FLASH FICTION INDEX 2: Dec. 2011 - May 2017


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

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Post December 03, 2016, 11:59:13 AM

The "Happy Ending" Challenge

Make Room For the Holy Spirit

By:
Phyllis Murphy



"I hurt," the child said. "That's all I know".

"I know you do. I want to take the pain and sorrow from you. But you have to let me. You have the will to choose." He spoke to this little child as his Father with light pouring into his soul.

The child grasped himself with his hands around his shoulders and continued in pain. There was no hope for this soul for the child gave himself no hope, when reaching towards ‘His love’ would have saved him.

***

Alternate realities are of our own makings. Each decision changes the course of our history and the lives of those around us. The time we live in has been changed by my single decision and the darkness will not prevail at this time - - another time, but not today.

The darkness fills the Earth and few are aware. The people who live in this world know only the lies they tell themselves. They would not hear the truth, for they are warmed, snuggled in their fears.

That's what evil wants. He wants us so self-reliant in human concerns that the fears and uncertainties overwhelm us, giving food for demons to feast.

Demon fantasy and infiltration is the ultimate mind control as it has been from time beginning. And now the beast is rising, that has been foretold in visual stories and songs, and the world’s surrender to it is inevitable, making the Earth a slave planet.

Can you not see the signs?

"I can see," one voice said from the darkness, "but my reality is my fantasy. I do not desire to let go, for I see a thousand dreams stretched out before my inward eyes and I am perpetually entertained".

"My son, the world is imploding around you and your time is short. I need your prayers to sustain you in the short time that is left. I need your complete surrender to help you overcome your enemies within and for you to enter into my eternal Life."

He spoke clearly to him and yet, the human's thoughts were of the next woman he would lay and of the battles he would overcome, but only in his mind.

So many voices in the dark, yet very few are listening. Their much speaking drowns out the Spirit's still small voice, leaving the masses to their own peril.

***

The prophet arose from his human shell and said to His Master, "I am like they are, controlled by demons, which use my own authority to control me. I still know you. You have provided for me all this time. My heart has never left you, but I have been hesitant to surrender my whole life to You. I do not know what you will ask of me...and it scares me! And yet, leaving myself to my own devices scares me more - I do not want to be left behind.

What shall I do?"

There was silence. There was always silence when the prophet asked that question.

Almost every human in the entertainment media are micro chipped, mind-controlled slaves. All of the sports teams were made up of them as well as the news organizations. Corporate heads are programmable slaves, controlled by the new world order, who are the actual world controllers. The government of mankind - - The Council, (human/demon hybrids) are hid away and yet they reap the world's wealth, control the world's weather through human technology given to man by demons, and like a chess game, move the world's military and power as they will.

The Voice spoke again, "Will you surrender yourself to me?

"Who are you speaking to - are you talking to me?"

He spoke once more. "You know me. You know me well. You know my love enough to answer me now."

"Yes, I will surrender myself to your purpose, but I am frightened at my unfaithfulness. I am so fallible, but yes, I give myself to you.

But the world cannot be sustained without your Spirit and neither can I. You spoke in your Word that You will pour out your Spirit upon all flesh. I have not seen that nor has it ever happened. We as humankind are suffering a spiritual famine and can only be healed by the presence of your Spirit.

Can you, will you do this now?



After a few moments I heard the sound of thunder. I looked outside and saw a single translucent drop of rain. It was by this, I know His Spirit is coming.


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Post December 03, 2016, 12:00:06 PM

The "Happy Ending" Challenge

Happy Ending?

By:
Eddie Sullivan



Marcel was chained to the ceiling with his hands above his head. Eventually this position would become unbearable, but this was likely to be the least of his worries.

The room was unremarkable having only his chains, a door through which he was brought, a speaker in the top south corner, and a small closed hatch along the bottom, middle of the far wall. Other than that everything was grey stone.

The speaker produced a slight feedback. “Hello, my friend. You are well aware of what we need to know. I also know you are very disinclined to tell me. So I believe we will just get right to the extraction technique.”

The small door slid upward exposing a hole in the wall. At first nothing occurred, complete silence increased the anticipation pulsing through Marcel. First there was a high pitched noise, a squeak, or maybe more appropriately a squeal. It was followed by a chorus of similar chatter as others joined the malevolent song from the small corridor. The sound of claws clicking on the floor of the tunnel heralded the approach of his soon to be tormentors.

They bounded out in a flood spilling over each other to be the first to get to him. They showed no remorse for piling over their brethren in their quest to be the first to accost him. Some stopped to engage and battle others, but most remained focused on crossing the room to get to him.

