Microcosms 73

Welcome back, fellow flashionistas.

Was it destiny that I should be hosting Round 73… or was it luck? You see, for reasons I won’t go into while there are children in the room, 73 is my lucky number.

So, while the slot machine is being serviced again, I thought I’d mash things up…

Your task this week is to select at random a print copy of a novel from your book shelf, and turn to page 73. Scan down to the first paragraph that does not begin with direct speech: e.g. ‘What’s direct speech?’ the writer asked in bewilderment.

Then use the first sentence / phrase in that paragraph as the opening to your story. You may change the name – especially if this is something like ‘Harry Potter’ – and / or gender of any character, and change the punctuation, if you wish.

Select a genre for your story from:

Crime
Romance
Mystery
Sci Fi
Comedy
Horror

Geoff

 

(If YOU have an idea for a future contest and would like to be guest host, please contact us.)

 

Special Challenge

Include one or more of these lucky items in your submission:

Amulet
Charm
Dip
Four-leaf Clover
Horseshoe
Number
Quarter
Rabbit’s Foot
Strike
Star
White Heather

If you complete the special challenge, please indicate so, and which item(s) you included. Our judge can decide if she wishes to take it into consideration or not.

And REMEMBER:
include the title of the novel from which you took you opening line, the genre you are using and, if accepting the Special Challenge, the lucky item(s) you’ve included. Also, don’t forget to give your entry a title.

*** NO FAN-FICTION, PLEASE, and NO USE of COPYRIGHT CHARACTERS ***

 

Judging this week is Microcosms 72 Judge’s Pick, Damhnait Monaghan.

All submissions should be a maximum of 300 words in length. You have until midnight, New York time (EDT) to submit.

*** If you are new to Microcosms, remember to check out the full submission guidelines. ***

All being well, results will be posted on Monday.

Microcosms 74
Microcosms 72
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103 comments for “Microcosms 73

  1. 26 May 2017 at 4:14 am

    The Colour of Magic (Terry Pratchett) / Sci-Fi
    297 words
    Special Challenge: Amulet

    Privateer

    “And then there was nothing but the ruin of the forests and a cloud of dust on the horizon, which drifted away on the breeze,” the electronic voice read to me as I tried valiantly to turn it off.

    Finally, after pressing just about every button on my console, I turned it off. Unfortunately, I turned off everything else as well, and I went from hovering above the bright red planet to falling towards said planet. I screamed, the wind rushing over my spacecraft’s wings screamed as heated metal hit cooling air, and my training officer screamed as he rushed into the cockpit and slammed his hand down on the start button.

    Free fall ended with a jerk and as time returned I stopped screaming, the wind lowered its voice to a hum; however, my training officer did not stop screaming. I won’t go into the details here as most of what he said was unprintable, but suffice to say that was the day I flunked out of flight school and the Aerial Corps. It was a bit unfair: it wasn’t even like any of the buttons were labeled…

    This turned out to be a good thing, as a year later, while all my classmates were off dying on the war front, I was sitting safe and sound on a beach, a drink with far too many umbrellas in my hand, raking in the cash from my smuggling gig. Ah yes, I went and found a good trusty ship: not a fancy one, but one with fewer buttons, all of them labeled. I named it Lucky Amulet, and took to the skies to do what my family does best – sell stuff. Everything from socks to home-made gin, guaranteed to curl your hair and make you see stars.

    6+

    • 26 May 2017 at 4:16 am

      Sorry forgot the title hope that it is ok if I add it here – (title) Privateer.

      0

    • Sian Brighal
      27 May 2017 at 5:42 am

      Guess everyone must play the hand they’ve been given. And war is good for business. Great read.

      1+

    • Alva Holland
      27 May 2017 at 7:14 am

      You got me with the non-labeled and labeled buttons, Michael! Great story.

      1+

      • 28 May 2017 at 8:47 am

        I am that way too, I need something to tell my what this button or that button does or else… lol 🙂

        0

    • Irene
      27 May 2017 at 9:52 am

      Got my heart racing. Fun story.

      1+

  2. Storm Jarvis
    26 May 2017 at 4:36 am

    Genre: Horror
    Special Challenge: Rabbit’s Foot
    Book: Completed works of Oscar Wilde (page 73 – A Picture of Dorian Gray)
    Words: 299

    A Madman

    A feeling of pain crept over him, as he thought of the desecration for the fair face on the canvas. The blood still dripping around the edges of the skin, he grabbed his brush and started repainting the makeup that had smudged during the removal. The girl still lay on the table barely breathing and he hummed along to the sound of her raspy breath. The sound reminded him of his army days like a Morse code signal he could not figure out.

