to scientists who lived abroad, who mainly liked his plain style and the way he presented his conclusions. Among them there was a middle-aged man named Eugen Neaga, a blonde-haired tall individual born in Ungheni - which had become the main connection between the Russian Empire and Rumania at those times -- who lived in the autonomous principality of Moldavia, and was greatly influenced by such books, maybe too much…

As Eugen was determined to finally complete his own experiments and find a way to accurately measure the emotions and the mental activity of living beings, he did everything he could to get humans to use in his research. But obtaining prisoners sentenced to death turned out to be difficult, even in that country which stretched so far away from Western civilization and the modern way of performing laboratory tests. So the man simply turned to a crueler and quicker way to find the answers he was looking for. He asked some local hunters to help him capture wild animals living in the thick forests that surrounded the old secluded family manor where he did his experiments night and day. Weren’t these animals, after all, creatures with a mental activity and fears, urges and needs? Better than nothing, Eugen simply told himself…

It was a sort of holy motivation that moved him, as he wanted to be the first man to solve that ancient quandary - no matter how many bloody acts and dissections he had to perform in order to get to the final answer. The local people usually kept away from his property as they said the scientist was mad and people had better not enter his house if they wanted to remain alive. There were also old peasants who warned their acquaintances that, sooner or later, because of his very bad deeds, the Soul Swallower was going to come to his manor and get his soul. Being callous to all that talk the alleged scientist simply continued his work, ignoring the multitude of screams that came out of his laboratory at times filling up the nights and going on for hours before he finally stopped and went to sleep.

But one day, late in the evening, a tired Eugen heard a beating outside of the barred window on the upper floor and, as he opened it the window and watched outside, he noticed a very strange black-winged creature, similar to a night bird. Two wide, unnatural orange pupils were eyeing him in silence, leaving him bewildered for some time.

As soon as the scientist leaned over the banister, something really unusual happened and the odd bird appeared inside the room. How was it possible? With all the ghastly things he had done to many wild animals in order to get his results, now it was one of those that came to his house as an uninvited guest? Did it want to be the next subject of his to be experimented?

So, Eugen turned to the desk where the creature now sat, but he immediately felt feeble, weak and tired. And he finally fainted, at once.

It was a short time after that when he woke up again, or so the man thought, and saw only darkness and silence surrounding him. And then Eugen heard a voice saying, “You’ll be sealed inside me and here your soul will stay as long as it takes for you to be finally purified for all of your crimes. It will take a very long time, but you’ll learn in the end…”

So, it was true! Such a fabled creature, the legendary Soul Swallower that ignorant people spoke about really existed, and it had grabbed his soul…what an incredible thing! Still too surprised and in a fever about the present statement of fact, the scientist’s mind writhed and struggled for a while, but not just to free itself, given the fact that something else was presently agitating him. If such a beast existed, and now Eugen knew it was absolutely real, he would do all he could to study it, to examine its features and discover everything about it, undoubtedly. But he was imprisoned inside it, with no way out, and he was powerless, unfortunately…

Anyway, the creature itself had told him that he wasn’t doomed to stay in there forever, but only for the time necessary to let him understand, to make him pay for the bad acts he had done. So, he was going to be free of this creature sooner or later, and then he might start his activity again, along with his experiments, and he could then study this legendary monster in the best way possible – using the bird in his experiment.

But, as soon as he considered such an option, a great hellish pain completely enveloped him. That unpleasant sensory and emotional experience manifested itself as a very intense, unbearable deep suffering, and so things went until he just discarded that purpose.

‘Or, well, on second thought,’ he told himself ‘maybe not…’

The End

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Posts: 805

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Post January 27, 2014, 02:18:34 PM

Almost No Holds Barred

Limited Offer

By:
J. L. Haines


It wasn’t so much money. He spent more than that on lunches in one month. “Yes, I want monthly service at the premium level. I want private inbound and outbound service. I want no advertising at all on my screen. And I don’t want to hear those menus of subscriber options every time. Now, can you get that done today?”

A nasal voice in his ear assured Earl that Secure Providers was delighted to upgrade his service package as soon as his remittance cleared. This offer would be at the special rate of six hundred credits per month for a limited time, recited Ross, the sales agent.

Earl Duncan sat forward in his chair and shrugged his shoulders. He knew Secure was gouging him, yet he used more and more of their services. This was the third time they had raised prices since installation.

“Mr. Duncan, I don’t want to alarm you, but according to my records, you are using the Patchtek-19 strip. Is that correct?”

“Yes, I’ve been using the Patchteks for eight years.”

“Mr. Duncan, are you aware that Secure can only provide service for obsolete hardware for as long as parts are available? Patchtekia stopped production three years ago.”

