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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Nicole Dennis said...

A slender, bare foot slipped in the snow causing her to prop a blood-splattered hand on a rough pile of stones to halt her fall. If she fell, she wasn’t sure her pain-wracked body would be able to get upright, let alone keep climbing up the mountain. No matter the consequence or sacrifice, she would make it up this blasted mountain.

Don Wright said...

Mary sensed, nay felt the creature’s powerful mind as it reached out, searching, constantly probing for some way to free itself. She retrieved the small wooden box from her pocket and examined it for the hundredth time. The silver trims and seals where still unbroken. The box remained the monster’s prison. Relieved, she returned the box to the silk bag and secured it in the secret pocket.

Dawn Anon said...

I always dream. Grownups don’t. I used to tell people about my dreams but they’d just say “oh Darla, stop”. So I don’t talk about mine anymore. One night I dreamt that a witch lived in the neighborhood. Only I didn’t know she was a witch right away. At first she was really nice and she invited all the kids to come over and swim in her pool. She had a beautiful pool with the best floaties ever. We were all there; Derek, Jack, Tim, Kelly and me. Plus some kids I didn’t know. We were having such a good time. Tim and I were practicing holding our breath under water. His curls were stuck to his head when he came up. It’s so weird how his hair gets curlier when he’s wet. Then everyone started to scream. Something was wrong with the water -- it was turning to Jello. All the kids were trying to swim to the edge to get out . But the Jello was turning hard and we were getting stuck in the pool. The witch laughed and laughed at us, standing on the side of the pool, watching all of the children squirming and trying to swim. I could barely move my arms or legs but I crawled over the edge of the pool. I was too tired to run and too scared to scream. I looked around for Tim. I could see him near the bottom. His face turned up toward me. His eyes were open and staring at me. I think he was dead. I woke up so afraid, but didn’t scream or cry this time. I was quiet and made sure to not wake Angela up. I got out of bed and carried my blanket and pillow to the closet and I got inside and closed the door.

t.sheridan said...

In his mind he replays the seconds and minutes, the hours, leading up to that moment, that one moment. Except in his mind he remembers it in slow motion. He retraces his steps like he’s lost his keys, his glasses, his cell phone. That damned cell phone. They are at the stadium. He remembers in the present as if he could close his eyes, open them and be in that moment again. His son, Ryan, is on the field. There, sitting between him and his wife, is his seven year old daughter, Kaylee. His cell phone vibrates, he turns to his wife apologizes. He leaves the stands to take the call. Kaylee asks him to bring back a Slurpee. There are people all around. Children running around everywhere. He puts a finger in his ear, tries to hear more clearly. He turns toward the concession stand and the line of people wrapping around the small shed-like building and along the fence where he stands. He thinks about getting a corn dog—decides he doesn’t want to deal with that line, not even for Kaylee’s Slurpee. No, we’ll get it to you ASAP, he says to the phone. Look, this has never happened before; it was an oversight on our part. A group of teens dressed entirely in black studded gear, huddle against the fence, blocking his view of the line. He looks across the crowd. Then. He thinks he sees the familiar bob of light brown pigtails and the back of a pink shirt, a pink hello-kitty shirt that looks strangely similar to his daughter’s, strangely similar to the one she’s wearing now. He squints. Hold on George, he says, can I call you back? He closes the phone, slips it into his pocket. He moves past the emo teens and the people waiting in line to get a better look. A mass of people pass through his field of vision. The marching band begins to play. A little boy takes a lick from an ice cream cone and bursts into tears as the scoop hits the ground. He shakes his head, opens his cell, hits a key to call George back. Yeah, I’m back, he says, for a moment…I thought I saw my daughter. In one moment, the little girl is gone.

Anna said...

Even before I'm fully awake, I'm aware of the wind. It howls like a thousand sled dogs. With each gust the bed underneath me shakes. The house creaks and whines, clings to the metal stilts, or else it will be pried away and banged against the frozen sky. I refuse to wake up to another bleak arctic day. Instead I balance on the tightrope of dreams over the heat-faded Moscow summer--there trees grew, little Grishka was well, and I could see him with my eyes closed, no matter where he was.

Cassandra said...

She was not the first dead, or almost dead woman to stare at me, which maybe is why it didn’t upset me as much as it should have. She was not as young as Elise’s mother had been, but her eyes held the same look of bewildered horror, the same devastating sense of loss. I thought about how I would paint her. Her smooth surface was so startlingly real, much more so than the papery skin and matted hair of her predecessor. They were both beyond help now. Food for men, or food for maggots, it didn’t really make any difference. Dead is dead, almost dead may as well have been dead. It wasn’t as if I could just take her somewhere, leave her, and allow her to wake up. I knew that if I did my fate would be worse than hers. They would find her in the end anyways, better it was me than someone who wouldn’t respect her. I took her in my arms and carried her out into the cold. There was no one around. There was never anyone around in Sythengrad. The snow and the darkness made everything seem separate from everything else. My body was not in the same place as the car, as the hotel. We all moved in our own spheres. Our own private snow globes, thick glass surrounding our motives and fears. Was she mine now? Or was she theirs. Had I taken her life or had they? Everything melted together like paint or ice. Colors ran. Tears turned cold.

Lee Pletzers said...

Adam's mouse hovered over the 'call' button. Poker was an interesting game to play but he had difficulty making a decision to a set time frame, and not being able to see the other players. Online poker was second rate, and the player before him had gone 'all-in' with over a thousand credits. Fuckers who did that pissed him off. That wasn't playing a game of chance. Action like that forced most players out of the game.

bveggie said...

My name is Stephen Miller.This is my confession if I’m alive, or my last dying words if I’m successful. I am of sound body and mind, although you might think differently.

This is the first paragraph of a book that I thought I had finished, but when I was told to make it longer- the novel found more life (and death)!

Timothy said...

Temperate winds flow beneath my equine like form, on floods of curling air I float. How divine and full I stretch my wings, rushing to unknown horizons ever out of reach. This was not the first occasion I would fall to freedom. From many perilous situations, I would flee, and plunge again into the deep with but a step. No tower or gorge, I would simply jump up into heights and escape my ambitious capturers; they forever earthbound can only gawk at my sudden departure. Angered, frustrated, empty handed they depart, to plot and scheme new traps. How they hunger for my imprisonment, how they long to prod me for my secrets. I will not reveal insights of myself but to those I choose to befriend. We simple creatures of majestic lines must run on, through skies or land but none shall choose our path. Angelic in appearance, but we hold true to no master or king higher than ourselves. I desire only to find the one that would embrace me, my Athena, and I know I will find her soon.

sisyphus said...

Twelve days after Hurricane Leone struck, I found my canoe wrapped around a freeway pillar. The canoe went right through the orange tape and posted hazard signs where the freeway’s elevated supports were being retrofitted. Floodwater had carried it more than three miles downstream, to downtown. Along the way whirling rapids carved into the metal seats, stones and concrete blunted its pointy ends. Nothing much was left but a flimsy aluminum strip, flattened and useless. By the time I got to it, flooding had subsided, the sun was out. The bayou was colored chocolate milk, and dead still. Gnats buzzed on the surface, frogs rested on floating debris. Bats in the eaves of the freeway overpass slumbered, and on the other side, traffic roared in monotony. It was as if the whole humid world had already forgotten, except my partially submerged canoe, plastered around a concrete pillar, mud-spattered, with hundreds of exposed metal spots gleaming in the afternoon light like the compound eyes of a fly.

r louis scott said...

I had left the Roman road while the sun was still low in the east and warming my back. It had served me well. Flat and smooth, it had allowed me to put distance between myself and my pursuers. The sightlines had given me time to hide at the first sign of another traveler, and I would sink into a ditch or shelter beneath a bush and watch as they passed, ignorant of my presence. Whether or not they were the men seeking me did not matter. An innocent question to a wagon driver would be all that was needed to reveal my direction of travel, for there was not enough traffic to cover the passage of a limping, disfigured man.

bailey said...
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Andrew Salmon said...

There is a large oak tree down the street from my house, and it is always staring at me in the dark. At night. At day. Dusk. Dawn. It is always looking at me, wondering when I will do what I am going to do. The oak tree is helping with what I plan to do. And I will do what I plan to do.

Gray Eyed Scorpio said...

Seven months after the bridge span collapsed and deposited her father's van into the currents of the Mississippi, Jones saw him on television. Alive. Seven full months after she'd accepted his death, there he was: a certain posture paired with a familiar jawline and earlobe, a fist-sized blur of blue tattoo flexing along his left shoulder blade. Definitely Papa, three states south, ducking his head and zapping nails into shingles behind a bobble-headed blonde reporter and her microphone.

Laurel Amberdine said...

The grey light of dawn is safest. Shadow and light remain soft blurs, still without power. At dawn the Endless War pauses for a moment. Night and day shifts swap places at the front. Absterges drag away the injured. Lustrators process the dead. And the Endless War begins again.

andrewfantasyman said...

There is a large oak tree down the street from my house, and it is always staring at me in the dark. At night. At day. Dusk. Dawn. It is always looking at me, wondering when I will do what I am going to do. The oak tree is helping with what I plan to do. And I will do what I plan to do.


Sorry, I messed up with the ID thing. I can be kind of dumb at times.

litenup_rach said...

I don’t know how long I’ve laid here, still and shaken. My body feels bruised and broken as though it had been ravaged by a storm. My head is groggy and struggles to awaken from a deep sleep that will not let go…

pialia said...

Seen through floor-to-ceiling windows, the dark over New York City shadowed the tall buildings with an almost calculable weight. Rosa imagined it pressing against her, a diffuse, misty presence with the feel of spider silk. The dark constrained every move, even infiltrated her mind. Her thoughts were damp, sluggish, except for the insidious whispered voices that were, and were not, her own. Useless, stupid bitch. You should have died long ago. You should have died. You should have died…

Meg Trotter said...

“Look, that's him.”
“He’s the one who-?”
“Can you believe it? What was he thinking?”
The three older boys swaggered past Zayne and merged into the group hovering around the kitchen maids who were distributing lunch. Zayne bent low over his meal, pretending to be interested in the lumpy bits of potatoes in his lukewarm soup. After a few moments he slowly lifted his gaze from his meal and took a sweeping look around the dining hall. Each of the six long tables was nearly full with squires such as himself and a spattering of knights of the lower ranks. Most everyone sat in groups close to the front of the room. Zayne had slunk onto an open section of bench near the back.

Lena said...

I should have caught on to his deadly intent when less and less of my friends began showing up on my facebook homepage. Things had started out great, then little by little, it felt like a boa constrictor coiling itself tightly around my life. At first it was a subtle show of annoyance when I'd make plans with other friends. Three weeks into our relationship, things got... scary.

Katy Campbell said...

