FLASH FICTION INDEX 2: Dec. 2011 - ?


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

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Post December 29, 2016, 02:07:21 PM

The "Elf Help" Challenge

The Elf Who Saved Christmas

By:
Jim Harrington



I squinted into the sun, a hand protecting my eyes, and saw what looked like a small Christmas tree perched on the bridge ahead. As I got closer, I realized it was a little person dressed in green pants and shirt and a red cap with a white puff sitting with his legs dangling over the edge. His beard was a few days old with a mix of black and grey hairs.

“Good day, good sir,” I said. I moved next to him and placed my forearms on the railing, my fingers laced together. “Long ways down, isn’t it?”

He didn’t respond, just continued to look straight ahead.

“Sun feels good after three days of rain. Don’t you agree?” I leaned over enough to see his face. “Tough day at work?”

He remained silent. I stood beside him for a few minutes, then sat down, mimicking his pose.

“My name’s Jed. You got a name?” I waited.

He finally said,“Elf 113,” in a scratchy voice.

“Interesting name.”

“Well, it takes a lot of us to make all those toys, and Santa’s too busy to try and name everyone. Besides, we all look the same to him.”

“Huh,” I said and tried not to smile. “So what brings you to the bridge today. I cross it just about every day, and I haven’t seen you before.”

“I . . ..” He looked down at his hands. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Oh, I doubt it’s that bad. After all, it’s Christmas, a time to smile, and sing, and best of all, drink. In fact, I have a half-filled bottle of fine whiskey in my coat pocket. Well, at least the finest I can afford. Would you like a sip?”

“No thanks. My mom said it would stunt my growth.”

This time I choked back a chuckle, but a little seeped out. I attempted to disguise it as a cough.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to get involved, but I hated to see someone who appeared to have lost his way do something he might regret--like jump. “So you never said why you’re here.”

“I got passed over for another promotion. Three years in a row. I even had my new uniform ready.” He looked out over the water below. “Everyone sees it as a badge of honor.”

“Oh? What does it look like?”

“It’s the opposite of what I’ve got on--red pants and shirt and a green hat.” He finally looked at me.” I guess the outfit I have on will finally get washed when I jump.”

“Whoa, whoa. What do you mean jump?” I wanted to reach out and grab his arm but was afraid it might startle him. “That seems pretty drastic for not getting a promotion.”

“There’s Elfie May, too.”

“Elfie May?”

“That’s what I call her. Her real name is Elf 275. She works. . .worked. . . in the sewing department. We’d been dating for a year. I was going to propose. I thought she loved me, until she and the reindeer herder ran off. I don’t know where.” He turned toward me, pain on his face. “And I don’t care,” he said, his voice a few decibels louder.

“You sure you don’t want a little nip. It’s the best medicine I’ve found.” I removed the bottle from my coat, unscrewed the top, and took a belt.

“Well, I guess it can’t hurt.” I passed the bottle over. He put the top to his lips, tilted the bottom up, and took a bigger drink than I’d hoped he would. I was going to have to panhandle to pad my bank account, i.e., my trouser pockets, sooner than usual.

“Thanks, “ he said, handing the bottle back. “Now jumping doesn’t seem so scary.” He placed his hands on either side of his legs and lifted his butt slightly.

“Wait. You can’t jump today.” This time I grabbed his left arm. “It’s No-Jumping-Off-Bridges-Day.” I grasped harder. “You’ll ruin everyone’s Christmas if you do.”

“You’re BSing me.” He relaxed and let his body ease back onto the bridge.

“No, I’m not. Swear to His Holy Father.” I crossed myself hoping I did it right.

“No, you’re BSing me for sure.” He scooched forward with a determined look on his face.

“Okay, I was BSing. But I’ve got a friend--a female friend--who might be able to help you out.”

“She can find Elfie May?”

“Well, no, but she’s nice and friendly--for a price.”

“You mean a hooker.”

“Kinda.”

“Either she is or she isn’t.”

“Okay, she is--or used to be. She’s a little long in the tooth, as they say.” It was my turn to look down at the rippling water. “We were married once. Needless to say, it didn’t work out. She drove me to drink. And I drove her to. . ..”

“Oh, hell.” he said, standing. “I didn’t want to jump anyway.” He brushed off his bottom and strode off the bridge. “Too much of a coward, you know. Let’s go see your old lady and find out if she has any Christmas spirit.”

I didn’t know if the little guy felt any better, but I did. I might even wish a few folks a merry Christmas on our way to town, something I hadn’t done myself for a couple of years.


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Post December 29, 2016, 02:08:19 PM

The "Elf Help" Challenge

A Spirited Meeting

By:
N.J. Kailhofer



"Kvass. Amarula. Bajtra!" the girl said.

Jesus Christie, it's another elf. This one had the look down, too. Dark hair, green eyes, pointy shoes, pointy ears, green and yellow striped outfit, stocking hat with a tassel--but she looked like she was six. I'm not into that. I'm not into Little Persons, either, but that doesn't seem to stop them from searching me out like I was the Messiah, or something.

Plus, she smelled a little like licorice. Yuck.

I ducked away from her on the dark, cold, snowy street. Viktor, the bouncer, waved me through the door into the warm barroom. He knew me well.

"Vodka," I called to Anton behind the bar. Anton was born in Brooklyn, but he poured the best Russian vodka in town. The best everything, really. He winked and poured me a shot before hustling down to a customer at the other end. The liquid burned all the way down and cleaned my sinuses, just the way I liked it.

"Are you the one who writes those books?" the elf asked.

I jumped, surprised. "How did you get past Viktor?"

"What?"

"You're just a kid. You shouldn't be in here." I waved to Anton. "Can you have somebody find this girl's parents?"

Anton's been pouring my drinks for years, so he's used to the obsessed fan thing. He started to come back over, but the 'she-elf' turned and glared at him, and, I swear, Anton stopped in his tracks and looked afraid to come near.

"I am Brianna Norrel. I'm 325 years old. I've been in taverns since before your great-great-great grandfather was born."

I scratched my two-day's growth of graying stubble. "Suuure you have. Right."

"Are you Ellis Cullen, author of the 'Elf Help' books, or not?"

"Yes, but I'm not giving autographs today."

Brianna smirked. "Don't want one. I need holiday spirit."

I barked a laugh. "If you're coming to me for that, I'm a dry hole. I hate the holidays."

She put her hands on her hips. "I read the dust jacket of one of your books. You're famous. You help people get their holiday spirit. Mine is gone."

"Look, those books are just a gimmick. A Little Person elf shows up and helps people save the day. They fix whatever is wrong, from a store closing to a sagging roof, help the couple fall in love, give them some holiday spirit, and everybody feels good. They sell a ton of copies to women." Now that they make them into movies on the Hallmark Channel, it's even worse. I used to be a real writer. Now, I can't stand my own work anymore. "I don't really know any elves, and they don't actually save the day. It's just simple, formula writing. I can't help you. Go away."

She climbed up on the leather stool next to me. "I can't go away. I can't go back without the spirit, so I'm staying with you until you help me get some."

I sighed. "Isn't there someone else you can bother?"

She looked sad. Like verge of tears sad. "You're the 'Elf Help' man. I'm an elf, and I need help."

I thought about leaving, but I really liked Anton's place. It was more my home than my own was these days. "If I help you, then will you go away?"

"Of course. After I have the spirit, I can go home again."

I blinked. "What, you're like, trapped here? Need a bus ticket for Cleveland, or something?" It would be worth it.

Brianna punched me in the thigh. It didn't hurt at all. "Could you take this seriously?"

I looked at her pointed ears and outfit. "Sorry. What was I thinking?"

She rolled her eyes. "Well? Make it happen."

"Make what happen?"

Do children look that annoyed at their parents?

She replied, "The holiday spirit."

"I don't think it works that way."

She muttered under her breath, "How do human women put up with them?"

I definitely didn't think I had enough to drink for this. "Hey!"

"If only for Kvass," she lamented.

Anton, who was hurrying past, stopped in his tracks. "Kvass?"

Brianna nodded. "Amarula? Bajtra?"

"Amarula... Bajtra... No." Anton held up a finger as if to wait, then disappeared toward his backroom. I didn't understand this at all. How could Anton speak Elf?

He came back holding a dusty, dark-green bottle with a no label. He set it on the brown bar top in front of us. A murky red liquid sloshed inside. "My grandmother made kvass like in the old country, from beets. I've had this bottle for many years." He uncorked it and poured a teeny bit into a shot glass.

I boggled. "Kvass is a drink?"

Brianna looked at me sideways. "Of course. What kind of spirit did you think I wanted?"

Brianna took a sip, and I swear to God, she began to sparkle. Literally! She sighed softly and whispered, "Much better than seagull wine."

Elves were real. I asked, "Why did you need me?"

She looked at me appreciatively. "I look like a kid. No one will sell spirit to me."

I asked Anton, "How much for the bottle?"

"$200."

I dropped the money on the bar and handed her the bottle. Her smiling face surprised and moved me in a way I did not understand at the time. I felt... I felt happy, like I hadn't been in a long time.

She hugged me and said sweetly, "Thank you, Ellis. I hope you have a happy holiday." She hopped down off the stool and strode out the door with the bottle. I felt quite warm inside.

Anton paused. "Uh, did you just give a bottle of booze to a six year-old?"

"No, it just looked like it." I smiled. A real elf had just helped me remember my own holiday spirit. "How about a round for the house? I feel like giving."

"You got it, my friend."

I mused, This would make a great book.


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Post December 29, 2016, 02:10:13 PM

The "Elf Help" Challenge

- Winner -


A Raisin To Live

By:
jmstein



She lived alone many years after her husband passed away. Life just seemed to pass her by. The traffic outside her front windows traveled the streets to and fro as she watched sad and alone. Her husband took care of everything and she was fine with that. Now that he was gone, she didn't have the desire to do anything.

She no longer decorated for Christmas except to unwrap the elf statue she would place on the mantle above the fireplace. Her husband found him in an antique store before they were married fifty years earlier. The statue (she was never sure what it was made of) seemed to beam with joy each year. Megan and Jim would often talk to it and the elf appeared to radiate a glow as if 'he the elf' was glad to be with them.

Jim was always industrious. A good provider and a nurturing companion always with a smile; Megan had joy when she looked at him. He was quite a handsome man in a non-assuming manner. And devoted, oh yes he doted on her with great affection. He loved her soul and this encompassed him throughout their life together. He was tall with brown curly hair and always muscular being he was a cement contractor. She loved looking at him, when he wasn't looking.

Megan was ordinary in appearance and she knew it. Nevertheless, her life was her man and she was happy with that. Now much older with white hair, her dark blue eyes having faded to gray, she had long since buried love and there was no one else.

The house was always kept clean. The house needed painting, it needed new curtains for the old ones had worn, the refrigerator wasn't working like it should, the couch looked old and torn, but she covered it the best she could with knitted tapestry. What the house needed most was mirth and warmth from living souls who cared for one another. I would like…(the writer thinks for a moment) she would have liked that too.

Hermee wasn't smiling anymore. He was frowning. He wasn't happy sitting on the mantle. I don't know - can elves get depressed?

Children go their own way, living their own lives, forgetting about the times they were held and comforted by a mother who adored them. But sadly in time, the parents become the children, often forgotten, except for a call a few times a year on important occasions. Megan was still waiting for her call.

The doorbell rang. She rushed to the window and peered out the curtains. It was her neighbor Jonathan and his five-year-old daughter Shelley, a nickname for Michelle. Megan opened the door.

"Hi Megan," little Shelley said smiling. "We got a present for you!”

"Did we catch you busy planning for Christmas?" her father said being polite.

"Please come in. I'm glad to see you both. Have you finished your shopping for the holidays?" Megan was embarrassed she didn't have food on hand. She always loved serving raisin cake to visitors during Christmas days.

"We can't stay but a minute, we have many stops to make. Merry Christmas Meg." Jonathan handed her a beautiful hand crafted scarf knitted by his wife.

"Thank you so much." Megan held back tears.

"I have some homemade eggnog for you. I'll put it into your fridge." While Jonathan walked into the kitchen, little Shelley walked over to the fireplace. She stared up at the elf statue and stretched for it, but of course it was much too high. Megan reached up and took the statue from the mantle and handed it to her. Shelley hugged it cradling it like a baby.

While in the kitchen, Jonathan opened the fridge to find it off. He checked the plug; it was in but the fridge wasn't working. What food was in there had spoiled. He looked in her cabinets to find only crackers and some canned peaches with rust around the edges.

He placed the eggnog on the counter and walked hurriedly back into the living room. "Come on Shelley we need to go." He noticed the elf statue his daughter was snuggling in her arms. "Sweetheart, put that back we need to leave."

"No, it is her present," Megan said earnestly. "I want her to have it."

