FLASH FICTION INDEX 2: Dec. 2011 - May 2017


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

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Post April 21, 2013, 03:05:27 PM

Who Could Love a Monster Challenge

Insatiable desires...

By:
Sergio Palumbo



Zhu Anji could truthfully say he now possessed everything he had ever desired in his life: the thirty-year-old Chinese building contractor was incredibly rich - part of the most modern towns in his country had been entirely built thanks to his business; he was undoubtedly handsome; and he was bursting with good health. His body was slender, well-proportioned and he had an attractive face topped-off by a full head of black hair.

There was almost nothing that he wished for that seemed to be out of range for him: sports, car races, games of chance, he had everything at hand. But instead of simply having a good time and savouring his life, one thing was always on his mind more than everything else: sex!

He was a playboy well-known throughout his country and also internationally. There was not a renowned actress or beautiful model he hadn’t already spent one night with. After dating all the most notable and most wondrous women in China, the man had finally turned his attention to the most renowned and loved women abroad, so he had begun collecting several love affairs with many famous women from the world of fashion. There was apparently no kind of girl he didn’t like or didn’t search for: Indonesian TV announcers, Swedish dancers and Venezuelan hot babes. But he proved to be never satisfied, he wanted more and more, so his unending lust made him go abroad, always looking for new beautiful women. Brunettes or blonde, fair-skinned or tanned, of northern or southern birth, not one of them appeared to be unreachable to him.

Many said he had a sexual addiction, and the newspapers usually called him by many other names like degenerate or mad about deep lasciviousness and the worst excesses. But the man didn’t care; he liked to live as he thought best and to have a good time under any circumstances. Until one day Zhu, who was now 38, decided he was fed up of all those brief love affairs, he needed more! And something new which would renew his appetite, certainly...

It happened one day when he was inspecting a new structure built in Guilin, in the northeast region, that he noticed an ancient but still flashy mural painted in a religious palace. It represented a slim, spectacular woman with long curls and a wonderful face. Such a wondrous image seemed just to protrude out of the wall itself! Zhu soon asked the monks what that painting was about and they told him it was a work of art: it had been built to honor a legendary Huli jing who was thought to be capable of assuming human form and was endowed with immortality. She was said to be living in the jungles around there since the oldest times and was a representation of love, lust and attractiveness, even though others simply thought of her as a dangerous monster.

The playboy immediately asked if they thought that such a creature was true and those simply smiled in return, revealing that she used to appear before anyone who really loved women or was looking for a true love.


Since that moment, Zhu had been aching for an encounter with her, desiring to meet that beautiful woman, and finally it happened! One night a soft wind was fondling the meadow outside the window of his refined hotel room when suddenly the glass door opened. The man saw a slender figure on the balcony, it was a female presence, better, she was the most beautiful woman Zhu had ever seen. Her body appeared to be half-naked, enveloped in a transparent light gray dress that let him imagine everything.

The female figure entered the room, approaching the bed he was lying on and reached him. Before Zhu could even speak or object the woman shook her head to silence him, then simply touched his chest and kissed him vehemently. The man soon responded to her gesture and kissed her deeply.

It was only after they had made love all night that Zhu dared to ask her, “Who are you really? Why are you here?”

She told him: “I’m the Huli jing called Gui. Your yearning invoked me yesterday and here I am, with you!” The answer pleased the man, but before she said anything --in his heart-- he already knew the answer.

It was only early in the morning that the woman arose from the bed,went towards the glass door again and exited the hotel room.

“Will you be back, my love?” Zhu asked her.

“Every night, for as long as you stay here, my dear…” the other smiled. So the man was reassured and stayed in bed for a while.

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

The Huli jing moved away from the hotel, completely unseen, and walked into the jungle nearby. She followed a hidden path through the undergrowth that only Gui seemed to be able to see. Then she entered a clearing where she found another older Huli jing, just like her. The Elder’s hair was darker, and the head of the other one looked more slender and pointed.

“How is that love interest of yours going?”

“Not bad, he’s already mine! You know, humans are narrow-minded. After all, he should be glad that I’m not a profiteer or a gold-digger who would waste all his resources by always asking for more and more, for gifts like precious stones, necklaces and expensive dresses…”

“It’s very good for him, after all, that you’re not that kind of creature.”

“No, I’m not…I just satisfy my senses by draining all of his life energy, day by day, slowly, until the moment comes when he will only be an empty shell in the end…”

“So the story goes, he gets what he thinks he needs…”

“…and I get all the rest, as usual,” Gui sneered.

Precious stones and expensive gifts would have cost him much less, for sure…” the other Huli jing considered.


The End
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Post April 21, 2013, 03:08:15 PM

Who Could Love a Monster Challenge

- Winner -



The Green Grass of Home

By:
Michele Dutcher



“Darn it Daisy Dukes! Why do they make those commercials so loud?” The woman holding the cleaver stopped chopping the meat on the counter, putting her arms over her ears.

“Buzz, Buzz, buzz,” blared the sound coming from the living room.
The small dog sitting on a chair in the corner whimpered and the irritating sound subsided.

“That’s better,” said the woman, returning to chopping up the chicken, separating the wing from the breast. She floured the portion and dropped it into the hot grease in the frying pan.

She looked out the small window over the sink and marveled at the gently rolling hills in the distance. “I never knew how much I missed Virginia until you convinced me to move back home.” She looked over at the medium-sized border collie who perked up her ears. The pair happily listened to the sound of the chicken sizzling in the pan.
“Daisy Dukes, could you go out to the back room and get some more meat from the freezer?” She looked at the dog who cocked her head sideways, inquisitively. The woman chuckled at her joke while washing her hands. “Oh that’s right – you’re just a widdle biddy puppy, aren’t you?” She walked over to the dog and scratched behind its right ear. “Who’s mama’s good dog? Who is it? Who is it?”

“It’s me,” replied the dog.

“Yeah, that’s right – it’s Miss Dukes.”

The woman walked to the back door, held her breath, and opened it. She stepped through the air lock, into the domed, silver room – grabbing a chunk of meat before going back inside her kitchen. Maggie threw the frozen meat into the sink and began running hot water over it, hoping to quick-thaw it. She looked out over the darkening hills in the distance, where a crescent moon was rising.

“That’s odd,” she said with wonder. “Where’s the other moon? Oh, that’s right, this planet only has one satellite.” She looked over at the dog that watched her with huge brown eyes and chuckled nervously. “I’m so silly. Of course Earth only has one moon. What was I thinking, silly me.” She turned off the burner on the stove and began putting part of the fried chicken into the dog’s food bowl, who immediately came over to eat up the tasty meal.

She put a plate full of fried chicken and lima beans on the table and began to enjoy the meal as well. “I had the strangest dream last night, Daisy. I dreamed I was living on Mars – yes Mars! I was in a tiny dome and there were other people there who were running and – well, then I was the only one left.”

“I had that same nightmare,” said the dog. “And in my dream, I came to rescue you – making sure that the rest of those bad people didn’t hurt you. And then you saved me by making sure I had plenty to eat.”

“That’s right. And doggies need meat to keep them strong.” The woman was busy now cleaning up the kitchen, loading her dishwasher. “I’m so glad you helped me get back home. I was so unhappy, waiting, waiting for those other people to arrive – and they just didn’t come. You know how much I hate to wait on people. It’s just as easy to be ten minutes early as ten minutes late!”

Why hadn’t more humans come to Mars as planned? Why hadn’t the colonists heard from Earth in over two years? Had the people of Earth finally killed each other off? Had there been a plague? More than likely the funding had been cut as people simply lost interest, leaving the ten people on Mars to live out their lives alone, with no hope of rescue, in their very expensive prison.

The dog looked up for a minute, and the woman began laughing. “Imagine me back on Mars! What a nightmare! I’d much rather be right here with my widdle biddy Daisy Dukes.” She leaned over to pet the black and white furry animal on the back and noticed the dog felt like cold wet leather. She pulled her hand back quickly, but softened, as she stared into the dog’s big brown eyes.

“I love you Miss Dukes. If you eat all that I’ll fix you some more.”
Maggie went over and sat down at the table to finish her supper.

While the human was busy eating her supper, the Glasathon finished and sat down on its behind, curling its six legs around it. He looked at the woman that some would have called a monster for killing others of her species in this tiny outpost of humanity. But no one could have known how lonely she was with only the other humans for company. No one could have known how much she longed to look out a window and see the rolling green hills of her cozy home. The small creature still marveled at the depth of what she labeled ‘homesickness’, and her love for the tiny, furry animal she had left behind on Earth.

But that was okay. Soon the swarm would come and the Glasathonians would pick him up on their way to Earth, and they would all profit from the borrowed images inside Plunth’s mind. He looked again at the delusional woman and realized that somewhere, deep down, he loved this monster who cared so much about him. And she really was an excellent cook. He hoped his comrades would come soon, so he wouldn’t have to drag her down and rip her apart, devouring her like they had devoured every member of the colonists of Mars Won.


The End
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Post April 21, 2013, 03:11:05 PM

Superhero Bob Challenge

The challenge was to tell the story of a superhero named Bob or Bobbi.
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Post April 21, 2013, 03:13:03 PM

Superhero Bob Challenge

Saving The World

By:
I. Verse



The girl checking tickets at the gate is very pretty. She has jet black hair in a perfect bob cut. I can’t take my eyes off the way it moves with the tiny motions of her head. When I get to the front of the line and hand her my ticket, I smile broadly at her. I get a tiny smile in return, the kind that comes without teeth. I take my ticket stub and walk away down the gantry with an irrational feeling of disappointed. If she knew that I was saving the world maybe she’d like me better. Maybe it was her hair, I can’t stop thinking about it. Maybe my wife’s hair looked like that.

“Why are you so sure you were married?” Doctor Cob said when I asked about my wife. It’s wasn’t his real name, just like Bob Howard isn’t mine. I showed the Doc my ring finger and the circular indentation around it.

“She died,” the Doc said, his voice flat. “Everyone in the programme is alone, no family, no connections. That’s how it has to be. That’s why you volunteered.”

I can’t remember anything before they made me a superhero, I can’t even remember my wife, so how can I be sure I volunteered? I never asked the Doc that. You don’t become a superhero if you haven’t got the right attitude.

I’m in business class for a change, which is good because it’s long haul to Toronto. Saving the world means flying all over it. I find my seat, settle in. Nothing to see folks, no need to thank me, just doing my job. Breath in, breath out.

They turn the lights up bright about two hours before we land. I watch the news. There are food riots in Spain and France, diplomatic relations between Russia and Finland have broken down again. There’s more on the famine in Africa, There’s always famine in Africa but never this bad, images of babies with swollen bellies and flies drinking from their eyes. The world’s on a knife edge, too many people and not enough resources. World war three is just around the corner, nuclear Armageddon. It’s my job to stop that happening.

As I walk out of the gate at arrivals, a cute blonde detaches herself from the crowd.

“Bob! Bob!”

She waves energetically, face lit up with a huge smile. She grabs me in a fierce hug when I get near.

“Oh, it’s good to have you back. I’ve missed you so much,” she gushes for anyone close enough to hear. “Come on, I’m parked in short-term.”

I’ve never met her before, or maybe I have but I don’t remember. Maybe she’s my wife. When we’re away from the crowd, marching across wet concrete towards the parking structure, she drops the act.

“I’m Andi. You’ve got a fourteen hour stop-over and then tomorrow you’re flying to Beijing via London.”

I should do the challenge and response thing but I’m too tired. She drives me to a hotel, it’s mid-range, non-descript. Up in the room there’s a double bed and it makes me wonder if I’ll be alone that night.

Andi’s got a whole new set of luggage for me, new clothes, new passport.

“You’re a tourist, going to see the sites,” she tells me as I change out of the dark grey business suite and into jeans and a cotton shirt. She sits me down, puts one of those big, fluffy hotel towels around my neck and cuts my hair. Then she tints it a shade lighter.

I check my new passport, look at the picture inside. It’s me but I don’t recognise myself. I never do, even when I look in the mirror. I look average, bland, unassuming. It’s one of my superpowers. My new name is Bob Holborn. It’s always Bob something.

“Are you staying?” I ask, when she’s finished drilling me on my new identity.

She doesn’t say anything but she leans in and kisses me. I’m not sure it’s what I want but I don’t like to offend her, she’s only doing her job. She doesn’t know I’m a superhero or about my mission. She doesn’t know about the programme that’s plotting my routes, directing me on flights through the major transport hubs and population centres all over the world.

Sometimes, I like to think I’m the only one but I know there are other superheros like me. She might even be one. She might have the same superpower. I hope so because otherwise she’ll probably be dead in a couple of months. That makes me feel bad so I hope that maybe she’s one of the lucky ones instead. I hope that Andi is one of those who gets sick but don’t die, whose body can destroy the lethal virus I carry. That’s my main superpower, I can carry the virus in my body without getting sick and without my immune system destroying it.

In the morning, I grab a paper from the lobby as we leave. The headline says that even though the population has topped ten billion, the new Pope still refuses to allow Catholics to use contraception until they’ve had at least two children. We’re killing ourselves, we’re sucking the planet dry, but I’m going to save us. I’m going to save the world by killing ninety percent of the human population before we get a chance to nuke everything back to radioactive slime.

Andi kisses me as she drops me off in front of arrivals and waves goodbye through the open window as she drives away. It’s a nice touch. I hoist my backpack and walk into the crowded lobby, checking the information board.

I’m a superhero, I’m saving the world. This is my mission; breath in, breath out.


The End
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Post April 21, 2013, 03:14:38 PM

Superhero Bob Challenge

The Tale of Bob

By:
R. Tornello
&
The Village Idiot Press



Once upon a time, almost before recorded history, but not quite, in the time of Gilgamesh there lived a weaver of cloth named Gorfflemychu. Gorfflemychu, which means bright flame, is also the meaning of the name Bob. In order not to make things too confusing to our modern readers and listeners who have no passing conversational ability in Babylonian, we’ll keep his name as Bob.

Now as I mentioned, Bob was a weaver of cloth, as was his father, and father’s father before him, and even so down before recorded time. They made a decent living. Bob had a wife and many children. His skill as a rug maker was known locally and throughout the Fertile Crescent. Bob was a content human.

One day while teaching his number one son, also named Bob, the secrets of the trade, the boy-man who would inherit all that was his, primogeniture being the custom and law of the time, there came a stranger to the entrance of Bob’s establishment.

Bob the father, not the son, greeted the visitor with respect, as was his wont, whether or not the person in front of him was wealthy or not. “All people deserved respect,” the father would tutor the younger Bob.

Bob welcomed the man in. “Sir some drink, wine, beer, dates and other fine eatables as you might like after your trip. For surely sir, I would know if you were from these parts. Please rest. We’ll talk business only after you’re rested and fed.” This was the custom and Bob adhered to it.

The guest was very pleased. He displayed no trapping of wealth and was delighted that this rug maker, this worker of cloth treated him as a though he were a king. “Your honesty, generosity and fairness are known far beyond anywhere you can imagine,” said his guest.

“You are too kind. I am honored,” answered Bob.

