Nathan Bransford, Author


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The ROCK PAPER TIGER Chase/Action Writing Contest Extravaganza!!

Contest! Contest contest!

This contest is honor of the fantastic and gripping suspense novel Rock Paper Tiger by Lisa Brackmann, now on sale and which you should definitely purchase for your suspense reading pleasure.

BUT DON'T TAKE MY WORD FOR IT. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called it an "electrifying debut," and the Miami Herald said it's an "extraordinary portrait of an ever-shifting country," and with a nod to the gripping travails of the main character, they add helpfully, "it makes you damned glad your life is boring."

You may remember the plot of Rock Paper Tiger from Lisa's most excellent query:

The Beijing '08 Olympics are over, the war in Iraq is lost, and former National Guard medic Ellie McEnroe is stuck in China, trying to lose herself in the alien worlds of performance artists and online gamers. When a chance encounter with a Chinese Muslim dissident drops her down a rabbit hole of conspiracies, Ellie must decide who to trust among the artists, dealers, collectors and operatives claiming to be on her side – in particular, a mysterious organization operating within a popular online game.

Rock Paper Tiger is a fast-paced, 108,000 word mainstream novel set in a China where the ultra-modern and cutting-edge clash with ancient neighborhoods and traditions, and in an America where the consequences of war reverberate long after the troops have come home. It will appeal to fans of William Gibson’s books with contemporary settings, Laura Lippman’s strong female protagonists, and almost anybody’s whacked-out travelogues about the world’s more surreal places.

Now then! For the Rock Paper Tiger Chase/Action Writing Contest Extravaganza (TRPTC/AWCE, as it shall be known henceforth), your prompt (should you choose to accept it:

Write the most compelling chase and/or action and/or suspenseful sequence. It may be something you have written for the purpose of the contest or from a work in progress.

The prizes (oh yes the prizes).

The GRAND PRIZE TRPTC/AWCE WINNER will receive:
- Their choice of a query critique, partial critique, or 10 minute phone conversation/consultation/dish session
- The pride of knowing you suspensed the heck out of me and your fellow readers.

Runners up will receive a query critique or other agreed-up on prize.

Now for the rules. Please note that all rules may and probably will be amended at my sole (and fickle) discretion.

1. Please enter one suspense/action sequence not to exceed 500 words in the comments section of this blog post. E-mail subscribers: you must must must must must (must) enter in the official contest thread. Please do not e-mail me your entries! If you need help leaving a comment, please consult this post.

2. You may enter once, and once you may enter. If you log in to post anonymously, make sure you leave your name or other identifying marker.

3. Spreading the word about the contest is not only encouraged, it is strongly encouraged.

4. Snarky comments, anonymous or otherwise, about entries, hobbits, ors, ents, or any other species from Tolkien's Middle Earth will be deleted faster than you can say Isengard.

5. Please please check and double-check your entry before posting. If you spot an error after posting: please do not re-post. I go through the entries sequentially and the repeated deja vu repeated deja vu from reading the same entry only slightly different makes my head spin. I'm not worried about typos, nor should you be.

6. I will be the sole judge of the contest.

7. You must be at least 14 years old and less than 138 years old to enter. No exceptions.

8. I'm on Twitter! You can find me at @nathanbransford and I may be posting updates about the contest.

9. The deadline for this contest is 4:00 PM Pacific Time on Thursday, June 3rd. Finalists will be announced Friday morning, and you will have the opportunity to vote on the winner, which will be announced on Monday.

There you have it! May the best chase/action sequence win!

UPDATE: TIME'S UP!! THANK YOU FOR ENTERING!






521 comments:

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Cheryl said...

Ha ha! You have us trained too well now!

Joe M. Owens said...

Action sequence:

(I accidentally copied and pasted my first 250 words and had to scramble when I realized it was the wrong thing...duh!)

Sawyer can’t see his reflection in the mirror at the moment because he’s scrabbling along the tile floor, writhing in almost every conceivable three-dimensional direction, palms clutched tight to his face, over his eyes, fingers knurled in various configurations of agony. He’s been down there for about thirty minutes. The pain’s onset was rapid. Even his breathing is now a labored and conscious effort.

Sawyer’d finally managed to wriggle himself up to his knees a few moments ago, bracing his weight against the toilet before freeing his wallet from his back pocket—only then he’d somehow proceeded to drop his wallet in the process of trying to retrieve the special Harvard items from behind his dollar bills with his appreciably shaky hands, and so his wallet of course—at the irresistible mercy of gravity—fell splashing down into the toilet, the lid of which Sawyer’d thought to raise in a preemptive maneuver to address his very uncommon cluster headache-related nausea.
And so then the aforementioned wallet-into-toilet sequence of events just about completely shoved Sawyer over the edge of his already deteriorated capacity for concurrently tolerating pain and stress, and so said sequence of events probably would have shoved him right on over had he not (luckily) managed to pinch one of the two Harvard items between his thumb and forefinger before accidentally depositing his wallet into the shiny, white basin filled with chemically-treated, though environmentally-friendly, clear, coolish water.
And so Sawyer, not really in the exact frame of mind to stop and think about a whole lot else, places the innocuous off-white blotter tab on his tongue and is happily surprised with the rapidity with which it dissolves. There isn’t much of a flavor to speak of, but a sort of pseudo-aspartame –like aftertaste does linger. Sawyer, eases himself back down to the floor with a spasm’d hand still clutching his face where the imaginary icepick seems lodged inside his right eye-socket. He begins considering experiences likely more pleasurable than this, his current one: castration by butter knife, disembowelment via soup spoon, medieval torture implements such as the rack, the iron maiden, flagellation, drawing and quartering or perhaps even thumb screws.
The pain finally begins to dissipate after another 20 minutes or so, give or take. Sawyer’s clothes are soaked through with sweat utterly. He’s feeling a little dizzy and not at all in tip-top shape but—most unbelievably of all—the pain is gone. It’s just fucking vanished. And he isn’t sure where Ashley is or why she’s been gone all day—on a Sunday, no less—but Sawyer figures his best bet as of right now is to sleep off the dizziness and reassess everything at a time a little later when he doesn’t feel like he’s teetering on the verge of imminent death.

He carefully makes his way to the bedroom, fearing that any sudden movement might reverse the effects of the 2-Bromo-LSD. It’s working; don’t fuck with it, he thinks. Sawyer carefully eases himself into the bed, underneath his freshly-laundered Frette sheets and reaches for his BlackBerry.

Joe M. Owens said...

@Cheryl: He does have us trained well! I was already to go with my first 250 and then I saw the rules were different, haha!

The odd thing is that my post should have more spaces than that; it's like the blogger system arbitrarily polices where it will and will not allow you to have spaces between paragraphs...weird...

Amanda said...

Woot! Sounds like a lot of fun. I shall return shortly with suspense.

Lu said...

Title: Unknown
Psychological Thriller

A smile blossomed while Jessica Foxx imagined her family’s reaction. Twenty-one days before her baby sister’s bridal shower and ten pounds left before her plump ass would fit perfectly in that sexy black dress that hung from the kitchen door. But she couldn’t wait to see her cousin, Lucy. She was the bigger reason for running every morning at five am, more so than the cute guy at work, who has taken a notice to her trimmer look lately.
Putting on a Nike windbreaker and cranking her iPod up, Jessica burst out her apartment door and out into the streets running, admiring the vintage Salem, Massachusetts as she headed for the beach park, Salem Willows, where she liked to stop, sit on a bench, and enjoy the sunrise.
“Oh my gosh you look great! How did you do it? You look wonderful!” Flattering expressions passed her mind like the houses and trees as she continued. Jessica envisioned her mother running over to her in complete joy. Her grandmother asking her to model the dress. And most of all, the look on Lucy’s face will be priceless. Lucy always had the figure, the boys, and the last word. When they were alone, she muttered only loud enough for Jessica to hear. “Is that actually fat on the back of your neck? He’ll never touch those saddle bags. They want me over you; they will always want my hard ass over your cottage cheese cheeks.”
No More! Jessica ran harder, pounded the pavement, tears taken by the wind, the world around a water colored blur.

Josin L. McQuein said...

From Arclight:


There's a knock from outside the door, a set of very human knuckles rapping out a pre-arranged rhythm so we know it's safe. The last beep of the security code unlatches the door and we lurch forward as the one outside pulls Jonah into the hall by the wrist.

"Go."

Mr. Pace touches each shoulder, counting as we pass to make sure no one's forgotten. Tobias loops his hand back through the strap on my shoulder for the inspection, then grabs me around the waist again once we're clear.

"If we have to run, go limp," he says. "I can carry you faster than you can move on your own."

Before I can protest that I don't need to be carried, or that I don't trust him not to toss me aside and leave me here, Tobias stumbles forward from a sudden push at his back. The force ripples through our chain of hands. Elbows and knees hit hard on the ground, and the yelps that come after are followed by frantic shushing.

"They're through," Mr. Pace shouts behind us, but he isn't talking to us.

"Move! Move! Move!" A voice I finally recognize as Lt. Casey shouts and shoves our line again.

As soon as we hit the hall, everything falls apart. We've only ever marched in silence with no real sense of urgency or danger. Now we're a hive mind with a massive case of brain freeze. Total chaos - all the drills mean nothing.

Our lines break. What used to be our classroom erupts into the sound of shrieking, gunfire, and something that is in no way human.

I hit the floor with my hands over my ears, curled into a ball against the sound - the other side of my edge. Loud noises are overwhelming. For the first week, I couldn't handle light, either, because my eyes were still attuned to the Dark. That one's getting better, but the sounds still kill me.

"That's not what I meant by limp, Marina!"

Tobias is beside me, pulling me up by one arm. The next thing I know, we're racing toward the shelter beyond the maze of hallways. Well, he's racing, I'm being dragged - gaining speed is hard after getting shot in the leg, even when the wound's had a few weeks to heal.

Good to his promise, Tobias has me off the ground before I can remind him that I can't move as fast as he can, and over his shoulder I watch what everyone else is trying to hide from.

Now I know why they tell people not to look back when they're running away.

Mr. Pace and Lt. Casey. Three others I can't name. They shoot at shadows in the dark, every round making them twist and jerk from the impact of the rifles hitting their shoulders. A flare illuminates the face of Honoria Whit with the odd bald "V" scarred into her hairline.

"Bring it down," she orders. "Collapse the doors!"

Matthew Delman said...

“Stop,” Moriah called when she neared. The Gendarmes ignored her. A cry of pain erupted from the center of the soldiers.

“Please sirs, have mercy!” The dhalim’s voice shook with each strike. None of the soldiers did anything except continue hitting him. They kicked and punched until the dhalim’s pleas turned into a wail of pain.

“I said: Stop!” Moriah reached the group, and grabbed the nearest Gendarme’s shoulder. He spun and swung at her. She ducked under his fist and landed an uppercut that sent him sprawling. The other soldiers looked up, and two more men rushed her. Moriah swept the legs out from under one. She brought the other down with a knee to the crotch. The second pair of soldiers came after her with long knives. She twisted the first soldier’s knife free. The second swiped at her and she spun away.

One man grabbed her from behind. Moriah stomped on his foot and dropped beneath another knife thrust. The blade slammed home into the man behind her. Moriah rolled away, came to her feet, and drew her revolver in the same motion. The last soldier pressed one foot into the dhalim's chest and aimed a repeating rifle at her.

“Release him,” she growled. “Or I will shoot.”

“Under whose authority?” The Gendarme didn’t move. The silver barrel of his rifle glittered in the sunlight. Gears clicked when he snapped the safety off. Moriah clicked the hammer back on her weapon. She glimpsed a pair of chevrons on his breast pocket before she flicked her eyes back to his. Nine Hells.

“My own.” Moriah resisted the battle-rage that stirred in her gut. Shooting a Gendarme would get her thrown in the dungeons. Shooting a sergeant would get her a firing squad. She couldn’t afford to let this miscreant get her angry — not while an innocent man was injured.

“And who in the Nine Hells are you, trollop?”

“She is The Lady Moriah Rowani, daughter of the Archduke Alexei of Callarion.” Malory announced. Moriah didn’t look away from the Gendarme. She hadn’t heard the carriage drive up, but relaxed ever so slightly at Malory’s voice. Maybe he’d defuse the standoff and get this braggart away from the injured man.

“Is she now?” The drawl in the Gendarme’s voice grated on her nerves. “Give me one good reason to listen to the half-breed spawn of a blood-mixer.”

“Can you move faster than a Senro-trained huntress, sergeant?” Malory leaned out the driver’s window of the carriage.

“Senro-trained.” Ammonia wafted from the Gendarme. Good. He was smart enough to be afraid, but still didn’t lower his rifle. The barrel shook the barest amount, and Moriah knew she had him.

Virginia McGarity said...

I looked over for a moment to notice Jamie was kind of swaying in the wind.

“Jamie? You okay?”
She didn’t reply.

“You need something to eat?” I walked over to her, hockey stick still in hand.

“Earth to Jamie.”

She looked up at me so quickly I nearly jumped out of my skin.

Jamie was looking at me alright, but she wasn’t in there.
Her eyes were glazed over. I didn’t fully panic until I noticed just a little bit of white spit coming out of the left side of her lips.

Shit.

I started backing up slowly, like she was a feral dog I didn’t want to disturb. I was about twenty feet from her when she sprang up. She charged me and before I could turn to run faster she was bearing down on me. I continued backwards, with my stick in front of me diagonally across my body.
When she was only a few feet from me I swung my stick with everything I had right at her legs. She went down, but only for a second. She was up again, but a little worse for the wear. She’d lost some speed but was still too fast. I could tell I’d hurt her left leg, maybe her knee.

“Jamie, wake up!” I didn’t know if you could reason with somebody infected with rabies, or if they could snap out of it but I had to do something.

“Jamie! It’s me! Sam!”
Jamie began shouting words; only they weren’t words, just garbled together sounds.

I stumbled as she was getting closer and scrambled to get up.
She lunged for me and I jumped to her left and rolled three times. Not even a bit disoriented I got right up and kept running.

Shit shit shit.

I immediately thought of my bag on the bleachers.

Jamie stopped running for a moment, long enough to puke.
She looked up at me, without an ounce of humanity left. I had to do something. She went at a dead run at me again. I headed across the field, back toward the bleachers. She’d have to follow me.

I ran up as fast as I could, lungs burning and heart pounding. I was at the south end of the bleachers and I’d have to wait for her to come all the way to the top for this to work. Close as it was, I waited for her to come to the top and I took off to the other end. I stopped, faced her and she charged head first towards me. At the last minute I ducked down and squatted. As I felt her above me I raised both hands, with my hockey stick and heaved her over the edge.

It worked. I looked over the rail. I suppose her neck broke. There she was, in running shorts and shin guards. Hours ago she was excited about the team, now she’s a heaping mess beside the bleachers.

meredithmansfield said...

BLOOD WILL TELL
Urban Fantasy

At a signal from Valeriah, they all three set spurs to their horses’ sides and rode past the camp at a mad gallop. Although his horse was probably faster than the other two, Rolf rode to the rear, to provide some measure of protection. They were through before the men could wake up enough to try to stop them. There was no pursuit.

It wasn’t long before they knew why they hadn’t been followed. The road was blocked by twenty more men in green shirts. And these had been alerted by the shouts and the pounding hoofs.

Suppressing a desire to curse, Valeriah shouted, “Follow me!” and swerved into the forest, following a narrow game trail. It was dangerous to gallop through this part of the forest. The trees grew much too close together. One of them was bound to be unseated by a low branch sooner or later. But Valeriah knew these woods. She had grown up here as a young werewolf exploring her world. Just ahead there was a stream. On the other side of that, there was a close-growing copse of young willows. If they could stay far enough ahead of any pursuit--and keep from falling off--they could hide there and let their pursuers follow the stream, thinking they had used that for their get away.

She saw the stream up ahead and glanced back to be sure the others were with her--and that they were out of sight of the green-shirts. Valeriah was relieved to see Crystal, hunched low over her palfrey’s neck. Rolf had the palfrey’s reins. The war horse was doing an admirable job of keeping away from the worst obstacles, protecting his rider.

Valeriah led them across the stream and around the willow copse, to a place in the back where a narrow trail led into the heart of the thicket. There was barely room for them and their horses when they dismounted. They heard the stamp of horses suddenly stopped at the other side of the stream.

A man’s voice said, “Half of you go down stream. The other half come with me. They must have followed the stream bed. It’s the clearest trail in this Goddess-forsaken wilderness.”

They held their breath as their pursuers split up and followed the stream, away from them. There was a rustling in the forest on all sides, heavy bodies moving through the thick underbrush. Rolf drew his sword, but Valeriah shook her head.

“There are too many.” She heard a howl from back in the trees. Following her instincts, Valeriah did something she had not done since her mother died. She tipped back her head and howled in reply, a long, mournful sound.

Half a dozen huge wolves stepped out of the trees surrounding them. Two of the largest converged on Valeriah, sniffing suspiciously. They circled her, coming closer to breathe in her scent. She stood completely still.

“Wolves!” Crystal said.

Valeriah could smell her fear. “No. Werewolves.”

Esther V. said...

Do you have to be 14???

Stephen Prosapio said...

DREAM WAR
genre: Fantasy

Luzveyn Dred screeched. As he did, a multitude of demons appeared in the sky. Creatures began to leap from the sea, some breaching like whales. From the land, gray beasts advanced, trapping them on the cliff.

“Get her out of here!” Lopez gestured towards Alexis.

Alfonso grabbed Alexis, as if he’d anticipated the plan. He placed a medallion on her.

Lopez dashed toward the cross. It would take every power he had to get them out of there unharmed. He focused his positive energy, leapt high and landed atop the cross. Balanced at the tip, he materialized machetes in both hands. Lopez cut the bonds that held Wendy's feet.

He dropped behind her and, while falling, snipped both ropes that bound her outstretched arms.

Alfonso and Alexis were trapped in a fiery web of Luzveyn Dred’s creation. A dark but translucent orb surrounded and prevented them from leaving the Spatium Quartus. Sparks jumped from the sphere. Luzveyn Dred looked like an unholy sorcerer with a crystal ball. The combined power of both Lopez and Alfonso would be necessary to pry the little girl from Dred’s powerful grasp.

Lopez grabbed Wendy’s hand.

“Stay behind me!”

As they ran toward the sphere, flying creatures plummeted into and merged with it. Each collision made it cloudier, darker.

“Mommy!” Alexis screamed.

Wendy tried to blow past Lopez.

“No, wait!” Lopez said, ripping off his medallion.

He sprinted to the orb and plunged the medallion in it. An intense white light momentarily blinded him.

Demons’ shrieks could be heard as they frantically attempted to escape the glowing ball. Then, the entire orb exploded in a flash of sparks and glowing embers. Flaming demons flew about wildly before crashing into the sea, or onto the rocks.

Wendy screamed.

“Alexis is okay,” Lopez said. “She’s back.”

He still had the medallion. He needed to get Wendy out.

Luzveyn Dred thrust his arms toward the sky and released a primal yell. Winds picked up with such intensity that everything in the vicinity was swept into the air. Lopez clutched for but missed Wendy’s hand.

The ire in Luzveyn Dred’s voice escalated with each syllable. “If I cannot have Alexis, then I shall kill you both!”

Lopez was propelled into a group of boulders forty yards away from Luzveyn Dred. Wendy had been flung in the opposite direction.

Without looking back, Luzveyn Dred’s thorny tail extended and shot through Wendy’s chest. It retracted, the tip curled around her still-beating blood-pumping heart. Luzveyn Dred wiggled the heart back and forth in a triumphantly evil wave. His rage replaced with a look of lustful pride.

Lopez’s experiences had numbed him. It was impossible to feel the pain of each lost life. Like a soldier on D-day, death surrounded him, but he moved forward, step by step, knowing that the cause he fought for was a just one. He took advantage of Dred’s celebratory moment. Clutching his medallion, he projected himself back to his dimension.

Tahereh said...

those are the coolest/best-written rules i've ever read, ever.

Other Lisa said...

Ooooh, fun!

Okay if I sit on the sidelines and cheer everyone on?

patlaff said...

“Were you just standing out on the corner?”

“Yeah,” Davis said with nervous embarrassment.

“I was just coming to talk to you,” the man said, moving a bit closer.

The boy's nervousness continued. “Really?”

“Yeah, I was wondering if you and me could have a little party together.”

“Nah, I need to...”

“C’mon,” the man interrupted, “It’ll be fun.”

“No, really. I...”

“Look,” the man continued undeterred, pulling a money clip from his pocket, “I’ll give you forty, no, fifty bucks.”

Davis’s “fight or flight” instinct turned his body away from the man, sent impulses to his legs to walk toward his car and impulses to his mouth to blurt out, “I have to go home.” When it came out, even he could hear the wavering panic.

As he strode, he heard the loose gravel crackle beneath two sets of footsteps walking in the same direction and his heart raced faster. With the key ring encircling his index finger, he squeezed the keys so tight into the palm of his right hand that he could feel their jagged edges dig into his skin. When he was only a few paces from his mother’s car, he felt the man grab his right elbow and he heard the man say under his breath, “Don’t walk away from me.” When he turned in response to the touch on his arm, his mind registered a shock of black and yellow, the sound of a dull, numbing thud and a blast of searing pain from behind his right ear.

Davis fell to his knees, dizzy and disoriented. He then put both his hands out to make contact with the ground as his whole body rocked further forward, drawn by gravity’s pull. After gaining some semblance of stability, he put his empty right hand to the part of his head that was throbbing: behind his ear just below the base of the skull where his hairline began. He felt with his fingertips a slit in his skin and the warm blood flowing between the gaps of his fingers.

As Davis pulled his hand from his head and held it in front of his face to see the deep, dark liquid, the man walked around and stood directly in front of him. Davis could only see his feet set apart until he lifted his head. His tear-filled eyes followed the crease in the man’s pants up to the belt that held them in place. The man struck a dominating pose with his fists resting on his hips and his elbows out. Davis barely noticed something metallic clenched in the man’s right hand which seemed to surround and encase each of his fingers.

“Oh, God,” Davis whimpered. “Don’t hurt me.”

“Shut the fuck up, whore,” the man screamed quietly between his teeth as he struck Davis on the left side of his head. This time, Davis’s mind perceived nothing, it simply gave way to the force of the blow and his body slumped to the ground.

Mike Martinez said...

How about a little buckling of swashes for this contest...

---

It was up to me to lead the boarding party, but the Frenchmen were quick to board us instead. I called for reinforcements from the gunnery deck before leaping into the fray.

I had not thought a great deal about my sword, but I soon discovered its true potency, thanks to Anne’s alchemical working. I parried my first attacker, only to slice cleanly through his blade. I admit, I was so taken aback that I allowed him time to attempt to grab me. Thankfully, my blade was far sharper than my wit, and my late defense nearly cut him in twain at the waist.

Discovering myself so well armed, I raced to the front of the battle, effectively disarming a number of boarders and allowing my fellows to manage them after.

That is, until my blade met another that it did not slice cleanly through.

I looked up to see a giant of a man, with a heavy black beard and a ragged coat that likely once belonged to a naval officer. I had heard many a description of the infamous Jacques LeMaire, and I had little doubt that this man was he. He came at me with a snarl, and it soon became evident that, despite my training, he was the superior swordsman, for it took all my skill to parry his furious blows. Soon, my back was to the mainmast, and a second wave of boarders from Chance followed him aboard, free to engage the rest of my shipmates.

“You are brave, sir, I will give you that,” he said. “But you are overmatched. Surrender and I will make your death quick.”

I attacked, but was too easily parried. His counter was quick, and I was only able to angle his blade up and away from my heart, so that it pierced my shoulder and embedded itself into the mast behind me.

The pain was excruciating, as you may well imagine. My opponent laughed and left his blade there, stepping back to admire his work. “See now, you are in pain. You should have surrendered!” Yet behind him, I saw our own swivel gun on the quarterdeck; the men were loading grape shot into it. I needed but to distract him a few moments longer.

“And you have not the virtue or decency to finish me cleanly,” I taunted. “Perhaps you have not the courage to take a life when you must watch your man die before you!”

At this, and with great pain, I wrenched his blade from my shoulder, and our mast, and threw it as far as my good arm would carry it – overboard, as a matter of fact. At this, LeMaire became enraged, striking me hard across the face and sending me to the deck.

I could not have planned better. I heard the swivel gun fire, and immediately saw LeMaire stiffen as the shot hit him and his fellows. He looked confused in that moment, before sinking to his knees and toppling over, dead.

Amanda Sablan said...

This is a chase sequence from my second novel:

Running never felt so good.

Saname led the way, followed closely by Nishizono and the Gyokusai chumps. They spliced and diced their way through a narrow street overflowing with fashion related courier companies and too many people for a Sunday, many of whom were left stunned, their strawberry red faces craning to see what all the fuss was about. Some were pushed; some politely, some not. Sweat poured on Saname’s brow despite the mild weather. Nishizono started to pant profoundly after they passed a shop selling paper fans and Saname told him to hang on, they would rest in just a few more minutes.

During their first vacant stretch of street, she chanced a look over her shoulder. The Gyokusai weren’t exactly gaining on them, but they weren’t slowing down either. Although their long arms were unaccustomed to limited space and thus rather awkward, elbows locked to their sides as they were, they ran with purpose.

A potbellied man stood outside the entrance to a Middle Eastern restaurant near the end of the street, carrying a bottle of soda. Saname weaved toward him and snatched it out of his hands right before he twisted off the cap.

“Hey!” he shouted. But when he took the first step in going after her, he was shoved back into the door by one of the Gyokusai.

Saname handed the bottle to Nishizono and huffed out, “Here, drink this. I can’t have you passing out.”

His smirk buried under miles of fatigue, Nishizono drank it down in a few large gulps, then chucked it into a trash can over the heads of a gaping gang of teenagers. He wiped his mouth. “Thanks, I guess. That helped.”

Almost there. They rounded the wrong corner. A street fight between what looked like two yakuza hustlers, with a woman in a mini skirt in the middle of it, raged on. A small band of policeman tried in vain to break them up. Saname and Nishizono verged to the left out into the street just as a yakuza received a roundhouse smack to the face. Luckily the cops paid no mind to anything or anyone else. The four of them sprinted across a crosswalk, Saname trying her best to crochet herself in between pedestrians.

“Clear the way, damn it!” she yelled languidly. She clutched at a newborn stitch in her belly and her teeth ground dust. More people seemingly let themselves get bumped into, their breath resigning without notice, hers coming in painful stabs. Once on the sidewalk, they found themselves off of it once again because of a construction site. They nearly un-avoided a bus, its horn blaring and the near-death ripples vibrating atop Saname’s skin. Both Gyokusai got across to the other side safely, one of them even sliding over the hood of a van for purposes of see what I can do?

Somehow in the rush of smeared Tokyo, she managed, after a couple of botched tries, to bring up Bishamon’s number on her cell.

C. Michael Fontes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
C. Michael Fontes said...

Ellis rose from under the dash, sure that the gang’s truck had passed. He froze, then smoothly drew his pistol and clicked off the safety, for not but thirty feet in front of them came a group of men, roughly twenty-plus.

Holding his breath, he snatched Brandon's mouth with his hand. Brandon acted as if he was about to protest, but then caught on.
Ellis removed his hand slowly, watching the group as they walked past them. Luckily, it was dark enough that they were almost invisible inside the cab of Brandon’s truck while still.

Any motion would bring attention, and Ellis continued to breathe slowly. He tried hard to calm his heartbeat, knowing a quickened pulse could lead to loud breathing.

“Nah, man. I ain’t got nuttin',” one of the men yelled to another.

“Whatever. You lyin'. You know you got sensi, so kick down!”

“Nah. I told you, foo. I ain’t carryin'. Hey, hold up, I gotta pee real quick.”

The other man laughed. “Oh shoot! Did you just say, 'I gotta pee?' Ha! You want mommy to button up your jammy jams after you go wee wee?” He laughed loudly, clapping his hands together.

“Shut up, foo! I can't pee when you're talkin',” the man shouted.
As fate would have it, without reason or provocation, the man walked right up to the Ellis’s window and unzipped. Ellis was not but two feet from the man’s face, which thankfully, was focused downward.

Don't look up, kid. I'd hate for you to die with your pants open, Ellis thought, finger on trigger.

The man breathed out heavily as he urinated, blowing a wall of stench into Ellis's face. Menthol cigarettes, cheap beer, marijuana, rotten food and days without brushing made the most heinous stench. It filled Ellis's nostrils.

Knowing his life was in danger almost wasn't enough to stop him from vomiting.

“Come on, come on...” the man said, as he finished the job and zipped up. “Wait up guys. Come on ya'll! Wait up!” He ran to catch up with the large group who continued up the street.

“Holy. Crap,” Brandon said after they were in the clear.

“What the heck was that?” Briggs leaned in through the rear window of the cab.

Ellis sat motionless, trying to keep his meal in his stomach where it belonged.

“That was us getting lucky, that's what,” Brandon said.

“Wait a few minutes, then lets get outta here,” Ellis said.

“Did you see that? That dude almost peed on you!” Brandon laughed.

“I though for sure he was gonna see us. He must’ve been really baked,” Ellis said. He breathed faster and faster as the danger slipped away. “Alright, let's get moving back to the station.”

“Back to the station? We need to follow these guys and find out where they're headed,” Brandon said confidently.

I hate it when you're right, Brandon.

Holly said...

Lisa aka Other Lisa, congratulations! Can't wait to read the book.

John C said...

An inhuman scream pierced the air.

Alexia and Jackson pressed against opposite walls, guns drawn automatically. Another scream followed, but this was from a different source. A man.

Jackson plowed through the swing-door and into the morgue's examination cell. Empty stainless steel tables lined the center of the concrete room. A metal door at the back presumably led to the loading dock area. Jackson moved for the door. Something pounded into it, leaving a large dent. He stopped, his mouth dropping open. Another man's scream chilled Alexia's heart. Jackson raced for the back door. Alexia followed. Something on the other side exploded and crackled. The florescent lights in the room flickered like strobes. Alexia's hip caught the corner of a table. Her gun fell from her grasp and skidded across the floor. Jackson vanished through the door.

Alexia dodged between tables to grab her gun, disoriented by the flickering lights. Another loud pop echoed. Pitch black swallowed the room. Jackson shouted a command from somewhere on the other side of the door. Shots exploded. Then silence. Alexia patted the concrete floor with her hands, feeling for the gun. A high-pitched wail rent the air. Her blood iced over. Her extra sense pulsed like electrodes down her neck.

The back door slammed open. Metal shrieked. Something whipped through the air and clanged against a wall.

Footsteps pounded from the door Alexia had entered through. Light danced across the room as the security guard from the front entered at a full run, flashlight in hand. Alexia looked in the direction of the light. Bit back a gasp. Maria Wood's pale, blood-spattered face squinted in the light. The woman held up a red-streaked hand to shield the light.

"See? Feel?" Maria sniffed the air. "Smell," she said with certainty, her voice croaking and hoarse.

"Holy hell," the security guard said.

He fired his weapon but dropped his flashlight. The flashlight slammed into the floor and went out. Muzzle flashes lit the room. Bullets pinged off the concrete. One sang past Alexia. She ducked and tried to roll in the direction of one of the tables but banged her head on the leg.

Maria shrieked. "Feel. Feel. Feel," she said, dragging the vowels in a ragged voice.

A short scream from the guard was interrupted by a loud wet thud on the table next to Alexia. She stifled her own cry and curled into a ball.

"Hear it," the woman said again. Something hit the table again, hard enough to make the metal screech.
Warm liquid splashed on Alexia. She didn't need to see it to know what it was. The rusty odor of blood overwhelmed the formaldehyde.

Silence for a moment. Then bare feet dragged across the concrete. Ragged breathing and short bursts of insane giggles punctuated the silence.

Alexia was alone in the dark with the creature that had been Maria Wood.

Deb said...

Working Title: The Cholent Was Good
(Narrative Nonfiction)

The closet is moving though there is still light coming through the little window. It’s too early for Mr. Sokol to bring food. The days are long and he and his family work all the way until the sun goes down. Besides, he never opens the door in daylight. Ever. I hear boots on the floor above us. More than one pair. Mr. Sokol doesn’t wear boots. He can’t afford them.

Mrs. Popowska grabs Malka’s arm and presses it against her heart. Mama jumps up, her hands are in balls at her side. Uncle Simon twists his head back and forth, not knowing which way to look. It reminds me of chickens at the shochet running from the knife. I think the world must be falling apart. Sara and Rivka clutch at each other while Uncle Moshe davens. His eyes are closed and his face trembles as he raises the siddur to his lips to kiss it.

I hear the trap door being lifted and the only sound is the scraping of wood. All of the movement inside the cellar stops and I listen as 21 people hold their breath. Liebl Popowska and Hershel Winograd creep to the entrance, some of the other grown-ups gather behind them. The guns, the ones Liebl and Hershel stole from partisans, are pointed to the small room where the waste buckets sit.

I see my father at the little window. He is holding Abraham, trying to push him up and out onto the earth. I hear my brother scream at the same time that I hear a gun shot. My father yanks him back inside. That’s when the shooting starts. Bullets are flying; people are running. And then I see and hear nothing.

Now it is dark, past when we should have gotten dinner. We are upstairs, sitting against the wall in the Sokol’s bedroom. I want to hold Abraham’s hand. I want my mother’s arms around me. But we are lined up and no one is touching. There are men, lots of men. I try to count them but my brain trips on itself and I can’t keep the numbers straight. 12? 18? A hundred? They all talk at once, asking questions. I understand their Polish and hear that they want money. “Where is the money?” they ask. “Give us your gold!” We don’t have any, but they keep asking. They spit their words and their voices remind me of the dogs that marched with the Gestapo, barking angry barks. They all look the same, one face in matching filthy shirts and pants, opening drawers and looking under beds. Two men who had gone into the cellar come back upstairs. They shake their head. I hear a shout, a Polish word I don’t understand, and they lift their guns at the same time. I’ve never seen a gun pointed right at me. It has eyes, staring right into my own. I want to bury my head into my knees, but I see that no one else moves, so I hold still.

Pop speaks. “If you kill us, then all the money and jewels I hid in Zelechow will never be found.” I know Pop is lying. We gave our valuables to Mr. Turek. Nothing is left because Mr. Sokol sold it all for food and there is hardly enough food anymore. But these men believe Pop. They are so stupid. I am only eight years old and even I know it’s a lie.

bc said...

I later learned that Dr. Bisburn, our next door neighbor dentist, had watched with amusement as my suitcase popped out of my window and then I followed it out and then shoved it back in and crawled in again after it. The thing was that the timing kept changing. I remember hiding the smart hard-cased white Samsonite suitcase with its metal clasp back in my small closet, throwing clothes over it and then hanging nonchalantly on my bed as my dad passed up and down the hall. I was not allowed to close my door. If he caught me in the act, I was going to die. Hell, there wouldn’t even be plant-life in the neighborhood for years, maybe decades.

After about three or four of these passages in and out, I guess Dr. Bisburn lost interest and went inside and fixed himself a Gin Fizz. I hadn’t realized my timing included his cocktail hour and I would have been mortified if I’d realized he’d been watching. None-the-less, about four-o-clock I made my escape, threw the suitcase out the window and leapt after it. It was heavy as hell. It contained all my favorite things, clothes, shoes, journals, books. That and my stuffed-to-the-gills purse weighed me down considerably as I pulled it around the three houses of my nearest neighbors, each house that had to be checked out before I made my getaway past. Then I was off and lugging my suitcase through the woods on my way towards the back runway by the airport.

The woods were deep in there. I found a place and stashed my suitcase. Then I flew to the higher sparser woods near the back runway of the airport. Four o-clock and my rendezvous was due to pick me up. I only had to wait and hope my dad didn’t find me first.

No such luck. My ride was late. My dad and my brother were combing the woods for me.
Like I said, there was no underbrush here. I had no choice but to shimmy up one of the sparse trees where I hovered like a squirrel trying not to twitch. I knew if I looked down, they would look up. Simple perception. So I tried to look away, squeezed my eyes shut, and stopped breathing like my life depended on it.

I knew my brother didn’t want to turn me in but if he saw me, he would have to. He couldn’t lie either. He stood beneath me for a full minute. I thought I was going to die. But then he moved on. A second later, a handful of needles and twigs fell from the branch I was squeezing onto where his head had been.

They moved on to another part of the forest. Damn. My suitcase was a lost cause. That’s when I heard the car. I grabbed my purse and ran. “Go! Go! Go!” I said as I hurled onto the floorboards. We were out of there!

Steppe said...

Leper Woman watched in her pocket mirror, as the mandarin Warlord El Diablero, rolled slowly downward to the river, in his mighty horse drawn carriage. The high mountain, Secret Temple warrior Bhagda Duder, had accelerated his pace in a fluid motion.
He caused no concerned eyes of attention to be drawn to his movements. In one smooth step, he had come out between two parked and waiting carriages, ever so softly, gently alighting onto the short back step of El Diablero's coach, where servants of the carriage renters rode, behind the main cabin, on long journeys thru the Countryside. The long line of transports were facing downhill, stretching for many blocks, and crossing multiple alleyways, waiting to cross the bridge.
As El Diablero passed the Leper Woman, hidden in her medium brown and blue four seat horse drawn rental coach; she turned her hand mirror towards the tensed and coiled Lady Small Feat, who lay waiting seven carriages ahead, between two parked river bound transports, poised for her leap. The Leper Woman secreted in her coaches quarters, reached out her mirror, reflecting the sunlight in three quick flashes on to her tiny face and then three quick flashes onto her own hideously scarred visage, reassuring the mind and heart of the tiny Lady Small Feat; that El Diablero was in a carriage with the leather padded spokings, safely covering the triangular holes in the wheels of the mighty coach.

When El Diablero passed, she leapt with tigress fervor and true loyalty to the mysterious Blue Prince, hurling herself mightily from between the parked carriages in a cannonball posture: with knees bent, opening her arms and slapping the leather wheel thongings, as her small form struck the huge wheels
of leather wood and steel; making as startlingly loud a whomping thump as possible.
Even the horses neighed and whinnied, wondering what fearful creature might be preparing to nip at their heels.
The driver hearing the discordant reverberating thump and seeing his horses perking to the alertness of possible danger; was already slowing as the mandarin El Diablero leaned out the gilded window of the great coach yelling.
“Halt this monstrosity! We have struck a tiny child!”
The Leper Woman had observed the girls flawless leap into the oncoming coach and Lady Small Feat’s solid impact and smooth graceful recoil, after slapping into the padded thongings, as loud as her tiny little body and spread winged arms; would allow.
She was suddenly startled; becoming alert to greater dangers, growing wary of hidden complications, upon suddenly noticing one of the secret Bhagda Temple warriors of the Double Golden Dragon; step off from the servants stoop on the back of the Warlord’s coach.

Steve said...

Fist-sized spiders boiled from the fissure like porridge from a pot. Blue and black carapaces flooded the rocky soil, red legs pounding a churning clack that drove all other sound from the forest.

Lek stumbled and fell. Ceb stood transfixed, face gone pale.

"Run!" Lek screamed. "Save yourself." Clawing the ground, he thrust himself between the spiders and his brother. Ceb hesitated a heartbeat before dashing to the clearing's edge.

Lek's fingers found a fallen branch as wide as his wrist. He swept it in a wide arc, knocking the leading wave of spiders to one side. One landed on its back, clawing helplessly. Its underside was soft, the gray-black color of charred wood.

The others regrouped before Lek could blink.

He swept the branch a second time. Spiders gripped its needled offshoots and scrabbled toward his hand, red eye clusters sparkling.

"Teuthi's Teats!" Lek flung the branch and pushed to his feet. A good fight, that's what he would give them.

He stomped, squashing one beneath his boot. Its carapace crunched. Another crawled over his toe. He stomped again. A shiver coursed through him. What if they bit? Their mandibles were sinister interlocking pincers.

He raked spiders from his legs with both hands. He kicked and stomped. He spun in circles. No use. No sooner had he killed one, than two others replaced it.

He tried to run, but tripped, falling heavily onto his stomach. Bodies crunched beneath him. He rolled over. Carapaces crackled and crunched.

Spiders mounted his arms, his chest. He clawed at his face to keep them from his eyes. He rolled again, squishing and squashing the things until his shirt was soaked in gore. A spider scuttled onto his palm. He flung it away.

Get off! Get off! Humid pressure filled his gut. The spiders kept coming. He tried to crawl to his knees, but it was too much. Everywhere he felt the drumming of their legs. Pinpricks penetrated his shirt.

Off of me! Lek clawed at his face. Spiders clung to his skin like briars. A spider mounted his stomach, manidbles working. Lek glared through a smear of tears. He lifted his hands, willing it dead, gone, destroyed. His sight seemed to sink into the spider's dark underbelly.

His back arched violently. He heard a rumbling like an elephant cart on a cobblestone road. Blue fire erupted from his fingertips; the spider exploded into a thousand shards. The scent of burning flesh clogged his nose.

Flame steadied and expanded up Lek's hands, his forearms, his arms. Surprisingly, he felt no pain. The fire's whooshing rush was calming.

"Lek!" Ceb called.

"Stay away!"

A scene wavered into view as though through a fog. Lek stood atop a ridge overlooking a vast plain. In the distance, cultivated trees formed rectangular patterns interspersed by farmland, lakes, and villages. Nearer the ridge the plain was mostly grassland fed by a winding river.

Movement drew his gaze to ranks of men in leather and iron armor splashing across. Some had already exited the near bank.

Sue Linville & Steve Ramey (from The Web Beneath the World, an unpublished epic fantasy)

Amanda Sablan said...

Looks like I've got some stiff competition! There's some pretty good action here! >:D

Tamara Narayan said...

From: A Glass Half Full

Paranormal Thriller

Melody skipped down Ashland Avenue three blocks from the firehouse. Then the gunfire started. Gunfire is not as loud as most people think. Get a few blocks away and it sounds like firecrackers, especially to a kid. Melody was intrigued by the sound and kept going. Just before she entered the intersection of Ashland Ave. and Longwood, she stopped at the curb and looked at the light. The one on Ashland blinked yellow, the one facing traffic on Longwood blinked red. They would switch to the standard cycle of red, yellow, and green at four o’ clock.

Melody knew she was supposed to wait for the green light before crossing. She waited thirty seconds, then a minute. Not a car was in sight. She stamped her foot. Knowles was now four blocks down Longwood traveling at seventy-five miles per hour. Melody looked around one more time and saw nothing. The yellow light still blinked. She tucked her doll under her right arm and took her left hand with her right before stepping off the curb.

Three blocks away and approaching fast, Sheriff Knowles saw every horrid detail with preternatural clarity. The tiny figure stepping into the street. The wind tousling the little one’s blond hair and fluffing her skirt like a miniature Marilyn Monroe. The fake fur trim of her coat twinkled in the sun.

“Mother-of-GOD!” His brainwaves fired like an overheated circuit board. He couldn’t just slam on the brakes. The car would swerve but continue forward. He would wipe her off the road with the car’s side instead of the front.

Then he remembered the service road running behind the firehouse.

“JESUS!” He hollered into the windshield, pumping the brakes, once (sixty-five mph), twice (fifty-eight mph), three times (forty-nine mph). God, it was going to be close. Did he dare make this turn? He better, here it was. Knowles turned the wheel and caressed the brake with his foot. He was going forty, now thirty-five. The tires squealed and the back ones slid. The car shuddered and started to spin.

Melody turned and saw the huge police car barreling down on her.

Knowles savaged the wheel to the right. For a second, he thought he’d lost control. The car would continue its spin and smash into the girl’s tiny body. He yanked the wheel back to the left, desperate not to let that happen. The back fender clanged off a fire hydrant and the car lurched forward. He was going to make it, by God and sunny Jesus.

Knowles was just about to ease up on the gas and let out a well-deserved sigh of relief when his windshield filled with the red grill of a large truck.

The Screaming Guppy said...

Title: Hound in Blood and Black
Genre: dystopian fiction



A gangly man struggled against the flow of traffic, upstream against bricks, waving a pair of shoes in the air. Kumari couldn’t help but notice they were in decent shape. Soles still attached for the most part – a flapping heel, wagging slack-jawed but holding on – complete with shoe laces and not enough holes to let pebbles in. Kumari wiggled her toes against the worn insides of her own boots.


All he wanted, the man claimed, was to gamble for water. What did a dead man need shoes for, he wailed. Kumari subconsciously checked her canteen, confirming it hadn’t been lifted.


She knew what would come next. Someone was going to try and take those shoes. He was right; a dead man had no use for shoes. Kumari cursed under her breath as the crowd began to shift, the flow of the tide leaning backwards instead of away, despite the whips and threats from the arena guards.


Idiot had done himself in. She shook her head. A person could live three days without water – a few hours more if they were lucky. She knew. She’d done it plenty of times. Sure, dehydration hurt, sometimes drove a man inches shy of crazy, but he looked lucid enough that he was likely only a day, maybe thirty-six hours, without a drink.


Kumari threw an elbow at the mammoth man fixated on the unfolding drama and in her way, and caught his jaw. He grunted, rocking back, then slapped past her, heading the wrong way – the wrong way for those damn shoes. She gritted her teeth, using her smaller size to duck under arms and shimmy between spaces the bulkier men surrounding her would have found impossible to fit through. The stairs were just a few paces off.


The first gunshot fired, followed by the kind of scream made by a dying man. Her pulse sped, panic prickling up and down her skin as the crowd responded.


People snapped, crashing against two sides of ugly motivation. Get the shoes, or get the hell out before things got worse. Heat thickened, thousands of people breaking into sweats of greed or fear.


Three more shots broke out, enough to rail in her wandering mind. By Kumari’s guess, they came from three different guns: two pistols and one shotgun. What little order held at the sound of one shot – an ordinary and expected occurrence – shattered at the change from singularity to sure fire shitstorm. She padded her holster and fumbled between her belt, her shirt and own slick skin. Her hand was shaking – she’d face the undead any day, but an unruly mob inspired a rightly placed fear. Too many, too risky. Too out of control. Eyes on the exit, Kumari folded her fingers around the gun grip.


The cold metal reminded her that control was hers to take. Escape was about fifteen bodies away.


She’d get out one way or another.

Carol Riggs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam Heine said...

“If it ain't the boy from the circus.”

Startled, Hagai looked up. He'd wandered into an alley between two warehouses. A man stood in front of him – completely bald except for tufts of hair above his ears. His leg was broken, and his face bruised terribly, but Hagai knew the dak counter immediately. “Oh, come on,” he said. Wasn't the day bad enough?

Dag limped forward, leaning on a walking stick. “Where's your circ stone? The one what tells the future?”

“I lost it.”

“Sure you did. And I won me a dance contest today.”

Harsh laughter. Dag wasn't alone. Two men stood behind Hagai, blocking his escape.

“Do I look like I have it on me?”

“Nay,” Dag hobbled forward, “but you know where it is, don't you?”

With a pirate, who nearly cut my throat. Maybe he'll give it to you if you ask nice. “Look, I don't have it, and I can't get it. Just – ”

A blade scraped against leather behind him. A set of punch rings jangled in someone's hands.

Hagai ran. He'd never get past the thugs behind him, so he took his chances with the dak counter. Dag reached out to grab him. Hagai spun away, stumbling backwards into someone – a fourth man Hagai hadn't noticed.

The man pushed Hagai to the ground. Hagai threw up his arms to block the first of many blows, but the man walked toward Dag and the others. He was cloaked in black and hooded. Hagai couldn't see any defining features; even the man's hands were hidden beneath long, cowled sleeves.

Dag said, “What are you? His – ” But he never finished the sentence. A sharp elbow to his chin knocked him down. His jaw hung loose; it was possible he would never finish a sentence again.