Jonathan said thank you and rushed out the door. As Shelley walked down the steps, Megan could see the face of the elf statue...and he was smiling...for the first time in a long time. Megan closed the door, leaned her back up against it and cried while she held her stomach. She slid down until she sat on the floor.

Hours later she got up and went to the kitchen to make some raisin cake in case she had more visitors. She opened the cabinets and remembered she didn't have any flour, raisins, cinnamon or eggs. Her memory faded from the present to the past and back again.

She walked back to the living room and sat on the couch. She looked up on the mantle. She missed him.

Moments later, there was a knock at the door. She looked out the curtain but it was too dark to see. She slowly opened the door and to her surprise it was Jonathan's father who was also named Jim. His wife had passed away the year before and he stayed in most of the time.

"Your son was here hours ago but he left," Megan told him.

"I know I came to see you".

"He reached out and hugged her with one hand. In the other hand he was carrying a raisin cake and a thermos of coffee.

"How did you know?" Megan asked looking at him with bewilderment".

Jim said, "Your little elf told me"

Looking past him she could see her yard full of people with gifts and food and love and mirth. Hermee went for help.


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Post January 29, 2017, 01:44:52 PM

Murder in Cranberry Bay

The challenge was to write a story from the perspective of a human who murdered the alien Oola in the Great Lakes tourist town of Cranberry Bay.

Example story:



Hooked on Oola

By:
N.J. Kailhofer



Oola's thick, neon-pink blood dripped all over me. I was drenched in it. It smelled like sour milk. If it all wasn't so horrible, I'd have looked ridiculous.

"So," I asked, "you're saying this is normal?"

County Sheriff Wayne Landreman looked at me. "Yes, Bill. They call it the Blood Dance. Hoosacians like the victim here do it when they have been 'breached,' as they call it. They spray it all over before they die. They believe the further their blood travels the more chance they have of uniting their life force with the universe, or some such thing. I heard about a traffic accident in Chicago were a car spun out and drove into three 'Hoos' on a sidewalk. That stuff sticks to everything, and stains. They were scrubbing and hosing down the storefronts on those buildings for a week. Your hair and skin will be that pink color until it grows out."

He pointed to my squad car. A pink spray peppered it, except for a void in the shape of my body where I stood in front of it, and also where my favorite lure dangled at the end of my fishing pole out the back window. It was open just a crack. "They'll have to repaint the car. After the crime lab releases it, of course."

"Crime lab?" That's just what I needed. The Village of Cranberry Bay only had one squad. I got enough guff from the county deputies for being a part-time constable, but wait until I had to report to crime scenes in my old, rusty Geo Prizm with the words "Long Cast Charter Fishing" on the side. Even school kids I picked up for speeding past Lambert's Hardware would laugh at me.

Wayne shrugged. "Oola here was a visitor from another planet. Some kind of linguist who could communicate with almost any species, even animals. That's special, even for them. You're lucky three witnesses saw you respond. You pulled up, stepped out, and pow. Since this stuff goes everywhere, it would be inside the squad if you had something to do with it." His tone became a little condescending. "Well, except for that little bit where your fishing pole was. Otherwise, you'd be a suspect. Obviously, you can't work the case, though."

"Hardy Brockman flagged me down because she was in the alley behind his bait store screaming like a banshee. I never heard anything like it."

He nodded. "That's the windup. They do it for around two minutes while the internal pressure builds. Then 'pop goes the weasel.'"

That was important. "So, she was... breached... within two minutes of me arriving. Do we know what 'punctured' her? Did she get shot, or something?"

Wayne frowned. "Bill, you can't work the case."

I knew my place. "I'm the only police force this town has."

"My office will make extra patrols. You're out of this." His voice softened. "It takes more than a paper cut to do them in, but any knife or sharp metal object could do it. Their world is very watery, soft, and squishy. They lvisit wet places, like the Great Lakes, and swim. They can stay underwater for hours."

"Was she inside Hardy's bait shop? There's a lot of sharp fishing tackle on sale in there."

"Dammit, no, Bill. Stop it." Wayne paused. "Two questions before we get you out of those clothes, and then you're on your way home. First, did you have any prior contact with the victim?"

I nodded. "Yes, in Mike's café, last night. She asked me who was the best charter captain. She said she wanted to go to the salmon grounds."

"Why?"

"She didn't say, but I assume from what you said, she wanted to swim."

"Who did you tell her?"

"I'm booked tomorrow, so I told her to go to Popp's."

"Anybody see you talking?"

"Mike."

Wayne seemed satisfied. "Ok, second question: Are we still on for tomorrow?"

I smiled. "I'll get you some fish. Still bringing two on the charter?"

"Yeah, two assemblymen from the capitol. Wait until they get a load on how far you can throw a hook. I've never seen the like. So far and spot on."

I tried to look nonchalant, still dripping pink goo, gesturing at the scene around us, "Casting and crime, those are my only skills."

***

Dawn was beautiful that morning. My charter boat bounced up and down as we pounded toward the grounds, but the waves made Wayne's elected buddies look a little green. The lake smelled like fish.

Wayne asked, "So, Pinky, What're we going for? Salmon? Steelhead? Walleye?"

I said, "We'll see what we can get. They say Brown Trout are hitting well."

Wayne whispered, "Just not perch, ok? These guys are important for my funding."

"Not to worry."

I slowed the boat down and checked the GPS. This was where Oola wanted to swim. She said she wanted to teach our fish about the hooks and lures.

What would we have done then, if the fish wouldn't bite? This was a fishing village. We couldn't make it on selling knick-knacks alone.

I read up on 'Hoos' as soon as they started showing up in town. I made sure I was in the alley when she came out the back door of Hardy's shop. I parked my squad just around the corner. Got her right in the neck. There was plenty of time to drive around to Main St. and get flagged down. I left the murder weapon dangling in plain sight, out of my car door, to be covered with her sprayed DNA, so no one would suspect the lure already had her blood on it.


I looked at the fish finder, grabbed a rod, and let the line fly. The assemblymen were impressed by the distance. I handed the rod to one of them right before the fish hit. He was loving it.

Wayne grinned at me and I smiled back.

No one can cast like me.


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Post January 29, 2017, 01:45:55 PM

Murder in Cranberry Bay

Treasures

By:
Kate Stuart



To say people liked Oola is vastly understating her popularity. Oola was here as part of the Earth-Chaimal exchange program. Every year, thousands of Chaimangi exchanged places with Earthlings to experience living on an alien planet. The locals were all mad about having an alien in their town. A tourist town like Cranberry Bay, on the banks of the gorgeous Lake Michigan, thrived on out-of-town visitors, and Oola was both a visitor -- anxious to spend ridiculous amounts of cash on her Earth experience -- and an attraction. How could the locals see this as anything but a win-win situation?

All I wanted was to be close to Oola, and, with some careful planning, I was sure I could make her mine.

***

Finally, a couple of weeks ago, she came into my store, Lakeshore Treasures. A tall, octopus-like creature, she sauntered in on four of her eight tentacles. After handing me the special filter that shifts her voice into the human auditory range, her operatically soprano voice filled my head, “What is it you do here?”

“I-I-I sell tourists souvenirs. These are little baubles to remind them of the happiness they found here.”

I picked up a delicate sea urchin-looking driftwood sculpture. “And I make these.”

Oola reached out a single, translucently blue-green tentacle to stroke the smooth pieces of wood. “It’s beautiful.”

“Sometime, perhaps you would like to see my workshop, or,” I rushed on feeling her discomfort at the idea, “maybe you could come with me when I go collecting.”

The finger of her tentacle brushed against my hand holding the sculpture. I could have died of rapture right then.

She only said, “That might be nice. The lakeshore is beautiful.”

***

I invited her that Monday to accompany me. The weather was perfect. Spring was only starting to give way to summer so the air was cool and the water cold. Oola balanced on four tentacles using the other four to sift through the sand and shells. Mostly we didn’t talk. I didn’t want to scare her off, and it’s not like we had any privacy. Everywhere she went, hordes of admirers followed. I had been one of those. But now I was more. Now, I might even be allowed to call her my friend.

At the end of the afternoon, my basket full of new treasures, I invited her to dinner.

“I can’t. I have other plans.” Did I imagine that her voice sounded sad? “Maybe some other time.”

***

Apparently, Oola enjoyed scoping for driftwood. She came into the shop early Tuesday to ask if she could accompany me the next week. I said yes.

I spent the entire week in a flurry. The workshop had to be ready for a tour, everything needed to be in place; and there was following Oola: catching every glimpse I could IRL, Facebook, Twitter, I even opened up a Snapchat account though I find all this social media exhausting and pointless. Of course, there was also minding the store; though I left that mainly to my assistant.

I snagged a dinner reservation for Friday at Toliver’s -- the steakhouse that Oola would be patronizing that night.

There she was, seated at the table next to me. She put the napkin on her head -- a mistake she’d made when she first arrived and now had adopted as a personal quirk. Then Oola invited me to come with her to an art opening at a studio in downtown Cranberry Bay.

After dinner, I winded my way downtown to the studio cum frame shop -- Badger Gallery. I wished there were some way to shed Oola’s entourage. Crammed into the tiny space, we drank wine and gaped at some local’s abstract impressions of the town. They were awful, but what could I do but stay?

I’d just about decided that it was useless, when she appeared by my side slipping a tentacle into my hand, “Do you want to get out of here?”

My breath caught, “Uh. Y-yeah. Sure.”

She tugged and I followed. We walked along the quiet downtown sidewalk.

Finally, she said, “Is the invitation to visit your workshop still open?”

I couldn’t even continue walking. All the preparations; all the faux conversations, wheedling, cajoling, enticing, seducing, all in my head, and here she was asking. Outright.

“Yes. Of course, yes. We can go there now if you’d like.”

She leaned in a little, “I’d like that.”

***

We got an Uber and ten minutes later we were standing at the threshold of my workshop. I opened the door.

Oola made a little “oh” at the sight of rows of driftwood Chaimangi dolls: awkward simulations of their jellyfish bodies with twig tentacles held together by pins, wire, and glue. Each one hand-stained blue with painted red eyes, four of them, and yellow lips.

“These are stunning,” Oola sang. Turning to me, she wrapped two tentacles around my neck and two grazed the bare skin of my calves, a thousand pinpricks of ecstasy. Then she kissed me.

Her lips were cool and intoxicating. I knew this was my chance, however much my body wanted to wait. I grabbed the knife from the work table next to us, and jammed it up into her soft underbelly.

Her eyes flew open, “Wh-what?”

I caught her in my arms and gently lowered her to the floor, “Now you’ll be mine, Oola. Always mine, and no one else’s.”

She laughed breathlessly. Green blood seeped down the corners of her mouth. “Enjoy me while you can, Shaina.”

“I will.” I kissed her, running a hand over her skin.

“Do you feel that? On your neck? On your legs?”

I did, the pinpricks of ecstasy turning into knife points of pain.

“Those are my babies, burrowing into your flesh, my dear. Soon you’ll be nothing but a distant memory.”

I had just enough time to see the workshop door open. Was that another Chaimangi?


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Post January 29, 2017, 01:47:09 PM

Murder in Cranberry Bay

Just a Kiss

By:
Robin B Lipinski



“Would anyone like some more cranberry sauce? Seems I made a lot more than that old turkey and mashed spuds could handle.” Martha, she was the matron of the Parker family. At age seventy-two she ran her home much like a Marine drill instructor, though with a thinly veiled sense-of-humor.

Some of those seated at the table were family, some were friends, some just ended up sitting there, but they all shared one thing in common, they all lived in the town named after the sauce, Cranberry Bay. It was no coincidence the Parker family lived there or served ample amounts of mashed sour cranberries…they owned many ponds and made their yearly living growing and harvesting the nasty product. And since this was also the Holiday season they all shared another of Martha’s locally famous fantastic gut busting turkey dinners.

“No thanks mother, I’m about as stuffed as the bird you served,” laughed Henry, her balding oldest son said as he pushed his chair back from the table and lit up his pipe filled with aroma inducing cherry tobacco.

As the room filled with the sweet smoke the conversation turned to recent events occurring in the boring town of Cranberry Bay, which by local standards as boring as waiting for a red stop sign to turn green.
“Say, did you all hear about the alien getting cut into tiny little pieces?” Henry said this with a smiling afterglow of consuming the wonderful meal.

“No, she was not cut into little pieces…” Martha said, a slight tremor in her voice. She was a very beautiful woman, a kind of woman not seen around here what with all those crazy human women running about here on this planet like a bunch of dressed up whores…”

The large group of people seated there at the very large table all started talked about the killing. It was kind of hard to concentrate. Snippets of conversation were: “I heard the killer used a chainsaw.” “Some say she was raped and then cut up into pieces.” “I heard she was cut into pieces and then raped.” “Cannibalism…” “Hate crime…” “Alien haters…” Oh my, the conversation was as varied as one would expect among a bunch of people talking about what they know nothing of. Most of them led boring, mundane lives, and most of them were really not that intelligent. Only two people could be considered smart, that being the head of the family Martha, and Henry, the oldest son of Martha.

