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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dan radke said...

For almost seven hours now I’ve been hopping on animal heads and farting in their animal faces and collecting the big, golden coins that pop out. It's the latest video game modeled after a blockbuster movie that mothers across the globe will pay fifty bucks for, hoping to silence their children for at least a night. I'll be done playing this piece of shit within the hour (if I'm lucky). Then I will write a nasty, scathing review that will be published and put into the hands of over three million America citizens. What's really great is, it won't read "Written by Seth Rhodes." It'll read as being written by my best friend: Plagiarizing Cock Gobbler.

Latonya Frank said...

For the great majority of his life, Saavro Torani had been living in plain view of his enemies and had yet to be found out—but it was not like it was dreadfully difficult. All he had to do was never say anything concerning which of the two high kings he followed, and they would never know that he followed Rathéran, which in fact was what made him one of their enemies.

quick said...

For Lucy, the ten second walk to the mailbox was always the best part of her day. The suspense would build with each step across the short yard and end with an audible creak as she'd hold her breath, pull open the rusty door and peer inside.

Liz S said...

The man with the olive complexion stared at me from across Café Au Lait. I saw him just minutes ago, down the cobblestone street at another Parisian cafe I escaped to avoid his roving glance. And now I could feel his gaze, surveying my curly brown hair, my pale skin, again. I hunkered over my laptop wondering what he wanted from me. Or maybe I imagined everything. Maybe it was pure coincidence he went to the same cafe I did, twice. I'm quite skilled at imagining things that don't exist, that I wanted to believe were there but were not -- but why I wanted to imagine being stalked, I had no clue.

Lissa Sloan said...

I have no use for shoes these days. They have brought me nothing but sorrow. Not to begin with of course. To begin with, they were an escape. In those shoes I was no longer the plain girl with the sooty dress and bare feet. I was a mysterious princess who was the talk of the ball. I was someone footmen bowed to and men turned their heads from their partners to look at. I did know that girl in the glittery dress wasn't me. Not really. I was pretending. And from the moment I entered the ballroom and they all looked at me, pretending was intoxicating.

Lara said...

Ashfall is a pain in the ass, my least favorite thing about living in the Park. But it keeps the park rangers busy, so the last hour before a fall starts is a good time for getting things done. I’d checked my traps and done some scavenging and was heading back in when I found the android.

Aden said...

When the truck comes, the girls greet him sadly and they climb into the cab. Gabriel sits at the window, head against the glass; Charlie, austere, hands on the wheel; Asher between but the warmth of her thigh against his goes unnoticed. They do not know what to say and he is silent longer. But as the odometer eats its long lunch, it grows comfortable, the warmth of their bodies commingling. When wheels glide over gravel the truck is quiet inside but only for the sounds of their breaths; calm, together, a poem of parted lips none wants to interrupt.

Rhonda said...

He stared hard at the bubble lined paper in front of him. He tapped his number two pencil on his desk several times. He glanced over his shoulder at the girl in the left hand corner of the room, Leslie Fendstermaker-Solomon. He looked again at his paper; up to his teacher. Oh. Thank God. She was smiling at him. “Don’t worry, 3vid,” her eyes said, “I’ve got you covered.”

Classic Camp said...

I was working late one night in the news room of the London Times, when I received a letter. A man dropped it off to the receptionist at the front door. Our receptionist, Alison, walked through the door and placed the letter on my cluttered desk between the brass kerosene lamp and the inkwell. Apparently, the man said it concerned a fantastic story of immortality like none that has ever been told.

dariadrake said...

In my first life, I was a priestess of Inanna, the world's oldest goddess of love and war. I should know better than anyone that you can’t have one without the other.

KathleenSF said...

He leaned against the white walls, his hands shaking, his brow damp with sweat. He hated this part. He hated walking into a room, telling a perfect stranger something that no person should have to hear. But he couldn’t ask the nurse to do it, couldn’t drag an intern in here to blubber his way through bad news. Brendan knew how to do this. He had done it a hundred, maybe a thousand times. He was only thirty-three, still young by any doctor’s standards, but he worked with death. He understood and accepted it, because he had chosen a specialty in which every prognosis is poor. But death never spoke, never explained its reasoning or secrets. No, death was mute. And Brendan was its messenger.

miss cottrell said...

A girl is born to a couple living in Northern California. It is Christmas Eve 1997 when her mother goes into labor in a grocery store parking lot. She is not due for another two months. There are many things wrong with the baby. In those first weeks in the NICU, she stops breathing several times. Twice, for as long as a minute. The doctor overseeing the NICU can predict that this girl, starved of oxygen will never be quite right. She will use the phrase: “persistent vegetative state” in her next conversation with the mother and father. It’s not the first time she’s delivered this news, it won’t be the last, but it causes sweat to bloom above her lip and one of her eyelids to pulse. One day, when the parents go home to rest, the baby takes a turn. The doctor calls them to the hospital to say their goodbyes. The father stops at the hospital gift shop. There he finds a pair of infant pajamas with dragons or iguanas on it; he can’t be sure. The pajamas are tiny and yet still too big. His daughter will never, he thinks with a pang, grow into them. But something tells him to buy them and so he does. The parents dress her in them together. “Come on little dragon,” the father whispers to his daughter, as he carefully threads her arms through the sleeves. They have detached her from all the tubes and when she is dressed, the father picks her up in his arms and feels for the first time, her heft. Her head rests in the bend of his elbow, her hair the color of a new penny. This is the first and last time I will hold you, he thinks. Only it’s not.

carolynyalin said...

"Is Papa going to jail?" I tugged at Maman's sleeve as fast as my heart beat. The arresting officers pulled Ed from the back of their cruiser, his hands cuffed in front of him.

Suzanne said...

The only sounds in the air were her labored breath and the hum of night in the wildwood. It was only a matter of time before Annabelle would hear the horns and hoof beats of pursuit. Whatever happened, she could not allow them to catch her and not a single drop of her blood could spill upon the ground.

Sherry Dale Rogers said...

It was the middle of August, just two weeks shy of school starting and my twelfth birthday when my world turned upside down. Just like every other hot summer morning I woke up to the sounds of mockingbirds calling my name, “Clara, Clara come out and play on this hot summer day.” As I danced to my window in a swirl of laughter, something caught my eye. Perched on the front porch was a lonely crow, a sure sign of bad luck not far behind.Then off in the distance a dust storm paraded down the road and I knew something was wrong.

Ellebach said...

She could have lived her whole life and never met him, never experience transformation. She could have breathed her first, her last, lived her life lost, suspended somewhere in time between the two, and never know he existed. It could have happened. It could have happened just that way. It could have happened that way, so easily. She could have lived her life like a dim comet sleepwalking across the Eastern horizon, a silent ghost tracing a path across the face of night with a crayon of ice, fading away in the light at the edge of dawn. Never knowing. Never dreaming. Never catching fire and falling to earth.

Liz said...

Undressing, undressed. Bodily naked under white lights, the smell of sex and human sweat pervading the air, assaulting the senses. I imagine that I can taste it, sweet and heady and stale in the back of my throat. I want to gag.

Jacqueline said...

Katie scowled, then pried her eyes open. Her head throbbed as she willed herself to focus. Confusion bled into panic as she registered her hands bound behind her back, and her mouth covered -- by duct tape, if her instincts proved correct. As she frantically scanned her surroundings, Katie's mind flitted back to her thoughts that morning: I wish something interesting would happen for a change. She groaned. Karma hated her.

MsHellion said...

COUNSELOR: Today is September 23. This is the three-hundred thousand and five hundredth session of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. They have been coming for regular weekly visits for six thousand and ten years. Gabby, please transcribe the session verbatim. Okay, we may begin. Adam, please start with how you feel.

Anjali said...

Liz sat with the syringe in one hand, pinching her thigh with the other. She let go of the skin. Had she picked a safe area? She needed a good square inch unmarred by veins. The nurse had told that she was very unlikely to inject the liquid straight into a vein. If you’re worried, she had said, just pull the plunger a bit. If blood comes into the syringe, then start over. Liz had no desire to pull the plunger or see blood in the syringe. The mere thought made her break into a sweat. She wiped her forehead with the back of the hand that held the syringe. Just stick it in and push down, she told herself. Stick it in and push down, and it will be over. The anticipation was worse than the real thing, yet she couldn’t hurry it up. She checked the syringe again for air. A few tiny bubbles still clung to the sides, where the black rubber of the plunger met the plastic. Were they big enough to be dangerous? Maybe they could they cluster together and travel to her heart. Or her brain. Wasn’t that what an embolism was? Yet so many women did this, and she’d never heard of anyone dying from an ill-administered injection.

Rhonda said...

"Imminent hull breach on Deck Thirty Two."
"Initiate emergency procedures." Commander Richard Daniels barely glanced at the VIPs with him. He scanned the confusion around him until a uniformed guard crossed his field of vision. He snapped an arm out to catch the young officer.

Judi Bailey said...

I see you sleeping you little tramp. You’re a miserable slut for allowing me to caress your body with my eyes, across your face and your neck and your breasts. And under your lace panties too. If you knew I was here you’d like it, never admit it but like it just the same. You might think you’re a pretty little angel, your white skin against the ivory pillow case, but you’re really a devil at heart. You’ll feel like no angel when I get through with you. When I’m done punishing you for all your damn positive thoughts.

Broadway Mouth Blog said...

He had seen the child five times. There was the first time when he looked upon the child’s oddly shaped head topped with a light touch of black fuzz. It was in Karen’s mom’s home about a week after he was born. His mom and dad had been pressing him to get to the hospital, but this was the first time they had been able to make him see the boy. His parents smiled and admired the child’s supposedly cute features, though to him, the boy seemed to do nothing but lie there like a limp sock puppet waiting for a hand. As they admired his tiny feet and hands, he stared at the child, afraid. While driving him there, his mother had explained that the boy would not be able to see anything but fuzzy shapes, but when he spoke his first words to the baby, the boy’s tiny brown eyes turned to him and seemed to be searching his face for something familiar.

RK said...

The woman was naked. Every inch of her tall, tanned body was abso-fucking-lutely naked except for the strange black script adorning her skin. Intricate black lines and curves, dots and accents, ran amok on her neck, shoulders, arms; spread out on her tanned back and rounded hips; then down, down her long, lean legs. The woman was running from something, but Juliana Sands couldn’t see the pursuer, or pursuers. The writing moved and writhed with a life of its own as the woman ran, her legs pumping and her breath ragged. An exotic creature escaped from some ancient jungle.

rick said...

John Eamonn Tully, alternately known as J.T., or Jet, depending upon his mood, was the President and CEO of Prescience Capital and Research Group, a dominant think tank in Boston, and a man who had become, as one national magazine put it, “…one of the more influential people behind the renaissance of innovation and growth in the post recession economy.” This frank assessment had kept him happy for a day or two, but the more he thought about it, the more the comment began to annoy him.John Eamonn Tully, alternately known as J.T., or Jet, depending upon his mood, was the President and CEO of Prescience Capital and Research Group, a dominant think tank in Boston, and a man who had become, as one national magazine put it, “…one of the more influential people behind the renaissance of innovation and growth in the post recession economy.” This frank assessment had kept him happy for a day or two, but the more he thought about it, the more the comment began to annoy him.

jedlight said...

