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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Tina Lynn said...

I could hear a voice calling to me as if from a great distance. It was invasive, like a siren song compelling me toward the jagged, rocky shore of wakefulness. I was warm and comfortable. I was rested and content. More than anything, I wanted to ignore the voice and remain in the calm, still waters of unconsciousness. But still…the voice continued and I could no longer shut it out. The voice’s beauty was unmistakable but that was not what compelled me to listen. It was the urgency. It cut through my unwillingness effortlessly, like a sharp razor blade. I tried to concentrate, but I was so tired, so groggy.

L.T. Elliot said...

Grief boiled away compassion; the stripped, raw flesh of his heart pulsing Vengeance, vengeance, vengeance.
His left arm hung useless at his side, dying sinews slack, bone shattered within. Galael felt nothing but the retribution under his ribs. The first thump of his heart was stiffly slow; the chambers filling with congealed liquid until he thought it might burst. The second thump was agony as the muscles contracted, heavy blood exploding into veins that felt too small.

PaintWithWords said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
florkincaid said...

Note: Sorry for deleting this previously.

He came into being a fifteen-year-old with radiation sickness. At least, that’s what they told him it was later. The boy just knew there had to be some logical explanation for why he couldn’t stop throwing up. Plus, the two adults who found him muttered the words to each other.

Piper said...

It is blood at first sight. Her blood, a bright red trail across the white Formica cutting board. The room gets a little blurry. My heart accelerates in my chest. Not because I realize she’s beautiful. I barely realize she’s female, my eyes drawn to the string of crimson droplets like it’s a gun at a bank robbery.

kdorsey26@gmail.com said...

Nicholas Tremain watched as the computer screen darkened, casting a shadow across the sky. “She means us to marry.”

“What gave you that idea?” Aaryanna asked, snatching her hand from his. “Our first kiss, or your clumsy proposal?”

Zeig-Zag said...

A guard ushered me into the foyer of the Alpine Foods corporate building, apologizing in the yaw-yaw of the Swiss French about some misunderstanding—not what I wanted to hear on the first day of my chocolate internship. I followed him across the granite floor, hauling two giant suitcases, my carry-on slipping from the top of the bags, to the receptionist's desk. There, he left me to speak with her about whether or not I flew all this way for nothing.

E Chinn said...

I stared at the coffin in front of me. The others around me paid their respects, and then stared at me. Some of them knew, and some of them didn’t – but I was probably a horrible sight anyway. I wasn’t crying like some of the others – I was past crying. I couldn’t cry when I could barely breathe, when I could barely keep inching along. This is all my fault, I thought.

LeeAnn Flowers said...

In the year 4823, highly-trained agents are responsible for the welfare of the world. My name is Jenneira, and I’m one of them. I travel through history to protect our timeline. I handed Brutus the dagger he used on Julius Caesar. I protected Elizabeth I from her sister’s wrath. I was even on the crew of the first manned interstellar space flight. I thought I’d seen it all. The one thing I never saw coming was that the fate of the world would hinge on an El Camino.

Ashley (Shinji) Turner said...

We were walking though the Sapphire willow forests, walking side by side like we did when I was a child. Sekai, my Guardian and friend, had his long silver braid over his right shoulder. He looked ahead of me, his bronze gold eyes peering in the distance. “Where are we off to now, Princess Shinjite?” He spoke as he brushed his silver bangs out of his face.
I shrugged and sighed, “I dunno…Kaji Da told me that we have a limited time till the exiled come for me.”
He looked down at me quickly then groaned, frustrated.

mercedesalh said...

Rowland couldn't hear the instructor very well. The voices in his head were screaming too loudly.
"Please come to me. Just come this once and I swear I'll never ask again. Please! Please!"
Of course, This was a common problem for dragons as summoners often summoned at the least appropriate times. This particular summoner was unusually persistent. She had been calling him for the past two months; three days out of the week at exactly four-thirty in the afternoon.

Mike said...

Right from the start, Gabe never made Rob feel inferior. Gabe was always the tallest tree in the forest. The first to let go of the tire swing over the pond. The first one up on water skis, two then one. The first to catch air on his bike and land without breaking something. The first to shave and the first to have a girlfriend. Rob trained himself to think that he was more than decorations on the wall behind Gabe. Gabe was tall, Rob was not as tall. Gabe was handsome, Rob was plain. Gabe/popular, Rob/liked. Electric smiled/smiled, blue-eyed/hazel-eyed, sharp featured/round, confident/stable, bold/careful, daring … not as. Like all proper high school stars Gabe had his solar system. People didn’t become his friends, they auditioned and hoped, then tried again if they didn’t make it. Rob made it all the way to Gabe’s inner circle, surprising many. After high school, when Rob was juggling class loads and night jobs, Gabe had money, time, and women. Rob wondered if he made the right decision by going to college. Gabe never made Rob feel inferior. No, Gabe made Rob feel special— and unremarkable.

jloonam said...

You narrate you life like rethinking a sitcom voiceover. You hope examining your day will help you make sense of your pain, the pain you cause her. You didn't mean to make her cry. Just that's what happened because she started the fight and all you wanted to do was get out of it. You didn't know you were treading on her unhealed wounds. But you did. And it thrilled you when you hit her.

Sandra said...

(I tried posting this before, but I didn't see it appear. If this is a repeat, please disregard.)

As soon as Paul Harrison left the stage, he ripped the holoprojector bands off and rubbed his arms. Why were they itching so much, and how could he make it stop? It would spoil the show if he scratched himself like a monkey during Hamlet’s final duel.

Linguista said...

Her mind wandered for a moment. Should she really be doing this? Should she really be letting this happen? She should continue to be this person that somehow, little by little, she had suddenly become? She glanced ahead of her at the silhouette she could just barely make out. The head, drooped slightly, as if being so tall had caused him to constantly avoid hitting his head on invisible obstacles. The broad, slightly-muscled shoulders that spanned almost the entire width of the narrow hallway, the neat, tight behind that clenched and unclenched every time he lifted his feet to climb another stair. She knew that if the light was stronger in this dark passageway she would be able to see curly, darker-than-midnight black hair as it fell to his forehead, where she knew his brows would be furrowed, a look he only made when he was concentrating really hard or anticipating some long-awaited pleasure. Focussing on these things, there was only one thought on her mind.

Jeni said...

It was supposed to be the summer Michael's parents got back together—the summer his dad would realize he'd been a complete idiot in leaving Michael's mom two years ago for a high school Spanish teacher (especially after the teacher left him for a younger man—but kept the $10,000 engagement ring he'd given her "because it was a gift").

BenPanced said...

In line at the men's department cashier, Brian nervously checked his watch. He was late enough for work so what did he do? Pop into the Marks & Spencer across from his Tube stop and buy some more underwear. Like he needed it. 'Let it be known to all who read my obituary in the Daily Sun it was due to a time of great personal struggle, just after I'd spent my one-millionth pound on men's undergarments,' he thought as he put his selections on the counter.

Penelope Wright said...

Becca had always wanted to be wild like Joey, but it never seemed to work out for her. Joey could do just about anything and get away with it. She was the love ‘em and leave ‘em type. She mowed down guys and never looked back. The only time Becca had tried a one night stand, all she’d gotten out of it was a pregnancy scare when the condom broke. Joey could drink any guy under the table and walk away unscathed. The night Becca had finally allowed herself to get stinking, filthy drunk, she’d managed to get her foot caught in the seatbelt when she tried to climb out of the back of Frank’s two door Chevy Nova. She’d been dragged for half a block before anyone had noticed. She did not need the third time to be the charm. When Joey left, it just about killed her. But she didn’t go with her. She wasn’t wild. It wasn’t in her DNA and she was painfully aware of that. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to go. She just knew that she wouldn’t have survived it.

Elise said...

There were two of them in the cabin, sparring:

“Why do you hate him?”

“Because he’s one of those people who do nothing but take into themselves what other people have made,” he said. “Leeches. And he knows better.”

“Maybe so, but they take in what other people have created for consumption,” she said. “Artists.”

“And TV producers. Marketing executives. Made-to-taste media. Is there art left?”

“Perhaps there is. Hoarded. Stored away for winter by people who don’t need the money to survive.”

“The winter of our discontent,” he mused, “is the summer of corporate lucre.”

“Don’t steal quotes,” she said. “It’s passé. And besides, that doesn’t make sense.”

But she kissed him anyway, and outside, the night wind moved the branches of the pines.

Teresa said...

I was only seven years old the first time I was committed to an asylum for the mentally insane. I couldn’t talk about what had happened that night before Halloween, because I was too afraid the same thing would happen to me. How could I explain that I hadn’t killed all of those people? I was only seven years old for God’s sake. I barely knew how to tie my shoes. Now that I’m older and realize that I’ll probably never leave this place I like to refer to as Hell, you may as well know the truth of what happened October 30, 1989.

Acemandese said...

Blanche Bankhead never met a man she couldn’t master. In the town of Topanga Lakes, there were retired men and city slickers, dull and conservative in their thoughts, and the skies were clear and rarely raining and blue in the sunlight. “I haven’t felt like this before,” Blanche said in a breathless pant. The last mile felt brutal. But no way in hell would that stop her now. She could feel the crowd of townspeople all around her. Some were on her heel; sniffling, gasping and breathing hard. They were the cowardly lions in her life; every man that she knew who gave a good roar but lacked the courage it took to take a bite at her.

Jen C said...

Wow, how about those 821 entries?! As normal I won't be entering, but it's been fun reading the work of those who did!

Tracy Hahn-Burkett said...

"Blood is thicker than water." How many times have I heard that? Dozens? Hundreds? It's what the world believes.

Jason said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A. Jonathan Cox said...

Eunice and Lloyd Barbanell busied around their home getting it ready for company. Their home, which was new to them but not new in any other sense, was located on Valmont Street in a row of houses built to look exactly like one another.

Louise Ralph said...

Kat wrapped the white robe around her and padded on bare feet back to the inner room. She fidgeted as she sat amongst the other white-robed beings who bestowed annoyingly serene half-smiles upon her. She ignored them. She wondered what people found so therapeutic about this place. It was too early in the morning for this, and all the serenity was making her agitated. If someone started the whole ommm thing she might have to hit them.

