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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Joanne F said...

For all that is light there is an equal measure of dark. Marjorie didn’t know this yet. To her, the world was filled with light, her best friend, the swim team, and the boy that made her heart stop every time he looked at her. She hadn’t awakened to the dark but all that was about to change. Many things were awakening in her world and not all were light.

MonkeyBethMedia said...

I thought my life was shit until I started seeing her…seeing her around every corner with a new clue. I mistakenly believed that life couldn’t get much worse, but it always seemed to find a way to prove me wrong. Originally, it was her hair that caught my eye. I've always liked red hair. As a little girl, I surrounded myself with it. All my dolls had red hair, even the plastic ponies that I collected. Everything red, back when I had nice things. I never knew why, until now.

pippa said...

The voices around me are blurred, muted. They come at me in waves, shoving me back under each time I think I'm surfacing. “... hospice... please... can't... leave...” They talk about me and around me, the voice-water breaking over me again and again, pushing me down, down. There is dark, and it tempts me with its warm embrace, so different than the cold I'd expected. I strain to find one voice I want to hear more than any other, but it flits through the dark. I reach for it, trying desperately to hold on, but I cannot find it. I'm afraid. I'm not ready. I must not let go.

TINA said...

(from my WIP memoir)

Go ahead and call me paranormally paranoid, but sharing my home with a multitude of disembodied spirits, I feel as if I’m under the constant watch of invisible voyeurs. Long gone are the days of happily prancing around my house in nothing more than what God gave me the day I was born. Now I feel compelled to throw on an old chin-to-ankle chenille robe just to sneak down to the kitchen for a midnight snack. I live in total fear that masses of sanctimonious resident ghosts are gut-chuckling behind my back as they criticize my sagging boobs and flabby ass.

Jenna said...

Grey eyes shone and the thick scent of blood filled the air. Leaving the guards where they fell, Adolphus pulled Bala through the gate and into the shadows cast by walls built to keep them in. Time was running out. If they didn’t make it to the clearing before the corpses were found, they wouldn’t be the only ones to die. If they failed, all of Adonia would fall. Everything they had worked so hard to attain would finally be lost, crushed by the powerful fist of the corrupt king and his bloodthirsty reign.

T.K. Thorne said...

My name, Na’amah, means pleasant or beautiful. I am not always pleasant, but I am beautiful. Perhaps that is why I am trundled atop this beast like a roll of hides for market and surrounded by grim-faced men. If my captors had bothered to ask me, I would have told them that their prize is of questionable value because my mind is damaged. But they did not, and I lie draped, belly down, across the back of an auroch, a large black ox with an eel stripe that runs down his spine and a stench worse than a rutting goat. My mouth is parched and swollen with dried blood, and every step the animal takes sends a jolt of pain into my chest. Snatches of ground appear between the cloven hooves—a succession of earth, grass, and rock obscured by the dark tangle of my hair—all I have to measure the growing distance from the life I have known.
NOAH'S WIFE - tkthorne.com

colealpaugh said...

Webster Jon Widgy streaked down the right sideline, waving his good arm, screaming for the soccer ball to be passed. He was clearly offside by twenty yards, but even the most heartless referee let play go on, especially for a team with four young lepers already down by a dozen goals.

Kevin said...

“Will he live?”

The two men stood outside Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport, dressed in the urban camouflage uniforms of the riot police. The older of the two, with streaks of grey in his beard, stopped scanning the crowds to look where the younger man was pointing. He raised his hand, shielding his eyes from the glaring sun. Through the crowd of passengers with their luggage, cars with their doors open, and taxis trolling for fares, he saw the young, clean shaven man in his early 30’s walking through the swarm. The older man stared, and his partner shuddered when a well tanned brunette in a sleeveless, yellow dress wrapped the visitor in a warm embrace.

Smiles said...

Driving the point home was something that Jeremy was exceptional at. Realizing the actual point was something he failed dismally at. A sophist in presentation, a philosopher in mind. This meant that once Jeremy had concluded his argument, nobody could ever work out what the hell he was on about. Jeremy always thought that 'Jizzer' was his friends' jovial play on 'Jezzer', even though most, if not all of them believed it aptly described the crap that could come out of him.

Bridget said...

My father stopped speaking one day in 1976, and didn’t say a word for almost four years. But that wasn’t the crazy part. He broke his vow of silence with the exclamation, “Baloney!” right there in the Temple. But that wasn’t the crazy part, either. During our first conversation after that, he told me he’d left my mother after twenty-two years of marriage. The crazy part was that none of it seemed crazy.

de la O said...

I propped myself up in bed, reached for my glass of water, and started to think about my next move. That’s when I saw it, a small beam of light pointing at my heart. I froze, the images of events that had happened a mere twenty-four hours ago blazed lucid in my mind. Was I going to be the next one? Is this what I had trained for? I didn’t realize that it was going to be over so quick, so quiet and with none of the scenarios I had practiced my head. I looked around my bedroom trying to find the hired assassin. There was no doubt in my mind, that in a brief moment I’ll be dead. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed my laptop at the end of the bed. I remembered being exhausted and how I had hurled my body down last night. I must have knocked the mouse on its side. That’s what’s reflecting the infrared beam to my heart. I relaxed and took a safe, deep breath, threw my down comforter back off my legs and rolled out of bed. I grabbed the mouse and flipped it back onto my laptop when I felt a cold, strangling pressure around my neck. Everything went dark.

de la O said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GLP said...

No adults heard the sharp yell followed by the splash of water, and the kids who were around at the time quickly ran for the hills once they saw that what was happening was no longer a laughing matter. Water is one of those unpredictable substances that can look cool, clean and inviting one minute, and dark, scary and treacherous the next. Your outlook is most times directly proportional to your ability to swim, and Antonio Villareal could not swim at all.

jjshannon said...

Shivering like crazy, I sat all scrunched up on the small window ledge in the Orthopedic Pavilion. But the night air smelled too good to move. It was totally opposite the air on my ward--the lousy hospital air I'm talking about--that smells like everybody's getting a shot half the time. Not to mention the germs. There's a million germs flying around in the lousy hospital air. They get on everything. You've got to watch out for them, except you can't see them to watch out. You might as well try to watch out for ghosts.

Loribelle Hunt said...

Twilight. Her favorite part of the day. That last peaceful bit of daylight before the bogeymen came out. Funny how the edge of the day had been awakening the memory of her merging ceremony so often of late. Or maybe it wasn’t.

Kozmos said...

The first time I put my thumb out to catch a ride I was eight years old. I had a smile on my face if only because I didn’t know what else to do as I stood up off the fire hydrant where I had been sitting when I saw the car coming. I lived in a quiet residential neighborhood and I was tired of walking up the steep hill in the hot sun to my house on Vista Lane. I put my thumb high in the air as the car approached. The woman driving could hardly believe what she was seeing. I could tell she was shocked because she pulled over so fast. My heart was racing as I ran to the car. At just over four feet tall, the door handle was high, and in the 1950s car doors were heavy. When I got to the car, which was on a slight incline, I had a hard time opening the door. Finally getting the door open I climbed into the car and looked at her. I could see the surprise in her eyes; her mouth was open and her head cocked. I was scared yet I felt safe. It was my first ride and I could hardly believe I’d caught it. I reached out to the open door and pulled on the arm rest to close it.

jill said...

The body hung suspended from the warehouse beam, his feet dangling just below Lea's eye level. He'd been found late this morning and officers of the City Guard were waiting for her permission before cutting him down for the autopsy. Cause of death was obvious -- a cable wrapped around his neck and a kicked-over crate off to the side. She could smell the blood that trickled from his neck over the smell of fresh lumber that filled the warehouse.

Terralee said...

I lay rest in the shadow of a pine tree biding my time. I have mixed feelings when events like these take place. It’s interesting, truly fascinating to watch the life of someone. A human’s joy can bring me joy. But a human’s joy also brings the sadness as well. It is tormenting to know the pain I will surely bring to those that love this creature, this human being. Maybe that is my penance? Though I don’t know why I would have one. This is simply my obligation, it’s who I am. How can I be suppressed to any thought but duty, when I know this is the reason I exist? The senses I possess screams it from every silhouette, I am a shadower.

Yamile said...

Don’t touch that. Stop asking questions. Why did you have to look? These were the most usual phrases Rosemary had heard all her short life. If her curiosity was affected by these rebukes, she certainly didn’t show it.

mkat said...

It’s almost time.A crumpled pile of clothes lie at my feet as I stand naked in the snow. Above me is the Moon, voluptuous and full, nearly at her zenith. Despite the crisp air and fresh spring snow, I’m burning up. Warm rays stream down on me, pulling at my insides. A gentle tingle in my abdomen has grown into a fire pulsating through my veins. I plunge my feet in an icy stream. It’s a poor attempt to cool my fiery blood. The Change is coming fast. I want to slow its progress. This time I want keep control over my mind.

Julie said...

His entrance at nine-thirty sharp—-half an hour before closing—-dashed my hopes of cutting short the miserable day.

Wes Hemings said...

At six feet, four inches and 225 pounds, airplane seats are only more comfortable than the electric chair, given the death factor, of course. Shomari and I touched down in Miami, we tried to get a little sleep on the plane since we stayed up all night so as not to miss our red eye flight. Sleep deprivation meant finding fun ways to kill time, I had to teach him what it looks like to win at chess. He contested my last victory since we ran out of time, apparently five pawns, a rook and a knight are no match for three out of position pawns and a king, anymore.

Victoria said...

The act of disrobing ignites a small tension in the studio, heightened by the way it’s underplayed, a collusion between artist and subject in the fiction that this is a perfectly routine gesture, with no element more personal than an arrangement of objects for a still life. Under the surface runs a current of expectation toward the body to be unveiled. But the sentiment is, with rare exception, masked in quiet professional curiosity about the problems of light and shade, volumes and balance soon to be posited and tackled.

Transitoria666@hotmail.com said...

Bosnia, 1994- Two years into the war.

Each shot had to count. Alaga sighted carefully along the barrel of a rusty rifle. Bullets were scarce and more valued than gold, but still more valuable was the meat he hoped to bring home. His vision blurred and he rubbed a grimy hand across his eyes, forcing them to focus. Hunger, fatigue or hatred caused the head of a large, brown rat to morph into the face of the soldier who had changed his life forever. He steadied himself, sighted again, then, squeezed the trigger, separating the rodent’s head from its body. Yes! Tonight they would have meat to celebrate Zlata’s birthday.

Mike O said...

As Emil Winton inserted the key into his shop door, he twisted his head around to face the Southern California waters that tourist paid plenty of travel expenses to glimpse. The palm reader smiled as he took in the waves, sand, and piers that lured his clientele to Ocean Park and its popular amusement zone. Despite being past middle age and making his living here six days a week, the man still had a child’s glee for the beach. Entering his shop a few minutes before 9:00 a.m., Emil Winton could have no clue of what this January 6th day of 1924 would ultimately cost him. A fire had started that would set into motion events that would bring the palmist his troubles.

Marci said...

Lucienne covered her mouth, muffling a gasp of despair. Her glacier blue eyes dripped icy tears as she stood in the cabin's doorway. "Papa," she whispered. "What have you done?"

MJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kat said...

It happened while I was at the pool. But you're not supposed to know that.

Anonymous said...