Finally after food and drink a plenty the guest began,“ I come to you, maker of rugs because of your reputation, ability, skills and fairness which I have seen enough to know is as true as has been proclaimed. I would like you to make me a carpet of the best materials known in the world. Spare no expense.” And so saying dropped 7 bags of gold. “This should be deposit enough,” declared the guest.

“Sir, I’m not sure I am up to what I believe you might be looking for, and were I,” he said pointing to the seven bags of gold continued, “your deposit is more than I would charge.”

The guest laughed and said, “It might be more than you would charge but consider this my payment for your future efforts and current hospitality. When do you believe you will have it completed?”

Bob was quiet for some time thinking about some of the dreams he had had and the designs that had run through his mind. He would wake up from his dreams and press his cuneiform stylus onto the wet clay he kept by the bedside for his ideas. “It will be months at best.” He hoped this would not upset his guest but this was a tall order.

The guest said with a smile, “I will return in a half a year’s time.” He rose to his huge full height, which in our day would be reckoned as close to seven feet tall. He bowed and left.

Bob stood there wondering what, how and when this task could be completed. His son witnessed the whole proceeding. His wife, when she heard the story and saw the gold as proof of the guest’s sincerity said, “You’ve trained a number of people in the art. Hire them to do the basic work. You can put the finishing touches. You can afford to pay them and work this project. You have six months.”

Six months pass:

To the day the guest arrived and was treated in exactly the same manner. After the formalities, Bob said, “Please come with me and let me show you what I have made for you. I prayed to the gods for inspiration. I hope this meets with your desire and approval.” He pulled a curtain back away from a large loom that was specially fabricated for this project.

The guest looked, walked around the item, nodding all the while inspecting the thread count, the weave, the colors, seven times. At the end of the seventh time he stopped and looked down at Bob. He said, “This is the work of a god, not a human. I am blessed and for such a work I will impart a secret to you and you alone that you may impart to your first born only, and he to his, for ten generations.” He whispered in Bob’s ear. Bob turned a shade like that of alabaster.

Bob stood there quietly as his guest left, sitting upon the rug which flew off.

Bob made more rugs with the flying skills but only for guests who showed the proper identification that his first guest indicated would be a sign.

Many years later:

Bob was old and dying. His son now ran the business in the same manner and fashion as his father had done. One day just before Bob’s passing to the great unknown, his son asked him, “Father, you promised to tell me how you did this. What is the secret of the flying rugs?”

Bob motioned for his son to come closer. He whispered most of the secret. The effort was too great and in his final breaths said, “You must name the one who will inherit your business with the name Bob, for not only is it in the magic I just passed on to you, but it’s also in the magic of the name Bob. Son, you have to be both a Bob and weaver.”

As Bob said these last words, in the heavens the thunder rolled and the lightening flashed and crashed.


The End
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Post April 21, 2013, 03:16:03 PM

Superhero Bob Challenge

- Winner -



Georgia on Their Mind

By:
Sergio Palumbo



Wangombe was a bit pensive that morning. The middle-aged African man sat on a sturdy plastic chair in the airport lounge, waiting for the next flight which had been delayed to 10:30 A.M. Many thoughts were on his mind, mainly worries about the things he had to do that day, along with several duties to be accomplished before returning home. But what troubled him most was the fact he was unable to remember some of the events that had occurred the previous week while he was staying in Boston.

Actually, he remembered very well that he had encountered a very beautiful, local woman with dark curly hair, her name was Georgia, and they had had a brief love affair. But most of the recollections of that short relationship seemed to have been lost. How was that possible? ‘Am I becoming ill?’ he asked himself. ‘Is something affecting my mind?’ The only thing he had decided so far was to have a full check up as soon as he got back to his country in Africa.

He remembered some whispers, words spoken at night, his mouth descending on Georgia's neck as the two danced all night. The man would say that there was something more than those wondrous eyes, those moments he experienced, those beautiful features, but he simply couldn’t remember the rest. What a strange fact that such a brief love affair had left such sensations in him, that Georgia could make such feelings arise in him, while wavering on his mind so deeply. Maybe it was true what many said, ‘Love is like the wind, you can't see it but you can feel it.’

Or maybe it was just that Georgia had left a very good impression on him, and the memory of her would stay in his mind for a long time.

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

Sitting on a chair in the same Airport Lounge, opposite the one where the African middle-aged man was, the slender blonde curly-haired young woman was reading the daily newspaper on her tablet, glancing from time to time at the foreign individual who was waiting for his flight. She was clearly able to see that Wangombe didn’t recognize her, he didn’t remember her true features. All he knew were the false ones she had engraved upon his memory.

But she was also a bit sorry, not just for him but for herself. Among all the many men she had previously encountered because of her job, and that she had made fall in love with her for a short time, that African stranger held a special place in her heart. On the other hand, she knew she would never see him again.

“I could drown into your eyes…” he had told her the last night.

“The same for me…” she had replied.

“Would you come to visit my country” the man had asked the woman.

“I’ll do, one day or another…” she lay.

It was strange to think that Wangombe would always remember her as Georgia, and Georgia’s false features would stay on his mind for as long as he lived, exactly as she had wanted them to be, thanks to her psychic abilities.

Actually, her name wasn’t Georgia at all, but Bobbi Roberts and she worked for the government Special Missions Committee One. Being endowed with special powers, the same as all the others enlisted as agents in the office, she considered herself one of the real superheroes defending their homeland, even though she was unknown to the common people.

Individuals like Bobbi were working throughout the entire country, searching for the targets they were assigned to, making those people love them and acting as hidden spies in order to know all the secrets that those people had: all in the service of the foreign diplomatic corps. Of course, in order to accomplish their tasks, agents endowed with special powers like her had to stay in close vicinity with the subject they had to study, and there was no better way than to initiate a love affair. Afterwards, the woman took out of his mind the memory he had of her, and instilled into his head the false features of the lover he thought he had been with during that time…that was all! At times, however, things proved harder than usual, as today was going to be.

This was exactly the case with Wangombe, as he was a very handsome man from the diplomatic corps of an African country which was involved in many ongoing espionage activities and bloody wars. But as the middle-aged man would forget her true features forever, it wasn’t so easy for her. On the other hand, she thought she had really fallen in love with him, and she was unable to use her ability on herself to forget the feelings she had for him. How ironic it seemed!

He would never remember her real face, no matter how hard he tried, while Bobbi couldn’t forget his features, not now or for the future, of course.

Previously, Bobbi had done the same to Frank, the Antiguan businessman; to Prokhor, the Russian showman and to Takeo, the Japanese CEO, anyway. Also on their mind there was a Georgia at present…

Bobbi had willingly put her superpower at the service of her country, because she really believed in homeland security, but everything had its price. So this morning she sat in that Airport Lounge, in front of that man, in order to make sure that her job had been successful. Sad to say that it really seemed to be so, as Wangombe didn’t even recognize her, nor did he remember her true eyes and her blonde hair. He could only remember the false memory she had given him.

And the woman knew that no means existed in the world to reverse such a mental process. Sad, unfortunately, was also the saying of that famous American author: What is once well done is done forever...’


The End
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Post April 24, 2016, 05:03:10 PM

Re: FLASH FICTION INDEX 2: Dec. 2011 - ?

This challenge was run by Eddie Sullivan.

The challenge was to tell a story one could tell around campfire that started with " The stupid light was shining right in my eyes." The story had to end with "I think it is finally over. It is too dark too see and I am too scared to look."


Example story:




Hump Hungry

By:
Eddie Sullivan



The stupid light was shining right in my eyes.

“God damn it Jimmy, stop screwing around with that thing and hold still. I’m trying to paddle here.”

“Sorry Rick, this lake is creepy. I ain’t sure it is worth it doing this.”

“It is worth it. You don’t know any better cause you're a virgin.”

“Am not!”

“Whatever! You haven’t even seen a girl naked!”

“Yes, I have!”

“Your sister don’t count!”

“Take it back Dick!” Jimmy jumped up toward the front of the canoe swinging the light.

I pushed him back with the paddle. “Sit down asshole. The boat will tip and I don’t feel like swimming tonight!” I placed it back in the water and kept paddling. “This camp is for cheerleaders. We are so getting laid! Cheerleaders love Eagle Scouts. It’s the uniform. Also if you ever call me Dick again I’m gonna crack you in the head with this and leave you to drown.”

“Screw you Dick!”

“What did I just say!” I swung the paddle back up at Jimmy.

“I wasn’t making fun of your name, I was calling you a dick!”

“Whatever. I should have taken Stu across the lake.”

“Maybe you should’ve. This lake is creepy as shit.” Jimmy swept the light over the water back and forth. “Why did they ever put a Scout camp on Crystal Lake anyway? Haven’t they ever seen that movie?”

“The camp was here before those movies, sissy. Are you really telling me you are afraid of slashers in masks?”

“It is just scary, okay?”

“Your just faggy, okay?”

“Asshole. How much longer? I gotta pee.”

“You would. The guy I talked to at Jamboree in Connecticut said it was dead straight across the lake and a little west. We should be there any time now.”

Jimmy heard a low wailing sound. “Shit what was that. Let’s go back!”

“You are such a wuss. That was a loon. They are all over the lake. I swear I don’t even know why we are friends.”

Jimmy flashes the light around on the water. “Oh yeah a loon. I knew that.”

“Yup. Sure.”

“Hey look a light.”

“Where?”

“Over there off to the right.”

“Yeah I see it. I will paddle us over. Welcome to the promised land my man. Time to get lucky.”

We drifted quietly to shore and landed our dingy. It was time to get our feet wet. I jumped right in, but Jimmy hesitated. “Hey Rick, what if they freak out about us being here.”

“You worry too much. We brought beer, they will love us. C’mon jackass!”

He got out of the boat like the little princess he is, trying to jump to dry land without splashing in the water. “ Just help me pull it up on shore will ya!”

“I’m trying’ to.”

“Come on the light is over this way.”

We walked towards the flickering light and started to hear music. It was heavy drums and girls shrieking. “Damn man, they are throwing a party. I bet it’s an orgy!”

“Rick, why would they be throwing an orgy at an all girls cheerleading camp?”

“You really are a special kinda stupid ain’t ya? You ever heard of lesbians? They got no boys so they have their fun with themselves!”

“That can’t be true. That is just something that happens in dirty movies.”

“Listen to that screaming, giggling and moaning and tell me I’m wrong.” Sure enough we got to the edge of the bushes and of course I was right. There was the heavenly sight of cheerleader upon cheerleader as naked as God made them. They were bouncing around gyrating to the drum music. They were kissing and painting each other’s naked bodies with paints. Some of them were eating great big hunks of meat like primitive sexual cavewomen. I heard Jimmy suck in a breath. “I know. That my friend is an orgy!”

Jimmy didn’t even seem to be looking at the naked chicks. He was pointing at their bonfire. Hung over the fire was Greg, a scout who had gone missing on a hike that day. We hadn’t given enough of a shit about Greg to cancel our rendezvous with sexual destiny. Jimmy started whimpering. “What are they doing? Are they eating him?” They had worked through Greg’s legs but much remained of him over the fire. I looked closer and the girls all had their teeth filed to points which gleamed by the light of the fire and the moon.

“Jimmy, we have to back away, run to the boat.” I had already started backing away as I said that. Jimmy was not the cool, collected type. I knew this so I wasn’t really surprised at what came next. He screamed. He screamed so loud the girls heard him over the music and turned toward us. Time to haul ass!

I turned and made a run for it. Jimmy wasn’t out running me! I heard the girls screaming behind us. It sounded like that crazy bad ass Arab chant from movies and shit, but not quite. I saw things coming through the dark to the front and sides of me.

“Shit Rick, those are arrows!”

“Keep running!”

I heard a thunk and Jimmy fall. He was screwed. My legs were pumping. Maybe they would stop to take care of him. I saw the dingy. Almost home free. I ran down the beach and hoped in. That damn boat was ten feet out just from my momentum. I grabbed that paddle and started digging in to that water! I heard splashing. They couldn’t possibly be swimming!

I paddled till my heart felt like it would burst. I could barely move my arms. I had got out of there so quick I didn’t even see where I was headed. I realized Jimmy had the flash light. They could be swimming after me.

I think it is finally over. It is too dark too see and I am too scared to look.


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Post April 24, 2016, 05:04:17 PM

Campfire Games

Nothing to See

By:
Robin B. Lipinski




The stupid light was shining right in my eyes. Yes, you heard me, light as in bright, penetrating light which was not white but rather of the intense blue kind one sees while welding without a welders mask.

“Ah, you’re full of crap as usual Bruce, and I bet you’re going to say it is your PTSD you got while in Iraq which caused you to talk about the rocket attack again.”

“Yeah, he’s right Bruce, you’re full of crap…Hey, your marshmallow is burning, ha!”

Shit, I hate when my marshmallow turns into a sugary mass of molten goo. Damn…Ouch, damnit.

Sounds a little stupid right? I mean come on, three guys sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows when they should be shacked up with some women with no morality and love hot, sweaty sex.

Now, let me tell you something. You’re probably a writer, right? Probably a pretty bad one if you’re spending more time on the internet reading other writers work then working on your own…Oh, I see I hit a nerve, well truth can sometimes hurt. I bet you’ve even attended some writer’s camp where some, ‘guru’ was talking to you about how you can better your writing? Maybe giving you tips on how not to talk in your writing as if the first person? Yep, thought so, and…

Ouch, ooh, ah this marshmallow is beyond redemption and that bright light is still hurting my head. Wait a minute, where is that voice coming from talking about writers?

“Who ya talking to Bruce, you’re a loon for sure!”

“Yeah, a loon, awoooo! Probably gonna burn your next mallow too, ha.”

Oh, this is good, Bruce is burning his snack, his friends are making fun of him and I get to fuck with them. Who am I? You know, oh you know full well…

Who is there? Are you guys playing a trick on me? Come on, I bet you brought that idiot, Rick out here to mess with my mind. Rick, come on out of the bushes you dweeb, I know it’s you.

This is the part where the narrator paints a picture with words and music. You can now see in your mind a dark, forestry setting, the deep slow bass of a throbbing drum along the moon hidden behind a cloud, plus there is the potential of a prankster named, Rick hiding in the bushes, but you would be wrong as there is no prankster, just three guys sitting around a campfire, and of course, me.

Okay Rick, I know it’s you.

“Who are you talking to Bruce? Man, you’re messed up dude, and judging by your latest attempt at writing I think you’re losing what’s left of your mind.”

“Yeah, seriously, maybe you need help?”

Ah, there is that stupid light flashing in my eyes again, boy does it hurt.

(Intermission)

Hungry, need some popcorn, a chocolate bar, marshmallow, maybe some hardcore sex? HeeHee. While you’re busy trying to figure out just what kind of strange (censored) (censored) and (censored) weird stuff you’re reading written by what clearly is a deranged 'person', let me fill you in on what you’re missing while this story is taking a break.

Bruce is suffering from PTSD after enduring some top-secret stuff you’re not allowed to read. I, of course, am constantly by his side to help him in his attacks and also to make him suffer greatly. His two camping buddies were close grade school friends and were now in the middle of being butchered.