Walking out to the backyard to spread the comforter under the stars and watch the Perseids fall she knew exactly what her wish would be. It had been the same wish since her children were born – let me die before they do. At every opportunity the wish was the same; every birthday candle, every twilight star, every wishbone. She never told anyone, knowing the telling would ruin the wish and make it not come true.

LisaP said...

If queen bee Abigail Withers called me a wannabe loser one more time, I was gonna let her have it; even if it did mean I’d have to kiss a pig.

Michelle Miles said...

A monster lived in the attic at Gram’s house. She knew it as sure as she knew her name was Morrigan Abigail McCulloch. The final convincing factor was the evening Abby—her preferred name—showed up to claim the property, pulling her old clunker up to the curb in front of the aging Victorian on the outskirts of Hickory Hollow. As she got out and looked up at the house built in 1901, memories of baking chocolate chip cookies, the smell of spice cake, and the crackle of the fire in the fireplace flooded through her. She swore she could still hear the tinkling of the sorely out of tune piano while Gram’s aged and gnarled hands played the yellowed ivory keys. The bang of the screen door as friends and neighbors came in and out on those hot summer days, armed with sweet iced tea and peach cobbler.

Bina said...

Pain. There were times in Becca's life when she thought she knew the meaning of the word. But now, as her body was overcome with the deafening horror of this day, she finally realized she never really knew what pain was. Nothing moved and the only sound echoing through her mind was the beating of her own heart. She numbed out the scene in front of her as she found herself trying to figure out why her breaking heart could still beat so steadily within her chest.

Catherine Austen said...

I was the first person born in the capital on December 22, 2012. My baby photo was on the front screen of the day’s news, with the caption, “Life Goes On at the End of the World.” My parents had to walk the last mile to the hospital because the streets were so jammed. Half the town was outside waiting for the world to end by midnight. The planets aligned, the Mayan calendar flipped to an empty page, and I was born at 12:00:02 a.m. My mom named me Maxwell Armageddon Connors, after a grandfather I never knew and an apocalypse that never happened. Twelve-and-a-half years later, I’m sitting in a plane looking down on a field of dark clouds, and the end of the world is nowhere in sight.

Chantal said...

Franco, the Chief Creative Officer of IDEA Switzerland, is blowing smoke in my face. I can hardly breathe, but I smile and lean in to make sure I understand what he is saying. It’s hard enough to understand German in our quiet Zurich advertising office, but he’s called a meeting for our creative department at a bar in Niederdorf and I’m surrounded by music, clinking glassware, and various versions of the German language. “I fired Simon,” Franco says, putting out his cigarette and lighting another one immediately. “That’s why I called this meeting.”

Ali said...

Lacey hopped around her bedroom floor trying to get her jeans on. She wiggled around in hopes of loosening them up. Most of the struggle was trying to get them over her hips. This cannot be happening, Lacey thought. She just wore these jeans a week ago. Granted, they had felt a little snug then, too, but it had only taken her a few tugs to pull them up before. This was all starting to feel like a workout, and maybe if she had started to workout she wouldn’t be in this situation to begin with.

Jessica Capelle said...

It was unseasonably chilly the day I died. Houston in May is supposed to be the world’s largest sauna; the air thick with moisture that clings to you and invades each breath. Yet there I was, faced with an impossible choice: either wear mom’s silver cardigan with the pearl buttons over my prom dress or prove that goose-bumps can be a stylish accessory. I begrudgingly opted for the sweater, a choice I regretted as I looked down at what remained. Blood-drenched and shredded pieces of cashmere hung from my limbs, but I knew the worst was yet to come. Ruining a woman’s favorite outfit is a fate punishable by severe bodily harm. It didn’t matter that I was already dead; the wrath of Mom exists well past the grave.

Pati Hailey said...

Bees. First thing I think of when I wake is bees. Not buzzing. Not stinging. The word. Bees. I’ve been dreaming about them. Now only dream wisps remain, swirling away as I try to recapture them. Makes me wonder if I’ve had one of my visions.

heidi2524 said...

"I don't care if you are my guardian angel," Sarah said under her breath. "If you don't shut up and go away, I'm going to jab you in the eye with this pencil." The doll-sized man in black pants with white feathered wings lounging on the edge of her dissection tray blew her a kiss. She felt the warmth of a sun beam on her cheek as he vanished.

Sascha said...

I really shouldn't be here, Danaris thought as he rode through Arvannar City's enormous main gates, wondering if one of the grim looking guards would recognize him. Although the farmer's clothes had changed his former appearance rather drastically, Danaris knew he would never feel truly safe again anywhere in the kingdom. Not even after all those years. The men he had crossed in his earlier, other life weren't the sort of people who'd ever forget or forgive. But Danaris didn't have much of a choice. He needed to be in the city today, whether he liked it or not.

Mike Delosreyes said...

I could tell Durian wanted to dive into the reason for his sister’s attraction to planet Hades. Most likely he attributed the allure to Paradise - I knew she only regarded the city as a champagne flute skyline. It’s not about her leaving because of you, Durian. She desired a lifestyle change, hoped you’d join her. People move on. And you simply didn’t carry enough weight to be her anchor.

Jennifer Shirk said...

(Women’s Fiction)

When I woke up, Eddie Vedder was staring at me. Normally, this would be a good thing—no, a GREAT thing. But this morning his life-size poster board face exuded deep disappointment. I flopped on my stomach and buried my face in the pillow. I couldn’t look at Eddie’s silent reprimand any longer—or the neon pink walls of the room, for that matter. My childhood bedroom hadn’t changed in ten years. And as much as I’ve tried, neither had I.

David said...

What was I thinking? I cannot help but ask myself this most elementary question, as the sweat from his intensely concentrated forehead is dripping onto my eyes, and his grateful dick is gleefully and endlessly traveling between my thighs.

Christine said...

The whispers began early today, slight puffs of air that tickled my ears.

K.C. Collins said...

Somewhere, paint was drying. Boy, was I missing out. Lying in the ditch and staring at the road’s dusty dead end had lost its luster awhile ago, but I couldn’t find it in my heart to tell Will how boring this was. He had been so wound up. But when I heard the snakes rattling, I figured I had been on the ground long enough.

Trending Cow said...

I hurried, but then when I turned the corner my legs wouldn’t carry me any further. Kathy was standing at the bus stop. She was beautiful, always stunning. It was cold enough that she was wearing her dark blue pea jacket. A white scarf was wrapped loosely around her neck. Her curly golden, yellow hair was flowing gently in the breeze and she was alone, all alone.

anniegirl1138 said...

We killed the first one with the Chevy Avalanche, sunburst orange metallic. Remy drove. I was shotgun. The radio tanned our eardrums with a blast of 80’s metal rock to such a degree that if it hadn’t broad-sided the truck bed with force enough to rock the vehicle, we'd have never known we’d made first contact.

Traci said...

I was thirteen when she finally decided to do it. I guess he hit her one too many times, because after he slammed the door and peeled out of the driveway, she got this look in her eyes. The ice she was holding to her bruised cheek had barely started to leave a watery trickle down her collarbone when she said simply, “Go pack your things. Quick, now, before he gets back,” then stormed into her bedroom and disappeared in a flurry of crashes. She didn’t need to tell me twice. My bags had been packed for years.

Beth said...

Most commuters traveling to New York City by train read the paper, talk on the phone, or sleep — and pray they don’t drool too much. In the good ol’ days of bar cars, a group of regulars would grab a martini and gather around the same table each night for a spirited game of poker. My husband had a unique way of combating the tedium. Tim read books about statistics and logic, hoping to find creative ways to make his company’s computer systems perform more efficiently. Somewhere along the way this new passion changed our lives.

poeticdesires said...

She smoked instead of breathing. Her clothes were torn, dingy. Her hair was unkempt. This was a woman with priorities elsewhere. “When you’re running for your life, your appearance is the last thing you think about.” Oh, and she can read minds.

T.S.C. said...

Dinah’s post-menopausal body and plastic surgery free face should have made her stick out among the super hip, super thin, super young crowd that filled Cromwell Place. Instead she and her crimson wig faded into the red brick wall behind the table for two where she sat alone. Fading into the background didn’t come naturally to Dinah. She was proud of mastering the skill so necessary to her job. Tonight it appeared to be working too well as it had been ten minutes since Green Eyes took her drink order. Normally when Dinah entered a room her presence didn’t just light it up, it exploded like fireworks shooting over the Manhattan skyline on July Fourth. Some people are thrilled by fireworks; others fear them. People’s reactions to Dinah Sabatino were similar and she worked tirelessly to keep it that way.

kedavranox said...

Jared came to me again when I was twenty-two and sitting alone in my apartment. I could hear the faint wheezing sounds of the breaths he took and I could feel his body heat radiating off his skin. I could feel where my sofa sagged under his weight and I could smell him. It was the same mixture of deodorant, marijuana and breath mints that I’d grown accustomed to. He’d made some inane comment about the show I’d been watching. I don’t really remember it now, but I remember exactly what he looked like. He’d been wearing the same clothes he wore on the day he died. His hands were the same, large and heavily veined, with rings on every other finger. He’d had the same quiet, intense, baritone voice and he said the same stupid things, like the thing he said about my television show. I remember thinking that he was quite dead, and in everyone else’s world, the world of the normal that I knew little about, he shouldn’t be here, causing a dent in my sofa, and talking to me about television shows in that voice that I’d never forgotten.

folksinmt said...

Katrina Hayes was going to die. Any second now. Right in front of Jackson’s locker. He deserved to find her here, face-down on the polished concrete. She needed him to know that he did this to her. That she suffered a heart attack at the age of sixteen. Because of him.

Lisa Palin said...

I met Noah on the first day of the last year of my life. I knew this at the time, knew it with the rock-solid certainty that you know the sound of your own voice. I couldn’t have been happier.

allen said...

One million dollars, here I come. Greg Sadler moved the camcorder tripod into position clicked it on. As he took his position, a brief fantasy about becoming a superstar flickered in his mind like an old movie. This was huge. This would actually change the world—-if it worked. No. It had to work. He breathed deep and announced: “My invention is the Electro Wave Transmitter. Greg Sadler, Pasadena, California. Entry number 1245.” He let out his breath. God, please let it work. He wanted to win. Badly.

June said...

I'm desperate for it to be different this time. Maybe if I wait long enough, it will be. Heathrow airport in London, the world's busiest, is a virtual sea of people. I could say I am one of the many that are waiting, but that wouldn't be accurate. Oh, I'm among the throng of people, but I'm one of a few. My eyes are lowered and focused on the ground as usual. I take a chance, look up and look around.

worldofhiglet said...

The day started innocently enough. After the coffee, news update and bathroom break, Jason was reading his inbox by 9.00. The usual collection of spam, ‘jokes’ and actual business emails were quickly deleted, grimaced over and actioned. Jason yawned and stretched back in his chair. His eye fell on the pile of papers in his intray and with a sigh he reached over and picked them up. Time to start the grind.

Jammer said...