His thugs attacked. The stranger spun; the cloak flowed and whirled around him, masking his movements. With a crack, the thug with the punch rings was flung backwards, his leg bent unnaturally. The other took his knife and slashed viciously at the cloak. There was an unexpected clang of metal on metal. An iron rod flashed from the stranger's sleeves and caught the thug on the wrist, while the cloak itself seemed to strike him in the chest.

The thug with the knife landed in a heap. The other threw his punch rings to the ground and limped away.

The cloak stilled, draping over its bearer.

Hagai was afraid to move. Had he been rescued? Or was the stranger after the stone too? He'd never seen anyone fight like that, taking down three men without hardly stepping out of place. If he was after the stone, Hagai was lost.

Misty said...

Action & Suspense:

“What the hell’s that?” Craig points to something up ahead, in a tree. The closer we get, we can tell it is a tire, suspended high up in the branches. The odd thing is, it’s not the only thing in the tree. Hanging down between the leaves, from nearly every branch, are all sorts of car parts. Spark plug wires and distributor caps hung from wire; radiator hoses and serpentine belts that dangle like shredded snakes; alternator and power steering belts looped over branches; lug nuts swaying on heavy twine. Busted off antennas and the arms of windshield wipers hang straight down like bizarre needles.
“What the hell?” Craig asks again. We make an arc around the furthest reaching branches that stretch over the street. It looks like this tree is made for dropping shit on people. I’m hoping we’re not the people.
“That’s weird.” Blaine says and then he points further off down the road. The farmhouse is in sight, kind of, through all the weeds.
“Weird?” Craig grunts. “This is a horror movie. And we’re the sheeple walking right up to the farmhouse and knocking on the door. We might as well climb right into the oven when we get there.”
“Then how come we’re still walking?” I ask.
“Because I want to see the bizarre nut job that would live in that house.” Blaine says. “I’m not going up there. I change my vote. Let’s go the other way.” I say.
“We’re here.” Craig says. “And there’s three of us. There can’t be three weirdoes in that house.”
“Why not?” Blaine asks.
“Because there’s never three male weirdoes all living together. They’d kill each other.”
“Deliverance?” I say. We all go quiet. We all saw that movie a few years back, scooting to far ends of the furniture from one another. It left a deep mark. As we’re standing there contemplating a retreat, Blaine slaps the back of his neck.
“Ouch!” He examines his hand. “What is that?”
He holds out his palm, his face losing all its color. Craig and I lean in, squinting to see what’s there. It’s not a bug. What’s in his hand is more terrifying than a nest full of scorpions. It’s an efficiently tucked, heavily doused, spit wad.
We’re not alone.
“Holy shit…” I whisper to the guys.
“Let’s haul ass outta here.” Craig turns back in the direction we’d just come from and bolts. I wheel around, dragging Blaine as he squeals and shrieks about his ankle. Up ahead, like he’s caught in a cross fire, Craig is stumbling and swatting, howling curses as he tries to protect himself against a blizzard of tiny, white spit balls. I see them falling out of the air like hail, showering down from the trees in every direction. We’re surrounded.

Nato said...

Some background: Our hero finds himself in a vast colosseum of an underground empire, surrounded by blind, albino velociraptors intent on eating him, when they are all rudely interrupted by the one thing worse than blind, albino velociraptors: a pair of blind, albino Tyrannosaurus Rexes.

He runs toward the far side of the arena, and everything with teeth gives chase.

Fortunately, everything with teeth is pretty stupid, and also hungry. One of the raptors gets close, and gets a knife into its brain, and goes down twitching, an instant appetizer. Two more aren’t fast enough; they’re pinned by thick Rex claws and picked apart squealing and scratching in a matter of moments.

There are two left and him as he approaches the far wall. He finds himself taking off his blood-soaked shirt, twisting it into a solid cable, and then it occurs to him why. Shouldering aside a lifelong antipathy for equestrian sports, he takes a deep breath and jumps on the back of the nearest eyeless raptor.

His shirt slides neatly between its jaws, and he yanks it back hard enough to hear a stunned little gack from the depths of its throat. Nothing like this has ever happened to the beast before, so it just keeps running. Its last remaining comrade stops and cocks its head, thoroughly baffled, and gets a swift introduction to One-Arm’s jaws.

In about five seconds, the beast he’s riding — Whitey, as he has suddenly and affectionately begun to think of it — will realize what’s going on, and most likely kill the hell out of him. That’s okay, though. The wall is four seconds away.

Still gripping his makeshift bridle, he plants one foot on Whitey’s back, then the other, and surfs toward the wall on the beast’s spine. Behind him, X and One-Arm loom. Closer… closer…

He lets the ends of his shirt slip out of his hands, and he jumps from Whitey’s back up and over the wall, and into the stands. The poor beast smacks hard into the stone wall, and is then promptly pulped under X’s right front claw.

Up and up and up he runs, legs screaming for rest, lungs on fire. X and One-Arm, awkwardly but with great enthusiasm, flail and scrabble and finally lunge up over the stone barrier into the stands, and follow.

They’re gaining on him swiftly, big Rex strides swallowing distance, and he’s running out of up. Vines beard the rim of the stadium. As he gets to the edge, he reaches down and scoops one up and dives. One-Arm’s jaws close an inch from his trailing foot.

He tumbles through the air. The vine catches, draws taut, and he swings back around and smacks into the leafy, tendril-covered wall. Above him, the Rexes roar their fury, jaws smeared in raptor guts, and he whoops and, best he can around the blade in his hand, shoots them the V.

Mid-taunt, his vine snaps.

Marilyn Peake said...

Unfortunately, I don't have time to enter the contest. However, I'm reading ROCK PAPER TIGER, and it is fantastic!

Luc2 said...

Unable to vent his frustration, anger and bloodlust, Darion screamed. He whirled the morningstar above his head, shouting, “For Kheld! No surrender!”

Around him, others took up the call. Slow and scattered at first, it grew into a chant. Some Camarans took up their own call, but most fought in grim, concentrated silence.

They’re tired. They came a long way, and need rest. Darion sensed an opportunity, and didn’t waste time. “Push on hard, we’re beating them!”

Darion’s command spread to the ranks. A moment later he sensed a shift in the battle. His vision was limited by the tight pack of horsemen around him, in a swirling cloud of kicked-up dust, but they seemed to be advancing faster.

Then a hole cleared in that tight circle. Darion charged forward towards a Camaran, locked in battle with a Kheldsman. He pulled back the reins, and struck the man’s side. The spiked ball connected with a satisfying crunch.

Darion sensed more than saw someone bearing down on him from the left. Not wasting time by turning his head, he flung up his shield and crouched in the saddle. A thud shook his shield, slamming it hard into his shoulder. The impact almost unhorsed him.

A lance flashed by. Its point pierced the neck of Darion’s mount. The animal staggered sideways, screaming in a high, almost human pitch.

He cleared his right foot from the stirrup. The horse fell. Darion tried to roll away, but his other foot got tangled in the stirrup. He struggled to breathe, lost all sense of direction. He managed to kick himself free and scrambled away to avoid the htrashing legs of the dying horse.

Dazed, he looked up. A Camaran officer on a black stallion dropped the lance which jammed under the dead horse. The man drew his sword. Darion, one knee in planted in the grass, dove to his right. The weight of his armor and shield made him hopelessly sluggish. His enemy followed his movement, calm and focused.

Darion bumped into his dead horse. He blinked. Trapped. This is the end. I’m going to die here, on Kheld soil. The realization and acceptance calmed him. The Camaran’s stallion reared.

Everything around Darion slowed. Sound dampened to a buzz, the periphery of his vision blurred as the central image sharpened. The black beast rose gracefully, looming over him. Bits of mud floated away from its pawing front hooves. The man’s sword, raised high, caught the sun in a lazy gleam. A waft of crushed grass and earth wet with blood tickled his nose. All that happened in a heartbeat. An exalted laugh escaped Darion’s lips. The finality felt liberating, and with it came the absence of fear.

meg said...

Suspense:

My wife pressed her power forward, but rather than flow into mine, it dissipated into the staff, which was no longer cool to the touch, but burned as our energies tried to wrap and join. With a cry of agony, Suse pulled back, broke the contact, and the circle collapsed long before it reached the point of destruction. She looked at me with sad knowing eyes. I was incapable of doing what she wanted. The winds calmed, the power slowed, and faded. The protection circle retained its soft yellow light without the flames around us. It softly illuminated us within the protection circle; the room without having grown dark, cold, and reflected my mood.

I said, “You knew this was a possibility. I love you Suse and I can’t destroy your soul.”

Suse reached out and touched the staff again with her hands, determined, “Sam, you must join the circle.”

“No.” I screamed as young and untested Sam stepped forward to join us. “You can’t ask him to do that. He doesn’t understand the consequences.”

“Then explain them to him, or shall I?”

I couldn’t speak. Suse continued where I could not, “Sam, you must join the circle. With you inside, James will have no option but to protect you from a failed backlash of power.”

I turned to the young apprentice. “If you cross into the circle, your life is at risk. If I am unable to complete the enchantment, it will collapse and all within will parish. I cannot risk your life by having you join us.”

Sam hesitated, not certain what he should do.

Suse looked at me and called out to Sam. “James will protect you at all cost, including that of my soul. Yes, there is risk, but it a risk that could mean our world heals itself. Is that not worth the risk to your life?”

Sam stepped forward and my chest ripped in agony. “No Suse, stop him. I can’t do this Suse. I can’t do this to you. I will stop the enchantment now.”

Suse’s hand left the staff and touched my face, my falling tears, “Dear James, you must do this. You will protect Sam from harm, and you will bring hope to the world again. I love you James but surely you knew that you would falter? That is why I asked Sam to stay.”

“Suse…” My words failed me as Sam entered the circle and knelt. I knew that I was lost. I would not let another charge under my care come to harm if I could stop it. Sam was but the surrogate for all the children that were out there in need of my protection. He was but the reminder of my duties to my kind and to humankind. Suse knew all along that I would fail without Sam joining us in the circle. I never could keep anything from her.

“Mote it be, Suse. Mote it be. I love you.”

Mary McDonald said...

Just a helpful tip for others--copy and save your post before you hit the 'publish your comment' button. I'm so glad I did, because when I hit it, my text vanished! unless it posted and I didn't notice, if so, sorry for the double post!)

_____

Mark felt their presence before he heard them. He bolted up in bed. Hands-- dozens of them-- grabbed him and pulled him onto the floor. The covers tangled around his legs and someone had a vise-like grip on his hair. He lashed out with his feet and arms, feeling impacts and hearing grunts, but there were too many hands.

Panting, a harsh growl rumbled in his throat. He felt blows landing on him, but he ignored the pain as terror fueled his efforts. A hand brushed his face and he lunged at it, biting hard. The metallic tang of blood washed over his tongue, but he only released when forced by a brutal kick to his ribs. Frozen in agony, he couldn't resist as they dragged him across the floor and yanked him to his feet.

Mark staggered and blinked as his eyes grew accustomed to the darkness. Who were these people? Why were they here? Fingers dug into his biceps and he tugged and fought to break free. His ears roared with the sound of his wildly thumping heart. Three shadowy forms converged on his right and grabbed at his arm. Loose hoods hid their faces, and he strained to see into the shadowed recesses. Two more figures appeared on his left side, and slammed him against the support beam in the center of his loft. His head thumped against the brick and stars exploded in his head. He shook his head to clear his vision.

A face loomed above Mark's, and dread, cold and paralyzing, drenched him. He knew that face. Pale light from the street lights reflected off the flat snake eyes.

"It's no use, Taylor. Stop fighting and it'll go easier for you."

"No! Lemme go!" He arched his back, every muscle straining to escape, but the intruders held him fast. Sagging in defeat, the sound of his breathing, ragged and harsh, filled the loft. "Wh..what do you...want?"

Kern laughed. "We want to see if it's true, Mark."

A bright light shone in Mark's eyes and he squinted. "See if...if what's true?"

Lisa said...

“GET DOWN!” a rough voice shouted through the trees.

I spun around in time to see a race of blue and red and black, and ducked as the dagger sliced the air, and landed with a thud into something that let out a low whimper and a growl…a werewolf?

Something heavy landed on top of me, pushing my face into the dirt, and I gagged and sputtered until the weight lifted.

“Are you okay?” Michael extended his hand and pulled me to my feet. His eyes weren’t full of fear, just surprise, and his arms, wrecked in black smudges, pulled me close. “Don’t leave my side,” he ordered, looking past me to the bordering woods.

A twig snapped.

“I’ll take it from here,” Billy said, crossbow by his side as he stepped between Michael and I.

“What’s going on?” I begged.

“There’s more where that thing came from,” Billy said. “There’s a pack.”

A few feet from Emerald lay a second body, red, bloody, distorted, definitely no pixie and definitely no human. Steam rose from the red skin, as thin as that of a grape, and little puffs of fire broke out around it, like a protective circle of flame.

“Don’t go near it,” Michael said, grabbing my arm when I stepped forward for a better look. Was that a skinned…werewolf? No. This was something else entirely.

Billy suddenly shoved Michael out of the way. “Don’t touch her."

“Man, I wasn’t trying anything with your girlfriend. I was only trying to keep her from getting too close to that hellhound before…”

A giant burst of fire engulfed the red body, and Emerald’s along with it, sending sparks of warmth all over, and I ducked, covered my hair, and moved to the edge of the clearing. The fire depleted, as if a giant hose sucked the flames into the ground, and then, in the center of the woods, lay two charred holes, and nothing else.

“What the…” I choked.

“Damn,” Billy said. “That mutt took my dagger.”

“Where did they go?” I said.

“Hell,” Billy replied, as if this answer were obvious.

Michael yanked out a long, thin blade that reflected the full moon.

“We’re surrounded." His tone was gruff, all business.

“Whoa. Wait. You’re carrying? Is that a typical farm boy weapon? Who are you?” I said.

Low growls danced with the black smoke weaving between branches, beautiful and sour and tense. Chills slithered up my back. My dress fluttered in the wind and I yanked the sleeves of Michael’s black sweatshirt over my wrists. I grabbed the knife from the holster around my thigh and gripped the handle tight as two red eyes pierced the smoke.

“We can do proper introductions later.” Michael swallowed hard.

“If we all make it out alive,” Billy added.

Excellent point.

The second hellhound pounced, slicing the cloud of smoke as if it were ribbon, its blood-soaked claws hurling straight for my throat.

February Grace said...

From Hopeful Romantic

He’d locked the doors and windows.

He’d pulled the blinds.

He’d turned up the music.

He’d lined up the bottles.

He’d hunted up every hidden hoard that he’d accumulated and in a robotically cold and calculating manner, counted out the pills.

He did the math, figuring in terms of grams, not milligrams anymore.

He’d taken specific and explicit steps with them, every last pill, in order to be sure that he’d get them all down and keep them that way.

He’d remorselessly ingested them with a caustic, intoxicating liquid guaranteed to speed their effectiveness, and allow him to sleep through it all, unaware.

All I wanted was to be unaware, he thought. Permanently.

But I fucked it up. Again. I’m still here. I’m such a screw up I can’t even do this right.


A deep, mechanical pulse throbbed in his throat. Tears refused to form in his eyes, he was far too close to dehydration for that.

His throat.

There was something stuck in his throat.

He was choking.

That sound…what is it? Beeping, then that ticking and hissing. The strangest honking noises I swear to god it sounds like the circus just got into town. What the bloody hell is that anyway…

Oh god. I know that sound.

It's a vent.

I’m still here.

I want out.


He battled the insurmountable effects of gravity, attempting to raise his arms. Too ambitious. He would have to start more slowly.

A single digit, then maybe one hand at a time.

His fingers were long as were his arms, legs and toes. Maybe Arachnodactyly had its bright side yet if it allowed his reach for once in his life to stop exceeding his grasp.

Then if only he could find the strength he would reach up and he would grab that goddamned tube and he would get the hell out of this place one way or another.

It was only after several attempts to gradually draw his fingertips toward his palms into a fist to try to remember how to use them that he realized he wouldn’t be able to raise his arms to yank out the tube no matter how he struggled.

His arms were tied down tightly with restraints.

His heart sank, an anchor to the bottom of an angry, violent ocean as he realized that even if he could move, even if he could rip the vent out, even if he could leave this particular hospital bed, the very last place they would be letting him go was home.

I can’t believe I’m going to have to go back to Rehab 3.

Jed Cullan said...

Title: The Key of Talchat
Genre: MG Fantasy



Jack gripped the balcony rail and watched in horror as the sabre-tooth carried his brother across the fields towards the woods in the distance. He didn’t know how, but Sam was alive; struggling in the tiger’s grip, shouting at the beast and trying to prise its jaws open.

“Sam!” yelled Jack. “Stay calm. I’m coming to--”

He flinched. Something had touched his shoulder. He snapped his head around and saw the imposing figure of his uncle staring down at him.

“Uncle Bill,” Jack blurted out. “It has him. It just … it just picked him up and took him.”

“What has who, Jack?”

“Sam … the tiger, it took Sam!”

“A tiger?” Bill spoke quickly and with urgency in his voice that Jack had never heard before. “In here? Where did it come from? What did it look like? Where did it go?”

He grabbed both of Jack’s shoulders and spun him around.

“Have you seen it before? Tell me, Jack … What happened?”

Jack suddenly remembered his father’s last words. He shook himself loose from Bill’s grasp. “We’re wasting time. We have to follow it. We have to follow the tiger.”

He then bolted through the bathroom door, jumping over the shattered pieces of wood, and sprinted down the landing. He bounded down the stairs three at a time, almost cutting his bare feet on the shattered glass from the grandfather clock halfway down. Bill shouted for him to stop and come back, but Jack had already reached the bottom of the stairs.

A moment later, he burst into the kitchen, giving Pat the surprise of her life. She dropped the plate of sandwiches and looked up.

“Oh, Jackie,” she said. “Look what you made me do.”

Jack ignored his aunt and rushed to unlock the backdoor. The lock clicked. He pulled at the handle. The door didn’t open. He tried again and again, shaking and pulling at the handle. The door held fast.

“Why won’t this stupid thing open?” he shouted, kicking the door.

“It’s bolted, my dear,” said Pat, still cheerful in-spite of all her freshly-made sandwiches lying on the floor. “Is everything all right?”

“It’s Sam,” Jack shouted, pulling back the heavy bolts at the top and bottom of the door. “It’s got him.”

With the bolts released, the backdoor swung open. Jack ran into the garden as Bill bounded into the kitchen, panting heavily. “Jack, come back, you don’t understand. You can’t--”

Jack ignored Bill’s pleas and ran across the patio, heading for the trees at the far end of the garden. He couldn’t waste time explaining what had just happened. He had to follow the tiger. Besides, they probably wouldn’t believe a prehistoric animal had crashed through a clock, grabbed Sam and made off with him in its mouth. If Jack hadn’t seen it with his own eyes, he wouldn’t have believed it either.

David said...

Bodies were everywhere. What had just been a busy street in Cairo was now torn to shreds. For roughly a minute following the blast, the street had been enveloped in the other worldly silence that follows a disaster – the time it takes for the surviving to catch their breath. Low moaning broke the quiet first, and by the time approaching sirens could be heard in the distance, the screaming had been ongoing for some time.

The Cairo Police Department arrived first, followed by the Interior Ministry’s paramilitary Central Security Force and the Cairo Medical Center ambulances. After a curt discussion between the ranking officers on site, jurisdiction was ceded to the CSF forces because they had authority over events that may be terrorist-related. The security forces went about setting up pedestrian barriers, as a crowd had started to gather.

The CSF Chief watched his men go about working with the CMC doctors, assembling a service area to help triage the wounded. He estimated about one hundred wounded and about 20 dead. The scene bothered him primarily because of the administrative paperwork he’d have to do as a result. He’d long since grown hard to the mixture of victims’ wide-eyed shakiness and spent explosives’ metallic and chemical smoke odor.

The chief squatted to pick up a book lying open on the ground. It was a tourist’s laminated pocket-sized map book and he dropped it back down. Almost absent mindedly, he pulled a scorched vinyl pouch over to him by its broken strap. It was white, with pink trim and a palm tree pattern printed on it. He unzipped it and shook it gently to look in on its contents. He closed his eyes and grimaced. A passport. A blue one. An American. Now this had his attention – much more paperwork. He ran his finger and thumb over his moustache and sighed.

In the United States, the story of the Cairo market bombing drew a tough statement from the White House on fighting terrorists and a promise to bring the responsible parties to justice. In two weeks time, however, the story slipped into the back pages of the daily national newspapers.

A minor story developed four days after the blast when it was reported that among the dead were two Democratic National Committee committeemen and one committeewoman. They had been a part of a national party “relation building” trip (junket) to the Mid-East. The DNC chairman, a salt-and-pepper haired former Maine governor, issued a statement mourning the party’s loss. Later, at their spring meeting the committee passed a resolution remembering their fallen committee people, and business continued as expected.

Which meant the plan had worked.

Patrick Stephens said...

Beyn stood next to Walter's outstretched body and traced a finger around the swirls of scars on his own chest.

"I am Beyn Rhiall b'rey Ba'Wren, daven of a house of Noruun. I am salwa'daousas. I have these scars by my own hands, that I might remind myself of the pain of my bonding. I am a servant of the bond and the Raeden is my love."

He took the lump of rock in his cupped hands and brought it gently to his lips. He blew softly and the rock began to steam. The ore grew brighter and hotter as Beyn blew on it, changing color from black to red to white. Beyn pressed and shaped the white hot ore with his hands and when he had smoothed the rock to a ball, he closed his eyes.

"Poulaefaesel o nacher son aschas nalos da naou."

The ore erupted in green flame and molten rock ran through Beyn's fingers where it fell to floor and ignited the already charred straw, filling the hut with black, pungent smoke. As the ore bled its impurities, Beyn cradled what was left --a pool of liquid heat like quicksilver--and passed it carefully from hand to hand.

He held his hands out over Walter's body and in a flat voice without affect said, "Ischa é o nacher da o daousas. Wosai womcheda sal raenaecha pele saou womcheda."

He turned his hands over and poured the metal into Walter's navel.

Walter found his voice.

His body stretched taught as he threw his head back and screamed. The metal burned through his skin and bored into his body.

Beyn moved his hands slowly, guiding the thin line of molten metal up Walter's chest. As Walter thrashed and writhed under the stream, the line swept over Walter's chest in great, snaking curves.

"Daousas, d'ouaee naou nalos."

The hut was thick with the stench of burning flesh and Walter heaved in pain as he gulped in the acrid air. The metal reached his neck and he wept. He thrashed to the side and the metal ran up and around his ear. He thrashed again and the last of it pooled into his right eye.

He felt his eyeball swell and burst.

The metal ran freely into his skull and pain consumed the universe.

His bonds fell from his hands and the glass slipped out from under him. The Noruunan vanished into the smoke. The smoke burned away in the heat. Walter's body melted in the agony and he felt his soul crisp and burn. The last of his flesh burned and sloughed off and he was free. He swam in pain and heat and he dissolved in a great, unending void of white.

But still, there was his soul: a drop of black, a fleck of filth, a stain of sin in an ocean of purity. His mind bent under the pressure of the white and he felt his foulness burn. The purity pushed against the pain and swallowed him and yet, even as the pain receded, his mind scrabbled back, clawing at his soul and clinging to the hurt and the heat. The white was endless, without hope or mercy or form and he entered it as a thorn, tearing and staining it with sin and corruption.

And then it ended.

Walter choked on the smoke, his body dripping wet with sweat. He raised his head and could see the silver-green river of metal running along his body. The band blended without scars into his skin. Like the strip that ran along the blue man's body, its surface seemed to flow as if covered with oil.

"You have been bonded. You are bound now to the gods."

Chantele said...

YA fantasy

My heart started racing, and my scream stuck in my throat. "Give me the necklace, and I won't harm you," Daax said. His voice was rough, and his whole body seemed to shake. I backed away from him, the voice in my head growing louder.
"Do not let him have it. Help is on the way.".
Help was on the way? No one even knew where I was!
Shaking my head, I tried to block the voice out. I looked at Daax again, and froze. It was not his appearance that made me gasp in horror. In his hand was the most wicked looking dagger I had ever seen. The blade was black, and jagged. He brought it up near his face, and examined it with his other hand.
"You know, you really don't have to get hurt. You could just hand over the necklace, and I will let you go unscathed," he said in his deep voice.
"Do not yield!" The voice in my head shouted.
I covered my ears.
"I know!" I shouted. Daax looked startled, but still stood motionless against the backdrop of trees, holding the knife at his side.
Adrenaline suddenly kicked in, and I took off running through the trees, in the direction I had just come from. I didn't look back. I listened for footsteps following me, but there were none. I wanted to cry for help, but I didn't want him to hear my shouting and come after me, so I kept quiet, ignoring the burning in my lungs.
After running for who knows how long, I snuck a peak over my shoulder to see if I could see him. The forest was still, with no indication he had been following me, but I didn't slow down. As I looked forward again, I slammed into something hard. I felt the breath leave my lungs, as I stumbled forwards into someone's arms.
My eyes widened as I looked up, seeing the Daax's black, lifeless eyes in the moonlight.
I didn't notice the pain until I pulled away from him. My eyes took in the black knife he held in front of his body. Instinctively, my hand went to my side, and I felt a warm, sticky liquid cover my fingers in seconds. He stood in front of me, watching my shocked face, with a smug grin.
"You shouldn't have ran," he said.
I looked down at the gaping wound in my abdomen. Blood was already soaking my white shirt and I put my hands over the wound, trying to staunch it. The pain hit me full force. I backed into a tree, and slid to the ground, gasping for breathe. A tear slid down my cheek, and I knew I was going to die. I was barely aware of Daax, still standing over me, until he leaned down, speaking softly in my ear.
"Just a few more minutes, and it will all be over."

JohnO said...

Smitty and the rest of tactical negotiation team rumbled down from the stage in pursuit of the band members, and the man in the pig costume. A deafening chorus of boos rose from the audience.

As the SWAT members charged up the aisle in their helmets, flak vests and boots, debris started hitting them. A deluge of food, drink cups, metal lunch boxes—anything the crowd could throw, they threw. The view from Smitty’s helmet-cam wobbled crazily, and Veronica, watching it on the live feed, could barely make sense of the chaos.

The audio crackled. WE’RE UNDER ATTACK! DEFENSIVE POSITIONS!

One SWAT member put his head down and charged, and someone stuck out a foot. The crowd cheered hugely when he splatted on his face.

THIS IS A RIOT SITUATION! INITIATE RIOT PROTOCOL!

SUBDUE THE CROWD! TEAR-GAS CANISTERS!

NEGATIVE, THERE ARE CHILDREN IN THE CROWD. FIND ANOTHER EXIT!

Smitty and two others headed for the fire exits, while getting pelted with more flying debris. Finally the SWAT members barreled out an exit.

HEAD NORTH.

ROGER. WHICH WAY’S NORTH?

Smitty and crew hut-hutted up a dark alley, turned a corner, and found themselves on a wide street crowded with people, parked cars, and motorcycles. It was cloudy at dusk, but the street was flooded with light from all store fronts and the signs full of lurid Kanji characters. They trotted past blaring loudspeakers, vending machines, anime characters with tiny noses and eyes swollen like cysts, a rack of cartoon porn DVDs, and racks of electronic gadgets.

THERE’S THE PIG!

WE HAVE VISUAL ON THE PIG!

Smitty sprinted up the street, zooming past street musicians and Japanese women passing out flyers who were dressed like French maids. Veronica heard Smitty's team panting as they veered and dodged silhouettes so fast it looked like a movie in fast-forward.

ALPHA TEAM, FOLLOW THE PINK ONE AND THE PIG. BRAVO TEAM, FIND THE ORANGE ONE.

The green-tinted video shook and blurred as they weaved around kiosks, pillars and trucks, people, and piles of boxes. They entered a computer store crammed with racks of stuff. They turned a corner—then Smitty fell back as a rack collapsed on top of him.

HE’S ATTACKING!

THE PIG’S ATTACKING!

SEND BACK-UP!

Smitty’s helmet-cam jolted backward to show a glimpse of the pig. Smitty staggered to his feet, just as the pig yanked on another rack, and shelves full of merchandise collapsed on top of him. The view lurched crazily, and jagged bolts of light leaped across the screen. Smitty’s cam view returned, showing a random diagonal view of the store’s ceiling, like it had been tumbled in an avalanche.

I’VE BEEN HIT! SEND HELP!

STATUS REPORT! WHERE’S THE GODDAMN PIG?

The last thing Veronica was the pig looming over Smitty, and its huge pig-fist zooming toward the screen.

Then the link went dead.

CC said...

(This is YA)

It was impossible to distinguish the dirt from the grass by eyesight, so once I shuffled toward the Blue Spruce, hidden by shadows, I got down on all fours, and patted the cold hardened soil.

A patch of soil, three square feet at least, was loose, muddy.

Here went nothing...

Knife in my freezing fist, I stabbed the earth with all my might.

Ting!

Pitching out handfuls of dirt and sludge, I rocked the top of the box, and finally loosened it enough to wedge it from the cavern. I didn’t have the key with me so there was nothing else to do but take the whole thing. Silently, I heaved the metal box – 27 pounds and 14 ounces or my name wasn’t Avery Mazur – out of its pit. Balancing it on my leg for a moment, I was able to get a comfortable grip on it. Mission accomplished.

Swoosh. A sliding glass door opened. Toenails tapped across the wood deck. The jangling of a single set of dog tags rang out... no... two or three sets, maybe more.

“Go out, go on, go outside,” a woman’s soprano voice urged.

Hmm. Maybe if I stood still they’d do their business and go back inside.

Clicking toenails ceased as paws hit the ground.

A choir of, “Awrroor! Awrroor!” yapped into the night air.

“Hush!” the soprano voice scolded. “Stop that! Jasper, Lucky, hush! Barkley, shh!” The deck light came on, casting eerie patches of light through the dense evergreen limbs.

“What’s going on?” a baritone voice said.

“I don’t know,” the soprano said. “Maybe that squirrel again.”

Go Avery, go!

As fast as I could, I ran along the perimeter of the yard, avoiding the deck light’s rays as much as I was able. Stumbling through the darkness, box cradled, mud sliming my jacket, I made a break for the side of the house.

“Who’s there?” the soprano voice demanded.

From the middle of the yard, five dog heads snapped toward me, their suspicions confirmed. The pack came for me. At me. Their wet mouths screaming barks of protest. “Awrroor! Awrroor!”

Oh, sweet Jesus, I was going to die.

One leapt for my backside. Two others stalked me from the side, attacking my heels.

“Awrroor! Awrroor!”

“That’s no squirrel,” the soprano said.

“I don’t see anything,” the baritone said.

“Don’t just stand there,” the soprano hollered. “Put your shoes on and see what it is!”

I’d made it to the side of the house and out of the view of the deck when razor-sharp teeth sank into my ankle. The shock catapulted my center of gravity, and I fell forward. My ribcage landed hard on the metal box. The shift in perspective spun my head like a top. Jerking myself upright, belly lurching, I stumbled along, hoisting the box back into my clutches, stepping on paws, kicking at dogs, trying to regain balance. Ten more steps and I’d be home free.

The invisible fence stopped the beasts where the sidewalk met the front lawn, but it was no use. I paused, and vomited: in the yard, on the sidewalk, and on more than one snout and tail.

And just as quickly, I turned, and was gone.

Terriers, I thought, as I flung myself into Jasmine’s mother’s car and started the engine, never did like those dogs. And my next bizarre thought, was... Jasmine likes Billy Wu?

Jeanette Marchand said...

The sun hid behind the clouds, plunging the century old bank into near darkness. It took a minute for my eyes to adjust to the dim electric lights.
The old woman in front of me gasped; reaching for her walker, she steadied herself. Then as quickly as the darkness fell, sunlight soon flooded the bank again.
The old woman with the walker turned to me. “When the lights went out,” she said, “I was sure the bank was going to be robbed.”
“Just the sun disappearing behind the clouds,” I assured her. I turned away, hoping the old woman would do so as well; but when I turned back, she was still facing me.
“I’ve been in here before when the bank was robbed.” A tear threatened to roll down her wrinkly cheek. “Four people died.”
I smiled. “You survived, so that’s good,” I said, hoping the old woman’s moment of nostalgia would pass.
“They killed my mother,” she said, her voice a ghostly whisper. “I was thirteen years old.”
I reached my hand out to touch the old woman’s shoulder. I understood her pain – I lost both parents. “I’m sorry.”
“Next!” came an angry shout. I looked up to see a disgruntled bank teller.
“You’re next,” I told the old woman.
Momentarily confused, the old woman’s face darkened as the sun must have partially slipped behind more clouds. “I’m next,” she repeated slowly, staring off past my shoulder.
“The bank teller is calling you,” I said. I turned to see what had caught the old woman’s attention.
There were three people standing in the doorway – darkened figures with guns. My hand slipped off the old woman’s shoulder.
“Everybody down!” echoed through the bank.
I turned to the old woman. “Here, let me help you.”
“No,” the old woman said. “It will hurt my hip.”
“You’ll get shot if you don’t,” I said. “Hurry.”
“No,” the old woman repeated.
“I said everybody down,” the man’s harsh voice boomed.
I slowly sank to the ground, pleading with the old woman to get down.
“Look, Grandma, get your ancient ass down on the floor,” he said, shaking his gun at her.
“I’ll break my hip again,” she said defiantly.
“I don’t give a damn; just get down!” he yelled.
The old woman stood her ground.
From my spot on the floor, I could see the old woman’s legs shaking. I saw the old woman’s knuckles turn whitish-blue as her grip tightened on the walker.
“Please lie down,” I whispered.
She looked down at me. “I’m tired of waiting in line.”
I saw the old woman’s eyes lose all traces of fear.
“I’m next.” The old woman sounded triumphant.
As the words left her mouth, a shot rang out in the bank. People screamed. A streak of red streamed down the old woman’s face. Her body crumpled to the ground. Her walker lurched forward and skittered across the polished marble floor.
“Now, is everyone going to listen?” the angry man yelled out.

Courtney said...

CIRCLING
Sci-Fi Thriller

“Come on, get in,” called George, leaning out the door of the airplane as it suddenly sputtered to life.
They ran to the plane, Bill giving Leah a boost into the back beside Nemo. The air in the hanger was heavy with exhaust and the smell of gasoline. The plane began rolling even before Bill swung his feet inside. They bounced out of the hanger and onto the wet, grassy stretch of runway.
“If you are a believer, I’m gonna ask you to say your prayers now, Hon,” said George.
“What’s wrong?” said Leah.
“I’ve got a limited runway for this type of plane. I’ve only ever taken it up a few times by myself, and it’s a lot less agile with more weight. With all of us in here, it’s a full load, and it’ll be tough to get airborne.”
“He’s also going to have to make a soft field takeoff,” said Bill. “This wet grass increases friction on the wheels and makes it harder to get up to speed. That treeline ahead is 450 meters away. To clear that is going to take every bit of skill he’s got.”
Leah’s face showed her dismay, but Bill wasn’t going to hide the truth from her. Her life was on the line, just as theirs was.
“But, you said he’s the best pilot there is. Surely he can do it,” said Leah.
Bill nodded. “He can.”
George looked sideways at Bill as he pressed the throttle forward. “Thanks, mate.”
The piercing zing of a bullet punctured the cabin between Leah and Nemo, exiting out the center of the windscreen. Leah screamed.
“Get down!” said Bill. He looked over at George who was fighting to keep the plane steady as they increased speed over the bumpy terrain.
George flipped the switch to set the flaps down for extra lift, and wiped sweat off his forehead. “Just got to keep the weight off the nose wheel,” he said, almost to himself.
Bill could hear more shots as the plane lifted, but hovered only a foot off the ground for what seemed like an eternity.
“What’s happening? Why can’t we lift up?” said Leah, her fingers now digging into Bill’s arm. Nemo began to whine, as if in empathy at Leah’s distress.
“It’s ground effect,” said George. “We’re only up because the wings are giving us a bit of a lift. Any moment now, our down draft will—”
The plane suddenly lurched upward, pushing off against the ground and snapping Bill’s head back.
“Are we good now?” said Leah.
Bill shook his head and gestured at the rapidly approaching treeline.
Leah clapped her hands to her face, covering her eyes, but immediately parted her fingers to peek through as they zoomed over and across the top of the closest tree with a slight bump and high-pitched squeal as the tail scraped against the upper-most branches.

Jed Cullan said...

Hi Nathan, as usual, brilliant contest. I really don't know how you continue to find time to do these.

Just a quick question. The rules state no more than 500 words. If you submit with, say, 501 or 502 words, will it be automatically disqualified?

many thanks

William Highsmith said...

"Unit ten, cover the northeast sector from the crest of the hill."

"Roger that," said Ten. "ETA is two minutes."

Francois Ambergris, the tactical coordinator, peaked over the crest. "Four, status."

"I'm not happy with my cover. Looking southeast, a small party of likely-types has gathered."

"Three, go to your alternate post. Tell me if you can penetrate the storage outbuilding and enter the main building unnoticed."

"I thought--"

"I'll do the thinking, Three...Four?"

"The party's dispersing...I'm losing site of--"

"Six?"

"Laser-ranged them, about two hundred meters from Seven."

"Seven?"

"They're dispersing. Three towards the main building and two walking south."

"No action until the prime target is sighted."

"I see them!"

"Who said that?" said Ambergris.

"Eight."

Ambergris looked at his map. "Are you sure, Eight?"

"Black Bentley. Right markings. The window's tinted. Looks right to me."

"Ten and Three, hot-foot it one-hundred meters west."

"Moving."

"Moving."

Ambergris worried that the vehicle under surveillance was a decoy. "Five, hang back to cover our backside. Civilian clothing. Arm yourself with something small...your choice. You know what that means, right, Five?"

"Bonus pay if I make the tag?"

"Good man, Five."

"This is Eight. The target car turned east...they pitched something out the window...small, white."

"Check it out," said Ambergris. He tapped his boot nervously. "Eight?"

"Cigarette butt."

"Was it lit, Eight?"

"Yeah, it's still warm."

"We've been royally screwed," said Ambergris. "There's no chance in hell there was a lit cigarette in the target's car. Five?"

"Another limo just squealed in. The ushers are all over it."

"Damn! Five, it's up to you, pal." Ambergris turned and viewed Five with his binoculars. Five had selected clerical garb. Ambergris hoped it was tear-away theatrical gear.

Five waved a Bible at the group and said something, but Ambergris could not hear him. He saw a group chuckle, though, so Five was doing well.

The target emerged from the limo. She was in white. Gorgeous. Five reached into his pocket and stepped in front of her; recognition of the situation immediately crossed her face. Ten shot her point blank with his weapon of choice for close-in work, an older Nikon point-and-shoot compact digital. It was only six megapixels, but at this range, it was deadly. No other tabloid would have anything but their imagination for their coverage of the prince's bride.

Ambergris watched helplessly while Five attempted his escape. The ushers were stunned. Only a hapless security guard managed to grab Five by the collar, but the prop clerical robe tore apart. Five was over a fence, scrabbling down a planned escape route within
seconds.

"Scatter!" said Ambergris over his radio. He scrambled to his motorbike in the woods. He'd hook up with Five at the office, later. His stomach clinched. They'd hook up if Five didn't cotch the merchandise and put it on auction himself.

It happens. It's a dirty business.

Courtney said...

I had spacing and tabs for paragraphs in my Word doc that didn't make it into the cut/paste of these comments.

Sorry for the rough format! I know that makes it tough to read.

Leis Draven said...

That's so cool, can't wait to read ROCK PAPER TIGER!

I'm afraid you'll have lots of extra reading to do this week, Nathan.

Barb said...

A flash of lightening displayed the scene through the window.

Paulo felt his mouth fall open at the shiny gloss of the dark stains patterning the palm leaves. Pale limbs moved in ghostly arcs, lifted by the shadows of the black lawn.

Caterina sat up,and the white oval of her face made Paulo take a step backwards. Blood ran from her lips, staining her chin and falling to the satin bodice of her dress.

The movement had spawned an urgency in him, and Paulo used two strides to reach the weapons rack, pulling the wooden implement into his clenched hands.

The crossbow clicked as his fingers wound the tension tighter, mirrored by his growing distress. His tears left trails down the heat of his face as he returned to the window.

She was his maker, the only vampire he had ever desired, or loved, but she had to be stopped.

The silver tipped bolt dropped into place.

ryan field said...

No time to enter. But I took a break and I've enjoyed reading the other entries for far.

Nathan Bransford said...

jed-

Yes, under 500 please!

And for others, I wouldn't copy over from Word - it might make the formatting wonky. Try and either type in or copy first into something like your Notepad that will turn it into plain text so you can see what it will look like when you paste it in.

Charlie Eve said...

Foster's breath caught in his throat as she drew near. His heart raced. He longed to be near her. He memorized her every curve, every speck of snow dust sprinkled across her pink cheeks. Long branches of ivory bone and feathers fanned out from between her shoulder blades. Each wing -tip dipped in topaz. Her velvety soft hair reflected the warm glow of candle light flickering throughout, as if kissed by a thousand stars. With her body, wrapped in ivory, she moved softly; a dancer’s grace.


She was alone. Alone! She never came without her wolf companion. Why would she venture into the forest by herself? It was not safe. Although frustrated by her lack of concern for her own safety, Foster knew it was the chance he'd long waited for.


Cautious, Foster crossed the stream to meet her. His desire grew stronger. His heart tripped over an extra beat. Foster felt his blood warm over. He shook the jitters from his hand and touched the small of her back.


Her spine stiffened under the palm of his hand. She rose up, spun wildly in the air and turned to him. Her hand instinctively reached for her cross bow. Confusion washed over her face. With her glowing amber eyes upon him, he was struck silent, unable to speak a word.


The stench of coal and stale milk overwhelmed his senses. Foster knew their stink anywhere. He heard the rustle and gaggle of stone fairies on the hunt.

“Hide now!” he whispered to her.


He watched as a small doe, wild with fear, leaped over the stream and up the hill, desperate to lose them. Foster heard the hiss of the arrow, hurling through the air as it ripped each branch, ready to down the little doe.
He saw the panic in Luella’s eyes and heard her heart pound hard against her ribs. Luella clutched her chest and fell to the ground. Foster knew if he didn’t save the doe, it would be no different than if he stabbed Luella in the heart.


He scanned the trees, the arrow moved past him in slow motion. In one fluid movement, he plucked the arrow from the air and watched as the doe broke free of the forest and took long strides across the frost soaked meadow.


In the tree, above where the doe had passed, he sat, so still, as if his weight had no bearing on the branches below. His sapphire spotted wings stretched out behind him. His once stone blue-grey eyes softened into still pools of aquamarine.

Peering down at her, arrow in hand he turned; making sure the doe was safe. His eyes shifted back to her. He held her gaze. Frozen she stared back. The penetration of her silky eyes upon him smoothed over his once rigid demeanor. This moment lingered as the thick hiss of the stone fairies echoed through the trees. They were aware of their defeat, but unaware of her or him. Knowing she was safe, he disappeared.

Jed Cullan said...

Thanks, Nathan. Please, please tell me that the title isn't included in that 500 words. Please. Pretty please.

:-D

many thanks

Chris V said...

A steel bird land on the telephone pole a few paces away. It was black and had piercing red eyes.
“Hey, look!” Billy whispered to Megan, pointing toward the bird. It primarily resembled a vulture.
“Oh, wow…” Megan uttered. “I think we’d better sneak off, Billy. I don’t think it would be a good thing if it…” But before she could finish her thought, the robotic vulture looked down, and its eyes glistened upon registering Billy and Megan.
“Oh, no…” Megan gasped just before a deafening scream penetrated the mist, forcing Billy and Megan to cup their ears with their hands. The vulture continued to scream for what felt like two full minutes, its head upturned toward the sky. All Megan and Billy could do was gawk at each other with their hands on their ears. When the abominable noise finally stopped, a series of sounds congested the area. But these sounds were even more alarming than the shriek issued by the vulture. Loud clanking noises emanated from behind them and in front of them – a whole army of machines from the sound of it.
“Crap – what’re we gonna do?” Megan cried.
“This way!” Billy said, and veered off the side of the road onto the brown grass. Megan followed close behind, the bird screaming its eardrum-shattering scream again – and again forcing Billy and Megan to lid their ears. As they ran, Billy threw a glance behind him.
Nothing.
He threw another glance a couple seconds later, and glimpsed among swirls of fog sporadic segments of two black sword-wielding robots behind them – the same type as the first one they encountered. There were more than that, too, he knew, but these were the frontrunners.
When the vulture stopped screaming, Megan rasped, “Should we start shooting?”
“Not yet,” Billy said. “We still have some leeway on them. They’ll catch up, obviously, but we should try to avoid using our guns until we absolutely have to. Just give it a little more time.” He glanced behind him again. As expected, the first two had advanced a couple paces, and two more were now vaguely visible behind those. “Shit…” he murmured.
“I don’t know if we can shoot them all down,” Megan wheezed. “I mean, one was okay, but a few? I think the more room we have to shoot, the better. Why wait until they’re literally on us?”
Billy was about to concede her point when part of the mist shifted in front of them, revealing a cabin in the near distance just a bit off to their right.
“Megan – another cabin!” he cried. “Maybe we can use it as a stronghold – or a distraction of sorts.”
“You sure?” Megan said.
“It’s a good a plan as any.”
And so they angled toward the cabin with the scratchy thish sounds of a squadron of metal feet on their heels.

Nathan Bransford said...

jed-

Title doesn't count.

Jill said...

I'm reading Lisa's book now -- hard to beat an action scene featuring McDonald's workers battling KFC workers at the Great Wall!

Great contest to match a great book.

Good luck, Lisa!

Jed Cullan said...

Phew!

You've just made my christmas card list ;)

Creepy Query Girl said...

Gretchen’s arms broke out in goose bumps. The tall man giving the discourse turned. It was the same man who had threatened her during the séance. Piercing blue eyes stared out from his withered face. Gretchen’s heart pounded hard in her chest. ‘But if that’s him, and he’s dead, that means that all the others....all those people....’ She stiffened. “Josephine, can you see them?”
Josephine nodded solemnly. “Yes, why? What do you think they’re doing here?” Gretchen shook her head. “They’re all dead Josephine. They’re ghosts.”
“GHOSTS!!” Michael’s voice rang out as he shot upwards, eyes wide. Josephine tried to keep him quiet but it was too late. The voices had stopped. Gretchen looked up to find twenty pairs of sunken eyes staring in their direction.
“Blasphemists!! Satan worshipers!” The white haired man raised a fist. He bounded towards them with unearthly speed, followed by the mob of puritan spirits at his heels.
“Run!” Gretchen called out to the others as she herself started down the beaten path with all her might.
“Wait!” Sully called after her but she didn’t slow. He eventually caught up to her and they joined hands, running together through the forest. Somewhere in the distance Gretchen heard Josephine’s scream.
“Joe!” She called out breathlessly.
“Don’t stop!” Sully commanded. “They’re right behind us!”
He pulled her off the path and they fell down amongst the brush. Gretchen closed her eyes. “Mira, Mother, Father.” She muttered her silent prayer under her breath and instantaneously the gold, green and red flashes of color surrounded her. A fierce icy wind blew towards them, separating the brush as it went. Gretchen buried her head in Sully’s chest, waiting to be overtaken by the mad spirits.
But from the corner of her eyes, she saw her parents and Mira spring forward like warriors in battle and make a barrier between them and whatever it was on their chase. Within moments, they had forced the spirits back out onto the path and farther away into the woods until they disappeared from sight.
And then all was still. Gretchen and Sully continued to breathe in ragged gasps for a long moment. “What was that?” Sully asked in a choked whisper. Gretchen shook her head.
“Ghosts.”
Sully stared at her. “Ghosts?” he repeated.
“Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of them.”

