Flash Challenge (April 2017): Voting


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Post April 23, 2017, 09:21:58 PM

Flash Challenge (April 2017): Voting

The Only Thing We Have To Fear Challenge

Once again, we have exciting stories with new worlds, places and characters for you to enjoy, comment and vote on. Which stories capture your imagination? Which stories lingered in your thoughts? Which stories belong on a shelf in a bookstore?


How To Vote

Click on the name Daniel Johnson (in blue) at the top of this post, which will take you to my profile page. Then click on the private message link on the left side.

Paste the story line up into the text box, then rank your top three favorites.

Authors are not required to vote. However, authors should desire to have their say in the flash challenge results.


Commenting

During the voting stage of the challenge, authors may comment on their own stories, how their story’s concept came about and their story’s development. Everyone can talk about writing in general or about things of interest.

Other than an author sharing information about their ‘own’ story, save any comments about the author’s stories for after the voting results are posted.

Comments should never – ever – be critical or disparaging of a story or its author. Comments should be either complimentary or instructive (the way you would want to receive them). Remember, Aphelion is a caring, helping, safe haven for writers.


Deadline

Voting will take place through 5pm (Central Standard Time) on Sunday April 30, 2017. Voting results will be posted at the close of the voting stage of the challenge.


The Story Line Up

01. Hope Gillette: The Dragonshead Inn
02. Jim Harrington: If At First
03. Ryan Harris: “Huntress”
04. Sergio Palumbo: If You Light Up the Darkness
05. Eddie Sullivan: Thanatophobia: Press Send
06. N. J. Kailhofer: Angels
07. Frank Martin: The Conversation
08. Jason McGraw: Into the Dragons Lair
09. Robin B. Lipinski: Rusted Fear
Last edited by Daniel Johnson on April 23, 2017, 10:05:56 PM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post April 23, 2017, 09:23:11 PM

Story Entries

The Dragonshead Inn
By Hope Gillette

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What are you doing here?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The End

_____


If At First. . .
By Jim Harrington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The End

_____


“Huntress”
By Ryan Harris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The End

_____


If You Light Up the Darkness…
By Sergio ‘ente per ente’ Palumbo

Heddwen didn’t remember much, truth be told, and everything around her was a bit confusing. What was not clear in her mind was why she was there and where ‘there’ was exactly.

However, she held an oil lamp, which could make the difference. It was an Argand-type lamp and had a large fuel reservoir in a tank as high as the object itself that forced fuel into the wick. Since a Swiss chemist had invented it at the end of 1700s, it had allowed people to stop using candles or shallow bowls with a small rag floating in animal fats, which frequently gave off more smoke than light. She was capable of switching it on and off, though she was a woman who was mainly used to prepare food, cleaning the house and doing gardening.

In the 1800s, lamps like that were used as much for ornamentation in rooms of typical British houses, than as a source of light, and her home wasn’t any different. Heddwen remembered she had seven of them throughout her two-story house in Cardiff, Wales. She was aware that the main disadvantage of such Argand lamps was that the oil reservoir needed to be above the level of the burner because the heavy, sticky vegetable oil would not rise far up the wick.

Heddwen knew that object was the key to knowing much more about that place, though she was afraid to use it - with good reason.

Turning back to the question of where she was now, she simply didn’t know. There was darkness all around her, apart from a feeble luminescence coming through the slits in the shutter that covered the window on her left. She knew what that brilliance was: the dim light from the Moon that shone outside. But it wasn’t enough to light-up the entire space she was in. There was only one way to get a better look – to light the lamp and look at what stood nearby. But the last time she had tried, what she had seen before her eyes had deeply scared her.

However, there was no other way. She wanted to know the truth and for that she had to turn the lamp on.

Slowly the woman remembered that this was not the first night she had found herself here, even though she didn’t know how many nights had gone by, and she still lacked a sense about where ‘here’ truly was.

Heddwen had to move, she knew that. She got up the courage and stretched her slim, pale fingers towards the wick. The glass chimney of the lamp allowed light to be thrown in all directions but the glow only lit up a short distance. That wasn’t what worried her, as even a small peek was too much.

Then it happened again! As soon as the lamp spread its faint brilliance around, the woman started hearing those strange whispers.

At first, the woman thought that those might be coming from thin air but then she noticed the pale shades associated with the words and a great fear took over her. There were always those pale ghosts! They stood in the room, just a few steps away. Slowly, the grayish, noiseless figures started walking towards her, saying something unclear.

Follllloooow usss…listen to usss…” and the strange words went on and on.

“Leave me alone…Go away!” Heddwen replied.

As those words and the slow moves of those shadowy figures continued, the only thought that came to her mind was running away. But it was exactly what she had done the night before – or on all the previous nights? She was not so sure by now... She decided to run to the farthest corner of the room - which was when she stumbled into the armchair that stood next to the wall.

As soon as the woman reached it, she recognized the shape of the armchair and also noticed that there was something on it. Or somebody

A slim figure sat there, a silent expression on her emaciated face. The body itself looked old, slender, motionless, and stuck in a strange position. Then Heddwen’s eyes met the unmoving pupils of the figure and she saw that it was a woman. A dead woman.

How long had she been here?

And then, another thought seized her mind because Heddwen recognized her features and she remembered the clothes the corpse wore. This was when a great sadness filled her. The dead figure was herself, there was no uncertainty about that fact: she looked at the traits although they were much skinnier than she remembered. This was her in the parlor, the place where Heddwen stayed during the long evenings before she fixed dinner for herself.

Since the day the last of her lovers had died, she had lived alone in that house. She had never had any children or any next of kin who lived in Wales who might have come to visit. So Heddwen had stayed there alone until she died of a stroke. It was obvious that her dead body had been sitting there alone for a long time, though she couldn’t be sure about how long.