Martha’s face was red when she said, “No, she was not raped or cut up into pieces, I know…” but before she could finish her sentence one of the guest asked, “What was the alien woman’s name?”

Henry said, “I knew that alien, her name was ‘O’ something…Ola, Olga, no…Oola, yes that’s her, I mean, was her name. Oola. She used to shop at lot at my store. Spent a lot of money she did. Nice person for being an alien and all. Aside from the strong odor of sulfur her skin emitted, she was actually not bad to look at.” And with a remembering thought added, “And her four breasts…Ah, my…They…”

“You watch your mouth Henry!” Martha was red in the face and angry that Henry was starting to stray into the taboo realm of sexuality, and for Cranberry Bay sex was the missionary position for married couples behind locked doors and minds.

“Oh come on mother, lighten up. Oola was very beautiful, and the way she screamed…I mean, she walked…” Henry’s face immediately turned white with his omission now known to the world.

Silence is often said to be invisible but in that room when Henry said, “Scream,” the whole room became very silent. It was a solid wall until the silence was broken after a few awkward seconds.

A cousin’s face was white when he asked Henry, “What do you mean when you said the alien screamed? How would you know this?”

“Okay. Okay. I confess. Oola and I were lovers. Such a wonderful love. We had sex in the woods, in my home, her space ship. My god, her body was beyond this world…”

Everyone looked at Henry with mixed looks of shock, dismay, envy, hate…It was the Babylon of emotions in that room as the people’s minds came to judge what they just heard: Henry engaged in, well, in outer world carnal lust and now one of those lovers had been discovered no longer among the living.

“Did you kill her?” “Why did you kill her” “What was the sex like?” “Do aliens have vagina’s or what the hell do they have? And so many more questions were thrown at Henry that he just sat there wondering why he had said anything at all. The answer on why was actually pretty simple: He loved that alien and he had drank a wee bit too much Scotch before/during/and after the wonderful dinner.

While the whole room had focused their attention on the confession of Henry they completely ignored Martha as she was just an old lady who just happened to cook wonderful meals and run the Parker family with an iron fist.

Now, if the people had paid attention to her earlier they would have seen her leave the room and return with the family double-barreled 12 gauge shotgun. They would have seen her but for sure they heard her open the barrel and insert two shells and with a quick snap, shut the barrels.

“How could you Henry? She was to be mine. She was my lover, my soul mate…I was going to marry her and move to her planet, yet it is you she wanted. You and not me… Damn you Henry. I had to kill her, and now I have to kill you…”

“No! Martha, no. Nooo!” Henry raised both of his hands in defense, but 00 buckshot? Human flesh is weak, just like love, and anger.


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Post January 29, 2017, 01:49:11 PM

Murder in Cranberry Bay

Put the Blame on the A.M.E.

By:
Sergio Palumbo



Cranberry Bay was a small city situated along the coast on Lake Michigan, in Wisconsin. Named for the bay nearby, a wide stream flowed through the town, which was enjoyed by the few residents who actually lived there. The local population was meager which was common in the few villages and urban areas that were present this far north. However, there were huge numbers of tourists in this place – and these were, nowadays, mainly aliens, of course.

Nothing really happened there, at least not very frequently. This was why all the citizens were so worried and upset as soon as the news started spreading about the corpse of that visitor.

The dead alien’s name was Oola and the evidence indicated that he had been murdered in this quiet town. Being a typical tourist from another world who came every summer to visit the area, he seemed to love this village situated near the Great Lakes that reminded him of his birth planet: full of water with a perfect environment for him. The members of his species resembled yapok-like creatures – and they all usually spent a lot of money for touristy goods and services, much to the delight of the local shop-owners.

“Did you know that Bartholomew Hardwood harbored a deep resentment to the alien tourists?” a voice asked me. It was Grazia, the long-haired woman who owned the largest newsstand in town.

“Why do you say that? Do you think that he might have been involved in such a cruel murder?” I asked in return.

“A policeman who is a friend of mine told me that Oola was assaulted using some specialized tools that came from Bartholomew’s shop...the one that closed down not long ago. So, he is the man they are accusing of this crime.”

“I did hear him talking against the aliens before,” I said frowning.

“You see? It was him. Who else would have done this?”

As I move away, walking along the streets of Cranberry Bay which are full of worried alien tourists, I think about what I have done and I sneer. I also remember how it all started and how things got to this point.

What began the whole thing was the collapse of Earth’s economy which occurred the day the Agreement for Merchandise Exchange (the A.M.E.) was signed between the appointed Earth Government and the representatives of the Union of Monger Worlds. Well, it was not as if Earthlings had a choice, since they had admitted their goods were inferior once everyone had seen what the alien newcomers had for sale. The alien’s products were actually far better than anything else you could ever find on Earth: medicines, computers, electronics, there was nothing on our planet that could compare to these new products! And the technology by which the aliens made such merchandise was a tightly kept secret, so there was no chance for Earth companies to compete. In exchange, what aliens wanted was food and other special products that were typical of our world, that couldn’t be cultivated easily elsewhere.

So within a matter of 50 years, a large part of Earth had been turned into megafarms in order to sell those newcomers what they wanted, thus trading for the new unbelievable alien wares in return. On the other hand, all the companies on the planet based on human technology and old medical treatments were put aside, soon going to pot, leaving millions unemployed.

Earth’s military might have opposed all this but what could they try against aliens who travelled from one star to another in the same time a human could travel from home to his office? Our planet had no chance of winning a full blown war… But resentment and hatred against those alien newcomers had grown in some parts of the population, and it was said to be spreading in many areas of the country. In Wisconsin, too, some thought…

So, long story short, most of the unemployed humans simply turned to other activities, as it seemed that such aliens didn’t just like Earth’s food, but they also loved our planet as a perfect place to vacation. So, the tourist business greatly increased, although competition was stiff, every day.

This was exactly why the alien named Oola had to be murdered here in Cranberry Bay. It was why the alien tourists had to believe that it was due to some resident who hated aliens … someone who had just lost his income because of the family business closing down. Bartholomew was the perfect mark to hang this murder on. His stubborn family had been the last company in the area to manufacture small excavators and metallic hand tools, only closing up a few months ago.

He had to be blamed because he appeared to have a good reason to join one of the groups that spread hatred against the aliens across the country. The evidences that I planted at the crime scene would easily help the local policemen to come to that conclusion, as it was the obvious solution to the case.

Actually, as I said, competition is fierce among the small towns situated along the coast of Lake Michigan. Every place wants more tourists, as the aliens are the only financial resource now, fish and food apart, and a murder like Oola’s will force them to check out other better sites to vacation. They will find other less dangerous places nearby to spend their money, like Blackcurrant Bay, for example. By chance, I am from Blackcurrant Bay, I was born there 50 years ago, and what I did is for the good of my town. And for increasing my tourist business there, indeed…

Things were going to change now. Blackcurrant Bay would become a thriving place as soon as the aliens changed their destinations and started to go there instead. I was ready to welcome them, along with my fellow citizens - with the best possible vacation spot on Earth that they could ever dream of


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Post January 29, 2017, 01:50:04 PM

Murder in Cranberry Bay

Oola the Rat

By:
George T. Philibin



“Tourist my ass! She was a spy for the F.B.I. I know that. She came here pretending to be some dumb ass tourist but I know the truth about her. Yes, I know all truths and Oola was a rat beyond that meaning of rat.

Every day, every hour she smiled and looked happy. To me she’s just a rat. That thing that walked around on tentacles and wiggled down the sidewalk. Yet, they all loved her----the stupid shopkeepers. Just because she spent money they were all friendly toward her. I tell you she was a rat beyond the definition of the word. Yes, a rat! And that squeaky voice she had?

They didn’t know what I knew. Oola sucked the blood from winos. Yeah, did you know that! The winos under the pier. I seen her do that. And the stray dogs and cats that have been reported missing? Yes, Oola got them too. She got them all, that tentacled squid looking thing, but she made one and I mean it, one big mistake. You never trust a snake. A rat, or a two-face. The feds knew what she was doing, but didn’t arrest her. That told me that she was working for them. She had to be.

Oola thought that Buddy was a nobody. She didn’t know that Buddy works from me. I found him late one night--- high as the stars on marry-jane down at the beach. He was sixteen at the time, and just ran away from home. Nice kid, I thought. Told Joe to get him and bring him to my place. The kid took to me like a Republican to a tax cut. By the time he reached nineteen, I had him loan sharking. With his size he did a good job. Our nice little tourist town is just a cover. With all the people coming and going, they never suspect that I’m moving Heroin, weed, pills, along with laundering money in my little quaint shops along the piers. Hell, these tourists pay big time for junk. A lot of money’s flowing. I like that.

Oola asked too many questions. She was always stickin’ her ---what looked like a nose-- into my business. Asking the shop keeper in a friendly way about how much money they took in during the day. Trying to look in the back rooms. Hell, she even when so far as to ask if she could get into a poker game. Do you believe that! A poker game and she said that she heard through the grape vine that some big games go on in the back rooms.

When Buddy first told me about this Oola I thought that maybe she watched too many old Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson movies. You know these aliens from space just love the old gangster pictures. I don’t know why. I guess they all behave themselves up there. Oola kept it up. That day when she asked a storekeeper if she could have a fix, I knew something was up then. Nobody does that except a rat! And that storekeeper was Buddy.

Buddy did a good job of covering. Boy, did he do a good job. He looked back at Oola and said, “Do you have a flat tire?” Oola, according to Buddy just stuttered back. Boy that was a good one.

Buddy called me afterward and I tailed Oola. She’s smart, very smart in some ways. She didn’t call to text anybody. That’s smart. She didn’t leave any messages anywhere, and she didn’t talk to anyone out in the open. But she made one hell of a mistake. You see, Buddy knows things.

Oola went into the Historical Museum one day acting like some tourist. I had Buddy watch her. Boy was I lucky this time.

Oola went over to a picture of a light house. She spent some time looking at it and that’s where Buddy knew something was up. You see, the museum was a library one time, and where the picture of the lighthouse is, you could talk softly into the wall and be heard through it.

That’s how Buddy talked with his girl when he was a teenage. Her parents hated him and didn’t want her around him. Buddy would slip in the back janitor’s door and talk with her through the wall. Somebody else must have known about it and used it so Oola could talk with the feds. Yes! Probably some other rat the lives around here set things up. Buddy saw a fed leave the back janitor door shortly afterward.

I wanted to do the job myself---- been a long time since I killed a rat. Got out the old Tommy Gun my grandfather used when he was in the Capone gang. Been wanting to used it some day.

Wasn’t hard getting her, and the old Tommy gun would confuse he feds. Everybody uses new automatic weapons now. Not some old antique.

But I was worried. She might leave before . . . but she didn’t. No, she kept hanging around and going to this place and that. Boy, she never realized what was coming.

The 4th of July came and that’s when I got her. Nobody noticed the shots, how could they with all the fireworks going off. It was a nice-clean-job.

To this day nobody suspects me------ they think it was one of the Ardriennes. They hate Oola’s planet and have vowed to eliminate them. But what the hell. We do have a nice little tourist town----and everybody’s welcome.


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Post January 29, 2017, 01:51:54 PM

Murder in Cranberry Bay

- Winner -


Murder in a Small Town

By:
Jim Harrington



“Oola looks at peace. Doesn’t she, Nate?”

“I guess.”

“You did a wonderful job picking out the coffin. The mahogany with the white overlay sets off her blue uniform nicely.”

“Least I could do.”

“It is, given the circumstances.”

“I’m surprised no one else is here. Everybody seemed to like Oola.”

“It’s early.”

“I’ve never been in a funeral home before. It’s like a dungeon in here, dark carpet, dark walls, dark mood. All it needs is shackles hanging on the walls. These chairs aren’t very comfortable, either, and the music reminds me of molasses. I hate the smell of molasses."

“Maybe those folks in New Orleans have the right idea, having a parade for the departed and making a party of it.”

“You know, she’s almost pretty lying there.”

“She never was a looker.”

“No, not really. The wig helped, but the long, oval face and small slit for a nose made her stand out.”

“That and the fact she oozed orange tears when she cried.”

“I don’t remember ever seeing her cry.”

“She did right after you stabbed her the first time.”

“Oh.”

“Hey, Nate. Remember when we found her rocket half submerged in the lake?”

“How could I forget? Strangest thing ever to happen in Cranberry Bay. That and the time Jack Burks fell into the water, pickup and all, while ice fishing. Idiot should have known it was too warm to drive out on the lake.”

“He was new to the village. Didn’t know the quirks of Lake Erie like the rest of us. Anyway, she was kinda woozy stepping out of that contraption. How would you describe it? Like a big old torpedo with four wings and a tail--certainly not the flying saucer you’d expect.”