Hollister Ann Grant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
verorossi said...

Title: Willem Hawk
YA Adventure

Sky and earth tilted to the left, a blur of blue and white, as a shrill whinny broke into the air. Padrig Forester had only time to grasp the pommel as his horse lurched further to the side. The mare’s hooves begged for purchase in great dragging scrapes. He held on, rocking and sinking, until at last she found a foothold and righted with a jolt. Padrig made a low sound to soothe her, a sound made strange by his trembling voice.

He searched the ground below. White gashes floated inches above the mountain trail, scored by the mare’s shoes. Black ice again, invisible and deadly. Padrig patted her sweat-matted neck.

“Steady as you go, Ginny,” he murmured. “This will be done with soon.”

The mare startled under his touch and tossed her head in defiance. She was a good horse, had served him well for near a dozen years, but Padrig knew their bond had been broken that morning. She had smelled the blood early and when it came time to tie the cart’s shafts to her harness she had fought, rearing and bucking like he’d never seen. She had even bitten his shoulder, stamped his skin with a purple imprint of horse teeth that still throbbed.
But Padrig couldn’t blame her. Animals had a powerful aversion to death.

Padrig turned around. The cart still crunched along over the snow-patched trail behind him. Dark circles stained the woolen blanket he’d draped over the top. The putrid stench overtook him, nausea striking next, raking claws through his stomach, flooding his mouth with warm saliva. Padrig bit down and pressed a prayer through his lips, pleading to Gepsa for forgiveness. When the sickness finally ebbed away, he vowed not to look at the cart again. Not until he had to give it to the boy.

He lifted his gaze to the crest of Mount Aroe. There, within the icy dome, lay the Cobai city where the boy was said to be. It would be immense work to reach that place—the coming trail would only offer steeper grades and more snow—but that was why he had been chosen to deliver the cart. His reputation as an expert tracker had brought him good coin in the past. This time it was he who’d pay if he failed. WIth his life.

“Take heart, Ginny.” The mare’s long brown ears flicked back. “At least we’ll learn if the blood of the Lion still lives.”

Padrig found solace in his own words. Since autumn, the question had been in every mind. If the boy truly was Erick of Belfort’s son then Tarthians could have some hope. If he was the Lion’s son, Padrig would pledge his fealty—his life’s service—in a single breath.

But how would the boy react? Would he condemn Padrig for what he was doing? Padrig had no choice but to deliver this vile load—would the boy have the wisdom to understand? Padrig leaned aside and spat at the frozen earth. No one should have to do what he was doing.
No one.

Bad as he felt, Padrig knew the boy, Willem Hawk, would feel far worse when he saw what was in the cart.

Gina Frost said...

“Who are you? What do you want from me?” I managed to choke out.

“I've come to take you home.”

“I am home. You're not real, just a figment of my imagination.”

“I'm as real as you are Kendra.”

“You can't be real. I really do have a good imagination. I'm going to close my eyes now, you'll be gone when I open them again.”

I couldn't close my eyes though, couldn't look away. I was lost in the depths of his golden gaze. My head was spinning faster making me nauseous. I could feel the acid rising up into my throat, burning through my esophagus as I instinctively swallowed it back down.

The spinning stopped abruptly as his hold on me was released and I dropped. I could feel the cool grass beneath me, smell the freshness of the too clean air. This couldn't be home. There was no sidewalk, no pavement, no cars parked in the driveways or on the side of the road, nothing but a grassy meadow surrounded by trees. Nothing like home. It had to be a dream.

“We have to go,” he spoke urgently now.

“Go where? Where are we? How did we get here? Who are you?”

“I will answer your questions just as soon as I get you to safety.”

He held his hand out to me.

“Come on Kendra, you can wake up anytime now,” I told myself.

“This is not a dream and if I don't get you out of here now we will both be in serious danger.” His voice was louder now.

“I sense no danger here.” Except from him, I thought. He's finally driven me completely insane.

I heard a noise in the woods behind us and turned to see what it was. He took my hand in his powerful grip as he pulled me to my feet again. It felt like every bone in it was being crushed. He dragged me behind him at a speed I was finding increasingly difficult to match, despite my years of physical training. My breath was coming out in ragged breaths as we continued the pace, branches slapped at my face and I nearly tripped more than once over fallen tree limbs. At least I hoped it was only tree limbs.

I could sense his desperation to get us out of these woods, felt the danger he sensed and my overactive mind began to conjure images of dead bodies littering the ground around us, bringing on a new sense of panic in me. Every attempt to breathe brought a sharp pain into my lungs, my legs felt like rubber and by the time he finally stopped, I collapsed into him. The panic increased as I realized I couldn't draw in that breath of air that I so desperately needed.

Reena Jacobs said...

I'm toying with this as an opening for my paranormal suspense.

ACTION SEQUENCE

The tiger crashed through the underbrush. Berani forced herself not to look back; it would only delay her. Or worse, she’d lose her footing. She raced through the trees. Her hair whipped behind her, snagging low-hanging branches. Strands ripped free and sent searing pain coursing through her scalp. Though the skin burned, she dared not feel for damage. She couldn’t, not if she wanted to escape.

There…a flicker of light? Yes, she was so close. Ahead the sun broke through the thick foliage of the forest. Her salvation.

A roar thundered so loud and ferocious, birds took flight. Her chest resonated from the sound of it, and she missed a step. She recovered and put forth an extra burst of speed. Her lungs burned with the effort. Still, she pumped her arms. She could do this…Only a couple more feet. If only…

Too late. A low growl, her only warning, vibrated behind her—so close it whispered in her ear. She spun mid-step, tumbling backward. Her heart skipped a beat as a massive of orange flew at her. Great Spirit! She clamped her eyes shut. Her body tensed.

The tiger hit. Its shoulders slammed her midsection. She grunted as the air whooshed from her lungs. Jerked from her feet, she sped through space.

The wind chilled her skin. Time lost meaning.

Her mind snapped. Thoughts raced. The ground fast approaching. Her vulnerable position. Spine exposed.

Berani opened her mouth, but the scream caught her in throat, and she fell in silence.

The tiger twisted and rotated, putting her on top. Her eyes flew open. The imminent ground rushed at her at neck-breaking speed. She threw out her hands just in time to jar all bone in her arms. Her shoulders threatened to jump out of the sockets while her hands scraped along the dirt and rocks.

Berani slid for a yard before stopping. She lay frozen; her wits too scattered for action. Alive—the only thought her mind could formulate. Her body kick started, taking over where she could not. Like a baby inhaling its first gasp of air, her lungs expanded and drew in a huge wheezing breath.

The huge cat chuffed beneath her, shaking her with each sneeze-like sound. Laughter slowly replaced the chuffing as the fur faded and the immense bulk of the tiger diminished. In the place of the massive feline lay a young man.

Young man, she scoffed to herself, more akin to a boy barely entering adolescence. Berani pushed off him and lay on her back, her deep breaths slowing to a steady rhythm. She let her head fall to the side, facing him.

His body quaked with mirth as his beautiful tanned skin, perfect save for the ragged scar running down his belly, glistened with a light sheen of sweat. His yellow catlike eyes stared back at her in utter amusement. “Not quick enough that time, Berani.”

She narrowed her eyes. “If you were anyone but my brother, I would kill you.”

Bryan D said...

Barnes and Noble didn't have Rock, Paper, Tiger today! They offered to order it, but I told them I could get it from Amazon faster. Looking forward to reading it. Congratulations, Lisa!

DG said...

From No Ceiling Zeros (WIP):

Alex piloted the Black Swan down south along the east shore of the Potomac, and now was nearly at the southern end of Bolling Air Force Base, the point where he always turned the boat west to cross the Potomac River and return home to the Washington Sailing Marina.

It was only seconds after Alex had turned the boat that the brothers first became aware of the strange noise.
“What the hell is that?” Jamie asked.
Alex shook his head, unsure.
The two brothers had sailed the Potomac nearly every weekend for the past three decades. What they heard now didn’t match anything on record. They searched the river in all directions for an approaching boat or heavy rolling wake. Nothing. Jamie glanced back at the Swan’s engine compartment, saw no smoke. The view of the sky above them was obscured by the boat’s extended cabin cruiser roof.

The sound grew louder, painful, more puzzling. Alex cut the throttle. He didn’t know what else to do. Their hands raced up to protect their ears while their bodies cowered. What they heard and saw next wasn’t something they’d likely forget over two lifetimes.

Leaning forward in their seats they peered through the Swan’s windshield and saw a 737, headed straight toward them. It passed overhead at barely one hundred feet with engines in shrill protest.
The brothers turned to look aft, and saw that the plane was cranked around in a hard left yaw, like a car whose rear end had stepped out on a patch of black ice. A flash of sunset raced across the plane’s polished aluminum belly.

Within two seconds, the left wing which reached some fifty feet out from the fuselage, tilted down sharply rotating the plane about its long axis. Fixed to the tip of each wing was a winglet, an eight-foot high aerodynamic addition that helped the plane conserve fuel during flight. The left winglet was pointing down now toward the frigid water below. Stretching. Reaching like a claw hungry for contact.

Alex and Jamie stood to watch the plane fly its final seconds. Surely the men in the cockpit were working to save their airplane, Alex thought. That the pilot had harkened back to a computer simulation with these very same parameters, that he was searching desperately to find the proper control inputs to end this aerial doddery and restore grace.
But the Potomac was coming fast.
The winglet hit first, clutching the water in a tightened fist. A sickening whip followed. The cockpit dove down into the water striking the shallow river bottom. As the tail section shot suddenly upward, the left wing sheared off and the fuselage buckled. The plane tore apart in a hopeless cartwheel of destruction.

Anonymous said...

Action sequence, by "DrawnToArt"

It wasn't his voice that caught my attention. Nor was it the way he walked, even thought his ankles nearly gave way with every step because of the beers.

It wasn't the smoke rings from his cigarette that rose high into the musty air like an SOS sent out after your only chance of rescue had long since come and gone.

What caught my attention was his eyes.

They say they are a window to the soul, with their being human or animal proving irrelevant.

I'd never believed it until now.

I could see the sin and hatred spilling over into his irises as he leaned over me, his pupil no longer strong enough to contain them.

I was on my knees, restrained and powerless, because he didn't have the balls to kill me like a man.

My badge meant nothing to him, and it didn't mean anything to me, either, when I didn't have a gun to back it up.

I didn't have my issued firearm, but he did, and he was deep in thought, contemplating, I was sure, just exactly he was going to do the deed.

Did he want a mess to clean up before his six year old son came home from school and asked him to take him to the park, blood spattered on the walls from killing me execution-style?

Or did he want a clean and nearly silent little venture?

What he wanted more than anything was to see me die, a true blue cop and Vietnam vet, in his worthless little hands.

He wanted to watch me take my very last breath. He wanted to hear me curse him. He wanted to be able to say he took down a man of the law singlehandedly, and that I didn't even fight back.

He would never admit the truth, but taking my life would instantly become the biggest accomplishment of his waste of human life.

He brushed back a lock of his gray hair and spat in my face.

"You got family?"
"I do."
"A wife and kids?"
"Yes."
"Your kids still call you 'daddy'?"
I nodded.
"You tell your kids you loved them this morning?"

My mouth was as cotton, dry as rattan. "I did."

A smile never crossed his face; I thought one would have.

"Looks like daddy won't be coming home."

He pulled the trigger, but the weapon didn't fire. I didn't get a chance to tell him it wasn't loaded, but I took it as my saving grace and used the opportunity to try one last thing, one last attempt to live to die another day.

It was one last attempt to survive.

War hadn't killed me, but I was afraid this just might.

Amanda said...

Chase scene:

“Follow!” I said instinctively. “This doesn’t seem like regular road rage.” Sawyer said nothing more; he made a sharp U-Turn as the car passed us, and sped up to keep up with it. The driver quickly picked up that he was being followed and started to serve erratically down side streets, trying to put distance between us.
“This ain’t my first car chase,” Sawyer said, making a sharp right to avoid a truck that was in front of us. The streets here were narrow and packed, but we kept the car in our sights, and Sawyer didn’t take his foot off the gas. I was buckled in, but had to grip the dashboard to keep from being thrown around. We had now turned onto Broadway, which was good because it was a much wider road, but bad because it was still packed with cars. Sawyer honked and blasted his horn, and maneuvered between cars like an expert as we kept up our chase.
“I refuse to wreck another car,” Sawyer said through gritted teeth.
“So far you’ve just been scratching the hell out of the sides,” I said. The SUV was in closer range now. Just then I saw someone lean out of the back seat window and point a gun at us.
“Fuck!” I yelled, as the gun fired and Sawyer swerved to avoid it. The gunman didn’t stop with one bullet though, he kept firing off shots at us, and that just made the panic in the streets rise as people started screaming and running, and cars started driving erratically as their drivers tried to get out of the way. That at least would work for us.
“Two can play that game asshole,” I said. I took out my gun, rolled down the window and slid out.
“Be fucking careful Avirae,” Sawyer said. “I almost lost you once, don’t catch a bullet.”
“I won’t,” I said. I pointed my gun and sighted down my arms, but I wasn’t aiming for the gunman, who was still firing though his shots went wide. I was aiming for the back tire. As I was about to fire, Sawyer suddenly took the car in a wide swerve and I lost my aim. His swerve had put me out of the way of a bullet that came whizzing past though, so I was okay with it. I aimed again, and this time got a shot off before I had to dive back into the car as a several bullets came right at me. One of them shattered the wing mirror and Sawyer cursed.
“Fucking assholes ruining my baby!" Sawyer growled. “Stop them now Avirae, so I can smash their faces in.”
“I’m on it.” I edged back out the window, aimed my gun, and fired off several shots. One of them finally did the trick; one of the back tires blew out and the car started swerving crazily as the driver tried to maintain control of it.

Mark Siegal said...

This experiment is double-blind. We don't know which of us is the clone, and neither do those quack scientists.

It's better this way. I would wring their necks if they knew and we didn't. I suppose that means you would too. Unless quantum fluctuations have already jostled our once-identical brains.

I wish you'd say something. It's lonely sitting here in the dark, no chair between me and the concrete floor. I scream but get no response. Not even an echo.

And I have to pee. I'm not using that bottle they left, as if I could find it. I'd probably pee on you.

#

I think you're the clone and you know it. How could I be the clone? I feel like me, like I've always felt.

That explains why you're so quiet. You're sure it means you'll have to go fight in some unknown war, while I head back home to screw our wife. My wife. Don't even think about her like that, you freak.

Maybe you felt the nanobots gather your atoms while we slept. Maybe it hurt enough to wake you. Maybe those scientists told you and not me.

The more I stare at nothing, the more I wonder if I'm the freak. I'm the original scraps of meat that shouldn't exist anymore. Obsolete. If this were the local end of a teleporter, I'd disintegrate while you went off to explore strange new whatever.

#

You're not in here with me. I ran around this tiny room flailing my arms and found only the walls, a seamless extension of the floor's dull concrete. No sign of you.

Must be an air vent up there somewhere, but the ceiling is out of reach. Maybe you're hanging from the grate or already slithered to freedom. The only other way you could be hiding here is if you knew exactly where I'd move next. I sure as hell don't know that about you.

Are you in your own dark room, thinking these thoughts, panting from your flailing?

You better be.

#

After a few hours in boring darkness with nobody to talk to, you'll find yourself eager for any new sensation. Even the smell of your own piss. The sound of shattered glass, as shards fly into your hand.

Breaking a thick bottle isn't some love tap against the proverbial bar, then you have yourself a weapon. You have to work for it, even smashing it against concrete.

I don't care who the clone is. I'm the one who's getting out of this experiment alive.

#

The light is blinding, feels like someone moved my balls up to my eye sockets and then punched real hard.

But I ignore the pain and force myself to look. At last I can see you, you quiet bastard.

You come at me with your own broken bottle, the same angry look on your face.

#

Fucking mirrors.

Melissa said...

Title: Smashing
Genre: YA

Curiosity got the better of me and I moved back to the gap in the tent.

The riot had grown so big that it was impossible to distinguish any one person. Jane stood next to me, and together we watched as the moving mass pulled down one of the residential tents. In seconds, the heavy covering was stripped from the poles holding it up. The riot moved on, but the resulting damage had volunteers trying to fight their way under tarps making sure no one was caught underneath.

“Should we leave?” Jane asked.

I couldn’t answer. Watching the riot was sickly fascinating. The mob seemed to move as one, tearing apart the camp. Soldiers surrounded them, but there were far more rioters then there were of them. Men in riot gear – heavy helmets and black bulletproof vests – joined the soldiers. The crowd grew so large that they brushed the edges of D tent. Panic settled into the palms of my hands. I tried to shake it off, but it was no good.

“Let’s go,” I said.

“Where?” she asked.

I was already running toward the opposite side of the tent. There was still a crowd gathered at the entrance, so I made my own exit ripping open a gap in the wall. Jane had trouble fitting through, but in moments we were both running. We weren't the only ones. There were just as many people trying to flee the riot as there were joining it. A deafening noise of panting, shouting and the eerie chanting from the rioters filled the air.

"Needing help is not a crime, needing help is not a crime," they sing-songed, answered by the gruff, metallic call of "Return to your tents” from the refugee camp’s mounted speakers.

The sound made the hair on my arms stand up.

The loud crack of a shot firing sent the people fleeing the riot into a tailspin. Jane ran so much faster than me we got separated. I tried to stay calm, but I couldn’t. My breath came up short, and I had a painful stitch in my side. I stopped running, just for a second, just to force down some air, and I got knocked to the ground. Someone stepped on my hand. The pain was so immediate; I thought my bones might be broken. Another shot fired, and with it the speed of the people passing me. I couldn’t get up. When I tried, I was knocked back down. I made myself as small as possible. People kept running past me, so close their legs brushed my face.

I couldn't catch my breath. I'm not sure how long I stayed like that. All I know is that it occurred to me at some point that I'd rather not die by being trampled to death, and I started crawling.

I made it to my feet when a heavy hand clamped down on my shoulder.

- Melissa Constantine

Robin_Lucas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MC Rogerson said...

Peace at last. I sank into the music, convincing myself that I was back at home. Back lying on my double bed with the Missoni throw and furry cushions, people laughing in the streets below me, only a bus ride to the shops, a tube ride from the best city in the world. It was so easy to...

My dreams broke off as I heard a noise, indistinct underneath the guitars. I flicked out one earbud and listened, my ears twitching.

Nothing.

Pushing the volume up, I settled into London again, reliving my perfect day. Meeting up with Lucy by the clock tower, sharing gossip over a mocha, getting the tube to Neal Street to buy some clothes and...

Crash!

The sound of breaking glass shattered my mental picture into a million tiny pieces. I ripped off the ipod and ran to the window, holding my heart close.

The garden was clear. I stared into the hedges beyond the lawn, straining to see whether anything was hiding behind the trees. Nothing.

Breathing out, I closed the window tight again and tiptoed onto the landing. The hall below was empty as far as I could see and there wasn’t any damage, but something wasn’t right. I squinted again then drew back sharply as I spotted faint marks on the floor.

Footprints. Lots of them.

“Ben? Is that you?” I croaked.

A leaflet blew across the foot of the stairs.

I crept into Nan and Richard’s room, pressing my nose against the glass, hoping to see the car on the lane, but the road was empty. Downstairs, a door banged shut.

Screams crowded my throat, pressing to get out, but my curiosity was stronger. I peered between the bannisters, squinting though the dusty sunray that slashed across the stairs. The prints were all over the hallway, marked out in mud and something horrible, red against the pine floorboards.

My body went numb, but my brain stayed surprisingly calm - telling me to weigh up the options, to take control. There weren’t any phones upstairs, and there wasn’t a lock on my bedroom door. My best chance was the bathroom. At least I could barricade it properly. Whoever was downstairs might not even guess that anyone was at home if I moved quietly enough. I wiped my hands on my jeans, and placed the tip of my sock on the wood, my hands clenched tight. I leaned forwards.

There was a long low creak.

Panic shot through me like a knife and I froze. I stepped backwards, waiting for a few seconds, keeping a lookout and when no one came, I took a larger step towards the bathroom, hoping that my stride was wide enough to miss the creaky patch. Two more moves and I’d be in. I braced myself, and checked the hallway again. I wished that I hadn’t.

It was staring right back at me.

Evelyn Skye said...

Title: Timeless
Genre: YA Paranormal

A pair of boots crunched on the dry leaves behind me. I'd thought I was alone. I turned and squinted in the setting sun, in the direction of the fire-scorched hill at the edge of the graveyard.

A boy in a charcoal coat stood in the brush, the brown weeds up to his knees. He looked a couple years older than me, maybe eighteen. His emerald eyes sparkled in the early evening light, and a gust of wind tousled his hair and blew an inky lock into his eyes. I didn't know who he was, but I wanted to reach out and brush the black wisps away for him.

He took a couple steps toward me, still watching me. His coat was unbuttoned over a tweed vest and brown wool trousers, and the glint of a delicate silver chain around his neck caught my eye. Maybe all that Mr. Darcy stuff from the summer reading list had finally seeped into my brain because he looked almost Victorian. He furrowed his brow while he stared, as if he recognized me. And he gave me a lopsided smile.

I couldn't tear my eyes off him.

He stopped thirty yards away from me. I started to get up, but he backed away as soon as I did. I froze. He retreated a few more paces before he spun on the heel of his boot and bolted.

"Hey! Wait!"

"I'm sorry, I can't," he yelled over his shoulder, with a hint of a British accent.

"Do I know you?"

"No, my mistake..." He fled up the rocky slope, into the scrappy bushes of Mt. Ladoga Hills.

For a moment, I gaped after him. Don't just stand there! What are you waiting for? I jerked into action and scrambled over the short, stone wall at the edge of the cemetery, sprinting in his wake through the long brown grass and sagebrush. He hurdled over a boulder and onto Old Coyote Trail.

I raced after him as fast as I could, but his legs were way longer than mine, and my rubber flip-flops tripped me up. By the time I reached the trail, all I could see was the puff of dust he'd kicked up behind him. I followed the path until the cloud of dirt settled. My eyes darted around, down the trail, to the hill to my left, to the shallow ravine on my right.

There he was, weaving through tumbleweeds at the bottom of the trench, a hundred yards away from me. He looked over his shoulder one last time before he dashed away. I lost sight of him in a cluster of oaks.

A minute later, the sky exploded in a flash of translucent blue light.

What the –! Go, Helene! I careened down the side of the ravine, trying not to get too tangled in the branches of the chaparral, and tumbled the last few feet. My heart pounded in my throat, and I hurried after him into the sparse oak forest.

SquirlGirl said...

I handed Fiona to my mother and gazed through the window. It was chaos. I couldn’t see anything that was going on for sure. I focused on Ruby and her flaming red hair. She seemed to be standing tall and confidently. It gave me hope.

Of course, she could have looked exactly the same way right before being shredded. There was no way for me to know.

In the midst of the turmoil, it was amazing that I could notice anything on the fringe, but my attention was pulled from the battle. While we were far away in our observatory, there was no mistaking who it was. And he had someone thrown over his shoulder as he ran. I would know that ponytail anywhere.

The gasp escaped me. “Lily!” What could he possibly want with her?

But I couldn’t wait to find out. I spun on my heels and ran toward the stairs.

Blaire grabbed me around the waist. “No way, Anabelle. You’re under my care, and you’re not leaving.”

I fought against her grip, but she was much stronger than me. But I did have something she couldn’t compete with. I pooled the energy within me, and released enough electricity from my skin to give her a minor shock. She stumbled away, stunned.

There was nothing to stand in my way.

I was flying down the stairs. I heard Marcus calling after me, but I couldn’t stop. I’d done too much to keep Lily out of harm’s way all these months. She might have the courage of a cougar in a kitten’s body, but that was only if the fight was held within the rules of the mundane. In this world, the only magic Lily had was detecting lies, and you couldn’t fight fire with lie detection.

I found stairs and practically slid down them to the ground level. If he had been headed for the garage, he was probably bringing her inside. If I could just cut him off…

From behind me, I heard, “Anabelle! Wait!” But I couldn’t.

As I turned a corner, a door at the far end of the hallway swung open. Without even a pause, all I saw was Lily’s ponytail swinging as she was carried down another hallway and out of my sight. I ran as fast as I could behind them and bounded around the corner.

They were nowhere to be seen, but since the hallway ended after a hundred yards, he couldn’t have taken her far. Doors lined the hall, but none of them showed any signs of having been opened recently. None were swinging shut. None were unlatched or slightly ajar.

I cautiously moved down the hall. It ended with a door, presumably to the outside. Something was familiar about this hallway, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Had I been here before?

I was about halfway down when I heard a doorknob click behind me. I jumped around, on guard, ready for what might come.

Robin_Lucas said...

Title: MYTH
YA Fantasy/ Thriller

Sunday night, I was awakened by a hand on my mouth. They held it so tight that I tasted the warm, metallic tang of my own blood. The lights in my room flickered on and off with laughter and shrieking. I felt like I was in a bad horror movie, and screamed like Bimbo #1 about to meet her fate.

They dragged me into the bathroom where the buzzing of an electric razor snapped me into fight or flight mode. It took four more large girls to hold me. They threw me face down on the bathroom floor. It's chill went through me.

“Just hold still, Paris Hilton. This won’t take very long” Angela said, her rugged voice laughing in triumph.

Two girls held my arms behind my back, and a few sat on my legs. If I could’ve gotten a leg free, I would’ve kicked them into the next room.

A small body straddled my shoulder blades and jabbed a sharp knee into my neck.

“I said hold still. Girl, why do I always have to repeat myself with you?” Angela’s weight was deceptive for her size.

My breasts felt like they were going to burst under the unwelcomed pressure of the miniature sumo. She sliced her knee into my neck like the blade of a guillotine as the razor made several sweeps over my skull, slashing my wavy locks. I helplessly acknowledged my tresses as they fell to the ground in defeat.

After being sheared like a sheep, my captors turned me over onto my back. Angela, hovering over my head, pulled out a black Sharpie marker and moved in on my face like a demented clown. My fear-filled expression reflected off of her dark green eyes.

The marker raked across my skin like a tattoo needle, slicing the flesh in some places. With the final stroke of the Sharpie, the little tormentor smacked me across my cheek.

“I think you’re ready for your close up, Paris.”

The crowd cackled and pointed when I stirred, tears pouring down my marked face. I was going to kill them all, slowly and painfully.

“Let’s leave Ms. Millions to her makeover. She needs to see just how pretty she is,” Angela said.
She spit at me and left, slamming the door in crude laughter.

I managed to sit on the closed toilet, unable to compose myself, legs shaking. My body was conflicted between rage and hurt. With an open mouth, I moved my hands over my head and pulled myself up to the mirror. A blunt coldness hit me at my core as I stood, reading the vulgarities scrawled over my face: “slut, whore, Angela was here, $$$$$”. I looked like a tagged underpass. Shaved to stubble, my head rivaled that of a chemo patient.

Shane B said...

“Step back from the railing!”

Danny ignored the man and leaned a little further, in an attempt to see down into sinkhole. A few days before, the giant hole had swallowed an entire intersections plus parts of four buildings. Before security or rescue personnel had arrived, Danny had fearlessly walked to the edge and peered down into the earth. Sheer walls of rock extended down several hundred feet and then there seemed to be a chasm of some sort.

He watched the guard as he swung a leg over the railing and then the other. The guard immediately leveled his rifle at him, but Danny did not care. He had no family to speak of and was hopelessly unemployed. When he had looked into the darkness a few days before, he knew he had seen lights moving down there. He was sure it could not be one of the buildings burning and many thoughts raced through his mind.

Finally, he had arrived at his current plan. It was ten feet from the rail to the rim of the hole and Danny wasted no time getting there. The guard yelled something at him again, but Danny did not hear it as he jumped off into the darkness.

Seconds later he pulled the rip cord on his parachute. He watched the rings of sedimentary rock float by as he approached the bottom of the rock walls, hoping the guard would decide against taking some shots at him. The carbide light came to life with the click of a switch, but it did little to pierce the vast darkness as he continued his slow fall.

The sunlight from above him had turned into nothing more than a small circle the size of a manhole when he finally landed. He looked away from the sky and attempted to peer into the blackness all around him. There were no walls and the top of the cavern was also invisible to him except where the hole had broken through.

He knew that he had to be standing on a huge pile of debris and began scanning the area. He saw no lights in any direction and began hoping he was not dreaming when he had looked down the first time. That was when he realized he was not standing on rubble. Instead it appeared to be freshly turned dirt and rocks. He walked in spirals around his landing site for nearly half an hour before being rewarded with the discovery of a makeshift roadway. He smiled to himself, but that quickly faded as he heard a deep voice over a loud speaker from somewhere to his right.

“Trespasser! Stop!”

Danny had no interest in finding out who might be down there with him, so he ran into the darkness to his left. The smell of water ahead of him and the roar of an engine behind him drove him forward. He only hoped the water would slow down his pursuer and that he would not drown.

Ken Cassell said...

Two cars parked up the street with people sitting in them alerted Bryan that something could be wrong. He stopped, not wanting to ditch the bag of groceries. The ingredients for Joanna's birthday dinner cost him a bundle. A car door opened and a man in a suit got out and looked his way.

This was not good. He needed to turn around and run. The other car began to back up towards him. Bryan carefully laid the bag down in the faintest hope he might be able to come back for the contents. He walked across the street as calmly as he could. He was running as soon as he made it a few steps onto the sidewalk.

A ffffft sound blew past his ear. The bark of the tree behind him shattered. Bryan didn't know if that was a warning shot or if they wanted him dead. He thought that dead might be more the case. After all, it’s a bit risky to date the mobster's daughter, especially when you're with the FBI and undercover.

The car turned a 180 and it was now pointed towards him and accelerating. Bryan heard the engine whine. Powerful. Just like Lucas Pedrelli, Joanna's father. Whiny and powerful.

He jumped a fence and laid low for a minute to let his breath and brain catch up with the last minute's events. His phone. He pulled it out and called the emergency number.

"Cover blown. Suspect's minions are after me just north of my house. I have no car and only eight bullets in my gun. Help would be appreciated." He left the connection on to help the cavalry find him quicker--or find what was left of him.

Bryan ran around the house to the alley in the back. He heard a brawny engine idle. When he reached the corner of the fence behind the car, he climbed up. Two men were about to go through the back gate. Bryan pulled out his gun and shot both of them. He shot twice through the roof of the car knowing about where the driver was. No one armored roofs.

The yard would be a trap. He vaulted over the fence and landed on the trunk and a quick inspection showed the driver was dead. Taking the car was not an option. He reached in and grabbed the keys after turning off the engine. He ran towards the far end of the alley. When he made it halfway there, the other car turned into the alley.

Bryan's eyes widened as three guns poked out of the windows. Joanna was driving. So much for his cover and his romance. He vaulted over the fence into his next door neighbor's yard and then climbed the fence into his own. He jumped in his car and started his car and immediately got out again, getting over the fence and around to the other side of the house just when the car bomb blew.

apolson said...

HAPPILY EVER AFTER
Genre: YA

Outrunning a wolf is a stupid plan. I knew this, but I hoped Mara didn’t, because my only plan was to run until I came up with a new plan. I’m usually pretty good at coming up with brilliant master plans, but it is a little difficult with no help and no inspiration while running through the woods and getting lost with a screaming girl while the guy you are really supposed to protect is also running lost through the woods and quite possibly getting eaten.

Then I lost Mara’s hand. I heard her scream and turned around. We apparently were running through a thorn thicket and the brambles had snagged her hair. The more she thrashed, the worse it got. The wolves were almost on top of her. I ran back, pulled out my sword, and jumped in the way right as a wolf leaped for her. He met with my sword instead of her flesh and nicely impaled himself. But there were plenty more coming.
“Untangle it!” I yelled, batting away another giant wolf.

“I’m trying!” she yelled back.

I glanced up at her from underneath the wolf that tackled me. She wasn’t making much progress.

“Robbie!” she screamed.

The wolf on top of me went flying and I jumped up in time to skewer the wolf she was trying to kick away. Her hair was firmly wrapped around the brambles. Why do princesses have so much hair?
There was only one thing to do. I ran around her and knocked out another wolf. Things were getting ridiculous. Surprise, surprise. I pulled out my dagger and handed it to her. She stared at me blankly and before I could explain I got tackled. Again.

“Cut your hair!” I yelled, holding the wolf’s jaws away from my throat.

“What!”

“Cut your bloody hair or we are both going to die!” I rolled on top of the wolf, and punched him the gut. He squealed. “Do it!”

She still stood there, staring at the knife. I’d about had enough. Stable boy, my eye! Between knocking wolves off, I took my sword, raised it above my head, and brought it down. Her hair got very short. I think she screamed.

At that moment two wolves tackled me and I couldn’t really worry over how she felt about her new hairstyle. I stabbed one and pounded the other on the head, but before I could get to my feet I found myself staring into the gaping throat of a very large wolf. This was going to hurt.

To my surprise, the wolf let out a squeak and fell on top of me. I batted him on the head and sent him packing, then looked up. There was the princess, standing above me with my little knife soaked in blood. “Wow,” I said, then I grabbed her arm and pulled her on top of me only seconds before a wolf flew through the air right where her head had been. This was exciting.

Snarky Writer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
abkeuser said...

Title: For the Birds
Genre: Fantasy

Rain began to pour down the hole as Nerina climbed toward the exit, making her ascent muddy and exhausting. The pin-hole in the distance grew and grew as Nerina scrambled forward and finally she was there. She crawled from the hole, into the rain soaked-clearing, covered in dirt and turned around to pull Lars and Liam out. They were all filthy, covered in the red-brown dirt of the tunnel, but they didn’t have time to worry about appearances. Brogan was close on their trail.

Nerina helped Lars up and the three of them started to run down the path.

“I’ve got you now!” A deep voice bellowed from behind them.

It wasn’t Brogan. The minotaur had been patiently waiting for them to return from the maw of the tree, and his patience had been rewarded. Confused by the hunter’s sudden appearance, Lars stopped, looking in astonishment at what he considered to be a mythical beast.

“And now there are three of you!” He cracked his knuckles and stalked toward Lars, “How delectable. We don’t get many feather-walkers up this way.”

The minotaur would not be the one eating today.

The tree from which they’d just emerged exploded into splinters and the ground sprang up, soil raining back on them. Brogan, still on the hunt, burst forth from the small tunnel they had used. Turning at the sudden expulsion of dirt, the minotaur saw the snake for only a moment before he was swallowed whole. It was just enough time for his ears to fold back and the utterance of a single word prayer to escape his lips.

Nerina and Liam grabbed Lars and pulled him down the path, away from the crunching sound as the minotaur was ingested behind them.

It took Brogan a moment to regurgitate the mangled minotaur before he could continue his chase, and Nerina rejoiced internally that the vile creature had given them a small measure of time.

The trio ran back to the plateau, and Brogan was right on their tail. They were running out of time, but Nerina had an idea. “Take my hands” she said to the other two, and they did so without hesitation. In a blink of her eyes, they were in the ravine, the hoard of spiders hissing behind them, their escape ahead.
Brogan fell out of the thin air behind them, landing in the midst of the spiders, killing several on impact. He lashed out at others in annoyance as he chased through the ravine behind them. But the spiders instinctively attacked him. Jumping on the giant serpent, they dug their chelicerae into his scales, but their tiny maws ineffective against the armored scales of the giant snake.

An unfortunate spider found Brogan’s soft spot and, upon scratching at it with his long furry leg, he was smashed by the recoil of Brogan’s tail as he lashed around to throw his attackers off.

At the ravine’s end, the world blinked again. They ran down the path through the forest.

Snarky Writer said...

from DEVIL'S PIT

“Stop!” I called to Tray, who complied immediately and turned to look at me. I raised my arm to block the light from his cap-lamp and got off the tram, my legs shaking.

“What is it?” he asked.

“I’m not sure,” I admitted. “Just . . . something’s not right.”

“You know,” Krystal said, “I am sick to death of you two and your mysticism. I thought you had this Spark stuff down to a science! Literally! This wasn’t supposed to be this difficult! And we’re this close to the exit, showers, and beds, and you’re holding us up for what? A weird feeling?”

She got up from her tram seat and stomped toward the dim light coming through the mouth of the mine. The sun was already setting on the other side of the mountain.

The chaos of the mine’s images cleared for one second, and I shrieked, “No!” Throwing myself forward, I wrapped my arms around Krystal’s waist and tried to run backward.

“What the f-?” Krystal yelled, a second before a deafening boom shook the tunnel and the roof came in.

Dust filled the air. Something shoved me to the floor, and I was pinned under Krystal. All I could hear was a cacophonous crashing and rumbling that seemed like it would never end. I lay under Krystal’s prone body, tucking my hands under my arms to protect them, bowing my head so the hard hat would take the brunt of anything coming down. I tried not to breathe, taking quick sips of coal-flavored air through my nose.

When the noise finally stopped, I raised my head cautiously. Small pings and cracks echoed through the shaft as pebbles continued to settle. The air was nearly opaque. The lights in the tunnel were out. Krystal still lay over me, and she wasn’t moving. With a groan, I found a grip on the floor and pulled myself forward, out from under her.

“Adria! Krystal?” David threw himself down next to me. His face was nearly black from coal dust. Tray was right behind him, and I heard him curse as he looked at Krystal.

“Is she okay?” I croaked, taking David’s arm to pull myself to my knees.

“I don’t know,” David said.

“I think I’m okay,” she said, her voice barely a whisper. “I’m just caught.”

I turned to really look at the damage and heard myself cursing, as well. When I ran out of vulgar words in English, I started in German. Occasionally, the four years I took in high school came in handy.

“Is it that bad?” Krystal asked, a tremulous smile on her lips.

Her leg was caught under a boulder, but the buildup of smaller rocks and dirt was too great for me to tell how badly trapped she was. David and I began digging as Tray tried to contact the surface on his walkie, to no avail.

“I think someone just tried to kill us,” I said.

A.B. Fenner said...

As she waited in the inn’s common room, Lyanne’s attention wandered to the windows. The dogs still bayed in the courtyard outside, their howling almost a frenzy. She moved closer to the glass and saw two tracking hounds tied to the gate. In a flash that froze her insides, Lyanne realized she knew those dogs: they belonged to her father. When she fled, she hadn’t considered the dogs; of course he would pursue her like any other creature that eluded him.

Slipping to the side of the window, her headache forgotten, Lyanne searched for the men her father had sent. Her shock turned to blind panic as her brothers Natan and Marke emerged from the stables, leading Arga by her halter.

Lyanne stumbled back from the window, almost overturning a table. The innkeeper was at her elbow. “Your lunch is prepared, miss.”

“I-I’ve forgotten something upstairs,” she stuttered. He bobbed his head as she backed away. Her heart was going to break free of her chest. She fled up the stairs, locking herself in her room and sliding a chair under the doorknob for good measure. Her head pounded in time to her frantic breathing. Ear to the door, she schooled herself to take even breaths, but the hallway outside remained silent.

If I’m going to get out of here, I have to stay calm. This is no worse than facing the Magistrate last night. Only one bag. The window is small, and I’ll have to abandon Arga. My saddlebags are useless.

She flung herself at the wardrobe, throwing everything of value into her haversack. Rya’s journal and the appointment papers went into a pocket concealed in her skirts, alongside her pistols.

The drop out the window gave her pause. Fortunately the room looked onto the alley and not the courtyard, but the fall was more than twice her own height. A thin misting of snow covered the street. Throwing caution aside, she shoved the haversack out first. The leather bag hit the cobblestones with a thunk but did not break open. Lyanne hooked her ammunition pouch around her neck before scooting onto the windowsill and turning around, lowering herself so she hung by her fingers.

It doesn’t matter if I break an ankle or leg. Nothing could be worse than going home. I know how to fall from a horse; this isn’t so different.

She took a deep breath and let go.
The cobblestones proved much harder than she had imagined. Her legs tucked beneath her as she hit the ground and she rolled, sprawling into the snow. The wind left her in a loud grunt and she struggled for her next breath. Seconds passed away before she managed to sit up and examine herself. Her legs were sore, her knees protesting as she moved them, but they worked properly.

Lyanne snatched the haversack and fled down the alley.

A.B. Fenner said...

Oops, forgot to mention the genre for my scene: mannerpunk fantasy (in the vein of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. MS is complete but as yet untitled.

Mira said...

The only thing better than a contest on Nathan's blog, is a contest where he uses Tolkein references in the introduction.

Awesome.

Yay!!! Love Nathan's contests!!

So, I loved reading the entries so far. Very, very fun. Fun to see how people I know from the blogs write.

These contests are always such great learning experiences, too. For example, today I learned that I can't write an action sequence to save my life.

The only thing I could think of was a snail crossing a finish line.

Maybe I'll do that compelling piece of action, but I'll probably just cheer everyone on and offer lots and lots of opinions, which I'm sure will be greatly appreciated.

Good luck entrants! :)

Phoenix said...

From: SECTOR C
Near-Future Thriller


Donna and Mike stood in the middle of the road, waving their arms to flag down the driver of the black 4-wheeler.

The vehicle slowed as the man behind the wheel palmed his phone -- either to call a friend to tell them how he’d run across two strangers stupid enough to be walking down a remote road in the middle of a summer day, Mike thought, or to take a picture to prove it.

As the vehicle came closer, Donna saw the logo plastered on its hood and doors: three interlocked Es.

“Run!”

She grabbed Mike’s arm and pulled him off the road toward the barbed wire fence beside it. Thank God for economical ranchers, she thought. Four strands of wire instead of the usual five meant there was more room between the strands. Yanking the middle two wires apart, she told Mike, “Go!”

He heaved himself through, ripping his shirt and arm on the sharp points. Once on the other side, he held the wires apart so Donna could slide her smaller frame between. Together, they ran for a grove of trees in the field 50 yards away.

Behind them, the runabout revved up then slammed to a stop where they’d gone through the fence. Lim Chiou slid out of the vehicle, lifting a tranq gun off the seat beside him.

Grabbing the trunk of the nearest bur oak, Mike and Donna slung themselves around it just as the rifle cracked. The first dart flew within inches of the oak and thocked into a tree only a few feet beyond where Mike crouched. He opened wide eyes in Donna’s direction and gestured with a jerk of his head toward the dart that had embedded itself in the bark.

While Lim reloaded, he and Donna fled farther into the grove.

When they looked back, they saw Lim was on the move, climbing through the barbed wire fence. Mike felt Donna’s hand tighten on his upper arm. His gaze followed where she pointed, away from the keeper.

A shape loped along the side of the nearby hill, paralleling the road. But instead of heading away from the area with the noise of the rifle and the engine as Mike assumed most wild animals would, this one was heading toward them. More precisely, toward the keeper, now in open pasture peering down the length of the rifle as he advanced.

Donna covered her mouth, fighting back the warning everything in her that was human begged her to scream.

Mike was slower on the uptake. But it was only a moment more before he saw what Donna had already seen. Stripes and fangs and a burled body that resembled nothing native on this prairie.

His gut clenched. They’d had no clue the saber-tooth had been trailing them.

The cat bounded toward Lim, closing in fast, peripheral to the man’s field of vision, certainly out of his focus, gaining speed as it came.

John Zeleznik said...

Ben shook his head, squinting at Stephon. His friend said nothing and moved further into the stables. He looked at the others, all of whom did everything they could not to make eye contact with Ben. Ben cursed and sped around the corner. The stampede had indeed headed towards the neighborhood called the Wedge. Ben knew he had to do something.


He ran, vaulting over as many fences as he could, towards the edge of the stables that surrounded the Hippodrome. He yelled as a cart came rolling around a corner. Timing it just right, he slid under it, just missing the back wheels. His heart thundered in his chest and he jumped up and ran through the Hippodrome gates down the main avenue. He could see the wreckage the horses had caused. As he ran, he was sure he saw a woman screaming, cradling something red in her lap. He kept moving, memories of the Bloodman suddenly fresh in his mind.


He cut across an alley that he knew led to one of the major city streets that led to First Wall, where he could run almost freely. He adjusted his surcoat so the Prince’s sigil was visible as he bounded over a narrow, smelly canal that flowed underneath. Someone as he skidded into them on the other side. A breathless apology was all he could offer as he ran down another narrow alley. He could hear the rolling thunder of the horses and knew that somehow he’d managed to get ahead of them.


The First Wall loomed before him. He ran parallel to it for a little while, until he saw what he needed down an alley. Sprinting down, he jumped up onto the open window sill, pulling himself up. A woman squealed and Ben said as he slid into the room, “Excuse me.”


Dropping a gold coin onto the floor, he passed through the room into the hall and up the stairs to the roof. Half a dozen men were dicing. One saw Ben in his livery and growled, producing a knife. Ben waved his hands and said, “No, please, don’t get up.” He ran as fast as he could and threw himself off the roof, catching the rampart of the First Wall in his gut. The air left him and he slipped. Rocks and pebbles skittered to the ground below him. With all his strength he pulled himself up and ran towards the gatehouse that blocked off the Triangle.


The horses were almost at the gates and the guards were too slow in reacting. Ben jumped down from the wall to the gatehouse, hanging from the top and thumping to the ground. He ignored the grunting comment of the guard and ran towards the horses. The head stallion reared, whinnying as he saw Ben and they thundered closer. A feeling of dread came over Ben and a voice in the back of his head said, “Now what?”

Call my Fizzy, I like things that go "Pop!" or "Kapow!" said...

The checked flag is down.

I push the green neon button next to the plexiglas with the word DETACH on it and in an instant, my mobile is halfway down, followed by Kenton’s then and Jones’s and lastly Ter’s. I’m not too surprised by that; Terrence’s mobile is fish out of water right now. He’ll pick up speed when his mobile is in its element, in about 30 seconds.

All four mobiles are approaching the ramp that will send them over the edge of the roof and onto the next building of our choice. Or, if you’re Terrence, I gather he’s going to dive straight for the water. Kenton’s souped up pre-flood Honda steals up behind me and I swerve closer to the outside of the roof.

The bastard.

Not only would my metal would be crushed if we were to have a collision, everyone knows the first roof is a grace period. You don’t mess with other mobiles until you’re off the first roof. Too many people watching. People have died. All it takes is one sideswipe to send a mobile into a crowd. Not that he cares. He’s just ready for a win.

I scouted the territory earlier so when the roof ends and pitch black eats its way toward my mobile, I know to swing it sharp left. It will land on the roof of another building, one that is covered in about an inch of water thanks to the low tide. Normally that building is entirely underwater, and I bet money none of the other racers will go for this route; they don’t watch the tides like I do.

That, and I’ll make an educated guess here, is why they always lose.

First static, then a voice cuts in on my headset. “Ren, how you doing?”

It’s Benson. He’s probably growling more than I am about Kenton’s little stunt.

“I’m fine B. He’s just trying to get me shakin’ in my boots.” My Hessian’s have never seen me shake, and they ain’t likely to.

“The mama’s boy. I should have put maple syrup in his tank when he wasn’t looking!”

I don’t reply, not right now, though I chuckle as I imagine Kenton trying to start up his mobile and finding it better suited to a pancake breakfast than to a Ward Wallrace.

Here it comes – the end of the roof.

Readying myself for the jump, I grip the steering wheel. My mobile flies off the edge of the building and halfway midair, I hit a red button: ROCKIN’.

A blast of music shoots out the stereo, mostly muffled but enough to keep my head on straight. My mobile is vibrating with the old school rock, and I’m sure even the people watching from the first roof can hear something. “I’m on a highway to hell,” I sing, way off key but who cares. As I headbang along with the music my mobile drops, I’d say, ten stories.