Dave, poor old Dave. Once he was a trapping partner who with Bruce, had skinned many a beaver and mink. Now, his skin was peeled from his body as smoothly as a freshly peeled muskrat, and his severed head was laying open eyed looking at the now discarded marshmallow stick.

Jack, ah yes, Jack, this was a fun one. Jack was beaten to death with Bruce's bare hands and then skinned and beheaded with the head impaled on the stick and roasting nicely in the fire, though with Bruce’s cooking skill or lack thereof, was already singed and the smell of burnt flesh filled the area.

(End of intermission)

We’re back, and as you can see by my master narration, the scene is pretty bloody. Poor Bruce was holding his blood spattered hands on his head, his body rocking back-and-forth while the scattered marshmallows were on the ground soaking up fresh blood. And this is where I’m going to let Bruce have his mind back…What? You want to know who I am? Ha! You can’t handle what you already know. Needless to say I’m there when you need a little evil in your life, and might I suggest you tap into it as this world needs a little more blood flowing…

Ohhh, my head hurts, that stupid light…When will this nightmare end?
(HeeHee, and with a final positive thought before opening his eyes)
I think it is finally over. It is too dark too see and I am too scared to look.

(the nearing end of what’s left of the authors sanity)


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Post April 24, 2016, 05:05:15 PM

Campfire Games

Bioluminescence

By:
P.A. Hosler



The stupid light was shining right in my eyes...

Peter and I had been cave diving together for years, it was unlike him to be so rude while we were diving in such dark depths. I assumed the excitement of our discovery was causing his lack of courtesy. I reached out to brush his flashlight aside so my eyes could recover from the temporary blindness he caused me, but he wasn’t within reach. I squinted and saw his silhouette gliding through the brightest light I’d ever seen. Moments before the cave was blanketed in darkness you’d expect to find in such places. I swam quickly towards Peter’s dark form. He was headed for the crevice we had just found in the cave wall. A thin gash, impossibly bright.

When I caught up to Peter he was already investigating the cave wall. Above the crevice I could see much better. Peter scribbled on his slate, “It’s just wide enough to squeeze through.” I frowned and shook my head. We’d squeezed through some pretty tight places before, but none of those were eerily lit. There may have been some bioluminescence now and then, but nothing like this. I’d never encountered another diver with tales of such phenomena. Peter held up his slate again, “I’m going in!” I knew I wouldn’t be able to change his mind. I shrugged and gave him a thumbs up.

Peter of course was going first. There wasn’t enough space to go through with our tanks strapped on, there almost never was when we’d maneuvered through formations like these. Peter unstrapped his tank and pushed it ahead of him. He often bragged that if the tank fit he could fit, it was his “wide enough” gage. We checked our tether and Peter disappeared head first into the narrow gap. The line spooled out slowly with only brief pauses. At eight feet the line stopped moving. I began to worry, but finally three sharp tugs alerted me that it was my turn to make the trip through the gap.

I suppose I can’t claim claustrophobia. I’ve been spelunking and cave diving for the last eight years now, but I’ll say I’ve never become comfortable with the tight squeezes we occasionally get ourselves into. Cave diving is dangerous as hell, taking risks of any kind beyond the one you’re already taking is not recommended. Peter and I actively discourage what we do. This is how we get our rush, this is our envelope to push. We’ve lost a few friends over the years. Peter lost his last dive partner a few years before I ran into him. I think that is why he has to make the first move when we breach the unknown. I don’t think it’s guilt or an over protective nature, I get the feeling that if anyone is going to die during one of his dives he wants to be first. I think he views death as just another cave to explore.

I’m not so morbid. I don’t necessarily fear death but I really don’t want to die anytime soon either. I was more nervous than usual. There shouldn’t have been any light down here. My skin itched, craving the inky blackness that is supposed to be surrounding you when you’re below the Earth’s surface. Peter was already on the other side, so I slid my tank through the hole following it head first on my back. I expected it to be a tight fit. Several times the squeeze was so tight I had to exhale nearly all the air from my lungs to keep moving forward. I imagined that one wrong move in one direction or another would wedge me so firmly in place that the breath I just released could easily be my last. I felt Peter grab my tank and guide it the final few feet out of the narrow passage. His path was expert and I wriggled out into an immense domed cavern.

Although the light was intense, there was no heat. The thing producing the light was enormous, it’s breadth and girth nearly consuming the entirety of the space we had just entered.
“I’m going to get a closer look”, Peter had already scribbled onto his tablet. I wasn’t sharing his curiosity at that moment but I nodded slowly as I shrugged my tank back on and we swam, still tethered, towards the glowing behemoth.

As we approached it, a hole began to form on it’s surface. Inside was the inky blackness I’d found myself longing for just a short time before. I stopped swimming, but Peter seemed to be drawn towards it. I tugged our line but he didn’t seem to notice or care. Suddenly, the hole started to move towards us. A long tube had formed, it moved closer, and the light down its shaft began to oscillate ribbons of dark and light. Suction was being generated through a long fleshy straw, pulling us into it. I turned to swim away but was abruptly stopped as our tether jerked taut. I turned in time to see the end of the tube engulf Peter’s fins and slowly move up his legs and towards the rest of his torso.

He turned his tablet towards me, “Come with me Allen, it’s so... peaceful...” I tried to unhook the tether. I watched in horror as Peter’s head and then his outstretched arms, still clutching the tablet, disappeared inside the creature’s orifice. As it closed around the rope I imagined a long strand of spaghetti being sucked into its deadly lipless maw. I panicked as I was being drawn closer. As soon as it touched me, what I can only assume was a powerful neurotoxin coursed through my body. I couldn’t move, but I didn’t experience the peacefulness Peter mentioned. I wanted to scream as the tube slid over my mouth and then slowly over my mask.

...I think it’s finally over. It’s too dark to see and I’m too scared to look.


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Post April 24, 2016, 05:06:33 PM

Campfire Games

The Night of Their Coming

By:
Sergio Palumbo



The stupid light was shining right in my eyes. It was night – THAT night! - and here they came. AGAIN!

Not that such a moment had been entirely unexpected, although it was certainly not desirable or acceptable, by any means.

Anyways, this was how events had gotten to this point, after the sun had finally set...

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

The fresh air of the late evening wrapped the hills as if it were an invisible dome with boundaries that nobody could see clearly, but it was there. You could tell its limits by the freezing drops of water on the shrubbery’s leaves, along with a cold wind that came in suddenly, as if it had an appointment - arriving exactly on time at the hour previously set. There was no living being around, given the late hour, although there were already some dead at the site: they were only the first ones to arrive, as countless souls were still expected to get there soon.

Frank sat on a stone, a boulder so tall that he would have trouble climbing it when he was still alive, but now the problem didn’t affect him, as his colourless presence was completely weightless and wasn’t stopped by anything anymore. Soon another gaseous shade approached, taking the shape of an old woman, with white skin and a slender appearance. “I’m here, too!”

“I’m glad you’re here for this Halloween meeting!” he replied in a low voice that seemed to come from the afterlife, as it really did come from beyond the grave. “I was afraid you might be late.”

“I’ve got all the time in the world, you know.” She smiled a funny grin, displaying two wide eyes that had been beautiful when she was alive.

When their group contained dozens of members all assembled together at the ancient ruins of that Celtic site, Frank stood and gestured to the other souls, calling them to order. A lightning bolt hit the ground, starting a small fire in the background.

“Ladies and gentlemen, everyone dead just like me: it’s time to start our annual meeting. On this hallowed day set aside for those who passed away, we have come here tonight to walk this ground again, even if for a very short time. Let’s begin by telling each other our most sincere recounting of the way we died on earth, be it very long ago or just recently.”

There was some mumbling in the crowd of pale presences, before a black man moved forward, reaching the middle of the place where Frank stood.

“I’m Myanbi,” the figure said, hiss soul still displayed the main features he had possessed when alive: some ruffled curls and intense eyes, as black as his flowing hair.

“Good to see you again!” everyone present greeted him.

As the crowd fell silent again, Myanbi touched his torn shirt - probably the same one he was wearing when he drowned. “My tale of how I got to the afterlife begins in the Mediterranean Sea. There were seventy-five of us there that terrible day, and only two men survived the shipwreck. We all boarded a weathered vessel in North Africa and tried to crisscross that stretch of sea to get to the opposite coast in search of a better life. But the stormy night immediately summoned forty-two souls into the blackest depths, while the others who were still on board when dawn came found themselves on a damaged ship with little hope. The ruthless captain of that illegal vessel sighted the rocky shore, jumped overboard and swam, trying to pose as an immigrant. Then, after we hit the rocks, anyone who couldn’t swim simply sank below the waves. Of the few who were able to escape, only two safely reached the coast and were arrested. The others all died, and I was among them…”

Then, suddenly, while the souls were still listening to Myanbi’s story, those vivid lights came on. And they had come for those who were dead! All the dead immediately started moving away, as if they were trying to escape the grip of some wild beasts capable of preying on their souls…

It was the living beings! It was them, again, with their up-to-the-minute devices meant to investigate the deceased and discover the secrets of the afterlife. By now, Mankind had figured out all the secrets of the Big Bang, and everything about the deepest recesses of space and even the oceans. So, they had turned their attention to the physics of the dead. Undoubtedly, they wanted to know what could harm the ghosts…and that was scary, but it wasn’t just a scary tale, it was a reality. Moreover, it wasn’t something you could hide from as there was no chance to stop them or any way to die, as you were already dead.

It happened each year on Halloween, when the souls assembled together worldwide and took again the real shape they had been when they were alive.

The problem was that this day proved to be the best time for humans to discover more about the dead as they were even more visible than usual. The living humans had always been spying on them and that day was the time the souls were subjected to forced tests…so the light that shone on them from those new portable machines men had conceived for their research meant just one thing: trouble!

Usually, it didn’t last long, but it did hurt, and at times it disrupted your shape - the shape you only had on Halloween.

When Frank noticed that the lights had finally gone, along with the researchers, he stopped running away and remained silent. The night wasn’t over yet, maybe there were some of those men still nearby, but he was really dejected now. While still hiding, he sadly considered, ‘I think it is finally over. It is too dark too see and I am too scared to look.’



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Post April 24, 2016, 05:07:23 PM

Campfire Games

October Flash

By:
Rick Tornello



The stupid light was shining right in my eyes. Who would have imagined that a particle whose rest mass if not 0, was as close to non-zero as could be and had intelligence and was sentient? Boy, were we all wrong.

Photons, light as we have now discovered is the native intelligence of the universe. It sees all, knows all, remembers all and when all is said and done, is all. It’s that simple or complex. The Santa Claus myth musta got twisted, and like a lot of myths, the Santa Claus myth was based upon some truth long forgotten.

Surprise, and merry Christmas folks.

####

Many people have damned the light. It shows all to be seen. It is the great equalizer. The darkness may be scary, and hide the unknown, but for those of us who have things to cover up, and who doesn’t, the light of justice, of truth, call it what you will, is scarier still.

That damned light, right in front of me all this time, captured all my life and my thoughts. It is multidimensional. It illuminates everything. It is doing the same to every one you alive out there today. I can only guess it will project all that came before too. Nothing can be hidden, no thing.

Think about it my friends. What skeletons are you hiding?

Light was a gift from the gods, giving site to reason, and to our minds so that we might reflect back on our gifts and the givers of those gifts. But have we done so? Maybe a few, artists, philosophers, musicians, healers and writers have, but on the whole, the masses, throughout all time, (a funny term for referring back to this mass less entity that is everything, when you consider it), have done nothing but squander these gifts.

And here we are, sitting around this campfire, wondering what will to be next, what will the end be? Some have said fire, some said ice, but no it won’t be those things. That, I can promise you.

Don’t look for tomorrow, don’t look for the sun, the light. It will be gone. As a race, our blindness is sealed. And if you feel as I do, you too will bemoan our fates. I believe, no…I know, our future will be empty, just pure darkness, no stars, no anything. We have been banished.

As I sit here before you in this darkness, I do hear you all breathing. I think it’s finally over. It’s too dark to see and I’m too scared to look.


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Post April 24, 2016, 05:08:22 PM

Campfire Games

- Winner -



The Altar

By:
Michele Dutcher



The stupid light was shining right in my eyes, so I motioned for David to turn it off. “Sorry about that,” he told me. “I forgot that my helmet light was still on.” David was in his fifties, in coveralls, and was meeting me where the gravel road intersected the path leading into the woods.

“Have you already been caving today?” I asked. “I thought we were supposed to meet-up at 8 PM, after I got off work.”

“Right, but I had a small group of cavers who wanted to go in, so I took them. They’re still probably down there milling around.” He grinned sheepishly, as if he were a schoolboy who had been caught.

“Do you think they’ll find the Indian carvings?” I asked. “I don’t want anyone around them until I can get more pictures and publish my paper online.”

“I didn’t take them back that far. I’m sure your petroglyphs are okay, Gwynn.” He switched on his flashlight before turning his back on me, motioning to follow him into the trees and shrubs.

As we began to hike, I noticed how quickly the darkness had fallen under the leafy canopy. “It seems creepy to be going in after sunset.”

“Day or night, stormy weather or fair – it’s always the same inside a cave,” answered David.

As we walked along the wagon rut path, I saw the abandoned stone lodge. “That’s odd,” I whispered. “It looks like there’s a blue light coming through the windows on the top floor.”

“That’s impossible,” sighed David, as if shushing a child. “There’s no second floor anymore. It rotted out decades ago. It’s probably just the reflection of the moon.”

“But it’s cloudy – there’s no moon out tonight.” I strained to see. “Stop David, please! Look at the window! Someone’s in there!”

David looked up and a dark figure behind the window shifted, allowing the blue glow to shine out for only a moment before it suddenly blinked out.
“It’s just a cloud passing overhead, Gwynn. Let’s get to the cave.”

I could feel my legs beginning to tremble as we started our descent to the canyon’s floor. I heard water rushing from the cave even before I saw the cave’s mouth in the near darkness.

“We need to turn on our helmet lights,” instructed David, and I did as I was told. I had the feeling that someone was watching from the darkness of the steep, graying cliffs, so I was glad to get inside the stone walls of the cave.

As we splashed through the shallow stream, I was surprised to hear voices coming from further back. “Who is that?”

“Oh, you mean those voices? Those are probably the people I led through earlier. They’re members of that online club, the ‘I love CRV’ club.”

“I saw the homepage online. What’s up with their membership list? Their names are so odd: Alva Watts, Fern Voyles? Old names, you know? Some of them are even the same as names on the wall.”

David began to stutter a little, as if taken off-guard. “Maybe they’re family names, passed down. Anyways, Indian Rock should be right around the corner here…”

Suddenly the cave opened up into a large room and I could see forty people in caving gear standing in front of the wall.

“I thought you’d never get here,” said a tall man. “It’s almost time for him to arrive. Is this her?”

“Yep!” said David. “She asks a lot of questions.”

“Well, all your questions are about to be answered. I’m Charles Heifes,” the tall man said – motioning for two men to block the path to the entry corridor.