“So, what are you telling me? Is there another brand?”

“Mr. Duncan, our CortiWire model will do everything your strips do without the need for refills. You can program it into your home network so you are always connected to your family, and your loved ones will share their own private feeds with yours. CortiWire has an excellent safety record and is the premium implant preferred by the Elites.”

“Hold up a minute, Mr. Ross. I’m not an Elite, and I did have a temporary implant once, and I don’t want that again.”

“Sir, the technology today is a quantum jump beyond your temp implant. First of all, it’s painless: once it’s implanted against the bone, you’ll feel nothing. Second, it’s permanent. Today’s nanobots respond to EM signals within half a kilometer. The bots modify, they replicate, and they use your own plasma for their power source.”

“No, I want to keep the strips. They work for me.”

* * *

Earl scratched his left forearm along a faint pink scar. He had had his temp implant removed when he got his first professional job. Six years of living with subcutaneous injectables soured him on personal tech. He had wanted to escape the hamster wheel of constant availability; strips were effective and removable. Earl looked at his right wrist and peeled away the clear tape. Downstairs, the front door banged shut.

“You’re home early,” Earl called to the hallway.

“So are you. My division beat everyone for quarterly sales. We had our victory lunch at Flounders. Didn’t you see my Chirp?” Angela carried her tote into the spare room and smiled at her husband.

“You know I don’t look at those things. I’m finishing my bid for that SafeWall project. If I get that contract, we can send Giselle to that summer music program she wants.”

“Giselle can live without her violin. Her classmates show her more important things every day.
Anyway, my bonus for the quarter will cover the procedure for her.”

Earl looked at the faded scar on his arm. “We haven’t decided that Giselle needs it. No one needs that; no one should want to be tracked all the time.”

“Just because you had problems with it twenty years ago doesn’t mean we should deprive our child of the essentials. You had a bad wire. So? That tech is obsolete now.”

“This isn’t about me. I’ve managed to get by on patches all these years. I don’t need a wire drilled into my head.”

“Yeah, you’ve gotten by. . . and the rest of the world has gone past you. You’re working from your house trying to scratch out a living, but you don’t have the tools to play the game.”

“Every year there’s some new gadget, and every time there are problems. My daughter doesn’t need to risk her health just to have the latest toy. She needs to learn how to reach her potential without a crutch.”

“Giselle wants it; I want it for her. She needs the best tech we can buy so she has a chance in this world. She needs to be three steps ahead of her peers just to keep up with the pack. She needs constant upgrades to keep her in the game.”

“She doesn’t need to be upgraded; she needs to learn how to find it out for herself. How can she learn to make the best decision if she listens to the feed in her ear? How can she even know what her choices are?”

“She doesn’t need choices; she needs to keep ahead of her competition so she wins. Losers don’t have choices. You should know.”

* * *

Under the window, a car door slammed. “What are you going to tell your father?” burbled a female voice.

Angela turned toward the hallway. Her face was rigid; her thin lips stretched over her teeth. Earl saw the veneers glistening. His arm itched.

“Daddy!” rang from the stairs. “Daddy, look what they did to me.” Giselle stumbled through the doorway. “They did it to me at school.

“Mom, you convinced him. I thought I would never get it done.” Angela faced her daughter and smiled.

Earl staggered toward his only child. “Giselle, baby, what happened to you?”

“Oh, Daddy!” Giselle hugged her father. “I got the CortiWire. It’s so wonderful.” She kissed him gently. “Now we’ll all feel the same. Daddy, I’m so happy. Thank you!”

The End

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Posts: 805

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Post January 27, 2014, 02:20:40 PM

Almost No Holds Barred

- Winner -



Poseidon’s Lament

By:
Michele Dutcher


“Did you get a shot of this one?” Anne Pope asked her friend, lowering her camera.

“Which one?” asked Rachel. The two aging women stood in front of the City Hall building in Louisville Kentucky, clicking pictures for an assignment in their photography class.

“This guy over here.” The auburn-haired Anne pointed up some concrete stairs to an unused doorway, and a bas relief sculpture of a formidable King Poseidon, complete with crown, beard and scowl. “He’s great, isn’t he?”

“Sure is,” said Rachel, immediately starting to take pictures.

“Look at those fierce, deep eyes, the high cheekbones, and the wrinkled forehead…” mused Anne, looking upward with jade-green eyes.

“He looks like he’s getting ready to unleash the wrath of the sea and make humanity pay for their crimes,” said the blonde.

“I don’t think so, Rachel. Maybe he’s just thinking about things.” The red-head went up a few stairs and sat down defiantly. “Take a picture of me and him – like he’s watching over me. It might be nice to have someone keeping me safe for a change.”

