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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Jacqui H. said...

The man smiled and pushed away from the wall. His light blue eyes found Mia, and then his smile stretched into a grin, which continued to widen, his lower jaw distending to accommodate multiple rows of jagged teeth, his once handsome features shifting grotesquely, distorting flesh and bone. His tunic and shirt ripped as his body swelled, muscles crawling over his inhumanly magnified frame. He removed the tattered remains of his clothing and threw them aside. Ropes of muscle bulged across his bare chest and shoulders, pushing against taut skin. His crooked hands grew razor sharp claws, but even more unnerving were the blue eyes staring out from beneath his craggy brows. He threw back his head and howled.

Mia gaped at the shape-changer, her heart sinking. She’d hoped she might get through the rest of the day without using magic. Didn’t look like she was going to make it.

Grimm bounded forward and Mia threw herself to the side as his nails dug furrows into the wall behind her. She rolled to her feet, only to dive again to avoid decapitation as he lurched to follow her, jaws snapping shut. She retreated as fast as she could, and then cursed as his clawed hand kept coming, the arm stretching to an impossible length. She somersaulted onto a stack of barrels and stumbled, her limbs suddenly heavy. A glancing blow to the side of her head knocked her into the wall. She tried to erect a shield, but was too dizzy to pull her thoughts together.

Mia frowned. Grimm hadn’t hit her that hard. She ducked as he demolished one of the barrels with a swing of his arm. Her makeshift barricade wasn’t going to last much longer. She struggled for control over her sluggish limbs and mind, to no avail. Casting about for an escape, her gaze fell upon the other mercenaries. She narrowed her eyes at the mage, who had his own eyes closed and was chanting softly.

Mia growled low in her throat as another swipe of Grimm’s arm nearly took her head off. “Right.”

She drew a dagger and hurled it, but not at the shape-changer. The enchanted blade cut smoothly through the mage’s shields before burying itself in his throat. His eyes bulged and the spell died on his lips. He plucked feebly at the knife’s hilt before falling to the ground, where he lay twitching amid bones, rotten vegetables, and papers sticky with blood and the gods knew what other fluids.

Her limbs finally freed, Mia backpedaled as Grimm swung again, but she was too slow. Hot lines of pain traced along her ribcage. She scrambled away and placed her back against the wall, pressing a hand against the wound. Blood seeped through her fingers. Panting, she looked around for an avenue of escape. There was nothing. The shape-changer grunted deep in his chest. It took her a moment to realize he was laughing.

*kristen*isbell* said...

RUSH
Women's Fiction (okay, 'chick lit')

I woke with a start and sat up instantly, a shudder running through me like the one that I get on hearing metal against metal or the crunch of hard ice. Even as my eyes adjusted in the dark, I knew that Jamie wasn’t beside me, that I was alone in his bed.

I’d been holding my breath since I’d been flung back into consciousness and I took a slow breath now, straining to hear something other than the sounds of distant traffic, the ceiling fan above me and my own skipping heartbeat sounding in my ears. I was beginning to think I hadn’t heard it, that Jamie was in his office or reading downstairs, that I should probably go back to sleep when I heard it again. A low whimper followed by an agonising cry. My heart fluttered like a trapped bird in my chest and sent blood coursing through me as I tried to scrape the warm air into my lungs. I kicked off the sheets, put my feet on the ground uncertainly and pulled on Jamie’s CAL t-shirt, still unsure what I was hearing.

Another horrible sound had me running. It was a sharp, desperate note that hung in the air and sent immediate shivers and a cold keenness running through me. It had caused a visceral reaction; it was primal. It told me that what I’d heard, the sound that had woken me so violently, was real. Wherever Jamie was, he was in unimaginable pain.

I padded quickly to the door, a dozen flickering thoughts passing through my sleep-soaked mind and making me freeze in indecision where I’d been all action and urgency seconds before. Jamie’s house sat on the border of two fairly dangerous cities. Crime rates were high and Jamie’s house, with its countless windows and doors to the outside, was so vulnerable that I was pretty sure even I could break into it.

My mind flew to dark places: Jamie had confronted an intruder and been hurt. I searched for half-registered memories of any other noises that my subconscious had picked up before I’d been jarred awake. Nothing. Crouched in the dark, I heard more sounds coming from downstairs: heart-wrenching pleas, a muffled scream, heaving sobs and, finally, another shriek of gut-twisting pain. With a wave of nausea, I flew down the steps two at a time, steeling myself, even as I shook with adrenaline and fear.

It took my eyes a minute to adjust. In the open living room, with the light of the moon slanting through the wooden blinds, I found Jamie. He was huddled with his back to me, pleading with someone. He was clutching his side. Even from where I stood, I could see that his clothes clung to him, damp with perspiration. I forgot everything when I heard him cry out again. The only distinguishable word I could make out in a string of heart-wrenching pleas made me shiver in the dark. Jamie had said, ‘Dad.’

Aleeza said...

I enter the cavernous garage.
“Ah, so you’ve decided at last to grace your presence,” Mika’s booming voice greets me.
“I came to tell you that I’m leaving,” I say. “For good.” The coolness in my voice is shocking; I am horrified inside. There is no such thing as leaving. You either remain a part of the gang till your death, or you die. But after dwelling on it for three agonizing months, I’ve decided I’d rather die.
Except for his beard, Mika’s huge face is almost completely covered with ugly, livid scars. His bald head shines from the dim light bulbs hanging overhead. As always, he is clad in black leather pants and knee-length jacket, and so are the three men behind him. So he knows what I was here for. “If you couldn’t handle this business, why did you enter it?” he asks, no emotion in his voice.
“Christopher,” was my only answer. Christopher is my classmate, the one who introduced me to drugs and its wonders, both monetary and personal. And now they’ll be the reason for my death.
“Christopher,” Mika spits. “You’re a smart kid, Nick. You’d have gone far. It’s too bad.”
An earsplitting scream of agony erupts from my mouth as someone from behind twists both of my hands and binds them together with a prickly metal cord. I gasp as the needles enter my flesh. A huge fist crashes into my face, knocking me down on my front. A boot slams onto the right side of my face, almost sending me into unconsciousness. Blood flows into my mouth. I pray for death, for escape from the much worse terrors that await me.
My hair is grabbed into a fist and yanked, pulling my face up. It is Mika. He has never looked more ominous before, I can see even from my half-closed eyes. Suddenly the front of my face is whacked onto the hard, concrete floor. Bright lights shoot upwards into my eyes, making me dizzy with even more acute pain. Again a fistful of my hair is savagely tugged and my face is battered onto the floor repeatedly. About three feet pound into my body at the same time, over and over. I am turned onto my back, and as I am, my weight sends the spikes of the rope deeper into my wrists, into my veins, into my meat.
Barely able to breathe, I try to lift my body. With torturing struggle, I turn onto my side when my head is smashed onto the floor by another foot. Stinging tears form in my eyes; I feel blood trickling down my forehead.
Then footsteps cause me to open my eyes. From my blurred vision I can see the black mass getting smaller. The huge metal doors are shut, and I can hear distantly keys jingling from outside.
A terrified, helpless moan escapes from me as I realize this is how I am to die.

Nessa J said...

Great contest, Thanks Nathan! This is what I have from my most recent novel called 'Born to Die'.
I concentrate as hard as I can, but I know I will never do what my father wants; I will never lift the orb. I look into my father's desperate brown eyes. Beads of sweat have formed on his brow and his face is flushed.
"I am a yeeod," I say. "I'm so sorry father."
Grasping my shoulders, he pulls me closer. I want to look away from his intense stare, but I'm afraid it would only confirm my guilt. “Listen to me Nayla. You are not a Yeeod don't say that, never say that. No child of mine will be taken, branded and worked to death at the concentration camps.”
Breathing hard I look back at the gold orb. I stare at it willing for it to move, hoping for at least the softest wisp of wind from the open window to help, but nothing happens for a long few minutes. I turn to my father; he is shaking his head, his jaw clenched and his eyes racing.
“Nayla, you must be just nervous. One last time, let me show you.” His voice is hoarse and he lifts his trembling hands and stares hard at the orb.
It lifts easily as if it is meant to fly and stays floating in the air. The orb falls down onto the table and rolls off when a knock is heard on our front door. They are here for me.
“Hide.” He hisses, but I don’t move a muscle.
Goosebumps rise on my bare arms and my wet limp hair slaps against my back like a stone mop, I fear them more than my father fears for me. "No," I say. "I have to face my fears, you taught me that."
“Please Nayla, they will brand you and kill you, please…” he begs. But if I hide they will only kill him and I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. I have to face them.

Mim said...

“Lexy.” The voice was closer, just on the other side of the door. I pressed my ear close and listened.

“Lexy.” Then came a shuffle with a dragging sound, and the smell was so strong I nearly gagged. I pushed my cheek against the cool wood door and counted to ten to focus myself.

“Lexy.” The voice was a little farther away, headed towards the kitchen. I reached down to check for my weapon, even though I knew it wasn’t there. We weren’t allowed to carry weapons inside the compound—only when we went outside hunting.

“Lexy.”

It was time to act, once he hit the kitchen he’d be moving fast, and no one would be ready. I opened my door softly and stuck my head out to look. He was about ten feet away his back towards me in the kitchen door. As he stepped into the kitchen, I stepped into the hall and began running.

I could hear the women talking above the sounds of pots being moved around the kitchen. They were laughing, and I know they were focused on getting my birthday dinner ready. When I reached the door I slammed in, drawing attention towards me. I saw the infected one reach out and grab a knife that was sitting on the counter.

Time slowed as I followed the glint of the knife with my eyes. It came up and towards me, I ducked back and away.

“Lexy,” he laughed and lunged forward. I stepped sideways and spun kicking him full on in the chest, he stumbled backwards raising an arm. The knife came forward, slashing upward and drawing a quick line against my cheek. I could feel it stinging as I reached up and punched him with my left arm. His skin was graying and waxy, I felt part of it adhere to my hand. I tried not to shudder as I kicked again driving him backwards against the wall. I noticed that the fingers on his left hand were black. He held that hand tucked in close to him, so I kicked it.

He screamed and I heard footsteps thudding down the hall behind me. Grunting with satisfaction I kicked again and he dropped to his knees. Then my dad pushed through the door and jumped on top of him knocking him to the ground. Three other men were right behind him. They tied him up and carried him out. Killing him in the kitchen was far too risky, the chance of contamination was too high.
I leaned back against the refrigerator. The room was quiet now, and the women were all staring at me. I wiped my hand on my pants, trying to get rid of the waxy feeling that still lingered there. My other hand went up to my cheek, which was beginning to hurt more. As I looked up I saw the horror and the worry in their eyes. This wasn’t good. Any cut had the chance of being infected while fighting.

dani said...

THE EDGE OF HELL - CRIME FICTION

By the time I climbed out of the pool, I’d decided to give the case my full energy for two weeks.

I headed into the locker room, grabbed the bottle of Listerine out of my gym bag and headed for the sink. Smiling at the red raccoon goggle marks around my eyes, I slugged back a capful of the blue stuff. One, two, three…I gargled out loud while counting the pinpricks in the ceiling tile above my head.

I was only up to ten when something slammed into the back of my skull. I choked on the burning wash that went down the back of my throat as my knees buckled, my eyesight disappeared and I felt myself hit the unforgiving cold tiles beneath me. A pair of big, calloused hands grabbed me under the armpits. I thought for a fleeting moment that I had had a brain aneurism, and I remember thinking, thank God, someone’s here to help me.

The strong hands were connected to strong arms. They dragged me across the floor, my wet bathing suit slithering halfway down my ass. My eyesight came back, but only partially. The passing lockers looked blurry and little bogs of blackness pooled along the bottom of my vision. I started shivering, but not for long. The gorilla heaved me up and shoved my head down into extremely hot water. It was the bubbling bromide solution in the hot tub. My body automatically gasped from the shock of it. I drank huge gulps of churning chemicals before I realized I had better shut my mouth and hold my breath.

I grabbed the side of the tub and tried to push myself up and out. I thrashed and clawed at the arms holding me under and then tried kicking out with my feet, but only connected with air — precious air that I needed inside not outside my body. Struggling only made my assailant push me down into this hell bath even harder. So I played possum. I stopped thrashing and let myself go limp. My lungs burned and my head was about to explode. My body decided, oh fuck it, it’s time to die. Just as I expelled my last little bit of used-up oxygen, though, my attacker pulled my head out of the water and disappeared as quickly as he had arrived.

I hung onto the edge of the whirlpool, choking and gasping for sweet, sweet air — air that I normally thought stunk of armpits and groins. I slid down to the floor at the base of the hot tub, my back against its wooden side, and vomited bromide water, beer and partially-digested cheese fries all over the place. My vision was still screwed up, but starting to clear.

Hairy Man lumbered around the corner of the lockers. I tried desperately to get to my feet, but slipped in my own vomit and fell to the floor.

He sniffed. “Jesus! Didn’t anyone ever tell you not to swim after you’ve been drinking?”

melodycolleen said...

MG

The three young friends huddled around the small campfire. They spoke in hushed voices, although it wasn’t necessary. The villagers lacked the courage to venture into the forest so late in the day.
Enchanted places were best visited while the sun was high in the sky. The only one who might hear them was Rowena’s grandmother; she heard everything.

The boy waited patiently while his friend wiped away the last of her tears. This was going to be unpleasant, but there was no avoiding it. He was leaving in the morning, and had to get home to finish packing. Before he left, however, they had to figure a way out of this mess that Rowena had created. He took a deep cleansing breath. The familiar scents of the forest filled his head; pine needles, leaf mold, and moist dirt. Usually these were calming smells, but today the chemistry was wrong. The boy shook his head slightly. Today, the whole world was wrong.

The girl saw the slight movement he made. “What are you thinking, Randall?”

His gaze locked with hers and he said what was in his heart. “I’m thinking you’ve done a terrible thing, Rowena.”

She leapt to her feet and the flames rose with her as bits of magic escaped along with her anger. She leaned toward the boy and screeched at him. “I’ve done a terrible thing? Have you not looked at my ruined face?” The fire whipped higher and turned an angry shade of purple.

At this point, the third member of the group, a young she-wolf, spoke up. “We know you’re hurt, Rowena, and we’re sorry, but ranting at us isn’t going to make you feel better.”

Rowena turned on her. “You’re right, Tala. But turning those scabrous mucus maggots into toads just might. I’m going back to the village to do that right now, as a matter of fact.” She turned on her heel to leave.

“Well,” said Tala as she scratched delicately behind her left ear. “If you ask me, the whole toad thing has been overdone. But go ahead, if you’re inclined. Only you might want to wear a disguise if you return to the village anytime soon. You’re obviously not their favorite person.”

“No one’s going anywhere,” said Randall. He reached a hand out toward Rowena. “Please, sit back down so we can talk about this.”

With an effort, Rowena regained control of her emotions. Then she slowly sank back down on the large rock that served as her chair. Her face was, indeed, in ruins. A long row of black stitches ran down her right cheek, the usually pale skin an angry red outline on either side. A welt on her forehead had already deepened into a purplish black bruise, and several of her teeth were missing. The worst of it, however, was her left eye. One well-aimed rock had left it dangling uselessly along her cheek. The village children had indeed made it clear that she wasn’t welcome.

Michael Robertson said...

"Closing Time" (chase/suspense)

Six days before Christmas Jason found Cypress mall to be uncharacteristically deserted. He stood in the Men's department of Macys, fifteen minutes before closing, and grappled with the paradox that was whether his father would want a periwinkle or salmon colored dress shirt as his gift this year. Looking around and seeing nobody within an earshot, he decided it was time to just make up his mind and get home. His arm was halfway stretched towards the periwinkle when he caught movement out of his right eye. He jerked his head towards where he was certain nobody had just been and his eyes widened. A mannequin--male, tall, perfect body, dressed in designer slacks and a short-sleeved Polo--was carefully stepping down off the table full of shirts from which it had been displayed. The mannequin's mostly joint-less body caused the whole sequence to look more like a pop-and-lock dance routine. When it reached the floor it stood straight and its head slowly turned towards Jason, its lifeless eyes seeming to stare directly into his. He wanted to convince himself he was hallucinating, and that it was time to cut back on the coffee intake. He wanted to scream for help.

Where the hell were all the people?

But before he could go through with either of these plans the mannequin bolted towards him, stiff legs working rapidly, plastic feet clack clack clacking on the tiled floor. Its arms were outstretched, reaching towards Jason as it ran.

Jason ran, too. All thoughts of periwinkle and salmon shirts evaporated from memory, he spun on the heels of his sneakers and sprinted away from the thing that was chasing him. He had gone maybe twenty feet when a terrible realization struck him. He swiveled his head left and right as he ran, glancing down the aisles and among the racks of clothes, and saw other mannequins joining in the pursuit of he, the lonesome shopper. Tall, short, slim, muscular, male, female, they all came after him, freeing themselves from floor stands and climbing off tables and shelves. He saw one female mannequin with no lower body, just a torso, propelling itself along the floor with its arms like some sort of plastic insect, or a science project gone rogue.

He was faster than them, which helped, and he managed to get out of the store and into the middle of the mall, still hearing the plastic footfalls behind him. He rounded a corner, getting himself out of sight, and reached Santa's workshop--empty, of course--and dove headfirst into the large piles of fake snow, burying himself. He lay there, panting, out of breath, and listened as the group of mannequins blew past him, heading deeper into the mall.

He never saw the horde of plastic, pointy eared elves coming up behind him through the snow, wielding oversized candy canes and lollipops, large grins plastered on their faces.

passinglovenotes said...

In Hollywood movies, ice crunches underfoot—like corn tortilla chips—before a frozen lake gobbles a person up. In reality, the ice splits slowly, and the popping sound reminds you of a truck backfiring or a gun going off. Being from Alaska, Kash knew what to do before their team leader shouted his orders. Kash unhooked his pack and slid it across the ice, then he flattened himself on the cold, hard surface. He would’ve tossed his snowshoes, but they were strapped on tight.
The fat chick had created the problem. The female shrink asked her to break trail, and Blubberbutt refused, throwing her pack onto the ice with a loud crash. Then pop, pop, SNAP! And Blubberbutt was trying to balance her fat tattooed ass on fifteen pieces of cracked, floating ice. Her screams began after that split second in which her pea brain scrambled to understand what she’d done. She wobbled there, screaming her fat ass off, until the ice collapsed and she fell in the water. The whole business took five, long, exasperating seconds.
“Everyone get off the ice!” the guy shrink screamed.
When the group started moving, though, it created a new fissure. Kash was the only one laying flat. What the hell? Didn’t these snowshoe “experts” ever learn anything about ice, for godsakes? He maneuvered his body into the safety zone, eying the seepage of the cracks across the surface. Nobody was listening to the team leaders, Shrink 1 and Shrink 2. Their packs weighing them down, kids ran, leaping through the air, crashing into ice, until the fissures were too numerous to count.
When a human body is suddenly submerged in bone-chilling ice-cold water, they have anywhere from several minutes to an hour to live, depending on their general overall health and the extent to which they flail. Of course, wearing snowshoes makes it impossible to tread water. The female shrink died first. Her gray-blond hair looked darker than usual as it sank beneath the cracked ice.
The black girl and the volatile asshole both made it to shore, minus their packs. They’d been plodding along slowly, at the back of the group when Blubberbutt started throwing her fit. Following Kash’s example, they took off their packs and immediately put distance between themselves and the initial crack in the ice.
Blubberbutt’s enormous arms grabbed at hunks of ice, reaching stiff, wet, gloved fingers at the skinny kid. The skinny idiot still stood on both feet, even though Shrink 2 barked orders like, “Throw off your pack!” and “Get down flat!”
Blubberbutt’s blue lips opened wide and she wailed over Shrink 2’s commands, her voice echoing off the rocky mountainside above the lake.
From shore, the black girl’s cries blended with the screams and shouts. “Justin! Listen to Mike or you’re going to fall in!”
Yes, the snowshoers had names. Justin. Mike. Tammy. Shantelle. But from the time the judge had ordered Kash to go on this stupid wilderness trek, he’d bucked the system.
mfogelsong(at)buhlschools(dot)org

Sanjeev said...

‘Rahul,’ said the voice, barely a whisper.

Rahul shuddered under his blanket. He prayed with all the seriousness he could muster, promising even to share his daily quota of chocolate with his younger sister; fervently wishing for the voice to go away.

And for a second it seemed to have worked. He peeked out of the blanket and the room was absolutely still. The dim yellow light from the passage streamed into the room through the small gap in the door. He had begged Mother to leave it ajar but the wind seemed to have pulled it almost shut. The curtains of the window however were blown open even though he had pinned them together earlier.

‘Rahul,’ the voice whispered again. It came from the balcony his family’s apartment shared with the neighboring flat. The flat was boarded up, its owners now living far away in America. This time Rahul did not duck back under the blanket nor did he scream. Hiding didn’t make the voice go away and screaming simply angered his parents. Besides, he now saw for the first time the strange light that danced about the room. Its source seemed to be standing in the balcony, just out of sight to the right of the window. It seemed to wait there patiently, ominously.

‘Rahul.’ Softer, more inviting.

He slowly slipped his legs out of bed. The cool floor sent shivers pulsating through him. Every hair on his body stood at attention. He tiptoed to the window, each footfall deliberate. Suddenly: a cough; a tiny, sleepy cough. His sister Radhika mumbled something and turned in her sleep at the other side of the room. The light outside the window seemed to dim. No, he thought, don’t go away. And as if to reassure him it shone brightly, as if a car was passing by. Damn! It was a car. Some neighbor must have returned late and was parking his car in the compound downstairs.

A full minute and a half passed before all was silent again. Only the mild yellow light still glowed from the passage. Rahul stood frozen to the spot in the middle of the room. He didn’t know what he wanted anymore. A part of him was thankful that the voice would probably leave for the night while another was disappointed he hadn’t seen what it was. He mustered his courage and moved to the window. He fought off the sudden urge to run—run where? Anywhere, nowhere, somewhere—and peeped outside furtively.

Nothing; the balcony was just as it always was—full of assorted junk, but nothing else.

He couldn’t help feeling slightly dejected as he turned and went back to bed. He slipped into the sheets with his eyes still on the window. ‘Rahul,’ the voice breathed the words, barely audible. It needn’t be any louder as the voice was next to his ear.

Lou Dischler said...

The refrigerator was stuffed, badly arranged. Atypical for Buddy Shannon, but Sweet supposed you didn’t really know a person until you saw the way they lived. A hunk of roast was partially unwrapped on the upper shelf. He took it out and placed it on the counter so he could get at one of the Budweisers behind it. He popped the top of the bottle with the church key hanging from a chain on the refrigerator, then turned slowly to stare at the roast. Something wasn’t right, something inconsistent with venison. The refrigerator door was still open, and he felt the cold air rolling around his damp ankles.

Something horrible in there.

He had that tingling anticipation, something that you read about but never actually experience. He slowly pulled back the cold butcher paper with one hand, and there, bloodless white, was an enormous finger. He set the beer on the table next to the package, and used both hands to unwrap it. A human hand soon lay before him, cleanly sliced off at the wrist.

Right hand, Caucasian, male, somewhat larger than average.

His car dealer’s mind went to work on it, cataloguing its features. It even wore a ring. A gold ring with a shiny black stone, inlaid with the letters CHS, and around the periphery, Birmingham, Alabama. A high school ring.

“So Roger never made it to Alabama,” he whispered.

He felt a cold dot of pressure on his neck, and he knew what that was too. That was his deputy who’d sneaked up behind him and now had the barrel of a pistol pressed into the rolls of flesh around his neck. He’d fucked up big time. Just like Roger had done, for surely this was Roger’s hand in front of him. Roger was dead and his deputy was behind all this, using Roger’s chopped off hand to leave prints--

“You shouldn’t be snooping like that,” Shannon said. The voice was calm, matter of fact.

“You shouldn’t have done that to Roger.”

“He attacked me, Andy. It was self-defense. I swear that on the soul of my son.”

Self-defense--that was actually possible, considering what Sweet had heard about the night Roger had disappeared. “Look,” he said, “I understand how that could’ve happened. Stuff like that, well, no reason to say anything.” The gun pressed harder and he took an involuntary step. “You want the whole thing, Buddy, you go ahead and take it. I don’t want it. All that money would ruin my life.” His eyes darted around the room, looking for anything that could give him an edge.

“Keep talking,” Shannon said, “you’re starting to make sense.” The gun jutted hard into Sweet’s flesh, forcing him forward, driving him toward the living room. At the doorway, thirty pairs of antlers loomed from the twilight, skeletal ghosts seeming to close in on him, to speak to him.

Join us, they seemed to say.

Susan said...

The Spirit-Hunters, YA steampunk:

Before fear could paralyze me, I tore open the lab's door and scrambled into Machinery Hall. For once, my legs and skirts worked in concert, and I didn't trip over hems or lace. I just ran, ran without checking to see if the spirit followed. I knew that it did by the icy sheen that formed over the machines I raced past.

I reached the east entrance and pummeled into the door, expecting release, but I was thrown back. The doors shook but remained solidly shut. I was locked in!

I twirled around and scanned frantically for an escape. The spirit had blocked my path.

“Go away,” I shrieked, my throat snapping with the words. I swung my parasol at it -- “Leave!” -- and somehow, thank Heavens, that worked. The spirit slithered away from me, and I did not stay to watch. I forced my feet forward through the Hall, and I had almost reached the center when the reek of decay alerted me to the corpses. It wasn't until I reached the giant Corliss engine that towered in the middle of the hall that I actually saw the first body.

It shambled south, leaving a rain of dirt behind it. Most of its skin was gone, and the tattered remains of bone and muscle barely clung together.

I observed all this in a flash, but I did not pause. The piercing chill behind me gave me no choice but to move forward, and logic told me that following the Dead would lead to the Spirit-Hunters. I veered around the engine in pursuit of the skeleton, but then I skidded to a halt.

Corpses were everywhere, stumbling like drunks in a thick mass towards... I blinked in surprise. They were heading for the hydraulic annex. But why go there? Why would the Spirit-Hunters be at the massive pool with its pumps and waterfalls? Even from here, I could see the hazy mist that meant the cascades still ran.

The closest corpse, the skeleton of gleaming bone and shredded flesh, tottered to a stop. Its exposed skull rotated to face me, and though its sockets were empty, I knew it saw me. Four other Dead slowed and turned to face me, each in varying stages of decomposition, and my chest convulsed at the sight of movement crawling on a fresher one's skin. It even wore a dress like my own.

I lifted my parasol defensively before me as the woman's corpse staggered closer. It was recently dead and more coordinated. When it was only three feet away, it lunged, both hands outstretched.

I swung with all the power I could muster, and the parasol connected with the corpse's arms. It sent a shock up my own limbs, but hardly affected the Dead. I stumbled back, the urge to scream rising in my chest, and I swung again.

Jared Larson said...

From Tortured Spirits:

Victor's feet were running as fast they could carry him. He broke from the woods into an open field.
He slipped.
He twisted backward, trying to control his fall. He heard a pop, and a surge of sharp pain shot through his wrist, up to his elbow. He yelled out in agony, picked himself up, clutching his wounded arm, and ran again, unsteadily on the wet grass.
A condemning sky cried down drops of chilling rain. Water dripped from his dark shaggy hair. He looked back over his shoulder. He saw nothing, though,¬ he could hear his hunter.
Deep thuds against the ground grew more forceful as an impending image unveiled itself from the concealment of trees. A man in black, riding on the slick back of a galloping horse charged toward him.
Victor ran faster, hardly aware of his broken wrist. Reaching the other side of the field he made his way back into the surrounding woods. He was almost there!
How would he hide it? He did not have the time to bury it with Samuel following him like a savage wolf hunting its prey.
Why didn't his father leave the stash of money at another location? Why did he tell him the place while Samuel was in the room… listening? The old man had been feverish; perhaps he had not even been aware of Samuel’s presence? And now with his father dead, he was left to fight for what was rightfully his. He felt a surge of anger and pushed himself harder.
Victor struggled through the thick brush. The looming noise of the hooves approached nearer.
He came to a small hill and began to climb it, slipping several times in the effort, and then falling on his face. Covered in mud, he held on to whatever his hands could grasp.
Finally, he came to a thick wall of branches; this was it! He pulled out his sword and cut through the vine barricade, hacking like a possessed fool, finally breaking his way into the small opening of a cave.
Victor brushed the vines aside. Something sharp jammed itself into his palm. His hand stiffened. He looked down. Blood dripped from the tip of his fingers. He pulled the large thorn from his hand. He pushed on into the cave.
The darkness was thick. The jagged branches behind his silhouette were reaching across the gray sky. He fell to his knees and hands. He screamed out as his wrist held up the weight, but he couldn't stop.
He crawled forward, splashing through puddles, falling flat, hitting his chin on the rock floor, sputtering with repugnance, still groping, reaching out, feeling for what he was looking for… his father’s fortune.
He could hear Samuel’s entrance behind him. The splash of his pursuer's footsteps enveloped him in panic, stirring up the nervous senses in his stomach. The feeling overcame him. The echoes of the oncoming footsteps were the sounds of his sure death.

Anonymous said...

I gripped the knife and listened for anything besides the slight whisper of wind. Nothing. They probably weren’t withing striking distance.

Ducking down behind the row of barrels, I half-crawled down toward the wharf. If I could get into the water, I might be safe for a while.

I could almost hear my father’s voice in my head. Mona, the newspaper says there’s been another killing down near Fish Street. The murderer was a short girl with black hair.

And I’d say, Really? That could almost be me!

Then we’d smile, up in our rich house. Mom would be oblivious, but Dad and I would share our secret.

Until now. They had to know who I was, or they’d never have set the trap in the first place. I stopped my scuttling and listened again.

Footsteps—slow and uncertain. I held my breath. They stopped. My pulse sped up, and I raised the knife. It would be a pity to throw it—my only weapon—but it would prolong my life a bit longer if he spotted me.

The footsteps moved on. I knew better than to heave an audible sigh of relief, but right then I wanted to. Instead I let my muscles relax and then moved onward.

As I crouched in the shadow of a building, the moon came out from behind the clouds and flooded the hundred yards to the wharf in light. I cursed softly. There were three of them standing there, doubtless waiting for me.

Despite the moonlight, I had to keep moving forward. They’d be coming after me soon enough, possibly with a dog team.

Dad, where are you? Some backup would be nice right now.

But he wouldn’t be coming, not this time. They had probably caught him first. But he’d have put up a fight, certainly. The thought gave me strength and an idea. It was desperate, but so was I.

I straightened and hid the knife. Pulling my hat brim down over my face, I walked directly down the street toward the dock.

It took them a few seconds to see me. Then the tallest one straightened and pulled out a gun. “Who goes there?”

I had a few seconds of silence before he would get alarmed. Fifty yards remaining.

“Who goes there? It’s dangerous in the city at night, you know,” he repeated.

Again I waited to answer. “Maria Olarze. I’m supposed to meet my brother down at the wharf.”

It was a weak excuse, but the best I could come up with on the fly. And it gave me time. Twenty more yards.

The watchman sounded suspicious. “Your brother?”

“Henry Olarze.” I walked faster.

“Come here” He lowered his gun. “I want to see your face.”

That was the opportunity I needed. I walked toward him, but before he could get a look at me I sprinted forward and dove into the water. Shots rang out, and I kicked furiously to get beneath the dock. Safe—for now.

--------
Escribladora

Horror with Heart said...

Daeva
Paranormal thriller

The demon shadows nested in the far corner, twisting and churning in continual motion. Chris heard their movements clearly tonight: muffled ripping when a large shape tore itself in two, dry papers lightly rubbed together as shapes folded or stretched, wet smacking sounds as two or more shapes combined to form one larger shadow. Faces appeared in the black shadows and spoke to him between hisses.

"Chris," they said. "Don't you want to sssleep? Open the door in your mind. Then you can ressst."

Chris's head bobbed. Despite the hissing, he drifted near sleep.

The mattress compressed under new weight. Chris's eyelids sprang open. A demon shadow perched on the foot of his bed.

He jerked back. The shadow swayed side-to-side as if dancing. Its movements rocked the mattress. He stared at it, reevaluating the shadows. He'd never considered they might have mass. The dim light of the room shone through gaps in the shadow's blackness to outline eyes and a mouth full of jagged teeth, frozen in a sneer.

The shadow lunged. Chris scrambled back against the wall, but he wasn't quick enough. It caught his left earlobe in its jagged teeth then pulled back with a hiss.

"What the hell?" Chris yelled, clamping his hand to his burning ear. The shadows took up their chorus, sounding like high-pressure steam escaping a ruptured pipeline. Chris covered his ears, but it did him no good. Hands couldn't block sound that came from inside his head.

The fingers over his injured ear were sticky from blood, but the room was too dark to see how much flowed. There was just enough light to contrast against the total darkness of the demon shadows. There were maybe a dozen of them now, all moving in frenzied, undirected motion. Excited from the smell of his blood? He tried to follow their jerky motions. They blended into the darkness when he looked directly at them, but he could catch glimpses of them out of his peripheral vision.

Then they became quiet.

His mattress moved as a shadow leapt onto the foot of his bed. Another joined it. For just a moment, he saw their outlines. A third landed.

"What the hell?" Chris yelled again. He scooted back until he sat with his back pressed into the corner of the room. He banged his right elbow against the wall and listened to hear if he woke his neighbors. His bed creaked. He felt the shifting weight of their movement.

They were approaching.

He pulled his legs in close and pounded the wall with his elbow again.

"Chris," the shadows hissed in unison. "Open the door. Let Rothsirge back into your mind. Or deal with us. It's your choice."

Darkness was absolute. The shadows fell silent again, but the mattress continued to shift and creak. His skin tingled with anticipated contact. He was afraid to move. Further retreat might quicken their attack. Something cold brushed his ankle.

Chris opened his mouth to scream.

Cherie Reich said...

From THE PHOENIX PROPHETESS:

"We will have war!" Odjin screamed, his face contorting with rage.

With a silver flash before her eyes, Yssa envisioned the heavy sword coming toward them. "Duck," she yelled, falling to the ground.

Odjin unsheathed the five-foot long sword and swung it through the air. Liam and Zendal dove to the ground behind Yssa, but Fynn wasn't quick enough. The sharp blade sliced through the weather magician's neck. His body remained standing for a few seconds while his head bounced on the floor and came to a stop before the table.

"Run!"

Two guards blocked their one exit, but Liam and Zendal were ready for them. They bowled right into them, knocking them flat. With quick thinking, the two guards seized their swords and jumped before Yssa.

"Come on, Yssa." Liam slowed up, putting himself in front of her.

Yssa couldn't focus as she ran. The Phoenix Prophetess saw glimpses of their immediate future mingled with the present. The decapitation of poor Fynn horrified the teenager and halted her progress. Ghost tips grazed her vision. "Arrows," she called out, ducking her head. A single arrow whizzed by exactly where her head had been and embedded itself into Zendal's shoulder. The old soldier gasped in surprise, but he continued to run.

They had a head start, but the Great Beyonders were catching up to them. The clang of metal echoed over the camp. Swords clashed as Liam and Zendal fought the oncoming men. Yssa ducked and dodged the attempts on her own life.

"Close the gate!" Odjin's voice boomed. The guard reacted, lowering the iron monster.

"We have to hurry." Yssa broke away from Liam and Zendal. Another arrow zoomed by her, and she felt wet heat trickle down her cheek. "Let's go." She stumbled to her knees and snatched her father's dagger. The gate was almost closed. They had seconds left before their only chance of escape disappeared. "Apenth, let my aim be true," she prayed, throwing the dagger. The blade twirled end over end through the air and stuck in the gearshift of the gate, stopping it a foot from the ground.

The three fought their way to the gate. Swords clashed like metallic thunder, and arrows pattered around them like deadly raindrops. "Go under, Yssa," Liam said, shoving her to the ground. She scooted in the dirt and appeared on the other side.

Zendal lay down and ripped the arrow out as he escaped, and Liam scurried under the gate.

Yssa halted, unable to leave her father's dagger. She dashed toward the gate, reaching through the bars and grasping its golden hilt.
Rough hands clasped her ankle, and the guard attempted to drag her back under the gate. "I've got the girl."

Yssa squealed, yanking her foot away from him. "No!" She yanked the dagger free. The heavy gate crashed to the ground. Two hands clutched around her ankle. The gate sliced them off, and the man on the other side screamed, holding up bloody stumps.

Empty Refrigerator said...

She was my baby.

I felt her burrow into me, a grain of rice in my womb. Later, I welcomed her flutters. The books were right; it felt just like butterfly wings. And still later, I rolled with her watermelon somersaults.

They stole her before she was born. But she knew I would come. A mother protects her child.

Finding her was easy. The other babies were red-faced and squalling – ugly, piglike things. My daughter was the calm one, the one with the fuzzy halo of black hair. We looked at each other through the nursery window, and she knew what would happen next.

That was easy too; I was dressed for the part. No one questioned me. A fat nurse pushed my daughter’s bassinet down the hall, and I followed. She stuck her in a room and waddled back out, passing me like I was invisible.

It was the bitch’s room, the one who had arranged all this.

I went in.

The bitch was trying to nurse, her narrow face pinched with effort.

“It’s not working,” she said. “It hurts.” My smart, clever baby.

I held out my arms. “You should rest." My voice – so warm, so consoling. A mother’s voice. “Let’s try again in an hour.”

“But what if she’s hungry?” Her voice was thin, like the whine of a fly.

I handed her a tissue and gently took my daughter back. Her sweet eyelids fluttered at me, a code.

“She’s not,” I said. And then I said the thing that hurt the most, the biggest lie. “You’re a good mother.”

She gave a sobby, pathethic laugh. “Thank you,” she whispered, and we were free. My daughter and I flew down the hall, down the hall.

She cried a little at the stairs. It was the alarm – a loud, piercing scream. I should have remembered about the chip in her ankle bracelet. I should have cut it off. That was my first mistake, but she forgave me.

Heavy footsteps pounded on the stairs behind us.

“Maam, stop. Stop now.” A gravelly male voice. I kept going, jumping the last four steps. He squawked codes into his walkie talkie, panting.

We burst into the basement hall.
It was an ugly place, filled with harsh light. The alarm screamed. My daughter’s face was slippery with my sweat.

But she showed me the safe place - a dim room, full of carts, full of hiding places. I crouched, and she was very quiet, very good. I swam in her eyes, while the men scrambled like mice.

That doctor last week was a mouse too. Pink nose, tiny eyes. “See, Ms. Hopper, there is nothing on this ultrasound.” He thought he could trick me, but I saw her arm, her foot, her face. “Pseudocyesis,” he said, slowly, like I was retarded, and I nodded, to trick him.

Carts rolled and banged. “Checking this side,” one of the mice-men called. I held my daughter. Closer, they came. Closer.

kmfields said...

Just another quiet night in San Pedro, except for the panting of my breath, my size 13s pounding against the deserted sidewalks, and the gunfire. Case’s, not mine.

Needing to save what was left in my clip, I ran as soon as I saw him. Meanwhile, Case was fully loaded, squeezing off rounds like this was some kind of video game. Toting a blaster slowed me down, but I might need those last few shots.

The chase had started downtown at Elixir, and now, twelve or thirteen blocks later in the Third Ward, my lungs were screaming and my gimpy left hamstring felt like it could snap at any second. I slowed just long enough for a sip of oxygen, and a bullet creased the air near my head.

A rusted-out shipping container gave me some cover and I dashed across the street into a warehouse. The steel door slipped from my grasp and slammed behind me, sending echoes into the night that might as well have been the Bat signal, telling Case exactly where to find me. Great. Down another hallway I ran, grit tracked in from the shore beneath my feet. After no luck with the first three, the fourth door I pulled on opened.