“A torpedo with four wings sounds good to me. I was surprised how folks here took to her. Especially, Edna Farber. She never took to anyone.”

“When we told her Oonah was an alien, she wanted to deport her back to Mexico where she belonged. The rest took a liking to Oonah right off. Even kept her a secret to keep Nosy Rosies away.”

“You keep doing that. Her name’s Oola, not Oonah.”

“Right. I keep mixing her up with that poet lady. Anyway, it’s too bad you had to kill Oola.”

“I didn’t have any choice, according to you. She knew.”

“Maybe.”

“What do you mean maybe? Maybe she knew or maybe I had no choice.”

“Maybe she knew.”

“You’re the one who said she positively did and that I had to do something about it.”

“Well, you should know better than to trust me. Aren’t I the one who told you to shoot out Mr. Tundrell’s bedroom window because he was sleeping with his daughter.”

“Uh huh, and it turned out she was living in Seattle with her mother. A shoulder shrug? That’s all you got? I could have seriously injured the man. I heard the fights on the TV through the open living room window. You know he refuses to wear his hearing aids. I didn’t expect him to be in the bedroom.”

“And how about the time I told you to run over Mrs. Gilbert’s dog because he tried to bite me.”

“You mean the Rottweiler with no teeth?”

“Yea, that one.”

“You should have told me about the no teeth thing before I hit him.”

“That’s not how I work, Nate. You know that.”

“I should, but you constantly bug me until I can’t seem to help myself. So, did Oola know or not?”

“Does it really matter now? She’s dead.”

“Yea, she’s dead, and it’s your fault!"

“Hey, I’m not the one who found her sneaking out of our house. I’m not the one who turned angry and red and told her to not tell anyone about the money she found, and that she could have some if she kept silent. I’m not the one who called her a liar when she denied knowing anything about the money. I’m not the one who forgot to move the bag of money you found on River Road to a safer place—like I told you to. And I’m not the one who stuck the blade in her, then dropped her in the creek behind the Miller’s place. The creek was a good idea, though, since everybody likes that spot for fishing. Lots of footprints to confuse the cops. So, what have you got to say for yourself?”

“You bastard. You did it to me, again. Imposed your will on me, even though I tried to ignore you. You’re always whispering in my ear, egging me on to do bad things. And I keep listening to you, buckling under. Why can’t my angel side ever win? Why is it always your voice that prevails? Dr. Jensen is right. I need to get you out of my head. Stop listening to you. Be my own man.”

“She does say that a lot. Maybe Doc Jensen needs to be the next one. What do you think about that, Nate?”


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Post March 05, 2017, 04:05:10 PM

The Undying Love Challenge

The challenge was to write about love with or from a zombie.
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Post March 05, 2017, 04:06:23 PM

The Undying Love Challenge

In Passing

By:
Robin B. Lipinski



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hello…” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Post March 05, 2017, 04:07:12 PM

The Undying Love Challenge

Small Carcasses on the Floor

By:
Sergio Palumbo



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Post March 05, 2017, 04:08:14 PM

The Undying Love Challenge

- Winner -


Beautiful Dreamer

By:
N.J. Kailhofer



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

His eyes opened.

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

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

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

Where am I? How long have I been here?

The last thing he could remember was Candy.

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

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

The memory made him sigh and smile.

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

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

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

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

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

I must make her safe, he repeated to himself.

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

Horace swallowed in a dry throat.

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

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

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

Around her wrists, he saw the rope.

She was tied down.

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

The thing on top of her had to suffer.

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

Horace bit.

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

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

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

He deserved it.

"Good," Candy said from the bed.

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

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

She was so beautiful.

Candy kissed his forehead.

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

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

They were dead.

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

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

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

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

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


The End
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Post April 05, 2017, 08:50:22 PM

The "Never Apologize for Saying You're Sorry" Challenge

The challenge was to write a story about a character living with a specific type of fear and whether they either overcome it or be destroyed by it.


This challenge was run by Daniel Johnson.
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Post April 05, 2017, 08:53:25 PM

The "Never Apologize for Saying You're Sorry" Challenge

The Hero Forge
By Hope Gillette


"Because we're in the business of making heroes, that's why."

Raelyn's eyes snapped open, her attempt at meditation ruined by her own thoughts. With a sigh, she leaned forward and grabbed the small, polished figurine on the floor before her and placed it deep inside the inner pocket of her tunic.

No communing with the gods tonight. Not that they had anything to say to her, anyway.

Steeling herself to what she was about to do, Raelyn quietly ascended the stairs to where her husband had fallen asleep in his study. Standing in the doorway of the dark room, she could make out his moonlit form hunched over in a chair by the fireplace.

He was sound asleep; he'd worked hard that day at the market.

Walking over him with an unnatural stealth, she gently touched his hairline, her fingers barely whispering over the cool skin of his brow. They'd been together for 6 years. He was a good man, and it had been impossible not to love him.

Still, she was an Enlightener, and she had a purpose here, no matter what it cost her emotionally, physically, or mentally. With that affirmation of her role, she swallowed back her tears and picked up the pipe still smoldering on a table next to her husband's slumbering body.

He had a bad habit of leaving it burning.

***

At first, Balor thought he was dreaming.

He was warm, but too warm, like the heat of the summer sun hit midday and he was caught in its unforgiving light. He could feel sweat pooling in trenches on his skin, but in his half-sleep state, he couldn't figure out why the smell of smoke was heavy in the air.

It wasn't until he heard his wife scream in another room that he jolted up in bed. "Balor!" she cried out again. "Where are you? We need you! The door!"

What is going on? How did Raelyn get me to bed? He stumbled out from the tangle of sheets only to realize smoke was pouring in through the opening underneath the door. Oh gods the house. The house is on fire! Corrine! Raelyn!

Rushing to the door he tried to pull it open but the handle seared his skin. "Gods," he exclaimed, jerking back. "Raelyn!"

"Balor? Help us!" Her voice was distant, most likely coming from Corrine's room down the hall. "We can't get out! Something's blocking the door!"

They couldn't get out, but neither could Balor. With a pained cry, he grabbed the handle again, groaning as his skin blistered around the red-hot metal. Summoning all his strength, he wrenched the door inward, but to no avail. The hinges had fused shut with the heat of the fire in the interior of the house.

Cradling his disfigured hand, he ran to the window, knocking out the panes of glass with a pitcher Raelyn kept by the bed. Numb to the shards of glass biting his skin as he crawled through the opening, Balor sucked in the cool night air and tumbled out onto the grass.

No time. Get up. He could still hear Raelyn screaming from inside, her words inaudible. On his feet, he charged toward the other side of the modest cabin, the side where his daughter had a window into her own room.

In the fleeting moments as he ran, the night's scenarios ran through his mind. What could have caused this? It wasn't the season for a hearth fire, where embers might have caught after bed...

Gods. My pipe. Did he leave it burning like he had so many nights in the past?

Those thoughts slipped away as his daughter's window loomed in view, and then everything fell away as each window in the house erupted outward, flames consuming the structure entirely.

The force of the blaze was enough to knock Balor off his feet, but the grief was what kept him laying on the ground long after.

***

"How is he?"

"Oh, he's going through the phases, you know. He's passed the point of taking his life, at least, though he is much consumed with guilt."

In a quiet room, in an ancient ruin, the Enlightener once known as Raelyn nodded her head. "I see."

The monk sitting next to her placed a sympathetic hand on her shoulder. "You should take some extra time before the next one," he said softly. "If there is a next one. This has taken a great toll on you."

Unable to quell her tears, Raelyn nodded. "Yes, Master Uilleam. Tell me again, why it has to be this way?"

"Oh my child, because we're in the business of making heroes, that's why. The hero forge works through overcoming great, personal suffering." The robed man, supposedly a direct link to gods Raelyn doubted daily, smiled bleakly. "If this man chooses to rise above his pain, he will do great things for the world. If he chooses the path of bitterness and pain, well, then, on to the next."

The way her mentor casually spoke sent a shiver up the Enlightener's spine. She looked back into the rippling pool at her feet. "Yes, Master Uilleam," she replied. "If he overcomes...he is destined for great things?"

"Why, of course, child. Nothing short of saving the world."

"That's good, then," said Raelyn, her voice breaking. "I am ready for an end to this."

Master Uilleam nodded. "I am sorry about the child. Not your first, though, am I right? Surely the pain is less this time."

With a bitter chuckle, Raelyn kicked a stone into the water. "You know what they say. Every hero has a tragic story, and we are, after all heroes of our own tales."

The monk did not reply, and he and Raelyn sat in somber silence, watching the ripples bounce off the walls of the fountain.

The End
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Post April 05, 2017, 08:54:14 PM

The "Never Apologize for Saying You're Sorry" Challenge

Double Play
By Jim Harrington



Date: 2216
Location: Xerion, fourth planet from the sun in the Abdula Galaxy

Danjaki noticed Yerkof enter from the haze and amble toward the bar. "Nasty out there today," Danjaki said.

"Gets worse everyday," Yerkof replied, using his fingers to brush ash and grit from his government cyber security worker's uniform. He removed his hat, slapped it against his knees a couple of times, and placed it on the bar. "Makes you wonder if those in charge ever go outside."

"Conditions have worsened since the President ordered an increase in mining production." Danjaki replied. "I hear the air quality on the other side of the planet is so bad people have to wear masks any time they're outside."

"I eVideoed a couple of friends from there last night. They said the air quality wasn't much better indoors. Asked if my office had any openings." Yerkof put his elbows on the bar and cupped his chin in his hands.

"The government keeps it up, we'll need to find another planet to live on soon. The usual?" Danjaki knew the answer but asked anyway.

"Make it a double."

Danjaki poured a long shot of dark whiskey, put a napkin on the bar, and placed the drink in front of Yerkof. "I heard about Phrya leaving you. Sorry, man."

"My own stupid mistake to cheat on her at that postal convention." Yerkof downed his drink and nodded for another. "I sure wasn't thinking with my brain."

"How'd she find out?" Danjaki asked.

"From a stupid idiot -- me." Yerkof shrugged his shoulders. "I couldn't stand deceiving her."

"You two've been together for a long time."

"Started dating in high school. Married ten years next month." Yerkof took a small sip, wiped a dusty sleeve across his face, and swiveled on the stool as a woman walked into the room grabbing everyone's attention.

"Wow, haven't seen her in here before." He stared at the Eusterian as she strode to the opposite end of the bar. Two men approached her immediately and began a conversation. She smiled and accepted a drink. When Danjaki delivered it, Yerkof thought she might have whispered something in Danjaki's ear.

The low light in the bar didn't provide Yerkof with a clear view, but he could tell she was about five feet nine inches tall, with Eusterian blue skin and a single braid of hair hanging to her waist that divided her otherwise bald head in two perfect sections. She wore a singlet that had to have been painted on. Her smallish breasts peeked out of the top. When she smiled, Yerkof felt a twitch in his crotch that made him pinch his legs together. He spent a few more minutes ogling her slim body and appealing curves.

"Need another?"

Yerkof jumped at the sound of Danjaki's voice.

"Geez, you sneaked up on me," Yerkov said, holding a hand over his heart.

"Or maybe your mind was busy elsewhere." When Yerkof, his head down as if in prayer, didn't respond, Danjaki moved a towel in circles over the bar a few times before continuing. "Think Phrya will take you back?"

"I hope so. I tried eTexting and eMessaging her, but she didn't respond. I called and it went to vMail. She's staying with her brother. I don't dare go there. Not yet, anyway."

"He's a big SOB," Danjaki said.

Yerkof nodded and finished his drink. He pulled a wad of money out of his pocket, laid it on the bar, and headed toward the door.

"Where you going?" Danjaki asked. "It's still early."

"Home to take a cold shower." Yerkof glanced again at the woman before wobbling outside on weak knees.

"Better make it a double," Danjaki yelled through a laugh.

The Eusterian woman slithered onto the stool Yerkof had vacated and put a half full glass of Third Galaxy wine on the bar.

"That's quite the disguise," Danjaki said.

"It's so unlike me, all tight and sexy," Phrya replied. "Maybe that's partially why he…" She stared straight ahead, her fingers wrapped around her glass. "Anyway, my cousin's a makeup artist in CineTown. I asked if she could help me out and voilà," she said with a swipe of a delicate hand. "Did he notice me?"

"Every man and many of the woman in here noticed you," he said. He offered to fill her glass. She covered the top with her hand and shook her head. "There's going to be a lot of drool to clean up tonight."

"Funny," she replied, crossing her legs. She saw Danjaki's eyes follow the movement and was pleased she could still attract attention from the opposite sex. "As long as Yerkof was one of the droolers." She winked, lifted the glass in salute, and took a sip of her wine. "Do you think he knew it was me?"