Jess Moor wiggled through a window on the bottom floor of the police station, composing a mental list of contingency plans for when one of the officers inside caught her breaking and entering. According to her research, all the officers should be stuck in a changeover meeting, but Jess hated to rely on should be. Her sister Anna would probably tell her she was being paranoid; Jess preferred to think of it as hyper-preparedness. Better to expect a horde of furious officers that never showed up than to round a corner and get caught with her metaphorical pants down, after all.

Xiexie said...

I woke up to arguing between my siblings. For some reason I’d been sleeping on the floor in the middle of my bedroom. Plants surrounded me in a large ring. Wrapping around each other slowly growing more and more intertwined, they formed a deathly wreath of red poppies, belladonna, and purple irises. My hand was outstretched to the wreath’s edge, and there clasping it was my brother Bran, who lay on the floor just outside the ring. Eyes watering, he smiled at me and his voice filled my thoughts. Welcome back.

Ruth Hansen said...

Her mind had never been so clouded or so clear. "You can't do this," she told herself. Yet, as she approached the train station, Carrie really wasn't sure whether or not she would finally give in to him. He had been trying to convince her for so long. She came close more times than she would like to admit. The man offered no options and accepted no excuses. He wasn't asking. More frequent and more demanding, his attacks diminished reason. He justified his plan with the harsh claim, "They don't need you anymore." As much as she didn't want to believe it, tonight this was Carrie's truth.

Dorothea Helms said...

Six days ago, I pulled up the duvet to my chin and reveled in the sensuousness of lying in bed, not moving, not even squinting through half-open lids at the sunshine I could feel spilling in through the bedroom window. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee tempted me to cross the threshold from dreamy sleep to wakefulness, but I resisted. The delicious silence was interrupted only by the distant drone of one of the first brave flies of spring—the lulling sound of insect body buzzing against glass, fumbling to find its way out. Wait a minute, I thought—I live alone and I haven't made any coffee.

Friedlander said...

I noticed them the moment we arrived. She was a busty blonde bursting from a blue bikini and holding a lipstick stained cigarette. He looked like a handsome Irish football player grown older and puffy, a scotch glass a fixture in his hand. Besides Jack, the owner-bartender, they were the only ones there.

Janet Johnson said...

So. Right in the middle of dinner, in walks this evil-looking dude, and suddenly, everyone in the room is like "Ooh! You're so scary!" and they're cowering and stuff. It is so yesterday to cower.

Tiffany Maxwell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sharon said...

Sparone only sensed the others seated around him in the darkness. He heard hardly a rustle of movement, not even the breathing of two hundred fifty soldiers crowded with him in the black, unlit hold of the space transport. He fought the urge to shift his weight where he sat on one of the troop benches running the length of the hold, unwilling to be the first to make a move that might be perceived as nervousness. As one of the acting squad leaders he was expected to set the example, but the battle camp hadn’t prepared him for utter darkness.

Ashley said...

I never liked Barbie dolls. Barbie is too perfect, with her long, silky, golden blonde hair. When I was five, I used to sneak into my big sister’s room and cut all of the Barbie dolls’ hair, cut it short like mine. That’ll teach her, I thought. Barbie needed to know what it was like to not be perfect. I felt the same way I first saw Lorna. I wanted to cut her long blonde hair. I wanted her, Miss Snowball Queen, former Little Miss Candy Apple Princess, and current miss biggest snotty bitch at Coopoerstown High School, to know what it was like not be perfect. Lorna needs to know that she is not special. She too is ordinary.

Alyson Greene said...

Sam lay in the fetal position across a leather seat, and although she realized she was now awake, she didn’t remember falling asleep. The rumbling beneath her and the rushing sound in her ears told Sam that she was in a car. Everything was black. She sat up and moved a hand to her face to remove a blindfold, but all she felt were her own lashes. Her eyes were open and unobstructed, yet she couldn’t see her own hand. A prickling sensation started at her tailbone and moved up her spine. The feeling in her stomach reminded her of a boat trip to Catalina on rough seas. She was going to be sick, but a soothing voice calmed her stomach and quenched her panic.

Brian Crawford said...

She blinked against the heat and suddenly she was upon him. He’d dropped to his knees in the sand, and he was holding the starfish above him like some terra cotta offering to the sister sun. The shimmering heat obscured his form and cut at his legs, giving the illusion he was floating. In his black skinny jeans he looked like some malformed arachnid, an alien on a featureless planet. An alien with a starfish. He was chanting, or maybe he was just breathing heavy from the heat and the walk. The sand crackled beneath him as he swiveled toward her, and then he was looking straight up at her, holding the astral creature out like an offering to her, and she realized that if he asked her, if he asked her right there in the desert, she would marry him.

a cat of impossible colour said...

Here in the Western world I have seen that there is a great belief in talking - that if you talk to a psychiatrist about your childhood and your problems it brings your demons to light and shrivels them in the bright heat of reason, like dung on a fire. In Africa, we know that the demons are not something you can draw out of the man without destroying the man, for they are one and the same thing and cannot be separated. Still. I agreed to try it. I agreed when people stopped telling me I was a nice man (which means a quiet man) and started telling me that I needed help. I wondered what this meant - someone to carry my groceries? Someone to clean my house? But no. Help was a small white card with the name of this man on it. When I asked how he would help me, I was told: by listening.

Faith said...

The trendiest Chicago bar was seething with the hot, hip and beautiful. The vibe in this room hummed with the promise of lithe, young bodies fornicating the night away. Still, I commanded attention as I made my way towards the bar. The pulsating music seemed to slither its way into my veins, empowering me, transforming me into a Goddess of sensuality. But tonight wasn’t about me. I was on a case. I was here to catch a cheater and put him in his place. An image of him under my black patent stiletto heel quickly came to mind as I thought about tonight’s job. I made a show of tossing my blonde curls over my shoulder as I did a quick surveillance of the room. That was all it took to spot my assistant Eric. Eric was model gorgeous, a raging homosexual and had been my best friend since we were both seventeen. My lips curved in a full red smile. The stage was set. My mark, Richard, was attempting to seduce his girlfriend de jour. Eric was perched on a bar stool one seat away from our clients cheating hubby, doing a great impersonation of a hetero on the prowl. His bomber jacket was tossed carelessly across the seat next to Richard. I angled my way through the crush of bodies and positioned myself next to the stool with Eric’s jacket. Though the bar was three deep, the bartender immediately gravitated toward me. I gave him a dazzling smile. Eric quickly picked up his jacket from the stool to make room for me. Richard felt my heat and gave me a less than discrete once-over.

Avital said...

Months or years or a lifetime afterwards, when I’d look at my doppelganger’s eyes and decide to free her, I’d remember the day Roberto and I passed the tattered “House for Rent” sign and approached the purple house with the assured step of people coming back home.

Sporker_Anthologies said...
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Elizajane said...

The moment she began to think it might all be real was when she looked into the mirror and didn’t see herself. It was when she saw that strange face gazing back at her, that pale face with the spiky blonde hair sticking up oddly from a night’s sleep; when she stared into eyes that were not the soft brown ones she’d had for fourteen years, but were cool and grey. She’d never been the type to have wild nightmares, and this was beyond her waking imagination. So it might be real.

James said...

In the summer of 1997, a young boy watched table tennis for the first time. He blinked. According to the announcer, three rallies had passed. An orange blur appeared for a millisecond on the television screen. Another blink and the score changed. Zhang and Huang's match was an incredible spectacle to the boy. Though he couldn't see the ball itself, his eyes caught every powerful move Zhang made. He couldn't help but admire the agility and anticipation Huang displayed. The match ended like a lightning's flash. Zhang's power had been overcome, and Huang Yen's spin control proved victorious. The boy was breathless. Had he been a participant, he wouldn't have sweat any less. He had found his love, calling, sport. In the summer of 1997, Kelin, age twelve, discovered passion.

Aussie Country Girl said...

Bella Vermaelen tried to focus on the tiny glasses, swimming in front of her eyes. A bunch of black akubra hats worn by the cattlemen clustered around the bar were distracting her, making her think of Will. She wondered if he was here and what he would think of her down on her knees swilling like a pig.

Deborah Alys Carter said...

A softer-than pearlfeather-voice whispered,
“Of course I want a star—it is what we all want, in the end.”

He woke, startled, his large feet clumsy in a tangle of bed sheets. Beads of sweat cooled across his forehead in the gray twilight: He dreamed of her again. Twice this week she appeared, eight times this month so far, and it wasn’t even the twentieth—funny that he’d been counting. She was ageless but at the same time not young. Her face was as unlike the women he knew in his old village or here at school as Rolands' hound Rufus to the goldfish in the crystal bowl on his oaken chest. A scent of spices clung to the stale air in his small room after he dreamed of her—cinnamon and cloves and something else familiar but just out of reach. She was asking him for something—or asking him to help her get something. It was never exactly clear, surrounded like it was (as dreams usually are,) by confusing symbols and changing landscapes, flashing colors and shapes. He took special notice of these dreams, her dreams, because her image was so absolutely clear. She seemed to glow with a fierce intense realism against the indistinct shapes, like an artist-painted image pasted onto a carnival sketch. She stared directly at him too, in these dreams, as though their eyes could connect. Her eyes were impossible, a hue of intense, light green he had never seen on anyone before. Recalling her eyes, so like those tiny limes from Far South Island, he shivered.

Ruthanne Reid said...

If I don't go now, I'll never be free, thought Alex in a panic, and leaped from his hiding place before he could change his mind. He landed hard on the dock and rolled to his knees with his eyes closed, too stunned by his success to do more. Ten heartbeats of time passed, and finally, he peeked. Land swelled up from the harbor like a deep breath, steepled with ancient towers and elaborate office buildings. Everything was grey-brown granite; flecks in the stone winked in the winter sunlight. Shadows painted strokes of mystery between closely-built architecture. Narrow streets left barely enough room for the cars and buses, which looked nothing like they had in Alex's books.

Kimber An said...

SWEET (*Indicates Italics*)

Ophelia crept behind the bushes, soundlessly parting the leaves until she found Adrian’s t-shirt tangled on the branches. She glanced over her shoulder one last time before grabbing it and clutching it to her breast. Then, she buried her face in it and breathed in. *He even smells beautiful.* She sunk bottom into the dry grass. *Beautiful…and gay.* She should have stayed away from him, but being just his friend was better than nothing. *No matter how excruciating.* In three days, they would graduate and she would at last be free, free to live, free of Martin, free of their pathetic little town. *But, I’ll never see Adrian again.*

jscolley said...

When Abiola Okeke was an infant and his belly bloated from starvation, he was wet-nursed by a famous Hollywood actress. She picked him from a group of other children similarly afflected, swatted at the buzzing flies hovering above his crusty eyes, unbuttoned her white linen shirt and brought him to her generously rounded breast. His older sister, Isata, who had cared for him since that eventful day and well before, told him the story many times — how the beautiful actress picked him out from hundreds of other children in the refugee camp and gave him the gift of life; and how his picture had been on TV all over the world and on the cover of magazines and in newspapers.