“Vietnamese?” they always repeat, squinting, "But you don't look Asian." Yeah, yeah, I don't look like a killer either. So there you go.

Crimogenic said...

When hordes of birds dropped from the sky, I refused to believe what was happening-- even when all the children missed school and city workers were commissioned to dig mass graves while the smell of charred flesh lingered in the air. But by the time the infection was full-blown, Chicago had been plucked down to the bone, and the people, well, not much was left of us. Then reality hit me as I stood on the balcony, hugging myself, watching the West Loop burn into the night.

Buschi said...

Drab, stupid, dorky, blah - there were so many words that described this town. There was nothing, absolutely nothing that Jeanette found appealing about living here. It’d been so much nicer up at the cabin. She missed the smell of the pine needles after a rain. She missed the secret skinny-dipping trips to the lake. She missed the birds singing from the trees. Okay, maybe she didn’t miss their thunderous chirping at four in the morning, but even that was better than all these stupid cars. The birds smelled better, too.

Jill@barclaysquare said...

Annie shut the cover of the scrap book she’d been shrugging over. The heirloom lace clung to the hangnail on her left hand. She sucked the blood off before it could stain the page. Salty. Then like a young child, re-wrapping an unwanted Christmas gift, she gathered the cabernet-stained cover and draped it around the caressed velvet. “Mothballs!” she sneezed. “Mothballs served with a side of Robitussin.” The perfect home for this sullen prison of memories, mostly of strangers, whose hands, feet and faces had all turned a urine-stained yellow.

G.Hen.Jo said...

“Kris, it’s Desi again. You have to come get me! I’ve managed to make your friend Brent Cooper think I’m dumb as well as blind.” Desiree Mason leaned back against the locked door, squeezing her eyes tight to stanch incipient tears. She swallowed with difficulty past the knot in her dry throat. “Things were going pretty OK until he placed a box in my hands. Valentine chocolates, he says. So, I say—you know, trying to be smart and witty like you said I used to be—I said: a blind date is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you gonna get. I thought it was a clever spin on that line from that movie we listened to yesterday.” Desi sniffled. “God help me. I tried to be smart by quoting an idiot from a movie. But seriously. My memory’s still all messed up from the accident. How was I to know that a box of chocolate has pictures and descriptions of what’s inside? Anyway, Brent pointed that out and now I feel stupid. I was so embarrassed. I’m glad I couldn’t see his face. Goddamn it Kris. It’s been three years. I just want my memory to come back already, never mind my eyesight. I wish you hadn’t insisted on setting this up. I’m not ready to date yet. It’s still too soon. Please. You have to come get me. I’m in the Ladies Room. In the third stall after the entrance door. And yes, I’m through ranting now, so please just be my enabler and my crutch one last time. Call me back so I know you’re coming.”

Rebecca said...

MaryJo Windland's first mistake was letting her friend Mollie talk her into a "lovely Sunday morning spelunking trip." Waiting around in the dank, slimy Ozark cave, cringing at each crack of thunder overhead, was her second. Mollie was almost certainly hiding down one of the side tunnels, stifling laughter at her friend's panic. If she were lucky, she'd choke on her own tongue before MJ got a hold of her scrawny neck. Her compulsively late friend had some serious explaining to do.

Joel Hoekstra said...

What could possibly posses a low profile Romanian mobster to declare war on Islam? And why would he start his crusade by trying to wipe out the sex trade in the backwaters of Moldova and the Ukraine? If there was a method to the madness of Victor “Mad Man” Leone, Randy Harriman had yet to determine what it might be, and his tenure as Chief Analyst on the Leone case might come to an abrupt, inglorious end if he didn’t have answers for the White House within a month. A month! How the hell was he supposed brief the President without looking like a complete idiot with only 30 days lead time? Leone had eluded Romanian and Turkish authorities for years and the trail was at least two decades cold. If the Turkish government was so hot to nab Leone “The Crusader,” sharing intelligence with the CIA smacked of desperation or incompetence. Or both.

Tod Hardin said...

Young Celie Berryhill walked onto the ledge sixteen stories high. She looked up to the sky, into a blue so bright she had to squint to see across the city. The ten-year old took a deep breath of cool morning air then smiled at the smell of baking bread, wafting up from far below. She turned toward the morning sun, spread her arms wide, and walked off the building.

Kevin said...

The most boring chore is driving your clogged up hack of a vacuum to the repair shop. The vacuum has lint for lungs. The limp hose hangs awkwardly down the back seat like thrown-off-pants after a bad day. Its motor somehow whirs and slogs at the same time. The cavity within your sucking sucker is blue-black with goop. There is no pleasure in such a chore, though this is all my opinion. Kristy, on the other opinion, does not believe this. She is an optimist. Getting your vacuum fixed isn’t so bad because of: the car radio, free vacuum store coffee, the odd ticklishness of just vacuumed carpet, the goateed vacuum repairman and his soul patched apprentice (Kristy has an odd fascination with facial hair that is never to be explained,) the possibility of severed human heads in the workroom underneath boxes of spare filters, the fact that the repairman’s last name is Hoover. She wondered if the goateed man’s of a life dustbins and nozzles was handed down to him from his father and his father’s father as seen in the tradition of cobblers and watchmakers and mimes. I wondered how a yellow receipt for a revived vacuum could fit in so many zeroes.

Mary Malcolm said...

Okay readers, I have to admit I felt somewhat reluctant to go on a date with a man named Chaz. You all know what I’m thinking: shirt unbuttoned halfway down his hairy chest, too-tight pants, some strange scarf from the seventies, the snapped finger acknowledgement followed shortly by some “Hey baby, did you fall from heaven,” cheesy pickup line. All the same, I put on my big girl panties, sprayed myself down with “anti-sleaze” repellant and headed to Water Bar, where we’d agreed to meet. Halfway through my Mojito a gorgeous hunk-a-dunk of a man walked in, looked around the room a bit then his eyes settled on me. Indigo shirt and blue jeans, had to be Chaz. I looked toward the ceiling, said a silent prayer of thanks to the first date gods and tripped over my heels in my hurry to greet him. He caught me, never once uttering that dreaded cheesy line.

Amalia T. said...

It was the man’s misfortune that he chose this night to loot in the desert, and stumbled across the gathering of all gods. Thor could only imagine the man’s dismay when he stepped into this golden chamber, expecting treasure, and instead finding himself in the midst of Aesir, Olympians, Egyptians, Aethiopians, and Hindus, all waiting for the Council to begin. Anubis dangled the mortal by the back of his cloak, lifting him up for inspection by Ra and the two goddesses beside him.

Jessica Callahan said...

The man at my window wasn’t human, as I later discovered. He was good, and kind, and made excellent use of his tongue, but he was also flawed, in the most damning kind of way.

Helen said...

Since its debut in 1953, Mimi wore Youth Dew, her signature scent. The name had spurred my sister and me into a titter of furtive sniggers because we knew, as evidenced by grandmother’s pleated jowls and corrugated brow, that Miss Estée Lauder was a liar – the perfume didn’t work worth a darn.

sbstephen said...

All afternoon the corridor outside her room bustled with visitors. She couldn't help but hear the bright voices and laughter, the oohs and aahs. But there were no balloons bumping against the ceiling of her room, no sweet pink daisy bouquets on the window sill, no florid cards, no well-wishers for her. No smiles. Her mother sat grimly staring out the windpw, obviously craving a cigarette but resolutely resisting, while her father handled the arrangements somewhere far from the medical miracle section of the hospital, in some fluorescent lit office where bills were paid and grievous errors were discretely plastered over. Sydney slept, or pretended to, until visiting hours were over. She roused only when her parents took their leave and repeated their parting instructions.

matt said...

Rachel’s hand hovered over the mouse, her finger poised and ready to drop. On her computer screen, Alana was holding onto a rocky outcrop, her eyes wide with panic. Behind her the beautiful Waiohine Gorge stretched out, rich green hills dipping sharply to the river, warmly lit by early morning sun. Beneath her, a perilous drop onto sharp rocks and jagged, broken trees. The preview window of Rachel’s editing software was paused. She reached down and used the mouse to drag a thin marker across the project’s timeline. In the preview window the footage of Alana rewound silently. The spark of panic in her eyes dimmed, her knuckles grew less white. She lifted into the air, her expression unfolding from horror to surprise. She flew up slowly, frame by frame, tumbling in reverse back up the cliff face, her blonde hair swirling around her face. A few more frames, and she was back up on the path, standing in front of her boyfriend, Hakota.

Kevin Porter said...

The thought had plagued him like a migraine. Constant. No way of escape. The only remedy...
To give in. To do it. And he had.
That day was perfect. She was running barefoot through the fields, wading in the creek. Skin as gold as sunshine, a spirit clean as country air. A good girl. These days probably called herself a victim. A survivor. Wasn’t everybody? He certainly had been. It was the way things were. A law of nature. Predator vs. Prey.

Vipul said...

The assault on Hell had begun.
A dark figure moved quickly through the desolate plain on the borders of Hell. Flitting between the shadows of the huge boulders that lay strewn across the barren ground, he stayed well-hidden from the nearby road that he followed. Pausing for a moment, he crouched in the darkness, watching a pair of guards march past as they continued their endless patrol.

Julia said...

The dull grey of the autumn's sky changes into the blinding blue of winter's radiance. Puffy blanket of snow covers the town and like gingerbread cookies the houses in Brösvin stand sugar-coated with shimmering white. Alexa walks through the soft cold heaps down the half hidden trail in the Central Park and memories like snowflakes dance down onto the earth around her in crazy circles, emerging from nowhere up in the sky. They pile up, melting together, fusing past and present and then spill down from the corner of the eye salty and warm, so unlike the cold snow they once were. When finally she reaches her destination Alexa opens her backpack and pulls out a book. It looks old, even ancient. Soft leather cover with the subtle oak-leaves etching running along the spine, the edges braced by a silver filigree, this book once seemed mysterious and inviting. Alexa's fingers touch it carefully, caressing the velvety surface. However little effort it would take to open it, Alexa finds herself unable to do that. She hesitates, for a moment giving in to the fear that pools heavily in her stomach. Tell me how this ends.

Joel G. said...

I came into my grandmother’s life when she died. She gifted me her adventures, her lover, and the secret she had never shared with anyone. I came into my grandmother’s life, and I barely came out alive.

Jeff Faville said...

I tried to hide my horrible secret but all it got me was trouble.

jbl said...

Open your eyes. Look around the room. This is the scenery of your life, the future of your soul. Books abound, smells linger, and the pillow next to yours has remained free of any lover's hair, for years. As you struggle to your feet, dislodging a last piece of broccoli stuck between those same two damn back teeth, you stare at your timid erection and declare, enough.

Dorraine said...

My name is Ruby Hiller Wiffledust. I'm thirty-years-old and I've never had sex. I work inside a Beltway Eight toll booth north of Houston, and men fly by so fast I never catch names. Sometimes that really pisses me off. Sorry, I'm rather cranky.

A. F. Stewart said...

The smallest light flitted on the sea, as eyes peered out a tiny window in rapture, a little nose pressed against glass. The rain was falling lightly, the gentle tears of summer, after the teal and blue of the fierce storm. The salt tang of the sea lingered, awash in the air, the pearl foam swirling in the waves; the wind puffed the beach sand, carrying it to kiss the mild sea.

