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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Anissa said...

"Look out!"
The warning died on my lips as our truck barreled toward manslaughter. A shadow had sprung from the asphalt and for a split-second I thought it a mirage--a manifestation of my growing paranoia. The eyes finally taking form.

the Lola Letters said...

SURFACE DEEP (YA)


I was already wide awake when the generators hummed to life beneath my bedroom floor. Soft, warm light began to trickle in through the tall, arched windows. It crawled across the glossy floorboards, and slowly grew brighter until it filled the entire room. I pushed my face into my pillow with a groan. The night hadn’t gone on forever the way I’d prayed it would. Just like everything else in this eerily well-oiled society, morning had come right on schedule.

AK (Today, I Wrote...) said...

London kissed me yesterday, and I liked it. Then she started nudging my hand lower and lower. I tried to think happy thoughts, but called it quits when I felt a navel--at least, I hope it was a navel. It was clear to me then that switching teams was going to be more hard work than I'd anticipated. I mean, why can't I just be a lesbian without needing to go near a vagina? Lips and breasts I can deal with. Vajajay? Not so much. But I think Lizzy will understand when I tell her what happened because, technically, I'm still only a first-month LiT (Lesbian in Training) and up until this point, I've been the perfect student.

Carla said...

“The old bag’s on something,” Rhiannon Green frowned at the gnarled shell in her hand.

Lia Keyes said...

I'm watching my teacher's long, long legs, and loving James Figg for asking the question that makes her slide forward in her chair so her skirt shifts back. Every hair on my skin lifts in response, and I only dimly hear the question she directs at me. Dragging my eyes from her thighs to her face, I smother the urge to grin by chewing my lip and opening my eyes a little wider. "Sorry, I got distracted. What was the question?"

melodyschmidt said...

I think my face might be slipping a bit because it sort of bunches up around the eyes and mouth. In the morning I look in the mirror, pull it into its former wrinkleless glory, and smile in recognition. Then my face slides back down like an accordion. This is not a good type of slide, such as into home plate, or taking it easy, or the jazzy sound of a trombone. It’s a bad type like the major destruction from tectonic plates shifting. The bad type of slide is when something moves away from where it is suppose to be and ends up where it’s not suppose to be, as in sliding on black ice and knowing that it can’t end well because there is a cliff/wall/car/person in the path of my slide. There should be a do-it-yourself class where I could learn to staple my face back around the edges. Those who were really artistic could even hot glue sequins or feathers to cover the staples at the edge of their faces. I’d just walk around with my metal staples showing – sort of a Frankenmom kind of thing – like goth or emo, but for old people.

Maria Hooley said...

“How much blood is left in her body?” Griffin Haddock asks, staring at a wall spattered like a Jackson Pollack painting. He shakes his head and closes his eyes, as if that is going to wipe the middle-class bedroom clean.

Shayne Parkinson said...

Beyond the farmhouse the ground fell gradually in a series of low hills and flat paddocks, bright green where they had been planted in grass and darker green where the bush remained. The Waituhi creek wound along the valley floor before disappearing from sight behind a steep bluff. Amy reached the top of a hill and paused, caught as she always was by the beauty of the view.

Christine said...

It all began when I secretly hoped my Calculus teacher would get hit by a taco truck. It was 1:15 p.m. when I first had that thought. I know this because that’s all I was doing – staring at the clock and wishing for the demise of Mr. Randolph Hagen. I mean, I didn’t want the guy to actually die or anything, but he was making my senior year of high school a lot less fun. Then again, I was the ambitious dolt who decided to take an advanced math class to impress the colleges I was applying to later in the Fall. Clearly I’ve had a lapse in judgment. It was only the first month of school – I probably still had time to drop the class and replace it was something fun, like ceramics. Colleges like it if you can make clay bowls, right?

elw said...

(This is YA)

I moved to Nope, California the second week of my Freshman year in High School. Maybe moved isn’t the right word—it implies weeks of preparation and big moving vans and a grand farewell party with all my friends. Me boarding a plane to Reno with one over-stuffed suitcase and the largest carry-on bag allowed was more like being exiled than moving.

Backfence said...

Julia Pickett told herself there was a logical explanation for what she was seeing in the street three stories below. Never - not in all the many years she had lived in this town and visited this clock tower – had anything such as this happened before. She watched a carriage roll leisurely by on the hard-packed dirt street. A man sporting the blue uniform of a Union soldier trotted by on a chestnut colored horse. A Union soldier, for God’s sake! She should have been able to see her VW Passat parked in front of a meter down in the next block. What in God’s name was happening?

AnAlaskanGirl said...

The skin of the boy who sat in front of me was dark. Not darkened by sun or birth but smeared with dirt and caked on filth from days without cleansing of any kind. I watched him, both of us dazed front hunger and fatigue. Trying to rest in the darkness just enough to gather the strength to do what must be done.

Edward W. Robertson said...

It was the dog's fault Dante was about to die. The ruins of the chapel hunched behind him, hiding his killer. He was thirty miles from Bressel, ten from the nearest farm, and a world away from help. Despite that, he didn't doubt his body would be found--corpses had a gravity to them, like the vapors released by death were starkly visible to the mind's eye; if the man who'd attacked him didn't find his body lying in the cold grass and colder wind, a farmer or a pilgrim would. But they wouldn't know who he was. They wouldn't know he'd left his home because he'd seen a man in a mail shirt bring a dog back to life. When he watched that dog shiver up to its feet, Dante could sense what was happening the way he could smell cold or feel a shadow on his skin. The world was showing him just how big it really was, and that if he wanted it, he would have to come find it.

Meg Claudel said...

My red backpack has been with me all day. Not the bag itself, just a memory. Not a memory of the bag either, but of my dream of it. In the dream I stuffed CDs I never owned into the red backpack I've always owned and ran from a house I never lived in without closing the door behind me. I don't think this happened. Then again, I left so many places with all my belongings in my backpack. Sometimes I left quickly.

Patti said...

Fourteen year-old Dagny Olson and her mom were footsteps away from entering the grocery store when a shrill voice called out from behind them, “Hildy Olson, how dare you tell my daughter you saw her lying in a bed of glass!”

Winter Hansen said...

Nerissa sank under the crashing waves. She wanted to scream but instead held her breath until bright spots punctuated the blackness inside her eyelids. Da was already lost, and she deserved to die.

Kate Johnston said...

(YA)

I don’t believe in love. It’s like magic tricks for adults, this idea that you can be completed or fixed or solved by someone. Like we’re all negative equations, and we have to pair up to do anything positive. It’s bullshit, and I don’t care how cynical that makes me. The world is full of people making each other miserable because they think they can substitute a boyfriend or a wife for purpose or self-respect. Love is a water-colored, Santa Claus view of a biological urge, and I haven’t met anyone yet who’s made on the deal.

karen said...

“Where are we?” I asked as I tried to reposition my casted leg to ease the bone-grinding pain. The back seat of a ’65 Mustang isn’t comfortable in any position after hours of riding, even without a cast, and every innocent little bump in that smooth-appearing four-laner ratcheted the torture. On a scale of one to ten it was a solid thirteen and climbing. Besides that, spasms in my cramped back and neck were keeping time with the monotonous slap-slap of the car’s windshield wipers. I couldn’t wait to get home, pop a bottle of painkillers and fall into bed.

Carissa A. said...

The woman trembled at the touch of the cold hand on her shoulder. Muscles flexing, tensing. She rolled to her side and was met by chill breath, now immediately above her. He kissed her, then gently wiped a brown curl, which had fallen over her face back out of it. She tentatively opened her eyes and caught a first glimpse of the handsome man now lying on top of the covers next to her. She smiled.

Shelley said...

The solitary reason I can speak now is because of the two hawks mating on the roof above my apartment on the top floor. I hear them screech and occasionally they look over the edge of the roof into my apartment. Other birds, small sparrows, knock on my window, not a click, click with a claw or beak, but a thump, thump of the top of their heads, asking I don’t know what. I can’t tell today. Maybe tomorrow. Do the birds knock on my window to be let in or to possibly remind me to continue with my magic studies? 1:11 am and 1:11 pm, I take note of these times. Or at least at 2:22, or 5:11, or 4:44. Or 6:71. Not really the latter. Talking numbers chases the vertigo away. Daddy’s little pour, no more. Oh, I just saw the time, I have to do some research online, then get to my part-time job in Manhattan, where I am half transcriber, half translator, and half language code decipherer. I know, too many halves.

Rachel Grant said...

Erica Kesling leaned against the boat railing and watched the bright orange float bag break the surface of the turquoise water, bringing up the cache of artifacts from the shipwreck. Her fingers tightened on the rail as another wave of shame surged through her.  It was now official; her boss had just looted the underwater archaeological site. And she’d made it all possible.

Chris said...

Anja’s eyelids are thick metal hinges, too heavy to lift. If she celebrated a feast day by drinking herself into a stupor, she can not recall it. Her memory washes away like runes written on the beach. A cold slab of stone lies beneath her back; she does not know where the slab ends and her body begins. But she knows where she is, even without opening her eyes--the burial mound. I am not drunk. A dark thought creeps into Anja’s waking consciousness like the dank smell of the earthen walls: I am dead.

PoetryInMotion said...

It was snowglobe weather, with pretty white flakes swirling around and never quite reaching the ground. People bustled around, ignoring the beautiful setting. He smiled to himself. They always hurried, never noticed what was going on around them. So ignorant, so naïve. They fascinated him. He waited in the cold, barely feeling it, cognizant only of the people, watching, waiting for the girl to come outside. He wasn’t disappointed. She exited the school, walking quickly and pulling up her hood as she went, hiding her face from view. Slowing down as she hit an icy patch in the sidewalk, she walked to the edge of school grounds, turning left and leaving campus.

Kim said...

It was the best of time. It was the worst of times.
These infamous words floated before my face as I made my way down a surprisingly unoccupied stretch of sidewalk. Every time I found myself upon one of these treats I’d open up one of my books and start reading. I heard the musical sound of sirens, loud raucous voices, and car tires on asphalt all around me. Sure it was dangerous to walk and read at the same time in the busy city of Los Angeles but I didn’t really care. I wasn’t going to get taken by surprise in my city. I owned this place. I knew every little back street and alleyway there was on the way to the place my mum worked. I folded down the corner of the page I was on and slipped the book back into my bag as I came to a street crossing. I looked up at the street name and saw I only had a block more to go. The white walking man lit up and I was about to take a step into the crosswalk when a big, black SUV came out of nowhere and decided it wanted to make a right turn. The driver sat idling there waiting to turn while I watched my chance at crossing slip away.

KF said...

I remember the first time I saw my wife; she was of course very young then – still too young for marriage – though our families had already made the match, and I am glad for it, these many years later. She wore a blue riding habit that made her eyes dance, and she teased her brother, John, and I with a wit and subtlety that would have impressed and intimidated any man. I am not a man to be easily intimidated, however, and even now I chuckle at the memory of her boldness. Mr. Anderson, she said to me, coyly calling a blush to her cheeks, did you and my brother behave yourselves during your stay in New Orleans? I answered with a lazy smile: Why of course we did, Miss Beecham, can you imagine anything else? Oh, I can indeed, Mr. Anderson, she said, I can indeed. Then she laughed and kissed her brother sweetly on his stubbled cheek and scampered up the stairs to change into her evening attire. And I swear that if I live through this raging pestilence, I will tell her, as I should have done many years ago, how I fell in love with her that very day.