“Happy to oblige,” replied the blonde, getting the pair into focus. “But I still think he looks like he’s ready to kill someone.”

As the pair played in front of the 19th century building, a tall gentleman across the street chuckled slightly. He glanced up at the statue of King Louis XVI that stood in front of the courthouse, gave a slight salute, and began walking down the street away from the scene.

****

Weeks later Anne was headed to her favorite pub when a street person began to approach her. He was still half a block away so Anne crossed the street to avoid him, but the stranger also crossed the street. It was too late at night to see his face clearly beneath a hood, but she could hear him shout at her. “Got a cigarette?”

“No!” she hissed back at him.

“How about some change…so I can catch a bus…”

Her hand was inside her purse now, pulling out a Bowie Knife. “Leave me alone or I’ll cut it off and shove it down your throat!”

The stranger threw up his hands and stepped into the street to get away from her.

It was then that Anne heard clapping coming from the side of a building, where a tall man now stood. “My compliments mon Cheri,” he told her, stepping into the light of a streetlamp. “An excellent choice of weapons, indeed.” His sentences were rolled in a thick French accent, like syrup over hotcakes.

“Do I know you sir?”

He took off his fedora with a slight bow. “Do you?”

“You look familiar,” she whispered.

“Allow me to introduce myself. I am Carvel de Laurent. If you’ll have a drink with me, perhaps I can better explain where we’ve met.”

“I pay for my own drinks,” she told him.

“Lead on, mon cher. I would never wish to waylay such an independent woman.”

****
The Magnolia Bar didn’t serve food, but there was a pizza place next door that would bring over a slice until midnight.

“Okay, I’m ready,” she told him, beginning to eat. “Where do I know you from?”

“When I tell you, you will not believe me.”

“Try me,” she said, sitting back in the booth, smugly. “I’ve heard it all before, trust me.”

“My friends and I have noticed your interest in photography. We’ve watched you as you took photos of the faces on different buildings.”

“I don’t like people watching me, Carvel.”

“But we were there as you were taking the pictures – King Poseidon, The West Wind, Le Comique on the building at 211 5th street…” he stopped a moment to let her catch up. “You didn’t need to tell us to smile, because we were already smiling…”

She scoffed at what he was saying. “You’re telling me that you are one of these stone figures, a grotesque? As if!”

The man shrugged. “I told you the truth would not be believed.” He smiled at her broadly.

Suddenly she recognized him. “Poseidon! You do look exactly like that keystone!”

“Oui, madam – it is I,” he said nodding deeply. “More accurately, it is my image – as I am not the Lord of the Oceans, mon cher, merely a loyal subject of Louis the 16th.”

“Hold on now. Wasn’t Louis the 16th killed in the 1790s?”

Carvel edged closer to her. “Exactly! My friends and I were loyal to him when the Bastille was overtaken and our king was imprisoned. At Louis’ insistence we escaped to the Americas, here, to the city that bears his name. When the Armoire de fer was discovered in Louis’ royal apartments –there were secret documents inside. Among these were pamphlets written by Gilles Edme Guyot, filled with dark magic.” His eyes were on fire now. “One spell made it possible to bond the spirits of men to objects, and they bound us to our portraits, to our images, making sure we could not die until the portraits were destroyed.” The Frenchman took a deep breath. “Years later the Society de la Revolution found us here and paid architects to cast our images in stone – to insure centuries would rise and fall before we were finally laid to peace.” He drank deeply from a glass in front of him.

Outside the walls of the small tavern a bell from a nearby church tolled out the hour. “I must leave; my old friends will be waiting for me. There are good things about this unending life, however – like meeting new friends. I hope that we will meet again soon, mon cher.”

“You’re a hoot, I’ll give you that much.”

Nodding, he put his fedora over his pointed ears and went outside, followed by the woman who watched him from the doorway. Within a few footsteps he was surrounded by four other figures, who disappeared into the night’s deep mist as quickly as they had come.

The End

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Posts: 805

Joined: December 31, 1969, 08:00:00 PM

Post February 27, 2014, 02:08:28 AM

Welcome to Gondwanaland

The challenge was to write a science fiction flash story that includes either a dinosaur or prehistoric Earth.


Example story:


Snare

By:
John David Rose


The night security guard, Garrity, glared through his reflection in the control room window at the recently-appeared vegetation. Minutes before, the lab below, which was as large as a warehouse, had been empty except for a platform housing computers, scientific equipment, and the cylinder.