I was stunned and confused. “Charles Heifes? From Brookmor Indiana?”

“That exact man.”

“But the date etched into the stone was Jan 25, 1909? I don’t understand.”

A woman stepped forward, shining her helmet light into my eyes. “And I’m Mrs. Heifes. A century ago my husband and I were trapped in the Inn by a terrible blizzard. We were cut off from the main road, the food was gone and the firewood was running out. So we came down into the cave where it was warmer. That was when we found the altar – and the image of the shaman.”

In the faint light of the cave the shaman’s petroglyph began to glow. Everyone reached up, turning out their helmet lights.

“We were starving until HE appeared to save us,” shouted Mr. Heifes. All eyes were transfixed on the wall now, waiting, waiting… “Look now! He comes!”

All those present dropped to their knees as a blue figure stepped through the wall onto the ancient altar. He wore a square helmet with a slot in it showing his piercing black eyes. He was majestic in a feathered kilt and leather moccasins. His chest was bare with a scar that ran from throat to navel. “Is this the new one?” the wind in the cave whispered.

“She is,” answered the group in unison, bowing their heads.

I edged my way to the opening that led further into the darkness of the cave.

“Carve your name into the wall and join with us forever!” said the figure bathed in blue light.

Suddenly all those present took off their helmets, revealing only skulls. “Carve your name – protect his altar! Carve your name – protect his altar!” I felt my knees giving way. Then my survival instincts took over, and I ran into the darkness away from the cult, tripping through the water, climbing over rocks. Only by chance did points of light appear in a hole in the cave wall, revealing the stars in the night sky outside. I grabbed onto any tree roots that I could, pulling myself upwards through the hole with the last of my strength.

That was how I ended up shivering here, hiding behind this rock in the woods. I think it is finally over. It is too dark to see and I am too scared to look.


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Post April 24, 2016, 05:33:52 PM

Caught in a World So Cold

This challenge was run by Eddie Sulllivan.

The challenge was write a story set in an extremely cold climate where your protagonist or protagonists are lost, trapped, or fleeing.


Example story:



Wolves of the Tundra

By:
Eddie Sullivan



The snow cracked underneath his boots. He could look back for miles and see his own foot prints. He didn’t understand why they didn’t come for him. They had left this gear a little to conveniently laying around. It was good gear but not sufficient for this wasteland. It was obvious he wasn’t supposed to make it more than a day or two.

Each time the wind howled he swore he heard them, then he would convince himself it was just his imagination. The heat of his body melted the snow that got inside his clothes whenever he stumbled. That same howling wind drew the heat fro his body and gave it up to the ether. Ron Johnson had pursued stories through war zones and hurricanes and lived to tell the stories to his readers all around the world. He was thoroughly convinced that he would not survive coming to investigate reports of werewolves in the these snowy Canadian hills. He kept walking because he didn’t know what else to do.

He had come across the cabin just where his guide told him to look when he said he would go no farther into the Rougarou territory. The whole town was unwelcoming and looked at him funny when he said he was looking to go back into that country. He had seen the cabin and there was smoke coming from the chimney. That was the last thing he remembered till he woke in the basement. The two backwoodsman taunted him for days in that cellar. He watched them change just to scare him over and over. Then one day nothing. After twenty fours hours of nothing he overcame his fear enough to climb out of the sub-basement. He found the clothes and a flashlight. He got the clothes on grabbed the light and ran out the door. He got forty feet from the cabin and that was when the howling started. He ran flat out till he couldn’t stand, as soon as he could he ran flat out again. Now he swore he hadn’t seen or heard anyone or thing for miles.

He was considering just hunkering down in the snow when he noticed a light through the trees in the distance. The Town? He steeled himself to the pain of running when he was so cold and so tired. His breath leaked warmth out into the frozen waste around him.

He got to the tree-line and it was the town. Then he heard it. Feet running through the snow behind him and growls. No! He would not make it all this way just to lose out at the last minute. The snowy town’s streets were empty but the lights were on and cars were parked at the local town watering hole. He ran with everything he had left. He half sprinted and half stumbled down the one little street. He got to the bar and couldn’t feel his feet, his lungs ached from the cold air cycling through his lungs quickly from exertion. He threw open the door.

“The wolves, they are real. Behind me. Help.” The heat of the inside of the bar hit his lungs and the temperature change made it harder to breathe. The waitress came over and helped him up.

“Please. They are coming right behind me.”

She turned towards the old fellow nursing a beer near the front door. “Monti lock that door.”

He gained some breath back. “We have to get help. The sheriff or something.”

“Easy city boy. It is Sunday city boy. Everyone in town is here to watch the football from down your way in the States.” The girl smiled at him.

It was then that he realized they were all looking at him. He looked across the room and there were the two men from the cabin. The old man by the door “Monti” cleared his throat.

“God only knows a football game just ain’t right without a proper buffet spread, Right kin?”

Then they all changed.


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Post April 24, 2016, 05:34:42 PM

Re: FLASH FICTION INDEX 2: Dec. 2011 - ?

Skipping School

By:
Rick Tornello



I was skipping school. I had my girlfriend Sheila jack into the system and fake our parental out-sick notes. I was sitting in the crotch of our favorite tree hiding spot in the park waiting for her. I heard this thunder like crack coming from the ground. I noticed ice. It was a bolder of ice. What was ice doing in the park? This is the south west. We don’t get snow. We get heat. We get parched and we get droughts. It’s a desert out there. We steal our water from up north.

The cops showed up quickly and blocked off the park. National Guard Troops showed up a few hours later, armed.

Armed against what, a giant ice cube that refused to melt? I had to pee and I was still in this tree. I kept quiet and hugged a big limb. I didn’t want to be seen. Sheila never showed up.

She called. The phone was in my pocket. Luckily I had the phone on vibrate. Unluckily, that didn’t help my situation.

“What’s going on in the park?” she wanted to know.

“I have to be quiet. There are cops and troops all over the place. I have no idea. There’s a boulder of ice that won’t melt and I’m stuck up in this tree and I have to pee.”

“Hold it tightly and let it leak out slowly,” she snorted and laughed. “Send me a picture you big dope.”

“OF me peeing? Real funny.”

“No you big doofus, what’s going on.”

“I knew that. Hold on.”

I yanked it out and peed against a distant branch as soon as the cops went off toward the giant ice cube. I heard her laughing.

I got a few pictures off and then something strange occurred. Two people just showed up in Eskimo type garb from the same spot as the ice. They were screaming in a language I never heard. They were pointing to the ice and running. The troops tackled them after tazering them. It took a few shots since they were apparently well protected.

“Sheila you have to see this.” I kept the phone camera on the whole goings on.

“Freddy the news says there is something strange happening in the park and urged all the people to stay away. Your pictures are being downloaded all over the place. I heard that this is happening in other southern cities all over the planet. Turn your camera off before they figure out where you are. You know we have that other tree we screw against, go there if you can.”

“Oh I’m just supposed to saunter off. It’s okay officer. I’m just going to my sex tree.”

“Freddy, you’re such an idiot. Why do I love you?”

“You tell me I,” answered quietly. “Cops below. I’ll keep the phone on, record what you hear.”

I listened as they spoke:
“I heard one of the Guardsmen say that there seemed to be a breech between our dimensions. I have no idea,” said the first one.

“So the multiverse is real?” asked the other one. “I thought it was science fiction, something in the movies.”

“The ice is coming in from another world and that these people are running from it. They said that it’s happening all over our planet. Washington is worried that they can’t stop it or close the breech.”

“So what, are we going to have an ice age?” laughed the other cop. “This is the south west. It’s a desert out past the city limits. What ice is going to stand up to that heat?”

“Are you blind and dumb too? Do you notice any melting?” Hissed the first cop. There was a big thunder like noise. “Shit now there’s more ice over there.” He pointed to an area just by a rocky outcrop.

“Freddy, what’s happening?” asked Sheila

“More ice. More Eskimos Oh my god there’s a whole tribe of them and they’re armed.”
They’ve lifted their hands up and dropped their weapons. One is coming forward and talking to the troop commander. Are you getting all this?”

“Shit yes.”

“My batteries are low so I’ll transmit till they go dead. A helo just landed and some bigwigs in uniforms just got out. They’re meeting with the Eskimos or whatever they are.

“I’m guessing it’s not good by the look on all the faces and, Oh shit, one of the soldier just ran to one of the officers. They are looking up in the trees. They’re pointing in my direction. I’m cooked. Sheila, call my dad. I’m about to be arrested.”

Four military types were below Freddy’s hiding spot. “You in the tree, we have your phone located,” said one.

Another one said, “It’s a kid.”
“You, kid get down from there or we’ll shoot you down,” commanded the first guardsman.

Freddy was escorted to the place where the officers were gathered. The first guardsman said, “General, Sir, it’s a kid up in a tree with a phone. What do you want to do?”

“Get him in the copter and to base immediately. We’ll get his parents too and any of his friends. If this gets out…”

“Sir it’s already all over the net.”

The general shook his head and gave Freddy a nasty look.

“Shut the net down. Call FEMA, GET a Declaration of National Emergency and jam all the fucking cell tower transmissions. If the Chinese can do it so can we. I’ll take responsibility.”

A soldier ran up to the group as they were boarding the helo. “Sir, we’re getting more visitors… and ice.”


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Post April 24, 2016, 05:35:45 PM

Caught in a World So Cold

The World’s Biggest Fool

By:
Michele Dutcher



Ermil Sanders stood on a hill overlooking the frozen graveyard, noting the half-dozen mourners in the distance who were carrying a body bag to an empty space in the snow. He couldn’t help but smirk at their futility as they huddled together in the grayness of the afternoon, the Bishop’s ring around the blurred sun hanging in the cloud-choked sky. He noted from the shape of the bag that the feet of the beloved had been filed down to a point, allowing the corpse to eventually be hammered into the frozen earth.

Death had become mundane. It was more of a surprise to him that the six mourners were still alive than their body-bagged companion was dead.

The middle-aged man looked at the dog beside him, who wagged his tail as Ermil gazed down. “As a philosopher once said, ‘leave the dead to bury the dead’ – that’s the order of the day, Spot. Right or wrong?”

“It is far past time to be worried about such niceties,” answered the canine. “I wonder if the body-bag is being used to hide the fact that parts of the beloved have been chewed off while the body was in rigor – before it was frozen solid.”

“You’re probably right, Spot. Everything’s gotta eat, you know…even what’s left of us humans.”

Ermil thought about following the weaker humans as a small woman and her child peeled away quickly after the short service. The group probably had a hoard of food hidden somewhere – perhaps in one of the local caves or in a crypt nearby. He thought about introducing himself, but then thought again, deciding against looking for company. As a loner, Ermil had been able to raid small convenient stores in the city, getting enough frozen food to last one person and one dog for awhile. If he introduced himself, everyone in the group would see him and his dog as food and he’d need to watch his back, sleeping with one eye open.

It was enough for now to watch from the top of the hill, knowing all the people below would probably be dead in six months anyway. The wind began to pick up, as the blowing snow began to turn red – reflecting the bright red sunset. A vivid red sheet of snow raced towards him, drawn up from a drift at the base of a long-dead tree. He pulled his motorcycle goggles over his eyes as the snow raced towards him, biting into exposed skin as if he were being sandblasted.

“You hungry, boy?” the man asked the dog, knowing what the animal would say.

“You betcha, boss!” said the canine emphatically.

“There’s a 7-11 on Magnolia we haven’t hit yet. I know it’ll have some dog food for you and maybe some cigarettes for me.”

“What’s your hurry - here’s your hat,” exclaimed the cocker spaniel.

The two started to move on, making their way towards a small store he had gone to a couple of times before the comet hit, smacking the Hawaiian Islands so hard that the active volcanoes had exploded. There had been talk among friends of his who were also scientists, in the weeks following the disaster, that the Earth itself had been shoved hard enough to be veered from her path, forcing her to orbit further and further from the sun. It was just a matter of time before everything and everyone was as frozen as a Popsicle.

In a way it was funny, because Ermil Sanders had been one of the greatest prophets of Global Warming – being asked to speak numerous times on the impending disaster that would happen decades in the future. Sometimes he had to laugh at himself, calling himself the World’s Biggest Fool. Global Warming didn’t seem like such a bad idea now.

Ermil looked up into the clouds. “At least the acid rain hasn’t started falling yet. That’s the next step, you know…the sulfur that’s in the atmosphere falling in the form of rain.” He looked down again at his protégé – the one creature on Earth that made life worth living – at least until the end would finally come. Ermil had to keep alive for him. Who would look over the dog if he curled up in a ball and died? – They’d try to eat the canine - those rogues, those mourners in the graveyard.

“Come on, boy,” said the man, pulling on the leash. Soon the dog was happily following behind him.

An hour later, the man who had sludge-hammered the corpse into the frozen ground crossed over the snowy footprints left by Ermil in the purple twilight. He wondered about what the man who left the footprints was dragging behind him.


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Post April 24, 2016, 05:36:48 PM

Caught in a World So Cold

Snow Now

By:
Sergio Palumbo



Yafnof loved to stay next to the fireplace in the Wide Hall of the fortress, which was a bit strange, given the nature of his incredible powers. That was because the beardless 22-year-old slender man was best known as the famous ‘Ruler of the Icy Mountains’ or ‘The Snow Sorcerer’. It was reported that he could make it snow so hard as to create an impassable snowstorm that could quickly envelope a whole region, if he wanted to.


That was why he had been sent by the king to this lonely fortress. The castle was positioned on the border of the Icy Mountains that were the entry point of the High Realm for everyone coming from the Northern Expanses. The place itself was very well defended during wintertime as the Trolls and the tall Orcs didn’t dare approach this site because of the steep slopes and the harsh weather. These creatures also found it impossible to hunt food during this season - notwithstanding that they could smell from a distance the tasty human meat that walked around inside those tall walls…

The true problems started when spring came, as that was the right time for those hungry creatures to follow the mountain paths to reach the fortress, in order to eat the food (and the humans, too…) that the soldiers had been keeping in their strange building for so long.

It was at that time that Yafnof was especially useful: his powers were capable of making snow fall in a matter of minutes, producing a huge storm that would force the approaching monsters to move away again.

That was exactly what the young sorcerer was going to do now. When Yafnof got to where he had the best view on the battlements facing south, his dark eyes stared at the scenery outside the fortress before noticing the Orcs that had been previously spotted by the guards. There they were, so he had to be quick and use his sorcery. He moved forward, his skinny arms wrapped in furs, when all at once the first icy particles magically started falling from the sky and the slopes were soon covered by a thick layer of snow. The noteworthy sudden change in the weather was just enough to make the castle’s enemies change their mind, of course.

As he saw the creatures running away, Yafnof told himself that he had done his duty for today. He could feel his body beginning to freeze, starting from his fingers and along his arms - and it made him remember the consequences of using his great power. In fact, even though he was able to command the sky to snow, his body was not unaffected by the freezing cold and he might get frostbite or die of exposure if he wasn’t careful. That was why he had to limit his use of such sorcery. And that was why he loved staying next to the fireplace for most of the day, clearly…

After that display of great power, the man walked back to the main tower and had a hearty lunch, offered to him by the soldiers.So, things went well and calmly for the rest of the Spring, but it was what happened the next summer that changed everything…

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

“They’re coming! Hairy Blue Trolls are approaching!” yelled the commander at arms. The men ran to take their assigned places along the fortress’s battlements.