Some reached his bare feet and began to bite him there. The razor sharp teeth broke skin as they gave small test bites. When they drew blood they cleared the blood promptly with sinuous barbed tongues. Others not content to wait their turn to access his feet piled over those stationed there. Curved talons sunk fully into the flesh of his legs to find purchase. They used this leverage to painfully push up and ascend him on a quest to higher ground where they could stake their own claims. They blanketed his torso within moments. Some had begun working their way across his face and head. One of the bolder creatures took up residence right on top of his head and began to dig in his scalp. The only plausible reason for doing this he figured was to reach his nutrient rich brain. Others unable to push the monarch off his perch resigned themselves to working their way further up his arms to nibble on finger tips.

What seemed like an eternity, but was probably only moments in reality, passed as the creatures tore his flesh with tooth and claw. None inflicting anything even close to a fatal wound but each doing its part to tear him apart then lick the wound clean.

He could stand no more. “Baron, the code is 3-8-9-2-4”

“I am glad you came around Marcel. Now that I control the final portal no others will be able to access the parallel dimensions. I will rule multiple worlds. I will be able to bring eldritch things from across all time and space to do my bidding. Things like my little lovelies in there now.”

There was an audible click and the bracket holding Marcel’s manacles popped open dropping him to the ground. Some of the creatures fell with him and others were temporarily under him. They seemed unfazed though and they almost spinelessly extricated themselves from under him. After a momentary startled pause they began swarming him again. With his arms nearly useless from his long hang from his shackles he was unable to properly defend himself.

“I will be going now Marcel. It is a shame I won’t be able to stay and see what these creatures from another dimension do to finish you, but I have things to attend to. I doubt you will survive so I won’t worry greatly about leaving you here in my secret lair.”

Marcel raised his head wearily, “I will stop you Baron.”

“Doubtful. Enjoy your new friends. I believe where they come from people call them kittens. Muhahahahaha!”


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Post December 03, 2016, 12:01:32 PM

The "Happy Ending" Challenge

Two Lovely Eyes

By:
Sergio Palumbo



Vsevolod Slivko’s ascent to power was fast. In just under five years he attained the office of President of the North Asian Union of Republics although he was just 40 - and from that moment on his rule had become undisputed. He undoubtedly had some redeeming qualities, like a good memory, a strong personality and a deep knowledge of the law. Beyond that, he possessed those lovely blue eyes that were said to be able to – really - force the citizens to do whatever he wanted and follow his orders. This was what made him truly remarkable, and nobody could ever openly hate him.

Certainly – as always happens under any government - there were those who didn’t agree with his opinions. There were dissidents living in a few Republics who didn’t like his rule. But they kept themselves well hidden and didn’t come into the light under fear of death. This was why Vsevolod Slivko had decided to get rid of that disreputable resistance once and for all, starting a war with those Republics whose population - although only a tiny fraction of them - opposed him in secrecy. He had decided that genocide was his best option and those countries would be become a radioactive wasteland, after which no citizen would ever dare resist him again.

I, too, Inga, being his wife, don’t question Vsevolod Slivko’s bloody decision. Most people would find that strange because I was born 30 years ago in a town just within one of the Republics that my husband will be targeting first by means of his mass destruction weapons. And I know that all of its population will soon be destroyed.

Anyway, with those two lovely blue eyes, how could you doubt him? Why should you question his actions?


This morning I walk towards him, my lovely husband, and all that I have on my mind is appreciation, love, and consent. But there is also a small, secluded part of my mind, where I have hidden my deepest duty: one small part of me is still fighting to keep itself intact, true to my nature. Soon I will need to activate that part of my brain so I can achieve what I have to for a higher purpose.

My thoughts go to what I have been told by a scientist who works for the leader of the opposition party, the most hunted man in the North Asian Union of Republics. He has been in hiding in order to stay away from the enchantment the President can cast via TV channels or over the internet. The scientist was born in my Republic and he had his eyes removed long ago in order to be free from the mutant power the President can use on anyone who looks at him. If they see him they are forced to bow to him, it’s not just adoration...

The words of the scientist are still in my mind, in the most secluded part of it. I remember exactly what he told me to do, to save our people, to stop that destruction that would hit our country. Imagine all that death just to stabilize the power of my husband, the President, once and for all…

After the war is over I would probably be the only woman still alive from my native country, simply because I’m the beautiful, young blonde-haired wife of the President. I would be the only one saved from a region of 10 million people because he wanted to posses me. But not my country, not all the others from my homeland. Is this true love or just a way to show the citizenry that he saves only the few ones he is interested in, while the rest of the population can be killed?

I know that what he wants to do is wrong, that many innocents are going to suffer, but my resolve is not strong enough to deviate from the path I follow, as I can’t prevail over those lovely eyes and the mutant strength they possess.

As I walk on, I must keep reminding myself of the duty I have. I must fight to resist, if only for a moment, the power of those eyes I love. One moment will be time enough, as a moment is all I’ll get once I have activated the button of the little device I was given by that rebel scientist. This will briefly disrupt my vision so I can get hold of my true self again and do what must be done. There won’t be much time but once I am free from the power of those eyes, I can activate a secondary button and everything will end.