Adam Heine said...

Suriya reached towards the pile of cold deadwood and asked the fire to come. Her breath misted in the mountain air. A familiar warmth spread from her heart to her shoulder, her arm, her wrist... when a bamboo switch came down viciously on her hand. "Aunt Pern!" she said, rubbing bruised fingers. "I wasn't gonna do it!"

Helen Ellis said...

When Chloe stole Connor from me, she did me a huge favor. For one thing I did not feel it necessary to return her gorgeous black sweater with the slashed neck, short sleeves and empire line. Also, although I didn’t realize it at the time, being consumed with the train wreck of my love-life, I was saved for Tom.

Kerry Gans said...

My mother has been in mental institutions most of my life. They say she can’t deal with the fact that she had a baby out of wedlock; that she’s delusional; that she can’t deal with the shame. Which makes me feel real great about myself, being the shameful bastard in question. Even more appalling (at least, to my grandparents) is the delusion itself: that the ancient Greek god Apollo, not a mere mortal, impregnated her. So it’s understandable that people think my mother’s nuts.
Except that I believe her.

John Crusey said...

A heavy impact shattering the windshield caused Ella’s brown eyes to snap open, her fingers digging into the worn blanket covering her. The old, abandoned car was shaking violently and she rolled to the floor from her bed on the back seat, asking herself, Are they out there? Is this it? Lightning flashed like a stuttering strobe and for a few seconds she could see trees surrounding the car whipping violently. She had always feared storms, but now alone in the woods, the rumbling thunder terrified the young woman. Scarcely breathing, Ella waited, tasting stomach bile that fear was forcing into her throat, but all she could hear was the wind. I’m not gonna get trapped in here, she thought, tugging at the chromed handle that opened the door with a long moaning squeal. Hesitating, she was expecting a gunshot or a rush of men to come and drag her from the car. Sliding outside, her bare feet sunk into the painfully cold muddy earth. Dead weeds tangled and cut between her toes. Howling wind ripped at her clothing, drowning out any sounds that might warn her that she wasn’t alone in the woods.

Mary Danielson said...

Five weeks before his disappearance, Miles St. John pushed me up against a locker and kissed me. Hard. This didn’t exactly make it into the police report. A lot of things didn’t. Not that night, not our plan, and especially not this little fact: I could have saved him.

Jill James said...

John thrived on being crazy. It freed him to do what he did. Crazy people could do anything they wanted and they had their insanity to fall back on. He was crazy. And that was okay. He didn’t need a therapist to delve into his past to find out how he got this way. John Smith didn’t need drugs to help him not be crazy, he liked being certifiably nuts.

Nicole Lorenz said...

Becoming a real boy hurts like hell. It’s a fizzling of suddenly-alive nerves, miles of them coiled inside this new body, all testing themselves out to make sure they feel properly. Heat? Yes. Pain? Yes. Pressure? Evidently.

Bronwyn said...

Wow! Some tough competition!! Here goes...


Dominic Barnes, Duke of Northwood, was completely, disgustingly, foxed. The alcohol roiling in his stomach mixed with the soul crushing regret that had become part of his everyday life. Drinking back yet another glass of the sour liquid he’d already forgotten the name of, he looked around at his friend’s faces. They were seated in a tent hidden deep on the darkened edges of Vauxhall, celebrating his thirtieth birthday. No expense had been spared and the night would not be over until the early hours of tomorrow, but Dominic had already had enough. He was tired of putting on a brave face for those around him. He was tired of appearing the perfect gentleman when deep inside, he knew he was an utterly despicable excuse of a man.

Bronwen Evans said...

Sin and vice and all things nice - all activities a renowned rake craves, would be his by the end of the ball tonight. The rogue Society dubbed the Lord of Wicked, lurked in the dimly lit recesses, the shadows hiding him from the sycophantic throng while he searched for the one woman who had enticed him into breaking all his own rules, and attending the event of the season.

AW said...

I managed to last through Zeph’s funeral before I broke down. I fell into a dark hole and didn’t emerge until three days later, unshaven and unwashed, a 67 year old looking 87. For the next three weeks I raked back over my life. I traced it backwards from the present on broad sheets of paper taped to the walls, significant event by significant event. I rifled through boxes of old diaries. I filled the sheets with arrows, rectangles and circles, scrawled text across them, added hand-drawn sketches, adding more and more sheets, covering the wall-sized media screens. It was madness. But I kept going. I had to do it. Logically, it should have led back to my birth, or perhaps even the first meeting between my parents. But suddenly, unexpectedly, it came to a stop when I was seventeen years and ten months old. Exactly. I sketched in the face of Tutankhamun. And a scarab. I hurriedly wrote in the word MajorCorp. Then the initials TN. Then a ‘Z’ for Zeph and underlined it vigorously.

Dave F. said...

The gunshot woke Steve and left his heart racing and ears ringing. Scorch marks radiated across the shredded pillow next to his head. He fumbled with his eyeglasses keeping his eyes locked on the gun in Jack's hand. "Bastard. You could've killed me!" Steve said. Jack didn't answer. He climbed on the bed, straddled Steve's thighs, pinned him. The gun trembled in his hand.

Kristin said...

I first saw Bigfoot hiding behind a clump of tall weeds on the edge of town. Not the real Bigfoot, of course. He was a giant stuffed ape-man wearing a blue baseball cap with the word “Snomish” on the front. And he wasn’t really hiding, either. He sat in front of an old log building that looked more like an abandoned cabin than a store. The store was separated from the colorful boardwalk shops by an overgrown vacant lot. All I could see of the creature was his curious face peering over weeds like he was spying on me and the rest of the tourists.

Yolande Pienaar said...

The glass panel crashed to the floor. Something burned against her arm and hit the wall behind her. Her chair bounced back from the wall when she fell to the floor. Fright froze her breath as plaster splinters sliced into her neck. Her heart hammered in her chest. The desk above her thundered and more plaster rained down on her. She buried her head in her arms. Again and again the wall spit paint and plaster at her. She crawled behind a steel cabinet. One minute. Silence. Two minutes. Silence.

Tony Matias said...

I knew the only way to get home safely was to kill myself. I had done it before with success and I knew I could do it again, but this time, my life wasn’t the only thing hinging on the unthinkable. This time, I had my little brother to take back with me and what made things all the more difficult, was the young guide I had met and fallen in love with had been taken hostage and who would be stuck in this world forever if I didn’t succeed.

Olivia Carter said...

The smell of something burning was ripping me from my Sam dream and I cursed out loud. I didn’t care if the whole house was burning down I wanted to snuggle back into my dream. "Now, where was I?" I thought stubbornly refusing to open my eyes. That’s right, his hands were braiding through my hair and his lips… I could almost feel his scratchy stubble, but I couldn’t ignore the noxious fumes anymore. I rolled over and stared at the ceiling. No billowing black clouds so it must be what I had suspected. Mom was cooking. Again.

Tarun said...

He covered her mouth so she couldn’t scream. The girl’s eyes opened wide to a face shrouded in darkness. Her arms reached out to slap and thrash and writhe. Her chest heaved. Her screams muffled against his musty hand. She shook her head and shut her eyes desperately endeavoring to retreat back into her dream. She was woken up five hours too early.

Maia Powloski said...

The bartender’s caterpillar eyebrows drew into one line as he leered over the counter at his establishment’s newest patrons. A waist-high creature, like the offspring of a bear and a wolf, padded over the threshold of the tavern’s open front door. A girl in her late teens led the leashed animal, followed by a man not much older than her. He stood close enough behind the girl that his breath must have touched her ear. The door creaked shut behind them, blocking what could have been a refreshing August night and leaving the tavern’s occupants with only the reeks of mold, dust, stale beer, and piss.

Steve said...

It was my graduation party from Middle School. Uncle Bill showed up with a fresh picked bouquet - of dandelions. I'm thinking to myself, OMG, not dandelions! That's so not even cool. But Mom and Dad, especially Mom, are uber strict about politeness to elders. So I smiled my sweetest. "Thank you, Uncle Bill. They're lovely." Now I think Uncle Bill must have one of those built in crap detectors you hear about. He was like "You're such a polite girl. I'm sure your mom is very proud of you. You think they suck, don't you?" "Well," I said, "they are pretty. But they're not...you know....cool." "Exactly. And that's why I wanted to give them to you."
About that time I got this weird feeling like I wasn't sure if I was still even in the same conversation. Uncle Bill can do that. But I put on my most intelligent look and tried to think of something to say. What came out was "Huh?"

emrowan said...

My new boss is infected with a Y chromosome.

Every time I meet a guy, I rank him on the Scum Scale. He gains one point for each scummy characteristic. To pass the test, he has to maintain zero points. I judge on the following criteria: 1) lewd grins, 2) pickup lines and/or fake deep voice, 3) overfriendly eyes, 4) chauvinistic ideas, and 5) being male. Obviously, no guy has ever passed my test.

Reiko said...

Tonight, the youngest ghost, the one I call Tabitha, has hidden my mother’s favorite date lipstick and is probably giggling in the walls as Mom frantically rummages through her makeup drawer, pausing every minute to sigh and look up at the ceiling as if the lipstick might suddenly materialize there. I know it was Tabitha who took it because she’s the klepto of the group, always hiding things, especially the things you’ve forgotten about until you need them in a pinch. Like my assigned reading for Ms. Engler’s class, which completely slipped my mind until the night before I had to write an essay on it. My sister found the book a month later, in the freezer of course, sitting behind a bag of frozen peas.

Sarah2024 said...