Chantal Fox said...

Rhiannon jiggled the key, then snatched her mail out of the box. Sure enough, there was the envelope. She tore it open and admired her new license: REGISTERED WITCH TX LICENSE # 318940. Now only one obstacle stood between her and some kick-ass demon hunting.

Dorine White said...

Middle grade fantasy-

A feeling of unease raised the short hairs on the back of Kyler's neck. He glanced warily towards the dense forest that bordered his Aunt Martha’s property. The large evergreens crowded over every inch of land not tilled for farming. He narrowed his eyes looking for the source of his feelings, but nothing appeared. With a shake he returned to weeding the garden.

I'd love constructive comments-
www.dorinewhite.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

I watch them put on lipstick in the hand mirror then braid and unbraid each other's hair. My hair is too thick and too short to braid. I tried it once, using the wide rubber bands my dad uses to wrap around his Embassy coupons. The braids felt heavy and stiff and wrong. I carry on looking. Wondering if she planned my disappearance that day at her house? Perhaps she decided it minutes ago because she didn't like the way I brushed past her desk. I don't mind being ignored. I mind that I can't ask her why? Being ignored has no words. Nothing. Once words are involved there's no going back.

Christian White said...

When you're the only one awake on a bus drifting down a long stretch of highway, it's easy to forget where you are. It's easy to imagine you could be almost anywhere. Or anyone. Jack, or so he'd been called since the bus pulled away from the station in Nevada, stared out the window. The right side of his face mashed against the plexiglass had gone numb from the vibration. He'd spent the last half of his life on a bus much like this one, moving reticently over the miles of blurring landscape to his next stop. Three months here, a year there. Wherever the work was. He'd had no real plan until now.

James Luckman said...

Jacqueline Foster released her hair from the loose bun. Pale strands whipped around her face in the early morning breeze that came through her bedroom window. Carefully, she caught her hair in one hand, twisting it down around her shoulder to get a grip of it before framing it back up at the base of her neck and pinning it there. She glanced at her small mirror and was irritated that she still looked dishevelled. She stilled herself from releasing the bun again, or from tying it in the simple ponytail she usually wore to school—when she did that it made her look young and that would not do. Not today.

Libby Brereton said...

We sat around the kitchen table and waited for Dad to speak. The room was completely silent except for our dog, Jasper, whining at the door. Part of me wanted to go and let him in, but I knew there was no way that I could get out of my seat now. I was locked down, like a man in an electric chair waiting for the switch to be pulled.

Santa said...

No matter how she massaged the numbers, they still added up to a BIG FAT ZERO. She was going to have to kill him for that.
Nola looked up from the shimmering screen of her laptop and over the papers spread across the table and glanced over to Angel, all alone, at the bar. Normally, she’d feel sorry for someone all alone at the bar but since Angel was her bartender and her restaurant was tanking faster than the stock market, the best she could feel was a the slow burn of frustration and resentment deep in her gut. Angel’s name belied his six foot six, three hundred pound frame as did his role as both bartender and bouncer. Not that Nola needed either one these days. Not since Petty Petronovich’s scathing review three months earlier in New York Scene magazine. He’d given her place half a skillet and that skillet glared up from the page as if embedded in the wall of her kitchen. Too bad his picture wasn’t under it. The results were devastating. Slowly, her steady customers dwindled down to nothing. No lunch trade. No dinner trade. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero.
Yup, she really was going to have to kill him for that.

London Mabel said...

Never send a monk to do a woman’s job.

Cassandra Dunn said...

The first time I see him I am standing in a grocery store with my shirt hiked up to my ribs. It is one of those classic moments that will be burned into my memory for years to come. I’ve just complained to my mother that I am still developing strange little bumps, like bug bites, here and there around my body. The dog is on flea treatment, and I’ve washed all of my bedding, so the itchy spots are a tiresome mystery.

Drea said...

When I clocked in for my Thursday closing shift at Burger Barn, the usual things cluttered my mind. One, Barn’s slack-off night manager pulled a no-show, proving again that yes, cowboys and weasels were indeed the same. And two, one week remained until I blew this no-stoplight town with my cousin Charm. Survive seven more days and I was never slaving at this grease pit again. Because I tell you what. Here in Northern California’s farm country, impatient yahoos slammed Barn on a nightly basis, annoying me to bits even before the grease shack became famous because of me.

CoD said...

You would think that a person would contemplate their life or even the existence of god before they commit suicide.‭ ‬But standing on a ledge at the top of a‭ ‬twenty-two ‬story building, the only thought on my mind is my coffee pot.‭ ‬It‭’‬s‭ ‬sad really,‭ ‬I‭’‬m getting ready to hurtle my body hundreds of feet towards black asphalt and all that worries me is that I might have left my coffee plugged in.‭ ‬Does it really matter if my house burns down, after I kill myself in the grand scheme of things‭? ‬ No,‭ ‬but it damn sure bothers me right now.‭

BtWwR said...

I am but a horizon.
Between the hush of sound and the uproar of silence, where the world is round and where the world is flat, I am in between: on one side that concert of humanity—joy, pain, joy—on the other, silence, that chorus of ever after. I am in between: that blurred area where two colors on a palette mix, where two worlds meet, producing me. The color of me? In between: a grey painted of white noise and black silence. This is who I am. This is my story. (Or is it yours?)

Liz Argall said...

'I went out to the hazel wood, because a fire was in my head…'

She left him. After all that had been said, after all that had been done, she left him. A moment of clarity, of sadness. The quiet click of the latch, signifying everything, the first sound of a terrifying new future.

Fiona Ingram said...

(Middle grade)
They tiptoed down the main staircase, Adam shielding his candle with one hand so the flame would not be seen by the intruder. Shadows leaped out at them, confusing their path. Things looked so different in the dark, somehow unfamiliar and more menacing. The candlelight illuminated the gloomy portraits of past Earls of Strathairn on the walls in brief flashes. Their forbidding faces and stern eyes seemed to be telling the boys to go back, go back … before it was too late. But it was already too late and they had to keep moving forward. The great staircase seemed never-ending, spiraling down into a black void. It was also hard to see anything in front of their feet. Their tiny candle flame seemed pitifully small compared to the huge well of darkness at the bottom of the stairs. Adam was having some difficulty managing the candle as well as trying to see where he was going. This made him careless going down the stairs.

Melissa Pearl said...

“Run!” the voice beside me hollered.
I needed no more persuading and was soon racing blindly through the thick foliage. Leaves slapped at my face. Roots jumped up to nip my ankles. Somehow I kept going, following the bright pack in front of me. Another gunshot rang out and I ducked my head. The tree beside me exploded. Splinters fired out from the bark exterior, spraying my arm with small shards of wood.

rps said...

Naia More had been barely eighteen. A waitress in one of those tourist traps in Covent Garden. Served crepes to camera-happy tourists and rowdy English stockbrokers alike. Away from home, in a different world, she liked it here. Could cope with the innuendoes, the banter. And now she was dead. Just a head on a sill, a body sweating blood.

womenswrites said...

In the mirror her face looked pale, although she knew it was rosy-brown from the South Georgia sun. The image wavered and the face, so much like her own, grew a slow smile as a cold hand came up to stroke her cheek. She was underwater. A hand grabbed her own and began to pull her down. She could feel the increasing pressure, but couldn’t see far in the murky gloom. Beyond her arm, she could just make out a huge fish tail, pumping up and down with immense strength. But the hand that held her was just like her own, five fingers, a wrist and a slender arm.

RJ said...

The cat was broken.

Earlier that morning it had fallen off the shipping office’s front porch, and although it landed on its feet, its left back leg had twisted underneath it, snapping every wire and electronic diode from its knee to its clawed metal toes. Del found it twitching under her bed, sparks exploding out of its circuitry like a miniature fireworks display. Not the smartest example of artificial intelligence, she thought, as it limped out to lay its battered body at her feet. Sighing, Del snatched a fistful of tech wires from her desk, wrapped the sparking cat up in a rubber anorak and carried it outside.

Dan Holloway said...

I remember the phone was cold in my hand when they called to tell me Simon was dead. I thought, it’s summer and I’m holding slick, plastic ice, and it’s talking. The voice was Andrew’s. He said “Mrs Hart?” and I said yes, once, and his voice kept saying “Mrs Hart?” and I thought isn’t it strange this cold thing in my hand keeps repeating my name. Then there was another voice, not Andrew’s, not anyone’s I knew, and it said “Mrs Hart I’m afraid there’s been a terrible accident” and I said “Oh” and for a few seconds I thought the frozen thing in my fingers was Simon’s skin. Then I put it down while it was still repeating “Mrs Hart” in the other voice, the one I didn’t know, and it was just a hot summer day, and I was staring at the telephone, and my son was dead.

knight_tour said...

Midas had never heard of elves killing men before. He slumped in his saddle, staring at the bodies scattered near the forest edge. Crows hopped about just out of kicking range, cawing at the interruption of their meal. The horses stamped their hooves and flicked their tails at flies. The smell of corruption was still mild. “I don’t recognize any of these men,” Midas murmured. He should recognize them; he knew the people on his lands. These men hadn’t just been passing through. Three axes lay near the corpses, and two of the trees showed chop marks. Red sap flowed over the silver bark from the cuts, making the trees look as if they bled.

Anonymous said...

When Ella Wilkes opened the door to her room a puff of air brushed her face. No more than a breath, so slight she might have imagined it if it hadn’t been so cold. She touched her cheek. It was icy. And moist, like a child’s tear.

Kev Webb said...

The morning is fresh and crisp; the room is drab and devoid of colour and personality, just a bed a table and grey walls. Emily Sharpe is asleep in the middle of the double bed. Her eyes flicker and dart under their lids, as she lays deep in REM sleep.
The jumper leaves her. She wakes with a start and draws a sharp breath as if it is her very first one. Her back arches and her eyes are wide with dilated pupils which scream with pain from the obtrusive morning light.
‘Shit He’s here!’ She says rolling over and falling out of bed, she tries to get up quickly with her heart in her throat. As usual Emily sleeps naked so the cold hard floor is a rude awakening. ‘You bastard get out of my head.’ She screams at the unseen intruder. She cannot abide body jumpers in there.

Kim Rees / Kim Knox said...

The truth-crawler burrowed into her neck. Haf cursed, gritting her teeth against the bite and slice of its pincers. Clicks, whirrs filled the silent room as the crawler’s synthetic leg joints worked its bulbous body under her skin. Haf stared up at the strip of light above her, focusing, denying the raw surge of pain. The things she did for money.

A.R. Williams said...

They were here. It was happening. Claus Dekker pressed his back against the south wall of his tiny studio apartment and gripped the cold iron of his Keimmer Assault Pistol with sweaty fingers. His eyes adjusted to the dark and he gazed out the window, making sure any Kolmar that were watching couldn’t see him. The streets were empty, except for the three derelict mag-cars that had been torched in the Shunnar riots two weeks back. No one broke curfew now. They knew he would be here. A shadow fell across the door blocking out the light leaking in from the hall. Claus’ finger tightened on the trigger until he knew the shock round was about to explode. He wondered which one of his alleged friends had turned him in. Hans. Lars. It didn’t matter; they weren’t going to take him alive.

--A.R. Williams

Bairbre said...

Christie’s da opens the front door, half a turnip in his hand. He stands staring at Christie for a couple of seconds then orders him into the house with a flick of his head.

Namrata said...