    The face had been damaged, his annoyance at having to fix the tears along the fair skin grew with the beat in the air. She was struggling to stay awake and he was aware of her will to survive. She had begged and pleaded, she cradled her lucky rabbit foot as If it would save her. His collections of charms beat anyone’s lucky charm, the hundreds of faces that lined his wall gave him a new life everyday.
    He had wanted her from the first day he saw her flawless skin, he hadn’t imagined it would be this soft. Her light freckles were dainty and attractive but she had put up a fight. This made him mad, why couldn’t they sit still? He stopped painting when he realised he couldn’t hear her breathing anymore. He turned to find an empty table.

    He calmly set down his brush and rose from his chair. He followed the trail of blood to an empty corner, where did she go? He turned to see her standing with that darned broken pipe He had been meaning to fix that. Her eyes were ablaze with fury as she whacked him across the face. He laughed as he faded out, the dogs would be waiting outside, frenzied by the smell of her blood.

    5+

    • 26 May 2017 at 8:59 am

      Riveting, creepy, exact. LOVE this!

      1+

    • Sian Brighal
      27 May 2017 at 5:45 am

      Excellent! Loved the expressions you used and her fury and panic versus his frustrated artistic aloofness. Lovely read.

      0

    • Alva Holland
      27 May 2017 at 7:16 am

      Grim, descriptive story-telling. Well done.

      0

    • Irene
      27 May 2017 at 9:54 am

      Creepy cool story!

      0

  3. 26 May 2017 at 8:55 am

    Watership Down (Richard Adams) / Sci Fi
    297 words
    Special Challenge: Horseshoe

    Duplicitous

    As they approached, a big rabbit appeared over the edge of the ditch, looked at them quickly and vanished into the bank. Hazel let out a cry and floundered after as best she could in the cumbersome space suit.

    “Don’t,” Tom said. But Hazel didn’t listen. Their ship carved the very ditch into which the rabbit, and Hazel, disappeared. A swath of ivory several hundred feet long was the scar they bestowed upon this brown world.

    Their crash bubbles saved her and Tom, but not Ike. Because the cockpit was cordoned off from crew seating by a reinforced steel shell, all Hazel heard was a groan and a squelch. An unnerving odor bloomed in the cabin.

    Hazel crinkled her nose and called, “Not your best landing, Ike.” When silence was the reply, Hazel’s guts unspooled. Tom’s eyes were closed like a terrible roller coaster had just come to a stop.

    At first Hazel thought a month’s worth of chile meals had splattered on the glass of the cockpit. Then she saw Ike’s horseshoe necklace and flight uniform in the muck. Hazel didn’t remember vomiting or screaming, but Tom appeared, holding her, using a soothing voice. Ike didn’t suffer, Tom said, and wiped her mouth with his bare hand.

    His fingers lingered on her lips, sending a bolt of icy realization.

    More than once she’d caught Tom giving Ike sidelong glances. There was malice in them, she was sure. Tom didn’t even seem upset about Ike.

    It was Hazel’s idea to check out the planet. Tom wanted to return by autopilot immediately. Their systems told them it was 100% uninhabitable.

    Which was why the rabbit couldn’t be real.

    Tom was slower than Hazel, but he reached the edge and peered over. Hazel had a gun trained on his heart.

    6+

    • Eloise
      26 May 2017 at 9:54 am

      I love the imagery of the phrase : “Hazel’s guts unspooled”. A great story.

      0

    • Sian Brighal
      27 May 2017 at 5:49 am

      Wonderful story. Loved the images you created and the ending was a nice comeuppance.

      0

    • Alva Holland
      27 May 2017 at 7:17 am

      Splendid imagery here, as always, Kelly. Love the ending.

      0

  4. Eloise
    26 May 2017 at 9:50 am

    The Devil Wears Prada (Lauren Weisberger) / Horror
    36 words
    Special Challenge: Rabbit’s Foot

    Unlucky Rabbit Foot

    I smiled and nodded my head. My hands tinged crimson. There would be no more thumping at door. There would be no more carrot tops strewn through the house. The lucky rabbit foot was mine.

    5+

    • Sian Brighal
      27 May 2017 at 5:50 am

      Very short and very sweet, but packed with all sorts of wonderful gory possibilities.

      1+

    • 27 May 2017 at 8:00 am

      I love this Nic! Well done!

      1+

  5. Eloise
    26 May 2017 at 9:51 am

    The Devil Wears Prada (Lauren Weisberger) / Romance
    185 words

    Pied Piper of Lost Souls

    I smiled and nodded. This was not the beginning of a beautiful love story. It was the start of a nightmare. Yes, of course it started with wining and dining, but it ended with tears each time. Tears which I stored and kept in a cupboard. I had labeled them with a photo of when they were happy to do my bidding. Each one had a sad story about how they were misunderstood. That is all you needed to do to get their trust was to understand. A sympathetic ear. Then looking at you with puppy dog eyes you could lead them anywhere even to their demise. They would follow you even when you chased them away. I was the Pied Piper of Lost Souls.

    Well, that was until last week. She was glamorous. Her hair cascaded down her back. Her eyes were the color of luxurious chocolate. She was dynamite. A sharp tongue and an even sharper mind. She saw my tricks before they came. I was caught. She would never become a bottle in my cupboard but a warrior bride in my heart.