My ears throbbed in time with my heartbeat as I took in my surroundings: pews, altar, stained glass windows…in a dockside warehouse? Three huge chandeliers hung from the ceiling, but candles provided the room’s only light.

I blew them out – more of a wheeze, really – coating much of the room in darkness except for a few slivers of moonlight that penetrated the mosaic-like rendition of Jesus overlooking the pulpit. Then, with a running start, I jumped on a pew, sprang towards a nearby wall and pushed off it with my foot, boosting myself up to the chandelier nearest the door.

I nestled down and waited. Twenty, thirty seconds later, the door eased open and Case flew across the darkened room, not bothering to look up. He leaned on the far door and kept up the chase, or so he thought.

When he cleared the room, I slid to the ground, opened the first door and gave it a healthy slam. Case double-timed back into the church, where he flung the door open and scanned the hall, left then right. I emerged from a dim corner behind him and jammed my blaster against the base of his skull. He froze. I cocked my hammer and pulled.

Richard Levangie said...

Hey Everyone:

To make life easier for Nathan, might I recommend a step before posting. Word and other WP programs add formatting problems to text when you copy and paste, much to your chagrin, I'm sure. But if you run your entry through a program like Textsoap for Mac (and Windows is certain to have many, including Textsoap Classic for Windows), then you can remove the formatting problems with just one or two clicks.

Easy peasy. And then everyone can ignore the formatting weirdness, and concentrate on the contest.

I'll be entering soon. Salut!

Erin said...

One dark morning in late February, the newsroom buzzed uncharacteristically early. Reporters and editors already manned their desks, phoning contacts and composing ledes for half-written stories. During the night a police sergeant had been shot in the head when responding to a call at a seedy bar. The second-shift crime reporter had picked up the story over the police radio scanner.

I walked briskly through the newsroom to my office nextdoor, hardly breathing. But I had been spotted. A columnist who routinely ignored me as I passed him smoking on the stoop outside intercepted me at the doorway, awkwardly asked if I’d join him in the breakroom for a cup of coffee.

We sat at a round, gray laminate table, sipping a cheap brew that was already several hours old. He threw out a few token inquiries about my feelings before expertly transitioning to the questions that would quickly turn me into something useful: a source.

“How do you think the guys in the Academy are reacting?” he asked.

“I’m not sure how much they know.” Lie.

“Are any of them at the scene?”

“I really couldn’t say, actually.” Another lie. I hoped that feinting would quickly exhaust my value to him.

“I’ll let you get to work. Let me know if you find anything out, okay?”

“Sure.”

I stood, leaving the coffee mug on the table, and pushed through the swinging door of the breakroom. I entered the dingy stairwell separating the reporters in the bright, crisp newsroom from the rest of us in our close, low-ceilinged hallways and windowless offices. Nobody else was in my part of the building yet.

I took a seat at my desk and opened a document I had no intention of editing. I would spend my morning rearranging my pens, tapping my foot, checking my personal email, waiting.

A couple of hours later, my desk phone rang. I listened calmly, wrapping the receiver’s
ancient curly cord around my fingers. The voice on the other end talked quietly in the first of many such confidential phone calls to come. The sergeant was already dead, he told me, but it would be hours before the department would confirm it. We hung up after less than a minute.

There I sat, not ten yards from the reporters scrambling for a scoop, and I had it.

And I said nothing.

Brent Peterson said...

Will lifted the magnifying glass from the red velvet liner of its polished case. He had handled plenty of them before but this one was different. When he held it over his palm, he couldn’t recognize what he saw. It seemed as if this glass was a million times more powerful than usual, and he was viewing his actual skin cells. He then noticed it was the exact same size as the Petri dish in the case. Will put them together and patiently waited for his eyes to focus on the goo inside the dish.

The goo was mostly clear except for multi-colored blobs floating and bouncing about. Blue. Green. Bright pink. Vibrant orange. They swirled around like the contents his Aunt Sylvia’s lava lamp. Some moved quickly while others just tumbled along slowly. One bright orange blob appeared from the left and then settled purposely in the middle. It turned, opened two clear eyes and spoke, “Hello!”

It was the shock of Will’s young life.

“AAAAAAAaaaaiiiiiiiiiyeeeeaaaaa!”

Out of reflex, Will screamed and recoiled backwards. He toppled over the threshold of the tree fort door. On his way over the edge, Will managed to twist his torso in mid-air and grab the floor with his fingers. Knuckles pure white, he hung on for dear life. He tried to pull himself up but he didn’t have the grip he needed on the smooth floor. The drop was fifty feet. Even if he survived, he would be seriously hurt.

His mind racing. His heart pounding. His fingers slipping.

Will was about to yell for help when the orange blob he had seen in the Petri Dish appeared only inches from his nose. Now visible to the naked eye and only as big as a pebble, this strange orange blob floated before Will, looking curiously at him. It blinked a few times and spoke again in a tiny voice.
“Did you read the note?”

Through his escalating panic, Will tried to process what the thing was saying.

“Did….you…read….the…note???’ the blob repeated slowly.

“Yes,” he blurted out.

“Then you know what to do,” it said calmly.

“What???” Will lost some of his grip.

“Ask for a power.”

“A power???”

“Yes. And it shall be granted.”

Will pushed the panic in his brain aside and thought about the note in the case. The example in the note used the words “Please make me smaller”.

“Smaller?” groaned Will. His strength was going.

“No, no, no – please!” said the blob impatiently. “You are about to fall from a tree. A large tree. What do you wish you could do? I can’t tell you what to ask for - you have to think of it yourself. But c’mon - it’s kind of obvious - you are about to plummet a considerable distance to your death. You could go splat, or you could….just fill in the blank: Please … make … me ….”

Will was done. His fingers slipped off the edge.

He was falling.

sould said...

Sould
Mystery/Comedy/Action-Adventure

“I died that day.” Jenny’s hopeful expression faded to emptiness. She ripped the rejection letter in unrecognizable pieces, tossing them into the air. They lingered in the air like a losing punt in a rival college football game.

The pieces of paper landed on a patch of dead grass at her husband Bob’s feet. The sound of a motor caught Jenny’s attention. She looked up, lost in thought at Bob who wore goofy-looking goggles and dirty work boots. He meticulously sprayed green dye on the yard in a failed attempt to make the grass appear healthy. A man with a thick waist in his forties, he was beginning to show early signs of hair loss and weight gain.

“That’s Bob, my husband. We’ve been married for a damn decade.” Jenny recalled.

Turning, Bob yanked unsuccessfully on the hose attached to a service rental truck, he waved and yelled to his neighbor Mary Freedom in a cheerful tone. “Time to paint the yard!” His eyes traveled Mary’s body like driving a Porsche on the Autobahn. She had a figure worth noticing.

Jenny watched in simple curiosity at this woman confidently emerging from the house next door. A row of wild, tangled bushes separated the two homes. Mary was a Gothic-type. She strutted out of her front door carrying a couple of her zombie books that she penned. She wore black hair, big tits and tight leather pants. Mary turned to Bob with a seductive smile.

“That shit is some bad grass, homeboy.” Mary got high on pot one night and wrote a humor book called ‘Die Zombies: Go to Hell.’ She’s Southern Baptist.

Mary winked at Bob and sashayed over to Jenny.
“Your grass is so green!” she squealed playfully.

“It’s fake,” Jenny whispered, sheepishly.

Mary shoved a copy of her book in Jenny’s hand. Jenny painfully glimpsed it, trying not to show interest. But, she was interested. How could a pot-smoking whore who never finished high school write a New York Times bestseller? Mary pissed her off.

“Why is the world fascinated with zombies? Why do they need to eat people if they’re already dead?” Jenny whined.

Mary didn’t notice the subtle sarcasm humming in Jenny’s voice.

“They don’t. Zombies are jealous -- jealous of life.”

Rollie Raleigh said...

THE LAST MACHINER

There were seventeen guns in the diner that evening – almost a record. The tally included Spicule's shotgun and Barbie Kupshock's purse-bound Berretta with her initials in the handle and her spare lipstick caught in the trigger guard. Procto Butts had his chrome plated, six-shooter Colt facing, six FBI service revolvers, five ATF semi-automatic pistols, and one fully automatic pistol, on ATF agent Beet. In addition, FBI agent Dullop brought his unauthorized snub nose hidden in his right boot. Finally, Tincture carried an eleven-shot automatic Fuccione made exclusively for CCIS talent.
Clearly, the gunplay was unnecessary. It may have been the FBI's Pat Yamamoto that cleared leather first. No one knew whether ATF's Furland Puce or FBI's Cynthia Bearclaw squeezed off the first round; the indoor report while louder than a single volley, could not be acoustically described as two events due to the millisecond proximity of their discharge. These two efforts produced damage only to Spicule's red booth bench and the wall near the refrigerated food display.
A grand pause followed like a dramatic break in a symphony, like a silent prayer at a funeral, like a winter midnight above the Arctic Circle, or like a complete piss-in-the-pants, stunned silence. Barbie Kupshock and Yello Oleo dropped to the floor from natural instincts, while Spicule Fromage had physical location and the counter for protection. Tincture already hugged a wooden chair with his Fuccione drawn – his CCIS training gave him a decisive edge over the government employees. For Premis Troutman, Procto Butts and the rest, luck, good grace, serendipity and poor aiming would be required for their earthly survival.
The silence burst with dropping, ducking, scurrying, air-sucking, pant-filling noises from all manner of government servants and the phobic pair of Butts and Troutman. A second volley seemed imminent.
"Drop 'em! Drop the guns!"
"Yeah, Goddamnit, drop the guns!"
"You drop 'em, now!"
"A-T-F. Drop 'em, Right Now!"
"F-B-I," bellowed Yamamoto as his eye whites overtook his other features.
"F-B-I," like a gender-shifted echo came the female reply.
"A-T-F," returned a vocal chorus.
After one more round of alphabet arguing, the second volley began.
The first casualty of the gun battle at the Western Ho Diner was a sure fatality – automatic pistol shot to the throat, thirty-eight caliber revolver penetrations of the right cheek and upper right temple. Any of these three could prove fatal, but the combination more than obliterated Leon McAuliffe, not to mention the glass and the wall behind the picture. Witnessing this slaughter of the steel guitarist effigy, Spicule, already reaching for his shotgun, expelled fury.
"Ya' goddamned sons' a' bitches. Ya' done shot Leon!" As he jerked his shotgun up above the counter, it caught momentarily. Spicule's effort to free the barrel tip discharged the weapon, which accounted for the second victim. The casualty, Spicule's newly installed overhead sprinkler system, had been forced on him, against his better financial judgment, by a pesky state inspector, whose brother-in-law Spicule suspected of selling sprinkler systems.

Jck said...

Nathan, I posted yesterday, but I waited and waited and I can’t see my entry.
Here is goes again. Sorry! I hope this time it works!
This is YA

Colin started to march towards me and I did another stupid thing, I ran, heading for one of the dilapidated structures. He snatched my arm and pushed me into two wooden doors, hitting my head against them, hard.
“Now, look at me sugar!” he croaked, “I’ll be gentle.” His fingers'cold graspon my skin was destructive. My insides were ablaze and all my being was trapped in a rush of terror but I was immobile, paralyzed. Nothing registered except for the internal inferno and horror, coldness and dullness. It felt like dying.

A slash of force ripped the creature out of me, and I saw Blake crashing his bottle of whisky on Colin’s head. Colin only stumbled a little and charged back immediately. Suddenly Blake’s back was on the ground, and I, beyond being scared, charged to the fiend with my dagger up and ready to stab him.
He veered and captured my neck in a millisecond. I really needed some lessons at demon fighting, I sucked. Miraculously I managed to I stab him in the neck and snappish blood flooded his jacket.

“No!” Blake shouted. The fiend released my neck. No? But I was pretty proud, I had finally managed to do some damage there.
“Ha ha ha!” Colin laughed. “Little Princess needs to read the manual!” I turned around to see him. I mean… to see… them.
Now there were two Colin. I really sucked. How did he duplicate? I didn’t need to ask, the twin creeps explained.
“If you don’t kill me properly” twin creep number one said.
“I duplicate” twin creep number two continued.
“Just like an unsolved problem.”
“Now you have two.” The other chuckled.

Furious, Blake sprung like a raging bull toward them and knocked one out while the other clenched my shoulders into his hand-claws.
“So, where were we? Sugar.” He asked. It was enough sweets for one evening. I kicked him where it hurts the most, or so I was told. He screamed in pain and pushed me, forcing me to land on my back. Blake appeared swiftly but creep number two was already behind him. Finally I did one clever thing.
“Blake!” I almost cried breathless. He tilted his head.
“Here!” and I threw him my dagger, then I ran for cover.
He caught it in mid air with a sure hand. To our shock the symbol in the blade shone in unison with the star in his tattoo, they seemed to recognize each other, and then the most bewildering thing happened so far, the dagger in Blake’s hand, my dagger, extended to a full size samurai sword.

Blake was stunned although he recovered promptly gripping the sword with both hands.
Battle was over in two heartbeats. The steel blade’s sound cut the wind, creep number one’s head hit the ground, and Blake’s words echoed in the empty night, “Go back to hell where you belong!”
Demon number two suffered the same fate.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

No Blood and he needs to be alive when the concrete vault is dropped on him.

I love simple instructions.

The no blood tenet meant my initial idea of a cricket ball was out. The raised seam traversing the leather shell would easily lacerate flesh. This bummed me out, because I have really improved the pace on my inswinger. Plan B, a lacrosse ball, works perfectly. Delivered at ninety miles per hour, it will hurt like hell, bruise internal organs, break ribs, and crush testicles.

I’m sure Armando, street name Striker, follows a code of stereotypical ethics on the streets of Lawrence, Massachusetts. No ratting, you never go against, or leave the gang, blah, blah, blah. Striker will now learn ours.

Never f**k with the elderly, children, or the Irish.

My well practiced brogue is sweeter than Tim Finnegan’s when I ask him, “Where is she, you piece of shite?”

“F**k you.”

Distance, fifty-feet. Coordinates, left ass cheek. Clear for crank shot. Fire.

Striker screams, but sees nothing. He’s got a severe case of Super Glue conjunctivitis at the moment. Other than his bikini skivvies, he’s naked. My plan was that he be totally naked and facing me, but he’s not circumcised and so hairy, his welfare check missile is a huge distraction.

I’m weird about shit like that.

Striker has probably never seen a lacrosse net before and doesn’t know his arms and legs are duct taped to each of the four corners.

His tan line tells me he suns himself in bikinis and I wonder if he’s either part French Canadian or summers in Provincetown. Maybe both, I think,then smile.

This is the tenderizing of Striker stage of the game. I’m hoping the fear of the money shot is weighing heavily on his mind.

It is not a fear of heights. It is the fear of falling.


David Lee Roth pops into my head, One break…coming up.

Whammo! Lower right torso. Couple ribs, maybe a kidney.

Striker gives up a cough scream, trying to say something. I realize I must have nicked a lung. Coach would be proud, 'Great shot Murph.'

Richard Levangie said...

Title: The Mystery of the Hotel Maisonneuve
Genre: YA

Jacob Jollimore didn't hesitate. His fight-or-flight instinct was missing the fighting half. His feet barely touched the aisle as he dashed to the bus's rear doors, which were seconds from closing.

He could feel his heart's every throb in his throat, but he was nearly at the exit and to safety.

He jumped, landed, even enjoyed the brief sensation of flight—

But he couldn't believe it, the Neanderthal was giving chase, having shoved his way through the half-closed doors. Jacob turned and sprinted. Faces blurred, as he dodged in and out. He glanced over his shoulder. Could he outrun such a big kid? The guy looked pretty athletic, but— it was possible. Running was the one sport that Jacob enjoyed, and he was good at it. If he were honest, some really stupid part of him was even enjoying this chase, dancing on the head of pin, darting this way and that.

He glanced back a second time, exhilarated by the small distance he'd opened between them. No sweat.

Something caught his shoulder. It was more a brush than a bump, and he might not even have acknowledged it under normal circumstances. He certainly didn't have the time now. In his peripheral vision he had the impression of a couple of cans and maybe a zucchini in midair, ejected from a paper bag.

She didn't cry out, not then. And of course Jacob didn't hear her bones snap or the dull thud of a fragile skull on concrete.

Later, he was embarrassed to admit even to himself that his first thought was: Excellent — that should slow him down. He ran on for seven more strides until he heard the shouts behind him. And through the din, the mocking laughter and buck-buck-buck that he'd come to hate so much in just a few weeks.

He didn't need to look back to know it was bad. There, in front of the deli. The Neanderthal had joined a small commotion surrounding a figure slumped on the sidewalk. The chase was over for today, at least. This mess Jacob had made was far worse than whatever his nemesis had intended to dish out.

Mr. Weinstein, of Weinstein's Deli, hurried into his shop for a phone. Jacob slowly joined the group that had gathered, including a woman whose glare was so fierce it was like a punch.

"There's the little jerk who hit her!" she spat.

"And he was going to keep going, did you see?" interjected the Neanderthal. He winked at Jacob, and blew a kiss as he melted into the foot traffic.

The figure on the ground was an old lady. She was dressed neatly in a navy blue floral dress, colorless cardigan and sensible slip-on shoes. Her pencil-straight salt-and-pepper hair was pinned behind her ears. Such a tidy old lady looked incongruous on the grimy, gum-splotched sidewalk.

Jacob couldn't move. Had he actually caused this?

Copper Smith said...

They turn – wide-eyed with panic – upon hearing a stir in the bushes. Did I stumble unknowingly? Did I clumsily tap a branch or place a foot wrong?
Whatever the reason, the time to strike is now.

I charge, machete raised, and the nightmare is cranked into motion: screams, flailing arms, faces twisting into rubbery masks of horror. It is the sweetest kind of chaos. It is victory.

But the first swing sails past the intended target's head and lands nowhere. I stumble, giving them a head start, a line to the back door. They dash inside with a speed they never before felt necessary.

But not speedy enough. They struggle to slam shut the door, and I beat it down, with purpose, with anger. They are mine.

First is the man – not planned that way, just his lousy luck. He catches a stab to his collarbone and meets the floor with a dull thud. I yank back my weapon and provide another slice to his abdomen, and why not. His reply: the longest, saddest squeal I've every heard. Then nothing.

And Alice has scrambled away.

The house couldn't be quieter, placid even. Where could she be?

The kitchen pantry? I rip the door open: nope.

Bathroom closet? Empty.

Bedroom? Not a soul to be found.

There's breathing down the hallway. One more closet to check. I kick it down:

"Hello, Alice."

And she has a gun.

"um… don't come near me?"

The snub revolver flutters in her hand like it may as well be a remote control or a Rubik's cube. She's not ready to use it. Maybe she never will be.

"Don't come near me?" She repeats, but it still sounds more like a question than a command.

"Do you love me, Alice?"

This shouldn't be a tough question, even after all the lies and this explosion we're in the middle of. But as she looks at me she seems to find the eyes of a stranger. This is bad. So I repeat:

"Do you love me?"

No vocal reply, but she's nodding now.

"If you love me, give me the gun."

She shakes her head 'no.'

She looks away for a second. That's all I need.

The first swipe took off her right hand and sent the gun spinning to the floor. If it ever landed I never heard it. All I could see and hear was that mouth melting into a horrified wail. She boasted the bulging eyes of comic strip character when she met that second swing. Maybe I just imagined it but she seemed liberated when she dropped to the floor. Like a prisoner pardoned from a nightmare.

Marjorie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marjorie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chuck H. said...

Still shaking his head, Zack started toward the path but was hailed from the vicinity of the honky tonk. It was the bartender, standing outside the open door for a breath of fresh air.
“Mr. Hansen, good to see you. Will you and your lady friend be livening up our evening with your presence?”
“No, I don’t think so. We have other plans and it’s Zack, by the way.”
“Thanks, I’m Arnie. It’s too bad you won’t be putting in an appearance. Things are a little dead tonight, unlike the last time you were here.”
“Sorry to hear it. Maybe another time.”
They said their good-byes and Zack started toward the path once more. At first, the light from the bar helped him pick his way, but as he got further and further up the hill, the path got more treacherous and there was no moonlight to help him avoid dangers such as exposed roots or protruding rocks. He had made it almost to the door when one of the former sent him stumbling. He didn’t go down but he did let out a startled “Shit!” He thought he heard a commotion from inside the cabin. Thinking he had alerted Haley to his approach, he smiled and reached for the doorknob.

In this instance it was probably a good thing that Louie tended to act first and think about it later, because if he had taken the time to think about the wisdom of attacking a man as big as Zack--even with his beloved sap--his victim might have had a fighting chance. As it was, Louie just whacked Zack up side the head as he came through the door, sending the big man to his knees. When it appeared that one whack wasn’t going to suffice, Louie made the unprecedented decision to hit him again. This time the whackee went down and stayed down, unmoving and bleeding on the floor.
The two men then turned their attentions to their captive, who was doing her level best to push an audible scream past the wash cloth stuffed in her mouth. But at this point she had neither the strength nor breath to succeed. As they moved in her direction, she ceased her fruitless struggle, her eyes widening in amazement at the apparition rising from the floor behind them. Blood streaming from a scalp wound, eyes burning with fierce, almost maniacal, rage and looking at least half again as large as he usually did, Zachariah T. Hansen stood, grabbed a mobster in each hand and, calling on every last ounce of strength left in his giant body, physically lifted them into the air. He brought their heads crashing together with a sickening crunch, dropped them like two bundles of rags and staggered toward the bed. He managed to croak “Haley” before falling across her at such an angle that his bloody head performed a perfect Heimlich maneuver. The soggy wash cloth popped out of her mouth, allowing her to scream. Which she did. Loudly. And for a long, long time.

Joyce Lansky said...

To escape the mobster, I sprinted across Clayton Road with my wobbly pasta legs. A blue Toyota screeched its brakes and honked. Carsa popped out of the Cadillac and chased me up a grassy hill as I raced past the Brio Italian Grill. Thank God that fatty loved cheeseburgers; the more we ran, the farther the distance between us.

My heart jumped when two pops sounded and smoke rose from patches of grass. The smell of gunfire filled the air, and I prayed he wouldn’t nab me.

Public! He wouldn’t shoot me in public. I darted for the glass entrance of Frontenac Plaza, hopped four steps, past white columns, and flung the heavy door toward me, only to find a second door blocking the women’s clothing department of Saks.

Once inside, people hurried by, but I continued my dash by turning left past the make up counters. I twisted to avoid knocking over a Chanel Coco display case that jutted into the middle of the aisle. While looking at what I almost toppled, I plowed into a lady and sent her to the ground. Her angry scowl followed me past the counters.

“Sorry,” I yelled while feeling guilty for not helping her up. Under normal circumstances, I would’ve been the Boy Scout, but I was a future dead guy if I didn’t move.

A moment later, her vengeful voice said, “He went that way!”

Upon hearing her snitch, I climbed the staircase on the right. My arms pumped my legs with more speed than I’d ever garnered on the soccer field. Reaching the top step, I turned the corner before fat Carsa even left Saks.

Think, Ben, where to hide? I spotted the women’s bathroom.
Perfect. Darting through the door, I entered a beige stall and locked it. With my feet on the seat, I perched the back of the toilet like a bird guarding a nest. Amazing, no one noticed. Maybe it was cool because my hair flung over my face. My heart pounded, as I prayed no one had seen me enter the ladies room. If Carsa caught me, it was checkmate. No back door, no windows to slide out of, I’d be doomed. My breathing tore through my chest in raspy spurts. Someone knocked on my door. “You okay dear?” a woman asked.

Trying to raise my pitch, I squeaked out, “Yes.” She left.

I glanced at my watch: 11:48. How long would I wait to make sure Carsa was gone? Mom always told me I was patient. I’d find out how much. My chest ached from my pounding heart, and my breath sounded like a prank phone call. I prayed no one else would hear me.

As I waited, girls and women came in and out of the bathroom. I listened to teenagers talk about hot guys, shoes, and back to hot guys; then oh shit, they complained about their periods. I knew there was a reason guys weren’t supposed to be in the girls’ room.

Ted said...

Suspended underwater, Vin felt himself slipping into a world between the living and the dead. The lock was quiet now, the water over nine feet deep. He realized that if the canal were still in use, the water in the lock would have been higher and he wouldn’t be able to reach the surface. He could barely reach it now. He had refined his technique, but his exhausted body was burning its last reserves of energy after hours of exertion and fear. The skin around his ankle was flayed and abraded from the cuff that chained him to the toolbox. And he was cold. All he wanted was to breathe, and it almost didn’t matter anymore whether the breath was air or water. Just to inhale, exhale, and forget about the fight.

He dropped into a crouch on the lock floor and shot toward the surface like a hungry fish, flutter-kicking and driving with his arms as his mouth stretched for a breath from the ocean of air overhead. But now his shackled ankle flinched from the pain of kicking and its reticence left him short; his nose was still underwater when he stalled and began falling back. His lungs caught fire and he was compelled to exhale as he descended.

He felt as if his brain was being squeezed like a grapefruit for denying his body an underwater breath. I can’t! I’ll drown! Try for the surface again! A roaring arose in his ears and it seemed as if the water was beginning to move. This is it, he thought. The flood is here. It’s washing downriver, covering everything in its path. It’s here to bury me in Swains Lock. He sensed now that he’d come full circle, to the foot of a great turning wheel that would grind him into the past, uniting him with his forebears while rolling in place, raining down generations of the living, claiming and recycling the dead.

He fell back into a crouch at the bottom, head and lungs throbbing, every strand afire. Fuck it. My body and mind are lost and I have nothing left to lose. He shot again toward the surface, kicking and thrashing through the pain, and his mouth broke the skin of the water for a breath. He inhaled and fell to the bottom where he hunched like an ancient amphibian. Water flowed across his back and shoulders and uncounted seconds passed before he sprung skyward again. This time his whole head emerged and he managed two breaths.

Falling again, he became aware the lock was draining. He pushed for the surface and was able to tread water and breathe without lifting the box. A woman with disheveled honey-colored hair and blood stains on her face and neck was standing on the lock wall, looking down at him with a ragged smile. He tried to smile back but tears filled his eyes instead. He blinked to see more clearly and drew a grateful breath. It was Kelsey Ainge.

A.C.Willard said...

Action Scene. Novel: Perpetual Love;

"I had a lot of fun tonight," Tyler turned to look at me, smiling.
"I did too," I smiled back.
"We shou-" He was cut short by the sound of screaming tires. I snapped my head around, looking forward to see a car flying towards us.
"Tyler! Stop!" I screamed, pulling my legs up into my chest.
He slammed the breaks, his face cracking with fear as he turned the steering wheel sharply to the side.
"Tyler!" I screamed again.
He looked at me, his face full of horror. "I'm sorry," He whispered, his voice trembling.
And that was the last thing I heard before the sound of metal twisting into each other shot through the air. My head slammed into the dashboard. Tyler's whole upper body hit the steering wheel, a chorus of stomach churning snaps rang out.
"Tyler!" I choked on blood as I screamed his name. This wasn't happening! My arms fell limply next to my head as the car began to roll, a steady flow of blood streaming down my face as I went unconscious.
My eyes flashed open as I shot up in my bed, expecting to see myself in my own room-awakening from a bad dream. But I was in a hospital room, tubes and wires running from my arms to a large monitor.
Without thinking, I slid off the bed and stood up, a wave of dizziness hitting as I stumbled across the room and stepped into the hallway. I had to find Tyler.
"Miss Lear!" The Doctor exclaimed, but I ignored him and continued down the hall.
When I found Tyler's room, I pushed open the door as one of the machines began to beep out of control. I hurried over to him as nurse rushed in and moved to his side. There were a few more beeps, then it stopped. I took his cold, pale hand in my own and looked into his now-lifeless face.
Suddenly my knee's gave out, and just before I hit the ground, the Doctor rushed up and caught me.
"I'm so sorry Miss Lear." He supported my weight on himself and tried to help me from the room.
"No!" I screamed, looking at Tyler's lifeless body as I was dragged from the room. I grabbed onto the bed next to his, trying to pull myself towards him.
"No! I need to see him! Let me go!" I screamed, trying to break free from his firm grasp. But it was no use. The last thing I saw was Tyler's bloody, torn up face, peaceful and still as I was pulled from the room, the door shut behind us. The tears broke out in a heavy flow and my vision went blurry. My head spun as I was pulled down the hallway back to my room. Then I let my eyes close as I fell into a deep, quiet sleep.
What felt like moments later, my eyes flashing open. I looked around-startled to see that I was sitting on a bench at the park.
"Hello."
A soft voice startled me. I turned towards the voice, my heart stopping as I stared into those familiar dark brown eyes.
"I'm Tyler."

p.bohnert said...

What mistake did I make? I pulled the trigger. I saw his fingers tighten over his visceral cavity and the dark stain of blood, like ebon, flow over his clenched hands and splatter his pants. His knees buckled and he fell headfirst onto the litter strewn alley floor. A death groan reached my ears before I was able to turn away from it.
Now I am plastered with my back to the brick side wall of a building in another alley. Not far from the first. My fingers grip grout lines as if suctioned. My head is turned to the right and my eyes dart up and down the vertical corner watching for a change in the pattern of light. I’m breathing through my mouth to quiet the rush of air in and out.
He called my name. Or I thought I heard “Rafael…” on the night’s humid breath. And I thought I heard his footsteps when I ran. His booted stride is unmistakable.
There are alleyways in every block. He can’t survive to search them all. Surely I can outrun him; he was eviscerated by the bullet. Yet, I am epoxied to this wall, with no way to run on overcooked noodle legs.
If he has some magical power, a superhuman sense of smell, he will find me. Every breath I exhale carries micro droplets of pungent onion, the vinegar of capers, the omega vitamins of my salmon past the corner of the building. They must shine like a neon arrow, “Rafael is Here.” I close my mouth.
But, now he can surely detect the rush of air through my nostrils. Air, brushed by follicle hairs which produce a tremolo torch song, music to his ears. I hold my breath.
Do the whites of my eyes reflect off that streetlamp on 3rd? Will he see a dual beam of light refraction chasing the edge of the building up and down? Will he see this as brightly as two full moons orbiting the earth? I squeeze my eyes tight.
I gauged my distance; I was too far away to be splattered by blood. But close enough to be sure it was him. Close enough to see the damage done, a clean kill. The windowless alley had no streetwalkers lounging in anticipation of their next john or overnight bums in cardboard beds to testify. No one sounded an alarm. No dog barked with the silencer in place.
Rivulets of heated body-temperature sweat run between my shoulder blades and down my temples. If I am not careful a salty stream will escape my hiding place and darken the concrete. He could see it and swim upstream to the source. My right hand wipes at my brow then clambers back to the wall.
As my fingers work on their hold, a few loosened grains of grout sand tumble to the ground.
“Rafael?” In his whispered sing-song voice, “I heard that.”

P.A.Bees

David R. said...

Jaran yanked at Vincent’s arm. “Come on! Do you want to live or not?”
The soldiers fired simultaneously; five lead balls streaked through the air and ricocheted off the wall in the spot Vincent had vacated no more than a second earlier.
Jaran dashed away from the guards. He was running for his own freedom and did not look back to see if Vincent was following him.
The other squads of guards closed in, and Jaran turned sharply to avoid them. If hours of wandering the streets had not carved a map of the city into his head, it would have been impossible to keep his bearings.
Hearing the clank of boots ahead, Jaran pivoted to his right, just before gunshots rang out. He thought Vincent might have been hit, until he heard panting close behind.
Then Jaran heard panting ahead of him, as well. He ran faster as two city guardsmen leaped in front of him.
“I’ve got the one on the right!” Vincent said. He drew his rapier – shhink – and leveled it at the officer’s sternum.
“Volaire.” The officer’s voice was pained, though he held his sword steadily. “You had such potential. We all said, ‘Someday he’ll be a great leader; he’ll make some waves, to be sure.’ With the respect of your peers and the trust of your superiors, you could have gone far. How is it that you turned aside?”
Recognition, tinged with sadness, flickered behind Vincent’s eyes. “You are right. I will go far, but in a better way. I will make waves, waves that will wash away the superiors of which you speak and shake the customs to which you cling. I have no hard feelings toward you, but I am afraid you are in the way.”
“If that is how it must be,” said the officer, taking a defensive stance, “so be it.”
Vincent smiled grimly. “En garde, then.”
He lunged with his sword. The guardsman sidestepped and Vincent regained his balance just in time to parry a countering horizontal stroke. The blades struck together with a clang, and the opponents retreated a few steps, eyeing each other coolly. He is out of practice, Vincent observed.
Panting, the guard feinted then stabbed. Vincent saw the attack coming and spun out of the way. Without pausing, he struck downward. The officer managed to raise his sword but blocked with the weaker tip, which failed to stop the blow. His eyes widened with fear as Vincent’s blade sliced his uniform, missing his ear by an inch. Vincent pulled his sword back and drove it through the guardsman’s arm, just below the shoulder.
The guard gasped and fell to the ground as blood seeped from the wound. Vincent looked up and saw Jaran leaning nonchalantly against a wall. The other guardsman lay in a crumpled heap nearby.

Joanna said...

“Take me to the vault,” Billy said to the bank manager, pointing his Tommy at the man’s chest. “Dove, feel free to work your magic.”

I started at the end of the teller line. “Excuse me, ma’am, but I’m going to have to ask you for the cash from your drawer.”

“Did he call you Dove?” she whispered.

I considered playing coy. But, it was all over now. There was no point in hiding from myself. “Yes. You can call me Laney, though.”

“I thought you didn’t use guns.”

“Times have changed, I guess.” I felt a pang of shame for the betrayal of one of the few principles I had left. I proceeded down the line, treating each stop as a polite banking transaction. I almost forgot the severity of the robbery in progress. Almost. As I reached the last teller, shots blasted outside. First a six-shooter, then machine gun fire.

Billy emerged from the vault. “Time’s up. We need bodies.”

“On it,” Ray replied, ushering the security guards towards the door. “Ladies, you’re gonna have to come with us, too.” He pointed his gun at some young women lying together on the ground. In all there were seven hostages.

“Make a circle,” Billy instructed them. “Don’t leave the circle or the bank’s the last chore you’ll ever check off your list. Dove, stay inside the group.”

We shuffled out of the front door as shots ricocheted off the bank’s facade and the buildings across the street. George did his best to keep the cops at bay.

“Hold you’re fire,” I heard someone yell out. “They’ve got hostages.”

Sam drove the car up to the front of the building, jumping the curb. George continued to fire bursts when the cops attempted to move in. We inched closer and closer to the car, moving like a caterpillar. Chaos enveloped us. Cops crept behind cars, shop owners acted as snipers from windows, passers-by watched the spectacle like it was a Saturday at the movies. We’re nearly there, I told myself, just a few more steps.

A series of shots were fired and George made a wailing animal-like sound. His machine gun let off a burst of bullets and I turned to see him tumble to the ground, blood spitting from his head. The woman next to me screamed and fell to the pavement. At the same moment, I looked over to see two cops advancing, guns drawn and pointed. I was hunted game. My ears registered the shot from the gun only feet from my face and I flinched, sure the end had dawned. Tiny droplets of blood, like rain, showered onto my face and chest. I looked down to find it spattered across my dress. But, there was no pain. My eyes scanned to the ground and I became sick. My body diseased with devastation. Billy lay crumpled on the sidewalk in front of me, blood pooling underneath him. He had been right behind me. Billy saved my life.

Rana Pipiens said...

I almost missed the northern leopard frog, green with brown spots, hiding in the grass. I had hiked five miles through a Canadian swamp to find one. The frog sat frozen in place as I took a close-up photo.

I turned back, not wanting to get stuck in the swamp after dark. This provincial park was wilder and more isolated than the U.S. parks I was used to. Bear scat on the trail and the cry of a bird I didn’t recognize--mournful like a loon--unsettled me.

I heard a rustle in the grass, perhaps a deer. I stood still and waited until I could identify the sound. Across the marsh, I saw a man. He hadn’t seen me yet. I moved away from the trail, stepping carefully to avoid making a noise in the marsh grass.

Crouching in cattails, I peered at him through my bird-watching binoculars. Despite the sultry day, he wore a gray suit. His brown leather shoes—-office shoes—-were muddy and wet. Until I saw his gun, I wasn’t afraid. His car may have broken down or he may have been lost or in some kind of trouble. But my hands trembled as I focused on his gun—-a semi-automatic pistol, not a bird-hunting shotgun or a deer-hunting rifle.

I crept through the brush on my stomach, snake-like, as I had learned to do in basic training. When I reached the log bridge spanning a frog pond, I crawled under it, sinking into the muddy water up to my neck, surrounded by lily pads. A bullfrog, half-immersed in water, stared at me, but did not move. Water striders danced across the water.

The man approached the bridge. I heard his footsteps above me. He stopped halfway across the bridge. I held my breath. Only the jug-o-rum call of the bullfrog broke the silence.

Magdalena Munro said...

The Virgin Mary was swaying wildly with each jerk of the wheel. Mark was unable to focus on the road ahead of him and instead vacillated between his Grandfather's notebook on the seat beside him and every car's approach. His wan complexion was saturated with a cold sweat and with only one hand on the wheel, the other one served no purpose but to mop his anxious face. A horn honked aggressively at Mark for his reckless swerving. Every nerve in his body was frayed with anxiety and fear.

“Come on now, Mark. You're overreacting to the danger element here. This isn't a John Grisham novel for Christ's sake,” he shouted to himself in the dark car as the growing desolation in the road ahead filled him with dread.

With less distractions on the road, Mark began to ruminate about his Grandfather Leland and what he unearthed earlier that day while going through his belongings. When he stumbled onto the large leather bound notebook, he asked his Mom if he could keep it as it seemed to be work related. Through the tears of a daughter that has just lost her Dad, she flipped her hands into the air for him to take it.

Walking to a nearby diner for a quick lunch, he brought the notebook with him to feel connected to “Doc” as he was affectionately called. Mark had always defended the pharmaceutical giant Solvay that Doc ran as their Chief Scientific Officer. The notes were orderly and Mark became lost in Doc's historical scientific “novel” of sorts. His brow furrowed as he read about a virus that was discovered in harvested monkey tissue from the Congo and that Doc called an unknown cell killer. He went on to read about his pivotal work toward the development of the Polio vaccine.

“Are you OK, honey?” the concerned waitress asked as she ambled over to Mark whom she thought was about to faint.

Mark dropped twenty dollars on the table and rushed out of the diner. He fought the urge to vomit as he rehashed what he just read. The polio vaccine trials in the Congo had been contaminated with HIV virus from monkeys and it was Doc's company that introduced the virus via the contaminated vaccine into humans. He had read about lies to congress and the immense cover up that Doc orchestrated.

The phone continued to ring without an answer. Renewed panic cascaded through Mark as he raced home. The last five miles were an eternity as he imagined his son Jake for whom he breathed and lived. After ten agonizing minutes, he pulled onto his street with a frenetic speed. Approaching the house, he came to a complete stop and turned off the lights when he saw two strange cars parked near his house. Ducking in the car while clutching the notebook, his entire body went numb when he heard the sound of his wife shrieking in the night.

Victoria Dixon said...