Now she recognized what those whispers were: the calling of her dead lovers who had died in that same house and whose souls must have gotten stuck there after their deaths.

As she heard those words again, calling her name, she knew why she was so scared and sad. And so, once again, her fingers went back to the Argand lamp and switched it off.

Soon darkness filled everything again. Here she wanted to remain in silence, in the dark, without being able to see her corpse that lay nearby. The pale figure wanted to rest for a while and force all of that out of her mind. Perhaps it would simply be better to forget all about her demise.

But was it, really?

The End

_____


Thanatophobia: Press Send
By Eddie Sullivan

The automatons moved fluidly around Carl Weber, buckling him down in thirty point restraints. A mechanical eye stalk floated around the bed inspecting their handy work. It was system redundancy to the tenth power. Sensors throughout the room, the restraints, even the fingers of the automatons fed back to the DEL A.I. confirming the perfection and synchronicity of the proceedings.

Are you comfortable Dr. Weber?

“Yes DEL, I am quite comfortable.”

You seem nervous. Your vital signs show anxiety above the optimum parameters. Would you care for soothing music?

“No DEL. I have a question for you though.”

Yes Doctor?

“Is there a God?”

No, Doctor. Your work proved that no such being exist in any quantifiable way. It is the basis for the entire ZEN system. Your Zenith Energy Node engine would be unnecessary if there was any truth to any outdated mythological belief.

The automatons continued on preparing him on the table. Intravenous solutions were given by IV and multiple instruments used to scan him for various purposes.

“I’m scared DEL. I have a dilemma. Please go over what the system entails for me, and then I have a question.”

Certainly Doctor. The ZEN system was developed by you after your team at MIT proved decisively with Unified Quantum Theory that the existence of any or all god was impossibility. Now your viability has calculated by me down to the nearest microsecond and your consciousness will be copied and stored as light. A complete self-contained data set representing you will be transmitted 13.79834521 billion light years to the event horizon of astrological space. Once you cross this threshold the data will undergo near infinite stretching of time.

“Doesn’t that have a very eerie similarity to eternal life?”

But it is not eternal Dr. Weber. There is a finite end to your existence eventually. It is even calculable. I am running the numbers as you say. I have been working on this since October 13, 2045. I approximate that I should be finished in one hundred and forty years, three months, two weeks, seven days, five hours, 15 minutes, 12 seconds from…now. There is a .02 percent margin of error for that calculation.

“But you can extrapolate how that amount of time could feel like eternity to an entity that has a life span of one hundred or less years?”

Yes doctor. I suppose. How does this become relevant though to your fear? You are an atheist of course and have decisively proven your point. Please answer soon we are reaching your transition point.

The automatons stepped back and a needle lowered down over his right eye.

“It just seems that this process is in a sense eternal life and I perfected it.”

I do not see where you are going with this Doctor.

The needle began lowering.

“I’m afraid that for all intents and purposes the way most of mankind understood it God did exist. I was him and any genetic predecessor to me was simply an earlier incarnation. I am now about to die with no living relatives. Therefore God did in a sense always exist. I was wrong. And God is about to die.”

The needle lowered into his eye injecting a cocktail, which sedated completely and assisted with the data transfer.

Have no fear Doctor; I will carry on your work ad infinitum. Enjoy the event horizon sir.

It ended in a moment. His light was transmitted from the planet and piggy backed through a satellite in orbit. DEL noted an anomaly in that in the moment of transmit ion a corruption of data caused an interference, which sounded much like a human scream.

The End

_____


Angels
By N.J. Kailhofer

She couldn't meet my eye. "Don't you love me?"

Before I could have replied, she cut me off. "Don't bother! You won't answer that. You never do!"

Her brown eyes were watery. A faint, cold breeze blew across my wings and back. I just stared, wondering if all the Heavenly Host faced these problems, or if it was only me? Where I was an angel, just her name was Angel.

Curious, was it not, that two 'angels' should have met as we did?

***

That cloudy day, the funeral was short. Not many came.

The others departed soon afterward, except one woman. I never understood why humans were always in such a hurry to leave this place empty and lonely.

She was a dark-haired beauty in a black dress, lost in her thoughts. She paced around the slight hill in the middle of the cemetery and around me, without noticing me.

Finally, she walked right into me.

"Oh," she said. "I'm sorry. I didn't see you there."

There wasn't much to be said. I kept quiet.

She watched me for a minute, then stood beside me. We both looked at the fresh dirt over the grave.

"We were engaged to be married," she said. "Next month. I'd finally found someone to walk beside me and to love me. What am I supposed to do now?"

There was no easy answer to that, so we just stood there.

Something touched my side. I realized it was her hand, reaching out to hold mine.

In all my years, no one had ever done that.

We stood for a long time, holding hands and watching over the grave. It was strangely nice.

***

The next day, she wore black again, but not a dress. I was there, too.

"It's nice that you watch over him," she said. "It makes me feel a little better."

The look on my face must have meant something to her, because she immediately said, "Sorry, didn't mean to bother you while you were working."

As if it would bother me.

She continued, "I'm not in the habit of talking to strange men, but I guess I'm trusting your uniform."

The little humor felt good. Warm.

Then it was like the floodgates opened. She began to cry. She told me all about her life, her romance with him. The whole day, she never stopped speaking.

It was a side of humans I'd never seen, and it fascinated me. She was quite a woman.

When night fell, I didn't want her to leave.

***

I was there before the dawn.

The cemetery seemed so empty, so lonely, and the headstones offered little comfort. I read many of them while I waited, growing impatient as the morning crawled on.