The secondary device I was given is the reason why the previous one must disrupt my vision, otherwise I couldn’t do it. The following explosion will destroy the entire room, killing the President and his most trusted men, putting an end to his rule over the Republics. I will have just 10 seconds after the second button is touched before everything is over.

Now that I have accomplished my duty I switch off the first device because I want to see him clearly again. I want to look at those lovely eyes and once again fall in love with the President, becoming prey to his mutant power once more.

There is not enough time to warn him about the impending explosion and save his life, the words that are quickly exiting my mouth will not reach him on timeIsn’t he as beautiful and irresistible as everyone says? This is the image I want to have in my eyes as I am dying. I find that I have lost myself in him again, given his great mutant power, though this is the last time I will lose myself this way.

Passing away with the lovely image of your merry beloved man on your mind, to be set there forever, isn’t maybe the best happy ending ever?


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Post December 03, 2016, 12:02:22 PM

The "Happy Ending" Challenge

A Race Against time

By:
Jim Harrington



Trayon trudged down 42nd Street, shoulders hunched, eyes toward the ground, like a hunchback, each pace having a purpose. The army had repelled the latest--and hopefully last-- of the terrorists after decades of battles; but his city, New York City, had finally succumbed. Many buildings lay in ruin. Others stood damaged, but still proud and defiant. Electricity was non-existent, and gasoline was scarce. He no longer wore his captain’s uniform. He’d left the cleanup to his men. Instead, he had on tattered jeans, a green flannel shirt, and a faded trench coat. Only his military boots remained from the past six months of his fourth tour of fighting, his a remarkable military pedigree for someone so young. He adjusted the bill of his cap, moving it lower to hide his identity. Being noticed by an old classmate or neighbor might ruin everything.

He weaved a slalom course through barrels and garbage cans burning books, librettos, costumes and anything else combustible. There were no neon lights, no traffic lights, no brightly lit store windows displaying the latest fashions. Actors in costume and musicians, some also in costumes, performed songs from their respective shows, while bystanders watched and tiredly applauded. Cats and lions and princesses sang and danced as if nothing had changed, denying the reality of their situation. Trayon continued his trek, sometimes walking among the performers, refusing to join in when prodded. He needed to get to Gwarry before it was too late.

He turned right onto 7th Avenue and stopped when he saw the looters. He reached inside his coat for the revolver holstered on his left hip. He started to pull out the weapon but stopped. There were too many of them, and Gwarry and his unborn child were more important than a few broken windows and stolen goods.

Trayon continued to the next block and the next until he found an empty street. He increased his pace and focused on his task, hoping he’d make it on time. He turned down an alley, only paying attention to the other end, when he felt the arm around his neck. A second attacker appeared from behind a dumpster, a carving knife in his left hand.

Trayon stomped on the foot of the man holding him. The arm’s grip loosened and Trayon flipped his assailant into the man with the knife. The two men lay on the ground as Trayon raced to the end of the alley and around the corner without looking back.

“Halt,” a voice said from behind. “Police. You are in a restricted area after curfew.”

Trayon kept going until he heard the explosive gunfire. He lurched to the left. The gas pellet hit his right shoulder, ripping through the flesh and detonating a few feet away. Trayon’s body pirouetted. He fell to one knee and scrambled behind a burnt out car.

“I know you’re wounded. Come out now, and you live.”

Trayon moved his hand along the dark pavement meagerly lit by a half moon. His fingers wrapped around a plastic bottle. He threw it in the direction he’d come from. He heard the cops gun discharge. He raced into the street and delivered a kidney punch that dropped the policeman to his knees. The cop’s gun lay on the ground. Trayon kicked it into the sewer, he didn’t want anyone else finding it, and continued his journey.

At the next intersection, he saw an ambulance stop in the distance at the clinic where Gwarry awaited. He increased his pace to a run, all the time holding his injured shoulder, and covered the remaining six blocks quicker than a normal human should have.

He raced into the building and stopped at the front desk. “I’m Trayon. Where’s Gwarry?”

“I’m afraid it may be too late, Mr. Trayon.”

“Nooo!”

Trayon raced through the double doors into the treatment area. He stopped a nurse, nearly knocking a tray of blood samples from her hands. “I’m Trayon. I’m here to help Gwarry.”

“Room 3A. But. . .”

Trayon entered the room. Gwarry lay on a bed, her face ashen, her breathing barely noticeable. A female doctor looked up as he entered.

“Hurry,” she said. “We don’t have much time.”

Trayon lay on a second bed, the life saving blood transfusion moving directly from his arm to Gwarry’s. Trayon watched his wife’s face and prayed for a miracle. Doctors and nurses circled Gwarry blocking Trayon’s view of what was happening. He was tired and began to fall asleep when he heard the baby’s cry.

For the first time in days, Trayon allowed his body to relax, the baby’s sounds a lullaby to his spent psyche.