The snow fell silently covering the trees and blanketing the ground, and the evergreens stood tall and proud stretching towards the early morning sky. The frosty, unforgiving wind swept through the woods whistling on its way. A doe and her young fawn scampered around the pines though the freshly fallen snow. Nine-year-old Brian Mandrel glanced around him making sure his mother hadn’t seen him slip out the back door and down the hill to the woods. This was his favorite time of year. He loved to slip deep into the woods and watch the wildlife. Even though most of the animals in the forest were in hibernation, he still saw and heard enough to keep him coming out here by himself which was against his mother’s wishes. He didn’t understand why she told him not to come out here alone. He had never once gotten lost although he was guilty of staying out for hours at a time. A lone cry from a bird in the distance interrupted his wandering thoughts. Brian stopped walking and familiarized himself with where he was standing because his dad had taught him to “always know exactly where you are in the forest to avoid getting lost”. He was thinking about how much his dad would love to be out here with him on such a beautiful morning when he saw a heap near the base of a tree about 30 yards away. It looked like a deer, but he knew that any animal would not be lying alone in the woods like that. His first instinct was to turn around and head back to the house hoping that no one noticed he was gone; however, he found himself creeping slowly but curiously toward the indistinguishable heap. Suddenly, when he was only two yards away from the base of the tree, the nine-year-old stopped dead in his tracks. Brian was not looking at a deer but a small child not much younger than he was. He stared at the snow surrounding this lifeless child. It was scarlet. His young mind froze while his eyes followed the line where the white snow met the scarlet snow. He noticed how big the spot was; that would mean there was a quite a lot of blood. Almost instantaneously, he understood his mother’s warning about going to the woods alone. Brian stared, dumb-founded, at the tinted snow for a moment before turning around and running, screaming and yelling, back to the safety of his mother arms.

redqueen1 said...

Eden watched the child in her scope, her finger poised on the trigger. The young ones were the hardest for her but her team relied on her not to be squeamish. Besides, this thing wasn’t a child anymore and, judging from the dried blood on its hands and face, it had taken a few others with it. As Eden watched, the creature that used to be a little girl turned toward her team, its mouth gaping. It would kill them all if they didn’t act now.

Anonymous said...

She watched Annie Taylor wring her hands, play with the strap to her purse, and rub her pale arms, unable to keep still. Annie shivered, her curly brown hair shimmering on her shoulders. Perspiration glistened on her brow as much as it dampened her upper lip. In Phoenix, blazing temperatures scorched pavement, sidewalks, even shoe soles . Year-round residents enjoyed the heat, except a mid-May sizzling spell had tipped the scales. But, Annie wasn't cold from the police station's air conditioning or perspiring from 110-plus degree weather. Twenty-five-year-old Annie Taylor was scared shitless.

--
Nancy

Fouad Khan said...

The cars stretch end to end on I-10 West for miles; their engines switched off, many of the passengers already having given up on the hope for any forward movement in the near future, just standing outside waiting for the exodus to be. With a sort of malevolent wistfulness, they stare at my beat red Toyota Paseo, circa 1996 -with its rust encrusted bonnet and slightly gaping trunk, like something the tornado left in the backyard and torrential rains cleaned- cruising in the opposite direction on an empty freeway. ‘Who’s this stupid fucker and what’s he up to; heading right into the bosom of the storm at this hour’. They must wonder even as they dream to be moving at my pace -albeit away from Katrina's mighty chakra.

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

"Never enough is said of Mary," whispered my mother, as she lowered herself near the holy spring, splashing water on her bald head. Weeping women passed me, crawling penance on bloodied knees. Each white-knuckled fist clutched a rosary. Inside the cathedral, crutches lined the walls like jumbled bones. The Virgin stared at me from the altar; her half-smile frozen in marble. My mother struggled to her feet, her eyes shining. I touched her shoulder, and she smiled at me for the first time in weeks.

heather_b said...

Everybody has milestones and turning points that they base their life’s value on. Whether these are good or bad they can have a massive impact on your life. At sixteen, I’d only had one such event; one that I did my best to forget.

NL Berger said...

I could move the knight, I thought as I considered the chess board hanging upside-down from the ceiling above me. I stretched my hands in front of me, looking critically at my fingernails as a way of buying a little more time. Under my glare, the chipped nail polish filled itself in, spreading like spilled black ink. I could alw--

T C Sherf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tanaudel said...

They're just dogs, Gi tells himself. That's what he has to keep reminding himself. Just dogs. It's hard to believe, coming across a body in a parking lot, splayed out - human body, human hands contorted and gashed, legs twisted, throat ripped out. It's hard to believe that just because it looks like it must have been human doesn't mean it was. It's easier to believe that whoever - whatever - did it wasn't a person. The footprints near the body are those of a large dog. Further away they elongate, become human. Somewhere a dog that looks like a man is hiding in an alley, wiping blood off its face, or holed up with a bottle in a ragged apartment where the cigarette-end morning is baking in through the windows.

Lucy said...

On a cool evening in September in the Swiss village of Schuders, an hour and a half before sunset, one ray of sun glimmered through the clouds, and touched the steeple of the Kapelle. This was a simple mountainside chapel, walled in graying-white plaster and shingled from belfry to roof's edge in weather-stained wood; and for an instant it glowed softly, and then faded into patient gray beauty. It should have been a sight to bring comfort; at least, to bring rest; but the man who called himself Alex Keath stood watching a little way off, through eyes weary under strain.

JH said...

I shook the flashlight again. Slowly a glimpse of light began to penetrate the darkness. I was about to sigh in relief when I caught my breath and held it. The light grew brighter, but still I held my breath. The once golden hue of my flashlight was now shining a pale blue color. I slowly allowed myself to exhale and watched with wide eyes as the blue light became brighter and stronger. Suddenly I felt a gentle, cool wash of air blow against the back of my neck. I turned instinctively to see where it originated, but was met only with a view of the closed door of the truck. My fingers reached out to the window, tracing the edge: side, top, side, bottom. The window was securely shut. How could I have felt a breeze? My confused thoughts were interrupted by the faint sound of crunching gravel. I froze and chills ran up and down my spine. The noise stopped and I felt a distinct presence behind the truck, but my neck wouldn’t turn. I didn’t want to see what it was. I looked at my flashlight and the blue glow seemed to intensify. I sat perfectly still. Then, almost as instantaneously as it had began, the blue light faded and transformed back into a golden hue. I thought I could make out the sound of distant laughter.

Whirlochre said...

This is cheating. You've kick-started an idea I've had knocking round for a while. At the mo, this is all there is. maybe I'll finish it.


Breaking the hush, the roar of wheels, the chatter of the idle living. I draw breath, entangled in a woman's hair. She is ugly, wants to kill herself again. In the carriage, they sit in neat rows, these people, their heads buried in newspapers or each others' business, their thoughts sealed tight inside bone. The cruellest, sickest, most shameful flickers, hidden away inside. They imagine these things are secrets. That all they have to do with them is nothing; nothing but hang on to them, don't tell. But I will uncover them one by one. Lift up eyelids and peer into ears. Seep. Deep. Inside.

Margaret Tyson said...

Emma felt almost normal, listening to the babble of voices, exchanging greetings with kids of all ages. She stood at the gym doorway and watched them stream in. Her eyes met Kerry’s over the heads of a large group of Year Eight boys, jostling and pushing their way through the foyer. Kerry smiled and nodded. It was great to see them, in all their pimply, gangly, insecure, adolescent glory.

Andrew said...

Jose Ruiz knew he was approaching the defining moment of his life. He had faced down fanatical Cubans, renegade Panamanians, anarchic Somalis, and the Iraqi Republican Guard, none of which was adequate preparation for this moment. Any second now Carmen, his ex-wife, would walk back into the room. He could hear her voice in the kitchen, saying goodnight to their children, Miguel and Maria.

Allison said...

(YA)

I crouch behind some thick green shrubbery to do my final check. Belt camera, check. Sunglasses camera, check. Fake DS Lite camera, check. Real camera (I pat my backpack to make sure), check. That's it then, I'm ready to go. With a silent sigh, I reach forward and push the shrubbery aside slightly so I can peer through. The paparazzi are there, lying in wait, like vultures. They hover around the white marble entrance to the hot venue of the week, jostling each other, pushing each other. As one, they are ready to get The Shot – the one that will earn them squillions of dollars. Or at least $500 if they're lucky. I push the shrubbery further aside so I can see them all. There are more of them than when I arrived twenty minutes ago, ten minutes after I received my tip-off. Tonight, there are more than five that I don't know and considering how long I've been doing this now, that's saying something. I have so got to get out of this game. Look at them out there. It's becoming overcrowded by the LA minute. Now that everyone has a camera phone, everyone somehow assumes they're a paparazzo…

like me.

Vacuum Queen said...

It's not that I'm not happy with my life right now. It's just that I know things would be so much better if my dad, my real dad, knew that I wanted to meet him. I mean, I've had a dad all my life, and he's a good dad. He's just not the one who made me play baseball like I do. So I've been thinking, ya' know, maybe if I can help our team win games this year, my real dad will come find me.

Alanna said...

You imagine time flowing backward, back upstream. The apartment door swings open and the messenger from the lawyer’s office comes into your living room, loads up the boxes onto a dolly, and leaves with them. The dust falls out of the beam of light from your window and settles back on the scarred wooden floor. The boxes wait again in the corner of the lawyer’s office. In the hospital, long wiry hairs suddenly lift up from the musty pillow, reimplant themselves in your mother’s dented skull. (The abiding image, for some reason, is her hair at its healthiest: dark glossy coils of it. You had a dream recently that you came home and found it winding like a rope around dream-lengthened hallways, and you followed it with the growing sense that what it would ultimately lead to would be unfamiliar, not really your mother at all, some demonic reverse Rapunzel, and yet nevertheless propelled forward, as though someone were tugging at the other end.) Eventually she sits up, combs her long hair, more hairs returning from the brush to her head. Doctors remove the morphine drip. Her flesh puffs back into firmness. She leaves the room, sucking the sick air into herself, drives to the office to retrieve the boxes. At home, she opens one and takes a sheet of paper. Ink flows from cramped cursive on the page into her pen; words into her brain. Her thoughts curl once more inside her, unform themselves into vague image, memory, piled heavily atop each other like drifts of snow. As you back into her house at the end of your visit, she tells you she thinks it will be all right. That you can go.

Sabrina said...

Celeste wrapped her fingers around the wooden handle, cursing the splinters that broke off into her skin. As she pulled the gate toward her and stepped into the graveyard, her stomach clenched, but she made sure her movements were not hesitant. Any outward sign of fear would call the Sentinels to her.

Maryann said...