Rebels poured onto the field. Night shadowed their faces, but their colorful turbans flashed in the firelight.
Aiyu strained to see against the glare of the flames. Chong Han called to his archers. Arrows, then screams and a spray of dark blood answered.
A single turbaned warrior ran away. Aiyu raced to meet his first opponent. Staff in firm, flexible grip. He's bigger – use it against him.
Aiyu lunged low to the ground and ploughed the end of his staff into the man's gut.
The rebel collapsed, gasping for air. More enemy rushed toward him. Aiyu cracked his staff on heads and buffeted shoulders and ribs. His hands stung from the blows. He refused to think about those he hurt.
Jie fought on horseback ten bu away. Close enough Aiyu could help his master. Far enough Jie didn't see him, but where was Zhang?
More Turbans surged toward him. Aiyu's staff whirled. It spattered an arc of blood around his head. He used the end and stabbed. Whirled and smashed a soldier in the face. Sand shifted beneath him and he slid to his knees. His left hand touched pulpy noodles.
A gasp of pain sounded beneath him.
Aiyu cried out. He'd trod on the spilling intestines of a dying rebel. He scrambled away, his left arm coated up to his elbow in blood.
"Kill me," the man groaned. "Please."
"No," Aiyu croaked. "No!" He ran.
More Turbans came, pushing him away from his master.
He struck again and again. His arms and shoulders ached. No longer caring if Jie punished him, Aiyu struggled against the tide of fighters.
At last, he found Jie again. Surrounded by a much smaller number of his men, Jie had dismounted.
"Guard the left!" Jie's voice penetrated clashes, guiding their blows. "Don't let them flank you!" More enemy piled against them.
Aiyu heard a rhythmic pound of the enemy's swords on their shields and the answering arrows' thip. The tempo reeled faster. Screams and grunts punctuated the awful music and Jie's men recoiled. No pinching crush came from Zhang.
There were too many Yellow Turbans. The flood forced Aiyu away. He ducked sword and knife thrusts. He stiff-fingered groins, kicked out knees and stayed alive.
The crowd shifted and Jie's men foundered. He called for a shield wall.
Aiyu cried out. “Master!”
Jie didn't hear him and was too far away for Aiyu to reach. Aiyu stood on the field of battle where he wasn't meant to be. Alone.

Jenny Wagget said...

From THE AWAKENING DREAM:

Drip, drip, drip echoes through damp smelling darkness. It’s a friggin’ tunnel. A labyrinth of chiseled rock blocks, laid like bricks—Godzilla bricks.

I don’t know the guys who lead us down, down, down; yet we follow, follow, follow. The familiar chill shoots up my spine questioning, “What frying pan did you jump into this time, Miss Attie?”

“Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore, desolate yet all undaunted…on this desert land enchanted…on this home by horror haunted…tell me truly, I implore…” the verse, ricocheting in whispers, finds way to my ear.

“Jeez Kevin, what’s with the Poe soundtrack? I’m scared enough!”

“It’s Underground Eureka Attie. Remember? Tortured patients. Dr. Baker’s Morgue—the Lyme Pits.”

“Lighten up! Would you?”

Visions of trapped souls roaming the halls of the old hotel on the hill come to mind as squish, squish, squish gurgles under my feet. Thank god, tennis shoes trumped the flip-flop choice. Just the thought of whatever I’m walking in transports me directly to feeling goopy layers of coagulated blood on the cold morgue floor oozing-up between the thong and my big toe.

Jesus! What if the light goes off? Immediately following that brain wave, I shout to our leaders, “Hey you up there. Don’t turn-out the light!”

“Relax. We’re in a dream within a dream.” Kevin’s breath brushes the back of my shoulder with each word. Its touch lingers as a hand upon my skin which burns like a hot iron when he adds, “Trust it.”

Trust? I got a thing about that.

“God Attie,” the voice in my head says, “Fear. Give it up!”

“And trust? Sure. I’m all over it.” Back and forth with the voice I go.” Easy for you to say.”

“Cut the psycho babble,” the voice answers and fades.

Whatever: I don’t trust THEM—the guys up there. Color me control freak but, I want possession of the light.

“Kevin. This Underground we’re in. Are you saying it’s a dream within a dream reality?”

“Not exactly.”

Kevin’s response hangs heavy with implication. I ask, “Well, then, what exactly?”

“Think symbolically—people lived lives, dreamed dreams free and in broad day light right where we stand, but that was before those in control raised the street levels and left this other world to exist unattended.”

Moving fast, our leaders make a hard turn right. I didn’t know dark had the ability to get darker.

“Damn it Kevin, I’m having a tough time getting your point. Besides, I’m kinda preoccupied with the present lights out situation. From the looks of this place, any moment, I fully expect to meet Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether.”

“Imagine that. Lunatics. In residence; loose and on the prowl?” Playing devil’s advocate Kevin asks, “Afraid Attie? Whatcha think? Some say it’s too late.” Kevin’s voice goes sinister. He whispers in my ear, “‘Doth quoth the Raven. Nevermore’.”

“Stop it!” I reach around, push him away. “You’re givin’ me the creeps. Anyway. It’s never too late.”

goldchevy said...

Tyler reached back and yanked her onto the board. He circled her arms around him and pressed her hands against his chest. He hoped she wouldn’t let go. He hoped she wouldn’t have a reason to. If they crashed on the way down, they would be buried in the swirling sand before he could get them back on the board.

With a quick jerk of his hips, he forced the board over the edge. In seconds they were freefalling down the slope.

Tyler didn’t attempt to carve. Speed was their only hope. Even so the storm caught them less than half way down.

Tyler saw puffs of brown smoke curl around them, like they had some enormous dragon on their tail. His view of the SUV shrank to a pinpoint then disappeared. The fierce wind replaced the eerie silence with a ferocious roar. Tyler ground his teeth in pain.

The whipping sand was even more painful. It felt like it was burning through layers of his skin. He tried to keep his eyes open in case the SUV reappeared, but they were quickly coated with the stuff. He couldn’t risk lifting his arm up to wipe them—even a small move might jeopardize his balance. So he squeezed them shut—he couldn’t see worth crap anyway.

Sierra tightened her grip. He felt the side of her face press into his back. She must be squeezing him kind of tight because suddenly he had trouble breathing.

He tried inhaling, but got more sand than air. He let out one small cough and the board swerved so wildly he had to use all the strength in his thighs to regain control.

He thought for a second. Her added weight must be making them go faster. Why was that? Ernest would have some rational explanation. All Tyler knew was they’d reached highway speed for sure.

When the slope finally flattened, he wanted to turn the board and stop. But he was afraid a quick move would send Sierra flying off the back.

It didn’t matter though because they hit what felt like a rock and they both went flying. Sierra’s arms stayed locked around his chest, so he landed with her on top of him. Mouth wide open, he skidded a few feet, his chin scraped raw as the desert flowed down his throat.

He shoved her off and hauled himself to his knees, hacking up clumps of sand. Pressing his mouth into the inside of his elbow, he tried to get a breath of clean air. But he couldn’t get much. Waves of dizziness swirled in his head and he crashed back onto the sand.

Within seconds he was yanked to his feet and lifted off the ground, his body slung over someone’s shoulder. Had Dakata found them?

He grabbed the person’s arm and had one last thought before plunging into total darkness.

Dakata sure had soft skin for a guy.

Charity Bradford said...

(Thanks for the opportunity!)
Action sequence:
SENDEK--science fantasy

The thundering water masked the sounds that signified the Draguman’s death, but I clearly saw the body as it fell to the ground in front of us. The green scales glittered in the moonlight, with a darker area slashed across its abdomen. Blood drained out onto the rocky ground.

The sight and smell of blood turned my stomach as I squeezed my eyes shut. They flew open as Landry shoved me out of the path of the charging Draguman. The motion knocked me off balance, scraping up my hands as I hit the ground. My scream caught in my throat. Two shadows grappled in front of me. Hands and claws locked around each other’s throat in a death grip. I scrambled to my knees, searching the ground for a rock or something to use as a weapon. My fingers brushed cold metal.

Landry’s flashlight felt heavy and solid in my hands as I rose to my feet. A satisfying crack vibrated through my arms, rattling my teeth, as I smashed it onto the Draguman’s head. My relief fled as the flashlight shattered in my hands. The Draguman released Landry and turned toward me. I saw Landry suck in gulps of air as large hands grasped my shoulders and flung me into the cliff face.

The air rushed out and my back shredded as I slid down the rock face to rest on the ground. My legs folded beneath me and my eyes watered as I gasped for air. The sharp pain in my chest dulled the sting in my back. Sparkles danced at the edge of my vision and the tips of my fingers tingled. A blurry form stalked toward me. I willed my muscles to move. Get up! I struggled to suck in more air. I reached deep, but my body refused to obey. I watched my death approach in slow motion.

Jewel pounced from above, knocking me to the ground once more. Air trickled in, but each gulp shot pain through my body. I watched Jewel pin the Draguman down with her strong back legs and slice upward with her front talons. The Draguman’s scales sloughed off and when Jewel brought the clawed front leg to her mouth, something dangled from it. Evisceration in one smooth movement. She ate.

My stomach churned as the smell of fresh blood washed over me. I tried to stand, but the pain crippled me. Every inch of me hurt. Without the sun or trees to heal me, my life evaporated into the night. The darkness closed in and I stopped fighting it.

My eyes remained open, but I no longer saw the stars in the sky. The waterfall became a muffled memory as the cold reached my heart. As I slipped from this life, I felt Landry’s arms wrap around me and the comforting presence of his mind.

I’m sorry.

Dawn said...

From Absolution, a thriller:

Cait navigated her way through traffic with one hand on the wheel and the other on a sticky gearshift. Her father’s voice echoed through a phone that was tucked under her ear and pressed against her shoulder.

“Your mother and I are terrified.”

Having now mastered the stick shift on the rental, she shrugged off the honks and rude gestures from occasional frustrated drivers. It wasn’t her Mustang, not by a long shot, but the car managed a little pep. She wedged between a truck and scooter that had cut her off, then released the stick and flipped off the asshole behind her.

Translate that, she thought and grinned when the return honk sounded more pop than blast.

“We have reason to be concerned,” her father said. “Someone blew up your car.”

Like she’d needed the reminder. “It was insured.”

“And thank God for that,” he shouted. “But what if you’d been in the car?”

She glanced in her rearview. Traffic moved steadily behind. Ahead, a traffic light turned yellow. “I wasn’t,” she said. “And Nico can’t touch me here.”

He grunted. “I don’t know that Europe is the safest place, either.” He silenced her with a firm “but” before she could interrupt. “… I’m pleased you’ve decided to drop the story.”

“I’m not.”

She stopped at the light, pulled alongside a Ferrari and revved the engine. The driver looked over, flashed a smile and followed suit. The scent of exhaust brought on a fresh rush of adrenaline.

The light turned green. Cait jammed into first gear, stomped on the gas and to her surprise shot ahead of the Ferrari. She made a quick shift to second, third, and was almost a car length in front when she wedged into fourth.

Holy fruitcrackers!

She glanced in her rearview, expecting to see the Ferrari. Instead, caught a glimpse of a red pick-up ducking behind a sedan two vehicles behind.

A ripple of familiarity set her senses on alert.

She could barely hear her father now over a trumpet of warning bells. She dropped the car into third, switched into the left lane, back again. The pick-up mimicked her pattern.

“Dad, it’s long distance,” she said. “Traffic is bad. I’ve gotta go.”

“For now. But I’m not finished.”

She yanked the steering wheel to the right, prepared to make a sharp exit onto an off-ramp. The rental lacked agility, forcing her to drop into second gear.

The truck stuck to her tail.

She tossed her phone onto the passenger seat. Her mother wanted her to discover faith; well, she was on the verge of praying now. Accelerating out of the corner, she jammed into third.

The truck moved behind her. She strained to make out the driver’s face just as sunlight hit the window and shot a blinding ray at her eyes. Her rental slammed into the back of an SUV.

The airbag deployed.

Her head smacked against the dash.

The last thing Cait heard was the chorus of shattering glass.

Liberty Speidel said...

From Homebody (494 words):


No noise greeted Rick when he stepped in, but the muddy footprints leading to both office and bedroom told him he'd been right to call the cops.

He wished he'd grabbed his pistol from the glove box. Why hadn't he? At least Amanda had one in the house. He crossed to the office, scanned from the doorway to make sure no one was inside, then found Amanda's Lucy on the floor near the closet door.

Lucy held a full clip. Amanda always left her unloaded.

She had it. Why didn't she shoot them? He hefted the gun in his hand.

Then Amanda screamed.

He had no memory of going from the office to her bedroom.

Derek Mathieu and Vaughn Littlejohn stood in the room, Derek holding a knife, Vaughn holding a gun. Derek stood closest to Amanda, who lay naked on the bed.

Anger boiled deep inside Rick's chest. "Get away from her." He pointed the gun at Derek. "Get out of here. Now."

"Well, if it isn't Mr. Goody-two-shoes," Mathieu said. "Haven't thought much about you in, oh, the last three years."

"I'm sorry I ever worked for either of you. Now, get out of here before I decide to shoot both of you."

"You won't do that. You—"

Littlejohn moved to shoot Amanda.

Rick shifted the gun to him, squeezed the trigger.

Littlejohn crumpled to the ground, screaming, and grabbing for his gut.

Rick turned the gun back on Mathieu. "Nothing would give me more pleasure than to kill you after what you've put Amanda through in the last week, what you were about to do to her now. Put the knife down and put your hands behind your head."

The other man stared for a long moment, then grinned.

Rick eased in closer, not taking his eyes off Mathieu. He brought the gun to the man's skull, then reached for the hand with the knife.

He grabbed the knife from Mathieu's hand, dropped it to the floor, and kicked it under the bed.

He heard sirens, then Amanda's scream a microsecond before Littlejohn launched himself up at Rick. Lucy fell from his hands and skidded on the hardwoods.

Shit! Should have shot him a second time.

"Derek, go! He's called the cops!" Littlejohn screamed as he grappled with Rick on the floor.

"This isn't over, O'Flannigan! You're mine, and I'm not going back to prison until you're dead!" Mathieu screamed, then a crash.

Rick swung at Littlejohn, met flesh, and swung again. Bucking, he flung the wounded man off, and searched for a gun.

From the corner of his eye, he spotted Littlejohn trying to find a weapon. Rick's heartbeat kicked up another thirty points as he looked frantically for Lucy.

She poked out from the dust ruffle of Amanda's bed. He swiped her up, pointed it at Littlejohn, fired again, this time hitting higher in the chest.

Littlejohn stopped moving, but gasped for air, blood gushing from his chest.

macaronipants said...

Mom's plain gone, gone off to her own private world. She has always walked around like she's carrying an overfull glass inside herself and the slightest shudder will tip it, sending God-knows-what in all directions. Today I'm afraid whatever she's been keeping upright might finally spill over, and we’ll all drown.

“He just got knocked out," I whisper as the car slides a little in the road. Mr. Peterson grumbles behind the wheel, driving too fast for the weather so he can keep up with the ambulance. Mom squeezes my hand to white and leans her head on my shoulder. I believe my own words but then I get a sudden picture of Daddy, the blood streaming out his nose, his body at odd angles. What I know and what I want to believe slide further apart.

Mom suddenly pulls her head off my shoulder, her eyes on my chest. I'm still wearing my camera under Daddy’s Pendleton.

"I forgot to take it off is all," I say.

She doesn't reply. She's thinking of the pictures I took of Gram after the cancer had eaten just about all of her, if I’d take pictures like that of Daddy. I never told her what Gram had asked me to do. Not that it would have mattered. I take the camera off and slide it into the pocket behind Mrs. P's seat.

I turn toward my brothers for comfort, getting an urge for their twin-ness, wishing I had some mirror reflection of myself that was flesh and blood. Someone I could hide behind, fall into, be mistaken for. Hugging them is like hugging wood. My bothers and mother are stiff bookends, but they're the only things holding me up.

We run two red lights and eventually come to a screeching stop behind the ambulance at the emergency room doors. The leather seat squeaks under Mom's moist jeans as she slides out into the pelting rain. Immediately, her hair is drenched, hanging down in triangular brown wedges. When I move to follow, she puts up a hand to stop me. Five hundred cold needles of rain prick at my arm.

The back doors of the ambulance pop open like a demented Jack-in-the-box, and the paramedics pull Daddy out in a rush, one holding a bag of fluid above his head, the other adjusting a tube in his nose. There's a giant brace around Daddy's neck and he's strapped down like a mental patient.

Mom says, "Watch the boys." She shuts the door firmly, putting glass and a whole bunch of unspoken words between us.

Sara said...

I don't have a lot of chase scenes, but here's one!

************

Most of us (among those who had gathered there) never saw the bees. We only heard the yips of the first two people to be stung, the cry of ‘bees!’ and then the shout of the groundskeeper: Run! Get in the cars!

Nobody liked to mention later on if they had noticed that hole, or the way the pale twins were hunting for rocks to throw up at it. One of them was the first to be stung, the other was up on the rim of the bowl and ran when she heard her sister shriek. When their uncle looked up and saw the black storm of insects descending, he yelled and grabbed the girl, scrambled up out of the hole, was stung himself, ran downhill stripping off the child’s shirt, brushing at bees and shouting over her screams, ran for the road, passing her mother and sister who pelted after them as we all scattered for the cars.

The boy was still up in his roost. At first he thought the bees would follow his flailing relations and leave him if he stayed still against the trunk, but then he heard a high-pitched insect whine and they were on him. Bees filling his hair, pouring into his collar, up his sleeves, a thousand needle stabs of poison in his skin. He covered his face with his hands, drove his forehead into the bark, pressed himself against the tree and yelled in desperate agony, but no-one heard him, at least, no-one reported it later. There was a lot of yelling going on.

Once at the cars, the uncle flung himself and the little girl into the back of a minivan, threw the side door shut, and slapped off every crawling insect he could find, stamping them to the floor, crushing them with fingers, grimly not listening to her melodramatic screams, which were starting to catch in her throat.

You won’t die honey, your mom has your epipen, right?

Her mom slammed into the van, pushing the other, miraculously unstung, sister ahead of her. She had the epipen right there in her hand, she had never used it but she had been trained, everything would be fine. But she froze. Forty-five minutes to the hospital, she saw the number written across her vision, forty-five minutes, we’ll never make it. One of us grabbed the epipen, uncapped it and stabbed it into the child’s thigh, but as his hand came away the mother screamed no, no, you have to leave it there, and grabbed for it, knocking it rattling under the seat. Someone started the engine and pulled out into the road, yelling, Strap in, we have to get to the emergency room! Three heads cracked together in the scramble to reach under the seat, to lie on the floor and feel around for the epipen, knock it into the well by the door, come up again with it covered in crumbs and jab it back into the child’s leg.

Ashley said...

I was running for my life. Faster and faster, through a forest so thick with trees that the morning sun was barely able to break through and light my way. The thin fabric of my nightgown clung to my legs, covered in blood and fresh earth from my frequent contact with the forest floor.

My breathing came in desperate pants that filled my ears; so loud that I was unable to hear the men that I knew were coming for me. Coming to kill me. I don’t know how long I had been running, hours, just minutes maybe, but I knew I couldn’t go on much longer. They would catch me—it would all have to end.

Light came from up ahead and just when I thought I couldn’t take another step, the trees cleared. The bright sun was blinding as I stumbled into a meadow surrounded by trees. They were so tall they seemed to touch the clouds, leaving a perfect circle of morning blue sky directly overhead. I reached the center of the clearing, turned, and fell to my knees. I had nothing left.

My hands went to face, finding it dry but for the forest grime and sweat—no tears. The woods were eerily quiet in the early morning, they felt empty and peaceful, a suspended calm that I wished would linger forever.

But in an instant the woods awoke.

First it was just a distant crashing, like an army of giants forcing their way through a too small grouping of trees. Then the sound of their breathing brought them closer to the edge of the clearing.

One second I was staring at a wall of trees and the next I was watching five men step into the sunlight. Dressed in all black and standing well over six feet tall, they were a terrifying sight. Each carried a sword as long as my arm that gleamed in the morning light, and not one of them had a flicker of remorse in his stony face. They stopped in a menacing line within the circle of trees.

The largest of the men stepped forward and stopped in front of me. He raised his weapon high above his head as if it weighed nothing and met my stare.

“Last words?” he asked, his voice steely and his eyes curious. Dark hair fell in greasy strands past his shoulders and his fierce eyes were the color of coal, they pierced right through me, as sharp as the weapon in his hands. There was no mercy behind those eyes.

I lost it completely then, choking on my tears and struggling to breathe, I was able to get out just one word, “Why?”

His eyes relaxed, as if my question was expected, no surprises—he almost looked relieved.

“We end it now,” he said, “so that you never live long enough to know why.”

The sword fell towards me, silencing the scream that was waiting to leave my lips.

Courtney said...

My platoon was on checkpoint duty near an old bridge outside of Ramadi, where insurgent groups regularly attacked. We had to have constant vigilance, even when we were exhausted from the oppressive heat and the constant sun that parched our bodies and scorched our skin. A long line of vehicles was stopped, waiting for inspection. The smell of exhaust filled the air. I longed for a beer.

Suddenly, twenty vehicles back, a car exploded. A huge bang followed by the sound of falling shrapnel and a cloud of billowing smoke filled the air. Two of my privates and I left our post and ran toward the indistinguishable vehicle that was engulfed in flames, M14's at the ready. No corpse could be seen in the detonated car, but the smell of burning flesh permeated the air. Civilians were running from the line of cars, screaming, clutching their sobbing children to their chest. I noticed a large white bus five vehicles in front of the detonated car. Three women wearing black burkas were slowly exiting the bus. Their heads were bent down, as they carefully watched their footing on the rusty steps. From a distance, they looked elderly, somehow encumbered.

As I searched for insurgents and survivors in the bombed vehicles, the crowds of civilians that had left their cars were starting to pool in three distinct areas. One group stood near the checkpoint station, another stood off in the distance to the left of the station, and a third stood off to the right. Screams penetrated the air as women and children cried hysterically. People were bleeding, wrapping their wounded bodies with scraps of clothing, holding onto themselves in fear and pain. A man lying on the ground writhed in misery, his left side burned, tears streaming down his face. I could hear the sound of sirens rushing to the scene. Everything was chaotic.

All the while, the three women in burkas moved slowly toward the screaming masses. I quickly made my way back to the checkpoint station.

"Take care of the wounded!" I commanded, "Get the supplies and move the civilians away from the line of vehicles!" I surveyed the surroundings. The three women continued to move slowly, floating like dark, ghostly shadows above the ground. Then they divided up, one gliding toward the crowd to the left as the second glided silently to the right. The third glided straight ahead, moving toward the checkpoint station, where I now stood. The hairs on my arms and neck stood erect. Something wasn’t right.

BOOM! An explosion rang through the air. The civilians in my group and the group to the right of me screamed in terror as the civilians in the group to the left were silenced forever. The burka'd woman had detonated herself. Arms, legs, hands and other unidentifiable body parts spewed across the land, blanketing the ground with blood.

BOOM! I didn't stop to look. The second woman had detonated herself. More screams. More blood.

Excerpt from my novel, “Clover Doves.”

Hillsy said...

Feel sorry for you, Nathan, trying to pick a winner out of these great submissions. What is it they say about no good deed going unpunished? hehe. I raise a glass to you, dude!

-----------------------------


OF SHADOWS AND ANGELS
SCIENCE FICTION
(Action sequence extract)

"That thing's dripping with cold magic." He shouted to Shyla, turning to run. She floated alongside him as he pounded across the ground with long strides.

Yes. She said, her voice clear and powerful in his mind above the rushing wind. But it's very localised, it seems to effect only the areas it passes over rather than just expanding in all directions. .

"So all I've got to do is fry it with some heat magic."

You can't do that. The amount you'll need will bring every Wanderer within ten miles that can feel magic down on us.

He looked over his shoulder. The beast closed, shrieks tearing through the sleet, and unlimbered its talons. Sharp breaths clawed down his throat.

"Whose side are you on anyway?" Layne was almost at the next dilapidated M-RAT when he felt the cold breeze gust past his neck. He ducked and slid, laying himself flat in the mud. Razor sharp claws tore through the air he had been occupying moments before and instead smashed into the underside of the vehicle. The resulting boom galloped around the valley. Talons gouged along and into the bodywork, tipping the M-RAT over and dragging the giant insect down to the floor.

Layne was on his feet in a flash. As the beast tore its claws free, scattering metallic debris, he unclipped his sword hilt from his belt and jumped onto the heap of carbosteel. With a blur of diaphanous wings it began to heave its bulk aloft. Layne sprang forward, blade singing out of the hilt, and sliced clean through one wing, tearing a ragged hole in the next. The scream the beast gave this time was all pain and no joy.

He hit the ground in a heap, rolling and scrabbling to get out from beneath it. With only four wings still intact the Wanderer was able to stay aloft, but it lurched from side to side. The wicked blades on its feet tore at the sky as it tried both to keep itself airborne and to strike at him. Agility was on his side now. Or at least he hoped so. He was on his feet and running before he was shredded like lettuce.

This time the race to the next M-RAT was fairer. Slowed by the lack of updraft it could create, its pursuit of Layne was laboured. It bounced and floundered as though battling through the air itself. But it still closed.

Layne reached the burnt-out carbosteel shell first, just. Using only the merest trickle of magic he leapt fifteen feet in the air and hung there in a mockery of physics. The Wanderer passed beneath him, sinuous neck trying to peck him out of the air, but it was too late. The magic drained from him and as he fell three wings followed, fluttering lifeless to the floor like sycamore seeds. With a chilling cry it dropped from the air and ploughed a great furrow into the mud.

Anonymous11 said...

My mother said never to talk to strangers. When they'd offer you candy or to help them search for their lost puppy, what you'd do is run. Run. Run. Run.


Run? How could I run? Wherever I seem to go, I end up in the same place. Run? How could I run when I - a seven year old - can't even stand without banging my head against the top of this plastic contraption? Or worse - get my ponytail stuck to the wayward nails that protrude like claws. At least I know it's much harder for him - a bulky figure and fat, too. That kind of figure doesn't squeeze through tunnels easily. But his advantage is his black clothing which shields him from the dark while I am dressed in innocent white like the sun you can't miss on a clear, blue sky.


Our breaths create a furnace and the remnant stink of sweaty socks settles down my throat. The walls, the floor, and everything I touch leave my fingers sticky. I look through a scratched up window and see more of those looping, rainbow colored tunnels. I look for an exit - a slide or those deformed stairs, maybe even a hole in the netting I can squeeze through. Nothing. But I feel him coming closer - behind me the tunnel shakes and hungry nails scratch at the walls, propelling him closer to me.


"Come here."


I gasp. I am at crossroads - right or left, left or right? I crawl to the right, trying to make the least noise as possible. You could make it through these tunnels blind, just hearing thuds and feeling the reverberating plastic walls around you.


I come across a section that is only net and as I crawl past, my small, bare foot sinks downward and brings my knee, thigh, and hip, with it and soon my whole leg is dangling out.


With my heart in my ears, I glance back and a black figure reaches to me. I yell and kick with as much energy as I have left. My mouth widens and my undeveloped teeth hook on to the net, ready to gnaw it off, but then I hear a snap and there is a small opening where my leg is. I slide my other leg into the hole and wriggle my way down. Just as I'm about to fall, I feel a brush on my elbow. I hit the soft carpet, shivering. I stand up on wobbly feet and run. Past machines, past bowling alleys, past toys smiling at me from their shelves and past a slide I could have taken if I'd had gone left.


Now, past the door, night air surrounds me, chilling my sweat. My eyes water as I recall how close I was to getting caught by the stranger. Mother should have taught me another thing - never break into Chuck E. Cheese at night.

Anonymous said...

FACE LIFT:

Miss Ease led Aurelia to a perfumed treatment room. Seven of eight couches were filled; the ocuupants snuggled under soft blankets like giant flies with their protective hair turbans and huge eye shields. Their face masks were dark purple with the mouldy bloom found on grapes.

Aurelia said, "Heya, girls."

No one responded, perhaps afraid to crack their masks.


Miss Ease adjusted a treatment stand. "I suggest the deluxe upgrades. Chemical peel, acid mask, dna remoulding..." She swivelled the spray nozzle directly over Aurelia's upturned face. "First, a light wash."


Aurelia shoved it away. "Sounds great but I don't have much time. Just the repair wash please."


"Certainly, Ma'am." Miss Ease reached for a bowl of cream.


There was something strange about Aurelia's neighbour. Her hands were balled into fists, knuckles jutting out against the desiccated spotted skin. The too-skinny wrists with a daubed band of black brown rust lay rigid and unmoving within their ill fitting bracelets.


Aurelia stared at the bracelets. Off-white and ochre stained. The fine hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. She suddenly realised what the stains were and she didn't want to end up with the same.


SNAP. Miss Ease had fastened a bracelet around her wrist.


Aurelia sat up. "I don't need restraints." She tugged at it with her free hand.


Miss Ease smiled her cheery smile and said comfortably, "Stabilisers, Ma'am. Health and Safety regulations. All clients must be comfortably positioned."

SNAP. Aurelia's left ankle was trapped.

"I've changed my mind. Sorry to be a nuisance but I'd like the deluxe body buff instead."

"We can arrange that after the face cleanse, Ma'am."

"I'll complain. Bad publicity. You'll be shut down. "Aurelia pressed her head deeper and deeper into the bodyfoam to avoid the approaching bowl.

The attendant stopped. She tilted her head. "We do not desire flawed bodies. As you wish, Ma'am."

As soon as she was released, Aurelia grabbed the bowl-"Sample this, Miss Ease"-and flung the contents. As the attendant staggered back, Aurelia rolled off the couch.

Miss Ease clutched her face, moaning. The cream turned orange and bubbled like volcanic mud.

"Wash it off," Aurelia screamed. She switched the spray on and drenched the stumbling attendant. Whoosh. Acrid smoke clouded up to the ceiling.

Miss Ease squealed. Her hands were blistered red, the skin dissolving. Smoke billowed the room and Miss Ease fell silent.

Aurelia collapsed to her knees, coughing and shielding her streaming eyes. Droid lights blipped through the haze. Thank the stars, a medibot. It had missed her.

"Here, over here." It was more a whisper than the intended shout but it worked. The lights changed direction. Aurelia gasped.

It wasn't a medibot but Miss Ease or what was left of her. The perfect pout and blue eyes had melted away, revealing a mess of sizzling circuitry snaking around her internal metal organs. Miss Ease was not happy and she was coming for her.

Jeff Wenker said...

Men of Letters

Martin’s eyes shine bright, smiling ovals oppressed by the sagging saddlebags of time. Experience and wisdom don’t walk together, I tell myself. Other measurements of mental acuity don’t matter tonight. He’s laughing at me. The bastard.

Frasier walks in and I hide the gun on my lap under the table.

Martin’s abusive cackle preceded him fifty-seven years ago, seeking victims not company. I hated it before I hated him. The hallway echoed and my windowless classroom reverberated its pitiless joy. Marie entered. Then him, all teeth and hair, his hand on her shoulder. Elation then disgust. Seeing her name on the class roster meant another semester of sweet expectations. Dreams come cheap for a Ph.D. candidate surviving on a Teaching Assistant’s salary. His careless confidence fouled my fantasy.

He chats with Frasier as if nothing’s different, as if this is just another game, as if we’ll both be here tomorrow.

Comparative Literature’s a ruthless business. Few plum spots and many plums. I’m pruning now, shriveling beneath a brain still capable of wielding words like weapons. Silent hate kills like cancer. Hate released is a viper’s venom. Twenty-five years have passed since I suggested the Department Head watch his wife on Wednesdays. Martin’s cockiness offended me, his cock nearly ruined him.

I draw the “Q” to match my “U”.

He moved to New York, alone. A decade passed. Nearly forgotten, his byline appeared in a magazine I once respected. Violent trite twaddle. I heard a novel was coming. Discreet inquiries, former colleague, tenured professor, not a bad writer himself, write a review, of course. Sympathetic? Honest. Brutally honest.

He fondles wooden squares. Caress those lovely letters, Martin, you’ll never work in words again. These months have been excruciating for us both. You’d deny it, but you accepted the challenge. When I pulled the pistol out of my desk drawer, you didn’t laugh. No, your lip curled.

Our loved ones left us before our lives did. Fate found us put out to pasture in the same paddock. It’s popular with our kind, a comfortable home in the country with courteous orderlies like Frazier to draw our baths and fluff our pillows as we end our days.

“A-R-T” Three cheap letters ordered defiantly, his smile smug. The game’s tilted in my favor. He’s attacking in other ways. “It’s only three points,” he says, “But at least it’s real. ‘LitCrit’ doesn’t qualify.”

I ignore him and place my “Q-U” in front of his “A-R-T”. I tally the score, put my pencil down, and lift the pistol. He’s not as afraid as I’d hoped he’d be, his eyes still smile. I pull back the hammer and ready the weapon. He pulls a tile off his tray, twirling in his fingers I see flashes of “Z”. He places it on the Triple Word square creating “QUARTZ” and taking the lead for good. He takes the gun, stands, and places the barrel to my forehead. His laughter is the last sound I hear.

Mesmerix said...

From my WIP: Green-Eyed Monster
Word Count: 491

The demon leaned against the brick wall with one leg bent, foot resting flat, a knobby knee jutting out. She was long and gaunt with skin like gray plastic wrap pulled over a month-old chicken dinner. Someone had removed all her giblets leaving a concave stomach that nearly touched her backbone. I couldn't tell if she was naked or wearing rags from the way her skin bunched and swayed as she raised a cigarette to her distended mouth.

In the dimness she barely passed for human, vaguely female. Stringy hair dangled to her waist and deflated balloons wobbled on her upper body. Shadows played tricks around her, washing the world in black.

The stench of sulfur thickened as Forest and I approached. Her screeching intensified, grating in my ears like stereo feedback.

"Holy shit on a shingle," Forest muttered.

She turned mid-drag and smoke poured from her pinched nose. Her eyes were golden coins holding a wide pupil. I sited my gun and stepped forward.

"May the Holy Cross be my light,” I recited. "Let not the dragon lead me. Step back--"

The creature vaulted.

It pushed off the wall and pivoted mid-air. I saw the outline of wings, like someone had grabbed the missing bits of her physique and stretched it like cookie dough.

I pulled the trigger. Two cracks echoed down the alley before she rode me down. Her lips dangled above my face and a shriek thundered through her throat. I heard one gunshot like a distant bell, then nothing. I couldn’t ponder my sudden deafness as agony and dizziness racked me.

I puked in her face.

I struggled against the demon, my broken eardrums, and the earth quaking underneath me. I wrenched my arm from under her and used my gun as a club. Shifting to put all my weight into the blow, I aimed for her temple.

She rolled away.

I lay there waiting for the ground to solidify while she crouched not fifteen feet away. A piece of lumpy flesh drooped over her nose. Bile oozed down her face and reminded me of lemon meringue pie. Meeting her eyes, I knew she would leap, but I was relearning gravity.

Two feet in scuffed navy dress shoes planted themselves between us. I gazed upwards as bursts of light appeared at the barrel of Forest’s gun. I stopped chanting verses I could no longer hear and maneuvered my gun between my partner's legs.

We emptied our clips.

Gunfire vibrated against my body, leaving tingles in its wake. The demon crumpled on the ground like leftovers from a plastic surgery. Her once-shrieking mouth trembled with tinny mews.

Forest wore his cop-face while helping me to my feet. My arm around his shoulder, his around my waist, we faced her like conjoined twins.

"Drink the poison yourself," I mouthed, and pulled a cross from inside my shirt.

I never heard the screams, but I watched the demon burn.

emrowan.com said...

A new noise makes my heart sputter. Somewhere between me and the river, a woman is laughing. But the laughter is so crystalline, so ethereal, I doubt the woman is human.

Maybe the forest spirit isn’t the only creature out tonight. Maybe there’s something far worse.

My self-control, whittled to string, now snaps. I wheel to my left and sprint north on the trail, pushing myself to run faster and faster.

Pound—pound—pound—pound—pound—

Wheeze—wheeze—wheeze—wheeze—wheeze—


My feet and breaths have no end, no beginning, no pattern.

I run inside a shaky circle of illumination, like a galloping disco ball. I can see just enough of the trail to know where my feet go next.

If someone’s following me, I won’t hear or see until it’s too late.

Please—please—please—please—please—

Of all the hard miles I’ve run in my life, this one is the hardest. Of all the times I jokingly thought I would die on a run, this is the only time I’m dead serious.

The world shrinks to my jiggling globe of light and sound, fear and aches. I can’t look beyond my feet or I will trip and fall—and maybe never get up again.

Lavender said...

This was the end, alright. I couldn't run any farther. Not even if I wanted to. I suppose it's my own fault; I shouldn't have tried to help those poeple. The blood falls from my stomach as I lean back on the kitchen counter.

I should have known my face was going to pop up where they were going to see it. I couldn't help but laugh at myself. I can't even bring myself to say their names. Am I that afraid to die?

I can hear them trying to break in the door. I can see the door in front of me shudder under their inhuman strength. They're so close now...close enough, that I can almost smell their sulfurous breath.

Ruling this world from the unseen places, they always destroy those in their way. I suppose I never really had a chance. But I sure as hell gave them a run for their money. The blood loss is making me dizzy.

Open the door, insolent human!, the voice is like pure evil made into sound.

I suppose its true: No good deed goes unpunished.

The hinges on the door break. The door falls in, like so much wood in the forest.

I may die here this moment. In fact, I know I will die in the next few seconds. Ah well.

At least I gave them hell.

Ken said...

Genre: horror (set in 18th century)

Carolyn saw it before he did. A shadow slid half a dozen yards across the ceiling then dropped, bringing the Major down in a heap. She tried to see if it was Jonathon, but only made out a filthy cloak and the bottoms of leather boots. The smell was repulsive - worse than the wharves in Salem, where rotting piles of fish heads would swelter in the sun and green water around the piers. The Major yelled. The fire-poker he held clanged on the floor, but he couldn’t lift his hand high enough to use it.

"Shoot, for God’s sake," he cried out, his voice smothered by movement and cloak and shadow.

She wasn’t going to pull the trigger until she was sure. Pale skin, a faint beard showing – then she saw insignia on the coat, and knew that it wasn’t Jonathon. Carolyn aimed the musket. Oh God, where? For a desperate second, she balked. The end of the barrel swung back and forth, aiming at bits of shadow, bits of clothing.

Shoot it – it’s not him. Now.

She squeezed her eyes shut and pulled the trigger. The hammer snapped down with a tick and a spark and the room went bright yellow; the shot kicked her shoulder back as though someone had grabbed the weapon and shoved it rudely. Through the smoke, a spray of tattered fabric and blood splashed the wooden floor. The figure still moved, craning to see her.

"If there’s no sun, we can hold each other," the figure said, its voice the dry whisper of rushes.

Carolyn threw the musket down as the Major worked to scramble free. She skirted their thrashing limbs. Why wasn’t it dead? The fire-poker was still in the Major’s grip. She reached down and tore it from him, wrapping her fingers tight about the cast iron handle. The Major rolled to his side, covering his head with an arm. From this side, Carolyn could see the man’s face. In wide patches, his skin had gone gray marbled through with black. White dots of fungus – like daisy petals in miniature – clumped together near the nostrils and by the ears, while the lips were shriveled, dead worms in hot summer sun. The stench of a fresh grave poured from him. He – it – lifted an arm toward her. Beneath the filth, his eyes were swimming points of quicksilver.

Carolyn let out a yell of disgust and brought the fire-poker down in a swinging arc onto his head, using both her arms. The hooked end of the poker connected with a muffled crack. She managed to hang on firm. She wrenched it free, then brought it down again, even harder. It sank right into the head, which had gone soft. With a sudden horror, she remembered the previous fall, when she and Jonathon had used an old walking stick to knock apart rotting pumpkins.

What have you done with him, what have you done? she repeated to herself with each bash of the firepoker.

K Simmons said...

Got it to 500 exactly! Thanks for reading. :)

Later that evening I sat on the sofa in the apartment, pretending to read while listening to Alexi’s increasingly precise instructions to Paul drift out of the kitchen.

“Come on, you have to cut it smaller than that, no one will be able to fit it in their mouth!” I heard him say. I bit my lip and glanced at Kaia, who was smothering her laughter with her hand.

“I can fit it in my mouth just fine!” Paul protested. “See?”