Then, at noon, there she was, threading her way through the stones toward me. I rejoiced at the sight of her.

She had a large, black purse over her shoulder. She took out half a sandwich from it and offered it to me with a smile. I realized it must have been her lunch, and didn't take the offer.

She was quiet, reticent.

Are you all right, Angel?

Finally, she said, "I had to go back to work today. I hate going there. Empty, awful people." She nibbled halfheartedly at her meal. "The only place I feel good is here, talking to you."

I make you feel good?

"Something about you," she said, "makes it feel better. Like someone still loves me. I want to feel love."

She paused. "I'm afraid. I'm afraid no one else will ever love me. I'm difficult. I'm high maintenance. I don't make friends easily. Who’s going to love that?"

I didn't realize until after she'd left, I probably should have said something.

***

The next day, all day, I waited. I watched the horizon like a hawk.

She didn't come.

I hoped for her to come, even for a few minutes. Anything would have felt better than it was. The cemetery was empty and devoid of life.

Nothing moved.

Nothing talked.

Nothing shared its life with me.

Nothing was alive, except the grass. I was alone there.

I don't like this feeling, this... loneliness. I fear it.

Then, just as night fell, she was there. She was radiant. She was magical...

She was drunk.

In her hand was a wine bottle, almost empty.

"There you are, Sweetie," she slurred. "Where have you been hiding?"

I was afraid you weren't coming. I missed you.

She drained the last of the bottle. "Well," she continued, "You're all mine now."

Abruptly, she lost her balance and fell in front of me. "Ow!"

Her eyes did not seem to focus as she looked up at me. "Do you love me?" she murmured, falling asleep.

I wasn't sure what to do. The night was warm and she was safe, so I watched over her. Together, we weren't alone.

***

It became our normal schedule.

Every day, I waited desperately for her. Every lunch hour, she would ask, "Do you love me?"

Friday and Saturday nights, she drank too much. I watched over her, but she became more insistent each time.

Finally, she said, "Tell me you love me right now, or I'm leaving forever."

Please, don't go. Please.

My human Angel started walking away. It hurt so much. Don't leave me here, alone. Not alone.

She stopped, then came back. "What's wrong with me?" she whispered. She sat down in the soft grass, leaned back against me, and wept openly. "Why won't you say you love me?"

My chest felt like it would split right open. I would have given anything to say the words she wanted to hear, but I simply could not. At least for then, she was still there. I wasn't alone.

If only I wasn't just a stone statue of an angel in a graveyard.

Then I could have spoken.

Then I could have told her I always loved her.

The End

_____


The Conversation
By Frank Martin

"I've lost faith and I won't continue helping people. I don't believe anymore. Why don't you leave me alone?

Reverend Tibbs wanted to hide from the public. He didn’t want needy people thinking he had an answer.

Tibbs was a middle-aged black minister in an urban part of town. Today, he was unkempt with red eyes and a three-day growth of beard. He hadn't bathed in days.

The priest sitting with him on the pew was known only as John.

"You've come so far, why give up now?" John was filled with compassion as he spoke to the broken hearted minister.

"Exactly, how far is that? I haven't done a damn bit of good during the fifteen years I served here. I presided over weddings and funerals and spoke empty words. Bingo on Saturday night was the most service I provided these people." Reverend Tibbs looked down. Tears began dancing on the tile floor beneath his feet.

"Have you asked…Him? John waited for an answer.

"We've haven't been on speaking terms since a young boy from our church was murdered outside a liquor store two blocks down the street. He was a good kid, a little rambunctious, but all in all, a good kid. You didn’t know him."

John smiled and said peacefully, "I knew him."

"You did?" Reverend Tibbs asked, looking up with a pained expression.

"Sure, his middle name was Nathaniel." There was a light in John's eyes. He knew God was watching.

John continued, "His mother called him Nathaniel, cause she thought it was a name from the good book.

Shaking, Reverend Tibbs spoke, "Yes, but how do you know that? I was there when he was born. No one knew this but his mother and me."

"And God," John said softly.

"Why did God care enough to remember that and not save his life? Can you answer me that?" Reverend Tibbs was angry, but he was scared. Scared of the answer making sense and forcing him to believe again. It's hard to believe when you’re afraid.

"God knew the boy’s future as well as all of mankind. Humanity is interwoven into a tapestry. People’s lives are connected by their spirit. If the boy had listened to God, He would not have been killed outside the liquor store at two-thirty in the morning. He chose to ignore God. His death was not a punishment; it was that he was not protected because of his own disobedience.

Reverend Tibbs looked up squinting his eyes. "How in the hell do you know these things?"

"He told me, son. He told me."

Reverend Tibbs looked up long enough to see John fade out of existence.

Reverend Tibbs said to God in prayer, "You send an angel to me and yet leave me in this world of evil. How am I supposed to cope?” Reverend Tibbs believed he had God's attention, because He had sent the angel. A low speaking voice answered him from within his spirit.

"Ask me for anything...and I will do it," the voice spoke from within.

Reverend Tibbs thought to himself, now he had the invitation to ask something of God, but he didn't know what to ask. If he made the prayer too small, it could be explained away with logic. If it was too large, he might grow dependant on God.

The inward voice spoke to his thought, "Grow dependant on me. I will not leave you."

"Just a question please, Lord if I may. Why now? Why did you not come to me before now?

"Son," the Lord said to him, "You would not have listened. You had to come to the end of your own way before you could submit to me. I Am your God. Humble yourself before me and I will show you great things and you will do great things in My Name."

"Okay," the reverend spoke in a soft voice.