"Naw. It's too dark and smoky in here to see anyone clearly at that distance." Danjaki wiped the bar some more, uncertain what to do. "You gonna take him back?"

She paused before answering. "Probably, but he needs to suffer more first. Will he be back tomorrow?"

"Should be."

"I'll be here, too." She finished her wine and handed Danjaki the glass, lightly touching his wrist. "He really likes my butt, you know. Maybe I'll make sure he gets a good long look at it tomorrow." She stood up, turned her back to the bar, and wiggled from side to side. "Oh, God," she said, her cheeks warm. "I can't believe I did that."

"He'll need three cold showers," Danjaki said, stepping closer to the bar to hide his excitement.

"Let's hope," she said with a wink as she sauntered out the door, leaving many of the patrons open-mouthed.


The End
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Post April 05, 2017, 08:55:01 PM

The "Never Apologize for Saying You're Sorry" Challenge

Murder by Numbers
By Eddie Sullivan


She never loved me. At least that is what I tell myself as I keep cutting. This needs to be done before the maid comes. If luck is with me I can push it a little past check out time, but the body needs to be long gone by then. A few little details can still be taken care of in the last hour or two. The best I estimate if the body isn’t gone by eight a.m. then I’m toast.

“You never loved me.” She didn’t answer.

The hacksaw didn’t seem to be doing its best work. I wondered not for the first time if you needed to sharpen them once you brought them home. It was far more likely the blade, which was replaceable, was a crappy one in the hopes of getting the buyer to spend more on an upgraded version. Again the world never seems to disappoint.

“God,” crunch, “damn,” crunch, “money grubbing” crunch, “pigs.”

The carpet knife came sharp though. Most of the meat came clean off for those first few layers. I considered doing some more cutting like that but let it pass. Staying on task was the only way this was going to work out. She said I never finished anything. I wrote half a novel, built half a porch; she even said I was only half a husband. Ironic now that she was less than a whole wife.

The clock on the night table said 5 a.m. I felt the need for more coffee. The courtesy packs were gone long ago. No time for a java run. Hmmph.

My arms were killing me by seven. Most of her was gone though, down the drain. Thank you Piggly Wiggly for being open all night and for selling cheese graters. I packed the bones in our luggage and took our clothes to the dumpster in a garbage bag that was in the Chevy. I can’t remember why it was in there. Guess I got lucky.

Clean up was easier than I thought it would be. If I looked over the room one more time I figured I would lose it. It was nine a.m. I had two hours till check out. The bags were lighter with just the bones believe it or not. I made an effort to make it seem like they had more weight than they had in reality while walking them out to the car.

Everything seemed good so I popped back up to the room and set the alarm for eleven. I would catch a well deserved nap. Then I would check out and begin my new drama free life.

The klaxon of the alarm blared and in the haze I expected to hear her complaining about something anything, the noise, the time, something. It took a moment of not hearing her voice; the voice that got under my skin worse than any alarm before I realized it was over. No more did I have to suffer the shrew.

Vigor filled my steps as I grabbed the key card off the nightstand and headed to the front desk. A young Hispanic girl was working by herself. She gave that fake customer service smile, but hers was pleasant enough and close to believable. I smiled back, why not? It was going to be a beautiful day.

“Hello sir. How was you stay?”

“Lovely. I feel refreshed.”

“That is terrific.” She took the keycard and punched at her keyboard for a moment then slid a paper across the desk.

I took the pen that was sitting there and went to sign it. Just before applying the pen I saw that the name line said ‘Karen Hundecker’.

“Excuse me miss. You gave me the wrong paper.”

“I’m sorry Mister...?”

“Palmour, Sidney Palmour.”

She typed away some more. “Huh. Stupid system. Somehow it confused you and Ms. Hundeckers room keys. You were in 112 and she was in 211.”

A prickling went up my back. I could feel the temperature drop and a miasma come over the lobby. The elevator dinged and the door opened. It was her stepping off with that stupid scowl on her face.

“There you are stupid! I leave you for one little bit in the hotel bar and you stay out all night drinking. Did you sleep in the lobby you worthless bum?”

The girl pushed the right paper across and I signed it. The harpy slapped me in the back of the head on her way out past the desk.

“Go back up and get the bags, stupid.”

There was some ridiculous award or other on the counter for display to the customers. It was a big piece of glass carved into a trophy, which was to resemble a shooting star coming up. It was for cleanest rooms in the chain like ten years ago. I grabbed it over hand and turned it like a club. Quick sprint to catch up and bang. Right across the back of her head. She never saw it coming. The young desk clerk gasped, of course. I kept swinging after she hit the ground. Pieces began to shatter off the trophy as there wasn’t much head left between it and the floor.

She would have ratted me out when she got to the car and found the bags of bones anyway. Miserable witch. When I was sure she wasn’t getting up like some mythological monsters that couldn’t die I stopped smashing.

Then I sat back and waited for the cops. They had to be coming. The breeze coming in the front doors smelled sweet. It was just about springtime. Winter was over, new beginnings were arriving. Ends and beginnings, everything was always coming around. Things had a way of working out.


The End
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Post April 05, 2017, 08:55:47 PM

The "Never Apologize for Saying You're Sorry" Challenge

Rewind
By Casey Callaghan



Having a time machine means never leaving a mistake uncorrected.

There's a little bit more to it than that, of course. If I hadn't found the secret to eternal youth in the far future, well, *a* far future, I would have died of old age centuries ago. And then there are the calculations. Every last variable has to be accounted for, every last quantum variation, every last -

I'm sorry if I sound a bit obsessed. But I have to be. I don't dare get a single detail wrong, not the tiniest little bit out of place. It's said that a butterfly's wings change the course of history. I've got computing hardware - from a different universe - well enough to track every last butterfly's wings to the millimeter. If only I'd had it in time, before - but even this is not enough. I can't track every last molecule of the atmosphere. I could turn the entire solar system into a giant computer - I have done that, in a few possible futures, far from where it could have any negative effects on the present - and I still wouldn't be able to simulate the problem well enough to find anything approaching a solution.

Last time I tried that - I made a self-improving AI and then jumped forward a few million years to give it time to work on the problem. It tried to psychoanalyze me instead.

It - it shouldn't be a hard problem. I just need to put everything back. Make it as if I'd never invented this infernal time machine in the first place. But that's the one thing I can't change. Because the first time I went back - two hundred years, just a test - I changed something. And I don't know what.

And everybody I ever knew is gone - replaced by similar people with different names, an entire world of total strangers with not one single person that I remember. A genocide, all the worse because there were no corpses left - I didn't just kill everyone I knew, I wiped them out of existence before they were even born! Even my own younger self - gone, inaccessible, never born - and I, every now and then, I, I try again, I go back, one second before the last time, and it never works, I never find myself back in the present, I never find my family, oh, very rarely, I find strangers with their names, once even their names and faces, but different under that, so, so, so, so different, I've spent ten thousand years trying and I'll spend ten thousand more if I need to, it needs to be right in every last detail if I have to rerun history ten billion times to get my family back then I'll do that because having a time machine means never leaving a mistake uncorrected...


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Post April 05, 2017, 08:56:33 PM

The "Never Apologize for Saying You're Sorry" Challenge

Puff or Poof
By: Robin B. Lipinski



“Hiya Tom. Wanna come over and look at girly magazines?” At only the age of twelve, Frank was already interested in his dad’s tattered collection of forbidden fruit hidden beneath what else? His dad’s, Fruit-of-the-Loom, underwear in the lowest drawer in the parent’s bedroom.

“Naw, not today.”

“What? Are you feeling okay…” Normally Tom and Frank were so like-minded it was as if they both were brothers or twins instead of best friends. So, it was strange to hear the disinterest.

Tom mumbled something that was not understandable and he appeared to be engrossed in something inside a large plastic bag.

“What? I can’t understand what the heck you’re saying,” and as he was saying this he grabbed at his friend’s plastic bag adding, “What’s so interesting in there?”

“Holy cat nip! Is that…Are those… Fireworks?” Tom saw that the bag had a lot of brightly colored tubes and those tubes had fuses.

Letting his friend take in the boyhood joy of seeing not one, not two, not three, but a whole bag full of illegal fireworks… It was now evident that no girly magazine could hold the youngster’s attention when compared to the hot, red hot firepower of powder and BANG!

“Dang. Where the heck did you get this from Tom? There must be enough in there to blow up a whole house.”

Smiling, Tom casually said, “I found them.”

“You found them? Where?”

“In old man Tuckerson’s garbage.”

A confused look came over Frank’s face as he said, “Tuckerson’s garbage? What were you doing in… Oh, yeah. I understand now.”

Toms face became a red as it was known to both boys that old man Tuckerson also liked girly magazines only he did not save or hide them in his bedroom, rather he threw them away. Amazing how boys can become good at ferreting out forbidden fruit such as beer, cigarettes, and such.

Frank then added, “Wonder why he threw out such great fireworks.”

“I don’t know, but they sure are cool. Lets go to the fort and check them out.”

The boys had built a fort in a cottonwood tree nearby. It was a typical boyhood fort. Built out of scabbed materials such as scrap lumber, garbage, old carpet. It definitely was not pretty or functional but it was theirs. It was their sanctuary from the prying eyes of parents or other adults. It was here they could talk about fishing, hunting, girls. It was here they could smoke cigarettes, swear like sailors, and be what the world has always been; boys. For better or worse, it was a great fort.

When both of them entered their castle, Tom dumped the contents of the bag upon the plywood floor. The plywood was extremely weathered and covered with an ample amount of forest pack-rat pellets, or in the vernacular of the boys, the forbidden word: (Rhymes with schmit.)

“Wow! Way cool! This is awesome!” Tom was greatly excited seeing the large pile of various missiles and packs of some large strange explosives. He was not as excited though as Frank.

“Dang… Would ya look at that pile? Geez, I bet we could blow up a car, maybe blow a rock to smithereens.”

Any adult looking in on this scene would pale and start sweating. They would also seize the pile or call someone brave enough to do so. There was indeed a huge pile of Chinese ordnance. Old, unstable, and extremely dangerous illegal fireworks much larger than the mundane fireworks sold every Fourth of July in town. These fireworks were so large they could only be legally purchased by professionals, with a license in pyrotechnics.

A silence came over both boys as they sat there and ogled the treasure. Only the peaceful sounds of birds flying in the forest and swooshing breeze of the leaves outside the fort could be heard.

Tom broke the silence and said, “Should we?”

Franks nodded his head and said, “Yea. Which one first?”

Tom picked up a large red ball covered in large black ‘X’-s, “How about this one?”

It was agreed and Frank reached up onto a crude wooden shelf where they had a lighter for lighting cigarettes. When he clicked it, no flame. He tried again and again with the same results of no flame. “Crap. Looks like the lighter is out of fuel. You got one on ya?”

Shaking his head, Tom said, “Nope.”

There was a silent moment again until Frank said, “Wait here, I’ll be right back.”

“Okay.” And with that said and agreed upon, Frank climbed out of the fort and ran towards home to get another form of ignition leaving his friend to guard the fort.

Sitting alone in the fort with the explosives, swooshing leaves, and chittering birds, Tom fondled the fireworks and dreamed. As he was lost in thought he spied the old lighter that did not work. A bit bored now he reached out and clicked the lighter, with the same results being no flame until on his last click, the lighter emitted a flame. What luck, the lighter emitted flame, Tom smiled, and the pile of fireworks was filled with fuses. Fuses old and highly flammable and in Toms young hands the flaming lighter merely brushed a stray fuse…

The coming explosions were great. Deer ran away in all directions. Birds were blown out of the air. The fort became kindling, and Tom? His body was now in many strange pieces, one piece resembled the outline of the country of India.

Floating in the air was the spirit of Tom and he said, “Wow! Nice!” He floated over to Frank’s body running at top speed back to the fort, the sound being heard all the way home.

Hovering over his friend, he reached out and patted Frank on his shoulder saying, “Don’t cry Frank, I’m okay. Everything will be okay.”

Frank could not hear but he felt his friend was near.


The End
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Post April 05, 2017, 08:57:18 PM

The "Never Apologize for Saying You're Sorry" Challenge

Two Princesses and the King
By Kandi Tims



King Aiden rules over the land over Catan, a land rich with majestic mountains and streams filled with gold. He had two daughters, both lovely to behold. They had eyes of blue that shimmered like the majestic mountains and had golden strands of hair like the gold in the streams.

"Rachelle," said King Aiden to his eldest daughter, who was elder of the two by about three minutes. "You shall marry Prince Yule, soon to be king in yonder land of Simeesia. You shall be honored as first of his wives and rule with him in yonder land until the time when the tow lands shall be joined together. They shall be ruled as one land with armies and riches surpassed by none."

But Rachelle didn't want to marry Yule. For she had seen him but once and didn't fancy the balding upon his head or the prearrangement of their marriage. Besides, she felt that Tennison the sheriff of Catan would be a better candidate to rule with her. He was acquiring much power and had thick wavy brown hair and she liked the way he twirled his fingers about his mustache when e came by the palace to court her.