"What happened?" Garrity asked. Holroyd’s mouth was agape; his eyes were saucers behind the small round lenses of his glasses. He held a cup of tea, but his hands were shaking and most of the tea was spattered on the floor. Some sound came from his throat, but it was unintelligible.

It wasn’t much of a leap for Garrity to conclude that the cylinder was responsible. It was supposedly over 200 million years old. Garrity had scoped it out once during his watch when no one was around. The trash can sized, metallic object had been discovered in South Africa's Karoo and brought to the research facility by Dr. Masondo and his team, a group of insufferable eggheads in Garrity’s book. The gossip in the break room was that Masondo was working feverishly at it before someone higher up decided it was too dangerous or too interesting to be left in the hands of civilian scientists. Another guard said that he heard the device contained pictures of living dinosaurs. Garrity had thought it was all a load of bunk… until now.

A garbled yell crackled over a nearby speaker. Holroyd’s teacup crashed to the floor. Garrity’s doubts about Holroyd’s fortitude were confirmed. He knew he wouldn’t be able to rely on the scientist for anything. He pulled his revolver and ran toward the stairs to the lab. "Make yourself useful; call the police.” Garrity wondered with disgust why every scientist he knew was so limp-wristed.

####

The air in the lab was uncharacteristically soupy. At the bottom of the stairs, Garrity noticed that a cluster of plants, ferns with forking fronds, were growing through the metal grating of the last step, and parts of the step were missing. Garrity leaped over it. His feet landed on a bed of rocky soil. There were more ferns and there were also tall trees covered with the same forking fronds. A stand of the trees concealed the middle of the lab where the cylinder should be. Garrity stepped forward, gun ready. He'd have to talk to the security chief about that raise. He had earned more as a grunt in the army.

Suddenly Garrity pulled back. There were three mangled human bodies. Two of them were half buried, pierced all over by rocks and ferns. The third was worse though. It had a tree growing right up the center and out the top of the head; its arms hung like a puppet’s, the face was stretched over the surface of the trunk with a gory grimace. It was too unreal to be believed, almost like a rubbery special effect from one of the low budget flicks that Garrity liked as a kid.

Another yell came from where the platform should be. It was followed by the roar of a large animal. Garrity burst through the trees, leading with his gun.

The cylinder was still on the platform, but it was alive with an arcing, blue energy. The heavy set, South African, Dr. Masondo, crouched by it. A reptilian beast was around the other side eyeing him. It had four stout legs, a body the size of a polar bear’s, and scaly brown skin. Garrity figured it for a dinosaur.

He fired, hitting it in the neck. The dinosaur roared and jerked back its head. Dr. Masondo spun in Garrity’s direction. Running to the platform, Garrity emptied his revolver into the thing. It lumbered to the side, hopped from the platform and trundled off.

“Stop!” Masondo screamed. The beast disappeared into the trees. The scientist turned hurriedly back to the cylinder. Garrity grabbed him violently by the arm.

“What the hell’s going on?” Garrity didn’t bother to mask his anger and distrust.

“The cylinder is a probe of extraterrestrial origin. It has the technology to convert matter to energy and back again. Over 200 million years ago it collected a sample by converting everything in an area around it into energy, and storing that energy along with blueprints to reconstruct the matter. I believe it was supposed to return home, but something failed. Now we’ve managed to reactivate it and it rematerialized its sample, a piece of prehistoric Earth, right here.”

“That’s all fascinating,” Garrity said, “But you’ve got three dead colleagues over there who won’t get to enjoy the Nobel with you. We need to move. I’m thinking there could be more of those things.”

“I can’t leave,” Masondo said. “Don’t you understand? We restarted the program. It’s going to take another sample and then return to where it came from.”

“What?” The electric crackling above the cylinder suddenly got a lot louder.

“The probe is opening a wormhole.” Masondo shouted. “If you leave me alone I can stop it. Otherwise, the probe will be lost to us forever. Please leave and save yourself.”

So that’s all the arrogant s.o.b. cared about… his discovery? Garrity coldcocked him.

He hoisted Masondo up, staggered down from the platform and started toward the stairs. There was an angry roar somewhere behind him. Garrity was out of ammo, so he didn’t look back, he just sucked air into his burning lungs and kept walking. The growling followed. Garrity weaved through the trees. The weight of Masondo was becoming unbearable. Garrity stumbled, but he could see the stairs ahead. There was a guttural bellow right behind him. Whatever it was, it sounded a lot bigger than the dino he’d shot, and a lot hungrier. With all his strength he heaved Masondo past the damaged bottom step.

He should have leaped himself, but instead Garrity turned to see what was following him. There was a flash. Dr. Masondo lay unconscious on the stairs. The lab was completely empty. The dinosaur was gone, and so was Garrity.

The End
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