Mean Earth time: 21.04, Tuesday January 24, 2166.
This time it was a hospital that was under the threat. Many doctors, nurses, nursing robots, and patients, and their relatives had been brought out in safe environment; on a ground surrounded by a transparent bullet proof zone…but some were still trapped inside, praying for their lives! Few minutes back the hospital was also enjoying protection from bullets and small bombs by that type of bullet proof zone… but now the zone was dissolved and the hospital was standing naked, experiencing invasion by a group of terrorists.

Jinx said...

The moment Armen Leza set down the phone, a chill having nothing to do with the night air passed through her body. Terry Armstrong, big shot homicide detective, hung up on her—again. In truth, he was never much for goodbyes, figuring one didn’t say it to someone until they were dead, so the man never said goodbye to the living. Armen assumed he thought it bad luck on the person, and she found the quirk rather entertaining, even if his calls usually weren’t. As she was the forensic scientist who specialized in the occult, work calls usually meant bad news, but something in Terry’s voice made the hair on her arms stand on end.

Merc said...

“Bombs, my friend, have an unequivocal desire for destruction—rather like women.” Tsashi corked the vial and wired it into the intricate series of explosives. He winked at the bullmastiff watching him quizzically. “Thus, you have to handle these—” He waved at the lines of chemicals and gunpowder sticks rigged to the ship’s hull. “—as carefully as you do women, so they don’t suspect how you’re using them shamelessly for one purpose.”

carolryles said...

Tinder heard the guards long before they reached her cell. The clang of the outer iron doors, their jests about the stench, their footsteps clicking over flagstones. She knew it would happen this way because the baby had revealed it in a dream. First the guards would take her to the King’s magician, then they would show her the miners. She could see them in her mind’s eye, silver-faced, no longer human.

Anonymous said...

Sebastian had lived almost all of his life in a wicker cage hanging from the ceiling of a witch's cottage. In the winter, the cold seeped in through gaps in the cottage walls. In the summer, insects swarmed him, biting him, making him itch. When it rained, he got wet, and when the wind blew his cage swung uncontrollably.

(from The Boy Who Lived in a Cage,1st chapter of Princess Lucky and the Chicken-Legged Cottage, unpublished, unrepresented. Chris Kelly - Chriskelly82*at*aol*dot*com - I don't have an account for here)

Anja said...

Caraid leaned against a birch tree, arms crossed, and watched the far bank. Nothing stirred except for some birds chasing through the reeds. Rain came down hard, making the water look like it was boiling. It had been pouring down for days. The banks were flooded and branches, even entire trees, floated past him in the murky-yellow torrent. He whistled softly to himself. He was drenched to the skin and freezing, but nothing would spoil his good humor today. He liked springtime.

"What’s the bloke keeping us waiting for?" Daél asked.

Liz Morris said...

Ash flicked a cigarette between his lips and lit it with the silver lighter he’d stolen from his dad that morning. He leant back against the cement wall of the underpass and inhaled, letting the toxic fumes fill his hollow lungs, enjoying the way the nicotine coursed through his veins, making them throb with adrenaline, the sensation almost like a pulse…almost.

what's up in therapy said...

Tom woke, warm with sweat, his body frozen, curled under the bedcovers semi-stiffened. It was half past one in the morning and he was in the midst of another nightmare. The shuffling of large feet on the grass outside, the scratching of clawed paws on the nylon tent, the snuffling of a dark nose in the earth, his ears still heard it.

Gary Kemble said...

Jake McKinsley had worked enough undercover operations to know when something was about to go bad, and this deal felt wrong as all hell. But he didn’t know why, and if he was going to pull the pin, he had to make the call now.

H.C. Zuerner said...

I stood at Michael’s right hand side, both of us waiting for Lumiel’s return, neither saying a word. Natural slate and perfected gold stretched in tiered waves around and under our feet, encircled by the original Eden—far more splendid than the copy given to the humans. By now, everyone knew what Lumiel had done and sides were being taken. I could hear the whispers as more and more of the host filtered around all sides of the dais. They all fell silent upon realizing I stood amongst them. None wanted to be the one who voiced an adulterous accusation loud enough for me to hear. It mattered not, I knew the transgression had taken place. Far more worrisome was the outcome. The humans had fallen.

Ben Yezir said...

Dan ran awkwardly through the failing light and the pouring rain, his coat gathered in a bundle under his arm. He’d given up trying to avoid the potholes; instead he shifted the weight and splashed as quickly as he could towards the dark wood. The gravel gave way to moss, the rain to silence. He paused for a moment, and let the pine scented air wash over him. In Ireland this is what freedom smelt like; at home it simply meant his mum had bought a new type of toilet cleaner. The coat changed arms, the moss took his weight and he silently melted into the damp shadows.

jongibbs said...

At 2:42am, with the tails of his gray trenchcoat flapping about in the breeze, Dimitri Vassilchen hurried through the dim-lit, back streets of Old Town Prague. The musty odor of damp brickwork told him the river was near. Lazarus would have discovered the theft by now, and sent his men to scour the city in search of his accountant, so he kept to the shadows, cowering in darkened doorways whenever he heard an approaching car.

Jennifer said...

Whatever it was, it couldn’t be good. Of that, he was certain. He sat, fingers steepled beneath his chin, and continued to stare at it from the couch in the living room as he had for the last 30 minutes. His stained, tattered bathrobe draped loosely around him, his hair an unmade bed. Wrapped in wrinkled brown paper and tied, cross-wise, with twine, the misshapen lump seemed innocuous enough, but Peter knew better. He placed the Vicodin on his tongue then reached for the half-empty bottle of Scotch on the coffee table and took a long pull. Surely numbness would kick in soon. He didn’t yet know exactly what was hidden beneath the worn packaging sitting on his dining room table, and he didn’t really want to find out.

me said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rinelle said...

To the uninitiated onlooker there was nothing of interest about the plain, wooden bowl that he filled with water. It was almost conspicuous in its ordinariness. Yet Sean stared at it intently, entranced by something only he could see; a scene being played out across the ripples of water. In the half light of dawn, half a continent away, a young, blonde haired woman and her male partner were skulking through the stunted bushes that surrounded a rough camp.

steve mchugh said...

My work rarely takes me to nice places. Today for example, I’m in Southampton’s red light district. It’s a place that, whilst small in geographical size, makes up for it by cramming as much depression onto its streets as possible. Dilapidated buildings, dying vegetation and the constant noise of trains passing nearby turn an unpleasant place into a nightmare. To cap it off, the whole place smells of stale cigarettes. Oh, and it’s right next to a school. Which isn’t utterly disturbing at all.

sydney said...

If Wylie ever stared at me with his smoldering sapphire eyes, if he ever embraced me with his toned, strong arms, if he ever kissed me with his pink, full lips, I'd die. Not because I'd be so happy, but because I'd be so scared. Not because he's a bad person, but because I am. I'd die--fall right there, out of his cuddle and straight into Hell. Hell with its big fire and no butter pecan ice cream.

Nate said...

Why are people so mad when I cross the street? I’m walking in front of a man in a giant truck now who looks like he’s talking to himself, but then I see there's a cellaphone thingy with a blue light stuck in his ear. When I smile friendly at him like Mama tells me to do, he just takes his hand off the wheel and moves it like he wants me to hurry. Maybe I’m tarding up his day, like Papa says I do to him. Two days before a driver showed me his middle finger while I crossed Abrego Street, and I know that’s not friendly. People just like to honk me, I guess, but they never do it when I cross with other folks. I wish the honkers understood that the loud noise scares me and the more fast I try to go, the more hard it is to go at all.

Naomi said...

The blade was so sharp I didn’t feel it cut into my skin at first. Then, a breath later, the pain kicked in like a line of fire down my spine, warm blood sliding in its wake. I hissed through my teeth and pulled against the ropes binding me to no avail.

SeaHayes said...

“I’m sorry,” I say into the receiver the morning the nurse calls. The boys are running through the house, chasing the puppy, screaming at the top of their lungs with a dog toy chirping in each of their hands. “I didn’t hear you.” They pass through the kitchen and up the stairs, where, coincidentally, the puppy isn’t allowed to go. “It’s mass chaos here. For a second I thought you said I was pregnant.”

Two Flights Down said...

It wasn't love; it was just squares. Some moved diagonally along those squares. Others only moved forward, unable to go back. Others played the entire board. She was the pawn.

Kate Lacy said...

Three shuffles, three draws. The Fool, each time. Infinite possibilities, new beginnings, the ultimate innocence. I doubt it, not for me. I keep drawing the Fool, but I am so wishing for almost anything else. Heather Wilcox died in the Earth Day parade yesterday, and I've already been questioned once because I was the one who hooked the balance straps around her before the parade began. I hated her for so long. We seemed to fight over anything, any time we were together. Then, of all people, I was the only one she trusted at the end.Now I'm the "prime suspect," as they say on television. The person of interest. The Fool.

Tiger Princess said...

A dark cold night in the city, the church is lit gently inside and out with shadows creeping round the spire. A figure sits in one of these watching the tide of humanity ebb and flow around the base of the church, the smell of the cars carried away by a sea breeze that promises rain before dawn. The figure’s eyes open and glow with the light reflected from below like a rabbit’s eyes in the glare of a torch. From the south-west, the figure hears the screams of teenagers being whirled round on the Big Wheel in the city centre, the cries of anger and frustration of a hundred children who want sweets, and the admonitions of their parents, telling them to shut up or else. It’s Christmas in the Southwest of England, no snow, even though it is cold enough.

Maggie said...

Hi Nathan

Can an Australian writer enter this Paragraph Challenge, or is it open only to US writers? If not, is it too late?

Benson said...

My mother’s hands made everything she did look important. She had friends who wore bright red nail polish and looked as if they dipped their hands in blood. I often wondered how they did normal things with those hands. Their fingernails were like teeth. One day at Susie Crithers’s house, I went in the kitchen for some lemonade and saw her mother sitting at the dinette with her apron on and her hand in a metal bowl. Next to the bowl were two pointed sticks, a nail file, a folded-up hand towel, and two bottles, one of them small and bright red. “Are you making some kind of salad, Mrs. Crithers?” I said, standing with my hands clasped at the small of my back, staring at where her fingers disappeared into a cloud of suds.

Deniselle said...

Oh... I'm from Finland, so if only US writers can enter, you can delete my entry.

Maggie, it should be open til Thursday 4 PM US time.

Kim said...

Skye is crying. Skye doesn’t cry, at least not in front of me. When Skye is upset whole forests disappear and caves collapse but tears do not fall. Her sapphire eyes glisten and she stares at me. Tears flow down her light blue snout over her silver underbelly. They pool on the floor between her feet. The walls of the cave sparkle behind her in the rising sun. She unfurls her great wings and shakes her head sending tears flying across the cave. I move forward to comfort her. She inhales sharply and flames fly. I duck to avoid them. What did I do?

Daniel C. said...

It’s the end of November and a freezing rain is pouring down. The sun is barely peaking through the clouds, adding a grim light to an already dark day. I wish the cold would numb my brain. Was this really happening again? That thought keeps racing back and forth through my head. It’s the only one I have for a few moments as the rain falls hard on my umbrella, mirroring the flood down my cheeks. Another funeral, but this time they’re laying dad down next to mom. I tried racing with Ryan and Monique on the freeways. I tried working on cars in dad’s shop. Nothing eased the pain. And now the shop is mine. That’s something I really don’t want to think about. I’m supposed to be worried about high school. Things like ditching class, going on dates with boys, and studying for tests. I just turned sixteen. How am I supposed to run an auto shop? I looked through dad’s contact list to invite people to the funeral. With notes like “mostly trustworthy,” and “cash in advance only,” I wasn’t sure who I could trust. The new direction these thoughts are taking bothers me a lot. I pull myself out of my head and try to focus on the funeral again.