Melvin Swain's life had clicked along effortlessly until the Great Funk hit him. Melvin had been one of the fortunate ones, touched by an uneventful existence. There was a job that easily paid for a home-sweet-home (with a reasonable mortgage and a yard relatively free of crabgrass), a pantry filled with groceries (organic when possible), unbounded summer vacations (in an almost-paid-for timeshare), automobile leases (his and hers), and there was always a wallet filled with credit cards that made every dream within reach with barely a stretch. Populating Melvin's world was a wife (still fairly attractive), two kids (one of each), and a lap dog (mixed breed) that paid more attention to Melvin than the rest of the world ever did. Suffice to say, Melvin might have been classified a happy man. Except for one fact: He never stopped to consider happiness or if he possessed it. Instead, he simply clicked along, on schedule and never veering off-track, just like the miniature train at the zoo; the one he used to love taking his children to visit; the one they no longer go to see. Not since the Great Funk came along and crapped on Melvin's head.

Michael Varma, author of Tasteful Toasts said...

Last June I witnessed the most tragic toast I had ever seen in my thirty years as professional party planner. The best man, who by all accounts was sober, grabbed the microphone and proceeded to embarrass everyone at the reception. His voice boomed throughout the ballroom as he began, “There once was a bride from France,” and after concluding the off-color limerick he forged on, “And there once was a groom from Nantucket.” The guests were not amused. The newlyweds, their parents and grandparents were mortified. This soon to be ex-friend must have thought his humor would be enjoyed by all, but he was sorely mistaken. He should have followed the three B’s for delivering a successful toast.

Mark said...

Survival of the fittest makes beauty the essence of life as beauty never dies... It was when he looked the Mona Lisa in the eye that he felt it for the first time. His breathing became heavy, his heartbeat raced. He was dizzy with excitement and love and passion and wonder. He couldn’t move; he didn’t want to, he wanted to be in it, to be closer. He just wanted to understand it; he wanted to ease her sadness or enjoy her happiness, he wanted to see what her lover was doing; he wanted to see what she was seeing. He couldn’t believe that this little painting had the power to move him in this way.

Jonas Samuelle said...

It’s safe to say that Holliday was no saint. In fact, I’m pretty sure he was the underdog candidate in the antichrist election, but I loved him just the same. He could open his throat to swallow a whole beer while winking at a waitress and smoking a cigarette. It sounds impressive, until you consider the kind of life you’d have to lead to be doing any of those well enough that you’re wowing strangers.

Just Joany said...

Dodger leaned angrily over his paper as his hand flew to draw the wild scene before him. Propped up on the stool, his legs wrapped tightly around the rungs, he savored the deep anger that boiled within him. Slash! A line cut across his paper as he drew shooting action from a bomber to a ship below. Zing! Another line cut from a submarine to an enemy battleship. Blooey! A bomb exploded in mid-air.

Just Joany
http://redwagonflights.blogspot.com

MJ said...

With the side of my face resting on the toilet seat, hands gripping the base of the bowl, I gazed into the water below, waiting to be swept into a vision of the future. The ammonia of stale urine pressed into my nostrils, but I didn’t want to move. The toilet had me anchored, ceramic bleeding cool against my skin, the padded seat cradling my skull. From this angle, though, my future still looked like vomit.

Nicholas Bradley said...

Rickie Trujillo didn’t watch the boy Gabriel as he spoke about his father. He didn’t want to see the tears and anger twisting Gabriel’s face into an ugly mask or hear the anguish strangling the boy’s voice. Rickie kept his eyes on the counselor, Jean Hartsfield. He watched her eyes, even as the kid was losing it and choking on his snot. He watched and waited.

Nicholas said...

Rickie Trujillo didn’t watch the boy Gabriel as he spoke about his father. He didn’t want to see the tears and anger twisting Gabriel’s face into an ugly mask or hear the anguish strangling the boy’s voice. Rickie kept his eyes on the counselor, Jean Hartsfield. He watched her eyes, even as the kid was losing it and choking on his snot. He watched and waited.

Betty Dobson said...

Kevan adjusted his dust filter and swept a layer of ash off his goggles. Little improvement. The sky still danced a dirty swirl in every direction. Grey wind swept across grey water and disappeared into the dark. He wondered again at the need for Watchers in such poor visibility. Anyone foolish enough to approach Citadel Island might just as soon run aground on McNab's Barrier without ever gaining the harbour. Not even the Bostonians would be so reckless.

Anne Helen Jupiter said...

If Death had a face, she was looking at it. And it wanted to make love to her.
“I love you. I could never live without you.” Robert kissed her cheek.
He pressed himself against her. She braced herself. The pain would come. She never knew exactly when, only that it would.

Debra said...

Dammit! I tried again to start the stupid Corolla, but the engine wouldn't turn over. The thing liked to act up whenever I needed to go somewhere important. I'd almost been late for my SATs because of it. And now, of course, the car wouldn't start because I was trying to get to the hospital where my mom was in labor. Or, as her boyfriend, Brent, wrote on the fridge note I saw as soon as I came home from school, "Your mothers in laber! Help!" I hoped the baby wouldn't get Brent's grammar skills.

Toni Kenyon said...

I felt as if I were in the presence of Christ himself. The roar of the helicopter’s engine abated only enough for the sound of the screaming thousands of fans who were packed like small sheep into a medieval holding paddock to reach my ears. The 14th Century castle looking once again as if its multitude of subjects had flocked to be with their king. In a way, they had and I felt a surge of privilege and pride to be walking beside the focus of their adoration and frenzy.

Mr. Andrew J. Avalos said...

I saw a man die today. His face had split apart, skin like banana peels dangled from his ruined flesh. I coiled in the corner of the prison shower, as they stomped on his bones. He was marked, just like me when I first arrived. The inmates had pinned me down, beating me in the stomach as I gasped for air. They tattooed me with a rusty needle, spilling ink and urine all over my face. Crude, crooked letters now hang across my forehead, “Death to Trash”, signified in initials. I am marked as a rapist; accused by a woman’s husband, who caught us in our affaire. My death will be tortuous, but the anticipation is worse. I don’t want to be like that man in the showers; my blood spinning down the drain like peppermint candy, emitting a rotting odor.

Fiona said...

The night wraps itself around them, warm as a brother’s skin, liquid as a woman’s womb. The scent of her layers itself on the humid air: the musk of her sex, the salty tang of her sweat, the sweet metal of her blood. The dizzying, erotic flavor of her fear.

Erik Hedstrom said...

It was a sweeping landscape, the kind that took your breath away and drew you into its folds. Folds of deep blue sky lying down on the curve of the earth where the horizon meets the untamed sea. Folds of sandstone cliffs that rise and fall with the waves of golden green hills that want to spill over and onto the beaches and into the sea. Hills that are bathed in sunshine, dressed in fog, and seasoned with a salted wind. This was the place where Sari's greatest regret would eventually come to press her down. Pinning her to the earth and pierce her through and through.

T. Phillips said...

Sarkin felt before he saw. Pain filled every corner of his being and it was an effort just to open his eyes. The sun shone high as it heated the bodies he laid amongst, bringing the foul stench of death to its gut wrenching zenith. He dared a look around causing the pain in his head to scream. The battlefield was filled with bodies and not one of them moved or stood upright. He didn’t need to look closer to know that his tribe had been slaughtered. Slowly he propped himself up. Smoke rose from the horizon confirming the destruction of his village. For once he was thankful that his mother had died years ago so she would not have had to endure the rape and torture of the invaders or witness her family’s defeat.

d. w. fry said...

Sixty seconds before I saw flaming snowflakes, Leroy rapped on the window pane. Big Bertha, the screaming floor buffer, chewed his words along with the wax on the chemistry closet floor. I let go of the handlebar and cupped my ear—the one sans the bud. “Lewis, that wax stripper is slick as snot. Be ready to dance." I nodded, as the Bee-Gees squealing from my iPod agreed, that indeed, I should be dancing. But as I triggered Bertha for another round, she jumped the half-moon doorstop with 1500 rpm of buffing love. Not cool. Like an Israelite standing in the part of the Red Sea, I was surrounded by an amorphous swirl of liquids, currently contained. But more like an Egyptian charioteer, I panicked. Forgetting to release the handle, the pinball action of the buffer invited every container in the closet to the dance. That’s when I saw the corroded flask totter and fall. It began snowing, a blue snow, with flakes that burned like welding sparks.

G Euge said...

I can’t remember when I first wanted to save everyone. It was in the third grade, I think. I’d sit at my desk and daydream about saving all the girls in my classroom, well, that and getting to the kickball before anyone else when the bell rang at recess. I didn’t care much about learning my times tables or anything like that. What I cared about was the classroom catching fire so I could get everyone out, one by one. Or a tornado touching down on the playground. Sometimes I’d imagine something simple like me giving a boy or a girl a drink of water or a bite of my peanut butter and jelly sandwich right before they were about to starve to death. But none of those things ever happened. So one day I decided to take things into my own hands.

Betsy Hammer said...

No respect. Not from the damned gilt elevator that had scuffed her shoe. Not from the mouth-breathing Times reporter that was currently staring down the bodice of her evening gown. Charlotte wouldn’t have minded so much, except that she’d already given him the fake, back-the-hell-up smile. If a guy doesn’t get the smile, then he can take a subtle peek. In this case, he was stealing. Stealing. Charlotte tucked her hair behind her ear and concentrated on looking solemn while the Warden finished reading the inmate’s last remarks.

Masonian said...

I knew she was a Seer from the moment she walked into the room. They are easy to spot if you just keep in mind that they always know what will happen next. Sure they are trained to hide their tells—and this one was certainly well-trained, drilled in all the monotonous manners of the unsuspecting, unseeing masses to hide her ability. But she was still human, or as human as synthetic DNA can be, and seeing her stand in front of elevator #3 long before one of the ham-fisted bodyguards even pressed the call button only told me what I already knew. She was the Seer, and she was going to hate me.

tys said...

The vacant block in the southern Swamps isn’t Mark Lawton’s idea of a great meeting place, but his brother, Doug, knows the xetamine chef better than Mark does. The ground is spongy with standing puddles, staining his Japanese leather shoes. Abandoned hydro-towers creak, and the first rays of sun slice through the skeleton of a derelict wind turbine. Mark fidgets with the holster of his gun, while his brother stares out beyond the buildings to where Botany Bay brews the city’s pollution into algae soup.

malacara said...

Atop a hill a spyglass pressed against an eye that had seen more deaths than most people have seen people. Behind that eye was a brain slowly laboring away under a habitual difficulty with numbers. Was the army across the valley two thousand strong? Was it three thousand? What did the greatest warrior in the world care for estimates anyway?

Cat_d_Fifth said...

Eight-year old Méridien kneeled on her knees before the hearth in the kitchen at the fortress-castle of Montségur. The room was dark and silent, with only the crackling of logs interrupting the peace. Making sure she was alone, she thrust her hands into the fire and watched entranced as they turned instantaneously into large tongues of flames. Feeling neither pain nor fear, Méridien moved her arms, and saw the fire of the hearth blaze in response. Bright blue flames glowed where her hands should be. She then withdrew her arms from the heat, to see them turn back into human hands in a heartbeat. Smiling widely, she thrust them into the fire again.

Lisa Strømme said...

The end of the story was all she could think about. That part was easy. They would escape, of course. They had to. It was the bit in between that was causing all the problems. He always wanted to know the 'how's, the 'where to's and the 'ever afters's. And now Mr Hitler was coming. Tonight, they said, in the dark and without warning. It was dark now as she clung to the windowsill, splinters piercing her knees and hands. She craned her neck up towards the metallic sky and prayed for the bombs to fall. Mr Hitler is coming Benji, she thought, and he's going to save us.

scribe said...

I knew it was going to be a bad day when a samurai in full gear burst into third period and sliced my science book in half, just missing my thumbs. He leaned forward, smelling like fried fish, and yelled at me with his best samurai voice. It was guttural, deep and low as he sucked in air, then went high like he sat on a cat. Hurt my ears, man. The worst part though? Nobody noticed.

Babydoll said...