Yes.

This is what it’s all about.

Calla said...

Sweat streamed down Evie’s back. Every breath drew hotter air. All she wanted was to dive into the water and drink the river dry. Wading in, she cupped her hands and slaked her thirst.

Up close, the water looked wrong. Tiny whirlpools speckled the surface, each one whipping up a pale blue gas that curled into the air in a spiral. But it was too late and she didn’t care. She drank and drank and drank.

First, she heard a single crack. Her shoulders stiffened. Then, a sound like gunfire ricocheted around the cavern, deafening her. It could just be the echo. Or there could be an army firing between the stalagmites. She grabbed Ben’s hand and pulled him on, ducking deeper into the water.

‘Where’s it coming from?’

‘I don’t know,’ Evie answered. ‘But we’re not safe in the open. Run!’

Stooping low, they splashed along the river till it disappeared into a tunnel. At least here they’d be hidden from sight. Evie’s head began to throb as she breathed in the pale blue gas. She rested on a rock to catch her balance.

A giant rat ran over her hand. When she screamed, the air tasted of poison. She pulled her hood across her nose and mouth to shut out the stench: a mix of mould, rotting food and cigarette smoke. She couldn’t identify the other smell, a filthy, unearthly stink that coated the back of her throat. Just ahead, the rat stopped and tugged with its teeth. Horrified, she realised where the rancid smell was coming from.

The rat was feasting on human flesh.

‘Bodies!’ she shouted to Ben. ‘Turn back, quick.’

Before she could retreat, a line of eyes lit up in the tunnel ahead. Haggard young men wearing green uniforms and mud-stained helmets pointed guns above the tunnel wall. Looking up, she saw stars spotted on a navy sky. But there was no time for questions. The nearest man lowered his rifle and brought his face close to examine her. The whites of his bloodshot eyes jumped out from scarred and broken skin. Sweat poured from his temples forging clean streaks through the dirt.

‘What the… how did you… how come there’s children in the trenches?’

Evie couldn’t answer his question if she tried. Staring back, she wanted to work out how old he was. He reminded her of Aaron, one of her babysitters, who was supposed to be revising for his A-levels. Instead, he spent all his time playing bass guitar in his band, Weltschmerz.

‘You shouldn’t be here,’ the Aaron-lookalike whispered. ‘We’re all going to die. Just go back, however you got here. Run, if you can.’

Evie didn’t wait. Her feet stumbled over the bleeding arms and legs of the bodies on the floor. Sickness swept over her and she tried not to retch. Confusion came too – were they still inside the cave? If not, how had they managed to leave? And how could they ever get back?

Austin Girl said...

Jackpot by Austin Girl

Jack pivoted and disappeared between a couple of semi-trucks. I sat behind the wheel, shivering. The temperature dropped to a stop-your-heart thirty-two-degrees. He had returned and was standing outside the Galaxy near the driver’s side, giving instructions to Eddie and Jon. He signaled for me to roll down my window.

“Candy, stay in the car.”

“Sir, I know I’m a rookie and not allowed to ask questions--” I said.

“Then don’t,” he interrupted.

“Whose semi?” I asked anyway. Daddy always taught me to speak my mind.

“The mob,” he uttered condescendingly. His face revealed a tiny hint of apprehension.

“The mob?” I repeated. I sounded like a parrot with a Texas drawl.

“Teamsters, same difference, Rookie. They’re controlled by the mob. We’re here to recover stolen property from Philly.”

He walked off slowly.

I rolled up the window and watched with curiosity as he opened the double doors to the semi. Jack climbed inside, while Eddie and Jon jogged to the front of the semi. The car reeked of Jon’s cologne. Tapping my fingers on the steering wheel, I felt restless. I opened the glove box and found a Taco Bell hot sauce packet. With my teeth, I ripped it open and squirted the juice on my tongue. An adrenaline rush hit my petite body.

Suddenly, from out of the darkness, a baldheaded burly man rounded the semi. He wore a silky Philadelphia Eagles jacket and cradled a handgun as though he knew how to use it. He was sneaking up on my guys. I ducked and took several deep breaths. Inhale, Exhale. I told myself, as if I’d forgotten how to effin’ breathe.

I slammed my palm on the horn. Nothing. Silent.

“Gawd damnit!” I yelled. The horn didn’t work. Typical government-issued junk car. My mind raced. I thought. Oh, yes, my Annie Oakley duffle bag is in the trunk. Inside my bag was the Tommy. I rushed to the trunk, grabbed the gun and tiptoed towards the back of the semi, careful not to slip in the slick-soled leather flats mandated by the FBI. My bunion pulsated with pain. I missed the comfort and safety of my cowboy boots.

Just as burly man was about to fire his weapon into Jack’s back, I clobbered his cone-shaped head. The event was reminiscent of my Quantico stunt with that lame actor. Burly man collapsed on the gravel, and his gun, like the snake’s head, was tossed a few yards away. A frozen moment occurred as burly man regained ground and violently swung at my blonde beehive hair with his fist. I blocked the blow. He staggered backwards.

Out of the corner of my eye, I glimpsed Jack staring in utter disbelief. I knew what he thought. How could a dainty woman my size beat up a big fat horse’s ass like ‘Mister Philly?’ I smiled wide then delivered my devastating left hook to burly man’s jaw. The douchebag was knocked out cold, like an overweight boxer on amateur night.

Ray Rhamey said...

On the curved top of the air structure, Jake knelt, a rock in his right hand. Wait till you see the whites of their eyes, he thought; kneeling would make them climb higher before his position was revealed.

A head appeared to his right. He first looked away from Jake's position. Bad luck.

Jake sprang to his feet, wound up just like he had at college, and let fly.

The stone took his target square on the temple. He fell backwards and disappeared down the eighty-foot slide to the ground.

Jake murmured, “Still got the old high, hard one.”

Two other men puffed their way to the top, one twenty feet to Jake's right, the other fifteen to his left.

Doc’s men were in no hurry—where could he go? Aerobic workouts were apparently not a part of their lifestyle; they gulped air, hands on knees for support.

Jake let fly a rock at the nearest man. As soon as he released it he took out another and went into a windup.

His target twisted to his right, and the rock missed by inches.

Jake saw the direction of his move, aimed to anticipate the next one.

The man laughed as he turned back toward Jake, only to see the finish of Jake's second throw. He twisted to the right again . . . into the path of the rock.

It crunched into his upper arm with a meaty smack; in the quiet of the desert the crack of bone breaking came loud and clear.

The guy howled and clutched his arm. “Goddam, he broke it. How'm I gonna get down with a broke arm?”

Jake heard the slap of feet on the fabric, wheeled to see the other man charging. The boneman roared, club held high, other arm spread wide. He was big. And fierce.

And easy.

Jake faked toward the club arm, the attacker reflexively extended his other arm, Jake grabbed it, fell back, planted a foot in the dummy's belly and put momentum to work.

The man flipped through the air, landed on his back and slid helplessly on the slick, Teflon-coated fabric.

Jake got to his feet and watched as the man went straight at Broken Arm, who tried to sidestep. He slipped as well.

They collided and spun away from the roof's center, a tangle of legs and arms.

Down the slope they went, grabbing at cables. Their screams faded when they disappeared beyond the curve of the roof.

Jake stared at the point where the two had vanished.

Their screams cut off. Three down.

He pushed aside the sick feeling their deaths brought; as long as Nick was unaccounted for, he had more fighting to do.

Something smashed into the back of his head, the world turned gray, he pitched forward onto his belly, grasping for a handhold—

Unrepentant Escapist said...

GENRE: Y.A.
TITLE: Skin Farm
(Entry is precisely 500 words)

---
I knew Jais was dead, but I couldn’t stop shaking him. Not until the orderlies grabbed me and pulled me to the floor.

I screamed as his fingers slipped out of mine, which were still sticky with my best friend’s blood. The chief surgeon was saying something to me, but I couldn’t hear her. All I could hear was a rushing noise in my ears.

I’d just seen my only real friend die on the operating table. The surgeons had done nothing but watch as blood seeped out of his severed arteries and onto their sterile white floor.

“Get him out of here,” the chief surgeon snarled at the orderlies. She gestured at Jais’ body with one manicured hand. “And take that thing out with you.”

An orderly shoved me, obviously expecting me to leave. After all, children obeyed adults without question. Anything else was unthinkable.

I did the unthinkable.

I twisted and slammed my elbow into the orderly’s face. Skin moved under me in a sickening way as his nose cracked with the wet sound of cartilage breaking. I saw metal gleam on a nearby table and picked it up. A surgeon’s scalpel, stained with Jais’ blood. I had to fight the urge to throw it away from me. Instead, I held the knife that had killed my best friend out in front of me with trembling hands.

“Don’t touch him!” I shouted. “No one can touch him!”

Some of the orderlies smiled, but their grins faded as they realized how serious I was. And how large. I was strong from working in their fields while they sat back in their soft hospitals, watching children die.

“What are you doing, Nath?” the chief surgeon asked gently. “Put it down, and let’s talk.”

“Nothing to talk about,” I said. “You let him die.”

“I understand you’re not thinking straight,” she replied. “We don’t want to hurt you. Just put the knife down.” Her hand hovered near the intercom on the wall.

“Don’t,” I told her. “I’m not stupid. Keep your hands...“

She moved before I could react, slapping the intercom. “Securi--”

The response was pure reflex. My foot snapped out, colliding with her chin. Blood sprayed out between her perfect white teeth.

The room around me exploded. Orderlies lunged at me from all directions. I felt their hands pulling me forward. Instead of fighting it, I moved with them. The unexpected momentum sent us crashing to the floor.

I wriggled out of the orderlies’ grasp and slashed at one of them with the scalpel. The blade struck something, maybe bone, hard enough that the handle slipped from my blood-wet fingers. I pushed myself up and ran. Something groped at my heel, but I kicked free with the brittle snap of bones breaking.

I had often fantasized about what I would do to the adult staff if I ever got the chance. But instead of feeling triumphant, I just felt sick. Revenge had never been so messy in my mind.

Barb said...

Hmm, it only posted part of mine. Oh well, I'm sure you've got plenty to read already!

Ermo said...

Cool contest Nathan. In my best Governator voice: I'll be back.

ibisbill said...

CHADA-CHADA FEVER



“Got our work cut out for us” the nurse said to Cinda.


They were walking quickly down the corridor, on the third floor of Sibley Hospital. Which is in the suburbs of Washington, DC.


Walking down towards the room where the hospital had put poor Ibrahim.


There was a strange noise coming from inside Ibrahim’s room. You could hear the noise all the way down the corridor. A loud noise. Continuous noise. Some kind of high-pitched sound. Cinda had never heard anything like it.


The nurse glanced over at Cinda. “Think you can. . . . . like. . . . take this?”


“This. . . ?”


“You’ll see.”



* * * * * * * * *



Cinda and the nurse walked into the hospital room where Ibrahim was. It was easy to tell who was Cinda, and who was the nurse, because Cinda is a full head taller.


Out of habit -- though it made no sense, since the only people in the room were an unconscious man on the bed and another nurse who was standing next to the bed -- out of habit, Cinda said “Please don’t get up!”


She said this with an upward tilt of her head and a regal wave of her long arm -- a haughty gesture which seemed a tad inappropriate for a non-doctor visiting a sick man in a hospital.


Ibrahim was lying on a bed in the middle of the hospital room. He was moaning, and his eyes were shut. Still unconscious. He was wearing only pajama pants. His chest and arms were bare.


The other nurse was standing next to the bed.


The noise in the room was deafening.


This was Cinda’s first experience with Chada-Chada Fever.


Ibrahim Hassan al-Iryani is a short, fat, middled-aged man with gray hair.


There was something very weird going on.


Cinda stared at Ibrahim’s chest.


His whole body was pouring sweat and his chest was heaving.


There were hundreds of little things. . . like caterpillars. . . wriggling up through Ibrahim’s skin.


You could see these caterpillars moving!



* * * * * * * * *


Fact is, these little caterpillars were not caterpillars at all. They were tiny living clones.


Clones of Ibrahim himself.


That’s what Chada-Chada Fever does. The disease takes over your body. Takes complete command. Orders your body to start making miniature, living copies of you.


Each of these clones is about an inch-and-a-half long.


At any one time, hundreds of tiny clones of Ibrahim Hassan al-Iryani were wriggling up through Ibrahim’s skin. All over his body.


These clones were alive.


Hundreds of clones of Ibrahim. . . . . tiny, fat, naked, alive clones, each with gray hair.


Each of these tiny clones (called “chaddies”) was screaming at the top of its tiny lungs. This crazy high-pitched voice. This loud, continuous noise. Sounds like “Rat-a-chada-chada. . . . . . . Rat-a-chada-chat. . . . . . Rat-a-chada-chada. . . . Rat-a-chada-chat”.

John M. UpChurch said...

Trace shoved Jericho away with a grunt and fled down the path. No one understood. No one cared what really happened. They just wanted him to be caught. As long as he could, he had to keep his legs moving like a running back surging through defenders.

Before long, the ground sloped up steeply into a series of cutbacks that zigzagged up the face of a hill. He slipped on the surface of a wet stone sticking out of the ground but caught himself with a tree. The bark tore through the skin on his palms. No time to worry about that; he had to keep going. Direction didn’t matter—going forward did.

When he reached the top of the hill, he stopped and gasped for air. His legs wobbled, so he bent forward and placed his hands on his knees. Ten seconds—he’d give himself ten seconds. After ten, he made it thirty instead.

And then he ran again. Along the top of a ridge and around the side of a another, taller hill. The path narrowed so that he had to slow down. After several yards, the path switched back and continued climbing the hill. Fall leaves plastered over the dirt and made for a slippery ascent. Below, the lower path snaked back toward the deeper woods.

Someone appeared around the bend below him, looked up, and pointed a rifle. Trace accelerated, which he knew was a bad idea here.

After only two steps, his foot slid on a patch of leaves, and his entire body left the ground. His legs shot up in the air, his hands groped for anything to grab, the world seemed to spin. When he landed, something jabbed into his side, and he half rolled, half slid down the hill. He glanced off trees and tumbled roughly over rocks and stumps.

Until he stopped—harshly and suddenly. Something had caught his shirt and kept him from careening down the rest of the way. A knot formed in his stomach.

C David said...

MG, SF

There were only two E-suits aboard, and Akiesha was wearing one of them. The Dragon was going to kill one or perhaps both of her friends if she didn’t do something. ‘It’s me he wants,’ she thought, ‘so I’ll give him me. Then the others can escape.’ Without a word she scrambled into the airlock.

“Hey? Where are you go…” Jordan’s question was cut off as the hatch clanged shut.

Akiesha hit the ‘depressurise’ lever and the pressure started to drop. Then it stopped and started to rise again.

“Princess what the heck do you think you’re doing?” came Magee’s voice on Akiesha’s suit-comm.

“I’m going to jump out. Pavelovitch will follow me and you can escape.”

“No way, Princess. I’m overriding the airlock pressure control valve. As soon as it equalizes you get your butt back in here.”

Akiesha looked at the pressure gage. Five hundred millibars and rising. In a few seconds the pressure would be equal to that inside the rover. She reached for the emergency release on the outer hatch, pulled it down and ...

BLAM!

All at once Akiesha was flying. The ground racing underneath looked kind of neat. Then she hit the rocky surface and stars exploded in her head. It took several seconds for her to regain her wits. ‘So that’s what explosive decompression is like,’ she thought. She looked back towards the rover. Magee was braking violently and the vehicle slid to a stop in the soft soil some thirty meters away.

As Akiesha got up she felt something wet on her face. Red dots speckled the inside of the toughened plastic and she tasted blood on her upper lip. Then she heard hissing and an alarm sounded in her headphones. Her suit was losing pressure! The next moment she saw why. A crack ran across her helmet visor. She had cracked her helmet and bloodied her nose.

“Akiesha! You get back here now! Can you hear me, Princess? Get back to the Beast. I won’t move until you’re back on board!”

In the distance she could see Pavelovitch’s flyer circling for another pass. At a dead stop, the Beast would be an easy target.

“Magee, take Jordie and get out of here! Get help! I’ve got all the evidence with me: the pictures and everything,” she shouted through her suit-comm, knowing that Pavelovitch would hear and hoping he would believe her lie. “It’s me the Dragon wants, so here I am! But he’s going to have to catch me first!”

Akiesha bolted away. She had no idea how much air remained in her suit, or how long it would last, but she intended to keep going until it ran out, or until Pavelovitch caught her. She ran as hard as she could, struggling to breathe through the blood in her nostrils, and struggling to move in the heavy suit.

clubschaaf said...

I think I'll watch too, Other Lisa. Though, I thought the rules were pretty actiony as well.

Anonymous said...

A spectator scaled the wall and dropped into the bull ring, a tall man with a mane of silver wearing a collared white cotton jersey, black jeans, and cowboy boots. He motioned for the wounded matador to retreat, shouted to the bull.

“No more!”

That voice! Marilyn realized this was The Wizard. The cult leader confronted the animal ramrod straight, his steps sure and steady. The matador cocked his head at him, befuddled.

“No more!” The Wizard repeated.

The bull turned, pointing its blood-dipped horns at the new intruder. It scraped the earth with its forepaw, sending up a yellowish cloud of dust before a hefty snort pounded some of the dust back down into the ground.

The Wizard strode onward. Among the cult members surrounding Marilyn a deafening cacophony arose: burbling and crying and shrieking and shouting. Their leader was in peril.

Questions came to her in a torrent. Who is this man? What is he doing? Is he crazy? Is he suicidal? Or does he think he’s invulnerable? She tried asking Aura her questions, but couldn’t hear her own speaking voice above the din.

The Wizard motioned again for the matador to retreat. Instead, the bull fighter dutifully tried to gain the attention of the bull with a flap of his cape.

But it was too late. The bull had chosen the cult leader. With a sudden burst, the animal rocketed toward its latest nemesis, leaving a long thin, unbroken train of dust in its wake.

Marilyn gasped at the animal’s pace. The gap separating man from beast closed at an alarming rate. The speed, the ferocity, the red splotches of blood on its hide, and the madly flapping colored sticks poking out of its back transformed the beast into some kind of supernatural hellkite.

“Run!” Marilyn cried. “Get out of there!” In another two seconds, it would be too late for The Wizard.

The crowd noise unified into an anguished, ear-splitting wail. The Wizard kept coming, steadfast, on a collision course with the rampaging animal.

Fifteen yards to impact!

When The Wizard turned slightly and began to raise one arm, Marilyn felt a rush of hope. A gun! she thought. He must have a gun!

A split second later, she realized she’d been wrong. No gun. She watched, dumbfounded, as The Wizard assumed the stance of a traffic cop ordering a car to stop—right arm stiff, in front of his chest, the palm of his hand vertical.

Ten yards!

The bull continued its furious advance. The Wizard remained frozen in his traffic cop stance. Marilyn cringed, her eyes narrowing, anticipating the dreadful end of a shrewd though apparently quite insane cult leader.

Five yards!

The bull locked all four legs at once and came to a sliding halt, inches short of the unflinching maniac, whose only misfortune was to endure a heavy dust spray. The air cleared. The Wizard lowered the stop signal, and a moment later, a ton of animal flesh collapsed at his feet.

Eric Christopherson

Alyson said...

From historical fiction WIP The Messiah Notebooks

‘What in God’s name⎯?’

‘Can’t tell you, sir,’ I said, and in a flash, had escaped his grasp. After so long struggling against knots, chains, restraints…another man’s hold is not such a tricky thing. I stood afar from them, poised at the door.

‘I’m sorry,’ I said. ‘You won’t see me again.’

And, in the next moment, I made my escape.

I felt as I had the night James died. Like then, my world spun and I did not even notice how the ground was pitched sideways, how I thundered down the stairs and half-crashed into the men waiting below. I broke free from the curious crowd and fell out into the street, shied away from the red uniforms that pressed in on all sides, the clamor of voices.

This need be on paper? James knows what I've done, James knows how I tried to kill the rogue--how I wanted him dead, and how I still do!

I still feel sick, and as wild as I did then, as I burst into the stables that lay adjacent to the inn. Startling the servants out of their roosts I seized the first saddled horse I saw, and despite their protests I kicked the poor animal out into the night. The horse was terrified, and shouts echoed behind me, riddled with gunshot. I had to escape now, with or without W⎯. I cursed martial law⎯Murat’s militia seemed on every street. The Kingdom of Naples would join the ranks of countries that would have a bounty on my head if I should ever attempt to return. But, just as on the night I fled Oxford, I was too drugged with fear to care.

The devil gripped me and threw my down the allies, around the corners of plazas, as I heard the ghostly echoes of hoofs behind me. The end of days rode with them, I was sure of it.

I flew onward.

I veered at a crossroad and gunshot erupted behind me. Volleys flew haphazardly as the hoofbeats multiplied and my steed panicked. Another rider collided with me, and my horse was sent sprawling. It tumbled over its legs and I spilled off onto the cobblestones.

I rolled across the ground, and sprang to my feet as men materialized across the square, armed, clad in uniform. I tried to twist out of the way of their guns, but in the next moment I had doubled over, groping at my left arm. The shock was so great I scarcely felt the pain there directly, but every other part of me did. I collapsed on the ground, shaking uncontrollably, sick from my own sweat. The men hauled me to my feet, and chained my hands together. The clamp of irons ripped the street from beneath me, and I was suddenly violently sick. I retched around their boots. I choked, and it seemed a whole company had lodged their bayonets in my chest.

LGSmith said...

From my WIP:

I turned my horse around, ready to get the hell out of there, when a fourth grenade went off behind me, shaking my bones and teeth. I felt death claw at my back, and then the world went silent. Blades crossed in front of me, horses stumbled in a screen of smoke, men’s mouths shouted words, but I heard none of it. I was on the path to the afterlife. Death was the only explanation for why my vision had narrowed into a long dark tunnel. And then Lt. Daniels rode up beside me and screamed at me to ride for the trees.

“Go!” he ordered, pointing with his sword.

Delivered from deafness, I heard the word lift off his lips and realized I wasn’t dead. Not about to ignore him a second time, I prodded my horse through the drifting smoke to the line of oaks on the right, as the lieutenant slashed at one of the devils who tried to chase. My horse broke for the trees, galloping in a zigzagged pattern as she maneuvered the wood. I hugged her neck and held on, diving to avoid low branches. We made it about a quarter of a mile into the thick of the trees when I heard the pounding of hooves behind me. I risked a look and saw the lieutenant riding hard to catch up. Three attackers followed.

That’s when it ignited: the flash of defiance that rises up in me whenever danger chases me down. I don’t turn from the fight. I meet it head on like a rock in a river. Perhaps it is nothing more than foolhardy daring that will get me killed one day, but every muscle in my body made me pull up on the reins and turn my horse around to end this. With only a second of surprise on my side, I hugged my legs tight around my horse and nocked an arrow against the bowstring. Daniels ran his horse hard right, breaking from the enemy, and I caught the first rider right where his heart ought to be.

I quickly set another arrow and drew my bow, arms tensed against the strain of wood and sinew. Riders hurtled toward me. Daniels leaned left and I prepared to release when his horse suddenly lurched. Hit from behind by an arrow to her hindquarter, his horse went down, throwing Daniels to the ground. I never saw him get up, but there was no time to find him. The second rider flattened out on his horse and charged straight at me. But arrows are quicker than horses. I stuck him just below the ribs and he fell from his saddle into the sea of ferns.

I had killed two of the assassins, and if I could kill the third I might just get away with my life. But I had made a dangerous mistake. The third rider had already stopped twenty yards in front of me, aiming his arrow true.

Ricardo Bare said...

Jack freezes. His feet take root in the mud of the bank. His breath is snared in the back of his throat and it will. Not. Come. Out.

She’s a pale phantom on the black water, hair fanned over the surface, arms hooked open for an embrace that will never happen. His sister floats, weightless. A winter leaf.

Jack’s thoughts clamor. This is not real. This is not happening. It’s a dream. She's not dead! The plug! The boat plug!

It burns in his pocket, a cork lump as heavy as a mountain.

Jack crashes into the water, limbs flailing, slogging. He dives, surfaces and churns, arm over arm, gasping. Until his hand brushes her body. So cold.

He pulls her close, legs kicking furiously to keep from going under, and rolls her over. Her head lolls against his shoulder, blue lips fixed in a breathless gasp. Almost he screams, gulping water. He kicks hard for the shore, clawing water with one hand, towing her with the other. The bank is so far.

Fire kindles in his arms and legs and Jack slows, even as his heart races. The water is too thick, like swimming through molasses. He’s too weak. Too tired. The water climbs to his eyes, pushes into his nose with callous tendrils. He chokes and coughs. No!

He sinks. Mute darkness swallows him, but he keeps swimming in the same direction, pulling her. One more push … icy mud swallows his foot. He shoves to break the surface and sucks in a great gasp. Jack heaves, tugging under her arms, pulling with his back hunched, digging his heels until he slips in the muck onto his side.

Air chugs in and out of his lungs. For a moment, spots waver in front of his eyes. He scrambles to his knees and leans over his sister. Her slender form stretches down the slope of the bank, white dress clinging to her legs, trailing into the water. Like an enchanted lake princess from one of their games, caught in a spell. A curse.

“Sis?”

His voice is less than a whisper, deafening.

She won’t wake up. Her eyes are wide and vacant. She would have been looking for him, desperate and afraid as the boat sank. Flailing in the water. Trying to say his name, but choking. Her big brother. It’s his fault.

A terrible wail--short and piercing--flies over the water, shivers through the willow branches. His hand clamps over his mouth, cutting it off.

He doesn’t know what to do. His eyes dart to the trail that leads back to the house. It yawns emptily. Cold dread wraps around his spine, chokes all reason. Run! a voice shrieks inside him. Hide! He staggers to his feet and backs away, terrified, sinking deeper and deeper into the shadows that reach out from the silent trees.

An anxious breeze slithers between the trunks, wrinkles the black water. “Wicked,” it breathes from the trail.

Jack flees.

Sarah W said...

"Ah,"" said Konrad. "Anna Overbeck."

"Anna?"" said Saul. "Anna?"

"Vince," said Judith, standing. "Does Saul know about--"

He shoved an electronic card at her. "Go!"

Judith cleared the van and took off for the loading dock. She swiped the card and yanked open the door, finding herself in a corridor that roared with machinery and smelled like hot laundry. "Which way?"

"Right, second left, and down the hall," said Vince in her ear. "He'll be coming out on your right past the double doors--kick it down, Jude, he's moving."

She picked up speed, smacking into the wall on the last turn, barely missing a croupier and a cocktail waitress, and racing through the corridor to the double doors. She shoved through into the front lobby and had a split second to turn and brace herself before Saul slammed through the adjacent door.

Judith stepped in front of him. "Saul! Stand down!"

For a moment, she thought he would go through her and she prepared to make it as difficult as possible. But he stopped two feet away, looking over her head. "Move, Jayce."

"No."

"The bitch killed Mikey." His knuckles popped.

"She sure as hell helped. But if you go in there, best case, she'll make you and blow the job. Worst case, you'll be arrested for assault--"

"Homicide," he said through his teeth. "Justifiable."

"--and I'll be arrested for knocking you out. Don't make me defend her, Saul. Saul!" She snapped her fingers under his chin. He glared down at her, and she met his furious gaze with hers. "I swear once we're done, I'll help you track her down. But now isn't the time."

"What's going on here?" said a male voice.

"Security," said Cassie, appearing next to them. "The real thing."

"Blaine needs us," whispered Judith. "Don't let Anna kill him, too."

"Please, honey," whined Cassie, grabbing on Saul's arm. "That guy was drunk. He didn't mean what he said . . . he won't remember it tomorrow." She pushed herself in front of Judith and put a hand up to his cheek. "Please don't mess up this job for me." With her other hand, she pulled his employee badge off his blazer and passed it to Judith, who stuffed in her pocket and stepped back just as security arrived.

"What's the trouble?" he asked.

Cassie turned to him. "Nothing, I swear. I had a little trouble with a customer and Sam was just--Sam didn't understand that it's part of the job. He understands now, right, honey?"

"Understand?" growled Saul. His hand shot out, and Judith checked her instinct to block as he plucked the folded money from Cassie's cleavage. "He slips you a hundred and I'm supposed to take it lying down? Or is that what you're supposed to do?"

"Sam! He's a big tipper and a big talker, that's all."

Judith did a fade as Cassie and Saul started arguing with each other and the security guard.

--from WIP: The Pigeon Drop

Kate said...

It was all a pink-tinged haze until the last bar. It was a mistake to go in there. We were bouncing around trying to order margaritas and the bartender was explaining in a cold tone that they didn’t have them when the grey shirted pervert came up behind Candy. He didn’t have the grey t-shirt on anymore he’d switched it out for a tasteless white button down, in some pathetic attempt to attract a woman, but I knew it was him. Before I could even warn her, the coward had picked up a bottle and smashed it on the back of her head. She had been in the process of turning as he swung and he must have been pretty drunk, so the blow didn’t catch her full on. The bottle crashed down on the bar counter and shattered there, sending bits of amber glass and puddles of beer rolling across the counter. Candy’s head started bleeding but thank God for both of us she was not knocked out.

She turned around fast as a rope uncoiling and her fist connected with a shattering crunch straight into the pervert’s mouth. He reeled backwards spitting out teeth. She’s Muhammad Ali, I thought through a liquor-induced fog.

I was going to pass out- the world spun blearily around me- I grabbed the edge of the wooden stool and squeezed it, willing myself to stay conscious. Then another figure came barreling towards us from the murky masculine depths of the back room, “Bill!” He was coming towards Candy and the pervert who were now on the ground, rolling in a ball of muscle and blood and sweat. Something clicked in my mind. I knew Candy couldn’t fight two of them.

As he got closer the scene slowed, the endorphins in my brain burst like duck shot into my bloodstream. I balled up my fist, keeping my thumb on the outside like Carl had taught me, leaned my body backwards, bracing against the bar with my other arm and threw myself forward like a diver toward the pool. My fist connected with the man’s most sensitive region and he crumpled with a groan. At the same time, Candy landed the knock out blow to Bill-the-pervert and stood up. Her pink track jacket had smears of blood on it. Her hands shook. Silence surrounded us like a threat. All noise from the crowd had stopped. The shock of two women, one tall and one tiny, standing over two incapacitated men was so unreal that nobody, not even the bouncer, moved.

Sara Murphy said...

Here it goes.

Lydia shook her head and removed her hand from her weapon. The deer had returned. Very slowly, so as not to startle it, she sat. Laughing inwardly at her jumpiness, she reached into her pack and took out a chocolate chip cookie. As she brought the morsel to her lips, the deer lifted its head, its tail raised in alarm, and bounded away.
A fierce growl echoed around the glade. Before Lydia could drop the cookie and pull her gun, it leapt on her. Pain seared her right shoulder as the beast bit. Claws raked her legs and the momentum pushed her onto the ground beside the stump she’d leaned against a second before.
She tried to push the animal off. It released its grip on her shoulder, and she felt gashes open across her cheek and nose. She choked down the searing pain and fear and struggled to focus on her defense. Her left arm rose to protect her face. It wrapped its mouth around the arm and shook its head like a dog with a rag. Lashing out with her feet, she bucked and groped for her gun.
Cold metal pressed against her back where her shirt had ridden up. With great effort, she reached with her right hand, her left arm now useless. Her fingers slid around the grip, years of training coming to the fore and overshadowing the pain. She lifted the weapon and fired into the fur.
The beast barely yelped. She fired again. It released her arm. She shot again and again and again. Screams filled the air. Her vision swam and her strength ebbed. She was losing blood.
Another large creature leapt into the clearing.
“No,” she whimpered. Her strength completely gone, her gun fell from her fingers.
Blackness.
* * *
Gunshots rang through the woods from just ahead. He burst from the trees and leapt onto the hairy back of the staggering beast. Ryan sank his fangs into its flesh and yanked its head back.
Blood spurted and claws reached around in an attempt to dislodge him. They pierced the skin of his neck. Suddenly it flipped him onto the ground and the beast leapt atop him.
Ryan stabbed his claws into the beast’s abdomen just as teeth closed on his throat. Instead of the crushing bite he expected, the Bestial Butcher threw his head back in a howl of pain.
Using this opportunity, Ryan pushed his way to a standing position and slashed at the Butcher’s neck. Blood gushed from the wound. The beast grabbed its throat with one clawed hand and made to slash at Ryan with the other, but then at the last minute, it ran into the woods.
Ryan roared in frustration and started after it. However, a frightened moan behind him caught his attention.
Lydia lay on the ground, her gun in the grass next to her. Her eyelids fluttered. Puncture wounds on her shoulder glistened in the firelight. Ryan cursed. The beast had bitten her.

Cassandra Bonmot said...

The Black Serpent
Horror/Fantasy

Prologue

Darkness. Ominous darkness. His wickedness encased me like a decaying corpse lying in a cold coffin. He’d been stalking me for seven days — the mysterious man whose face was often shielded by the night sky. His boots — I shuddered the first time I heard those cowboy boots shuffle across the cold, hard stone of the Mayan ruin. They were python with a medium box cut toe with a two-inch riding heel and a decorative vamp. With every step, they made a distinct click. He never took them off; he wore them all the time. It was as if the boots were an extension of his lengthy legs.

The stranger had intolerably good looks that he wore with a memorable swagger. Both were breathtakingly seductive with promise. And that promise was fulfilled when he sated my every desire. He bequeathed beauty, youth and sexuality. These gifts flooded me with unshakeable confidence; in fact, I bathed in it. And after I’d absorbed it, I radiated a power unattainable by human standards. But tonight, under the hot canopy of the jungle, my shadow, my stalker, my lover has come to collect. He has come to collect a debt.

The dagger. His dagger — a symbolic vessel to an evil world, lied dormant inside his hiding place. Sheathed inside his black oilskin duster for isolation and maximum protection, the blade alone measured twenty-inches in length with a full ten pounds of tempered steel. On the gold handle gleamed elegant and intricate carvings that reminded me of a complicated road map leading to a final destination. The blade too was decorated, sporting a symbolic crest — the Serpent — the Black Serpent. The Black Serpent snaked down the blade’s center until at the blade’s tip, the Black Serpent’s jaws spilled opened, revealing a dark world where evil ruled.

The Rubies. The Rubies set as the Serpent’s eyes were a beautiful deep rich red hue as intense as they were desirable and hypnotic. Their brilliance penetrated the darkness, casting an eerie light in the blackness of night. The Rubies could see where no mortal man’s eyes could see. Like their owner, the Rubies roamed the night, scanning for souls. They were his eyes — Da’Vari’s eyes. The Rubies paused their restless sweeping when I came into view, the stones glittering with excitement as if this scene had become all too familiar. The Serpent was alive. And, it became clear to me that the dagger was Da’Vari’s soul.

The Diamonds. Princess-cut white diamonds lay on the Serpent’s forked tongue. The tongue exploded with a sparkle as rare as the diamonds themselves. I could see them even when Da’Vari was in silhouette, stoking a fire that burned behind me. The air was clouded with thick dark smoke. Gripped tightly in his left hand, the Black Serpent dagger hissed as the flames burned and grew taller. Da’Vari flung stones with the dagger’s tip with the gentle ease of a calm whisper.

Amalia T. said...

The Minotaur's breath was hot and moist on the back of Theseus's neck. His legs burned, but in another moment he would reach the outside wall of the labyrinth and the corner where the masonry had crumbled just enough to give him a foothold. At least, he hoped it would.

He could not hear anything but the monster’s grunts and thudding footfalls. Theseus jumped, his nails scraping against the bricks, somehow finding purchase as he hauled himself up. The Minotaur howled with rage beneath him. From the top of the wall, he could see his sword, half covered in dust, two turns back. Somehow, he had managed to keep hold of the string. The Minotaur bellowed and paced beneath him. He would never make it to the sword before the creature was upon him.

Theseus wrapped a length of the string around each hand, standing on the edge of the wall. He could leap over the other side, but Minos would only throw him back into the maze. No, he had to finish this now, but it would require more precision than he was certain he had left in him. He silently thanked Poseidon for Ariadne's help.

He dropped, landing on the beast's shoulders, his weight forcing it to the ground and the dirt. A horn tore into his bicep, but he ignored the blood. Theseus pulled the string taught around the creature's neck, a knee in the animal's back. Let it hold, Father.

The blood was hot down his arm and the Minotaur heaved, trying to throw him free. The string sunk deep into the throat of the beast. The animal’s bellows turned into guzzled gulps, and the dusty ground became red mud from the beast’s blood. Long after the Minotaur had stopped struggling, Theseus stared at the red-black puddle as it grew, until his fingers were numbed by the string wrapped around them. Too long. Minos would have his throat slit, if he was found.

He rose to his feet, pulling the string free from the monster, causing a fresh spurt of blood to flow, and disentangled it from his hands. He did not think this was what Ariadne had intended when she had given the string to him, but it had served.

Theseus retraced his steps back to his sword and then followed the path of the string back through the turns and twists of the labyrinth. His arm ached, hanging as if deadened by the time he reached the entrance. Ariadne’s eyes widened and her lips pressed together into a thin line at the sight of him. He fell to his knees before her and bowed his head. Her fingers moved through his hair, light and gentle.

He raised his eyes to hers, but did not touch her, for he had no wish to smear her with its foul blood. "The Minotaur is dead."

She nodded and bent, taking hold of him by his good arm and helping him to his feet. "Then we must hurry."

Paul Nye said...

The Servant
Urban Horror

Usually when the racks made her nervous she just pictured herself in an alpine meadow ringed with trees and craggy peaks. There she would sit and watch as the sun began to dip behind one of the mountains sending the warm glow of twilight across the lush green, gold, and lavender hues of the meadow. Immersed in a field of wildflowers she could feel the lazy touch of a soft summer breeze brush against her cheek carrying with it the scent of ripening blooms. It was a good image and it always left her with a warm woodsy feeling. But today, no matter how hard she tried, the racks at the rear of the room just felt big and gloomy.
She was reaching to replace a large volume analyzing the works of nineteenth century poets when she heard it again. Click-click, Click-click, Click-click. The sound was the same as before, only closer. Straightening, she peered nervously into the surrounding shadows. They revealed nothing. She had a distinct and eerie feeling that the owner of the sound had been secretly watching her from behind the racks, when she had gotten too close it had moved away. Whatever it was, it didn't want to be seen.
Carefully she moved to the end of the narrow aisle and peered around the corner. Nothing. Silently she ran through the possibilities in her mind, whatever it was it wasn't large, and it certainly wasn't human. The door was locked so it had to have entered the room by some other more circuitous route, probably through the ducting or the endless profusion of pipes that ran across the ceiling. There was only one creature that she knew of that was capable of such an acrobatic feat; a rat. She was certain that’s what it was. Her unseen companion was probably nothing more than a common rat that had found its way down from the street along the tangled mass of duct work that ran throughout the building.
She breathed a sigh of relief, and smiled to herself pleased with her own powers of deductive reasoning. Sherlock Holmes beware. When she finished she would leave a note for Deborah to get an exterminator in before the little bugger could chew up any of the texts. Many of them were bound in real leather and a rat would have a field day gnawing on the bindings. It had happened once before and the damage had been terrible.
Relieved to have solved the mystery she returned to the cart and began replacing texts on the shelves. Less than a minute later she again heard the rat scurrying across the tiled floor. Click-click, Click-click, Click-click, it moved quickly behind the book cases just opposite where she was working. Glancing behind her she saw nothing other than the dark shadows that loomed and fell across the end of the aisle.
Chiding herself for being silly, after all it was just a rat, she again began replacing books. Click-click, Click-click.

Stuart said...

The earless hound cocked its head, as if she were a puzzle to figure out. Nashlin found herself drawn to it, wanting to stroke its back. The red eyes seemed familiar somehow. She reached her open palm toward it, but jerked it back when the hound answered her gesture with barred teeth. A jagged white ridge of fur rose on its back, but it made no move toward her. When the hound behind it let out a bark, Earless snapped at it before returning its pitiless gaze at Nashlin.

Somehow, Nashlin remembered the use of her legs and backed away. Edging around the intersection, she found her way to the passage leading up and continued walking backward until the two hounds disappeared behind a rocky bend. They made no move to follow. They just watched her. Once out of sight, Nashlin whirled and sprinted up the passage. Tears streamed down her cheeks and she prayed that if Akmon would show her the way out, she would never again enter his underground domain. Her feet pounded up the steps carrying her upward until she saw the serpentine lamps. The sarcophagus door was open. The thrill of discovery was cut short when a distant howl echoed from below. A heartbeat later it sounded again, closer. Her fingers found the edge of the opening and she pulled herself through. She gave the sarcophagus a shove to close it, but it didn’t budge. The howls sounded again and sent her dashing into the night. She quickly lost herself in the mist among the towering tombs.

Nashlin didn’t stop running until the wall encircling the cemetery loomed before her. Somewhere in the distance, the baying continued but the mist diffused the sound making it come from all directions and none. She glanced down the wall face in both directions. The gate could be either way, or she could be on the complete opposite end of the cemetery, she didn’t know. Instead, she searched out finger and toe holes in the wall and climbed.

She glanced back when she straddled the wall top, fearing to find the hounds grinning up at her but found nothing. The cemetery looked like a sea of mist with the tops of the taller mausoleums poking through like stranded islands. Some were topped with figures, statues most likely, but after what she had seen tonight, she wasn’t assuming anything. She leapt down, landed in a roll, and didn’t stop running until she burst into inn’s common room.

Ignoring the innkeeper’s questions about the late hour, Nashlin dashed up the stairs and unlocked the door to her room. She slid the bolt back into place once she was inside. Nashlin turned to watch the door, expecting it to burst open at any moment. Without taking her eyes from the rough wood, she backed away until her heel touched the far wall. Sliding to the ground, she hugged her knees to her chest, all the while watching, waiting, shivering.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Here we go, from a recent WIP. Why not?:

She scaled the railing--intended to keep people from falling down that open-air column to their deaths--and angled her body to land three floors down. With a heavy gasp she pushed off and flew. Rather graceful, she thought--although her crooked landing would have snapped any mortal's ankles. Sure enough, the thief was two hundred feet ahead, racing down a hallway illuminated by security lights, devoid of living things. He was fast. Not Gavin, then, but she would not be shocked if this individual was connected to him. To validate her suspicions, she called his name: "Gavin!"

He did not stop, but his footsteps faltered. From this distance, Anna could not be sure it was a "he"; distinguishing characteristics were hard to make out, even for her eyes. But the reaction--the fact there was a reaction at all--sealed away any vestiges of doubt. He recognized the name, and Anna had heard enough preaching about destiny to believe this was no coincidence.

She began again, relentless. That is, until she approached one of the central staircases open all the way to the skylight. The light was graying, lightening; day approached. Damn. The thief raced on, unconcerned with the danger. Why he was still in the building? Her instincts told her to exit as quickly as possible, especially if the hated sun was so near. With it would come a large influx of workers, increasing the likelihood of detection; she was surprised she had heard only one shout as they raced by at speeds ludicrous for humans, and certainly for scientists accustomed to labs forty-plus hours a week.

This hallway intersected with another ahead. As expected, the leech turned left. When she caught up and looked down the perpendicular corridor, he had disappeared. She cursed before glancing around. He could have gone down any of the smaller hallways branching off, or ducked into an office.

She crept until she reached another of those central staircases. Her eyes flickered to the skylight, judging the encroaching day: she needed to get out of here or hide. More footsteps now: people arriving for work, their sounds drowning out the thief. She straightened up to resume her search when something hit her back, like a slap and a stab all at once. Her body couldn't figure out how to react. She braced her hands against the railing she was now bent over, and had just succeeded in facing her attacker when he ducked down, grabbed her feet, and flipped her over. She reached out but grasped only air. Damn. This wouldn't be fatal. It wouldn't even hurt. She hit the floor with a crunch, and it took her only a moment to realize this stairway went down to the main entrance. Her adversary had planned this well. If she moved, she would reveal herself as inhuman. If she allowed them to move her, they would discover that the crunch had not been her bones smashing, but the cement and tiles beneath her.

JohnVise said...

Now that Quinn was playing the hunter, not the hunted, she felt much more comfortable. Her steps were quick, graceful, and almost silent. The darkness was a problem, she could see well enough to avoid trees and major obstacles, but a forest floor is made of smaller tangles.
After a few steps though, her magic kicked in, compensating for the dark. She flowed then, a silent figure running seemingly effortlessly through the trees. Each trunk that passed her gave her a little thrill, small currents of air caressing her as she came close enough to stroke those living avatars forests soul. She ran through that soul, on a path all her own.
Now if she could just catch Andy in time.
She was aware of Andy up ahead, the magic made her aware. She ran a path, and he was the X on her map, the destination of her road. She would catch him, but though she knew where he was with every changing footstep, she didn’t know where he was headed. They were racing, she towards her goal and he to his, and it was uncertain who would win.
She was also aware of Feathers following behind. He moved nearly as quickly as she, but he moved like a beast, flowing from tree to tree in a subconscious desire to always stay close to cover. Her path was straighter, truer, and he had taken a moment’s pause before starting after her. He would not catch her.
Still, there was a certain thrill in being chased. It made the magic of the run throb, giving it a poignant flavor that seemed to roll over her tongue and pour through her blood.
She could just make Andy bounding up ahead now. Her focus narrowed, tunnel vision with her target at its center. Despite the intensity of her intent, the woods seemed to lighten some. Maybe from the magic filling her, maybe from the hope that she could stop all this before it went horribly wrong.
Andy stopped sudden and hard, body rigid.
He had won the race, and they were all lost.

chris said...

The Dream Player
YA Thriller

Dustin scanned the area and crouched back down. “We’re playing against the Duwali kids from the Plateau. We’re destroying them. See all these bandanas on the death tree? These are the ones we’ve killed.”

Jake ran a hand up and down the knots and tails. “Killed?”

“Yeah,” Dustin said through clenched teeth. “They’re dead when you rip off their bandana. Only one’s left. Wanna run with us?”

“Maybe next time.”

“Suit yourself. But watch out for the Duwali. They’re savages. If you’re not careful—” Dustin peered out one more time and slapped Jake on the shoulder. “Cool hair, by the way. I’ll catch you later.” After a few clunky strides, he was gone.

Jake stood, wiped his damp palms on his shorts and patted down his long curls. Should he join in? Nah, he should get back to his grandparents’ before they realized he was gone—or Lilly ratted him out.

He left the cover of his tree and headed back across the street.
But a cloud of night spray coalesced in his path.
“Dustin?”

Jake stepped back as a figure materialized from the mist. It was a dark-skinned boy, shirtless, and marked with war paint on his chest and face. His build was muscled and thin and he wore shredded jeans and sneakers. A red bandana dangled from his left arm. Some dark symbol painted on his torso swelled and shrunk with his breaths. His eyes never blinked.

Jake looked around for Dustin—or anyone.

The boy cupped his hands and shouted a piercing war cry into the night sky.

Jake’s feet tingled. It felt as if energy from the earth was zapping his entire body.

Other voices joined in from the surrounding darkness, blasting the valley with echoing cries. Jake didn’t know why, but every cell in his body wanted the kid’s bandana. His stomach fluttered. Play or be played, his dad used to say.

Jake slowed his breath.

He lunged for the boy’s armband, but the boy pulled away with a cool smile. Jake smiled back and shook out his ankle. It was tight, but okay.

He dove again, but the boy—the hunted—darted away, and Jake—now the hunter—exploded after him.
The boy’s surprise changed to laughter as he ran.

Sure, mock the new kid.