    9+

    • Sian Brighal
      27 May 2017 at 5:52 am

      Loved the concept of collecting tears as some sort of trophy, and a strong ending.

      1+

      • Eloise
        29 May 2017 at 2:10 am

        Thank you Sian 🙂

        0

    • Alva Holland
      27 May 2017 at 7:18 am

      Stored tears! Wonderful. Loved this.

      1+

      • Eloise
        29 May 2017 at 2:09 am

        Thank Alva.

        0

    • 27 May 2017 at 8:02 am

      Good one Nix!

      1+

      • Eloise
        29 May 2017 at 2:10 am

        Thank you Ang

        0

    • Irene
      27 May 2017 at 9:49 am

      Fabulous!

      1+

      • Eloise
        29 May 2017 at 2:13 am

        Thank you Irene

        0

    • 27 May 2017 at 10:39 am

      Revenge on the avenger of souls. Nice!

      1+

      • Eloise
        29 May 2017 at 2:14 am

        Thank you Kelly 🙂

        0

  6. Alva Holland
    26 May 2017 at 10:22 am

    @Alva1206
    Foreign Fruit (Jojo Moyes) / Romance
    299 words
    Special Challenge: White Heather

    Waiting in a Station of Mirrors

    The train arrived at four sixteen and thirty-eight seconds.

    He stood on the platform, his shiny black shoes mirrored in the varnished siding.
    Steam rose from the gap, enveloping him, his gold-buttoned blazer, his carnationed lapel.

    While I envisaged a life together, a home, children, pets, he disappeared. And then…

    ‘Excuse me, Miss.’

    He stood in his glossy brogues, perfect flannel creases sitting centre to the laces as if positioned by a valet. I straightened, my head still bowed, remembering to breathe. He held his hat in the exact middle of his torso as if measured by the same valet.

    ‘I was wondering if you might have seen a woman, waiting.’

    I was a woman, waiting.

    ‘She’s about your height, with long dark hair. She was to see me off.’

    I almost saw you off, saw the steam carry you away.

    ‘I’ll miss my train. I don’t know if I should wait.’

    Wait for her, or for the next train? A jagged beak of unrequited love plucked at my brittle heartstrings.

    Glancing down the empty platform. I shrugged. By that, I meant I loved him.

    A stiff breeze hurtled down the tunnel, scattering everything in its path, including the large pin holding my hair. Long dark tresses cascaded to my shoulders.

    He turned away, and back.

    ‘You see, I thought I… oh!’

    ‘It’s me. I came, to say goodbye.’

    ***
    ‘Ma’am, you can’t wait here.’

    The guard’s badge reflects my wrinkles in a station of mirrors where my unlived life resides in the shininess of the tearoom siding, the guard’s shoes, his blazer buttons.

    I close my eyes and wait outside The White Heather Tearoom, Platform 2, for the last time.

    The train arrives at four sixteen and thirty-eight seconds.

    Steam rises from the gap, enveloping me.

    I fall.

    6+

    • Eloise
      26 May 2017 at 10:27 am

      So tragic but so beautifully written 🙂

      1+

      • Alva Holland
        26 May 2017 at 10:46 am

        Thanks, Eloise.

        0

    • Alva Holland
      26 May 2017 at 10:46 am

      Oops! 299 words. Knew I’d forget something!

      0

    • Sian Brighal
      27 May 2017 at 5:55 am

      Beautiful. A gentle study of regret. I liked how you linked their feelings and intentions in the structure of the station.

      1+

    • Irene
      27 May 2017 at 9:46 am

      Oh goodness, how lovely. What a wistful bit of a story. Well done, Alva.

      1+

    • 27 May 2017 at 10:41 am

      Honestly, one of my favorite lines of ALL TIME: “I shrugged. By that, I meant I loved him.” Great voice in this piece.

      1+

      • Alva Holland
        27 May 2017 at 12:07 pm

        That’s so nice of you to say, Kelly. Thank you!

        0

    • 28 May 2017 at 4:07 pm

      Hauntingly beautiful. I love it!

      1+

  7. 26 May 2017 at 10:27 am

    Knights of the Shield (Jeff Messick) / Sci-Fi
    192 words
    Special Challenge: White Heather

    Sold

    Luke narrowed his eyes. Scanning the six women in the incandescent glow of the stage, he chewed his lip. This decision was of utmost importance, he had to get it right. The first three, he dismissed easily, being nowhere near what he wanted, or needed. But the fourth one caught his eye. Alabaster skin, as if carved from snow, framed by hair the color of deepest regions of space.
    He heard her speak to him, though her mouth didn’t move. His breath came in short gasps, not unlike panting in his sudden need. She was the one, she was perfect; everything he needed.
    “Her!” He cried. “Number four!”
    The woman with the tablet glanced at the chosen figure, then back at him with a certain amount of pride, or complete disdain. He couldn’t tell, had he even seen it.
    “Sold!” she barked. “This animal is sold into the keeping of White Heather. All his belongings, land, and wealth are now hers. May the galaxy have mercy upon you.”
    Heather looked up, then back to the viewing window and winked, right at him. He sighed, knowing he’d picked the right master for him.