Two ruby red orbs shine from the darkness. Corbin Wilson has gone fishing after dark at Kay Pond for years and has never seen anything like them before. In all his years of wandering these woods, there’s never been an animal with the same flaming irises as the ones he is staring into now.

Ego said...

My name is Cynthia Hegarty. I'm a private investigator in the City of London. I used to be a computer programmer until someone killed my boss. That put me off.

Erica M said...

I skirted the six-foot statue of Merlin, cuffed my long hair in one hand and leaned over the counter, eyeing the constellation of amulets and talismans under the glass. Guess I should have known better than to think Liz would hand out normal bridesmaids' gifts. You know, the usual pearl earrings or engraved curio box — bribery to appear in public wearing some sweetheart pink taffeta confection, with dyed-to-match shoes that doubled as instruments of torture.

Jen Black said...

Matho Spirston stood at the door of the tiny cottage athwart the hill at Halton and surveyed the countryside with pleasure. Small and poor though the cottage might be, it was a start. He folded his arms, leaned idly against the door jamb in the late sunshine and gazed south. The roof of Aydon Castle, where he had spent so much of his life, was visible above the tree tops beyond the meadows. Further south, the hills of Durham rose like a humped blue quilt across the horizon and somewhere in between, the river Tyne ran unseen west to east through the valley.

ChrisB said...

Before Maire could fret anymore over her father going, he was gone and she, Mam and her sisters were packing up their meagre possessions and loading them and themselves onto the weekly bus to Motherwell. She paused in the doorway of number ten Store Place and looked around at the one room where she’d been born and seen her sisters arrive, and her brothers depart, and it had not changed in all of the years. Not a new stick of furniture marked any outward sign of elevation in their circumstances. Yet hadn’t Mam been saying as long as she could remember that any week now they’d be getting one them newer houses at the west end of the village. Some with two rooms even and a scullery, a few even boasted a water closet, instead scooting in the ice of winter down to the dry midden privy in the backyard and fidgeting all the while you sat perched on the wooden spar wondering if you’d get frost bite in your nether regions and racing to finish before you did.

SDM said...

No matter how nicely someone asks, when they have the point of a sword over your throat, they're not really asking at all. His words carried no malice; perhaps he intended none. Either way, it left me dead if I failed to cooperate. His lips curled back into an enthusiastic predator's smile, fangs showing. That scared me even more than the sword.

Victoria said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John said...

As a boy, Dan was plagued by a recurring dream. An old man with a dimple in his chin, wearing a dirty beige trench coat and flat cap, was riding a grey scooter. It had two wide wing-mirrors on the handlebars and was travelling down the Hurst Road to Walton. The man went to overtake a parked car when it suddenly moved off from the kerb without signalling, locking their wing-mirrors together. As the man desperately tried to push the car away with his hand, the buckle on his sleeve became hooked by the entwined mirrors. As the scooter disappeared under the car, the man was thrown forwards under the front wheel and dragged for some distance before ending up in the gutter. In the dream the man sometimes had Dan’s face and other times it was the face of a man in a photo by his Grandma’s bed. The dream returned to him.

Clarity said...

Jenny turned to see a man in a raincoat stealing through the crowd. She dipped her sugar cube in her cappuccino three times while watching him from the cafe across the street. His eyes fixated on an invisible horizon, his lips set in a determined line. It was him, there was no doubt about it. She got up from her table to follow him. The soaked sugar cube lay next to the untouched cup. The man seemed unaware that this would be the last day of one of their lives.

Victoria said...

Ropes slapped against the scaffold and the crowd surged, pressing against the platform. When blood sprayed across the stained corpsewood boards the mob would wipe their hands and faces in it, claiming good fortune. Onryn took a deep breath, inhaling tangy salt air and the tang of sea serpent. This wasn’t how she’d planned to die. This would not be a good death. A good death came in an aged bed, while she smiled and held someone’s hand, someone who loved her. A better death came in battle, while her knives sang and her sword turned dark with enemy blood. Worse, it wasn’t even a good a day for dying. No one should be allowed to leave the world on a day so beautiful, with a wide blue bowl of sky hanging over the Keep. No, there was a way out of this. She just had to work out what it was. She had slip blades in her boots, throat knives sewn into her sleeves, a garrotte in her waistband and a dagger in her hair. She had choices.

A. W. Nutter said...

CHAPTER ONE
DARKNESS
A.W. NUTTER
 
Darkness slowly overtakes the day
Time to bow our heads and pray
Demons of the dark taking flight
Blood thirsty monsters that own the night

Hearing the screams of loved ones crying
People are left bleeding and dying
Sunshine cascades over the roof tops
All grows quiet as the carnage stops

Evil cannot exist in the presence of light
Satan’s daughters slinking out of sight
A few hours peace before they rise again
Children of Eve suffering for the original sin

My trembling hand grasped the worn brass doorknob it rotated slowly under my touch. As the door swung open I wondered why it had been left unlocked. Either this was a trick, or Sis decided to help me escape. I stepped out of my prison cell they called a bedroom and into the hallway I had seen when they first brought me here. A faded memory brought to mind as I viewed the long corridor leading to the living room and freedom. Moving quietly down the hall I concentrated on making absolutely no sound. This would be my one and only chance at escape. If they discovered me I would be killed without hesitation, the same way they killed my mom and dad. Who was going to take care of me if I did manage to escape? Nana and papa were the only ones I had left. Would they remember me, or even want me after so long a time had passed? It didn’t make any difference, I needed to be away from the lunatic that keeps calling me Luther and forces me to call her Mother. Freedom was only a few steps away, throwing caution aside I raced to the front door and stepped outside for the first time in two years. Filling my lungs with the frigidly cold air of winter heightened my excitement. The thrill was short lived as reality started to creep in. With nothing on but a ragged pair of shorts I wouldn’t last long in this unforgiving environment. I was fortunate I wasn’t trying to escape completely naked. Barefoot, shirtless, the shorts were all I owned and they had been taken from one of their victims, a blood stain still darkened one leg. Standing on the front porch I looked across the snow covered lawn into the moonlit forest. My decision had to be made quickly it was either freeze to death in the woods or stay here and remain a prisoner. Let my captors kill me or die alone in the forest. Stepping off the porch I plunged into the woods moving as quickly as I could through the darkness. Unseen branches and briars pulled at my skin as I blindly ran…

“Ethan, wake up, you’re dreaming again, Ethan wake up!”

jef said...

Ammut knew how to watch unseen, listen unheard. The western wind swirled softly as he settled deep inside the big maple's calico fall foliage and gazed out across the brown scrub grass to a diamond-shaped plot of sand, where three young boys, gabbled like hatchlings.

W said...

There was mud in Michelle's mouth and the aftertaste of something meatier. Her fingers surged upwards until they broke through the damp topsoil, followed by her bare arms. She hauled herself up, her ribcage heaving but not taking in air. As she wrinkled her nose to dislodge earth from her nostrils, the memory of her murder three days earlier struck her. She threw up.

Babette James said...

“They have a two hundred and sixty-three year head start and I thought I could find them?” Finn macc Líamór stifled the hot urge to hurl the fragile Gordon journal against the wall. Not a code, not the hoped-for clue. Three years in this world, and yet not a trace of the Wanderers. What else could they do–-take out a full-page ad in the London Times or Wall Street Journal written in Camthcain? Wouldn't that raise some eyebrows?

Jason Gusmann said...

the kid who was talking before silent now
so i write what he said down

– adolescence is the furnace in which the great themes of our lives are forged -

which i think is kind of brilliant his name is richie
mr isaacs looks at him

and im thinking hes gonna say something snide like he does but he actually kind of smiles

Marisa said...

The bookstore paid my mother twenty bucks to sweep their store room. It's not a job that should take two hours, and I can't let her lose one more job. The store was deathly quiet. There was only one customer – a middle-aged woman clutching a stack of books in the self-help section. The cashier, a girl with messy blond hair and too much eyeliner, was reading behind the counter. She glared at me when I came in, then went back to her book. I walked straight back to science fiction, along the back wall, and pretended to look through the shelves as I inched towards the store room. The cashier never looked up. She wouldn’t like me going back there. There’s a big Employees Only sign on the door, and I suspect being the crazy sweeper lady’s daughter doesn’t qualify me for the privilege.

Graeme K Talboys said...

If you asked me what my idea of a good Saturday night out was, standing in the rain and watching the police look for a body in a river would not feature high on the list. I’d had to do it once before and this time round was little better. Still, at least it wasn’t Christmas Day.

Rhea said...

Mimi Anderson smiled to hide her irritation and ignored the husband hunters stalking her. She weaved her way across the glittering room, her primrose satin skirt swooshing about her feet. The smell of perfumes, pomade, and body odor assailed her nose. Behind her, girls giggled. Surely, this crowned her the belle of the ball? She ought to make a speech. Thank Ash, the elusive "Lord Pirate," for breaking her heart years ago and sailing away with her fortune.

Shreds said...

(memoir)
I had a bookcafe in Iowa, in an old brick building on the corner of Alfred and Main. This was three blocks from the intersection where Highway 173 (known in town as Main Street) crosses Highway 44 and becomes M66 (also known as Bluebird Avenue.) Your map may not have Kimballton on it, so it will help to know that it lies napping in the triangle formed by Harlan, Atlantic, and Audubon; each of these towns is thirteen to eighteen minutes away, in daylight and good weather. To orient you further, Kimballton is located in Audubon County, ten miles north of Interstate 80 and about halfway between Omaha and Des Moines, a little closer to New York than to Los Angeles.

Chris Bauer said...

Three a.m. Sara Jane lay spent on the cement cellar floor, a nest of old newspapers cradling her, her winter coat opened flat beneath her legs, its gray lining wet with melted snow and milky birthing fluids. She worked her jaw from side to side, cramped from the cloth diaper she’d held between her teeth. She had awakened no one.

Chris Bauer said...

Three a.m. Sara Jane lay spent on the cement cellar floor, a nest of old newspapers cradling her, her winter coat opened flat beneath her legs, its gray lining wet with melted snow and milky birthing fluids. She worked her jaw from side to side, cramped from the cloth diaper she’d held between her teeth. She had awakened no one.

alice said...

What do you do if you find a dead dog under your pregnant wife’s favourite tree? For Gilberto Hernandez, the solution was clear. Burn it.

Courtney said...

I met Ben during the first drought of my memory. I was seven years old, and my family was spending a long weekend at the cabin, ostensibly to do some maintenance work but with the unrelenting heat we spent most of the time in the lake, trying to keep cool. For weeks, the temperature had reached into the mid-nineties, and it hadn't rained in nearly two months. Every day the Huron Bay Crier lamented the local crops lost. Farmers started coming into town to meet with one another at Janice's Coffee Clatch, to brainstorm how to salvage something from the summer.

linda sarah said...

A story - short as snowfall and long as the last day of summer. Brailla's packed her suitcase with skirt: just one skirt, almost a mile wide, made of fine threads and starlight. She's heading west to find the brother she lost when she was two foot tall and unable to speak more than three words at once. And she knows he's out there somewhere, knows she'll recognise him, his smell and sounds and somehow knows he rides an old Japanese motorbike. The air is cold as autumn nights and warm as shadows. Brailla's walked more miles than hope and her suitcase becomes heavier as the moon rises.

Barbara said...

Zech wanted to be surrounded by animals. The more claws, teeth and jaws the better. Uncle Thimas said he was a chip off the old block boulder and mountain, and no mistake, but there were no animals in Zech’s parent’s household. Zech knew where to find bats, ants and beetles in the garden, and the name of every species of bird and small mammal that flapped and scurried across the immaculate lawn. He also knew no animal was welcome even out there, and definitely, never in the house. He didn’t know why.