Yafnof looked at the commander. “Those are not just common monsters that can be stopped by using a single snowstorm. They eat snow and are not afraid of the worst weather on these mountains.”

“I know it, sorcerer. And it seems that those creatures have found a powerful leader that is strong enough to bring all of his kind to our fortress. They are too many of them and they are too hungry to be stopped!”

“My power might prove to be not enough today,” Yafnof said dejectedly. “Unless I try something even more dangerous.”

So, the daring man walked down to the main gate. He ordered it to be opened and exited the walls, going directly to the middle of the plain that stretched before the fortress. Then he raised his arms and started the most potent enchantment that he had ever tried. At first an overcast sky swept in above the sorcerer and the incoming enemies, and the snow started falling on the rocks, flowers and trees. It quickly turned into a powerful snowstorm. Actually, in a matter of minutes it became the heaviest snowstorm any human had ever seen, and the Hairy Blue Trolls knew it was too much for them. They retreated and a cry of joy burst out back at the fortress, but it was not roaring enough to reach the ears of the sorcerer.

The battle was won now, but the sense of deep freezing Yafnof felt inside his body and his mind was so overwhelming that he just couldn’t remove it from his thoughts. The man knew he had gone too far, that he had done something really dangerous that might be fatal. He also knew that he was unable to escape from his present situation!

The sorcerer couldn’t speak, and the inability to use his hands and the impossibility of walking kept him stuck to the ground. His body turned itself into an icy statue as he finally lost the last of his power, the snow enveloping him once and for all.

His upright figure - trapped in that state - remained there for many years, while the soldiers thanked him for his sacrifice and always turned to him with respect when walking next to his sacred icy remains.

Yafnof would have been happy with how it all worked out. However, he probably would have been even happier if the children of the chief of the fortress didn’t throw snowballs at him, a lifeless snowman, when they were playing outside and nobody was around to watch and tell them to stop…


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Post April 24, 2016, 05:37:37 PM

Caught in a World So Cold

- Winner -


No Man's Land

By:
Brian Kendig



"It's blue out here," Professor Blatt sighed. She pulled her coat and hood more tightly around herself against the cold. "Everything's blue."

Her radio crackled. "No, the snow's white. And technically the ice has no color, it's translucent."

"Don't contradict me, Asahi," Blatt snapped at the second-year grad student. "Give me red, give me yellow, give me anything but blue. There's nothing out here but snow and sky and more snow. The mining equipment is getting close to its maximum depth and all we've discovered is more ice. You still so sure of your coordinates?"

There was a pause. "I'm sure," came Asahi's quiet reply. "And now you usually say something like 'this had better be worth it,' and then I remind you that it is. We're digging through snow that's an ice age thick. It's going to take time to find anything down there. But I'm sure that this is the right place and I'm absolutely certain that by the end of the day we're going to make a discovery that will tell us a lot about the ancient people who were here before us." The voice paused again. "By the end of the week, at least."

That didn't help Blatt's mood any. "How did you talk me into leaving the basement lab for this? I'm not fond of being out in bright light."

"You know the nighttime temperatures can be lethal. And you'll want to be here, anyway, in case we make any discoveries. I meant 'when,' not 'in case,'" Asahi amended.

The professor spotted some commotion from the workers around one of the rigs. "Stand by, Asahi," she radioed. She half-crawled across the ice, leaning into the wind, until she found the expedition's anthropologist, wearing a nametag that read 'Palm.' "Tell me what's up."

"What's up is a relic!" replied Palm, gesturing breathlessly. "I believe the drills have finally reached what was once ground level, and we've recovered ... this!" As she spoke, a crane gingerly pulled a living-room-sized block of ice from the nearest excavation tunnel, lowered it to within a few feet of the ground, then dropped it the rest of the way. The thud knocked Blatt onto her back, but as she rose and shook snow from her coat, she saw the vague outline of something large and yellow inside the block. She approached it slowly, trying to make out its contents until Palm interrupted her: "You'll want to come around this side, it's easier." Sure enough, the other side of the block of ice revealed that the drill had sliced this artifact cleanly in half. Already, the engineers were dragging warm-air blowers over to this side to begin the thawing process.

Blatt found her voice. "What IS it?"

"I believe," Palm said excitedly, "it was called a 'taxicab.'"

"And that?" asked Blatt, pointing to a smaller piece that had broken off the block.

Palm crouched over it and studied it intently. Then she stood and took a half-step backwards in surprise. "Man!" The commotion around her ceased immediately, all attention on her and her discovery. "Well, the top half of a man. We really need to be more careful with our drill bits. But I am familiar with the style in which this one is dressed, and if my hunch is correct..." She turned the frozen remains face-down and pulled at the fabric behind its neck. "'Men's Wearhouse', if I'm reading it correctly. You know what this means, don't you?" she asked the professor.

"It means that men were still alive during the last ice age," Blatt answered her, as the significance of this sunk in. "There must be millions of them trapped down there, frozen solid. I thought they had died out thousands of years earlier. This is going to turn science and history on their heads."

Palm had already left the corpse and was pulling something else from the ice. "Bonus!" she exclaimed. "This is what was called a 'briefcase'. This particular one is made of genuine crocodile leather, which should make it water-resistant, and that means there wouldn't be any water damage to..." She cracked the briefcase open like an egg. "This!" Nestled within the briefcase, between manila folders and a well-preserved fast food lunch, was a small black smartphone, still intact. She attached a clip that snapped readily into the data port on the phone's edge, powered it up, and defeated its encryption. "I had hoped that would work!" she said giddily. "We only had an incomplete set of specifications to work from. But now we should be able to access all of the data it holds. Cached information, news, personal messages --"

"Give it here," Blatt demanded, and Palm complied. Blatt examined the device from every angle. "This symbol on the back has religious significance," she said in a hushed tone. "It appears in references to temples where people would gather and sacrifice their wages." She turned the device so that she could see rows of icons on its glowing face. "How do I view the data stored in this?"

"Just tap the glass."

Blatt tapped gently on the glass. Nothing happened. Then she tried slightly more firmly, but still nothing happened. She handed it back to Palm for a try. Palm tapped at it, shrugged at her.

Blatt sighed unhappily through her mandibles. "We've come all this way..." She pulled her hood back from her face, let it slide off to expose her head-carapace to the frigid air for just a few moments so that she could unfurl her antennae. "The temperature will drop soon. Let's call it a day. We've discovered the ruins of Boston, we've found evidence that man survived longer into the Information Age than previously thought, and we've even recovered a relic from that period." She tapped again at it with her claw; still it did not respond. "Once we learn how to access the data in this device, we could very well understand a key chapter in cockroach evolution."


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Post April 24, 2016, 06:44:06 PM

Subordinate Clause

This challenge was run by Eddie Sullivan.

The challenge was to write a story explaining how Santa can be in so many places at once all in one night.


Example story:




The Gift

By:
Eddie Sullivan



“Trust me I’m your sponsor.” Jimmy led me down Clark St. on Christmas Eve. “You've earned this. After tonight you won’t want back on the junk ever again. All you had to do was stay sober and drug free for the past two years to prove your commitment. I wasn’t even allowed to mention this till that happened.”

“I don’t know man.” He was looking at me with a rapturous smile. “It seems a shame to get clean just to get high on something else after two years.”

Jimmy just smiled wider. “I know it seems counterintuitive man. Just trust me once you have Kringle there are no other drugs. They only give it out on December twenty-fourth and the rest of the year you don’t bother with anything else because literally nothing else is worth it.”

I shook my head for the tenth time tonight. “Jimmy this is nuts. Why do they only give it out one night a year? Why do we get it from free? Who are they?”

He looked up at the night sky. It had started snowing lightly. He caught a snowflake on his tongue. “Look I told you earlier I sponsor at Narcotics Anonymous so I can sponsor for people to have Kringle. It is all real. Let’s just say it is a charity thing, think of them as Santa’s little helpers, OK?”

He was leading me into a less than desirable part of town. We finally arrived at an older looking warehouse. There was already a line at the door. All folks lined up two by two. Apparently everyone brought guests to this party.

We got close to the door and I could see in as the next pair went in. It looked like an airlock. You know those set ups that have an inner door and an outer one? One won’t open till the other closes. Eventually we were next.

“Jimmy, I'm really not sure about this.”

His smile was so friendly and he spoke with such a confident, calm inflection that it almost didn’t matter what the answer was, it was all in his tone. It rang of trust and safety, a bastion of therapeutic affect. “Listen Eddie, have I ever steered you wrong? I've always been there for you right from the beginning right?”

“Yeah Jimmy. Sorry I sure it'll be fine.”

The outer door opened and we went in. I heard gears and locks cycle. The inner door opened. This situation was already weird, but I wasn’t prepared for what was inside by many a measure.

“Are those midgets holding guns, Jim?”

He cringed at the word. “Dude, they're elves, don’t say midgets!”

The little guys right inside the door holding what looked to me like full auto assault rifles painted like candy canes were disconcerting in their little green tunics and caps. That was nothing compared to what was further in. To start with there were lots of elves everywhere. The far side of the warehouse had sleighs lined up like a giant stock car race starting line. That wasn’t the weirdest either.

Jim was looking around smiling, and he had a tear in his eye. “Oh Eddie, this is my favorite night of the year. It doesn’t get better than this.”

“Jim there are hundreds of naked Santas in here with us. What kinda freaky stuff did you get me into?”

He looked like he was going to answer but a third elf stopped in front of us. “Put out your hands please gentleman.” We did and he placed a gelatin based capsule in each of our hands. That wouldn’t have been all that weird but it looked like it was filled with red and green glitter. At this point I swear to you I have not lost my sobriety, honestly. When the thing touched my palm I heard sleigh bells. “Guests please ingest your Kringle.”

Jimmy looked at me. “You came this far man. You got to do it or they will give it to you in the end without the teeth. They never have to do it after the first year cause you’l want it for the rest of your life, but it is so much easier if you just trust it the first year.”

The elves actually looked like they meant business and might be able to follow through. I figured this was weird but if Jimmy could swallow a capsule of glitter, so could I if it meant not being shot or violated.

“Cheers and down the hatch Eddie boy!” The lead elf handed us some dixie cups full of water and we took our medicine.

The little elf mimicked opening is mouth so we would so him our empty mouths and we did. “Gentlemen this way if you please.”

He lead us into a side room together and turned to leave. “I will return for you in a moment.”

I shook my head and looked at Jimmy. “What the heck is this weirdness man?”

Jimmy looked like he was blurry. No not blurry just getting bigger. He struggled to take his clothes off. “Quick Eddie get naked or the clothes will rip. The elves will store them for you.” Now that he mentioned it my gear was starting to feel tight.

I stripped mostly out of panic. I watched as Jimmy grew a white beard and put on what seemed to be two hundred pounds right before my eyes. “Jimmy what the heck? You just turned into freakin’ Santa Claus!”

Jimmy put one hand on his big jolly belly which jiggled like a bowl full of jelly. He hooked a thumb and gestured over his shoulder at a wall mirror. I saw that there were two Santa Clauses in the room.

I smiled and then laughed. “Ho Ho Ho” That was when it kicked into my brain. Pure uncut Christmas Spirit. That was how he got everywhere in one night.

“Merry Christmas!” Santa bellowed.

“Merry Christmas!” Santa said right back to him.


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Post April 24, 2016, 06:45:36 PM

Subordinate Clause

A Kindness Repaid

By:
Michele Dutcher



Throughout the land of Kardose, the platoons of elfin armies raged. Sword upon sword, fist against fist, the bloody battle spread over the meadows and forests like a fiery plague of death.

Nickoli watched the horrifying scene from beneath a tree whose roots were intertwined with the boulders on the mountainside. He wore elfin battlegear that had been scorched in the conflict below.

Swinchi, an elf much broader than Nickoli came to stand beside him. “I remember a time when you and I ran laughing through those fields and forests together.”

“As do I,” echoed Nickoli, saddened by the memory. “Now the elfin nations fight wars with our bare hands, trying to posses whatever little magic is left in our world.” They both looked down to the dirt as though trying not to see the death raging below them.

As Nickoli raised his eyes slowly he noticed smoke coming from the smokestack of a small cabin in the distance. “Look there, brother, someone remains. The house has towering doorways – I make it out to be a human’s home.”

“They’re probably hoping this war will stop before it reaches their doorstep,” said Swinchi.

“Maybe. But perhaps they don’t know what danger is treading up their mountain, so close to them. Perhaps they are ill or deaf or blind. Soon the battle will be here and their safe hostel will be burned to the ground. We should beat on the door to warn them.”

Swinchi put his hand on his brother’s shoulder. “Forget these foolish humans, brother. I must return to my troops. I can see them there beneath the branches of the Hugerdy trees, getting ready to regroup and rejoin the fight.” He stopped for a moment, knowing he wasn’t likely to pull his younger brother away from doing what he believed to be the kindest route. He then nodded in the direction of the cabin. “Go ahead, Nicky – warn them and then rejoin us. Your heart is too big to let others die in vain, even if those others aren’t even elfin.”

The brothers shook hands before going different directions.

Nickoli’s trek didn’t take him far before he was on the doorstep of the small chalet. He looked inside the windows, but only saw a small bush decorated with lit candlesticks and golden spheres. “These humans are an odd lot,” he whispered to himself, shaking his head. He raised his hand to beat against the door but it opened before he could knock.

“Good morrow, kind elf,” said the female human, a full foot taller than Nickoli. She wore a floor length blue dress with a white apron and she motioned for him to enter the cottage. “Can I get you some refreshment?”

“Madam, I have come to take you from this place – to warn you about the war raging in the fields beneath. You must pack what you can carry and leave now!”

The woman merely grinned a little, reaching behind her to pull an infant from off the floor. “My son and I will be fine, elf. You see, I am a sorceress – and I have placed a spell of protection around this bungalow. Nothing shall harm me or my child, not even the elfin wars. It is Christmas Eve and I shall not leave my house.”

Nickoli was taken aback at her determination. It was only then that he truly noticed and the warmth of the fireplace and the gifts. “But I came straight up to your door, madam. The next soldier won’t knock on your door to warn you – rather he will beat it down to take whatever he wants.”
The old sorceress shook her head no. She looked into the peaceful eyes of the giggling child she held. “You came to my door because I wanted you to. Others would have been blocked. I noticed your character from a distance, your desire to help others, even if they are a species not your own, even if they are humans.”

The elf could feel his shoulders relax as he looked into the safety of her eyes. “If you have magic, as you say you do – help me to win this battle.”
“There will always be wars and rumors of war.” She put the child down to play with his toys. “However, if you are determined to win this fight, I may have a spell that will prove useful.”