Jake wanted the kid’s life. The boy was fast, but Jake stayed with him—plowing through the yards of neighbors he hadn’t yet met. His first night in Sleepy Valley and he was sneaking out, trespassing, and probably lost.

He didn’t care. He needed speed. Anything and everything for speed.

The Duwali boy used his knowledge of the neighborhood to his advantage. He slipped through fence openings and hurdled hedgerows, tumbling, turning, and tearing to keep his “life.”

The chase led Jake out of the neighborhood and into a patch of woods. He entered slowly as the canopy masked the moonlight. His breathing quieted while his eyes adjusted. The boy was there, he could feel his presence.

Cynthia Gael said...

Oh this looks like fun! Enclosed is the action sequence entry. Thanks so much!

C.

Action Sequence:

The water....I must reach the water...

My thoughts raced like a whirlwind; I stumbled, quick to catch myself as I fell against the needle covered path that I had been careful to memorize in previous days. I pushed upwards and ran; heavy branches slapped back against my flushed skin while my steps propelled me through their gauntlet.

Silence. That was the first thing I shattered as I barreled down to the water’s edge, my feet pounding as I snapped the less fortunate branches just before the shore spread out in front of me. The relief made me careless. Able to forget the sounds of hooves and the howls of the dogs that followed so close behind me.

At the last, it was the roots that captured me. Not the Witchfinders. My ankle twisted and tangled with one so thick that it snaked upward off the ground. I slammed to the earth; the snapping of a bone in my foot mirrored the sound those branches had made behind me, only moments before.

My pursuers, dogs and men alike, were on top of me before I could move. The group of men who prided themselves on capturing the evil witches of England grabbed me up with rough hands. Their leader pulled his steed to a halt before us.

No introductions were needed between us. For I knew to fear him for his great evil as well as he knew to fear me for mine.

Matthew Hopkins. England’s own Witchfinder General.

His thick blonde hair was shoved beneath a hat that sat askew from his ride. His dark eyes glared down at my green ones before he spoke.

“Bridget Sinclair. You are hereby placed under arrest by order of his Royal Majesty for the crimes of witchcraft and consorting with the Devil. You are to come with us at once.”

As if I had a choice in the matter. As if my woman’s voice had a place amongst them.

The fear coursing through me revived my strength, helped me forget about my broken ankle. Such a charge was not unexpected. Nearly every unwed woman in Colchester had been named as a witch; falsely accused, near all of them.

Except this time, they had found what they were after.

A Chosen One.

A witch.

But to go to my death with ease, without struggle, was something that I could never do.

I would not do.

Rough hands restrained my arms behind me with sleek leather bonds, but my palms opened as I called forth to the waters that lined the shores to my back. I could hear them churning behind me. Rising at my command.

If the Great Goddess was ever needed by me, it was at this moment.

Jason said...

Bright sunlight flooded the room, and Mother Renee snapped awake. Blinking her eyes madly, she pointed a gnarled hand at Jack and Helen, and cried out, “No! You cannot leave! Door, close!”

For the briefest moment, Jack thought they were done for. If Gedrall was right, and she was one of the three ancient witches, then a simple matter of closing a door from across the room should be no trouble. Jack, Helen and Mother Renee stood frozen for an instant, waiting for the inevitable clanking of the door.

The sound never came, and the door remained open. Blinking with surprise, Mother Renee mumbled a curse under her breath, fixed her walking stick in front of her, and began to move forward toward Jack and Helen. She muttered to herself in a language Jack didn’t understand as she approached, cracked lips moving fast and spewing spittle down the front of her blouse.

Jack, snapping into action, flung himself towards the door as Mother Renee hobbled across the room. Just before he stepped foot outside however, the stone in his tunic began to burn, scorching his side in a blazing fire. Clutching at the spot with his free hand, Jack fell to his knees, all the while pushing Helen out the front door into the sunlight. “You need to get out of here!” Jack screamed.

“What happened? Why aren’t you coming? Jack, what’s wrong?” Helen shrieked.

Mother Renee limped closer, closing in on Jack and Helen at an alarmingly quick pace for one so old. “You cannot leave us, not now!” she screeched.

Jack struggled to get up, to throw himself out the door, but the intensity of the stone’s heat kept him in place.

“Jack!” Helen screamed, tugging at his arm through the doorway.

Mother Renee was nearly upon him now.

“Come on!” Helen screeched, tears pouring down her cheeks.

“I can’t,” Jack cried, panic etched across his face, his side feeling as though it were being charred through.

Mother Renee reached Jack, and laid a bony hand on his shoulder in a grip far stronger than Jack would ever have expected. “Back, back, back,” she said, cackling at Helen. “Back inside, dear, or your man here gets it!”

“Don’t come back in,” Jack warned. “I’ll stay.” Then, to Mother Renee, “Let her go!”

“No, no, no, that won’t do, Marifissa and Dravidia will be so disappointed. Inside, inside, come back inside,” Mother Renee said, tightening her grip on Jack’s shoulder, but reaching with her other skeletal hand towards the doorway where Helen stood immobile with indecision.

Mother Renee couldn’t quite reach Helen and keep a grip on Jack’s shoulder, and so she was left gesturing with her free hand, pulling at the air as though she could grip an invisible rope around Helen’s waist and force her back inside.

“Come back in, or your man here will suffer the consequences, dear. Now, we wouldn’t want that, would we?” Mother Renee said, gesturing and still pulling ineffectively at the invisible rope.

Paul said...

He traced the pile to the summit, where a man’s broken body lay spread eagle. A claw-mark across his face revealed the stark cavity of his nose and cheek. Larn didn’t want to linger, but the wide-eyed expression held him in place. The dead man must have seen his attacker as a blur of jointed claws, and then darkness. Did the empty face of a construct taint the vision he took to his afterlife? Why hadn’t they closed his eyes?

A fat crow settled on the man’s head and spread its wings in a dark crown. It aimed its beak and started to jab at his brow.

Larn heard himself cry out. Without thinking, he stepped across a limp arm and hoisted himself up the pile of bodies. He grabbed for the hands that stuck out farthest, trying not to wonder if he felt their fingers close around his own. By the time he reached the summit, he could barely breathe through the choking stench of gore. One of the dead man’s eyes shone between the points of a black beak, which glared at Larn with the crow’s attention.

“Give it back to him!”

The crow spread its wings and cawed, sending the eye rolling down the corpse’s collar. The bird wrapped bundles of hair in its talons.

Treachery extended from Larn’s hand and caught the light of campfires below. He didn’t recall drawing the blade from its scabbard. “Now leave.”

The crow’s beady eyes flicked to the sword and back to Larn. It cawed once more, bristling the feathers across its back.

The weight of the sword carried Larn’s entire body with the swing, but he felt the impact hit its mark. An explosion of feathers coated the pile, sticking to his face and arms. The other crows started to shriek and pace, never leaving their prize collection of meat except when they took to the air in short, panicked bursts.

Someone called out from below: “Crowslayer!”

More of the camp’s soldiers stopped to turn their sleepless eyes to the corpse pile. They smiled up at Larn and cheered, raising their weapons over their heads. A few carbine rifles went off in the air, sending up drifts of powder. “Crowslayer!”

Larn paused his attack to look out on the camp. Wet feathers coated the edge of his blade. He raised the tip to point at the nearest soldier. “I want these bodies placed in lines, and their eyes closed. Their part in this war is over. They shouldn’t have to watch you canter like dogs. Funeral rights at morning muster.”

The soldier below wore more buckles and badges than Larn, but grinned and nodded in spite of it. “You’re a better man than I, Crowslayer.”

A man? Larn tested the idea as he wiped the blade across his sleeve, where it left a red-black trail in its wake. He supposed that standing atop a mountain of corpses tended to put on a few years.

Elaine AM Smith said...

Qui fought nausea. Refusing to panic, he sent scattered thoughts to identify the source of the pain. Safe? It seemed not. What had gone wrong? Necessary vigilance was impossible. Pain locked him down. Sudden, unexpected, wet: the back of his head, the base of his spine, radiated heat, and agony.

“Crap! Knocked out cold shouldn’t be so cold! Are you moving? If you don’t move, I’m leaving. You take the flack. You hear?”

Qui shook to the rhythm of the hands on his shoulders, agony ripped along receptors to the extremes of his brain.

“I can’t leave you, didn’t ask you to be here. If you don’t move now – I’ve got to shift.”

More pain, the internal rippling, Qui knew his body would respond.

“Hey? Man? You hear me? We have got to go.”

His body was his, Qui clenched his fingers, shrugged his shoulders. He rocked away from the wall. Water dripped, but the relentless spray thudded against the figure that knelt beside him. He struggled with multiple sources of physical pain, clung to the fraying fragments rent by deeper, layered agony... pains with psychological stems. Maybe it was true, he was warfed with failure.

Qui opened his eyes. Blinded by harsh light and close green, he snapped his lids down. Irradiated by both glares, he absorbed and recovered. Gathered detail from chaos. Black tiled floor and pupils. White walls stained with grey streaks and water stains. Green eyes cowering from the strip light... and realisation.

Hands, hot and desperate, forced their way under his arms, pulled. Water sprayed over him washed under him, wasteful. The fingers dug a little tighter, suddenly released.

“Stay, then.”

“I’ll come – with you.”

Anger?

“Yeah, right.”

His words were wrong?

“I...”

When the full force of water caught him Qui head ricocheted against the wall and away.

“Wait?” He pushed against the tiles, away from the insistent spray.

One foot slipped, Qui felt himself losing ground. A warm hand curled under his elbow, a shoulder curved into his back. The jacket’s crackling surface grated at his skin. He stumbled with the pressure, felt the soft beneath the hard. Girl. She was soft, beneath the hard.

Qui cracked his knee against a low bowl, caught an arm against a pipe.

One hand, the one wrapped around his elbow tugged him away from the edge of the room while the other grabbed skin with his tee-shirt.

“Ah!” The sound forced itself through his lips, a physical failure.

“Sorry.”

She pushed him against a frame and the wall, tugged at a long metal bar. Qui felt the door release, choked as the levels of oxygen increased, shivered. His cells were saturated. While he tried to piece together his most recent past, he chased individual thoughts. Disorientated, his oxygen enriched brain swam. Leaning against the smooth wood and smoother surfaces, Qui check off the things he knew: alive; thinking; moving. This was unexpected.

Fat Bastard said...

Legend of Diablo
By Fat Bastard

Comedy/Action-Adventure

Diablo drove up in a 1960 black Chevy Pie Wagon like a lazy shark. It was decked out hot rod custom style with flames painted down the sides and hood. It had mud splattered on the back plate that read: hot. Disco music blared from the car’s speakers. Python cowboy boots emerged from the driver’s side. Wrapped in a black oil duster with chiseled hair, he stretched and yawned as he stepped out of the car. A trio of scantily clad sex kittens ran up, fawning over him like teenage groupies to a rock star. The Sex Kitten Trio wore black mid-drift football jerseys with the name Hell Cats written on the back with the numbers one, two or three written on the front.

Diablo protected his obnoxiously huge and obviously fake diamond bling shaped like a key. This fake diamond key looked like something a rapper would buy in Chinatown. “Don’t touch my bling,” he barked at the sex kitten trio. He stroked the key like he was brushing a show dog for competition. The trio of sex kittens were three young, deliciously hot females with orange membrane-like bat-wings, whiskers and pink dragon tails.

Diablo marveled at his reflection in a smoke-stained oval-mirror that had the word evil embossed in gold above it. Grinning, he placed his costume red devil horns on his shiny crown of hair and attempted to light a candy cigar in his mouth with a lighter that had a logo of a red devil. The candy cigar wouldn’t light and he tossed it on the floor towards grandpa’s direction. One of the sex kittens handed Diablo a red folder marked: changed mind. Diablo tossed the folder on the ground and stomped on it like a fifth grader not getting his way. “My reputation’s at stake!”

The kitten frowned. Diablo turned his attention to grandpa who he held for ransom. Grandpa sat tied up at the base of the volcano, which at dangerously high temperatures would erupt and send massive amounts of hot, melting lava his way. Diablo walked over to a panel with three red control knobs that had temperature gauge readings.

The first knob read: ‘hot.’ The second knob read: ‘very hot.’ The third knob read: ‘damn not.’ Diablo cranked the first knob. Grandpa peered up at the billowing smoke and shooting ash. He tried to wiggle loose from the ropes. But, it was no use. The candy cigar was jammed in Diablo’s mouth. He animated when he spoke like he was playing the game, Charades. “Where’s my sword?”

Grandpa endured the obvious pain. “Go to hell, Diablo.”

Diablo removed the cigar, “I’m two steps ahead of ya, grandpa.”

Jill Lynn A. said...

First, congratulations to Lisa whose Rock Paper Tiger is generating such great buzz. And, thanks Nathan, for a fun contest. Here goes:

Dressed in a favorite blouse with oversized faux-pearl buttons, I rushed through my scheduled interview with a wildlife conservation lobbyist to arrive at the Governor’s Albany mansion half an hour early.

Julia Sattler, the Governor’s press secretary, greeted me with a handshake. “You’re early.”

A smear of peach-colored lipstick marked her front tooth and I fought the urge to brush a finger across the slick surface of my own teeth. “I don’t mind waiting.”

“No, no.” She smiled. “On the contrary, the Governor will be delighted. His son’s Little League game starts in an hour.”

She led me to the Governor’s office.

He smiled; his politico-perfect teeth mocking Julia’s. “Ms. Gray. Nice to see you again.” He stood from his desk and shook my hand. “I understand Jim Rothberg had more pressing matters.”

I returned his smile, both in greeting and in appreciation for his remembrance of me. “Yes.”

“Julia, make a note to send a gift.”

“Of course,” she said and gestured for me to sit down. “Do you know if his wife had a boy or girl?”

“A boy.” I set my tape recorder on his desk. “Their second.”

“Speaking of boys.” The Governor pointed to a spot beyond me.

I turned and saw the Governor’s son wearing his Little League uniform and a youthful exuberance that would do Norman Rockwell proud.

“Hello,” I said.

The boy raced toward his father. “Are you coming to the game?”

“Ryan, I told you. I’ll be there,” the Governor said. “Now, say hello to Ms. Gray. She’s a magazine reporter and writes a monthly column about children’s law.”

Ryan’s eyes brightened. “About kids my age?”

I smiled. “Yes, kids your age.”

“Cool.”

The Governor winked at me. “I think you’ve gained a f...” His focus shifted away from me and the color drained from his face.

I turned to the direction of his gaze. My immediate thought that the sports-clothed stranger who stood behind Julia was the Little League coach vanished when a flash of silver appeared at Julia’s neck replaced by a thin red line. Only when the line grew into a waterfall of horror did I react.

I scrambled from my seated position and rushed forward. The assassin grabbed me from behind. He wielded his knife toward my throat and the blade deflected off the top button of my blouse and sliced my collar bone. I dropped to my knees as my seeping blood turned the teal color of my blouse into an ugly shade of puce. I fell to my side and watched in gruesome disbelief as the man produced a second knife and aimed it above the number eight embossed on Ryan Manola’s uniform.

In agony, I squeezed my eyes shut. I held my breath and willed my nostrils not to flair at the pungent odor of blood and urine that now cloaked the room. As consciousness began to fade, I was certain the death I was faking would become reality.

Walter Thurman said...

The driver squealed with delight as he took the turn at twice the posted speed limit. He slotted the Lamborghini LM002 through Alexandria’s rush hour traffic like a man on a mission. This made sense, as he was.

“I am coming, destiny! I salute your patience in my worthy endeavor!” Then he actually saluted. Not some spit-shined, regulation quoting salute, but one that would be right at home in a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. This, unfortunately, forced him to choose between letting go of the steering wheel, or the cheese Danish in his other hand.

The SUV jerked to the left when he let go of the wheel. Cars going the opposite direction swerved out of his way, honking and shaking their fists as he barreled past, but for the man known as the Generalissimo, this was a small price to pay to protect one’s baked goods.

His phone began playing Sir Mix-a-lot’s “Baby Got Back”. He pressed the button on the steering wheel to answer his phone.

“You have reached the Generalissimo! If you feel you have reached me in error, please hang up, and dial again!”

“Damn it, Generalissimo, what the hell is going on?” The voice on the other end was more than just familiar to the Generalissimo: he’d pledged his undying loyalty to the angry man whose cheese Danish he was in the process of eating.

“Mon Presidénte!” He saluted once again, just as he was in the middle of illegally passing a transit bus on the right. Without its master’s deft inputs, the Lamborghini shot onto the sidewalk. The Generalissimo released the salute in time to catch the wheel and avoid striking an elderly couple out for their morning walk. Their bag of fresh fruit was not so lucky.

“It is good of you to call!” he cried as two apples and a banana bounced off the hood.

“Where is it?”

“It would help me greatly should you choose to narrow the parameters of your righteous inquiry!”

“The memory chip, Generalissimo. Where is it?”

“My comrade in arms has it!”

“Thank God.”

“He’s about to be robbed of the device in question!”

“What?!”

The Generalissimo’s voice lowered, taking on a more menacing tenor. “I am following his progress as we speak, but I fear that my remedy presents as many problems as resolutions. If it is within my power, mon Presidénte, I will keep it out of the hands of those wretched villains, those serpents of doom, those purveyors of excrement, those—”

“Damn it, Generalissimo!” the President barked. “Just get it back!”

“Your wish is my command! Now, if you will excuse me, I need to finish my Danish before I get to work!”

“Wait, are you the one that stole my Danish? How did you get in here? Answer me!”

“I’m going through a tunnel!” He wasn’t. “You’re breaking up!” Again, he wasn’t. “Wish me well in this valiant undertaking!”

“Generalissi—”

He hung up on his Commander in Chief.

Henya said...

BLOW FORWARD
Thriller

Lizzie glanced out of the window and peered into the night. Something made her heart skip a beat. In the night illuminated dimly by the parking lot lamps, a pair of human silhouettes glided through the shadows of the trucks. She couldn’t make out their faces. It could be a trucker and a lot lizard.

When she gazed up again, turning her attention away from her meal, she noticed that a man stood next to her rig watching her. A car slid by between them, and when she looked again, the man was gone. A moment later, another figure appeared next to her truck, looked both ways, and then began moving quickly to the back of a flatbed parked a few feet away from hers.

Almost at once she experienced a rush of adrenaline. Her truck was her home, her life. She rose quickly, tossed a twenty-dollar bill and the napkin on the table and hurried out of the restaurant.

“Hey, honey,” the waitress called after her. “Are you okay?”

Lizzie didn’t answer. What if she were putting her life in danger? On the other hand, it could be her imagination. It could be a truckers headed for their rigs. Either way, she had to find out.
In seconds she was running. She ran through the parking lot, past a few parked trucks, around a Winnebago. She saw the men disappear behind a row of trucks. She ran faster, her arms pumping hard. She was gasping for air. She was horrified of what she’d see when she finally drew close enough to the back of the truck. In the shadows by the side of a parked truck, she crouched ever lower and held her breath.

She stopped to listen, and then she cut behind one of the trucks and see if she could get a good view of her truck from there. The figure reappeared behind her truck, an alert form, nearly lost to the thickening night. She leaned back, causing her to retreat deeper into the shadows and press her back against the tire of an 18-wheeler, feeling its roughness on her back.

What if she were putting her life in danger? On the other hand, it could be her imagination. It could be another trucker headed for his truck.
They seemed to appear out of nowhere. Nearly jumping out of her skin, she spun around to find them standing close.
Their faces emerged from the shadows. One of the men came forward. “We want to talk to you.”

His disarming smile left her cold. “About what?” It wasn’t until he got closer that she recognized the dark, brooding eyes. It took another second to place him at the warehouse, only this time he was wearing jeans and baseball caps. He looked so ordinary. A puzzled look came over her face.

Lizzie started. “You . . .”

Greyson Harness said...

The below is my entry at 497 words.

“One…two… three...” George said as he twisted the knob on his locker, concentrating on getting the numbers right. Satisfied, George opened his locker.
It didn’t take long for George to identify the items he needed to take home, and it took him even less time to put the items in his backpack.
As George was turning away from his locker, he heard an almost silent crunch underfoot, almost as if he’d stepped on a chip. Lifting his foot, George saw it was simply folded piece of paper that he’d stepped on.
“Must have fallen out of my locker,” George reasoned, bending over to get the paper and read it. Careful so as not to rip it, George opened the paper and read the scrawl of words there: He’s coming for you George. Get out. Now.
George had been mentally compiling a list of possibilities that the paper could be, including a note from a friend, a teacher, a love note. Never on the list would George have thought to put warning to save his life.
Dismissing the note as a joke his friends were playing, George hastily stuffed the note into his locker, no longer taking the care he had been earlier. Closing his locker behind him, George turned and began to walk off. He only got ten feet from his locker before the lights went out, leaving him in the pitch-black darkness.
Slowly, a glow began to fill the hallway, growing brighter with every passing second. It took George only a minute to realize that the glow was coming from his locker.
Cautiously, George crept over to his locker and opened it. There was nothing inside but a few books, some papers and… the note. That was the source of the glow.
With trembling fingers, George picked up the note and fumblingly opened it. The second it was completely unfolded, the glow of the note magnified tenfold, casting the hall in a vast array of colors.
The entire page was nothing but a display of moving colors. George watched as the colors disappeared, and molded themselves into small black letters like the last ones: He’s here George. Run while you still can.
Thoroughly spooked now, George looked around for the orchestrator of this elaborate joke. But he was the only one around.
The glow diminishing from the note, George was left with hearing alone. He heard running and the clash of something metal against the floor. Then he heard the scream. It was a woman’s scream, and was cutoff in the middle. There was no droning off, it just ended.
George dropped the note and turned around to run. At that moment, the note shone like a flashlight, showing George the creature behind him.
The creature was seven feet tall, and almost completely human except for two features: there was no skin or muscle, and the creature’s eyeballs were a solid blood-red.
The last thing George saw were three words on the note: You were warned.

Henya said...

BLOW FORWARD
Thriller


Lizzie glanced out of the window and peered into the night. Something made her heart skip a beat. In the night illuminated dimly by the parking lot lamps, a pair of human silhouettes glided through the shadows of the trucks. She couldn’t make out their faces. It could be a trucker and a lot lizard.

When she gazed up again, turning her attention away from her meal, she noticed that a man stood next to her rig watching her. A car slid by between them, and when she looked again, the man was gone. A moment later, another figure appeared next to her truck, looked both ways, and then began moving quickly to the back of a flatbed parked a few feet away from hers.

Almost at once she experienced a rush of adrenaline. Her truck was her home, her life. She rose quickly, tossed a twenty-dollar bill and the napkin on the table and hurried out of the restaurant.

“Hey, honey,” the waitress called after her. “Are you okay?”

Lizzie didn’t answer. What if she were putting her life in danger? On the other hand, it could be her imagination. It could be a truckers headed for their rigs. Either way, she had to find out.
In seconds she was running. She ran through the parking lot, past a few parked trucks, around a Winnebago. She saw the men disappear behind a row of trucks. She ran faster, her arms pumping hard. She was gasping for air. She was horrified of what she’d see when she finally drew close enough to the back of the truck. In the shadows by the side of a parked truck, she crouched ever lower and held her breath.

She stopped to listen, and then she cut behind one of the trucks and see if she could get a good view of her truck from there. The figure reappeared behind her truck, an alert form, nearly lost to the thickening night. She leaned back, causing her to retreat deeper into the shadows and press her back against the tire of an 18-wheeler, feeling its roughness on her back.

What if she were putting her life in danger? On the other hand, it could be her imagination. It could be another trucker headed for his truck.

They seemed to appear out of nowhere. Nearly jumping out of her skin, she spun around to find them standing close.

Their faces emerged from the shadows. One of the men came forward. “We want to talk to you.”

His disarming smile left her cold. “About what?” It wasn’t until he got closer that she recognized the dark, brooding eyes. It took another second to place him at the warehouse, only this time he was wearing jeans and baseball caps. He looked so ordinary. A puzzled look came over her face.

Lizzie started. “You . . .”

Sue M. said...

How long would it take him to park, walk into the house, and come up the stairs and kill her? Not as long as it would take her to chew through her rope. She scanned the room for something sharp. There was the mirror over the dresser, but he would hear it break. She should have thought of that earlier.

Standing up, her back against the door, Lorrie chewed feverishly. Her heart was a caged bird, trying to escape. When the front door opened, her bowels loosened. Hoping she had chewed through enough, Lorrie jerked her arms apart as hard as she could. The nylon sliced into her wrists like a garrote, and blood pattered silently to the carpet.

Lorrie tore at the rope with her teeth.

*****

He slammed the front door. So far, today had not been his day. His bank had called to tell him they had released his records to the police. Those idiot detectives would be on his trail if they ever figured it out. But it was almost over, and then he would be long gone. They could come looking for him in Mexico.

His day was about to get a lot better. Knife or gun, gun or knife? He laughed.

He checked to make sure his gun was loaded, and put his knife in the waistband of his pants. Then he changed his mind and put the knife in his pocket. Why take unnecessary chances?

Whistling, he headed up the stairs. No time to waste.

*****

She heard him laugh.

Dear God, dear God, dear God.

Lorrie spit out blood, and kept chewing. She had nearly bit through her swollen bottom lip when she caught it between the rope and her teeth. She held her wrists out quickly and looked at her handiwork with her one good eye. Not many more strands to go. Her hands were shaking so badly she could barely hold them still long enough to grab the rope with her teeth. A flood of panic washed over her.

Sweat stung her eye, and she blinked it away. He was whistling, his footsteps thudding softly on the stairs. She nearly cried out in frustration. She chewed a second longer, until he hit the landing. With one final tug, she ripped her hands apart.

She was free.

Lorrie grabbed the ladder-back chair and turned it over. The chair felt as heavy as a couch, and she feared her right shoulder would not lend support when she swung it. Blood from her wrists made the chair legs slippery, and she wiped first one hand then the other on her shorts.

Lorrie could hear him fumbling with his keys, and when he opened the door, she was waiting.

*****

Dan walked into the room as he opened the door, and the empty bed barely had time to register before the back of the wooden chair knocked his front teeth out. He fell to his knees, and Lorrie reared back and hit him again.

michele_m. said...

Kate slammed on the breaks as the front of the Miata skidded to a halt. Stunned, Kate saw James climbing out of the driver’s side door of the truck. What the hell is he doing? She thought to herself. Kate watched. James seemed to be moving in slow motion. His arms were tight fisted as he walked up to her car. Kate could hear something in her ears but couldn’t make out what it was. James was approaching and Kate sat there confused and uncertain how to react. “Kate!” Henry’s voice finally registered in her brain. He must have been what she had heard before. She turned to him dazed.

“What do we do?” she asked in a small confused voice.

“Kate, you have to drive!” Henry demanded.

Just then a woman’s voice was yelling from in front of them. Both Kate and Henry looked forward to see what was happening. At this point James was at the front of the Miata.

“What the fuck are you doing James!” Samantha screamed as she approached him from the passenger side of James’ car.

With anger in his eyes James turned to Samantha. Kate had not notice it before but as James raised his arm towards Samantha, she noticed the gun in his hand. Kate tried to scream but the only thing she heard was the sound of the gun firing at Samantha. Kate stared in horror.

“Drive, Kate!” Henry shouted in her ear.

Kate stared in shock as James turned back toward her and Henry. Without effort, James jumped onto the top of the Miata. Kate felt a hand grab the top of her hand and move the shift into reverse. With every step she could hear the sound of gravel embedded in James’ shoes make contact with the metal hood. Kate could hear Henry’s voice in the background but the sound of James footsteps were too overpowering to make out the words. She forced herself to turn to Henry so she could try to see what he was saying.

“Hit the gas, Kate!” Henry shouted as he pushed on the top of her thigh with his hand.

Kate looked up to see James staring down into her eyes. The inhuman look that she had seen in James’ eyes months ago had reappeared in front of her. She stared back into his eyes trying to make out his thoughts. That glare, the anger, the hate that she was certain she had seen in her review mirror as she left the library was now right in front of her. Suddenly, she caught a reflection of something in his hand. Almost instantly she realized it was the gun.

“Step on the fucking pedal, Kate!” Henry yelled pushing down on her leg.

Time regained its pace in Kate’s mind and she quickly realized what Henry was trying to tell her. Kate slammed on the gas causing the Miata to throw itself into reverse.

Janet Freeman said...

From, "The Road Home"
Janet Freeman


Halfway to Hattadare we caught sight of a dog limping alongside 401. Enzo pulled to the shoulder, slowing down enough to grant clearance as I jumped from the car, hitting the gravel in a stumble. I ran across the adjacent field to where the dog now stood, eyeing me warily.
“Here doggy, doggy,” I called. “Come to Papa.”
The dog bolted, and it was then I realized she was pregnant. I threw my arms up: What the fuck? I tried.
To my surprise, Enzo slammed the MG in park, hopped out and gave himself over to the same thankless chase. His white shirt and gold watch gleamed in the sun as he circled the field, returning to the car covered in dust. Sweat ran down his face and his dark aviator glasses were gone. He was quiet as we got back in the car. The dog trotted out to the middle of the road, and I was about to jump out again when Enzo gunned the engine. Closing my eyes, I felt the swerve of the MG, the sickening thump as we hit the dog.
Moments later surveying the scene, I managed to convince myself Enzo had hit the dog on accident, but when it came to assessing the damage we’d done it hardly mattered. The dog stared the length of the road with glazed eyes. Her belly had ruptured. Inside the folds of matted hair and deflated skin wriggled five blind pups, waxy and white, slippery as grease.
“Now what?” I asked, stupidly.
Enzo picked up a pup, whispering in its ear. Then, moving so quickly I failed to grasp his intent, he snapped the animal’s neck.
“What the fuck was that?”
“What good is surviving if you don’t know what you survived?” he said, calmly reaching for another.
“Leave them here with me,” I pleaded.
He stroked the ears of the pup he held in his hand. “They’ll never make it without their mother,” he said, wrapping his fingers around its neck. I turned away only to be beckoned in the next second by a tap on my shoulder: Enzo, offering me the last orphaned pup. I took it, relieved to feel the small warm body pressed against my chest. I planned on carrying it back to base, making it a mascot for the platoon. If not, then leaving it on any old stretch of road with houses, a place with a tricycle and football on the front porch.
“It’s okay,” I said, as the animal whimpered, pricking my wrist with its slippery dewclaws. “I’m right here.”
Only I wasn’t. I had left the here-and-now years ago and was swimming in the depths of Enzo’s madness, which had snared my lungs like barbed wire. Thinking only about this, about my desire to breathe freely again, to have my friend return to me, whole and intact, I pretended to twist the animal’s neck and then left it on the side of the road, curled up with its dead siblings.

dragonfly said...

Cassie had thought he would shoot her. The bullets would rip through her flesh and she’d sink into the waters of the Intracoastal, her blood mingling with the current.
She raised her hands and stood very still, her feet mired in the silt of the canal bed.
The man with the gun stared at her impassively, his dark eyes like a curtain drawn tight over his soul. The other man was gesturing for her to get in the boat.
Cassie swallowed, gazing at the men. Not so big. Probably not as tall as I am. But the gun... She took a step forward and slipped in the mud.
Both men leaned over to grab her, but she found her footing and jerked the unarmed man out of the boat. He arced and went headfirst into the water, landing in the marshy reeds.
The boat tipped toward Cassie and rocked the other way as the armed man leaned back to overcompensate for the departure of his companion.
Cassie seized upon the diversion. Grabbing the edge of the aluminum boat with both hands, she tilted it away from her and the armed man yelled, flailing as he fell backwards into the water. He pulled the trigger as he fell, sending a spray of bullets into the air.
A shrill scream came from behind her. She turned in time to see the first man grappling with a snake.
A shiver slithered down her spine. My friend the
water moccasin.
Cassie scrambled into the boat, and reached for the
tiller. The small motor was idling, but she squeezed it and the boat was propelled forward.
The sound of the men thrashing around in the water behind her drowned out the sound of the motor until she had pulled far enough away from them.
She was headed north. She didn’t care which way, as long as it put some distance between her and her would-be captors.
The sun had gone down now, the sky to the west a deep blue behind the back lit trees lining the banks. Soon, the light would be gone and she would be operating in total darkness.
She had no idea who would come for her, but she was sure someone would. She just needed to stay out of site until Javi could find her.
She headed up the center of the waterway, her hand gripping the tiller. The only sounds were the slow churning of the motor and the prow slicing through water. Cicadas chirped along the banks, but she kept her gaze on the water ahead. The drone of the motor quieted her nerves, like white noise.
The cooling air chilled her. Her stolen shirt was soaked and clinging to her flesh. It felt like she’d snatched it from the refrigerator.
She had no idea where she was going, just away from the men, away from the barge and away from her home and her beloved Javi.
I’m not dead, Javi. Don’t give up on me.

whizz said...

'Personification of evil!' spout those pious church fathers, 'Heinous atrocity!' proclaim my compatriots in their hasty, misplaced condemnations. These filthy, sinful creatures of the night, degenerate vermin who, like plague-infested rats scurry through the streets—— carriers of vile, debilitating diseases, who would wantonly infect all we unsuspecting misfortunates. Perchance for a moment they should perceive the service I afford them in pursuit of my occupation. For if they did, assuredly I should be commended. I cleanse the streets of these miscreants and their debauched vices and if, in that process, I happenchance to release them from their pitiful and wretched lives, of which they are manifestly so undeserving... Evil? Prey, show me a single harlet possessed of a lesser evil, a lesser vileness than I. Yet am I to happen upon such a one...

Churning over these hellish thoughts, I move furtively amongst the dark shadows afforded me by this dense, gloomy fog. This affliction once again impels me out into this dirty, stinking ghetto, to accomplish what fate ordains I must do. My likeliest prey will be stumbling from the taverns, and so to such places of ill-repute I make my haste, lest this fog abates and thwarts my devotion.

I hear murmurings yonder, a commotion of sorts near to where a hansom cab has just passed, but the fog and my poor vantage point affords little view. I move in closer——although I am cautious to maintain a respectable distance.

"Lawd above, ducky, now that were a bleedin' narrow squeak!" bawls a voice. I can nigh distinguish two figures——one stooped over another, the one a harlot without doubt, betrayed by such gaudy attire and uncouth manner of speech, the other, I am uncertain. She lays prostrate and looks to possess an injured hand. Perhaps I... No, crowds now begin to appear from under this cloak of darkness, so I will do well to make my exit swiftly.

"Ow do, sir! Ain't this an 'orrible, gloomy ev'nin'?" booms another distinctly irritating voice, the more offensive in the cognizance that it belongs to another of these same grotesque creatures that inhabited my thoughts moments ago.

"Good evening, yes indeed, most atrocious madam," I reply, doffing my hat in mock deference, quietly seething behind a forced smile which I pray does not outwardly appear as stilted as it feels.

She clasps my arm and leads me a stroll through hazy, foggy streets. The whore's foul stench of ale intermingled with bodily odour nauseates me intensely. As she leads me into an alleyway, I follow a few paces behind and surreptitiously pull out my knife. I am weary of her levity and idle babble. My heart now races, the adrenalin surges throughout me, I stop and pull her into a shop doorway under a guise of intimacy. As she kisses my neck, I momentarily glimpse the emerging moonlight reflecting on the long, sharp blade a split second before I drive it in...

spiziks said...

DANNY (YA fantasy)

“What have you done?” Iris whispered.

A rumbled thrummed beneath Ganymede’s feet. A low roar built behind the stony door and grew louder. The ledge began to shake.

“Back to Olympus!” Ganymede said.

“Can you concentrate well enough to find the way?” Iris shot back.

“Move!” Eros shouted, and all three of them dove aside just as the ancient door exploded outward. Rocks flew over the edge and vanished into the gloom. The huge doorway lay open and black. Ganymede lay on the ledge next to Iris and Eros, horrified and frightened. From within the darkness came a terrible hiss, one filled with teeth and scales. Something moved. And then the dreadful monster Ketos burst out onto the ledge. Her serpentine body bunched with muscle, and her jaws gaped wide enough to bite a whale in half. She caught sight of Iris’s glowing body and lunged with an ear-shattering hiss. Iris flung a bright rainbow from both hands straight into Ketos’s eyes. The monster roared with pain and reared back. Eros conjured up his bow and fired a succession of silver arrows. They speared into her flesh in a neat line with small thup sounds, but seemed to have little effect. Ketos reared back her head to strike. Ganymede, standing next to Eros, backed up a step, not sure what to do. Already he could see that Iris and Eros were growing tired. Iris’s glow had dimmed markedly, and Eros seemed barely able to lift his bow.

Ketos lunged and Ganymede acted. He tackled both Iris and Eros and swept them over the edge, sending all three of them hurtling into the pit of Tartarus. Ketos’s jaws snapped emptily where they’d been standing. Dead air rushed past Ganymede’s head as the fell. Iris screamed. Eros yelled in panic.

“Fly, you idiot!” Ganymede shouted into his ear. “Fly!”

Eros came to his senses. His wings snapped open, and their descent slowed. Ganymede hung on to Eros with one arm, his other arm around Iris. Eros flapped like crazy, but he was panting and Ganymede felt the skin on his neck growing slick with sweat. The infinite blackness pulled at them, urged them to give up and fall forever. Eros started to weaken.

“You can do it, guy,” Ganymede said. “You can. You’re a fucking god. You can get us to the ledge further down.”

Eros rallied. “I’m . . . trying . . . ” he gasped. “Everything . . . is so heavy . . . down here.”

“Just a little more,” Iris said.

Above them, Ketos hissed in annoyance that her prey had escaped, then slithered with incredible speed up the winding ledge, up toward the top, up toward freedom. Ganymede kept up a steady stream of encouraging talk as Eros half-flew, half-glided toward a lower place on the spiral ledge. They cleared the edge just as Eros’s strength gave out. His wings went still, and all three of them landed hard on unyielding stone. They lay still, regaining breath and balance.

Surly Jason said...

She stretched her fingers once, and took a deep breath. She tapped in a 911 override, and with a wave of her control rings set the He-3 reactors to 250%. She diverted all power to the gravity drives.

The cabin lights dimmed and died. Indomitable’s hull popped and groaned under the pressure. And the maelstrom began.

The gentle snow began to curl around Indomitable in a mad vortex, and the wind began to growl around her. Elle could hear it through the plasma window like a demon howling at the gates. Snow on the ground rippled like the sea, and trees began to lean toward the roaring gravity drives. She couldn’t help but smile to see Fearless nudge toward her for a moment. To stop, Brand had to increase power to his own gravity drive. It was the only thing he could do, and it was the worst thing he could do.

Her reactors already showed as redlining, and Brand’s would have to be the same to fight the gravitic onslaught. Despite the forces pulling her toward blacking out, she increased power further. Indomitable shuddered, and obeyed.

The earth around the twin ships plasticized and undulated under the gravitic power. Now she would see if the navy had upgraded Fearless’ drives. Between the weapons, armor, and the ballast she’d thrown at the other ship, Fearless should be spending a fraction more power to hold her ground. If the ships have the exact same drives, then Indomitable should have an edge. A slim, barely perceptible edge.

A giant slab of concrete ripped free of a peak on Elle’s right. It tumbled toward her, and shot aft of the ship. She caught sight of it again on the left, slowing and turning back in orbit of the psuedo-mass drive. It turned, and sped back toward the bow of her ship. As the stone passed between the foes, Elle knew that her eyes locked with Brand’s despite the distance. The boulder slowed again, and curved right toward Fearless. The stone smashed into the armored wing and broke into shards that swarmed wildly in the tri-polar gravity. Fearless spun, and sunk.

Elle clenched her teeth and muttered every vile word she knew to summon strength to move. Staining, she lifted a toe to the damper, and reduced drive power. For a moment, she was in freefall, diving toward Fearless. As she released the damper to slow just above the adversary, her emergency klaxon began a keening double pulse familiar from hours in simulators: engine failure. It didn’t matter now. With Earth’s and Fearless’ combined gravity below her, there was no hope of overcoming. She backed off the power, and let Indomitable fall.

The ships collided with a solid crash. Black filled Elle’s vision. She tasted blood and smoke. The port side was tangled with the other ship. On starboard there was only the receding sky.

For a split second, it was beautiful. Then the ground hit with the fury of vengeful god.

Christi Goddard said...

From my YA paranormal:

"Get in!" Scarlett said, throwing open her door. "They're going to show us the way!"

That was a pretty wild assumption, I thought, but I did as I was told. For all we knew, the lights were going to lead us off a cliff. Or to a used car dealership.

Scarlett peeled out of the parking lot and sped down the street. I wasn't sure her Pinto could take that kind of abuse, but negative remarks about her car while she was excitedly speeding down the street seemed a bad idea. It was harder to keep my mouth shut when we nearly caught air going over train tracks.

"Dead or not, you need to obey the rules of the road before you send other people to the grave," I said, gripping the door handle in anxiety.

"You know what?"

A rhetorical question I loathed. I almost answered sardonically, but kept it to myself.

"Shut up," she said. "I'm not going to kill anyone. You don't count, you're already dead."

"Well, I'd prefer not to be dismembered again, thanks."

She shot me a confused glance, then her eyes returned to the road.

"Watch out for the...!"

"I see it."

The Pinto narrowly missed someone edging their Mustang out from a gas station parking lot. They honked loudly and the driver gave us the finger.

"Being with you is almost more excitement than I can handle," I said.

"Yeah, I get that a lot."

We raced through town, following lights in the sky. Scarlett was as frightening a driver as my mom was a singer on drunken karaoke night back home. All I could do was watch in horror. The only notable difference being my ability to curse freely.

The lights stopped abruptly, and she slammed on the brakes. Cars honked as they whizzed by us, and indiscernible insults permeated the windshield. The lights veered to the right, and Scarlett jumped the curb into a grocery store's parking lot.

"Martha's hatin' on you," I said nervously, pounding on the imaginary brake pedal on my side of the floorboard.

"Martha loves the action," Scarlett retorted, a manic smile on her red lips.

She had to slow down for pedestrians, then followed the lights around the back of the store. There was an alley in which we turned left, and at the end was a large warehouse. The lights circled above, their trails forming the infinity sign over the bay doors.

Scarlett pulled the car to the right and put it in park. When she grabbed her purse and door handle simultaneously, I said, "What are you doing?"

"Checking it out, duh."

"Wait," I said, grabbing her sleeve. "Shouldn't we… I guess… investigate a bit? We can look up the name of the building in the phone book, maybe. Make sure we're not breaking and entering or anything. I don't want to get arrested."

"Then don't get caught." Scarlett pulled her sleeve free of my grasp and got out of the car.

Sarah Scotti-Einstein said...

Daniel walked through the throngs of drunken college students as they poured out of the closing bars. The clock on the bank blinked 2:27 and then 24°-the time was fine but if the temperature dropped four more degrees the police would start rounding up the river folk and forcing them into the night shelter at Bartlett House, which would ruin his whole plan. He quickened his step, pushing past a gaggle of girls teetering on high-heeled, open-toed sandals standing outside The Lazy Lizard. He supposed they were too drunk to feel the cold. He heard one say, Holy shit, did you see that? That guy almost knocked me down and then giggle, but no call-out from a boyfriend looking to chase him down, so he hurried on.

Daniel was tracking a girl he'd seen limping out of Bent Willies, a cast on her leg, a crutch under each arm, and no date. She was moving slow, too slow for him to follow her directly without being noticed, so he was weaving his way in and out of the crowds along High Street, guessing her path and only crossing down to Chestnut to check her position. Stalking, he thought. He liked the sound of that. It made him feel like a hunter.

She was a fat girl with stringy blond hair and too much make-up. But he didn't care that she wasn't pretty. It wasn't her face that caught his eye. It was her leg.

She hobbled into the parking garage, making things easy. Daniel had been afraid she'd parked on the street, or in one of the lots behind a busy club that would be filled with knots of boys and girls involved in the final negotiations of who would be going home with whom. But she had passed all those places and walked into the one part of downtown that stayed quiet at night. He followed her down the long concrete ramp to a deck empty except for one pick-up. Nicer than he'd expected. There might be a bonus in this.

He stepped out of the shadows, no longer worried that she would notice him following her, and started to run. He slammed her against the side of the truck before she could get the door open, pinned her against it and grabbed her hair. With a grunt, he pulled her head back as hard as he could. "Just shut the fuck up, bitch, and give me your purse," he said, punching her forehead against the window.

She dropped her purse and pissed her pants at the same time. This always struck him as funny, and even though it happened pretty much every time he strong-armed a woman, he couldn't keep himself from laughing. "Stupid cow," he said. Daniel kicked her casted leg out from under her and then tossed the crutches over the railing onto the deck below so that he could get good and gone before she had any way to get to help...

Yoshima said...

Thanks for the contest, Nathan!Here's mine, from my YA fantasy novel.


Someone grabs my hair and yanks me up. The sixth caravan man flips me around and pulls me up to his greasy face by the neck of my shirt. I cringe away from him, choking from his rotten breath. It makes my nostrils feel sick-warm and dirty.
“Let—me—go! Or I’ll—”
He swats Damien’s gun from my hand. “No, I’m afraid you won’t. What’s a weak little thing like you doing out here, anyway? And with a gun—” His fist tightens around my shirt. “You’re one of those Trespassers! We’re getting robbed!”
He drops me and turns to go back to his camp, pulling a pistol from his coat. “I hope you said goodbye to your friends!”
“You won’t touch them!” I snatch Damien’s gun from the dirt beside me.
Just point and shoot. It’s as simple as that, Damien told me.
I point.
And I shoot.
The force of the explosion throws my arms up, sending the bullet into a broad arc—and nowhere near my target.
The sixth man stops and turns around. He waves the smoke out of his face.
“Whoever gave you that gun should have showed you how to use it first.”
He lurches forward, rips the pistol from my hands, and throws it aside. He grabs me by the throat and presses the barrel of his gun against my bruised temple, which aches sharply at the contact. This time, as he looks down at me, there is something else in his eyes.
He licks his bottom lip. “It’s been a long time since I’ve smelled a woman.”
He slams my back into a tree, knocking what air I have left out of me. He releases my throat and pins my arms above my head, his sweat-stained body crushing me against the knotted bark.
“Get off me!” I cough, writhing under him. He’s too strong.
“You’re a feisty little wench, aren’t you?” He pins my legs open with his knee. “You must not be a very valuable addition to your party, if your Trespasser friends left you here all by your lonesome.”
“Shut up!”
He laughs. His breath makes me gag. “You have no right to deny your body to me, Trespasser. Don’t try to resist, or my finger might just slip,” the trigger clinks menacingly, “and we don’t want to spoil that pretty head of yours.”
He puts the gun between his teeth. A sweaty hand grabs my hip. Dirty fingertips start to slip up my shirt, about to ruin my perfect memory of how it felt when Damien—
“DON’T TOUCH ME!”
Two bone-crushing snaps echo between the trees.
The pressures on my wrists and hip disappear. An ear-splitting scream follows the snaps, then a sound like ripping several pieces of burlap at once. Then a heavy thump, followed by two softer thumps.
On the black dirt, two grubby hands twitch as blood squirts onto the pistol lying between them.
Not bad, Magic.

F.C. said...

I heard the roars and the screams, their echo inspiring me to run faster.

"No pain, no pain," I kept repeating. I looked over my shoulder, and saw Olaf was covering my retreat.

*The predator always wins,* a voice said in my head. No matter how hard I shielded my ears, nothing could stop it. It would resonate as he willed it.

"Shut up! SHUT UP!" I screamed. The empty golden scabbard fastened on my back kept tapping against my spine as I ran, like a metronome setting the beat of the chase.

"Come on, boy, stay close to me!" I shouted at the black and yellow beast. His massive paws struck the ground in an elegant feline pace, his majesty reflecting the extent of his strength.