Inkblot said...

The front door opened with a gentle click and Jess shifted in her chair, subconsciously moving her right hand closer to the knife at her side. With her left, she turned the page of her novel and continued reading.

Luke Fiske said...

From "The Love I Make Is The Love That Breaks"

Long before we paid the prostitute to burst out of an imaginary cake, my brother emailed to say a friend of his, Hamish, was holidaying in Cape Town and would I for a night or two show him a good time. I wrote back no. Hamish had not long before tried to kill himself, which is his right as a citizen and a poet (he is a chef, not a poet, but my understanding is that he wrote some poetry and had even had some of it published) but during his darker moods Hamish had dragged my brother down into his dirty bathwater and held him there, so that after the attempted suicide my brother actually blamed himself, for not being a good enough friend. This, as everyone told him, was crazy, but Hamish had that effect on people, and so whenever my brother saw him, no matter how buoyant Hamish was—he could be laughing, dancing, serving a plate of Rocky Mountain Oysters, braised bull testicles, on the house—my brother would feel guilt-stricken; and this, of course, was the reason he had put me in touch with Hamish: he couldn’t bear to think of Hamish coming to our hometown and not seeing me, in case Hamish found out I still lived here and made my brother feel crummy for not putting us in touch. I explained all this over email, but I added a postscript that if my brother really, really wanted me to do it, I would, with the caveat if Hamish hated Cape Town and decided to blow his brains out, it wasn’t my fault, and it certainly wasn’t my brother’s fault either. I wouldn’t even pay to have the walls cleaned, I said. I was that serious. It was a week before my brother wrote back.

Jennifer Wilke said...

Edwin flew toward the sun, his heart racing, his yell echoing against the shale cliffs of Mirror Lake. Starlings took wing. Maybe this time he would fly forever. His thrill of fear was the pure price of freedom. When he reached the highest arc of the swing, the earth made him let go.

Michelle said...

For most Americans, I think it’s fair to say, turkey is synonymous with Thanksgiving. Yet turkey is, and always has been, the last thought on my mind come that cool November morning – right behind pumpkin pie. I don’t mean to insinuate that turkey is absent from my family’s annual feast; my grandfather lovingly bastes a large white breast over an outdoor rotisserie every year. I get the feeling, however, that his effort is due to anticipation of Friday’s lunch of left-over cold meat, Whitt’s barbeque sauce, and Wonder Bread, rather than a fondness for the bird or an obligation to tradition. And though the roasted ten-pound breast sits thinly carved on the antique buffet, there is never room on my plate for a single slice.

Calli said...

Light drove the shapes and vertices from my mind. I shut my eyes, but too late: the link was broken, and Geddern's frustrated shout erased the lingering traces.

Gordo said...

It took Tuesday two days to notice her father had moved out. Their paths didn’t cross much at home so his absence revealed itself in subtle ways. The framed picture of her family at the beach, the one with Tuesday’s legs covered in sand and shaped into a mermaid’s tail, vanished from its usual perch atop the end table in the living room. Her dad’s chipped Pasadena City College coffee cup disappeared from the drying rack by the sink. The front hallway became a leather junkyard of discarded purses and shoes. When her mother started smoking indoors, something her father expressly forbid, Tuesday finally thought to ask, “Where’s Dad?”

Renee Sweet said...

I stared out into the thin, early morning light and considered, for the millionth time, speaking the words that would solve all my problems. The trouble was, I couldn’t be certain which were the right ones. Language is a sentient power, a reluctant servant. If I selected words with too narrow of a focus, my intention would be strangled. Too broad of a focus and the language would get away from me, slipping and winding through nuances of meaning to end in disaster.

Joel Wright said...

He smelled food. Paul, a chicken looking man on his way to Damascus on a fat dough ball Donkey that smelled like wet fur, was blinded by a bright, Heavenly light that made his skin feel crispy too. The air carried with it, the muted sounds of civilization. Then he heard people, lots of people all around him. Somewhere behind him, he heard a harmonica and a vendor selling bread. Paul thought for a moment and figured that his Donkey had followed the cart path into the Damascus market.

Tracy said...

I am not a normal mom. I have never given birth, attempted to breast-feed, changed midnight diapers, or potty-trained. I have never shopped for a stroller or car seat, and probably couldn’t operate them if I had help. However, I am a mom. I haven't done all those baby chores, but I have done other, more challenging things, things I believe make me more of a mom than most other women who have given birth. I’ve held a child through eight hours of screaming, biting, spitting, hair-pulling, cussing and kicking. I’ve fought to bring a teenager out of a night terror so real and so deep that she was punching and kicking and screaming with everything her soccer-honed body could throw at me…but that was only two hours. I have stood in court and said, “Your honor, I love my daughter very much, but I think she needs to spend a few more days in jail.” For my three daughters, I am a mom of last resort. Before me, they have had a total of 32 sets of parents. Together, they have a total of fifteen siblings. The good news is that I will be the last mom they ever have, because no matter what, I don't give up on my kids.

Tim said...

He thought, The widow ought to thank me for stealing her wardrobe. It’s not even dawn and I’m soaking in sweat.

Tracy said...

I am not a normal mom. I have never given birth, attempted to breast-feed, changed midnight diapers, or potty-trained. I have never shopped for a stroller or car seat, and probably couldn’t operate them if I had help. However, I am a mom. I haven't done all those baby chores, but I have done other, more challenging things, things I believe make me more of a mom than most other women who have given birth. I’ve held a child through eight hours of screaming, biting, spitting, hair-pulling, cussing and kicking. I’ve fought to bring a teenager out of a night terror so real and so deep that she was punching and kicking and screaming with everything her soccer-honed body could throw at me…but that was only two hours. I have stood in court and said, “Your honor, I love my daughter very much, but I think she needs to spend a few more days in jail.” For my three daughters, I am a mom of last resort. Before me, they have had a total of 32 sets of parents. Together, they have a total of fifteen siblings. The good news is that I will be the last mom they ever have, because no matter what, I don't give up on my kids.

Victoria said...

I met the criminals in the usual manner: they were my neighbors. It started with friendly chats in the hall of the apartment house and progressed to lending one another cups of sugar, and then nail polish remover, distilled water, aluminum foil, a butane torch, a 9 1/2” by 11” Pyrex baking dish, lab glass, and a microwave oven—things you need to cook shabs of crystalmethamphetamine and then smoke up.

Lill said...

Saffi hadn't meant to start a war when she left home that morning. She had only wanted to buy a loaf of herb bread from Nelly Mudwater across the river. "Witches Bread," the other villagers called it, but Saffi was convinced one bite could heal her wounded father. Instead here she sat, bound and gagged by a rowdy group of bandits who were convinced she was a long lost princess. If they would just loosen the rancid rag in her mouth, she'd gladly tell them she was merely the giant's daughter.

liganofthedisomus said...

Ironically, Segundo was the first to die. Sniped. One shot to the face. Looking up from the guard’s desiccated body, Agent Rashid scanned the perimeter of the dig, locating the bodies of the four other men hired by the University to protect the site. The archaeology team had been found at the center of the dig among the half-shredded tents that now flapped impotently in the hot wind of the Akzar desert. Rashid wondered what in the world they found that would merit such a professional raid in such an inaccessible location.

Beth Sorensen said...

I saw him drive down Main Street in a red Porsche and my knees began to buckle beneath me. There was no doubt in my mind who it was. Tony’s face had been engraved into my memory forever. It didn't matter that he'd been dead for nearly two years. I felt light-headed and nauseous as I lowered myself on to a bench in front of the courthouse. I fumbled through my purse, found my cell phone, and called Edward.

Nick said...

I first met the Pillsbury Doughboy on a shoot for a commercial my agency was doing. We'd been working together for a while, though we'd never met in person and I assumed we never would. Usually the way these things go is that I do a lot of writing, the actors ad-lib it all, and I end up drunk and alone in my apartment. This time, I spent several weeks head-down, writing lines for the Doughboy and a fictitious working mother named Debra, and then suddenly, when I looked up, there he was in front of me, in a fake kitchen, regurgitating my hard work word-for-word in his trademark voice, all jolly and wise and coy. He was a natural. He was kinda cute.

Breeze said...

The cold harbour whispered to the people on the shore. Gather around me, be warm and be grateful. You are protected in my embrace, you are safe in my arms and I will care for you. The December breeze blew mild and the fog stayed away. Just for the time being.

Stephanie L. McGee said...

“Into each life some rain must fall.” It’s an old cliché that really should read, “Into each hero’s life a star must fall.” Derek Steventon glanced at the stars above him. The headset he wore both allowed communication with his wing and protected his ears from the jet engine’s roar. His B-1 Lancer vibrated his nerves, sending ripples of sensation across his creamy skin.

Anonymous said...

You know that party? The party deciding if you are popular or not? The kind of party anyone would die to be invited to? The key to a perfect school year? Well, Cassady’s birthday party is that party; the biggest event of the year. The party I’m going to tonight.

-Kena Marie

Hollie Sessoms said...

It was one of those places that had a tempo all its own. The road that led there was engulfed on all sides by marsh, as if it would be overtaken by water at any moment. On the shoulder, palm trees bristled in the wind, casting long shadows across Highway 80. As soon as you crossed the Lazaretto Creek Bridge—the Cockspur Lighthouse to your left, shrimp boats to your right—you knew that you were someplace unique. Someplace foreign yet familiar, someplace insensible yet rational, someplace beautiful yet disquieting.

Kim Vandervort said...

Skerth shouldered his way through the crowd of boys to see the body. The dead boy was about his own age—fourteen—with lice-ridden, gutter-blond hair that fell lank and matted from a blue-white face. His clothes were thin, tattered, and soiled beyond color—not even worth stealing. Skerth exhaled; his shoulders sagged with relief. _Not Kiri_.

Anonymous said...

An ancient wind scours sand and rock, whispers of history and change. The past survives and speaks in a sea of sand and stone. The wind is cold; it chills your bones.

Erqin said...

Erqin is my name. I have decided to share my story with my friends overseas, the few that I know and the many that I don't. Listen.
Things have changed drastically in this part of the world. Many are afraid to talk, to express what they feel, what they go through. Not I. No one knows for sure when or how it started. Maybe it has been too long for anyone to remember. So who could tell how long it will last? Only one thing is for sure: this is happening here, and it's happening now.

Erin Richards said...

The drag racers hit the intersection and twin sets of headlights flickered on. The hot rods slammed into the passenger side of my Camaro. Barreled through my twin sister. Steel scraped steel, screeched, tangled. The car flipped on its side, bounced and rolled. A strong odor of gas filled the air. Metal burned through my side as if a butcher had taken a cleaver to my gut. Something crushed my left leg and I gasped out a mangled sound. My last conscious awareness was Silver crying through the telepathic static shutting down my brain, It hurts, Lucas, oh God. Are we dead?