With a swipe of her hand a doorway appeared, inside of which were a multitude of other doorways. “This portal will allow you to be in an infinite number of homes at the same time – but only for ten minutes on Christmas Eve. You can step through it and bring death to the families of your enemies. The fighting will stop because they will have nothing left to die for.”

Nikoli’s hand went to his dagger, thinking about the opportunity to plunge it into the hearts of his enemies. But he put his knife back in his belt when he saw the infant playing in the candlelight. “If only there could be one day a year when all children were able to be happy and playful and peaceful and loved – perhaps those memories would end war and show everyone how precious life can be.”

“I knew you had a good heart, Nikoli. I give you permission, once a year, to enter through this portal and bring joy to children everywhere – to bring peace and memories that will help men remember to love life more than they love themselves.” The woman transformed into a beautiful being of light, handing him a bag full of toys. “Go now, transforming the world with your gifts and your love.”

As Nikoli stepped through the doorway portal into a million homes at once, the cottage on the hillside transformed into an invisible castle that would be waiting for Nikoli Claus every time he returned from his errand of mercy, from his errand to change his war-torn world.


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Post April 24, 2016, 06:46:28 PM

Subordinate Clause

Family Investment

By:
Mary Noelle



He was cleaning the attic, well actually that isn’t true. He was snooping. His wife always hid the gifts in the same places every year and he always found them every year. This year so far no dice. In a last ditch attempt to discover their whereabouts he snuck up to the attic. He couldn’t imagine Destiny coming up to this spider infested, cobweb covered, unlit loft anymore than he could have foreseen her out smarting him with a good hiding place. He didn’t marry her for her brains though. He had cleaned up in the eighties so well that he could afford to have a twenty five year old trophy wife to replace the one he had sent packing and the one he put into the ground in an ill fated sky diving accident. This year somehow she had bested him at every turn. Tim was not the type to lose a contest of wits to a high school dropout stripper less than half his age.

Tim Giles threw things from side to side in desperation. Good God did he have everything up here that he ever owned. There were things from his childhood that he had long since forgotten. Memories of days when “Crusher” Tim Giles had not the vaguest notion of a successful college football career and a position with the biggest brokerage house in New York City. Thoughts of corporate espionage and back-room deals to advance up the corporate ladder were all unformed in the head of little Timmy when he owned these things. There was a box of action figures all so well used that even in the light of the Mag-lite it was obvious. A Matchbox car case in the shape of a tire held little cars beyond counting. For a moment “Crusher” couldn’t think of money, trophy wives, and what he expected for Christmas this year (a Rolex). He was almost tempted to sit down and play with these old things.

He shook his head to clear the sentiment. Back to beating his young wife at their little game. He backed away from the boxes of toys to allow their spell to fade. Something hit his calf muscle in the dark. He turned and shined the light on it. An old water damaged box full of flannel shirts, dockers pants, and assorted crap was sitting on the floor. It was easy to identify the junk. It was leftovers from his grandfathers estate. The old man had given him the seed money begrudgingly to make his first investments under the agreement that he be the one to receive all his worldly goods when he passed. Also under the condition that he never dispose of anything until he had personally looked at it. When the old man died he put it all in storage rather than take the time to bother to go through it. He was a man of his word and disposed of nothing. That didn’t mean he had to go through the crap. But wait what was that? The Thermos, really? The old man had that thing everyday of his life. He never let anyone touch it, fill it, empty it, or drink from it. He especially never let Timmy near it. A sense of triumph came over “Crusher”. It took him almost fifty years but he had won. He was going to take that container and drink Irish Coffee out of it for the rest of his days. Greedy hands lurched down and swiped it up.

Oddly it felt full. He shook it a bit, back and forth. What on earth? No liquid should stay in there for twenty years without evaporating. If it was water based it would dry up. If it was prone to rot it would have blown the thermos up. Maybe the reason Gramps never let anyone near it was because it was booze. The thought of Scotch that was who knows how good aged another twenty years made his mouth water. It was worth a peek, after all if it was anything else the item maybe contaminated.
He cracked it open expecting either the heavenly smell of good Scotch or perhaps the noxious odor of rotten who knows what. What he smelled instead was....EGGNOG? Not rotten eggnog either, it was delightful cinnamony, and warm. The thermos was warm too now that he thought about it. This was bizarre. What was more bizarre was he found himself taking the thermos cover which served as a cup and pouring out a serving. Why would he want to drink eggnog that had been up in an attic for twenty years. He had no idea yet still he raised it to his lips. It tasted like gingerbread, no wait...candy canes, then eggnog, yet a bit like mulled cider. It was warm going down. The warmth was spreading through him before he could even place the taste.

A green glowing line appeared in front of him about an inch wide but six feet up and down. It began to strobe red then green and back and forth between the too colors frantically. Eventually it grew blinding and then expanded. It opened to another place. A place filled with....Elves!

A little man was waiting directly on the other side of the portal. “Your grandfather said you would be along eventually. You sure took your sweet time. He obviously had more faith in you than I did. I lost a hundred bucks this year when your portal opened. I am Sack, your elven handler. Hurry up and get to wardrobe for your red suit, the other Santas are waiting on you for the briefing. It is going to be a long night.”

Timmy looked down at his belly like a bowl full of jelly. He glanced at a full body mirror nearby. He had the white beard, the rosy cheeks, the whole deal. This was certainly going to be a change in lifestyle. He stepped through the portal.


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Post April 24, 2016, 06:47:13 PM

Subordinate Clause

- Winner -

What Warms Your Heart

By:
Sergio Palumbo




It was nighttime and, as it always happened at this time of year, the tall old man was carrying a huge sack full of boxes, trying not to make a sound while walking through the parlor. He had trouble getting past the chairs that were placed in his path, which looked like fuzzy shapes under the faint light of his small flashlight, leaving the rest of the room entirely wrapped in darkness. He had almost stumbled twice and he could only hope that he wouldn’t run up against that wide trug the man knew had to be around somewhere.

He was perfectly aware that he had gotten a little heavier over the course of the last few months, as he had already dangerously brushed three times against a table and a bookshelf in the sitting room, before reaching the place where the tree stood.

The ritual of carolers - people walking from home to home singing carols in the neighborhood - had begun early that morning, reminding the man about his usual Christmas duties. He had immediately taken out of his closet the many gifts he had already prepared for his two 13-year-old sons, ready to be placed close to the traditional tree that stood next to the fireplace, as every good father was used to doing.

The giant, pink (the color that was most fashionable this year) Holiday Tinsel Tree, towered to the top of the room at the far right corner. It was full of glowing lights and ornaments, as if it was a magical fruit tree - or a group of leafy branches with many stars that beautifully shone through them. Its leafage was heavy with the homemade decorations that his wife and the boys enjoyed so much.

Style and color assortments might vary, but that tree - be it made of plastic or of a real trunk- was present inside of every noteworthy house in town, as it simply contained within its branches all the fundamentals and best qualities of Christmas, certainly! As a matter of fact, long before Christianity, plants and trees that remained green all year had held a special meaning for people in the winter. Just as everyone today decorated home during the festive season with pines, ancient peoples had placed boughs over their front door and main window. In many countries, it had always been believed that such practices would keep away witches, evil beings and even illness.

It was not surprising that, like many other festive Christmas customs, the holiday tree was adopted so late in America. To the New England Puritans, Christmas was sacred; therefore they tried hard to remove ‘pagan mockery’ from the observance, penalizing any joyful expressions that desecrated ‘that holy event.’ That way of thinking continued into the 19th century, until German and Irish immigrants, along with their traditions, undermined it. But it was only in the 1890s that Christmas ornaments began to arrive from Germany in abundance, giving rise to the Christmas tree’s popularity around the U.S. Of course Americans liked their Christmas trees to be huge, much taller than the Europeans had ever had, as they had used small plants only about four feet in height to decorate their homes. Eventually such trees began to appear in town squares across the country and having one in the home became a real American tradition.

Once the man had left the boxes on the floor, his blue eyes seemed to glitter for a while, as he stared at the low flames in the fireplace that reflected their brilliant sparkles on the Christmas ornaments that the tree had been adorned with. It lasted only for a moment, but in that brief second the man felt like the happiest individual in the world, and his heart was completely full of satisfaction and goodwill.

*****

Drawing his mind back into his workshop, surrounded by the snowy peaks and the icy plains that stretched all around his wooden mansion, the gray-bearded man in his carmine-whitish clothes came to his senses again.

Santa was a bit tired tonight, undoubtedly, as he always was at Christmastime. There were so many gifts to be given and so many places to be at the same time, you know… As the world’s population had grown larger and larger, he knew that the day would come when he wouldn’t be able to be everywhere at once, pleasing the good children who deserved his appreciation, notwithstanding his incredible means of transport that took him into the sky at night.

So, he had started doing things in a better way. It was thanks to his incredible powers, which lay deeper than human knowledge could ever achieve in the future, that Santa was capable of accomplishing all his many duties during this period. In fact, he could connect his mind with all the fathers of the kids who had earned Christmas gifts worldwide and - by briefly entering their body - he could get done what he really wanted to without ever leaving his northern abode, eventually. It was his thoughts, his will that commanded those individuals and made all of them do what was necessary…

So, it was Santa himself who inspired the humans and allowed them to go shopping, eagerly buying the things - be they games, sweets, books and the likes - that their young sons and daughters desired for this important holiday, everything that they would find next to the tree on Christmas morning. And wasn’t it always said that around Christmas time everyone is good? It was merely because of his mind connecting with them at the same time, for a moment, that it all became possible!

Sure, at times some problems and misunderstandings might happen, as his present system of mind exchange wasn’t perfect yet, and someone might get something he didn’t really wish for or something that he wasn’t expecting. But, after all, if anyone received a gift they truly didn’t like or need, re-gifting was always an option, you know…


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Post April 28, 2016, 10:29:25 AM

The What Were Challenge

This challenge was run by Eddie Sullivan

The challenge was to write a story where the protagonist is a were creature.


Example story:

Getting a Webbed Foot in the Door

By:
Eddie Sullivan



Nicholas stared up at the highest tower in the castle. He longed to live the good life so badly. Time after time he told himself someday he would find a way to live there. He was willing to do anything.

“Hey boy! You daydreaming again?” His father caught him looking toward his future home when he should’ve been cleaning horseshite. “These stables ain’t gonna clean themselves layabout!”

He began to push the shovel around in the muck so the old man would leave. That was the last straw, as soon as the bastard was out of sight he sprang into action. He had been stealing coin from his father’s inn patrons and the till for months. Nothing really noticeable, some here and some there. The result was quite a bit of money. He kept it hidden at the bottom of his shite cart which was always full. No one in their right mind was going dig around in a wheelbarrow of shite. He had no qualms about retrieving it, his life was shite. He looked like shite, smelled like shite, and no matter how well he washed even his food tasted a bit like shite. He stuck his hand down deep into the warm, soft turds till he felt the bag. Pushing down harder he grabbed on and immediately felt the weight of his loot. Venturing a look both ways to ensure no one was looking before he yanked his hand out, he quickly transferred it from wagon to the inside of his tunic. His hand transferred a fair amount of shite to the inside of his clothing too, again he didn’t care. It wasn’t like he could smell worse. It was time to see the witch.

Nicholas ran out of the stable and down the street before he saw anyone. Eventually his father would notice him missing and would have every intention of beating him when he returned. Lucky for Nick, he had no intention of returning. He would take this loot to the witch and she’d find a way he could live in the castle. He would pay her to cast a spell that would have him eating at the same castle as the king and the princess that no one had laid eyes on since she was a small child. It was said around the city she was lovely, but she was also notoriously foolish. The king kept her at the castle so she wouldn’t get into trouble which he would then have to handle. It also kept her from foolishly bumping into boys her age and falling in love with the wrong kind.

He arrived at the witches house after over an hour of walking after clearing the front gate just as they were closing it for the evening. The city guards men had warned him against going out alone, but didn’t really care all that much what happened to one young peasant who smelled like poop. There was no attempt to stop him, they just locked up behind him. He saw the hut in the clearing, it seemed to be made entirely of sticks which was odd giving it’s large size. He approached.

“Oi! I need your help. I am willing to pay.” His voice was extremely loud in an attempt to hide the fear he felt at approaching a witch’s house after the sundown.

A voice came from behind him. “Who you yelling at and why do you smell so badly of shite?”

He jumped and momentarily smelled even worse of shite if at all possible. He turned quickly and there was a cute little old woman in a dress made of burlap sack cloth with a kerchief over her head.

“Are you the witch?” He was expecting something a bit more scary.

“Yeah, not that scary I know. Come inside and state your business so I can put these herbs and mushrooms away.” She said this as she hoisted a basket from her left arm onto her right to give it some relief from a heavy load.

They went in and she sold him a potion which would give him the power to take on the spirit of the next animal he encountered that got its saliva on him. He was a bit concerned that he would need to get bit by an animal but that didn’t stop him from buying the potion from her with all his money and gulping it right down. He brought his concern up once he had chugged every drop. She assured him that once the animal shared it’s essence with him it would see him as kindred and leave him alone.

She told him to leave her house and go to the right as there was a bear’s den and several wolves which frequented the crags in that direction. She felt he would not have much luck to the left as that only lead to a bog. He assured her that was just what he would do. He would become the wolf or even better the bear. He would lead the king’s army and marry his daughter. Unfortunately Nicholas didn’t know his left from his right. He went the wrong direction.

Upon entering the swamp he lost his temper and tripped on an exposed root. Laying on the ground he opened his eyes to see a big ugly bull frog looking at him.

“Go on get outta here you stupid....” The frog lunged ballistically and bit his tongue inside his mouth. They stayed locked in an embrace before Nick realized what this meant. The frog let go and was removed and thrown to the side.

He ran back to the witch and told her of his misfortune hoping she’d help.

“Well young man I think I have a plan, but you are going to have to wash the stink of shite off you and learn to walk and talk like a prince to pull it off. We have work to do. How you feel about being married?”


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Post April 28, 2016, 10:30:40 AM

The What Were Challenge

A Lesson in Good Manners

By:
Michele Dutcher



The old lady in the red overcoat sat in the park, waiting to feed the squirrels that had gathered around her. Her face was partially hidden by a green and white knitted scarf that had been wrapped twice around her head and throat.

The woman unzipped and then reached into a large cloth bag sitting on the bench beside her, bringing out a plastic bag full of peanuts, still in the shell. She smiled as she checked the bag – the nuts were unsalted because she would never feed those she loved salted anything, because it would be bad for their tender little hearts. She looked around at the mass of furry creatures looking at her by now, having come down from the trees to visit with her.

From a distance the homeless man could see the red blotch of a woman surrounded by what seemed to be a hundred tiny piles of fur. As he came up behind her, he realized that the piles of fur were actually dozens of squirrels, all of them with their eyes riveted onto the old woman.
As the dirty, scraggly, homeless man stepped in front of the old woman’s park bench she threw some unshelled peanuts onto the sidewalk, a few falling onto his ragged low-topped tennis shoes.

“Hey, lady – watch out for where you’re throwing them things!” – he said, obviously insulted.

“Oh, I’m sorry, dear,” she said in a high squeaky old person voice, one he hated. “I didn’t see you standing there.”