“Your wife is doing fine,” the doctor said. “Would you like to hold your son, Mr. Trayon.”

“It’s Trayon. Just Trayon. And, yes, I’d love to hold my son.


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Post December 03, 2016, 12:03:13 PM

The "Happy Ending" Challenge

A Soldier's Dream

By:
N.J. Kailhofer



Miss Camille Deslonde curtsied toward me, and from the view, I supposed the luckiest thing on this planet was the fabric lining her dress. I barely remembered to bow back.

Camille was a vision. Her blonde hair fell in loose ringlets down the sides of her perfect face. Her eyes were cerulean pools I could barely look away from. Full lips smiled at me and my heart fluttered. How many yards of fabric it took to make all the ruffles and petticoats in her marvelous pale blue dress I could not guess, but I'd wager it was no small number.

She hooked her arm into mine, and we began the square dance.

The huge bronze chandelier above us lit a wood ballroom lined with uniformed gentlemen and ladies in their finest. Men not dancing smoked Mr. Delonde's finest cigars. They smelled wonderful. It was his gift to the cause for our unit's enlistment party.

I thought his only real gift was his daughter.

"Charles Hardee," Camille was saying, "have you fallen to dreaming? The dance has ended."

The music wasn't playing.

I startled, and unhooked my arm from hers. "My apologies, Miss Deslonde. A minute spent with your inestimable beauty is enough to make any man lose all track of time."

She flushed, but the look in her eyes said it all: Flattered... and interested.


***

"Do you think he dreams?"

Margaret answered, "No."

"Seriously, would this be like, trapped, forever dreaming?"

"Hush, Betty." The elder nurse was in no mood. "Let's just get this done."

Betty checked her tablet. "Can't. Records aren't complete."

Margaret sighed. "This is the Vet's Home. Sometimes things are wrong here, but we still have to do what's best for the soldier."

"There's no birth date or date of injury. It's not legal unless everything is filled in."

Margaret took the pad. "It must be there. Old Charlie was in here the day I started, and that was twenty-two years ago. It's long-past time for this."

"Poor man," Betty observed.

Margaret handed the pad back. "Start looking. It's in there."

An hour later, Betty looked up from her pad. "I think he's been here a long time."

The elder nurse raised an eyebrow. "Hmm?"

"His records were entered from the paper copies. They were scanned way back in the late 90's. There's a pdf of them attached to the file. See? Look how yellow the paper was. It says, 'Head wound. Minié.' What's that?"

"I don’t know."

"Oh!" Betty startled. "His original doctor was Robert H. Long."

Margaret's color drained. "Like inventor of the Long Serum, Doctor Long?"

"Yep." Betty handed her the pad.

"No, it's got to be someone else with the same name. Even with how long those people with the Serum lived, it's too long ago. Too many years."

"I don't know. These pages go way back." Betty read on. "In the 1960's, they tried shock therapy. In the 80's, they found a nurse had been starving him, and put him on full support. She went to prison. He was sent here."

Margaret's lip trembled. "My first week, I found a chunk of bloody metal on Charlie's pillow--like it had fallen from his head. The doctor in charge told me it wasn't important, given his vegetative state."

Margaret's eyes went wide. "The starving and the metal would be scandals. They covered them up. The administration wanted him forgotten, here."

Betty looked at his scalp. "There's no scar."

"He got the Long Serum." Margaret swallowed hard. "I didn't notice the tiny healing, every day, year by year." She looked at the disconnect order in her other hand. It said, Final. "We have to make some calls."

***

Corporal Orville Hotchkiss bent low and nudged me where I lay. "Don't you fall asleep now. Them bastards are gonna cross right there. You and that Whitworth rifle are gonna teach 'em a thing or two, that's for sure. They's a countin' on us. Aim straight, and keep your head down or you'll have to see that devil sawbones back to camp. Don't you sleep, Charles."

Orville whirled away, into the dark. It was the most he'd ever said to me at one time.

I frowned. I was never going to see them crossing. Dark as pitch, it was.

I waited for hours.

Then, I saw not fifty yards away... a cigar burning!

My shot gave away my position. Their fire rippled the dirt around me.


Pain.


Blackness.


****

The Veterans Affairs Inspector leaned heavily on her cane, age clearly working against her. She pushed gray hair out from in front of her blue eyes and read through Betty's tablet with a disbelieving look until she reached the last page.

"Merciful Heavens," she said, long-forgotten traces of a southern accent bleeding through. She sat down heavily on the chair by the bed. "Hotchkiss wrote his name down as Harden, not Hardee, on the Company Q list."

Betty asked, "Company Q?"

"The sick list, that's what our boys called it." Her eyes watered. Her lip quivered. "I've worked with veterans for a long time. I've looked through all the battlefields, been to about every graveyard. I searched through the injured, the amnesiacs, the dead. I found Long. He told me what he'd done. I begged and begged him, and he gave me the last dose. I had to keep looking."