"Sister Leah," she said to her twin on the night before she was to wed. "We will make merry mischief like we did when we were of younger age. The story of our delightful switch will be told throughout all the lands. And when the mighty, soon to be king learns of this, it will already be bound by the laws of matrimony.

Leah, who had a birthmark upon her cheek, agreed and married Prince Yule. But upon the night of their wedding in their bedchambers, Leah was very afraid.

"Oh my prince," she said. "Please have mercy upon me for I have deceived you. If you will spare my life, I will be a maid servant to you all of my days." For she sensed he was a man to be feared of great honor, authority and righteousness. She lifted her golden strands of hair and showed him the birthmark. "You have married the wrong sister."

Yule was touched by how lovely and humble of spirit she was. "No, my beautiful bride, never could I have dreamed to find a wife such as you," he said.

Leah was most grateful that he not only spared her life, but he loved her very much. Unlike his father as his father's father he took on no other wives or concubines. When Yule became king, she rules by his side. As agreed they combined the two kingdoms and ruled it as one. And the people of both lands benefited from the union and honored and revered the couple. They had many children and were very happy.

Rachelle, on the other hand bemoaned her life. "It all should have been mine! I could have loved him if I had only known," she thought to herself. Rachelle had married Tennison, now the high sheriff of Catan.

"Fetch me my slippers," he said. "It was a hard day at work!"

"Work, work, work," Rachelle nagged. "That's all you care about."

Rachelle wished she could go to the great wizard and undo what had been done. "I am the eldest! I am entitled! But my sister is ruling as queen in my stead," she thought. But there was no wizard in Catan or anywhere else that could reverse the mistake that was made. Beside, to Rachelle it was not her mistake, but rather, an unfortunate twist of fate.

"Sweet cheeks," Tennison bellowed, who was now balding and round of belly from much ale. "Can you bring me some ale too?" This jolted Rachelle who was deep in thought.

"Who do you think you are talking to? I am the eldest daughter...of King Aiden...I'm entitled...Oh," she shrugged. "Here are your darn slippers."

"Ah sweetums...what about my ale?"


The End
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Post April 05, 2017, 08:57:59 PM

The "Never Apologize for Saying You're Sorry" Challenge

The Secrets of General Nuisance
By Bingemeister



General Nuisance sashayed the visiting Rear Admiral into his prefabricated office to quench their parched tongues with some nerve calming hooch, brewed from rice in a still that was built from a rusted jeep radiator and filtered through a pair of long worn skivvies. Of course, the Rear Admiral was unaware of the origins of this elixir. This was okay, since he spewed it onto the general's smooth surface desk, which was due to the pretty bottoms of female service women, who frequently dusted it during sex. It didn't make no never mind, the general was happy for all the service the women under him gave...him.

"We got ourselves a nice little operation here, don't you agree Paddy?" The general was on a first name basis with all the underhanded crooks he consorted with.

"Yes indeedy, a nice profitable scam. And the military oversight committee will never get their hands dirty by showing up here overseas." The two men started to laugh in an inconspicuous way, more like an evil laugh, yet disguising the evil part so as not to give it away.

When they had their fill of laughing, they moved on to more pressing business...the laundry. Skimming money from the laundry supply purchases, adding a nickel more to the invoice and pocketing the surplus was one of the many ways the two men could pick up extra change. They did that too in the bakery and made a lot of extra dough. Didn't make a lot of money, but not every scam can be profitable. Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose.

A pretty petty female officer came into the room and said to the general, "You have a call on line one and two".

"At the same time? You know I can't think and talk simultaneously. Who's on the first line?"

"Yes sir, it's the Korean delegate Wel Hung Hoo."

"Then who is on the second line?" the general said slightly irritated.

"No sir, it's James Watt, the secretary of defense."

"So Hoo's on first and Watts on second?"

"Yes sir, and there is someone waiting for you in the outer office." She wasn’t too smart, but at least she always held her end up, which was the way the big brass liked it.

The general was distracted by her curvaceous figure, but then continued. "So, who's in the outer office?"

“No sir," the blonde attendant said getting frazzled, "Who's on first."

Getting a handle on this the general said, "Okay who, I mean what, uh..I mean the person in the outer office, what is that person's name?"

"I don't know," she said bewildered.

The general threw a banana at her and continued talking with the admiral.

The general asked, "Why don't we stroll by the nurses shower and do a top to bottom inspection. You know they can't do anything about it, cause we're so powerful."

"Sounds good. I like it when they get embarrassed and cry and tell us, boo hoo I got a husband or kids or well, whatever. They follow my orders or it's the stockade. And you know they don't get out of there without a lot of bending over. So they're screwed anyway they go."

The men started that evil laughing again, shaking their big potbellies up and down. Well they couldn't help it cause...they're so fat!

So General Nuisance and his buddy the Rear Admiral, went in the direction of the women's shower in an over excited manner. They say power has its privileges.

They called a formation insisting that all women, including the naked ones must report as is or be punished. These Brassy guys were also into that.

As they walked up and down, eyeing each and every woman in their underneath, making them feel violated (you know, these bawdy men like that too), they did not noticed one naked woman in a jeep barreling toward them at eighty miles an hour.
_ _ _ _ _

Ooooh the carnage! Oh the inhumanity! Say it isn’t so! Blood everywhere! Squashy! Squishy! And you know...she didn't just hit them once. She went crazy on their butts. The angry naked woman kept running the jeep over their ever decreasing mass of person, until the maintenance crew brought out the wet vacs.

The women who had been ogled by the former powerful men, swore that the jeep went rogue and ran the two men over…twenty or thirty times without human involvement.

Yeah they say power has its privileges. They also said something about a woman scorned.

They…say a lot of things.

The End
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Post April 05, 2017, 09:00:57 PM

The "Never Apologize for Saying You're Sorry" Challenge

The Button
By Jean-Paul L. Garnier



“Enter sequence code 016358. Confirm when sequence is initiated. Out”

After all the months of sitting in this hole it was the first order ever to come through. Jerry sat up alert and began the work he had been trained for. He quickly looked over the protocol sheets and initiated the code. “Sequence initiated.”

Lights on the instrument panel began to blink and a complex fury of bleeps sprung forth from the machine. “Any further orders?” asked Jerry

Silence was the response. Probably just a training drill to see if I’m asleep at the helm down here. He went back to thumbing through his magazine, looking more at the pictures than reading. He repeated the question and again there was no response. Yep, a training exercise. I knew it. Convinced that he would not receive a response he decided not to bother the brass with more questions. Glancing up at the clock he saw that his scheduled break was coming up. He switched the machine onto automatic control then began to ascend the spiral staircase up the tube towards the exit. The elevator was still broken down and he cursed the twelve flights between him and his smoke break.

Finally he arrived at the ground floor and typed in his pin number to open the door. The door wouldn’t budge, so he shouldered it and nearly fell to the floor when it swung wide open. Recovering his balance he reached for his pack of cigarettes and was busy lighting up when he noticed the strange shift in light. It was only three in the afternoon but it sky around him appeared to be dusk. What the hell?

Jerry bent down to extinguish his smoke and realized that the ground was covered in ash. It wasn’t a training exercise. The epiphany shrank him. I, I did this. They never told me what the sequences were for. Oh God. He gazed up to the horizon and knew then that the entire landscape was now covered in fallout ash. He swallowed dryly.

Reaching for his pack once again he pulled out another smoke and lit it. Not bothering to close the door behind him he walked out into what had once been the parking lot. His boots sank into the ash as more rained down. He didn’t bother to look back as he strode into the wasteland, his mind looping the numbers 016358.


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Post April 05, 2017, 09:01:56 PM

The "Never Apologize for Saying You're Sorry" Challenge

Bring Them Back...
By Sergio Palumbo



For most people the term castle brought to mind an enormous stone structure on the top of a hill. And this was true for the most part, at least for similar buildings that you could spot in many of the realms that bordered this country. But the great fortress standing on top of the small mountain within the walls of the capital of the Empire of Klener also meant the personification of undisputed supremacy, as it was the seat of power for the murderous tyrant who lived there.

Well, truth be told, the great castle had seen better days, and there was much more activity around its enormous gates and along its impenetrable battlements, where cavalrymen entered and exited continuously to follow the orders of the Emperor. His troops went here and there, night and day, to execute the ruler’s commands. In most cases, their orders were to apprehend people, torment them and then kill whoever was left alive after their long imprisonment in the underground dungeons.

Actually, the usual thinking of the Emperor was very simple: he really believed that his rule would be strengthened and unquestioned if he only had his many enemies in his hands, all of them. He knew he would feel much safer once every last one of them was dead and buried.

This he had done for 60 years, having begun his reign when he was 18, and the passing years hadn’t made him less cruel. All wrapped in his luxurious garbs, with costly fur-lined vest coats, he sat in the Great Hall, his long white curls covering his shoulders while his hardened features looked weary. His appearance sought to instantly draw your attention, and the pale face showed off two black eyes that seemed to be sunken into his head. The man spent all day long thinking of possible dangers and of his enemies that still needed to be captured and killed. There were nothing else in his head, and no deeper worries to upset him.

Things had always been this way throughout the Empire, and multitudes of common people had died because of his bloody orders.

But the man had made a mistake, and it was a very large one. There was a lone sorcerer who refused to serve him. He lived alone in the woods, not interested in the material things or in meddling in the problems of the Empire. But the tyrant couldn’t tolerate anyone living within the boundaries of his lands who refused to submit to his will. Despite all the suggestions his oldest mages gave him, and the serious warnings, he wanted that man brought before his eyes to be subjected before him.

“Leave him alone, allow him to be free…” some wise mages told the powerful Emperor.

“He will never act against you if you don’t harm him…” others added.

But the bloody tyrant didn’t listen to them. “Kill him now, execute my orders!” he replied. He was not ready to accept that someone might live freely, simply. So, he ordered that man to be brought to the courtyard of the great castle and be burned alive.


When his mages saw that the ruler gave this order, they were astonished.

The bloody Emperor should have listened to his advisers. He should have stopped when that man started cursing him saying that he would be ill-starred from that moment on, and that the souls of the enemies he had killed would persecute him, turning his last days into hell on Earth. Those severe, awful and bloodcurdling words were spoken. But he didn’t stop.

Since that day, things changed in the castle, and throughout the whole Empire. The tyrant began having some strange visions, a few delusions at first that increased very soon, each one becoming stronger and more frightening. There were unusual presences, ghosts apparently, that entered and sat wherever they wanted, startling him. And what worried him most was that such souls were only visible to him! ‘Keep a cool head!’ he thought, trying his best, but there was nothing he could do.

It didn’t take the Emperor long before he recognized those faces and understood who they were, or better, who they had once been. The ghosts of the many enemies he had had killed under his rule! But he had had them killed so he could eventually get rid of those, not to have them come back as undead! Very soon they filled every corner of the great fortress he lived in. His mind started faltering, his senses weakened and he was afraid to meet his courtiers in the open, preferring to stay alone, without taking the chance to stumble into one of those presences that only he could see.

Then, he reminded himself of the curse bestowed on him by the sorcerer he had burned alive some time before, and he understood.

“Bring back my previous glorious days!” he found himself uttering in the dark, while nobody could see or hear him. But it was too late. There was no way to go back in time, to change his past actions. There was also no way to get rid of those ghosts, and turn the castle again into the image of power and stability that it had been before.

Similarly, it was unattainable by the Emperor to become what he had once been, and this was why he remained secluded, alone and mostly silent in a dim tower of the castle. For that was the only place his mages had been able to protect using their sorcery, as a safe site for the dejected ruler to stay away from the vengeful souls of the many dead he had previously killed by force.

Oh, and the fact that he had had all of those mages killed, too, once they had failed to extend that useful protection to the rest of the castle, had just added more and more ghastly presences all around, of course…


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Post April 05, 2017, 09:02:50 PM

The "Never Apologize for Saying You're Sorry" Challenge

No Brainer
By The Fisher of Men



There are zombies and then, there are zombies. The kind seen in Sci Fi flicks are from the recesses of the human mind; frail imaginations of ghosts and goblins, vampires and monsters. None such exist.

But what are mind-controlled slaves, who have been implanted with biochip technologies, forged through generations of torture and dehumanization.

This is where my story begins.

Human trafficking has been going on since the beginning of civilization, setting apart the elite masters from the masses (like you and me). And the plan is going, well...as planned.

It only takes ten minutes to make an incision on the right side of a human head and insert a chip that ceases the personality and the will of the human being leaving their minds ready for programming. A mind can be programmed in many ways, even through frequencies from computer software.

There are a few signs that you're observing a mind controlled slave, but they are becoming harder to detect. Their eyes often have a glassy appearance and a dissociative stare. Many human slaves are demon possessed and so their eyes are black as the pit of hell.