“Yeah, okay then. No harm done I guess,” said the young man, pretending to stomp the shells off his shoes. The man looked up and around, checking to be certain no one would be walking past for a while. Actually his timing was perfect because the meager winter sunlight was already fading, although it was only six o’clock. “Gimme a cigarette,” he ordered, sticking out his hand.

She looked up at him. “Do you see me smoking?” she asked.

“No. But I figured you had just finished smoking one. Do you have a smoke for me or not!”

“I have never smoked and I never will. It’s a dirty, filthy habit, and if you can’t afford to pay for your own cigarettes, you certainly shouldn’t be smoking.”

“Who do you think you’re talking to old woman?” he demanded. “I asked you nicely for a cigarette! You are so rude!”

The old woman threw her pets another handful of shelled peanuts. “It’s rude to ask strangers to give you stuff,” she told the man without looking at him. “Now, if you don’t mind, my pets are hungry.”

“Pets?” he said in a huff. “These squirrels aren’t your pets – they’re just pests, tree rats!” He swung his left foot back, trying to kick one of the squirrels around his feet, just missing it. “ If you have money enough to waste feeding them, you must have money enough to buy me a meal.”

The old lady threw out another handful of peanuts to the army of squirrels surrounding the Central Park bench. She hadn’t brought many peanuts with her, certainly not enough for the mob of squirrels looking at her with hungry eyes.

“Are you listening to me, old woman?” demanded the man, screaming down at her, his fists clenched. “You don’t have any cigarettes, you don’t have any money. What the hell are you good for? Someone should teach you a lesson in manners.”

“Someone should teach YOU a lesson in manners,” she said firmly.

The homeless man’s hands were almost on her now when she suddenly bent down, touching the backside of her ankle with her finger. Before she could sit up, half-a-dozen small creatures were on the man’s feet, biting his ankles. Before he could scream, four more of them had raced up the man’s muddy coat, their claws tearing at his throat before their tiny teeth tore open his neck.

The old woman smiled as she began to get smaller and smaller, watching the man sink to his knees, as the tree rats swarmed over his filthy body until he, if seen from a distance in the darkness, might have appeared to be a giant squirrel himself, down on all fours, with a teeming coat of gray and red fur.

By now the old woman would have been hard to differentiate from the other squirrels, but the old lady was now a red squirrel herself, racing to the most delicious part of the man’s body – his eyeballs - which had been left for her by her community of tree rats.

After half an hour the old woman in the red cloth coat, the savior of the tree rats of Central Park, their redeemer, sat on the wooden bench again, smiling at her tiny friends. The woman was happy now, as the army of squirrels began to wander back to their nests, contentedly. Tomorrow she would be back, feeding a hundred squirrels with just one small bag of unsalted, shelled peanuts.


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Post April 28, 2016, 10:31:30 AM

Re: FLASH FICTION INDEX 2: Dec. 2011 - ?

Wish You Were Hare…

By:
Sergio Palumbo



The other boys’ voice came from outside the bedroom window on his father’s farm. Initially, Howell turned over, as if he wanted the calls to be a dream, then a worried expression appeared on his face when he heard them again. He didn’t want it to happen, but he knew he had no other alternative today: the young boy had already refused to go along with them yesterday, and the day before that, pretending to be sick, but now he had to face them.

Howell was 13-years-old, and he knew he had to follow them or his friends would say he didn’t want to help their town. Even worse – those might think he was afraid of jackrabbits, and would make fun of him…

The Southern Plains where they lived had been devastated during 1930s, and America had faced its worst drought - people naming it the ‘Dust Bowl’. Many previous dust storms had menaced Plains states, and a massive one - 1800 miles wide - hit on May 11, 1934. The desperate local farmers didn’t know it was a consequence of over-plowing/over-grazing the terrain during the past years, but the wheat market collapsed and the storms turned daylight to darkness most of the times.

Once the farms dried up, the land was defenseless against the winds that hit that part of the country. Then, as if they had just been unleashed - though they only came to find some food when most of the wild vegetation had been destroyed - the jackrabbits descended on the Plains, eating whatever meager crops were left. It was during that time that, to combat the hundreds of thousands leporids that did overrun the Dust Bowl states, some towns staged ‘rabbit drives’ in which farmers went hunting jackrabbits, beating them to death with their baseball bat. Desperate men will do desperate things…

At first, young boys weren’t involved in the hunts, and they only followed their fathers to have some fun when those went out to kill the jackrabbits. Later, once such dust storms started killing hundreds of people, they eagerly started doing their duty as well.

Actually, it was not that Howell was afraid of hares or jackrabbits, but in his heart he’d rather not kill them. Truth be told, he had once owned a young hare named Pipkin, when he was a child. His family had found that animal and he was raised beside their dogs and their cat. Then the dust storms had started, and his family had also begun finding dead chickens on the farm. His father thought it was bad luck to have a hare as a pet, as such an animal wasn’t meant to live that way, or so he thought. He wanted to get rid of the rabbit, but his grandmother had always said they shouldn’t upset the hare, that they’d better treat him with care, but his parents didn’t listen to her. She was part Native American, and his parents thought she put too much stock in old tales, including the Powhatan tradition that the leader of the gods was the Great Hare…

Fact is that the killing of chickens on their farm was probably done by foxes, but the adults didn’t think so. Moreover, his older sister said she had seen Pipkin become wild while he was outside one night, and that experience had frightened her. Actually, his sister was always talking about improbable things, but at that moment their parents were eager to believe her.

Probably the hare would have been killed the next day if, finally, his father hadn’t followed the last request of their old grandmother. “Do not harm Pipkin, just set him free…” she had said. So the man had let him go away, into the openness of the plains that stretched around their farm. It was true that, from that moment, no more chickens had been killed, but some dead foxes were found around their home…

Howell had become very sad because his pet hare had gone. He loved the rabbit.

That day, Howell met his friends and all of them went out hunting. The young blonde-haired boy was given a big stick, and soon they reached a place where their ‘rabbit drive’ of the day started. As one of the lads rounded up several leporids, the others surrounded them, so they could deathly beat them - when suddenly something happened! A lone hare appeared on a heap full of shrubs in the distance, and he started looking at the boys with hatred. Of course, no one would ever be scared of a common jack-rabbit, but such eyes and appearance were fierce and frightening, unbelievably. He started growing and growing, soon becoming much taller than a horse, a wild expression in his eyes, and the lads feared for their lives.

Then, the creature happened to look at Howell’s face. It smelled the air, and then he stopped. ‘Pipkin, is that you?’ the boy thought, as he was sure he recognized his old hare. In a minute, the jackrabbits all moved towards the huge creature, as if he was their king. Then all the animals went away, never to be seen again.

Howell was sure he had stumbled onto his lost Pipkin that day, and he was happy that his pet was still alive. He also supposed that the hare had stopped only when he had recognized him, thus sparing his friends from even worse consequences.

Legend has it that such big were-creatures were the result of an animal being bitten by some kind of were-monster on the plains at night, which caused a monstrous transformation. The blonde-haired boy didn’t know if those tales were true, but he liked to think Pipkin would stay free in those lands forever. He also liked to believe that his hare would be watching their farm to make certain nothing bad ever happened to Howell and his family again, if they just let the jackrabbits live freely…


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Post April 28, 2016, 10:32:17 AM

The What Were Challenge

- Winner -



Fishbowl

By:
JP Garner



What am I doing here? I'm going about this all wrong. This approach would never work to gain her. But alas I am here, in her apartment, and I know that she will be returning from work soon. I should have just asked her out the night that I met her there. Instead, like an idiot, I followed her home to see where she lived, and have reduced myself to the lowness of stalker. To make matters even worse, now I have broken into her apartment. What did I expect to accomplish by coming here, best case scenario I get thrown out, but more likely I'm going to end up in jail.

Oh no, I hear her coming up the stairs. Now more than ever I regret having come here. What drove me to this in the first place? I wish I could just shut my eyes and be back at home. Or better yet be back several days ago before this whole stupid obsession of mine began. Now I can hear her unlocking the door and I know that whatever I do has to be done in the next few seconds. I look around in desperation, and see nothing but an unfamiliar apartment. Then a fishless fishbowl catches my eye.

Closing my eyes I pray harder than I ever have as I hear the latch from the door unlock. All of my focus leans itself towards the empty fishbowl. The color gold explodes in my mind as I find myself suddenly struggling to breathe. I feel as though I'm choking on water, then realize that in fact I am. But in a moment the water begins to go down easier and it seems that I am breathing it without discomfort. Finally, opening my eyes, I see the world as if through a curved piece of glass. Then it dawns on me that that is exactly what I am doing.

I see the door close as though it were curving in space, but I hear nothing except for a muffled thud, nothing like the sound a door usually makes. The world seems to blur and contract with my every movement. I find that only if I remain very still can I get a clear picture of what is happening on the other side of the glass. Despite the difficulty with my vision, swimming does feel quite comfortable, a great contrast to the severe nervousness and panic I had experienced just moments before.

The water around me pulses with vibrations. I am getting the sense that she is now headed in my direction. Her figure waves and undulates through the apparently thick air, and only by her footsteps am I really able to tell that she is coming straight for the fishbowl. Her hand dips into the water and the refraction scares me half to death. The displacement of the water causes me to surge in the opposite direction than I am trying to swim. In the next moment I feel myself freed from the water and suffocating once again, this time in the confines of her hand.

It was difficult to make out her words, as I was focused on gasping for the air that I would not receive. Though I believe that I made out at least one of her sentences.

"Well, well, Sampson, it looks like we do have a feeder fish left after all, you won't have to wait until tomorrow for a snack."

Only then did the gravity of my mistake sink in, for I had failed to notice the tank on the other side of the room, the one containing a turtle.


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Post April 28, 2016, 10:54:23 AM

The "Still Among Us?" Challenge

This challenge was run by Eddie Sullivan.

The challenge was to write a story where the protagonist is a cryptid


Example story:

The Night the Evening Went South in the Cold North

By:
Eddie Sullivan



So I’m driving along after work buzzing down Route 14 listening to my favorite podcast. It hadn’t been a good day but hadn’t been a bad on either. Road is slippery but there isn’t much traffic, I figure I will be home in ten or fifteen. The guy in front of me isn’t tearing along but he is somewhere in the ball park of the speed limit, so I figure I will give him about two car lengths. No sooner had I thought this than he stopped dead in the middle of the road, in winter, in Vermont, doing forty miles an hour. It was hit him or go for the freshly plowed snow bank on the right side. I chose the snow bank. I figured I would pull out so I could tail him and introduce boot to ass, I didn’t catch his plate as he slowly started back up and pulled away. I was stuck and he was gone. My head started pounding. I rallied my composure. I had taken my medication, I had done my meditation earlier. This too shall pass.

No houses were right in sight. Very angry. A truck pulls up along side of my dilemma. Nice old couple real country folks, good folks.

“You need help son? I don’t think I can get you out even with my chains.”

I shake my head a bit, not answering “No”, just shaking it because it seems appropriate. Maybe I am hoping if I keep stirring the rage won’t settle.

“I appreciate it if you could give me a ride down the street and I will call the auto club.”

Old man nods a good natured Vermont nod and gestures to get in. His wife scoots over. It was like I said good folk. I definitely don’t want any rage to leak out now, not with kind folk doing a good deed. They leave me at the store and I dig out the auto club card and call their number. I tell the girl on the other end I know the local tow vendor they send.

“You need to tell him I am half way between the bridge and the high school, not far from the town-line.”

She gives a practiced retort like what I said didn’t even matter. God damn minimum wage zombie. She can go off script even in the service of better service. “I have to tell them a cross street sir.”

“They will know what I am saying, I need them to find me sooner rather than later.”

“Sir I will tell then you are on Route 14 near the Chelsea Street bridge.”

I am too pissed to think straight. “Sure whatever I will be at my car.” I head out to walk the miles back to my car to meet the tow truck. Given auto club response times I should just make it back if I hustle.

I need not have rushed. Miss “I can’t go off script” has given them directions which send them to the opposite end of town so I get back to the car with well over an hour to spare. I don’t do well with to much time to think when I have been wound up.

The tow guy is nice enough. He does his job and gets me out of the snow bank. He earns whatever the auto club pays him and the added bonus of me not decapitating him and feasting on his warm organs right there on the roadside. Whoa I really need to get home and get to my medication. I need to have enough benzodiazepines in me to tranquilize a rhino post haste or something bad is going to go down.

I drive up the snowy Vermont hill, well really it is a small mountain I live on. Coincidence continues to flop with me all the way home. I narrowly miss not one, not two, but three separate head on collisions with full grown deer. Three miles and I see a buck and two does almost smash into me in three separate spots. All miss narrowly and bound off into the woods. Not my night, this last bit really gets me worked up. It makes me want to hunt instead of go home.

I pull up my driveway and see the back end of a grey Dodge parked in my driveway. I live at the top of the hill. It is two miles of woods to the nearest neighbor. I don’t really do unexpected visitors, especially not tonight. Wait a God Damn minute! That is the car! I park and get out in one motion.

A piss-ant college looking turd gets out one side, and a buddy as smarmy looking and spoiled as the first get out the other side.

Dink one says, “Oh man were you the local yokel I brake checked back coming into town? Bummer. You should’t follow so close.” His friend was trying to hide a smirk.

“I think it best that you let me go inside, I need to take my medication. You should be gone when I look back out.”

He put his hand on my arm and his buddy came over on my other side and put his hand on my shoulder. “Wait a minute Bra’, we came all the way from upstate cause we heard you had inside info on a real wild trip. Someone said you knew where to find a Wendigo and you need to show us. We will even pay you enough you can buy moose meat or whatever you woods people eat.”

I looked into his eyes. “ Yeah you know what, now that I think about it, I don’t need those tranquilizers at all. You make an interesting offer. I can show you a Wendigo. I can show you possible the most wild, scary ass Wendigo to ever stalk these woods.”

The change comes quick when I don’t even other to hold it back. Dinner was served.