Dana knew the stray was there like he was every night, but he wouldn’t come until she called. She stepped out onto the porch and whistled. With a rustle from the bushes, he bounded towards her his silver coat glimmering in the faint porch light. Dana placed the plate of scraps on the ground, but the wolfhound bypassed the food to greet her. Smiling, she crouched next to him and stroked his coarse fur even though apprehension stirred in her. She was beginning to doubt that he actually was a dog. There was something unauthentic in how he wagged his tail and licked her face, as if it were practiced. Moreover, his apparent enthusiasm never touched his dark, cunning eyes.

Darkin Inc said...

Margaret Denver lay in bed watching the monster crawl across the ceiling. It had come from the darkest corner of the room, disguised as a trick of light. Long black tendrils reaching from deep shadow into gloom, taking the form of spider legs as it made its slow and determined way towards the bed.

Alex said...

On the 17th of September 2013, my 125 birthday, I was probably the oldest man alive. On the 28th of February 2017 I was committed to Ozwright mantel institution, an old man who just wanted to die, an old man who couldn't die.

Ottilia said...

Tristan ran as fast as he could. This was exciting, he thought. This was a real adventure!

Cheryl said...

He didn't have to wait until midnight. He didn't have to wait until everyone was away, or asleep, or even looking the other direction. Ryan made his escape from a house full of people at two in the afternoon on a perfectly normal spring day. He stuck three letters under his dad's keyboard, grabbed his gym bag, gave his mother a kiss on the cheek, and peeled out of the driveway in his Cayman as if nothing was different from the day before.

Maegan B said...

The palace was in an uproar. At least this means I get to miss out on that stupid event of state...whatever it was, thought Ria as she squeezed her way between two swooning ladies-in-waiting and elbowed the palace bard in the stomach before he could begin another line of his lamentation. Her maid, Gretchen, grabbed her by the arm.

Lori W. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott said...

The winch mechanism, ten meters tall and half that wide, was a hulking, cast-iron monster. Bolts as large as dinner plates pimpled the dark surface. Rust, like dandruff, flecked its shoulders. Braced and chained and wedged, it looked into the night over the edge of the skyland, groaning and humming with internal tension. It strained invisibly against is bonds. Kade felt like the winch. Standing in the corner of the Local Yard he strained silently against the invisible bonds to this inconsequential skyland, to its insignificant people.

Dale said...

Ali leaned forward over her horse’s neck as the mare burst out of the rainforest and onto the isolated beach. She glanced behind and giggled. Laurie was nowhere in sight. For the first time ever, she was going to win.

Poisonguy said...

While I was moonlighting at Primary Children’s ER, an odd thing happened in the examination room. I was tending to a twelve-year-old girl with a broken arm—courtesy of her scumbag father—when said parent “slipped,” jaw-smack against the edge of a gurney. The impact zapped his short-term memory clear into last week. Well, for a few hours at least. I know. I treated him too.

Lori W. said...

Chewing my thumbnail and fidgeting on the couch, I stared at the front door and waited for my ex-boyfriend to knock. Less than an hour had passed since Craig had called to say he needed to talk to me, but the atmosphere in my apartment had a strange, emptiness about it, as if he’d already come and gone, leaving only an echo of his presence and whatever he’d come to say. Not unlike the night he left.

shayne said...

Josh Beaumont scratched his head. He was sure the strange noise that sounded like a creaky door swinging shut with a ‘thunk’ came from the top of the stone steps. His dog Deidre snuffled around in the undergrowth. She’d heard it, too. “Hey, Dee, what is it girl?” He ruffled her velvety ears and walked up, one, two, three, four, five steps. But there was nothing there but open space. These were just like all the other steps in the old hospital grounds. They once had a purpose. But no one remembered what it was or really cared anymore. Except for Josh.

Silke said...

Sabriel rammed her foot on the brake and swerved, her shocked scream ripping through the silence as the Chevy Equinox skidded forward on the dew-damp road. She hit the clutch, crunched the gear into first to slow the car down--
Too late.

Cheryl Alleyne said...

I likes to watch. The Massa has come by again. Come to see Juba. She chant, kill chicken, so I knew Massa be here soon. I likes to watch. But no one can watch me. I crouch in the bushes by Juba's hut. No moon tonight. It's dark as sin. There no wind either, but the leaves so close they scrape the bamboo walls each time I move. I put my eye back to the hole. I can see brown skin, Juba's shiny brown skin. I sweating too. The heat bastes you like molasses over a hot leg of ham. My mouth waters.

Elaine said...

I don’t get the idea of “date night.” I thought being married meant you could both wear old sweats and watch TV, slouched on the sofa, on a Saturday night. You could eat spaghetti, and if you got some some in your hair, your partner could just lean over and pick it out. Maybe even eat it.

Satima Flavell said...

I huddled in the little window alcove near the foot of Fairstad’s bed, clutching still another magical text, hunting for something, anything, that might save my darling. But it was useless. My husband, the King, was dying. Our sons were already fighting over the throne. And there was nothing I could do about it.

Sandra Tuttle said...

Static electricity tattooed my skin with sensation and I blocked out the dread that followed. I knew this feeling. Every time I'm about to find something incredible, my body takes over, even when my mind knows it should proceed with caution. The scent in the air changes and my vision narrows to see nothing but the dirt before me. I know what lies beneath the layer of soil will ruin my career, but the smell of pine overrides the trepidation I should've learned well in the rainforest. Nothing makes the single mindedness go away, except to dig my fingers in the ground and ride it out until I discovered what wants to be released from the earth, consequences be damned.

Andrew said...

Despite the cloud covered moon and the deepest part of the night around him, Caleb could not mistake the scene as his feet shuffled to a halt: His brother’s grave was empty.

Stephanie Feagan said...

Pink thought she’d already scraped the bottom of the barrel, but driving into Goodnight, Texas, she realized the barrel was way deeper than she’d imagined, its bottom resting right on top of Hell. Moving to Goodnight was definitely the lowest she could go. No way her life could get worse than this.

Jenny W. said...

The first time I saw the monster he was peeing in my azaleas. I watched the long stringy hair on his buttocks flail to and fro as he shuddered and groaned with relief. I burst over towards the porch railing and he turned wide eyed and hands hidden. "Dammit, Jerry! Do that in your own yard!" He grunted and scampered off with my rose bushes glistening in his wake.

Jodi said...

(Middle Grade)

Teej waved her hand over Sally’s rigid body and chanted, “You will come to life. You will talk to me. You will play with me--now.” She held her breath and waited, watching for the littlest movement.

jenn j mcleod said...

It was like talking to a dead man.
'With all due respect, Mr Gattenby, how will you know it’s her?’
‘I’ll know.’ Greg Gattenby didn’t hesitate. ‘She’s my sister. I’ll know.’
The eerie smoulder of determination in his client’s eyes sent a shiver through Charles Whelan. By all accounts Gregory Gattenby should’ve died that night eighteen years ago. Yet here he was larger-than-life, oozing prosperity through every expensively cologned pore, reminding Whelan of his own lost youth and good looks. What he wouldn’t give to have one grain out of young Gattenby’s sand bucket, instead of the measly monthly retainer. Not that he could really complain. The Gattenby assignment had been very profitable these past four years. The sad irony for Whelan was, being good at his job meant it could all end tomorrow, especially if this latest lead in the search for Kathryn Gattenby turned out to be the one. And it was a mighty fine tip-off. So maybe, just maybe, this was it, making 1999 a very good year indeed.

Schmucks with Underwoods said...

Bilbo hadn't been up for long. One or two hours, tops. It was night. Bilbo's time. Night - a barrel of riches. A rusty old can, full of surprise and sweetness. Two years inside had cramped Bilbo's style. Still, there was something there. It was in the click and whirr of his fingers, the piston pump of his heels, the roar of nicotine into his lungs. This was an engine - and it was on. "So, you up for it?"

jenn j mcleod said...

Hearts really do break. Her mother’s face reminded Gina of that every time she visited. Two funerals in six months had numbed them both. First cancer took her dad, Joe. Then she lost Rick in the World Trade Centre collapse. Now thanks to friends Guggi and Josh, Gina was about to board an aeroplane. Something only the very numb would do so soon after 9/11.

Monica Pierce said...

I had just killed a big, bull crocodile and stood in the river covered in blood and gore. I neither heard nor sensed the man's approach and, until that moment, no creature had come upon me with the element of surprise in its favor. I hesitated, unsure how to act. His self-control confused me. It had not occurred to me in those sixteen years that I was something other than the loathsome spawn of Hell.

SA Romance Writer said...

A self-imposed exile. A disappearance, but without a body. Jack Williams had pondered for days what he might tell the regulators about his father's business dealings, but only now--during his morning run through New York's Central Park--did the idea come to him.

James Cornelius said...

Professor Strunkenwhite's Big Idea came to him at the precise moment he realised he'd run out of toilet paper. A novel, he thought. I'll write a novel. But what about? The professor seldom read beyond the pages of Nuclear Physics A, Nuclear Physics B and the International Journal of Modern Physics E. He glanced at a newspaper his wife had left open on the lino floor beside the empty toilet roll stand. The main story was some crap about the reality TV show du jour. That would do. A novel can be about anything, after all. Yet, there must be some pattern, rules, a formula he could follow. It's just a matter of deciphering the formula and following the rules, he thought. Like life. He looked below the headline, about people he'd never heard of doing things he didn't understand. Two straight lines sandwiched four bolded words at the top of the story: "Exclusive by James Cornelius". Strunkenwhite scrunched the newsprint in his hand and reached round to wipe. Thus the creation of The Adventures of James Cornelius (Work In Progress).

PatRemick said...

KC Dunham pointed toward the large erasable white board announcing the Question of the Day in precise black lettering: “Who invented peanut butter? Winner gets a free muffin” and without a hint of hesitation responded:“The Incas, although most people think it was George Washington Carver. You can keep the muffin.”

Priene said...

Despite the later accusations -- scrounger, beggar, thief -- it was not penury that brought Matteo Giacozzi to Gateshead, nor laziness, nor even a desire to philander, but rather his obsession with art.

Clay Johnson said...