Debbie Cowens said...

Everyone thinks there’s one person in their family is who certifiably crazy. But I bet most people don’t have their aunt show up two months late for their sixteenth birthday, telling them that they’re a fairy godmother.

Susan said...

The mouse squeaked when Adam put it in the machine. I wrapped my arms around my stomach and concentrated on not puking. Calm down, I thought. Take a deep breath. But sucking air past the lump in my throat felt enough like swallowing crushed glass to make me forget the whole breathing thing, at least for a while.

K and A said...

Adelaide walked swiftly along the street, past the pirate who didn’t own a ship, and the Scot who’d never been to Scotland, and the librarian whose home didn’t hold a single book. Contemplating her own strange circumstances, Adelaide realized she was absently twisting the ring on her finger. As she gazed thoughtfully at it, a bright flash of light reflected off the largest diamond. Turning to the source of the illumination, Adelaide watched warily as the light began to fade, and finally blink out, leaving in its place a New Arrival. The young woman, not distant in age from Adelaide, wore a tight body suit of unearthly hues, and clutched a sign that read, "Peace Not Plasma!" But it was the woman’s eyes that captured Adelaide's full attention, for they were bewildered, confused… and fearful. Adelaide understood; she had worn the same expression herself—the day she'd Arrived.

Anonymous said...

Ben Gay ointment doesn’t taste nearly as minty fresh as it smells. Pearl Bryzinski knows that for a fact, because she accidentally squirted a big blob of it onto her toothbrush this morning. Then she accidentally elbowed her “Daddy’s Little Girl” coffee mug off the counter, and broke it to smithereens. It had a glued-on handle and chipped lip, but doggone it, she’d been using that mug every day, all day, for the past twenty years. She was a pathological optimist by nature, but it was enough to raise prickly doubts about the veracity of that rosy five star horoscope in today’s newspaper.

Thornhill said...

Everybody should daydream. They say it's healthy for us adults. I like to imagine myself as a dictator, a kind and benevolent dictator for the most part, but arbitrary and unpredictable. For example, I hate the sound of harmonicas. When I come to power they won't be allowed outside of a prison. Nor will people who shout at me during their stupid TV commercials or that guy on CNN. They will have to learn to use their inside voices when they're on my TV or they'll spend their days breaking rocks on one of my chain gangs.

Anonymous said...

Ben Gay ointment doesn’t taste nearly as minty fresh as it smells. Pearl Bryzinski knows that for a fact, because she accidentally squirted a big blob of it onto her toothbrush this morning. Then she accidentally elbowed her “Daddy’s Little Girl” coffee mug off the counter, and broke it to smithereens. It had a glued-on handle and chipped lip, but doggone it, she’d been using that mug every day, all day, for the past twenty years. She was a pathological optimist by nature, but it was enough to raise prickly doubts about the veracity of that rosy five star horoscope in today’s newspaper.

Sarah Heacox said...

Marten had been twelve years alive on Oceanica, he had spent
nine years learning to be a Navigator, and it was time for his test. After dinner, that is. In the dining room of the family ship, picking at his fry bread and skipjack, he tried to keep everything in his memory. His head was a huge bowl of navigation soup: if he moved too quickly in any direction, some of his knowledge would slosh over the
side and vanish.

T.C. Graham 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.

(originally posted under anonymous)

K.C. Shaw said...

I left for work early because I wanted to see the unicorn again. I'd been security guard at a building site for a month now, watching to make sure no one walked off with tools or lumber overnight. I started work at nine, but if I left home a little bit early and waited at the corner of Frog and White Pine, I knew I'd see the mounted cop on his unicorn. Of course Whitefall was full of people riding or driving unicorns--while I waited now, pretending to look at the broadsheet headlines at a newsagent's, half a dozen carriages and wagons rumbled by. But this unicorn was special.

robinglasser said...

Eyes averted, Amada holds the sheet in front of her Jabba-the-Hutt-sized body. She had placed Stikit! on both corners and, with arms widespread, attempts to hang the cherub-printed cloth over her bedroom mirror. But there is a problem. Chick-a-chica-licious she ain’t. Her belly, Amada could have been carrying quadruplets (fat chance as she hadn’t had sex since the Ice Age!), gets in the way, making it impossible to press the edges against the mirrored surface.

Cupcakegrrl said...

He was a little man, not a pygmy or a dwarf, just a little man bent over a mechanical thing- metal and wires- that he said I should see for myself. Using a pencil as a pointer, he began to explain. His words, peculiarly certain, swung over me as if on a trapeze. My thoughts began to crowd me, muttering, and one of them, right in front, with elbows pushing, suggested (not unkindly) that the guy was too short to be a cop and maybe I shouldn't believe him. Despite his uniform, despite the station we were standing in, despite the other cops around us - maybe he really didn't know what he was talking about. Maybe it wasn't a bomb, and, really, nobody had tried to kill me at all.

Christina Davis said...

(memoir)

Things are not going as planned. I am in labor and just a few hours from delivery. My obstetrician left the room seconds ago and I’ve decided I won’t be seeing her again today or ever. I turn to face the wall and Mom knows immediately something isn’t right. She approaches the bed, “What is it?” Andy looks at her and then to me. I didn’t know what would come of my decision but I knew exactly what I had to do. “She will not deliver this baby,” I whisper. Andy leaves the room in search of a nurse.

Kristi said...

A woman’s call for help was lost in the polyphonic rhythms bouncing off curved walls. In full swing, the large laboratory pulsed like a light show, its glow radiating from dozens of nestled workstations. Knowing full well her fellow researchers were too busy to break focus and help, the woman shot to a standing position. One gloved fist plunged into the viscous orb bobbing inches over her desk, puncturing its fragile membrane. Textbook. Her orb’s image distorted momentarily, like waves rippling across a funhouse mirror. After the standard adjustments, she watched. Her subject’s face, inside the orb, contorted into swollen, clown-like features, per routine, before returning to— Wait. This wasn’t normal.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Ben Gay ointment doesn’t taste nearly as minty fresh as it smells. Pearl Bryzinski knows that for a fact, because she accidentally squirted a big blob of it onto her toothbrush this morning. Then she accidentally elbowed her “Daddy’s Little Girl” coffee mug off the counter, and broke it to smithereens. It had a glued-on handle and chipped lip, but doggone it, she’d been using that mug every day, all day, for the past twenty years. She was a pathological optimist by nature, but it was enough to raise prickly doubts about the veracity of that rosy five star horoscope in today’s newspaper.

abra said...

We stayed up past bedtime, high on toasted marshmallows, concealed from the road beneath the shadow of a rotting tree. Sat on a blanket too small for the both of us and told stories as dusk settled into fading fireflies and finally blackness. Sometimes the moon glowed, lit us up like angels, my father said. This wasn’t one of those nights. Most nights we couldn’t see the moon. Most nights a sickly yellow hallow traced the circumference of our town, blocking the night sky. This was one of those nights.

Serenissima said...

Last summer, the arsonist struck every home on the block but ours. The neighbors peppered my family with remarks about how lucky we were. Then came the roundabout inquiries concerning my brother, Gavin.

Tara said...

Alex shoved the rest of the papers in the folder, and stood to stretch. For a whole bunch of reasons, he absolutely detested day shift. What it did to his biological system – if you could still call it that – was insane. He was also tired of the inactivity. He preferred being in the field to being tied to the desk, another non-perk, courtesy of day shift. Dave, the agent who normally had this time slot, needed to be off and had called Alex for the favor. He hadn’t come in before noon, but Dave was okay with it. At three o’clock, the sun was already on the wane and it was getting darker. One of the good things about late fall.

Christina Davis said...

(memoir)


Things are not going as planned. I am in labor and just a few hours from delivery. My obstetrician left the room seconds ago and I’ve decided I won’t be seeing her again today or ever. I turn to face the wall and Mom knows immediately something isn’t right. She approaches the bed, “What is it?” Andy looks at her and then to me. I didn’t know what would come of my decision but I knew exactly what I had to do. “She will not deliver this baby,” I whisper. Andy leaves the room in search of a nurse.

ErynnNewman said...

The sun was beginning to set as Elisabeth pulled her car off the road. It had been a long time since she’d driven these mountainous Virginia back roads. It was something that she did a lot just after Drew’s death, when she needed to think. And she definitely had some thinking to do tonight. She’d driven around with the windows rolled down for a couple of hours until habit and necessity brought her back here. She stepped out into the unseasonably warm evening and carefully made her way down the familiar path in the waning light.

S.L. Park said...

Not long before dark, a flight of five helicopters landed outside our perimeter, just far enough to keep the rotor-wash dust at bay. All eyes focused their direction. Some thirty men, all strangers, jumped from the choppers and walked in through our protective concertina wire. Strange shit was happening, I should have stayed at my bunker, unconcerned, but I didn’t.

Alyosha said...

Girls like me didn’t get pregnant. And if they did, they didn’t stay pregnant for long. Girls like me had careers at stake, and for all the talk of tolerance around here, it was still not okay to have a baby. At least not for the student body president of the most prestigious prep school in Manhattan.

Chris said...

He returned again and again to stare into the great black hole. Half of the building--once elegant and white--had collapsed from the heat and the water. The top three floors were completely destroyed, but the Art Deco exterior of the bottom two floors were still intact.

Cyrano said...

Sophie slipped a twenty out of her wallet and offered it to the cabbie after he set her luggage on the sidewalk. The smiling man was about to accept the crisp bill when a nearby shout stopped him cold. “Go screw yourself, dickhead!” Sophie glanced over her shoulder to get a look at the owner of the obnoxious female voice that had managed to shock the Saturday morning birds into silence.

KHR said...

If it was true that sea gulls possessed the souls of dead sailors, Lucky Valera wondered which of his former shipmates dove at him from the June morning sky. He waved his arms. “Shoo!” His own stomach felt bilgy for lack of food, and Lucky surely hadn't a crumb to offer a hungry bird. Never mind, by guess and by God he’d be seeing the last of New Bedford off the starboard stern by noontide. And with a belly-full of fresh rations in the offing.

Natalie J said...

The earthquake hit mid-morning on a Tuesday. Down in town, a historic brick plaza crumbed on top of a dozen cars, the sidewalk, and two unfortunate gentleman who had stopped to talk as one fed the parking meter. Up on castle grounds, Eli the groundskeeper headed out the front door, not knowing that at that exact moment, his thoughts were exactly the same as two thousand of his fellow townsmen, all crying out in some kind of telepathic unison: Oh shit.

Dutch Henry said...

He missed her. He sat quiet, sipping coffee on their porch, remembering her. Sam Holt realized he existed now between two worlds; life with Mary had been so full of love, excitement and meaning. Sure there had been a sad moment or two, but with her in his world sad rarely found a way to stick around long. But that had been his old world, now gone, forever. His new world, the one without her, he hadn't quite figured a way to step into yet. So he sat missing her.

sarah said...

It never occurred to me that Mom was lying to me all my life.

Ally said...