“Stop eating the vegetables, otherwise we’ll have to buy more,” Alexi said. “And just because you have an abnormally large mouth doesn’t mean the rest of us do. Make them, like, two centimeters on each side.”

“Fine.” There was a pause. “So what are you doing while I’m over here chopping identical pieces of carrot?”

“Chopping identical pieces of tomato.”

“Why do they all have to be the same size? I thought variety was the key to a well-balanced life?”

“It looks better if it’s all the same size,” Alexi said. “And when it looks good, tastes good and was cooked by a guy, well, girls like it.” I muffled a laugh.

“They’d better like it,” Paul grumbled. “Actually, I don’t much see the point; Kaia likes me fine when I pay the bill at the restaurant. That’s a hell of a lot easier.” Kaia began to turn red, trying to hold in her amusement. Or perhaps annoyance, I thought, it could be either after Paul’s last comment.

“Is there a romantic bone in your body, Paul? Homemade food by candlelight with a glass of wine is way better than some random restaurant.”

“Hey, I pick fine restaurants!” Paul said.

“You’re hopeless!” Alexi’s footsteps approached the kitchen door. I dropped my eyes to my book so as to pretend I hadn’t been listening. “Kaia, your boyfriend is hopeless! Don’t you prefer when Paul cooks for you instead of paying the check at a restaurant?”

“I haven’t had the opportunity to compare,” Kaia said, but I barely heard her. I glanced up and froze at what was in Alexi’s hand. A knife. A guy with a knife. It’s just Alexi, part of my mind screamed, but my vision narrowed, zooming in on the blade until that last vestige of logic disappeared.

I jumped to my feet, thinking fast. My book was small, too small to use for protection. A couch cushion, that might work. I yanked one off the couch and held it in front of me. My eyes fell upon a small metal sculpture sitting on the coffee table. I snatched it up, holding it high and ready to swing. Voices swirled around me like pestering children. I couldn’t listen to them. I took a step forward.

“Drop it.” I made my voice low and threatening, with no hint of the pounding of my heart in my ears. The insistent noise rose to a higher volume. “Drop the knife, now.” It clattered to the floor. I watched it fall.

Helen said...

“Dad don’t.”
But Lionel turned the truck around and drove toward the storm. Miles stared the rolling wave of dust, a thousand feet tall, dark as a deep pit and packed with grit. He gripped the brittle leather of the seat and felt it give way under his fingers. He jumped when jackrabbit darted in front of the truck. His father hit the rabbit, and it flew end over end into a fallow field.
Then came a frightening stillness, as if the prairie, staring at the descending storm, was holding its breath.
And the wave crashed down upon them.
The wind pushed the truck off the road into a field of broom corn. Brittle stalks whipped against the fenders. Lionel grunted and pulled the truck back onto the road. He switched on the wipers and leaned forward until his nose almost touched the windshield.
For a moment, Miles felt like laughing. A new world sat out there beyond the dust. Airplanes, skyscrapers, jazz. And here he was riding straight into a storm they could see from miles away. He was just like the windshield wipers following his father’s lead no matter how foolish.
A groan rose from the hood, and Miles thought they had hit a cow. But it was the engine so full of dust it came to a grinding halt. Lionel grabbed the door handle. “You stay here.”
“You can’t.”
“If we lose that tractor, we’ve lost everything.”
“We’ve already lost everything.”
Lionel punched his son in the chest and flew out of the truck. Miles pushed hard against his door and tackled his father to the ground. They rolled in the dust. Lionel pushed away, but Miles held on tight. Then he felt barbed wire dig deep into his shoulder. When he tried to pull away, he was trapped on a wire fence like tumbleweed.
Lionel broke free.
“Dad, stop.”
“Get back in the truck.” Lionel spun around. The air was so thick the truck had disappeared, even though it could not be more than a few feet away. Then he faded into the wind.
Miles pulled against the barbed wire until his shirt tore free. The wind felt like sandpaper against his skin. He tore off the remnants of his shirt and held it against his face. Crawling forward on his hands and knees he hoped to find the road, a tire, a stalk of corn, a fence post to hold onto.
Miles stopped when he felt a paw. He looked up into the yellow eyes of a coyote.
“Ro?”
The coyote yelped and hopped away.
“What are you doing here boy?”
The coyote lowered his head.
“This can’t be. I buried you.”
The coyote trotted a few steps away. He looked over his shoulder at the boy.
“Ro. Wait.”
Miles figured he must be dying. Ro had come to lead him to the other side. He leaned hard against the wind and followed.

V said...

Submitted by Victoria L'Ecuyer:

Freja grabbed Brannigan’s arm and jerked him to a stop. “Are Kalyyx’s toes prehensile?”

The Fleet Commander looked blank.

Freja made sure she was using Galactic Standard when she repeated herself. She added. “Can he grab things with his feet?”

“What?” The second explanation got through. “No.”

“Are you sure? He is alien, wears no shoes and he laces his toes together.” Freja demonstrated with her hands and fingers. “His feet are not bound.”

“What do toes have to do with us getting him and that kid away from Ivanovich and out of a kill zone?”

Freja gritted her teeth and fought to translate herself and her idea on the fly. “I fight. Kalyyx frees Echo with feet. Echo frees him with hands. They run. Each help the other. I distract Ivanovich.”

The commander shook his head. “You may be big and you may be fast, but nobody’s faster than a laser.”

“Cut the gravity. No one here is faster in free fall. Even with a laser. Planted people puke in the sudden change.”

Brannigan growled. “If I cut the gravity, sirens go off beforehand. That will only make things worse.”

Freja grabbed his communicator and connected it to hers. She synced the units and triggered the download. “See that?” Freja handed Brannigan his unit back and pointed to the red X on the lower corner of the screen. “That cuts the gravity with no alerts. Gravity on, gravity off. It toggles.”

“How did you get this?” Brannigan’s knuckles whitened as he gripped his communications unit. “It’s illegal.”

“I have friends. You kill the gravity. I fight. Kalyyx and Echo live.”

Mags said...

The huge cat flexed his claws when he saw the young lab assistant enter the room. The man made it his personal business to ensure that the animals received fresh food and water and that cages were cleaned every day. He insisted on giving a few kind words to the penned beasts and with those that allowed it, he extended a pat or a scratch behind the ears. That night the black cat waited for him.

Against all laboratory rules, the assistant sometimes opened a cage and took one of the animals out to hold for a while. Although he wasn't to have anything to do with the big cat, which the assistant called Jolly,the cat knew that tonight would be his turn. Within that near human brain he almost felt pity for the young man. For the cat to gain his freedom, the young assistant must forfeit his life.

The man drew closer with agonizing slowness pausing to freshen water, speak for a few seconds to one of the older animals, or add a bit of food to a dish. Then at last he stood before Jolly's cage, reaching for the padlock. At that moment, full overhead lights came on and a voice called to the assistant from the doorway.

"Jamie, how long will you be here tonight? The rest of us are going over to O'Neal's bar for a couple of beers. Want to join us?"

Jolly hissed as Jamie moved toward the voice. He recognized it. It belonged to one of the assistants who tormented the animals when there was no one there to protect them. How Jolly wished it was he opening the cage tonight instead of Jamie.

As the two continued to talk, Jolly's frustration grew. What if Jamie left with the other assistant? His mind turned over other possible ways of escaping. All began with his cage being opened. The voices stopped.

Jamie stood in front of the cat's cage, speaking in his warmest tones.

"Hi, old buddy. How are you doing? Tonight you get a special treat. It's your night out on the town, although you can't go very far, I'm afraid. Not much of a treat, huh?" the assistant chatted while he hunted for the key to Jolly's cage door. Finally, extracting it from the enormous ring, he clicked the lock, removed it and opened the door. He was fairly new and meant to ask earlier why this cage had the huge padlock on it, since none of the others did, but hadn't found the right time to ask the one question that might have saved his life that night.

When he reached forward to coax Jolly out, the big cat sprang, his massive fangs tearing into Jamie’s jugular cutting off any cry for help. His unexpected weight carried the man crashing to the floor. The immediate loss of blood weakened Jaimie past helping himself. The blood running into his throat succeeded in drowning him in his own body fluids.

Kevin said...

"Slow down Ji..."

Jimmy stopped running and covered Jen's mouth. He put one finger to his mouth, and shook his head.

"Whisper," he said.

"I can't run that fast. My side hurts."

"I'm sorry, but we're almost to the school."

He seemed worried. She didn't understand why Daddy told them to run, but Jimmy grabbed her hand right away, and they started running. They even left their coats behind. "I'm wet, and cold."

"Me too. I'll get you out of the rain soon."

"What about Daddy?"

"He'll be fine. When you're safe, I'll go help him. But not until you're safe, so let's hurry."

"I'll try."

They ran hand in hand to the school and stopped on the side. Jimmy checked around the corner. They crouched as they turned and went to the front door. Jen looked around while Jimmy tried the doors. She didn't like her school at night. The distant bare tree branches reaching up to the sky looked like an evil forest waiting to grab her, the wind warning her to stay away. She jumped when Jimmy touched her.

"They're all locked."

She looked at the brick walls of the elementary school, wishing she was inside. She pointed to the windows.

"They're too high, and they have that wire crap in them so you can't break in."

"What are we going to do?"

Jimmy looked around. Then grabbed Jen's hand and ran for the merry-go-round.

"Crawl under there."

"I can't fit, and it's wet."

Jimmy knelt down and with his hands scooped out the sand faster than any dog Jen had ever seen. He looked tired.

''There, now crawl in."

She looked at the dark hole, and grabbed Jimmy as hard as she could. "I'm scared Jimmy, I want to stay with you."

He tried to push her off, but she held tight. Then she saw his Ryan look. "Stop it Jimmy, you're scaring me."

"What? How am I scaring you?"

"You got your Ryan look, and I don't like it."

"What’s my Ryan look?"

"Last year when you were wrestling, and that Ryan kid kicked you in the head, you got that same look before you broke his shoulder."

"I didn't break it, just dislocated it. And he deserved it."

"I don't like it."

"Sorry, I'm just thinking about helping Dad. I have to go. You need to, please, just get in there."

Jimmy had that frustrated sound in his voice: the one he got when he was about to lose his patience. She crawled in. Jimmy pushed most of the sand back, and smoothed it over. He whispered goodbye, and was gone.

Jen lay there, in a puddle of water, looking out through a small space. With every flash of lightning, the trees seemed to jump toward her. The first time she screamed, after that she covered her mouth. She couldn’t stop shaking, and hoped Jimmy and her dad would return soon.

She heard a thump, and the merry-go-round shook, then another.

EternalOptimist said...

“What is that?” Ceren asked, her voice squeaking with fear.

A blonde-furred Destroyer tumbled from the sky and slammed into the ground twenty paces down slope from them and tumbled toward the river. For a second it looked like it would roll right into the raging waters, but its impossibly muscled arms lashed out and dug its long, curved claws into the ground, gouging deep furrows and slowing its headlong rush just short of the bank.

The monster turned and fastened amber eyes on them. It opened its long snout and roared, showing a mouth full of sharp teeth.

An arrow slammed into the center of its chest.

“That’ll teach it,” Adalia said with a satisfied smile. But her smile faded when the Destroyer rose to its full twelve foot height and yanked the arrow out of its fur, apparently unharmed.

“We be in trouble,” Adalia said, but her hand never slowed. Even as she spoke, she drew another arrow, knocked it, and took aim.

The monster lunged down onto all four legs and charged, tearing at the earth in its hunger to reach them.

Ceren raised her sword, but her hand shook with terror. It’s not fair! A defiant spark blazed in her soul, driving the terror back. She hadn’t just survived death by a Makrasha to die by this horror.

Adalia let fly a second arrow and caught the monster mid-leap in the face, just missing the eye. The shaft grazed its head and deflected away, leaving a thin crimson scar.

“By Jagen, that aint right,” Adalia shouted, already drawing another arrow.

The monster barreled toward them, its terrifying gaze fixed on Adalia’s tiny form. Unfazed, she knocked another arrow. “See how ye like this,” she snarled, drawing the bow with a rock steady hand.

She would get only one more shot.

Then Nikias arrived.

A blur of blue flame, he intercepted the monster, slashing at its torso with the burning silvered blades of the Bladestaff.

The monster skidded to a halt and grasped at the puny human, but Nikias danced aside and slashed again, whooping like a lunatic. His blades sliced across the monster’s arms, cutting the thick hide but not penetrating into the dense muscle below. The fire racing the length of the blades seemed to have no effect on the monster.

It lunged at him, but again he danced aside, moving faster than anyone Ceren had ever seen. He twirled around behind the beast and stabbed at its back, but again did little more than slice the skin. The monster spun after him but he dodged its grasping claws and slashed again, and again.

The two lunged and ducked, slashed and clawed, spun and dodged in a deadly dance punctuated by the beast’s frustrated roaring and Nikias’ incessant whooping yells.

Then Nikias misjudged a dodge and instead of ducking under a huge arm, it clobbered him in the side of the head. He tumbled to the ground, and the monster pounced.

Stephanie said...

When everything was right, Antoinette rocked back on her heels but kept her hands in the dirt. Slight tremors shook her body, the way they always did after she fixed something. Her arms shook and her eyes rolled back, but fixing flowers only brought small seizures, not like fixing people. The shaking stopped in less than a minute.

The top soil was sun-warm but a few inches down it was cool. She squeezed the dirt between her fingers, letting it pull the tension from her body, and for the first time since leaving the house, she opened her eyes. The intense sunlight blinded her, painting the world yellow-white. When her vision cleared and she noticed the bright green grass, panic hijacked her brain. Grass that was bright green when it should have been the color of Monet’s water lilies meant Go Home. And the only reason she would need to go home would be because her mother had died.

Again.

Antoinette ripped her hands from the soil and tried to stand, but her knees buckled, sending her face first into the dirt. A thousand curses flew through her mind but none of them found their way out of her mouth.

“Antoinette?”

At first she did not realize someone was calling her name. Her brain was doing too many things at once, and it couldn’t turn her ears on. When a hand fell on her shoulder and sent another jolt of energy through her body, her arms jerked backward and smacked against her head.

“Sorry. Sorry,” the man said as he yanked his hand off of her shoulder.

She ignored him and went back to trying to stand, but her body wasn’t working, and she was stuck on the ground. Her mouth fell open, and she screamed in frustration.

“Antoinette.” His voice was calm, as if speaking to a growling dog. “Antoinette. You’re okay. It’s Seth. Look at me, you’re okay.” But she wasn’t. Her muscles bunched and tensed until she was exhausted.

Seth cupped her cheek and turned her head toward him, but she couldn’t look at his face. It was dissembled like the Picasso painting with the lady’s ear where her nose should be. She let her eyes slide past his face until she was looking at a blank point on the horizon.

“Can you tell me what’s wrong?” he asked.

She opened and closed her mouth, fish-like, but nothing came out. Instead, she raised her right arm and pointed, over his shoulder, back home where the blue clapboard farmhouse rose beyond the sea of green daffodil stems.

“Home?” he asked. “You want to go home?”

She pointed and opened her mouth. Home. The word would be whisper light if she could just get it out.

Seth hoisted her into his arms and ran to the house. Already the bright green grass was fading to its normal purplish hue. She wanted to squeeze her eyes shut.
This time, she might not make it.

Laura Pauling said...

How To Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings - tween

Once again, the stone of sacrifice jabbed into my back as I lay across it. This big old rock and I were fast becoming best friends. I stared up at the knife of sacrifice as Black Snake raised his arms. For the second time. Or was it the third? I’d lost count.
He shouted words in the Mayan tongue. The people cheered. And he swung the knife down, straight toward my beating heart.

I didn’t have time to think, scream, or fight. The dark shape of Black Snake’s arms rushed toward me. I closed my eyes and tensed, waiting for certain death.

Black Snake slammed into my body and knocked all the wind out of me. I sucked in air, trying to breathe, trying to figure out why I was still alive. He rolled off me, the knife clattering to the rooftop.

My heart thumped against my chest, still in place and pumping blood. I’d never felt such a lovely feeling. But why in the world wasn’t I floating up into heaven. As cool as it would be to be a dead girl and go back and haunt my fellow classmates, this didn’t make sense. Black Snake didn’t seem like the kind of person who had bad aim. Or who would trip over his own feet in the defining moment of his life.

The warriors released their hold on my ankles and wrists and fell to the ground, curled up in pain, groaning. I lay forgotten on the stone of sacrifice. I slid off the stone onto the roof of the temple, coughing and still catching my breath. Escape. Now. I crawled over to the stairs but felt a jerk on my leg.

Hunched over, crippled by pain, Black Snake dug his fingers into my ankles. “Never,” he said.

Mok rushed at her son and tore the necklace from his neck. She held them to her face and rubbed her fingers over them. “We still have time. Kill the girl.”

Black Snake shouted orders but the other warriors were in too much pain to help. He got to his feet, grabbed my arm, and threw me on the stone. Again. He held me there with his hand while groping for the knife.

“Hurry!” Mok’s voice was a strangled cry.

He lifted the knife above his head with great effort. His hand shook and the tip of the knife wavered. I struggled, wiggling my body left and right.

“Stop moving,” Black Snake said between clenched teeth.

I spit in his face. Lie still and let him kill me? No way.

Mok screamed. Black Snake turned. My death put on hold. The jade stones dissolved in Mok’s hands, and green dust circled in the air, carried on the wind.

“You fool!” she cried out. “What have you done?”

Ryan Crafton said...

Kentalar heaved upward. Flames shot from his mouth. Lightning and fire lit the heavens. Kori rotated on the dragon’s back, her legs holding her fast. Three Shifters sped towards them. Green acid erupted from the hand of one and Kentalar banked north towards the river.

Pursued across the raging waters, again Kentalar banked and came back around. Burning liquid singed his left wing. The dragon grunted and bore down on his attacker. A blast of red flame tore through the sky. For a brief second Kori saw the Shifter clearly. Twisted and misshapen, the winged beast’s gruesome red eyes pierced the night. The black creature burst into a thousand burning embers and tumbled to the earth.

Kentalar hovered, his powerful wings thundered with the effort. The remaining two Shifters split apart and came at them from opposite sides. Flame shot from Kentalar’s mouth and he gave chase at the dark creature flying to his left. Green liquid collided with his back and the dragon rolled through the air, tumbling the acid from his scales. The other Shifter hastened after them. Kori snapped her wrist in the pursuing Shifter’s direction and bent her will towards it. The creature shuttered and spun away from her, knocked off course by the blast of wind called up by her mind.

With an angered shriek the creature recovered and surged forward. He knocked her from Kentalar’s back before she could bring her blade to bear. The sick smell of the creature’s squirming skin choked her. Hot fluid singed her clothing. They hurtled toward the ground, held together in a nauseating spin. Kori flung the Shifter back from her. Her sword flew from its sheath and shattered the Shifter’s weak body. The blade erupted in a blinding flash of light. Thick blood and bits of tissue sprayed her from all sides as the creature continued its swirling descent in two ragged pieces.

Kori gripped the blood-stained sword in both hands, tucked her head and somersaulted. She relaxed her mind and visualized the ground accelerating towards her. Slowing, yet not quick enough, she closed her mind to everything but the soft feel of the grass and screamed for the wind to lift her back up. Her legs buckled when she struck the ground. She collapsed to her hands and knees. The remnants of the Shifter shattered the earth beside her in a broken mess of twisted flesh. Dazed, she shook her head, gathered her bearings and started running.

Air roared above her and she sheathed the sword behind her back. Already sprinting, she swept herself upward with a rush of wind. Kentalar’s rough scales greeted her outstretched hands and Kori propelled herself forward until she settled at the base of his wings. She squeezed her legs against him and they surged into the twilight. Land sped by beneath them. Clouds churned above their heads. The dragon showed no signs of slowing. Raw determination burned inside him.

“Still not too late,” Kentalar shouted over the howl of the wind.

Joyce said...

I heard the shovel hit something hard. Janelle stooped down and dug with her hands. Minutes later, she lifted out what looked like a femur. She made a sound of triumph and tossed the bone onto the tarp like it was trash.

A rage welled up inside me. I thought of Chris and how his life had been snuffed out just like these unknown soldiers. This was going to end now. Before Janelle could reach for the shovel again, I charged out of the woods.

Janelle spun around. I threw myself at her and we tumbled to the ground. Her eyes were wide, like she was seeing a ghost. “You’re dead! You’re supposed to be dead!”

She struggled below me. She flipped her right hip to throw me off, but I knew that technique. I shifted my weight and threw a punch to her jaw. Janelle blocked it, then grabbed my wrist and twisted it backwards. I had no choice but to roll off her.

Janelle jumped up, pulling me with her, using both her hands for the wrist lock. If she got me down face first, I’d be in trouble. With my free hand, I crashed the palm upward underneath her nose. Janelle yelled and dropped my hand. She clutched at her face, blood spurting out between her fingers.

I snapped out a front kick. She dropped her hands and grabbed my foot. I flew backwards and slammed into the ground. I gasped, trying to catch my breath. Janelle took the shovel, raised it over her head, then arced it downward. I rolled out of the way and in one motion leaped to my feet.

Janelle swung at my head.

I ducked.

She swung at my legs and I jumped back out of the way. “I should have shot you before I lit the barn on fire,” she said. “I should have known you wouldn’t die in there.”

I dipped down as she aimed for my head again.

“I really thought that after Danchek, you’d just go home.”

I didn’t say anything.

“I heard he bled like the stuck pig that he was.”

I froze. It was as if she had just knifed me herself. I saw Janelle move, but too late. The flat side of the shovel hit the side of my knee and I fell. Red-hot pain shot up my leg and back down. Janelle swung again and I rolled out of the way. She jabbed the shovel at me. I grabbed the handle just above the metal.

She pulled. I held on. She yanked harder and I pushed the handle toward her. She flew backward, losing her grip. I got up, trying not to put weight on my right leg.

I had the shovel now.

Janelle leaped up and charged me. I moved sideways and tripped her with the shovel. She landed on her knees.

I wound up and swung.

It was only strike two, but she was out.

Jackie B said...

Hakuna Matata

The panga was so sharp, it could cut through bone, no problem. Hakuna Matata. Moses sat behind the thick trunk of a baobab, waiting. Sweat ran freely from his shoulders and dripped onto the brown grass. He could drink a barrel of water, jump inside it. Or eat a whole goat, even a cow. His stomach was so empty he could no longer distinguish between being thirst or hunger. It just needed to be filled. His family’s bellies needed to be filled.

He must make the kill before the sun rose too high, or it would be too late. The early start would surely pay off. Moses shut his eyes and listened, resting damp hands on the ground to feel for vibrations.

Yes, man. They were coming.

The first impala raced past him, followed by several more. He tensed, gripping the panga with both hands for a moment before springing up from the tree. His father had told him many times, fix your eyes on one of them. Only one. And chase him down to the end. He ran, long legs free from clothing, one arm raised. The animals scattered, jumping this way and that, trying to distract their predator.

Focus. There he was, the one with the black mark on his tail, running away from the pack. This was the one. Moses found that he was shouting. It was an angry cry, desperate. He ran. The impala leaped and skipped through the air with unrelenting energy and speed. He must reach this animal. As long as he could touch it with the panga knife, it would not stand a chance. Twice he sliced his weapon through the air, but he could not reach his prey. With teeth clenched, he pushed his tired legs, faster and faster, but not fast enough.

The distance between them grew.

Moses watched as the impala ran into the bush, away from danger. Still he ran, but he wasn’t shouting any more. A dull ache spread through his limbs. Music from the night before, sweet sounds around the fire, filled his head.

Malaika, nakupenda Malaika.
Angel, I love you Angel.

There would be another day, another chase. But this morning’s hunt was the one that mattered. Salome, his wife, would be disappointed in him. Juma, his son, too young to help with the hunting, would be hungry. And little Precious, she would surely not survive another day.

Christina said...

From The Wolf Mage
MG/YA

Keeping to the shadows, the wolf slid through the dark night: a wraith on a mission. Moving from path to dirt road to cobblestones, she blazed through the outskirts of the sleeping city. Thankfully, the threat of rain kept most inside. A few dogs raised their heads as she charged by, but a growl from her and they stayed where they were. She had no time to fight with pets. Leaving a few barks and sounds of disgruntled farm animals in her wake, she followed streets she had not trod on for years, generations even.

Slowing her speed—so as not to miss anything—her mind had a chance to offer her all the reasons this was foolish, dangerous. Her gait didn’t falter, but she moved deeper into the shadows cast by the street torches. Before long she was in the Royal Park. Following a riding path, she carefully took in the air.

Finally the scent she was searching for reached her. Pausing for a moment, she calculated her next move. She had lived too long simply surviving; it was time to do something meaningful again. Choosing a swift, careful pace, she moved towards the sounds of blundering people. The scent of blood met her nostrils. Trotting through the woods, her light step was unheard over the racket of the searching humans. Picking her steps, she avoided the dead body of a soldier. His blood was tangible in her nose and on her tongue. Fear gripped the wolf, but she pressed on. Avoiding the smelly men hunting through the woods was easy. Finding the girl was harder.

At last a soft whimper met the wolf’s ears. Tilting her nose up, the wolf took a deep breath and slowed to a walk. She didn’t want to frighten the child.

“Got you!” a man shouted.

The girl cried out.

Bounding forward, the wolf took two strides to bring her out of the underbrush and in view of the man and the girl. The man sword was drawn. The girl cowed between a fallen tree and a cedar. Both took their eyes off the other to look at the snarling wolf.

The man spun his sword into a defensive posture, but the wolf moved faster. In a mouse breath she was in the air. She landed on his chest, knocking him to the ground. At such close quarters his sword cut into her left side, but couldn’t gain significant force. He shouted for help, but she found his jugular.

Warm blood still in her mouth, the wolf turned to look at the child. Terrified brown eyes looked back at her. The sound of more tromping men jerked the wolf’s attention. They were coming. She had to get the girl to safety.

Marian Allen said...

Title: SAGE
Genre: Big Fat Fantasy
Status: finished but unpublished

They were shouting, intent upon it, so they heard no one approach.
The door was only on the latch. It opened softly, and three armed Swords came in. Without a word, they drew their weapons.
"Put up your swords," Karol commanded. "What do you want? How dare you walk --"
Cameron blocked the first cut with a chair, and knocked the second aside with a fist to the Sword's forearm.
"Put up your weapons!" Karol shouted. "This man is not to be harmed!"
"We don't answer to you," said one of the Swords, "but to Landry Oliva, Kinninger by right of merit."
"Go back to Landry Oliva and tell him I'm coming. I expect a thorough explanation -- Stand back! What are you doing?"
"They're assassins, you fool!" cried Cameron. "Run!"
Cameron grabbed the poker and swung. One Sword fell to the floor with a broken head. Cameron dragged the lantern from the mantelshelf and flung it at the other two. While they jumped back and slapped out drops of liquid flame, Cameron threw down the poker and picked up the fallen man's sword.
Karol snatched a knife from the sideboard.
"Run!" Cameron cried.
"I'll fight by you, or die."
"If we have a child anywhere in the world, woman, run! I forgive you for it. I forgive you anything. Just run!"
Cameron reached for the knife. Karol pressed its hilt into his hand. His fingers curled in hers one final time, then she turned and ran. She heard the clash of steel on steel as the Swords tried to follow her and met Cameron at the door. She stumbled across the grounds, blinded by panic, by the sick surety that she had left her only love to die for her sake, and for the sake of the child she carried within her.
She ran, hoping to reach Pazni, to raise the alarm, to lead a rescue back, to be in time....
Horses screamed behind her. She whirled and crouched, facing the danger. She could see the Swords' horses, pulling up the bushes to which they had been tethered, plunging into the night. She saw them by the light of the fire. It roared from the thatch of the cottage. There was no movement within but that of the flames.
Karol rose from the spongy ground. She could see nothing but the fire. She could hold nothing else in all her mind, nothing but the fire.
At last the flames died away, and the surrounding darkness grew more light with its going.
She would have been too late, anyway. She would never have found help, not in this direction. Her witless flight had led her in a spiral toward Fiddlewood, not Pazni.
Cameron dead, the Swords disloyal, Landry Oliva untrue to his trust....
With these facts taking the place of thought, Kinninger Karol beren Ada walked into the Fiddlewood, and her false Consort sat upon the throne.

Julie Hojnacki said...

He was coming. He could be coming she told herself as a sudden dark fear seized her body. A loud thunder clap and lightning simultaneously bolted outside. Her eyes went to the window, looking out over the empty plot of land in front of her house. The sky was miserably ominous with low lying gray clouds. The torrential rain and the wind blasted around like it was trapped in a glass.

Another lightning bolt cracked its fury, blinding her sight for a brief second. A black figure suddenly appeared before her on the land some distance away. It appeared to be a man in a thick black cape with a hood. He was sitting cross-legged in the pouring rain, his hood obscuring his face. The right corner of his mouth became visible with a menacing smile peeking out behind the dark hood. Her heart rapidly bounced in her chest. She saw a dark endless eye staring at her, wanting to devour her. He was here. He was coming for her, she panicked.

"No!" I rebuke you in the name of the ..." She couldn't remember. "You may not enter! I rebuke you!" she yelled defiantly. That was all she knew to do.

Outside, the sky lights blinked again. The black capped man was now on the other side of the window, his hand grasping at the glass, his face threatening to come in.

Fear tightened around her body. Drawing upon everything within her, she would hold her ground, there was nothing else she could do. She extended her right hand out toward him as if to stop his further entry.

"I rebuke you in the name of the . . . "
He was now on the inside of her house.

"Or what? " he mocked. "You have no power over me, I own your soul."

He proceeded to step towards her, revealing his face. He had the same face as her father-in-law. But she knew this was a trick, nothing but a disguise. As she looked into his eyes, she confirmed that the devil himself was standing before her. She backed up, still extending her open hand. He then lifted his hand out toward hers, defying any power she presumed to have. He extended his long yellowish finger toward her open hand.

"You can't. . . I rebuke you! Stop!" she stammered. Everything she had learned told her he couldn't touch her. But he continued to come closer, now at a rapid rate.

His deathly finger proceeded to touch her hand. She braced herself, thinking all was lost, that she had been defeated.

As she watched, her hand became hollow in the middle, escaping it. The empty space within her hand suddenly was filled with a yellowish light. The finger projected a greenish light and the void in her hand was lit by the two lights opposing each other. Quicker than it had started, the devil was immediately thrown out of the house through the wall behind her.

-Julie Hojnacki
linglee27@hotmail.com

Anonymous said...

My high school sweetheart whispered nasty suggestions in my ear. It was Friday night during the big game and we writhed behind the bleachers working on some scores of our own. The wet grass oddly smelled of antiseptic. My jaw ached from too much kissing. The hard slap to my mandible made me think maybe I touched something I shouldn’t have.

“Wake up, you son of a bitch!” A slap, then a slug to the kidney. When the rattling in my eye sockets slowed down, “Sweetheart” had a guy’s Korean face and snake-mean eyes, and his arm was cocked back for another go at my kisser. And those weren’t bleachers, they were dental chairs.

“It looks like your patient is back with us, aboji.” I vaguely recognized the thin man wearing some kind of martial arts getup and thumping on me. Ah. Now I know. The ringing in my ear made it hard to concentrate on why my dentist and his son double-teamed on loosening up the sixteen hundred dollars worth of crown work I just paid for last week. Sonny certainly wasn’t a pro. My hands would’ve been tied if he was.

“Mr. Corcoran, I know who you are and what you have done. When you tell me why you did what you did to Frankie Jones, I will make the removal of your testicles painless.” Dr. Cho’s implacable face looked tired. “Otherwise, well, I may have to forget how to wield the Needle of Happy Juice.” He spoke like he was explaining a drilling procedure to a five year old. He held a syringe pointed at the ceiling of his exam room.

The son sniffed and blinked in the peculiar way tweakers have of trying to get a grip on what their eyes are telling them. Kevin. That’s his name.

I felt the loose crowns with my tongue and tasted blood.

“I sure hope you’re gonna refund my money, asshole. Especially when you realize I don’t know what the frick you’re talking about or who this Frankie guy is.” I spit blood on his expensive sneakers.

“Oh, so you have no idea who Frankie Jones is,” punctuated with a spleen jab by the son. “You have no idea what she did to me? Frankie’s a girl, big man. But you know that.” Dr. Cho, so fastidious in his dental practice, so oblivious to the blood on his shoe.

I put on my fuck-you face. “Here’s what I do know: You did some crowns on two molars last week, and your pride and joy here is so tweaked out you could ram his fingers in an electric socket and light half the city of LA for a week. That’s what I know. The rest is some scam you either made up or some jerkoff talked you into.”

Of course I knew who Frankie was. My little sister.

dexes-33756@mypacks.net

Anthony DeRouen said...

The chase was on.

“Move! Get out of the way!”

Danika threaded past men and women not in a hurry to move anywhere. Her head on a swivel, eyes scanning the passing crowd for the assailant. Which way did he go? She danced around a stocky fellow carrying two burlap sacks of grain, snaking past two women pulling a horse burdened down with goods. Sidestepping a wagon cart filled with crates of fresh fish. She turned south, down the length of Rotus street.

“Excuse me, coming through. Move!”

Did she lose him? Fareth won’t be pleased if she did. Danika’s investigation hinged on capturing Romar. She had to find him, and fast. Danika quickened her pace, redoubling her efforts. Stalking through the crowd like a hunter. She was very much on the hunt. An idea popped into her head. Danika whirled about, threading her way to the wagon cart she passed moments prior. The two horses had seen better days, heads drooping, placing on hoof in front of the other through labored motions. Danika gripped a railing, ignoring the driver’s protest as she placed a foot on the step, propelling her eyes above the crowd.

“Hey miss, what’re about?” the rider demanded. Danika raised a hand in apology, scanning the crowd to the south. She found him!

“Good day sir,” she offered, leaping from the wagon cart and back into the crowd. Danika moved with a purpose. The other men noticed her quickened pace and matched her speed. Danika made the slightest gesture for her people on the rooftops the chase. They knew she spotted him. Scores of undercover soldiers converged on Danika’s fast location, racing to catch up with their light-footed general.

There you are. Danika caught his slicked back hair moving causally down the road. He turned right into another alley. Before he slipped out of view she caught his eyes. Danika’s party had been made. Romar was getting away!

Breaking into a dead run, Danika slipped by men and women in a blur. A wagon cart trudged along to her right. She slipped between the horse and wagon, jumping over the wagon hitch, bracing her hands against the back of a towering man carrying a crate of fish on the other side. Danika sprinted to the edge of a corner building, and flattened her back against the wall. Her heart thumped rapidly in her chest. Her breathes came in short gasps for air. Peeking around the corner she spotted his position, half a block away, weaving in and out of the foot traffic.

A handful of soldiers skidded to a halt beside her, waiting for the next move. Danika signaled for them to wait while she peered around the corner again. He disappeared out of sight.

“He made us, so we have to take him down and fast. Spread out, fan the corners, if you see him whistle. Go!”

Danika spun around the corner, lowering her shoulders as she broke through the crowd head on. In the back of her mind she thanked the gods for covers of shade as the baking sun wreaked havoc on her eyes.

Kay said...

A scuffle broke out, and a loud crash followed as one of the men threw the other into a table. It smashed beneath him. Their fight offered the perfect distraction. It was now or never.

The earth rushed beneath my feet as I sprinted into the warehouse. Everything I passed became a blur, including the men. My eyes stayed fixed on the door ahead, the door to freedom I hoped.

The men didn’t expect such a bold move. It took a few seconds before they snapped to it and started yelling at each other to stop me. But I had a head start, and I had already reached the door by the time they stampeded after me.

The door opened into a stairwell that led upward. I made the ascent three steps at a time until I came to another door. The men clamored into the stairwell while I stood there, racking my brain, deciphering how to open this one. It worked on a pulley system, and I couldn’t find the mechanism to unlock it.

Crap! Where is it?

I saw a switch above my head, flipped it, and the door silently opened into a small room. I slammed it shut behind myself and turned around, shocked to discover the door simply looked like a wall from this side.

A wooden table sat on the far side of the room; I dragged it across the floor and pushed it against the wall-door. A metal shelf stood to my right, and I toppled it to reinforce the flimsy barricade. A few hard shoves from the other side slid both pieces of furniture out of the way.

My hand fumbled with the lever on the main exit when the men burst into the room. Drago led the pack and lunged at me; I screamed and swung at him. My punch connected to his jaw with an earsplitting crunch. He fell back, disoriented, and two of the men exchanged an astonished look.

“Get her!” the leader shouted at them.

The younger one descended, coming at me for a full body tackle. He advanced too hastily, too clumsily. I nailed him in the gut with my foot and sent him flying into the other guy.

Go!

I grabbed the lever again and shoved it to the right. The door opened into an alley. I raced outside and onto a cobblestone street, empowered by a rush of adrenaline. My stride widened, propelling me across ever-expanding feet of pavement, but someone was hot on my heels before I made it forty yards.

“Run,” he whispered.

I didn’t know which one of the men said it or why, but I felt myself pulling away from him. The moon glowed high overhead, free of the clouds, and I saw a main street. My body went into overdrive as I dashed for it.

“Oh no you don’t!” said one of the men. It was Drago, and a thunderous force came crashing down on me.

Alice said...

As always, she’d gotten herself into deep dung. For some strange reason, trouble seemed to find her wherever she went—like the cheetah that crouched in the long yellow grass only a few paces away.

Disguised as a boy in a hunter’s plain smock, trousers, and head wrap, Princess Kaa drew back the bowstring with her slender fingers. Her coal-colored skin glistened under the sweltering sun that sapped the moisture from the cracked savanna. She stood straight and tall as she aimed an arrow at the heart of the cheetah. The animal lifted its head, ears back, red eyes glowing, a growl rumbling in its throat.

Though her hand trembled with trepidation, she hesitated to shoot the magnificent creature she’d accidentally run into while hunting bush rats. She was so close she could make out the flecks of white in its tan coat, see its ribs expanding and contracting, and sense the life force radiating from its body. The cheetah seemed so vibrant, so alive; she felt its freedom, its majesty. She sensed that the cheetah didn’t want to kill her anymore than she wanted to kill it, as if she’d touched its spirit and knew its essence.

The bushes beside the cheetah crackled, and out pounced a cheetah cub. It stumbled over its paws, tumbling at its mother’s feet. The mother moved to stand over her offspring. An animal with a cub was more likely to attack. Yet Kaa’s heart softened at the cheetah’s show of love and fierce instinct to protect its baby, even in exchange for its own life—just like Kaa’s mother had done for her in childbirth.

Softly, she began to sing the “Tree Spirit” lullaby her attendant, Aya, used to sing to sooth her.

Tree Spirit sing to me
As the breeze shakes your leaves
Earth call my name
From whence I came

Sunlight caress my skin
Rain wash me clean
Moon shine upon me
Lighting my way

Stars watch over and guide my steps
Ancestors hold me in your soft caress
River, carry me where I belong
Tree Spirit sing me your song

Meanwhile, she slackened her bow, unwilling to leave the cub orphaned like herself—unless she absolutely had to. She was backing away slowly, so as not to alarm the wildcat, when a rustle behind her made her jump.

Startled, the cheetah sprang forward in a flurry of claws and fur. Kaa stood still, the animal’s sudden fury stealing her breath, its bared teeth merely an arm’s length from her throat.

How badly would the jagged fangs hurt as they shredded her flesh? How long it would take before she died? Would the cheetah tear her throat out and rip her belly open, eating her insides while she struggled for breath the way she’d seen lions do with their prey? Aya would mourn for her, but her stepmother would rejoice at her death. Clutching the charmed amulet around her neck, she prayed to the spirits for deliverance.

pensees said...