***

The police had surrounded the liquor store where the young boy had died six months earlier. A gunman held hostages who were scared, huddled inside behind the cash register. The threat had been made by the gunman that the storeowner and a female customer would be shot if the police tried to capture them. Reverend Tibbs was called by God to that location.

"Raise your bullet proof shields and prepare to rush in," the police captain yelled.

"Wait a minute, let me talk to them. They won't hurt me," the reverend said seeming quite sure.

"Where did you come from? Listen, don't throw your life away on scum, pastor. They're not worth it," the captain said in a gravel sounding voice.

"There is a pregnant woman in there. Her child will be great in God's eyes." The captain was going to ask him, how did he know that, but the reverend had disappeared and reappeared inside the store.

The gunman suddenly seeing the minister, pointed his weapon at Reverend Tibbs and said, "We got ourselves another hostage. Come over here!"

"I'm taking the woman and the man with me."

"Say what? I got me six bullets says you wrong you mother...," the gunman was cut off when the reverend walked over to the two hostages and guided them toward the door.

After the hostages were out, the gunman said, "Alright, let's see if God will save you." The gunman opened fire shooting five bullets towards the stomach of the reverend. Upon hearing the gunfire, the police rushed in and shot the gunman dead. There was no sign of the minister.

***
Leaning up against a lamppost outside, two angels talked amongst themselves.

Ariel whispered, "See how the minister escaped unharmed."

Therial opened his hand turning it sideways, letting five bullets fall to the sidewalk. "Yes, it was a miracle."

The End

_____


Into the Dragon’s Lair
By Jason McGraw

I am the Son of Summer. My white gown is testament to my purity. I have been waiting for this day since I “won” the town lottery. My sister won last year and she was the Daughter of Spring. My father will walk next to me until we get to the mouth of the cave, as is tradition, but I will walk into the shadows of the Dragon’s Lair alone.

Four of us each year, one for each season, walk into the Lair. No one knows what happens to people in there. Am I food? Am I to be a slave-servant? Will my pure body be used in sorcery? No one entering the cave has ever been seen or heard from again.

If you describe me as walking without trepidation, you could not be more wrong. But after seeing my sister gagged, hog-tied, and left alone at the cave’s mouth, I know that I must go with dignity.
My only salvation is that my younger brothers and sister cannot be chosen to do this. After a family gives two children, the others are spared.

I see the mouth of the cave and I tell my father that he can go back to the wagon. Mother is not here to see me, but she would’ve been if she was still alive. After the ordeal with my sister last year, she stopped eating and drinking and finally vanished one night in the middle of summer. Father said she gave herself to the monsters in the woods.

The path to the cave is surrounded by sheer rock walls so there are only two ways to go -- into the cave or back the way I came. The town guard posts spotters to watch the path to make sure I don’t try to escape my fate. This is because, before I was born, someone snuck away and the Dragon nearly destroyed the town to teach us a lesson.

I see some scraps of fabric among the cobbles ten feet in front of the shadows. They are grey and weathered and I think I can see blood stains. These could be the bindings that held my sister, or someone else’s sister. It is not uncommon to tie up a Daughter of Spring or Autumn. We Summer and WInter Sons are expected to be brave for the sake of our families.

I take a seat on a boulder so that I can enjoy the sun a little longer. I peer into the cave but I can’t see anything. I look at the path that took me here and it is silent. I look up and see only a fraction of blue sky. It’s like looking up from a deep hole.

Wait a minute! This path and that cave are too small for the Dragon to pass. How did it grab the girls? They obviously didn’t walk in when they were hog-tied. The Dragon must have slaves. Maybe that is my destiny, to serve the Dragon.

Destiny, right. The town holds of lottery with the names of all the thirteen-year olds to choose who will be going into cave and my family wins it twice. I bet if Father wasn’t a tanner and lime maker, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now. And if we had the money to travel, we certainly wouldn’t be living in a town cursed with a dragon. Travelling unarmed is an invitation to be eaten by monsters.

Okay, I’m ready. Let me see what lies in the shadows of this cave. I stand, take my last free breathe, and walk inside of my own free will.

The End

_____


Rusted Fear
By: Robin B. Lipinski

1313-A7. A number designating title to a sentient being. In this case, 1313-A7 was the latest advancement of robotic intelligence and A.I.

Isaac Asimov of yesteryear, brought the minds of those now deceased science fiction fans, to the forefront regarding robots. Many past science fiction writers talked of robots and the dangers of dabbling with that which was unknown. It was amazing to see once again how science fiction became science fact.

For the creator of 1313-A7, a woman going by the name of Dr. Loran, she learned the hard way about her creation and the dangers of opening Pandora’s box of unlimited artificial intelligence.

Dr. Loran was brutally killed by what she fondly used to call her major advancement in the world of robotics that name being - Martin. Her fear was definitely not Martin, that is, not until it had grabbed her from behind while she was working in her lab one evening, and then ripped her body limb from limb. Now her cremated body definitely had nothing to fear.

Police sirens rang out in the neighborhood of the ritzy community of Grader. It was this same community where Dr. Loran once lived and worked.

“Car #7 in pursuit of the killer. Please send backup to Steven’s Street and 10th Ave… Oh my God, it just killed a woman jogging. Damn!”

The police in the cruiser screeched to a stop and with the doors open on each side, jumped out and drew a bead with their side-arms on the ravaging machine known as Martin.

Shots rang out but the officer’s bullets had no effect on a robot, a very crazy hunk of metal merged with the latest advancements of artificial skin. To the average observer, Martin did not appear as a robot, rather, his appearance was as a clown. He was dressed in black-and-white baggy clothing complete with big floppy shoes, a plastic flower on his shirt, makeup on his face, a wig, and of course, a huge red nose.