C.S. Gomez said...

Mr. Brynn got up from his chair and lit a cigarette. Then he sat down. After two puffs he stood up again and began pacing. He told himself to get a grip, and sat down again. He lasted five puffs on his cigarette this time before his legs were twitching uncontrollably and he had to stand up once more. He played with the smoke in his mouth, swirling his tongue around in it before exhaling. Then a searing heat burned on two fingers of his right hand—the stump of the cigarette fell to the carpet as his hand jerked violently. Shaking it to clear the pain, he cursed himself for his stupidity. Smoking wasn’t helping to calm him down like it usually did.

adored laundry queen said...

Tommy Whitlock passed out from too much drink one July afternoon, and when he awoke he found his wife, eyes black and body bruised,
dangling from their ceiling fan. Tommy stumbled past her body and into the kitchen, opened the fridge and grabbed a bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Then he dragged a caned chair across the curling linoleum and positioned it between the playpen and her hanging body. He called the Peckinpaw sheriff’s office and told them Ella wouldn't be in, though she might be able to pull the graveyard shift. When the sheriff kicked in Tommy’s door ten minutes later, Tommy had just tied Ella’s pink hair ribbons to her swollen ankles. Still piss-eyed drunk, he lifted his foot in the air and wound up the mommy
mobile. “Mommy always wanted to go to the big city and be a ballerina.” He stretched his big toe and prodded his wife’s body again. “Spin, Mommy, spin a pretty fouette for baby!” The body did a slow half-spin then settled into a taut rock. The baby reached up her arms, cooed and giggled.

---southern fiction

Chris said...

The sound of white noise filled the lobby with the rush of whispering angels. For Cheryl Johnston the angels do not whisper to her but her husband lying unconscious in another room. While machines breathed for Darren, she drew another long breath and stared into a cup of coffee.

Tamara said...

I'm wondering if you knew what you were getting into :) Anyway, here goes paragraph 1 -

Ben Suda did not attend a ballgame until Adam complained. Ben was pleased with himself the first time he entered the gymnasium and looked for Adam in the crowd of students. He imagined him laughing and talking with his friends, a bit embarrassed to see his father. After several moments of searching, he saw his son sitting alone at the end of the bleachers. Their eyes met, but the boy looked away as if he were a stranger. Ben stepped back into the doorway, just out of view, where he stayed throughout the game. Adam did not look his way again. A father was no consolation for loneliness.

Barry said...

The squeal of worn brakes sent a flock of crows scrambling for the sky. From across the field, Richard watched an aging lorry roll to a stop near the first body, nearly crushing it beneath its front wheels. Two men in stained, yellow coveralls climbed down from the cab and walked around to the rear of the truck. They threw back a section of heavy tarp, pulled out a long, wide board and dragged it over to the corpse.

allegore said...

The last time I saw Granddad, he was showing me his shelves of canned food he had stocked his garage with for Y2k. Rows and rows of canned peaches and beef stew right there next to bags of rice, evaporated milk, and a stack of car batteries. I wasn’t sure what he was going to do with the car batteries, but it reminded me of those news reports on TV where they raid compounds and find people who have been hiding from civilization for a long time.

Beth Sorensen said...

I saw him drive down Main Street in a red Porsche and my knees began to buckle beneath me. There was no doubt in my mind who it was. Tony’s face had been engraved into my memory forever. It didn't matter that he'd been dead for nearly two years. I felt light-headed and nauseous as I lowered myself on to a bench in front of the courthouse. I fumbled through my purse, found my cell phone, and called Edward.

** I've been having computer problems. This may be a re-post. **

Rosanne said...

Epae stood on the outcropping overlooking the fields. They seemed to flow forever into the gathering darkness. Directly below her cook fires twinkled like tiny stars as her people settled for the night. Far different than the day at temple had started - beheadings, strangulations, and then the stakes. The screaming had stopped after dark. Mostly. Epae looked back at her friends sitting around their small fire. They'd hoped the hills would block the temple sounds from reaching them. They hadn't.
(from YA historical, per-Aztec culture)

John Zeleznik said...

Something about the hunt had changed, leaving Ben with a sick feeling in his gut. All around him men packed in tight, gripping spears and glancing around at the shifting shadows of the woods that surrounded them. He tried to move closer to his father, the Duke, to hear exactly what the outrider was saying, but his brother wouldn’t budge. Instead, James glanced back tauntingly, suggesting he knew what was going on and was somehow not as worried as the more experienced men all around them. Ben felt the heat rise up his soaked neck and started to say something when a firm hand grabbed his shoulder. Ben turned around and snapped, “What?”

Sean Craven said...

Lulu sang and Willy played guitar. The first time I saw them I thought they might be twins; two skinny little white kids dressed all in raggedy black with so many rings in their ears that you could have hung them from a curtain rod. The only difference between them was that her hair grew down in a greasy fringe that hid her dark eyes while his hair was swept up in a bulb line an onion.

Caroline Steele said...

The fairy tales always said werewolves are soulless, bloodthirsty monsters. I guess that's true enough for most people, but I’ve never felt like a monster. I just consider myself the world’s greatest bitch.
Everyone has their own perspective on it, of course, and their own ways of dealing with it. Daniel takes it so much for granted, even I forget he’s wolf sometimes, and John is the opposite, tries to hide it even from us. Michael tries to rub it in people’s faces, tries to make them notice, and while you’d think that was the start of this whole problem, it wasn’t. It was me.

ToBeOrNotToBeSam said...

Tracey’s mouth curves into a mischievous, cat-like grin. No yellow feathers are stuck to her lips, but best friends for over twenty-five years there’s no fooling me. She’s up to something – always scheming, that Tracey.

Gwen said...

Behind the Oak and Anvil pub, beyond the twinkling lights of the beer garden, the long meadow stretched down to the motorway and then beyond. Below the meadow, London was so bright in the distance that its glow eclipsed the stars. On either side, the wood stretched far enough that any other landscape seemed impossible. Old Annie Fletcher settled into one of the wrought iron chairs and let herself breathe. Soon, she'd be able to go upstairs to bed and let Kate go home. The night was nearly over: the clientele were down to two fiddlers trading tunes in a corner and a girl from the village, whom Annie suspected was not quite eighteen. The village girl watched the fiddlers, spellbound.

kmari03 said...

There is a bird in my backpack.

Meg said...

A loud pop was heard in the snow covered forest. The animals grew silent at the unusual noise. Three people fell from the sky, landing squarely on their bottoms. A man and two women. One obviously older than the other, the wrinkles around her eyes gave it away. The man stood first and scanned their immediate surroundings. The older woman stood, shaking her head. The younger woman stayed sitting on the ground, glaring at the others.

Cassie Greutman said...

A shriek tore the air behind Jandra. She glanced behind her, pushing herself to up the pace. The Taket was gaining on her. Should she stay on the path where she could move faster, or take a risk out in the swamp?

Christina Gullickson said...

Zhi froze the instant she realized she wasn’t alone. She remained poised in a crouch over the floorboards before sliding away and dropping the edge of the decorative carpet so it fell back into place without a sound.

Flame O' Fire said...

I have reason to believe that the iced hot chocolate served at the Palm Café, on West Fourth Street - a frosty drink so sweet and rich that it is almost too good to be true; a drink cheerfully served up by Suha, whose almond eyes and shy smile are also too good to be true – except that they are true – a drink which has the power to launch a steamy summer morning on exactly the right course, if you are lucky enough to hold one in your hand – is not, in fact, a low-fat drink at all. Despite the sign in the window of the store. Despite the nutritional icon, a weirdly grinning carrot. Despite its very name – iced low-fat hot chocolate – the essence of this fantastic drink is not skim milk at all, but shamelessly fatty whole milk, with an added dash of cream. Don’t ask me how I know.

Rob said...

Most of Troop 716 spent the summer selling Lifesavers. They sat at tables with boxes of candy and poster board with decorative slogans like “Save a baby” or “Chews life.” Myra had refused to participate, telling her mother that the sale wasn’t age appropriate or sensitive to the real-world seriousness of the decision. Besides, everyone knew you sucked on Lifesavers. Toward the end of the summer, she decided to set up her own table at the front of the Maxway and sold Watchamacallits under a sign that read ”Remember Alzheimer’s.” Nearby, Wendy McKee and Amy Stevens glared. But Myra had been practicing her poker face and feigned confusion. If the adults thought she was sincere, they couldn’t stop her. She had found the perfect combination of candy and cause.

Douglas MacIlroy said...

The sea waits for us all. Her strong yet gentle arms harbor no purpose, no meaning and no malice, only the complete acceptance of a loving parent welcoming home long wandering children. She is serene, enduring and patient beyond comprehension. The never-ending rhythm of the tides mark the passing days, but time holds no sway in her depths.

Brittany Renee said...

We didn’t believe when we first heard, because you know how church folks can gossip. Like the time the elders were convinced Sister Janice’s daughter had been turned into a lesbian when she began playing rugby in college. For weeks, we heard the grown folks whisper about how no girl should be playing football—it just wasn’t right—and it must have been that roommate who had come onto her in the middle of the night and turned her gay, until she showed up to Easter service holding hands with a shy boy and that was that.

Steve White said...

Orange County Police Officer Billy Rennie eased his cruiser to a stop so he could more easily watch the lightning. He was parked on Yorba Linda Boulevard, at the western edge of Chino Hills State Park. The clouds were gray and heavy, tinted with dust, and blue-white bolts crackled through them.

Jackie Brown said...

The masked girl was back at the screen door. The smooth mahogany full face mask was sculpted to her face, its carved slots allowing her eyes access to witness what sat before her on the other side of the door. Like a small brown-skinned ghost, she had appeared and disappeared throughout the long day, each time pressing her hands and hidden face against the ragged screen straining for a better view, each time stinging her fingers on the sharp shards jutting out around the holes in the sorry screen. She snatched her hand back when pricked, shaking it in a finger-whipping motion, sucking the offended fingers to lessen the sting of the tiny wire splinter, all the while never taking her eyes from the small veiled figure sitting in the middle of the floor.

Ryan said...

“We have a problem…” Long thin fingers, gnarled and twisted like ancient tree branches, slid across simple yellowed parchment. Lifting at edges and turning the page with agonizing slowness. The book was thick, roughly the size of a man’s forearm, and it almost seemed too large for the man holding it. He was skeletally thin and dressed in a brown monk’s robe. His pate was bare, with only a few wisps of white hair kept in a Caesar style. His eyes were the color of milk with no identifiable iris or pupil, though they swept back and forth across the page.

Tyson said...

It would be days like this, looking back that Maso would remember. Kneeling in the dirt beside his younger brother, he would demonstrate with pride bordering on arrogance that ability that would later prove him as special and at the same time cut out his heart.

Liam said...