Betty Cloer Wallace said...

English Colony of South Carolina, July 1, 1750

Mairy MacNeill winced when the fat-bellied Englishman elbowed her aside, plopped his turkey-wattle chin on the ship rail, and spewed the most horrible green porridge Mairy had ever seen right down on a flatboat in Charles Town harbor. Mairy herself felt quite bilious, but not wanting to appear unseemly in front of so many people, she turned away and swallowed hard and willed herself to think of something other than her own roiling belly. Her father had said it was a good omen, sailing into Charles Town on her tenth birthday, but her mother, suffering one of her dark spells, had said it was just another birthday and to be grateful she had lived to see it.

Awriter said...

Most stories start off with a change, in most peoples stories that change can be something slight or something drastic like the change in my story, I never expected it to be possible. Hell I did not even know they existed, but through all the masquerades, secrets and the lies there remained only ever one truth. That one truth is the fact that I am part of a race who predate the vampires; a race who were the gods of the ancient world, a race which stemmed the creation of all the others. The original Immortals.

Gillian McDade said...

As Muriel dragged the moribund body through the grounds of Prague Castle, the head with the flailing comb-over, hit every protruding cobblestone. The now festering corpse smelt like an old battered cod which had been dipped in rotten eggs. She shuddered. The fear started to climb over her and bind her limbs, gagging her. Like the bullish trailing ivy on the reverend's exterior walls back home in Pettycross. But she fought off the fear, pushing it to one side. After all, she was a strong confident women, just like Thérèse Desqueyroux, and she'd accomplished what she'd set out to do.

The Virtual Victorian said...

I’d been to Wilton’s hall before. I would have been seven or eight at the time and somehow Aunt Cissy persuaded Mama to allow me a trip to the pantomime. Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves it was, and as we rushed off to climb in a cab, Mama called after us down the front steps, “You just watch that child...there’ll be forty thieves in the audience!”

Kristin said...

It was a simple thing, finding his wife. Introducing himself to her, that was a bit more thorny. Luc, two drinks in hand, rounded a corner in the new gala room, and there she was. Gazing at one of the crude Daku sketches hung to cover the unfinished walls, and crossing her arms rigidly against her body. She was a separate thing from the crowd around her. For a moment Luc stood in arrested motion. He ran his eyes down the length of her, measuring the reality against his dreams. She had made the political choice of wearing Daku silk, but it was awkward, the way the stiff fabric swathed her bony frame. There was a warm tightness in the back of this throat. But what was the approach? He hadn’t dreamt this, their first meeting.

lynseymay said...

“Hello stranger,” she says.
“Is that Chantelle?”
“Why yes it is, and who is it that’s wanting to know?” Aims says as she settles herself into the sofa and carefully drapes the telephone’s cord over the arm.
“Ehh,” says the voice.
“It’s ok sugar, you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to,” she leaves a beat that he doesn’t fill. “I don’t know you then do I?” she says. The phone is bright red plastic, Pom bought it for her when the job was still funny. She said she’d found it in a retro knick-knack shop and dubbed it the wank-o-line. A scarlet phone for the scarlet woman, she’d said.
“No,” says the voice. It could be that there is something familiar about this one. But then again, there is something familiar about all of these voices.
“Well then sugar, sounds like we are both in for a treat.”

Stephen Moegling (stephen.moegling@mac.com) said...

Kate Finch awoke to CNN’s Anderson Cooper calling her name. The silver-haired, blue-eyed Adonis of the news world could read the ingredients for Jell-O and make Kate swoon. Hearing Cooper call out her name was like a dream come true. Then Kate realized why he was saying her name, and her swooning dream turned into a nightmare.

Jay Montville said...

No one really knows what happened to Alan Biggs, whether he slipped and fell into the quarry, or he jumped, or somebody pushed him. All we knew was that he drowned during a game of Capture the Flag, and for a couple of years that was all anyone needed to know.

Helena Halme said...

I had known Alyona for just over three months when she disappeared. In my first week at the BBC Monitoring Service in Reading, I joined the aerobics class. One of the British-born monitors took the class in a cold room with a high ceiling. It had been a Chapel, but was now used as a TV room for the late shift. It was supposed to be haunted. Tiina, my Finnish boss, told me that when the vast old stone building on top of Caversham Hill was a school, a young student hanged herself from the beams. Several of the older Monitoring staff had sworn to hearing moans or even seeing a ghostly figure move about the shadows of the Chapel at night. After the aerobics class I heard a tall dark-haired girl next to me discuss the story with an older woman. ‘Rubbish!’ she said loudly. Her long limbs were supple and I guessed she was a dancer, or had a past in gymnastics like me. She saw me looking at her. ‘Alyona from the Russian team,’ she said and gave me her hand.

David Biddle said...

We took back roads through suburban developments full of designer stucco and glass homes, drinking quarts of Busch in the dark. Stan smoked cigarettes which is why we did this since his wife, who let him smoke cigars on their back porch, thought he quit the Marlboros years earlier. I rolled down my window if it got hard to breathe. I’d pretty much lost my sense of smell after a long bout with a sinus infection a few years before we started our journeys through the south end of our county. If I hadn’t lost my sense of smell, things would likely have worked out much differently with Julia Davenport. You can decide if this is good or bad.

Ray Wong said...

That night, he started to pass more gas than any person humanly could. I had to step out for a moment to clear my sinuses. Clear my mind. That was when he died. I returned to the room and he was already blue. I knew right that instant. I didn't even try to revive him. I just held his cold hand and watched him sleep. The air was still thick with his stink, but that was his stink. His. Like tear gas. And then there were tears. Mine.

SharonK said...

(strikethrough)Dear Baby, Dear Fetus,(strikethrough)
Dear Little Speck,
Hi. I’m your mother. Or I will be. I guess it depends on when you think the mothering part actually begins. Some people say it’s right at conception – don’t ask what this means. I’m not sure but all I can say is it looks weird for me to be writing that word down – mother. Me. Mom? Mommy? Or am I just a body for you to hang out in until you’re ready to meet the world? A pod, sort of. Anyway, hello there.

Janga said...

Dori Marshall was wide awake, but she refused to open her eyes. It was an old trick that she had played as a child: the day couldn’t start until she looked it in the face. But even with her eyes closed, she knew her quiet, ordinary life was under attack. The very air against her skin seemed charged with a presence. Damn Max! He always changed everything.

Henya said...

Jamie sped down Route 66 East through Arizona, following the signs for New Mexico, painfully aware of her tight grip on the steering wheel. Earlier in Los Angeles at sunrise, with a kind of conviction that took root four days ago, Jamie packed one suitcase, her camping gear, a pair of fifty pound dumbbells, and three boxes filled with books: the sum of her possessions. Got to keep going, she repeated to herself, reciting the words like a prayer she had to memorize. She looked at the gas gauge. There was no telling how much longer she would be able to drive with a nearly empty tank. Further on, a cat had been run over; the distorted carcass lay to the side, its belly swollen, its matted fur damp with blood. It wasn’t that she was anxious to get anywhere as much as she wanted to put distance between herself and the life that only this morning she left behind.

Annette Gallant said...

If it hadn't been for the unusual burst of domesticity which hit her that day, Claire would have remained blissfully unaware of her husband's deception. It was a fact she would reflect upon later, marveling at how something as mundane as dry cleaning could be a catalyst that completely tipped her world upside down. But right now, as she stood in their marble-tiled foyer, clutching his tan jacket in one hand and the offending foil packet in the other, all she could do was desperately think of reasons for why her husband would have such an item in his possession.

T.L. Kenworth said...

The jangriel drums beat hard and fast, their story carried through the night. A spell caster had come among the Tounlers in the company of two Royaill women and their chybs. The chybs in question lifted from their beds, eyes wide.

Penn said...

Justin McCormack pulled his long brown hair back into a pony tail, curled it on top of his head and secured it with hair pins. He gently lifted the blonde wig from a Styrofoam head and fitted it to his head. He fussed and fretted with the wig for a moment, then reached for a jar of spirit gum. After slathering a layer on his upper lip with the applicator under the jar’s lid, he pasted a blonde Fu Manchu mustache into place. Finally, he spirit gummed his chin and added the goatee.

T.L. Kenworth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Penn said...

Justin McCormack pulled his long brown hair back into a pony tail, curled it on top of his head and secured it with hair pins. He gently lifted the blonde wig from a Styrofoam head and fitted it to his head. He fussed and fretted with the wig for a moment, then reached for a jar of spirit gum. After slathering a layer on his upper lip with the applicator under the jar’s lid, he pasted a blonde Fu Manchu mustache into place. Finally, he spirit gummed his chin and added the goatee.

LDPauling said...

Glory didn't need a fairytale. Just Mama. At home. That would be magic.

jennibaileywrites said...

Sometimes planets collide and all of the people living on them die. I’m fine with that. It’s really not a bad way to go. Destruction on a grand scale, a mass release of souls into the universe, a fresh start for anyone who needs one. Out in a splash of color. All at once, all together and no one left behind to clean up the mess. No delirious widows shuffling hungry realtors through rooms that used to be filled with people and pets and families. No closets to be packed away. No cramming a loved one’s favorite baseball caps into cardboard boxes that will never be opened again, just hauled off to the Salvation Army when the garage gets too full. No recording over someone’s voicemail instructions with details about their own funeral, in case anyone should happen to call that number. No fatherless children crying themselves to sleep, shriveling up and turning gray with grief.

Judith Mercado said...

She couldn’t remember if peonies were her grandfather’s favorite flower. Or if Grampa simply mandated them as the traditional altar flower. All Charlyn knew was that if it weren’t for the powerfully fragrant peonies she held under her nose, the reek of urine in the recessed entryway would make her flee. If she needed further proof that her grandfather was no longer the minister of this aging relic of a Gothic church, that ammonial stench was it. Even when he was ninety and his congregation dwindled to sixteen doddering but faithful members, the age-worn stones in this entry had been scrubbed clean until they were rinsed of their sins.

Christopher said...

The cold, hard steel tasted of despair and regret. With a faint undercurrent of cleaning solvent. The ceramic soap dish was jabbing me in the back, but I didn’t move. At this point, did it really matter whether or not I was comfortable? You never know what might run through a man’s mind as he is about to do the unthinkable. For me, it was Georgia and Kandy Kisses. . .and the body. The body which led to more bodies. Which led to even more. I pray God will forgive me.

JW said...

Every day, Lester would watch the hostel’s guests with shy vigilance. The comings and goings of his mother’s regular customers, transients, and all the rest held mystery and adventure in his young eyes. So they held mystery and adventure for me, too, because I kept a rather close watch on Lester back in those days. We could be found underfoot in Felicia’s sovereign domain often enough that she had begun to put us to work. Clearing away customers’ dirty dishes and whatnot. Of course, had she known how this newfound access to the lives Felicia’s hostel touched would tempt her son and I to further and further lengths in his exploration of these subjects of our fascination, she would have sent us to play with the power tools in the shed instead. We would be less likely to get ourselves into trouble.

Teri said...

Some times you meet a guy that changes you life forever. And, he usually comes into your life with such a bang you don't know what hits you. Susan Chandler was about to get swept off her feet.