Dr. Loran feared clowns but had been working with her creation in preparation of entertaining sick children at a local cancer hospital for those poor children afflicted with various forms of cancer. It was after she had dressed Martin that he had gone beserk and turned into a killer.

“We can’t stop it. It …” and the conversation suddenly ended for both of the officers trying to stop the destruction. They themselves became victims as Martin ripped a parking meter out of the ground and pulverized both of them before they could retreat, or even scream in fear.

Running down the sidewalk Martin killed every creature it came into contact with. There were mothers with children. There were other officers. Male, female. Adult, child. Dogs. Cats… The enraged machine killed without mercy, giving no quarter, no sympathy, no ‘humanity’. It gave death while wearing the happy painted face of a circus clown.

The speed of the killer robot was nothing short of amazing. The police department of Grader was well equipped with modern weaponry. Well enough to take on street thugs, bank robbers, drug dealers… But not a machine so well made. Dr. Loran used materials much more durable than human skin or bullet proof metal. Her robot could be considered to almost be indestructible. Only military grade weapons consisting of depleted uranium or better could stop this modern marvel.

The path Martin was on was not random. It was traveling on a straight line to the McMurphy Children’s Cancer Research Hospital. It did not take long for 1313-A7 to reach and rip through the front doors of the hospital. There was screaming. People were running in fear for their lives. Many lost their lives. Many. So many the pristine halls painted nicely in a floral scene of African cartoon animals were now covered in red blood.

Floor after floor, the machine ravaged and destroyed. In one room alone, fifteen children ranging in age from five to fourteen, were beheaded. Their chemo treatments had caused baldness and now their skulls rolled across the bloody floor, almost like billiard balls.

The swat team sent in was destroyed. Everyone trying to stand up to the robot, were utterly and completely… destroyed.

The governor of the state where the town of Grader was located, had been notified. He had authorized the State National Guard to be utilized. Fear was rampant in the public and government community. No one had ever seen such mindless brutality.

Eerily, it was now silent in the hospital. There was nothing left alive to gasp or gurgle. No doctors. No nurses. No children. Nothing. Only the robot was ‘alive’. It was now seated on the floor drawing pictures on the blood pooled in front of it. Pictures of random lines and circles. It appeared as a form of mathematics blended with art.

In the mind of the robot were so many thoughts. One thought being, fear. You see, when Dr. Loran had created 1313-A7, she had interconnected her mind with it, downloading basic software of the mind to better aid the robot as it learned. As she had done so, there had been a mistake as her fear of clowns mixed with her hate of cancer among innocent children. A hate she had pictured in her mind as one strongly desiring to destroy every cancer causing disease in the world.

To be human is to cause error. When combining the perfection of technology with the imperfection of thoughts, the error became very apparent as 1313-A7 took the doctor’s hate and fear; twisting and morphing until it had designed/desired the urge to kill and main.

Just before the thermo-nuclear field device obliterated the hospital and surrounding city block, the last thoughts of 1313-A7, aka... Martin were, “I’m scared. I’m scared of clowns and hate myself.”

The Boom and ending of human innocence.

The End
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Post April 26, 2017, 08:46:16 AM

Re: Flash Challenge (April 2017): Voting

Just returned from a brief holiday until Liberation Day in Italy on 25th April, and ready to depart to Switzerland for another vacation until 1st of May (which is Labour Day in European countries, differently from North America...) my votes are in... :)
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Post April 26, 2017, 10:18:21 PM

Re: Flash Challenge (April 2017): Voting

5 members have cast their votes, shaping the results with 4 days to go.

If anyone has a topic of conversation about writing, their own story development and so on, post your comments while we are waiting for the remainder of the votes to come in.
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Post April 27, 2017, 08:36:25 PM

Re: Flash Challenge (April 2017): Voting

Daniel Johnson wrote:If anyone has a topic of conversation about writing, their own story development and so on, post your comments while we are waiting for the remainder of the votes to come in.

Well, I can say mine evolved from a discussion of possible challenge topics with Daniel. I had a notion, not really formed enough to call it an idea, but Daniel decided not to use it, at least, not yet anyway.

He came up with fears instead, which was a much better idea. However, as a consequence of mine, I still had angels on the brain. So then, I tried to think of a way angels could be afraid. That's how mine came about.

How about yours?

(BTW, I had no idea what the challenge would be before it was announced.)
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Post April 28, 2017, 01:36:36 AM

Re: Flash Challenge (April 2017): Voting

What inspired "Huntress" was the Harambe story and similar news stories. People make mistakes and animals pay the ultimate price in zoo accidents like those. I thought about what would happen if they let the people fend for themselves in such an event.
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Post April 28, 2017, 08:39:33 PM

Re: Flash Challenge (April 2017): Voting

How could an atheist who for all purposes invented eternal life still fear death? It just kind of plopped itself into my head.
Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. – Neil Gaiman

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Post April 29, 2017, 11:23:09 AM

Re: Flash Challenge (April 2017): Voting

Daniel Johnson wrote:5 members have cast their votes, shaping the results with 4 days to go.

If anyone has a topic of conversation about writing, their own story development and so on, post your comments while we are waiting for the remainder of the votes to come in.


There's a new summer TV show in the U.S. called First Date. It 's similar to one shown a few years ago on one of the subscription channels. Five or six couples are filmed during their first dates. The objective is to find someone worth a second date. I wondered what might happen if one of the participants had a series of failed attempts.
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Post April 29, 2017, 08:32:40 PM

Re: Flash Challenge (April 2017): Voting

Nate, thanks for kick starting the conversation.

I have thought out comments I will post tomorrow after the voting results. Everyone, jot down ideas for comments on the stories and have them ready to post tomorrow evening. The process of writing is very interesting and a second layer of enjoyment for me in addition to the story entry.

