Nathan Bransford, Author


Monday, October 12, 2009

The 3rd Sort-of-Annual Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge

Fun fact: The person who thought of the last contest we had (Be an Agent for a Day), is now a client of mine: hello Jim Duncan! Also, the person who won the contest before that (The 2nd Semi-Annual Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge), is also now a client: hello Natalie Whipple!

We've also had three finalists, Stuart Neville, Terry DeHart, and Victoria Schwab go on to be published/soon-to-be-published authors respectively.

In other words: NO PRESSURE.

(Bonus fun fact: I didn't actually call the inaugural first paragraph challenge "stupendously ultimate," it was actually "largely indispensable," which throws into doubt whether this could properly be called the "third sort-of-annual." We'll just agree to forget that part, hmm?)

Now then!

It is time. Time to test your paragraph against... other first paragraphs. Time to see if your sentences can wage successful word combat in order to defeat other sentences and emerge victorious on a field of battle.

Oh, and there are prizes. Let's start there.

The GRAND PRIZE STUPENDOUSLY ULTIMATE WINNER will receive....

1) Their choice of a partial critique, query critique, or phone consultation

2) A very-sought-after galley of THE SECRET YEAR by Jennifer Hubbard, which will be published by Viking in January:



3) A signed THE SECRET YEAR bookmark

4) The envy of their rivals

5) The pride of a job well done

6) I think you get the picture

The STUPENDOUSLY ULTIMATE FINALISTS will receive....

a) Query critiques

b) A signed THE SECRET YEAR bookmark (assuming you live in a place that is reached in a reasonably affordable fashion by the postal service no offense forraners)

c) Pride. Lots of pride.

On to the rules!!

I) This is a for-fun contest that I conduct in the free time. Rules may be adjusted without notice, as I see fit, in ways in which you might find capricious, arbitrary, and in a possibly not fully comprehensible fashion. Complainants will be sent to the Magister, and trust me, you don't want to get sent to the Magister (who's been watching True Blood? This guy)

II) Ya hear? Angst = prohibited.

III) Please post the first paragraph of any work-in-progress in the comments section of THIS POST. Do not e-mail me your submission. The deadline for entry is THURSDAY 4pm Pacific time, at which point entries will be closed. Finalists will be announced on Friday, at which time you will exercise your democratic rights to choose a stupendously ultimate winner.

IV) You may enter once, once you may enter, and enter once you may.

V) Spreading word about the contest is strongly encouraged.

VI) I will be sole judge. Unless I chicken out.

VII) I am not imposing a word count on the paragraphs. However, a paragraph that is overly long may lose points in the judge's eyes. Use your own discretion.

VIII) Please remember that the paragraph needs to be a paragraph, not multiple paragraphs masquerading as one paragraph.

That is all.

And now I shall retreat to my stupendously ultimate bunker.

UPDATE: CONTEST IS CLOSED!! Thank you so much to everyone who entered.






2650 comments:

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Alexis Grant said...

Wow, Nathan, so many entries! Suppose it can't hurt to add my memoir into the running! Thanks for reading them all.
***

Our motorcycle hit a bump on the dirt road, and I curled my fingers under the seat behind me, I gripping hard. At home, I would’ve held onto the driver, wrapped my arms around his waist to keep my balance. But in Africa, that was too close for comfort. Here I rode moto-taxis the way locals did, my palms pressed into the seat behind me, space between me and the man at the handlebars.

Laura Covault said...

Little did I know when I woke up this morning, today would be the last day of my life as an insignificant, completely ordinary geek. Actually, I’m not even noticeable enough to be considered a geek. Geeks are smart. Geeks have incredible talents. Geeks grow up to be CEO’s of major companies and invent new technology. Geeks write poetry. I’m just Sarah. Sarah, who can’t do Tae Kwon Do, or play soccer or get a grade above a B, no matter how hard I try.

Katherine E. Hazen said...

I have this recurring dream. More of a nightmare, really. It always starts in the girl's locker room, before gym. That alone is enough to make fear dance down my spine. I'm standing in front of my locker, staring down at my green gym shorts with the cougar's head stamped on the butt in white. I unbutton my jeans and let them slide to my ankles. When I reach down for them, I realize my legs are hairy. Not I missed a spot or I've got some stubble hairy. I'm talking full blown, cave woman, haven't shaved in the last year, hairy. Both legs look like tarantulas, covered in long, course, black hair. And that's when Kristi Stone flounces around the corner. She always looks at me, lip curled in amusement and disgust. "Eww, shave much?" So, obviously, the first time it actually happened, I thought I was still asleep.

Meredith said...

I have no qualms admitting that I see the world through a very specific set of eyes. The
eyes of addiction. Obsession. I’m not talking drugs. No blow, heroin, none of those collegiate
boredom remedies. I’m not stupid enough to stick a needle in my arm. Those people have to be
deranged to cower in a corner at four in the morning, poking and prodding to find the perfect
place to satiate. But the need for sustenance - that’s the most familiar feeling I know. That
throbbing that runs under your skin, replaces the blood in your veins with pure adrenaline. It
creeps up the cilia on your back, deprives the mitochondria in your cells, snips the nerves of your
corpus callosum one by one. Bundles of little vermicelli dissolving into worm shit until the
halves of your brain aren’t connected anymore. Or at least until you get that next shot of exactly what you need, and then not only are you stitched up and brand new, but you’re ten times the
person you were ten seconds ago. It’s the only kind of magic there is. Not the sawing-Vegas-showgirls-in-two kind of magic, but the explosions of chemical reactions. Maybe emotion, connection, or the things that come from the fabrication of perfection are methamphetamines. And if they are, then I’m guilty of abuse. It’s just another flaw to add to the list.

Angie said...

No tree grew in the Black City; no bushes, no flowers, no blade of grass. Not even a single scraggly weed penetrated the endless stretch of bevakm. Ripping the bevakm out was back-breaking work, especially without an overskin, but Peter didn't mind. He would have torn it out with his bare hands if he had to.

jasonamyers said...

He hated killing people right before Christmas. It wasn’t because he loved the holidays or anything as pedantic as that. He put up his Christmas tree and hung lights just like everyone else (to the chagrin of his mother who frowned upon his complete immersion into what she considered the “Hedonistic Ways of the West”). People needed the holidays. They craved a reason to be nice to others.

Lorna F said...

She sits, cross-legged, on the cool marble floor. Her clothes are loose and it is so early in the morning she even feels a chill. The sun has not yet entered the environs of the ashram. An occasional bird calls out in a foreign voice. She waits. Time is. Time will be. Between her graceful fingers is a slip of paper. The words on it are the fruit of much thought. If only he will take those words from her. If only he will answer.

John said...

John Deere betrayed him. Augustus’ father had driven only Ford tractors, said he never had a mechanical problem with one, bought a new one every five years whether he needed it or not. Augustus had owned his John Deere for more than twenty years now. It hauled damn near anything if first persuaded to run. Augustus nursed, cursed and cajoled the wretched machine by turns, but his ministrations this morning came to nothing.

Brenda J. H. Pierson said...

I knew it was morning when the light over my head flickered feebly to life. It seemed just as reluctant to start this day as I was. I opened my eyes and gazed at the red brick ceiling. Sigh. More red brick. Everything in the Underground was red brick – the walking street, the walls, and the sky-roof. All the same. And I’m sick of red brick.

Clare Di Liscia Baird said...

They didn’t call my brother Caleb because he looked like a dog. Ironically, it was actually a family name from my father’s side. My real father, the one the government had killed after the aliens left. The one who loved me, the one I adored. That one. Not the current one that my mother keeps calling her husband. He’s a jerk. James Orlander, the one who keeps telling people how many degrees and whatnot he has from prestigious universities and how one time he was once almost a Rhode scholar so everyone on the planet should admire him and listen up. Right. Like that's ever going to happen.

Cate Hart said...

Pemberly Preparatory is the last in a long line of elite boarding schools for me. Don’t let the name fool you. It’s not some enchanted country estate school with Bennetts, Bingleys and Darcys chasing each other around between teatime; it’s not even in England. No, Pemberly Prep is a detestable reform school for the uber rich. A collecting house filled with spoiled and misguided misfits – someone like myself. It's not that I ever intentionally start trouble; it just seems to find me like I have a damn homing beacon stuck up my ass. I wish I didn't have a knack for always being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I attribute this to my adventurous streak, coupled with my innate ability to pick up unsavory habits. I can pick any lock in thirty-five seconds flat – it’s been timed – boost a car, even a brand new Mercedes, and hack just about anything with an internet connection. That's how I got my nickname, Redd.

Wordy Birdie said...

As the school bus door grates open, I first hear them… Like a bunch of amateur bugle players warming up, or some hyperventilating yodelers. Like my new semi-stepbrother, Ian—when he thinks no one is listening—singing to Fritter and Fracas, his stupid, stinking ferrets.

Jenn Johansson said...

Most people don’t know it, but they always make an appearance in their own dreams. They can’t always see themselves and sometimes feel like they’re only watching. But it doesn’t matter, they’re always there. And I can always see them.

Cheryl said...

It’s always some damn thing. Last month, I swear, it was the carburetor on that piece of crap he calls a car. Stranded me on the side of the road, standing in, sitting on, staring at stilettos-deep roadside muck for three hours. Missed the wedding. Missed the reception. Missed my chance to show off my Cosmo cover girl updo and my aubergine mist lipstick. Missed my chance to show off the new, improved, and (now, Lord, I know) highly overrated Marcus Thomson. Missed my damn dinner too.

Jenn Lidster said...

Perched on the corner of the neo-gothic roof, I cosied up to one of the retro gargoyles that jutted from the masonry. His cold stone arms formed a perfect Faith-sized space, as though he’d been made to comfort me, shelter me, from the world. The constant hum of the streets so far below was a monotonous countermeasure to my melancholy thoughts. Tonight, even the unexpected beauty of avenues adorned with gold and coral beads couldn’t penetrate my mood.

Anna said...

We sit in these rooms and question truth, strive for knowledge, yearn for understanding. We live our simple lives, laughing together, growing up slowly, experiencing what we feel is pain ad heartbreak when it comes along. We are beautifully blind. We need to be shocked back to life [clear]. We need to take our first breath and open our eyes and realize the complete paradise we live in. Comfort. Safety. Privilege. I don’t know what to do to reconcile this. It isn’t fair. I don’t want these privileges… but at the same time, I’m terrified that they’ll be stripped away.

Sukee_T said...

Most folks say their life passes before their eyes when they come toe-to-toe with death. Not so for me. I didn’t see anything but chickens flying backwards. Yep, chickens. That’s when I really started thinking that this was it. This was THE END. Fourteen years of life cut short beside a Kansas highway.

Anna said...

That morning, when mommy woke her up, Milena turned her back to the light coming from the window and slept away. She always jumped off the bed and had breakfast as quick as a mouse. But now everything was different. She caressed the soft pillow under her fingers and closed her eyelids tightly, her heart beating faster and faster as the minute hands moved forward.

MPG said...