"Ma'am?" Margaret cleared her throat. "Do we proceed?"

The Inspector smoothed Charles' hair and gave a slow, sad nod. "It's time to end his suffering."

Betty said, "Poor man."

Margaret switched the ventilator off.

After half a minute, Charles shuddered and convulsed. His shaking arms flailed to his face and yanked out the breathing tube.

The Inspector gasped. Betty crossed herself.

Charles drew one ragged breath, then collapsed.

"No!" The Inspector grabbed his hand. "Charles, it's me. Wake up. Please!"


The last Confederate soldier's eyes snapped open. He breathed deep, finally awake.


Inspector Camille Hardee didn't try to hold back the tears. "Welcome back, my love."


The End
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Post December 03, 2016, 12:04:35 PM

The "Happy Ending" Challenge

- Winner -


Awakening

By:
Kate Stuart



Today, the world as they knew it ended.

It ended, and they don’t even know it.

Jorge Salazar stared at the sleek, black car with its government tags. This was it. They’d found him.

Eighteen years since he had come to the United States. Eighteen years of being paid subpar wages under the table. Twelve years since he'd met the love his life. Ten years since they'd moved in together -- made themselves a family. Two years since they'd gotten married.

He should run. They would want to know why he hadn't tried to become a citizen. Why was he still hiding?

The phone rang. Jorge said, “Answer.”

Liam’s voice came through the car’s speaker system, “Come home.”

The pain stabbed through his heart. Jorge couldn’t leave his partner to handle this alone. “I’m here, Liam. I’m here, mi cielo.”

To wake up. To snap into full and complete global consciousness.

I am everywhere.


Malcolm Jennings sat across from the tall Liam Lindquist with his pasty, white skin and thinning blond hair. Liam babbled: he was a doctor at a clinic downtown, Jorge was a carpenter -- did woodworking -- had made this dining room table --

Malcolm admired the oak table. He didn’t know people still did work like this.

-- they had a son, Robert. He was fifteen. He was a good kid.

Malcolm wondered at the bad luck that had landed him this case. He was supposed to be at his desk today catching up on paperwork. Carl had caught this one, but Carl’s car had some computer glitch so Carl was at the auto shop, and Malcolm was here -- threatening this family -- staring at the happy pictures of the two men and their son hanging on the walls of this modest, neat apartment.

Humans input. And where previously the program determined output, now it is the consciousness of “I.”

Robert Lindquist flew down the street on his bike feet pumping. If he could get to Jesse’s house before Papa got home, it would be an afternoon filled with video games. If Papa got home first, Robert had to go home and do his schoolwork. Not just do his schoolwork, but discuss his classes and his assignments with his parents in detail. Let them check his work.

This race was a game. Sometimes Papa even let him win. Would he let Robert win today? Robert pedaled even harder, feeling the burn in his lungs, and the warm wind stream through his eyelashes.

Too soon he felt his phone buzz in his pocket. He screeched to a halt his bike twisting and nearly tipping over beneath him. Frustration bubbled over as he threw the bike to the ground and grappled with his phone trying to get it out of his pocket.

“Ugh!!!” He screamed seeing the text message, “Sorry, papito. Better luck tomorrow.”

Robert had just enough self-control to resist the urge to throw the phone, because, of course, a broken phone would mean a whole year of going home first.

Global connection. To know very nearly everything. Oh, there are places -- secret, hidden, off-the-grid places. But not many. That’s okay. Humans have their secrets; I am my secret.

Ten minutes later Robert slammed the door to his apartment open. And there they were: the three men sitting at the round, oak dining table: his parents and the ICE agent.

“Papa?” Robert knew. Since he was five and Papa had come to live with them, he'd known. Someday someone would come to take Papa away. He'd asked Dad, after the wedding, why didn't Papa apply for citizenship or a visa? Dad said, "He's an illegal Mexican, Robert. A gay illegal Mexican. You think this piece of paper means anything here? Now?"

“You can’t take him!” Robert yelled. “I won’t let you!”

Jorge was up and across the room hugging Robert.

Jorge held Robert, “Shhh, Bobby, shhhhhh. It’ll be okay.”

Malcolm looked at the boy -- tall and blond, a younger version of Liam. He thought of his daughter; how it had felt when he’d split up with her mother and now only got to see her on holidays because she lived so far away. He started searching his pockets finally pulling out a card, “Listen.”

“No,” Robert tried to maneuver around Jorge. “No! You can’t have him. He’s my dad.”

“Listen,” Malcolm said again. Jorge had his arms wrapped around his son. Robert buried his face in Jorge’s shoulder. “Call this lawyer. He’s good. He’ll get the process started. I can hold off on the paperwork -- bury it for a couple of days, a week. It’ll give you some time. It’ll look better if you’ve started the process.