Sean Ingvard Ashby said...

(Middle Grade)
The last thing Alex should have done was roll his eyes. He knew, just like anyone else, that when a bully threatens you, the least you can do is quiver, maybe whimper a little. Let the guy feel like he’s really intimidating you. Once he has the impression that you’re sufficiently frightened, he’ll most likely laugh along with his buddies, and let you go with no more than a punch in the arm (the upper arm, where teachers can’t see the resulting bruise). If he’s having a bad day, you might escape with a wedgie; at worst, he’ll take all your lunch money. But then he’d leave, and that would be that.

Elizabeth said...

Rain pebbled the North Branch's usually placid surface. My fellow travelers scurried between the dugout canoe and the dubious shelter of the maples, dividing up the packs under Fox's direction. One of the younger boys staggered, and Gull grabbed his arm, then took the heavy pack from him. Gull had been good company on this trip, though I hated thinking about his reasons for making it.



(Heh, this made me realize I should probably delete the first two paragraphs of the book.)

Jacqueline Daher said...

Jane hadn’t always been suicidal. Not always, but for almost as long as she could remember. She did have a few, scattered memories of happiness and hope—swinging on a tree swing in the hot summer sun as a child and feeling her feet touch the clouds, holding a pet rabbit and feeling its heartbeat pulse beneath the pads of her fingers. But that was pretty much it.

Kelly Maher said...

They walked the streets of London, no clue how shattered their world had become. An onslaught of moral depravity that he fought in the shadows of space and time. He still could not figure out if it was willful ignorance on their part, or a curse on his.

William Todd Rose said...

Albert Ross laid in bed while a boulder balancing on toothpicks loomed in the darkness overhead; he could feel its gravity tugging at him, tightening the muscles in his chest and arms, making the act of drawing a breath an act of will. He didn't really fear that the fragile supports would fail and send the boulder crashing down upon him. Somehow, he knew this wouldn't happen. No, it was much more likely he would no longer be able to resist it's pull, that he would cross some invisible event horizon and smash into the jagged surface like a meteor pummeling into a planet. He would shatter into a thousand tiny shards amid a plum of dust and debris; once settled, there would be no more trace of him. Everything that made him who he was would have disappeared into the crater and only a warm indentation on his pillow would remain to prove he'd ever existed . . . and even that would cool in time, the pillow slowly regaining its shape as it forgot the weight of his head.

Dani said...

I roll over and push the soft blue jersey sheets down with my feet, wriggling out of my panties and dropping them over the side of the bed with my pedicured toes. It’s hot enough that I’ve woken up with a thin film of sweat covering my whole body, the undersides of my breasts slick with perspiration. Rob doesn’t sweat at all when he sleeps. During daylight, he’s always hot, wearing only his boxer shorts around the house, drinking cold beer and ice water like they’re one and the same, talking constantly about installing central air, the pungent odor of his skin a heady mixture of deep musk and sour heat. But when he’s asleep, all his systems power down for the night and he goes into conservation mode; his breath is slow and easy, his skin cool.

chris said...

Thel nocked an arrow and inhaled her lungs full and drew back the bowstring until her left hand brushed her cheekbone. She exhaled and squinted her right eye then swiveled her shoulder and sighted the flat space between the doe's unblinking black eyes. She curled her finger and closed her eyes and touched the trigger release.

Madison L. Edgar said...

I woke up screaming, piercing the skin on my cheeks with chipped fingernails caked with dirt and blood. For too many minutes, I hadn’t been able to stop the screaming. It poured from my lips – heavy, angry – like rain during a Texas thunderstorm. My voice finally became hoarse and then the tears came, the second rain following the storm. Smooth grass sat beneath me, the very texture of cotton. The fields stretched from North to South, East to West. Grass. Grass. Grass. And then there was me, a mere ant in a pasture of nothingness.

Laura said...

Vicki sat on a bench in a park very much like one from her past. Staring off into the distance, thinking how different her life was now. So much had changed. The world seemed darker, more lost. Everyone, so completely oblivious to the truth. All looking to the easy answer. Avoiding a reality that would make their lives more complex. Sending their kids to school each day telling them not to take candy from strangers. Squirming as they give them advice about sex. They think they’re dealing with the hard issues. But how do you deal with this? How does she deal with all the crap that’s happened to her? No one was there to tell her about what might happen. No one warned her. So now she sits on a park bench wishing she had the luxury to ignore everything she’d learned. Wishing she could be one of the people ignoring the truth.

Tessa said...

If I were a numbers person, I’d know how many minutes it’s been since Marlo didn’t kill me. Instead, I just count sunrises. This is the second.
I lean out over the roof’s edge. Now the sun’s higher I can see most of the city, even the JumboTron on the Blake building. Last weekend it played nothing but footage of Marlo. Marlo setting off mini bombs and promising big ones. Marlo holding a little kid hostage and keeping the cops at bay. Marlo scaring the hell out of everybody.

brizmus said...

I don't know where I came from. And I know what you're thinking when you hear that. The same thing as everyone else. “Oh Rainbow,” they say, “how sweet and naïve, as usual.” This will inevitably be followed by the “where babies come from” story. You know the one. Mommy and Daddy meet. Mommy and Daddy fall in love. Mommy and Daddy make love, and Mommy's DNA mixes with Daddy's DNA and a little baby starts forming in Mommy's belly. Nine months later, if things go as planned, a fully formed baby comes out of Mommy, causing Mommy much pain and joy. I'm 15 years old – of course I know where baby's come from. It's a story I've heard more times total than probably all of you combined, and I'm sure it applies to me just as it applies to all of you, but that's not what I mean. Potentially and probably, I formed in some other woman's belly, but I was definitely not formed in that of my mother's, who is not even capable of having kids.

pjd said...

The doctor squatted in golden candlelight next to the cot, sweating whiskey and smelling of mildewed canvas. Andie watched him pat at her father’s forehead with a wet cloth, as if he were tapping time to a spirited camp song. "Gently," she breathed.

Steve said...

Denise Tyler slapped closed the blue file cover after reading the third paragraph. One phrase in the note stunned her. It tore away the semblance of merit from her fiancé, Jeremy Guerdon.

Rene Sears said...

"Marcus," my master says, "Get the door." Without turning around, he adds, "Put down that ridiculous club." I flush and drop the cane I have taken to carrying around, solid oak with a brass handle. These are dark days, everybody knows it; no harm in being prepared. And since there's no harm in it, I peer through the peephole before I open the door. The sun set hours ago, and people do ill deeds in the dark. My master's shop is on the Ponte Vecchio, and everyone knows the gold and silver smiths' shops line the bridge. We are in elevated company here.

Tim Koch said...

Keri Stokes had a website, a talisman of hypertext. She used it on me, for better or for worse. Her ability (no, for an ability implies a skill that anyone can learn with enough perseverance. It was a gift, a thing a soul does naturally, a connection either with Heaven or with Hell.) Her gift was a benefit and a detriment. It was judgment. If I had been the kind of man who speaks his mind on that morning when my wife dropped the emotional bomb on me, or even a year earlier when we truly but ignorantly lost control of our lives, my crossing paths with Keri’s gift might have been different, or even deferred altogether. But we are who we are.

DLFerguson said...

For all the love Dillon had for Star Island, being there for more than a few days was rather like eating a very rich and sweet dessert. The first couple of bites were ecstasy but after a while you realized that your system was starting to rev up from the overdose of sugar. Star Island was a lot like that. Once you arrived, there was the tendency to indulge in everything it had to offer, but after a time your senses and body cried out for a break. There was just too much for the senses to take in, so much to see and do, taste and smell.

JeniontheFarm said...

Crap I think I posted mine to last years contest blog page.

Let's try this again:

“Norman, when did you first feel the urge to have sex with animals?” The clinical psychologist rubbed the thumb and forefinger of his left hand together, absorbed in his patient and the new information being revealed. A slight breeze from the open window across the room tickled his toes. Being able to perform his work duties absent the unbearable nuisance of shoes and socks was thrilling. Most of his patients were none the wiser and if any had noticed, none had ever commented.

Brian South said...

The early-morning cleaners, parishioners bordering on zealots, were painstakingly and methodically scrubbing the sanctuary of its grime. One overweight, red-headed woman heaved a handheld vacuum extension up to the lights that hung from the ceiling high above, carefully sucking up the cobwebs that somehow kept reappearing, even after a mere week’s time. Another man, her husband perhaps, was dusting the dark wood of the pews with a bright orange feather-duster and a can of generic wood polish.

Alibert said...

Even though he had been searching for twenty years, when quite by chance he spotted her, sullenly shovelling snow from the running trail in the People's Park, he felt nothing. Not even surprise. She recognised him - of course she did - but she simply stood, calmly, in the pale January sunshine, unembarrassed, unafraid, her shovel loosely in her hands, her bleak grey eyes expressionless, waiting. He broke stride and stopped in front of her, breathing heavily: "You missed a bit."

D.A.A. Price (aka Elgin) said...

There are many ways one might go about finding true and everlasting love, many of them ill advised. Direct defiance of the Almighty, maker of the all the heavens and the earth is probably the least recommended of them all.

Steven said...

Flynn was dragged roughly through the dark dank stone corridor by the two rhino’s who for their size still fit within the spacious confines of the large stony hall. He felt tiny between them as the smelly beasts snorted and grunted pushing him forward, the rusted chains around his ankles and wrists clanked loudly and pulled at his fur. He noticed one of the rhino’s chewed some numbiscus plant leaves just as it spit the tangy juice in his direction spattering him from the back. He stumbled and fell forward to his knees catching himself not wanting to topple face first to the cold wet stone floor. The cold and wet did not bother him, but the hard floor coming in abrupt unimpeded contact with his snout did. He gasped cursing at his new bruises. He knew they couldn’t be seen them through his fur but they throbbed violently. Flynn looked up at the fire torch hung within a wall sconce so far down the corridor it let little light carry back to him. It must have been soaked in pitch recently because he could smell it in the air. There were no windows here and it made him feel increasingly claustrophobic. The tiny dot of flickering light ahead was little comfort to what was coming. As a sea otter, the cold wetness was always welcome, but this place made him shiver. Flynn hated confined places, being tied down. The open sea was his home. He looked down at a large red spot staining the floor. He could just make it out but definitely knew what it was even through the gloom that surrounded him. The stain… possibly left by the last animal brought to this dreadful prison… perhaps the last to leave it gave him a slight shiver. - From new work in progress "F.U.R. An Otter's Tale" - Steve Jensen
Enjoy! :)

T. Drecker said...

The stars took their places in the heavens, shimmering in the background of the radiant moon. With her tender breathe, the breeze sent waves across the sea of grain, initiating the opening scene. A curious harmony rose into the night, as the first chords sounded from the crickets and katydids. In a frantic ballet of life and death, the mice scampered around the base of the corn stalks as the hungry owls swirled a haunting serenade above. It was a majestic presentation, but despite Mother Nature’s endeavor, went completely unnoticed.

Angelia Almos said...

The man was still watching her. Lessa Noelle frowned at his reflection in the wall-to-wall mirror. She could just make out his face through the crowded dance studio where he lounged in the parents’ room. Lessa refocused on the team of girls fidgeting behind her. She pushed play on the CD player and turned to face them.

Sally Kilpatrick said...