I could have turned around. But I didn’t. I crunched along the coarse gravel path in my strappy, oh-so-stupid shoes, which I’d thrown on in my last minute panic. I raced over uneven ground, ankles wobbling, dragging my wheelie case full of nervously chosen outfits.I could just turn around—I still had a minute until departure time. Mom would wait until then, fingers twitching, doors locked, car pointed in the ferry’s direction. She’d be watching me, I knew, receding from the beam of her car’s headlights, first sinking into darkness, then sweeping into light, blinking slowly on and off like a lighthouse as I ran below each streetlamp.

Bailish said...

“No one’s talking about killing you, Mr. Mandeesi.”

Jan said...

“Susannah, do you hear that? Is that you? Did you make that funny noise? Whoa… What’s going on? I can’t steer the car…whoa…”

john K said...

'Ground breaking, that's me,' I said, taking her hand.
Jenny smiled. 'You're funny,' she said.
She was wrong, I'm not funny. Being funny is all about good timing, thinking fast, juxtaposing two ideas that seem to simultaneously tickle different parts of your brain. I can't do any of that except by accident. Of course I didn't say this. I was too busy waiting to see if she'd slip her hand away.

Stevan said...

His heart pumped as he ran, blood throbbing in the walls of his throat, cutting off the air. He threw himself against a tree, bent over, the heavy pack digging into the small of his back. CTI? What was CTI? Far down the leaf-strewn slope, a stream rushed around moss-covered boulders and beneath fallen, rotting trees. Sweat poured from his face like a river, onto his neck and down his back as he tried to get enough air to make his legs move again. He lurched forward, tried to run again, but fell, dizzy, face down on the steep slope, sliding for a few feet through dead leaves and moist earth and broken rock. He got to his knees. The sweat from his face began to sting in the bloody scratches across his jaw. Looking up, he saw a blurred vision of the ridgetop far above him, but could only go down the slope toward the creek, falling, sliding, scrambling. Kershaw. He’ll help, I know he....what?

Kierah Jane said...

No. Such a simple word. And yet, one of the most complicated words in the English language. And right now, I wanted it to be a little word. A meaningless little harmless word without all that baggage weighing it down. And it was deceiving how much crap you could actually stuff inside that little two-letter word. I thought of all this while I studied Finn’s face, waiting for his response.

OSLO said...

Brendan Murphy knows his days of fried breakfasts are numbered. Without looking away from yesterday’s Daily Mail, spread open on the table in front of him, he reaches over to the plate holding his two rasher rinds abandoned like worms. He drags his bulbous fingertip, the one he sawed the top off years back when he was a carpenter’s apprentice, through the puddle of congealed bean sauce and egg yolk. He sucks the top of his finger, purses his lips, then pulls the finger out of his mouth with a pop.

Mary Beth Matteo said...

Islands of lotus lick the tall grass at the edge of the klong, where sunfish glitter just below the surface. In the stand of bamboo at the corner of the compound, mischievous ancestors watch children from the spirit house, peering through garlands of betel leaves and orchid. Bangkok. 1957. For Lee, the memories come in vivid snatches, some splendid with color but others faded to gray, with no recollection of the spaces in between. She thinks, now, surely there must be Karma: the fig tree weeps, the bougainvillea sheds fuchsia petals across the lawn, and the images of baby Autt startle, tender and thick with shame.

Luke said...

They just let me go. I hadn’t even been there long enough to get a leaving gift. So I pay for my rum and sit near the old man with the tobacco tin. His breaths are like snores, his eyes are half closed, he’s struggling to keep his chin up. All he wants to do is smoke and recline like some limp Turk in a hookah bar but the red sign says he has to go out into the day-lit street. His fingers tap the lid of his metal tin; I try to match his rhythm till he hears me and shoots me a look and I guess he’s wondering when the world turned so sickly.

Deb said...

First paragraph from TOILET PAPER TALES, wip:

Toilet paper trailing from her shoe was the least of Payton’s worries as she snuck out of the girls’ bathroom. How could her brother think it was okay to hand deliver something she’d ripped up?

LISA STEINKE said...

"So this is it, huh?" I ask.
I always thought the demise of my marriage would be much more drama-filled. But as I watch Kevin fold his underwear and socks into little piles next to the suitcase, I can almost convince myself that he's just leaving on an extended business trip.

Brad K. said...

He was afraid that if he was too nice she would think he was in love with her, but if he was not nice enough she would think he hated her. He was most afraid that regardless, at the end of it, she would be right.

liznwyrk said...

I once watched a movie about frogs in their natural habitats, how they disappeared from view. I wondered if the frogs missed themselves when they were gone amongst the leaves. If frogs could, would they paint themselves a new ecosystem and crouch there in front of the canvas? Assert themselves? I am not this tree, I am me, a frog. I’m here.

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

The dead rose in the center of the bouquet stood in stark contrast to the other flowers. Perfect. Juice picked up his pen to write on the card. His hand trembled as he remembered the power he’d felt from her fear.

Colleen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marilyn Baron said...

Everyone thinks I murdered my husband. Believe me, I wanted to. That's why I'm stuck in this stark, colorless jail cell wearing an unfashionable orange jumpsuit, which my personal shopper at Bloomingdale's would find highly offensive. She knows I'm more of an Eileen Fisher woman.

Marilyn Baron

Anonymous said...

He wept.

SoManyDonutsSoLilTime said...

I eyeballed the smart aleck kid waiting his turn by hole three, the putt where you had to sink the ball into the treasure chest and not the scum-coated pond below it. No one ever did, though, and it was giving me the time I needed. While the person ahead of him fished an orange-glo ball out of the water, I tried to measure the distance between the kid and I. My plan was to steal his club and kill him with it if he opened his mouth one more time, so I was calculating how fast I'd have to move and how many steps I would have to take to reach him. I was thinking five, maybe. Three, if I took really big steps.

Melissa said...

I can still see the blood. It was spreading on the cold concrete like fingers reaching for me. I didn’t know what was wrong. Papa! Why aren’t you getting up? I could see his eyes as he lay on the floor. His lips faintly moved, as if to whisper silent secrets in my ear, but the river of warm ruby liquid wouldn’t stop running. The light flickered once, and went out of his eyes. Mama had finally caught up to me. Her screams, even now, are what I hear when I close my eyes at night. I was three years old.

L.J. Boldyrev said...

The small, crackling fire inside the hearth couldn't erase the chill that lingered on my skin. I could still feel the bite of the harsh winter winds that chased us here. The walls of our shelter were skeletal--no insulation, just thin sheets of plywood that were too forgiving. The cold seeped through every crack and crept across the floor like an invisible fog. The shack was never intended to be used as a home and certainly not in the dead of winter. It was hard to imagine it had ever been a home at all. After so many months of running, it was hard to imagine that I had ever had a home.

Brigita said...

The splashing of the bluest waves and the cries of gulls flying overhead, an umbrella pitched in the sand while she sits in a lounger with an actual book made of paper in her lap and drinking a refreshing lemonade that she had never tasted before, the glass sweating in the blissful heat. Her skin prickling from the warm sunshine, the sweet smell of sunscreen enveloping her in the ultimate summer experience. Now, that was a pretty picture! And that was all it was, unfortunately, as Sara was pushing down the littered street on her rollerblades on another drizzly morning. She had long learned there was no point in regretting the things you couldn’t change, but that didn’t mean she had to be happy about them. And going to a meeting to read a corporate weasel’s mind would not make her day better, that she was certain of.

Colleen said...

I lay with my eyes closed waiting for Matt’s breath to deepen and slow. When it did and he rolled away from me, I slid off the edge of the mattress, grabbing my glasses from the nightstand and my T-shirt from the floor.

Hilde Garcia said...

I live in a yellow house surrounded by a white picket fence. The enormous elm tree in front of my house has birds chirping away in it. As I sit quietly by my dormer window at my antique wood desk, I see two squirrels chase each other in the front lawn. I smile. The garbage man waves at me. I wave back. I have a Size 0 body and perfectly applied make-up. My sister comes in and gives me a hug. Yeah, right! In your dreams.

k_king said...

I remember the moment it began. I awoke in the middle of the night. A pitch black no-moon night. I heard muffled voices and stiffled giggles somewhere below the sad melody of a Sheryl Crow song. I could smell smoke. Cigarette smoke. My mother didn’t smoke. My father didn’t smoke. And of course I didn’t smoke; I was only eleven. But there it was. The smoke.

Michael said...

Tim Woodman walked briskly down the short inside hallway of his condo building. It was the kind of quick-step walking you’d employ if you were late for a train and you wanted to hurry to catch it but you didn’t want anybody to know you were hurrying. Perhaps it was because Tim was on his way to scold a child that he walked that way, to disguise from his neighbors his worst intentions. Not that the child didn’t deserve a beating. All children likely deserved one at some time or another. Careless, selfish, senseless creatures that all too often were coddled with a trip to the chair in the corner than punished with a belt to the backside. He bounded down the interior stairs two at a time chasing the quick pitter-patter of the feet ahead of him. The child’s shadow slipped into the 1A condo just as Tim reached the first floor landing. Tim delivered a couple of heavy knocks on the six-panel door. A thin woman with a fair complexion wearing an oversized sweatshirt and a little girl around her leg opened the door.

Valeta said...

Swordswoman Risha slid her fingers beneath the old woman's gnarled hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. Warmth had already ebbed away, seeping into the splash of deep red beneath Widow Haidri’s peppercorn hair. She seemed to doze on a silken pillow, a sharp contrast to the jumbled bandit corpse in the doorway.

Liesl said...

When then sun spilled over Cili, she clenched her teeth and dug her fingers into the earth, but she was not shielding her senses as she should. As the vision unveiled her eyes, a girl was being drowned. This was not surprising. There was only one thing Cili wanted to know. Was the girl like her?

Jaleh D said...

The spaceship gleams in the hanger bay of Father’s science station. My eyes trace her sleek lines, small enough for a single person, but room to pick up a few crew members later on. A state of the art navigation system inside, one of her many deluxe features and essential for one who may be traveling alone. And she’s all mine, a reward from Father for excelling in my astrogation and piloting courses. Too bad it comes with a condition: I must put his latest batch of zombies through a few trial runs to test their efficiency as grunts. At least this set doesn’t moan for brains or chase me the way his first creations had. The things a girl must put up with when she has a “mad scientist” for a father.

Mira said...

If I were you, I’d stop reading this right now. I plan to write out the adventures of my life, which I promise will not only bore you to tears, but cause your brain to melt into a vacuous puddle of goo. Why will it cause your brain to melt into goo? Because I have:
a. no adventures
b. no life, and
c. because of the above, nothing of interest to say.
On the other hand, I also have:
d. nothing better to do.
So I will write out the details of my drab, boring, meaningless existence. You can read it if you want - hey, it’s a free country. But if you read this, and then operate heavy equipment, don't blame me. You can't say you haven't been warned: Read at your own risk.

Ca.ll.y said...

Whenever Will found himself in a new jail, he always checked the ceiling first. In his last cell it turned out to be a six-inch layer of wood supporting two feet of dirt. Ridiculous. This one, though, was 20 feet up and made of stone. There was a narrow window--barred, of course--letting in a beam of pallid moonlight. His assets included his Uniform, a cot, and a tin plate. Things looked bleak.

Rachel Quatrone said...