    5+

    • Eloise
      26 May 2017 at 10:31 am

      This was a very interesting read. The descriptions were beautiful. The twist at the end was great. I enjoyed it a lot.

      1+

    • 26 May 2017 at 11:28 am

      Word count: 192

      0

    • Sian Brighal
      27 May 2017 at 5:58 am

      Yes, an interesting twist at the end. I love how you built up the tension and opened up any number of possible outcomes and motives.

      0

    • Alva Holland
      27 May 2017 at 7:21 am

      Super ending to a cleverly woven short tale. Well done, Jeff.

      0

    • Irene
      27 May 2017 at 9:42 am

      Ha! Good one

      0

  8. 26 May 2017 at 10:44 am

    @carolrosalind
    The Penultimate Truth (Philip K. Dick) / Horror
    300 words
    Special Challenge: Four-leaf Clover

    When Luck Runs Out

    He was again aware of his own mortality. Danger had a habit of following him. For several years Dick had managed to keep it at bay by carrying a four-leaf clover. An old man had thrust it into his hands shortly before keeling over. For some reason Dick had kept it. It was in his possession when fire swept through his family home. Today was the anniversary of that fateful day.

    Dick sat down on the grass beside the row of headstones bearing his surname and examined the leaf. It was stuck to a square of card and if you did not know better you would think it was nothing of consequence. The sellotape was the only thing holding it together. He was aware he should probably throw it away, but the thought of what would happen if he did played at the back of his mind. Dick was nothing if not cautious. He avoided walking under ladders and always stepped over pavement cracks.

    After pulling up the weeds and tidying around the headstones, Dick called it a day. Shadows were falling, hiding the pathway. His only guide through the unlit graveyard being the moonlight filtering through the trees. But at one point the foliage was so dense Dick found himself in pitch-blackness. He stumbled along, feeling his way forward, gradually gaining confidence in his abilities.

    Misguided abilities, he realised when he fell into a deep hole, hitting his head on the way down. After some time he opened his eyes. It was still dark. Soil hitting a hard surface could be heard — and felt. Dick could not move. A weight was pinning him down. He was finding it difficult to breathe. Worse still, he had no recollection of putting the four-leaf clover back in his pocket.

    8+

    • Sian Brighal
      27 May 2017 at 6:01 am

      A lot in this snippet. Interesting notion of luck, fate and just ironic happenstance. Lovely read.

      1+

    • Alva Holland
      27 May 2017 at 7:23 am

      A graveyard tale with a threatening thread. Great story, Carol.

      1+

    • 28 May 2017 at 8:04 am

      Your turning point is so smooth. I feel like I fell right along with Dick. Poor guy! 🙂

      1+

  9. Stephen John Lodge
    26 May 2017 at 11:05 am

    @steveweave71
    Not Hidden By The Fog (John Creasey) / Romance
    300 words

    Born On The Misty Coasts

    There was no point at all in being evasive or in telling this man half-truths. No more beating about the bush. Paige Turner knew how she felt about her boyfriend, and if he asked her again to move in with him up near the airfield, this time she’d accept. She headed down the High Street to meet him on the green above the bay.

    Del Paso was lounging on the grass looking out to sea when Paige saw him.

    What a specimen you are, she thought lovingly. He had ginger hair, breath that smelled of broccoli and a knee that clicked loudly. Today he was wearing a Hawkwind tour t-shirt which no longer even tried to cover his belly.

    “You look nice,” she said as she sat beside him. “What are you thinking about so deeply that you didn’t even hear your lovely girlfriend approaching?”

    “Usual stuff. Impermanence of life. I was conceptualising the indigenous Belzon culture…”

    “I bought you cheesecake from the café. Mrs Grimsheep’s special. Horned dragonfinger and a hint of gigglesberry. She said it grows here in abundance. Or in a bun dance. I wasn’t really listening.”

    “You spoil me, darling.” His kiss covered their faces in cheesecake.

    She patted his stomach. His smile was pained.

    “Insecurity, duchess. If it wasn’t for that and my ginger hair, I’d be a famous Shakespearean actor.”

    Paige snorted. “Are you kidding me? That is the question.”

    Del laughed.

    “Where are you taking your Head Turner tonight?”

    “Live Jazz at the Artillery Club. But tomorrow, The Guffler needs me at the Airfield. Bimmer is away. Wish you’d move up there with me. I do miss you during the week.” He bit his lip, then added, “My Mum wants us to get married.”

    Paige scratched her head, “I’m pretty sure that’s illegal.”

    4+

    • Sian Brighal
      27 May 2017 at 6:05 am

      Wonderful read. Love the gentle flow of it and the sense of romance. And your name creation skills are just awesome.