She was another in a long line of women he hadn’t been able to save.
Byron Foster’s throat went dry at the sight of his partner, Gigi, sitting in one of her Duncan Fife chairs, her arms bound together as she swayed slightly from left to right.
He could see her brain. The pale grayish pink mass stuck up from a neat incision that ran across her forehead. The rest of her head sat on the floor like a hat that had been carefully set to the side.

Amanda Acton said...

“No,”

“Oh Arrie, just a touch of colour…”

“I said no.”

Arrow Jezebel Black was buried behind a book. She was trying desperately to ignore her cousin, but Cathy was like a parasite when she got an idea. When Cathy thought something up she’d sink her claws in until her latest victim waved the white flag. Tonight’s victim was Arrow and Arrow had no intention of surrendering.

rachelcapps said...

Nicholas Steele ached to stomp his boots. He didn’t. Instead, he gritted his teeth and ignored the trickle itching down his face. Instead, he watched. The drizzle fell like a cold mist, dusting the forest trees with dew and dampening the bare ground. He paid it no mind. Honestly, he needed to learn when to step back, not step up. He glanced at Owen by his side, his friend unaware of his fear. He bit hard on his lip. A little too hard, he inanely realised, as salty blood filled his mouth. He instantly forgot the blood, his eyes glued to the valley again. When he learned his two other men were safe, then he would have a reason to loosen up.

Niki Schoenfeldt said...

I used a stiff brush to scrub the blood and dirt from beneath my fingernails. Through the kitchen window I glimpsed the fresh mound in the garden along the fence. I read somewhere that serial killers often begin by killing small animals. There were already a few neighborhood pets and woodland critters buried in my back yard.

Anonymous said...

I keep hearing about the wonderful justice system that’s supposed to work for everyone equally, but for whatever reason, justice can’t get beyond our front door. Accusations are made, and charges are filed, but the defense has no opportunity to present their case since every word of their mouth is overruled. The defendant is found guilty without equal representation. Isn’t that called prejudicial conduct? Maybe I should turn my folks in to the bar association but since they aren’t attorneys, that won’t work. And where oh where is the presiding judge? Oh wait. That’s Dad! Sorry, I forgot. Once again, the verdict is guilty as charged and the sentence is three weeks in the wilderness of South Dakota in the custody of an eighty-six-year-old great aunt. Appeal denied.

CupofDice said...

The Yorkshire was chewing on my foot again. Every study I look at says that paralysis includes the loss of feeling, but that’s not my case. I reach down over the side of the bed and tug my leg out of reach of the little beast. Today must be lucky, cause it's only a small bite and the blood is trickling like honey.

Sara Best said...

The summer that Jolene turned fourteen, Carterville Motors ran a contest called “Eels for Wheels.”
Participants had to hold their bare arms in a tank full of electric eels that had been set up in the parking lot of the dealership. The person who could stand it the longest would drive away in a brand new midnight blue Cadillac. The Carterville Bugle and the local radio station, KZRT, had been hyping the contest for weeks. Everyone in town was talking about it.

Maggie said...

A thousand throats gave voice in a deafening roar as the horns of the aurochs lifted the princess of Crete then slammed her down into an ocean of hot sand.

Steve Nicholson said...

The smell of roasted java followed me down the steps of the 1369 Coffee House into Inman Square. I excused myself through the huddle of people waiting for a bus at the T stop, and sipped at my take-out cup of fresh brew. A chilled breeze slipped through the weave of my Irish knit sweater, the one I tossed on whenever I needed a little edge against New England’s unpredictable spring. Four doors down, a familiar black limousine sat double-parked in front of my office. It had been some time since dear old dad had crossed the Charles to see me.

ju-ju said...

June 2050

My name is Nathan Knight and I did…“Psst, Nate! Malpass.”
I stuff the tatty order book behind the mattress. Boot falls approach and stop. From my prone position I take in Malpass’ squat frame.
“KN301, your blanket is touching the floor. You must take care of Vision’s property.”
I sit up and shake my head as if to dislodge sleep. “Of course, Sister Malpass – and how are you on this fine evening?” I hear Doug suck in through the gap where his front teeth used to be and lean over gathering the thin blanket onto my legs.
“Were you given permission to speak?”
I stay silent and gaze into her small, creased eyes.
“Did you hear me?”
I press a finger to my lips.
Malpass pats the gun in the holster around her thick waist.“Animals, the lot of you.” She marches on stout legs, shortened by knee high brown boots, through the rest of the dorm. Low whistles, hidden by hands, follow her path. She twirls round. Her eyes catch mine and I shrug. Her dried up lips pucker as she slips the gun out and waves it in front of her. “Don’t think any of you are safe.” She uses the muzzle to push open the doors. Safe. Home. Redundant words.

Katrina said...

“Second hand piece of junk.” Darja Kineer slammed a palm against the panel. The hologram of the Oriji mine sputtered, then sharpened. The building's lines rotated as she voiced it to turn 180 degrees. “Now maybe we can figure out where Taviar is hiding.”

Drizz said...

Arms stretched, from the darkness, like octopus tentacles. A stifled yelp escaped from Bernard as they wrapped around his head and neck. Instinctively, he reached out with his hands trying to grasp the uneven brick that formed the side of the building. His fingernails broke and ripped as he was dragged from the street. Opening his mouth to yell, he shut it as a blade pressed into his throat. His eyes widened in fear and bulged from the pressure around his neck. He knew he had to look at the villian. Turning his head slightly, he strained his eyes, willing them to move further into their corners so he could glimpse the assliant. The man dragging him wore a black-hooded cloak and smelled of pickeled herring, alcohol and sweat. The hood created a shawdow over his face and Bernard could only discern faint outlines. It was like describing the surface of the moon; he knew there were curves and angles but dark shadows prevented any further identification. Spittle sprinkled Bernard’s ear as the man spoke.

Steven H. Roemerman Sr said...

Michael was blissfully unaware that the events leading his destiny were set in motion a thousand years before he was born. Had he truly known what lay ahead of him, he might have not left his home for the unknown. His ship strained under pressure for which it was not designed, and it felt compelled to complain about it. “Dammit!” Michael clutched his hand trying to nurse his burn. He could not stay ahead of all the coolant leaks that were cropping up; he was starting to get tired and sloppy. As it turned out he wasn’t designed to perform under this kind of pressure either. No matter, he knew that his trip was going to be one way and once he reached his destination, he would not need his petulant ship anymore.

Anonymous said...

Thank you once again for putting on yet another wonderful contest, Nathan.


No Time

The body was shoeless and violently mangled, sprawled catawampus on the side of the road with the bra straps glaring in our headlights—those thin white stripes crossing scuffed and tanned shoulders was the only way I could distinguish the sex of the victim. She had been ejected from the Jeep when it flipped and by her depressed position I knew that the vehicle had rolled over her and continued tumbling until it came to rest against a tree.


Martin

Alicia Blade said...

Cinder gritted her teeth and dug the screwdriver into her ankle. The screw’s head had rusted, the engraved cross marks worn to a mangled circle. Her knuckles ached from gripping the screwdriver, forcing it into the metal with her mechanical hand while she loosened the screw one agonizing twist after another. Her arms ached by the time the screw had pulled out far enough for her to grip with her steel fingers and wrench free. The hairline threads had been stripped almost clean.

T.Wolfe said...

Quietly she lay there, hiding under her old worn sheets. The material could barely conceal her thin form but she thought of them as walls. Barriers to keep him, who ever this new him was, out of her bed. Her whore of a mother and he were fighting about an hour ago over the price of tonight’s “adventure”, as her mother always called it. Her moaning and panting warned Sarah that a price was finally agreed on and he stayed, which seemed like an everyday event, and if Sarah knew what was best for her she would lie perfectly still and quiet or there would be hell to pay in the morning.

Cassandra K said...

The moment I entered my room I could feel it, that being-in-the-graveyard-at-night sensation. I hesitated with my hand on the knob only for a mere second before pulling the door closed behind me. The last thing I needed was for him to know I was aware of his presence.

Anonymous said...

You never cease to amaze me, Nathan.

Lullaby


The drugs were tucked inside the breast pocket of my pin-striped Dolce & Gabbana suit. Armani suits and four-fold Volare ties had become passé and any rag-muffin wanting to impress a chick could buy one off the rack for a hundred bucks. Only the greasy-haired Godfather rejects sporting their cheap Drakkar Noir cologne wore them in Manhattan, both were outdated and had become about as cliché as a middle-class lottery ticket. The sun was shining, but it always shines when the Wall Street junkie kings score their fix. Be it money, sex, drugs, or all three. My drug of choice was like my suit, designer made and hand altered to fit my personal and eclectic tastes. Everything I do as an investment broker is an action defined by the price of any given reaction. And in a world where appearance and executive position measures your stratum of success, I am not without my petty quirks—image is everything so I never pay a dime for my drugs.

M.D. Fields

Ellie Belen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patricia said...

Concealed deep in the shadows of the forest, Daemon watched the female hiker intently, aroused, and fixated on every detail. Her piercing blue eyes, the way she got annoyed at the willful lock of red hair falling in her face, firm breasts swaying with each stride. She was unlike any of the others. Thrilled with this long anticipated discovery, a smile appeared on the gaunt face concealed behind the Steiner 1580R military binoculars. Daemon was amused with the young woman’s naiveté regarding her fate, delighted she was oblivious to the inconceivable power, the danger lurking a mere fifty feet away. Checking the dagger was secure in its sheath, Daemon stood up behind the fallen Sequoia. ‘I’ve got you, Young One.’

MRDunn12 said...

Lugan held fast, his back pressed flat against the cold stone wall in a shallow alcove. His breathing was labored; the strain due mostly from fear rather than any strenuous activity. He could feel the pressure in his chest constricting as he heaved up and down, puffs of steam spewing from his mouth as he released each breath into the cold autumn morning air of the palace.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for another chance, Nathan.

Gemini Man

The elm trees surrounding the house were lined with buzzards as though cloaked statues had come to roost over the dead, dark arms spread in the morning air to dry their dew-wet wings like black coated gargoyles perched above the silent congregation they alone guarded. The ground lay littered with bodies as if some horrible war had taken place and none survived the brutality of it, mute lips twisted and bloated into feral curls now frozen and unvoiced, gelled eyes lost to some blind vision only the dead could know.

Morgan

Aaron Pogue said...

The cold water splish-splashed in the darkness below, agitated far more by the quiet February wind than by the crimson blood that fell in dollops and streams to stain its angry surface. The night was dark, neither stars nor moon strong enough to pierce the black clouds overhead. The river's rustle was the only sound. There were two men on the pier, and not another soul in sight.

Ellie Belen said...

Here she was again. Another job to take care of someone else’s home and children. She stood at the doorway, clutching both of her suitcases, her heart pounding. If only she had the choice, she would turn around and get far away from here. The car that brought her had pulled away quickly, probably sensing her hesitation. She really had nowhere to go so she put one suitcase down and knocked on the door. Maybe this would be a haven for her instead of … The door opened and the woman of the house looked her up and down with a frown. The disappointment in her voice, when she invited Mona in, was apparent. Mona’s heart sank. She knew just as it had been with her father and her last employer, that her year as an indentured servant was about to begin.

Kim said...

Hidden, waiting, in a tall patch of sea grass, I dragged my finger through the soft, powdery sand that buried my dying wish as fast as I could write it. Not that I knew when my dying day would be, but for a girl with my secrets, seventeen years already counted more days than I had a right to hope for.

Chrystalla said...