I was fourteen years old when I realized that not everyone could hear the voices. It didn’t bother me that I was unique in this. It made me feel special, like I had a secret special power. These voices of mine have remained with me for nearly forty years now. They keep me company when I’m lonely, they’re my best friend. I don’t know what I would do without them. Just to clarify, these voices of mine -- they’re not the bad kind of voices you hear about on TV, they don’t tell me to hurt myself or others or anything. No, my voices are way too laid back for that. They’re chock-full of sarcasm and snarkiness, they poke fun at the inconsistencies of life and the ineptness of human nature in general. They help me keep my perspective and, most importantly, my sense of humor.

Charles said...

Water and sand – and between these – mud. The man is unconscious - face down in the black mud. One half of his body touches the sand and the other floats on standing water. His right hand clutches a fist of the sand. His left hand floats frigid and wrinkled on the surface of the water. Minnows dart up to taste the peeling flesh of the palm. In his right hand the sand is mingled with dirt and rough weeds torn up from the ground. He is motionless as if cut from stone. Mud coats his whole body save for his left arm washed clean by the water and his left leg sunken below the surface. His right arm is invisible in tall grasses from shoulder to wrist, where his hand reemerges. His forehead rests on a rock and his face is a white pane like bone over his bearded chin. His eye socket is deep and shadowed and the lid smooth as if on the verge of waking.

anne said...

I was in the middle of the Nicene Creed when I heard a sound that I had not made. For a very long time, the only noise I had heard was my own breathing. I even prayed silently. I thought maybe Morgan le Fay’s spell had finally broken, and I was losing my mind at last. The stones in the wall to my left began to shift, creating a doorway, letting in the first light I had seen since the night I was placed in that boiling water. I was blinded. I raised my arm to shield myself, knocking my elbow on the wall of the burning cauldron. I cried out a strangled sound but quickly bit my tongue, afraid that my inhuman noise would scare away whatever was coming through that door.

L. V. Gaudet said...

Flies buzzed noisily around the over filled garbage cans as a small brown and black filth matted mongrel trotted up the alley. He paused briefly to sniff disinterestedly at the cool flesh of the dainty hand poking out between two garbage cans in the dirt strewn lane. Looking up at the darkening sky with sad brown eyes, he shivered and whined pitifully as a deep rumble rolled threateningly through the heavens. With a shake of his matted coat he scampered off down the narrow alley as the first heavy drops began to fall.

Lola T. Parker said...

As I reflect back on my life, three things become perfectly clear.One, Mama’s death, though devastating, was a turning point in my life. It led me to the Sullevans and to the true meaning of family. Two, curses do not stay buried with the dead. They rise up and anchor themselves to their rightful owner, leaving a ghostly trail of misery behind. And three, karma is a complete load of crap. Grand-dad, if I had a relationship with him, might have taught me in his church that children don’t bear the sins of their fathers, but he would have been enormously mistaken. I have paid dearly for the sins of mine.

ZAKARIYA MIKAL SHERMAN said...

Bangladesh. 1971.

Summer.
A peculiar noise pursues its way toward the weary structure Sufia calls home, spurning its way passed tired old men selling fresh vegetables and rice-grains behind makeshift stalls; passed weathered old ladies mingling effervescently and rolling chapattis with wooden pins; passed young women retrieving water from tube wells and hanging clothes out to dry on lines in trampled yards; passed young boys chasing each other around and around in dizzying circles and pelting chickens with their slingshots; over mud-walled homes and over low rising fields; along riverbanks and passed lily-laden ponds; passed paddy fields and the oxen that plow them, and through the oblong leaves of a few stately jackfruit trees before reaching the home’s threshold and willing itself inside—without even so much as a kindly knock—where it reverberates about the room and into Sufia’s ears.

Dominique said...

He tied her arms tightly to the wrought iron bedposts, checking to make sure the ropes didn’t cut into her delicate wrists. God, he thought, she is exquisite, just like a little china doll. As he secured the binds, he noticed again how enormous his hands were on her slender, pale arms. He ran his hands over her smooth porcelain skin, feeling like he was dipping them in thick sweet cream. He had to be careful when he touched her; she had such fine, fragile bones—he could easily snap them in half.

Larry Muse said...

Ryan Stone sped through the quiet deserted streets toward the hospital. Soda-halogen lights caused blurred halos to reflect up from the fog dampened pavement. The lights did their best to pierce the fog, but failed as badly as Ryan did in his attempt to clear the fog that shrouded his mind. He couldn’t remember what the nurse had told him on the phone, something about a drug over dose. Ryan almost began to laugh. He knew if it were a drug over dose it had nothing to do with Kevin.

Polare said...

Lieutenant Arikano Otani was off duty and walking down to the fishmongers when the ships of the Expedition came in. He’d seen the ships leave Bahoya Harbor, three years before, wondering if they would ever be seen again; theirs was a perilous mission which many of the Lieutenant’s superiors had thought unwise. But now, the rumors said, they had returned – somewhat the worse for wear – and he found himself caught up in a growing crowd headed towards the docks.

Lisa said...

Fires raged almost everywhere now, consuming what was left of the road. Screams filled the air, distorted by the floating ash. The earth shook with the pounding of running feet. And Elizabeth took a final look at the heavens for a sign that water would finally fall.

Sandy Green said...

I always figured someday I would drown. I inherited that fear from my mom. She was so afraid of water that she never let us kids near anything wet. So, I couldn’t believe it when my family moved from Iowa to the Atlantic shore to run a small hotel.

Kerensa Brougham said...

I smelled Death on the two men who walked into my office that morning. I should have listened to my nose.

Welshcake said...

Nathan, you're going to break Blogger at this rate...


I crawl out my bedroom window and crouch on the sill. Cold air nips my face and hands. I wrap the black cloak I ‘borrowed’ from Mum tighter around myself and wonder if I’ll remember this thrill of rule breaking after I'm adjusted. Some people say adjustment makes you forget what’s gone before. I hope not. I’d be mental to want to stay a pre-adjust forever, spied on, tagged, screamed at by Command Cams every five seconds and all that. But I do want to remember how my life is now. I especially want to remember everything about Zeph and me.

Nicole said...

Jordana kept her port turned off, not ready to confront her husband who was undoubtedly waiting in her queue by now. She rubbed her arm, where the doctor had taken her blood and missed the vein. The sensation of pain felt oddly attractive to her. It had been a long time since she had felt real pain. She stood on the roof where there had once been a garden, a layer of hard snow covered everything. Jordana had forgotten that it was winter. She breathed in deeply and the frigid air hurt her lungs. She pulled the bandage off her arm and squeezed. She felt a stab of pain as blood dropped onto the untouched snow. The doctor had said “We have a great deal of technological influence in these matters, but sometimes nature still wins.” She watched the blood seep into the pristine snow, the cold, and the pain, brought on a clarity she hadn’t felt in a very long time. The biting wind whipped through her as her hands felt along the expanse of her ever growing belly and she smiled. Despite Philip’s archaic desire for a male heir, despite the doctors best efforts to manipulate things, nature had given her a daughter. A daughter who would take over the Abbey's corporate empire just as well as a son would have. “all the same,” Jordana spoke out loud to her stomach, “I think we’ll keep this between you and I for now.”

Rachelle Smith said...

It really didn’t seem possible, the way his hand, somewhere on the inside, jostled and shoved. Then, at the very moment when Darah couldn’t take anymore, and might have screamed, (Frick!!), or at least whimpered, the hand stopped. She gathered her breath and held it, the way anyone did, to help get through the last part; to hang on until the end, and she got ready for the feeling of herself collapsing, (or was it expanding?), back into this newly-discovered space, this space which she’d gone thirteen years without knowing, this space which the hand now occupied. Ready for it to be over – until Darah felt the hand lunge to the left, and – You can’t be serious? – further in. Her eyes were closed – there was no comfort in staring at the clinic’s grey ceiling, or at the top of the doctor’s bobbing head – but if she squeezed her eyes shut tighter still, it seemed to help. The feeling that she could close some of her openings. She felt a tear spring in each eye. Not the only rush of fluid. On her face, the wetness almost tickled, but not one fricking thing was funny.

Samir said...

Zooey was in two minds about proffering her purple, polka-dotted piggybank to the altar of sacrifice. But when she saw her brother wearing a snazzy turban, which conjured up images of Prince Aladdin, her curiosity was piqued. Making a split-second decision, she pressed the porcelain porcine into the palm of his outstretched hand.

AliciaCL said...

Springfield, Illinois, 1837
Lincoln liked to have a bit of tea with his morning biscuit, wrapped in cloth at last night’s supper and carried into the office. He lit a candle, then the Franklin stove. He scraped some shavings off a compressed brick of tea into a cup. Waiting for the teapot to whistle, he stared out the window. Helping rouse his lanky frame, he stretched while he watched fierce yellow streaks burst across the sky, then wash out to drab November blue and gray watercolors. With the hot tea, the bread melted in his mouth, releasing its yeasty smell. Once satiated, he settled in for what he thought would be a peaceful spell of reading at his desk. Soon enough the bustle of clomping hooves, rattling wagons and the voices of shopkeepers, and customers would drift in and take over. He fell into his law books like other folks got enthralled in pamphlet novels. Lincoln had heard the man shuffling up the staircase out in the hall but he dismissed it in his mind. He thought it might be an early patron for the federal court, across the hall – not a madman.

Ami said...

Lauren stood in the crowd of gleefully shocked onlookers--”mourners” didn’t seem like quite the proper term--most of whom were there to get a peek at casket of the man who had fooled dozens of people in two cities. No doubt they were hoping the other woman would show up and there would be a graveside brawl. Lauren adjusted her oversize sunglasses. Brawling wasn’t her thing.

Stephanie said...

Isabelle held the cards close to her heart and allowed her hands to tremble as she had seen many young and inexperienced players do. "Gambling is like seduction," her tutor in both arts had once whispered as he kissed her naked wrist. "They sell illusions and promises, you’ll be good at it." And unfortunately she was.

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

Southern gentility be damned. Nice was getting her nowhere. Aubrey Bordelon put her hands on her hips and attempted an I-mean-business face. “Look, I’m not here to get laid.”

Erin said...

Even with the mare’s rattling breaths coming from the stall behind her, even with her husband lying slumped on the other side of the aisle, all Macy could see was that damned ugly baby. That baby, with its pimples and purple blotchy face and coned head. The baby whose mother thrust it toward Macy every time she and Nash ran into her and her doting husband, usually at the Uphill Grind on Saturday mornings, as if it were a perfectly natural thing to want to hold someone else’s child. As if that was what the baby would have wanted. As if Macy was even fit for such a thing.

AliciaCL said...

Springfield, Illinois, 1837
Lincoln liked to have a bit of tea with his morning biscuit, wrapped in cloth at last night’s supper and carried into the office. He lit a candle, then the Franklin stove. He scraped some shavings off a compressed brick of tea into a cup. Waiting for the teapot to whistle, he stared out the window. Helping rouse his lanky frame, he stretched while he watched fierce yellow streaks burst across the sky, then wash out to drab November blue and gray watercolors. With the hot tea, the bread melted in his mouth, releasing its yeasty smell. Once satiated, he settled in for what he thought would be a peaceful spell of reading at his desk. Soon enough the bustle of clomping hooves, rattling wagons and the voices of shopkeepers, and customers would drift in and take over. He fell into his law books like other folks got enthralled in pamphlet novels. Lincoln had heard the man shuffling up the staircase out in the hall but he dismissed it in his mind. He thought it might be an early patron for the federal court, across the hall – not a madman.