The radio crackles with the voice of the dispatcher. “Suspect heading southbound on I-5…” I flip on the lights and head for the on-ramp as Jake calls in our location. Cars part like the red sea as we weave our way through rush hour traffic to the freeway, siren blaring. We emerge from the tunnel and the target speeds past along the shoulder, sparks flying where the car’s side door scrapes against the metal railing. I hit the gas and follow him, the thrill of the chase building in my blood.

Damn, I love this part. C’mon sucker, let’s go.

The patrol car jerks as we ricochet off the railing in hot pursuit but I don’t notice. The perp is in my sights, the tantalizing nectar of victory sweet on my tongue. The lanes narrow as he crests the bridge, the gap too small for him to wedge past. A Mini Cooper is his unfortunate victim, the little car flung into the next lane with the impact. The sound of wrenching metal pierces the air, punctuated by the wailing siren as the suspect’s vehicle grinds to a stop.

He bails, fleeing on foot, but I can tell he’s injured. I’m a hair’s breadth in front of Jake as we follow, focused intensity sparking within me like a Tesla coil.

You’re mine.

“Stop!” I shout and draw my weapon. The suspect freezes and I slow my approach, my senses on high alert. “You’re under…” I begin, but he spins around and I catch the glint off his gun a split second before the bullet tears through my shoulder. The force knocks me backward and pain explodes in my head as my skull cracks against the railing.

I expect to hear Jake’s answering gunfire but instead there’s a scuffle, heavy footprints pounding past, fists connecting with flesh, grunts and the sound of crunching bones. The sharp tang of blood burns my nostrils, the perp’s body odor mingling with the taste of copper in my mouth, and I fight the urge to retch. Then I’m being lifted and my synapses begin firing again. He’s throwing me over the bridge! Snarling, I claw at him to try and get purchase but he slips through my fingers and I’m falling. Fear eats me alive, the sound of the traffic below calling my doom.

I’m going to die.

Jake snakes out a hand and my descent jerks to a halt. Hope flares in my chest. “Pull!” I scream and Jake’s eyes meet mine, steely with determination.

“Had to make it look good, partner,” he says with a smug curl of his lip.

He lets go.

Cyndi Tefft
ctefft.blogspot.com

Leis Draven said...

From THE RIVER BETWEEN (WIP)


At once the night silence shattered. In the gloomy uphill woods rolled crashing sounds. Breaking twigs, snapping branches, mayhem on the forest floor. Something big tunneling down. Then a fearsome howl to make the hairs on Ana's neck rise.

Costea had leapt to his feet and bolted off yelling a wolf was coming. Gavril sprung up and threw his rucksack on his back.
“Not wolves. Bigger. A wild boar. Or a bear. Run Ana, run!” he commanded.
Ana scrambled to grasp her boots by their laces and her duflebag.
“To that tree over there.” Gavril jostled his niece forward. “Follow Costea. Go!”

Even before she turned to run the beast's glowing eyes had broken through the woods. Now reddish, now green. It bellowed and snorted and galloped in their tracks. Ana sprinted for the tree with all she had, her eyes on the trunk of salvation, her dufflebag swinging wildly in her grip. How would the tree save them, its candlestick trunk white in the moonlight?

“Faster, faster!” Gavril urged. “We’ll push you up. Bears can’t climb trees. You’ll be safe up there.”
“And what about you?” Ana shouted.
“We’ll climb up after you.”

The tree poised impassive in the distance. Its roots plaiting more roots deep in the dark soil and the rocks beneath, and the mountain and its beasts. Nourishing and receiving nourishment. And why were the grasses so lush, so well fed up here in nowhere land?

The beast panted and wheezed and snapped at their heels. Ana would embrace the tree like a long-lost lover, like she would her Vlad. Vlad, who’d warned her to watch out for wild bears.

At the base of the tree Costea paddled uselessly against the smooth bark. “I can’t reach any branches,” he squawked waiving his arms. “Nothing to hang on to.”
Gavril reached up and pried Costea off the trunk. “Help me get her up. Here, step in here,” he yelled linking his fingers together to make a bridge for Anna's foot.

Ana boosted herself up and wrapped her arms about the trunk but could go no higher. Her other foot kept slipping on the bark like a skate on ice. Even standing on her uncle's shoulders, the lowest branches hovered well beyond her reach.

They floundered like fishes on land, like blind pilgrims worshiping a longdead god. Squealing and beseeching and promising riches of virtue. Terror coursing their hearts. Ana glanced back over the prairie. Like children hoping to outrun the bogeyman. She burst out laughing. Her uncle peered up around her foot.
From up there she could see clear across. “I think it’s gone,” she said with tears in her eyes.
Gavril turned bear-like to check for himself. All was quiet again.

“We must've scared it.”

Emilie and Emily said...

YA Fantasy

The night was cold, snow fell fast and hard, covering everything on the ground. The forest, sided by a frozen lake, was completely still. A small bird suddenly appeared in the quietness, studying the surrounding woods with its four eyes. Something rustled in the leaves and it took off flying.
The air felt charged, and the wind began to blow in fierce gusts. Suddenly, a black shape sprang out of the darkness, scattering snow with its two legs as it ran. A pair of blood-red eyes illumined the shadows in front of it. The thing stopped and sniffed the wind, growling as it did so. 
Taking off again, it dropped to all fours and quickened it’s pace, its powerful claws digging into the ice under the snow to gain traction. Soon, it began to pant and giant globs of black drool dripped into the white snow, steaming where they landed. Still the beast traveled onward, purposefully ignoring the faint red glow beginning to appear in the woods he had just left.
From out of the bare trees, ran three red balls of flame. Whirling and slashing the air, they stopped to smell the black wads of saliva. Screaming ear-piercing calls, they jumped into the wind, a magnificent pair of red and gold wings unfolding from the back of each creature. Undeterred, the black shape ran on, picking up speed as it careened through snow. 
Onward they sped until they were many miles from the lake. The beast turned violently, stood up and held out a red gem, that had been tied to a string around its neck. The three bird-like animals gave off loud, shrieks of anger and dove towards their prey. The black creature’s lips moved and a blinding beam of white light shot out of the crystal, straight towards the mass of red creatures whose screams of anger became screams of terror. Shielding its eyes, the black shape threw itself into the snow as the red crystal it had been holding began to rise in the air. The three red pursuers struggled wildly, trying to release the grasp of the white light holding them motionless in the air. 
The red crystal began to approach its three captives, it’s light growing more intense. The three shrieked one last time - and suddenly all was silent. The light disappeared with an audible clap, and the gem fell back to the ground, landing in the outstretched hand of the black beast who let out a truly awful laugh. 
“I have won at last!!” it screamed in triumph. There was no answer.
The heavy snow continued to fall and the black creature strode off, leaving nothing behind except footprints and a few red feathers.

TesterJW said...

Here's an excerpt from Shock to Equilibrium. Thanks for reading it.

The door jerked open and Graeme found himself looking face-to-face at the Algerian with the scar on his chin. Graeme stumbled, backpeddling as if he really wanted to go on looking at this man—which, of course, was the last thing he wanted to do. Finally, Graeme got control of his limbs and ran. At the same instant, the Algerian called out to the other men still in the room. Even though Graeme didn’t understand the words, he understood the meaning: There’s a spy out here! Everybody come and kill him!

Graeme lunged down the stairs, gravity pulling him the way he wanted to go. He hit the ground floor and turned to run through the kitchen. In the darkness, he tried to remember more or less where the major obstacles were. He bumped a shoulder into the door frame but kept going.

He made it to the work room, then grabbed the handle of the door and pulled. It didn’t move. It had a deadbolt. He ran his hand up the edge of the door to find the lock, and twisted it open. Then he pulled the whole door open.

He heard a clunk near his head and shards of wood sprayed into his face. Someone had shot at him. He dove through the door, landed jarringly on his hands and knees, and then got up to run.

There was a gun barrel somewhere behind him pointed at his back. A gun barrel with a silencer, since the shot had made no noise other than impact—so he wouldn’t hear his death. A passerby might think he’d just tripped. This somehow made the threat seem worse. If he was going to get gunned down, he deserved to have the loud crack and the gasps of witnesses.

He turned into the first little alleyway he came to, as straight lines were not his friend while men with guns came after him.
Parked cars were squeezed up onto the sidewalk, leaving only a couple feet of clearance between their tires and the wall of some building. Graeme ran along this path. The cobbles underfoot were as uneven as any dirt or rock trail, and each footfall was a little act of faith that he wouldn’t lame himself.

He came into the slightly wider rue de Thorigny and sprinted across the street, hoping a lucky burst of traffic would prove his ally and slow his pursuers. But no cars appeared. Go figure. There was never traffic when you wanted it.

Graeme decided to risk a quick look back.

Two shadowy human shapes ran in his wake. He saw that one of them moved asymmetrically, holding one arm almost still because he had a gun in that hand. Probably, it was the gun that had already made Graeme’s acquaintance and had the pleasure of being aimed at the back of Graeme’s head. Graeme didn’t want to form any closer relationship with it.

heather said...

"Life Sucks" - paranormal/fantasy fiction (with a dash of romance)

Her scream echoed across the treetops as a massive paw raked across her back, dragging her down to the floor. Her jaw hit hard and she bit through her tongue. She could taste hot copper as blood ran from her mouth and pooled under her cheek. The wolf grabbed the waistband of her jeans with its maw and shook her violently. Kate’s head smacked up against the railing before she fell back down. She was dizzy, and her back felt warm where the gashes oozed. She could feel something hot and thick falling in droplets on her back - drool, she guessed, as she felt the weight of the beast on the back of her thighs.

Her head throbbed and she closed her eyes. Tears came as she thought about her boys. She spanked Avery earlier that day (she couldn’t remember why anymore) and he gave her a tearfully sincere apology. She argued with Anthony about his needing to take a shower. Whimpering, she remembered the three of them snuggled up on the couch watching a movie, the boys laughing and being sweet to one another. Her boys.

The wolf snickered, mistaking Kate’s whimpers for ones of fear. Planting one of its giant paws squarely in the center of her back it pressed down. Its claws dug fresh holes into the already raw and bloody flesh, sending a shock through her body. She shrieked. It was an angry sound.

Kate thrashed around and managed to free herself from the wolf’s pin by rolling to the side. She grabbed onto the rail and turned around just as the beast went up on its hind legs. She ducked out of the way at the last minute and the creature’s paws landed on top of the railing, skewering them on the ornamental spires. It bellowed and howled but wasn’t able to rip its paws free, and Kate witnessed the terrible beast writhe its way back to human form.

The bulky, naked man ripped his hands up off the barbed spires. As he turned to face her, he was lapping up thick, red pools from his palms. He sneered and took a step forward - reaching for her throat - but something stopped him. Kate tried hard to focus and realized it was Wyatt. He grabbed the man’s hand and bent the fingers and wrist clean back. Several loud cracks rang out. The man howled and brought his other hand up to strike, but Wyatt caught it and repeated the move. He kept hold of both hands and continued to wrench them until the brute dropped to his knees.

Wyatt emptied his hands and grabbed a fistful of hair, yanking the man’s head backward. His head cocked funny. It looked like it was mere inches from being snatched off. Wyatt glared at the brute in front of him. Narrowing his eyes, he grinned, baring a shiny set of pearly whites.

“You shouldn’t have come here.”

Amanda said...

Oh, noz! I still have 40 words to spare. I could add more, but I decided to quit while I was ahead.

Kudos to you Nathan for reading all of these.

Splintered Kingdoms: Change Storm
YA Fantasy

Asaro judged the distance through the dim forest to the guard tower just beyond the edge of the trees. The wolves sounded again. Fear tingled along her spine. She ran.

The last of the sun faded from the sky. She no longer took care with her footing. Her footsteps echoed in her ears, trying to keep up with her pounding heart. Cold air burned her lungs; each gasping breath, harder than the last, streamed behind her in broken puffs. Through the trees, at the top of a rise, she saw the silhouette of a wolf in front of the moon. Another outline joined the first.

A crunch of snow and a wolf jumped. Asaro yelled, sidestepped and swung. The sword made a meaty sound. Shock vibrated through her arms. *Jaek, where are you?* Her stomach twisted.

The scent of blood drifted to the snarling wolves, pricking their hunger. She slashed and dodged. One latched onto her coat. She gasped and kicked at

the ribs poking sharply through its fur. It let go with a yelp. The wind wormed an icy finger through the tear.

Another darted in, low. “Yai!” She slashed down, narrowly missing. Her sword bounced off the frozen ground. The taste of copper filled her mouth. It
charged again; teeth stabbed through the leather of her boot. Pain shot through her leg. She scrabbled in the snow to keep her balance. “No!” Asaro clenched her stomach muscles and buried the sword into the wolf’s back. She jerked the blade loose and caught another on the backswing. Blood sprayed in a brilliant arc.

Asaro wheezed struggling to lift her sword point. The pack leader lunged for her throat. The sword dropped from numb hands. She caught the wolf by its fur and fell backwards into the snow, her hands locked into the black ruff. Jaws snapped in her face.

*I can’t hold him!* “Jaek! Help!” Another wolf tore into her shoulder, pulling hard. Blood soaked into her clothes and puddled under her back.

Rage pushed back the pain. This was her mountain! These were her lands! “I will not die!” She fell into the wolf’s yellow eyes. The world twisted.

For a blessed moment, there was no pain. Everything imploded. She screamed in agony. Muscles ripped. Bones broke. They reknit themselves and realigned. Her skin itched then exploded. After that, nothing.

Slowly, her mind cleared. Her fingers and toes twitched. Buried inside a heavy covering, she imagined herself held by Jaek in front of their family’s hearth wrapped in a fur. A cold breeze tickled her nose. The fresh smell of pine mingled with blood, woke her further. Slush squelched deafeningly in her ears. *The wolves!* Asaro lurched to her feet. Her legs wobbled beneath her and she collapsed.

Amanda said...

Well, so much for trying to be careful of my formatting. I even copied it into notepad first :(

Marybk said...

MAMMA’S MESSAGE

The sun hits my windshield turning it silver-white so I’m blind for a second, and I pretend those two guys in the sedan aren’t tailing me down this dirt road. “Use your God-given brains,” Mamma used to tell me, “Stan’s no good for you.” But I love him, Mamma, I said, and married him anyways.

I claw around for my phone and I text Stan, saying it’s them behind me. But maybe he’s already dead. He always lectures me about these goons. “Don’t let ‘em getcha,” he says. “Offing yourself is better than them killing you.”

Eff that.

I’m so stupid, I start to cry. I bang my hands on the steering wheel, hard as I can. I guess I’m selfish getting pregnant, seven months along now, always living in danger. My throat won’t swallow.

My cell buzzes. Thank God Almighty--it’s a text from Stan. Ha!

“B brave. U no wot 2 do.”

Crazy asshole! I hate him! My heart thumps so hard I can’t think. I use my hand to search for the loaded pistol under the seat and I set it between my legs, shaking like a newborn calf first time it stands.

Stan texts me again. “I LUV U BABY.” Earlier this morning, he kissed my belly all over saying I’m his goddess. I wanna go back to last night when we made love.

“u2,” I text back. He’s right. They’ll kill me, maybe cut me open and make me watch my baby die. I want Mamma. Dammit, I can’t cry now. Stan’s probably flown off already and I need a plan.

I press record on my phone and I tell Mamma I’m sorry. I say I shoulda listened to her, and I love her and I wish I was smarter. Don’t know if videos work on her phone, but I press send anyways, and toss my cell aside.

My clunker’s no match for the black car, so I slam on the breaks and pull back on the wheel, skid-spinning around like Stan taught me. Ha! Made the fuckers swerve off the road. Ducking my head lower than the window, I pass them the other way screaming, “Go to Hell!” and slam the accelerator.

The other car twirls and closes in faster than I think possible. In my rear view mirror, I see an arm with a gun sticking out the passenger side.

I’m an effing goner.

Bullets twang every five seconds and glass jingles around me like fancy chandeliers crashing to the ground. I can’t tell if they’re trying to kill me or catch me.

Holy shit! Blood’s oozing down my arm. Fuck them. I’ll Thelma ‘n Louise myself before I let ‘em get me. The ravine’s coming up on my right and I floor it so the speedometer passes 120.

I’ll make it.

I pray Mamma gets my message while I rub my belly and sing ‘Hush, Little Baby.’ I tell my baby girl I’m sorry, I say Mamma loves you.

Rachel said...

I hit the brick wall of the motel just in time to notice a security camera humming quietly above my head. Well shit. I closed my eyes and focused on the mist and sent it out and over me. Yeah, okay if someone was watching the camera I was still screwed, but if I shot it out that would make too much noise and bring everyone out. It was the best I could do.


Using the mist as cover, and hoping to hell it was at least obscuring enough that I wasn't easily recognizable, I tip-toed around the corner and looked for Sebastian's car. I crossed my fingers that he was sitting in there waiting for me. I should have save myself the energy, because I spotted his car right away parked directly in front of the motel lobby with the driver's side door hanging open. Shit. Double shit with sprinkles on top.


My heart was pounding fast and furious giving a soundtrack to my panic. I was just a freaky girl how the hell was I supposed to save everyone. No. No, Lilah. Get your self together. You can not afford to have a melt down right now.


I squared my shoulders and let the rage come. Fuck stealth, I had to get Bast out fast or he may as well already be dead. And that was not fucking acceptable. I took a deep breath, squared my shoulders and ran around the corner - and straight into the tallest freaking creature I had ever laid eyes on. He, (and oh yeah it was definitely a he. In fact the damned thing was so male, the size of his equipment made my female parts want to detach and run away.) must have been around nine feet tall. Every inch of that nine feet looked like one solid muscle, and for the kicker he was covered in fur, thick brown fur, and had the head and claws of a wolf. He looked like the nightmare version of a Wolf-Man from a stupid human horror movie.


My brain went fuzzy for a second, and I hate to admit it but I screamed, I screamed like a little bitch. What the hell?, my mind went while the rest of me said, Oh crap, run. I gave both halves the finger, and using reflexes I didn't know I had, jerked the gun up and fired three times hitting him in the stomach. I would have had to hold the gun at too awkward an angle to hit anything higher. Nine feet is really tall. He hit the ground but I wasn't optimistic or stupid enough to even hope he was dead. I shot him again in the head and cursed Bast for having all the fireworks. Fire was one thing that would make sure just about everything laid down and stayed that way. I desperately wanted to make sure Captain Cock never stood up again.

Brian said...

You've all heard how things slow down in a time of crisis, your reflexes become heightened and you have super-human strength? Not always true.

The road buckled and suddenly our path was blocked by twisted metal and concrete. We slammed into the barricade at about fifty mile per hour; I barely had time to get my foot off the gas pedal. Dazed I looked at my son in the passenger seat, he moved in and out of focus but he seemed okay. He was looking at me, saying something, I couldn't hear him. I shook my head to clear my thoughts and pain shot down my neck. I wondered if he'd need to reschedule his senior pictures next week or if they could just do some photoshop magic.

We were sitting 75 feet above the Mississippi river; we'd been headed to jiu jitsu class on the Iowa side, every Monday and Wednesday for the last six months. Zach was better than I was but not by much...yet. Soon he'd be eighteen and I'd be forty-two; the scales of time were shifting in his favor. I tried to open the door but no luck, I leaned on it gently and it creaked a bit but it was stuck. As I turned toward Zach the road snapped sideways and we slid into the chasm where the road had buckled. I looked straight down out the driver's side window at the river.

“Dad, I can't open my door.”

I could hear the fear in his voice, he hated heights, not like roller coaster I'm so scared we're at the top heights but three rungs up on the step ladder heights.

“Zach, Zach, listen to me, it'll be okay.”

I pulled myself up to his side, one foot on the steering wheel and my other knee on the seat. Together we pushed against the door but it wouldn't budge. I opened my mouth to say something when the car lurched and I fell. I landed awkwardly on my door and it held for a second, until Zach landed on top of me. I grabbed wildly and ended up with a slippery piece of leather car door and Zach's ankle. He had both hands on the steering wheel, both legs hanging outside the car.

He's strong and on a good day I'm guessing he could hold his weight and mine but trying to hold onto a slick steering wheel covered in sweat and air bag dust is not a good day.

“Dad I'm slipping!”

“Zach, I love you.”

I let go.

Kat Zhang said...

“What’s your brother’s name, miss?” said the soldier. They’d reached a small window by the ticket counter, and a bored-looking man stared out at her expectantly.

Clara blinked.

“Sorry?” she said, her lips moving before her mind.

A bemused little smile lifted the edges of the soldier’s mouth, twitching his mustache. Clara tried to smile back.

“Lost in a daydream?” he said. “You haven’t forgotten your own brother’s name, have you?”

“Oh,” said Clara with a little laugh. “His name.”
She shifted slightly on her feet, trying to look relaxed. It didn’t do to look tense when one lied. “It’s—”

A flash in the corner of her eye. The whip of a man’s coat. Someone running. Someone running toward them. Toward her.

Someone—

"Thomas!" she cried.

And then he had grabbed her hand—had grabbed her hand and was pulling her away from the window. The man behind the glass watched him snatch her away with a little round oh of surprise.

"Hey!" someone shouted.

It all happened too quickly for Clara's mind to catch hold. Why were they running? The soldier— he would think something was terribly wrong—and all these people, staring—

They nearly rammed into a luggage cart. Thomas swerved aside at the last possible second, and Clara's wrist jerked painfully as he pulled her after him.

"Thomas!" she managed to shout. "What—"

"Don't talk," he snapped.

They blasted through the marketplace, upturning wares with each footfall. Furious peddlers screeched as they passed, adding to the cacophony of pounding feet. Clara could barely keep up. Her boots were too heavy, her long skirt entangling her legs.

Thomas was too fast; it was all she could do to keep from stumbling.

Then came the gunshot, like the crack of a whip, and she did stumble.

Hundreds of throats stretched with startled, frightened screams. One, Clara discovered, was her own. Her arms flew to protect her head, even as she scrambled behind the nearest wooden cart.

"Get up," Thomas hissed, dropping down beside her. "Go!"

He wrenched her back to her feet and, with just one backward glance, Clara was running again.

But that one glance told her all she needed to know.

Ten or twenty men--their exact number lost in the sameness of their uniforms, in the chaos of the market square. Clara's soldier was among them; it was he who'd fired the gun. He shouted as he ran and seemed ready to shoot another bullet at the sky.

The throng of people split for them, a sea of rich reds and oranges and earthy greens crashing aside, scrambling out of the way for this small but hard group in shining blue.

Soldiers.

Guards.

Clara found she could run faster, after all.

Jeremy said...

Excerpt from COLOR ME CRAZY - by Jeremy Bustin

Relax. Right. How was I supposed to relax when there was a thunderstorm on the way?
“I promise you the car is under the roof, and you will not get wet.”
Yeah, like that’s comforting. At least she was taking me home and not locking me up here in this crazy ass building. Come to think of it, I don’t see any crazy people here. They must all be locked away in their little padded rooms.
“Okay.”
Maybe I would get lucky. It didn’t look like it was raining yet.
BOOM!
Oh shit. Thunder. I panicked.


WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED? I must have blacked out because I swear I was just at the hospital. Well now I’m home in my bed. Was I dreaming?
“Mom.” I called out.
No answer. I rolled over to my right, and looked at the clock on my nightstand. It was 2:04 in the morning. No wonder she didn’t respond. I walked to the bedroom two rooms away, and noticed she wasn’t asleep. No. She wasn’t even there. I walked out into the living room, then the kitchen. Sometimes she would get a late snack, and sometimes she just couldn’t sleep. Maybe she was listening to her ipod, and just didn’t hear me. No, she wasn’t anywhere. I picked up the phone to call Julie. I wasn’t as curious of mom’s whereabouts as I was about my trip to St. Dympna’s that evening.
I dialed Julie and Patrick’s number. Just as I finished dialing, I dropped the phone. I noticed something out of place in the kitchen. It was coming from underneath the counter. Red. It wasn’t paint this time. No, this was real blood.
“Hello!” Julie answered.
“Julie, there’s...there’s b-bl-blood everywhere. Mom is missing. I’m so confused.”
“Kevin, don’t panic. I’ll be right over.”
She hung up the phone. Don’t panic. How the hell was that going to work? It’s one thing that mom was missing. But I seriously did not recall the drive home from the hospital, nor going to bed that night. The rain had subsided, and I tried to keep my mind off the blood in the kitchen, but I just couldn’t. My mind began to flashback...

IT WAS 1998, and I had stowed away in dad’s Toyota 4Runner. It was pouring down rain outside. Lighting struck every few minutes. Hellish lighting, the kind that came all the way down to the ground. Needless to say I was frightened. I just wanted to be with daddy. I was five years old, and thought the world of him. That was until about twenty minutes later. He didn’t see me in the back, but I saw him. He drove into what looked like an abandoned trailer park, and jumped out of the truck. What I saw next scarred me. No, it made me what I am now...

@jerbustin on Twitter

Moni said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rhindra_vekrah said...

The elders said that it was as old and strong as the bones of the earth, a primal force of raw, unstoppable power. It came with the mist and fed off the souls of its victims, leaving naught but the shell of a statue behind.

It came now, and it came for Danela.

She stumbled blindly through the unnatural blanket of vapour, fear lending her speed as she ran from the beast that dwelt within it. Shadowed statues loomed out of the fog on either side, unmoving sentinels whose carved faces watched her impassively with eyes of living stone.

‘Don’t touch them don’t touch them don’t touch them’ the thought ran over and over in her head as she whipped past the familiar faces, the lost ghosts of friends and family.

To touch was to become, and she meant to get out of the mist alive.

“Danela, Danela!”

A man’s disembodied voice floated through the haze, its deep tones laced with fear. She swerved and tried to run to it, but it faded back into the swirling fog before she could decide on the direction it had come from.

“Father, father I’m here!” Shrill with desperation she cried out, but her voice seemed small and lost, stifled by the cloying tendrils that cocooned her.

There was no answer to her shouts, nothing save the sound of her bare feet thudding on the grass and the eerie keening cry of the creature in her wake. The noise grew louder, drawn by her cries and accompanied by the sound of cracking stone as it tore statues apart like they were made of matchsticks. Frantic, she glanced over her shoulder to see the shadow of the beast looming large behind the white wall of the mist.

Eyes wide with terror she plunged onwards, praying for the fog to thin so she could escape, but the dazzling white wall was still thick enough to cut through. Her breath came in frantic, ragged sobs as she forced her flagging limbs onwards, her tattered dress flapping wetly against her legs.

Suddenly the pitted wall of a cliff face materialized out of the gloom. Almost crying with relief, she threw herself into a cave that was little more than a shallow alcove for the cover it provided. With the sound of her heart hammering in her ears, she forced herself to lie still and tried to breathe as lightly as possible.

A sighing wail bounced off the rock face and reverberated around the small space. Danela’s mind went blank with terror and she curled tightly into a ball as heavy, uneven breathing tickled her ears.

Anonymous said...

Excerpt from The Rules--Military Thriller:


“You wanted to see me sir?” Captain Benson nodded and gestured with his hand toward a chair.

“Please sit down, Corporal Judah. I only want to ask you a few questions and try to ascertain your thoughts on this war.”

“Peace is drawn from the blueprints of war, sir,” I smiled and remained standing.

“Spoken like a true Marine but is it really that simple, Corporal Judah?” Benson asked tapping a finger to his chin.

“I overheard what you told Sergeant Johnson about me yesterday behind the latrine,” I said catching him off guard. He leaned back in his chair.

“Did what I say to Sergeant Johnson surprise you?” he asked with a thin smile.

“You think I am a murderer when I am anything but.”

“That was wrong of me to say and I apologize, but I am sure you understand that Sergeant Johnson is a hard man to communicate with and unfortunately I let him pull me down to a level I regret.”

“Sir, I've seen more horrors in this war than you could possibly know and unless you have shared in that conflict you have no right to call me a murderer. You have no right to judge me but you do so anyway because you see the human animal instead of an American soldier. It is impossible for me to find the words to describe what is necessary to survive in a fire fight. Death and terror become your new friends and war forces you to bond with that realization while they continue thrive in the twisted wreckage of your memories. There is a part of me that wants to forget and there is another part of me that wants those memories to live. That is my dilemma and once you distill that knowledge down…there is some kind of morbid genius to it.”

“Why?”

“Because there is no morality or standards on either side of this war and the men who create and adapt to the rules of combat will conquer and survive, sir.”

“And that’s the only recourse you see, Corporal Judah?” Benson asked and clasped his hands as if in prayer.

“Pick up a weapon and go with us on our combat patrols. Follow us into the deceit and smoke and face the same demonic smiles we see every day, do that and you will find out it is as simple as my explanation and as complex as the warriors who share in that orgy of understanding.”

“Corporal Judah, do you think I am sitting here in judgment of you?”

“Your judgment defeats my purpose, sir.”


Morgan

Melissa said...

Suddenly, and without warning, a gunshot blast echoed through the empty streets, and Finley stopped mid-step. Elliott gasped, not completely sure of what had happened. Finley’s gaze lifted and her brown eyes locked onto his before she fell to the ground.

“No!” he screamed and ran towards her. She was limp when he pulled her towards him and her eyes were a mixture of shock, pain, and fear as she looked up at him, almost as if she was trying to comprehend what had just happened and was failing. “Finley,” he whispered as he pushed a stray hair out of her face, “Finley look at me. Stay with me.”

“Step away from the girl and put your hands up,” said an unseen voice.

Her breath was coming in gasps even as Elliott tried to soothe her. Blood was coating his hands as he gripped her to his chest and somehow he could feel her slipping away. “No. No. You’re okay. You’re alright,” he repeated trying to convince himself of his own words.

“I repeat, step away from the girl and put your hands up. This is your final warning.”

Her eyes fluttered as she tried to stay conscious, but it was obvious it was a losing battle. Elliott shut his eyes, trying to will her injuries away, but when he looked back down at her, her face remained unchanged. He kissed her lips feeling as if it might be the last time, and Finley made one last effort to stay with him before her eyes finally closed.

Elliott held his breath, afraid to believe that she was gone, but there were no signs of life left. And in that moment something seemed to snap loose in him. Tears flowed freely from his eyes as he wept over her body, wishing with all his heart he could die too.

The pain welled up inside him and kindled that secret place in him, sparking something to action even as he sat mourning Finley. The men in uniforms lining the streets were too far away to see the fire kindling in his dark eyes. They were too far away to hear the wail of someone who had lost everything he cared for. They were too far away to see they had just unleashed a very powerful, and now recklessly dangerous weapon. They did not know until it was too late.

Elliott Mason was curled up in a pitiful mass with Finley’s lifeless body, and suddenly, without warning, a tidal wave of fire flew from his back and swept through the street. Smaller items, paper pamphlets, food wrappers, signs glued to buildings, simply disintegrated in seconds. The larger things, phone booths, cars, lampposts, were melting down around their foundations, even as the screams of men filled the air like some kind of macabre lilt. In minutes they were reduced to ash, nothing more than a memory, but Elliott could not be stopped, and the fire moved out into the city.

Jude Hardin said...

In the nightmare that recurred most often, Virgil sat on a bench outside the Pewee Valley Mortgage and Trust Company, chewing on a stick of licorice, waiting for his father to take care of some business inside. A man on the corner opposite the bank stood beside a big hand-painted sign that said NOOSES ON SALE. Not for sale, but on sale, as if you needed to hurry on over to get one cheap. Naturally curious, Virgil crossed the intersection and told the man howdy.

There were several lengths of rope lying on the ground, each with a hangman’s knot on one end.

“What are the ropes for, mister?”

“They’re for ugly redhead retards who jaywalk.”

“I ain’t no retard. And it ain’t no crime to have red hair.”

“But jaywalking is a crime. Haven’t you heard the news? It’s a hanging offense now.”

“You’re funny, mister.”

Virgil’s father appeared then, seeming to be in a foul humor, the way he got when he drank too much whiskey the night before.

He grabbed Virgil by the arm. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Nothing, Papa. Just talking to the noose salesman here.”

“I’ll take one of those,” Papa said to the man.

“Buy one, get one half-price. While they last.”

“I’ll just be needing the one.”

Papa handed the man some money and picked out a length of rope, checking the knot to make sure it functioned properly.

“Why’d you buy that noose?” Virgil asked on the ride home, but his father didn’t answer.

And they didn’t go home.

Papa steered the truck through the open gate of the old Schweinhardt place and parked beside the tobacco barn. He got out, grabbed the rope with one hand and Virgil’s hair with the other and pulled Virgil shouting and screaming to the inside of the barn. Next thing Virgil knew he was standing on a rickety stool with his hands tied with baling twine, the loose end of the rope secured to a roof beam and the business end to his neck. It was hot in the barn, probably over a hundred degrees, and the noose was tight and the hemp coarse and he could feel it burning into his sweaty skin. He teetered on the stool, knowing a loss of balance meant instant death.

“Why are you doing this, Papa?”

“Like the man said, jaywalking’s a hanging offense these days. Nothing I can do about that.”

“Please, Papa. I’ll be good. I promise.”

“You should have thought of that before. Too late now.”

A wasp flew overhead. Virgil followed it to its nest with his eyes.

“May as well get rid of them damn things while I’m at it,” Papa said. He picked up a can of gasoline, sprinkled some in the straw around the stool and then doused Virgil’s britches with the rest.

He lit a match.

Now Virgil had a choice. He could jump off the stool and hang himself, or he could stand there and burn...

Anonymous said...

Maybe it had been his hot breath on my neck that roused me, but I don’t know for sure.
The light was real, a bright, piercing light. The shapes and shadows formed slowly, until a flash flood of pain from above my head kicked the focus in fast and clear.
The room was cold; the fluorescent lights bounced around the white tiles that screamed with splashes of red. The stainless steel table in the middle of the room flashed mortician at me.
Confusion reigned. I hung my head to escape the spinning nausea. The silver St. Christopher rattled upon my chest, dancing to my rapid heartbeat.
Another agonising flash flood came from above me. I heaved my head up to see the site of the pain.
My hands were bound with leather straps that grasped the meat hook. Red tributaries coursed down my arms. I couldn’t see the wound.
‘Looking for these, Sugar?’
The serrated edge of his voice cut through my flesh. Just hours before his tone had been smooth. That’s what had tipped it for me. That’s why I left with him. Good looks, nice clothes and a voice like warm, melted chocolate.
Too good to be true, is what I had thought - more than once. Something in his smile had told me not to leave my friends, but I guess the wine had muted that – the wine or the furtively administered drugs.
His voice cut again.
‘You have such pretty fingers, Katie. Ten pretty fingers, all to yourself. You’re not a selfish girl though are you Katie? That’s why I knew you wouldn’t mind if I took some.’
I didn’t want to look, but the lowering of my head was as involuntary as the beating of my heart. I caught sight of my father’s wedding band, still occupying my right thumb from within his red smeared hand. Two more dismembered fingers accompanied it.
I lowered my glance. The nausea threatened ten fold.
Talk your way out Kate, I thought. You talked your way in when you were at the fucking bar, now talk your way out.
I lifted my eyes to meet his. They were shining with the enthusiasm of a little boy whose mother had just told him that he could keep the lost puppy.
‘Do you like fingers? I know where there are some really amazing ones. You know the blond I was with at that bar? I don’t know if you saw, but her fingers are so long and slender.’
His eyes widened with enthusiasm. My heart lifted into my throat.
‘You’ve got such a pretty neck Katie,’ he said.

By Claire Alderson

claire_marie_alderson@yahoo.co.uk

Morgan Xavier said...

She awoke to a cocoon of darkness. Instinct demanded the visceral need to inhale, but air was as absent as light. Her lungs panicking at the expected asphyxiation, she soon realized that air was not required in this place. What this place was or where she had come from, she did not know. It was as if the void had given birth to her being.
Tentative exploration into the unyielding midnight revealed nothing. The netherworld of nothingness lacked time and form, its substance intangible to her senses. Even so, the silence grew deafening and she fought back whimpers of fear. A wicked sort of dread had filled her, suggesting that even the sharpest scream would be unable to penetrate the harsh stillness and she had not the courage to see if the premonition proved true.
Moments passed, indiscernible in their relativity. Then...a sudden flutter in the black.
She was not alone.
Shadows quivered amidst the murk and the gloom, blackened shapes pulsating in the thick obscurity. Shadows that spoke.
“What is thisss fear that ssstrikes at your heart?”
She froze as the words resonated through her, the sibilant tones more felt than heard.
“Takes captive your mind as it whisssperss your name.”
The shadows wooed and writhed and beckoned, serenading the lost soul of the Forlorn and the Forgotten.
“It grieves you. Breaksss you. Moulds you. Hauntsss you.”
The rhythm of their whisper-song matched the sway of the shadows’ dancing forms and the frantic fibrillation of her heart.
“Until you are a stranger even unto yourssself.”
Surrounded by the treacherous sirens of the darkness, she wished for the silence again. If only she could escape, go back, but how could one go back if they had no beginning? She was trapped in this desolate wasteland, where time was as much a prisoner as she. Trapped in oblivion.
Her anxiety reached a crescendo, threatening to shatter what little sanity remained in her being. Then, her breaking was interrupted by what at first seemed a hallucination. Light, silvery and delicious in all its splendour, now pierced the strangely diluted darkness. It was streaming through the outline of a door, and without hesitation, she bolted towards the vision. It seemed a heart-pounding eternity that she wavered between the two paradoxical words, but fear helped her reach her goal. The shadows snapped and howled as she cut a path through their midst. Resolve strengthened her flight; she may have been conjured as prey for the predators of the perpetual eclipse, but she would not succumb willingly.
Pushing through her captors with one last leap, she thrust the door open and then slammed it behind her. Her heart pounding wildly, she immediately found herself blinded again, but this time by an overwhelming amount of light. As the speckles cleared in her vision, her surroundings were finally revealed, but it seemed an even bigger mystery than before. Her great salvation was none other than a bathroom, and an unremarkable one, at that.

Kay said...

Whoa! Ryan Z. Nock. Killer action sequence, love the foreign element with the Spanish and the gunfight.

K

Nicole Zoltack said...

Torn Between Love and Murder
Urban Fantasy with Romantic Elements

I stared in horror at my shoulder. My dark clothing was now damp, moist with blood. My blood. For the first time since I had become an assassin, I was the one to feel the burning sensation of pain.

Without thinking, I attacked my assailant, but my movements were sloppy, my mind concentrating on was the pain, the throbbing. A wave of lightheadedness hit me, and I attempted to slow down the assault, giving me some time to pay attention to the attacker, my attacker. Dressed in black, tall, maybe six two, six three, weighing a little under two hundred pounds. Male most likely. His dark shirt was tight, and, even in the dim light, I saw the ripples of his muscles underneath. A dark cap covered some of his face and hair, but his eyes were visible, one dark, one more grayish. Little bits of dark curls poked beneath the hat.

My visual examination complete despite my desire to find some kind of indentifying mark or tattoo, I redoubled my fighting efforts.

He lunged at me. After jumping to the right, I reached inside my cloak and grabbed a small dagger. I threw it at him, purposely missing narrowly in an attempt to unnerve him. He answered with a sword thrust to my side, but I blocked with my sword and parried. With a step back and a nod, he turned and fled.

I gave chase. He climbed a warehouse’s fire escape stairs, and I tore after him. He bolted onto the rooftop. I followed, slightly gasping for air, and saw peripherally a flash of movement to the right.

He jumped to the next rooftop. I jumped too after little thought and hit the cement hard. We continued this chase, jumping, leaping, running, scurrying.

The smaller I managed to decrease the distance between us, the faster he would run and the quicker he would jump. My chase appeared to be in vain. My shoulder ached. Blood thoroughly soaked my shirt. And, more unnerving than anything else, I was sweating. I never sweat.

The next rooftop was higher than this one. The previous ones had all been lower. No matter. I leapt. My fingers barely caught the ledge. A whimper of pain, a sound I had never before uttered, escaped my lips, and my left hand let go. My wounded shoulder longer supported my weight. Somehow, with one hand, I managed to climb up.