The spires of the distant shore dissolved, and the world tilted. Elei thrashed. He blinked to clear his eyes, pulled out his gun. Then he felt the rocking again, and the sharp pain in his side, and it all came back in a rush. The shooting. The boat. Crossing to Dakru, the center of the seven worlds. He groaned, pushed his gun back into his belt, and wrapped his arms tighter around him, hoping fervently for sleep. In the faint light, the form of a person appeared, a silvery outline.

Melany Walters-Beck said...

When I was four years old I ate a urinal cake. It beckoned from the bottom of the little sink in the men’s bathroom. Chest high. I couldn’t help but reach out and grab it. I knew somehow that it was forbidden. But when children are left alone to crawl around the local VFW with a Dr. Pepper, a bag of Funyuns and toddler-sized delusions of gastric indestructibility, anything can happen. I took a bite and chewed slowly as it burned my lips. Candy shouldn’t burn, I thought. Bubblegum didn’t burn. Drool poured down my chin onto the tiled floor as my mouth did its best to reject the pissy lozenge. My eyes watered. I started to cry. Someone picked me up and forced my head under the tap. Thick fingers reached between a row of sharp baby teeth to scrape out chunks of pink grit. Hours later, during America’s Funniest Home Videos, my stomach rumbled. Like a lawnmower starting up underwater. I gazed at Bob Saget’s gleaming chestnut hair and just as the kitten started on fire (my choice to take the prize) I puked all over my new lavender feet pajamas.
This is how I feel. Right now.

Jeff said...

Bowling alleys all smell the same. The cigarette smoke is gone now, but all the other smells are still there, stronger now that they don't have to fight with the tobacco. That symphony of talcum powder, stale beer, shoe deodorant, and a few other odors I can't quite identify always primes my brain. For me, it's the smell of memories.

Erinn said...

My g-string was so far up my ass it felt like an organ. Normally, I’m a white cotton string bikini girl, but the g-string was a must have in my underwear drawer, you know, just in case. And if I’m going to wear ridiculously impractical underwear, I’d rather have the least amount of fabric possible jammed up my nether regions.

Philocinemas said...

It was twilight in mid autumn, and Zedekiah Jones draped the roadside bench with his sagging frame and his poorly fitted clothing. Leaves stirred around his feet, and he lifted his dentures up and down with his tongue, making unnerving clicking noises as he waited. His eyes, resting in hammocks, followed three costume-clad children walking on the other side of the street along the edge of a gray wooden fence held together by neglect and a few rusty nails. He watched them stop at the weathered gate he knew so well. Beyond that, there was the crumbled sidewalk leading up to his childhood home. He knew why they were there.

PurpleClover said...

Visibility remained poor at twenty feet. The wind blew in sideways making it difficult to judge distances. The snow stung parts of Blake’s face that weren’t covered by a black balaclava and goggles. With ice crystals forming on his determined brow he ignored the stinging and pushed forward.

Jenn

Anonymous said...

Birds were flying upside-down. Leaves blew up off of the ground and re-attached to the trees and outside his window Mirk eyeballed a five-legged animal running in circles under the elm. A minute later and the cause of it all came into view, clanking his wares through the town’s brick pillars, ushering in the sirens of chaos: the seller of the doors.

Georgia said...

Jean-François pinched a nub of charcoal between his blackened fingers. Ink stained the creases of his knuckles. He smudged the page with his thumb to indicate the shape of the woman’s mouth. His hand hovered over the image before dotting down to mark the shadow cast by her slender lip.

Sherry said...

It was always just another day and another dead body - until it was someone you knew.
Kansas City Homicide Detective Seth Banning paused at the bedroom doorway of the rundown duplex, his eyes fixed on the dead woman lying on the floor. He tried to swallow while his brain absorbed the shock. His mind numb, he squeezed his eyes shut and then opened them again.
She was still there. He would know that profile anywhere.
Sheila Peterson.
A woman he never expected to lay eyes on again alive, much less find dead.

Debbie said...

Sweat trickled down Vesta’s neck and soaked the back of her lightweight summer suit. Wisps of light brown hair turned brunette as it stuck to the moisture on her forehead and cheeks. She picked up a stick and trailed it, causing puffs of dust to rise behind her like a rooster tail. Frogs chirped in the stream next to the path. An egret burst up from the reeds and flew north, toward the orange groves and theme parks on the other side of the Green Swamp.

Dermit said...

I pen these words out of spite. Not for posterity, not to seek the understanding and empathy of those who will come after. Not to justify any of my past actions. Nothing of the sort. I simply refuse to give another the satisfaction.

Hilary H said...

From the inside of a glass jelly jar, I looked out at the smoky classroom of witches, almost all of them dressed in blacks. There were no desks, no chalkboards, only rows of heavy iron pots required for cooking death stew. Flames arose from pits in the floor, like a camping fire, to heat the barrel sized pots. The skinny teacher, hair piled high on her head like three scoops of gray ice cream, walked around the room inspecting the bubbling cauldrons. To my right and left, terrified frogs cowered in identical jars.

Anthony said...

For 15 minutes each morning myself and Marco would sit at a small circular table in the kitchen/staff break room. I can only imagine that the kitchen was chosen as our designated meeting place because it housed two of my favorite things: fluorescent lighting and the hum of vending machines. The room smelled like dish soap with a base note of refrigerator funk. Not really sure those elements distracted me from what Marco had to say or if it was the geometric perfection of his features. His head was perfectly round. The top of his head was bald. Further down his head wore a collar of hair wrapped around the base. A salt and pepper blend of holding on to what he once had. Perfectly round cheeks were capped with a weeks growth of beard. The meeting would last 15 minutes and by that point I had brought myself to a hypnotic state as my eyes kept tracing the circle that was his head. If the meetings lasted any longer, and if he knew, the outcome could be disastrous.

Anonymous said...

Dorothea never did see things the same way everybody else did.

“Limpy!” the other children called her.

“Walk as well as you can.” her mother nagged.

Couldn’t they see Dorothea was doing her seven year old best?

So she limped. Polio wasn’t going to stop her.

This is what Dorothea said:

“I think it perhaps was the most important thing that happened to me.”

topangamaria

Anonymous said...

Someone said that Stan Sr. had forgotten to cover up his wife when people finally came to help him. That was the effect of the shock on him. His wife, pink-peignoired and flouncy-looking as a crepe paper flower, left breast exposed for all to see. The men around her couldn’t keep their eyes off of it. At one point or another in their boyhood lives, each of them had had crushes on Stan Sr.’s wife. They could still recall the powdery feel of her hand, softer than anything they could have ever imagined, and the scent of watermelon that lingered about her. At night, in their boyhood beds, they all dreamed about what her breasts looked like under her Afghan sweater, about how they would feel like in their hands, or against their cheek, with their faces buried in the valley of her bosom. The sheriff and the deputy, former boyfriends of hers, stood as dumbstruck as the others. They were remembering the times they tried so unsuccessfully to cop a feel of her breasts so they could brag about it the next day to their friends.

Lisa Yarde said...

Murad sprang from the ship into the swirling, midnight waters of Roaring Water Bay and scrambled ashore. Wet trousers clinging to his shins, he crouched and seized a handful of the weathered stones and pebbles at the shoreline. So, this was Ireland. Hours before dawn, a gray mist shrouded the harbor. The midsummer wind rolled inland, brutal and cold. The foul stench of a nearby fishery vied with a brackish whiff of the bay. In the near darkness, faint outlines of houses beckoned from the Cove, the tiny, unprotected hamlet. With a wordless wave of his hand, he directed the pirates to join him. Over forty crewmen and their escort of janissaries crept among the rough, semi-submerged rocks. The men wielded scimitars with long curved blades and daggers, long iron bars with a curved, two-pronged edge, and carried twisted and coiled ropes steeped in tar.

Todd said...

Tonight, it was Ramon Bartolo on his knees. United States Senator Ramon Bartolo. Usually, it was his hotel-room guests on their knees, but tonight it was he, naked, looking up. He couldn’t take his large brown eyes off the barrel of the pistol.

Sherry said...

It was always just another day and another dead body - until it was someone you knew.
Kansas City Homicide Detective Seth Banning paused at the bedroom doorway of the rundown duplex, his eyes fixed on the dead woman lying on the floor. He tried to swallow while his brain absorbed the shock. His mind numb, he squeezed his eyes shut and then opened them again.
She was still there. He would know that profile anywhere.
Sheila Peterson.
A woman he never expected to lay eyes on again alive, much less find dead.

BV Donne said...

The world should have ended on August 16th, 2003. But it didn't. At 12:01 in the morning on August 17th, 2003, Elise Kavanagh stood in the center of a vast hall rimmed by rotting columns. She clutched her sword in both hands as though it was her last line to life in this world. Its blade dripped, her knuckles were white, and her gaze was empty. Her mind was a thousand miles away.

ObilonKenobi said...

To be heard over all the other accented voices in Kapali Çarsi, he shouted through cupped hands above the columns of shoppers’ heads. Hammered brass cups glittering in their eyes and billowing scarves that whirled with the aroma of dried rose buds and ground vanilla all competed with his wares from the assortment of fruit teas and the sugary, gummy Turkish Delight to brown hot chili, black pepper and red paprika that brushed the air around them as they walked the aisles below ancient vaulted ceilings in the covered market. And they all had money.

achap54 said...

Trey Falcon fingered the envelop from the Georgia Department of Social Services, then placed it on the mahogany end table. In all his years of corporate law in Savannah he'd never had contact with the agency and had no idea why they would send him a registered letter. A letter sent to his home address, no less.

Anonymous said...

Walter Hemlock recognised the dull thwump from a lifetime nailing coffins shut but this was the first time he’d heard the sound from inside. His arms and legs refused to move and his cry got no farther than his clamped jaw, wired shut in the semblance of a smile that had replaced his lifelong scowl.

John Ross Harvey said...

She pulled the zipper off her right boot and pulled it off her leg right in front of his face. Then she put it on his head, she made him unzip the next boot, and pull it off as her arm was busy holding her first boot on his head, while her cleavage sat at his eyes, he had trouble looking at the zipper for the boot, he knew if he pulled the bow off her shirt he’d be arrested in seconds. He handed her the other boot. She had them both on his head, as she pushed her cleavage into his nose. She threw the boots to the audience, and sat in his lap, where she untied the front of her top, moved her pigtails in place, and dropped the shirt to the floor. Lights out again.

adamvert said...

This is a rushing through darkness, an unstoppable onslaught of shuddering jerks, juddering spasms. This is a world of inanimate objects coerced into animation. This is not motion towards or away from, it is motion through space, sourceless, aimless and absolute (and through time too, though time’s passing is not a thing that occurs to her now) (this is in fact only a now). This is motion so visceral it has curled the world around it into a straw and then sucked out the light, reduced it to one dimension, reduced her to a white knuckled point on a black metalled line, an exhilarated particle of unknowable momentum.

Beth said...

My heart started to pound, hands began to sweat, and heat from deep within crawled out of and up my face. The footsteps got closer and closer. And then of course, the feet were at the side of the bed. It didn’t seem to matter that I prayed for the feet to move another direction. They always made their way to my bed anyway. The smell of alcohol was next, and then came the snake bite feeling on my arm. Right about at this time fear was at its worst. Nothing but panic sets in at this point. This scene was all too familiar to me in my childhood.

ShellBell said...