RomaDiaz said...

There were moments during each visit home to her parents’ house that Lucy found herself reverting back to her petulant teenage years and this was definitely one of them. She just wanted peace and quiet so that she could sleep for another half hour but her temper was fraying at the disturbance that was preventing her from doing so. Her mother was at the bottom of the stairs shouting up to her; her voice beginning to show her frustration. Lucy felt like she was on a final warning to rise for school. All she wanted was to roll over and pull the duvet over her head but knew better than to explain that to her mother. “I’m up!” she croakily replied, knowing full well that no-one was convinced by her statement.

Anonymous said...

Kenji Nishimura was about to make a mistake. He walked out of the Westin Hotel alone and crossed Thomas Circle to the north where there was less traffic and fewer people. He scooted precariously between the cars exiting the circle at 14th and again at Vermont. When he reached lower M Street there was no traffic to speak of and he slowed his pace. Fifty yards south of the hotel a lanky gangster leaned against a lamp post. He snapped his cell phone shut as his eyes locked on the Japanese man. Beads of sweat dribbled down his copper forehead. He wore the standard uniform of street gangs, a du-rag cap, denim baggies cut at the knees, and a black leather belt dangling loosely along his left side. Yet he hadn’t taken any chances. His colors weren’t threatening. The last thing he needed was a confrontation with a punk, at least not at the moment. He jumped off the curb and extended an arrogant arm. Obedient cars came to a screeching halt. He took his time crossing, glaring at the timid drivers who refused to meet his gaze.

Jessica said...

There was someone in her apartment.
Aubrey had just returned from swimming and set her bag down by the door when she felt the difference in the atmosphere of her apartment. Before she could turn around, she was grabbed and thrown across the room. She wasn’t sure which wall she hit, but her lower back found the corner and pain exploded as she fell to the floor. An extremely large thug came at her now, fast. She fought the pain in her back and tried to get up. Before she could fully scramble to her feet, the thug backhanded her, sending her into her bedroom. With her jaw throbbing, she crawled to the side of the bed that was out of view from the door. The room was in deep darkness but she knew exactly where the object was that she needed.

chk said...

It's the smell that won't let go, even when I sleep. The smell imbedded deep into the bark of ancient oaks and maples -- the smell that's part of the dirt, part of the meadows, part of the very breath of this town. It's the stench that sent black cats stalking the night all those years ago, yowling for their mistresses.

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

When I turned thirteen, I became a witch, took down the biggest hoodoo priestess in town—-who also happened to be the President of the Garden Club—-and saved my family from extinction.

Major Tom said...

Jack Hallow stumbled into the field before him, looking back over his shoulder in a panic. The tall, dry grass about his legs felt as is if it were binding him to the ground, heightening his fear. Atop the wall behind him, the wall he had just crawled under, he saw the familiar dark form again. With this, he put his head down and ran. He ran as if his life depended on it, for he knew at this moment that it did. He tore through the grass at breakneck speed, feeling it break against his legs. The wind whistled in his ears, as his breath came in gasps, and he knew he was in trouble, the kind of trouble you cannot get out of. There was a hoarse laugh close behind him, spurring him on as it sent a shiver through his body. Jack knew from his map that the field he was running through ended in a great forest, the feared Wood of the Wolf. Maybe if he could make it across the open field, he could hide in the wood. But this thought was fleeting, for he also knew that where the wood ended, the great wall began. He was truly trapped.

Aileen said...

When Erin unlocked and pushed open the front door of her cabin, she felt someone pass through her. Cold, clammy air chilled her skin. Her stomach churned. Dropping her suitcases, she fell back, grabbing the porch rail just before she fell off the step. She leaned against the rail, seeking stability, and took a deep, clearing breath. Her heart continued to hammer as she tried to force a laugh. Really, someone passed though me?

Finny said...

(YA)

Up until the day she was taken, my kid sister Calleigh was the campus darling of The Bronson School. And even though I’ve busted my butt juggling academics, extracurriculars, and volunteer hours for the last three years in comparison to Calleigh’s paltry half-term, I—-Kady Madison—-actually enjoyed our sisterly competition. But I didn’t think it’d cost us our humanity.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Nathan.

Tutebug



He was laid out in a pine casket that was made for a child, his midget face stiffly posed and wearing that stretched and waxy smile of a corpse. He looked like an obscene marionette or a caricature from some perverted comic strip. I stared into his pinched hobbit face as a vortex of memories was dredged back from older times. It was his pappy that took to call’n him Tutebug and the old man never meant for the nickname to be one of love or kindness. He was a drunkard and the call’n him Tutebug was meant to be some kind of queer punishment because of his size.


Margo

Matty Byloos said...

Father Gregory thinks again about getting a massage. He’s being coy, or maybe he’s not. This isn’t, after all, about confession. How many times can he wash his hands – if he’s honest with himself, then Joseph knows he’s obsessive compulsive, but they’re both paying too much attention, and so this borders on something unbelievable. For his part, Joseph is technically dawdling. His twelve years of life show up on his face in two ways: his wrinkle of a smile is uncomfortable, for one. The other quality’s more intangible. It’s the kind of childish drama that makes the adults in his proximity feel like they’re sleepwalking, which is to say, bored. Father Gregory has a different take on him. He thinks Joseph is generous for a young boy: maybe even too giving of himself. It’s made him nervous around Joseph the whole time.

kathrynjankowski said...

Roza paced the shore. Water lapped at her feet, leaving salty swirls across her toes. She scanned the sky and waited for the day to peak. For only then would her treasure appear.

Donna McAteer said...

Jason Ross knew he was in Hell. Shoving the sunglasses up the bridge of his nose, he took a long swallow of water from his bottle and then drew in a shaky breath, wondering how much longer he could torture himself with the sight of her naked body.

Heidi Willis said...

I’m on my way to the courthouse. This day has been coming for so long, but now that it’s here, it doesn’t even feel real. I turn on the radio because I can’t stand the quiet. I wonder what an appropriate station is for going to a murder trial? I hit the presets one by one, leaving each station on long enough to know it’s not the right one until I reach one playing Nickelback. The rough, callous voice is practically screaming at me, and although I know it’s crazy, it feels right. I leave it on, but I don’t sing along.

Jenny said...

For those of us who have known speed, it is impossible to slow down in the real, true sense of the word. We go at rates speedometers cannot measure. Then one of two things happen: we go so far, so fast, that when we reach the end of the world and circle around it again, and again, we do not realize we are spinning. Or something makes us hit the brakes.

Krisula said...

She reached across the bed to find him but her hand felt nothing but cool empty sheets. How did she remember him so clearly each morning when she awoke? Remembered probably wasn’t right. Imagined was more like it. By the end of her morning shower she would, as usual have forgotten everything but for now her heart raced and her legs ached. Having an incubus was fun. And the joke’s on him, she thought as she fingered the scar from her surgery. There’s no way to knock this chick up no matter how hard he tries. She prayed he wouldn’t give up too easily and then crossed another day off the calendar by her bed.

Kay Farish said...

The diminutive, glassy-eyed funeral director, whose black suit smelled of too many years of mortuary carnations and formaldehyde, gave my sister and me a practiced frozen smile as he very gingerly led us to a stark, well-lit back room to identify the body of our father. It was a Sunday morning, and Daddy had been dead just over twenty-four hours. I thought I would be shocked to see his still, lifeless body; but, he was wrapped in a sterile white sheet and his left arm fell across his chest naturally, as though he were sleeping peacefully. His hand was deep purple from the IV needles; all the warmth that had once surged through his ample body had escaped, replaced with the chill of the refrigerated vault where his flesh was being preserved until his cremation. I was eerily aware of being in a decidedly alternate universe where bodies are disinhabited and people always remembered as they looked sleeping -thoughtless, actionless, maybe peaceful, maybe not.

Anita Davison said...

Carrie Gordon’s fantasies of her arrival in London consisted of her appearance on the foredeck of the SS Minnesota as it sailed up the River Thames with an escort of barges and small craft, to glide beneath Tower Bridge, where she would disembark to an accompaniment of hooters and whistles before an admiring crowd, with the city of London gleaming gold in the afternoon sun. Tilbury docks, therefore, came as a crushing disappointment.

Christopher S. Ledbetter said...

King Hypatios of Neapolis wept quietly, alone on the vastness of Ares’ Altar, with his son Makedon, the crown prince clutched close to his breast. The subtle scent of anguish and disappointment pervaded the air. The king’s black cloak rippled in the gentle wind swooping down from the mountaintops and across the rough coastal plain that was framed by rocky hills to the west and the Nestos River Valley on the eastern edge. Spectators who had been on hand to witness the fatal fight between Caenus of Iolkos and Makedon had long since departed, leaving the father and son sorrowfully alone.

Henriette Power said...

On those rare occasions when she couldn’t control the world around her, my mother placed the blame squarely on America, the country she had reluctantly come to from Greece in 1959. My father would retort that there were flaws in Greece too, but she ignored him because he was American. They met in 1955, when my father was based in Athens with the American mission in Greece, building roads and repairing bridges on the Marshall Plan. For four years, they lived a glamorous life of parties and dances in a city that was working hard to shed the effects of war. Once they were married and it was time to choose a country, my father won the argument, flying ahead of my mother to purchase what would be their only home. When she joined him in the hair-sprayed suburbs of parochial Boston, knowing no one and understanding little of American life, my mother’s reaction was quick and certain. To keep what she considered this unsightly world at bay, she took the brown paper from the moving boxes and covered every window of the single-story house.

dennis said...

It was the endless repetition, the triteness of a simple act, which kept Arthur Zell from going insane. Clutching a carved piece of wood, no bigger than a cell phone, his thumb rubbed the etchings until they were dulled, almost smooth. He marched to the rendezvous, his laced military boots crushing small gravel and debris that cluttered the West Bank city of Ramallah, the disorder of the culture stoked his anxiety. It was reminiscent of his life before the ceremony, before the weight of the world was literally thrust upon his shoulders, a disjointed time, confused, unfocused, the memory no longer necessary. As he approached the pitch-black alley he knew time was a commodity he no longer owned.

A. J. Spindle said...

Bennett struggled to move in the tight space, the cold metal pushed against his shoulders. He thought it was amazing, that at twelve years old, he could still fit inside a locker. He thought he would have hit a growth spurt by now like all the other 7th grade boys. Bennett pushed his face toward the thin slits in the metal door and took deep gulps of fresh air, desperate to get away from the smell of stale gym socks and musty, aged textbooks. Luckily for him, Bennett wasn’t claustrophobic like his father. That was the one thing he hadn’t inherited from him. Like his dad, Bennett had a round, friendly face-- light freckles were splashed over his nose and cheeks like sprinkles on a vanilla cupcake, Bennett’s favorite. Both he and his dad had dark blue eyes, the only difference were the green flecks that appeared to be floating on the surface of Bennett’s eyes. He got that from his mom.

Irene said...

"Three new pet obits to get in, somebody has to choose the chocolate bread contest winner--good luck--and if anybody, ANYBODY talks to the guy who wants to buy the Chronicle--you're fired."