***

"Wake up, wake up. Can you hear me?" the nurse said to the patient. The patient opened her eyes staring at the cold, white-blue ceiling, possessing no thoughts.

"She is ready for conditioning," the nurse said to the programmer.

***

Reader, I’ve seen this before. It is an assembly line. Cruel they are that captures the mind of those who would be free.

Most of the people involved in human conversion technology are human bots themselves.

Enslaving the human race has always been the plan. You precious reader would be terrified if you knew how short a time you really have.

***

The conversion lab underground at the Desario Air Force Base.

“Cyrus, the infant girl is rejecting the chip. During the three attempts, some of its brain tissue was damaged,” the lab tech said to the demon overseer.

Impatient he growled, “Incinerate it!”

***

Actors and actresses in movies and television are born into generational families, meaning their parents and their grandparents and their great grandparents were mind-controlled slaves. The methods of mind control now are high tech, but there have been various methods used through the centuries to enslave humans. Methods involving chemicals, hypnotism, fear induced trauma and torture too gruesome for you reader to know.

I’m a journalist researching and identifying the progression of the world toward the New World Order. I commentate through various online sources. I know the dark powers are watching me. They watch for anyone that could interrupt or delay their plans.

There has always been a violent possession of demonic spirits until technology was created around the nineteen forties (technology created for human enslavement has been fifty years in advance of known technology.

***

I was startled by a sound outside my window. I see through the blinds it’s a van parked on a street corner diagonal to where I am staying. They’re using equipment to monitor my actions. I’m typing this offline so they cannot see until I upload to your site, but if they have equipment to see through my walls…

I must hurry.

***

Ultimately, the plan is to exterminate a third of the world's population, (the useless eaters is what they call us) and implant the rest of humanity with chip technology. The elite masters buy and sale mind control slaves (people who once had a will of their own and now whose only thought is what is given to them).

In the ancient book it is told how angels who had fallen mated with human women who bore to this world a race of giants, demon/human hybrids that became the secret rulers of this planet, aided by trillions of lower ranking demons, armed with the powerful gift of deception - so powerful they have deceived the elect of this world throughout time.

You are being conditioned dear reader and are probably not aware of it.

***

A human slave enters the underground bunker of “The Council. “I have given orders to include RH 487 in the processed food supply. It should take effect in several months.”

“Take off your clothes!” The old filthy men enjoy their slaves.

***

In the air, chemicals called chemtrails are being sown which make humans receptive to programming. The media, entertainment, sports and especially the news are all programming - all designed to slowly make the human race susceptible to mass mind control.

Religion has been infiltrated and demonized; the major businesses of the world are owned and operated by the New World Order. You're in a world system where what is true seems like fantasy and what seems like fantasy is actually real and terrifying.

It is a hard fight to resist evil and cleanse your life so as to take yourself out of the world system in order to overcome it. That's why most people choose not to fight...until it's too late.

The news is programming chaos into the world - racially charged division, loss of faith in the people’s national government, inducing fear (the demons feed off of that) and creating worldwide mass instability.

One day a leader will emerge and make all the trouble go away and people will follow him, without reservation, because he will appear to give the world relief when actually the world council will just stop creating the chaos.

I have not given my life to God, a mistake I am living to regret. I need more power to fight. I could have done so much. Now, I don't know, maybe I still could. I need to try.

There are a lot of unfriendly signs. It's still not too late.

As for you dear reader, we all have to make our own choices...


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Post April 05, 2017, 09:04:37 PM

The "Never Apologize for Saying You're Sorry" Challenge

- Co-Winner -


Dust

By N.J. Kailhofer



"Do you not ever clean, child?" old Vala snapped. "You cannot let him in!"

Young Anna regarded the shriveled woman in filthy rags that smelled like grime and soil with obvious credulity. "Let who in?"

Vala grabbed the broom from beside the empty fireplace and spun it on Anna in her fine, flaxen dress, holding the straw end only inches from the surprised girl's nose. "He is a monster, a devil of the night."

"Who?"

Vala ignored her. "He will come with the dust. Keep him out."

Vala shook the broom insistently and Anna realized the old woman wanted her to take it.

"Clean, now." Vala said. "Clean well, that I may tell the Elders you are fit to marry Johan."

Anna grabbed the broom and set it aside. Indignant, she asked, "What do you mean, fit? Who are you to judge me?"

Vala strolled to the broom and calmly picked it up before abruptly smacking Anna over the head with it.

"Ow!"

"Listen, now. No one in the village may marry without my word to the Elders." Her eyes dropped. "The cost is too high. Clean!"

Chastised and a little afraid of her visitor, Anna snatched up the old broom and hurried to cleaning Johan's small cottage. Vala crossed her arms and stood in the middle of the room, watching the girl's every action like a hawk. When Anna was done, she looked up.

Vala's face was a mask of disappointment. "Do you wish that devil to take your child?"

Anna stepped back. "What child?"

Vala snorted. "Johan's seed already grows within you."

Anna instinctively put her hand on her belly. Ashamed, she asked, "How did you know?"

Anna steeled herself for a fluid burst of abuse, but instead, Vala sighed and sat slowly into the creaky rocker by the fireplace. "You are not from this village, so you cannot know. I was once in love with a man, too, except he was not a man."

Anna sat at the table to listen.

Vala's eyes glazed, happy for a moment.

"Reynaud," the old woman said. "That was his name. Oh, he was fine. Tall, handsome, with good hair and teeth. Neatly-kept, dark, curled mustache. His clothes were nice, a rich man's, which I suppose he was. He owned a perfumery, and he always smelled delightful. He called on me late in the evenings, always after dark, and we courted... He said he traveled the land to trade his perfumes, so I loved to hear his tales of exotic lands and strange people. So different from here."

She paused, "He never smiled. His eyes would look happy, but his mouth never smiled. That was strange about him, but that was all that was unusual. In every other respect, he seemed the perfect man."

Vala looked sheepish. "I loved him, 'tis true, and I lay with him out of wedlock."

Anna raised her brows at this, but she held her tongue and did not call the old woman the hypocrite she wanted to.

"Once I knew I was with child, I had to tell him. We talked late and then lay together. He grew restless as dawn approached, but I didn't want to let him go. What if he was angry, or rejected me? I was sure I couldn't live without him. He said he must go, but I held him and said I must tell him a secret. He asked if it could wait, and I said it could not. He bid me hurry, but telling a man you have his child is not easy. I struggled. It grew light out, and finally he shouted for me to tell him, for he must leave."

Anna was at the edge of her seat. "What happened?"

"Tell him I did." Vala lost herself, remembering. "Reynaud smiled wide for the first time, and that's when I saw his huge, sharp fangs!"

Anna gasped.

"I thought he was about to rip me open and drink my blood. I was never more afraid! Then, just then, the sun came through the window and landed where we lay. The moment it did, he collapsed to dust there on the blankets. Oh, the shriek he made as it did!"

Anna's jaw fell open.

"I screamed and tossed the blankets outside, shaking his dust out into the strong wind. I watched it blow away, out of sight."

Vala continued, haltingly. "I was wrong. I was so wrong!"

Anna came and set her hand on Vala's shoulder. "What of the child?"

"Turned to dust with his father." A tear rolled down Vala's wrinkles.

Anna asked, "If he turned to dust and blew away, why do you think he could return?"

Vala held up a finger. "On the blankets the next night was the outline of his body, but made of dust. He was trying to come back together, to return from death. This is why the village must be kept clean, foolish girl, lest he steal you or your child away into the night. You must not let his dust in!"

"I won't!" Anna gathered her sweepings into a bucket. "What should I do with this?"

"I'll take it, as I do for all." Vala smiled. "Now that you understand, I must go."

Anna thanked the old woman profusely for telling the tale and bid her goodnight.

"I have kept him from the rest of the village for fifty years." Vala felt pride as she stepped out of the door, carrying the bucket of dirt and dust.

Vala decided, Anna will keep Reynaud out.

The happy crone patted the bucket, tottering away. She knew just where to empty its contents: at home.

Vala dumped every bucket from the whole village inside her home. From everything she had collected, Reynaud's dust was nearly all there.

"If only I hadn't tossed you out in the first place," Vala mumbled. "I'm sorry, my love. You'll be with me again... and not with anyone else."


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Post April 05, 2017, 09:25:54 PM

Re: The "Never Apologize for Saying You're Sorry" Challenge

- Co-Winner -


The Children of Mars
By Kate Thornton



(Based on an African Fable of Regret)

Buzzy's body was jettisoned out into space like the trash, but not with the trash; that would have been disrespectful. With the remains decorating the hull of the space freighter, everyone except Nyota went back to work and things got back to normal.
In this case, normal meant that the ship could resume its route between De Grasse Station on Mars and Space Station Three. Foods were shipped from De Grasse to SS3, then routed to Earth. The Fukushima Event poisoned its oceans and coastlines. Earth, once a successful agricultural planet, now was inhabited only in the interiors of its major continents, with six cities holding the residual populations. Food products were grown and processed on Mars and uncontaminated water, an expensive luxury, was distilled there, too.

No one knew exactly why humans could not reproduce on Mars, but no human female had ever carried to term on the Martian surface, so after a couple of decades and thousands of failed pregnancies, they stopped trying.

Life on the freighter included all of the usual drama, but Nyota did her job and avoided conflict. She was from Shana, the African city known for beautiful textiles and medicinal plants. She did not plan to fall in love, but the trips were lonely and the crew were thrown together.

Buzzy was a pushy braggart, and his outlandish claims of sexual prowess, especially his claim that he could father Martian children, were ridiculous. "Just check with my little honey in De Grasse," he bragged. "I got me two kids, both born on the red planet." Of course, if that were true he would not be schlepping crates on a food freighter.
But the heart wants what the heart wants, and it seldom asks the brain for advice. So Nyota and Buzzy fell hard, if not in love, then at least in lust.

When Buzzy, who was a bit short of common sense, decided to surprise Nyota one night in her bunk, he should have remembered her fear of attack and at least whispered a sweet nothing or two before pouncing. But he didn't, and it was dark, and Nyota's bedside tonic - harmless in small doses but lethal otherwise - was in a cut glass bottle. She screamed, grabbed the bottle and brained Buzzy with it. If the wound didn't kill him, the poison did.

The Captain ruled accidental death and Nyota stayed an extra day in her cabin crying.

Upon landing at De Grasse, Nyota wandered the streets, dazed by what had happened. She went back early to the dock to watch the last of the cargo loading procedure. A large, plain woman stood near the freighter watching too. She turned as Nyota approached her.

"You from that ship?" she asked.

Nyota nodded.

"Do you know Robert Buzzetti?" The woman seemed anxious.

Nyota nodded again.

"I'm his wife. Where is he?"

Nyota gasped. He hadn't mentioned a wife. Kids, yes. Wife, no. "I am sorry. He was killed. "

The woman crumpled like a used tissue and sank to the dirty concrete. Nyota felt terrible. She reached for the woman and knelt beside her as the sobs rocked them both. She could not add to the woman's grief by confessing that she was the instrument of her widowhood, nor that her husband had been her lover.

"Let me take you home," Nyota offered, supporting the woman. They walked slowly through the town, and Nyota wondered if she would miss takeoff. She called the ship and arranged to stay through until the next trip.

Mrs. Buzzetti - "Call me Lynn," she said - lived in a small cubicle near the fields. Nyota inspected the tiny but neat home and noted the children's belongings. As they both drank tea, real tea from real plants, Lynn told Nyota about her life.

She had shipped from earth as a young girl. She did her stint in the fields and met Buzzy when he was a crewman on one of the big supply ships.

When Lynn became pregnant, she went to the clinic for termination, but there was a waiting list, so she continued working. She gave birth at home prematurely, expecting the hallmark stillborn of Mars. But the child lived. When Buzzy returned from a supply run, she showed him the living child.

"Get rid of it," he ordered. "It's unnatural."

Over the course of the next Martian year, Lynn produced another living child. She hid them from the local authorities, fearing notoriety and repercussions from Buzzy.

Nyota shivered. She had indeed killed the only man to have successfully fathered Martian offspring. "I must tell you something," she said, "something terrible." She confessed to Lynn what had happened. "I am so sorry. I loved him."

Lynn sighed. "I knew he was seeing other women. Have you been to the clinic?"

Nyota shook her head. "I am on leave, but I will go to the clinic." She hadn't considered that she might be pregnant. "What will you do now?"

Lynn sighed bitterly. "I'll continue to work and when the boys are old enough, I'll tell them about their cheating father and how he was killed by his mistress."

Nyota looked down."Please forgive me." She knew she could not forgive herself.

"Give me your child - his child - and I will forgive you for killing his father."

Nyota wept. Before the next Martian year, she had given birth to a living child, a boy. He was a dark-skinned version of his half brothers, the image of Buzzy.