      1+

      • Stephen John Lodge
        27 May 2017 at 11:10 am

        Thank you so much, dear Sian. My granddaughter, Paige was born on Thursday. Submission dedicated to her.

        1+

        • Sian Brighal
          27 May 2017 at 12:22 pm

          Oh congratulations! Lovely dedication

          1+

          • Stephen John Lodge
            28 May 2017 at 10:37 am

            Thank you for your kindness, Sian.

            0

        • Alva Holland
          27 May 2017 at 12:27 pm

          Congratulations, Steve! What a wonderful dedication.

          1+

          • Stephen John Lodge
            28 May 2017 at 10:38 am

            Thank you for your kindness, Alva.

            0

    • Alva Holland
      27 May 2017 at 8:02 am

      The wonderful title leads us into a winding love story. Every time I see cheesecake, I’ll be thinking ‘ dragonfinger and… gigglesberry’ – great job, Steve.

      1+

      • Stephen John Lodge
        27 May 2017 at 11:17 am

        Many thanks, dear Alva. I am thinking of putting out a book on imaginary fruits, particularly winter fruits
        that grow in the winter of our discontent in abundance or a bun dance, and imaginary famous folk songs
        that have “winterfruits” and “jimdandy” in the third verse.

        1+

    • Irene
      27 May 2017 at 9:36 am

      Oh my — fabulous characterization and I love the gentle humor.

      1+

      • Stephen John Lodge
        27 May 2017 at 11:20 am

        Many thanks for your kind comments, dear Irene. Much appreciated encouragement.

        1+

  10. 26 May 2017 at 11:08 am

    @billmelaterplea
    These Thousand Hills (A. B. Guthrie Jr) / Crime
    300 ways to go wrong
    Special Challenge: Horseshoe

    The Righteous Brigade versus Mona Virtue’s Garden of Gambling Delights

    Godwin lost the pot and got up and came over to warm his behind. Nudging his numb tush towards the fireplace, bent at a right-angle, letting the blazing fire tickle his fanny, he was surprized to hear Mona Virtue speak to him.

    “It’s too late, Godwin,” she said, halfway between sorrow and a belly laugh.

    “Too late…?”

    “I don’t think the horseshoe’s there anymore.”

    “Good point,” he laughed, stood up and stretched. “Damn thing was getting uncomfortable. How’re you?”

    “I need your services.”

    “Which ones, Mona? My gambling skills are in remission. As you well know.”

    “Sam Godwin, you’re a terrible gambler at the best of times. No, I need your investigatory services.”

    “Tell me more.” His ears perked. He saw himself sinking into a devilish imbroglio, a spiral with little chance of survival.

    Mona Virtue had a coterie of hard cases on her payroll. If she needed him, she was scraping the bloody bottom of the barrel.

    “The Righteous Brigade wants to drive me out of Buckeye. They have given me a week…You’ve heard of them…?”

    The fear was splattered on her face like a molting snakeskin.

    We should all worry, thought Godwin. “I know of them,” he said, adding, “I’m not the man to go up against them, Mona. The pendulum has swung. The good people have arisen and will smite sinners and freethinkers.”

    “They’re a pack of right-thinking rabble, Sam. Vigilantes…”

    “And,” added Godwin, “killers.”

    Over twenty low-rent yobs had been slaughtered by the Brigade in the past few months.

    “We can’t let them win, Sam. If they’re coming for me…”

    Godwin finished her threat. “Then they’ll come for me. What’s your notion, Mona?”

    Her hot breath whispered in his ear, “Kill them before they kill us, Sam.”

    Godwin cringed.

    He was about to cross the Rubicon.

    4+

    • Sian Brighal
      27 May 2017 at 6:09 am

      Dark story. Quite chilling in its implications.

      1+

    • Alva Holland
      27 May 2017 at 8:03 am

      Snakes are bad enough but ‘molting snakeskin’ – the very best of revolting images, Bill.

      1+

    • Irene
      27 May 2017 at 9:33 am

      It’s those little things, like the butt warming by the fire, that lend to the great characterization.

      1+

  11. 26 May 2017 at 11:33 am

    The Promise (Lesley Pearse) / Horror
    289 words
    Special challenge: Rabbit’s Foot

    Lucky Feet

    Belle forced a smile as she turned the tourniquet tighter above the ankle. As a nursing sister, she had seen all kinds of crap, but this was unbelievable. The parents stood in a corner, pale and sweaty, shaking like leaves as they clutched to one another for support. They had managed to garble some pathetic form of a fairy tale. The lies were not even remotely believable. She believed she was in the presence of pure evil disguised as half-witted parents.

    “Harry has always been a superstitious little boy. Ever since we can remember he has had rituals for everything. Don’t step on a crack; break your mother’s back. If you spill salt, throw some over your left shoulder. Don’t let a black cat cross your path. He arrived home like this. We didn’t do anything to him.”

    “I told you the truth,” Harry wails.