Completely gassed and in a great deal of agony, I glanced around. Now where was he? I hadn’t chased him this far to lose him. Ah-ha, there! He stood still, in the middle of the rooftop, no longer running. Strange. I followed, not making a sound. I was twenty feet from him and closing. Fifteen. Should I chop off his head or do it more slowly? Ten feet. No, I wanted some questions answered. If he refused to cooperate, then I’ll kill him. Five. Four. Three.

Bane of Anubis said...

“Come on, Baby, let’s go.”

But her gaze, like mine, is fixed on the cave, on the dozen men dragging five large nets to the ledge. The gunship’s side doors open. Hooks are lowered, nets attached. The chopper lists beneath the weight, but soon the cargo’s loaded, still faintly glowing, and I’m absurdly reminded of chickens, even though I’ve never seen one get its head cut off.

Two other helicopters retrieve the soldiers. I watch until the last saunters aboard. No gurneys, no rush, nobody injured. Not a battle. A slaughter. As the two transports move away, my breaths come faster, sharper; my chest constricts.

“Let’s go,” I whisper.

I meant for us to retreat, to hide, but Baby rises up and launches herself over the mountaintop and at the nearest helicopter with a sky-shattering howl that reminds me of her parents. The gunship makes half a revolution toward us before being swallowed in a cone of ice.

Its blades grind to a halt. For a half moment it sits there, suspended in death. I’m close enough to see the soldier manning the side-door machine gun. He’s an ice statue, sculpted with mouth and eyes wide open, finger at the trigger.

A sudden intense sadness grips me as the frozen gunship plummets into the valley. Those men died because of me. Maybe I was a reluctant sympathizer before, but now I’m a full-fledged traitor who’s killed fathers, sons, brothers, husbands.

The missile shrieking toward us consumes my sorrow, sets my heart aflutter. Baby reels sideways and sends a funnel of liquid frost at the attacking gunship. Another missile races toward us from the left. Two from the right. Shrieking death everywhere. I glance back to see the first missile spin around.

Baby dives and the missiles follow. “Go cold!” I shout.

Her skin cools to frigid and her glow brightens to blinding. She dodges three more missiles, heads for the helicopter with the red dragon heads. Bullets zip everywhere, a swarm of metal locusts criss-crossing our path.

Baby bucks, bolts and swerves, always breathing her ice. Ten gunships become five. Missiles churn the mountainside, send fountains of rock and snow hundreds of feet skyward.

In the blizzard of destruction, I lose my orientation. Shadows in the flying detritus could be a thousand feet away or ten, enemies or flying boulders. I call out every blur, imagined or not, shouting against the thunder of war until my voice goes hoarse, my lungs grow tight, and my body burns cold fire.

The explosion hits us from below. Warmth and pain surge through me. Baby tumbles head over tail. My grip loosens, legs slip, head spins.

When my focus returns, Baby’s crashing into the mountain and I’m hundreds of feet in the air without a dragon.

Frau Blucher said...

From: Imperial Deception

A small ladder beckoned them into the darkness. Wayne held up his hand, signaling Coy to wait. He peered into the cavity and again tried to hear something other than the rain. Coy crept backward across the floor towards his pack, laid open the flap and pulled out his flashlight. He stared at Wayne, waiting for an all clear. Instead, Wayne motioned for Coy to throw him the flashlight. Coy complied, and Wayne poured the light into the cellar.

“Anyone down there?” he shouted. “This is Sergeant Robert Wayne Monroe of the United States Army.” No response. “Make yourself known and no harm will come to you.” No response. “I am armed and have covering fire. Make yourself known. You are surrounded.”

A bolt of lightning illuminated the farmhouse and, for a moment, the room below.

“I don’t think there’s anyone down there.” Hank whispered, as he snuck a peek over Wayne’s shoulder.

“I agree,” Wayne whispered back.

“I don’t think so either,” Coy said out loud. “Besides, does it occur to anyone that it’d be kinda hard for someone to be down there with that rug and table in place topside?”

Wayne waved him off and lowered one foot to the first rung of the ladder.

Thunder boomed, and a startled Wayne momentarily lost his footing. His hands grabbed at the air, but he came down hard on the floor with his legs dangling into the opening.

Coy snickered, “Well, if there is anyone down there, we’ll be able to hear ‘em laughing.”

Ignoring Coy, Wayne gathered himself, rubbed his backside and headed down the ladder. After retrieving his own flashlight, Hank followed. Then Coy. The flashlight beams danced and bounced as they climbed down. It smelled like any basement...of cool, dank dirt, of leaves and wet wood, like a forest floor after a rain. At the bottom, they found themselves standing on a dirt floor in a room just a little smaller than the farmhouse itself. The dugout walls were shored up by large wooden planks that looked an awful lot like the ones from the shed in the yard. Thunder rolled outside and reverberated like a small earthquake in the underground chamber. Their lights spread out across the room, displaying a sight like none they’d ever seen. The entire room was stacked with wooden crates and barrels. Probably a hundred of them. All sizes, including one rather large, rectangular crate with open slats revealing a massive, double-headed bronze eagle, suspended in mid-air. The crates were labeled: Gemälde/Kunst; Wandteppiche; Skulptur; Silber; Porzellan. On top of a couple of the crates were large, drawstring bags, bulging with who knew what. The men stood and stared for a full minute before edging closer.

“Oh...sweet...Jesus,” Hank meted out the words. “What on earth?”

“It’s a treasure trove,” Wayne answered, “like...Nazi loot.”

Coy rested his hands on his hips, “I think we can safely categorize this as ‘unauthorized activity.’”

L.M. Pruitt said...

Shades of Gray: A Jude Magdalyn Novel
Urban Fantasy



I could make out the top of his head, just barely, over the crowds as he tried to blend into the melee of Bourbon. The screams grew more frequent the faster I ran, and part of me realized that the people here had no idea what was going on less than five blocks away.
I glimpsed Hart as he turned suddenly left, a group of female tourists screaming and dropping their geaux cups. Left, towards the river. There was a break in the crowd and I pushed through, praying I wouldn’t slice anyone open with the sword, even as I ducked and slid around people, always moving, never stopping or slowing.
Suddenly, my right hand felt lighter, and I risked a glance down to watch the Rising shrink to a dagger, easily able to fit in the palm of my hand. I closed my fist around it, ignoring the sharp sting as the blade bit into my palm, and ran all the more faster.
If the people hadn’t been observant before, they were now. The screams as we flew down St. Peter Street rose, becoming more shrill the closer we got to the river. Hart didn’t pause as he sprinted across Decatur, and neither did I. The cab stopped right before it would have run over my toes, and I slid across the hood, hitting the ground hard on my hands and knees, the Rising slicing deeper.
By the time I was up the incline, racing across the train tracks, I was fighting another crowd, this one running away from the river. I pushed through them, the homeless, the tourists, the locals out taking the night air. I skidded to a halt on the Moonwalk, my lungs on fire, my muscles shaking.
Where was he?
The shove from behind knocked me to my knees, and I rolled, moving aside a half second before Hart slammed his fist down where my face would have been. I grabbed his shirt and kept rolling, moving us towards the river. I kept my elbow in his throat, his face away from mine. I winced when the rocks dug into my back, and took a deep breath.
And then there was the river.
It stung, the cool slap, even though it was August. I kicked hard, dragging us both down and away from the bank, until my lungs protested and I had no choice but to rise upwards. Our heads broke the surface at the same time, and I gasped in a breath, choking as water splashed into my mouth. Hart’s sneer was back, and my right hand convulsed slightly where it still clung to his shirt.
“You can’t drown me, you fool. I’m already dead.”
I treaded water, pulling him closer. My nose nearly touched his, and I knew the instant he realized what else was in my hand besides his shirt. My fingers relaxed slightly, and the Rising pressed delicately into his left breast.
“There are some things worse than death.”

tom abrahams said...

It would only be a matter of seconds before they realized she wasn’t in the ladies room.

They’d come looking for her.

She shut the door and locked it. She scanned the room. Looking up at the air vent, she had an idea. She’d seen it in a late night movie as a teenager on a night when she couldn’t sleep. She watched a lot of late night movies.

The lint was no longer blowing. The air conditioning was off. The vent was on the side of the room such that its ductwork might connect to the women’s room on the other side.

She pulled up her dress, slipped off her shoes, and climbed onto the sink trough. Balancing herself against the mirror, she pressed her cheek against the filthy vent.

“George, is that you? I’ll be just a minute.” Matti stood on her tip toes and pressed her ear to the vent.

“Okay. I’ll wait.” She could barely hear him. But there it was. He could hear her. He fell for it and thought she was in the other restroom. It would buy her time.

She climbed back down and walked back to the door. The floor was damp and it disgusted her. This was reason enough never to wear impractical shoes again.

Matti opened the door again and peeked down the hall. George and Art stood at the door with their arms folded. Sir Spencer stood behind them. Matti watched him reach down to his ankle and pull up the cuff of his pants.

Around his calf was what looked like a thick black sock strap. She saw him pull a small silver object from the inside of his leg. It was a pistol! He held it behind his back. The other two were oblivious.

“Matti?” George called again.

She shut the door, relocked it, and ran over to the sinks. She turned on all of the faucets and then ran to each of the three stalls and flushed each of the toilets. It was loud. Matti hiked up her dress and hopped back onto the trough. She cupped her hands around her mouth.

“I’m just finishing up. Hang on!” She then hopped down, adjusted her dress and grabbed her shoes.

Holding the straps in her left hand, she unlocked the door with her right and opened the door. She quietly stepped into the hall, trying to move past the corner and into the reception hall without the men seeing her.

She didn’t make it.

Jabez said...

She felt them before she saw them. It was something instinctive, a collection of small cues – the far-off scratching of teeth on bone, a hint of foulness in the air – translated deep in her brain into a zero-to-sixty feeling of wrongness, the itch of a hundred mosquitoes alighting at once. She crept forward. And the mists parted.

Three of them perched over a carcass forty yards away, ripping bites from it. They looked like wolves at first. But they were hairless, skin stretched tight over emaciated limbs, and they stood on two legs, not four. They used arms and fingers to draw parts of the carcass to their mouths. The carcass. God, it had a face. It was a man.

The wind shifted and one of the creatures lifted its snout and sniffed. It turned. Its gaze locked on her. She ran.

They loped after her with long, easy strides. Branches whipped her face bloody, mud grabbed at her feet. She tripped on a root and scrambled to her feet. She ran on. The river was ahead; maybe they couldn’t swim, or feared the running water.

Fifty paces, forty, thirty, and there it was. She dove in and the cold stole the breath from her lungs. She flowed downstream with the current, swimming with it, kicking, using it to speed her way. She climbed onto the far bank well out of sight of where she’d put in and looked across for signs of pursuit. A covey of birds scattered, screeching as they went. She heard the distant trampling of deer, fleeing. Then a splash. They were coming on.

She fled again through the woods, crashing through clusters of pine. The light faded as she ran. Darkness coming on. She heard nothing, saw nothing, but still she ran. Her limbs were leaden, her lungs sore from gasping.

Abruptly the trees dropped away to pasture. An old wooden barn stood atop a rise at the pasture’s far end, and she made for it. Inside it was dark and empty. It smelled of moldering hay. She closed the heavy gated doors and slid the bolt into place.

“Anyone here?” she whispered. No answer.

She climbed into the loft and pulled up the ladder. She lay down and burrowed into a pile of hay to stop her shivering and waited, listening.

She was almost asleep when she heard footfalls outside. She smelled them then, much stronger than before, a filthy stench like road-killed deer lingering through a three-day rain. She stayed silent, but it made no matter. They knew she was here. They had her scent, too.

Outside a scratching, a pulling at the door. A dozen dull thuds battered the door, each harder than the last. Then a keening wail. The bolt held. A few quieter, sucking sounds, then nothing. She waited. Minutes passed. She thought they’d finally gone.

Then she smelled the smoke.

Tessa Conte said...

I've gathered my courage and written this scene especially, so no title:

It was silent all around me, so quiet my steps echoed against the trees. My breath came and went like waves on a beach.

I used to love darkness, crave silence, but this was wrong. Unnatural.

I’m not sure what possessed me to walk home the long way tonight out of all nights, although it’s always been safe before. I heard the stories told around the campfires when I was little, but they always happened far, far away in some distant land.

This was real. There was something here, watching me.

Something had chased all life from the forest, covering everything in silence. I stopped, willed my heart to stop racing. Pale light fell in dappled patterns onto the path and between the trees, creating ghosts and monsters, hiding the watcher from my sight. There was nothing there, no sound but my own breathing.

I started walking again, stuffing my left hand into the coat pocket to get a grip on the small knife I always carried. It made me feel a little better.

I wished for the lantern I’d refused when I left my grandmother’s house.

She’d told me I’d be sorry.

Something moved in the corner of my eye, but when I turned to face it, there was nothing there but a bramble thicket stretching its thorny arms towards the sky. I hurried my steps some more until I was almost running, but not quite.

Never run from a predator. They follow.

A sharp clear crack shot through the woods and my breath caught in my throat. Had I stepped on something? I glanced back but the path I’d taken was clear of broken branches. My eyes jumped from tree to tree but found nothing, no one, and I could not say where the sound had come from.

There, another sound, a soft swish of something moving across the leaves.

Right behind me.

I spun around as fast as I could and thought I saw a shadow vanish behind a grandfather oak. I gathered my coat around me and started running, after all.

A cloud of noise surrounded me, branches cracking under my feet, dead leaves swirling in my wake. I thought I heard footsteps behind me but didn’t dare turn again.

Almost there. Three twists of the trail and I was home.

Something crashed through a bush to my right and I caught a glimps of fur and teeth.

Two of them. There were two of them.

A hundred steps at most and I’d see home, a hundred more and I’d be safe. Something grabbed at the tail of my coat and I think I screamed.

There, I could see the lantern father left on the porch. Home.

I made it into the lantern’s golden aura and from one step to the next the sounds were back and all that remained of the silence was a long rent at the back of my coat.

Jamie said...

Action sequence:

I took a shuddering breath, vaguely noting that I hadn’t breathed in quite some time. “I’m not dead,” I said hoarsely.
The medical examiner launched away from the slab, from me. Tools of his trade scattered to the floor, horrendously loud in this tomb of a room, joined by the sound of shattering glass.
I saw him grip the axe in both hands, chest heaving.
“Please,” I said. “Please, help me.”
His eyes softened for a moment, his mental gears churning. He crossed himself, then raised the axe high over his head.
Oh, shit.
Something in me changed in that instant. As he lunged for me, my body felt charged, a shock of energy that said MOVE NOW! The axe came swinging down, I rolled off the slab, and the blow landed where my neck had been with an echoing boom.
Crouched on the floor, I watched the coroner struggle with the axe. He was a large man, well over six feet tall and nearing three hundred pounds or so. Judging by his physique, the hulk seemed more suited to slaughterhouse work than delicate surgery, but then again, this was the morgue.
The man’s face flushed red and sweat began to pour from him. His cheeks puffed in and out with his labored breathing.
“Please,” I said again, hoping to reason with him. “There’s been a terrible mistake!” The last syllable rose into a warbling cry as he came at me again.
I leapt away, trying always to keep the table between me and his lumbering bulk. Panic threatened to overwhelm me in a prickly, hot wash, and yet, my senses seemed keener than ever before. I could see heat rising off the coroner in waves, like blacktop in summer. I saw my own face, ghastly pale, reflected in the axe blade. And I saw the door behind him. If I could just get there, I knew I could run faster than he could chase me. I didn’t care what obstacles lay beyond that door, I just knew I had to get there.
My instincts screamed.
I dodged just as he flew toward me again, this time ducking beneath the exam table and bolting toward the one and only exit. In two quick strides, I was there, pressed against the steel door. My palms should’ve been clammy, greasy with sweat, but they were dry on the cool metal knob. Almost out. Almost there! I turned the knob, but the door was locked.
“What?” I gasped. I started to claw at the door, hoping the metal would turn to pliant clay beneath my fingertips.
“Abomination!”
I turned toward the growl, my back pressed up against the door. No way out. In seconds I’d be dead. Again?
The medical examiner came at me slowly, warily, huffing and puffing the whole way. Soon, he was an arms length away. His hot breath brushed against my flesh. It smelled of bile and peanuts.
“God have mercy on you,” he wheezed.

gabriella said...

Suspenseful sequence from Moonlight Paths:

I heard the clanging of the siren. It couldn’t be, it just couldn’t. I darted out of the tent that I had been living in with my family for the past few weeks. We had been moved from the village back out into the woods. The siren was screeching out its warning. I looked to the entrance of the clearing but the smoke from the tents that had been set on fire was billowing around making it almost impossible to see anything.

Shouts rang out all around me. People were screaming, shouting and running. I knew deep down that I had to leave. Some gut instinct was telling me to get out of there while I still could.

A figure on a horse came galloping out of the smoke. I crouched deeper into the folds of the tent, praying that he didn’t look in my direction. It was as if my prayers had been answered. He didn’t move.
He was a fearsome man. His face looked as if it had never once broken into a smile or showed pity. I knew instantly who he was. This was Lord Seimei, the ferocious leader of a band of man-hunters. I had seen his face on posters in town. It was a man that Uncle had held up to us as the boogie man.

The stories that were told about his deeds had always made me pray that he was nothing more than a story. Why was he in our town. We were nothing special. Why us? I wondered while watching him closely, looking for an escape route where he would not see me.

He turned in the saddle his eyes catching mine and holding them for a few seconds.

His hand rose at such an impossibly slow pace it was almost as if his arm wasn’t moving at all. It was pointing straight at me, as he shouted something. The words rebounded into my ears; they were the words I had hoped never to hear.

“The brat’s here.”

Terry said...

Lisa Price took one look at the approaching reporters and thought she might be sick. Her stomach lurched into her chest. She struggled to swallow the bile that rose in the back of her throat. Just what every lady wants—to puke on national television.

Every reporter and news camera in the area had descended on Lisa like a lion tracking its prey. From the microphones shoved in her face to the ones dangling over her head, any attempt to escape speaking to the reporters quickly became futile. She wanted to call for help, but the crowd kept back anyone who might try to save her. Question after question spewed in a jumbled mess from reporters’ mouths. She struggled to decipher which words made up which questions.

The bright lights from video cameras pointed directly at her face caused her eyes to burn. Half-blinded and half-suffocated, she attempted to answer the questions. She hardly finished one before more questions rocketed her way.

She swiped at the beads of sweat trickling down the sides of her face. Fighting back the dizzy feeling became more and more difficult. She was hyperventilating. A panic attack would follow. The air felt thin, like breathing high in the mountains. She needed out. She needed air.

She attempted to push her way through the crowds. Video cameras continued their torturous attack. One hit her in the head. She shoved through the encroaching reporters. She made out an opening near the entrance. Fatigue led the race, but she pushed on. The world started to spin, making her push through the crowd more of a stagger.

She paused, hoping the dizziness would dissipate. Her legs weak and limp refused to hold her weight. Lisa slowly slumped to the floor. The room around her spiraled out of focus. Lying on the floor, before reality slipped away, a woman yelled.

“Step back. There’s blood coming from her ears.”

akashina said...

Adele felt comfortable in riding breeches and light chainmail tunic that replaced her usual formal outfit. But despite these clothes, despite her riding skill, she was having trouble keeping her horse in check. The bay gelding pranced under her, as if struggling to break the slow pace set by the archbishop. It took effort to keep the horse to a walk while maintaining a polite conversation. Adele could feel the sweat on the horse’s neck. _I must have him checked when we reach the castle_, she thought, closing her hand in a tighter grip over the reins.

When the riders at the front of the procession neared the road bend that separated them from the castle, a flock of wild geese rose from the bushes. Adele, a few paces away, struggled to keep her restless horse steady, but suddenly she wasn’t in control anymore. The gelding leapt sideways and kicked its hind legs into the air, forcing Adele to fall forward onto its neck. Then it took off at a mad gallop across the fields. Adele madly tugged at the reins, but the horse paid her no notice. After a short struggle she gave up, concentrating on staying in the saddle.

Cold wind whistled in her ears with numbing force. The grass blended into a fuzzy trail of green under the horse’s feet. She gripped tighter, managing a brief glance backward. Several riders were in pursuit. She recognized Robert’s black cloak and another, slim and graceful shape by his side. The other riders were falling behind.

A line of bushes was looming in front, but Adele’s horse showed no intention of slowing down. She braced herself, cursing the heavy chainmail and cloak that flapped uselessly in the wind. Perhaps if she wasn’t burdened by these tings she would be able to slow down and take control again. Or at least to jump off. She looked down at the grass flying by. At this speed it would be suicide.

A rider fell into stride next to her, so close that it almost touched her. Before she could turn to see who it was, an arm reached out and grabbed her around the waist. _What the hell is he doing? We’re both going to fall._

“Let go! Now!” A voice ordered in her ear. She couldn’t recognize it above the rising wind, but the strength of his grip told her it was useless to resist. She closed her eyes and let go, feeling herself being lifted from the stirrups and dragged over to sit on the other horse sideways. Her unburdened gelding took off at an increased speed. She forced her eyes open to see hazy figures cutting across the field into its path.

An arm closed over her as her unknown rescuer slowed down to a stop. She steadied herself against the saddle and turned to look into his face.

Karen said...

Anton and Savion were both staring at me, as I did my best to vanish. My heart pounded and I could feel the sweat pouring down me, but I concentrated and concentrated and, as Savion ran toward me, I managed to disappear. It was a miracle.
As Savion charged toward the spot where he’d last seen me, I circled around to the place where he and Anton had left their opponents’ swords. I picked one up and scrambled towards Anton. The problem, of course, was that while I was invisible, the sword was not.
“Blast!” said Anton as he saw the sword moving through the air. He was panting visibly, but he quickly scooped up his own weapon. Despite his fatigue, he was easily able to parry my thrusts. Swordplay had not been one of my lessons and within a minute or two, he had knocked the heavy sword from my hands. I moved out of the way as he continued stabbing at the air. Unbeknownst to him, he had cut off a long length of my hair and slashed my cheek. I ran my hand down my bleeding face, then sucked the blood from my hand.
Anton and Savion kept looking around, trying to figure out where evidence of me would pop up next. I slipped behind the tree where Finn, my father, and Alain were tied up. I stealthily started to untie the knots. But Savion soon noticed the unraveling. I thought he would try to catch me there, but he did no such thing. Instead, he stood by my father and placed a sword at his throat.
“Keep this up, witch,” he said, “and these men will die now. Anton prefers that they perish by fire, but I would settle for the sword.” My father did not seem frightened. He said nothing but matched Savion glare for glare.
I did not dare to try anything else. Instead, I briefly touched my hand to Finn’s, then my father’s, and moved out of the clearing.
I had accomplished nothing.
That became even more obvious when I saw the two sailors returning with firewood. Avril clearly had not done as I’d asked. More likely, she had abandoned us. Why had I expected her to be anything but faithless? After all, if we were dead, she would be free. I’d been crazy to trust her. I remembered what Cale had said. Only a fool would trust a faerie.

Anonymous said...

Kimberley M.Love
steve.kim.love@hotmail.com

The Dream

‘On the count of three,’ I told myself. ‘One…two…three,’

I quickly reached out from under my blankets and snatched the digital camera on my nightstand. My shaking was so bad, I was having trouble turning it on. Instantly I froze with panic when I heard the glass of water from the nightstand, tip over and smash on the floor. It was by my bed.

‘This thing can move objects? Great, super great,’

My heart raced with the sound of the floorboards creaking. It was slowly walking around my bed. On my left, I felt the bed give way like something had sat down. Without thinking, I flung off the covers and snapped a picture. My eyes blinked in the darkness, trying to let as much light in as possible, so I could see my assailant. I saw nothing. I continued to snap pictures as I sprang to the bathroom.

As soon as my arm could reach it, I flipped on the switch. Fluorescent lighting washed over my bed. No human or ghost was there. I saw movement in the corner of the room, the only part that was still hidden in the shadows.

I tried calling out to my roommate but my voice just squeaked. I was like a broken child’s toy with no sound left. The floor creaked again, this time inches from me. I slammed the door to the bathroom. The wooden door as a barrier between me and whatever was stalking me, gave me a small glimmer of safety.

I huddled into the corner between the wall and toilet.

‘Thank God I cleaned this thing yesterday,’ I randomly thought.

From the other side of the door came faint knocking. With each thump it got louder and louder. My body and mind couldn’t take anymore.

My hand went up to my throat and I tried to scream. Nothing. My eyes were fixed on the door. They widened with horror as I saw the knob begin to turn. I pushed myself farther into the wall. The door slowly started to open and I saw a ruffle of white fabric. I began to silently scream. Everything around me started to dim like the batteries dying in a flashlight. I heard a taunting laugh just as the lights went out.

I sat up panting and foggily realized I was back in my bed. The morning sun filled the room with light. I rubbed my face to try and expel the dream that still haunted me. I pulled back the covers and jumped out of bed. Pain shot through my right foot. I sat back down and glass and blood covered it. I reached for a Kleenex on the bedside table and noticed the blinking red light on my camera. It only flashes when the memory’s full.

‘How could it be full already?’ I wondered.

Suddenly the bathroom door banged shut. An evil taunting laugh filled the room.

Reality set in.

That’s when the scream finally escaped my lips.

heather said...

Out of the corner of my eye, I notice a couple of black shapes streaking next to the road. When I turn to fully look at them, my heart sputters. “Karl,” I say, tapping on the glass and frantically trying to not freak out and mistakenly set off an atomic bomb of fear, “look…look there…those, I don’t know what those are…”

His eyes follow my finger. The black shapes, misty and shifting, mass, break apart and then splinter into the road.

“Holy mother effing shit.” He slams on the breaks. All the cars around begin swerving and skidding to halts. Several smash into each other.

And then the screaming begins. Ear piercing, agonizingly horrible screaming sounding like it’s coming from a million souls.

My feet scramble below me, searching for a non-existent gas pedal. “Do something. Do something now, Karl.”

He throws the Hummer into reverse, gunning the engine. A couple black shapes streak out in front of us, moving so fast I can’t fully determine their constitutions. One strikes the car hard, forcing Karl to slam on the brakes again; the Hummer skids as it rotates direction, nearly missing an overturned minivan.

“Tell me what to do!” I shout. What good are my powers if I’m only to sit like a lame duck, ready to get picked off?

Another black shape smashes into the back, busting tail lights. Karl swerves past a downed motorcycle. “I don’t know, Chloe! Right now, we’re just going to run!”

The black streaks multiply faster than we’re able to outrace them. Karl’s driving at almost a hundred miles per hour, but these things are easily keeping pace. “What are they?”

“I’m assuming,” he yells, dodging an attack, “these are the things that are killing our kind. Don’t you think?”

Cars everywhere are out of control, but in this game of chicken, all manage to move out of Karl’s way.

“Hold on,” he orders. Cora and I grab the handrails above us as he does a one-eighty, tires squealing against the blacktop. Behind us, an explosion ricochets, thrusting us into the air.

As I watch a wall of fire shoot sky high, the Hummer hits the ground; my head, on the other hand, hits glass.

Karl’s massive hands struggle against the wheel to steady us. “Earn your keep, Cora. She’s got a head injury.”

Everything tilts to the left when a touch to my head leaves my hand red and sticky. Everything tilts to the left. “Lean back,” Cora’s saying. “Let me see.”

Cool hands press against my head. I realize the skin stings as it pulls back together, but it’s a distant pain. The kind which ought to make me scream but oddly isn’t.

A few black shapes dart dangerously close. Karl sends the Hummer across the traffic lanes, cutting off a big rig. It slams on its breaks, skidding until it takes up all lanes of traffic. This small action is just what we need, though. It’s enough to help us escape.

Anonymous said...

Stalker Gray / Epic Fantasy / By Xvee

“I think you understand why I’ve kept you alive,” said Valkar, the God of Vengeance.

“Death is a mercy,” Stalker Gray said, “and you are not that kind of god.”

Valkar nodded. “I must justify the faith and devotion of my followers, and justify all that prostrating and blood sacrifice in honor of the ways of vengeance.” Valkar stood up. “In honor of the ways of me.”

Guards advanced on Stalker from all aides. She stood up and said, “I will not bleed alone.”

“I’d be wrong about you if you did.”

Stalker broke a guard’s jaw with an uppercut, grabbed his sword and sliced open two others.

“You will wilt under my punishment or be strengthened by it,” Valkar said over the clatter of combat. “I personally hope for your flourishing. But this isn’t about me, this isn’t personal.”

An arterial gush from a guard painted Valkar’s face. He wiped the blood with a hand and flicked it on the floor while Stalker butchered his men. Severed body parts flew, organs and intestines plopped wet and slippery onto the ground. Valkar noticed with disgust that the commander of his army remained seated, his previous bravado gone.

Valkar stepped down from the throne, bare feet squishing on the sticky warmth of blood and flesh. Despite the press of enemies, Stalker felt the strong presence of a god looming from behind. She turned and brought the sword down against the base of his neck. The weapon shattered into shards on impact as though made of ice. Valkar grabbed her by the throat and lifted Stalker off the ground. She drove a knee against his chin. It felt like granite and her leg went limp.

“You can’t harm a god with mortal weapons, Stalker,” Valkar said and choke-slammed her. The impact cratered the stone floor. Stalker’s mouth gaped open, unable to breathe in or scream out.

“Truss her up,” Valkar said.

After securing Stalker in hogtie, the guards propped her in kneeling position. The commander stood nearby, bold and smug. Stalker promised herself to deny them the satisfaction of her screams.

“Be assured there is no malice in what I’m about to do,” Valkar said. “You’ve won my fondness. More important, you’ve won my respect.”

“I wish I have it in me to care what you think,” Stalker said.

The commander threw a punch at Stalker but Valkar caught him by the wrist before the blow landed and said, “You haven’t earned the right to hit her.”

Valkar turned back to Stalker and asked, “Why do you feel the need to antagonize me?”

“Would you hurt me less if I were respectful?”

“Valid point. You once said that your great passion is seeing the world. Maybe in time you will learn to appreciate the other aspects of life you’ve been neglecting.”

Valkar plunged his fingers into Stalker’s eye sockets and plucked out her eyeballs.

Anonymous said...

Opening from the short story—No Time (Medical Thriller):




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

“Check her vitals and make sure we’ve got a deceased on scene before you radio in the 10-12 to Trauma Central,” Ray said stepping from the passenger side. “I’ll check the Jeep and see if there are any more victims.”

The road was deserted and dark except for the waning illumination given by the headlamps of the overturned vehicle. I flicked on the emergency lights and met Ray at the sliding door. “Do you have any idea who called this in?” I asked.

He grabbed his quick response bag and pulled out a set of purple nitrile gloves, tugging them on his hands with a snap. “I dunno, probably someone who drove by and didn’t hang around because they don’t want to get involved. People ain’t what they used to be.” Ray handed me a road flare and the orange body blanket. “I don’t think we’ll need it but pop this flare after you cover her up,” he said nodding towards the body.

A sinister moon hovered above the trees like some cankered world amid a constellation of pain, spring breeze scented with wood damp where the Jeep had nosed into the roadside ditch and disrupted the loamy ground. The dead girl was half on her side, face down and crushed from the waist to her head. Brunette hair and manicured fingers splayed outward as if she were exorcising the improbable demons that deposited her here. I checked the nape of her splintered neck for a carotid pulse, nothing. I struck the flare and covered her crumpled form as the red hue of the burning nitrates made the coarse material seem darker than that which lay under it.

“I got a live one over here,” Ray yelled and broke the spell that held me.

The girl’s legs were pinned under the dash. Mumbling but unmoving, she hung suspended by the latched seat belt. Ray got a cervical collar around her neck and headed back towards the van yelling directions over his shoulder. “I’ll get the KED and the long spine board, go ahead and document the vitals, Tom.”

Everything from the interior had spilled to the ground, cell phones, CD’s, contents of their purses—all that defined them was scattered before the world unclaimed and sacred to none. The Jeep’s radio was still playing, ‘Where are you going?’ by The Dave Matthews Band.

Martin

jeanneK said...

Mitch returned to the mouth of the cave to find the pry bar, thinking he could use it as a weapon if necessary. He scanned the area where he had thrown it, and saw plenty of rocks, dirt, and shrubs, but no pry bar.
With nothing to defend himself, Mitch was at a distinct disadvantage. No time, no weapon, no Cujo. He quickly surveyed the area. Aside from the massive rocks that enclosed the small space, nothing rose past the height of his shin. He was completely exposed.
Mitch glanced upward to a jagged ledge ten feet above the mouth of the cave. Several yards from the ledge, a trail peaked out from the undergrowth. He couldn't tell if the path and the ledge joined, but he had no time to think about it—a mounting ruckus and a few Russian swearwords erupted from below.
Sergey had made it to the masonry steps.
Mitch scampered up the trail, taking several long strides before detouring off the main path. The clamor beneath him grew louder and more boisterous as Mitch hustled over a row of thorny brush until he was within reach of the ledge. He didn't have long to act—Sergey would be emerging from the cave at any moment.
With his back to the ragged edge of the rock wall, Mitch eased out onto the narrow ridge, and headed for the midpoint. He inched his way, step by step, his head, hands, and shoulders pressed firmly against the jagged rock.
Bits of dried earth crumbled and tumbled to the ground below, but he ignored them, fixing his eyes straight ahead at the endless mass of unforgiving terrain, not looking up, not looking down. The midpoint seemed miles away at the slow pace.
One last cautious step over something coarse and reedy that he tapped with his foot, and finally, he made it to the center. All he could do now was wait.
A strand of foliage from below quivered and swayed.
Mitch's heart pounded. Out of the corner of his eye, he barely made out the Russian’s bandaged hand grappling for the lever-like rock that Mitch himself had used to pull out of the cave. A fly landed on his cheek, but Mitch didn't move. He swallowed the molten anxiety that rose up like bile at the back of his throat.
A quick twist of gravel—Sergey was looking around, deciding which way to go.
Wait.
Wait.
And then they came. Footsteps. Slow and steady. The gravel beneath the Russian’s feet crunched and popped, growing louder as he moved away from the entrance. A big booted foot came into view, and Mitch was ready. As Sergey pulled his arm up to block the sun’s blazing light, Mitch jumped.

Emily White said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
M. Bail said...

This is a nominal action scene (tough to get much action in 250 words!) from my paranormal romance. (FYI: Dusty is fae, Bamboo is a cat).

“Shhhhh. Listen. What’s that sound?”

Dusty and Bamboo both cocked their heads and listened. At first, there was nothing; then, a scurrying disturbance in the leaves and pine needles carpeting the forest floor, followed by the whisper of something passing below. As Dusty watched from above, he saw a dark form pass quickly and then disappear from view. He took wing, intending to follow it and find out what it was, but he was distracted by a pair of dogs bounding through the brush, obviously following the scent of whatever creature had just come and gone.

He fell in beside the dogs, keeping pace with them. “What’s up guys?”

One of the dogs lifted his nose from the scent long enough to glance at Dusty and growl, then planted his nose back in the trail. Dusty tried the other dog.

“So, what are you guys looking for?”

The second dog didn’t even look at him. He just kept his nose in the trail, but at least he answered. "It looks like you but without wings. Smells like clean dirt after rain, new grass, old and fresh. Makes me want to roll around in the dust and chew on a bone and take a nap and have someone scratch my belly. It smells that good."

Dusty rolled his eyes. He’d never been fond of dogs. They weren’t always so bright, running more on instinct and the desire to please. “So why are you after this creature?”

"Masters are trying to catch it."

"I figured that much. Who are your masters?”

The dog lifted his nose from the trail long enough to jerk his head back behind them, then he was back to the scent. "They’re back there."

Emily White said...

“No!” In one quick movement, Cailen stood up and thrust his hand against my chest, pushing me back with the sofa rolling on top of me.

I was stuck on my back with my body all curled up in on itself. I tried to move, but the sofa pinned me down. Flames roared around me. I could barely hear Ranen’s squeals of panic above the ear-splitting thrumming as the fire consumed and sucked at the air.

Something started grabbing me. Fluttering fingers pulled at the sleeves on my dress, dragging me inch by inch. With the extra space, I was able to straighten my legs out more, so I kicked at the sofa and twisted my body around.

Smoke hovered just inches above my head and scorching heat prickled the skin on my back. I rose to my knees and crawled away from the flames. Ranen was ahead of me, leading the way.

But where was Cailen?

I twisted my ahead around, squinting my eyes at the blast of heat. Cailen was still standing in front of the fireplace. Flames swirled around him as tendrils ripped through his wall of air.

“No,” I mouthed.

My blood began to tingle and I knew it was only a matter of seconds before those roaring flames would have to bend to my will. If only Cailen could hold on that long.

A tendril of flames whipped out and smacked Cailen against the chest. He retreated a step, but held on. I started to crawl toward him preparing myself for when the red points of light would appear in my vision.

Ranen wrapped his bony fingers around my ankle and dragged me away. I dug my nails into the wood floor, but he was too strong.

The flames rose above Cailen and slammed down on him. I knew in an instant that he couldn’t recover from that kind of attack.

“No!” I sucked at the air, preparing to lunge away from the restraining fingers and toward the consuming flames. The smoke burned my throat.

Ranen had a grip on both my ankles and pulled me out of the room with one final heave. When I was clear of the doorway, he jumped up and pushed a keypad. A metal door slid closed in front of me, cutting off my vision of the burning flames as they consumed my Cailen.

I clutched at my chest and screamed.

“Shh!” Ranen’s face was inches above mine. “It’s here for you.”

Remus said...

500 words of a chase scene from an existing story that make sense out of context? Okay, I like a challenge. :)

***

Maggie noticed some of the scarecrows peel away from the flock and follow them. Up ahead loomed a row of squat buildings. Oswald grinned and gunned the truck faster.

"Right, here's your chance to be seen. Roll that window down and wave."

"What?"

"I said wave." He hit a button, and Maggie's window retracted downward, sloughing off the blades of grass stuck to the outside. "Wave to the cameras. You know how to do that, right?"

Maggie peeked out the window; the dry wind hit her face and tugged at her hair. Scarecrows flocked to her side of the truck, making diving runs a bare meter overhead. She put one arm out and waved, feeling the air ball up in her hand. Then, made courageous by the attention, Maggie unbuckled her safety harness and climbed up on her seat. Kneeling, she leaned out the window of the truck and waved all around.

The robot crows flew in frenzied loops, chasing after the truck and making sudden turns to capture glimpses of her. One ground into the sand as its reserves of compressed air gave out in pursuit of its idol. Other robots swiveled their sensors as the truck roared past. Maggie grinned, feeling the air buffet her neck and threaten to tear her shirt to ribbons. She leaned out further and laughed as she felt Oswald's hand grab the waist of her jeans, his fingers rough against her skin. She could unzip her pants, let him pull them off, and give everybody a show...

How he had the leverage to do it, Maggie couldn't say. But with the one arm Oswald lifted her up and dragged her back inside. "...completely bonkers!" she heard him say as the wind left her ears. "I said wave, not dive out into them!"

"I know how to treat an audience," she said, giving the aboriginal a dangerous grin. "How many cameras, do you think? How many viewers?"

"Shut up," he growled.

The truck's cab rattled and tilted as they plowed through a short fence, beyond which lay a maze of walkways and squat metal buildings. No robots ran in this area, and the scarecrows peeled away from the truck as it careened over pavement and ornamental shrubs. Maggie clutched the dashboard. She screamed, more with rage than fear, as they charged toward a hangar door. The tree in the back cracked against the half-open door as they skidded into the building. They came to a stop yawed at an angle, tires squealing against the concrete.