I reached the hill that led to the next level, and jumped butt first, sliding down the dusted stone. I looked up at the cavernous ceiling and saw all the pillars that went too high for my eyes to see, and the white
flowering vines that circled them.

*Run all you want, I'll catch you eventually. Now, tomorrow or in a hundred years, it doesn't matter. I'll get you.*

"Keep going, Gaby, keep going. You're almost there," I said to my panting self. Olaf came running down, without pause or hesitation. I looked up and saw two black beasts on the edge of the hill.

*Get him,* the angry voice said.

Olaf bumped me with his head and pushed me forward. I started to run again, but when I looked back, he wasn't following. I glanced at him. I could see his fierce, hazelnut colored eyes even from where I stood, and I immediately knew what they said.

"Thank you," I whispered, my eyes wet.

He turned around, and his rosettes shined at me for the last time. He roared a thunderous roar and charged. He clashed with the black beasts, and was lost in a cloud of dust.

Running and crying, I ignored everything but my breathing. The pain, the city, the temples, the green pastures, the bodies… they weren't there. There was only me and my objective.

And then I saw it. The barricade, a hundred meters in front of me. Finally.

*Stop.*

The ringing came back. The screeching, paralyzing sound echoed in my head, like never ending pangs of invisible daggers stabbing at my brain. With blood gushing out of my ears, I fell to my knees, unable to move a muscle.

"Hello, Gaby," the cold voice said. It did not come from my head this time, but the mouth of the man who stood over me. "I'm sorry it had to come down to this. He was a beautiful jaguar."

He reached under his robe and drew out the weapon I knew so well. The pyramidal blade shined at me.

"Are you ready?" he asked, leaning over.

"Yeah, I've been ready for a long time… dad."

There was a gushing sound, and then nothing.

Daryl Sedore said...

Title: The Precog
Genre: Suspense/Thriller


Both men reached into their inner suit jacket pockets in unison. It looked rehearsed. Everything seemed to slow down. The timing was perfect. The girl and her boyfriend had stepped away from a small crowd and were by themselves for a moment standing in front of the theatre doors. Sarah was close enough to hear the two men from the Chrysler say they were police officers.
She could see both men were showing badges of some sort.
There was nothing she could do. So she decided to get rid of their getaway car. While they were busy, she turned and headed towards their idling car. Maybe the best thing would be to snatch their car keys.
She wiped a bead of sweat from her forehead. She looked down at her legs; they felt weak with the power of the adrenaline making them shaky.
She glanced sideways when she was halfway across the street.
The man she recognized from six months ago looked right at her.
Their eyes locked.
Her feet faltered a little. Oh, shit. Okay, run, grab the keys.
Before she turned away, she saw him slap his partner’s arm. Both men were watching her now.
She bolted. One look over her shoulder told her everything. It was ruined. She would never get to the car, reach in, turn and pull the keys out and escape in time. No way. He’d be on her before she got her hands on the keys.
She was only a dozen feet from their car. A pair of footsteps pounded hard and fast behind her. They sounded close. Even if she ran up the street, they’d still catch her. She was cringing. His touch was coming at any moment. She didn’t waste any more energy to look behind her again.
Only thing left was the car. She couldn’t grab the keys and run away in time. She had to take the car.
In the second it took her to think it, she was diving into the front seat. She grabbed the driver’s side door and pulled hard. Her pursuer stuck his hand in to keep the door open. His fingers yanked out at the last second before Sarah closed and locked it.
Gasps of air came from her mouth. She was an okay driver, but not good yet. The guy was banging on the door’s window with one hand. She looked up at him. His other hand was pulling keys out of his pocket.
Spare keys.
Sarah put her hand on the stick beside her leg and tried to pull it back to the letter “D”.
It wouldn’t move. Then her index finger felt a button on the underside of the stick. She put her foot on the brake, depressed the button and dropped the car into drive.
She didn’t know when she started to scream. It was just coming out of her mouth.
Everything was going wrong. It never happens like this.
The driver’s side door pulled away from her arm.
He was in.

Francis said...

A lot of awesome entries, Nathan will have a hard time deciding the finalists I am sure!

Good luck everyone!

F.C. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MK said...

Though the wagon bordered the steep hillside, an observation that imposed upon Cassandra second thoughts, she was determined to find her bag.

It was stuffy inside, the crates too closely packed, the darkness a suffocating veil around her. She stood crouched against its low ceiling and looked toward the curtains, believing she may have seen something.

A shadow raced by.

Her heart jumped. She had to get out. And fast.

The wolf at the front of the wagon let out a yelping cry.

Cassandra felt the entire cart lurch onto the slope.

She was thrown against the partition that separated the back from the driver’s seat. Boxes, toppled from their stacks, bombarded her as the wagon rocked precariously down the hillside. She shielded herself, the precious life growing within her, bringing her knees to her chest and seeking shelter beneath her arms. She was crushed between the division and the barrels.

She heard the dreadful crack of trees striking the sides of the wagon, the wheels as they scraped against the rocks. It was only a matter of time before it crashed. Before this was all over.

She had to get a hold of the reins.

Cassandra, dizzied by the constant hammering against her skull, staggered to her feet. She ran her hands down the wall and found the window to the driver’s bench. She shattered the thin board with her elbow. Sunlight poured in.

She grasped at the reins beyond the splintered opening. They were just out of her reach.

She had to stop to consider her options. She could risk falling out of the wagon if she climbed into the driver’s seat, or she could risk a terrible collision if she did not. Either way, she was unsure if she’d survive.

She began to pull herself through the window.

The rapid winds hacked at her flesh, the white wilderness blurring past her. The wolf was soaring down the slope. It looked as if it had been spooked.

Cassandra lunged for the reins and furled her frostbitten fingers around them. She yanked them back through the window.

The wolf would not slow down.

The reins snapped against the tension upon them.

Cassandra fell back again, her head slamming into another crate, but quickly scrambled to her feet and to the opening. Another jump was just a few yards ahead of them. It was there they would crash. It was there this would end.

She could feel her lungs, her throat tightening. She gasped for air. She so desperately needed to catch a breath.

The wagon dove forward again.

Cassandra was thrown through the window. She flew over the wolf and felt herself meet the ground at last with several loud cracks. The pain, such boundless pain, pierced her head. A sharp whine screeched in her ears as if she were deafened by the impact. But her eyes. Her eyes were wide open.

She saw the wagon as it came down upon her.

F.C. said...

Forgot to mention genre: Science fantasy

Excerpt of short stories I wrote before I began the novel itself, since I wanted to capture the voice and feel.

Permalink to my comment with the story:
http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/06/rock-paper-tiger-chaseaction-writing.html?showComment=1275437065094#c2181056925692483124

Stephanie Garber said...

Iscariot jumps over me to dive at the cloaked stranger. But the stranger steps to the side, avoiding him easily and Iscariot tumbles onto a step. Iscariot quickly regains his footing, though, and is back on the landing again, ready to fight.

I paste myself against a wall. I can’t yet tell who this stranger is, but I am hoping if he wins this fight my fate is better left with him than if I choose to try and run away.

Both men are circling each other on the landing now and I watch as Iscariot removes his cloak and begins to hiss. The stranger lets out a laugh and as Iscariot again dives after him: his mouth open, fangs exposed. The stranger pulls out a reed thin sword and slices at Iscariot’s mouth, cutting off his serpentine fangs.

Iscariot let’s out a painful hiss, but the stranger doesn’t miss a beat, and using his peculiar sword slashes Iscariot across the throat, killing him with one swift blow.

If I had not just seen another death I think I would be horrified; instead I’m merely stunned. Still, I feel frightened as the stranger approaches me, trying to slink away as he begins to move closer.

“Don’t be scared Madeline—” He stops moving forward, and though I haven’t heard it in almost two years I recognize the sound of his deep voice immediately. He is one of the last people in the Empire I would have expected to see here tonight.

“Judah? Is that you?” I step forward, trying to see under his hood. “What are you doing here?”

“I think you can figure that out on your own,” he says, grabbing my wrist before I can see his face.

“We don’t have time to talk,” he continues. “We have to leave before someone finds that thing’s body. I don’t think they use these stairs much, but when you fail to arrive at the fifth floor in a few minutes the guards might come looking for you.”

“But how did—” I have so many questions I want to ask him, but he stops me before I can continue.

“Not now Madeline—” He yanks on my wrist and starts pulling me back toward the second flight of stairs. “We have to get out of here.”

“But where are we going?”

“We’re going to jump out of the window that’s on the second floor landing,” he tells me, his tone impatient as we rush down the stairs.

“And where are we going from there?”

“I don’t know— somewhere safe,” he answers roughly. “We can worry about that once we’re gone, but first we have to get out of here.”

This answer makes me uncomfortable, and I hesitate as we finish heading down the stairs, wondering if it is wise to trust Judah. He did just save my life, but I have no idea what he’s doing here, or whose side he’s on.

Marjorie said...

"Pull over sidewinder," the sheriiff called to Kate as she flew into town on her horse. Kate jumped off her horse, secured him to the nearest post, and followed the sheriff into his office. This was the last place Kate wanted to be. She peered out the window and eyed the saloon across the street. She came searching for Jake, and the saloon was supposed to be her first stop.

The sheriff pulled out a chair and motioned, “Take a load off your feet.” Kate sat down, and asked, "What the hell is this all about?" The sheriff moved closer to Kate and she could smell his foul breath.

"Word came in that you robbed a bank in the last town over and I have to search your bag."

Kate laughed and replied, "I didn't rob a bank. I was in that last town over looking for the guy who jilted me, and I was in that bank when it was robbed. The real robber knows I was a witness and she will try to pin that shit on me. I was on my way here to find Jake Slade. He is probably across the way drinking his mean ass off in that saloon."

The sheriff took Kate's rucksack and opened it and dumped out the contents on his desk. "What the hell is this?" he asked as he held up her Blackberry.

Kate knocked her forehead with the palm of her hand. "What a fool I am," she thought. "Forget that, sheriff..." "The real robber is after me and I cannot stay here. I have to go find Jake and get the hell out of town."

"The sheriff replied, "OK, I see no money so you are free to go. And take that contraption with you. I smell trouble."

Kate packed up her stuff and threw the phone on the bottom of her bag. She ran across to the saloon and yelled, "Jake, Jake Drew..."

Jake turned around from the bar and asked, "Did you use Google maps, bitch?"

Kate was angry. "The last Tweet I read was about the Einstein-Rosen Bridge. Then you disappeared and I followed you through the wormhole. I landed in the next town over in some bank that was being robbed by a woman who looks just like me. We have to get out of here. She is after me."

Jake replied, "I am staying here, Kate. I loved you. That was then, this is now. I found my perfect rough trade here in this dusty town. I landed in the other side of heaven."

Kate was exhausted. "This is a fine time to come out. Whatever. There is a commotion outside and I am out.of.here."

Just as Kate exited the saloon she came face to face with her historical evil twin, a bank robbing Belle Starr who wanted to pin her last job on Kate. Kate pulled out her Blackberry.

Davy DeGreeff said...

The barrel of the bearded man’s rifle jabbed into my forehead, and I didn’t breathe again until it was gone. The man screamed something at the bus, something in Spanish. When the response came back, also in Spanish, the bearded man spun around angrily, gesturing manically with his gun and his free arm. He spoke to himself rapidly, arms flailing, and began to pace up and down the shoulder of the rusty dirt road, never moving more than fifteen feet from us. While he was distracted I pulled both of the children close to me.

“Close your eyes”, I told them. One looked at me, blue eyes weeping, and the other followed the steps of the bearded man – I grabbed her chin gently and forced her attention onto my face. “Close your eyes, it will make things better, I promise.”

“Should we pray?” the crying boy asked. I nodded. “I want you each to say twenty ‘Our Father’s.’ By the time you’re done, this will all be over, okay?” I opened my mouth to get them started, but the words escaped me. I was on an international missions trip, and I couldn’t remember more than two words of the most well-known prayer in all of Christianity? The pit in my heart doubled. How was this happening?

The bearded man yelled again from the middle of the road and kicked the dead policeman. He fired another round into the officer’s limp body, but it didn’t matter. It was just one more to join the dozen already stored there. He turned back toward us and I saw blood splattered on the legs of his camouflage fatigues.

The boy shrieked when the bearded man grabbed his arm and pulled violently. I held the other arm and screamed. His rifle rose into my face once more and I dropped to the ground, shielding the girl as best I could. She had decided to start crying, as well. I steadied my voice to a cracked whisper. “Keep praying. Our father, our…our father.”

The rifle sang out and the boy stopped crying, his tiny body stretched across the dirt.

The other man ran down the bus steps and skidded to a stop against the police car. He pushed off the hood and walked incredulously toward his partner, spitting angry Spanish with every step, his hands out to the sides. One hand held a pistol, and the other trembled. The bearded man yelled a disagreement. He moved toward us and once again pointed his gun at me. This time the barrel kissed my cheek. “Our father…”, I whispered, closing my eyes. “Our father...”

A gun fired and the barrel fell from my face. I waited for Heaven, for a sweet bright light, but it didn’t come. When I heard a car door slam I opened my eyes, and saw the man from the bus pull away in the police car. The bearded man stared to the sky.

In the distance I heard sirens.

Andrew Hamilton said...

Trotting along, I caught a glimpse of the fluffy tail out of the corner of my eye. Coming to a smooth stop, my muscles seized. I lowered my head, lifted my left front paw, and made a clean line with my body.

Carmen kept walking, but I did not acknowledge her. Gentle tugs on my collar turned into repeated jerks of insistence. I knew I could wait her out, her lack of discipline repeatedly demonstrated by tasty bits from dinner table, an extended rub of the ears, or one more toss of the ball.

The scoundrel’s rear end twitched in front of me as it feasted on morsels in the wet grass. Rising up in the form of a question mark, the tail taunted me as if there was some ambiguity to what would ensue.

The yanks on my collar stopped. She sighed and said something in that strange language of hers. The squirrel sat upright at the sound of her voice and looked off into the distance.

I took in long draws of sticky air, slipping my languid tongue out of my mouth and tasting nourishment in the air. Then, the little dear went down on all fours, back arched and poised to make a break for it. Another moment. Another chance.

I bolted, not even feeling the break from Carmen’s hand and the leash dragging behind me. My prey sprung across the grass, flicking up drops of morning dew and leaving a trail across the turf. My paws pounded the ground with a ferocity of which I didn’t think I was capable, but after so many close calls, so many perfectly placed trees coming to their storybook rescue, I knew this one was mine.

It ran to a fence post, and I closed the distance. Somewhere behind Carmen called my name with a guttural mix of terror and anger, but I didn’t care. Then, the creature paused slightly at the post before charging in another direction.

Not daring to question its strategy, I continued to chase and started to turn in hot pursuit. Planting my right paw in the earth, the soggy soil gave way. My shoulder crashed to the ground and my snout dug deep into a muddy patch in the grass. The cold mud oozed in between my gum and cheek as I stood. I could see the varmint running to a tall oak and suddenly I was aware of my miscalculations. The rain. The soft earth. The lack of surprise.

I scaled up the trunk as far as I could, standing on my hind legs. The squirrel was not more than ten feet above me. It turned and looked at me with its beady little eyes. I barked, low and soulful and full of discontent. It twitched its nose and scurried into the leaves.

Carmen appeared by my side, giggling. She reattached the leash and led me away. I looked back over my shoulder and snorted. There will be other moments little squirrel. I will get you.

Anne said...

Fate Crest:

“Oh little Miss Angelyn, our one-time prisoner, how could I forget that precious face of yours.” He feigned a lurch forward but Angelyn didn’t flinch.

“Chaden is it? Did Roratio send you?”

“No actually. Roratio sent me to collect on some overdue debts. Running into you was an added bonus. I was the one who worked out the fact that you were here in Pelfrigg instead of heading back to the Knights Academy. It seems that you have a gift for evasion—at least you did. Now I plan on doing the Outcasts a favor and killing you where you stand.” Chaden's eyes were wild as he flailed his arms.

“Leave her alone!” Erich jumped down from LadyQ and hurried to take his place at Angelyn’s side.

“What’s this?” Chaden laughed at Erich’s attempted valor before he reached for his wrist. Erich recoiled, as if he guessed his intentions, but he wasn’t fast enough. Chaden snagged his arm and held on tightly. An awful squealing noise escaped from his clenched, too-white teeth as Erich resisted. Chaden was much too strong—even with his left hand. He yanked Erich’s fate-crested wrist free from his soaked sleeve.

“What is the problem? Is there something you don’t want us to see?” Chaden laughed loudly. He looked down and his smile faded like a snuffed out candle.

“Let go of him!” Angelyn screamed.

“What is that?” Chaden’s eyes narrowed with repulsion as he struggled with Erich. Angelyn could see embarrassment streaked across Erich’s face but he refused to give up the fight.

“Why do you care what his fate is? You left yours behind when you joined the Outcasts.”

“Well that is true, but I can’t even tell what his fate is.” Chaden threw Erich’s wrist aside and grabbed his sword hilt with both hands. “What are you, some kind of freak?” Chaden spit with disgust. Erich rubbed his wrist before yanking his drenched shirt back into place.

What does he mean? Is the storm messing with his vision?

The men at the driftwood barricades left their posts and Angelyn watched in controlled panic as she and Erich became vastly outnumbered. Her rain-soaked view was replaced by the mental image of Michael lunging at her from behind. Before he had the chance to strike, Angelyn flipped her sword away from Chaden’s, placed her left hand over the base of the handle, and drove it behind her.

Her sword easily pierced through Michael’s chest and stuck out his back. He never had a chance to react. When Angelyn removed her stained blade, the lifeless body crumpled onto the packed sand. In the same fluid motion, Angelyn reached for the man’s black sword and tossed it to Erich before resuming her defensive hold. His face turned white as he readied the dead man’s weapon.
Angelyn didn’t get the chance to let the severity of her actions sink in. As soon as she held up her rain-washed sword, Chaden was on the strike.

Nature said...

I watched Bobby’s knuckles tighten, bloodless, white and bony around the hidden knife-handle, and then the girl at the end of the row shouted.

“Oh my God,” she yelled, “look at that poor elk!”

Everyone looked up and over the long, uneven patch of grass that served as our P.E. field. At the edge of the field a shoulder-high chain-link fence meandered along the school property line and into the woods and out of sight, but where the fence began some twenty yards away an elk lay hunkered down and silent amidst a swath of tall grass and saplings. The animal breathed heavily, and a closer look revealed a deep bullet-wound gouged dark and red above its front shoulder.

Drag turned away from Bobby. He looked at the elk. I looked at Bobby. His nose dripped again, and he sniffled, and his body sagged, but he did not put away the knife nor did his grip upon it lessen. His eyes also moved toward the elk.

“Ha,” Drag snorted, “it’s elk season alright.” He walked away from Bobby toward the corner of the school where the grass of the field turned to gravel. We all watched as Drag picked up a handful of stones.

“Gonna bring me home an elk,” he chortled, and let fly a rock that clinked against the chains of the fence two feet beyond the elk’s hindquarters. The animal flinched and looked at Drag with glassy eyes that would soon shut for good.

“Oh, Drag, c’mon,” pleaded the girl at the end of the row, “jus’ leave the poor thing alone.”

Drag turned round and raised a rock-filled fist and snarled. “You want me t’throw ‘em at you instead?”

The girl cowered back against the wall.

Drag took two steps closer to the elk. His second rock flew through the air and struck the elk square in the ribs. The animal snorted and shook its head. Drag threw another rock that clunked with a dull thud against one dark brown antler; the elk rose to its feet with a grunt and staggered but did not walk away.

Drag heaved another rock. The stone struck the elk in the middle of the neck, and the creature wobbled and stepped sideways.

“Elk steaks at my house tonight,” Drag turned and sang at the long row of bystanders, and the elk charged.

The wounded animal moved with an alacrity and intensity and purpose that belied its injured front leg and glazed eyes. Someone screamed and someone else shouted and Drag turned and looked back upon his prey that now bore down upon him all matted fur and pounding hooves. He dropped his rocks and elk hurtled into his chest.

Drag planted headfirst into the turf. The elk reared up and came down upon him once and then again, trampling and snorting and Drag screaming all the while, and then I did something that I cannot explain.

I leaped from the wall toward the massacre.

Meredith said...

All I can think about is the quaint Craftsman on Magnolia Lane and its three bedrooms nestled together at the end of a short hallway. But we had to go and pick the cavernous ranch on Crescent Drive, and now my infant son is all the way on the other side of the house, my husband is laying in our bed with a bullet in his head, and I’m barricaded in our walk-in closet listening to the men outside the door taunting me.

“I know you’re in there, princess,” one of them says.

“Come on out,” the other says, jiggling the locked door. “We won’t hurt you, I promise.”

They both laugh, but I don’t have time to think, not about how I knew this day would eventually come, not about how I knew what my husband was when I married him. I have to act. I have to get to my son.

I climb on top of my jewelry armoire and stand on my tiptoes. I’m barefoot. I push on the attic door in the ceiling with all my might. It gives way with a loud creak, and I slide it to the side.

“What are you doing in there, princess?”

I jump and hoist myself up, kicking my legs to give me momentum. I make it and slide the attic door back in place as I hear a rustling from below. The men are saying something, but I can’t hear what. The insulation drowns them out.

I start crawling in the general direction of the garage. I’m in total darkness, so I have to guess where I’m going. I just need to find the boxes of Christmas decorations. We store those right by the other attic door.

I must be somewhere over the living room when I sense light behind me. I turn my head over my shoulder and see light streaming up from my master closet.

“She’s in the attic!” I hear one of the men yell. “I’m going after her. Go to the garage!”

My heart beats faster. I hear someone behind me, and I pick up the pace. With the light, I can make out faint shapes, and I think I see the boxes in front of me. I find the door on the floor, trace my fingers across it until I find the handle, and pull.

He’s waiting for me.

“Hi there, princess.”

I don’t think. I reach into a box, grab the stone resin manger and chuck it at him. It hits him square in the forehead and he falls to the floor. I must be ten feet up, but I jump down without a second thought. My ankle explodes in pain, but I don’t care. I don’t have much time. The man’s moaning on the ground, and I tear out the side door before he can get up. I run to my son’s window, grab a rock and lift my arm when I look in.

He’s not there. The crib is empty.

T. Anne said...

I don’t bother wondering why he looks so stoned. This is clearly not the Elliot I grew up with, so I just bolt. I slide the back screen open and keep running, ignore the searing pain in my left knee, the sharp knot building in my side—my fingers still griping the stainless handle of the enormous knife. The perspiration in my palms catches up with me, and the weight of the blade slips until I hear it thump from behind. I don’t stop.

“Jude!” It takes far too much energy and effort to scream his name—slows me down. I can hear Elliot huffing, coming up from behind.

Elliot who was on the track team, Elliot who runs for recreation—how can I ever out run him? He’s either letting me get away, or is too jacked up to function.

The echo of a horse braying disrupts my thoughts, makes me stab at the forest looking for someone, anyone.

“Gage!” I see him perched on the dark mare with the long doe lashes. I recognize her from the corral. I can distinctly make out the white scar where she doesn’t grow fur from her run in with barbed wire. I can almost hear Jude telling me the story, almost feel his arms protecting me.

Gage hops down and rushes towards me. “What?” He catches me, stops me from dragging him forward.

“Elliot.” I turn back to startling silence. There’s no one. No one running after me, no sign of disrupted trails, just the sound of my panting. “He’s out there. Where’s Jude?”

“He lost his watch. Went back to find it.”

I scramble trying to remember if Jude even owned a watch. And why would he go back to get it if he knew I was in trouble—hurt no less?

A smear of dried blood covers his cheek.

“What happened to your face?” I’m shaking at the prospect. I scour the ground for a sharp rock, a stick, anything. If I can’t trust Elliot maybe I can’t trust Gage?

He reaches up and snags it with his fingers. “Cut my arm on a branch.” He holds it up for me to see.

A series of harsh footsteps flare up from behind. I push away from Gage and start running towards the river.

Gage plucks me back by the arm. Before he could say anything I kick him hard in the groin, jab my arm back as he doubles over in pain.

“Jude!” My scream echoes off the mountains, reverberates back and forth like a tuning fork.

Branches come up at me, the stampede of hooves—my name rebounds against the jagged mountainside. I catch my breath holding onto the pale trunk of a Birchwood. Its leaves flutter like silver dollars, hold me spellbound with their tranquil beauty before I hear footsteps fast approaching.

Grapeshot/Odette said...

Creeping around the car, I lifted the trunk lid and aimed the flashlight’s beam inside, revealing the folding shovel and two gray paving stones we had picked up to sink the dog's body.
I clasped a stone and grabbed the folding shovel with my left hand. Which was the best weapon?
Carry them both.
I unfolded the shovel and stood still, listening, but the only noise was the insects calling and the blood rushing through my head.
My mouth felt like dry cotton, and I couldn't swallow. Using the shadows of the tall bushes lining the parking lot as cover, I crept toward the disrobing statue, shovel in one hand, paving stone clutched in the other. My feet crunched on the gravel, covered by the insect chorus. Moisture made the air heavy, and I had started to sweat.
Behind the tall evergreens, Putnam croaked, "I don't enjoy this, Drummond, I really don't."
T.K. answered, "Fuck you."
"Drummond, listen to reason. Goodborn's expendable. The Stasi are out of it. She's expendable."
T.K. grunted.
“She can meet with an accident. Like Mueller did.”
T.K. said, "No way," in a hoarse voice.
"It can still be old Drummie and old Bill dealing with the Russkies. Like in our glory days, except now we're independent businessmen." Putnam kept a reasonable tone.
T.K. didn’t answer.
I advanced a few more steps. The starlight illuminated the white temple-like building, and I saw both men in stark relief, just yards away. T.K.’s bloodied face hammered home the brutality of Putnam's beating. Still clutching the shovel, I gripped the paving stone like a shot putt and placed my feet shoulder width apart for balance.
Putnam took a step forward and launched a pulverizing blow at T.K., who turned to deflect the punch, which sent him reeling.
I heaved the stone. Hearing me grunt, Putnam turned just as my missile arrived. It caught him in the stomach and he made an “oooof” sound and lurched backward, but didn't fall. In some invincible Zen-like state, I moved toward him, grasping the shovel with both hands. Putnam was bent over clutching his stomach, and T.K. was on his hands and knees scrabbling around in the gravel.
I raised the shovel over my head like an ax and brought it down, but Putnam edged out of the way, and the shovel smashed into the ground and flew out of my tingling hands.
Putnam muttered, "Bloody hell!"
T.K. yelled, "Emma, for Christ sake, run for it!"
Putnam grabbed my arm with a hand slick with blood, and held on with a terrible tenacity. His free hand clamped on to my other arm, as I screamed and struggled. I knew he would kill me.
Then I glimpsed T.K. behind Putnam, staggering but hoisting the paving stone. Putnam was so focused on me that he never knew what hit him.

Steve Axelrod said...

The Secret Service guys were in the car now, and the engine was running. Amy stepped off the curb to hail a cab. Tom took her wrist and brought it down gently.
“Not yet,” he said. The cab went by. So did several others.
Heller would start getting suspicious any second. Finally Tom saw what he wanted -- two cabs with their vacancy lights on approaching each other on opposite sides of the avenue. The one headed downtown was a block further away.
Tom hailed the uptown cab and they climbed in. He was already pulling out his wallet. “Pull into the traffic slowly and stop when I tell you. I’ll give you twenty bucks. Come on -- let’s go!”
As they started up, Tom saw the Dodge two cars behind them, easing into a routine tail. The other cab would come parallel in five or six seconds, but someone had stepped into the street hailing it. They were out of time.
“Stop--now!”
The driver jammed on the brakes, heaving Tom and Amy forward. Horns brayed behind them. Tom caught Amy, threw a twenty at the driver and slammed out of the cab just in time to get the other driver’s attention with an ear-splitting, two-fingers-in-the-mouth whistle. He opened the door and piled in, with Amy right behind him. The cab never even stopped.
Inside Heller’s Dodge, he was shouting, “Turn it around. Turn it around.”
“Okay,” said the driver. “Got them in sight. No problem.”
Heller sat back and made a conscious effort to relax his bunched shoulders. The Dodge swung into a U-turn -- and then there was a van in front of them. Some old guy was doing a slow right onto Central Park West. Heller’s driver laid on the horn. The van came to a complete stop and the driver ceremoniously gave them the finger. Then his van stalled. The engine wheezed and stuttered as he tried to get it going again. Traffic was lining up behind them.
By the time the van was finally out of the way, Tom’s cab was long gone. Heller crushed his eyes shut. There was no way to explain this. The kid had a horse-shoe up his ass. Now he’d have to waste a half-dozen men staking out the usual locations.
“Some day, I’m gonna kill that kid myself,” he growled, chewing down on three aspirin, swallowing them dry.
Amy shouted, “We did it! We did it! That was great!”
She hugged Tom and his nose was full of the smell of her hair, the heat of her neck. He held her awkwardly, sideways on the seat. Amy’s lips found his and kissed him. Desire parched his throat, pulled his face tight. When she drew back her face was wild. He didn’t dare move or speak. He had no idea what he would actually do or say -- Tear her clothes off? Propose marriage? Anything was possible.
But she spoke first.
“Let’s have lunch,” she said. “I’m buying.”

A Paperback Writer said...

This is an excerpt from my YA urban fantasy.


Now the two of them rolled in the gravel, Patrick’s hands around Sean’s neck in defense against the vicious teeth. Patrick, I knew, would never bite his attacker. But it was obvious Sean would bite anyone.
Sliding the backpack off, I jumped on Sean’s back and got my hand under his jaw, jamming his mouth shut. Then I pulled upward. No vampire can bite with a closed mouth.
But it was too easy to be true. Sean ripped himself free of Patrick’s hands, and threw his body backward, slamming me sideways onto the ground. Ow! My head smacked on the rocks and I had a second of senselessness. Just long enough for Sean to chomp into my left hand, which was still next to his mouth.
Augh! I jerked it away, and, without thinking, stuck it in my own mouth. Ick. Nasty, bitter vampire blood. Worst stuff in the world. And Sean’s spit, too. Gross.
But while healing saliva soaked into the deep cut, Sean had locked onto Patrick once again.
Crap! Left hand still in my mouth, I sat up to analyze the situation as they circled in an awkward dance around the traintracks. I was still too dizzy to try standing. My head was pounding and my arms and legs had started quivering again.
I’m not strong enough to keep Sean off him. If only I had some rope, I could use it to tie him -- Wait! Handcuffs!
I patted my pocket with my right hand. Hamish’s gift was still there. But how could I get the cuffs on Sean? Quickly, I pulled my almost-healed left hand out of my mouth, and snapped the handcuffs open with their key.
Thud! I looked up. Sean had Patrick pinned with both arms above his head, held by Sean’s left hand. The battle of the vampires was not going in our favor.
All too quickly, Sean forced Patrick’s head to the side, and ripped open the carotid artery.
My hand back in my mouth, I sat mesmerized as Patrick’s blood actually spurted right into Sean’s face. But, unlike the blood geyser from Lorenzo’s hand, this blood didn’t make me hungry at all. It was vampire blood, which smells as bitter as it tastes. And Lorenzo merely had merely gone into mild shock. Patrick would be dead in a few minutes if I didn’t do something. I felt sick.
This was Patrick. The person I liked most in the whole world besides Mom. And he just might die in front of me.

starduster said...

READY...OR NOT

The convoy of vehicles roared down a desolate two-lane road,an old wagon trail, with gravel hurling from the tires creating a noisy assault on a sleepy desert town nestled between mountains and a dry river bed. Only stars in the moonless sky and an owl perched on top of a telephone pole witnessed the event. With a swivel of its head, the wise old hooter winked a golden eye at the intrusion and screeched out a warning while fluttering away.
When the collection of transports arrived at the entrance to the town, the driver of the lead jeep, a young woman reduced speed. The headlights lit up a metal sign on wobbly legs where faded black letters spelled out Mirage Pass amid rusty bullet holes. She sped up and the whole lot rumbled past a gas station where a red neon sign in the window glared, CLOSE. The D quivered erractically as a bad heart. "Yeah...a freakin' ghost town close to nowhere and nothing," said the young woman. Glancing at the motionless figure in the adjacent seat, she frowned, "I need coffee and you...you need a transfusion."
The houses and buildings in the old western village rested dreamlike and dark but for the eerie halo of streetlights draping the place in gossamer curtains of yellow haze. The clock on front of the courthouse in the plaza struck five as the convoy continued along the main street slashing the rural community in half.
A boy waiting to cross, his bike loaded with newspapers, watched drowsily as the line of vehicles rumbled past. The jeep led three camouflage canvas covered trucks and trailing them was a large black ominous looking recreational type rig followed by a second jeep. None of them had any identifying markings. Slipping quietly by until a wheel on the enormous dark contraption hit rock bottom in one of the larger potholes shaking everything on top and rattling the iron bar covered windows below creating a huge racket and a blood-curdling scream from inside. The paperboy drew back and looked around in the darkness not sure of the cry's source.
The combined noises sent a dog barking and set a choral group of canines yapping and howling. At the same time, the boy noticed a flapping curtain in a window high up on the side of the giant black van. In the faint light, he watched an obscure skeletal figure with floppy ears and a long tail climb out, cling to the drape for a moment, and then drop to the ground below where it rolled down a slight embankment.

Doug Johnson said...

Margo undid a button on her white Dolce & Gabbana blouse, looked through the peep hole, turned off the security system and opened the fireproof, insulated, faux mahogany steel door. “Hi sweetie.”

“Good to see you again.”

Her client looked the same as always: long winter coat hanging like it was custom tailored, confident stance with relaxed shoulders and warm smile revealing brilliant white teeth. She closed both deadbolts and reached out to reset the alarm, but the gloved hands rushed towards her.

Margo gasped and threw her arms in front of her face, but the thumbs landed on her throat and the fingers interlocked behind her neck. The fingers tightened - and the thumbs inched closer together - squeezing the carotid arteries on both sides of her neck, reducing the flow of oxygenated blood to her brain.

She backpedaled, but her left stiletto heel caught the lip where the cold, gray concrete floor turned to green/beige/brown broadloom. She fell backward. Her attacker stumbled too. The hands relaxed. Margo sucked oxygen deep into her lungs and kicked. Her big toe bounced off shin and her back crashed into carpet. She grunted. Her attacker landed on top of her. The thumbs found her throat and the fingers interlocked behind her neck again. The hands clenched. Her carotid arteries closed.

Margo reached out to poke an eye, but her attacker’s face was buried in her chest. She punched, but her fists bounced harmlessly off ribs. She pulled on the black gloves, but the hands didn’t budge. They were too strong. The pressure on her neck and throat didn’t relent. She felt nauseous and tried to roll over, but the weight was too heavy. She grabbed both thumbs, but they were pressing against her wind pipe and she couldn’t get her fingers underneath them. She pulled, but couldn’t hold on. She scratched, but her long red nails couldn’t penetrate the thick leather gloves.

She reached for the back of her attacker’s neck. Her vision blurred as she dug the nails of her two smallest fingers deep under exposed skin. She rotated her hands. Nail after nail penetrated: eight manicured meat hooks. She blinked, but still couldn’t focus. She pulled. The hooks held, before ripping free. Her hands flew in the air and didn’t stop until her knuckles bounced off the carpet. She thought she might throw up, but attacked again. Her hands felt numb. Her fingers slid; the exposed flesh was covered in a slippery liquid. She scratched until her nails dug in. She pulled, removing additional chunks, but didn’t feel any pain in the tips of her fingers and didn’t feel her knuckles bounce off the carpet.

She attacked a third time, throwing her arms down, but when they stopped moving, she couldn’t feel anything: no liquid, no skin, not even her hands. She raised her head to see what her fingers were doing and saw nothing but intense white light.

Is Jesus waiting for me at the end of the beam?

Michael said...

Title: Death in the Bayou
Chase/Action Sequence

My feet slip on the wet grass as I turn toward the stable. I cover the distance quickly, and I’m inside a few moments later, dripping water on the floor as I try to catch my breath. The rifle. Where is it? I remember leaving it by the door. It’s not here now. I search frantically, but I don’t find it. I need to think of another idea, and quickly. I don’t know how long it will be before he’s out of the cellar and tracking me down like a bloodhound.

I’m trembling like a frightened rabbit when I sit down on the wooden bench to collect my thoughts. My legs bounce nervously as I try to think. I don’t get much thinking done before I start crying, sobbing like a baby and accomplishing nothing other than making too much noise. I wipe my nose on the sleeve of my soaked robe and try to compose myself. I can’t let him catch me again. Not after what I’ve just done. Any sympathy hiding in his dark heart surely evaporated when I shoved him down the stairs. I need to think.

But there isn’t time. Star’s whinny spooks me, warning me that someone is coming. I run to the stable doorway, and I see him, walking toward me. He’s covering the distance quickly with his long strides, his large boots splashing in the puddles as he gets ever closer. My heart feels as if it’s ready to explode when the idea jumps into my head. Star!

There’s no time to saddle her. No time for anything but getting out of here as quickly as possible. Seconds later, she’s carrying me out the rear door of the stable just as he enters the front.

“You won’t get away from me this time, hombre,” he yells at me as a bolt of lightning skitters across the dark clouds.

I feel the comfort and safety of Star’s warm back under me. I’m gripping her mane as we run through the field. The rain stings my face even more at the speed we’re going. But it doesn’t matter. Star is still running, taking me further away from him with each step of her powerful legs. Faster now. The trees are getting closer. We’re almost there. Just a few more yards, and we’ll be safe.

Even above the rhythmic sound of Star’s steady hoof beats, the report of the rifle splits the air. Star stumbles. Falls. Oh, God! Not Star!

The water explodes around me when I hit the ground. I slide some distance across the wet ground before coming to a stop a few yards from where Star has fallen. I’m dazed from the impact. When I try to stand, my ankle refuses to support me and I drop back down on knees. A painful throbbing pounds in my leg.

Metropolista said...

The girls donned their black combat uniforms and snuck out through the dorm's “authorized personnel only” door. They did not notice the shadows that slipped in behind them.

Robyn left the air intake on the roof uncovered. The boys were already there. Shinda in black, Cyrus pale, with dark circles under his eyes. Why were his hands empty? thought Bex. She felt her plan slipping through her fingers.

Shinda’s sword rang as he drew it. “Beatrix deserves better than this.” Cyrus pulled on the collar of his shirt nervously. “This school is boring anyway,” said Robyn.

But as she said the words, a zap came from the air intake. Robyn was struck and dropped like a stone. A dozen cadets poured out of the hole, laser pistols cocked, led by Cezanne.

They were outnumbered and under-armed. But Bex smiled a tiny smile. She put her hands up in feigned defeat. Someone barked, “Drop the sword!” Bex nodded at Shinda. He placed it carefully on the roof. Cyrus looked like he was going to faint.

Cezanne motioned the cadets over to Bex. “We need her alive.” She waited until one of the goons actually had a hand on her. Then Bex jumped straight into the air, hearing shingles rip up off the roof in her wake. Shinda kicked up his sword with a flick of his foot, knocking laser pistols out of surprised hands left and right.

Bex dove, grabbing Cezanne by her hair. She hadn’t ever flown carrying so much weight, but she managed to sway above the cadets drunkenly. “Call off your dogs,” she ordered. But Cezanne cried, “Fire!” Bex blocked the stun rays with her captive. “Run!” she shouted, tossing Cezanne and scooping up Robyn, following the boys through the service door and throwing the lock. “That won’t hold them for long,” she said. “Run to the garage. Don’t bother about cover. We’re leaving now.”

They careened down the staircase and out the front door, setting off the alarm. Bex forced herself not to look back. The cold night air was like needles in their lungs as they sprinted across the commons.

Shinda drew his sword and splintered the garage door with a single blow. With a shot, Bex hit the vehicle bay keypad, and the heavy door began rolling upwards. Sirens blared and security vehicles screeched to a halt outside. The kids hopped into the Jeep, and Bex gunned the engine. A voice on a bullhorn commanded, “Come out, with your hands up!”

Cyrus stood up in his seat. Bex yanked on his leg, nearly pulling him down. But he kept his ground, aiming for the center of the Jeep with his palm, spreading his fingers wide, and shouting, “Hold on!” He cranked his forearm like a shotgun. For a fraction of a second, there was a sound like a million people running on bubble wrap.

Officers lined the yawning door. But when they stormed the building, all they found were tire tracks. The Jeep was gone.

Rick Daley said...

An excerpt from THE CHRONICLES OF CHRISTMAS...

The wolf turned to face Aaron. Its lips curled, exposing the sharp points of its incisors. The fur on its back stood on end and a low growl crept up from its throat. The wolf crouched, and then leaped at Aaron, its snarling jaws reaching for his throat.

Aaron swung the stick at the wolf, striking it in mid-air and knocking it to the ground. It whimpered and growled and moved to the back of the pack as two other wolves moved in. Spittle sprayed from their lips as they snapped their jaws, edging closer, aware of the weapon in the hands of their prey.

Aaron heard a bark and at once the wolves rushed him, the two in front leaping at him as their pack-mates stormed onto the road and attacked from both sides.

#

“There, right ahead!” Kris yelled. “Here, take the reigns. Bring me in low, and step on it,” Kris told Elaana.

“What are you doing?” she asked as he climbed over the edge of the sleigh and stood on the long runner.

“You don’t want to know,” Kris said and ducked down out of sight.

Kris wrapped his legs around the runner and hung upside down, looking down the road at Aaron. He held his arms out and opened and closed his fingers, getting ready to make a grab.

The wolves jumped at Aaron as Kris grabbed the boy under his arms. Elaana pulled back on the reigns and the reindeer took the sleigh up and over the trees, Kris and Aaron dangling under it. On the ground behind them, the four wolves collided in mid air. They landed with a confused thump, letting our angry wails as their prize flew up and away.

#

With one mighty swing Kris flipped Aaron up and into the sleigh, next to Elaana. Kris stood on the runner. “On to town, we mustn’t delay.”

#

Alice felt a warmth trickle down her back; the board holding her off the ground was also pressing into her back, and its persistence finally broke the skin. Her face glistened in the moonlight, looking like sweat but in all actuality it was dew drawn to her waning warmth. She had no energy left to cry. She dozed off and woke up, and when she opened her eyes and looked around at the stars high above and the ground far below she thought she was in a terrible dream, and she tried to wake herself.

She pinched her arm. It hurt.

She closed her eyes. Darkness. She opened them and the dream returned, with its cold night air and dangerous heights.

She closed them again, longer. Wake up. Wake up. Wake up.

She opened her eyes, and again the dream materialized before her. Sometimes I can fly in my dreams. She spread her arms like wings and arched her back.

Then she heard a loud crack, and in her dream she felt herself falling.

Gregg Podolski said...

Title: Androids, Ninjas, and Floss: A Memoir

Genre: Absurdist humor

Not fifty yards away, atop a tall, circular platform, sat James Patterson. He was eighty feet long from the end of his tail to the tip of his antenna, his skin a pale yellow and covered with oozing, pulsating sores. He had no arms nor legs, but rather tiny protuberances where those appendages should have been. His mouth was a gaping maw filled with razor-sharp teeth, each one ten inches in length and dripping with green, mucousy saliva. He stared down at us with his single, blood-red eye and bellowed a roar that shook us to the core of our very souls.

He looked nothing like his author photo.

The room itself was massive, like the inside of an airplane hanger. The floor was solid chrome, as were the walls. The ceiling was domed, easily two hundred feet high, and painted with a mosaic featuring the cover art for every James Patterson novel published to date, along with the BookScan numbers for each title. At the base of the platform were four large, glass vats, spaced about ten feet apart. Above each vat was the mouth of a pipe, from which poured a steady stream of royalty checks. These in turn were liquefied and then fed intravenously to the creature through thick tubes that ran from the vats into his body at various points.

On the far wall, just beyond Patterson’s line of vision, about six inches off the floor, was the heating vent.

“Here are today’s pages, your majesty,” said the guard to my left.

“Mgwabatha tommagi ompaf,” James Patterson replied. The guards snatched the bundles from our hands and took them to their master, cautiously, so as not to anger him with any sudden movement.

Sven and I exchanged a glance. He gave a slight nod, I gave one in return, and then we both took off running--he towards the heating vent, and I towards the guards.

“Sagmoota, AGGOPH!” Patterson cried, but it was too late. The guards didn’t have time to turn before I struck, sweeping their legs out from under them with my outstretched arms. On his platform, Patterson let out another roar and writhed in fury. One of his I.V. tubes popped out and began spraying his earnings for "Swimsuit" all over the room.

The guards regained their feet quickly, but my speed allowed me to duck behind the platform just in time to avoid the first volley of lasers from their tridents. I could hear Sven by the vent, his circular saw humming. It wouldn’t be long before the guards spotted him, and I couldn’t let that happen. If I did, we were both goners.

Racing around the other side of the platform, I lowered my shoulder into the stomach of Guard #1, knocking the wind out of him. He dropped his trident and I kicked it across the room. To my right, I could see Sven crouched on the floor, bathed in a shower of red-hot sparks. Above me, Patterson continued to bellow.

Stacy McKitrick said...

Sarah swept the glass away with her foot, leaving clean trails behind. Not paying attention to her surroundings, she bumped into the SUV and placed her hand on the door to keep from falling. Her leg brushed against some fabric peeking out of the bottom of the SUV’s door. It was the end of a scarf, now covered in glass. Not wanting anyone to get hurt if she could help it, she shook the material until it was clean.

Crunch, crunch.

Sarah jerked upright. She walked to the back of the vehicles, toward the sound, but nothing moved in the hulking shapes of the cars. Her heart crept up her throat and she tried to swallow it down.

“Hello?” she squeaked.

Silence.

“You’re hearing things, you idiot,” she mumbled. Still, pinpricks of fear raced over her skin. Time to go home. Her legs wobbled like they were made of Jell-O as she turned back to her car. She opened her purse with shaky hands.

Crunch, crunch.

She didn’t imagine that. Before she could turn around again, something scratchy and wet cupped her nose and mouth.

What the—? The purse fell from her grasp and landed with a thud as she reached up to free her face. An arm came around her waist and pulled her close to her assailant.

“Time to sleep,” the man whispered, his breath warm against her ear.

Something within her recoiled. She didn’t escape Steven’s abuse only to have some stranger take his place. She clawed at the hand on her face, but her gloves prevented her from scratching him. Taking hold of his fingers, she pulled. Bones cracked, but he held on. She yanked harder. His cry of pain pierced her ear drum, but he pulled away and scratched her face with the stiff material. Her mouth free, she screamed. Someone had to hear her. The place echoed like a canyon. Her cry for help was cut short when his hand clamped down on her mouth. Hitting and pulling certainly weren’t working. She kicked him with all her strength.

“God damn it,” he muttered.

The attacker lost his balance and loosened his hold. Freedom seemed in reach. She turned her head and leaned, using whatever leverage she could. Then he righted himself and pulled her tight against his body. No! His hand returned to her mouth with a force strong enough to bend her head back against his shoulder. The mask-like item scraped her face and her neck screamed in pain. She struck out, hoping to gouge his eyes, but he twisted her head.

“Keep it up and I’ll snap it,” he growled.

Her heart raced. He might not kill her now, but there was no way this would end well. Wasn’t there anyone around to help her? Tears welled in her eyes. She smelled something sweet just before her world went dark.

school_of_tyrannus said...