K. said...

It was never easy for Nisha. Even on the day she was born, she was a bother. Her mother, Lata, with an abdomen that seemed overripe for only 8 eight and half months, went into labor 5 weeks earlier than expected after having broken her water right in the middle of the perfume aisle of Macy’s department store. Lata was so shocked when she felt the water leaking down her legs that she dropped the bottle of perfume she was sniffing right onto the floor. At first, the red-lipsticked saleslady thought the small pool of yellow fluid at Lata’s feet was the perfume from the now-shattered bottle and it was not until Lata clenched her belly and began crying, “Hai Ram, Hai Ram!” that she noticed that the clumsy Indian lady, in fact, also had wet pants. An ambulance was called promptly and Lata was taken to the nearest hospital.

KM Fawcett said...

Elizabeth Clark hiked her bridesmaid gown above her thigh and strapped on the gun belt.

KM Fawcett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicholas said...

I didn’t mean to save the world. I’m not that kind of boy. But after the accident, there was no going back.

Sheldon said...

The endless wave of ads blurred into a singular, emphatic, mental "blah" until he trailed to a post at the bottom of the page. It read: "Used Coffin For Sale. Best Offer". Finally, something interesting. He dialed the number, curious to hear the mind on the other end.

Marti Verlander said...

Gray skies. Black earth. Dead white flesh. Blood and ash hanging in the air, coating the tongue. Men’s sweat and men’s deaths clogging the nostrils. The buzz of flies, the arguing of murders of crows. Wind whispering sweet nothings into the ears of the dead. No dying remain.

Rebecca said...

"Is it an easy read?" Well, the guy should have known the answer to that. He should have been able to tell just by looking at it. Max had been sitting in the red leather chair, had given the guy a look, probably would have said something discourteous if Gregory hadn't jumped in. That was Max, a paragon of discourtesy, a muckworm, shouldn't be let anywhere near the reading public. A cunning old slob, drawn to people's deficiencies with enthusiasm. A moist and stinking botheration. And no, it wasn't an easy read, not a novel of ideas, either--a Russian-English atomic dictionary? Not particularly easy, not a single idea to be found. The man hadn't even looked at it properly to see what it was, had thought it was one of those novels, the kind with a name that sounded like it ought to be something else.

L. W. said...

Fury Ann Smith slammed the laptop shut and shoved it under the covers just as her Aunt Rilla opened the door to her room.

Middle Grade. Just so you know, Fury's a kid; she's not looking at something illicit, just forbidden. :)

Aneeka said...

A rickety wagon, pulled by nothing, shuddered to a stop in the deserted town next to the only building still standing. The driver -- an old man with a few extra odd joints -- stretched his back while the girl next to him stared at the building, her lips pressed in a firm line. The man flicked a glance at her, lingering on the circling scar seared on her forehead. When she did nothing, he grunted and stretched his arms; several joints merged back into two normal elbows. With another grunt, he hefted himself down the wagon's side and dropped to all fours. The girl watched while he stared stupidly at the ground. A moment later, he shook his body and reared back up. Wobbling, he extended a hand toward the girl.

Sammy Milano said...

Deial listened intently. She heard nothing; not even her own breathing; not even her own heartbeat. She was poised like a cat on top of a crate, in a pre-pounce sort of position. The dark was warm, enclosing, and her eyes were already accustomed to it. As she waited in the black silence, she marveled at how high up she was. She was crouched on top of a stack of massive crates and looked down from thirty feet in the air. It was breathtaking, and definitely cool.

Dearth of Reason said...

If Charlie could choose a dream to come true, he might have picked the one where he intuited how to fly and sailed out the window of his Language Arts class at Taft Middle School. He might have chosen the one where he awoke in a four-poster in Hogwarts to discover he was a Gryffindor. A truly excellent pick would have been the one where Charlie woke, disturbed by the clink of china, and came downstairs to discover Dad in the kitchen, stirring milk into his cup of coffee, stirring as if he had never been gone, a warm smile forming as he saw his son enter the kitchen. But Charlie didn’t get to choose. He would have got through a million choices before picking the dream where a big rock, trillions of years old, ended its outer space journey by flaming through the sky and plunging into Chester Pyle’s kidney-shaped swimming pool. That by itself was actually kind of cool, but the dream moved way down the ranks when the shockwave from the impact demolished most of Reseda, California. Why, he often wondered, did it have to be that dream?

S. Megan Payne said...

She woke in a cold darkness. Gloom shadowed the corners, chasing stray, weak beams of light through the bars. Her cheek was pressed to the hard, damp concrete beneath her, and her hair fell in limp gold strands across her eyes. Her mouth tasted dull, like iron. She tried to lift her head to better see this strange world around her. A sharp, hot, spiking buzz assaulted her brain, and she cried out, jerked as if to get away, and found herself stopped painfully short by heavy unmoving shackles on her wrists and ankles, chaining her to the floor.

Ulysses said...

The breeze was picking up as the afternoon wore on, blowing a few high wisps of cirrus west toward the distant shores of Venezuela. The Republic of Dos Santos lay to the east, the twin islands of San Pedro and San Paulo rising blue-green above the swells of the Caribbean. Ken Williams sat in the cockpit of the little catamaran he called the St. Elmo and tacked upwind toward the shore of San Paulo two miles away. Around him, the sea threw back sunlight in a million sparkles. Waves splashed. Gulls cried. The breeze carried the heavy sting of salt and the faint scent of papaya and coconut palm that contributed to the perfume of the islands. The St. Elmo's twin prows came around to the new heading, kicking up spray, and her sails filled with a snap. She'd be home soon.

Krisula said...

She reached across the bed to find him but her hand felt nothing but cool empty sheets. How did she remember him so clearly each morning when she awoke? Remembered probably wasn’t right. Imagined was more like it. By the end of her morning shower she would, as usual, have forgotten everything but for now her heart raced and her legs ached. Having an incubus was fun. And the joke’s on him, she thought as she fingered the scar from her surgery. There’s no way to knock this chick up no matter how hard he tries. She prayed he wouldn’t give up too easily and then crossed another day off the calendar by her bed.

Lyn South said...

Everything is different. The usually sunny living room is dark. I wrinkle my nose at the smell in the cramped room, a mustiness not typically encountered in my mother’s pristinely kept house. As my eyes adjust to the dim, I see a mountain of boxes; battered and torn, they litter one corner of the room and half of the adjoining wall. The smell seems to emanate from the boxes.

JP45 said...

Gus was tall. Not the kind of tall that invites compliment or admiration, or the kind of tall that mothers crave in the men who court their daughters. His height was at least nine inches beyond respectability, and verged on the altitudes reserved for ladders or lamp-posts. He had always been tall, since his abnormally vertical childhood, and the experience left him with a pronounced slouch, earned from years of stooping under ceilings and trying rather hopelessly to avoid notice. He was thin to the point of transparency, bony and angular, reminiscent of nothing so much as a freakishly large praying mantis shuffling the streets of Standish in his immaculate dark suits.

Joann said...

The tag-along parked himself on my cedar chest, said his name was Rudy Campbell. Said he died about 30 years ago when he fell down the amphitheater stairs out back of St. Joe High School. My St. Joe High School. The rips in his uniform, the gashes along his arms, the blood matting his dull hair, and the scraping noise his jagged neck bones made when he moved his head – let’s just say I believed him. He popped in for a quick visit to let me know a classmate of mine would be nose-diving down the same stairs about two hours from now. During Monday Mass. Pretty sure “this is my body, this is my blood” – not meant to be a punch line.

JaneyV said...

It happened in slow motion. Of that I’m sure. Light and sound collapsed in on time. One second we were sitting outside the diner with our milkshakes, laughing at the dog chasing her tail in circles then suddenly Dad pushed me under the table and said, “Don’t say a word.” I remember yelling and barking and really bad curse words. Dad yelled back. He shouted, “Oh my God, please, no!” Of that I am sure. The air exploded with noise and I covered my ears. Bang. Bang. Then they were both on the ground looking at me with doll’s eyes. Open. Lifeless. My Dad and my dog. I did not scream. I did not say a word. And I haven’t since.

Bard said...

The lakku philosopher wagged her tails as she hammered nails into my
trunk. Not the pleasant companionable wagging, but wagging them so that they
cross each other: the gloating of a victorious predator. I was small at the
time, and three of the nails poked out my bark on the opposite side. They
ached, of course, but a plant does not feel her body as acutely as an animal
would. Nothing had eaten my fruit, so I had no way to resist her, or even
complain.

Dave G said...

Broken promises are like everything else, you know? They grow worn with use. Our tenement was a Bronx Orchestra, surround sound and all, and with each night my father's words meant less than the night before. Dice would slam the other side of our bedroom wall at night and paint would chip from our ceiling under the drummer's feet upstairs. Mom would sing me to sleep by the bolted window, in the same key as the sirens so I wouldn't know the difference. But I knew. I'd always known. In the dark, my father would whisper, "We'll get out of here soon, son," but I remember those words as I do the dice and the sirens and the drums - just another faded sound I'd hear before I'd find my dreams.

*me* said...

They appeared to Naomi the ages they would have been had they been born. Two girls and a boy. One girl looking just like her. The boy, he looked like nobody she knew since she couldn’t say for sure who his daddy was. The other girl, whom the boy was holding, resembled her would be daddy.
They didn’t say anything. Just stood in would-be birth order, assuming Naomi knew who they were. And she did. She’d kept up with them over the years, marking off their birthdays on her mental calendar. Keeping track of their would have beens. Would have been walking by now. Would have been saying her first words around this time. Would have been starting kindergarten this year.

raemgilbert said...

Others thoughts barreled at me from every direction until I could barely separate mine from those of my fellow students. At first when my brother made excuses for his faltering grades I nearly laughed. It’s too hard to concentrate, he’d say. I didn’t understand what he meant, until today, my first day at Lake Linden-Hubble High in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

mck said...

Annie’s eyes fluttered, but the glare of fluorescent lights blinded her. She squeezed them tight, breathed deeply and, pressing her hands against the scratchy sheet, tried to wriggle into a sitting position. Moving brought back the intense nausea that caused her to pass out in the first place, so she fell limp, anxious to hold on to consciousness. Despite her efforts, she felt herself sinking into the deep quiet again, slipping into darkness. Frantically she tried to control her breathing, hoping it would steady her, but again and again she lost her footing, slipping into that black and cavernous place.

Tamika: said...

The lull of her words played static in my mind. Cancer. She was dying. Leaving me like Mother. Death danced by her bedside, tormenting me. I willed myself to look away.

Andrea said...

Derrick wasn’t special. He was reminded of that every day by the mere act of his brother’s breathing. But he also wasn’t a total loser. He had plans – plans that’d blow a big-ass hole right through his mom’s you never finish anything mantra. But first he had to get through tenth grade and with no pit stops to juvey. So that meant no more hanging with Jonas and Eddy. Now he just had to convince his best friend Kyle because Kyle hung with them, too. Without Derrick around there was no telling what trouble Kyle would get into.

Lyn South said...

The usual lunch crowd at Jack’s overflows from the booths into the aisles, making it hard to maneuver through the small diner. I work my way through the multitude and manage to cram my lanky frame onto the last available stool at the end of the stainless steel counter, there’s never enough room for my legs. After plopping my ball cap down beside me, I rub a hand over my shorn scalp. The sensation still produces an emotional shock, the remaining brown hair feels like my mother’s boar bristle hairbrush.