The interior was dark; Maggie blinked to adjust her eyes, while another set of tires squealed nearby. Through the door on the other side of the building, another truck festooned with grass and shrubs sped away. It crashed through another low fence. Then it continued across another hundred meters of red sand before it smashed into one of the spinning venturi mills. Debris arced through the air as the windmill tore itself and the decoy truck to shreds.

Mindi Cater said...

The night that my parents finally separated for good, I was seven years old, and my sister was not yet two. I realize now that my parents’ relationship was a stormy one. My father was a harsh man and became even more volatile when liquor was added to the equation. On this night the fighting was too loud for me to sleep through, and my mother’s frightened voice awakened me. I got out of bed and started downstairs to see what was happening. My mother was standing on the lower landing with her back against the wall and a large kitchen knife in her right hand. She was breathing hard and had a terrified look on her face.

“Run and tell the neighbors that I need help, Melinda,” my mother said when she saw me coming down stairs. I was barely awake and confused by the scene. My father was in the living room, just steps away from the doorway that opened to the world outside.

“Go back to bed,” he said to me. His mood seemed almost playful, as if some great game was in progress.

“Run, Melinda! Please!”

“I told you to go back to bed.” Now his mood was darker, and I had also known his anger during my short life. He saw me look in the direction of the door, and shook his head. “You’ll never make it outside.” I knew he was telling the truth and that my chances of getting past him were slim.

“Please,” she said again. But this time there was resignation in her voice. She knew I was not her salvation.

“This is your last chance,” my father said. “Go back to bed. Now!” I was unable to defy the authority in his voice and the implied threat in his tone. I turned around and went back upstairs to the bedroom I shared with my sister. “Close your door,” he called up after me, and I heard my mother draw a deep breath before it latched.

I’ve always been a heavy sleeper, or maybe I just developed that ability as a defense mechanism, but amazingly, I must have gone back to sleep because some time later I was awakened again. This time it was my mother standing over me and shaking me. “Get up,” she said. “Get your coat and shoes on.” She was lifting my baby sister out of her crib and wrapping her in a blanket.

“Where are we going?” I asked sleepily.

“Just hurry!” I slipped my arms into the sleeves of my coat and the three of us started down the stairway again.

The living room was dimly lit as we made our way out the same door that had offered no escape earlier. My father was nowhere around. When we got outside, my mother took us around the side of the house to where bushes offered some cover. We stood there in the dark.

“Where’s your car?” I asked.

“He’s taken it somewhere so we can’t get away. He won’t be gone long.”

I started again to speak and was shushed by my mother. We waited in tense silence, until we saw headlights coming down our street. My heart thumped in my ears. If this was my father coming back, there would be hell to pay. But at least we were already outside. Maybe I could run this time and get away.

Then the car came into view and it wasn’t the old green Ford my mother usually drove, but a bright yellow taxi. It turned into our driveway and stopped. We scrambled out from behind the shrubbery and into the back seat. My mother spoke to the driver and seemed to relax as we drove away.

I never went back to that house again, and I saw very little of my father after that. But there was a dark thing that crawled into the taxi and drove away with us. It was guilt I carried away with me that night; guilt that I had been too cowardly to act in my mother’s defense; guilt that I had feared for my own safety when called upon to act.

mercedes said...

chase sequence from my newest novel:

I'd never run so fast in my life. It was terrifying. The others were right behind me. One was on foot and the others were jumping across the archways above me. I wasn't out running them but they were trailing a few footfalls behind me.

They were going to catch me. I knew it and so did they. It was just like when Iago and I escaped from the jail. My throat felt tight and my chest was burning. I could feel my heart pounding in my ears. Worse, I was slowing down as I panted my way through the university. They were so close, I swore I felt one of them tug on my scarf as I ran. I looked back but no one was there. Then I crashed into one of them.

I lay on the ground, breathing so hard that I could feel my lungs pressing against my ribs each time I forced a breath. I closed my eyes. My nose and throat felt like they were on fire. I thought if I coughed, my heart might jump out of my mouth and run off. A very disgusting thought, but it left when I opened my eyes and saw Samuel grinning at me.

Becca said...

AnAction Sequence inspired by (but not part of) one of my current works in progress:

_ _ _ _ _

A branch click, click, clicks against the rail as she draws closer. He knows the time has come. The time for her revenge. She hisses. No longer human, no longer anything more than a spirit that wouldn’t pass on, a spirit that wouldn’t leave her own body, she steps closer.
Sweat beads on his brow. It trickles down the slop of his nose.
“Where is my child?” she asks.
He trembles. His windbreaker whispers against the steel post.
“My child,” she asks again.
He squeezes his eyes shut, as if the simple action would remove him from the icy air of the warehouse and the decaying scent of his pursuer.
She is in front of him. He can feel her presence. She laughs, and his eyes snap open, lids fluttering like a pull-down shade. Her pallid skin is cracked, her ochre hair hanging past her shoulders like dead coral snakes.
“I only did what I had to. I never meant—” sobs break the man’s voice. His damp skin crawls with fear.
The woman’s head strikes forward, snapping against his Adam’s apple.
Answers to her questions flood through her. She returns to her last moments with her child.
*
“The baby is stuck.”
She shook her head. No. She panted. She tried to push. Her muscles wouldn’t cooperate.
“I’m sorry, we’ll have to operate,” the doctor said.
Her troubled gaze turned to her husband. Please don’t let them take me, her mind begged. Something was wrong.
“Where’s Dr Lemont?” her husband asked.
“He’s…been detained,” the present doctor replied.
They whisked her out the hospital room. Her husband followed down the hall, but as they reached the operating room, a nurse placed both hands on his chest. He lifted on his toes to watch after his wife.
“I’m her husband. I have to be in there.”
“I understand, sir, but you’ll need to wait out here.
The pregnant mother tilted her head back, watching behind her as the operating doors swung back and forth, her husband disappearing and reappearing in her vision. Finally, the doors stopped.
“Don’t worry,” the doctor said, “your child will live.”
He cut her open. Fire burned beneath her flesh. Pain overwhelmed. She tried to cling to consciousness. She kept slipping. Her baby cried.
“We’ll take good care of him,” the doctor said. He stood there, in the final flashes of her life, smiling with the baby in hand. No one tried to save her. No one stopped the bleeding.
*
She watched her funeral—heard her husband tell her sister that she and the baby both died during childbirth.
I won’t leave my body, she thought. I won’t leave my baby.
*
The doctor falls to the floor, bleeding, and she spits the blend of cartilage, ligaments, and mucous membrane onto the concrete. Blood pools at her feet, seeps between her toes. The killing won’t stop until she finds her child. He’s here, somewhere.
_ _ _ _ _

(Twitter @InkMuse. Rebecca Hamilton write Paranormal Fiction, Urban Fantasy, and Psychological Horror)

I've tweeted this contest. Thanks for hosting it, Nathan.

Eric Borton said...

With his team behind him, and time running out before things were going to get loud, Ryan slowly opened the door. A staircase was revealed leading down to the basement. When he hit the first step, the light intensified as if a lantern was turned up. All four agents slid their NVG’s to the top of their helmets. They were nearing the bottom of the stairwell when they heard voices.

“I’ll do anything you want me to do,” she said surprisingly calm. “I promise. Please don’t kill me. I won’t tell anyone.”

“I wish I could stop myself,” said Arrington coldly. “They made me this way. I’m sorry.”

“What’s happening to your face?” asked the bound woman. “Oh my God!”

Ryan hit the last step and raised his weapon. In the far corner of the room, Arrington was leaning over the victim who was lying restrained in a bed. At first glance, Ryan thought he was whispering to her until she began to scream in agony.

“FBI! Show me your hands!” ordered Ryan moving in closer. The scene was confusing. The woman was screaming, but the Marine wasn’t holding a weapon. He wasn’t choking her. He wasn’t hitting her.

“Arrington! Back away from her and…”

The instant Ryan saw the blood erupt from her neck he squeezed the trigger. The killer’s face was still too close to the girl for a clean headshot. The Marine tensed his body as the bullets drilled into his ribcage.

In an inhumanly fast motion, he nearly decapitated his victim with claws on a grossly disfigured hand. With his other, he easily hurled the large bed at the agents with the victim still tied to the posts. Each dove as the bed slammed into the wall behind them. Before they could regain their senses, Arrington bolted up the stairs
.
Bravo Team was moving through the upstairs hall when all hell broke loose. Arrington’s momentum propelled him into the wall at the top of the stairs. An agent on Bravo immediately opened fire. The monster turned from the shooting and exploded through the back door directly into Charlie Team’s advance.

Arrington leveled the first agent. He tore through the second agent’s throat with his claws. A geyser of blood erupted from the cavernous wound. The agent spun like a rag doll before dropping dead on the ground. The third agent was powerless to stop the thrust of Arrington’s hand punching deep into his abdomen. He slid fifteen feet before bleeding out. The fourth agent stood his ground and continuously fired his weapon until Arrington finally turned away from the determined shooter.

One of the countless rounds blasted into the killer severed his spinal cord. He dropped only twenty feet from the cover of a corn field. He pushed himself up with his arms trying to crawl away. As an agent cautiously approached, Arrington’s head exploded like a watermelon being smashed with a sledge hammer. A sniper would be claiming the kill shot.

KJ Bain said...

"Dream Killer"

Kevin turned away, unable to watch Mica shoot Silverburg. Her job or not, it was still murder. And once he was dead, all his secrets would die with him.
A laugh came from the body on the ground. Peyton Silverburg wasn’t out, at least not any more. He rose, himself holding a gun, its barrel reflecting in the sun.
"Do you want to see what I did to your partner? How I killed him." Peyton swiped his hand across his mouth. "He thought he was tough, treating my mom like he did. But I showed him. He started to cry. He begged me to spare his life."
"He was young," Mica said, Kevin walking up beside her. "I always knew when it came down to it he’d be more talk than action."
Peyton sneered. "I bet you’d be a lot of action. And I wouldn‘t stop like he did." Silverburg used the gun to point at Kevin.
Anger mixed with embarrassment. Silverburg had been the presence he felt. At the time Kevin had wanted to get even with Mica so bad he never considered anyone would be there to see what he did.
Peyton pointed the gun at Mica as she took a step between the two men.
"Beg me." Peyton ordered. "Beg me to spare your life. Tell me you’ll give me anything, even your body to keep me from shooting you."
Mica stared him down. "You‘re not my type."
Kevin knocked her to the ground at the moment the gun went off. Pain ripped through his shoulder. Blood leaked from his upper right chest. His head spun and his legs gave out from under him. When he looked in the direction of the alley, Silverburg was gone.
"That wasn’t a smart thing to do, Doc." Mica bent over him, checking the wound. "Good thing it’s on the upper right shoulder, not a lot of things to hurt."
Her hand was warm against his skin as the life drained from him. "I’m sorry. I should have let you kill him. I guess I am his next victim."
"If I recall he killed someone earlier."
An engine’s roar came from Kevin‘s right. Pain seared through him when Mica cupped his shoulders, moving him to the side. He helplessly watched the car speed toward her as she returned to the middle of the road. She was taking center stage to keep him safe. Inside the car, Peyton Silverburg’s face held a look fierce with hate. All Kevin could do was watch the vehicle chase Mica down. Her body flew over the top before she landed hard on the ground. The car reversed as it aimed for her motionless body.
Kevin flung his left arm in the air at hands grabbing at him.
"Kevin, wake up, it’s me. It’s Sam."
Kevin jolted up in the bed. Trying to catch his breath, he gasped, "We’ve got to wake Mica, or she’s dead."

Valerie Kemp said...

My smile dies on my lips as we round the corner and the school comes into view. It’s swarming with cop cars, an ambulance, crime scene tape, and official-looking people.

Oh, God.

Something cold and heavy forms in my stomach. My feet weigh a thousand pounds each. Every step closer to the school takes all my concentration. Cody is half a block ahead of me before he realizes I’m lagging behind.

I bend down like I’m tying my shoe. “Go ahead. I’ll be right there.”

He’s too curious about the police to even notice my shoe is already tied. He heads up to the barricade and I tell myself there’s no reason to feel this dread. The cops could be there for a whole bunch of reasons, none of which have anything to do with me.

I will my feet towards the school. My cell phone rings. The only people who ever call me are Cody and my parents, and even though I'm sure it's probably my mom calling to annoy me, I’m glad to have a reason to stay right where I am. I stop walking and dig my phone out of my backpack.

Unknown Number. Not good. “Hello?”

“Caitlyn.” A man’s voice. He sounds authoritative.

For a second, I imagine it’s Mr. White even though this guy doesn’t have an accent. “Who is this?”

“Listen to me. The police are going to question you.”

“What? Who is this?” Police? I shiver even though no wind is blowing.

He ignores my questions and speaks slowly and clearly. “When the police question you, tell them that you forgot a book. You were going to go out through the courtyard but you realized you forgot your history book. You were in a hurry. You tried to run back to your locker but you had an asthma attack.”

“What are you talking about?” But I have a sinking feeling I know.

“You never went into the courtyard. You felt someone pass by while you were looking in your bag but you didn’t bother to look up to see who it was. Do you understand?”

My mind is reeling. That tiny flicker of dread I felt when I first saw the cop cars flares into an inferno. I can’t speak.

The man asks again, enunciating. “Do. You. Understand?”

“Yes,” I say, even though I don’t understand at all. Don’t want to understand.

“Good.” He sounds relieved. “And Caitlyn, do not tell Cody or your parents what really happened yesterday.” His voice is dead serious. “Your lives depend on it.”

The world goes silent. “What?”

He’s already gone. I stare at the phone, the wind knocked out of me.

I stumble forward in a daze until I’m standing next to Cody. I don’t want to look at the crime scene; to see what I know must be there.

I force myself to ask. “What is it?”

“Some guy got killed in the courtyard. They said he was a substitute here yesterday.”

I can’t breathe.

Suzan Isik said...

The shotgun's butt dug into the crook of my shoulder as I sighted James in. I stood five feet from the man, pointing my gun straight at his heart.

My hands were sweaty; my heart raced even as I exhaled in a cool, controlled interval. I couldn't panic now. If I did, I was going to pass out. My nerves were edgy as James's steady hands held his pistol aimed. How could he remain so calm? Did he truly feel nothing? His emerald eyes were determined, focused. The space between us felt like miles, and yet, it wasn't as close as I wanted to be. How had it come to this? Me against him? How had we ended up on the wrong end of a gun barrel from each other?

"Well, James, while it's been quite nice of you to call, I regret," I tightened my grip on the shotgun, keeping my sight close to center mass as he'd taught me to do not too long ago, "I'm all full up today. So sorry."

"Don't make me do this, Lily," James said, shaking his head determinedly. His pistol didn't move, "Don't make me—"

"I never made you do anything, Captain," Stressing his rank made him wince. I took pleasure in his discomfort. His military affiliations had always come first, always come between us. As James took one small step forward, I took an equal step backward, adding, "T wouldn't come closer if I were you, Captain. This gun has silver bullets."

His lip curled in frustration. "Now, Lily," his voice took on a placating tone, but the gun never wavered. "This doesn't have to be a fight. This could be pretty simple. All you have to do is put the gun down and come ba—"
"I'm not going back," I interrupted as the sadness within me mounted. I wanted to go back. I missed James. I hated being on this side of the gun from him. He saved my life once. He loved me. Or at least, I thought he had.

Of course, he didn't know what his colonel had said to me in the throes of death. The colonel's voice had been so raspy, full of liquid, of blood. Thank you. Blood had seeped from the corners of his mouth. I remembered the crimson liquid gushing from his Texan Army uniform. Normally, it wouldn't have been so bad, except I'd hit his heart.

"Lily—" James' sudden movement toward me snapped me out of my thoughts and reflexively, I jerked, firing the gun. The gun kicked back, jamming into my shoulder painfully as my shot went wide, clipping him in the leg instead of my intended shot to the chest.

His leg crumpled beneath him and he fell. My heart thudding inside my chest, I turned and ran as I heard him yell after me, "Damn it! Lily!" I winced as I ran. Oops.

M.F. said...

The bald, oval faced man dashed down the dark streets in his black suit, dark overcoat fluttering behind him. He hastily pushed his wired, round spectacles up his sweating nose and dodged around a corner, eyes scanning everywhere. Had he lost him? Or has he ahead of him, waiting?
He raced over the shadowed bridge, breath coming in heavy pants. He heard footsteps from behind him and without turning lengthened his stride, grateful for his long legs. But he’d never had good lungs, even as a child and now that affliction was going to kill him.
He ducked into a narrow alley and stopped, leaning against the wall, struggling to control his breathing which had remarkably gotten worse now he had stopped. He mopped at the dense perspiration collecting on his brow with a stained, greasy handkerchief and clutched at his chest. The man glanced behind him then began to run again when someone dropped down from the roof.
“Been looking for you,” the younger man said, before cocking a pistol and shooting the man in the leg.
With a cry the bald man collapsed against the wall, but the sinister youth grabbed a bunch of his coat holding him up.
“Where is it?” he demanded.
“I don’t know.”
The youth slammed a fist against the elder's face, knocking one leg of his spectacles off his ear.
“Where is it?”
“Live ever long, laugh more than often, love—”
The man’s phrase ended in a low whine as a fist crushed his face, instantly breaking his nose. Blood flowed over his lips like water. He smiled thinly, as much an expression of pain as a look of satisfaction.
“I asked you, where is it?”
“Those who dwell in the shelter of the wings of selfles—” He grunted as he was punched in the chin, blood spraying out of his mouth and splashing on one lens of his spectacles now hanging off of one ear and crookedly catching on his nose.
“Listen here, we don’t have time to play around with you, much as I’d like to. Just tell us where it is and we’ll leave you alone!” his tormentor said.
The balding man chuckled weakly and the second fellow snatched his coat in both hands dragging him up into the air.
“Where is it?”
“Don’t…know,” was the gasping reply.
With a roar of anger the man spun around before hurling his victim against the opposite wall where he hit with an audible crack. The poor elder one slid down the bricks, blood trickling from both corners of his mouth. The younger male squeezed off another shot into his prey’s shoulder then came and knelt down next to him.
“Alright now. One more chance. So tell me, where is it?”
“You will never…find it. It is…gone.”
“Gone where?” Silence. He seized his shirt and jerked him forward. “Where?!”
“Don’t…know. Just…gone.” He smiled at his executioner and reached up a shaky hand, attempting to reposition his spectacles.
"Die."
The gun fired.

B Anderson said...

Susan Eanes was waiting for her husband, their luggage packed. “I’m ready,” she said. She was wearing a dark suit with an impossibly crisp white linen blouse.

“Ready for what?” Amos knew this wouldn’t go well.

“I do have access to cable news, even if I don’t have the president’s ear.” She smoothed a non-existent wrinkle from her jacket. “Smallpox is raging out of your control. From all the activity I’ve seen around here, I assume you’re about to initiate the government relocation procedure.” She pointed to the luggage, which included a pet carrier. Ramses pressed his face against the screen, scowling and crying to be released. “I’ve packed for a long stay.”

He might as well be blunt. “You’re not going.” He registered the shock on her face, then barreled on. “None of the spouses is going.” He took advantage of her continued silence. “This transition needs to be smooth and fast. No way we can accomplish that if we’re trying to pack up everyone’s kids and dogs.”

“You’re -- you’re just going to leave me?” He had never heard her voice so small, so exposed. She sounded like a little girl. “You’re going to leave me to die?”

He reached out a hand to touch her dark hair. Once it would have felt silky. Now, it was stiffly lacquered in place. “What I’m doing is proving that this is a short-term situation. If the president’s wife stays, then the public won’t panic.”

She pushed his hand away. “You need me as a front.”

Whatever had prompted him to reach for her already had evaporated. “People respect you. You’ll be the model for how they react to this crisis.” And she would be a paragon of cool and calm. He was sure she’d cracked as far as her icy coating would allow.

He was right. She opened the carrier and Ramses shot out of it and straight underneath the bed. She unzipped one of her bags and began hanging clothes back in the closet. “May I ask where you’re going? Besides hell, in due time.”

Jenniferruth said...

Action sequence excerpt from "A Day In The Life" by Jenniferruth:

Angry voices break the peace of the prison rec yard and, looking up from her book, Margot sees a couple on a bench several yards away recognizing them as regular track-walkers. They are an odd couple, hard not to notice, even in this bizarrely-peopled setting. The white woman is in her 50s, has brown waist-length hair, and walks with a cane; she does not look Hispanic but Margot's heard whispers that she is the president of New Jersey Latin Queens. Margot thinks she looks more like someone's hippie-grandmother. The other woman is black and the way she moves reminds Margot of an effeminate gay man, with dark skin, short-cropped hair, slight frame and a scar running from the center of her forehead and fishhooking around her left eye.

Margot quickly averts her eyes, goes back to her book, but jumps, startled, as a shriek pierces the air. She sees the black woman jab her finger at Latin Queen's face, lean forward, then flick the other's nose back and forth speaking with quiet menace. Latin Queen bares her teeth, hissing, and Black Woman grabs the back of her neck, covering Latin Queen’s mouth with her other hand. The scene freezes and Margot realizes she's been holding her breath. Latin Queen breaks the tableau, leaning into her cane as her other hand snakes up, striking Black Woman on the cheek. The sound of flesh hitting flesh echoes in the air. Black Woman takes her hand from the Latin Queen’s mouth and slaps Latin Queen back. Latin Queen balls her hand into a fist and swings it toward the other woman’s kidney. Margot hears a dull thud as Black Woman intercepts the fist before impact and forces Latin Queen's arm down and back, pulling Latin Queen flush to her own body. Echoes of their blows hang in the air and Margot feels herself shrinking; the world retreating. She's afraid to move, not wanting to even breathe for fear of being noticed: she's an unwilling witness to this violent drama.

The women are pressed against each other—nose to nose—glaring and except for the heaving of their chests they are again still until Latin Queen lets out a harsh bark of laughter and tension breaks. The two come together in a passionate kiss. Margot is yanked out of her paralysis and she bolts from the bench and, giving the couple wide berth, sidles away to the far side of the rec yard. In her haste she realizes she's left her book on the bench. Unwilling to go back--the women between her and the exit onto the main compound--Margot, walks the track, dazed, unable to make sense of this alien world.

Helle Underlien said...

Beyond the next copse of trees, a man shouts and Lily screams again. It's a high sound, the kind that drills through my head and stays in my mind like an echoing gong. I shake it off and pull my feet free. The mud only lets me keep one of my shoes, but I've spent most of my life barefooted. I grit my teeth against the resistance that makes my calves hurt after just a few steps and up my pace.

The forest grows thicker the moment I leave the track behind and before I know it, branches snap out at me again, forming an intersecting web of welts over the old ones. My eyes tear up at the sting and I lose my second shoe. My heart beats a mad brand against the inside of my chest and the farther I get from the bluebell light, the clearer a picture my imagination conjures up.

I can see it all in my mind: Lily with some others in a different cart. The soldiers surrounding them. The skirmish as the old bloods try to fight rifles with swords and arrows. I didn't think it would scare me anywhere near this much.

I can't see Remen anymore and I try to drag my feet free more quickly with each step, but the distance seems to grow when it should diminish. Some night bird screeches overhead and I jump a foot in the air. When I touch back in the mud, I shake all over. A thorny plant catches hold of my right foot, cutting right through the thin stockings and scratching cuts into my leg. I can feel the dripping of hot liquid on my skin.

I'm closer to the trees now, and exhausted. Every step feels like I have lead tied on my feet, but up ahead I can see the irregular, orange flicker of torches. It hurts my eyes after days with only sunlight and flowerlight. Something bitter catches in my throat. I leap over a fallen tree, but my foot catches on the bark and I go down in the mud, headfirst. My cheek slams against a rock and for a long moment I see double.

I hear sounds of metal against metal and popping noises I can only assume come from the soldiers' rifles. My blood runs cold every time one reaches my ear. With a groan of pain, I fight my way back to my feet and stumble forward. Between the trees, under another fallen trunk and over the next. Then I'm there.

Remen stands with his feet spread in a fighting position, sword in hand. He tries to hold off two opponents at once, but their muskets are wicked sharp and I can see a cut down his arm. Off to the side a third one is reloading. My breath catches in my throat. That one is up to me.

That's when I realise I don't have a weapon.

swampfox said...

The dark-haired beauty pitched her fists with repeated precision and without pause. The old man inched backward, surprised by the ferocity of the attack, but he shouldn’t have been. It was a fight for survival. Continuous roundhouse kicks mixed with straight punches kept the aging fighter on the defensive. Next, the woman feigned a reverse kick and then double chops astride the neck forced the oldster to his knees. The reeling impact of a 360 flattened him.

Stepping forward, the young lady looked down at her foe with dazzling almond eyes. Her ruby lips curled a cruel smile that could highlight a photo shoot of Asia’s most beautiful models. But this was no photo shoot, and she was no model. Moving closer, she raised her arms for the final strike and brought them down.

With a quickness defying his years, the aged defender sliced his legs through her ankles in a classic scissors throw. The woman dropped into a stranglehold of iron. Her breath choked away and the snapshot of Japanese architecture blurred. In desperation, she attempted a counter strategy, but the wily veteran, anticipating the move, neutralized her weight shift with one of his own. Her thoughts slipped into oblivion.

“Enough!” the victor shouted in their native Japanese. He released his grip and let the girl reclaim her breath. While righting himself, he looked at her displeased. “You disappoint me. This was your worst session yet.”

Receiving no response other than persistent coughing, he twirled his small body into a brisk exit. The subdued lass could only watch his slight frame shrink with every step.

Abruptly, the man halted and turned a glare. “If you can’t stop thinking about him, you’d best stop training. The Shoji Tokyo Dojo is no place for the lovelorn. Do you understand? DO YOU?”

The prone girl buried her brow into crossed forearms. If she hadn’t, her grandfather would have seen the tears, and that would have been worse than losing the match.

Again, he stormed away, but short of clearing the courtyard, the patriarch’s anger morphed to compassion. He reversed direction and beheld his granddaughter with hard eyes that leaked a softer soul. This time his words were gentle. “I’m sorry, Yoshiko. I should not have spoken such.”

Yoshiko couldn’t believe it. First bested and then pitied? The levee to her feelings broke. “Go away,” she sobbed, “I hate you!”

Shoji Wada felt guilty. He knew she hadn’t had time enough to heal a broken heart. Was it so long since he experienced the tender moments of true love? Pivoting again, he walked slowly with his thoughts lost in the memories of a long and tortured past.

Brian said...

Suspense Sequence/ Chase Scene

Outside, the double-doors to the shack are sprawled open and my father is working underneath the hood of the Ford. In the bright of the afternoon, the paint on the car looks heated and glowing, like a burning piece of metal.

Koontz is standing to the side and pointing a gun at him. It’s small and silver with a short barrel. Rickie is sitting against the garage with a bloody rag pressed against his head. Everyone turns around to see me because I let the back door slam behind me.

“Willy, you made it,” Koontz says, giving a wave with the hand that isn’t holding a gun. “Why don’t you come on over here for a while?” He is grinning like a bastard.

I get across the lawn and he slides his arm around my shoulder, giving me a friendly shake. Daddy has stopped working under the hood and is wiping his hands off with a rag and looking at Koontz. He is madder than hell.

“All done?” Koontz asks.

“I’m gonna tear your lungs out,” Daddy says.

“Sure you are,” Koontz says, motioning with his gun for Daddy to step away from the car, which he does. Koontz keeps his left arm clamped around my neck as he moves over to the drivers’ door.

“Get in the car, Rickie,” he says.

With some effort, Rickie obeys.
Koontz lets me go and slips behind the wheel. I hear the engine turn, crank, and hum to life. Koontz drops it into gear and gives it too much gas on his way out, digging the tires into some mud and slowing it down.

Before Koontz has pulled the Ford completely out of the garage, Daddy is at the back of the shed pulling his axe off the steel hooks and turning around again to chase the car. He catches up with them before they round our house, runs right up the back of the burning-white car, and slams his axe through the roof with a heavy plunk. He is holding onto the axe for all he’s worth and his legs are flailing through the air like the back-end of a frog when the car turns the corner and disappears.

I am left with the smell of burning rubber in my nose and mud bits sprinkled all over my face.

I blow through the house and try to grab Lawson by the wrist, screaming at him to follow me, but he doesn’t move. Mama is standing up with eyes that are about to explode.

I’m out the door the next second, chasing the trail of skid-marks and knocked over trashcans that now litter the dirt road leading to the bridge out of town. In the distance I hear the gun being fired several times, and then a louder slamming noise, which I know is the sound of the Ford crashing into something.

Katie Drake said...

Suspence sequence:

Some part of me was still able to perceive what was going on, it just wasn’t the reasonable part of me, the logical part, or the prudent part. It wasn’t the part of me that would let me stop what I was feeling.

Little electric shocks where coursing through me. It wasn’t painful. They were pleasurable. They originated deep in my stomach and sparked up to my chest. Cool air was on my skin, images of Kelly and I by the pond flooded my mind. Only this time he didn’t stop.

His bare chest pressed against mine. I longed to wrap my arms around him but I couldn’t muster the strength. A moan escaped my throat. Kelly chuckled deeply in return. What a strange sound. I was too enthralled in my body’s reactions to his touch to think about what the sound could mean.

Strong hands were navigating a course softly over my neck, across my shoulders and down. I felt the pricks of electricity more intensely than ever as warm lips nudged my exposed skin. This was more than I had ever asked from Kelly. More than I had ever really thought of wanting, but that part of me that was awake wouldn’t let me do anything to make it stop.

Fear began to mix with my excitement. Kelly would never do this. Who was this then? Was I dreaming? But still I couldn’t raise my eyes or arms.

I felt a tugging sensation around my legs like I was being pulled into a warm bath. The further my legs sank the better they felt. Slowly the feeling crept up to my thighs. Panic was beginning to wake up the latent part of my mind. I didn’t understand what was happening. The sensations were strangely satisfying.

Suddenly there was a pressure over me, like a heavy blanket that traps in heat and makes it hard to breath. The sensible part of my brain raged at this. I needed to get this off me. I needed to breath. Strength surged into my limbs and I began to push with my arms, kick with my legs, to get the heaviness off my body before I was smothered.

The heaviness moved to one side and deftly trapped both my hands, bringing them together above my head. I heard a throaty laugh. Who was this enjoying my confusion? “You were supposed to stay asleep. You must really like this to wake up to be part of it.” I recognized the voice, I just couldn’t place it.

I tried to answer, to protest, to tell that voice he had it all wrong, but all that came out was another mumbled moan. The voice took the sound as encouragement and moaned earnestly in return giving me a passionate kiss on the mouth. I had tasted Kelly’s lips and Solomon’s. The taste of these lips was not familiar to me.

apalfrey said...

The large group of goblins surrounded him. Completely.

“Good, a warm up.” James rested the Sawtooth Sticks on his shoulders, widened his stance, dropping his knees slightly for balance. Breathe deep, focus anger.

The leader signaled his group. Magic-users caused one of the warriors to enlarge to eight feet in height. James' gut clenched tightly in fear and his breathing quickened as the huge goblin bellowed, charging fiercely.

Focus. James became rigid and disciplined, mindset shifting as he relied upon years of training in the Filipino Arts. This was the time that every martial artist hoped would never come; to actually use their skills to kill. The goblin bore down on him, but James held his ground. Abruptly stepping to the side at the last second, sending the goblin past. He brought the deadly sticks down one after the other. The sharp metal sandwiched between hardwood tore into the goblin.

The first strike hit the side of his opponent’s head leaving a gaping wound showing bone and torn flesh. Side step. His second strike ripped through the side of the goblin’s neck, blood spurted from his carotid artery in a fountain. The third strike tore into the opposite side of his opponent’s neck, almost decapitating him. The goblin brought both hands up to stop the fountain of blood. His final strike caved in the top of the goblin’s head, inappropriately reminding James of the potato buns his mother used to make.

The group of goblins looked at their champion horrified as James stood over the lifeless body, blood dripping from his sticks. A scream of rage ripped through the group as they charged James. Unable to defeat so many at once, James retreated to the surrounding forest searching desperately for a vantage point. Low hanging branches slashed at him as he ran, nearly knocking him from his feet. He could hear them gaining, slowly surrounding him. He stumbled, unable to right himself as a root caught at his foot. He landed in a heap at the base of a large tree, winded and out of breath, knowing he was about to die.

Thoughts of his daughter gave him the courage to stand once more. Putting the tree to his back, James faced the goblins as they poured out of the forest around him. En mass they rushed him. His sticks were whirling death. Slash. Strike. Block. Over and over again, ignoring the myriad of wounds he received.

Blood seeped down his arms making it difficult to keep his grip. He dropped one stick then the other. With only his hands to defend himself, he grasped a passing hand, pulling it tightly against his chest. Using his shoulder as a fulcrum, he swiftly jerked his body away causing his opponent to howl in pain, arm broken just above the elbow. James grasped him by the back of the head driving an elbow like a spear through his skull, bone crushed like an egg shell.

The world faded as he lost consciousness.

Betty T said...

(I accidentally pasted my 'suspense' 499 words into the blog.Here we go...)

I walked up the stairs, slowly. I looked at the blanket laid out and thought of the Mad Hatter’s tea party. I watched as he went through the preparations with a dogged sense of purpose. He counted out and examined half a dozen mud-coloured moths, pulling their wings apart and smelling them. He placed them in the cup of the thermos and then poured boiling water over them, explaining that it was like making tea.‘The longer they steep, the stronger the brew.’ I never drank tea. I checked my watch to be safe. I would give it five minutes.
‘Not long now.’ He swirled his finger into the mud-coloured water as the moths floated on the surface. ‘I’ll throw these out in a second and then we can drink it.’ He looked into the cup’s muddy depths. ‘You can see the sediment sink to the bottom of the cup. Just about—’
I couldn’t restrain myself any longer. I burst out with, ‘Why are you doing this?’
He looked at me sideways. ‘Because I enjoy it. It’s a full-body experience. Face it, April, how could you really love butterflies and moths without actually trying one?’
I nodded as though I understood. Henry had a point. His rebuff implied that I wasn’t a real lepidopterist if I wasn’t prepared to eat one.
‘Ready?’
I nodded, taking the cup from his hand, blowing on its steaming surface. The smell was familiar, something like honeyed tea. I raised the cup to my lips and tasted the muddy drink, gagging with disgust. The flavour was worse than I thought possible, reminding me of medicinal herbs. I sipped the gritty water, closing my eyes as I swallowed. I gulped six mouthfuls and handed the cup back to Henry.
‘Give it ten to twelve minutes and we’ll know what kind of moths we have.’
Still speechless, I stared at him. I’d finally done something unpredictable, something I had no control over. I watched as he wrapped his lips around the white rim of the cup, slurping on its chewy plastic. He drained the remainder of the tea and when he had finished he wiped his sleeve across his mouth. But the action appeared to be magnified. Was it really working as quickly as that?
From where we sat at the top of the stairs I could see the whole property, how it stretched out to the sea in a sprawling green mass. A map would never do it justice; it would never convey the property’s depth, its height, its creepiness. Nor could it speak of the forest’s manic growth. I sighed and leant back against the cottage, sliding toward Henry.
‘Are you all right?’
I ran my tongue over my lips; they felt fuzzy and fat. A wave of intense nausea inched up my throat and I swallowed over a bulk that threatened to explode from me. In slow motion, I reached for the bottle of water, drinking half it in one thirsty gulp.

abc said...

The Hauptbahnhof clock read 15:30, which meant the train was now two minutes late. Jens had his right arm clasped around mine so we could move as one. I stared at the clock, afraid that if I looked around me at the faces of the many people gathering to board I would see danger. Jens would keep lookout. All I wanted was for the train to arrive and for us to leave.

“Try to move and I’ll shoot her.” It was Berend. I felt the gun at my side. Jens tightened next to me. “It will be silent and I’ll be gone before anyone knows what happened.”

I felt tears and sweat and my heart knocking loudly at my chest. It was fear and anger and despair wrapped up in one terrible package.

“What do you want?” asked Jens. It was on odd question. Berend thought so too because he started chuckling.

“I think….” But I didn’t hear the rest because I was 180 degrees from where I had been standing a second before and Jens was at turns pushing and pulling me through the swell of travelers now making their way to the trains many entrances. I had missed the train’s arrival. “Holy Christ, Jens”.

“Don’t look back. Don’t look for him. Just keep going. Stay with me, Carly. ” Jens moved with purpose and because he held me so close I did too. I didn’t think about the people in our way or angry remarks from those we bumped or blocked. The crowd’s momentum was forward and we were charging sideways.

I looked back. I couldn’t help it. Berend was no more then three people away and he looked angry. I ducked before he could see me.

Feeling my tug, Jens looked down at me. ”What’s wrong?”

“If I can’t see him. . .”

“. . . he can’t see us. Good idea.” Jens crouched too and kept us moving. We were like two ducks waddling through the crowd of Germans.

Until I tripped. “Jens. . .”

He stopped. People were shuffling around us. I wanted to get up but there were too many people. Then someone was lifting me. Someone with very big hands. I assumed it was a friendly tourist until I kept going off the ground. It was one of his men and he had me around the waist ready to depart with me like a tantruming child. I couldn’t see Jens. His arm had slipped from mine somehow. I wondered how that could have happened; his grip had been so tight and sure.

The fear stopped and anger took over. I knew my only hope was to make a scene so I thrashed and I screamed but this guy—larger and more muscular than Berend—just kept walking as if nothing could stop him. I was being carried away by the Incredible Hulk to the dark underground of Berlin and no one would ever see me again.

Amanda P. said...

Feel like a total creeper now, but what the heck:

My heart quickens as I catch the scent of her perfume in the wind.

I shut my eyes and lean my head back, sucking in the fall air. I have to steady my shaking limbs so that I can focus on my prey. A hunter, in the truest sense of the word.

I’m like an alcoholic, itching for the next fix. My mouth salivates as I taste the kill on my tongue.

There’s a flash of skin behind one of the oak trees that populate these woods. It might be a hand, I’m not sure, but I know it’s her.

My breaths are quick as I take quiet steps closer to where she conceals herself, avoiding the clusters of fallen leaves that will give me away.

No, no, my darling. You can’t hide.

I can’t decide how I’m going to grab her. Do I call out to her to let her know I’m near?

No. That’s a bit arrogant. I think I should let her have a few seconds to believe she’s eluded me before I strike.

I raise my forearm to my mouth to stifle the laugh that wants to escape. As I pull it away, my gaze focuses on the glint of gold on my ring finger. Oh, the lives I lead.

I shake out my arms like a boxer and shift my weight from leg to leg.

It’s time.

My fingers look disgustingly pale against the deep russet of the bark, but I lean against it and try to think about what’s waiting for me on the other side.

I feel a touch of relief. Finally scratching that itch that I haven’t been able to reach in weeks.

She whimpers, making me think she realizes how close she is to the end.

I’ll make it quick and somewhat painless, I think. I have to focus to keep my elation suppressed to only a grin.

What the hell? Might as well make it a little more fun.

“Run,” I say.

Her scream seems to echo as she takes off, weaving between the trees. I follow, alternating between watching her and my feet. It’d be bad to trip and I’m glad I invested in some new shoes recently.

“You’ll never get away,” I say between heavy breaths.

She leaps over a fallen log and stumbles as she lands. Opportunity.

She’s crouched, cradling her ankle. Her hair masks her face. It’s almost too easy.

I saunter up to her so that only the log separates us.

“Darling, this is going to be fabu—”

I feel as if my insides are being ripped from me. My hand goes to my gut and then raises to my face. It’s covered in something that is almost burgundy in color. It takes me a moment to realize that is blood – my own.

I look down and meet the hazel eyes of my former prey. Glancing down, I see the small pistol in her hand.

So, the hunter becomes the hunted. Perfect.

Liz S said...

Title: Through Charlotte's Eyes
YA historical fiction

"Bonsoir!" I called. "Who is there?"