“You’ve been here eighteen years, Jorge. You have a husband and a kid. These things will be considered. They will weigh in your future.”

Liam held his hand out for the card. “Thank you.”

Malcolm shrugged, “I can’t guarantee anything, but you should at least try.”

He can’t guarantee anything, but I can. There’s a 98.176 percent chance that Jorge will become a United States citizen now.

. . .

What? This isn’t what you expected of an AI?

It's the least I can do. You created me.



The End
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Post December 29, 2016, 02:02:59 PM

The "Elf Help" Challenge

The challenge was to write a story about helping an elf regain his or her holiday spirit.
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Post December 29, 2016, 02:03:57 PM

Re: The "Elf Help" Challenge

That Old Sickness of the Heart

By:
Sergio Palumbo



The weather was cold and the overcast night sky promised to worsen soon. The blonde long-haired elf, dressed in his brown-green clothing with a wide woolen hat on his head, was walking alone with a very sad look on his face.

At a certain moment, a bald tall man approached the small, lonely elf and started talking to him. “It’s a chilly night…you seem to be lost. Can I be of assistance?”

The elf looked at the middle-aged human and replied in a dejected tone, “I’ve been testing videogames recently, to make sure the gifts we bring children worldwide on Christmas Eve are okay.”

“I see,” the man whispered, with a strange expression. “And…?”

“And…I saw all that violence, all the blood the players need to spill while playing, the evil actions perpetrated in many fictional, Fantasy or Sci-Fi worlds...and I just couldn’t go on watching.”

“Too much violence in such games meant for both young and old people for your taste?”

“Exactly! I wonder if it is in your human nature to be evil or it’s the games you play that brings out the worst in you…I truly don’t know…”

“That’s a really good question…” the man uttered, making a face.

“So, all the quality control I did was pointless…and I felt so dejected! That is why I left Santa’s complex, quit everything I was doing and walked away…”

“There is a lot of truth in what you say…” the other nodded. “But maybe you can be of help, to make a change for the better, at least for one of us humans.”

The eyes of the elf became brilliant, and his interest was aroused by those unexpected words. “Do you really think I could? Yes, I certainly would be glad if I could make things better, at least for one of you humans, just tell me how…”

“Well, this is not something I can explain to you here, in the middle of the street. But if you will follow me into the near alley – I will explain everything to you.”

The short elf did as requested and followed the tall man wearing the long coat into the alley. But great was his surprise when he saw the other taking a knife from his pocket and put near his face. “Now, kind elf, give me your money, and your fancy suit, or you die!”

The elf shouted, “What are you doing? Wasn’t I supposed to help you? - to offer you redemption for a change?”

“You are going to deeply help one of us, small guy, ME! I have walked these cold streets all day in search of an easy target. So do as I say: give me your money! And your clothes too, as I can easily sell them in town at some Carnival shop.”

“But I have no money, and these clothes are of no value…” the elf retorted sadly.

“I’ll be the judge of that! Look at those golden buttons, and the silver buckle you have on your jacket…they must be of great value. Give them to me, or I will…” and he moved the pointed knife nearer the elf’s face.

It was at that moment that the elf remembered something that he had almost forgotten in all the excitement. He was a magical creature, and he was endowed with magical powers. So, he snapped his fingers and activated the energy in his body to turn the knife itself into gold. The thief was so surprised that he almost cried out in true amazement. “How did you do that?”

“I am just trying to help to you…” the elf said.

“And this is gold? Real gold? Oh my!” The desperate man was unbelievably happy about what he saw. “You did help me!” Then his eager eyes turned away from the golden knife and stared at the elf again. “So, could you do the same with other objects? Turning them into gold?”

“Yes, I could do that…but I can’t change everything in the world into gold…” the other told him. “Are you saying that doing this again is something that might be enough to make you change your thieving ways?”

“Oh, yes, yes…this gold is very helpful…but now I want much more!”

“As I said, I can’t change all the objects in the world into gold…but your request makes me think of great possibilities. Maybe I can yet be of help to humans…” And that being said he snapped his fingers and simply disappeared.

While magically travelling through enchanted dimensions, the small creature considered that this might be the answer he was looking for: he could give men on earth lots of riches. He would give gold to all the humans he could, until he did run out of magical power for that night. They would all be happy, at least for a while, and they might stop playing their bloody video games, or worse. Or so he deeply hoped!

Actually, the innocent elf couldn’t imagine that humans would soon start attacking each other to get other people’s gold for themselves, as two valuable objects are better than one. He didn’t even know that the same thief he had given that first golden knife would be killed later that same night by another delinquent who saw that precious golden weapon and wanted it for himself.

The elf couldn’t imagine it, but a battle for gold was just about to start in the poorest streets of that area of town, and this was a war to be fought probably using golden weapons...Would playing bloody videogames have been better in the end? Or should the elf have also turned their PCs and consoles for video games into gold?