Um, this is YA.
-----

Emma stared out the window. It was raining hard, the droplets pounding the glass pane. She breathed and caused the glass to fog up. The haze stayed much longer than it should have, and when it finally disappeared, Emma blinked and let out a short gasp. For a minute, she was sure she had seen something with medium-length icy fur and metallic yellow eyes. It seemed to be a dog, something akin to a whippet. It saw her and retreated into the bushes. She heard herself cry out when it left; those wondrous eyes had made her feel as if she was falling into a pool of sunlight. Emma’s reverie was broken as she saw the bus stop in front of the house. Emma rubbed her eyes, pulled up her hood, and ran for the bus, backpack in tow. She was afraid to look back, afraid that she would miss the bus if she stayed in that pool of sunshine for too long. She shook her head at the dog she couldn’t see and pressed her face against the cold bus window.

Selena said...

“Last night I dreamed you were married.” Lacie Alden took a bite of her breakfast burrito and groaned with satisfaction. “I never liked these things until the baby. Now I can’t seem to get enough of them.” Sauce dribbled from the corner of her mouth and her tongue darted out to catch it.

Matt said...

The year was 1989. Communism was in its last throes and the decade of the 80s, a decade most notable for Miami Vice, Mr. T., Reaganomics, and ending the Disco era, was winding down. Out of this darkness came beacon of American pop culture. Out of the neon, the pastel colors, and the Topsiders came Road House.

Susan said...

Jara, the lightest of sleepers, heard the noise first—the snick of a key in the lock, the groan of the door, the strike of boots on the concrete floor of the main room below. No light leaked up the ladder opening into the attic where she lay on her mat. The Takers had a rule about no light. Jara’s whole self went crazy with fear except for a small important part of her that knew exactly what to do. She had practiced for this moment for three years, ever since she was eleven.

weeklyvista said...

The sound of broken glass, such as with heirloom china, ranked higher on the trepidation scale; but the sound of something solid hitting the ground, something like a body, was never encouraging.

Kyler said...

If you could discover the great secret of life and death, would you do it - even if it meant losing your mind? I've had very few fears in my life, but one of them has been that I'd lose it someday. Do most people worry about this kind of thing? I don't know; I don't know what most people worry about. Love, I guess, or when they're going to get married. Or maybe they worry about finding a good job, because most people need to make money. And it's best if you do your duty and go to work. And when the weekend comes, you can go out and party and get drunk and laid and have a swell time.

Alina said...

The moment Ezek Bartholdi was born his father lanced his left heel and squeezed out three drops of blood. The first, he tested for strength, and found Ezek weak. The second, he tested for magic, and found Ezek powerless. The third, he did not test. He had no desire to confirm that his only child was destined to be a failure, so he placed the drop of blood in a vial about his neck and proceeded to treat Ezek as a failure anyway. Had the third test been performed, Ezek’s life would have been quite different.

KylieQ said...

She knew she was dying and it bothered her greatly. Death itself wasn’t the problem. What bothered her was that a very important task was not yet finished.

Amber said...

Wind swam through the overgrown grass, bounced between toadstools, and shuttered against mossy rocks. Jessica ran her hands over the shivering grass but no matter how deeply she buried herself in thought, something kept poking at the edge of her consciousness and tingling up her spine. As it kissed her nose and danced through her hair, the wind carried the sounds of heavy footfalls against fallen twigs and last autumn’s dried leaves. It would be only a matter of time before she was interrupted, and knowing this broke her focus entirely. She sighed irritably. “Go away.”

Matt said...

The year was 1989. Communism was in its last throes and the decade of the 80s, a decade most notable for Miami Vice, Mr. T., Reaganomics, and ending the Disco era, was winding down. Out of this darkness came beacon of American pop culture. Out of the neon and the Topsiders came Road House.

Little Ms J said...

My son or daughter lay in a box that was delivered to my office via Fed Ex Priority. My baby came overnight and required a signature. It was carried through the double doors of my office by Kenny with the skinny legs. It was as if the world shifted slightly as he walked toward me and asked me to sign my name. There was no going back. Everything would be different when I accepted the package as my own.

Jill said...

The thing I remember most—the thing that people never mention when they talk about accidents—is the noise. I didn’t see it coming at all. The van, I mean. Actually, I didn’t see anything. I just heard.

Jill said...

The thing I remember most—the thing that people never mention when they talk about accidents—is the noise. I didn’t see it coming at all. The van, I mean. Actually, I didn’t see anything. I just heard.

theinkymuse said...

Grey eyes were reminiscent of stormy clouds—they were dark, misted, and unclear. Their uncertainty matched perfectly with my face; the youthful innocence belied a brooding nature within. They were all ill omens, for my future would be the same—clouded, dark, and deceptive. It would be filled with misfortune, with suffering. I was a plague to those I loved. Eventually, I would push away everyone dear to me—and then destroy them all.

Or so I was told.

But Gypsy prophets were hardly reliable.

Kevin said...

Hieronymus Keller looked at his watch. 8:58. He was, of course, on time. A man in the parking lot was washing his car, music blaring. Two barefoot kids stood on the sidewalk and stared, open-mouthed. Children, he thought. But he had business to do. The paper in his briefcase read: Apartment 23C, Tuscan Vista Estates, Los Angeles, California. Second floor, third door on the right. Doorbell yellowed and slightly cracked. It was one minute until nine. He put his briefcase down and reached into the inside pocket of his jacket. The small man pulled out a linen handkerchief and sneezed into it three times. He looked up into the sun and then, promptly, sneezed three more times. Allergies. Hieronymus Keller felt confident that he was allergic to anything that was new. And California, if not anything else, was decidedly new.

Zoeycooks said...

Matilda and I stand under a tree but neither of us move. I take out the journal I have kept hidden for so long. Rubber bands hold together the pages and on the cover there is a faded photo of us. I forgot how black my hair once was. Matilda is young and blonde in the picture but now she dyes her hair orange red. It’s an unnatural color, but the way it moves in the light makes it look like the color she was born with. I hand my sister the book I have kept for so long. She takes a match and strikes it. The sound as it ignites is deafening and I am so mesmerized by the fire that I forget to mourn the pages as they slowly burn and disappear.

ikmar said...

I raced between two trees, hoping they’d shield me. Three shots splashed against their bark. I zigged around a bush and zagged up a hill, holding the stolen map tight in my hand. I hoped the rest of my crew had escaped but I didn’t have time to check. Even when I burst out of the trees by the bus stop on Dorset Drive, I kept running. With my water gun empty, there wasn’t much else I could do.

Ryan Ashley Scott said...

Welts began popping up on her freckled forearms, but the sting of them barely dulled the disappointment of not pulling the box down with her when she fell. Brynne squeezed her eyes so tight, stars and sparks lit up the blackness. She pressed the palms of her hands against her eyelids, but the fireworks in her head only brightened and she could almost hear them rumbling in her eardrums. She let out a scream that could have deafened a banshee and kicked the wall until her feet were numb. She had tried being delicate, tried being careful, but now she didn’t care if she had to knock down every hoarded pile of junk in the closet, as long she got the box.

cmd said...

You know things are bad when you have to pee in the woods and you can’t even get that right. When I stand up from the squat and there is pee all over my pants, and what am I supposed to do now? I couldn’t just walk out into the clearing like this. It was dark, but even darkness couldn’t hide the huge wet stain on my light denim jeans. I flinched.

Joe Roper said...

The doctor's guilty glare revealed her prejudice forethoughts. "His symptoms are drug induced," she told my mother. Sure I couldn't walk, write my name, or speak without slurring. But if could have pegged those on shooting-up or snorting something, I would have had hope that they'd go away. To hell with her white over-coat and clipboard.

Monica said...

I stood and watched as my new roommate folded cotton t-shirts into perfectly symmetrical, flat squares. We decided to keep everything we owned separate. Her idea. This included dishes and cutlery. I was still using Avery’s old stuff from last year—mismatched, tarnished and chipped junk she dug up out of her grandmother’s basement. Erin’s things were new, from Ikea, and it looked as though it pained her to take them out of the plastic wrapping.

Lea McKee said...

June’s ears faintly registered the sound of the heart monitor’s constant beep on the left side of her hospital bed. It wasn’t that she had bad hearing, oh no, her hearing was better than most. It was the simple fact that she had been in the hospital over seventy-five times in that year alone, and she had grown so used to the sound that she hardly noticed it any longer. June’s parents called it CIPA, but the doctors preferred the longer term “Congenital Insensitivity to Pain”. It meant that she couldn’t feel heat, cold, or pressure, which meant that she couldn’t feel pain or anything at all. At least until the day she met Darius and her life changed forever.

Ashley said...

Mary Ann suddenly noticed her pinkie. She was astonished by the fragility of that single digit. Specifically the one on her left hand. It seemed so stunted and slender, a full inch shorter than her next-longest finger. The fingernail was the size of a ladybug. She was not a small woman, and she felt a surprisingly tender protectiveness toward this vulnerable part of her.

Chrissie said...

Afton Galey was an intelligent boy in his own right: not book smart or learned in any particular trade, but he was a hard worker, extremely perceptive, passionately inquisitive, and even quite charming. But for most of the world Afton’s existence was - for lack of a better description - inconsequential. Afton knew this of course, though it never did seem to bother him as much as it did the other children at the orphanage. Afton, despite his deeply serene and often stoic exterior, had made a very good habit long ago of “making the best of things.” At least, that’s what his mother used to call it.

Aviva said...

"... up, Paul! Get the fuck up!" Hands gripped Paul's shoulders and roughly jiggled his body. "Mmph? Whazzamadder?" Paul mumbled, struggling to open his eyes—"Ow!" Bright light smacked him in the face, and everything sizzled out of focus. Heart thumping wildly, he sat up in bed, rubbed his eyes to clean away the crusty things, then blinked, getting used to the light. A figure before him sharpened—and Paul gaped at it in bleary disbelief.

M.V.Freeman said...

The wind blew through the restaurant, carrying a scent of damp earth, smoke filled fires, and autumn air; it caught Laurie as she was wiping the counters. She glanced up, startled, because the door to the restaurant was blocked by strategically placed barriers to prevent just such a draft. The patrons at the bar seemed to sway as the cool breeze brushed over them. One man, close to having his car keys confiscated looked up with unfocused eyes talking to no one in particular, “Someone’s left a door open.”

Wendy Qualls said...

Michael had to admit that his father looked better dead. It was a terrible, uncharitable thought – but for the first time in twenty years, his father’s face was worry-free. No little wrinkle between his eyebrows, no secret frown hidden behind the ever-present social smile. No little details that made his father look old and tired. The casket was lined with a soothing pearly-peach silky color, and Michael noted that his father’s tie was straight for what was probably the first time in his life.

beth said...

The door is locked.

"Now that," I say to the empty room, "is interesting."