Persephone's breath fogged the window pane chilled by the night air. She pulled her long hair back away from her face as she intensely examined the foggy canvas she had created. She drew a medieval landscape, with a castle tower, rudimentary dragon, and herself as a princess with a heavily jeweled crown all drawn in stick figure style with her fingers.

Aese said...

Trapped. Isem’s eyes flickered around the room—a small table, chairs, a fire licking at the logs in the fireplace. A wood stove, a sink, and a counter where his captor stood, back to him. She was a short woman, but powerful. Overpowering her was not an option. To Isem's right, an open door beckoned him with the inviting rays of dawn. His hands twitched as they rested on the table. If I could just make it to the door, he thought, she'd never catch me.

J. said...

My hand shook as I applied eyeliner and then mascara. It was the begining of a new school year in a new town. My family moved during the summer because I needed to start over-get away from the people who knew me before. But the new school wasn't what scared me the most. What really worried me was last year I started school as a boy. This year I would start school as a girl.

Rissa Watkins said...

"Jell-O shots! Come on, Karie, ya gotta have one...or twenty." Lily was dressed in classic urban skank. The ultra tiny mini she wore barely covered her thong. She was showing so much cleavage it made Karie wonder why she bothered putting a shirt on at all. The sad thing was she wasn't the sluttiest looking girl in the room. Behold, the college frat party, where fashion can make a college girl look like a working girl. Lily sure knew how to work it alright.

Erika M. said...

It was the smell of spoiled garbage that saved Jack Dixon’s life. He was so distracted by the ten foot troll in front of him that he almost missed the goblin with the machete coming at him from behind. Fortunately for Jack, goblins may look human, but they had a serious BO problem.

Adrianne said...

The bitter scent rolled from under the cellar and stabbed at Skella’s nose. Even with the door closed, it didn’t take a mage to figure out that the wine cellar was full of ghouls: dead bodies animated by the bitter clavimal fungus. Nor did it take a mage to know that they had to be burned down to ash. It was the only way to protect the living.

Adrianne

Tamaryn Tobian said...

After almost an hour of driving, two empty, snack-sized bags of chips, two drained cans of Sprite and a half eaten, shared bag of Twizzlers, Ruby still wished she were anywhere but here. She and her best friend, Tyler, were headed to Saugatuck to find Good Thrifts on North Street. Tyler had insisted Ruby go with him. It took three weeks of convincing, but she finally surrendered and agreed to go with Tyler on another one of his adventures. “Project Masquerade,” he called it. Ruby hoped their search for Halloween costumes and anything else Tyler thought was cool enough to buy, at this out-of-the-way destination, would end quickly.

Billy said...

I was able to see the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Ninety-seventh Street from my corner window at The Tranquility Center, the psych hospital for people like myself who need an occasional shot of Haldol to stop their brains’ neurotransmitters from doing the quantum mambo. On good days, I received a little diazepam and then returned to watching the stream of New York pedestrians as they walked or halted depending on the moodiness of stoplights and taxis. Life ebbed and flowed around the intersection like a tide swirling around a concrete dune of cattails and whores, businessmen and bicycle messengers carrying everything and nothing in briefcases and leather tubes. Secretaries and CEOs clutched their office supplies and margin calls as they crossed the flow of traffic, along with all of the secrets of their lives: mistresses, recipes for peach cobbler, memories of molestation, the lover who got away, the book never written, the smile offered to a stranger in a nursing home, and the nickels and dimes given to the beggar in the alley on Seventh Avenue. They were saints and sinners, holiness surrounding some in dim clouds of yellow light, while in others evil coiled around a double-helix of DNA, waiting to strike quickly, like jagged lightning, in order to bring the Apocalypse a few seconds closer to a world in which I'd gone stark raving mad. I often saw the Four Horsemen galloping down Broadway—they weren’t part of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade—and Lucifer was handing our leaflets on the corner. From where I sat, sequestered in a pricey Manhattan loony bin, I thought the following: It’s the bottom of the ninth and Planet Earth is down a few runs. Things are looking bad. We just might lose the game yet, and a million years of evolution will be flushed down the toilet. I wouldn’t have been at The Tranquility Center, of course, if my wife hadn’t cheated on me.

Rachel Bateman said...

The night is dark and stormy, perfect for my line of work. There is no rain yet, but it will come; for now, the city is bathed in a deep gloom. Gloomy is good. Or, at least I think it is. Okay, I admit it. I am a total newbie on the job. But how hard can it be, really? Get in, kill–I check my work order again–Marie Consuela, and get out. Bing, bang, boom. Done. If I work quickly enough, I can even make it back in time for the dance.

Anthony said...

The Prince of Darkness stood at the back of the elevator, bouncing on his heels, waiting. He rubbed his arms against the cold, picked at some invisible lint on the lapel of his jacket, and, for the third time, counted how many floors he had left. He was not the most patient of celestial beings. To be fair though, he hadn’t had a lot of practice, and having to do things like wait in elevators was a bit of a change.

Word Gardener said...

His knees were wet. Come on, Nick. Where are you? Fred O’Carroll edged around the boulder and felt the smack and cold of a direct hit.

rebekahg22 said...

Today we were heading into town, what was left of it anyway. We needed to scavenge supplies for our small band of survivors. It was hard to believe that it had already been five years since the attack. Five whole years since we’d lost our families and lives to those things, those soul-suckers.

Ninya said...

A low rumble and then nothing. Whatever it was, it tore him from the verge of sleep, or rather, made him decide that he might as well stop waiting for sleep that wouldn’t come. His tongue released from his palate with a dull thud as he opened his mouth, chewed on air. Blinking against the semi-darkness, he tried to ignore the lingering taste of meat stuck between his teeth.

Elisabeth said...

This house had never felt exactly like home to her or, at least, what Aimee thought home should feel like. That fact was hard to reconcile considering she had lived her entire eighteen years within its walls. It was not the fault of the house, itself. No, it was beautiful, filled with tasteful French décor and the antiques her mother loved so dearly. Despite it’s large scale, it was comfortable and cozy, with soft colors, fabrics and flourishes inviting one to linger. No, it wasn’t the house. Certainly it was comfortable enough. She just never felt comfortable in it, like she fit in, like she belonged. It wasn’t the house. It was her family, the two others she shared the house with. Her mother and older sister were bold, outspoken over-achievers. They knew how to work the odds to their advantage, manipulation of events or people not outside the norm. Occasionally, she wished she’d inherited the “self” gene from her mother, that gene bestowing self-confidence, self-importance, and self-indulgence in the DNA of its owner. She hadn‘t. She was shy, a loner, more content to go unnoticed as noticed. Being named Valedictorian had given her night sweats. While she was proud of the recognition for the years of hard work and dedication to her studies, the attention the title thrust upon her was more than she cared to receive. She preferred to be cast in a supporting role; her mother and sister, they performed in only leading roles. Maybe it was this fundamental difference between them that always made her feel like an outsider in the small group and explained why her heart pounded with anticipation as she prepared to leave for Boulder, for college, for a fresh perspective of her very own.

Elisabeth said...

This house had never felt exactly like home to her or, at least, what Aimee thought home should feel like. That fact was hard to reconcile considering she had lived her entire eighteen years within its walls. It was not the fault of the house, itself. No, it was beautiful, filled with tasteful French décor and the antiques her mother loved so dearly. Despite it’s large scale, it was comfortable and cozy, with soft colors, fabrics and flourishes inviting one to linger. No, it wasn’t the house. Certainly it was comfortable enough. She just never felt comfortable in it, like she fit in, like she belonged. It wasn’t the house. It was her family, the two others she shared the house with. Her mother and older sister were bold, outspoken over-achievers. They knew how to work the odds to their advantage, manipulation of events or people not outside the norm. Occasionally, she wished she’d inherited the “self” gene from her mother, that gene bestowing self-confidence, self-importance, and self-indulgence in the DNA of its owner. She hadn‘t. She was shy, a loner, more content to go unnoticed as noticed. Being named Valedictorian had given her night sweats. While she was proud of the recognition for the years of hard work and dedication to her studies, the attention the title thrust upon her was more than she cared to receive. She preferred to be cast in a supporting role; her mother and sister, they performed in only leading roles. Maybe it was this fundamental difference between them that always made her feel like an outsider in the small group and explained why her heart pounded with anticipation as she prepared to leave for Boulder, for college, for a fresh perspective of her very own.

Susan Murray said...

Someone is screaming, but there’s nothing you can do about it. You can hear their pain reverberating inside your head. You think maybe you can open your eyes and it will all go away, but somehow you can’t, however hard you try. Then you hear a strange whimpering sound, and you’re curled up in the dust with everyone looking at you and pointing and laughing. And it doesn’t matter how many times it happens, you can’t get used to it, and you can’t prevent it. And when you can finally get to your feet the teacher sends you home, but he avoids meeting your eyes. So you give up trying to explain what happens because no one wants to know what it’s like to be a freak.

Anonymous said...

"Who are you?" I was stunned. What was I supposed to say? Give my name? Provide a biography? The voice was hoarse and unpleasant, the voice of one used to giving orders. It came from somewhere very close but I couldn't see who spoke: I had just stepped into the old palazzo from outside and I was still half-blinded by the bright summer sunlight.
"Who the hell are you? Chi diavolo sei?" he repeated angrily, as I remained silent. His accent in Italian was unlike any I had ever heard so far in Sicily. I couldn't tell where I was. It was very dark and I guessed heavy curtains must be drawn across the windows to shut out the light. The room felt huge and cavernous. It was improbably lit by candles, and the dim, flickering light made it look eerie. It was hot and stuffy. There was a feeling of being closed in and an overpowering musty smell. I slowly became aware of an alarmingly large throng of people moving about but I couldn't see their faces or distinguish any detail. The voice came from a short man gesticulating in the forefront. Slowly I began to see him more clearly and I couldn't believe what I saw.

mlsfleming said...

It’s way too early a.m., and a groggy nation is re-checking the weather report. But not you—you are looking for your keys under the clothes on the chair, under the bed, in the dog’s toy box. Again.

Jennifer said...

The day the white woman made accusations, we gathered in the living room. My father, home early, tie loosened, kept his eyes focused on the polished wood floor. My mother sat stiff-backed on the edge of the leather settee. Her skin had blanched to the color of raita, the cooling cucumber yogurt with which we tempered our spicy meals. She said nothing. My father proclaimed, repeatedly, his innocence. I would have yelled at him myself if I'd known the secrets my mother's silence would free.

Don said...

Assuming I have a two percent chance of a girl saying yes when I ask her out and I continue at my current pace of asking out two girls a year, I should have a date by the time I'm middle aged. Two, if I'm lucky.

Cindy said...

“Miss Hess, I can easily leave you in an east-facing cell until morning, so I suggest you tell me why I have vampires killing people in my city.” Mia Hess was in charge of the vampires in the city and he knew it. Well, at least his sources said she was in charge. It was possible she was just a pretty face front for one of the more animalistic of her species. Frankly, Michael Williams didn’t care if she was in charge. He wanted answers and he wanted them now.

Oliver said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JNG said...

The sun was an enemy. From the first glower of pale menace in the east to the final westerly glare, it scorched the desert in seeming retribution for some ancient sin. The desert did not submit, but grew bleak and hard and taught those who lived there to do the same. Near the Great River, good soil and lush greenery tempered the cruel heat. Even so, those who lived in the verdant ribbon of the River valley cursed the despotic orb that killed their herds and withered their crops if the flood was late in coming.

Tracey S. Rosenberg said...

My diary had to be perfect.

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