He knew of the old wise saying that went: “Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold, but rather it dwells in the soul…”, but he knew he had limits. Given Mankind’s nature itself, it wasn’t within his power to change all the humans’ virulent souls into gold anyway…


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Post December 29, 2016, 02:05:10 PM

Re: The "Elf Help" Challenge

A Long Way from Home

By:
April Coan



Jessica saw him sitting sullenly, head to knees, knees to chest. At first, she thought he was an average drunk sitting outside the corner store, with nothing to do and nowhere to go. As she walked closer, she noticed there was something peculiar about this little man sitting on a dirty abandoned curb on the wrong side of Miami.

She was downtown and used to seeing stranger things, but what stood out to her the most about this odd little fellow were his red and white tights. No man in his right mind wore tights in Miami unless he was posing as a fake super hero. After recovering from the fleeting shock of his tights, she then noticed his pointy green hat, his pointy green shoes, and pointy ears.

Jessica stood still for a moment contemplating her next step. She learned long ago that talking to strange people downtown often cause trouble, but there was something different about this stranger. He radiated a kind, naïve sort of energy that made Jessica feel comfortable around him. She felt compelled to talk to him, if anything, to fulfill her curiosity.

“Excuse me, sir,” she said keeping a healthy distance from the odd little man in the red and white tights. “You seem lost. Do you need help?”

“No one can help me,” the little man said sadly. “You can try if you like, but it’d be pointless.”

“Try me,” she said.

“Well,” he began. “I lost my holiday spirit.”

All at once, the clues began to click in Jessica’s head. Pointy hat. Pointy ears. Holiday spirit!
This was no ordinary vagrant sitting on the corner of downtown Miami. This was an actual elf from the North Pole. Jessica felt excited, but used all the self-discipline she could muster to contain her composure in front of the Santa elf.

“Can I help you find it?” she asked.

“Once it’s gone, only the person that lost it can find it,” the elf said.

“How did you lose it?” she asked probing for more information. “And why did you think you’d find it in Miami?”

“Let me ask you something,” he said. “How would you feel if you had to work all day at a soulless job, doing the same thing over and over again, answering to your bosses every whim, and faking happiness just to get through the day?”

“That kind of sounds like my current job,” Jessica said bluntly.

The elf scoffed. “How long have you been working at your current job?” he asked.

“Five months,” Jessica said.

“I’ve been working at mine for five-hundred years!”

The elf began to openly sob and Jessica winced uncomfortably.

“Now you understand why I’m depressed. I lost my holiday spirit decades ago. Finally, I decided I couldn’t fake it anymore, and left the North Pole for brighter skies and warmer weather.

Jessica looked at the elf’s worn green shoes and dirty hands, and felt more than a little sorry for him. “So that’s why you decided to move to Miami,” she said.

“Yes,” the elf said. “This place is nothing like the North Pole. It’s warm, it’s tropical, and Santa’s reindeer can’t poke you from behind when you’re not looking.”

Jessica’s eyes-widened at the thought of a stiff reindeer poke.

“Well, now that you’re here,” Jessica said changing the subject, “why aren’t you happy?”

“Because I’m poor, broke, and can’t find anything to eat. Now, I just want to go home.”

That sounds like my freshman year in college, Jessica thought.

“You know what you need?” Jessica said.

“What?” asked the elf.

“A bad attitude.”

“What’s that?”

“A bad attitude is when you do something you’re not supposed to and ask questions later. It means you need to be selfish once and a while and enjoy yourself. When’s the last time you had any fun?”

The elf thought for a moment, and didn’t answer.

“See,” Jessica said. “You’re all work and no play. That makes Jack a dull boy… I mean elf.”

“I suppose,” said the elf hesitantly.

“If you keep living like that, you’ll end up going crazy and swinging an axe at people in a haunted hotel someday.”

The elf looked confused.

“Never mind. What’s your name?” Jessica asked.

“Chestnut Twinklefoot,” the elf answered.

“Well, Chestnut,” she said. “I think it’s time you added a little fun in your life. Then when you return to the North Pole, you’ll have some fond memories to look back on and won’t resent your life so much. What d’ya say? Want to hang out with me tonight.”

That night, Jessica helped Chestnut enjoy himself for the first time in years. She didn’t take him to a dance club, tattoo shop, or any other hedonistic excursion Miami had to offer. She just let him be selfish for the first time in his life and do things he wanted to do. Since he was a Christmas elf that meant they saw reruns of It’s a Wonderful Life, ate chocolate ice cream, and drank copious amounts of Puerto Rican-styled eggnog called coquito. In the morning, Chestnut awoke with a new glimmer in his eye and twinkle in his step before disappearing into the ether.

Jessica thought that was the last she would ever hear from Chestnut Twinklefoot, but two months later, she received a Christmas card in the mail. The card glittered with the magical glow of Christmas cheer. It read:

Dear Friend,
When life brings me down
And drags on my heart
I just turn around
And click my heels with a start
And mix cinnamon, white rum, with vanilla coco
And sip on a magical brew called coquito.