Say: fifty thousand dollars. go ahead, just let it roll off your tongue. Sounds nice, doesn't it? Feels nice. Silky and smooth. It's kind of like a light lunch, or one of those berries and cream dishes that come in a crystal martini glass that they won't let you order unless you bring along a yuppie who can vouch for you. Now say: three million. There, you get it? See what I mean? You understand why a guy might abandon the job he was paid fifty grand to do, no matter how nice it feels on the tongue, for a bag full of three million in cash. You get it. This asshole, on the other hand, has me trussed up by my ankles above a vat full of carnivorous fish like I've walked into an episode of Batman. And I never even got the chance to cash his check- and you know me, I tried- so it's not like I stole from him. I mean, what the fuck?

Megan said...

Can I start by saying we were never together? Can I say that? I mean, I would have liked to be, sure, but that just wasn’t Penny. Penny was the only child of a teenage mother, and had grown up with little rules, her mother’s perception of the world and a rose in her hair. She was the wild flower child. I always used to like going to her house, it was much less strict than my own.

Pen said...

Ana groped for the shrieking alarm until her palm slammed into the on/off button. Blissful silence. Flopping on to her back she turned and blinked at the indentation on the pillow beside her. The blanket had been flung back, the sheet rumpled. He was gone. He really had been there. She hadn’t dreamed it. She had done it again. Another one night stand, another notch on her belt, another stain on her soul … she groaned … another hangover. Grabbing the pillow she dropped it over her face, blocking out the morning light. Surely there has to be more to life than this?

Michelle said...

Four days before my sixteenth birthday, my thighs met. They'd been living apart ever since I learned to walk and shed my baby fat. But somehow they met up again, and it was an unhappy reunion. They fought constantly. Every step I took, they were at it again—step, slap, step, slap, step, slap. If I was going to survive the summer, I'd have to buy longer shorts.

Alissa said...

Urban legend, Head wagered, though not without a tickle of uncertainty, as Zoe Morgan plummeted to her death.

Sheri Rosen said...

If I had known that today would be the day I officially died, I definitely could have convinced Mom to let me ditch school. Instead of the sick routine, I could’ve said, “But Mom, if you send me to school, a dragon will kidnap me and I’ll be forced to live in this crappy kingdom on the clouds. You see, I might be the one in this prophecy about the cloud worlds destroying themselves, and some people take this kind of seriously.” I don’t think even Mom could say no to that one.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

He kicked my ass good and I knew I was wrong so I pretty much let it happen. All things considered, I got off pretty easy. I was sleeping with a colleague’s daughter, his eighteen year old daughter, and all I got was a few bruises, a wickedly awkward day at work looming ahead, and a bleeding lip. I would taste the blood in my bourbon later that night. It wouldn’t be too bad.

Neil said...

She is like a splendid hallucination, shrink-wrapped in that slinky white and gold dress of hers, her eyes lit with a luminous wickedness, her beautiful mouth curling back as she cries out in pure rage and reaches for the nearest available household item to hurl at me. If I were a better man, a less perverse individual, I probably wouldn't feel so turned on right now; I probably wouldn't be so fascinated, so dazzled by the purity of her fury. As it is, I'm so mesmerised by her reaction to the words I've just spoken that I almost forget to duck when she lobs the stinkingly hot coffeepot at my head. Almost.

Maya / מיה said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tony Owens said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tony Owens said...

Aurora performed her first public miracle at the age of nine, in the schoolyard of St. Magnus the Martyr. She cured Jane Hampton’s stuttering by spitting in the dirt and rubbing the paste on her friend’s tongue. Needless to say this impressed her peers. Not the nuns, however. Sister Luisa locked her in the office stationery cupboard and called for the priest to perform an exorcism.

Alena Thomas said...

Two little blonde heads bounced up and down as the tiny girls ran down the green meadow. The sunlight bounced off their golden hair as dandelions blew their wishes into the air. “You can’t catch me, Riley!” The straight-haired girl sang. “Wanna bet, Hayden?” The slightly shorter girl increased her speed. The two were now moving at about 40mph. The wind blew past them and their laughter mingled with the swirling cotton-like remains of the dandelions. Suddenly, Riley raised her small hand in the air and made a swift swooshing motion. Instantly, a whirlwind appeared at her fingertips. She moved her hand slightly forward and the funnel blew straight into her younger sister. The girl’s long, knobby legs came out from under her as she looked back just before flying off the edge of the cliff.

Carey_Corp said...

Wendy was not to see Peter Pan again. She promised she would never forget- but being still a girl she could not foresee the toll that growing up would have on her. It started the night she left the nursery for good. At first, she returned nightly to her brothers telling the stories of their grand adventures. Over time, she came to the boys less and less frequently. Then she stopped telling stories altogether. Eventually the children were sent away to school, to grow up.

inkspatters said...

The Book of Death's missing, and without that, no-one dies. It’s usually in my bottom drawer, under this pile of work from the tenth grade I never bothered chucking out. Today an old geography textbook’s the only thing beneath my trig exams, and the sad canvas that’s my attempt at art. Shit. I stare at the empty space, hands limp at my sides. Sure, killing people isn’t my all-time favourite hobby – movies, reading, hell, even fishing with my dad, are higher up on my list – but I’m the Grim Reaper. Just comes with the territory.

A misinterpreted wave said...

A musty silence settled throughout the corridors of the ancient building; creeping stillness brought forth the night. Pungent darkness wallowed in every crevice. It had begun.“Now it is time.” Elia heard the words echo as they took hold of her body. Her silky black hair tumbled past her shoulders; vivid emerald eyes hiding a fear that swarmed up from behind her neck, ready to strike when she was most vulnerable. They were the words that signaled her beginning. She settled herself comfortably on her lightly perfumed bed and prepared herself. The stone walls of the room soon encased her, like an Egyptian tomb would its beloved Pharaoh. Elia was now at an age where she had reached the pique of knowledge in her present home. An earthly realm, a family to which she bore no relation would now be her guidance. It was a speck of time that feels like an eternity and a journey through life that all must endure. Only the strongest souls survived. The sullen blackness that surrounded, engulfed Elia, served to highlight the nearness of her departure. With the slight shuffle of bare feet, Jonathan, her teacher, passed through the ornately gilded doorway. He was silent, as custom would not allow speech until both had passed through to the next room. To risk giving life to destructive thoughts could be extremely harmful. Jonathan’s dress was like that of any teacher in the realm; simple, and made from the fibres grown naturally in the area. Today it was the more formal of the choices available; a cream coloured gown, hemmed with a purple and red braiding that denoted his standing within the community. On a less formal occasion he may have worn pants and loose top, cream like his gown, or his choice from lighter browns to striking blue. The purple and red braiding would, however, always be present, as this was an important part of his title as teacher. Jonathan reached out for Elia, a sign that it was time to move on. As he re-opened the door a slight chill entered the room; slowly, as if it were a thick fog. Elia shivered slightly, while Jonathan showed no sign that he had noticed the small drop in temperature. He then led Elia down the narrow hallway that opened out into the bathing room. Jonathan’s touch was firm, but not overly so and Elia felt comforted by his presence. A matronly figure awaited the pair at the door of the bathing room and moved aside to allow them to enter the steam-filled room. The chill of the corridor soon dissipated as the mist moved quickly towards the open door.

Joyce said...

I knew it wasn’t going to be a good day when the Chief of Police dropped dead in my office. One look told me he was beyond any help CPR would give him. I did it anyway. Fifteen minutes later, my arms felt like they were ready to fall off. As I sat on the linoleum floor trying to catch my breath, the door to the police station opened and I heard someone whistling The Surrey With the Fringe on Top. Ever since Curley Bennett found out he was conceived backstage after a performance of Oklahoma! and named after the lead character, it’d gone to his head.

LizaL said...

It was a set of stairs, of which the Queen Hill neighborhood had many, that appeared as a dark hole in the ivy at its bottom, and an almost invisible escape from a dead-end corner at its top, and which, due to several kinks in the linear progression of the steps, was darker and more disused than the average Queen Hill ill-used stair. At the upper turn, a concrete landing looked out over the city. Hemmed in by a rotting wood rail and the encroaching, ever reaching arms of a wicked blackberry bramble, the landing offered the best unintentional viewpoint in town. Polson came there to smoke, and think. Often, he thought about murder, but tonight his mind lingered on grand theft.

Maya / מיה said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ellen B said...

After her father died, it took a while before Hannah McCarthy and her mother managed to fully sort through his belongings. The day that he died, within an hour of leaving the intensive care unit, Nora had started to dispose of anything that visibly reminded her of Jack. His alarm clock, his work files, the watch he’d left on his bedside locker when he left the house that morning – even his shoes were boxed up and stowed away or thrown out. His books took a few weeks to disappear, mainly because no one knew which books were his and which he’d borrowed. Hannah’s brother Tony sorted the books and Nora distributed them between his friends at the golf club and in his local pub. His clothes took the longest, because they still smelled of his aftershave and cigarette smoke.
No one dared touch his desk.

sheadakota said...

When Jax opened the car door, he had twenty-seven seconds left to live. He wasted all of them being pissed off at his wife.

ryananddavid said...

On any normal night, Matthias Eliot would have been fast asleep in his four-poster bed, his tousled blonde head filled with dreams of last minute goals rubbed in the face of a rival school. Instead he sat on the ledge of his bedroom window, his hazel eyes peering anxiously down through the branches of an adjacent magnolia tree. He was waiting for the signal, when he would climb down through the sprawling tree limbs into the lawn. Tonight was his initiation—a passage into manhood created by the popular boys in his class. Tonight he would prove he belonged.

Maya / מיה said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daniela Soave said...

The helicopter swung sharply to the left and continued its ascent. Beneath it a gaudy stain, marked out against surrounding fields like a new republic on a map, spread over the landscape as thousands of brightly coloured tents melded into a pointillist blur the higher the aircraft rose. Down there, on a farm in the middle of nowhere, was an English rock festival in full fling, a cosmic holiday camp full of revellers on a mission to misbehave. Inside the helicopter, its passengers were bathed in the pink glow of the early evening sun fanning through the windows, echoing the spotlight that had picked out one of their number onstage just hours before. The musician sat apart from his fellow travellers, his body turned away from the babble of euphoric conversation, his hunched demeanour radiating a hostile message that he was to be left alone. There was no need for the protective bulk of a bodyguard with a glare that could melt metal. The seething, simmering malcontent seeping from the musician’s direction was warning enough.