Danielle said...

"What's wrong with the taps in the house?" Brigid asked, stepping in her Aunt's footprints as they made their way over the muddy forest floor. She knew she shouldn't whine but she was tired of all this fetching and carrying. Going to the barn to get eggs from under the chickens and milking the cow this morning had been kind of fun but having to walk into the forest to get some special water just to make soup was pushing it a bit far.
"That water's not magical." Aunty Deirdre called over her shoulder.
Brigid sighed. More magic.
"Aunty Dee, I'm eleven now."
"And that's too old for magic, is it? Well, what would you call it then? It helps with headaches, or an upset tummy and if you wash a cut with it it heals faster than it should."
Brigid wanted to say that she would call it a natural remedy and that medecine was science, not magic, but she didn't want to upset Aunty Dee on their first day so she shrugged to avoid answering.

Elena said...

Death-in-Training, YA fantasy

When I stopped by my room to hide my tears and grab my knives, I caught Fox setting my books on fire. The truth is, I am not supposed to be unarmed at school, but with Fox breaking up with me at breakfast I totally forgot about that, all my thoughts, all my life contracted into one miserable question: Why do people stop loving? How can they change their feelings in a snap? How could a boy, who has loved me my whole life, tell me that he hated me now and walk away? Well, what I hadn’t known back then was that Fox would come back. Just not the way I’d want him to.

Bruce said...

The old man's face had the cadaverous appearance found in a mortuary except his sunken eyes weren't lifeless, and Jack Flannagan was unable to return the dying man's gimlet-eyed stare. Instead, the battle inside Jack's head continued to rage as he reflected on the years of torment he had suffered at this man's hands. He wanted to whisper in his father's ear that the perpetual light one prays for as a soul passes over to the other side wouldn't shine on him and never would he rest in peace, because he didn't deserve to.

Diane said...

The angry slap of flip-flops ricocheted down the street. It was like listening to gunshots and made Jad Connor cringe. The sound echoed off the houses and drowned out the rock music that blared from his garage. Lucy Stephen was coming to yell at him yet again. He wondered if she would be so brave if she knew his secret. How would a devoted mom of three deal with the fact that her neighbor had murdered a man?

Shoshi said...

When great and surprising things happen, people call it magic. But bad and unpredictable things they call a curse. Our town was in the grip of a two-week heat wave and it was only the beginning of summer. You’d think the world was ending the way people went on. Sara was probably the one most responsible for spreading the curse theory. She liked to get under people’s skin.

David Boultbee said...

My head rocked from the slap and I stared at the woman who had just delivered it, wondering what the hell I had done to offend her. Come to think of it, how did she even know who I was? The holographic projector snugged around my neck was projecting the image of Frank Sinatra; an unexpectedly good choice given that it was provided by the host of the party.

Marginalia said...

The bus struggled through the Andes, gearbox grumbling at each curve as dawn ended the austral night. Two drivers taking turns at the wheel fought to keep themselves awake, chewing coca and blasting a bootleg cassette from a small speaker on the dashboard. I had passed thirty hours half asleep on the trip from Santiago to Las Cruces, waking only when another bus had come from the opposite direction. We had stopped to coax the two monstrous vehicles past each other on a cliff side road meant for one jeep or a small herd of llamas. Men with flashlights had climbed down to shout directions to the drivers while the passengers stared out the windows at the dry riverbed thousands of feet below. Now the morning light entered the coach and details emerged from the murky dark. I saw her then, a few rows up, and thought she looked familiar. Before I could place her I was distracted by a terrible screech and the nauseous jolt of several tons of bus moving at great speed in a new and improbable direction.

makeart said...

Sweat poured down her mud-stained arms, stinging the broken blisters on her palms. Every thrust of the shovel brought with it more pain as the wooden handle grated against her raw skin. Leila pushed past the pain, even as tears swelled in her eyes. The tangle of roots fought her every advance, but she was determined to bury her parents here, under the shelter of the trees. She paused only when the skin around her fingers began to tingle and stretch. The splinters inched their way to the surface and fell to the ground like dust. Her burning sores vanished leaving behind a sleek porcelain surface.

L.Dischler said...

With the Gulf of Mexico sloshing and foaming just down the road, farmhouses were set off the ground on stilts. Kids could run under them standing up, which we did, barefoot in the cool dirt. We didn’t run up the steps to the house, though, because there were red velvet ants sometimes, and if one bit your foot it might swell up and burst open. That happened to a boy in New Iberia. My teacher said he was lucky just to lose his toes, and we were all pretty impressed. And jealous too. He’d have this story his whole life, even as an old man in a rocking chair.

Lynn said...

Rhia Pone woke on her own, exactly as she had each day since she’d been here, wherever and whatever it was. Her reclamation of a few pre-dawn moments, prior to a guard’s obtrusion upon her for issuance of morning prods felt like a triumph, a meager one, but a triumph, nonetheless.

Dorothy Dreyer said...

Strange things go through your head when you’re having an MRI. And I’m not just talking about the electromagnetic currents, although that certainly does cause a flicker of scientific curiosity. I mean things like if my hair will grow out right, or if my mother would let me get my favorite band’s new CD, or who it might be that cleans the insides of these machines, or if Adam and Eve had belly buttons.

Jeff Coley said...

Quannas paused a few paces from the burning temple and gauged the level of smoke and heat. He saw the skyburners receding into the horizon and instinctively drew his sword. He continued towards the entrance only to pause again as a coughing man in unfamiliar armor crawled out of the temple. Quannas kicked him hard in the face. The man collapsed onto the ground. "I've got part of her," he wheezed and held up his hand. Quannas reeled back in horror at the sight of the tongue on the man's palm--the queen's tongue as evidenced by the dragon tattoo.

Jen McA said...

Before the first period bell rings I know the day is going to be total trauma. Shane Holland is waiting for me on the opposite side of the senior quad. And he looks like he’s planning to ruin my life.

Anna Steffl said...

Heavy drapery blocked all but slivers of morning light in Madra Cassandra’s chamber. Goosebumps sprang up on Arvana’s arms as she clutched her journal of self-examination to her chest. Was this to be a confession or not? The Superior never summoned her for any other reason. But the chamber had always been bright and cheerful, full of forsythia in spring. Stranger still, a black cloth shrouded the ancient icon of the Solace order’s Founder.

Kate said...

When I first saw her she was falling, plummeting toward the river. Her skirt billowed and then wrapped around her as she tumbled. She didn't seem real through my viewfinder, an unnaturally pink anomally in sharp focus against the grey background of the bridge and the muted greens and browns of the surrounding hills. Half my brain followed her descent through the camera while the other half was in a blind screaming panic. I'd never be able to see bougainvillea again without feeling the horror of seeing a woman plummet from the Forest Hill Bridge.

Jim said...

I never thought of myself as a stud but three days after my father was transferred to the French Riviera this perception of myself changed. Lucille from Calais lay next to me on the beach at Cannes and asked me to rub lotion on her breasts and we were together for the week of her vacation. Angela from Portofino sat next to me at the Cafe de Paris in Monaco and asked if she could buy me a beer. This led to a four hour sexathon at the Hotel de Paris across the street. On most nights I would drift to the seaside Calypso Bar in Monte Carlo Harbor and it was here that I met bisexual twins Terri and Tony Tonelli

asabourova said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ilyria Moon said...

“Pick a straw,” said Jacks, extending a hand.

“Aw, maaaaann!” complained Sean. “There’s no need; Wolf’s the man for the job - are we all agreed?”

The others mumbled in agreement.

Barry Jacks, fat and forty, entertainment manager extraordinaire, took a good look at his golden geese. He was damned if he was going to miss out on a publicity stunt like this.

Christina said...

Dawn was not far off; the sun had already stained the cirrus clouds on the eastern horizon a vibrant pink, but the mists of the Forlenur still clung to the forest’s underbrush, the exposed roots of ancient trees, and the hills cascading away toward the sea. Laurelí watched the ground as her shadow became more clearly defined against the greening grass of early spring. Her thick silver hair trailed behind her, shining against her black cloak. Though she knew whom she was going to see, she did not yet know where to find her, so she let her feet lead her where they willed. She knew a village, Hílitham, was nearby, but she saw no one, which was just as well: her kind had not been seen in the Forlenur, this western strip of coastland, for many centuries.

Haley said...

OR. One little word. One big meaning. And he forgot it. I mean, Dickens is supposed to be one of the greatest writers of all time, right? Wrong! This one little deletion. This one error in judgment. Idiot. One of his “best” masterpieces and he begins it, “It was the best of times,” COMMA, “it was the worst of times,” instead of, “It was the best of times,” OR “it was the worst of times.” Seriously, no matter how tightly he wound the congruency of these two parallel ideas they should never be separated by a simple comma. A comma implies both. Both can exist on the same playing field. Both can live harmoniously with each other. Both represent the inner struggle between our psyche. Bull shit. Both do not exist coherently together. They can’t. It’s either the best or the worst NOT BOTH! No amount of books or TV or movies can make me believe that it can be the best and worst at the same time. I’ve never seen it. No one looks at their parents divorce and says, “Oh this is so sad, but so great.” Or “I’m pregnant at 16, this sucks, but I’m so glad.” Don’t believe them if they do. They are pissed. They are just trying to conform to this ridiculous “there is always a silver lining” crap that has been shoved down our throats since, apparently, Dickens. Teenagers don’t think the way literature or media would like us all to believe that we do, that we’re all really ok with the crap that comes our way, but we’re just mature enough to handle it. No we just get guilted into thinking that is the way we are suppose to behave, and that if we don’t, we’re just some emo kid selling out to the latest teen angst trend. I’m sick of it. Shit happens and we deal. Don’t label me for not being the hero of a Dickens novel. Dickens was a Dick and you all know it.

Bradley Gavin said...

There's a lot of good reading on the walls at Lenny's Bar. Quirky sayings like "My Child Licks Himself Clean" appear on stickers or scrawled in childish scripts in thick magic marker letters. It adds something unique to the ambiance. There are strange conversations happening all over the bar, all at once. When the lights are off and everyone has gone home, are those conversations still being shouted in the dark? If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

The Writing Lady said...

There are not too many moments in our experience that are life changing, there are some that come in and knock you over and then there are others that remind you of stalking animals, quiet and persistent, never giving up until the day you finally recognize them for what they are. Those are the ones that squeeze your stomach into a tight fist, shake you and make you sit up and take stock of your life with a completely different view. I had one of those recently. I was reading an essay concerning one person's view of womens' lives throughout the centuries and suddenly two memories juxtaposed themselves in my brain. The first took place in my late twenties.

Becca Allison said...

“Pit stop!” The airbrake whooshed and Fluffernut stepped on my head in her mad dash to be the first dog to the door. Scout used my stomach as his launching pad. I tried to roll over in the bunk, but Mom had cheerfully ripped the sleeper curtains open. Fluorescent light poured in from the truck stop fuel island, and I realized that I had to get up if I wanted to pee in the next three hundred miles. Mom’s semi was pulling a load, and me with it.

Barrett said...

People have yet to discover the cause of greatness. They haven't discovered the cause of grief or pain, either. They haven't discovered God, at least not the way they've discovered electricity or plutonium. They haven't discovered the meaning of life. And so, people everywhere search and search.

Ryan Bevan said...

Thanks for doing this Nathan! This is the first paragraph of YOUNG DOGS, a contemporary, older YA set in Canada:
We were burying Nick’s leg. It was Sunday, mid-March, and it had been snowing for three days. The city had ploughed a huge hill in the corner of the yard by the fence, and we had just finished an exhausting game of King of the Mountain. Brody had won again, but it was a close call with Colin. At a loss as to what to do next, we decided to bury Nick’s right leg to the hip in a bank at the foot of the hill. We all thought it was a great idea, and although Nick was reluctant at first, we eventually talked him into it. So we set about it, covering up his boot, then up to the knee, and finally to the hip where we stopped; no one wanted to accidentally brush his crotch with a gloved hand in the process.