On the day my father died, Mama came home from the hospital covered in blood: hers, his and forty-three others. Some were strangers. Some friends. Carefully, I tweezed the shards of glass and bits of burnt and twisted metal from her wounds, applying the greasy salve to prevent infection precisely as my father would have done had he survived the bombing. Mama had witnessed the bus exploding while she waited outside for him during shift change at the hospital. Collateral damage in a war we didn’t ask for and never wanted.

Mary Strand said...

According to Jane Austen, a guy who's rich and single should definitely be looking. Of course, Jane Austen lived two hundred years ago, didn't own a cell phone or iPod, and never even heard of the Beatles. So I don't give a rat's ass what she thinks.

Sharone said...

I’m still paying for my childhood. I don’t mean that in the way you might think. I don’t go to weekly therapy sessions, or have a string of tragic, codependent relationships. No, I mean that I pay $252 a month, including interest, into a joint account I share with my mother, to cover the costs of--well, everything. My eighth grade bedroom furniture. The food for my fifteenth birthday party. The corsage she bought me for prom the year I didn’t have a date. The gas money I asked for on September 23, 1998. I should just show you the spreadsheet my mom gave me when she presented me with the bill. It explains everything.

E.L. Russell said...

Leave the past behind, start fresh. That’s what the recruiter had said, and that’s what Andrew had done. Now frozen red rock crunched beneath his boots. Andrew surveyed the soulless Martian landscape. The military ship’s engines at his back hissed angrily, still upset from landing. A lone terracrawler snaked slowly towards him over uneven ground. Exactly how far away was hard to tell, his bubble visor played tricks with his eyes and threw off his depth perception. Andrew watched its progress until it arrived sooner than expected in front of him.

Sara Ohlin said...

For one last second the roar assaults my ears and then with practiced concentration I close out the cheering crowd. Silence. I arch my body over the starting block; my toes grip the coarse edge. Swim cap and goggles mold my head. I focus on the swimmers in the water. Breathing in the humid air, my arms stretch out towards my teammate, Sasha as she sprints towards me in the lane. No sounds touch me.

Stephen Duncan said...

Pastor Houston McPherson skulked through the field toward the glow. Though the night alone concealed him, he kept low, hidden under the corn, slipping between their stalks to avoid any disturbance that might give away his position.

LMG said...

Bianca shivered. Horizontal and naked were words that should bring certain images to mind. Not floating five feet in the air staring down at a warm, raspberry bubblebath without a frigging clue how to get back in there before she turned blue.

Qute Tells said...

The day was young but dark as night. Strange things had been happening, but the villagers wouldn’t speak of it. It began with the bats hanging from the dead boughs of the oak trees skirting the lighthouse. Twenty two pairs of beady eyes pored into the stone washed building that gazed out to sea. Then eyes began appearing everywhere, blinking in the dark…watching. Fidelisai was one of the covert few who knew the implications of the odd events. She was one of the few torn between rejoicing and fretting. The dark shielded her as she came from the towering lighthouse. She struggled to keep the massive wooden door, which had protected scores of warriors, from shutting with a loud boom. The door was enormous--as if it had been made for giants. With bated breath Fidelisai leaned against the inscriptions etched into the unyielding entrance and watched the man standing beyond the trees approach her. She was nonplussed by his wind-blown appearance. Winka’s hair and clothes were permanently starched as if in flight. Her bright auburn hair glowed fiery red as her eyes changed hues from moonlight blue to midnight black. Those who had seen these changes always imagined it was a trick of the light.

Annie Louden said...

Cursing her sister-in-law, Val carried the party decorations outside and threw them in the trash can. The cold, night air was a welcome shock after being stuck in the kitchen all day, making mini quiches and bacon-wrapped scallops for guests she didn’t know. She thought about hiding out here till the garbage men carried her away in the morning. Even the landfill would be a better home.

KSB said...

In this photograph you are three. You’re wearing that sailor suit mom made you wear at your birthday, even though you wanted to wear the cowboy outfit. If you’re three, I must be seven, and we’re sitting together on the grass, next to the bougainvillea at the white house with green shutters where mom used to wake up in the night to search for our floating bodies in the pool. You're leaning forward, your shoulders are hunched up, and you’re giggling. But you’re not looking at the camera; you’re looking at me, like you’re waiting for me to giggle too. But I’m not. I’m sitting straight as an arrow, eyes focused on the very center of the camera lens and I’m smiling, almost toothless. My hair is parted dead center and pulled back with pink plastic clips. I’m wearing the dress I got for Christmas that year, the pink velvet with the white collar and my hands are folded in the hollow of my lap. It looks like I don’t even know you are there, and it looks like I’m all you can see.

Anonymous said...

An hour after Callie Matheson boarded a commuter plane at Denver International Airport, the tiny aircraft plowed into a bank of bruise-colored clouds and began to buck like a bronco. Giant snowflakes streamed past the window as they hurtled toward earth. A nearby passenger gasped. Another screamed like a little girl. Callie sat up straight and held the armrests with a death grip that made the solid piece of plastic come loose in her left hand. Oh, crap! She had already died once this week but this time it would probably be for real. Damn her father. This was all his fault.

Cindy said...

“She needs blood, Jane, safe blood. Cass has already given all she can.”
Boston police Sergeant Detective Jane Pirelli felt a blast of icy east coast breeze cut across her face. She tightened her grip on her cell phone and stared numbly at the oak and maple leaves, some as big as splayed hands, clattering in dry frozen color across the street. Everything appeared stark, moving in slow, frigid motion as she listened to the voice from her past. His guttural accent. His measured tone. Coming across an ocean from a continent and a lifetime away. Brandt Strydom. “I’m A pos, Jane,” Brandt prompted, and she heard the temperance, the worry in his powerful voice. “Kelli needs O neg. She needs you.”

Cheryl said...

Suddenly the hall lights went off and the stage lights came on, it had begun. The Chief Law Enforcer appeared on stage to reluctant but duty-bound applause. He was dressed head to toe in the black uniform, and he bore his usual disturbing expression of mild amusement. He raised his hand for silence, and began the short, scripted speech. ‘We are all here to bear witness to the punishment of Martin 479. 479 has repeatedly broken our rules and of paramount significance he has refused to wear his sleep mask. For these sins he will now be terminated and his existence will cease.’

AMM said...

Screams, silent but tangible, filled Darren's mind. He pressed his head against a white, metal door to quiet the noises from other rooms. Only the screams past the one door remained.

Cindy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Liars - all of them. One girl in our little circle actually described cityscapes and clouds and gates and (get this) used the word "pearlescent," whatever that means. My only problem with her and all these other faking fakers said was that, unlike them, I had REALLY died for a short period of time - my heart stopped for 16 minutes on my 16th birthday - and let me tell you something: Everything these kids said about the other side was absolute Disneyland crap.

(C.J. Feyd, cjvsamazon@hotmail.com)

Jane Turley said...

She would die. He’d been watching her for the last few weeks. She was predictable, every time taking the same path which led to the seat at the top of the incline, overlooking the pallid lake below. The path ran between two grass verges which were littered with decaying ochre leaves. A sudden thud made him glance to his side but it was only a lustrous conker, newly fallen; the last solitary fruit of autumn

Brian A. Klems said...

Scared is a relative word until you’re in a situation where your heart stops beating long enough for your throat to swell and your body to go numb. I can’t feel the ground beneath me. My eyelids won’t shut. I’m not even sure I’m still alive.

Kimberley Troutte said...

Twelve-year-old David Hogan lay unconscious on the operating table while a drill burrowed into his skull misting the air with bits and pieces of his flesh and bone. Nervous excitement buzzed in the room like wet electric wires as doctors and nurses scrambled to keep him alive. They had come to the most dangerous part of the surgery where one tiny slip could be deadly. And the surgeon's hands on the drill trembled.

Stuart said...

Damion rubbed age’s dull ache from his hands. Countless years marked by even more battles had strengthened the tendons and muscles, but time had also worn them down, replacing strength with occasional sharp pain. Closing his tired eyes, Damion dreamed of his past life. Battle and victory marked most of his memories, but darker images tainted his successes. A single frightening image loomed before him, mocking him and reminding him of his one great failure. The one that haunted his dreams.

Qute Tells said...
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JuliePhilly said...

Obsession. It had always been my defining trait. Once I developed a fascination with something I became like an addict, impossibly dominated by thoughts of my object of desire. And this summer my overwhelming obsession was the empty house next door. It had always been a preoccupation, but suddenly it was an unrelenting distraction. A passion. A siren ceaselessly calling my name. And tonight, I was going to get inside.

Ingrid Sundberg said...

His hand slides under the edge of my shirt and touches my skin, at the waist near my belly button. I pull back from his lips. I knew this moment would come. I’ve been dodging his hands for weeks, but he’s been more aggressive lately. I mean, that’s to be expected, he’s male, right. We’ve only been dating for two months, but that’s like an eternity in dog years, and for a horny teenage boy I’m sure the experience is comparable. The car windows are fogged up, partially because of the hot air and the kissing, and partially because it’s the end of October and freaking cold outside. I think my breath is the one that’s cold, and his is the one that’s hot.

millhousethecat said...

I searched the dark garage for clues, wondering if this was an elaborate hoax. Insulation was hastily tacked to the low ceiling, KISS and Van Halen posters hung on the walls, and amplifiers were scattered around the edge of the cinder block square. Seemed legitimate, but maybe these guys lured girls to their lair to audition for a band, shocked them with faulty equipment, and then dragged them to the basement. Once there, the girls came to and were forced to play Dungeons and Dragons for the remainder of their natural lives. Which actually didn't sound all that bad given my current situation.

KT said...

Last night Doreen said, “Imagine the perfect color for a baby to snuggle and grow in. What do you think that color is? Fuzzy pink? Peachy golden?” From the table, I turned my head up at her; smiled. Coming to see Doreen is like stepping into a cup of herbal tea – the soothing fountain, dusty-spicy-old-house smell, potted green plants all around. Lemony sunlight yellow, I finally responded. But inside I thought: I know what the perfect color is. I’ve seen it. Red. Ugly, scary, deep dark red. Doreen got the needles ready.

Davonna King said...

Will's heart quickened as he drew his sword. He scanned the woods, ready to strike, but the forest was still and cool. Lowering his blade, he gazed at the lifeless man whose hollow eyes stared towards the canopy. Ivory feathers encircled the body, and a dagger rested near the man's shoulder. Will grasped the dagger and examined the intricate crest etched into the hilt. His mouth dropped. The etching matched the family crest on his sword.

Abbie said...

Every other summer, John Meany rowed pairs of his children out from the dock he'd built with his own hands and threw them into the Atlantic Ocean. The summer of quarantine was no exception. According to her birth order, Helen took her turn in the rowboat with Eileen, a year younger and so skinny that her teeth chattered despite the warming sun on their backs. Sweat glistened in John Meany's black sideburns. When he finally pulled up his oars and let the boat glide into the rocking waves, Helen allowed herself one look over her shoulder. The sun had softened beyond the Meany home, lighting the windows ablaze. Semi-blinded, Helen turned to see Eileen's white limbs flash against the sky. She felt the boat pitch and steady under her father's sure stance, then the strength of his hands on her shoulders. In the air, she found the composure to hold her nose, shutting her eyes so that the darkness of the late August ocean didn't frighten her when she plunged, her hair loosing from its braids under the cold pressure of the sea.