    Belle frowns at him as if to say ‘Don’t worry. I won’t let you go back to these people’.

    “I needed a rabbit’s foot for my exam, so I set a trap in the forest last week. I caught a rabbit and cut off its foot.” Belle and the parents look at him in horror.

    “I was careful to clean his stump and put a bandage on,” he continues.

    Belle and the parents are speechless.

    “Today I went back to check on the bunny and I got knocked out,” he stammers. “When I woke up, there was a rabbit standing over me with a saw.”

    “Don’t worry, little boy, I’ll clean the stump after. I need a human foot for luck.”

    “I heard a giggle and looked to my left. A bunny sat under a bush with his leg bandaged and winked at me.”

    8+

    • 27 May 2017 at 3:21 am

      Sorry Geoff. The book is The Promise by Lesley Pearse and the sentence begins with “Belle forced a smile.”

      0

    • Sian Brighal
      27 May 2017 at 6:11 am

      Love the phrases and descriptions you used. Wonderfully gruesome and scary.

      1+

    • Alva Holland
      27 May 2017 at 8:05 am

      You made the luck of a rabbit’s foot into a grim gory tale, Angelique! Cleverly done.

      1+

  12. 26 May 2017 at 11:39 am

    On the Case

    I let out the first breath of smoke. Apart from wrinkling her nose, the dame don’t seem ta care. A promising sign.

    “So lemme see if I got this straight. You want me to find a stolen bracelet, studded with rubies? And it’s some sort of ‘enchanted amulet?'” I say, doing my level best to keep the scorn outta my voice. What am I gonna do, knock her back after she’s paid the retainer already? Just because she’s talking some guff? A body’s gotta eat.

    She nods “That’s correct. It’s power is immense, so if it were to fall into the wrong hands…”

    “O.K., sweetheart, I get the gist. It’s important. Now beat it. The quicker you scoot out that there door, the faster I can finds it.”

    I watch her waltz out, and shake my head. In my experience, rubes ain’t usually this flush with cash. Can’t complain, though. The business hasn’t exactly been jumping lately. I flick through the crisp bills.

    “Looks like someone’ll be making rent this month!”

    Reason enough to reach into the bottom drawer. Whaddya know, there’s a few fingers left in the bottle.

    “To magic,” I toast, as I shove the red bangle deeper into my pocket. Maybe I oughta drag this case out for a little longer.

    209 words
    @davejamesashton
    Book: Altered Carbon (Richard Morgan) / Crime
    Special challenge: Amulet

    4+

    • Sian Brighal
      27 May 2017 at 6:13 am

      Oh, sneaky! Love the tone of the piece and the language use.

      0

    • Alva Holland
      27 May 2017 at 8:06 am

      Great use of dialect here, Dave. Love this story.

      0

    • Irene
      27 May 2017 at 9:29 am

      I can hear the voices. Well done.

      0

  13. 26 May 2017 at 12:05 pm

    Title: Debt of Life
    Author: Anne Chowdhury
    Book: Angels & Demons by Dan Brown
    Genre: Horror
    Special Challenge: Amulet

    He felt awkward, not sure what this had to do with anything. “What are you saying?” he asked, his voice betraying the fear that made his gut twist.

    “That amulet you wear,” the hooded figure said, lifting a bony finger to point at his neck. “Take a look.”

    He obeyed and then frowned. The amulet that used to emanate a bluish hue had turned blood red. “What’s the meaning of this?”

    “It means, time’s up.”

    “Time’s up?” he repeated, not wanting to believe what his subconscious was telling him.

    The figure nodded slowly. “We made a deal, remember? You were living on borrowed time.”

    “Deal?” He tried and failed to remember ever meeting this person, whoever he was. “What are you talking about?”

    “You died, Enzo Walker,” the figure whispered. “You had an accident and you died. You were brought back to life, and now it’s time to pay your debt.”

    Like a hazy memory, it all came back to him. There was an old man he remembered meeting, but couldn’t remember who he was.

    In a broken whisper, he asked, “Who are you?”

    He man lifted his hood, and Enzo gasped. “I am you. Soulless, and here to take you back to purgatory. Devil’s waiting.”

    @TwiAddictAnne
    206 words

    6+

    • Alva Holland
      27 May 2017 at 8:28 am

      Great title. Simple premise. Super story. Well done, Anne.

      1+

  14. Richard Edenfield
    26 May 2017 at 12:09 pm

    Wishing on a Butterfly
    ___________________

    The following Saturday Jose Arcadio Buendia put on his dark suit, his celluloid collar, and the deerskin boots that he had worn for the first time the night of the party, and went to ask for the hand of Remedios Moscote. He walked through the village streets where the summer flies were thick buzzing everywhere like the air had short-circuited. The morning sun balanced on the trees of the mountains swayed like bright golden hair painting her figure in his wandering mind. The smile. White wine made from her families vineyard touching her lips. The softness in her recognition.