Alexander P. said...

Alexander Zund crouched, hidden behind a fallen log. His breath came out in small clouds quickly dissipating in the winter air. His feet shifted in the shallow snow, cramping from the cold. He was still, gazing at the movement in the clearing.

kiki said...

The first time I hit bottom, I was five years old. I was wearing a one piece, floral bathing suit like my mother’s at the time. My mother’s name was Rose. My older brother, Pete, eight that year, 1957, was there when it happened but not Dad. Dad had died just weeks before. This was a Sunday in July I’m talking about, a bright, sunny day, hot and sticky, but gorgeous just the same. Right before it happened we’d gone to church. My memory begins in the car, Dad’s car, a 1954 salmon pink Mercury. Pete and I had rolled down our windows as we sailed along from church over to Big Bob Noonan’s house where there was a big pool in the backyard. Big Bob was dad’s best friend. We missed Dad a ton, the way he read the newspaper during mass and told us how Father could never say anything nearly as important as the sports page, but we loved Big Bob. He was the closest thing we had to Dad. Anyway, we played the car game in his honor whenever we traveled and that day was no exception. While we passed big sedans, mansions, giant lawns with modern sculptures that looked like potatoes on sticks, we tried to outsmart each other. This was Glendale, by the way, a Chicago suburb. It was a couple of hours from where we had been born on the south east side of the city. Rose said Dad wanted to try it out here to see if it really was nicer than the city for raising kids, but he was a city guy really. She was a city gal, too, she liked to say. People were mostly rich out here and they all thought alike, Dad told us on a number of occasions, like when he got mad at the guy for honking at him in the intersection, whereas in the city there was a different way of thinking, a different way of living. Some things were more acceptable, like people for instance. Still, Dad and Rose came out here with all their friends, fourteen couples total, every one of them with kids to give it a try. A month after they moved into the house that Tony Sonofabitch built, he died.

Catfish Jackson said...

Ugh, this body is beginning to rot. I looked in the mirror and gave my countenance a quick once over. The familiar purple rings were circling the eyes, lips drawn and blue, and oh yes - just the tiniest bit of fluid seeped from the nostrils. Yep, the body has figured it out - I don’t belong here - and it's rejecting me. Guess it’s time to pull out my bag of tricks and make this face look as presentable as possible until I can get a replacement. I opened the cabinet under the sink and pulled out the small tan bag I had filled with make-up a few weeks ago.

fredaG said...

Phone Monkey

Chapter 1

Angus leaned across the pub table, grabbed Marianne's mobile and thrust it down the back of his hip-slung jeans.
'Sklitch!''
He thrust the image of his boil-ridden backside in her face. 'There you go, love. My own beautiful buns! A colourful reminder of what you're missing tonight!' Then he laughed; a guttural, filthy, aren't-I-clever-boys, laugh.
'Oops! 'ang on chaps; lady's not amused.' More laughter. 'Perhaps she needs a more friendly reminder - a keepsake for those warm and lonely nights.'
He snatched the phone back and unzipped his fly. Gales of approval came from his mates as they saw he wasn't wearing jocks. Down went the phone again, this time for the full frontal elevation.
'Sklitch!'
Lasciviously he licked the phone with the flat of his tongue, smearing it with saliva, and once more waved it in Marianne's face. She hit it away.
'Gross! Juvenile! No - pissed, gross and juvenile! I'm off. Get some other mug to drive you back to your pigsty.'
As she neared the pub door, Angus called out, 'Aven't you forgotten something, sweet cheeks!' She heard her phone skid along the floor and clunk against the door jamb in front of her. She kicked it through the door and into the ditch outside. She could hear their laughter as she climbed into her Fiat and sped off home in tears.

kiki said...

The first time I hit bottom, I was five years old. I was wearing a one piece, floral bathing suit like my mother’s at the time. My mother’s name was Rose. My older brother, Pete, eight that year, 1957, was there when it happened but not Dad. Dad had died just weeks before. This was a Sunday in July I’m talking about, a bright, sunny day, hot and sticky, but gorgeous just the same. Right before it happened we’d gone to church. My memory begins in the car, Dad’s car, a 1954 salmon pink Mercury. Pete and I had rolled down our windows as we sailed along from church over to Big Bob Noonan’s house where there was a big pool in the backyard. Big Bob was dad’s best friend. We missed Dad a ton, the way he read the newspaper during mass and told us how Father could never say anything nearly as important as the sports page, but we loved Big Bob. He was the closest thing we had to Dad. Anyway, we played the car game in his honor whenever we traveled and that day was no exception. While we passed big sedans, mansions, giant lawns with modern sculptures that looked like potatoes on sticks, we tried to outsmart each other. This was Glendale, by the way, a Chicago suburb. It was a couple of hours from where we had been born on the south east side of the city. Rose said Dad wanted to try it out here to see if it really was nicer than the city for raising kids, but he was a city guy really. She was a city gal, too, she liked to say. People were mostly rich out here and they all thought alike, Dad told us on a number of occasions, like when he got mad at the guy for honking at him in the intersection, whereas in the city there was a different way of thinking, a different way of living. Some things were more acceptable, like people for instance. Still, Dad and Rose came out here with all their friends, fourteen couples total, every one of them with kids to give it a try. A month after they moved into the house that Tony Sonofabitch built, he died.

Courtney said...

Frank Capital was a tall man, ruggedly handsome, with an air of mystery about him. His ice blue eyes did not seem to fit with his short, dark, curly hair, his early morning stubble, or his ripped and torn pants ending just above his bare feet which kept him standing in the sparse grass. While his outward appearance gave off a sort of romantic, brooding look, gazing into those eyes would show a sense of peace reached inside a deeply troubled soul. As he stood watching the distant sun rise over the hazy sea that morning, as the fog rolling around the cliffs enveloped him in a feeling of ease and resolve, Frank let his mind wander to the series of events that had brought him to that morning. He mulled over childhood memories, over his career, and over the woman to whom he had, only two days prior to that morning, proposed a lifetime together.

jdelliott said...

Ah, hell! I need blood. NOW. Vladimir Malikov thought as his heart leaped to a violent jerk inside his cold undead chest. Awoken from a deep sleep, his body immediately ached for nourishment. He slept for several risings due to the horrific injuries he accrued while in a standoff with Damiano. Damn Italians! They can never be trusted.

Graham said...

Derek sat in his car looking at the list of unpronounceable ingredients on the back of his pre-packed sandwich. It was enough to turn him off eating the second half. There seemed to be a lot more than just ham and tomato between the bread. Just as well he wasn’t actually hungry. It was just, well, eating was one way of passing the time. Of prolonging the inevitable. He got out and wondered should he even bother locking the car behind him. He might not be needing it in a couple of hours. The words of encouragement from his legal team had been substantially less than encouraging of late.

kiki said...

The first time I hit bottom, I was five years old. I was wearing a one piece, floral bathing suit like my mother’s at the time. My mother’s name was Rose. My older brother, Pete, eight that year, 1957, was there when it happened but not Dad. Dad had died just weeks before. This was a Sunday in July I’m talking about, a bright, sunny day, hot and sticky, but gorgeous just the same. Right before it happened we’d gone to church. My memory begins in the car, Dad’s car, a 1954 salmon pink Mercury. Pete and I had rolled down our windows as we sailed along from church over to Big Bob Noonan’s house where there was a big pool in the backyard. Big Bob was dad’s best friend. We missed Dad a ton, the way he read the newspaper during mass and told us how Father could never say anything nearly as important as the sports page, but we loved Big Bob. He was the closest thing we had to Dad. Anyway, we played the car game in his honor whenever we traveled and that day was no exception. While we passed big sedans, mansions, giant lawns with modern sculptures that looked like potatoes on sticks, we tried to outsmart each other. This was Glendale, by the way, a Chicago suburb. It was a couple of hours from where we had been born on the south east side of the city. Rose said Dad wanted to try it out here to see if it really was nicer than the city for raising kids, but he was a city guy really. She was a city gal, too, she liked to say. People were mostly rich out here and they all thought alike, Dad told us on a number of occasions, like when he got mad at the guy for honking at him in the intersection, whereas in the city there was a different way of thinking, a different way of living. Some things were more acceptable, like people for instance. Still, Dad and Rose came out here with all their friends, fourteen couples total, every one of them with kids to give it a try. A month after they moved into the house that Tony Sonofabitch built, he died.

Christopher said...

That morning, before Tyrell Sikes injected himself into my life again, I was rooting around in the center drawer of my desk, looking for the five hundred-count bottle of Advil. A stress headache was pounding its way through my left temporal lobe, and I was praying that some over-the-counter pain relief would be the solution to my problem.

Cat Woods said...

On the day the boy child came into the world, a gray smudge descended upon the land of Tamorah and the fledgling dragons were snatched from their nests by order of the King. The King’s legions stormed each burgh and borough and all the outlying cottages in search of this one small child. Each male babe not yet old enough to walk was ripped from the arms of his weeping mum and taken back to Petenwell Castle to meet his fate.

asabourova said...

Death sits on the edge of my bed. He's not his usual, cheery self. Gone is his Southern-boy charm. His iridescent blue eyes are clouded, his face cold and stoic. At this obscene hour, his presence can mean only one of two things: either I'm dead or I'm about to become seriously sleep-deprived.

JWL said...

In central Africa every house was an eco-system. At the bottom of the chain, the mosquitoes could kill anybody. The spiders thrived on mosquitoes. The geckoes ate the spiders. The cat, no match for the rats, loved to leap at the walls and bring down the geckoes, usually eating everything except the tails and feet. Every house was walled or fenced into a compound and one or two dogs patrolled the grounds, harrying the cats, and hopefully keeping the thieves out. The dogs sometimes harried the servants and the workers but usually played with the children. The children both delighted and irritated all the adults, their parents or their parents’ employers. The servants, in their own ways, obstructed and helped the ex-patriate adults at the top of the chain. Sometimes the mosquitoes killed them all. Three individuals, a young wife, a thief, and a housekeeper, travelled to just such a house, 30 Mutende Lane, on July 1, 1991 to await the first multiparty elections ever held in Zambia.

Patrick King said...

The Jesus Men band had formed in a Salvation Army shelter on a rainy night in November. There were six members. They all smoked and each had been in prison at least once. There were two lapsed Catholics, a Presbyterian who could recite the 'Our Father' backwards, an ex-Military Mormon, a Jehovah Witness who preferred beating down doors to knocking on them, and an athiest often overheard gasping, 'Oh Jesus, oh Jesus, I'm coming!' when he masturbated.

Leslie Bird Nuccio said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Susan Littlefield said...

It has been said that the praying mantis will lay in wait for hours for its victim. Alexandra Applebee knew this well, because she studied the lifestyle patterns and predatory natures of insects. People in general called her eccentric, perhaps even weird, but the Scientific Society prized her as an Entomologist genius.

Leslie Bird Nuccio said...

The first corpse catapulted through the thick morning mists and landed in the inner bailey with a heavy skin-splitting thud. Like an overripe fruit spilling its secrets, the rotted flesh sprayed the stunned bystanders with putrid gore. As one the villagers screamed and recoiled from the grisly sight. They swiped frantically at their faces as they scrambled to get away. But before they could escape, another abomination fell from the sky.

Margie S. said...

Across from the mahogany desk, a long gray filing cabinet sat next to a three-tiered bookcase loaded with library journals and children’s story-time books. Cory Parker focused her gaze upon the picture-book, In the Deep Deep Pond. She felt like she was sinking.