L.H. Parker said...

I don’t remember when the craze hit because I woke up one morning and spotted ten on my block. They sprung up overnight. Like weeds. Or, zombies. You already know what I'm talking about. And if you don't, then you're not from this planet.

Mr. Blah said...

Loki Basgaard was named after a mythological Norse god. His parents were from Scandinavia, except it wasn’t the one above Europe, it was the village in Wisconsin. The Basgaards knew nothing about any culture’s mythology, and if they had, they probably would have picked another name for their son. Whether by providence or undesigned cruelty, he too wound up being a bored jackass who lived in a fantasy world.

Jared said...

The corkscrews—she could twist one through the side of his cheek. Or maybe the steak knives gleaming on the white-linen banquette table; ram those puppies into him, grind back and forth, get him talking. But oh my, she spotted the long skewers in a neat row by the grill, waiting to spear fresh pineapple and cubes of pork tenderloin. The Brazilians knew how to do grilled pineapple. Those would be lovely—eighteen inches of polished steel with a decorative handle on one end and a malicious point on the other. When she was done with him Kimmy could slip one between his ribs and kabob his heart; they had the length to just about go all the way through his torso and burst out the back. She picked up two skewers, keeping them down at her side as she stalked through the party in search of her date—so she could torture and kill him.

Daphne said...

I'd never seen this many feral demons attack at once. They raced over the hard-packed snow toward my squad, sharp teeth bared. Butterflies fluttered in my throat. "Attack!" I grabbed for my walkie. We needed backup. Yesterday.

Vanessa said...

You may think it sounds insane for a genetic researcher or any rational man to agree to live with three serial killers, but to be fair, I thought there was only one at the time.

Tracey said...

Two days have gone by since Stephen put the barrel of the old revolver his grandfather had given him for his thirteenth birthday into his mouth and pulled the trigger, ruining the light gray interior of his wife’s Lincoln Town Car. Susan waits for someone to tell her what to do. She sits in the overstuffed chair by the window, an afghan pulled tightly around her shoulders, and shivers in the sun. She lights another cigarette as people on TV fade in and out. Her apartment fills with long curling strands of smoke that mingle with dust motes and daylight. Susan stares at the swirling smoke and loses hours.

hdew said...

“The next stop is Armitage. Doors open on the right at Armitage,” the electronic, recorded voice boomed. Allie quickly stood and pushed her way through the standing passengers, cursing the “L” as she stepped outside. It was always like this on Friday at five o’clock, everyone packed inside like sardines in a crushed tin box. At least the weekend was here. Two work-free days ahead of her. Allie thought about her plans for the night, feeling equally independent and pathetic. Rather than join her colleagues at a bar, she came straight home from work. She knew she should get out and socialize more. She was never going to meet someone staying in all the time. But when she made the effort and went out, she often found herself bored with the bar scene and the people in it. It had yet to trump a night at home, alone, in pajamas, drinking wine and eating pizza.

Mary said...

Didn’t need a crystal ball to tell me Daddy was fixing to leave his teaching job for one better suited. I’d seen it too many times. How he’d come home all antsy and before long be flapping out the back door muttering the Lord’s name in vain and stay out a long time chunking rocks at the trash barrel. My best agates and quartz. On purpose.

Anonymous said...

Like any good Fine Art college graduate, I had taken a solemn oath: starve to death before ever resorting to the classroom. I’d even considered having “Teaching is the artist’s vampire” tattooed on my bicep. Yet here I sat in my beat-up Civic waiting for my job interview, parked across from the formidable ivy covered facade of Woodbridge Academy. The school that just last week graced the cover of Star Magazine because one of its celebrity students had been busted with a bag full of pot at the tender age of thirteen. I stared at the steady procession of limos and chauffeur driven Rolls-Royces. The last time I'd seen a flashy display of this magnitude was the Oscars viewing party at Leslie’s apartment. But today I didn’t have the buffer of three margaritas and a crappy 28” TV. This was real.

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

I’m running. Fast as I can. Hot wind in my face, and the horrible whooshing sound in my ears, that is in my left ear, the one that can still hear after the explosion. My right -- not so lucky. A dull, aching, hallow thud, like my ear has been given the Van Gogh treatment, tells me I might need surgery, or worse. Maybe I’ll be half deaf, if I survive, of course. It’s always the little things.

Sara M. Harvey said...

It was a twenty-seven hour bus ride from Boston to Nashville. She could have traveled another way, but the bus was easy, the bus was cheap, the bus let her sit curled up in the back corner for hours on end watching the scenery swiftly pass, alone with her thoughts. Craggy mountains looking almost like home gave way to hills smoothed by the passage of time and finally to highlands and plateaus. When the sun ebbed away, sliding below the horizon ahead of them, she pulled up the hood of her grey cloak, covering her face and her hair. A lock of silver peeked out from beyond the hood’s woolen edge, turning black beneath the occasional streetlight.

John said...

The vibration in his left pants pocket initiated two chain reactions. The first, an adrenaline surge from the startling sensation in his pants caused Lucas Fowler to jolt back in his computer chair so fast the rollers couldn't keep up. The chair flipped. His head thudded against the hardwood floor. End of the first chain. The second chain had started too. Only it was a lot more subtle. It would last longer. And it would hurt a lot more than a bump on the head.

Patti O said...

Detective Nick Moreno battled the flies with a flick of his wrist and a swat from his hand. He shifted his six-foot-two frame and balanced his weight on his new Nike running shoes trying with all his might to keep them clean; a tough task with the puddle of blood pooling under his feet. “I thought they did away with beheading people back when Henry the Eighth was still in office,” he said to his partner as he stepped carefully around the body. Arthur Bronski bent over at the waist and examined the severed body parts with the tip of his pen. “Yeah, guess the perp figured it the best way to treat head and shoulders now a days.”

Lindsey Himmler said...

The shop windows were never clean. It didn’t matter how hard Evelyn scrubbed at them. Each time she attempted it, the glass was as cloudy and smudged as though she’d never even tried. Evelyn was quite sure the other shops had long given up on cleanliness; Their windows were black and gritty and as clear as bricks. Were it not for the wooden signs hanging above the doors, it was impossible to have any idea what the shops might be selling or that anyone was there at all.

v said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Katy said...

The sun was beginning to burn away the clouds and the sidewalks were almost steaming as I rode home along the Bayou. It was only the first week of May and Houston was already in full greenhouse effect. Think sauna, then add a molten ball of blinding light hovering just overhead. Sweat was streaming down my face and dampening areas I’d rather not discuss, but it was better than the alternative.

Anonymous said...

It sat there gnawing at my very being. My body, the intricate organs are engrossed
in a peculiar malaise. It takes all my attentions this small thing, it, petite winged- beast.
My noonday meditations have been profoundly agitated and dismissed because of this
presence. I laugh at first and leave the room but upon my return it still sits there. Its eyes, bulbous, a magenta red encased in a spider web- like black substance. The ringing of the phone in the kitchen distracts me but I stay still. I do not wish to answer for I am entertaining. A girlish voice echoes through my loft.

bob said...

Nessilla stood in front of the Temple, waiting. Her weight shifting from foot to foot as she wished he would hurry. She needed to get inside before her courage deserted her and she ran off to hide. Why was he late today of all days? The Eldest was to announce the new Caretaker today and her only reason for staying in this village was to become that Caretaker.

Violet said...

Once everyone had gone to sleep I had dressed for “operation break-in” – skinny black jeans, black T, black jacket with the hood up to hide my wild mass of strawberry-blond hair. If a stranger were to see me, he would probably assume that I was a sixteen-year-old goth girl, rather than a would-be burglar. But no strangers were going to see me tonight. Once outside, I would be nothing more than a shadow slipping between the houses in the moonlight. Not that a car was likely to pass at this hour. Our house and the empty house next door were two of a string of oversized homes that stood along the beach, and even though we were only 90 miles east of New York City, out here on the Island, it was a different world.

Nick said...

“You are going to come and play with me, aren’t you William?” the girl’s voice seemed to echo strangely, in an almost other worldly way. And he felt it wasn’t really a request, more a command. Aged around nine, she stood about two metres in front of him; ramrod straight, with her feet together and her hands clasped tightly behind her back. She wore her almost black hair in plaits which reached just below the front of her slight shoulders, each plait finished off with a small delicate red ribbon. Her round, deathly white face was completely devoid of expression, with dull, black glazed eyes that looked like windows into a bottomless void. Thin mauve lips made a severe cold slash across her face, where a softer, fuller mouth should have been.

Claire Coughlan said...

Written on board the SS Grace, somewhere in the Irish Sea, on the third day of January, nineteen hundred and twenty five

Babs was on the piano, caterwauling. Abraham Cole had just tuned it that day so it sounded a bit tense, if pianos can sound uptight like that, the way people can. Even when she hit the high C in the last verse, she sounded a bit off, but then, that wasn’t unusual for Babs. We sang along to I Dreamt of You but I couldn’t help myself and a few tears came out because it reminded me so much of Eileen. I pretended that smoke had got in my eye and went and lit another fag. Smithy eyed me, as if to say: “don’t be starting,” but I think he felt it too. Stephen stoked the fire and then I played the piano for a few minutes. It was the start of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto Number 1 in B Flat Minor. Father taught me it. But after a minute, everyone asked me to play some jazz. I don’t know any though, so Stephen took over. He made the piano talk, as Mother would’ve said but she wouldn’t have liked it, of course. “Honky tonk nonsense,” she’d say. Mary, Babs and Margaret danced. I suppose I did too – I must have, because I remember Mary picking me up and spinning me to the other side of the room. I thought I might fall into the fire! But there was no one there to see, no May and no gentlemen for us to entertain and it was just good to have a laugh and a dance and try to forget.

lotusgirl said...

Zoe Taylor reveled in the tune blasting her ears. She’d be able to block out the world until class started. No drivel. No cruelty. No high school stupidity. Just a pounding rhythm and harmony. As she strode across the room, her iPod cut out. Great! She pulled it out of her pocket, circled her thumb on the volume, thumped it on the side and looked at the screen—hoping. Nothing. The stupid thing was dead already! She sank into her desk and yanked out the earbuds wondering if there was something about her that could have drained the battery.

CR Coombe said...

It was a dark bitter London that welcomed Jordan Kinchaid back to its arms after the venerable grays of Paris. Rain streamed down from a pitch black sky, soaking footpaths and making streets glisten rich ebony; reminding her that rain was what London did…daily, sometimes relentlessly. The drizzles, mists, showers and downpours moved in from the Atlantic and swept across the west counties to the city saturating the region and making the sodden state as intrinsic to the existence of the native London dweller, as daybreak and sunset or the coming in and going out of tides water at the docks. The greenery she had seen in shadows coming in from Gatwick had been bent under the sheets of rain and the torrents of wind had pounded against the windshield making the motorway more than challenging. Along Belgravia everything was still, the street all but deserted except for the red glow of a passing car’s taillights before they were swallowed behind one of the banks of shrubs which was such a feature of the small square. Bracing against the brisk gust of wind that met her in the face as she opened her car door, she went round to the boot of the car to retrieve a parcel and then turned and quickly went across the street and up the steps to the front door of the familiar Georgian building that was 3 Sloane Gardens Square.

luvwriting1 said...