Marge said...

Had Bethenae not been in such a hurry, she would have taken time to admire the view of the port, the sailors appearing as small as ants from where she stood, high on the island. Or she might have paused to notice new, tender growth sprouting on the gnarled grapevines that bordered the path. Instead, looking neither left nor right, she ran as though demons were on her heels, her feet scarcely touching the ground. When she finally reached the place where the path began its winding descent she stopped, placed her hands on her knees, and tried to catch her breath.

TKA said...

Someone was watching: again. LeeAnne looked away from the table where she was eating lunch with her girlfriends and squinted against the sunlight as she scanned the campus. No one obvious was looking her way - no one at the other tables, or sitting on the grass, or in the amphitheater. She glanced around at the other girls sitting with her. None of them seemed to share her feeling. A look of mild irritation passed over her face. This was just like when she and Glen played tennis with their moms recently and that time last week when she walked to her pre-period class with Elise. No one else noticed anything then either. Weird. She tried to brush it off and turned her attention back to Grace.

danielle said...

Ionia named Bea after Beatrice, Harry Houdini’s wife. She named herself after Ionia the Enchantress, one of the first female magicians in history, that is if you don’t count medicine women and dream interpreters. She called the show Ionia and Rapunzel’s Evening of Enchantment. She was the only female magician in all the desert cities to which she and her daughter traveled, including Reno, the most recent one. The audience never knew Bea’s real name, and no one ever knew Ionia’s, even Bea.

TerriOsburn said...

Wow. Over 1900 comments. Is that some kind of record? What the hey, this is for fun right? Here's my entry.

Celi Cooper knew all about having bad days, but today took the prize - the "Crappiest of all Craptastic Days" prize. She expected a gold plated cow pie on a plaque to be sitting on her doorstep when she got home.

Anonymous said...

WOW! Nathan.

Timeless

The Reverend Jobu and his rambling band were people from a time that no longer existed. Dressed in torn polyester and other miss-matched articles of clothing where the gender of each item had no bearing on its wearer. Their troop seemed happy to be wrapped in the tie-dyed cotton of a society that had forgotten them and their frail failing world. They were remnants all. Timeless dreamers of happy fellowship with hardship as their savior.

Marc

Chris Bates said...

1900+ entries!!

Good stuff, Bransford. Some nice work in amongst there too. folks.


My bit:


The eels were going to zap him. Jenny knew that as soon as Toby toppled from the row boat into Electric Lake. For once, she wished her head didn’t resemble something that fell from the cover of a punk rock CD. The cold wind that breezed past Norm’s Nuclear Power Plant nearby was drawing static from her half dozen piercings leaving her feeling like an electricity Jenny-rator. That quirk would have made Toblerone giggle yesterday. Today it would only serve to seal his fate. They had been seeing each other for almost three years. A little shy of 22,041 hours, which was a tad over 1,322,426 minutes … and 22 seconds. Jenny knew this fact because she activated her stop-watch on the very day they had begun dating. Other people may have thought that crazy but not Jenny, after all, the box the time-piece came in did say it had a time and date function. Jen didn’t much care for the time because was rose each day at the crack of noon, but she was certainly getting serious value out of the date function. Until now.


Cheers
Chris

Stephanie said...

“Yes, Mrs. Vandewater, your daughter’s wedding bouquet will be delivered to your house by noon along with all of the attendant’s flowers.” I sat at my desk and answered the question for the third time while I doodled on a yellow legal pad. I took the name Vandewater and added horns to the V and a pointed tail to the R. Working in a service oriented business, ‘The customer is always right’ becomes a motto you have no choice but to live by, regardless of how insane it makes you. Numerous times I would have liked to chuck that motto right out the window, watching it splatter on the street like a water balloon tossed out from ten stories up. What joy I’d have telling the customer exactly what I thought of them, and where they could take their ‘one last question’, but of course in the end, my desire for everyone to love me won out.

Bobbie said...

Harold looks the same dead as he did alive—except for the near-decapitation thing. Yeah, alive, he generally had his head completely connected to his neck, connected to his shoulders, all one piece, together, more or less. Some song I remember from camp starts going through my own completely connected head, and I slap a hand over my mouth to stop myself from laughing or maybe even humming along. Or vomiting right there all over the place. The shin bone's connected to the— Mom pulls me away from the sidewalk, trying to get me back to the car as the police show up and turn the surreal scene into something better, something like what I might have seen on Law & Order once or CSI: yellow tape, red and white lights flashing, static from radios crackling all around us.

Neil Savoy said...

I’m surrounded by sympathetic people covered in black. They pass by me and offer their condolences, some say they how I feel, but I can’t help but doubt their sincerity. There are so many woman with their hair pulled back so tightly it makes me think their skin will tear open right where their hair line meets their forehead, their sharply pointed red nails glisten, reaching out to me offering hugs but I hesitate to approach them, their hands seem so ready to scrape against my fair skin like daggers, and make me bleed out. I smile and say that it’s ok, that I’m fine, but inside I feel as black as their dresses and suits, so dark with misery that I want my eyes to roll back inside my head and just stare into the black inside there, the darkness would feel no different, but I refuse to show my melancholy, it’s no one’s business but my own, something meant to lie dormant in my own mind.

danielschmidt said...

He lived long enough to see the world wish to destroy itself, but not long enough to mend his own broken desires. Orestes felt no pain that afternoon in Garden City, a town retrofitting itself into an uneven modernity. He slipped beneath the bleating of the heart rate counter and closed his veins to the IV injected into his right arm. Slipping away in the middle of the night. “Dr. Flores Mohr,” yelled the petite, absent-minded nurse on call. It would seem natural that she be yelling for the doctor on call, but Dr. Flores Mohr was a doctor of theology, no doctor of medicine. To the nurse, it all sounded the same – her nerves began to fray with each beep of the catheter. “Dr. Flores Mohr!” she shouted again. By this time he was already half way down the hall, an admirable amount of sweat already dripping from his armpits and forehead. The humidity may have been mind-altering to the fragile nurse, but Alberto (as he will wish to be called in a moment) recognized the soft haze that seemed to hang in the air of the ward from his own childhood, so removed from this hospital ward, so removed from the white man dying in the other room.

Mark said...

Toeten'ker George stepped out of the narrow brick hut that served as his home. As always he was met with a blast of fiercely hot air; his home was near to one of the many fissures that emitted the steam that heated the vast cavern where his people lived. The heat made his scales contract, seeking to shield his hide from the swelter, but he was used to it and the temperature didn't bother him so much. He turned, ensuring that his tail was fully outside, then closed the silk curtain that served as his door and fitted the clasps that would keep it tight. This was the only way to keep too much dust and grit from collecting on his books while he was at work.

Beckony said...

When they ask me why it all started, I'll have to think of something noble-sounding. Like "the protection of justice and free speech". Something politically-correct and sound-bite worthy. I've got to have a good explanation for what we created--the moustached Mona Lisa, the thousands of plastic army men glued through the high school hallways in reenactments of famous battles, the teenagers who marched on the mayor's house in our defense when it all came down. But really, what started it all was the damned microwave.

Kate said...

James could not decide between the carnations or the yellow daisies. Neither said he wished Emily was not dead.

DeborahB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Bates said...

Damn... typo in my piece.

I'll blame my stupid keyboard buttons. They'll frustrate anyone who has fingers.

Stephanie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephanie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephanie said...

Her red hair glowed like a beacon in the foggy air as he entered the pool hall that night. Thomas Williams shook his head and tried to ignore her. It was the same woman who stared him down the previous night while her boyfriend looked on in confusion. She was alone tonight but the place was crowded with men who looked at her like a piece of meat. Surely she'd find someone else to watch. He wasn't interested in whatever game she was playing.

Sue Frye said...

Diary Entry: April 11th 2009

Dear Diary, An Ugly came to my room last night--this one looked like a troll. I checked all my stuff and guess what? This time my mp3 is missing! Why don’t they leave me and my stuff alone? I feel like I’m going nuts or something! I’ve got to find out what’s going on! This is CRAZY!

Lisa Haselton said...

I'll say it right now. I'm not nuts. You have to believe me. I need to feel that someone will believe me. I decided to write everything down so there is proof this is happening to me. When I get out of here there will be a written account of what I've been through so people don't have to simply take my word for it. The facts will be in black and white. Or rather, white and white. When my daughter is old enough, I want these notes given to her, too.

valerie hobbs said...

It can take a lifetime to forgive someone, or it can happen in a flash, like lightning, as you're hiking north up the frontage road with a storm in your face and your thumb out, begging for a ride. I know because it happened to me when I never thought it would. It happened for a lot of reasons, mostly for the reason that I've left behind in the arms of someone else.

Shayne said...

Dean's squad buddies always joked that, in a war zone, if you didn't move fast and keep your head down, you might just wake up dead. Coming to in a morgue drawer sure took the funny out of that joke.

Christine said...

They say your life flashes before your eyes right before you die, but that’s not how it happened for me. Instead, as the streetlights spun around me, I saw the things that would never be, the moments I wanted to live more than anything else. The first and last time I wept was at the funeral, but this new devastation pulverized me. I was pinned beneath the ache, the agony, the loathing. They were a fifty-five gallon drum crushing my chest. I hadn’t been man enough to risk one thing, so now I would lose everything. There was no denying it. I was too far gone.

Humbugu said...

It had been a most unfortunate day for Kenna Barrow, from when she had woken up to find, again, that five of her mother's steamy romance novels had mysteriously appeared by her bedside. To make matters worse, when she had delicately brought up the subject of Prom dates to Luke, he had just started screaming shrilly about how over his dead body would he spend money to wear an uncomfortable tux and wriggle around in a hideously decorated gym. And now she was sitting at her bus stop by the school ditch, trying not to drown in one of the worst storms she had ever seen. Kenna looked up at the heavens just as the sky seemed to flash a brilliant shade of red just for a second, and she felt the air around her turn markedly more chilly. Curious to see if she had just witnessed a lightning strike or an alien invasion of sorts, Kenna ambled over toward the ditch, trying to see into the horizon. Unfortunately, in a brilliant stroke of bad luck, she slipped on the mossy rocks, staggered a few steps closer to the ditch, and immediately plummeted to her death instead.

Sandy Ladignon said...

November 7, 1942. I chose this. To be as far away from New York as possible. A small parochial school in The-Middle-of-Nowhere, California. This was the job I took, barely a month after I turned eighteen and a week after I got my teaching certificate. A month-old posting on the bulletin board at my college. Wanted: High school English teacher. I was ecstatic when the school director, Father Benedict, asked me if I would be interested to start as soon as I can. Immediately after my I mailed my reply, I packed my bags and booked the bus and train tickets to California. It took me almost a week, traveling day and night, passing Los Angeles and then another three hours in a bus, before I reached the town of Josemaria. And there I was standing right in front of my classroom. Shaking down to my knees, and resisting the urge to vomit. I took a very deep breath and opened the door.

Eden said...