    His boots moved with an uneasy grace toward her—his shoulders mimicked their motion. Children played with marbles on a flat surface of earth as they watched him pass. He had a confidence that was about to fall over. Perspiration gathered on his neck like the condensation running on her crystal glass. It moved slowly down his skin like a finger hesitant on a trigger.

    At the door her father answered. There was no recognition. He had six other daughters more worthy because the one in question was not of age. But the Gods had chosen her. So he would wait. Patiently on the porch he waited. As the years went by and his deerskin boots grew into apparitions that ran wild through the streets; children would chase them, but they always got away. Then the day came. His bride emerged a fully formed butterfly into the light. The boots ran up to her and made themselves available. Jose handed her a charm, a stone he had gathered at the sea coast. It was now polished as smooth as a diamond, smoothed with a wish that caressed it with the blue flowing wings of the sky.
    ________________________________________________________________
    (295 words)
    Romance. Lucky charm. One Hundred Years of Solitude: Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    5+

    • Sian Brighal
      27 May 2017 at 6:21 am

      Lovely: everything about it. The descriptions and imagery were elegant.

      1+

    • Alva Holland
      27 May 2017 at 8:29 am

      ‘… like the air had short-circuited.’ Wonderful as always, Richard.

      1+

    • Irene
      27 May 2017 at 9:26 am

      Absolutely lovely.

      1+

  15. 26 May 2017 at 3:49 pm

    Slaughterhouse Five (Kurt Vonnegut) / Horror
    201 words

    Even in Darkness Truth Can Be Cruel

    He went into his daughter’s room.

    Lit by a damaged moon, he could see her breathing was even, soft, untroubled. She was safe, for now.

    He slid the desk, blocking the door, and pulled the curtains shut, careful not to step into the light, filling the room with a comforting darkness. He slipped to the floor, his back tight against the corner. The bread knife he had taken from the kitchen slipped from his sweating grasp and fell to the floor. Patting the carpet, he found it quickly though his hand closed on the wrong end. The cut went deep.

    “Shit.”

    He quickly tore a strip from his shirt to slow the bleeding. He could hear his wife running up the stairs.

    “Daddy?” said a child’s voice from the bed.

    “Hush, go back to sleep. Everything’s fine,” he said.

    She sat up pulling hard against the restraints, sniffing the air.

    “Daddy?” she asked again, her voice now low, hungry, more of a growl than a question.

    His eyes filling with tears, he stood and faced his daughter. Not one for prayers, he found one buried deep within his memory. He offered it up to anyone or anything that might be listening.

    4+

    • Sian Brighal
      27 May 2017 at 6:25 am

      Fantastic premise and dark situation. Wonderful tale.

      0

    • Alva Holland
      27 May 2017 at 8:30 am

      Creepy tale with an ominous feeling throughout. Well done, Bill.

      0

    • Irene
      27 May 2017 at 9:23 am

      Gripping and well-constructed. The last line was great.

      0

    • 28 May 2017 at 7:59 am

      Elongated, tense moment. Well painted!

      0

  16. Sian Brighal
    26 May 2017 at 5:13 pm

    @sian_ink
    Hawaii (James A. Michener) / Horror
    300 words
    Special Challenge: Star

    Hope and Death Lie in the Stars

    On the third night of the storm it was the king’s turn to dream, and he witnessed a fearful sight. From the rabid, frothing sea rose a beast beyond cogent description. In his dream, obscured by fear and disbelief, he witnessed whipping tentacles, the width of a man’s height, fill the dark sky and beat against the waves, and at their junction, the fleeting glance of a jagged beak emerging from a puckered mouth.

    His men screamed, but their voices were smothered, for those vast tentacles had wrapped about the ship to wring out wooden screams as it twisted the hull, splintering the mast and shredding the sails.

    With a terrifying lurch, the boat rose up. Those not holding on skittered across the deck and over the taffrail, like crumbs from a plate. And then movement ceased. For the merest moment, all was eerily still. The vicious rocking ceased, the roar of waves subsided, and he could see past all previous horizons. In the distance, seven stars glittered, and the eye of the heavens stared back: balefully.

    Was this revenge for following a different star across the ocean? Had the stars seen his course change and after his betrayal dipped beneath the horizon to seek out nemesis, an earthly avatar and avenger?

    Gods and stars be damned! he thought as the boat twisted so the monster could study its midnight feast. The king fell to his knees as a great eye, wider than the lagoon he’d sailed from, met his own.

    With the morning and the storm’s end, he woke and gave orders to follow the seven stars. Better the known as humble servant than the perilous unknown as king; he would not feed his followers to a God’s or his own pettiness. Let all devil’s starve on his obedience.

    5+

    • Alva Holland
      27 May 2017 at 8:32 am

      So many lovely analogies here, Sian, the ‘crumbs on a plate’ my favourite. Splendid story.

      1+

      • Sian Brighal
        27 May 2017 at 9:23 am

        Thank you, Alva

        0

    • Irene
      27 May 2017 at 9:19 am

      Beautiful imagery and commanding voice. Very creative.