It sat there gnawing at my very being. My body, the intricate organs are engrossed
in a peculiar malaise. It takes all my attentions this small thing, it, petite winged- beast.
My noonday meditations have been profoundly agitated and dismissed because of this
presence. I laugh at first and leave the room but upon my return it still sits there. Its eyes, bulbous, a magenta red encased in a spider web- like black substance. The ringing of the phone in the kitchen distracts me but I stay still. I do not wish to answer for I am entertaining. A girlish voice echoes through my loft.

Brandi Andres said...

“So I’m going to die,” she said, pouring her fourth serving of Chardonnay into a cracked souvenir glass from France. Margaret’s swollen eyes looked out across the yellowing fields of tall grass that whipped in the breeze surrounding Lake Cayuga. She did not notice the delicate white clouds that hovered above or the whistle the wind made as it blew through the reeds that day. Her only thoughts were on the changing effects of seasons and how everything, once beautiful, tends to wither and die at the slightest chance of frost.

AjFrey said...

It is merely the beginning of the night when Gabriel decides upon his first victim. He locks his sights on her the moment she steps into the bar. The curvaceous blonde lass will be in is bed in under an hour, and shortly after her blood will be in his veins.

Shnarkle said...

“You are going to come and play with me, aren’t you William?” the girl’s voice seemed to echo strangely, in an almost other worldly way. And he felt it wasn’t really a request, more a command. Aged around nine, she stood about two metres in front of him; ramrod straight, with her feet together and her hands clasped tightly behind her back. She wore her almost black hair in plaits which reached just below the front of her slight shoulders, each plait finished off with a small delicate red ribbon. Her round, deathly white face was completely devoid of expression, with dull, black glazed eyes that looked like windows into a bottomless void. Thin mauve lips made a severe cold slash across her face, where a softer, fuller mouth should have been.

Wayne H. said...

Had they merely been brothers, August could've said no. But they weren't brothers, they were classmates. And that made it damn near impossible.

Anonymous said...

Dusk came down, saturated in misty dew producing a foggy substance around them. There were no other lights coming towards them on the highway, the night cloaking them in a disconsolate darkness. The FDR drive, at that time of hour was always desolate, lonely. The weather was simulacrum to the mood in the car, gloomy, a dark shade of blue. The individual trains of thought indulged in surfaced in their distraught expressions. Mr. and Mrs. Sweeney were on the highway going to the hospital for the 473rd time to see their son.

John Keenan said...

When the lift doors opened at the top of Queensway tube station and the crowd spilled into the road, the stench was like a smack in the face. Black plastic bin liners lay heaped in the road like body bags. Gulls and rats had ripped them open so that rotting vegetables, dirty nappies, half-eaten convenience meals, all manner of disgusting rubbish, flowed down from Bayswater to Westbourne Grove, a river of filth. The binmen had been on strike for a month now, along with the gravediggers and ambulance drivers. It was the generally held view that the country should be towed out to sea and left to rot.

MarieAlynn said...

I pinched the fiery wick between my fingertips, then watched the billowing smoke catch the breeze and waft out the window. I rubbed my fingers together, trying to erase the evidence that lingered from a flame that had thrown shadows on my wall only moments ago. My intent had been clear. I was ready to find my true love and live happily ever after. I was -- opening myself up to love. I knew better than to have a particular person in mind while working the spell, and I had fought to keep him from creeping into my thoughts, really I had, but damned if he didn’t just keep popping in there. It was for that reason, that I added a clause. “I ask for this or something better, for the good of all, with harm to none.” I let out a sigh of relief. Now I knew that if he came back, it would be because he was meant to, not because I wanted him to.

Strikethru said...

The dolls. Gale called them Dori's "sisters:" Guenevere and Nevaeh, Heaven spelled backwards, a name Gale insisted that she had invented all by herself, half-joking that it had been a divine inspiration, although Dori pointed out that a certain famous singer's daughter had recently turned up with the same. "I'll be damned," said Gale, "How your father ever talked me into naming you something so finite." Lucky for the girls at least, Dori's dad was gone—he'd left Gale in '98 for a divorcee from Boca Raton.

Cass said...

(YA)

The legend journeys from world to world as a warning. Although adapting to fit each culture encountered, the message is forever the same. A broken child will unlock the doors and bring an end to us all. That is just the kind of creepy stuff Grandma Mim used to tell me when I was younger. Never once did I think that the stories were more than fanciful yarns brought to life in the mind of a lonely old lady. Never that is until today, when they came to take my sister way.


Thanks Nathan for doing this!

Miles said...

The girl who entered Colonel William Jackson’s field office wore plain, light-weight linen clothes, which were soiled with the same dirt and sweat that served as the uniform of villagers throughout the islands. She walked quietly to the center of the room, her eyes averted, and placed a moist, dark bundle on the colonel’s desk. A familiar, fetid odor had followed the girl into the room and it grew more intense as Jackson unrolled the rags to reveal a severed head, resting on its left ear and frozen in an unnatural expression of pain. The skin was creamy brown—lighter than the colonel had expected. He looked up at the girl, but she would not return his stare. With a gloved hand, Jackson turned the specimen and examined its contorted features. Could this be the same man he had met briefly in the shadows of the jungle?

Roanoke RnR said...

Why was he taking so long? “E308.”
Last time he was done within ten minutes. “B206.” Of course that didn’t go too well. “C112.” He was so cocky going in; coming out head held down, he managed not to cry, but I knew he wanted to. “B207.” I wish this guy sitting next to me would stop hacking all over the damn place. Call his number already. “E309.” Why is every motor vehicles office always so freaking crowded? Where the hell is he? “A416.” Just when I thought I couldn’t sit still any longer listening to the annoying automated female voice, or the one inside my head, my fifteen-year-old son emerged from behind the screen. Our eyes met; his thumbs shot up and a smile spread across his face. He had passed his permit test. This time he stood tall and even sported a grin as they took his picture. While we waited for it to develop, he wondered what kind of car he would get. As my son’s future raced before his eyes, my past meandered before mine.

Michelle said...

The outside of my childhood home looks exactly the way it did when I ran away ten years ago. I use my coat sleeve to clean a small circle on the grungy kitchen window. Memories of my mother cartwheel through my mind as I peer into the faded kitchen. I can only hope the answers I need are here, because now I have to get my coat cleaned.

Scott Matulis said...

“Gross. There’s no way he’s going to eat that.”
Robby and his friends, Adam, Craig, and Matt were standing in a circle on the playground waiting for the morning flag salute.
Alex Rosten was going to eat a bug.
“Alex old chap, what’s harder?” asked Craig, who was still talking sissy after coming back from his summer vacation in England. “Bugs or boogers?"
“Bugs,” said Alex. “Boogers don’t try to crawl out of your mouth.”

miked said...

Standing in the cold November rain in Times Square I finally realized who I am. Up until that moment I had always thought when you had an epiphany that the heavens would break open with a bright light, angels would begin to sing, and the world would stand still. I was close. The heavens broke open with a down pour of rain and the green and white light from the Starbucks’ sign above me was shining brighter than ever. No angels were singing, but a mermaid was staring down at me with her fins spread open sharing her glory. I bowed my head and began to walk back down Broadway. I could have gotten a cab, but it didn’t seem to be the appropriate thing to do since I had just realized my true self. So, I walked six blocks in the cold November rain back to my hotel.

sarah said...

Cirra and Strata walked briskly down the road, their long hair whipping and tangling behind them in the desert wind. Neither knew the name of this place but their imminent arrival was felt by the nearby townspeople, the sage and juniper, the crickets and burrowed snakes. The women turned off the dirt road, moving across a ditch, over an old fence and on toward a dark mesa that loomed in the distance, quickly and evenly making their way. Desert night coolness began its creep, and wild grasses caught their skirts. Cirra pushed her hands into her pockets and glanced up, reading the sky. "The others should be among us shortly," she commented. Strata, watching ahead, nodded.

Patty O said...

One and one-half years remain until the mandated release and re-booting of a legion of thugs, creeps, dissenters and gimps from their detention on Vitazra. As the days tick off the Plutonian calendar, Numblood’s waning goal of keeping them in safe mode forever, is falling on deaf circuits.

Beth K. said...

Faina had not expected the message to arrive before noon. Even in her anxious turns to each knock at the door or pausing pipecart outside the townhouse of Jallan Hall, she kept telling herself it would not arrive until after noon. In the spurts to distract her mind, she went into the informal workshop on the first floor next to the parlor, set the magnifying glasses upon her head, folded down the thick lenses over her mottled eyes, and worked upon the gears of the gyroengine for her bicycle.

Karen said...

Tepes sat rigid upon his horse, shoulders slumped with the reigns clenched in his fist and his battle-beaten helmet tucked under his arm. Sweat dripped soot and blood from his furrowed brow into his eyes, but took no notice of the sting. He was safe, for the moment, upon the hill he chose to watch the further demise of his city. The steeples of his churches blazed into the moonless night sky, the walls of his palace crumbled from the relentless fire of the Turkish cannons, and the shops and homes of innocent people ransacked and destroyed. He breathed a deep sigh of contempt, the fog of his breath swirled into the chilled air. Tirgoviste had nothing left for the Turks to destroy.

Aimee said...

Tommy Putnam took a left into the paved driveway of a quaint little house which sat on the corner of two conjoining streets. He remembered it so well. The flower bushes were blooming just has they had been the last time he had seen them. The thick green grass brought back memories of sitting on the short deck, dangling his feet off the side, his ticklish toes brushing against the beautiful lawn. When Tommy opened his car door, he heard the tinkling wind chimes, but could not tolerate smiling at the sensation that the sound brought him.

Liz Wolfe said...

I arrived at the Newark airport after my cab had been followed halfway across New York by some nut in a Lexus blowing the horn and waving hand gestures out the window that I had no problem interpreting. After standing on line for the better part of an hour waiting to check my bags, I saw a woman in skintight jeans and a bright turquoise western shirt, and had an eerie feeling that there was a connection.. She was the kind of skinny that came from a serious eating disorder, drug abuse, or the genes I’d been praying for since I was fourteen. Her hair was a blonde that didn’t occur in nature and it was big. Late 80’s New Jersey big. Even if she’d been dressed conservatively, she would have stood out because she was scurrying around, her big blonde head whipping back and forth as she scanned the various lines at the ticket counters.

Sara said...

Wow, that's alot of entries! Good luck, Nathan. Time to get mine lost at the bottom of the pile.

Yes! I made it! Freedom! Xi Wang raced along a small, grassy path connecting his home at the vicarage to Oolong Commune. A large pouch rustled on his belt as he hopped around several shrubs. The pouch contained thousands of tea leaves Xi Wang had carefully rolled and dried several monsoons before. Fearing for their safety, Xi Wang slowed to a walk. The monthly bazaar would be open ‘til dusk. He’d have plenty of time... providing his family didn’t notice he’d left. Xi Wang walked faster.