His ear was killing him. The ache was unearthly – supernatural, even.
Earwig, Harold thought. It had to be an earwig. Perhaps several. He thought about the inner ear illustrations he’d seen in textbooks – the canal much too narrow for the bugs, with their long pincers, to about-face, forcing them to burrow on to the other side. Judging from the pain, they must be nesting in his cochlea, making preparations for the hard journey through his brain matter. He put up two fingers to probe the soft space under his ear and behind his jaw. He rocked his jaw back and forth.
“So there’s a chance I could die, right? That’s what you said?” The girl in the chair, nineteen at most, was picking at an imaginary spot in her jeans.
“It’s a very small chance –” He paused, peering at the name on her chart. “Alexandra. Only a fraction of the population has a negative reaction to the sedative.”

elena said...

A plastic supermarket bag fluttered alongside Toby as he walked home from school — almost as if it were keeping him company. Toby watched it twist and turn in the breeze. Those things kill marine mammals, he remembered from a science class.

newsjunkie said...

Her bare feet pounded hard against the wet earth. She stretched her long, lanky legs as far as they would reach with each stride as she ran. Her lungs burned with each short breath she drew in of the icy, cold air. Fear pulsed through her body like an electric current. She focused on dodging the trees while each foot sunk into the freezing, damp forest floor. Her feet were numb, but she could still feel the brief shards of pain as she stepped on rocks and sticks. She ignored the anguish, as adrenalin took over. She could hear herself drowning in the sound of her own heartbeat, but it still couldn’t block out the noise of the one who was right behind her. She dared not turn around, because if she did, she knew she was done for.

Tony DiPadua said...

Death followed Charlotte—literally. He followed her through the giant double doors that lead into the train station, and he casually paced behind her as they made their way through the mass of suits and dresses. A cigar stuck out from the blackness of his hood, the smoke curling upwards like ghostly question marks. Yet, not even the hot glow of the cigar could pierce the darkness that filled his robes. Charlotte weaved in and out of the crowd, humming a soft, childish tune that matched her personality well, murmuring the occasional word. Death was use to the looks by now. Everyone who passed by him gave the same watchful, fearful, pain stricken stare. It wasn’t like no one had seen Death before. Of course, it was different in the middle of a day, and at a train station—and following a twelve-year-old girl.

teacherwriter said...

Anna sniffed the air and sense the sour odor of sweat that carried an unfamiliar emotion along with it. Fear? Anger maybe. Something unsettling and perhaps even dangerous. She wasn't sure, but it caused her light to flicker. It felt strange to recall this human emotion; not so clearly that she understood it, but enough to remember how the heartbeat raced. Yes, she remembered that, and for whatever reason, it made her think of death.

Anonymous said...

Smithwick Irish Tail shook excitedly from his cold wet nose to the tip of his wiry tail which scythed the air behind him as Sean unlocked and opened the door to his apartment. Smitty, as he was more commonly called, was a male Boxer, muscular and taught, whose shoulders stood a bit higher than the top of Sean’s knees. Smitty’s ears, unpinned as a puppy, rested atop his head, one folded forward and the other backward in a curious sort of way, while his face, flattened by breeding, looked as though it bore a perpetual smile.

Doug M. said...

The alarm went off at eight o'clock, waking John from a fitful sleep. After pounding the snooze button into submission, he sat on the edge of his bed, holding his throbbing head in his hands. After a few minutes, however, John's pain faded and his mind cleared as he realized what day it was. "Today," he thought, "is the day it ends."

Anonymous said...

Twelve.

Lisa said...

He’d been hiding now for two days. The nightmare began after the dust settled from the latest storm to blow through. Then, the madness started. The onset was gradual, like a case of the flu coming on, but the epidemic spread like wildfire through rain starved grassland. As if all the soft tissue in their bodies could no longer be contained by their skin. The bleeding started at the obvious openings. After about three hours the skin cells started to deteriorate and the gore escaped that way. Death was inevitable.

Whitney said...

The noise is overwhelming, and Elizabeth doesn’t want to do anything except hold her hands over her ears and scream. People are yelling at her on the speakerphone, and if she doesn’t get the information in the next few minutes, one of her guys is going to die. One of them is going to be bleeding out on the pavement, and it’ll be her fault.

Henri said...

Jeff Burgundy stood before the massive, green, metal set of doors that provided entrance into the “Hotel Juarez” in Merida. On each side of him was a prison guard, for this was not your typical Mexican tourist accommodation, but instead, it was a part of the notorious, national penitentiary system. The old stone building had acquired its nickname from the high number of North American and European guests that had spent time within its thick, slabs of masonry. These unlucky visitors usually arrived with a bona fide recommendation from a local official and at least one witness to corroborate the story.

Christi said...

Her neighbor works with metal. She knows that because she’s seen him haul in sheets of it and wheelbarrows full of it. And, she’s heard the noise: the clanging, the pounding, the scraping of metal across concrete.

Tracy said...

When you’re the son of an alleged arsonist, there’s a built-in assumption. Even about fires that start while you’re twenty miles away at the conference track meet. Too bad I didn’t surprise everyone by entering and winning the 1500 that day, but since I showed up alone and didn’t run, my alibi’s for shit. Normally my dad would’ve been the number one suspect but I guess the police figured it was bad form to blame him for starting the fire that burned him. Instead they accused me: Pudgy Arson. Because in this town, when you think fire you think Larson.

Anonymous said...

"Kelly. Kelly Ann, I have to get in there!" My sister’s yell and loud rap on the bathroom door startled me. My toothbrush flew out of my hand. It flew up and looped around. Then everything seemed like one of those slow motion replays. I reached out to catch it but couldn’t move fast enough. Don’t tell me I didn’t try. I did. Especially when I realized where it was going.

Paul said...

Magic was the farthest thing from Katie Risken's mind as she navigated her way down the narrowing, uneven stairs to her grandfather's basement workshop. Her focus was something more tangible than magic. Adventure. Or rather, the never-ending quest to escape the mundane.

Hilabeans said...

Nathan’s gaze never left the rearview mirror. I studied him, my mysterious chauffer with black hair and icy eyes, while he peered at the landscape sliding into a blur behind us. Colors of fall, jewel tones of red and orange, merged with the gray of industrial San Mateo. He dove in between cars, weaving through the congested freeway as if being chased.

Myrna Foster said...

Jaavan was sitting in the library, searching through the Histories of Asterlea for something that would help him find the missing path, when Enrikos walked through the door.

Terri Tiffany said...

Lizzy Batron’s sandal-clad foot played with the accelerator like a teenager with a new license. Faster. She tightened her grip on the steering wheel and stomped the pedal. Lizzy catapulted past the scene of her three-year old crime as though Satan himself chased her.
Maybe he did.

Sarah Olutola said...

"Do you know what ‘masochism’ is?"

Sooper said...

Jonathan Otto sat in the back of a limo holding a bottle of vodka in one hand and a pair of woman’s size 2 skinny jeans in the other. He wondered how much more of the night he’d have to endure.

S.F. Robertson said...

An endless tunnel of faded yellow lockers greeted Jaxon as he stepped inside Callahan High. Stacked one atop the other, dented and rusting in places, they ran the full length of the main corridor. Decades ago they had probably been brightly colored, like marigolds, but the life had been sucked out of them. He could relate to those bruised, colorless lockers. The way they looked was the way he felt.

Veronica Barton-Dean said...

Madison drew in a deep breath. As she exhaled, she watched an eerie frost roll from her lips. The light from the moon was enough that she could see the path. The ground sounded as if it would shatter beneath her step. The field was full of small mounds that in the summer months would become tall cornstalks.

nikanors-inn said...

It was the mark that made Libertine kill herself. Academy was closed for three days to mourn her. The funeral frightened me. It was my first. We all wore black and the girls covered their hair. Bud told me it was tradition. She said, “When a girl child dies, it makes the spirits angry and in their impassioned confusion they are want to carry other girl children off to the world of the dead with them.” I did not know what impassioned meant.

John Jones said...

There are, Monroe thought afterward, those moments in one’s life when everything you’ve known until that point becomes incongruous with everything that follows, a kind of mental warp, which, if you were inclined to believe in parallel universes, might very well convince you that you had jumped the track.

Ligrana said...

Of the many reasons I had to commit suicide, the one that finally pushed me over the edge was the potato on the floor. The window was broken. There was a potato on the floor. Somebody had, in fact, thrown a potato through my window, and this mindless act of vandalism was in its very mindlessness more unbearable to me than the fact that my grandfather was dead, my university career was over, and I had just been sacked by the uncle who took over my grandfather's role in the family business.

Rosemary said...

On Padua Lane, they still talk about the night that Kate Minola kicked her cheating husband to the curb—according to town lore, her shrieks could be heard as far as Verona Avenue. No one was ever exactly sure how Kate found out about the affair, and no one dared ask her. But on the night in question, the quiet of Padua Lane suddenly erupted into a domestic volcano of Vesuvian proportions. The hot orange lava of Kate’s rage seeped out their windows, flowed out the doors, and ran down the street, singeing everything in its path.

janiece said...

I wake up, panting and sweating, momentarily disoriented. Looking around the moonlit room,
I remember where I am and lay back on my bed with a groan. Crap. Not again. It's the same nightmare. Night after night, it haunts me: I awaken on the morning of my sixteenth birthday, look into my mirror and I'm not there. I'm gone. I've disappeared and there's a stranger staring back at me.
Tragically, it isn't just a bad dream. It's real and it's true and it actually happened.

Arabella said...

Anna shivered in her brown felt jacket and worked her key in the lock that was as sticky as the wood was swollen. She pressed her shoulder against the door to break the seal caused by wet air. When she stepped into the studio, the back of her neck prickled with fear, and her tabby wailed, darted around her legs, and ran under the hide-a-bed. She slammed the door. It was the rainy season and dark at five in the afternoon. Outside, the lamps had begun to glow in their usual foggy way, with just enough light to cast shadows of the blackberry brambles on the curtains.

Rakhee said...

The summer I turned sixteen, my life changed because of a haunted house, a letter, a death, two girls, one old man, and six cows; though not in this order. Death came first.

Christa Brassington, said...

A winged figure perched on the roof of a convenience store. He set his eyes on a door at the far end of the dusty town square. When laughter erupted from a swarm of kids just under the eaves, his gaze remained steadfast.

Hmath said...

My stomach started growling at the sight of my keys, and I felt, for a second, like a trained animal. Cole, my super-genius best friend, used words like “association” to explain why my car keys symbolized real food, but I didn’t need an essay. I needed calories.

alisonwells said...

There is a moment, a space of time, in the held breath of spring-summer, when rose pink blossom clings lightly. When lime green leaves slip from their sheathes, tips of edible life, emerging. One morning when baby green shoots and the petals the colour of the inside of you are suspended against the deepest cyan blue. And the sun is shining. And that too is new, lemon new, was new, still a little bit new and the earth nudges on, so slightly until that one moment is passing, slipping and the quality of light deepens, just a shade, still promising, the length of the day still stretching on ahead, more ahead than past. A breeze slips in from the sea, slips in through open windows, sets the dust motes whirling. The tree stands, breathing, giving breath.

Theresa K. said...