See, no one bothers to lock doors on Godspeed. No need. Godspeed isn't small--it was the largest ship ever built when it was launched two and a half centuries ago--but it's not so small that we all don't feel the weight of the metal walls crushing us. Privacy is our most valued possession and no one--no one--would dare betray privacy. Not that I should be so surprised. A locked door about sums up Eldest.

Robin of My Two Blessings said...

Samantha jumped at the knock on the door, the hard rap of knuckles against the wood. She glanced back at the screen at the email she had written. “God I hope I’m doing the right thing. She took a deep breath and clicked send, before getting up to answer the door. “Wow, Leah – you made good time,” she said as she opened the door. Sam gasped “Lyle!” and stumbled back as something silver flashed in front of her, ripping her shirt. Before she had time to think or act, he walked in, like a panther stalking his prey and kicked the the door shut with his foot. “Hello Samantha,” She backed away, gripping her torn shirt. “What…” He leaned back against the door, a sly smile on his face, holding a long edged sword. “You like?” he said, whipping the sword back and forth, and it whistled faintly as it slashed through the air. “Spado da Lato. It’s an antique, given to my father by his father and so on and so forth. I’ve made a few changes to it, of course.” Her stomach started to sting and she glanced down. She felt her stomach and looked at her hand. It was bloody. She looked back up at him. “You cut me.” she whispered.

Stella said...

At Christmas time, most people hang ornaments on their trees – glittering globes, sparkling snowflakes, rosy-cheeked Santas with twinkly eyes. On top of the tree, they usually place an angel – a beautiful angel with a halo and soft wings like a dove. Or maybe a star that shimmers in the glow of a hundred winking lights. At our house, it was different. All our decorations were homemade – chains made from red and green wrapping paper, gingerbread men we baked ourselves and ornaments crafted out of macaroni and spray-painted gold. Instead of candy canes, we hung bananas on our tree. I’m not kidding. Bananas.

kaylafina said...

Hazel's clothing has always been an embarrassment to me. I was eleven when I realized that sparkly heels, leg warmers, hot pink running shorts, giant hoop earrings and a "call me butter, because I'm on a roll" t-shirt was not an appropriate grocery store outfit for a middle aged woman.

Jared Stein said...

Trapped in history, twelve (or thirteen) year-old Simon looked around the classroom, sized up each of his peers, and began composing his list. Whatever benevolence moved him to consider the names of friends first had not been taught to him by the Community. It was true that “friends” was a noun that the Community insisted apply to everyone; if you trusted the Teachers “friends” was synonymous with “Community”, but Simon had begun to suspect that not everything the Teachers said was true, and calling someone something did not make it so. To Simon, the word “friends” required an opposite, a comparative—in this case, “enemies”. The only “enemies” the Community spoke of were spirits of the past, relics of the Old World, destroyed by their own devices in the months that they now called The Fall. But in his own mind Simon began to play with the word “enemies”, no longer fighting the singularly ingrained connotation that the Teachers had reinforced over the last six years, trying it out on Students and even Teachers. Simon found that the word worked for more than long-dead, impossibly evil men and women of the Old World, it worked like a locked door on those who persecuted him, those who very soon would regret what they’d done to the “Outsider”, the “Taint”, the “Mouse”.

Bill Mullis said...

I always know something’s bad wrong when my sax fights me. She knows, even when I don’t, when there’s a disturbance in the aether, and she don’t like it. Her keys get sticky. Her reed gets all cloggy. Her mouthpiece tries to twist out of my mouth. I end up squealing my notes and missing my fingering. For a man who makes a living blowing a horn, it all makes for a bad day.

Kate K. said...

Morgan sat uncomfortably in the barber’s chair. He never liked these places. But it wasn’t the straight-razor that was making him nervous right now; it was Anthony.

Jeffrey said...

The sun was bright; my spirit was brighter. The wind was calm; I was calmer. Something had happened to me today and I could feel its positive effects coursing through my veins like a drug. After walking the long road of self torture, I was ready to grab a taxi and accept what was happening to me.

Chazz said...

Dr. Raymond Sutr was not some evil genius lounging around in a futuristic IKEA office chair at the bottom of a volcano somewhere stroking a white Persian--cat, I mean--and plotting the end of the world. Bad breath, no friends and horrific posture? Sure, I'll give you that. But Sutr was a rather nice, so-smart-the-likes-of-you-couldn't-talk-to-him sort of guy working away in a gene splicing lab. He had the very best of intentions, I swear! Of course, as everyone knows, the expressway to the miserable end of the human race is paved with good intentions. And pie. Lots and lots of pie.

kaylafina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kathy said...

The rickety staircase spiraled down into the gloom. Diana hesitated. Heading deeper into the darkness seemed foolish now. She glanced over her shoulder at the exit and considered slipping back through it. The crisp night air beckoned, the lights of Manhattan tantalizingly close on the other side of the river. Those lights might as well have been 1,000 miles away.

Liz Lafferty said...

“I’ve only one rule for our next thirty days together,” Isabelle said. All relationships had rules. Dorian Montgomery wondered if her rule involved diamonds or rubies. “And what would that be?” he asked.

Dan McNeil said...

If Sonny Carter had a gun, he would have blown Eddie Bishop’s head right off his miserable pencil-thin neck. Sonny disliked guns, but he sure as hell would have made an exception in Bishop’s case. Sonny had poured over every detail, tied up all the loose ends and played out every scenario that could have screwed up their heist. Their plan was fool proof. Except for one fuckin’ thing. And Sonny had twenty-five years to think about that one fuckin’ thing.

Dan McNeil
"Please, Please Me"

JenniferWriter said...

At 7:15 a.m. when Maggie’s alarm clock went off, she was across the room hopping up and down on one foot while pulling on her pantyhose. She hated the clock's accusatory sound but it had never occurred to her to buy another one. The alarm clock, like everything else in Maggie’s life, seemed to have been chosen for her, perhaps by a questionnaire that she filled out in elementary school without understanding its full importance. It didn’t even occur to her to hate the clock. She simply moved herself a little to the side to make room for it.

Robin said...

My fingers tingled. I desperately wanted to dial the number on the sleek silver phone in my hand, but I resisted.

Shell said...

Moonlight poured into a silver bowl, filling it to the brim. A man stood beside it, writing on a scroll. He paused, dipped his quill in a bottle of clear ink, and kept writing. The words glowed in the moonlight

Terri Pray said...

“You arrogant son of a bitch!”



(Looked at rules, and my 1st paragraph is only one line, so...)

william said...

They blasted Jefferson’s face off the rock the day after they swept Aberdeen in a Sunday doubleheader. “I never liked Jefferson on the other side,” Ernie muttered, dying for a shower and clean clothes even after having the granite dust blown off his person. “They oughta go left to right—as we look at ‘em—with Washington leadin’ off and Lincoln batting clean-up.” He laughed watching Steinke’s face contort as the compressed air hoses blew the outer layers of dust off him, by day’s end the gray of their faces resembled the gray of the rock they hammered away at. Steinke batted clean-up for the ballclub, had followed Gutzon Borglum—the great sculptor—from the Stone Mountain fiasco, was an expert carver, played adequate third base and liked to introduce himself offhandedly as “Stink with two Es”.

therese said...

The appointment reminder popped up on the computer screen. Mark glanced at it then pushed his chair back to look through his office doorway.
“She’s late now.” Both dogs were sprawled on the old rug in the living room, one a mound of black shiny fur, the other a thick pillow of rust and cream curls. Neither dog moved at his words, not a pant, or snore. “This is all for you two, you know.”

ktfleming said...

Gigi's dad is in a gang. I won't say which because I don't want to inadvertently declare affiliation. But the point is, my best friend's dad, who is like 50, is in a gang and nobody finds this odd but me. Some other people find it ridiculous which is encouraging, but nobody seems to think it's strange. It's normal in this neighborhood, an honor even, to be considered an "O.G.". As I sit in Gigi's living room, nervously positioning myself away from the windows and listening to her dad tell the story of how he once shot a guy, I make a very important discovery about myself--I really, really hate California.

Shoshana Beaubahna said...

When I approached her about writing her biography, she had actually laughed. She thought it was a joke, at first, and then realized that I was very serious.
“Spence, it’s a great compliment, and I’m sure you could do my life story justice, of course, but why in the world wouldn’t you just write a book about you? Your life has been quite remarkable as well, you know.” I smiled at her, knowing that she meant it, but also knowing that she had never seen the entire picture. She had never seen herself as the world had.

Eric G. said...

I hate to say that the night I crashed the car into the front of my father's diner on Main Street was pretty typical. But it was. For me, at least.

Simon C. Larter said...

It was one of those painfully trendy restaurants staffed by skinny hipsters in tight jeans and shirts that left nothing to the imagination, and she had brought me here because she knew there would be many opportunities to make me uncomfortable. We were seated by an effervescent pixie of a girl with long blonde hair and a bright smile who asked if we were from the area or just visiting. Margot said that we lived in the area but had heard nothing but good things about the food here and simply had to try it for ourselves. “My husband likes his food, as you can tell,” she said, and laughed. The pixie’s grin froze on her face. She wished us a good evening then pressed through the crowd of bodies at the bar and headed back to her station by the front door. I didn’t watch her go. Margot was looking at me with a smile on her lips that could have chilled every martini for a three-block radius. Her eyes were bright and very hard, and it had been three days since she found out about my addiction.

Kate said...

If Miss Georgiana Darcy was looking for scandal, she need only look as far as Mr. John Willoughby. From a distance, she watched as he moved about the room, lithe and graceful, like a cat on the prowl—searching for his next victim.

KRGP said...

I watched Greta, and her friend Daphne, every day for the twelve months they lived across the alley from me. They were always polite, even to me, their late-middle-aged backyard neighbor, a kooky old queer living alone in West Hollywood, a village of handsome young men. But I've lived on this street forever, before the queens moved in, long before the civil unions, although I voted for those. I've lived here long enough to see all kinds of young folks move in and out of these old houses schlepping rubberwood futon frames and fancy cookware and I could tell from the first that these two girls were different.

KRGP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
K. Taylor said...

I’d fallen for a trap and led an innocent woman to die in my quest for revenge.

May God forgive me.

Travis Erwin said...

Coming-of-age stories are often fraught with symbolism, hidden metaphors, and a heaping mound of other literary devices. Not this one. I came of age while working at a dusty, Texas feedstore. A place where To Kill a Mockingbird involved a twelve-year-old and a BB gun. Of Mice and Men was a problem easily solved with rat poison. And David Copperfield was nothing more than a dude that made shit disappear.

Anonymous said...

*not an entry*

Are your eyes bleeding yet? :D

There are some great paragraphs though, awesome idea.

sharongerlach said...

How do I get myself into these situations? The shadowy ceiling offered no answers, not that Kimberly could have read them in the flickering light of the torch. But of course she didn’t need the ceiling to point out a few home truths. She was in this situation through her own foolhardiness: a stolen identity, swiped from her best friend to whom she bore a striking resemblance; a reckless, half-assed plan to find her father, whom she wasn’t even sure was missing; and falling in love with the wrong man—she always fell in love with the wrong man.