Grace said...

Rape, torture and near death had not stopped her. Only death could stop her now. Only death would stop her now. She would kidnap him alone.

Alicia said...

I woke to my alarm at 4 a.m. and sat straight up. To this day, I can’t hear the tune of that alarm without feeling the need for a nap. It was called “antelope” on my phone because of its bouncy, leapy melody. It was the last day of my first week with students and The Scarlet Letter, which I’d stayed up until after midnight reading, was next to my pillow with a post-it note stuck between pages 17 and 18. It said “yellow shoes discuss” in my handwriting and I had no idea what I’d meant by that. I was separated from the floor by only two pieces of thin rubber and a sheet, since my air mattress had deflated through the night—just as it had every night. Inches from my pillow was a flip flop, kept close for the purposes of squishing the cockroaches that zigzagged past my head through the night.

Ashley said...
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v said...

'This is the future', the little while label said. 'Even if it's not the future, you should pretend like it is. - Boone.' Snarky labels were stuck on all the movies that looked stupid and you'd never heard of, praising them. This particular label was attached to, Apocalypse Future: The Return of Kurtz in 4-D - my future. The movies you loved had things like penises added to the actors faces - in different context though. Movies you thought you loved, that is, until you see Forrest Gump with a steaming pile of poop drawn on his head and a penis floating in the air above him, instead of a feather. Maybe you've been to this place, this is not your normal happy chain, there is no bright fluorescent lighting, behind the counters are not high schoolers working to help their parents with car payments or future tuition, the people that work and rent here (except me) are loaded to the gills with crap and weird to the max. They probably never had mothers and perfume the place with body odor. This place will not exist in the future.

Cindy said...

The unicorn figurine crashed to the ground and shattered. Truthfully, I didn’t give a damn. The treasure curse was real. At least I was still alive.

Matthew said...

Brent stood over me, a gun pointed at his head.
He always was a melodramatic little shit.

Doug said...

Who are you? With pen and paper in hand, and before reading further, take a moment to answer this question; not five or ten minutes, just a moment (you’ll learn the importance of ‘just a moment’ later in this book). Again, answer the question before reading further. From your answer (if you have one), draw a line through all words that describe what you are; all words that relate to your sex, sexual preference, job title, parental status, or physical appearance; all words that fit in the sentence, ‘I am a _______. What’s left? Maybe there isn’t much because there isn’t much there; that the emptiness on the paper before you is a reflection of the emptiness within you. Maybe that’s your life in a nutshell; you don’t know who you are.

Laurie Lamb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jodi Whisenhunt said...

Once upon a midnight clear, Village Idiot came out to cheer. “Hip hip hooray!” was his chant and all who heard came to join in the rant. He whooped and he called and he jumped about ‘til his hat it flew off and then went kersplat. A puddle as big as Superior be. He dove right in with giggles and glee. Townsmen frowned; their wives harrumphed. Their kids snicker doodled, their bedtimes trumped. Above flew a fowl who dropped “gifts” aloft. Village Idiot smirked, thanked it, and took off.

alaine said...

At odd times throughout her life, she’d convinced herself that there had originally been two of her--a two-in-one squashed in the ball of her stingy momma’s womb. Lola-Belle even knew what it looked like. A two-headed monstrosity made of rawhide chews, flat egg noodles, and tadpole eyes—the whole mess jammed in a formaldehyde-filled sac. But that was crazy thinking. There was only her. Had always been just her. She’d shut off the crazy thinking, giving the twin-monster thoughts only a second of airtime before twisting the mental knob to a different, saner station. At ninety, Lola could still do that. Could cut the crazy ideas off before little ghosts of rawhide noodle wisps formed a concrete image. Twirrrrrrrrrrl. All gone. There were simply too many rational top forty stations to listen to on the cracked turquoise transistor radio that never left her bedside table. Never. Even if it was an unfamiliar table in the cramped Lake Sherwood Village Assisted Living Quarters, Apartment 132.

Gabrielle said...

The moment state law allowed my independence to be earned via driver’s license, I fidgeted incessantly outside the Nevada DMV waiting for the doors to open. Once inside, I killed time by reviewing the driving manual, my boot tapping on the tile floor. Minutes later, a whoosh of winter air drew my attention to the entrance and I found myself staring into a pair of vaguely familiar eyes. The corner of his mouth curled into a small, nearly indiscernible smile. My head dropped, face flushing with unexpected anticipation. I attempted to refocus on the manual, but the letters and words danced across the page in a confusing blur. The accelerated drum of my heart echoed in my ears, as everything vanished from view in a sea of gray.

Quietly Says said...

Barely a leaf stirred as Zendralyn moved swiftly and quietly through the dense woods. She was so connected to these ancient trees she moved through them like a gentle wind. Dawn was quickly approaching and she needed to be in the Grove before it was fully light. She had taken to wearing a hood all the time now. It helped keep the moisture in and it helped guard against the urge to stretch towards the sun. Her fingers were already taking on a more twig like appearance and she knew the days were not long before she would be joining her relatives already permanently in the Grove.

Ashley said...

Soft music purred at a steady rhythm all around her, and with each beat that gently vibrated the floor of Salon de Ning, atop The Peninsula New York, her heart throbbed with rampant anticipation. Perched on a brown leather barstool, she waited.
For her latest indiscretion to arrive.
Disgrace.
Elena Bancroft silently repeated the word, only in her head, the shrill bite of her grandmother’s voice replaced her own. The bartender's gaze lingered at her side—mere inches away from her left breast—where the cut of her dress revealed the first two lowercase letters of the word disgrace, etched in an elegant black script. Unabashed, the guy had been staring there since he handed over her drink order, and she satisfied his curiosity about her tattoo less than thirty seconds ago.
Although, apparently, he wasn't satisfied just yet.

Anonymous said...

Persephone said:


The day I got carted off to the nuthouse, I did the same things I'd done every day. I filled both pockets with dry cat food and walked the mossy sidewalks to the ivy-smothered market. I bought two packs of cigarettes, left by the back door, and emptied my pockets in the alley for the stray cats. I took a leisurely walk down to the river. And then I killed someone.

Gina said...

“Are you sure you know what you’re doing moving to a place like London with these little girls?” When my mother first said this to me, weeks earlier, I quickly dismissed her apprehension and responded with “People raise children in London all the time, Mom.” Had I been twenty years younger I would have added “Duh!” at the end of my sentence while I tilted my head and had a sneer on my face. But what if the long and tedious flight was an indication of what traveling with children was really going to be like? Maybe I should have listened to my mother. Ugh. The very thought made me shudder. Not the possibility that I had made a mistake by moving to Europe with my two young daughters, but that my mother could have been right about something.

Helen Polychronakos said...

What would she say when she saw Annie again in prison? That’s what Barbie thought about as Angela floated face-down in the swimming pool. Not about the crow bar with her fingerprints all over it. Not about Angela, who.... Last time she’d looked, there’d been blood. Chad had run inside to…she couldn’t remember, but why was it taking him so long? Maybe this is a movie, Barbie thought. A movie in slow motion. She wished someone would press rewind. Her life had been pretty normal. And then she’d found herself standing in the driveway next to her hot-pink corvette, looking at an empty road and crying over a girl. Annie and Barbie had had that butch-femme thing going, for sure. Barbie’s hair was classic California, long and golden with a chestnut streak. Annie went for natural, a big red fro she got cut once in a while but never styled. They were the same height, but Barbie had the gait and bearing of a supermodel, whereas Annie moved with a powerful swagger.

KatMead said...

Jim Dimsdale was the King of Christmas. Good King Jim. He practically invented Christmas. Maybe not the holiday itself, but he was the holder of no less than seven patents for inventions to improve the installation of Christmas lights. Those tube strand covers that allow the lights to lay on the ground without shorting out--Jim invented them. The remarkable Dimsdalator indoor/outdoor transformer with bi-level surge suppression, that was his, too. But Jim was possibly best known for his masterwork, the Euphoria 2000 Multi-directional Permanent Christmas Light Clip,. Made in America entirely from recycled milk cartons and named for his wife of 42 years, the Euphoria brought Christmas light installation into the 21st Century. With exact positioning of every bulb, it allowed for near flawless lines and angles that held fast in any kind of inclement weather.

Anonymous said...

Tobacco smoke and moonlight filled the car. Outside, the headlamps painted a blur of green and tan onto whatever they touched in the forest as the old Lincoln raced through the gray night. From the back seat, Stu listened to the big V8 gargling under the hood. He saw the slick of sweat on the driver’s face, as the young man hunched over the wheel, gasped and wheezed, and willed the lumbering car through the twists of an old country road. The driver’s as goddam scared as me, Stu thought. And the driver didn’t have the gun at his head. Stu flinched at the casual tap, tap of the carjacker’s pistol on the bump of bone at the base of Stu’s skull. The dashboard clock said one-thirty a.m. The road through the woods followed the curves of a river. The trees were almost on the road. Stu would never forget those trees. White oak, six feet through their middles, older than the Constitution, stiffer than the Hurricane of ’38, unbending and unforgiving.

Perry said...

Sam Barton pulled his black SUV into a parking space at the Palace of Fine Arts. The early morning darkness flared with red and blue from the lights of the patrol car parked at an angle. The buildings stood in the gloom like ghosts of a lost age huddled around a secret. Turning off the engine, he stepped out of the car taking his FBI ID folder from his jacket pocket as he walked towards the sound of voices, voices that burst in short rhythms, the sound of questions not conversations.

Tochi said...

Kayon loved healing with mud; it was the ultimate art-form. He enjoyed working the soil with his hands, and then massaging it against the wound of a patient. The mud softened the damaged flesh and oozed into the body to speed up its natural healing. Before long, the flesh regenerated – the way God intended it.

SAT said...

Momma always said you didn’t have to have money to have class. Though growing up and even now, it didn’t feel like we had much of either. Now Momma is dead and Mrs. Rose the psychic said it wasn’t an accident at all. Mrs. Rose said Momma was murdered in cold blood.
That wasn’t what I paid forty dollars to hear.

Hannia said...

Whoever put the soccer field in viewing distance of my math classroom was a genius -- one whose feet I would gladly kiss. The actual subject itself was the complete definition of snorezville, but being able to spy on the boys’ PE class outside made sitting through those mind-numbing lessons worthwhile.

Cushnoc said...

Get back to the gun. Captain Sullivan had said to always return fire. And he did everything Captain Sullivan ordered, because his father had told him to. So, after the explosion, he made it somehow to his feet, back toward the swivel he thought he’d successfully fired before the wound came. But the gun wasn’t there, and he couldn’t find Sergeant Tracy either. So he stood quite still and thought for a moment, because no one had told him the gun and the second gunner might not be there anymore.

EJ Lange said...

The bathroom was rank. It smelled of Lysol and urine and blood – Lysol, because of the school’s half-hearted attempts to keep the restrooms germ free – urine, because the deodorizing cakes had all but evaporated from lack of replacement – and blood, because the large boy had just slammed the small boy’s face into the grimy lower edge of a urinal.

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