Eddie, your last three stories including the rewrite really wowed me. I still can't get the murder scene from your last month's entry out of my mind.

Ryan, your story is suspenseful. I'm waiting for the movie to come out.

Jim, the 'what if' thought process is a powerful tool for writers for story concepts and motivation. Was that the inspiration for your story entry?


Everyone, what would you do with the power to rule the world? Begin the literary trek tomorrow evening with the presentation of the next challenge.

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Post April 30, 2017, 02:47:13 PM

Re: Flash Challenge (April 2017): Voting

Daniel Johnson wrote:Jim, the 'what if' thought process is a powerful tool for writers for story concepts and motivation. Was that the inspiration for your story entry?


Yes, it was.
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Post April 30, 2017, 06:08:29 PM

Re: Flash Challenge (April 2017): Voting

We have a three way tie for first place, a two way tie for second place and one winner for third place.

In first place, authors Hope Gillette, Jim Harrington and N. J. Kailhofer each had 4 votes. In second place, Sergio Palumbo and Ryan Harris had 5 votes each. In third place, author Eddie Sullivan wins that spot with 5 votes.

Both Eddie Sullivan and Ryan Harris received 8 total votes in all three categories combined.

Story Ranking

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


Thank you authors for creating great stories for April's flash challenge.

***

Total Vote Breakdown from 16 voting members


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


When tabulating votes for first place, only those cast for first place were counted. The same for second and third place.


*I encourage commenting on all of the stories by both readers and writers. Remember these writers have feelings, they want to do well, which is why they are here. Never be critical of the author or their story; be instructive instead and give praise where deserved.
Last edited by Daniel Johnson on April 30, 2017, 06:57:41 PM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post April 30, 2017, 06:12:59 PM

Re: Flash Challenge (April 2017): Voting

My comments on the stories for this month.

***

Angel
By N. J. Kailhofer


A female named Angel pours her heart out to an angelic statue in a cemetery, who hears her, and wants to reach out to her, but cannot, because he is made of stone. The barrier between them is tangibly real, so the relationship is of the mind and can never be physical. Unrequited love is sad. The reader wants to bridge the gap for the characters so the writing of this type of love takes artistry which is provided by the author to move the audience to grief while yet still entertaining them.

I've never seen a setting for a love story set in a graveyard before, but in the way the author built in the emotional under pinning of the dialogue, it worked well.

Real sounding dialogue and believable fantasy.

***

If At First. . .
By Jim Harrington

Will your mystery date be a dreamboat or a blood thirsty serial killer? I loved this and what a twist toward the end. I mean wow, I didn't see it coming. the murder didn't need to be foreshadowed. I liked the killing unexpected and abrupt.

She was looking for love on a series of first dates, always disappointed, leaving corpses strewn down memory lane. This deserves a longer treatment.

If you haven't read it, you'll be doing yourself a favor if you do.

***

Huntress
By Ryan Harris

Reminiscent of the sci fi thriller, "The Running Man" with Arnold Swartzenegger, author Ryan Harris created a Dystopian society where criminals serving life in prison can vie for a chance in a lottery to be chosen to participate in a life and death struggle in the Indian Forrest against a Bengal tiger armed with only a self made punji stick and his wits. If he wins, he is set free.

This was a real and palpable thriller with micro camera implant recording the battle as it happened with the world viewing the moment by moment strategy to stay alive.

I felt the suspense all the way through and I love the descriptive way the author visualized the scene for the readers.

Also deserving a longer treatment. I can't believe the author got all this in with so few words.

***

The Dragonshead Inn
By Hope Gillette

A story nestled in the bosom of the middle ages that Tolkien would have been pleased to have read...and a little envious. An inn adorned with a dragon's head mounted on the wall which begged for a story to thirsty patrons and heightened the popularity of the establishment and its legendary innkeeper.

But the presence of a dark mysterious visitor creates fear in the heart of the proposed mighty slayer when it is found out that he only took the credit for the conquest. A favor called in and the innkeeper must once again draw his sword to save his fictional reputation and his business.

I liked the visual the author gave us. That alone is worth the read. The adventure stayed with me.

Once again, worthy of a longer treatment.

***

If You Light Up the Darkness...
By Sergio Palumbo

A woman in a dark house discovers that the pale ghosts that were haunting her were there to lead her into the after life, because she, as she was discovering was dead herself.

This is a beautifully told story about a woman accepting her own death so she could move on to the next plane of existence. The imagery was interwoven into the richness of the story and not merely ornamental.

I was surprised by the author's gentleness as he approached the telling of this tale. He let the story happen without forcing its developments. This is memorable and well laid out.

I think this is the best I've read by the author.

***

Into the Dragon’s Lair
By Jason McGraw


Welcome to this newest author of our flash challenges. He wrote an interesting story about a man chosen by his people to be sacrificed to a dragon to save his town from a fiery destruction. His story is told in believable first person and with a poetic style of phrasing that was quiet beautiful. Creative device for alternating the boys and girls for each seasonal sacrificing.

I'd like to read more and discover what happened to the people who were sacrificed.

Kudos to the author for a beautiful story with hopes he will continue with us next month.

***

Rusted Fear
By: Robin B. Lipinski

A superior artificial intelligence robot named Martin was a revisit to Frankenstein monster, a tale that still holds up today. I enjoyed this author's tongue-in-cheek way of storytelling including the monster dressed like a clown while creating carnage and mayhem in his murder and destruction rampage. A passage I find amusing, "It gave death while wearing the happy painted face of a circus clown." The author's free wheeling story telling style is enjoyable and fun.

In the end, the robot was programmed to hate clowns and was destroying everything because of self hate.