LaurenL said...

I failed another test today. It was fifth period, Mrs. Thorne’s history class, the unit on the Mind Wars. I did the all the required reading and I tried to take notes in class. But there was no point, really, since I didn’t have an Amp. My classmates all had the latest model. They didn’t need to take notes. They just remembered. Every word. Every name.

number1prof said...

(YA):
Jasmine stared out the window as the trees whizzed by. “This sucks,” she thought as she flipped through the songs in her iPod. She had been on the train for six hours and was already bored with her song selection.

the Lola Letters said...

Hi, sorry, sooo not a paragraph, but I just HAVE to say that I may or may noe be desperately in love with Travis Erwin.

There, I said it.

I was going to explode (and possibly die) if I didn't say it.

Phew.

Thanks.

Serenity Now said...

Her husband convulsed one last time, his shoes beating an erratic rhythm against the floor. It was not, Shannon thought, the way he would have chosen to die, but the hell he’d put her through over the past few months made her indifferent to his fate. When he was finally still, she knelt down and gazed at his face. A trickle of blood slid from his left nostril. She didn’t bother to check his pulse. If he wasn’t dead yet, he soon would be and there was nothing she could do to change that.

Literary Cowgirl said...

Gypsy’s skin crawled like she’d been pickled in whiskey. Her stomach contracted into another tight fist, as she hung her head in a trashcan filled with white athletic tape and wads of spent chewing tobacco. Gritting her teeth, she pushed a soggy black Stetson down over her eyes, and wiped the back of a sleeve across her mouth. There was fur to be spurred and it was time to cowgirl up.

RENEE said...

Yet again, I find myself standing in the walk-in freezer on a Saturday night, pondering life and its inanities. The unusual circumstances that have brought me to this freezer include but are not limited to: a wayward flock of geese and a homeless man outside the post office one Tuesday morning, a slight tussle with the manager of a department store (and a poorly positioned mannequin) over women’s abortion rights, and a particularly unfortunate misunderstanding with a client of in-home erotic massage services. Essentially, in a desperate attempt to scrounge up enough cash to pay my parents’ rent on my old bedroom – a situation too embarrassing and pathetic to elaborate upon – I have taken up a part-time job at a local restaurant. Previously, I was sustaining myself with more riveting and mentally, or otherwise, stimulating occupations, but due to forces beyond my control, I appear to be unemployable.

Naomi said...

Adelaide Belington was convinced that this day-the first day of high school-she was going to reinvent herself. Everyone secretly hoped she was like all the other Belingtons they read about in the society pages and the business magazines. She looked like a Belington, she had the signature blue eyes and blonde hair and charming smile, but she was lacking in the grooming that all before her had received. She had not attended the most prestigious elementary school in upstate New York, but rather Heards Ferry in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona. Instead of weekends at the Met spent with her affluent parents-or rather a nanny-she ran around at Chuck E. Cheese. In fact, the first 14 years of her life, Adelaide was not aware that she was American royalty. But now she was Adelaide Belington, prodigal daughter of the Belington family, everyone’s hopes pinned on her.

mel said...

Was it on ? No. It couldn't be on. Absolutely not. The oven's digital clock had fed him his tardiness, and, he had rolled his eyes, spotted a pregnant spider on the ceiling, then inwardly cursed Freud. The burners had been clearly off. Yes. He had swept his hand over them. Twice. One time with the left. One time with the right. Besides, he hadn't even used the burners this morning. He had made himself a lousy toast. Toast, that's right Peter Paranoia. Toaster. Was the toaster still on ? Nonsense. How exactly does one leave a toaster on ? It's either plugged in , or not. And he had unplugged it. More breathing please.

T C Sherf said...

Thanks so much for doing this, Nathan!
***
For starters, don’t judge us for not being suspicious of the shrub. After all, it did look like just an ordinary bit of landscaping gone wrong. So what if the branches may have been overgrown and sticking out all funky like Sebastian's hair in the morning? We've all seen stranger things than a shrubbery with cowlicks. At least, now we have.

skipperZ said...

"Who is she?"
What a pointless question. I kept my gaze fixed on the bonds around my wrists instead of looking at the Thelen. No point making him see my eyes, it would just frighten him. Why would a Thelen – a scholar-aristocrat, with magical powers or something, according to gossip – why would he ask pointless things like what I was called when he should be asking what I was, or what damage I'd caused? Apparently magic was no substitute for intelligence.

Anna-Marie said...

If my big sister Nikki had her horse with her, I thought, she’d show the doctors a thing or two. I could just see her opening her eyes and ripping all the tubes right out of her body, if she had Dancer beside her. Then the two of them would trot through the hospital, canter down the highway and gallop straight into the sunset, even if Nikki always did say that sunsets are so cliché.

Annie said...

Am I dreaming?...no.. nightmaring? Is that even a word? "Write,Annie,WRITE!...Breathe... just breathe...and write, oh my God, oh my God, breathe and write. Shit!... Shit!... Shit!" I can't hold the pen, I just need to hold the pen. Why can't I just hold the pen? "C'mon Annie! You can do this!"I can't explain how quickly the images and the 15 years of memories were flying through my head. Do I leave? Do I wake him? Do I kill him? Do I divorce him? Oh, God help me. "Put it back. Put it back, Annie! You have to put it back! Quickly, before he wakes up!" The voice in my head was screaming so loud I was afraid he would hear it.I opened the door and saw the boys room. Oh my God!... my heart...my life...I'm going to be sick.

L A Ford said...

Secrets, she was tired to death of secrets. And now, she was going to have to work harder than ever to keep everything under control.

Karen Smith said...

apologies if this is a duplicate post, can't find evidence of my last attempt to post.

==

Katarina’s glass stopped inches from her lips. “You want me to do what?” The incredulity was apparent on her face even without the raised eyebrows and furrowed brow. “Listen, Randy…Rodney, whatever,” she said with a flick of her hand as she set her glass back on the table. “Why on earth do you think I would want another of me around? One of me is plenty.” She flashed him one of her movie-star smiles, which she generally reserved for A-listers, not fawning salesmen from no-name genetics companies. Well, he hadn’t actually been fawning yet, but Katarina was sure he would soon. She was Katarina Monroe, after all.

groosemoose said...

Waves of heat shimmered the desert air. Tom Montgomery squinted into the endless blue sky, sweat tickling down his neck. His father, Roy, told him they’d stayed at the Dusty Squanto Casino back when he was a little kid, but Tom was certain he’d remember such a dumb name.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I winced at the bathroom mirror. Everything above my shirt collar was pocked with ugly red zits with yellowish-white centers. They blended with the wall behind me, like tiny yellow mountains on the tacky red velvet wallpaper. I reached up and touched Mt. Vesuvius on the tip of my nose. That hurt! It was past time for this volcano to erupt. Placing a finger on each side of it, I closed my eyes and squished. My eyes squeezed tight, forcing out a few tears. The pressure mounted, then released. Ahhhhh. My eyes popped open in time to see a chunk with white liquid ooze down the mirror. The sweet smell of garlic tickled my nose.

Bill Baynes said...

Once there was a tree that dreamed of travel and a river that wanted to stay home.

Annika said...

"One more time, Universe," I pleaded as I pulled the trigger.

Betty said...

Da’uw arrived at the water Mu’ud just before nightfall, a tag-along following a large band of merchants venturing a journey at the very end of the storm season. The guards and servants had long since dismissed him, almost without thinking about it. Da’uw had meant that they should. He’d chosen the worst gamal in the Beast market, a broken-kneed last-hope, with almost non-existent fat pads along its haunches and shoulders. He’d seen the mercenaries grinning when it disregarded his commands. He’d chosen not to buy new clothes with Tenaq’s kiss-money, but travelled in the only things he had, an undyed cloak and outer-robe, all badly patched and very frayed at the edges. He hadn’t even a poor imitation of the high soft-soled boots worn by the desert warriors against the perils of hot stones and sand, scorpions, stinging-ants and vipers, only wood soles bound to his feet with strips of leather, and for weapon had only a knife as long as a man’s wrist to elbow, in a shabby, undecorated brown sheath.
(thanks, Mr. B., for taking the time to read all these!)

Hayley said...

There are words that you probably don't want to hear from certain people. The word 'oops', for example, makes humans very twitchy when said by airline pilots or doctors. I might not have much experience in this arena, but I've also noticed that most guys tend to have an aneurysm when the words "I'm pregnant" are muttered in their vicinity. In the same vein, I do not possess an actual beating heart, but "We have a problem" coming from the mouth of my brother Michael has definite potential to give me cardiac arrest. Why, I hear you ask? Well, you might have heard of Michael. He is considered by many to be the Right Hand of God. Yes, that Michael, and if he has a problem, then it's likely to be a real bitch.

Rick Chesler said...

Michelle Taylor knelt, looking her son in the eye. She gripped his gloved hands. Kevlar. She thought it was so weird for a twelve year old boy to be wearing Kevlar.

Jonathan Stephens said...

Akolo checked the obsidian dagger strapped to his bare thigh. Still secure.

Aloha Rob said...

“I don’t understand how you can be so f-ing selfish!” she screamed and hung up the phone.

Actually, it was more likely that she had thrown it against the wall again, which was a damn shame, seeing as how it had been, until that moment, her last working phone. It would join its brethren in the trash when she got around to it, and the process of asking her son to come and help her install a new phone would begin in the morning, after she’d ranted and flexed her e-mail muscles with a series of spectacularly verbose missives. The phone call would come early, so she could knowingly take advantage of her pre-happy-hour lucidity. Sylvia Underwood was nothing if not a thoughtful drunk, in her own way.

CelesteAvonne said...

Meredith's mother once said that childhood's passion would fade, the way color leeched from the statues of the Greek gods that once stood in the Parthenon, the way it fades still from Impressionist paintings like Monet's Les Nympheas, which they had once seen on a family outing to the Houston Museum of Fine Art. Her mother said this as a consolation, but Meredith remembered feeling horrified, even in the midst of her grief, at the prospect of a life bereft of color. Meredith vowed then to never let that passion drain from her life. She vowed it with the feverish fervor of a fourteen-year-old girl in love.

Josh said...

As soon as Ben pushed his squeaking janitorial cart into the college library, his right arm started aching. Not a good sign. It meant the beast was close and on the defensive.

Chris McMahon said...

Versa pushed back the overhanging branch, the rough bark hardly felt beneath the thick callouses of her palm. The bush gave a low growl as it woke, and her arm trembled with the effort of resisting it as it slowly pushed back. These plants were not dangerous, just stobborn. Not like the honeybush with its bright yellow flowers, whose wire-like tendrils hit with deadly speed.

David said...