Erik F. Kane said...

I woke and got up quickly with, without question, the worst headache I had ever experienced. At once my right arm seemed longer than it should be. My hand was rubbing against my knee. And it wasn’t working. One of my shoes was gone. A pretty woman in a trouser suit rushed up asked me if I was okay. At least I think that’s what she said. Her lips were moving, but the only sound I could hear was test card tone. A bead of sweat rolled down my forehead and continued on to the end of my nose. I blew it off and watched it arc into the air and sail back down to earth with a tiny splash. A tiny red splash. I reached up to where my head hurt most. It was soft. And it crunched, like the shell of an underdone boiled egg. “Oh”, I said, and passed out again.

Taryn Simpson said...

In a matter of seconds, I witnessed the deaths of my parents and oldest brother. It was then that I realized that my lonely childhood had come to a reverberating halt. This moment in time would forever be seared into my psyche, destined to become part of the psychological baggage that I would carry upon my shoulders for the rest of my life. My innocence was gone and there wasn’t time to mourn.

J Hamilton said...

One flatted E note shot out of Charlie Parker's sax at Billy Berg's Supper Club, leaving seven bars behind. It flew high and wild, puissant, altissimo. It walloped the crisp dry night air. Sped down Vine Street like a honey-colored Bugatti, turned left on Wilshire Boulevard and headed east, an errant gypsy on the trail of a scarlet and sapphire silk scarf. Streaks of neon belched smoke from a smoldering Chesterfield, spit tobacco bits off its tongue.

SAVanVleck said...

Alex’s favorite time was the safety of a dark night. Day or night, he stayed outside as much as he could because; to be anywhere out of their reach was preferable. On this bitter night, he sat in the dust and grit on the concrete cellar floor and watched snowflakes floating past a crack in the boarded up window.

Charlie Cohen said...

Alan tore through the maps and charts and guidebooks and photos and downloads and drawings and clippings, as well as the airplane’s complimentary “Kidformation Pak—New York City!!”, which was totally useless as far as Alan was concerned, full of babyish drawings of sea monsters popping their idiot heads out of the East River, big dopey grins on their moron faces: clearly not something meant for someone who’s eleven, but adults were always treating you as if you were younger than you were, particularly Alan who was kind of small and slight for his age and not exactly what you’d call brave (at least not compared to the kids at school—like Hank, who’d walked on top of the jungle gym even though the teachers and everyone else told him not to, and was so good at it that he’d never gotten into any real trouble and was now daring everyone else to do it while poor Alan couldn’t even climb past rung four without freaking out and losing his breath and feeling like he was going to puke), but that didn’t make Alan a baby, just sensible: after all, it doesn’t pay to take chances.

Anonymous said...

In a far corner of East Sussex, George Hamley stood at his front door and turned the key in the lock as he had every workday morning for the previous 23 years, 5 months. This morning, however, he tipped his hat in farewell. Though the grey stone house was still elegant, and the double-glazed windows still scintillating, the old girl had become too dear. He started up the flagstone walk, and a tap at his breast pocket elicited a reassuring crinkle. Contained within said pocket was a train ticket endowed with power to transport him anywhere throughout Her Majesty's United Kingdom. His plan was this: he would board the 9:20 train, and at the first sight of an interesting looking station with a curious name, he would disembark. He smiled to himself at the prospect, and then for the first time in 34 years, 6 months, George Hamley did more than chuckle, he laughed.

Dianne

carrie-on said...

The year of my thirtieth birthday was the year I turned my life upside down. That two- timing jerk Stevie Ray finally signed our divorce papers, I lost 20 pounds, put highlights in my newly cut –and spiky - hair. I bungee jumped. After a wonderful going away party, my eight year stint as restaurant manager slash waitress ended with a bang and a hangover. I packed my bags and drove from snow and corn covered Iowa to the arid cactus wonderland of Arizona. Look out world, Kelly Mae O’Connor was now the proud owner of her own cyber café. My new motto? Carpe Diem. Seize the Day.

Heidi said...

I my thirty years of life, I don't remember a time when I was not on a diet. I have been conscious or obsessed with what I was putting in my mouth since I was a small child. It was always there...it was always something to discuss and criticize. On school days when the temperature buoyed at -45 degrees Fahrenheit, us schoolgirls would be allowed to leave our red plaid skirts on the floor of our bedrooms and enjoy the privilege the boys were accustomed to every day...pants. I remember being nine years old...standing in our local Sears...watching my mom shuffle through the Husky selection of corduroys. She was searching for the perfect shade of navy blue so I would be able to wear them to school. I remember looking up at the sign. Husky. “Husky?” I said to myself. A Husky is a dog. A big fluffy dog. I was a little girl. A bewildered little girl trapped in a skinny body...that I didn't even know existed yet.

Shelly Adams said...

Forgetting is not as easy as it sounds, not when it's something you want to do. Not when the things that need forgetting mutate and multiply. When you've tried so hard to forget that the memories have been shredded by your brain till their shape is gone, but they still won't leave. They hide, tricking you into thinking they're fading off, when really they're slowly sinking in fangs, planning to stay put for the twenty-four thousand days you have left to live.

MsKathy said...

As the sound dinged overhead signaling takeoff, the flight attendant asked for all electronic devices to be turned off. He sighed, loud and heavy. The sheer relief of knowing that for the next three hours, no one could call, text, or otherwise make demands of his time meant he could finally let go of his chaotic life. Sleep claimed his weary body before the plane even left the ground. The telltale twitches of attempted restraint while sleeping upright made him look more like a Parkinson's patient than what he really was – just another human being living a life of quiet desperation.

divinemauler said...

I once overheard Alexis Honeycutt say, "I'm as Human as Human can get without infernal tinkering." Not sure what he meant, but I accepted his comment as part of his puzzled humanity. He was the most curious Human I ever met, an intriguing blend of humility and bravado with a dash of intellectual conceit. Alexis returned to our city after he won a permanent stay of banishment. Stays were rare as clean air, but prison officials didn’t see the point in keeping him locked up after he was granted refugee status. When the Murdoch World Station ran a feature on his campaign for Human Rights for Almost all Types, Alexis became an international cause celebre.

punchao said...

A startled Gerry Adams gazed goggle eyed from an oil glazed porn star’s body. My friend Declan was putting the finishing touches to a collage that detailed (and I mean detailed) the sexual abuse he suffered in the back room of a baker’s shop in Dublin forty years before.

Sara Cox Landolt said...

The fog line ran beside me but I wouldn’t cross it. Held back by a strip of paint, I hovered in no man’s land, not understanding my destination or my potential. I rode alone, my eyes scanning the road’s ever-changing surface. My neck ached.

Clare London said...

The sound of a man crying was the first shock. Deep, wracking sobs echoing off the smooth walls of my showroom. The whole gallery was usually deserted and cool at this late hour, despite the urban truth that London never slept. Yet tonight, something in the air resonated with tension and shock. And huddled in the far corner was a slender, pale young man. Arms clenched around his drawn-up knees, his eyes hot and wet, staring at me through a fringe of bedraggled dark curls. He looked angry and scared, and for the first few seconds, it was all directed at me. Without thinking, I dropped my briefcase. I heard the thump as it hit the floor.

Sharon Marie said...

They say bad things come in threes: number one made my eyes bleed tears, two slammed me like a body blow, three, well it’s my destiny, you gotta love that, right?

gapyeargirl123 said...

I wasn’t expecting anyone to be in my flat.
I walked down the hall in the dark, knowing where I was going having made the short trip from door to living room a thousand times before. So when I reached round the corner and flicked on the light, and the figure was suddenly revealed, I screamed. He didn’t react to the sudden sound, or the glare of the light. He just stood there, in front of me, hands clasped behind his back.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, once I’d gathered myself.
He stepped forward, and his face was revealed. His hair was black, and his eyes a clear blue. At a guess, he was between 25 and 35. He looked exactly as I remembered.
But then, the dead were like that.
If I’d been surprised by his arrival, it was nothing to how I felt at his next words.
“We need your help, Martha.”

Patricia Miller said...

Betty sat by the kitchen’s west window staring at the yellowing fields of corn. She was clad in a pale blue dress purchased through the Sears’ catalogue on a whim. There was a time when Betty Hunter wore flame-red blouses that pronounced: I’m alive! Here’s my gorgeous husband, Wayne, and our two children, Kate and Michael. Like the day they all drove to the rented cottage in Huntsville, Ontario. Betty swept up her thick, brown hair into a messy bundle atop her head, and held it there with a sparkling crimson barrette that made her feel sexy. Times had changed. Betty was dying inside the blue fabric; inside her life of rentals. First the cottage, then this old farmhouse, not to mention a marriage she no longer owned. Something had to happen. Something had to die, or be born, or both. And it would rip the Hunter family apart, at least at its seams, forever.

CKHB said...

This is a problem.

Jessica Woods Lee said...

(YA)

The last school bell of the year still ringing in my ears, I drove downtown with my best friend in the front seat - my guitar. As I passed the waterfront, I gripped the steering wheel with frigid hands, despite the warm breeze blowing in from the window. I could hear shouts of kids drunk on summer as the car snaked down the narrow corridor next to the lake. I looked out across the water, like looking over the past, and the Adirondacks loomed as slumbering serpents in the distance, their shadows casting a darkness over the waves that grew steadily closer. A gust of cruel wind from the open window gagged me with my own black hair. My heart hammered as the panic rose in my chest. Breathe, Angelene. Just breathe.

Crystal Lee Patriarche said...

UCanFly. That’s what the sign reads. Though sometimes I think it should read: UCanFall, UCanLandOnYourRear, UCanFallFlatOnYourFace, UCanBreakYourNeck or, my favorite, UCanMakeAFlyingAssOutofYourself.

Bringmethehead said...

It was off-season and the little town was deserted. The villas on the shore looked melancholy; their creamy skin had been exposed as grey against the stark autumn of spidery branches and mulched lawns. Everywhere was kept orderly, austere and neat, except for a multitude of brittle leaves billowing across the grounds untidily on a treacherous wind. There were only two servants in the Lords’ house at this time, and it was the man who saw the stranger come up the drive and ring the bell. ‘I suppose this is it,’ he said uneasily, before making his way downstairs to admit him.

Beth Black said...

I was standing in line at Costco and death seemed imminent. My heart thumped painfully in its burrow, screaming that it was about to quit, pack up and move elsewhere. After all, a person with high blood pressure should try, once in a while, to take her meds. But I had to buy those canned peaches first. The deal of the week, coupled by the coupon, made it a phenomenal buy. So I stood in line and waited, either for my deal or my death.

Amber Argyle-Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gem said...

"You do know you're not getting into Heaven, don't you?" said the Angel dressed in black. The unexpected voice made Lola jump, sending the small bottle of pills flying across the room and the contents clattering to the floor in a mini hail storm. "Because I thought I should tell you, just incase you thought that you were," continued the Angel as though nothing had happened. "You know, before you did something stupid. Like kill yourself."

sharonedge said...

A skinny lady from Social Services took my best friend, Isaac Jankas, away. He didn’t steal the concession stand money. The teachers at Pleasant View Middle School know that, so why won’t anyone speak up for him? Is it because of Ike’s mother, Maybelline? I heard one of the teachers call her Maybe Fat. More like Maybe Crazy. But someone has to deal with her. Someone has to find the real thief. Looks like that someone's me.

Emily said...