Title: Demas' First Task: The Prophecy of Rob
Genre: MG Fantasy
By Ellie Ann


Eyre laughed, sounding as quick and raspy as sandpaper. Demas catalogued it under his list of favorite things.
Will swiveled around with a grin on his face. Suddenly, his crutch caught on a rock and jerked out of his hands, his ankle twisted sideways. A bleak look of shock—and he disappeared over the waterfall’s edge.
The crutch clattered to the ground. Demas stared, stunned, his heart silent in his chest. But in the second it took Will to fall, Eyre leapt after him. She ran and sailed off the ledge, arms first, as if she could catch him before he hit the water.
Demas rushed to the side. He saw a faded splash where Eyre disappeared. Nothing could be seen under the white roiling water.
She should be up by now. Zik! Will should be up by now. Demas scanned the shore. Featherweight barked beside him, then went tearing down the incline towards the woods. Demas’ heart gnawed inside of him. They weren’t coming up.
He stepped backwards, backwards, backwards, envisioning in his mind what the next minute would look like. Linking a plan together. Then he bound ahead. Arms churned. Sun burned. His body turned and dove into the open air. Wind made static in his ears. He tightened himself for the cold water, and for a second he felt the thrill of the fall.
Then he was under. Bubbles exploded around him. The thunderous roar of the water sounded muffled, menacing. He swept his arms through the water and kicked. He could barely see around him for the rushing water. His fingers bashed against the rocky bottom of the pool. Now he knew how deep it was.
The churning water did not mar his calm—he’d swam in the crashing ocean almost every week of his life. It was the thought of Will and Eyre lost underwater that caught his breath in his throat and gave him panicked, crazed thoughts.
Kicking off the bottom, he surged upward for a gasp of air then flipped back around. He got to where Eyre disappeared. Then he relaxed limp as a rag doll. Let the current take him. It sucked him towards the waterfall.
He frantically searched for a white dress. Or Will’s skinny form.
Everything in him wanted to resist the drag of the current. It battered against him, tightened pressure around him. They could be pinned underneath the mighty hand of the waterfall. Impossible for him to wrench them out of. Like an arrow, he shot towards a pile of dark rocks lining the bottom of the falls. A thousand craggy points waiting to crack his head open. Struggling against the current, he realized this was it. He had to go back or he would die.
A flash of white. He turned.

RC Reviser said...

The home invasion started twenty minutes later than I expected.
I was wide awake when I heard the tinkle of glass on my kitchen floor at 2:20 AM.
It was 2:21 when he came inside. He had fifty nine minutes left.
I closed my eyes and tried to listen for him between my wife’s soft snores. But he moved in total silence. I couldn’t get up to look. I knew the deal.
My house is big (6,000 square feet), even by Lake Las Vegas standards, and he could be anywhere.
My gut said he was still downstairs, but I knew he might have already made it upstairs without me hearing him. The carpet on our stairs was plush, he wouldn’t make any noise when he climbed them.
I turned my head to see outside my room, but all I saw was black. I wondered if he was in one of the kids’ rooms. They were out of the house, sleeping safely at their mother’s, but the skin on the back of my neck burned as I thought about him walking around where they slept every other weekend.
At 2:56 he still hadn’t made it to our room, but I knew his arrival was imminent. He had less than twenty five minutes left and I knew my master bedroom was the goal.
At 3:01, I felt him enter my room. I didn’t hear him, but the air flow in the room changed. There was now a third person in a room where there had only been two.
I looked through the mirror on my nightstand and could make out his silhouette. He was dressed in black and wore a ski cap that covered his head but not his face. He had a gun that was holstered.
I heard him open the drawers to my wife’s dresser. He paused when he found the one where she kept her lingerie. He took his time with the drawer, gently sifting through the contents before selecting some mementos to put into his pockets.
My heart was pounding, but I remained frozen as I saw him approach my wife. I wasn’t worried about him waking her. I knew that ambien worked, but I couldn’t prevent my body from tensing as he gently brushed his face through my wife’s long auburn hair.
Within the deepest part of myself, I let out a silent scream. He sensed it. He stopped breathing in the fragrance of my wife’s hair and looked right at me. I hoped I was right that in the darkness my squinting eyes looked completely closed.
I could see his eyes. They weren’t crazed. They looked hard and calculating and venomous beneath his sweaty brow.
He leaned carefully across my wife’s body, to get a closer look at me. I could smell his alcohol tinged breath. I shut my eyes completely and tried not to shake, by telling myself there couldn’t be more than fifteen minutes left until he had to leave.

Valerie L Smith said...

She knelt beside Lucifer and caressed his hand as she spoke. “Let me attend to this. We both know that diplomacy is not Morph’s strong suit.”

He leaned forward and cupped her chin. “And we both know that discipline is not your strong suit.”

She smiled with the innocence of a cherub. “You would be surprised at how disciplined I can be.”

“Nothing surprises me, Lilith.” Lucifer withdrew from her touch, reclined against his throne and closed his eyes. “I’ve noticed your absence. You’ll never find it and if you do, you’ll never get in.”

She stroked his thigh with the tips of her fingers. “I was attending to matters of the Realm. They detained me longer than expected.”

“There are others who can handle those things.”

Lilith’s smile vanished. “Like Morph?”

“If necessary.”

“Please, Lucifer, I’m so bored. I need to feel useful again.”

“Your place is here . . . with me.”

She shoved herself to her feet. “It is not all about you.”

“Isn’t it?” he whispered.

Lucifer wrapped his hand in Lilith’s waist-length red hair and yanked her head downward so fast it almost hit the throne. She thrashed her enormous wings, knocking over tables and lifting him to his feet. With a twitch of his head, my master sent his hounds lunging for her.

Lilith screamed as they leapt onto her and buried their fangs into her feathers. She tried to fend them off, but Lucifer pinned her arms to her chest. Unhindered, his snarling beasts wrestled Lilith’s wings to the floor, driving her to her knees. They held her down while saliva streamed from their jowls.

Lucifer gripped her face and forced her to look at him. With his fingertip he stroked her lips. She flinched and averted her eyes, but he continued. He traced her jaw line and then trailed down her neck. He ran his hand over the top edge of her left wing and then the right in a slow, teasing caress. When his fingers passed over a solitary broken feather, he plucked it and slid it up and down her throat.

By this time, her breathing was deep and erratic, and the musk emanating from her feathers overwhelmed me.

Lucifer brushed his lips against hers and repeated his question. “Isn’t it all about me?”

Noriko Nakada said...

An action sequence from my YA work in progress: KIN, set in 1994, Okinawa, Japan.

Sumiko can't see who's connected to the arms wrapped tightly around her, but recognizes the color of the shirt, the drab green of U.S. uniforms that always seems old and faded. She can't see him, but she can feel bone and muscle pressing her close to him and she can hear his voice, low and guttural.

There are two others; the one holding onto her keeps repeating something in English into her ear. He says the words softly, gently over and over. She can't understand the words, but the hot breath and soft gentle voice don't match the strong arms and rough hand over her mouth. She doesn't need to comprehend the words to know not to believe the voice.

The one holding her drags her and then she sees another man. This is the voice giving orders, telling the one holding her where to go and what to do. There is a third man, someone at a car, holding a door open so the one dragging her can shove her inside. Her head slams into the side of the car and she thinks she might cry even though she didn't cry when they grabbed her, when they dragged her here, when they shoved her inside.

She holds her head with one hand and looks down to see what she's hit: the shiny metal of the door handle, gleaming in the night. She reaches for it.

The man who held the door is in the front seat ready to drive and the one who carried her is climbing in behind her. She yanks down on the door handle; pushes hard so she can scurry out, run far away from these men, but the door doesn't give. The lock. She flips the lock, but before she can try the handle again the door pops open and the one giving orders, the one who smiled at her in the bookstore, is there, climbing in.

She screams but the doors are shut and her voice rattles around the car. The one giving the orders barks, “Shut her up! Drive, go, drive!”

Jill Elizabeth said...

With a gasp I slammed on the breaks and yanked the wheel. As I’d rounded the bend, my headlights had caught of the outline of a vehicle blocking the road in front of me.

I missed it by mere feet, careening off the side of the road. The airbag deployed, snacking me in the face and knocking my head against the seat behind me. My face stung and the back of my head could have been split in two, for all I knew. The pain in my stomach was a pleasant memory compared to this. It was hard to take a breath.

I felt a cool gust of hair come from my left side and realized someone had opened the driver’s side door. It took every ounce of effort to turn my head and look at the individual who had come to my rescue.

Samantha’s hard face greeted me.

“Well, well. Looks like I don’t need magic to hurt you, after all.” She cocked her head, her eyes narrowed to slits. “But what the hell, why not?” She slammed the door shut and backed away from the car a few yards, never taking her eyes off me. They were frightening, the way they crackled with hatred. And then she did something even more frightening. She smiled.

A thin line of flame burst up from the ground at her feet and snaked towards the car, towards me. The realization of her intentions blew the fog out of my mind, spurred me to action. I fumbled at the door handle, giving it a good yank once my hand found it. But the door wouldn’t budge. I checked the lock—it was in the unlocked position. An overwhelming sickness spread through me when I realized it didn’t matter—it wasn’t anything mechanical that was keeping me shut in here. It was Samantha.

The trail of fire reached the car now, and I stared in horror as the flames leapt off the hood. Gritting my teeth, I slammed my left elbow against the driver’s side window. I nearly fainted from the pain. Instead of shattering, the glass imitated a block of concrete. The lower half of my arm hung, useless.

I prayed that the fire would reach the gas tank before it reached me. That I would die quickly in the explosion instead of the slower, more painful alternative. And then I heard a scream.

[...]

Thanks for the contest, Nathan!

Jill Elizabeth said...

oops brakes, not breaks.

Julie said...

At that moment, I felt the presence of someone behind me and went into full blown training mode.

It was probably just Agent Coleman testing me. I hadn’t seen his car for a couple minutes.

His annoying repetitive words of wisdom ran through mind like a subliminal message. “Never stop watching. Always be ready.”

I went through the steps Coleman taught me.

Number One: Find an excuse to stop.

I tugged Holly’s hand so she turned toward me and saw a blur of dark hair duck into the doorway of a nearby store.

“Are you wimping out on me? We still have three more miles left.”

I pressed one of my hands to her cheek. “Your face is getting cold. Maybe we should go back…?”

Her eyes widened a little like she guessed something was up.

“If you want,” she said.

“Where are you?” I muttered to Coleman.

“About a mile away. You have the camera on. I can see everything. Don’t worry. ”

Number Two: Change your course.

I grabbed Holly’s hand and pulled her toward an alley. “Come on.”

I steered her in front of me and glanced over my shoulder. A woman with dark hair stuck her head around the corner about a hundred feet behind us.

“I need a tissue,” I said.

This was code if I had someone tailing me.

“Got it,” he said into my ear.

“Be a man, Jackson, use your sleeve,” Holly said over her shoulder.

One more glance behind me and my stomach dropped. She was running toward us. Fast.

This wasn’t someone trying to silently follow me. Now I was really freaked. I gave the code to Coleman so he would know the tail had turned into a potential attacker.

My body completely blocked Holly’s and I just kept nudging her forward at a faster pace.

By that point, I was sure she heard the extra set of footsteps because she started running at more of a sprint.

But before I could stop her, she made one tiny step to her right to avoid a hole in the pavement.

It was just enough for the attacker to get a visual and fire a shot. The sound echoed through my ears.

“Shit!” Holly shouted as I shoved her to the other side.

And then without even thinking about the fact that it was broad daylight and near a residential area, I pulled out my gun and fired right at the attacker’s chest.

It happened so fast. Like my brain shut off and went into machine mode.

She collapsed to the ground.
Holly just stood there with her hands over her mouth. Eyes bugging out.

My heart was racing so much I couldn’t even speak. I pulled out my phone and handed it to Holly, gasping out a few words, “Call the police.”

She reached for it -- hands trembling.

“Don’t call anyone,” Coleman’s voice rang though my ear. I had forgotten we were connected. “Walk closer to the attacker.”

I didn’t move. Nor did I want to get any closer to her.

“Do it now!” he ordered.

I put one foot in front of the other and slowly approached my enemy. Holly was right behind me.

We both leaned down at the same time and one of the woman’s arms lifted in the air and she rolled on her back, a huge grin spread across her face. Holly and I both jumped backwards.

“Damn,” I muttered.

The woman stood and shook out her arms. “We switched your bullets for blanks. How was my fake death?”

My legs were ready to collapse. I had to lean against a garbage can for support. “Don’t ever do that to me again,” I said to Coleman, but the woman answered me.

“It was a great shot. I’m surprised you took it. Thought you’d try to run again. I’m Agent Nelson, by the way.” She extended a hand to me.

I nodded but didn’t shake her hand. Holly was close enough so I could grab her and put my arms around her. “Are you okay?”

She squeezed me around the waist. “I think so, but I’m sending the FBI my therapy bill.”

Kate said...

Chase/Action Sequence

I held my breath. No sound carried through the still night. Uttering yet another silent prayer, I turned my back on the trailer and quickly but gingerly picked my way through the trees. About twenty yards up the slope, I paused to open my compass, and then I heard it. Twigs snapped, leaves rustled, and quick footfalls approached.
My heart pounded as anxiety coursed through tightened muscles. Wouldn’t Peter or Sean call out to me? I checked my heading, visualized the first landmark, gripped Melody with one arm, and then scurried diagonally up through the trees.
A baby on front and backpack behind created a running through molasses sensation. Branches scraped my face and arms. I ran. My legs burned. I ran. My breath came in gasps. I ran. When every breath stung my lungs, I stopped and concealed myself behind a boulder with a spruce tree growing into it—the first of Peter’s landmarks. Slowly I peeked my head around the rock’s edge.
Nearly all light was gone now. I could only make out a man’s silhouette darting around an outstretched branch then leaping over a fallen log—a feat eliminating portly Hector as my pursuer. The figure jerked his head to the right and left, never slowing his pace. It was too small to be Sean … or Peter. Felix? Or Neil? Ally? Or enemy?
I concentrated on breathing quietly, but my heart raced and my breath came faster still. I had to defend myself. I searched the darkening ground for a stick. No stick but a couple of rocks rested near the boulder’s base. Impossible! I couldn’t hit a moving target in the dark! My aching legs reminded me I couldn’t outrun him either. As I reached down to pick up the stones, my backpack shifted and I felt the formula can slide toward my head. Eureka! I shrugged off the pack, pulled out the formula, and ripped off the lid.
Melody whimpered as I crouched uncomfortably behind the four by four foot boulder.
I bounced on the balls of my feet to calm her.
The crunching of pine needles grew ever closer. When I heard his labored breathing, I seized a fistful of formula with one hand and a rock with the other. I stood and cocked my left arm. As Neil rounded the boulder, I flung the formula into his face.
His arms flailed, wildly. He must have inhaled just as the powder hit him because he coughed and spluttered.
I raised my right arm and focused all my energy into hitting my target. The rock flew through the air. A sickening crack sounded just before Neil fell to the ground.
My knees wobbled. I reached for the boulder to steady myself. Regaining my composure, I slung the pack over my back, found north on the compass, and began walking. I gave Neil’s sprawling body and bloodied face a wide birth noting the steady rise and fall of his chest.

Rebecca said...

Action Sequence:

Darkness surrounds me as I rock back and forth in the cramped closet. The closet smells faintly of musk and urine. A stuffed teddy bear is touching my leg. It's paws are rubbing up against me.
Tears are streaming down my face and my pink rimmed glasses keep sliding down my nose. I don't even try to readjust them. I can hear the thump thump thump of my heart beating against my chest. The loudness invades my hearing and for a moment, I think that my eardrums are going to burst.
Through a crack in the closet door, I can see my bedroom. The twin sized bed is unmade, the blankets have slid to the floor. My favorite toys lay haphazardly against the carpet, but I don't dare move. I am safe here. Secure.
I hear the muffled voices of my parents in the living room. They are arguing. I am surprised that I can even hear them at all. The beat of my heart is so loud. An incessant drone. But hear them I do and I know that in a few minutes they will be coming for me.
I continue to rock. Faster and faster. Rocking comforts me. It helps to calm me down. My mouth becomes suddenly dry and I am so tired that I could fall asleep right here amidst the forgotten RC cars and army men.
My eyelids are just beginning to close when I hear it, my father's footsteps.
He is searching for me. Calling my name. Every muscle in my body tenses, awaiting the collision. There is no time for resting now. I am on high alert. Unconsciously, I quit rocking back and forth. I arch my back to where I am sitting up straight and I lean into the closet door, my eyes focused on that tiny crack, looking for any sudden movements.
"Becky," he hisses, like a snake. "where are you?"
Instead of responding, I hold my breath. I would rather pass out from lack of oxygen then to have to face him again.
He slams open my bedroom door. I can hear it banging against the wall as he walks into my line of sight. He is wearing a white and black pinstriped shirt, his faded blue jeans are barely hanging on. I can see a glimpse of his underwear. Even from my vantage point, I can still smell the nicotine that permeates out of his pores, like sweat.
He is looking under the bed now. My old favorite hiding place.
"Becky," he whispers once more. "where are you?"
I don't answer.
He rises from the floor. His pants slide down even more. They are now barely hanging on. I should buy him a belt for Christmas I think and then I remember he already has a belt. A black leather belt that he is saving just for me.
He stands in the center of the floor, surrounded by my discarded Barbie dolls. He has a look of exasperation on his face, as if he has finally given up and surrendered. Exhaling, he shuffles back towards the doorway. Moving on to the next room.
In a second of utter stupidity, I allow myself to relax. In doing so, I inadvertently knock over one of my brother's remote controlled cars. The clash isn't that loud, but it's loud enough for my father to hear. In a flash he is standing in front of me. The closet doors burst open and he finds me.
He is staring at me, a wide grin upon his face.
"Found you," he screams, laughing, as he grabs me by the arm. Swinging me like a rag doll.
"Daddy," I beg sobbing. "don't hurt me."
My pleas are too late. He drags me into the living room where the couch and the leather belt are waiting for me. Instead of trying to fight or run, I lay listless. I let him drag my body across the linoleum floor. I no longer care what happens to me. As the belt lashes against my bare skin, I scream.

k m kelly said...

Thanks for the fun, Nathan. This is YA fantasy coming in at 499 words


FIND EXCALIBUR'S SHEATH!

I could actually see Nessie, now, and I have to say I never saw anything so ugly in my life. Even the trolls looked like beauty queens by comparison. She had a lumpy body with two flippers on each side, a scrawny neck, and a long crocadile-shaped head with teeth that would have made a twenty-foot gator hide behind mama. Even with the sheath clamped firmly in her mouth, her clear intention was to chew up the yacht and use the pieces to pick her teeth.

Bran swung the wheel the other way so that we slid away from her, leaving foam churning in our wake. Pegasus’ responding scream of terror gave me an idea.

“Cailean, let’s have some fun!” I exclaimed, running down the stairs to my cabin. Snatching up my coil of rope—the rope my brothers had intended me to hang myself with—I charged back to the fore deck, Cailean willingly at my heels. Caena and Sorcha, standing on the flying bridge, watched us emerge from the salon.

“Gus, can you carry us both?” I asked as I vaulted onto my horse’s back.

Gus glanced at Cailean’s moss-green hair and red cap, did a double take, then growled, ‘Anything to get off this roller coaster.’

Cailean leaped up behind me, whipped a seaweed rope around Gus’s neck, and held on tight.

“Caena, now’s the time for some wind,” I called as Pegasus plunged over the transom and lifted into the air. “We need visibility.”

‘What are we doing?’ Cailean shouted in my ear as Gus circled the yacht to gain altitude.

“We’re gonna have us a rodeo!” I laughed over my shoulder. “Gus, buzz Nessie close enough to get her attention away from the yacht. I'm going to rope her.”

Gus must have been tired of inaction. He flew at that sea monster like a kamikaze pilot with a death wish. I could feel Cailean’s muscles tighten as she snapped at Gus’s heels, nearly losing the sheath in the bargain. She caught it in mid-drop, glaring at us in angry triumph when she did.

Gus buzzed her again.

Nessie, now refusing to be bated, followed us closely with her eyes. Gus passed back and forth around her, keeping her head swiveling until she began to wobble like a drunkard after a binge.

“Ok, Gus, Cailean, this time we’re going to rope her. You ready?”

‘‘She’s heavy enough she’ll pull you off if you catch her,’ Gus said. ‘Tie your rope around my neck’

“If I catch her?” I laughed. “Watch me. I’m a farmer’s son.” I wrapped the end of my rope around his neck, tying it in a non-slip knot, then set my loop. “Ready?”

Gus dove for Nessie, veering to the left just as I dropped my loop over her head.

‘Yeehaw,’ he neighed, taking to the skies. ‘Let’s take this fishie for a ride!’

As my loop tightened, lifting her out of the water, Nessie gagged, dropping the sheath into the loch.

Michelle H. said...

Graham pulled out the sandwich bag and debated it for only a second as the drunk man’s arm trembled, ready to split open his skull. He held up the bag holding the stone.

The drunk frowned. “Why I want a rock for? Plenty of them on the road for me to use on your head.”

Graham shrugged. “This one is different. It’s a fallen star. Came right out of the sky.”

“You think I fell off the truck yesterday? You pull out something better than that or I bust this bottle apart and slit your throat,” the man threatened.

Graham snorted. “Do I look like someone who carries rocks in my pockets for nothing? This is valuable to the right person.”

“What you mean valuable?” The drunk’s arm lowered. He hesitated before his darting fingers snatched up the bag. The man opened the top and peered inside at the stone.

“Museum people. They’re always looking for stuff like this. Pay people big money when the rocks come from there.” Graham pointed upward.

The drunk’s eyes moved along Graham’s arm and stared at the sky. He hiccuped and shook the bag, excitement on his features. Then he stared down suspiciously. He backed away several feet before upending the bag. The stone fall into his hand.

Graham looked at his dusty shoes. His palms flipped upward. The evening deepened more yet he could see the paleness of his skin, the round circles and the streaks moving up along fingers and down past wrists. It looked like he held stars. Pale and cold. He glanced upward.

The drunk man now sat on the grass with his eyes fixed on the stone sitting in his palm. His body trembled yet he was too drunk to notice what was happening. His body had thinned into a less solid form. Graham could see through him like one of Marty’s comic book heroes who had special x-ray vision.

“Let it go,” Graham whispered. His own body trembled. He’d gone too far. What he'd just done was worse than a knife shoved into someone’s gut or a gun pointed at a person’s head.

“LET IT GO,” Graham shouted. In the distance, Cotter’s dogs barked. The drunk man lifted his face, snorted, and tossed the bottle. Graham’s arm came up. Yet the bottle broke apart, sending glass across his body. He shook the pieces from his hair. Then he charged forward with his shoulder up and aimed at the drunk’s chest, wanting to knock the stone from the man’s grip.

Graham felt himself enter the drunk man. Veins slithered across his skin. Muscles bunched at the contact he made. Moisture slimed his jacket from bile and blood and liquid he had no name for from organs he had no right in touching. Then his elbow neared the stone. Pain. Heat. Heaviness.

Uncanny power.

Raw energy smacked into Graham’s body and sent him airborne. He flew backward and then struck the ground, wisps of smoke rising from his jacket.

Margie said...

Darwin's Theory:YA

“Here you go, Darby.” Mom hands her a baggie of cookies. “Come back. Anytime.”
“Count on it.” Darby winks at me behind Mom’s back.
It was bad enough when I had to keep my guy friends at arm’s length, but now even girls? At least the lesbian ones? Total Charlie Brown moment going on inside my head.
“Talk to you later, Bix.”
“Yeah.” I wave her off. Now I’ll have to wonder if Darby’s after my company or sneaking a peak at my “hot” mom. AGH.
“Bix!” Darby screams an alarm from the front door.
Mom and I lock a gaze as we rush down the hall.
“What?” I come up behind Darby.
She swings the door open so I can see what she’s seeing.
“A bike?” Not just a bike. A great bike. A brand new Diamondback Viper sits in the middle of the walkway. I squeeze past Darby with Mom right behind me. “Where’d it come from?” It wasn’t there when Darby and I got home. I didn’t hear anyone drive up. Of course, I wasn’t listening. Diligence takes a backseat.
I start down the steps.
“Bix, no!” Mom grabs my arms and about yanks me out of socket. All sockets. Apparently we weren’t made to be yo-yos.
“What? It’s for me.” It’s got to be for me. Otherwise, it’s just a cruel joke. I glance up the street. Is Bunyon Junior lurking behind a tree?
“It has his name on it.” Darby points out a note tucked into the spokes. Sure enough, my name is visible.
“See. It’s for me.”
“Which is exactly why you shouldn’t touch it.” Mom’s eyes are wide with fear. “What if it’s from him?” She edges down the steps ahead of me, her arm holding me back. “Stay here. Both of you.”
“Him who?” Darby’s lost in Mom’s subtext.
“Old boyfriend.” Assassin ex-husband. Whatever. “Explosive break-up.” Ka-boom.
Mom’s circling the bike like it’s a land mine. She dips her shoulders and angles her head to look under the seat. Thanks to yoga, she is one limber woman. “What if he found us?” Her voice shakes.
“He didn’t find us.” I go down the stairs to get a better look at my bike. It’s the bomb and not in mom’s literal sense. “Maybe we should see who it’s from.” I reach for the card.
“No!” Mom dives in front of me. “We have to get the bike to proper authorities.” Like bomb specialists?
I think she’s starting to lose it. Probably post-traumatic stress from Omar the Florist/Terrorist being blown up. I wonder if Darby’s therapist is still around.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Darby snake around us and snatch the card before Mom can throw a body block at her. And she doesn’t explode. Which is a good thing. I doubt making friends would get any easier if they start blowing up within 48 hours of meeting me.
Yet another reason Witsec sucks.

iheartya said...

"Architectural Absences"
by Sarah Joy Freese

Three people have had their limbs amputated in the middle of the night.

Jack's Story

Sarah would notice that he hadn't brushed his teeth.

Sighing, Jack padded down to his own room, the soles of his calloused feet brushing against the plush carpet, sticking a bit in a section where Abrahm's ice cream spilled earlier in the evening. He would have to remember to clean that up before ants got to it.

Slipping into a pair of boxers, after slinging his work clothes in a chair nearby, Jack rubbed his hands over his face, wearily. Mentally running over his list of things to do the following day, Jack lay back on his pillow staring up at the ceiling, left leg flung over the side of the bed.

He woke up to the most horrendous pain that he had ever felt in his life.

Reaching for the lamp, he felt the absence of something.

Light: on.

Panting. Screaming.

Lots of blood. Everywhere. Where was it all coming from?

His foot. It was gone. No, his entire lower calf had been taken. He vaguely remembered...

"Daddy?" A voice down the hall called.

Quickly he threw a sheet over his leg, biting back another scream. No need for Abrahm to see this much...

The blood was everywhere.

Call 911.

Hello?

My leg! It's been ripped off!

Excuse me?

My leg is gone!

Your leg is gone? Did you cut your leg, Sir?

No! I mean, I didn't, but someone--
Are they still in the house?

I don't--

OK, Sir, I am going to send a police--

And an ambulance! There's blood everywhere!

Abrahm.

But tell Them not to turn the sirens on ... kid.

And then, Jack passed out.

When he awoke, he was in the hospital room, flowers everywhere from family, friends. How had they heard?

And then the questions: Were you drinking? Doing drugs?

Of course, Jack answered no to both. He'd been extra careful since the divorce, struggling to keep and connect with Abrahm. And the test results came back clean as well.

There were more questions, of course, but no more answers.

No sign of forced entry. The doors and windows were all locked tight. And while a police investigation occurred over the next three months, six if you count paperwork and wanting to make it seem like the county deputies were earning their rightful wages, eventually they gave up.

The final report: Unidentified suspect entered home of Jack Koriac between the hours of midnight and 2:30 a.m. Victim's leg amputated. No sign of forced entry.

The evidence box was moved to the cold case file.

Later, Jack would commit suicide. Being a single dad is sometimes just too hard.

Chazley Dotson said...

The palace guards haven’t stopped, which surprises me. I’m not that important.

My heavy wooden sandals clack on the stone street, so I kick them off and wince as glass and stones cut the soft bottoms of my feet. How long has it been since I ran? Not since I was a child, certainly, but even then, I remember long hours at music lessons and serving tea to my father’s friends. There was never time for games.

And even then, the strings of my kimono were tied too tight.

I lift up the skirt to keep myself from tripping on the hem, but I can’t breathe deep enough to keep this up for long.

Somewhere behind me, they shout. Their voices grow angrier with every step, these men whose faces I’ve known all my life.

My feet are bleeding, and I tell myself that that’s why my sight is blurry with tears.

I could stop. I could go back. The guards probably wouldn’t hurt me if I surrendered, and the king…well, there was no knowing what the king would do.

But my legs have found their rhythm, as though they’ve remembered something about running that my brain never knew, and I can’t stand the thought of stopping.

“There! She turned—”

Faster and harder and further. Until my feet scream and my lungs suffer. Until I’m far enough ahead of them to find a hiding spot, and still just a minute more of running.

But I can’t keep going forever, and sweat already soaks my silk underdress.

I hide around the corner of a kite shop, panting in the dark alley.

They won’t find me here. They probably won’t even look.

I’m not that important.

Linda said...

About four houses away from Spencer’s home, someone reached out of the finely manicured hedges we were walking along and grabbed my arm. I was yanked thought the bushes landing on my back, I did not realize I was on top of the person until a hand cupped over my mouth, and I felt the deep breath underneath my body that was joined by the pounding of a beating heart. I struggle with whom ever it was, I tried to scream but their hand became tighter and tighter stopping any sound from escaping my lips. I could hear Megan yelling my name, calling for help. I looked away from the starlit sky towards the bushes; I then saw Megan’s head pop through the hole my body had made as it was snatched through the bushes. With a scream Megan was jerked out of sight, I started to struggle again without any prevail. I gave up when I realized that I could not overpower the person who had a hold of me. When I relaxed, the hand around my mouth moved away, and their arm let go from around my waist. I felt the person wiggle out from underneath me, pushing me onto my side.
I rolled over onto my chest; and got up onto my hands and knees. I looked down at the ground to scared to look up. My long curly blonde hair danced on the tips of the grass that was in front of my face. Tears ran off my cheeks and dripped to the ground. I was afraid to look up, afraid of what was about to happen, afraid of who I was about to see. As I looked through my hair, all I could see was a pair of black shoes.
Not saying a word, I lifted my head to look at the person who had done this to me. The person who was making my heart pound so fast and my thoughts run wild. I slowly looked up from the shoes, following black pants, up to the bottom of a black sweet shirt, following the zipper to his neck. I continue to raise my eyes to the bottom of his chin, past his lips, to his nose, and then to the coldest eyes I have ever seen. This man’s eyes were as black as the night, nothing like I had ever seen before. From what I could tell, he was muscular, due to the strength it took to subdue me, he was wearing a hood so I could not see his hair, but his face was strong and fierce. As I stared at him, fear pulsed through my veins. I began to cry out asking, “Who are you?”
As I looked down at the girl who was looking up at me and crying, wondering how I got in this position, Why me? Look at those eyes, so innocent, so frightened. I stood there for a moment not answering. Then the cruel words came out of my mouth.


“It does not matter who I am, what matters is who you are, or should I say who you were.”

“What?” Crystal asked

I paused again, wanting to say I was not going to hurt her. I knew better! I had no choice! I needed to do, what I was entrusted to do!

“I am sorry to say, you can no long exist in this world. I am the one that has been chosen to take you out of it.”

“Why? What have I ever done to you?”

She has done nothing to me! Nothing to anyone! Dimmit! Why did they choose me? I need to remember it has to be! To save the future; our future!

“Nothing yet, that’s why you have to be stopped now.”

“I don’t know you! I have never seen you before! I have no reason to hurt you!”

“That is a chance we can’t take, you should have never been born.” He yelled.

“How could you say something like that? You don’t even know me.”

She is right I do not know her, but the law is the law and I must follow through!

“No, I do not! However, your mother and father both knew better then to have a child. I am sorry but I need to do this before I change my mind.”

I raised my hand in the air, not wanting to do the deed. Knowing if I did not do it, someone else would come in my place killing her without compassion, causing her to suffer greatly. After seeing her face, I cannot let this innocent girl suffer in that way. My courage needs to be great! I shall not falter!
“Please! Please! I beg of you! Do not hurt me! SOMEONE HELP ME PLEASE!”

Thank You Mr. Bransford for your time.

RobbieG said...

Walking down the hideout’s basement stairs, dark recollections ambushed his mind like a monkey dropping down from a tree. The smells of heating oil and mold wrapped his face and dragged him back to when he was a small boy without the courage or strength to protect himself. His orphanage was attached to a church and his hell was that church’s basement. Nothing he might live through again could compare to that chamber’s soaking misery. When he finally escaped and found his freedom, Alejandro locked those memories away, knowing they’d rot his soul if he didn’t. And now, in the span of a few stairs, they were clawing out and displaying themselves like a slow-motion slide show.
Tears burst from his eyes. The heaviest ones dripped off his jaw line, the smaller ones rolled down his neck until they disappeared into his collar. He tried gathering himself, wiping his face off with his shirt and pinching his nose, but he couldn’t keep up. Knees giving way, Alejandro lowered himself to the bottom step where he sat and wept out years of abuse, neglect, and the pain of being surrounded by people but always being alone. When he was done, with no more tears to give, Alejandro reached inside his mind and pushed the memories back into their cells.
Hlavic was there with him in the basement, deep asleep on a rollaway cot pushed against the back foundation wall. Near Hlavic’s head was an end table covered with empty beer bottles and a half-dozen prescriptions, all without caps. His crutches had slid down an adjacent wall and crossed each other on the floor.
Kiddie porn magazines surrounded the cot, the same type Alejandro had discovered in Hlavic’s van. There was one magazine on his pillow. Another on his chest, open to the centerfold and rising to the rhythm of his snoring. He’d fallen asleep to the pictures, with his underwear and pants still pulled down to his knees.
Walking to the cot, Alejandro studied the damage he’d inflicted during their first encounter. A pink scar ran down Hlavic’s forehead with sloppy stitch marks from the emergency room doctor’s rushed needle-and-thread work. Where his teeth once resided was a puckered gum line that caved in the lower half of his face. Alejandro didn’t remember attacking the ear but it looked as though one had been sewn back onto Hlavic’s head.
Kicking a spot clear of the magazines, Alejandro searched for an emotion, some kind of sentiment that was familiar and guiding. There was no doubt what he was going to do, he just didn’t know what to feel while doing it. Nothing spoke to him, not an inner voice, or even a memory. It was as if everything inside had dripped away in the tears. Looking down, there wasn’t anger or revenge or disgust, only the need for fire.

Jenny said...

Working Title: "La Llorona"
Genre: Magical Realism/Lit.
Overview: A Chicago couple unable to deal with the strain of their neighbor's murder/suicide moves to New Mexico where they must reconcile their relationship and use their magical gifts to save their children. This is from the prologue (because prologues are evil...=) )

...
Maria came upon the children first and scolded them. She grasped their hands and hurried them further upstream.

The trees cleared away from the riverbank and moonlight glared down with its harsh white light. Tanchtia’s dark legs intertwined with Francisco’s pale limbs. Her back arched toward the moon, her arms lifted as if she would capture the stars. Francisco’s hands trailed up her thin ribs, clasping, not gripping, as she rocked on him. His scratches, scars from Maria, were dark stripes. Tanchtia bent forward and licked those wounds. Maria’s fingers curled into the soft flesh of her children’s wrists and both cried out.

The cries distracted the interlocked pair. Francisco cursed. He hurled Tanchtia from him. The naked woman landed upon wet rocks and sticks. Now she too bore wounds.

Maria knew only to run. She could not overpower him, as she had learned that afternoon. Maria ran into the river. The water pulled at her skirts. The children, who had never learned swim, dug their fingernails into her skin. They screamed. But Maria could not hear them. She could not distinguish their tears from the onslaught of water.

Francisco was too near. He was not burdened by clothing. His pale body splashed into the river after her. His thighs, built from years of war and horsemanship, carried him farther than her laden limbs. The children pulled at her sleeves. Maria hauled them in front of her, their heads barely breaking the surface. They clung.

With the strength she had left she raised them in front of her. Their screams grew louder. He stopped. Mud and water splashed across his waist, splattering into his face.

Isabel coughed, trying to breathe. She was smaller than her brother and her head did not extend as far above the surface. Maria shook them at him and they screamed again.

She shook them and kept shaking them. She wanted them off of her. She wanted to be swept downstream, carried away. They shrieked and she shrieked back, not knowing words. She pushed at them, and her left arm was loose. Then her right.

Their dark heads were pulled underneath the surface and did not return. No splash signaled their going. Once the water took them, it held them. It was a silent death.

When Francisco reached her, when he put his hand on her shoulder, she allowed herself to be sucked below, into the current.

The talk began that night, and spread quickly to the other villages.

They still say she wanders the place between water and land, hollering for her children to come back. The villagers tell their children not to go near water at night, to not cross roads without caution. With the water in her eyes she cannot see, so she mistakes any child for her own. She sweeps them down never to be seen again. So the village keeps watch on their children, but it is still helpless against her.

clairegillian said...

The twinkling sky captured our attention as the remainder of the fifty immigrants emerged from Sub-Earth District 7.

When our final party member emerged, we listened as the hatch below slammed shut and locked. We were now inhabitants of Above, a place no one in generations had either seen or visited. There was no turning back, not even to the swift death that a dagger wielded by the District 7 homeland security would deliver.

We surveyed the area, listened for sounds of life, but other than the sighs of the foliage in the breeze, heard nothing. We saw no living creatures either. Other than the twinkling high above our heads and the flashlights and torches we carried, we saw no sources of light.

“I need volunteers for a scouting party,” Captain announced to the group.

We called him Captain for short. He was the only person from the military in our party, though his service had ended fifteen years prior. Like an old toothless dog, however, he still knew how to bark and bark loudly.

I checked my watch. Seven o’clock. Eleven hours until dawn, assuming we didn’t sleep. I raised my hand to volunteer as did my brother, Willem.

For a half hour we hiked through a grassland, flanked by large pillars of vegetative matter that grew tens of feet into the skies. “Trees” our ancient texts called them. We marveled at how closely their giant shadowy figures, illuminated only by flashlight, resembled the pictures we’d seen.

Captain stopped us at the edge of the tree line. "Shhh."

We listened. A hum wafted to our ears, carried on the light evening breeze. We stilled our movements to eliminate our own sounds from the equation. The drone grew louder and closer. We gathered in a defensive circle, our backs inward.

Swishing. Whispering. Vibrations rose from the ground through our feet and melded into the chattering of our teeth.

The beams of eight flashlights illuminated our perimeter.

“Over there! I saw something,” Captain barked.

“What did you see?” someone asked.

“I don’t know. It moved too quickly.”

More vibrations. The grass before me began to pant.

“Something’s headed this way,” I whispered to Willem.

The beams from Willem’s and my flashlights scoured the dark space in front of me and the rustling shifted from side to side as if its maker were dodging our discovery.

“What do you think it is?” I asked.

“I don’t know. But I’m tired of whatever it is holding us at bay. We can’t just stand here waiting for it to make its next move.”

“He's right,” Trinka said and others murmured in agreement.

Captain heaved a sigh and said, “Walk two abreast behind me. Trinka, you and Galindo--.”

Trinka’s screams rent the air and polarized our attention to the rear. The humming and vibrations made an encore. Footsteps, fading cries of agony, then nothing but liquid terror splattering the ground.

Bill Coon said...

Michael’s feet landed hard on the ground. His left ankle was pulsating from the impact. Blood began dripping down his wrist. His hands were deeply cut from his climb up the barbed wire fence. The fresh air burned the opened wound, but Michael didn’t have time to stop. His pursuers were close behind.

The sun was falling as Michael tore down the dirt path. He didn’t know where he was going- he didn’t care. Michael only knew that he had come too far. If he were to quit now, he would certainly be tortured, killed, or possibly both. He began stripping in perfect stride, removing the top of his orange jumpsuit.

Michael then heard the pack of dogs. Instantaneously he forgot about his throbbing hands. His mind was consumed with fear. He glanced at his left bicep. There were five scars. It appeared as though nails had been taken to his skin. The scars were from his last encounter with the pack, the last time he tried to escape.

There was a house in the distance. It was white, with grey shutters. It looked poorly kept, almost abandoned. The white siding was tinted yellow. There was a picket fence surrounding the home. Half of the fence was dismantled. Pickets lied scattered across the ground, as though a storm had blown it down. Michael considered himself lucky. His hands couldn’t handle another climb. Michael passed through the demolished picket opening as he glanced back. The dogs were gaining ground.

Michael sprinted to the door- he grabbed hold of the handle and furiously shook the knob. The door was locked. He frantically searched for a key. First he checked under the doormat. The mat greeted him with a “welcome!” He didn’t feel too welcomed as he smashed the flowerpot, looking inside the dried soil. There was a single flower in the pot. The flower was alone, decaying, slowly awaiting its death. Michael felt for the flower. His own life was eerily similar.

He gave up on the door and darted around the house. He began attempting to lift the two windows on the back porch. He tried the first window on the right- it too was locked. Michael could hear the dogs panting now. The dogs had passed through the open gate.

“Please God…” Michael whispered as he lifted the second and final window. It opened. The dogs had turned the corner of the house. Michael could see the whites of their eyes as he leaped into the living room of the home. He quickly turned and slammed the window shut. It landed hard on one of the canine’s paws. He heard it yelp and whimper away. The rest of the pack clawed at the window.

He began catching his breath while staring at a statuette on the mantel. He curiously reached for the art, as he heard the cocking of a gun, and felt the cold metal barrel on the back of his head. A voice spoke.

“You ruined my dandelion…”

lbsedlacek said...

Action sequence:

The undersized silver motorboat was flipped on its side. Flames gushed from the back near the engine. Sparks flew into the air. The grass was turning black from the flames. Spits of black embers danced around his face.

He swats them aside yelling “Al! Al, where are you? Al? Can you hear me? Al!”

Strewn on the ground underneath the boat were two life jackets, a fishing tackle, a blue cooler, some bait containers, and a plaid green and red wool blanket. He watches the red flames. Twists his head back and forth. The small house was surrounded by trees, muddy banks and a sagging porch.

Chance rushes over toward the lopsided structure. Rips off a green tarp slung over a mound of firewood. He drags the heavy plastic towards the burning boat. Heaves it across the gust of flames. He throws a hand over his mouth and coughs. Takes short breaths. Tries to ignore the stench of burning wood and melting aluminum. The boat was a two-seater and had planks thrown across at the front and the back. He thinks, Al probably used it for fishing in the Yadkin River.

Kicking the cooler with his foot, it tumbles a couple of inches away from the boat. He kicks it a second time. The lid pops off. He crouches down. The cooler was empty except for a plastic white ice pack. Turning his gaze back to the boat, he watches it for a few minutes satisfied that the flame was out. He looks back over at his SUV.

Creeping towards it, he reaches in and pulls the keys out of the ignition. He reaches inside. Pops open the black compartment in-between the seats. Sticking a sweaty hand into the gaping hole, he pushes aside several wadded up napkins and some toothpicks. Pulls out his forty-five. It was the gun he’d carried since becoming a private detective more than fifteen years ago. He flips off the safety. Presses the lock on the Jeep and closes the door.

Leaning against the SUV for a minute, he takes a deep breath and then starts walking towards the house. He moves back onto the porch. Peers inside a window.

The house was dark. He could hear the faint cracks of the fire’s dying embers still raging inside the boat. He places a hand on the doorknob. It twists open in his hand. Back in the old days, people never locked their doors. He guessed Al never worried about such things either even out here on a quarter acre of land pretty much isolated from the world. Al’s nearest neighbor lived half a mile away.

Lisa said...

Title: Once We Were Bears
Middle Grade Speculative Fiction

No! I thought. They've got me cornered. There's no way out.

The insects had been standing watch; we were waiting for a gap in the Insiders' spying in on me. When they gave the word, in a lightning flash, I was out the window, clinging to the vine. I scurried down. One hand. Another.

That's when our plan started falling apart. The moths whispered that there was a softshoe in my room. She popped her head out the window. I snarled up at her and she popped back in. Good, I thought.

But then a wailing, a noise rising and falling and someone yelling "Security! Security!"

I was nearing the ground, still a little too high to risk a jump, when a mess of Insiders came streaming across the dark lawn. Four? Five? They might have caught me, too. If they hadn't been yelling and blaring up the night with their lights. I hauled myself back up the wall.

We whispered to each other, the vines and I, to be strong, but they were giving way. Green tendrils pulled away from the bricks.

Insiders were yelling from below, and more leaned out my window. I climbed up and across, away from them all. The moths were trying to help, flying at their lights to dim them, but even still, my captors could see me. I could hear them shouting, telling each other where I was. Whole sections of the vines were tearing off the wall; they wouldn't hold me much longer.

I dove through an open window, tearing a gaping hole in the screen.

I scanned the room. An Insider asleep on the bed. Harmless enough. They were trapped like I had been, tethered to the beeping machines. Another bed, empty. I skidded across the floor and peeked out the door. Insiders! Running toward me down the long, bright hall. I ducked back in and shoved the empty bed against the door, then hefted a large, metal cabinet on top of it. That would keep them out for a bit.

I went back to the window. Even more Insiders on the ground below. One was trying to climb the vines, but they dropped their leaves wherever he gripped, sending him slipping down. I twisted to look further up the outside wall. The vines went a little ways over the window, but not far enough for me to make it to the roof.

So there I was, cornered, knowing they'd get through that door soon enough. I tried to work it out. Calm my breathing. Think it through, smart and clear:

The window's safer than the door. At least then I'll be outside.

And then what?

I couldn't think of anything except to push through and outrun them.

But I'll tell you true, I was already so tired. Just from that little bit of climbing.

They'll get me in the end, I thought mid-leap, but I at least I'll die in the open, under the stars.

CMR said...

Trees danced in front of her, seeming to leap into her path and blocking her headlong flight from Quinn and Re—

Meredith cried out as strong arms grabbed her around the waist and held fast. “Quinn!” she screamed, echoing Red’s. “Let me go!” she bellowed, thrashing and kicking wildly. Quinn’s arms were like wire cabling, flexible but strong, taking all her wild unfocused energy but without faltering. Meredith screamed her frustration to the sky. She redoubled her efforts. “Let. Me. Go! Let me—”

Then she remembered who she was and who had trained her.

Meredith thought furiously. She didn’t think Quinn would be fooled by a sudden cessation of motion – he was too old and liked pop culture too much to fall for that trick. No, stopping wasn’t the way to go at all.

Imagining that she was a giant arrow, Meredith focused her flailing limbs and wild motion, pulled her mass to center and arched backward, throwing all her weight behind the motion. Flailing and screaming and thrashing Quinn had been prepared for. The sudden, focused, change in direction forced him to stumble--to arch back as well. Unprepared and overbalanced, they began to teeter. But still Quinn wouldn’t let her go. Using his thighs as a momentary brace, Meredith pushed hard, giving her enough momentum to thrust her back into his stomach. Enough to send them falling backwards.

Quinn's arms sprung open like a trap reset. Meredith was quick to scramble free of him.

But she hadn’t gone more than ten steps when someone much larger than Quinn grabbed her arm and hauled her backward.

Meredith whirled around, allowing his jerk to reel her in. She danced past him and brought his meaty hand with her.

She jerked at his arm, ready to toss him over her shoulder. He wouldn’t move.

Suddenly she remembered that cartoon where the rabbit had to fight the wrestler, but nothing he could do caused the giant of a man to do so much as sway in a strong breeze. It wasn’t as funny now that she the rabbit fighting the giant of a man.

“And who are you?” she snarled as she tried vainly to snatch her arm out of his grasp. There was more light now that they had found themselves in another clearing, but the forest canopy was still thick overhead and she didn’t know this man. “Who are you?!” She was becoming panicky and frantic the more obvious it became that she couldn’t get him to do so much as sway in a strong breeze.