I was twelve when I drowned in the river and for that mistake I accept full responsibility. Totally no one else to blame. By the way, “full responsibility” was one of my father’s favorite phrases when I was alive. As in, “Son, you have to take full responsibility for your actions. Claim ownership of the choices you make since…” at which point I usually drifted away, having heard it all before. Right, sorry about the pun. As it turned out, I did eventually drift away, but that wasn’t at all intentional. By then I was already dead. But my father did, at times, offer some good advice.

talshannon said...

Her skin was like cream, soft to my touch and sweet to my eyes. My perfect blank canvas. I rolled my brush in a thick black blot of paint, the small plastic tray it sat in pressing into the downy comforter we were both kneeling on. I raised the wet brush to her bare shoulder.

Erica said...

I sold my soul to the devil for a lousy fifty cents. I think I got ripped off.
Watery shards of a young man’s soul dripped down my fingers. I wiped away the sludge with a towel, popped the cap on the tube and tossed the towel on the ground. I crouched down and looked at the man’s body.
The eyes still held a glimmer of hope. A notion of forgiveness when faced with the reality of what he’s done. Even someone evil can wish for mercy on his last day on Earth, but God only provides salvation for the good.
Someone I used to be.

David said...

I was twelve when I drowned in the river and for that mistake I accept full responsibility. Totally no one else to blame. By the way, “full responsibility” was one of my father’s favorite phrases when I was alive. As in, “Son, you have to take full responsibility for your actions. Claim ownership of the choices you make since…” at which point I usually drifted away, having heard it all before. Right, sorry about the pun. As it turned out, I did eventually drift away, but that wasn’t at all intentional. By then I was already dead. But my father did, at times, offer some good advice.

M.G. Buehrlen said...

Edmund had never seen a Kendekin up close before. Not until that hot afternoon in the Town Square, the summer sun burning the back of his neck. The gallows were set, the noose swayed slightly in the breeze, and the deep roll of drums echoed throughout the stone city of Teluth.

Andrew Jack said...

Hunting down one amongst thousands of zombies is never easy. It’s worse when your brother is in your ear telling you what to do.

Becky said...

Keira darted down the hall, late for another class. All her teachers still took pity on her whenever this happened; she could always see it behind the gentle smiles. This annoyed her, which she dealt with on a reasonable level. However, she'd rather take this annoyance than deal with the horrifying fact that other students and classmates held the same look on their faces. Though a year had passed since the surgery, days like today, never helped her case with her parents.

Cindy said...

The dirty double-crossing humans showed up in the middle of a thunderstorm. I heard the sound of a car crunching over the gravel driveway and ducked under the porch to commence surveillance. It didn't concern me too much, sometimes cars turned in by mistake. But this one pulled right up to the front door and parked.

Wellington said...

I was young when my sister taught me to call fireflies, somewhen in that wash of years between three and six, before my memories started getting sorted into first grade, second grade, third. Those memories exist in a neverending haze of summer, each day of perfect heat and sopping sweat and scraped knees bleeding into the next. There is no winter. No one had taught me winter yet.

Robert Young said...

During Christmas time when I was growing up in Orlando, my parents used to play every song from the standard canon: White Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, Jingle Bells, what have you. I was always so confused when these songs came on, though, because my Christmases were never white, and no jolly, talking snowmen ever paraded around my front yard. I was sure these musicians had made some sort of mistake or were just mildly confused about how things were done. It wasn’t until I was in third grade, when we went up to Ohio to visit some relatives around Christmas time that I realized it was, in fact, me who had been confused all along.

John UpChurch said...

The sound of the wind made Trace Hollister throw himself to the ground. Nothing unusual—just the rhythmic rub of the autumn leaves and the ordinary sigh of night. But each scrape and rustle reminded him that he’d wanted her dead, had even imagined his fingers crushing down on the frantic flow of blood in her neck. He might as well have killed her.

Laura said...

The lab stank. Not just your usual funky science smells, either. Jeb tried breathing through his mouth, but even them he could taste the stench on his tongue. Rotting socks. He'd never smelled rotting socks before, but figured it would be similar. He pressed his nose and mouth into his sleeve, tugged at the back of his brother's pajamas and hissed, "Nik, not worth it! Let's get out of here."

Stephanie J said...

Had I known my day was to be marked by an encounter with Earl Lansdale, the loss of my favorite hat, and a death, I would have called for a pot of tea and never ventured out. As it were, I tended to my morning toilette and a surge of excitement coursed through my body. Not about my toilette, but about the note clasped in my hands. After five long years spent assailing Mr. Ashby with my letters, my arguments, and my presence, it seemed he was finally prepared to see reason. Mr. Ashby was prepared to accept my proposal.

Anonymous said...

The humans that inhabited the Providence Colony didn’t last more than a day or two once the Seiden Wars broke out. They ran and hid and trembled in crumbling, dusty wine cellars like so many scared mice, but it was no good. The more fear they had coursing through their veins, the easier it was for the Seidens to sniff ‘em out. I was still alive because I had been prepared. Dad started teaching me to control my fear emissions when I turned six. We spent several hours every day running drills (he called them serenity exercises) while hooked up to portable heart monitors. The goal was to stay emission free. Dad was a master. Once, during one of our sessions, my brother Liam tripped and split his head clean open on the corner of our stainless steel kitchen table. Dad dove forward to catch him and administered first aid in a pool of his own son’s blood as it seeped onto the kitchen’s white tile floor. I remember sitting frozen, sick with horror as Dad carefully stitched the gash closed. The thing I remember most wasn’t the blood, and it wasn’t the sick, gnarled pit of ick that had formed in the center of my stomach either. It was the slow, steady blip of Dad’s heartbeat across the face of the monitor. It hadn’t accelerated once. Not even for a second.

Laura
woodrowkyle@hotmail.com

Sarah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Allison said...

Nearly an hour passed before anyone realized that Lyanne had barricaded herself in the library with her sister’s corpse. Just before the funeral, she went to the garden to gather the sacred oak and apple branches. When she came back into the manor house, she went directly to the library where Rya lay in repose, jammed a chair under the doorknob, and shoved the tip of the fireplace poker into the keyhole for good measure.

Sarah said...

It wasn’t until the salty, metallic tasting water hit the back of my throat did I realize—to my dismay—that I was still alive. Pain exploded in the pit of my stomach. My hands slid against the slick rim of the tub as I pulled myself up, heavily diluted blood spewing from my mouth. I threw myself over the porcelain before hurling stomach acid and thirty sleeping pills onto the bathroom floor.

Rebecca Hoffman said...

I'll get to the traditional writing/submitting eventually, but this story is a very active (real time-real life) work in progress. Three complex lawsuits is plenty to fill the time of a lawyer, let alone a non - lawyer, but when one is determined to find Justice and represent "the little guy", the entreprenurial individuals who make this Country great - it's worth it. For now it's a blog, and the opening paragraph is:

This blog follows a young couple from the roots of their first company, started in their garage, to the ownership of a new product, which eventually landed them in Federal Court. They are currently proceeding pro se in their lawsuit, Hoffman v. Impact Confections, which includes claims of Copyright and Patent Infringement, Breach of Contract, and more. Their story includes unethical attorneys, legal malpractice, and plenty of the drama that can come with the dream of owning your own buisness.

Nancy Keim Comley said...

Someone was cursing our family. I could see the hexes coming though the air like plump black gnats. As they whizzed by I would snatch them out of the air and grind them to dust in my hand. It felt like a small bee sting. I knew when I didn’t get one something strange would happen to a member of the family. Dad got ingrown toe nails, my brother lost information from his computer and Mom had a wart.

Katherine Nabity said...

The old man doubled over in pain as his stomach cramped violently. His oily, gray hair came loose from the thong that held it from his gaunt, ebony face. In the shadows, the rims of his eyes glowed gold as did the palms of his hands and his mouth. He was wrapped from head to toe in a web of straps imprinted with fine, white stripes. They originated from a gray metal clasp centered over his porta flexus, an area in his center of his torso that also luminesced. He clutched at his abdomen, but hunger pangs continued to wrack his body. His moans were muffled by the shadows and humidity, but still disturbed a rat that lurked in the doorway, causing it to scrabble away.

Vryka said...

I was rushed out of the City of Arko, bundled into one end of my betrothed’s litter, surrounded by an entourage of fifty, every one a member of clan Mahid. That many ‘Black Dogs of the Imperator’ in one place made people scatter in stark terror, even if they had clear consciences. My escort made themselves a screen of black and gold, their onyxine uniforms a dark enough black to remind people of the smothering pits of Hayel and their golden hair flowing down their backs like rays of the sun in Celestialis, riding in a block to keep me insulated from any last view of the City Itself. It was about to be sacked and destroyed and I could not even steal a peek out of the cloth-of-gold and silk curtains.

Tiffany Maxwell said...

I was sure I posted a paragraph, then went to check, and couldn't find it, so forgive me if this is here twice.
-------------------------------------

As the firefighter left, with an admonishment to be more careful next time, Eliana stepped out of Joseph's arms, and surveyed her kitchen from the corner where they had been standing. Well, cowering was maybe the better word.

Stephanie Thornton said...

If only she were a boy. A boy wouldn’t be stuck in a tree trying to escape Thutmosis and his stupid slingshot. A boy could pummel her brother and break that slingshot over his obnoxious little face and still get away with it. If only.

Lisa Marie said...

Philip had cleaned and put away the wine glass that had her mauve lipstick print. He collected the half used make up jars that littered the bathroom counter and recycled the glass and plastic containers. He donated her clothing to Goodwill and dispersed her jewelry evenly between their two daughters. He even gave her African violets, in their cheery hand painted terracotta pots, to their neighbors. Yes, Phillip had removed nearly all the remnants of his deceased wife from their home. He hoped that the great cleaning, as he referred to it, would ease his depression and overall feelings of despair and hopelessness. Yet there still remained the grocery list on the refrigerator. Her loopy cursive letters in black ink floated on the page like a secret poem he could not decipher. The list had items that Phillip did not recognize. What on earth was she going to make? He needed, more than anything, to find out.

Elizabeth A. said...

The blinding flash of light bulbs popping off like bullets was the first indication that someone important just entered the bar. Casually glancing in the direction of the commotion, Sarah Davenport had little to interest in celebrity sightings especially since her job revolved around interviewing said celebrities. Right now, a luscious raspberry martini coupled with a light buzz is the star of her night. As the commotion intensified, Sarah finally turned her full attention towards the noise. Her heart dropped into her Jimmy Choo sandals as their eyes finally met. Oh my God, it can’t be him.

Danielle said...

I watched as my brother pulled down the heavy rolling door at the back of the moving truck. The depressing clank of the handle locking into place reminded me of a prison door slamming shut on death row. This was it. There was no turning back. Two days of driving and I would be in a new state, a new house, with a new life. I wasn't exactly sure that's what I wanted, but I knew I couldn't stay. Was that cell door slamming shut on my old life or was it condemning me to a new one? God I wish I knew.

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