Miss Philippa Leavenworth hovered on her kitchen stoop at midnight and considered the consequences of stepping outside. For the casual observer, the reasons not to leave the protection of her house were many. It was quite dark outside, the May evening still held the sting of cold wind, and most importantly, she was a woman alone. All very good reasons to return to her room, douse the candle, and try to reclaim sleep. For the more intimates of Philippa’s life, there was but one reason she should not venture from the stoop this night. Philippa Leavenworth had not actually left the comfortable confines of her home in five years.

Mara Wolfe said...

Tora knew the stranger had been watching the fight all along. When he emerged out of the shadows to send one of the thieves flying with a kick, she was not surprised in the least…and there was no way she could have known that through any human means. Both the knowledge, and what it implied, frightened her to the very core.

France or bust said...

As the dryness within your eye
causes endless blurring and blinking, the reading of first paragraphs continues...Bravo to
Nathan, a glutton for heedy reads!

so many good choices...so little time...Ones that caught my personal interest began
with the first entry by Melissa
and then I read John's entry about
Eloise...eekk... wanting to know what will happen next! Bane of Anubis I would tab too...May the fruit of your labor, Nathan bring you a plumb!

Laura said...

It was the first day of my freshman year and everything around me was as I knew it would be. After all, I’d been here before. But not as a student. As the daughter of a professor. So I knew there’d be green lawns lined with paved walkways, old brick buildings covered in ivy, and a kaleidoscope of flowers perfuming the air with the sweet scents of honey and rose. I knew I’d see young women of all shapes, sizes and ethnicities chatting, laughing and virtually skipping to class. Everyone and everything was exactly as I knew it would be—with one exception. I was petrified. Not of my peers. Not of my professors. Not of my courses. But of the red-brick building looming before me. I stood motionless in the center of the Smith College campus—sunlight warming my bare arms and legs, cool grass tickling my sandaled feet—and stared at Seelye Hall, half-convinced that if I walked up the granite steps and through the front doors I might not make it out alive.

Sandman7 said...

Two figures knelt in the narrow passage between a pair of buildings. Both glared across the dirt street at the brightly lit front of "the Wounded Lilly." The "Lilly" was the brothel of choice in the Shadow District of Fellhaven, in what was commonly called Lower Town. No light, either from the row of oil lamps illuminating the brothel's large sign nor from the posts of burning oil stationed every thirty yards on the street, shone in the passage. There was nothing to reveal the presence of Kyis Kysis, a bounty hunter by choice, or Sable, the assassin. Each man was still, their eyes searching for a glimpse of Durlan Threefingers.

Julie J. said...

The ties of love and family would kill Arianne. Because her brother was a Royalist fool bent on assassinating Napoleon, she had always suspected a time would come when she would have to give her life to save her brother, but she had not expected to sacrifice herself tonight, or at the hands of the Minister of the French Police, or in such an extended and torturous manner. Arianne folded onto the cold stone floor of the prison, disregarding the pebbles of dirt digging into her cheek and the mouse that scampered in front of her as she lay sideways on the ground gasping for air. Fouché’s polished black boots appeared in her line of vision, moving the stale air around her when he kneeled. The head of the French Police said nothing, but his daggered stare made her shiver. Did he want her to beg? But of course she would be more than happy to beg to end the torment. “Please,” she swallowed, choking out the words past her raw throat, “I tell you my brother was not a part of any plan to kill Napoleon.” Even now, she could hear Remi plotting Napoleon’s demise when he was en route to the Opera.

Doug said...

It was an instant, Tom Proctor's fall from grace. One moment, he was casting his very first vote as a politician. In the next moment, his political career was over. In a blind fury of fists, Proctor demolished his own career.

Suzanna said...

If anyone at breakfast yesterday had told me what was going to happen to me that morning, I would probably have laughed out loud. But I'm not laughing now. In fact, I'm still trying to convince myself that it was all a ghastly nightmare - that I somehow imagined the whole thing. I haven't dared tell Martin about it, though I'm not sure how much longer I can go on keeping it secret from him. But even if I don't tell him, he'll still know, instinctively, that there's something wrong. And this is the first time, in all the years I've known him, when I have absolutely no idea how he'll react...

heather said...

The man who brought out the garbage was wizened and smelled like french fries, which was odd, thought Penelope, because the Fish ‘N’ Chick Shack #62 did not sell potatoes of any kind. In fact, the only vegetable they served was a coleslaw made with too much mayonnaise and a tang of vinegar that was meant to cover up the soggy cabbage. Everything else was meat—either fish or chicken, sometimes breaded and sometimes not, but always deep fried.

R G Matthews said...

I woke that morning in the tepid glow of the low winter sun, stinging my torn retina through a shattered window pane. I wish it had burnt the memories away, the memory of her, lying in that pool of viscous crimson, blackened at the edges with a lone blowfly circling above. I stood up and looked at her body, basking in all its broken glory, she was dead but I never really loved her. You see Sandy thought she was special, thought she could outrun, outsmart and outfox the best of them. Turns out they had other ideas, and now I’m the unfortunate patsy with my grubby little mitts on the story of the century and just a blog full of hokum and half truths to save my hide. And this, is how my story begins.

Coral Frazer said...

If anyone could ignore a problem out of existence, it was Digby DeBaine. Many people in his life liked to tell him (often at high decibels) that you can’t make a problem go away by ignoring it, but Digby ignored them. Early experience had taught him otherwise. Bully hassling you on the playground? Don’t respond and he’ll get bored and go away. Bee buzzing in your ear? Don’t move and it won’t sting you. Strange rash? Don’t scratch it and it will fade away. From scabs to siblings, lots of things get better if you leave them alone. From bad haircuts to bruised pride, lots of things get worse if you try to make them better.

Walter said...

Gil Becker’s sun-baked eyes watched the Navy MH-60S Knighthawk circle, then flare before setting down inside a plume of dust at the center of Camp Mamba five kilometers away. The sight of a whirlybird landing in his little corner of the war never meant anything good. The only time a chopper came in was to transport the wounded or captured to parts unknown, not deliver fresh bodies. They always came in by truck, on foot, or in Becker’s case, tucked into the fetal position in the back of a C-130 waiting for the Jumpmaster to tell him it was time to take a header into the night sky.

uch said...

Samantha Shapiro wonders if she is the only 39 year old who still speaks into her hairbrush to thank the academy. But Sam wonders a lot of things: is that occasional ruckus in her stomach a tumor like that giant one she saw on Nova, the one that grew hair and teeth; which friends would come visit in the hospital if she got hit by a bus; if anyone really likes Skittles. This is the business that keeps Sam up at night. She was always like that though and will be until the day she dies. And on that day, she will wonder who noticed she was no longer with us. Even dead she’ll get ruffled at the turnout and somehow send me a sign that she was right, that none of the people in her life were true friends. Except maybe, and she will stress maybe, Max Stein.

Surly Jason said...

He wasn’t sure it Kris’ scandalously short skirt that made him feel this way. It wasn’t the hints of bare breast peeking out the sides of her tank top. It wasn’t even the fact that that she conveyed a coarse intelligence despite her vapid blue eyes. Those items all forged into an amalgam that made his saliva glands into overachievers, and made his heart skip around his chest like a rapidly deflating balloon. There was something different about her. After having known her only a day he knew that besides being hot, persistently on the verge of debauchery, clever, and honest, it was the first time he had met someone who would truly appreciate his collection.

The Journalizer said...

Friday, April 18 1994

Light released from the train's aisle cuts through our dark cabin as the door slides open. That is when the dull metal muzzle of an assault rifle appears. It is the gun I see militsia men carry around the streets of Russia. I am horrified to see it in the hands of a big man bursting into our small sleeper cabin. He is dressed in a Russian militsia uniform. He does not belong on the Trans-Siberian Railway. I am scared because I do not know why he invades our cabin in the middle of the night.

Amber Argyle-Smith said...

Prologue (in its entirety)

James Edward Tolman.

How was I supposed to know that he would save my life—more than once?

Or that, in a life I no longer knew, he already had.

Karen said...

After two punishing minutes of body blows and head shots, I didn’t even feel the jab that finally broke my nose. Breathing was a chore and my left eye was swelling, so I focused on my legs instead. Hitting the canvas now would defeat the purpose of climbing in this ring. You don’t get an audience with Angelo Bianchi if you can’t earn some respect against his bodyguard, one of the city’s best light-heavyweights. I took my beating.

Adam said...

Mendosus Informatio stepped out of a tesseractic version of the Louvre and began the long walk to the front office. The high windows bathed the main floor in a patchwork of neon-tinted sunlight.

Avery June said...

Steward clung to the grey stone wall of the northern tower, trying to
focus on his destination rather than the treetops below him or the earth below those, into which his forefathers had set their roots. A week plus a few hours earlier would have found Steward on, roughly, the other side of the same wall sitting at his fourth floor desk. He might, at that time, have been readjusting his glasses to better study the floor plan or wall texture of the thousand-year-old Indian temple to which he hoped to return the emerald linga. First, however, he needed to keep climbing and reclaim the jewel, of which he was the second-most-rightful owner.

Yat-Yee said...

She awakes with a start. The neighborhood dogs sound different tonight: insistent, fearful. It’s dark. The air in the room has lost most of its muggy heat; it must be closer to morning than night. She creeps toward the window with her hand over her palpitating heart as if that will slow it down. A cry scrapes past her throat before she can stop it. The Lim house is ablaze with light in every window, its brightness a stark contrast to the eerie shadows it makes of the rambutan trees, the iron fence, and the dozen men standing in two rows in front of the house, men armed with rifles or parangs, crescent-shaped knives for hacking the thick undergrowth in Malaysian jungles. These are not Japanese soldiers: no starched uniform, shining boots, strange hats; yet they stand with their backs ramrod straight. She leaves the window to get her older brother, but a terrified wail draws her back. The front door of the Lim house is open, and Mr. Lim is shoved between the two rows of guerilla soldiers. As they march him away to the jungle, one of the soldiers slams the door, abruptly silencing the wail.

Colleen said...

She followed them. Where else could she go? Dismissed by her king, the man she had loved. She had murdered a sacred beast, a unicorn, in the hopes to heal, but she had arrived too late. Death had proved an enemy that she could not defeat. And so she felt herself twice the murderer, once of necessity, and once of delay.

Linda Godfrey said...

In the same way no seed I ever planted grew to look like the picture on the packet, Rayvan Hatcher did not grow to be the man I thought I had married. Seeds are cheaper than plants but they can be unpredictable, and so was Rayvan. Still, I always did prefer to take my chances on a sweet deal over forfeiting cash on a sure thing. Once you do that, the money’s gone and there’s no fun in it, no possibility of landing something really good for nothing.
- from WIP The Testament of Bethie Dawn Hatcher

xochitlquetzal said...

Seven months after putting into the North Sea out of Texel, in the second week of the leg from Taijoan to Nangasackij, in the fourth day of the typhoon, the jaght began to break and take on water. “So we are to die,” said the Gunner Sandert Basket, and began to moan. Most of the crew sheltered below, retching or praying or cursing or clutching their relics. The men on deck, working beside him, paid Sandert no mind. It was the way he always spoke. Anyway, they could not hear him in the wind. “We are to die!” he cried again.

Sheila said...

I’d learned the boundaries of the pain, so it didn’t scare me anymore. It was just something to endure, like a lecture from my father on bad decisions. The pain rushed at me unpredictably and it was hard to hide at first. When the fiery talons of its grip pierced me I’d flinch or cry out. But I’d mastered it, my secret adversary. I could sense its approach and brace myself. And in two months I would have a legitimate excuse for the pain, one that wouldn’t get my sister locked up for illegal experimentation.

Linda said...