“Aw, dontcha know who I am?” His drawl was about as thick as molasses in the middle of winter. Between that and the height he should have sounded slow or stupid or about as dangerous as a simple giant named George. It didn’t. It made him sound dangerous, like she would drown on his words, slow and thick and sure.

Andrew the author said...

I hope this is formatted legibly.

We came to the end of the hallway and skidded to a stop. The slippers they gave to all the patients in the institution had little enough traction to cause us to slide a good foot and a half.

“What in the hell was that?” Jeffrey gasped. His Tourettes was in full blast, causing him to sporadically sniff involuntarily.

I asked, “Ok, so you did see Nurse Rachel get dragged into a shadow in the hallway, right? I mean, I sometimes have trouble determining what’s real and what’s just in my head.”

“I saw her scream and get dragged into the wall.”

“Did you see what did it?”

“No,” Jeffrey said, putting his back up to the wall. “But I’m staying in the light now.”

I saw it, Randy said.

“Randy saw it,” I said aloud.

“What?” Jeffrey asked, “Who’s Randy?”

“He’s kind of a voice in my head. What did they look like, Randy?”

Like the silhouette of a large man. It grabbed her collar and yanked her into the shadows.

Jeffrey waited a moment and asked hesitantly, “So, what did Randy say?”

“A shadow man grabbed Nurse Rachel. I think maybe we should get find a way out of the hospital.”

“The doors on this floor are secured unless there’s a fi-“ Jeffrey paused as the lights began to flicker. From behind came a series of sharp pops. We saw the fluorescent lights bursting and the darkness progressing toward us.

It’s there! Randy shouted. Coming toward us. Move, Christine!

“Run!” I screamed, already in motion. Jeffrey was right on my tail, as was the sound of bursting bulbs. At the end of the corridor, the hallway branched.

“Left or right?” Jeffrey panted.

Both paths were mostly cast in darkness. I looked to the right. The gurney bearing the late Mrs. Pendleton was in the hallway, unattended. I gasped when the body began to sit up, the sheet slipping down as Mrs. Pendleton looked our way. I started to back toward the left corridor and turned that way.

No! screamed Randy, There’s a shadow guy that way!

“But Mrs. Pendleton-“

She’s in your head Christine. If it helps, you can punch the imaginary geriatric as you flee! Go!

“This way!” I pointed, and we swept past Mrs. Pendleton, who watched our movements with a cold gaze.

“Where are we going? Do we have a plan?” Jeffrey yelled as he overtook me.

“Uh, Dr. Banks or one of the orderlies should be able to bypass the security on the doors. His office is this way.”

As we turned the corner, we slid to a stop. There, just beyond his office, was Dr. Banks, clawing at the floor as he was dragged away. He cried for help before being dragged around a corner, and then it was silent.

“Oh god, we’re trapped,” Jeffrey said, looking to the encroaching darkness behind us.

Linda Shantz said...

He glanced at the stopwatch clutched in his left hand as the bay mare approached the quarter pole, in awe of the ease with which she ticked off the furlongs and then ramped it up at the end. Claire was finishing with her usual flourish, Lise still unmoving as they picked it up down the lane.

Some sort of commotion broke his thought pattern and pulled his gaze away from the working mare, now inside the final eighth. Over on the other side of the track, someone was yelling. Then he saw the loose horse barreling wildly in the wrong direction on an erratic course – dark bay and in the immediate path of Claire. Pete stifled a warning yell, knowing Lise couldn’t possibly hear him, and that she and Claire would hit more than the wire in a few strides. There was no way she would see what was going on in time to get Claire out of that horse’s way. It would happen too fast.

He spun Paz into action, the old sprinter responding to his urgency. Even the wind rushing past Pete’s ears did not mask the deadening thud of flesh on flesh as the two animals collided, a thousand pounds in each direction bringing both to a treacherous halt, sending a shudder down Pete’s spine. He could only see the mass of them going down as he sent the gelding flying around the turn. Pete let Paz drop down to the rail because it was the clearest path, and they flew along the stretch at a pace that would have equaled that of many of the workers that morning, if anyone had put a watch on them. He drove Paz on with his hands and voice, pushing the gelding still faster, the stretch seeming longer than any race he’d ridden. It felt as if he would never reach the disaster waiting at the wire. What he thought he could do when he got there, he didn’t know.

lexcade said...

Action sequence from WIP

“Kiefer!” I called. “Kiefer, are you okay?”

No answer.

“Kiefer!” Panic set in. My hands and feet broke into a sweat, my heart raced. I smelled blood. I need to get to that cab. Without hesitation, I began clawing at the metal separating us, but nothing happened. My claws barely scratched it. I turned my attention to the door. My bulk had created a sizable dent. Maybe if I hit it hard enough, it’ll break open. Anything was worth a try.

With as much force as I could generate, I threw myself against the door, feeling it give a little. I tried again, feeling the entire truck shake with the effort, knowing that I needed to reach Kiefer no matter what. He was unconscious. If anything had broken and the water was high enough, it’d enter the cab, and if I couldn’t reach him, he’d drown. I tried again and again, the door giving more each time until finally it burst open to a swell of water and a downpour the likes of which I had never seen. The current moved fast enough to sweep the truck toward an embankment to my right. I had to hurry if I was going to get Kiefer out. Maybe I’d get the driver. He shouldn’t have to pay for James’ moronic move.

I extended the claws on my feet and plopped into the thigh-high water. Every muscle burned as I fought the current; I used the claws on my hands to help me grip the side of the truck. Leverage was all that would save me from washing away. I reached the corner and approached the passenger side with more resolve than I’d ever used. The door sat slightly ajar, Kiefer’s body limp against it. The blood odor was stronger now. If I hurried, I could reach him, but where the hell was I going to take him? There was nothing around except barely-standing trees. That would have to be it. I’d have to treat him like a kill and drag him into the safety of the trees.

Another jolt hit when my fingers had barely grasped the door handle. The other transport truck collided with ours, forcing it sideways against the fallen tree responsible for our crash. I heard Sky curse. I’d try to reach him as soon as I guaranteed Kiefer’s safety. If Kiefer died, then the hope of ever reaching Vincent died with him. At least now I could use the force of the current to pry open the door. Combined with my body weight, the door creaked open and Kiefer’s limp body fell into my arms. Blood drizzled down his face from a gash in his forehead. He was breathing, though. “Wake up,” I said. “Please wake up. I need you to get through this.”

The Editors said...

There was no earsplitting boom, no earthquake, no signs from above that this was the end. Hayden was merely walking from his campsite in a small clearing in the woods to a brook a dozen yards away. Then he heard it. It was a small, buzzing, whistle of a sound he would have dismissed it as one of the millions of insects that fill the forest in July, but he felt it sting before he could and then the sharp piercing, burning pain in his left shoulder. His body shuddered from the impact. Dazed, he looked down to the source of the pain. He was bleeding. There was a small hole the blood was trickling out of. Then he remembered the noise right before the buzzing. He had thought that it was some old truck backfiring on the winding path locals used as a road, but then didn’t everyone think that gunfire was an auto backfiring when there was no reason to think it was a gun?

“He should be somewhere around here,” Hayden heard from the other side of the brook. Looking carefully he could see a group of hunters coming towards him.

That’s funny, it’s not hunting season, he thought.

Suddenly, the hunters caught sight of him. The one in the front started to raise his rifle, aiming at Hayden.

Run, run, run!

It was like the world was in slow motion and his legs didn’t get the message yet. Finally they caught up with his brain and he was running. He dodged around trees, jumped over fallen logs and weaved around hoping that they couldn’t follow. He could hear them crashing thru the underbrush. His only hope was if they didn’t know these woods as well as he did. There was a house on the edge of forest. If he could just get there he would have guns to fight back, a phone to call the cops and materials to stop the bleeding until he could make it to the hospital.

There was a small clearing he had to cross to get to the house. To go around it would mean climbing a steep hill or fording a river. He would just have to be fast. He started sprinting across it.

“There!”

The men started firing at him as he zigzagged.

Halfway there. . . almost, almost.

He hit the tree line as the bark exploded off the tree not 2 feet away from him. He could hear his followers go back to chasing him. It was too late, he would be at the house in 5 minutes, he could already see the light past the trees.

“Help!”

He left the trees for good. The back door of the house was opening. A middle aged man stepped out onto the porch and leveled his gun towards Hayden’s chest.

Claudie said...

Cal’s forehead creased into three thick lines and his blue eyes went wide. His ragged breath stopped short and his plump cheeks turned a dangerous hue.

“Has your heart finally given up?” Larryn asked.

“No, but it very much wants to. How frequent is it for Dathirii house guards to venture out of the tower with their shiny heavy plate on?”

Larryn turned around without answering. Halfway down the stairs was a tall blonde man with a ceremonial Dathirii plate. He was taking the steps two-by-two, trying to be as discrete as possible, but there was no one else between them. Their eyes met and the guard jumped downward, wolfing down the stairs three steps at a time. For someone in plate, he was awfully quick and well-balanced.

"No, no, no...” He shoved the squashes in Cal’s hands and sprinted off. He heard one of them crash on the stone bridge and explode, only to be crushed under heavy booted steps. Cal let out an indignant exclamation as he was pushed aside by the Dathirii. He was so close behind him!

Larryn didn’t dare to look back. In a chase across Isandor's narrow bridges, he could not afford distractions. Any step out of line and he would fall, crashing on another archway, many floors below. How could the guard be so fast when wearing plate? He was nimble and confident, unafraid to slip. Larryn knew he was no match.

He heard a sword come out of its sheath, a few paces behind. His heart skipped a beat and he stumbled. Fear gripped his stomach, twisting it. A false step could mean his life. He was losing control. He needed an escape route now. Larryn took the first bridge branching left, and ran top speed for the tower at the end of it. He could hear the guard’s breath and imagined his face, red and tensed by the effort. The tower was right there. He could climb down. He must.

His hand reached for the wall, which was smooth and slick under his crooked fingers. No handholds! He glanced at the bridge. One floor below; possible. He leaned forward, his feet spreading for the jump. The air sizzled as long double-edged sword sliced it, stopping an inch before his neck. Larryn backed away, unable to leap off. On the other side, the next archway was three floors below.

“Don’t even think of it.”

Lorel Clayton said...

He has Brian.
Shawn was on his knees, clutching the note, not knowing how he got there. Maybe he’d followed his heart to the ground.

“I’m sorry,” Lori said, already mourning.

There was nothing to decide anymore. He couldn’t run. Some things were more important than survival. Some things were the point of it all. “Go back to California,” Shawn said. “Stay safe.”

“No.”

“I’m going after him.”

“I know, but…no. I’m coming with you.”

He climbed behind the wheel of the Datsun, and she got in beside him. He imagined giving her a knockout punch and leaving her in the parking lot, but it was easier to visualize her socking him right back.

“Drive,” she said. “He can’t be too far ahead.”

They could argue on the road. He peeled out, wincing at the squeal and stench of rubber on asphalt. That had to be against some traffic law.

Lori studied the killer’s map. “Take the 445.”

“It’s faster?”

“If you break the speed limit.” She pushed down on his knee, gunning the accelerator.

They cut through the edge of the city and headed north. The main highway gave way to a dirt road that ran alongside rusted train tracks. A cloud of dust billowed behind the car, some of the grit making its way through closed air vents.

The sickening reality of what he was doing washed over him. He didn’t want to die. He eased off the gas, but she pushed his knee down again and said, “Don’t stop.”

“You sound calm.”

“If we’re doing this, we’re doing it.”

“How?” He couldn’t think clearly.

“Ideally, we arrive first and catch the bastard unprepared. I doubt that’s going to happen. He’s smart.”

“What else can we do?”

“Kill him,” Lori said.

Shawn didn’t blanch this time. “I brought one of Jason’s guns with me. It’s in the back.”

“Good. Of course, he’ll be trying to kill us too, and he’s had more practice.”


Zenobia was a place where three dirt roads met.

“This is it?” he asked.

“I guess so.” She checked the map. “Just a spot in the desert somebody decided to name.” They got out of the car and stared at the immense stretch of sickly grass and dull sagebrush.

“Maybe we took a wrong turn?”

Lori grunted. He thought she sounded especially frustrated at getting them lost, but a moment later, he heard the echo of the gunshot. Red blossomed along her bicep. She clutched the wound and dropped to the ground.

“Lori!”

“Get down,” she hissed.

He crouched next to her. “You’re hurt.”

Another bullet ricocheted off the front fender.

“It’ll be okay.” Blood continued to seep from beneath her hand.

“Stop saying that about everything!”

She looked him in the eyes, and he saw her fear, the sweat beaded on her skin. “Let’s get out of here,” she said.

Was she making him choose? He put his hand over hers to help staunch the flow. “I can’t.”

sue laybourn said...

I am under 138 years of age and here's mine:

Grace huddled against him when the horses were led in. The commentator handed over to the track announcer as the gates opened and fifteen horses sprang into action. It was hard to find Allonby among the crowd while they shuffled for position before the track rose slightly. The track looked more like a smooth green carpet and the horses hooves threw up clumps of turf when they pounded around a long, sweeping curve, now stretched out in a line two or three deep. Grace leaned forward and spotted Allonby about halfway down the field. Billy had him tucked in behind one of the favorites and the colt had settled into an easy rhythm. There was some barging and bumping at the front of the field and the frontrunner began to drop back.

Grace watched Billy, still using hands and heels while he tracked the favorite when he pulled out to run towards the front. The leading group was falling apart and Allonby was trailing the favorite stride for stride. Grace could see what Billy was up to. He was waiting for a gap, as the favorite would move out to overtake the failing frontrunners. On cue, it did, a gap appeared and Billy moved Allonby into it and picked up his stick when the field crossed the dirt track before entering the final two hundred yard straight. He showed the whip to the colt once. Allonby lowered his head and quickened, finding space between the flagging leaders. The favorite began to inch in from its outside position and fell into stride alongside Allonby. They galloped like mirror images of each other. Billy was bent low over Allonby’s neck as he pushed him on. The colt’s ears were pinned back against his head while he eyed his challenger.

Grace, dimly aware that Christopher was rubbing her shoulders, felt like she was riding the race. In her mind she was pushing him on, hands and heels when they passed the final furlong pole. The rest of the field was stretched out behind them when the two colts pulled ahead, as they approached the finishing line. She watched Billy finally pick up the whip and give the colt one decisive slap on his hindquarters. Allonby surged forward, ahead by a nose but the other horse began to battle back, and another runner, finding a second wind began to come up on the wide outside when the finishing line loomed into view. The announcer couldn’t make up his mind, he kept alternating names, for every inch the outside horse took, Allonby stole another and, when they crossed the finishing line, it was virtually impossible to tell them apart.

Deepa said...

UNDER THE SUN
Romance/Drama

Chase Sequence

The road was deserted and only 2 cars passed by me as I waited on the rock. It was 11:10 when I saw a man across the road. He was coming towards Sligo and not from it.

I could just about notice his blonde hair under the cap. I gave a low whistle, and he responded. The hair on my body stood up. My emotions were awakening.

"Howdy!" he said cheerily as he came towards me, his breath reeking of alcohol from even that far. His face got clearer as he approached and I could make out his blue eyes and the deep scar on his forehead.

The smile on his face disappeared suddenly and it was replaced with a frown.

I wasn't sure if I should smile at him. Derek always did, but Derek never dealt with such low lying people. That was Patrick's job. How would Patrick have encouraged him?

As his frown got more evident, I took the risk and smiled at him. He froze. Oh Oh! Maybe Patrick never smiled afterall. I dropped my smile and tried looking at him angrily instead. But that didn't help either.

We stood staring at each other for 10 seconds and then he did the unthinkable.

He fled! He turned around and ran!

Behind me I heard the sound of a car engine starting up. The flood lights fell in front of me as I stared at the running figure's back. And I ran too, ran behind him. Edward passed by me in the car and caught up with blondie who de-routed. He jumped across the divider and ran across to the other side into the trees. I followed not more than few seconds behind. I was gaining on him with every leap.

Edward zoomed ahead to find a break in the divider.

I ran through the trees, keeping him in constant sight. Just a few more strides... I flung myself on him when I closed our distance. We rolled on the mud until I pinned him on the ground. Both my hands firm on his neck. I tightened my grip and I heard him choke.

Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain in my arm and I howled. Blood poured out of my left arm and I grabbed it with my right. That was enough for Blondie to escape.

I removed the knife he had stabbed into my arm and threw it away. I focused on the running figure again and went after it. The pain; secondary already.

I could see lights ahead, we were reaching the highway. Had Blondie parked his car there? My pace doubled and I gained on him again. He shot a quick glance back at me, his eyes frightened, and pushed himself forward onto the highway.

Ted Cross said...

From my first novel
(note that where you see the word 'I' it is supposed to be in italics):

Midas snapped his eyes open, his mind fogged with sleep. Is it my time for watch already? He focused his eyes and saw the red moon overhead to the south. It was only midnight; he had a few more hours for sleep. What woke me? He listened carefully. He heard some soft snoring, but nothing else. Even the wind was gone.

In the faint light of the ebbing fire, he saw his breath puff out above him and was suddenly filled with fear. It’s summer; it’s not cold enough to see my breath!

He wanted to move quickly but found that he couldn’t. He shivered as he sat up. He looked to his left and saw the silhouette of Ismar sitting on a log, his hand resting on the pommel of his sword.

He thought for a second about rolling back into the blankets and trying to go back to sleep, but his mind refused to let go of the oddity of the cold. He decided to go speak to Ismar. He breathed several times into his palms to warm them, and then pushed himself to his feet. He carefully placed one foot in front of the other so as not to step on any of his companions. When he reached Ismar he knelt down next to him.

“Ismar,” he whispered. He reached out and placed a hand on Ismar’s shoulder, then snatched it back as if burned. He’s cold as ice! A layer of white frost coated Ismar’s face; his eyes stared straight ahead as though nothing was wrong.

Midas leapt up and whirled around, staring into the woods. He saw nothing. He knew he should be yelling for his companions to wake up, but his throat wouldn’t work. He stumbled backward and tripped over someone’s leg. He heard a slurred grumble of complaint. When he sat up again he froze and his heart leapt into his throat.

Standing in a circle about ten paces from the edge of the clearing were white spectral figures. Beyond the first figures was rank upon rank of others standing in perfect silence, glowing with some kind of inner light.

The breath he’d been holding exploded outward in a great plume. He panted and reached for his sword, only to recall that he’d unbuckled his belt for the night. He looked helplessly over at his blankets.

When he looked at the ghosts again, Midas saw that they were closer now. They didn’t appear to be moving, yet they now stood five paces beyond the edge of the clearing. He wanted to shout warnings but his throat still refused to work.

Panicked now, Midas looked up and saw the specters a mere pace beyond the perimeter of the camp. His eyes lit on the frozen form of Ismar, then lowered to see the blanketed forms of his sons. Nooooooooooo!

A fire raged inside his breast as he imagined his sons’ faces rimed with frost. His breath caught and he found his voice: “Ware! Ware!”

Ted Cross said...

Oops, I guess his internal thoughts don't always have 'I'. Anyhow, I hope it isn't too hard to see where the internal dialogue was supposed to be italicized.

Joanna van der Gracht de Rosado said...

Thanks for the opportunity. 500 suspenseful words coming up...

Stary, Stary Night

His bleary blue eyes snap wide open... will Michael remember he's in Mexico? Five bells ring out and ah-ah-ah yes… I know he feels relieved to know his memory is intact.

Peering through the louvered window he realizes the shadows have snaked fully down the crumbling compound wall and he heaves himself out of the hammock. The aroma of shellfish blistering on a hot grill awakens his appetite. But, nah – he can’t really eat in this heat. He uncaps a cold Corona instead.

Growing up in California, Michael learned street Spanish and he uses it to tell curious townspeople that he and his daughter Janet are traveling in search of a place to call home. If asked when his wife will be joining them; he simply says, “She is out of the picture.” An uncomfortable silence follows but the locals smile anyway.

On Sunday, a neighbor said, “Such a sweet little girl." In the next sentence, Señora Sonia invited Janet to her daughter’s birthday party, just two days and two doors away.

He needs go for the girl in an hour’s time. He sighs whenever he thinks about his tiny, timid six-year-old. Here, no one knows what she’s been through – what they’ve been through during the past year. This afternoon, for the first time in months he hasn’t needed to worry about her. She is in the neighbor’s happy haven of a home and Michael hopes the regrettable incident will begin to blur. He prays that today will re-start her interrupted childhood. He’s wiped. Perhaps in this place, he too will regain his former confidence and calm.

Hard to say. As he does several times every day, he again asks himself what cosmic mistake made his family the victims of this complete deviation from normalcy? Why did Connie do what she’d done? What drove her to such totally unexpected behavior?

Showered, shaved and dressed in light kakis with a matching short sleeved cotton shirt, Michael looks ready to go. No longer young but still decades away from old age, I know he wonders about Sonia… It is then he senses the familiar but out-of-place fragrance. He sniffs again – gone. Jesus! He’s conjured up Connie’s perfume… He loathes the cloying and sticky sweet “Eau du Printemps.”

Moving quickly he slams the screen door open and lurches into the sandy street. A thousand tears welling, the inky sky reminds him of a favorite Don McLean song. “Stary, stary night / Paint your palette blue and grey…” Michael can’t resist turning back to the house. There’s a silhouette in the window…

Seeing my hands pressed against the glass causes Michael to hyperventilate. If he’d not seen me for a century, he’d recognize the tilt of my breasts and the delicate curve from neck to shoulder. He asks, what on this cursed earth, am I doing in San Blas? How long have I been here? How will he keep me away from Janet?

The Zuccini said...

Uncle Mason’s so fat I might as well have me an elephant running through the house. The kitchen cabinets rattle open. A shelf falls and a bag of flour lands on Laura’s head. It’s so old it’s got weevils in it and an unhappy spider crawls down her nose. That sends Laura to shrieking, “Oh my God, Oh my God!” Uncle Mason comes back around the side of the house, firing his gun. Instinctively I throw Laura to the floor which is lucky ‘cus the next bullet comes through the side of the house and goes out the cabinet under the sink.
Things is getting way out of hand and what if Tyler’d been around? Suffice to say, I’m pissered than pissed. I jump to my feet. Laura pleads for me to stay put. Tears streak her floured cheeks and a weevil slides down, dangles on her chin then lands on the floor writhing. She grabs my hand desperately. Mason fires his gun again. That makes it five shots. Means he’s only got one more until he reloads.

“I’ll be right back,” I says.

Anonymous said...

She exited onto McLean and got into the left turn lane, waiting for the light.

Glancing in her rearview, she noticed a black SUV a few cars back. "It was a black SUV that pulled in behind Bill and Sherry and shot up their car," she thought. The light changed and Kelli made her turn.

She watched the SUV make the turn and speed up, moving into the right lane and passing the other cars. Kelli saw that the light ahead was ready to change, and sped up. The SUV picked up speed and ran the red, causing two other cars to collide.

Kelli was forced to slow down by the traffic ahead, and the SUV pulled in behind her. Her heart began to race, and so did her mind. There were too many people on the streets, and she knew if there was gunfire, innocent civilians could get hurt.

She made a quick right and sped up. The SUV followed, squealing its tires as it made the turn. Kelli raced past the houses, sounding her horn as she approached intersections. She knew exactly where to lead them, Tibbetts Brook Park. She knew that it would be closing soon, and that would minimize casualties.

Kelli checked her rearview and could see the SUV closing. She glanced at the speedometer and saw she was already pushing fifty. She slowed and made a sharp right and punched the accelerator. She could hear the SUV make the turn a few seconds later.

Her destination was still several blocks away, and the driver of the SUV was pushing it. She saw her next turn coming up and took it, tires screeching on the pavement.

Glancing in her side mirror, she could see the SUV skid into the turn. She pushed the gas pedal to the floor, knowing that her next turn would be coming up soon.

The SUV was closing again, and she knew she couldn’t let the driver catch up. She saw her turn ahead and pushed her car to its limits. She slowed, made a left and punched it again.

She passed the High School track and the road began to curve, forcing her to slow. The SUV closed on her and rammed her from behind. The car lurched forward, and she fought for control. There were still houses around, and Kelli knew she had to make it to the park.

She pressed her foot on the accelerator and the car leapt forward, leaving the SUV behind. She crossed Midland Avenue and entered the park. The road took a sharp curve to the right and she took it wide, maintaining her speed.

The SUV closed again, and Kelli decided it was time to put an end to the chase. She slammed on the brake and spun the wheel to the right, spinning the car sideways and coming to a stop in the middle of the road. She jumped out and drew her Glock.

The SUV screeched to a stop and three men jumped out.

khoss1@att.net

Ryan Z Nock said...

A gunshot explodes in the jungle night. Four men, rifles in hand, tromp out of the brush and into the headlights of our wrecked car. Gabi, already mostly hidden by the vehicle, ducks down and looks at me, but I try not to react, hoping the men might not have noticed her.

They certainly don’t look like the Amazonians I’d expect. Bare-chested, yes, and burnished bronze skin with multiple layers of stone- and metal-beaded necklaces, but they wear Hawaiian print shorts and brand-name basketball shoes.

The biggest of the group wears an old bluetooth earpiece, and he actions the bolt of his rifle, then levels it at me. Another spots Gabi and raises his rifle at her.

“Pare!” Gabi shouts. “Vamos dar-lhe o que quiser!”

The second rifleman yells to the bluetoothed leader. He in turn barks something at us.

“Não,” Gabi says. “Ele é um Americano.”

The bluetooth leader spits, then walks up and shoves me.

“Jaime,” Gabi says, “he says to do what they want, or they’ll shoot us.”

“What the fuck do they want?”

I hear a diesel engine approaching from up the road to the left. We all turn to look, and maybe a half mile away a white truck, trailer bed laden with lumber, takes a wide curve toward us. The natives start yelling.

Gabi says, “We have to go with them.”

“No.”

“They have guns!”

I glance back at the truck. It’ll be on us in less than a minute.

“We jump on the truck.”

“But-.”

“We can do this!”

Bluetooth steps up to grab me, and I bat his hand away. He yells, and the other three men take aim at me.

“Stop!” Gabi cries.

I creep toward the other side of the road, trying to use Bluetooth as cover against the firing squad. Bluetooth lunges after me. The truck begins blaring its horn, and the driver guns his engine.

Gabi breaks for the road, but one gunman grabs her hair and yanks her back. I take a step to help, but Bluetooth whips the barrel of his rifle at the side of my head. I duck, then grab the rifle, but he wrenches it out of my grip, and then smashes his elbow and the rifle stock into my face. My right eye goes blind with the hit, and headlights blind me from the left.

Bluetooth jumps back as the truck roars between us. I throw myself into a run down the road to the right. A rifle barks, his or one of the others I can’t tell, but the massive trailer blocks their view. I jump and grab at a yellow cable on the trailer bed, ram my foot onto a blurring piece of metal.

The retort of another rifle blasts in my ears. Pain sears in my hip, and wet heat smears across my thigh. I yell to Gabi, but I can hear her screams for help fading into the night as I’m carried away at forty miles an hour.

Heather B said...

Excerpt from my WIP,
A LIFE IN DEATH.

Turning up outside Vince’s was a shock. The stone building was shadowed, dark. I could barely make out the mangled face of the stone angel as I passed.

Despite it being a surprise to myself, Vince was clearly expecting me. The door had been left open and though I entered without hesitation, it was in these stone walls I expected to meet my end.

My footsteps echoed through the halls as I made my way to the room I knew he’d be. The things I carried, bumped against my thigh.

As I walked, I numbed my body to all feeling, knowing that every footstep I took condemned either Liz or myself. A tear rolled down my face and leaked into the corner of my mouth. I tasted the salt, causing a lump to rise in my throat. It was so familiar, so real; I wanted to hold onto it forever. Knowing it was over though, for at least one of us, nearly made me stop walking.

I pushed on, staring ahead, my arms stiff by sides, one hand clamped around my gifts as my feet led the way. I abolished all thought to help me cope as I followed the twists and turns of the narrow tunnels, the only sounds came from my footsteps and the things I held as they knocked against my leg.

My steady movement came to a halt as the base of a door entered my vision. Slowly, I raised my eyes to take in the carved metal surface, realising I was here. It was over.

“And it is within these walls the devil’s fire breathes,” I said without thinking. I moved my arm behind my back, hiding what I carried from sight before I pushed open the door and walked inside.

The room was as long and dark as I remembered. Vince still sat atop his throne but beside it, standing as still as stone was Blaine. His arms were tied behind his back, the other end of the rope in Vince’s clutches – I couldn’t make out his expression but I could tell his eye patch was back in place.

I stopped when I reached the middle of the room, my face blank as Vince stared down at me. I wanted to launch myself at the monster, free Blaine but instinct held me back and instead I simply met his gaze.

We didn’t speak; but just as I was readying myself to attack footsteps echoed from the darkness behind his throne. Red eyes caught my attention and another person materialised. It was Ashley.

He walked deliberately forwards, until he stood a couple of feet away.
“So…” He leered. “You managed to avoid my brothers?”


I looked him straight in the eyes as a smile twisted my face. “Oh no…” I breathed. “We had a hell of a time. And look,” I finally withdrew my arm, “I brought them to watch me finish you too.”

And high in the air I held up their heads.

sherrie_super said...

GAMES OF TRANCE
Genre: Suspense

Jeffrey, pale and shaking, was still sitting on the grubby floor, his legs outstretched, his back resting against the dark paneled wall. He turned desperate eyes toward Cadence. "What are you looking for?" he asked.

"Whatever I can find," she said. "These obviously aren't nice people. Shouldn't they have guns or knives hidden away someplace?"

"You don't believe in guns," Jeffrey reminded her.

"Oh, if I found one, I'd believe."

But chances were looking slim. She was running out of places to look. Desperately, she tugged off the oily bedding and flung it in a heap on the floor. The mattress was stained and dirty. What kind of yacht was this anyway? She lifted the mattress half-way up and gave a light rap on the wooden frame below it. Hollow. Her pulse quickened.

Shoving aside the mattress, she ran her fingers along the frame's edges. On the far side, she found a latch. With a silent prayer, she lifted the panel and peered into the coffin-sized compartment. "Hmm," she said. "That might work."

Jeffrey stood. "What?"

Inside the compartment, she saw rope, a jumble of life preservers, and something else. She reached inside and pulled it out. "Is this a flare gun?"

"How should I know?" Eyes wide, Jeffrey stared at it. "Put it back." Lowering his voice, he glanced at the door. "Before we get caught."

Cadence turned the gun over in her hand. "Can you really shoot someone with one of these things?"

"What are you? Crazy?" He thrust out his hand, palm up. "Give it to me."

"No," she said. "If you want one, go find your own."

His voice was a harsh whisper. "If they see that, we're dead."

"If we don't fight them off, we're dead anyway." She inspected the gun, trying to figure it out. Point and shoot? Was it even loaded?

"See?" Jeffrey said, making a grab for it. "You don't even know what you're doing."

She lunged backward, holding the gun out of reach. "Neither do you."

"I do too," he said, making another grab.

With her free hand, she pushed him away. "Stop it!"

The boat was rocking from the force of the waves. Jeffrey stumbled. "No, you stop it!" His eyes were wild now. "You won't be seeing my head in a bucket!"

She recalled their captor's threat. "Don't you mean a cooler?"

"Bucket, cooler – you think it matters once the chopping starts?" Again, he advanced on her. "You're trying to get me killed!"

"No," she said, giving him another shove. "I'm trying to save your sorry ass."

With a guttural moan, he plowed head-first into her. She slammed against the wall. The flare gun went off, launching an explosion of color and smoke into the small room. The pile of bedding burst into flames. In a heartbeat, the flames jumped from the bedding pile to the upholstered easy chair, and then snaked up the paneled wall.

Jeffrey threw himself against the opposite wall. "Look what you did!" he screamed.

Jeff Sinclair said...

Behind me, a gruesome sight materialized: the gathered starved had become a fusion of men, women, and children, bodies knotted together in every position you can imagine. Must’ve been twenty feet high by ten feet wide, with limbs coalesced, molded where required into massive hands and feet, arms and legs, and as it lumbered toward me, craniums were crushed and bloody grey matter was squished out of mouths, noses, and ears. Arms were snapped, fingers were grinded into dust, and – as God is my witness – the people who comprised this monstrosity were weeping.

“Well,” I said. “Guess that’s where I’m gonna start.”

“Ya think?”

The blindfold allowed me to see the complex circulatory network of the abomination. Countless hearts and lungs, brains and kidneys were scattered about, pumping and expanding before me. And the power of the blindfold highlighted these organs now with an orange glow to aid me, showing me quite precisely where to strike.

I felt something warm on my side and looked down, saw that a long, skeletal arm had shot out of the horror. Its sharp, boney fingers had gripped my waist, pierced my flesh, and I hadn’t even seen it coming; just felt it; just looked down and saw the arm attached to me. The pain was unimaginable; a fireball pinballing in my stomach, a sickening heat searing nerves I didn’t know existed.

I screamed for God and the voices responded: “Oh, God!” they shrieked. “Oh, God!” A shrill cacophany, like an out-of-tune orchestra, and then the voices began to laugh, finding my predicament funny.

This, of course, pissed me off.

I wrenched the hand out of my side, pressed it to the ground underfoot, ran up along the arm and pushed off into a high somersault. With a painful cry, I brought the blade down, splitting the coarse patchwork of the thing’s back with Japanese steel. It began to turn, but I turned with it, lunging and thrusting, exploding as many organs as I could before a pair of skeletal arms burst forth, gripping my waist, ripping into my wound. I swore, cursed it to Hell, sliced the arms away and went back to work, dancing around my target, switching to gedan-no-kamae, parrying the arms as they came.

But I missed one.

The damned things were quick, catching me off guard, sweeping my feet from under me. The back of my head struck the concrete and I blacked out, but heard the persistent echoes of Kayla yelling from the sword: Get up! Amanda, get up! And I came to several times, but the disorientation was too great as I craned my head to look up, watching helplessly as the horror dragged itself toward me, dozens of skeletal rippers curled and tense and hovering like scorpion tails, poised to strike.

(from a WIP: "Heaven Forbid")

Keith Popely said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Keith Popely said...

Max dragged the parking lot attendant’s body into his little booth just as a police car whipped into the driveway.
It was Mary. She got out, hand on her weapon.
Max stepped out of the booth and said, "Hello."
"Your alarm has been activated," she answered.
"What?"
"Who’s inside?" she asked.
"The bank manager."
"Has anyone come out in the last few minutes?"
"Just employees,” Max said. “No guys in ski masks."
“The doors locked?”
“Yes, Ma’am.”
Mary turned and looked around: all in order.
"Okay,” she said. “Let’s check it out."
Max held out a hand as if to say, “After you.” But Mary said, “Go ahead.”
He shrugged and walked across the lot and up the bank’s front walk, Mary a few steps behind and to one side of him.
At the doors, she came up beside him. He towered over her. She leaned in, shading her eyes, trying to see through the tinted glass.
Max held a hand to his eyes, as if also looking. But he wasn’t. He was staring at the side of Mary’s face.
She turned, catching him.
Max grinned, busted.
“You’re pretty,” he said.
"Another unit will here any moment,” she answered.
"But you're alone now, ain't ya?" he said, still grinning.
Mary stepped back and jerked out her gun.
But it was already too late. Max punched her in the mouth, grabbed her vest with both hands and rammed her into the glass door. They crashed through together and landed on the floor, Mary scrambling to get out from under him.
Max ripped the gun out of her hand as Mary pushed to her feet. But he kept hold of her wrist. He shoved her against a desk, bending her over backward, and pressed the barrel of the gun into her neck.
She snatched the baton off her belt, snapped it open and smashed his wrist. He dropped the gun. Mary dove for it, but Max yanked her up like a rag doll. She kicked the gun and it spun away under the desks.
She bashed at his head with the steel baton.
Max took the blows with one arm and turned her around, bent her over the desk, grabbed her handcuffs and locked her arms behind her back.
He wrapped an arm under Mary's chin and wrenched her head back. But instead of breaking her neck, he mashed his mouth down on hers.
She got a hand on his balls and twisted as hard as he could.
Max howled in pain and shoved her to the floor.
He took a step towards her, murder written in his eyes, but glanced at his watch.
He stopped. And grinned at her. He spun and walked to the door, looked out, then pushed it open.
Mary said, “Hey.”
He turned.
Mary looked him in the eyes: I will find you.
Max winked and walked out.

Cheryl said...

The flash of white invading the space between the looming buildings was the only warning. The truck lurched out of the alley directly in front of her.

Toni pulled her eyes from the GPS and gasped. She dug her heels into the floor as she braced herself against the steering column. “Shit!”

The car ground to a halt within inches of the truck’s rear end. The bleating of her horn underscored the adrenaline coursing through her veins, but failed to move the reckless driver.

“Holy fucking Christ! Do you have a death wish?” Toni glared at the unmoving vehicle blocking her path. Her initial fright burned into anger as the man rolled down his window and waved his cigar at her, thanking her for letting him in.

Toni swore at him through gritted teeth then checked her phone. She forced herself to breathe deeply in a deliberate attempt to relax her tense jaws. The green dot moved westward at a steady pace—still in the park—but further away from her. She muttered another curse at the moronic son of a half-wit sea slug; the last thing she needed was the hassle of an accident. She relaxed her grip on the wheel and wiggled the numbness from her toes.

Toni was about to take her foot off the brake when the rear of her hatchback imploded in a crunch of metal and tinkling glass. The car bounced forward, tires skidding, coming to rest less than an inch off the bumper of the white delivery truck.

Toni squealed as debris pelted her skin. The car’s passenger safety system deployed; silk and powder exploded everywhere. Horns, swearing, and strains of U2 surrounded her as she fought against the stifling safety devices.

Rough hands yanked open the driver’s side door. The airbag deflated and Toni found herself staring at a bearded face. All doubt as to the identity fled as the aroma of cigars wafted into her vehicle.

“Jesus! She is hurt!” The truck driver pulled his head from the car. “Call an ambulance!”

“What?” Toni wrestled with her seatbelt. “Shit! No!” She scrambled out of the car, stumbled, and fell into the driver’s arms. “No ambulance! I’m fine.” She dusted off her shirt and tucked a wisp of hair behind her ear to prove her point.

“Mary, mother of God, you are not fine!”

“Damn it! Yes, I am!”

“You require medical assistance.” He tried to guide her away from the wreck.

Toni gasped, dodged his grasp, and lunged back into the car. She groped blindly between the pedals, searching for her cell phone. “Yes!” she cheered as her fingers wrapped around the slender object.

“Get out of there!” he cried. “Dear Lord, but you are crazy!”

“I’m fine!” Toni replied as she tried to crawl backwards across the driver’s seat.

“Did you hit your head? You must have hit your head. How can you not see you are injured?”

Mystery Robin said...

Genre: YA Steampunk


"She's too scared," Johnny said. Let me take her.”

Lee nodded and shot back up with a burst of fire. Johnny held out his hand and said, “We really must hurry. The bad men are coming and I need to get you out of here.” She shook her head. He really couldn’t blame her, but now he didn’t need his distance lenses to see that Fleury was coming. He was just a hundred yards away at best.

“We’ve got to go!” She shook her head again. He thought about stunning her, but that would make it awfully hard to gain her trust again. Plus, it seemed like the kind of thing the bad guys did. Instead, he took her by the hand and pulled her into him so she could see the horses.

“You don’t want to go with them! Do you?” Tears streamed down her eyes. She shook her head no, but it backfired. She curled into a ball at his feet. He tried to lift her up, but she was dead weight. And then it was too late. The horses were upon them. They drew up in a circle surrounding them. The little girl scrambled to her feet and buried her face in Johnny's coat.

“We have an intruder from the East, and a thief at that!” Fleury said, drawing a pistol.

“What do you want with this girl.” Johnny growled.

“What does that matter? She’s mine!”

“I paid for her,” Johnny said.

“Everything here belongs to me.”

“Not anymore, it doesn't. Those days are over.”

“You think you’re the hero, do you? You think the West will bow to the East? That he cheapjacks will rule the Lords and Ladies? I bowed to that dowager queen for too many years to ever bow my head again. Those are the days that are over. Sieze him!”

Johnny had just a moment to react. He heard the man from behind dismount. He waited till he was within a hair's grasp of taking hold of his collar, letting them think they’d won, letting the others relax just a smidgeon. Then he held the girl tight and flew. He must have burned the man behind him, because he heard cursing. Then he heard bullets whiz past his ears. He saw lasers shoot into the trees - so they’d outlawed the ray guns but clearly were above that law. He felt something stinging and hot on his thigh. But he held tight to the girl and set her down on the platform. Instead of letting go, he held fast and tumbled into the interior of the ship, pulling her along with him.

“Pull up the platform, get us out of here!” Johnny yelled.

“On our way!” Captain Lee yelled back. “Don’t you worry, isn’t a ray gun made that could sink this ship, uh, so to speak.” He fired the propulsion engines and cranked the wheel and the Queen's Eagle turned her nose back into the wind. But she didn’t move.

Dina said...

genre: YA fantasy starring shapshifters
title: Up for Grabs
(NB the conversation in the water is mental telepathy, but the italics doesn't show here)

We pushed off and I could feel the rapids around us, but I couldn’t focus on them. My head was muddled. I turned and watched the rocks as they sped by.
“June, wake up, will you, we can’t afford to have someone sleeping in the raft, you could fall out,” yelled Lars as we went vertical.
I tried to focus on the water, on the current and feel where we should go, but I couldn’t. We went through a violent rapid, one where the water seemed to be trying to double back and catch itself and then the raft tilted. We were close to a sheer rock face and I could tell that the raft wasn’t going to be able to right itself, but I couldn’t react. The water became a tourbillion beneath us and then everything flipped.
I faintly heard everyone scream as the water closed around us. I felt myself limply being pulled down. And then I looked below and saw Fritjof. He was smiling and I could feel his excitement.
“Wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be. Maybe you’re not who they think you are. Doesn’t really matter, does it?” he said in my head as he pulled me down and wrapped his long fingers around my neck and started to squeeze.
I looked at him in a daze and then slowly realized what he was trying to do. I could feel his fingers digging in. My sight blurred as if my eyes had crossed and a wave of power rolled up from deep inside. My body suddenly stiffened and I exploded. I opened my jaws and ripped into Fritjof, dragging him even farther down. Pinning him to the rock bed. Tasting the water and his fear as if both were a delicacy and savoring it before going in for the kill. But something wacked into my side, knocking me away from Fritjof. I howled and turned to see Haakon’s triangular face pressing against mine and knew he was trying to drag me up to the surface, his claws gripping my hide. I shook him off easily and turned to hunt down my prey whose trail I could smell but then Haakon slammed into me again.
“Snap out of it, June,” he growled. “Now.”
I convulsed with a shudder and went limp. Haakon pulled me out of the water and threw me on the ground. He lay half on top of me, gasping heavily for breath.
“Just close your eyes and pretend you’re knocked out,” he said and even his thoughts were broken up by his lack of oxygen.
“But I’m okay. Just tired.”
“Well, a normal person wouldn’t be. You’ve been under there for nearly five minutes. I had to come up several times.”
“But that’s not possible; I didn’t need to breathe…”
“Exactly,” he said and I could feel the others running over. “Just don’t move for now.”

Mel Skinner said...

YA Science Fiction


The monster skirted the spotlight and kept coming closer. I couldn’t think. There wasn’t time.

I turned and began to run from the light as fast as my legs could carry me. I’d never experienced the rush of fleeing towards pitch black before. Any moment I expected to come upon uneven ground and stumble, hurting or possibly knocking myself unconscious. But God, the idea of him touching me gave me one hell of a goose bump outbreak!

I glanced over my shoulder at my pursuer. The deafening strikes of his boots against the floor were like a whip to my spine. They brought the glowing red symbol on his chest and his searing eyes nearer.

Faster! I have to be faster. Another burst of speed propelled me forward.

My lungs burned. My limbs grew heavier, each stride relying more on the momentum I’d built up. This isn’t happening to me. A steady stream of tears chilled the pulsing skin of my neck.


I’m gonna die! I can’t die!

His presence vibrated in my personal space, just out of my line of sight. The heat crawled over me. One of his huge hands grasped for my left arm. His long nails raked my pale skin when he failed to take hold. There was no air to scream. The sharp tearing became acidic agony in a flash.

I thought his next lunge would take me out. I’m going down. Yet I found myself upon the border of a sheer drop. My bare toes grabbed the sharp edge, my body twisted; arms outstretched attempting to prevent the inevitable. And I fell. I coughed out a pitiful scream-squeak. Wind began rushing past me, flapping the nightgown away from my body and cooling my skin.

I looked up to where I’d fallen. Hell, he’s still coming! Through the tangled wisps of my hair I could see him staring. Far more terrifying than any nocturnal predator, he began to descend.


He wouldn’t expect me to kick him in the face. Could I pull it off in midair? Maybe. Yeah, I could… if I didn’t meet up with ground first. Oh my God. How soon ‘till I crash?


Bring it! I needed him.

Free-falling as prey put a weird perspective on everything. Something clicked.


I can be the predator.

Jay Pie said...

I push my way through a group of raucous young men. “Excuse me, excuse me.” Ignoring their disgruntled murmurs, I slip through the beaded curtains separating the party from the dimly lit hallway. Quentin has already made it to the other side, which opens up into a grand foyer with a sweeping staircase. Ducking into a dark bathroom along the corridor, I sneak my head out and watch him ascend the steps and throw a casual glance back. He does not see me.

My heart quickens. He is going upstairs. Where? I know the answer before I even ask myself the question. A bedroom, that is his target. Preferably a master. Where people store their jewelry in plush red boxes on their vanity tables, unlocked. Then they throw a lavish party downstairs, completely oblivious. This is his trick.

He disappears onto the floor above, and I make my move. Tiptoeing up the stairs, I keep my body low and my steps light. I wish I were wearing my sneakers instead of these accursed Oxfords. It is impossible to be silent against these hard wood floors.

Near the top of the stairs, I slowly inch upward to peek into the second floor. It is a vast library, with deep mahogany shelves lined from floor to ceiling with books. But Quentin has already moved on. Gingerly I make my way across this enormous room where another hallway awaits me on the other side. This is the end of the road. I pass a bedroom here, a bathroom there. Each one is dark and empty except for the one at the end, where light splashes across the floor from a partially opened door.

I inch my way forward, hardly daring to breath. It occurs to me that I do not have much of a plan for apprehending Quentin. Jack would be disappointed. Always map out the suspect’s escape path. I can hear it now, his voice rough. Never go into a situation blind. But I am not here for Jack, and this is not a usual case. I am here because Quentin has been stealing things for years, back when we were both at Tarbolton Academy, and I almost had the proof I needed to expose him before his sudden departure.

Almost doesn’t cut it. When I heard he was back, I knew exactly what I needed to do with my summer vacation. The two goals are simple. One: expose him as the thief he is, the thief he's been his entire life. Two: savor the moment when it happens.

Right now, my gut tells me that Quentin is just up ahead in that last room, probably feeling the adrenaline surging through his veins, the pleasurable rush of the job.

This is easier than I ever imagined. The past year must have dulled his edge or left him lazy. Leaving the party so blatantly? Flipping the room light on? What if someone notices the lit room from the outside and investigates?

I, for one, will not complain. One step. Then another. I am close now. I imagine him inside the room, rummaging through gold and glittering jewels. We are only yards apart, separated by wall.

I allow myself a small smile. This has been a long time coming.

Then, I push the door open and burst into the room.

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