Nyota went back to the ship and never saw her son again. In dreams, she relived the terrible night she had killed Buzzy and the day she gave up her baby to his wife, a life for a life.

But it was really two lives, as one of them was hers.

The End
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Post May 13, 2017, 07:15:38 PM

The Only Thing We Have To Fear Challenge

The challenge was to write a story about a character living with a specific type of fear, where they either overcame it or be destroyed by it.

Story Ranking

First Place - Hope Gillettee, Jim Harrington, N. J. Kailhofer
Second Place - Sergio Palumbo, Ryan Harris
Third Place - Eddie Sullivan


Total Vote Breakdown from 16 voting members

First - 4 / Second - 1 / Third - 1 - Hope Gillette: The Dragonshead Inn
First - 4 / Second - 1 / Third - 1 - Jim Harrington: If At First
First - 1 / Second - 5 / Third - 2 - Ryan Harris: "Huntress"
First - 1 / Second - 5 / Third - 0 - Sergio Palumbo: If You Light Up the Darkness
First - 2 / Second - 1 / Third - 5 - Eddie Sullivan: Thanatophobia - Press Send
First - 4 / Second - 1 / Third - 1 - N. J. Kailhofer: Angels
First - 0 / Second - 0 / Third - 2 - Frank Martin: The Conversation
First - 0 / Second - 2 / Third - 3 - Jason McGraw: Into the Dragons Lair
First - 0 / Second - 0 / Third - 1 - Robin B. Lipinski: Rusted Fear
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Post May 13, 2017, 07:22:34 PM

The Only Thing We Have To Fear Challenge

Three Way Tie: First Place

The Dragonshead Inn
By Hope Gillette

Recessed lanterns, set within old barn wood walls, were part of what gave The Dragonshead Inn its charm, though hot food, clean beds, and jovial music didn't hurt the establishment's popularity, either. Unlike many other inns along the Beltway, the Dragonshead prided itself on being a place with standards, and the owner, Eugene Buenford III, was not a man to be tested on his code of conduct. That much could be seen without speaking to him, from his imposing form and cold-steel eyes to the way he casually picked the calluses on his hand with a Teranian warknife.

And, of course, the dragon's head on the wall behind the bar, hewn from its body by Eugene himself, also made an impression.

"Eugene! Can you please have a word with that man in the corner booth? I'm telling you, he's a brooding type. Won't eat or drink, and told me to mind my own business when I asked where he was from. Can you believe that? Told me to mind my own business!"

The innkeeper smirked to himself as he methodically wiped down the bar countertop. "Okay, Bernice. Don't make a fuss. Not everyone's got to tell you their life story."

The barmaid stomped her foot in exasperation, throwing her table rag onto the floor. "Don't you talk to me like that, Buenford. After all I do around here..."

He could hear her--he just wasn't listening. Eugene's focus was on the man Bernice was ranting about. Sitting in a corner booth by the fireplace, the hooded figure was staring back at the innkeeper, and even though the upper aspect of the man's face was hidden in shadow, Eugene would have known his presence in the darkest of night.

"Bernice," Eugene's voice was a whisper. When she didn't acknowledge him, he said it louder and more forcefully than before. "Bernice. Clear out the dining room. It's time for the guests to retire."

She hesitated a moment but didn't argue. Though stubborn, like all the Dragonshead staff, she knew when Eugene meant business. Without another complaint, Bernice swirled around the end of the bar and started ushering people to their rooms.

Only one person remained seated: A mysterious man in a dark hood, sitting in orange light cast by the dying fire.

Walking over to the table, Eugene slammed down a cup of infamous Beltway mead and took a seat opposite his silent guest.

"What are you doing here?"

The other man waited for the last guest to leave before waving his hand dismissively. "What, the great dragon slayer, Eugene Buenford, can't spare a seat in his tavern for an old friend?"

"We had a deal, Orson. I can't send you any more money. I have overhead costs; things need to be repaired around here. You haven't contacted me in years! To just show up like--"

"I came for the dragon's head, Eugene. I need it to repay a...debt."

The innkeeper took a swig of his drink, not taking his eyes off his guest. "No. That head's what got this place going. It's what brings people in. We had a deal."

Orson slammed his fist on the table so suddenly Eugene flinched. "I killed the dragon. I saved this town. I was your best friend who gave up that glory so you could have a proud father and a promising betrothal. Don't talk to me about deals. "

"Why? Why, after all this time? You'd expose me as a fraud?"

"No. I'm asking you to expose yourself. I need you to vouch for me, that I did this deed, in front of the Black Mages' Conclave in Rosschurn. "

"Haden help me...what kind of trouble are you in, Orson?" Eugene ran a hand through his silvering hair. "That would be the end of me."

"Or me, friend. It is no less than my life on the line." Orson leaned back and the shadows left his face. Beneath the hood of his dark cloak, two eyes ringed with pain sought Eugene's reply.

The innkeeper took a deep breath and hefted his mug to his lips, but before he could finish the brew, the door to the room flew open and Bernice toppled onto the floor.

"Lord, " she wailed, her face smeared with dirt and soot, "it's almost at our door! It's already killed the Brunswicks and the Collyfields. Haden have mercy! We'll be wiped off the maps!"

"Speak up, woman. Now's not the time to be cryptic," Eugene reprimanded sternly. "What's coming? What's at the door?"

"Rock trolls, Buenford, for goodness' sake!" she screamed at him. "Get off yer fat behind and get to your sword! Something's chased them down from the mountains." Back on her feet, Bernice turned on her heel and fled up the stairs, yelling unintelligible words as she went.

Eugene caught Orson's gaze across the booth. "I'll make a new deal with you, " he offered. "Stand with me one more time. Raise your sword with me. If we live, I'll take the journey to the Black Mages' Conclave."

Relief washed over Orson's features, and he nodded. Both men stood and clasped forearms.

***
Recessed lanterns, set within old barn wood walls, were part of what gave The Dragonshead Inn its charm, but most visitors leaving the establishment were more impressed by the trophy mounted on the wall behind the bar. Though the years had taken a toll on its textures and colors, and cobwebs had found purchase in some of the hard-to-reach features, the massive dragon head was an impressive sight. Some guests, however, found the innkeeper himself more remarkable, and Eugene was ever-modest about his lifetime of heroic efforts along the Beltway.

"Tis true; the Dragonshead was named after the dragon," he said every evening as the regulars filed in around the bar. "But the trolls were something else entirely!"

No one ever asked about the worn, black cloak draped beneath the monster's head, also gathering dust.

The End
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Post May 13, 2017, 07:24:46 PM

The Only Thing We Have To Fear Challenge

Three Way Tie: First Place

If At First. . .
By Jim Harrington

Evelyn saw him enter the restaurant from the table where she sat and somehow knew it was her next first date. There had been six since she started dating again after a five year hiatus following college to concentrate on her career as a market analyst. None had led to a second. She hoped number seven might be different but hadn't been able to dispel her fear he wouldn't.

He wore tan Dockers, a pastel green shirt, brown loafers, and brown socks with yellow stripes. She wondered if this was the way he normally dressed, or if he was showing off for her. She imagined him in a gym wearing shorts and a muscle shirt and felt a twinge deep within her. She inhaled a deep breath and blew it out. Her initial trepidation lingered.

He smiled and spoke to the hostess. The young woman in a short dress and cowboy boots pointed in Evelyn's direction and led him to the table for two.

Evelyn smoothed her skirt, mostly to wipe her sweaty palms. After first date number three led nowhere, she took another break from dating to lose thirty pounds and have plastic surgery to tighten loose skin on her face, throat, and belly. She also started a three-times-a-week workout regimen.

She stared at her iPhone, acting like she hadn't seen him yet. When he arrived at the table, she smiled and leaned forward to shake his hand--and provide him a better view of her breasts.

He introduced himself as Franklin. She looked him over and decided the name was an alias, just like in those crime novels she liked. Not that that bothered her, since her name wasn't Evelyn. The local paper classifieds weren't picky about names.

Besides having been overweight and plain-looking, Evelyn wasn't much of a conversationalist. She spent time at home practicing with her cat, but it wasn't the same. She stumbled along, letting Franklin do most of the talking, until she'd finished her second glass of Riesling. Then she relaxed and let herself go a little. She felt the rest of the date went well and hoped Franklin did, too. He appeared to be enjoying himself.

She declined dessert, but said he should feel free to have something. "I'll pass, too. Gotta watch the old waistline," he said and asked the waitress for the check.

Outside, Evelyn felt uncomfortable, not sure what to do next. She clutched the strap of her purse, cleared her throat, and asked if he would like to have dinner again. He lowered his eyes for a few seconds, as if in prayer, and said he didn't think so. "You're nice, and all, but not what I'm looking for."

Evelyn felt her heart sink and her stomach knot, just like every other date. He asked if he could walk her to her car. She thanked him for offering, and the two headed toward the garage on the corner of 8th and Grand.

As they approached her car, Evelyn listened for the sounds of other people. Not hearing anything, she bent over, lifted the hand holding her purse to her stomach, and groaned. Franklin didn't see her reach into her purse, nor did he see the utility knife in her hand when she rose. He barely felt the blade slash his carotid after she spun him so his blood wouldn't spatter her dress. He didn't feel his blood flow onto the concrete floor, nor smell the odor when his bowels emptied.

Evelyn watched first date number seven die, rage covering her face. She knelt next to his body, hiked up her dress, and rubbed the three scars on her right inner thigh she thought of as notches. "All you had to do was say yes to a second date, you slimeball."

She wiped the knife on a cloth napkin she'd put in her purse at the restaurant and tossed the bloody material under the car to her right. She placed the point of the blade on her thigh next to the scar closest to her knee and sliced a fourth, shallow two-inch gash. Blood pooled on her skin and dripped to the floor mixing with date number seven's. She pulled an ace bandage from her purse and wrapped it around her leg.

Evelyn crossed herself before standing, then headed toward the entrance at the opposite end of the building. She wasn't concerned about video surveillance. According to a recent article in the online version of the local newspaper, this place was the oldest parking facility in the city and had yet to be retrofitted with cameras. She dropped the knife in a trash barrel and headed north to the lot where her rental car was parked. She didn't care about leaving prints or DNA. She wasn't in any police database. She only cared about finding first date number eight--and catching her 9:30 flight.

The End
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Post May 13, 2017, 07:26:36 PM

The Only Thing We Have To Fear Challenge

Two Way Tie: Second Place

“Huntress”
By Ryan Harris

I could hear her purring--echoing through the woods. She was stalking me in the infinite blackness of night. The great feline probably knew how fast my heart was racing, could hear it careening around in my chest. I clung to my crudely made punji stick.

In a way, I pitied the big cat. Kay, a Bengal tiger, was raised by Gen-Mod Genetics for entertainment. Her IQ was higher than my own but her sole purpose in life was a bi-annual hunting game. Every six months a lottery of lifers entered a drawing for a second shot at life on the outside. If Kay was killed, the person could walk free. I'd been trying for six years before I was chosen.

The odds were usually stacked in Kay's favor. Branches were just out of reach to climb and the underbrush was thick in the Indian forest. She was toying with me. Her canines could have been inches from me and I wouldn't have known it. Moving from tree to tree and protecting my back was my best defense. A light rain, nearly a mist, began falling and masked the sounds of her movement.

A micro camera implant recorded sights and sounds. The world was watching but I didn't care. What mattered was Kay, the darkness, survival.

Like mad, I ran for a river I passed during the day. What little moonlight there was, it glimmered softly off the sluggish Banas. I plunged into the river and swam for the other side. Kay's lethality would be diminished in the river and she knew it.

Staying in the river was not an option because she would just wait me out. I sat for a moment to catch my breath, though it didn't last long. Kay plunged into the moonlit water and light rippled at the surface. My impromptu plan had paid off. I had forced Kay to give away her position but she was still coming for me and Bengal tigers are excellent swimmers.

I stumbled and fell as I got up. Beating her to the river bank was crucial. I'd never been so scared in my life. Death was always a fear of mine, but dying slowly in prison was worse.

Barely able to see her shape, I jumped at her from the bank. My punji stick was directed in front of me. My weapon landed a hit and she roared in pain. I wasn't sure where the stick had stabbed her and my hopes weren't lofty quite yet. I'd broken my ankle on a rock.

A colossal paw caught my shoulder, tearing flesh away. She ran into a thicket five yards from the river to regroup. I scrambled for my weapon, wanting to cry out in pain. I noticed the rain had stopped so I listened for Kay.

The Earth shuffled by the thicket and Kay pounced to finish me off. It was only a second but it felt like slow motion. I threw up a forearm, which she bit into, but with little force. She convulsed and eventually fell limp. I slid from under her and saw that she'd been impaled by my weapon.

I fell to the ground in relief. The hunt was over and my second chance at life could begin.

The End
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