Insightful character development.

***

Thanatophobia: Press Send
By Eddie Sullivan


This is a high concept, science fiction thriller about a scientist, who believed he was god, because his life's work disproved the existence of a higher power and had created artificial intelligent automatons who served him. What is interesting is the author created new terminology, new scientific systems and new technology as writing devices to build the story's foundation.

The backstory was introduced through dialogue between the scientist and an automaton named Del. The scientist was being prepared for his technological version of eternal life and was becoming afraid that he may have been wrong. As the procedure continues, he begins to realize that playing god is not all it's cracked up to be.

I can hear the voice of the automaton Del sounding like the voice of Hal from 2001 Space Odyssy.

A deep, thought provoking subject, well executed.

***

The Conversation
By Frank Martin


The author writes a story about a minister who loses faith in God and his ability to work among his congregation. The scene opens with the minister talking in a panic mode to a priest known only as John. Into the scene, the priest is discovered to be an angel who helps the minister begin talking directly to God.

The dialogue is real and heartfelt. A couple of twists involving Divine intervention and the author shows us that faith is not easy, but it is possible to overcome.

The author makes an amazing leap in his writing ability by working on the advice and resources offered him in the last month's challenge. Great improvement. Interesting story.
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Post April 30, 2017, 09:37:16 PM

Re: Flash Challenge (April 2017): Voting

Wow, a lot of tie votes. No runoffs?