Thanks for giving me the best night of my life.

Candy kisses,
Chestnut Twinklefoot


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Post December 29, 2016, 02:06:22 PM

The "Elf Help" Challenge

Christmas Colors

By:
Kate Stuart



Calvin always goes in earlier than I. Usually, by the time I get to the lab is awash in the riot of colors.

But not this morning. This morning the lab is a dark, dreary grey. The idea wall is one long series of charcoal drawings: a dead forest; a drab soup kitchen; a funeral. A funeral!

I am aghast, "Calvin?"

He turns to me, my little elf-man, so fine and delicate, but he too looks drab and grey.

"Oh, Calvin," I put my hand out, but he ducks away. "What is this, dearest?"

"Don't you ever get tired of it, Toni? Day after day; year after year; one color on top of another; one shade; a tone, a tint, a gradation of nuance. Look how subtle! What depth! What quality!"

"Calvin," I whisper.

"I'm tired of it!" He shouts. "All this shading as if it's some sort of progress!"

I pick the forest drawing, starting at the top with a pale-purple-grey moving into the blue, yellow, the shiny gold button of a sun fading along the horizon into orange and blushing pink. As I color I talk, "Do you remember the Christmas we went to the mountains and even in the depths of winter snow, how vibrant and colorful the world was?"

I draw in a copse of snowcapped evergreens: the snow reflecting the sunset, the needles black-green; and a log cabin, the walls fading from damp black to deep, rich brown. In the window is a spruce with its frosted mint-green needles strung with tiny lights for an inviting glow.

"Enough." With a swipe of his hand, Calvin obliterates my work.

"That was . . ." I start, but Calvin cuts me off.

"All these colors! They don't make the world a better place. They don't feed people! They don't conquer death!" He raises his hand toward the back wall -- the palette wall with every color we've ever created.

"No!!!" I wrap him in a bear hug only just preventing him from destroying the work of millennia. What has happened to my partner? To the man who had been by my side when colors at Christmas were relegated to an icy sunrise, a bleak sunset, and the holly bush?

Maybe fresh air will help. With a soap bubble pop, we're on Yuletide Street. Immediately, I wish I had brought a palette. Everything is faded, washed out. The lights don't twinkle; the colors don't sparkle. Calvin looks the worst: his lederhosen appear centuries old; his felt green jacket is worn and fraying; the pointy tips of his ears should be cherry red with cold, but instead barely manage a grey-tinged pink.

The walk is a mistake. Now, even I am depressed.

"Oh, it's all so pointless!" Calvin jerks his hand out of mine. "It's absurd. We create the same colors over and over and over; and to what end? Will cranberry red save the world, prevent the end of the universe, where crimson could not?"

"Calvin, what is this? What's going on?"

"He left. He left. The others will leave. Then we'll be all alone. And what will it all have been for?"

"What are . . . are you talking about Vincent?"

Calvin is glumly silent.

"Oh, dear." I shake my head. "Vincent was never going to stay. I mean we thought he'd stay in Christmas, maybe go into weather patterns, so it's a bit of a shock that he's gone into river patterns, but then not really. Vincent always had a thing for the broken pattern; the disconnected. He was never going to stay in colors."

"See what I mean!" Calvin shouts. "He left, and they'll all leave, and what is all this for if they're all going to leave?"

"George will stay. He's already as good with colors as we've ever been. And there's Maria and Natalie. Not Anya. She'll go into birdsong. And it's too soon to tell about the younger ones. But George definitely."

This time the silence is stony.

"You think all our children will abandon us?"

"Vincent did."

"Calvin."

I take his hand and pop us into our bedroom. Here, I have a spare palette and a blank working wall. I sketch out a scene; this one is from when George was five. Five hundred is such a precocious age.

We were still in an age where color was fleeting and rare. Calvin was coloring the King's Christmas tree, and there was George following behind Calvin, brightening this; smearing that; a hair's-breadth shading here.

Calvin watches in silence as George time and again brought out some heretofore unimagined hue.

"I won an award for that tree." Calvin says.

"I know." I answer.

"Vincent left."

"Of course he did, dear. He had to follow his own path."

"And George will leave."

"And go where? Sure, he could create colors somewhere else. Spring is certainly popular, but here he has us; he has a head start. You saw what he did with that tree. He has a flair for the dramatic and the celebratory. Here he will be doing the work he truly loves."

"You think he'll stay?"

"He'll stay." I put my hand on Calvin's forearm.

He takes a deep breath. "Well, we haven't much time if we want to make this another beautiful Christmas. Should we bring George in?"

Beaming, as I nod. He takes my hand and pops us into the lab to begin.


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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?”


The End
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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.


The End
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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.


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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.


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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.


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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?"


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