Maya / מיה said...

The pomegranate seeds burst between my teeth, releasing tart-sweet juice. The wind licked my eyelids, and the orchard rustled and creaked. I relaxed into the fork of the tree. In that moment, nothing mattered-- not marriage, not exile, not my mother's pursed lips. Persia became smaller than the nub of bark digging into the back of my leg.

Anonymous said...

The great thing about Manhattan is that you’re never alone with your stalker. Taxis honked, people pushed, and the middle-aged creep lurked behind an overweight tourist. I grabbed Rosie’s arm and hurried her into the intersection just as the light flashed red.

Merliniana

Sharon Mayhew said...

Maya, I think you've posted the same paragraph four times this morning.

Olga said...

The sun sets. He rises, throws back the thick black curtains, and stares out at the Chicago skyline. The view is beautiful. Tall, blazing buildings pierce the night sky; the streets form a perfect checkerboard of glowing lines as far north, south and west as the eye can see. To the east, they are engulfed in a sudden darkness. A giant lake confines this city, reminds it of a power that civilization can't master. He stands motionless, fingertips pressed against glass. Once, this view meant nothing - just a scattering of shiny and superfluous lights. Now, he stares, allows himself to become hypnotized by the stream of cars far below. They trail along one by one like wingless fireflies.

Maya / מיה said...

Sorry! I'm pretty sure I've deleted the repeat posts. Sometimes I can be very dense. (My novel isn't, I promise!)

megan said...

Here is the first paragraph of my fantasy WIP, thanks for hosting the competition Nathan!

__________

Two weeks after Tobias Chase was executed a street urchin knocked upon Astrid's door. That the dirty faced brat had made it so far into the Teel District without being spotted (or smelt) by a guard and booted back to the docks was impressive, but Astrid was in no mood to be impressed.

Meredith said...

Valeriah left the trail and pushed through the thick brush in the back corner of the suburban nature preserve, ignoring the signs warning about rattlesnakes. Her eyes were fixed on two ancient oak trees. She walked around them until she could see the slight shimmer between the trees. She stepped into that shimmer and through the portal, barely registering the tingling sensation on her skin as she passed through the barrier between the worlds. One more step carried her into Chimeria, in a forest clearing just a hard day’s ride from her grandfather’s tower.

freya said...

If the mosquitoes would stop biting me, I’d be a happy girl. Mind you, if everything works out the way I hope, legions of mozzies could bite me and I wouldn’t even scratch. Ok, I will scratch. But it will be worth it.

stevenagy said...

Thin places riddled the world. Wherever men and women huddled together against the passage of time. Whenever days passed and nights bloomed, spring and summer yielding to fall and winter, and the world growing cold as life gave way to death.

Willow Cross said...

With a sigh, Sarah leaned against the cold, damp basement wall. Her eyes wandered over the dingy room filled with boxes covered in cobwebs, finally resting on the steel cage in front of her. It had taken her brother two weeks to construct his prison. A prison she was certain he didn‘t need. “It’s been two hours. Are you ready to discuss this rationally?”

Blair said...

Mom used to say that rain was God crying. I'd thought she meant it literally, but Aunt Marian said that it was a euphemism, and that God doesn't cry because he doesn't care about us. Mom punched her in the mouth for saying that, and her EB (emotion bracelet) went off. The police took her away that night. I never saw her again.

Fred said...

A doctor who deals in death shouldn’t have clowns on his walls. That's what was going through my head while I waited in the oncologist's office with my wife Sara. Most of the pictures covering Dr. Davenport's walls were depictions of fairy tale scenes and Dr. Seuss characters. Directly behind us, however, hung two sad hobo clown portraits, watching over the room like ghoulish sentinels. I swore I remembered those very pictures from terrifying trips to the doctor when I was my son's age. Things never change, do they? I knew the office was decorated with children in mind, but a diagnosis of death is scary enough without adding clowns.

Karen Fleming said...

The waves washed ashore as the sun climbed higher in the sky casting a soft pink glow along the edge of the surf spreading the color further out to sea. She sat with her arms wrapped around her knees rocking slowing in time with the gentle lapping of the waves. She didn’t look around or let herself become distracted by the myriad of activities going on near her. The gulls diving into the surf fishing for breakfast or the kids wrestling with a long piece of string tied precariously to the frame of a kite didn’t break her stare out into the wide open sea.

sandyastor said...

My skin tingles a moment before a slash of white light flashes at the front of the lecture hall. I grit my teeth and keep my eyes locked on my scantron, refusing to acknowledge the fae entering my world through that fissure. I don’t give a damn if it’s the king himself, I will pass this test tonight.

Joseph L. Selby said...

William Henderson wears pants and a suit coat. He's worn pants and a suit coat every weekday for fifty years. He saw an ad in the Post-Dispatch when he was six years old, Real Men Wear Tweed. There was a fine tweed suit right there in black and white. He told himself then that he wanted to own his own tweed suit. Ten years later he bought his first, working as a paper boy at Sech Family Insurance. Fifty years, two mergers, and three buyouts later, Paper Boy Willy is William Henderson, senior claims adjuster for Midwestern Mutual of St. Louis. He owns a dozen tweed suits.

expat-in-training said...

She’s called a galleasse, our merchant ship from Venice, with three proud masts to carry the usually billowing sails, as well as long oars that jut from openings in the sides of the ship for the men to row with when the wind dies. Papa and I boarded the Albatross at the exotic port of Alexandria, where Papa spent the last year carrying out a special commission. We’ve spent the last few months creeping our way through the Mediterranean Sea and up into the Gulf of Venice, where the Albatross will deliver its bounty of spices and silks, and Papa and I will meet a friend of his before taking a carriage home to Florence. But now, the proud masts are creaking and straining to their breaking points. The triangular sails are torn and snapping, not billowing, and many of the oars have already been lost. The storm took its time growing, as first the sky darkened and slowly the waves grew taller. We could feel it building, but the full anger of the heavens burst upon us with unexpected ferocity, and though the sailors thought we were prepared—we are not.

LSHawker said...

George Engle now knew what the soundtrack to the last moment of his life would be: the frantic, maniacal flute solo in “Locomotive Breath” as played by his own hyperventilating nose. With a gun barrel pressed against his ear and a hand clamped over his mouth, George could get oxygen no other way. This was the sound he would carry into eternity with him, and it seemed as ridiculous as it seemed fitting.

Gayle Sharpe said...

Elizabeth groaned as her fishnet stockings snagged on the bushes she was hiding in. It added a minor annoyance to the fact that she’d been waiting -- tired, cramped, and uncomfortable—for three hours because a reliable source said Grey might show up here tonight. Unfortunately, she’d been in this position before, four times in the past week to be exact. She may need to get a new reliable source.

Marcy Campbell said...

Arnella’s house was small and yellow with a swing on the front porch and an iron gate around the yard that Cori thought would have looked like a prison fence if it weren’t for the roses twining around the metal bars. Cori and Dana parked in front and opened the gate, walked up the cracked sidewalk and onto the porch, and rang the bell, which made just one lone, long Diiing!

E's said...

Franklin and Truman were walking from the south of downtown toward their homes, south.

Anonymous said...

The tugging from his shoelace almost landed him on his ass. Rob Marcus stumbled to a stop and reached down to yank it free from the tangled underbrush. It would be his luck to injure himself three weeks before the annual Thanksgiving Day 10K Turkey Trot. He should have checked his shoelaces before he left the house.

Brad said...

Prince Greenspan refused to tip back his stem and enjoy the rush of air against his green cells. He didn't care about the soft fingers of moonlight that caressed his two small fronds. He trembled, but that had nothing to do with the excitement of flying across the patchwork night.

Julie Fletcher said...

A deep red moon rode over the city. It looked shattered...what the hell
could have done that? She had never seen anything like this in her
unlife.While Terisa stared at the broken moon, a meaty, almost liquid 'thump'sounded from behind her and as she turned to scan the direction it came from, a hand fell onto her shoulder. The stench of the not-so-recently dead filled her nostrils. It was a smell she was used to, thoughusually, the thing that had such an odor was not touching her with such an urgency.

Christa said...

Echoes of screams faded in the air dissolving to whispers in the leaves. An icy flow coursed down Jacquie’s arms, bursting from her palms into a shield of light. Whatever caused the flow held her body frozen, arms outstretched as if pushing something away. Men collapsed on the other side of the shield. As the last man fell, the shield of light dissolved and silence thundered in her ears.

Stephanie said...

Antoinette Martin’s name was too big for her body. She was ten but bird-boned, no taller than your average five-year-old. Her white-blonde-hair fell straight to the middle of her back, still new-born fine, and she was awkward in a way that pulled people’s eyes. It was not just the slightness of her frame, or the way she walked, marionette-like with her arms bent at the elbows and her hands curled back toward her shoulders; nor was it the way her eyes were spaced just a finger’s breadth too far apart.

Cat Connor said...

The moon stumbled across the sky, ducking from cloud bank to cloud bank, sliding drunkenly behind a building storm front.
When she emerged from the edge of the bush the moon broke free. She stood bathed in brilliant white light, waiting for the inevitable booming voice to render her judgment. For maybe half a minute she stood stock-still staring up at the moon, waiting. Lightening flashed across her field of vision.
A warning? Had she angered the Gods? She waited. The pool of light shrunk. Spits of rain flew.

dianecurran said...

And they all lived happily ever after.
That's what Prince Edward had promised on their wedding night, but Cinderella found that the reality of life in the palace was far removed from any fairy tale.

Braver said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amanda Litz said...

I’ll never forget the day she walked into my life. The sun was hot, so I stopped by the soda shop for a tall glass of Root beer. I was sitting on a stool reading the newest copy of Batman. He was just about to catch the Joker when she walked in. I looked up and saw her standing there. The sun was shining on her golden curls. She had two pink bows in her hair and a matching pink dress. She was the prettiest dame I ever saw.

Torie Lynn Howard said...