      1+

      • Sian Brighal
        27 May 2017 at 9:24 am

        Thank you

        1+

    • 27 May 2017 at 10:47 am

      The last graph is my favorite. It makes me root for your king– a righteous leader. All before that, exact and riveting scenes.

      1+

      • Sian Brighal
        27 May 2017 at 12:24 pm

        Thank you. Glad you liked it.

        0

    • 28 May 2017 at 4:11 pm

      Wonderfully descriptive piece!

      1+

      • Sian Brighal
        29 May 2017 at 7:13 am

        Thank you; the comment is a real boost 🙂

        0

  17. 26 May 2017 at 11:03 pm

    @_Irene_Dreams_
    Taltos (Steve Brust) / Horror
    290 words

    Harbinger

    The voice went on unhurried and tender still, but profoundly forceful. The lyrical cadence of the words resonated in the cool cell, and within the murky shadows of my mind, casting a golden glow there.

    Though I was blindfolded, I envisioned images of a utopian world, full of promise, hope, exultation. My mind was flooded in Technicolor, vibrant colors saturated my cells. I smelled sweet vanilla and tasted chamomile. Joy tingled in my tongue receptors and I tasted its essence.

    Goosebumps rose on my flesh, and a frisson of excitement swept through my body. Sheer ecstasy. A spreading warmth. I moaned, and my muscles strained against my bonds.

    The being – I was unsure of its gender – tempered my rising excitement with a staccato clicking of its tongue a hairs-breadth from my ear. I felt its hot, rank breath upon me. Ecstasy and joy turned sour in my mouth. Blood red images spattered my mind’s eye.

    I shuddered uncontrollably. It whispered something unintelligible, in German perhaps. The words meant nothing, but the tone explicitly conveyed their dark context and my bowels griped and let loose.

    “Nein. Nein!” Impotent words, but I had nothing else.

    The silver-tongued creature chuckled softly. A wet, sloppy popping noise as something slimy plopped to the floor.

    “Nein!” I screamed.

    “Justin – honey wake up!”

    I stared up at the being, whose serpent-like face slowly turned into my wife’s concerned one.

    I shook off the cobwebs of sleep. I was tangled in sodden sheets. A rancid taste in my mouth. Relieved that I had not soiled my bed.

    “That must have been some nightmare. Better quickly run through the shower before we pick up Oma from the airport. She’s had a long flight from Germany. You ok?”

    “Nein.”

    3+

    • 26 May 2017 at 11:07 pm

      *bowels griped (not groped)

      0

    • Sian Brighal
      27 May 2017 at 6:33 am

      Excellent. Great flow and beautiful word usage. Ominous ending.

      1+

    • Alva Holland
      27 May 2017 at 8:34 am

      Fantastic! I think I read it with my eyes closed! Still seeing the images. Great job, Irene.

      1+

    • Irene
      27 May 2017 at 9:08 am

      Thank you, Sian and Alva!

      The book is Taltos, by Anne Rice.

      0

  18. 26 May 2017 at 11:38 pm

    Genre: Crime
    Book Title: Songdogs – Colum McCann
    Story Title: Camping Days
    300 words
    ‘Lucky’ charm – White heather

    It is the lethargy of the present that terrifies us all.

    The summer days stretch out before us like the river, winding low and lazy past the meadow where we camp, afraid. These used to be the best camping days, when we would take our horses to the fair, gather with our own and, for the space of three days, own the town.

    Only last year, we returned, sat by the fires until late, singing until the smoke made our voices hoarse then listened to the old men tell their stories, bottles circling the fire as we drank, leaned in and laughed and cried. We keep the old tales new this way, stretching the tenuous thread of our language back through history, to Cromwell and the journey west, to Connacht or to hell, the thread spun in song, through the famine, past the ships leaving for distant lands, past those settled in slums, to the river, winding through the present lands.

    But we don’t light the fires tonight, sit silent by our vans. The heather is in bloom, white along the fringes of the meadow where the sheep care not to graze. Our vans crouch low in the long grass, hidden.

    Two nights before, we lost another, one more of the young ones lain prone by the river bank, a smile in the centre of her neck where the knife had passed, her blood splashed scarlet on the frost of the heather flowers. Now we await the dusk, cowering, neglect the fires at nightfall, let the dogs loose so they roam the camp.

    In the night, the yap of a dog jerks me from my sleep. The lethargy dissolves with darkness. My hand clasps tight on the bone handle of the knife that sleeps by my side, waiting in fear.

    4+

    • Sian Brighal
      27 May 2017 at 6:36 am

      Wonderful read. The description of language and lore winding its way through the ages was beautiful. Loved the imagery. Great style.

      0

    • Alva Holland
      27 May 2017 at 8:36 am

      Love the easy flow here, the folklore, the danger, the pride. Well done, John.

      0

  19. Irene
    27 May 2017 at 9:14 am

    Danger and death made beautiful. Nicely done.

    0

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