The End
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Post April 28, 2016, 10:55:19 AM

The "Still Among Us?" Challenge

A Novel Experience

By:
Spacer



I could feel the noisy buzzing in my head again. It seemed that they always turned the thing up higher than it needed to be. One wondered why they allowed the tourists to set the interface knobs themselves but of course tourists always like to play with knobs and dials. It wasn't like it would give them a headach, oh no, their end was carefully set and controlled lest a lawsuit rear its head. It was occasionally amusing to watch their reactions of course. Their faces would twitch slightly as the foreign sensations intruded on their normal thought processes. Sometimes their head would cock to the side as their neck went limp under the interface headset. It was at times like these that one could really make merry at their expense for they had lost all sense of themselves for a moment. It was just such a situation now as I crept a bit closer trying to ignore the static that leapt across my head and caused my leaves to rustle involuntarily.
The bears never seemed to get used to it. A few were up and sniffing around looking very concerned. At least none had given up and lay down in defeat this time. That was the hardest thing to watch. The wolves had a better time of it. Perhaps because they were used to being a more social and sharing themselves with others.
As I got closer the vibrations began to ebb a bit. Whatever the tourists were aiming at today in the park it was clearly behind me now. It seemed they had brought with them some of their own offspring to see the new births of spring. They had much the same dumb and oddly cute look on their faces as the bear cubs. They were munching on something as the adults pointed at the various creatures and connected with them. They were always doing this and I was determined to get more information. Just because I live in the woods and look like mother nature herself doesn't mean I don't appreciate the intricacies of new technology. Such things continue to visit my woods frequently and they have an ever growing impact.
I went unnoticed as always moving close among the pines. I had reached a perch a few branch-lengths when one of the young humans, unseen by its elders, began pushing buttons. The polished surface became unlocked from its bear target and a loud and audible gasp was elicited from some of the others who had the curious masks on their faces. This was proving to be a more enlightening outing than usual.
The shiny thing they always had themselves attached to began to make a high pitched whirring noise and rotated around this way and that for a moment before settling down. It was then that my mind was engulfed in a mad, twisted blur. I suppose I must have looked like nothing so much as a branch as I fell out of the tree concealed as I was. Strange for a live and healthy branch to fall thus but maybe no one noticed as stranger things were occurring. I wouldn't be surprised if I had had on my face as stupid a look on my face as I saw in theirs. Few saw the incident and none have reported back to me about it. Most there were locked into a wholly different world in any case. When people came to this wood I was annoyed. When they built roads I was frustrated. When they began building tourist centers I was worried. None of these invasions however, could come near to matching this breach of my very mind and soul. But I learned even as they did. As the pain become emotion I found myself almost in awe both of the powers which these people had and what they also missed. It was a world I had barely seen the fringes of. But then they had known nothing of mine. Though I could understand more than I ever though possible of them I knew they could percieve me more deeply. This was menat to be a one way event after all. Living the sensations of a bear, or a wolf or an elk. A more primal and visceral sensation than these people would otherwise know. I was a novelty no one had counted on and now I was laid bare my true self exposed in my own mind and thus made manifest on the ground where I lay. One of the offspring pointed at me and said with its mouth not its mind, a language I could interpret now, “Look at the green lady” and the world changed...


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Post April 28, 2016, 10:56:04 AM

The "Still Among Us?" Challenge

Electrosmooth

By:
JP Garner



“Yeti! Yeti! Yeti!” the children all chanted in unison.

“He’s so hairy I’ll bet he has to comb his whole body.”

“My dad says he belongs in a zoo.”

“What a freak.”

The children of the playground danced around Ralph, dropping insults and teasing in the sing-song manner of their age. From out of nowhere a stone struck Ralph on the head, sending him to the asphalt. The chanting stopped and the children stood in a circle, no one daring to say who had thrown the rock. When the bell rang they all ran off to class, leaving Ralph where he had fallen. It was the last day that he ever attended school.

###

“Do you suffer from unwanted hair? Are you tired of razors, powders, and creams that don’t work? If so, then the new Electrosmooth from Bionetics International is the solution for you. The Electrosmooth zaps unwanted hair out of existence with its new pain-free, patented Quantalaz technology…”

Annoyed, Ralph switched off the television. Did even it need to remind him? He walked to the bathroom to look in the mirror and see if he really looked so strange. It was not until he opened the door that he remembered that his mother had removed the mirror. Moping back to the living-room, he switched on the T.V. , his only window to the world of people. Maybe he should buy something like the Electrosmooth.

###

Ducking on his way out the front door, Ralph left his mother’s house for the first time in nearly fifteen years. He shielded his eyes to block the harsh light, a light strikingly different from that of the television. In his pocket burned unspent birthday money from years of letters sent by an unmet grandmother. He jogged towards the taxi door while scanning the street, relieved that it was an off hour. The cabby’s eyes widened as he asked “where to” through the rearview mirror. All through the drive Ralph caught the stares of more people than he had ever met in person.

###

“You’re not going to believe our good luck Eddie. A gold mine just walked into the shop. He looks like some kind of yeti or something, and you guessed it, he’s here for an Electrosmooth. Think of the ad campaign it could make. Seems like he doesn’t have much dough to me, I’ll bet we could even work out a trade offer.”

Carson hung up the phone with a feeling of satisfaction. If the boss was pleased then he knew he was onto something.

“Ralph, with your unique gift, and our unique product, we could make quite a team. Why not sign up with us, we’ll throw in a free Electrosmooth, and even get you some medical help if it’s needed. We think that you’d make a perfect example of how our product can help people, people like yourself.” Carson bit his lip in anticipation, knowing that he had Ralph hooked, and that his ad campaign would be a smash success.

###

The lights of the studio dazzled him. Never in his life had he met so many people, and never in his life had he felt so accepted and liked. The people were wonderful, but the best thing of all was that he was going to be on television. Just a commercial, but to Ralph is was the real world, one in which he could finally participate. Behind the scenes was a shock that he was not prepared for, but he resigned to not let it show. He enjoyed the limelight.

###

On his way home he stopped at the store and bought a mirror for the bathroom. For the first time in his life he felt unafraid of the outside world, the one which his mother had demonized since almost before he could remember. Hanging the mirror with pride, he took the first good look at his now hairless face and body. It was foreign and would take getting used to, but he was unashamed.

The telephone interrupted his first prideful moment, but he answered with enthusiasm, wanting to talk to someone. The voice on the other end sounded nervous and excited.

“Ralph, I’m glad you answered. This is Dr. Charleston. It’s a miracle that we’ve found you. You know that we’ve been trying to track you down ever since you were taken out of school. You’re quite a hard man to get a find. Forgive me for being blunt, but your condition, I mean we’ve been needing someone with your condition, you see we’ve discovered that your abnormal hair growth holds the cure for cancer. With one of your hairs we can cross reference genes and destabilize the rapid growth process. It’s just that your condition is exceedingly rare, and you are believed to be the last hypertrichiac alive. With your help we could save thousands of lives.”

In the mirror Ralph watched as his smile sagged. The phone sank back into the cradle. In front of him sat the box that housed the Electrosmooth. Bold letters on the side of the box read, results permanent.


The End
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Post April 28, 2016, 10:57:02 AM

The "Still Among Us?" Challenge

Hunger Shames

By:
Sergio Palumbo



Whirinaki Forest Park, in New Zealand, was a publicly accessible forested area in the North Island of the country, and was part of the eastern boundary flanking the Urewera National Park. Due to its geographic isolation, it was one of the last regions to be claimed by the British during colonization in the 19th and 20th centuries, and some M_ori leaders had found refuge there from their pursuers. It was a wild place where many tall trees stretched up to the sky, giving shelter to strange birds called saddlebacks that hid in the leafy branches of the undergrowth.

There were many legends about this place - as is common when people think of very secluded sites - and some of them involved the presence of a few wild, violent men called the Maero. According to the oldest M_ori tradition, these men had bony fingers and long, dirty hair all over their bodies. They supposedly killed their prey, from time to time, with long pointed fingers and then ate them. Certainly, there had always been tales about them, but nobody was sure they really existed because no one had ever spotted one of them. Occasionally a tourist disappeared while visiting this zone, never to be seen again, and some of those events were reputed to be connected to such creatures, but there was no real evidence pointing to them.

As the sun was going down among the tall undergrowth, one of those legendary beings was moving through the vegetation, searching for something to eat. It had been a few days since he had tasted a very skinny tourist that he had assaulted suddenly before dragging his corpse to the most inaccessible area of that forest. Then, he had made all the remains of the dead man disappear completely, as he didn’t want to leave any traces behind: that was how he had kept his existence well concealed and why he was able to keep killing at will, even though with self-restraint, of course. And this was exactly what he was trying to do that evening, when he sensed someone walking around and began to follow the stranger so he could attack using his deadly bony fingers, which was his modus operandi. However, things seemed to be a little different this time, as the odor in the air wasn’t something he had smelled before. There were other details about his prey that looked very unusual, as well…

Anyway, the Maero was hungry and he started following the prey’s steps, ready to assault him as soon as the opportunity arose. After some time, his target stopped next to a huge rock, and so the wild creature knew that was the right moment to seize his food for the day.

As the massive Maero got out of the undergrowth, his arms hit the target and his powerful fingers fiercely pierced his victim’s skin. Then, before even looking upon the face of his prey, he grabbed the corpse and dragged it back into the thick woods. It was only when he stopped running and examined the remains that lay at his feet that he noticed something incredible: the features of the short corpse were really very peculiar, as there were two extremely wide black eyes, an almost non-existent nose on a swollen, hairless enlarged cranium, a dark gray skin - or maybe it was just a never-seen-before outfit, at least so it seemed to the wild being. However unusual the prey looked to him, the Maero was still hungry, and so he began eating his food. Maybe the meat was a little tough and dry, but he finished his meal in the end.

It was only later that same day, when he was thinking of resting in the forest and completely getting rid of any traces of the corpse, that he started feeling a pain in his stomach. Actually, he remembered having stomach-aches at times, but this was much worse than ever before. The pain was incredibly hard to bear, and it grew worse and worse, as a matter of fact, so he decided not to eat the rest of the corpse and just stayed under a tree, hoping that the sufferings were finally going to be over, sooner or later.

During the night that followed, he heard a strange noise, and then saw a vivid light in the sky, towering above the vegetation, followed by footsteps. He would have tried to escape, to protect himself, but he was too weak to move. So, there he remained, helpless and scared until a group of short individuals, very similar in appearance to the prey he had taken before, came forwards and looked at him. Soon afterwards, an energy burst hit him, leaving his body unconscious.

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

Actually, things were worse than the wild Maero, in his little and limited mind might ever imagine. Those gray-skinned strangers had come to this place in search of their missing colleague. And these aliens weren’t visiting Earth just to do research, as they truly happened to be serial killers from outer space!

They had found the planet of humans not long ago, and had started mutilating cattle and other beasts at night, as a fun activity to behold with their bug-eyes, while their unruly kids were busy drawing crop circles here and there. They couldn’t believe their good luck since they had now found an interesting fierce cryptid in New Zealand. Now they were ready to start a delightful new sort of safari, certain that they would love kidnapping those previously unknown creatures, making them suffer for as long as the aliens wanted to. Nobody would even discover they had disappeared, ever.

Thinking of that newly discovered cryptid, the short leader of that alien team of serial killers reminded himself of that old saying of those humans, the Maori, that went: ‘E kore e ea i te kupu taku aroha m_u…’, that was, more or less, ‘Words can't express how much I love you…’, undoubtedly.


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Post April 28, 2016, 10:57:57 AM

The "Still Among Us?" Challenge

- Winner -



The Poppe Creek Monster

By:
Michele Dutcher



Jonathan and Theresa had never had much luck in love, as both were in their mid-30s when they met, and both had been recently left behind by their respective mates. Trying out an online dating site, they had been surprised to find they had a 93% serendipity rating.

‘Kirk or Picard and why’, Jon had texted after introducing himself via his phone.

‘Classic over Next Generation and Picard over Kirk in a civilized universe,’ was Theresa’s reply.

‘Obviously,’ Jon had texted back, as overjoyed as a nerd could possibly be.

From that point on the two were inseparable. When they weren’t together they were calling each other, when they couldn’t call - they texted, when they weren’t texting they were in the same room.

So it was not a surprise when they found out they had a similar interest in a local Kentucky myth not far from where they lived: The Poppe Creek Monster. The tale went that a creature existed just outside their city limits that haunted a trestle of the Norfolk Southern Railroad. When they discovered how much they each loved the urban legend, they knew they had to go see the goat-man for themselves.

Turning onto the Taylorsville Road exit from the Gene Snyder freeway, they switched off the air conditioning to get a feel for the weather outside. It was a clear, hot July night and the lovers were hoping the coolness of Poppe Creek’s water would make the heat bearable. However, when they pulled up by the train trestle in the moonlight, parking beside the creek, the fog that had formed over the cool water only made the moisture cling to their skin and clothes.

There was another car parked in the field by the train tracks and Jonathan could see a man in the distance headed up a dirt path towards the trestle, but he quickly disappeared into the dense fog that hung over the creek.

“I guess we should follow him,” said Jon as more of a question more than a suggestion.

“Well, we’ve come this far – we might as well see the trestle from the top,” answered Theresa taking the lead. And so they began to climb. By the time they were halfway up the hill, the pair had lost sight of each other in the dense fog although Jon knew his girlfriend couldn’t be more than six feet ahead of him.

The moisture on the path made the dirt and grass slick and Jon slipped once, suddenly taking notice of how high up they actually were. He could see the top of the hill where the tracks met the trestle, but Theresa must have already made it to the top because he didn’t see her anywhere.
“Theresa?” he shouted out, looking at the ‘No Trespassing’ sign. “Are you on the tracks?”

“Yeah, come on up,” her sweet voice floated down out of the fog. “I’m standing on the Trestle right now. You have got to see this view!”

Jonathan climbed a little higher until he was standing on the gravel beside the tracks. He thought it was odd that his girlfriend had chosen to go onto the trestle without him. He remembered that the monster was supposed to have the ability to mimic people’s voices, to make it seem normal to step into harm’s way. He tried to see her better by turning his flashlight’s beam into the wall of fog over the creek, but the light just bounced back off the mist that drifted between the 8-foot-high fences enclosing the trestle.

“Come back off the tracks, honey,” he called into the opaque vapor. “There might be a train coming.”

He heard a mocking chuckle before Theresa’s sweet voice echoed out of the mist. “We checked the train schedule before we came. Don’t you remember?”

Jon did not remember doing any such thing. He hadn’t anticipated becoming separated or the fog being so thick, but he knew they had never checked the computer about it. “Kirk or Picard?” he shouted into the mist.

“Picard,” came back the answer in Theresa’s voice, as if it were an echo.

“Tennet or Smith?” he shouted.

The voice hesitated for a moment, before finally saying sweetly, “Smith.”

Jonathan was certain now that he was talking to a devil not his lover. Just then he heard the tracks begin to whine quietly. It was as if all of creation had stopped making noise, there was no sound except the humming of the rails.

“Jonathan! Help me! Where are you?” he heard Theresa shout out, but it seemed to be coming from a different direction than before.

Another voice answered before Jon could speak, a voice that sounded like his. “I’m over here, love...on the trestle, come a little closer!”

The man was so desperate now that he turned his flashlight again into the fog but this time a breeze whipped up and Jon could see his girlfriend not more than four feet in front of him. Standing before them both was a towering gnarled creature with the head and shoulders of a goat and the body of a man twisted with age, a smirking grimace on his fury lips.

The woman shrieked with horror and stepped off the trestle, onto the gravel. The train was rounding the curve and its headlight illuminated the creature as it threw its head back and howled. Jon grabbed his love, pulling her onto the grassy hillside beside the tracks, where they held each other, shivering, praying that the force of the wheels wouldn’t suck them under the train. It took five long minutes for their nightmare to end. Or had it?

As the couple ran down the dirt path away from the monster a voice shouted out sweetly from the trestle, Theresa’s voice in fact: “Come back soon and we’ll play some more!” Than a hideous, evil laugh echoed after them as they jumped into their car and sped off, vowing never to return.


The End
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