Even before the acrid-sweet smell of urine and cedar assaulted me, I knew. No usual scurry of rodents swarming to greet me, their provider of food, water, and amphetamine. My eyes adjusted to the crimson light, intended to keep the animals in a constant state of calm. On the left counter, Dinesh’s white mice, fat from gorging three times their weight every day, bumped up sleepily against Plexiglas. In the adjacent cage the new rodents, the experimental ones shipped this week from Cornell, shuddered with shallow exhalations. But not my bipolar mice.

Jeanne Tomlin said...

Mairi Riddell looked into Squire Thom MacDonald's flushed young face with its sprinkling of pimples and sweat beaded across his forehead. "No, Thom." She shoved against his chest. "My father refused when your sire offered for my hand. Now release me before someone sees us." She turned her head to look past him. A trellis of climbing roses hid them, but someone could come upon this embarrassing scene at any moment.

tamisnow said...

You know the old saying lightning never strikes the same place twice? Well I wasn’t asking for it to hit me twice. Once would have been sufficient for my liking. I realize that everyone has their first crush. That everyone is the victim of that first incredibly pulverizing heart break. Why should I be so bold as to ask to be spared this anguish? Truth be told, I wasn’t. I was simply asking, no begging, for a way out of the pain, too much a coward to take my own life.

Lucy Woodhull said...

The morning sun dawned, glorious and bright, over Zelsinore Castle, the grandiose spires and turrets awash in a golden shower of well, golden, of course, and vermilion splendor. One particularly playful ray of light skipped through the diaphanous azure draperies to dance upon the silken complexion of the fairest maiden in all Zengland. Yea, she was beautiful -- except for the hemorrhoids.

(Love’s Bountiful Bulge by Lucy Woodhull & Fellatia Langley)

Bridget said...

The day Justin Ersley dumped me is the day I sold my soul. Well, not literally the day but that’s what made me do it. Anything was better than the searing pain I felt any time I saw him smiling with his friends or passed by him in the hall and he barely acknowledged my presence. Anything was better than the tearing I felt in my heart when he laughed at another girls joke in Algebra class, or accepted a note passed to him at his locker, most likely a phone number for some available wanna be new girlfriend. Word spread fast and an hour after he had given me the ‘just friends’ spiel everyone knew he was back on the market and I had been dumped.

Siri Weber Feeney said...

This is the day my world ends — and begins anew. The day when I choose tears instead of diamonds, the wild woods instead of walls. For the home I leave behind is empty as a snail shell, cleaned of its life.

LBKeenan said...

Fog rolling in off the lake settled on my face as I ran down the dark street with our two Golden retrievers. Walter and Boomer loved our 5:00 a.m. run to the stables as much as I did. My best friend, Lana, used to come with us, but she got her license last month so now she drives.
We rounded the corner and I heard someone walking straight for us. Before I could use my light to see who it was, Boomer veered away from the sound into me. I stumbled, tripped on the edge of a manhole cover, and fell flat on the pavement.
My parents named me Grace when they adopted me. Every time I told them their choice marked me as a klutz for life, they said, “Your name represents your inner qualities.”
Yeah. That’s Mom and Dad.

Gail said...

Baghdad High School for Girls
August, 2005
“Please, Ameriki, take a picture with me!” The Iraqi school girls squealed and tugged on Private Matthew Evans’ arm as he handed out the last of the goodwill packages. He aimed his best campaign smile at the camera and waited for the tell-tale click.

Mungus said...

John Wayne Kobayashi arrived at the Pit Barbecue and Sushi Bar believing that his destiny involved eating a sirloin steak the size of a healthy toddler, along with all the fixins, in under an hour. He was wrong, of course, and would soon attempt to salvage his honor by taking his own life, harakiri-style. He would use a steak knife. He just didn't know it yet.

Audrey RL Wyatt said...

Chaim tried to keep his rheumy eyes focused on the paint-by-number canvas clamped to the easel. But his gaze kept returning to the window and the moving van parked below, alongside the aging brownstone. Movers came and went, crunching the multi-colored leaves, carrying their burden into the building. Chaim squinted at the sun flooding through the ivory lace curtains, reflected off the pink, plastic-covered sofa.

Ginger B. (Barbara) Collins said...

My mother's life was full of secrets. She tailored the truth to fit her purpose - holding and withholding information, sometimes acting alone and sometimes in league with one or both of her sisters. She recruited me as a child to be her accomplice. Often she bribed, other times she bullied, but she always convinced me to keep my mouth shut and do what I was told. I kept it to myself when her reckless driving sent me tumbling out the car door and into a ditch. I stayed silent about the regular trips across town for her "special" prescriptions. I looked away while she added shots of bourbon to her morning coffee. I was her daughter, but in every sense of the word, I was her accessory.

J.L. Martin said...

The Handbook was required reading at 72 Glue Factory Road. Its many pages contained instructions and intricate details about almost everything you needed to know. How many times a night you were permitted to visit the toilet, how to tie your shoes in the St. Fanny’s way, when they were untied where to keep them, and exactly what would happen to you if you tried to escape.

Roy Hayward said...

The wind howls and the lightning strikes. There is a full moon, but it is mostly hidden by the clouds that look like they have been whipped with the same wind that is whipping the tall grass of the meadow. Off in the darkness the shadowy looming of trees can be felt, but not actually seen. Except in the split second, brighter than daylight moments, when all is exposed by the harsh white light of the lighting. In these strobbed moments, the progress of the young man crossing the meadow can be seen.

Jean Ann said...

ClaireLee gazed at the shiny buttons all the way up the wool pea jacket, to the scarred face of a very tall girl. The girl’s voice boomed, “You’re new here. I’m gonna guess what grade you’ll be in our class. Is it fourth, fifth, or sixth?” She tapped a finger on her chin, cocking a brow. “Lemme see, ya must be in fourth.” ClaireLee should have looked away. Though, the girl’s scar held more fascination, pushing good manners out of the nest. The huge girl’s droopy eyelid sagged farther. “Whatcha gawkin’ at, ya little squirt?” ClaireLee’s face warmed. The short kid jokes were next. She just knew it.

Enchanted Crystals said...

It wouldn't be a party if my sister didn't put her milk jugs out on her front porch for everyone to gawk at. "Aglaia, must those things make an appearance at every event?" I called.

Jeanne said...

Over the years I've heard many versions of the story of my birth and none of them come even close to being the truth. I wasn't born on midwinter's night during the witching hour. Neither kings, nor mermaids, nor selkies were present, although I'll admit that there may have been a sheep or two inside the cottage at the time. The attending midwife was not a witch who cast a spell upon me as I entered this world. I definitely wasn't found on a cliff during a thunderstorm next to my dead mother who supposedly killed herself when she saw my bowed and buckled body. It is a common myth that I am physically deformed in some way - a sixth finger is the most widespread rumor. For the record, I only have five.

Maria said...

Before closing the door I peeked to make sure my big brother, David, wasn’t in the hallway. My fingers liked the feel of the smooth leather wallet. I opened it and drew it to my nose with my eyes closed.

Kate said...

He tried to limit himself to only one or two days a week by the old RV park. Hidden behind a rusty shell that had seen many miles in the name of quality time, he could see the turn-off up the road. He had never been to her house, but it was there. And all the land in view was hers. She wasn’t there, he knew that. She hadn’t been there in years. But some days, Ray imagined that when the sun came down and touched the farthest corner of that spread, it would all catch fire and he could watch it burn.

Kim Wencl said...

It was just a typical Saturday. I made chicken & noodles, baked some cookies and even made an angel food cake with homemade whipped cream (not Cool Whip). I decided to take some over to my barber, Tim and his wife. Kathy was battling breast cancer and Tim had just been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Way too much for two people to have to deal with all at once, and proof once again that life just isn’t fair much of the time. So I do what I can by remembering each of them in my prayers, and subjecting them to my cooking on occasion (I don’t think they mind).

hope101 said...

Writer’s etiquette said she couldn’t launch herself across the table, wrap fingers around her critiquer’s neck, then squeeze for all she was worth. But Abby was strongly tempted. The hell of it was, Suze was right about everything; this book had major issues, from pacing down to characterization. Still. Did the woman have to be such a bitch about it?

essygie said...

Some graveyards tame death, they make it neat and pretty, with bright green grass and ordered rows of tidy white crosses. But not Brompton Cemetery, my resting ground, which lies stark; black and white in the moonlight.

ROB said...

Stinking cigarettes. She walked around the room, breathing out through her nose as she picked up the ashtrays between finger and thumb like the remains of one of the children’s dead goldfish. Someday, they’d find out that there was something unhealthy about these things that smelled like belching factory chimneys, spewing ashes like Vesuvius.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the wonderful chance, Nathan.

The Hunt

The men walked towards the fire and seemed as specters summoned back from some forgotten race, flames spat skyward and the rain soaked horde began to steam both men and shadows alike. They sat with their backs against an ancient wall that sloughed with soft decay and the men themselves like oafish demons both native and elemental to this apposite land.

Ranger

JEM said...

You would think that after riding a bus through weedy fields for half the day, and then being shoved into my aunt’s station wagon for the rest of it, the sight of anything remotely reminiscent of civilization would look good to me. That I would immediately fall in love with my cousins’ house, like it was all part of some glittering Oz in a Kansas field. But slouched against Aunt Minnie’s car door as we drove up, the only thing I could think of was the likelihood that my head would eventually be chopped off by my seatbelt. That is, if I slouched any further in my seat. Which seemed like a good idea, from the look of things.

Anonymous said...

The earth beneath Ada’s fingers felt warm and soft and alive, like her baby brother Wren, when he was first born and her mother held him out to her, a tiny wiggling ball of energy, fragile and strong at the same time. Ada thought how everything was like that, crosswise with everything else. The tall bellflower stretched and waved its bright purple blossoms as it bent and broke in the wind; the minute-sized titmouse perched on a limb and sang its sweet song as the fierce meadow hawk swooped down and snatched it away; the sun’s rays pierced the sky while the leaves on the paw paw tree curled with ice. Everything was at odds, but everything worked and fit and went on working and fitting. She understood this, had spent the last ten of her fourteen years on earth coming to it, setting it right in her mind. Until now.

Dorothy P said...

When the witch's spell started to work - the morning after Cindi's crazy party - it hurt like hell. Jason's skin split at his coccyx and something slid out. Slimy. No, wormy. No, worse than wormy. More like snake. Cold, thin, hard, it reached up to the small of his back. It happened just after he had lied to Mom about there being no booze or pills at the party. Okay, so there had been some, but he hadn't had any. The hard, wiry thing snaked up another couple of inches. What the hell was happening?

theartgirl said...

First, I checked Mom’s breathing. Still steady. Then, I proceeded to ready myself for another day spent in the hallowed halls of Haddontown High School. I tried to unsnarl the tangles in my crazy copper-colored hair, but it was useless. Little prongs popped out of the brush as my hair grabbed around them like octopus arms. I gave up. My hair would always be incurably frizzy, and kids in my snob-filled high school would persist in calling me “Darcy Steinberg, the girl with the Jew fro”.

JT said...

Her eyes opened just enough to allow the scorching light of the morning sun to bring Shelly crashing into the wakeful reality of life. Just as quickly, the tears blurred the light to a dull glow as she remembered her brother lying dead in a pool of blood. Today she would bury him. As tears burned trails down her cheeks, Shelly remembered the few details about the last week that she could recall. The sedatives prescribed by Dr. Townsend erased most of what she was sure were the worst days of her life.

cynicalpen said...

The last thing I ever saw was a Volkswagon symbol. I would continue the story but, hey, I'm dead.

Ginger said...

A therapist could get rich treating the women of the Justice PTA. Before the closing prayer of the first meeting I attended, I could successfully name three active neuroses. I grabbed my third lemon bar with powdered sugar and choked it down with more sweet tea. How long do these meetings last? We’re going to miss the next coming of Christ at this rate.

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