A box of rainbow colored condoms, ribbed for her pleasure no less, had to be the most unusual bon voyage gift ever but Julie wanted to toss the box overboard--like she’d done her wedding ring. She should’ve stopped her best friend from shoving the illicit gift into her already overstuffed hip pack but Julie had been in a state of shocked embarrassment. Emily’s suggestion to have a shipboard fling, or two, had been so loud it seemed as if she’d announced it over the airport’s PA system.

James said...

I don’t feel the rain on my face or the shiver in my spine. The tears barrel down my cheeks as I watch them drive off. I am alone. Scared. Tired. I know where I am and where I’ve been, but I have no idea where I’m going. I lift my face to the sky and curse God. I curse God. I fucking curse God.

Ian said...

Sounds of the rifle report came across the treetops like perfect thunder in the bowl of the valley. And metal plunged along metal in the carriage and the casing ejected out beside my face, as I pushed the bolt back through and down. All around me the burn of gunpowder filled my nose. I drug the crosshairs across the tree line in a slow, methodical sweep and picked him up. The last man’s head bobbing up from behind the jagged stump, just the crown of it, plain and black and patterned bald. I breathed in and held it, finger drifting over the trigger. Again, my cheek came up and my eye pushed to the scope. Then I exhaled like blowing air over the flame of a tired candle and put it out. Same as they done my daughter.

Victoria Dixon said...

In the Ron Empire, wars did not erupt over cups of rice wine, which was why Liu Jie chose to stop at the Peach Orchard Inn. The modest, tamped-earth building promised wine and rest from months of hardship.

donnav said...

A long time ago, in a field across the street, someone stepped on something mushy. When they looked down at their pants leg and saw the red sauce leaking out of the plastic bag, they probably wondered how it got there. This is that tale.

wendy kovitz said...

I hated Lev in the beginning. Savlii was a demanding bastard who went through pages like shoes - seemed all the fun was in the breaking in phase. I had been hand-picked by the priestess Vay when I was only fourteen and hardly just begun my military training. Life with Savlii was simple, not good, just simple and predictable. The directive of a page is service to his Eyre. Unlike other Houseborne males, pages are forbidden from taking up arms in battle. There was nothing lower in Eltesnian society than a page. Even a convicted murderer, as a proper Eltesnian citizen, far outranked a page. I hated Vay for dooming me to an even lower fate than my birth itself had, but I soon hated Lev even more.

Jason said...

Aliens had invaded the earth. Or so most folks thought. The subject had, in fact, become something of a global obsession. The world had lost its collective mind, driven to fear and madness without a shred of evidence to warrant its fascination with the Martians.

Diana said...

Stars glimmered through the trees, their brightness pulling her attention. Kiera closed her eyes to them, shutting out their powerful draw to better concentrate on her task. Tonight’s business lay with the Earth. The Heavens had no magic for her.

Aya Danin said...

Just because someone with a degree in clinical psychology puts a label on you doesn’t mean you can be cured. She was pretty sure it wasn’t a sickness. She just wasn’t sure what it was. Having to tell her innermost thoughts and feelings to a complete stranger wasn’t helping.

Christina Lombardi said...

Drew Connelly sprung up in bed so fast you could almost hear it, like a diving board bouncing back after a cannon ball attempt. It was happening again. Day two of being able to see into the future and he knew it was just a matter of seconds before — He tuned into the buzzing coming from the other side of his window and knew this vision would involve his neighbor. Mark Guyer – Mower Mark to Timbers of Troy Estates – kept his lawn the length of half a day’s chin stubble. Which meant he pulled his gas-powered Troy-Bilt across his tortured grass every other day in the summer. He was either obsessed with his landscape or needed an excuse to escape the family.

ECavan said...

In fact, they are aware of their beauty. They have discussed it over wrinkled sheets and naked limbs, in cafes with hands clasped under sticky tables, in the back of groddy taxis and in the rain. They would both score high on the seduction market, if anyone arranged a competition. The ungainly faces of their youth required some settling force of gravity and a couple decades of living to coagulate their features around the parameters of their personalities. But that isn't what unites them now. What unites them now, really, is only this terrible sadness. It is a sadness they fight with horror, like infants caught too long in the womb and stretching desperately to rip through the hazy veil and gasp in the oxygen of their looming, land-bound life.

Kathryn said...

I dropped the children at school, came home and momentarily debated the value of a hit of Kahlua in the leftover coffee. Fortified, the Kahlua was a good idea, I knew this was the time to finally deal with the bed. I had this crazy idea it would help me sleep again, like the covers were gifted with some sort of magical powers that kept me awake. My rational mind knew this was a crock but I was one tired woman, and not that rational lately. I longed for sleep. Stripping the covers off the bed, I dragged them outside to the backyard and dumped them in a heap, then went into the garage and got the lighter fluid. I doused the pile with lighter fluid, lit a match and watched transfixed as the funeral pyre reduced these representations of the life I’d lost to smoldering rubble. Seeing it sputter and finally catch on with the whoosh that fire makes, I thought about the lovemaking those linens had hosted. The tentative beginnings with the quiet, slow startle, the gradual, growing glow as you teeter there, close to blazing. Finally, the fire spent, you gratefully give in and like the dying embers, lie there, released.

shertz said...

There’s something unnatural about a six a.m. thunderstorm. Just as the sky is coming alive with its morning colors in the distance, it’s dancing with fire above his head and it sounds like gunshots. The birds wake, as they do at this time every other morning, but this is not every other morning and their songs get caught in their throats. The scorched air chokes him with an unfamiliar scent, burning until the sky opens up. Ben can hear the rain before he can see it or feel it. At least he has a good vantage point from up on the roof. Knowing this was once dangerous doesn’t bother him. Why should anything bother him anymore?

Anonymous said...

Linda Davis
lindaabd@sff.net

Lola tried to scratch in a very private place, but her rocket suit got in the way. Stupid rocket suit. She didn’t know why she couldn’t be a cowgirl or a belly dancer or even a soldier. They all had better costumes. They could scratch their itches. But nooooooo. She had to be Lola the Rocket Girl who lived on Mars and killed bad aliens. Lola sniffed in disdain.

jane said...

Usually I like the smell of male sweat. Give me a cloudless, end of summer afternoon, say the beginning of September at the ballpark with nine sweaty guys – aroma heaven. But it isn’t September; it’s December. It’s cold and dark in my garage. The sweaty smell coming off this guy who is wailing on me is not making my day. Who is this guy? Maybe if I could see him I could figure out a duck and scuttle defense to stay clear of his nasty swing. Nothing was going to be easy with my aching bones and broken arm. And where was Lucy? Why wasn’t she barking her head off? My smelling days might be over

Heather Wardell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kathryn Magendie said...

On the wind came ghost-songs. Come home, they sing. Come home to us. I turn my head away. Listen; their laments follow the wind, over bold and important mountain, journey from ridge to ridge, over cold running creek, over the holler, and they find me where the land is flat and hot and wet, they find me and they call to me, Come Home. And the lullaby both soothes and quickens, while the spirit-voices reach out. But I turn away to another call. The ghosts hover, never uncertain: Come back to us, come back Home. The mountain waits. The mountain cries. The mountain shadows over what once was your light. The mountain holds your kin. The ghosts know my secrets, all my inner secrets. I hear their call on the wind. I hear the ghost-songs. Calling me home, calling me home, calling me Home . . . I say, hush, hush now.


(thank you for the fun!)

Reesha said...

Blue. He had chosen candles that were blue.
Ralesha shook her head in disbelief. How was she to train when her partner clearly didn’t understand what was going on? She walked over to Epaul, seeming to tower above him even though she was just as tall as he was.
“Don’t you know anything? We’re supposed to be doing a relaxation exercise, not throwing a party.” Epaul fumbled with the candles, put them back on the shelf with the others and stepped back.
“I’m sorry. I’m still not used to this part of the country. What do you consider relaxing here?” Ralesha smiled condescendingly, walked over to a different shelf that lined the walls of the training house, and took down five lavender candles.
“These,” she said “will do."

Heather Lane said...

The universe paused. And held its breath. Waiting. Anticipating. It was happening. Now. In that silence, that in between, she had a thought. Her first thought. A fleeting wonder. It was a spark that she tried to retrieve, to hold—to own. It seemed important. Terribly important. But not easy to hold. Slippery. She clenched her mind around the thought and it became even more slick. She lost it. She panicked for a moment, searching for the lost tendrils before giving up, giving in. She released it. Let it go… And it crashed back in on her.

Bostonia Magazine said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I ran for a lot of reasons. To keep in shape. To win races. To stay out of trouble. And sometimes I ran just for the heck of it. Today I followed the path by the river. It had enough inclines and twists to make any cross-country runner happy.


WandaV

Miss said...

The fire raged from inside of the library and the heat caused the windows to shatter. The explosion sent shards of glass flying to the ground below. A shard landed on the grass in front of Maya’s feet and turned the patch where it landed black. Clouds of black smoke billowed out of the building and swallowed the star filled sky. Maya choked on the stench from the fire—it was somewhere between a campfire and burning plastic. The flames consumed the walls and roof with greed. As out of control as they appeared, they stayed contained to the building—the trees and small buildings close to the library remained untouched. Maya lifted her hands to the sky and the fire stopped.

M.J. Adams said...

From behind the cash register, Beth watched as the man walked into the store and headed back to George’s office. He smiled at her as he passed. She smiled back, covertly inhaling his cologne as it floated by on the breeze that had followed him in, the warm spicy scent reminding her of when Gerti, her grandmother, would bake pumpkin bread.

Fadz said...

The last of midnight rain dripped off the rotting zinc slates, collecting in dark puddles in an alley too small to warrant a name. The smell of curry leaves and henna lingered in the air, but the man in a navy-blue jumper too thick for this warm climate scrunched his nose in distaste. He could make out the sting of urine and the decay of dead rodent, overpowering other smells, as he stepped deeper into the shadows. He pulled the cotton hood closer over his head. He kept looking back; he knew he was being followed.

liz said...

They will wake up alone, the boy thought with a smile, shivering in the crisp morning air. A light breeze ruffled his hair as he stood on the enormous rock covered in ancient symbols. His pale blue eyes could still make out the shape of the full moon above the jagged peaks in the distance.

Auxerre said...