Grace’s heart was racing. This can’t be happening, she thought. What were the odds? When she left him so many years ago, in her mind it was for good. After retreating to an overstuffed leather chair in the frequent flyer lounge she sat quietly with her head spinning. Old memories with conflicting emotions were flooding her thoughts. It had been almost 17 years since she last saw him. What was he doing in this airport? 50,000 travelers and over 500 flights go in and out of O’Hare daily - and they were going to be on the same flight. The thought made her stomach twist in a knot. Sweat began to bead up on Grace’s sun-kissed forehead as she pondered getting on the plane.

Kyle said...

Shortly before his wife left him, Harley Klose drove his family to his friend's cabin outside Watertown. There'd been a break in the bleak western New York winter and Harley thought he'd take advantage of the reemergence of the sun by getting away for a weekend with Jill and their baby daughter.

BB Sheehan said...

I always dream about baseball. Last night my mom was playing shortstop and I hit feeble ground ball after feeble ground ball that she kicked off the field like she was in a soccer match. She didn’t bother trying to pick them up with her fielder’s glove. Mom, at shortstop with her hands resting on her hips and her accusing eyes glaring at me for having such contempt of the maternal order to think that I could smack anything past her into the outfield. I woke up exhausted and tried to go back to sleep to wipe the dream away and conjure a better image in my brain.

AmyB said...

Janto was invisible, but not invulnerable. Though the incoming volley looked as if it would miss its mark, he flung up his shield just in case. Five cart-lengths ahead of him, the arrows smacked like hailstones against the cliff face and rebounded, spinning, into the chasm below.

P said...

What we needed was a good rain, a real gully-thumper. Big, mud-splattering drops splashing so fast and furious nothing could stand against them and they'd wash the brown haze from the sky and the poison from the land. A new beginning and an end to the last year of hell. There'd be enough water for my plants to grow straight and tall instead of all sick and stunted. And then I could hope we was going to be all right.

Karen said...

I’m on the fifth floor of the library, Trinity College, Dublin with the monk who ripped out the pages of the Book of Kells to hide the chalice in the nick of time. That’s the book you won’t see on parade. For a true display, skip the Long Room; check out the airport security room. Baby dolls with their heads screwed off. The teeth, tusks, the skins. Shelves of books with tabs in their spines. A hollowed out Gideon’s Bible filled with pills, vitamin pills. That was my contribution. Now who’s zooming who? They arrested the man in the pillbox hat with the pillbox Bible. You got your medicine Frank.What’s put me in mind of that is the notion that Frank, my nemesis is here right this moment. I know what that word nemesis means. Yesterday I saw a dog wearing a Donald Trump wig and a pinstriped waistcoat. Walking down Grafton Street and doing his business up against a lamp post right outside Bewleys Cafe. I get the message.

Anonymous said...

The nightmares are bad but they never wake me. The screams though, I always wake to the screams.

Jenny Whitehurst said...

What will I miss the most? It goes beyond enjoying her in my bed and loving her in my home. It’s the flecks of toothpaste she always manages to splatter on her side of the mirror, her bra hanging on the back of the bathroom door, her use of my razor, and the five bottles of shampoo she keeps in the shower. It’s the little things, the things that document our lives together, the things they’ll erase from my home when they take her to her new husband today. They do it all in the name of survival, but as I step into the shower, I am suddenly unable to buy that flimsy excuse. Something changed in the middle of the night. Some calm understanding and the beginning of a plan sprouted in my brain. Lathering up, I begin thinking over our only option. Yesterday it seemed we had two. Now we just have one, and as I notice a fine layer of my wife’s deodorant under the blades of my Schick, I decide to skip shaving. We are going to run, and there isn’t time.

Poetry of Flesh said...

They told me to write what I know. A decided lack of the Cinderella story: a tale of sweat-slicked skin, scraping teeth, pawing hands, and the brutality of tongue is what I dangled over their waiting mouths. Greedily, they snapped at it, parasitic eyes hungry for the vicarious experience of a life so very outside of their own. Now this, this is my offering, and that lofted glass slipper is not included.

Nancy said...

In a sea of early memory, there is nothing before this: the beat of my older sister's blond curly head on the wall of our room. I am awakened in my crib by the steady bam ... bam.I look at the cracks on the ceiling and the blue wall. I stand at the rail of the crib and call out wordlessly to her. Bam. After a long time, Daddy comes in. "Quiet now, Janie. Quiet." He picks me up. "Come on, Nancy," and I watch my world from way up there as he closes the door. Down the hall. Big Daddy shoes clump down stairs. I see wooden floors and a dark living room. But then a bright dining room where Mommy, not smiling at me, sits with her guests around the table. Then she's walking with me across the front lawn all the while saying nice sing song and tying a clothes line around my waist and the other end to a big tree. She's laying me firmly on the crib mattress and telling me "nap." And when I stand up, she flattens me again even firmer. "No. You nap now." And then she is gone. I feel bits of my fluffy insides begin to boil up and float away and the tether comes untied. I walk around the other side of the hedge where I lie triumphant on the warm, sunny sidewalk. I watch the little squares in the cement. There are little red berries that almost fit in those squares. I slumber there. I hear about this as I grow older. How panicked Mommy and our maid, Georgia were that afternoon.

Jenna said...

Sometimes what I dream is clouded in symbolism, like the books they make us read in English class. Other times I dream about things exactly as they will happen. Most of the time I can tell the difference. Like the time I dreamt Trent Lockwood blasted off in a red and blue rocket ship, waving good-bye for the first ten seconds then smiling a big clown smile right before it blew up. I knew it was symbolic, but I didn't know what it all meant until a week later when Trent smashed into a tree going eighty miles an hour right in front of Amanda Bane’s house. The toxicology reports didn't find drugs or alcohol in his system. The crash site baffled the investigators. No one at school was baffled. Everyone knew exactly why Trent Lockwood crashed into the fat oak tree in front of 763 Cedar Lane.

Kendra Kearns said...

Friends benefit from the luxury of being able to push the envelope with each other. There is a grave price to pay however, when you cross the line. Sue-Ellen heard the rumor, internalized it, and passed it along anyway.

Vicki said...

Eldridge’s heart constricted. From the crude wooden bed, frail hands begged him closer. The scrape of the small stool he sat upon as he moved closer sliced upon his already flagging nerves. His mother clutched the sleeve of his dull gray servant garment, eyes aged by illness held his as death spoke words that changed the living forever. “The Count, he is your Dah.”

DeborahB said...

The two weeks were over and what she had to tell him could be put off no longer. Kate Callahan dropped her pencil, shut her sketchbook and prepared to run. Experience told her defying a man’s wishes was not always wise. “I’ve decided to hang you,” she said.

Stephanie said...

Something truly weird and dangerous is happening in my school’s library. You may or may not believe me when I tell you this, but if you are planning to go to Carlton Elementary School, well, don’t. Lie to your parents, ask to be home schooled, or run away. Do anything so you won’t have to face the dangers I’m facing. on the other hand, if you’re the type of person who enjoys risking your life, being shot at, and laughs in the face of danger? Well, it’s been nice talking to you. You probably won’t be around much longer.

mabehre said...

He found it. Just as he knew he would. A personal ad on a website scanned daily by thousands of people desperate to find their soul mates. The lovelorn…pathetic sheep. He could almost smell the intoxicating scent of his next venture.

C.Lucas said...

I have a brilliant idea for a book: it’s a guide called How to Survive a New School. I figure it’s a guaranteed best-seller. I’ll be flooded with thank-you letters from kids and parents. The back cover will have quotes from people saying things like “This is the most important book I’ve ever read!” and “I wouldn’t have lasted a week at my new school without this book!” Such a book might – and I know this is stretching it, but a guy can dream, right? – it might even win me a Nobel Prize for saving the lives of kids everywhere. I know this because I desperately wish I had such a book in my hands right now.

LarryK said...

She bent over the sink, washing blood off her hand. The engraved invitation tucked in her uniform pocket had been dodging in and out of her thoughts all morning, a provocative distraction not conducive to working with sharp objects. After several months without mishap, she had already pricked herself with a needle twice today. Not a great way to kick off the new year.

Kerri Ladish said...

The halls of my junior high were louder the day after my father died, full of audible whispers comprising a cacophony of sympathy I was not ready to accept, not ready to hear echoing off lockers I once looked forward to opening daily. Strangers looked at me with tears in their eyes. Teachers spoke gently, pulled me aside before and after classes to offer condolences. "Was there anything they could do?" they asked a little too loudly. I despised their gentleness. I abhorred being special in the way I now was. Every teenager wants to be recognized, to be noticed, to be praised for exceptional test scores, for record-breaking attendance, for unparalleled athletic ability. No one wants to be the girl without a father.

Marianne said...

She had never felt so cold in her entire life.

The spine of the feather was fringed with beautiful white bristles, and if held a certain way to the light, it echoed a spectrum of colors. She cradled the downy keepsake between trembling fingers, lips numb from winter’s frigid kiss. It was painful holding it, seeing it. The wounds still felt so fresh that it was difficult to fathom that they had lingered for three years. To believe she had actually been loved, and the gods had taken that away from her.

Lin52 said...

Maida buried her face in the white horse’s abundant mane and cried, the tears tracing rivulets down the bright blue sacred spirals painted on his shining coat. She knew Ceadda's fate by sundown tomorrow was likely to be to follow his mistress down into the dark world and she didn’t know how she would bear it. An unseemly sob escaped her, much like the one that day that seemed so far in the past, but which really was less than a fortnight.

julief said...

I watched my reflection, distorted a bit in the window of the car that was parked in front of me, take a drag of a cigarette. My face was all in shadow. It could be almost anyone in that reflection. A stranger with hollow eyes and knited brows. I twisted my head, as I considered the woman. My grandmother in the chin, my mother in the scowl. My sister…well, I couldn’t even imagine Allie in shadow. She wasn’t there, no part of her I could see in me. I don’t even know why I thought about her.

Alexandra said...

Quilliam Elmond stared into his empty tankard and pondered the weighty matter of whether he should have it refilled. If he did, he might forget, briefly, about his impending induction into the Pyresian military, the fate of any unfortunate youngest son in a noble family that had too many younger sons. If he didn't, he stood a chance of waking the next morning without a blistering headache.

Thanks for holding this contest!!

France or bust said...

The April dawn was suffused with an eerie emptiness. Tea-stained shadows became thinner as small slivers of sunlight broke through the morning. Butterflies of excitement began to bedevil me as I watched the seafaring crowd approach the ship. Large tears fell from my dark eyes as I stepped onto the vessel called the S/S Egypt. This ominous ship was docked at the Port of New York in 1869. It was advertised as the largest passenger liner in the world. Massive pinewood planks led me onboard to what looked like endless railings, corridors and scattered chairs. The muted light on the starboard side began to spread across a white metallic staircase when I slipped on something hard.

France or bust said...

The April dawn was suffused with an eerie emptiness. Tea-stained shadows became thinner as small slivers of sunlight broke through the morning. Butterflies of excitement began to bedevil me as I watched the seafaring crowd approach the ship. Large tears fell from my dark eyes as I stepped onto the vessel called the S/S Egypt. This ominous ship was docked at the Port of New York in 1869. It was advertised as the largest passenger liner in the world. Massive pinewood planks led me onboard to what looked like endless railings, corridors and scattered chairs. The muted light on the starboard side began to spread across a white metallic staircase when I slipped on something hard.

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