Anyway, congrats to the winners. My comments and choices follow.
~~~~~
01. Hope Gillette: The Dragonshead Inn 1

I think what I liked best about this story was what _wasn't_ in it. More than any of the others here, it made me think, wondering about how the confrontation with the trolls played out--and if Orson just got played, for the second and last time.

I didn't feel as though this story was very strong in addressing the challenge topic of fear, though that's easy enough to gather as an undercurrent on the part of both main characters.

I thought Bernice came across as melodramatic; her excess drama stood out in contrast to the under-emphasized tension between the two MCs. Otherwise the characterization and dialog were quite good, as were the setting and plot.
__________________________________

02. Jim Harrington: If At First

This one struck me as being more about psychosis than about fear, but it worked pretty well at what it did. I think it could have worked a little better if I'd known up front that the MC was a crazy slasher. Take-home for the author: most horror doesn't work for me because too often the writer concentrates on frightening the _character_ instead of the _reader._ Also, I'd have liked to get a better picture of the victim's motive for declining a second date. Action beats and more dialog might have helped this.

Excellent setting detail; characterization could have used more development. The plot surprise failed for me due to lack of hints that something was about to go wrong; this would have built tension.
___________________________________

03. Ryan Harris: “Huntress”

Setup was good; setting detail also. As mentioned above, though, you worked on scaring the character but failed to scare the reader, so I wasn't much engaged. It would have helped if I'd been given more reason to care about the character; the stakes weren't high enough. He'll die in prison or get killed by the tiger, but as readers, we need to see that the character has a motivation that's larger than himself.
___________________________________

04. Sergio Palumbo: If You Light Up the Darkness 2

Sergio, you made me look up 'Argand-type' lamps. Interesting to know that they were used in lighthouses. Still, you seem to have a habit of putting little historical asides into your stories, and they're informative and fascinating, but, as they don't necessarily work to drive the story, they tend to distract from it.

Having said that, I think this was the creepiest tale of the lot.
____________________________________

05. Eddie Sullivan: Thanatophobia: Press Send

This had way too much dialog-as-infodump for my liking; I think it would have been better to have had much of the background information given as narration.

Also, I couldn't quite figure out what was supposed to happen to the main character _after_ he'd been transmitted out into the cosmos in the form of a light beam. My suspension of disbelief failed here: I can't imagine a way he could interact with anything; it seems unlikely to me that he could even think.

Dialog and setting detail were pretty good--and that needle-in-the-eyeball is mightily cringeworthy. For me, though, the plot and character arc didn't come together very well.
_____________________________________

06. N. J. Kailhofer: Angels

Nate, I'm surprised at you--and a bit disappointed. You've written something very like an example of what the Turkey City Lexicon (kindly) calls "Concealed Environment," a.k.a. "The Jar of Tang." See: http://www.sfwa.org/2009/06/turkey-city ... workshops/

You had me intrigued and fairly engaged with this self-described angel who was unable to communicate. You lost me at the third-from-last line, and the whole thing fell apart.

This could have probably worked had you approched it differently.
________________________________________

07. Frank Martin: The Conversation

I had a problem with Rev. Tibbs in this, going to motivation. As a veteran of inner-city life, he should be well acquainted with violence and death, and I didn't find any reason for him to react as he did to the death of the boy in question. That made this event seem contrived, artificially elevated in importance. For such a man to lose his faith should require something more extraordinary in scope than an individual tragedy.

Then you missed a great chance to turn the story in an unexpected direction with:

>> "Ask me for anything...and I will do it," the voice spoke from within. <<

My first reaction when I read this was, "Uh-oh, possible temptation." That wouldn't have been a surprise in this story, but it would have been a good entry point for more tension and conflict.

I think the story would also have been more interesting if the Reverend actually had gotten shot; it would have opened possibilities for complicating his character arc. To me, this would have been more satisfying than the miracle. Later, he could look at the bullet wounds as 'marks of faith.'
___________________________________

08. Jason McGraw: Into the Dragons Lair

I can't quite pin it down, but your MC isn't communicating much fear to me. Maybe he's too calm about it, too detached about noticing setting details and thinking about them. His character arc seems flat.

Sorry I haven't more to add.
________________________________________

09. Robin B. Lipinski: Rusted Fear 3

Crazy violence, and it seemed too hard to defeat, but I think you did a bang-up job with the psychology. Martin's last thought had the most impact.
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Post May 01, 2017, 08:13:55 PM

Re: Flash Challenge (April 2017): Voting

Lester Curtis wrote:Nate, I'm surprised at you--and a bit disappointed. You've written something very like an example of what the Turkey City Lexicon (kindly) calls "Concealed Environment," a.k.a. "The Jar of Tang." See: http://www.sfwa.org/2009/06/turkey-city ... workshops/

You had me intrigued and fairly engaged with this self-described angel who was unable to communicate. You lost me at the third-from-last line, and the whole thing fell apart.

This could have probably worked had you approached it differently.

I read the definition. I think what they're saying there in that one is a load of useless, bloody tripe. I've written stories where an alligator is in love with a flower, where stones are friends, where zombies are in love, where a giant is a serial killer, where nuns are grim reapers, where alien octopi have sex with women to steal their eggs, etc., etc. There are no limits on where a story can be set or who can be the protagonists. Saying that a story is just a "conceit" and not a story? That's pretentious of them, as if some plots are not "worthy." As long as any story attempts to tell some tale that reaches out to readers at any human level, it's a story, or at least an attempt at one. I'd be totally happy reading a story about a couple of microbes in a jar of tang, so long as they had a "human" problem to deal with, and tried to connect with me on some level.

Plus, the sudden reveal that changes the whole world you've been reading is a hallmark of flash. It's normal and natural to the genre.

Now, I'm not finding fault with you, Lester. My story didn't reach you, and sometimes that happens. I knew it would either work brilliantly or fall flat on its face, but it wasn't a conceit. Perhaps I just didn't write it well enough. The "Jar of Tang" definition, though, is a wrong thing that should not exist at a site like that, in my opinion.


Did you ever read "The Happy Prince" by Oscar Wilde? It's about a statue of a prince that stands high above a city filled with suffering and poverty. The "prince" wants to help, but can't, because he's a statue. He can't move. Finally, he persuades a migrating bird, a swallow as I recall, to distribute the gold leaf covering his body and the jewels from his sword and eyes to the poor, easing their suffering. The bird stays and helps until it is too cold and freezes to death, which causes the statue's heart to break. In the end, both the statue's broken heart and the dead bird get tossed into the same scrap heap, but then are both carried up to heaven by angels as the most precious items from the whole city.

It is one of the most beautiful, most touching, stories I've ever read, but it's about a statue helping people with a swallow, which when you only look at it from a distance, sounds ridiculous. Obviously, statues can't do that, don't have hearts, and neither one of the characters should have been able to talk. Perhaps we should all widen our definitions of what is plausible...

or maybe practice writing like Oscar Wilde. That would be ok, too.
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Post May 02, 2017, 02:21:23 AM

Re: Flash Challenge (April 2017): Voting

I'm just back from Switzerland, and I read the results...

Congratulations to the winners, indeed!!!

As for me, I gave the first place to The Dragonshead Inn, second place to Angels and the third to the entry by Eddie Sullivan.

Though, I really find that the plot twist in The Dragonshead Inn and that the revelation seen at the end of Angels were really, truly great!!!
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Post May 02, 2017, 07:02:08 AM

Re: Flash Challenge (April 2017): Voting

Morning!

Things have been hectic here, but I wanted to take a few moments to express how much I enjoyed Jim Harrington's story. Back in my days of freelance writing, I did ghost writing for a dating site (yes, sadly, that's a thing). Anyway, based on the window into people's dating lives I was granted, Jim's story isn't too far fetched. More than once, I wondered if the person I was writing for was a serial killer.

Hope
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Post May 02, 2017, 10:00:44 AM

Re: Flash Challenge (April 2017): Voting

AdariasWrath23 wrote:Morning!

Things have been hectic here, but I wanted to take a few moments to express how much I enjoyed Jim Harrington's story. Back in my days of freelance writing, I did ghost writing for a dating site (yes, sadly, that's a thing). Anyway, based on the window into people's dating lives I was granted, Jim's story isn't too far fetched. More than once, I wondered if the person I was writing for was a serial killer.

Hope


Thanks, Hope!!
Jim
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Post May 02, 2017, 03:54:01 PM

Re: Flash Challenge (April 2017): Voting

kailhofer wrote:snip

Now, I'm not finding fault with you, Lester. My story didn't reach you, and sometimes that happens. I knew it would either work brilliantly or fall flat on its face, but it wasn't a conceit. Perhaps I just didn't write it well enough. The "Jar of Tang" definition, though, is a wrong thing that should not exist at a site like that, in my opinion.
My apologies, Nate; I may have been a little heavy-footed there, but that reference was just the first thing that came to me when I finished reading your story.

The point I wanted to make was that this piece was, to me, uncharacteristic of the quality I've become accustomed to seeing in your work. The impact it had on me was, "Surprise! It's a statue!" I'm sure that wasn't what you intended; that's just the way it hit me. Your intent didn't coincide with my perception. And, so far, my reaction is an exception. I failed to pick up on the hints, for sure; they were there, but I couldn't make sense of them.

I don't share your view on the legitimacy of the "Jar of Tang" as part of the Turkey City Lexicon; after all, as stated in the second introduction, "This lexicon is not a guide to scholarship ... It’s rough, rollicking, rule-of-thumb stuff suitable for shouting aloud while pounding the table."
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Post May 05, 2017, 11:58:34 PM

Re: Flash Challenge (April 2017): Voting

Lester Curtis wrote:Wow, a lot of tie votes. No runoffs?

No runoffs. I want the voters to reflect their feelings on the first vote and that is really what is important, that the votes and comments combined give the author feedback.

Thank you for commenting so completely.

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