Comrades Zhurkin and Zubokov waited. The first blush of morning light washed the clouds in purple and cut the figures of the men astride horses in black. Around them, the morning air hovered near the ground, wet and thick, the heat of the previous day caught in the hold of the night. The men and horses rose from the silver brume as if they were centaurs, snared in the space between the earth and the sky.
The calls of the night creatures faded as the two men studied the encampment; a small group of cloth-covered yurts winding their way out of the late summer tussock grass, which enveloped the ground for miles until it came to rest abruptly at the edge of the Altai Mountains, the green giving way to the cobalt blue of the rock that was bluer than the sky. The men did not indulge in the splendor of the long slow curves of the landscape or the jutting peaks of the mountains. Zhurkin’s thoughts were of the Kazak waste; the squandering of good productive land, merely strewn about with useless grass instead of crops. Under the Soviets, the land would not rest in such repose. She would serve men. They would not simply observe her beauty. They would adorn her with crops, machinery, and productivity.

Annie McMahon said...

Where am I?

Shannon said...

I stared out at the treetops as the shadows swirled across the canopy, the jade leaves trembling, taunted by the breeze. A storm was brewing, the air dense with humidity. It would’ve been a lovely time to relax in the warm breeze and watch the vivid display, but I couldn’t shake the chill that had seeped into my core. Wintry fingers dug at my consciousness as if trying to unearth some long buried truth. It was seriously unnerving.

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

Heavy gasps floated out of an open window high on the fortress wall. A breeze blew in, almost extinguishing the incense burning in the corners of the room. Wisps of black smoke curled up toward the vaulted ceiling.

Amy H. said...

The diesel engine’s roar echoed inside Cat Quigley’s head. In seconds, the semi-truck with the peculiar chrome grill closed in on her parents’ Chevy. Why did the grill seem so strange? She studied the shiny silver through the back window. The bumper was in the shape of a ‘V.’ And it was right on the Impala’s tail. Cat opened her mouth to shout a warning to her father, but the words didn’t come... didn’t come...

kdrausin said...

Apo heard his father’s voice echo through his dreams. He slowly opened one eye and saw his father standing over him. Lines like small rivers stretched across his forehead. Apo knew this meant he was unhappy. Wisps of black hair stuck out from his father’s wool cap. Why was he dressed for the outdoors? Apo wondered what was wrong.

Jim said...

Zeppe Mangini paced the busy sidewalk while nursing a cappuccino. He felt it was a sure sign that the world was falling apart when people sold cappuccino in paper cups, but he sipped the drink to draw warmth and to make himself appear busy. Every few steps he glanced across the street to the apartment at 1255. Zeppe cursed what he had to do tonight. Tommy Nunzio had lived there since he was a kid. Now he was going to die there.

MelissaPEA said...

Mom didn't mean to kill the birds, the chipmunks, or the squirrels. Well, maybe the squirrels. They can be kind of annoying. But my point is that I'm sure once the judge, the media, and the irate animal rights activists hear Mom's side of the story, they'll see that this is all one silly misunderstanding. In fact, I'm sure they'll see that it's really just a heartwarming tale.

Carolyn B said...

My father didn't really sell me, or trade me off like some folks say he did. Pa just sort of threw me in to sweeten the deal when he was selling a string of green-broke horses to J.D. Branch. We brought 25 head to the sale that day. Pa was leaning on the fence in the shade, visiting with folks who stopped to look, while I rode round in the lot showing off one horse after another. I’d been at it all day and was hot, dusty and needing a drink of water. But I knew better than to complain to Pa.

Kari Lynn Dell said...

It wasn't the first time I'd seen someone lose a thumb. It was, however, the first time I was the one who had to find it.

Victoria Schwab said...

All I can say, Nathan, as you near 1,000 entries, is that you have my sympathies. I can send coffee.

Marcia James said...

With a deft, quick thrust of the custom-made tool, Marie Hanson sliced through the sheet cake, removed a life-size, angel-food male organ and placed it on the wax paper next to twenty of its brethren. The penis pastries on parade needed to cool a little before she added the anatomically correct details with colored frosting and chocolate sprinkles. The senator’s daughter had planned one hell of a bachelorette party for her friend, Marie thought. Besides a hundred edible erections, the young woman had ordered sexy party favors such as foil-wrapped, milk chocolate miniatures of male buns and the ever-popular, cherry-flavored penis lollipops. It was a large order with a short deadline, but L’Amour Patisserie guaranteed satisfaction.

Jon Michael Peyton said...

Two Brothers stand on the field of battle. Each looks into the other’s eyes knowing that they have ended up on the opposite sides of a war absent middle ground. One brother is strong and fierce. His eyes hardened by his thirst for victory. His hands calloused from the constant training of his sword, but his heart is tender and pierced by the brother before him. The other brother is more radiant than all the stars of the Heavens. His eyes are untouched by hardship. His hands are soft from leisure, but his heart is also torn by the role he feels he has been forced to play.

bethanyintexas said...

Dusk. My favorite time of day. The shadows match my mood. The darkness casts a sharp contrast to the bright sunlight. During daylight the sun shines a glaring reminder on the emptiness of my life. The incompletion. Who else has to live their life like this?

Derrick said...

The air conditioning turned on in the room and swirled cool air around us, making the flowery fragrance of Alison's perfume whirl around me in a dizzying moment of nostalgia and affection. For a split second I wondered how perfume makers could make a mixture of camel pee and tree bark smell so good. For a second longer than a split, I wondered how such intense feelings and memories could be associated with something as simple as a smell.

Nick Kimbro said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kristi said...

YA:

It started with a breath mint. Had Lila been late to class that day or ignored the boy in the back of the room, it might have turned out differently. Her mother told her it was easier to make the right decision after you’ve already made the wrong one. Lila thought her mother would know – she had made some colossal mistakes of her own. But even now, looking back, she knew she would have done the exact same thing. She would have given him the mint. It was destiny.

Lina said...

As far back as I can remember, I have always felt that I was being watched. I have never felt truly alone even when there was no one around me. That is both eerie and comforting at the same time. I was not sure who was doing the watching, but for some unknown reason I have always felt that my life was of interest to both those in heaven and hell. I was not sure why. It wasn’t until I met him that I started to get some answers. The “him” that I refer to is a man named, “Malachi”.

Nick Kimbro said...

On the evening of my son’s first communion I struggled to keep my eyes facing ahead, wishing that I might somehow slip from his consciousness for just a moment; to not be his father but another man kneeling beside him, performing the same rites, sharing the same devotion. I could picture him there, head bent in anticipation, chest lifted, willing himself to a state of solemnity while the first flames of manhood kindled inside him.

watercayman said...

Leela sat back on her heels. Imagine that! Before the dark times, people used to live past twenty-two. Not just the Freaks -- everyone.

M.S. Ebbs said...

Blue. Tabitha knew exactly what the colored line meant, but she picked up the box and read the instructions again, to be sure.

Heather Wardell said...

My eyes open to a blurred whiteness, and I blink until it resolves itself into the airbag beneath my cheek. Images rush into my mind, scrambled snapshots of my car skidding off the icy road and plunging down into trees and darkness, and I jerk upright and grab for the door handle.

kerry dexter said...

It‘s raining, a soft rain they call it, cold, a sky full of broken clouds and getting on toward the setting of the sun as I walk north. Not a place I’d call a beach as I grew up along Gulf Coast waters. It’s rocks, and I’m wearing hiking boots. And listening for the music.

purpleprose 78 said...

The girl was terrified and that was good. He loved it when they struggled and fought and couldn’t breathe any more. Only that wasn’t right. He wanted her to breathe. For now.

Michelle H. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tracy said...

Lucifer wears a skirt. And big-ass, stiletto heels. And her name is Sue and she’s my boss. Picture an army of slain attorneys clutching their bloody chest cavities after Sue was finished with them. It wasn’t personal. They just had to understand that she would win. At all costs. And she would annihilate anyone who stood in her client’s way. She didn’t give a flying fuck if the client was reasonable. What she did give a flying fuck about was paying clients. And lots of them. Paying her lots of money. And if they ran out of money, well, that was all right, too, because Sue was nothing if not flexible. She had a nice 30 x 30 screened-in porch with hot tub and wet bar added onto her house by the sweat of one of her poor sonuvabitch client who ran out of money. I wouldn’t be surprised if she cut off his penis and threw it into the concrete mixture as she watched him pour the foundation. She wasn’t near as compassionate with non-paying clients as she was with opposing counsel. And that’s saying something.

Terri Underwood said...

The rain came down so hard, the sound inside the car was deafening and the windshield was a torrential waterfall. Annie wondered if the wipers would be much help. She threw the grocery bag into the passenger seat before starting the car. It roared to life when she turned the key and with hands shaking from the cold, she fastened the seat belt. Annie loved her Ferrari F430 because it was mostly hand built in Italy and she never worried if it would start, this Ferrari was not temperamental as most; it was the best running and most dependable car she had ever owned, and it tore up the mountain roads like a wild cat.

pjblair said...

“The coloured part of an eyeball changes quickly after death,” he says. The elders discuss this sometimes: how a blue eye turns to brown first, then black. They say this means we’re really all the same under our skin, that all people are equal once we return to dirt. But the forensic pathologist I am speaking with on the phone with calls it a “taphonomic artifact, not often seen in the literature.” Even so, I listen carefully, make a note in my police notebook. “A blue eye that is still in a dead person’s head, in situ, changes colour, turns almost black, within seventy-two hours of death. Ones that are ‘isolated,’” which I guess is his scientifically polite word for an eye that’s been pecked out of a dead person’s head, “change colour faster, within forty-eight hours.”

JulieD said...

Tonight, I’m in a seedy bar called Lenny’s Place. It’s the same type of bar I’ve visited countless times in my life: scarred bar-top, mismatched chairs and worn out faces. Smoking may have been banned in public years ago, but the acrid smell still wafts around. It’s the kind of stale scent that will linger in my nostrils for days afterward. I glance towards the dance area, where couples shuffle around the sticky floor to a warbling rendition of “There’s a Tear in my Beer” pouring out of the ancient jukebox. All over the country, the patrons change features but never behaviors.

Christy Raedeke said...
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