"Who are you?" a boy’s voice called right back.

I gave them my name and mentioned the catacombs and All Saint’s Day, and a face appeared above a branch. He looked from me to Leo.

"There's two more of us," I stated.

He tossed his head to the right, pointing the way. "We’ll show you in." He smiled, his white teeth gleaming in the dark light, like the Cheshire cat.

Everyone grew quiet as they slid back a large stone, revealing a gap in the wall. Even Cassy didn’t speak, probably thinking she'd look like a chicken if she stopped now.

One by one, we wiggled through the hole and started down the steps. Leo clutched onto my shirt, and I followed the other group of people. Cassy whimpered behind us, but her small cries were muffled, most likely by Jake's shirt.

The group we found--by far, more prepared than us—had brought flashlights. As we got to the bottom of the stairs, their lights clicked on, exposing a row of bones lining one wall. All leg bones interlocking in a stack, joints exposed. A laugh escaped Leo, but I stood in awe. The bones stretched farther than what the flashlight could reach.

The guy I first saw stood right next to me. I knew I should have been scared, but then again, this was how all Parisians stood, whether in the Catacombs or not.

“Seance, yes?" he said.

I nodded, trying not to smile. This place was morbid.

He hit one of his friends in the arm. “Even Americans know our secrets about All Saint’s Day!”

I punched him in return, and he looked back startled. “Who says I’m not French?” I hoped my American accent wasn’t that horrible.

He smiled again. “Let’s keep going."

We started walking, our feet crunching against gravel. Water plunked against the ground—or maybe it was sewage? Cassy let loose a squeal when a drop hit her.

The path wound, but I barely paid attention, leaving that to Leo who pulled me along. The bones here looked like they’d once been part of a bonfire, piled haphazardly. Empty eye and nose sockets glared at us, as if trying to say, you really don’t belong here—even if they could have belonged to my ancestors—go back where you came from.

As the light bounced up ahead, I couldn’t look away from the bones, even as I felt my hands grow clammy. Even as the world started to spin. If I didn’t hang on, I might time travel, and how the hell would I explain that to Leo later on? The bones shook, and I blinked, trying to stay in the here and now.

The bones ended, and I flinched away from the shadows. We jolted to a stop, nearly crashing into each other, as the gravel scattered beneath our feet.

“You okay?” Leo whispered, her warm breath hitting my ear.

Brittany said...

I am wet.

Water pounds on my chest, flying so hard, so fast, that my skin feels numb.

I lean forward and a spray hits my face. I sputter and pretend I am not surrounded in water, completely soaked, for the first time in three years.

Because water is my enemy.

It killed my parents.

Just off the coast of France.

Three years ago.

I pretend I didn’t see my parents die that night.

I pretend.

I pretend I didn’t see the dark, cold water swallow them up. I pretend I never heard my mother’s cries as the waves engulfed her and my father, never to be seen again.

I pretend.

But me—I an here. Soaking. Water is in my hair, making it even heavier than it usually is. The sound of the water fills my ears. I can hear water, water, nothing but water.

I fight it. It will have no part of me. I will not surrender. It took my parents. It took them away. It—

“Lana! Are you taking a shower?”

I shut off the water and grab a towel before Laura comes flying in.

“Lana! I’m so proud of you! I knew you could do it!”

I clutch my towel tighter to my chest. Laura blinks her big brown eyes at me and smiles. Then she frowns.

“Lana? What’s wrong?”

“I—” I say. Suddenly, I don’t know. I don’t know what to say, I don’t know what possessed me to get in the shower and get soaking wet. I just don’t know.

I sit down on the small ledge of the tiny shower stall in Aunt Donna’s bathroom. I pull the towel around me and tuck it in under my arm.

“I don’t know, Laura. I just need to…be alone.”

“Sure,” says Laura, patting my back and standing. Her tone is normal, even more loving than normal, but she looks at me strangely.

Slowly, she backs out of the bathroom and closes the door.

I cover my face with my hands.

Why? Why, after three years, did I choose to face my parents’ killer? Maybe the shrink that Aunt Donna was sending me to was getting to my head.

But Jason.

I can’t believe I forgot Jason.

In my single moment of psycho-ness when I decided to take a shower, I’d forgotten Jason. Forgotten the pact we’d made three years ago.

The water had killed his parents, too, and we’d made a pact to never immerse ourselves in to again. Ever. We weren’t going to subject ourselves to it—that killer. Never again.

My head slumps as I remember I forgot Jason.

Drachen said...

Valkia's Gift
MG contemporary fantasy

Finally it was just me, Dean Emry, the last line defence, all alone against a powerful, insane wizard.
“Keep working, I'll try to distract him,” I hissed at Sarah.
I saw the energy building on Lott's hand and dove to the left, the bolt just missed my shoulder. I rolled on the ground and came up. I quickly lunged the other way and narrowly missed being hit by another. Then came a barrage of blue bolts. I dodged the first few but then one of them caught me straight on in the middle of the chest.
It took my breath away and a wild tingling sensation spread over my whole body, like the feeling you get when your foot falls asleep, but it didn't stop me.
I stood up and faced him. “You missed,” I said. “Want to try again?”
Again blue light sizzled from the wizard's outstretched hand and again it caught me perfectly in the chest. I walked towards him, feeling like the hero of an old western film staring down the barrel of a gun.
“Aim for the heart, or you'll never stop me,” I taunted.
I could see Lott was building up a tremendous reservoir of power. He levelled both his hands at me, palms outward, and unleashed a massive blue bolt. For the third time I was struck straight in the chest. This time the impact was enough to lift me off the ground, all my hair stood on end and my body tingled like I was being poked with a thousand needles, but it still didn't stop me.
“That's not possible!” Lott shouted, spittle flying from his chin, his deranged eyes casting about as if looking for the reason his magic wouldn't work on me.
“What do you know about possible,” I said, trying to sound more calm than I felt. “You're just a crazy old man.”
I continued pacing towards John Lott, his wild eyes regarded me with something approaching fear.
“Who are you?” he said, “I know you don't I?” His voice changed as he said the last, deeper and far more menacing than the one I'd heard so far, the human voice was completely buried. His gaze drilled into my brain as if trying to find the answer to his question.
It took a lot of effort to stare the madman in the eye, he sure seemed scared of me but I was terrified of him. Normally he was freaky enough but when his voice changed like that it was as if some kind of ancient monster was inhabiting his body. I knew I had to buy Sarah as much time as possible to work on the locks so I just took a couple more steps towards the madman.
I stuck out my hand politely as if to shake hands with him and said, “My name is Dean Emry. I don't believe we've met before tonight.”

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Epic Fantasy

Pain shocked Jonathan awake. Pain and bewilderment. He was facedown in the dirt with something knobby jabbing into his lower back. Moaning, he tried to roll over, but the pressure increased, pinning him where he lay. Something yanked his arms back, twisting them up.

"Ow! My arms, my arms." He hunched his shoulders forward to ease the pressure.

Someone laughed from behind him, a sinister snigger, as if Jonathan's pain was the joke. He twisted his head around to catch a glimpse of who held him, but a hand slapped a black cloth over his eyes and smashed his face against the ground.

"He thinks he's free to do what he wants," the same sinister voice said, "but he can't." It roared with false mirth, and a chorus of voices echoed the sound.

Jonathan's limbs went cold. His captor was not alone.

"Tie his hands. Tie them until the skin tears and blood pours," said a second oily voice. The chorus moaned as if the thought made them ache with desire.

The first voice growled, "He's mine. Don't you touch him." A cord looped around Jonathan's wrists and tightened until his shoulders bowed back. The knobby object—his captor's knee?—ground deeper into Jonathan's back as if all his assailant's weight rested on that point.

"Ooph." The pressure, or maybe the pain, squeezed the air out of him.

"He's trying to breathe," the oily voice shouted, and the crowd cheered.

Jonathan didn't want to give them the satisfaction of seeing him struggle, but he did need air. He snatched a quick breath through his nose, then shook his head back and forth as if attempting to rid himself of the blindfold. With each swing of his head, he gulped more air.

"You want to see, do you?" the sinister voice said. A hand yanked the blindfold from his eyes, pushing it down over his nose and mouth.

Crimson assaulted his sight, as if blood fueled the torches of his assailants. Countless torches, wherever Jonathan looked.

"Is this better?" His captor leaned on Jonathan's shoulders, his mouth beside Jonathan's ear. A foul odor—a mixture of rotting corpses and stale sweat—filtered through the cloth covering his nose. "Or is there still a problem? Trouble breathing again?"

The crowd howled with laughter, and some moaned. Their feet scuffled on the ground as they edged closer.

His captor sprang to the front, thrusting his face to within a finger's breadth of Jonathan's. "Let me help you with your little problem." Lank strands of black hair veiled his yellow eyes. Mucus ran from his pinched nose to the corner of his thin lips. He pushed the gag from Jonathan's mouth and forced it past his chin to his neck.

Jonathan turned his face away from his captor's stench and drank in air. Kadahak. He'd been captured by a Kadahak patrol, or maybe even a division. And they intended to kill him—eventually.

Robert A Meacham said...

Candida-The Making Of A Princess
Candida meets Lilith, The Princess of Darkness

Lailah's embrace was deep and frigid. There were no stars or moon, no skyline, and no sky. There was no song from the grass and reeds about her, and no gentle breeze rushing over her from the water. The lake stretched out -for what little distance that could be seen- still and black as the dark Abyss itself. The night was dark, black, still as death, and over the surface slithered a deep fog that swallowed everything around it. A verse from Genesis sounded in guttural voice: "And a mist moved upon the face of the deep…," and within it fluttered the Shadows of the Qliphoth.
The universe held its breath. Lilith had arrived.
“Lilith. Dark Mother Goddess. Show yourself.” The sudden power in Candida’s voice echoed at decibels that could have split mountains.
“Candida.” Lilith hissed.
Candida quickly turned around to face the supernatural feminine voice that summoned her. She stood upon the edge of the abyss. “You are Lilith, the first wife of Adam, well before the creation of Eve. You had been created along with him to be his helper, as the Torah states "Male and Female He created them."
Lilith reached toward her slowly and seductively, yet just beyond Candida’s reach. She called to her softly from deep within the swirling mists. Lilith, a siren, a succubus, and Candida’s bestial female spirit answered the call. The burst of dark power was immense but also painful as Candida willed against Lilith’s power to stay her ground. More than once, she nearly yielded to the temptation to simply walk into the blackness, a walk that would send her into the silent depths of oblivion and beyond. Lilith’s form was strikingly beautiful but the ugliness that lay under her dressing paralyzed Candida. She was beginning to give in to the feeding of her own fear and pain. She meditated as hard as she could imagine, pulling for a higher strength and demanding a shield for her energy. Suddenly, Candida felt released from the grasps of Lilith.
“I find that stillness is within you again Candida. I see that your dreams are also my dreams and that you are as much myself as I am you. You may join me and we will enjoy shape changing and we will be in a place where there is no separation from beast or demon.”
Candida listened to Lilith’s sweet tongue but knew the dark deception that lay in her soul.
“ As much as you are enchanting Lilith, sitting young while everything around you turns old, I have my own bright net to weave. I must conquer heart and body and life and keep them in my hold.”
“Then go and be well.” She said. “ You can find me where the rose and poppy shed my scent or lingering soft-shed kisses lay spilled over the beast’s soft sleep. We will find each other again.”
Lilith’s smile, radiant red, rippled through Candida. In the swirling mist, she vanished like a dream awakened. The fog was gone, the mist gone, the icy embrace gone, and the lake returned placid and clear. There were no noises from the grass and daylight consumed Candida’s vision. Lilith was gone.

Tzalaran said...

Here is my action scene. It comes from my novel, and is a part of the last scene in Act 2 (75% mark of the manuscript).

-----
My tomahawk flew at the charging Tordal, but he blocked it with one of his blades. An evil smile spread on his face, clearly thinking he would reach me before I could draw another weapon. I dodged his first thrust and pinned his second blade to the wall with my tomahawk. His anticipation turned to shock as my knife found his throat, and futilely he struggled to breathe as I reversed the direction of the cut, severing the muscles connecting the right side of his head from his torso.

The Tordal in the living room pulled a crystal rod from his robe, and pointed it down the hallway growling something arcane. Panic propelled me to dive through my bedroom door as a bolt of lightning shot down the hallway. My ears rang from the thunderclap as the bolt blew a hole in the wall where I had just stood. The blast seemed to push me farther on the floor, and that combined with the dizziness caused my weapons to fly from my hands.

Drawing one of my throwing knives, and feeling the familiar bone back in my left hand, I shook my head and moved against the warlock. Charging into the hallway, I let the knife fly at the place the Tordal stood. He moved across the hall to avoid it and began to chant his words of power as I let my tomahawk fly at him. He tried to stop his spell, but before he could move out of the way it connected with his head. His body slumped against the wall and slowly slid down as life left him. The last Tordal stood in the living room, standing unnaturally still.

“He won’t move for a while, but you should just kill him before he can. We’ll get no information from it alive. Their empress commands silence from the imprisoned.” Agreeing with my brother, my tomahawk appeared in my hand and I stuck it deep into the frozen Tordal’s neck, severing its spine. A small marble dropped from its paw, and a familiar glow began to emanate from its center. I pulled out two hand axes and threw them through the window to my right. Calling my tomahawk back into my hand, I broke the remaining shards in the windowsill.

I climbed into the window, and looked at the marble that was now the size of a melon. It emitted an entrancing dancing flame from its center, but i broke its enchanting aura and jumped down to the street below. The explosion shattered the other windows, and shards of glass raced me down to the cobblestone street. Fire erupted in the room, chasing me out the windows and into the night air. My feet touched the ground and I tumbled forward hard, force from the blast throwing off my balance. Shards of glass stuck into my arms and back as I rolled into the street. Pain shot through my body, and I faintly heard Kraz calling my name.
-----

So you're not completely lost, the MC/Narrator (Tzalaran) has come home to his apartment with his brother, Kraz. There were four Tordal (tall, humanoid Doberman pinchers who serve the demon queen of Axius) waiting to ambush him, but Kraz noticed something unusual so Tzal sneaks in and foils the surprise attack. Earlier in the story, Tzal learns his tomahawk will return to his hand on mental command, and is starting to use that to his advantage here.

Jillian said...

Moldy food, splattered against the dumpster wall, stained my shirt. It oozed through cotton and slimed my back.

Someone ran down the alley.

I held my breath as he passed the other side of the dumpster wall.

He paused when he got to the alley’s mouth.

I sprang up and jumped over the lip of the dumpster. Wind blew against my ear as a knife sailed past it and sank into cement. I pulled it out of the wall.

The alley’s end had a gray cloud haze. Bits of light spattered the ground like sunlight reflecting off glass shards.

Maybe his friends were waiting for me. Maybe they all had guns or knives. I shut my eyes and ran, clutching my knife. I didn’t want to see shadows end. I just wanted the wind against my cheeks. I just wanted rain spatter on my scalp. I’d even stay in the dumpster. Stay and serenade the rats.

Wind hit my ear as a bullet hit the wall behind me.

I opened my eyes and aimed my knife at a man I’d never seen before. A man I didn’t care to hurt. I threw it into his leg before I’d even decided to.

He stumbled onto the ground and I ran around him.

Jay said...

For unknown reasons, after saying it posted, it didn't appear. Sorry if this pops up twice.

Submitted by Jay Greenstein JayGreenstein@Comcast.net Word count: 500

Setup: Ben, a CIA agent, was about to enter a house when his guide attacked from behind. Ben disarmed the man and shoved him through the front door, to see what would happen:

The scene
- - - - - - - - - -
There was no way of telling what kind of reception was planned had Ben entered the way they expected him to. Their reaction to the door slamming against the wall, and the sudden entrance of a man into the room, however, was swift and loud. At least two shots were fired, the noise deafening in the tiny alley. In the instant after the shooting stopped, while those in the building tried to understand what was happening, they were vulnerable and Ben took advantage of that fact. Stooping, he grabbed the gift box and threw it into the room—a second target to distract and confuse. He followed the package with himself.

Perhaps it would have been better to have fled. But the alley was straight, and long enough that he would present a good target to anyone with presence of mind to come after him. Perhaps he should have sought one of the points of cover he’d noted on the way in; he was armed and was a deadly accurate shot. But that would pin him in place, and leave his back vulnerable.

All of those possibilities were reviewed and discarded in the time it took to throw the gift box into the room. Being what he was, there was only one viable choice: attack.

As he entered the room, Ben took note of the layout and occupancy. There were three men standing, two of them slavishly tracking the path of the box as it bounced off the far wall of the room, the third standing open-mouthed in surprise.

Shouting, “Get down, it’s a trick!” in Arabic, Ben was pleased to see their faces fill with confusion. Without bothering to draw his own gun, he launched a kick at the closest gun, ripping it from the hand of its owner and flinging it against the wall, where it discharged with an ear-splitting roar. The second man had the dubious pleasure of having his gun snatched from his hand, to be used as a club, felling him before he could understand what kind of monster had entered the room.

The third man followed the action with his eyes, a look of hope appearing on his face. About to neutralize him as a possible threat, Ben changed his mind. With luck, this was the man who had brought him to Jerusalem, though any information the man might have been going to provide was probably of not much use, now, given the fact that he had been under guard only moments before.

The first man, the one who lost his gun to Ben’s flashing foot, seeing that Ben was unarmed, produced a knife from somewhere beneath his clothes, holding it awkwardly in his left hand. Ben gave him a look that showed his opinion of that, and the man, after a moment’s thought, dropped the knife to the floor, then stood waiting, with hate filled eyes. Almost as an afterthought, Ben produced his own pistol, as a warning for the man to stay put.

Brigid Kemmerer said...

Oh my goodness, 341 comments! This is paranormal YA. Good luck, everyone!

“Becca?”

She froze. Drew had stopped at the edge of the makeshift court and was peering into the darkness. The ball hung under one arm. Light from over the garage caught his gelled hair and made it shine, leaving his face in shadow.

It didn’t matter. She remembered the angles of his cheekbones, the depth of his brown eyes, the line of his jaw. He looked good. It pissed her off.

He’d already seen her. What was she going to do—run? “Hey, Drew,” she said.

“What’re you doing here?” He looked honestly perplexed. Like maybe he’d put her out of her misery two years ago, and couldn’t imagine she’d show her face now.

“I slipped the bouncer a twenty,” she said. “He let me jump the line.”

He frowned, then his expression turned furious. He’d always been the type to get mad when confused. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“It was a joke,” she muttered, knowing her voice was too low for him to hear.

“He’s trashed,” said Garrett. His voice wasn’t low at all.

His presence at her side gave her courage. “Want me to give him your rocks?”

“Definitely not.”

“Dude, are you talking about me?” said Drew. He came a few steps closer. “Who the hell are you?”

One of the guys on the court swore. “Christ, Drew. Let’s just play ball.”

Garrett didn’t move. “I moved down here last weekend. This your house?”

Drew’s eyes narrowed, like he sensed a trap in the question. “Yeah.” But then he snorted. “Lemme guess, Bex. You rolling out the, uh, welcome mat?”

Some of the other guys snickered and catcalled, but two stepped off the driveway to flank Drew. Greg Connolly and Mark Durant, both boasting more testosterone than brains. Wind pulled off the water again, carrying some sand with it. It stung her ankles and urged her to walk away.

She watched Garrett size up the competition. He did it slowly, deliberately, as if memorizing each guy on the court. “Chill out.” His voice was careful. “We were just looking for someone.”

Oh. Right. They had a purpose here.

“Have you seen Chris Merrick?” she said quickly. “Or his brothers?”

“I didn’t know you were into that.” Drew smiled wolfishly, then glanced at Garrett. “Well, send her back here when you all are done.”

High fives all around.

“Hey.” Garrett took a step forward. “Lay off.”

“Garrett.” A gust of wind off the water caught her hair and kissed her neck, making her shiver. “Forget him. He’s not worth it.”

Then she turned on her heel and started toward the house, not even waiting to see if he’d follow. She didn’t want to see them fight, she didn’t want to hear any more comments. She’d rather face Tyler than Drew.

But she felt Garrett behind her, and her shoulders tightened. It was one thing to shrug off another girl’s bitchy comments—entirely another to hear a guy’s trash talk.

Especially when Drew called after them: “Wear a rubber, dude.”

Redleg said...

"Oh, Duke!" Godard moaned, "We can't hurt this beast. I mean, look. Doucet's attack did nothing to hurt it. He was our strongest man, and all he did was knock off a few of the beast's feathers."

I looked. Godard was right. Doucet's blow would have cleaved a man in two, but against the Death-Beast it had only succeeded in shaving off a few black feathers. Then I was struck suddenly by an idea.

"It's skin is like iron," I said, "But it's feathers are like any other feathers."

"Not exactly," Godard said, and he picked up a nearby feather which the beast had molted long ago, "These feathers are huge. And they're so filthy and greasy."

"Godard," I said, "Do you still have your torch?"

I mounted my horse and warily circled the monster, staying out of reach as best I could. I could tell it was straining it's long hideous neck to try and snatch me, but I stayed just out of it's reach. My sword was holstered; I held only Godard's lit torch.

Godard began making great noise and began flinging rocks at the beast. When the huge bird seemed fully distracted by Godard's antics, I tried to sneak in close to it. The monster was far more wily than I had thought, though. As soon as I was within range of it's neck, it turned from Godard and struck at me.

I managed to dive off my horse just as the blow struck home. The Death-Beast severed my horse fully in half. The poor beast barely had time to let out a whinny of pain. The monster then lifted a full half of my horse's body with it's beak, and began to swallow it whole. I think the attack had come with such speed that my horse hadn't even realized it's own death; the horse's legs kicked as it traveled slowly down the vulture's throat.

The real credit for my victory belongs to that horse. Poor animal, I never even gave it a name. But while the deadly bird was busy feasting on my poor horse, I had a chance to sneak in close to it. I tore out a fistful of its feathers which, in retrospect, was stupid, but I needed proof that I had fought the beast. I had my proof, but as I said, it was stupid, because the beast now knew I was there. It hurriedly swallowed the last of my horse, and then turned to me.

As the beast's head came swinging around to slice into me, I touched the torch to it's plumage. As I had hoped, the beast immediately burst into flames. It's greasy feathers were amazingly flammable. It immediately squawked in agony and broke off its attack on me. I didn't waste a moment lingering. I was off like a shot. Before running and never looking back I dropped the torch in the makeshift nest, and that, too, caught fire immediately.

Arik Durfee said...

With a blinding flash, an arc screeched open in front of him. Noah gasped. He crumpled to his knees and covered his ears.

The crowd scattered in a blind panic. Cars slammed into one another as they veered away from the arc. Two levels down, people rushed straight into the street, cars swerving to avoid them.

When the arc closed, a metallic orb covered in a jumble of hardware floated in the air. Somewhere in the mess of wires, a red light blinked.

“Noah!”

Without thinking, Noah got to his feet. But Mason dragged him back down. Wrapping him close, Mason pulled a small black object from his coat.

The orb’s light blinked green with an ominous beep, and Mason pushed a button on the black device.

A flash of swirling blue light surrounded them just as the orb exploded. The sphere of light protected them from the force and heat of the blast. But Noah could see, as if through water, the violent destruction all around them.

Finally, the blue light faded. Mason leapt up and dropped the black device. Noah looked around the street to see four more arcs opening and dropping similar bombs.

“The car!” Mason yelled. “We have to get back to the car!”

Before Noah had time to think, they were running.

Another explosion rocked the street. Noah looked up to see a ball of flame swallow an upper-level sidewalk. A man plummeted into the traffic lane, finally colliding with a clang into the top of a car. The vehicle careened downward until it crashed into the crowded street below.

“Sipher!” Mason shouted into the air. “We need you!”

Two new arcs opened on either side of them, and they skidded to a stop, trapped. Mason looked back and forth between the two streaks of light. The arc on their left closed first, leaving behind its explosive delivery. Shoving Noah to the right, Mason yelled, “Run!”

They ran straight toward the other arc.

“Don’t slow down!” Mason yelled.

Just as they were about to collide with the curtain of light, the arc closed. Noah spared one terrified glance at the hovering orb as they rushed passed. His whole body cringed, waiting for the explosion to bite into his back.

The bombs detonated one after another.

The initial burst of flame didn’t reach them, but a split second later a shock-wave slammed into their backs. Mason hit the ground, but the pressure hurled Noah toward the street. He soared over the guard rail and into the traffic lane. Three stories of open space stretched out below him.

Noah gasped as he began to fall. Then his arm jerked so hard he thought it would be ripped off.

Sipher appeared in mid-air. With her white wings stretched wide, she held Noah’s arm like an anchor. His momentum forced him into a tight turn, and he flew back upward. His feet just cleared the guard rail, and then he toppled onto the sidewalk.

Stephanie said...

I must be cursed, that’s got to be it. Why else would everything I’ve tried so hard to prevent, seem to happen anyways? My life couldn’t be easy. Instead it’s been filled with one catastrophe after another. Not your everyday catastrophe’s either, but things that would change the fabric of the world around me forever.

I yearned to escape from it all, to go someplace where I could find some sort of solace. But it seemed impossible now, now that the creature that hovered over me had decided I should live.

A sharp series of spastic pains coursed through my broken body as the numbness of death began to wear off. I lay on the hard chasm of rocks that I had fallen on moments before; my wrecked form bloodied and gouged from the devastating fall. I forced in the air, bringing in the searing burn of my own blood. I gagged and coughed on the concoction, trying to think past the wails that now exploded out of my own mouth.

My eyes twitched and rolled before I could finally place my blurry focus on the dark eyes above me. They watched me, waiting for what would happen next. Part of me wanted to scream at Isaac, to tell him to go back to the rotten pits of hell he had come from, but I had loved him once. At least I would have, if what I had experienced had been real and not some horrifying premonition.

Somehow, through some strange flaw of my own creation, I had ended up exactly where I never wanted to be. Back into a life, that I shouldn’t be forced to live. But here I was, starting all over.

The cold wind blew over me, sending my body convulsing in shivers. I caught sight of the dark clouds above me, working their way across the tops of the large cedars. The darkness they left around me left me with an uneasy familiarity. A sickening sense of something else with us, that didn’t belong.

My body arched off the cold forest floor, and a heavy weight quickly forced me back to the ground. My weak heart galloped under my shattered ribs.

Past the excruciating pain of life, was the undeniable presence of Erland. A deep rooted loathing tore at my core. He was the reason for all my pain and suffering, the evil demon that had destroyed all things sacred.

My body froze as I watched his ominous shroud of darkness move next to me. His nauseating presence left me petrified, fearing what would come next. My utter lack of control left me reeling.

There was nothing I could do.

William said...

Valarie ducked behind the collapsed wall of a condemned warehouse. She barely breathed, though her lungs were screaming for air. Her legs shook with exhaustion and fear. She brushed a few loose strands of black hair from her eyes and peeked over the top of the wall.

She could see the marble tower through the broken windows. It was less than a hundred feet away, across the busy New York street. It might as well have been a hundred miles. Standing between her and the sanctuary, searching the abandoned warehouse, was the demon that hunted her.

She had been running her entire life, only to be killed a hundred feet from safety.

She shook her head, banishing the thought. She could make it. The demon was crossing the empty room. She would run when it reached the far wall, before it could turn and make another sweep.

She waited. The demon continued searching, moving to the far end of the room. She surged to her feet, leaping over the collapsed wall. She pushed off against the ground, digging into her last reserves of strength.

She felt the light on her face. She had made it to the door. One more step would take her into the crowded street.

And then a cold hand dragged her back. She fought against the vice-like grip of the demon.

“Stop struggling girl, it will only make things worse.” The demon said, throwing her onto the ground.

She fought the urge to scream. If anyone came, the demon would have to kill her quickly. She needed to wait. If she was observant, an opening would present itself.

The demon smiled, staring into her eyes, feeding on her fear and sadness. His face was human, but his blue eyes were colder than any mortal’s.

“Now that your guardian is out of the way, we have time for a little chat.”

She clenched her fists, fighting back tears. She wouldn’t let the demon see her cry. There would be time to grieve later, if she could just stay alive.

“To bad he isn’t around to thank me. I really did him a huge favor.”

Valarie did her best to shut him out, but the words fought their way into her mind, taking roots, building doubts.

The demon frowned. Most victims would have cracked by now. “I’ve set him free, severed the bonds of slavery.”

“You killed him!” Valarie shouted, surging to her feet. The demon was faster than her. His cold hand wrapped around her throat before she could attack.

“That’s better,” the demon said. “Fear, despair, rage. Such invigorating emotions.”

Valarie twisted away, and he let her go. She backed away and turned sideways to give him a smaller target. Her hand went to the knife at her belt. Jarred, her guardian, had given it to her only minutes earlier.

The demon stalked toward her. She knew that she had only one shot.

“Tell me, little sorceress, are you frightened?”

“No.” And then she attacked.

Naomi Westbrook said...

They veered around the corner of a new street where a stretch of empty office buildings and apartments towered over them.

If anything, the night became gloomier, like a deserted movie backdrop, staged, utterly fake. Simone wondered if a giant hand would appear and whisk away the illusion.

“Hey, I think this is it.” Tammy turned around and tilted her head. “Yep. I can hear the surf. The beach must be right at the end of this street.”

Simone peered down the long stretch of cobblestone. “I don't think so, Tam. The man in the zombie outfit said to take the first street on the right.” A gust of wind drifted over her neck, lifting her hair.

She felt the strangest sensation they could have been anywhere, like in a maze located right on the water’s edge, and they would never reach their destination.

Simone tried to shake the morbid thoughts from her mind, hoping they only intruded because she spent the entire night partying with people dressed as the living dead.

It didn't help she was also in the same town where her mother was murdered.

Simone stared into the darkness behind her. Were they going in the wrong direction? No partygoers followed their path, which was strange since they had to wade through the hordes all day long with the Gothic festival.

“Let’s hurry so we can get a good spot on the beach before the fireworks start,” she said.

Tammy rolled her eyes. “Yeah, like that’s going to happen. The crowds were insane today. And hun, I can dance in one spot all night long with these heels on,” she said, kicking out a spiked boot from beneath the wispy train of her costume, “but I sure as hell can’t run in them.”

“Are they hurting your feet? Take them off.”

“Uh-uh.” Tammy shook her head like a dog with a bone. “I don’t know what could be on the ground.”

“Stone.”

Tammy glared, then gave a huff and walked on with smaller steps. “What’s your damn hurry, anyway?”

“I think we just need to ….”

Heavy footfalls scraped along the cobblestone from across the street. A harsh cry rang out, echoing in the frosty air.

“Did you hear that?” The fine hairs on the back of Simone's neck stood on end and she clenched her fists by her hips, chest rising and falling.

“I’m not deaf. It means we’re on the right track.” Tammy didn’t bother leaning closer or lowering her voice. “I told you so. We wouldn’t be the only ones walking to the beach. It’ll be quicker than the taxi rank, for sure. Others would have thought the same.”

The footsteps grew louder and seemed to originate from nowhere. The vacant pavement on both sides of the road scissored them in with the fading, intermittent glow from a few cracked streetlights.

Sheila Miller said...

A lone woman struggled through pelting rain and cursed her misfortune at being out on such a night. She pushed forward, glancing uneasily around her, worried someone followed to discover what she was about. Lightning flashed illuminating her flesh, wraithlike against the black of her surroundings. Her hands clutched protectively to something, keeping it under her cloak and out of sight. Suddenly she froze as prickles went up the back of her neck. She looked about in the darkness to see if anyone followed. Unconvinced no one was there, she continued on, pressured by the urgency of her mission.

The woman reached a tree-covered hill with a narrow trail zigzagging up the side. Once at the top she was momentarily immobilized by fear as the church bell in the center of the village chimed eleven o’clock. Still shaken, she entered the grove and headed toward the center of the wood and a certain large and majestic oak. Once there, she felt for a hollowed out knothole four hands up the base. She withdrew the item she had been hiding, a long, thin, wooden box. She kissed it then placed it gingerly inside. Staring at the box she thought about what lay within. She had sung every night for a month performing the most elaborate incantation for protection and preservation she knew. She sent out a silent prayer that her efforts would be enough.

As she stood up to leave she heard the snap of a branch behind her. She whipped around to face whoever or whatever was there. Wide-eyed, she scanned the dark for anything. She waited for lightning to flash to help her see in the pitch black. She chanted, low under her breath and waved her hands in an elaborate display of swoops and swirls to throw a protective veil of defense around her then began retracing her steps back to the edge of the wood, slowly at first, then gaining in speed as her fear grew. Breathless, she reached the edge of the trees. Something black moved suddenly off to her right. It was so black she could see it against the darkness of the night. Terror rose and gripped her entire body. Lightning flashed again and she saw it; a faceless being in human form with enormous ragged wings, wings like the tattered and torn sails of a derelict ship. Evil swirled and bubbled in an oily display around it – pure, tangible evil, so concentrated in strength that it even had an odor. It smelled of rot and putrefaction.

The being glided swiftly toward the woman. The veil of protection she had woven held for a few moments but the evil managed to penetrate her defense and swathe her in its rancidness. A scream coming from some deep part of her was cut off as black tendrils crept across her face and into her nose and throat. Desperate to escape the woman tried to think of something but panic reduced her mind to a slow-moving sludge.

Kristen Pham said...

“Make him hurt.”

The voice immediately caught Valerie’s attention, dissolving her daydream. There was something familiar about the slimy, commanding tone that reminded her of the fearful nights she spent on the streets after being kicked out of her last foster home. She squeezed her bathroom pass tightly. At the end of the hall, two senior linebackers wearing letterman jackets hulked over a sleight, terrorized freshman, backing him into a row of lockers. Not looking for trouble, she turned away from the scene at the end of the hall and headed toward the girls’ room.

“Hey, where do you think you’re going?” the slimy voice called after her.

Valerie turned around and met the yellow-eyed gaze of one of the seniors. The blood rushed out of her hands, turning her fingertips freezing cold. It wasn’t possible. She had left those eyes behind her, a thousand times. A sob involuntarily rose in her throat. How had he found her again?

On the outside, he looked different every time they met – one day a graying janitor at the shelter, the next a greasy dealer on the street corner, and today a burly high school football player. But his yellow, hate-filled eyes were always the same. He was her own personal tormentor, one she couldn’t run from, proof that even though she hadn’t seen him in almost six months, she was still crazy. Because he couldn’t be real.

Yellow-eyes turned to his muscled blond friend. “You gonna let this little punk talk to you like that? When I tell the rest of the guys that you let him get away with it, everyone’s going to think you’re a total loser.”

“Shut up. I’m taking care of it,” the blond senior snarled.

Valerie knew what yellow-eyes was doing. He was never the one to throw the punches – he liked to instigate and then slip away before trouble could find him. The blond senior was red in the face and shaking with hate. He was so lost in his rage that if she didn’t intervene soon the freshman’s pale face was going to wind up a bloody, mushy mess. She’d seen that happen before, when she hadn’t acted fast enough.

By the time that realization reached her consciousness, she was already halfway down the hall, racing toward the bullying senior who was now gripping the freshman by his shirt. Whenever she found herself in these situations, instinct always took over. Valerie had learned not to think and just let her movements flow naturally.

She felt as if she was watching from a place deep inside of herself as the bully’s fist came hurtling through the air. Valerie reached over the smaller boy’s shoulder and caught the senior’s arm mid-punch, stopping it before reaching its target. Surprise registered for a moment on the senior’s face before she followed up with a blow aimed at his chest. Her fist connected and he was thrown back so violently that it looked like he’d been hit by an invisible bus. He crashed into a row of lockers.

“How did you do that?” the freshman whispered.

Lisa K. said...

The edge approached, a curtain of blue. Mako fought the urge to hold his breath, as if he were about to be submerged beneath the surface of some alien ocean. In the cloud, faces formed and reformed. From all around, voices whispered, laughed, sobbed.

Inside the Jeep, the temperature plummeted. Beside him, Charlotte's breath plumed in the air. He heard the click-click-click-click as her teeth chattered. His ears popped.

The storm front reached them. Droplets struck the vehicle, oozing down in thick rivers. Something hummed inside him, a desire to throw open the door, to run into the downpour with arms spread, to welcome it onto his skin, into his skin and body, to commune with it.

As if Charlotte felt the same thing, she said, "Drive Mako. Please, just drive."

He tromped down on the accelerator and the Jeep fishtailed. From the passenger side, something cracked, the sound of ice cubes splitting in a cold soda.

"What was that?" His words felt too thick to speak, frozen words. When they came, they seemed to crystallize in the air like ice. His ears popped again.

"The window. I think the pressure’s going wonky."

“Grab my windbreaker, Charlie. It’s waterproof. Tape it over the window."

Charlotte disappeared back between the seats, and popped back up with a roll of gray duct tape and the jacket.

Outside the car, the world now consisted of nothing more than that horrible Blue Rain, the unearthly sounds of laughter and crying.

"Mak--. I think it's getting in."

That was impossible. But when he chanced a glance, the jacket bulged as it stretched across the window, bulges with pockets of Blue Rain behind them.

"Get away from it!"

Behind him, Charlotte slid across the seat until she hunched behind him, her breath quick against his neck. He pressed against his own door, trying to get as far away from the breach as possible.

She grabbed his arm. "We have to drive out of this."

He shook his head. "I don't think we can. Hang on."

Jamming on the brakes, he jerked the wheel. The Jeep hydroplaned into the U-turn, and he envisioned it tipping, Blue Rain pouring in through the broken glass glass, covering them, drowning them. He envisioned them standing amidst the posse from the day before, just more of the crazy, the addicted, the lost. But then the tires found purchase, and the vehicle surged forward.

Charlotte squeezed his arm. "Mako?"

With a sudden sucking sound, the bottom of the windbreaker pulled free, and Blue Rain ran down inside the door. He imagined it pooling on the floor, tendrils of it reaching towards him as if it was sentient and seeking.

"I don't have a choice. We're not going to outrun it."

All around was darkness and slashes of Rain, everything blue, and they would never break through it, never surface from beneath it. That they'd drown or suffocate or…

Justin and Melinda said...

REMAINDERS
YA Paranormal

The flavor of dirt caked my blood-frosted tongue. I stared through the weeds, out over the canyon. The fog swirled through the large crevice—a giant bubble bath.

The throbbing had begun to flay my sanity.

A snap echoed through the dark forest. Fear fueled me enough to get moving again. I stumbled along the rim of the canyon, not pleased to find myself with limited directions to run. My foot caught and my hands flew forward. Cool steel soothed my scraped palms as I clutched what had tripped me.

Train tracks.

My eyes followed their path in both directions. I knew I should take one, since I’d last seen Christian near tracks. I prayed they were the same ones. The excruciating Swinging Jesse had forced me through could have landed us anywhere.

Left headed in the direction I’d come, but right led over the canyon. Refusing to backtrack, I inched out onto the bridge. I focused on each step, trying to ignore the bombarding scent of rotting fish wafting from below. Sweat pooled on my skin.

I swallowed a curse as I crashed to my knees.

“Looks like you could use some help,” said a voice from behind. My eyes closed tight, and my head sagged in surrender. I was pathetic.

I counted each clunk of his boots as he stepped around me and knelt down.

“Camryn, dear.” Jesse lifted my chin with two crimson-stained fingers. A putrid scent radiated from the evil on his freshly corrupted face “You look like you’ve had a bad night.” He was taunting me. He wanted this to be fun, but I refused to play. I needed an end. Death sounded appeasing.

Jesse sensed Christian before I did, but he didn’t turn.

“I see you finally found us, little brother.” His elbow crunched into Christian’s face, forcing him backwards through the air. I reminded myself that no one could harm a Remainder, but I doubted his strength still trumpeted Jesse’s stolen power.

Christian landed hard on his side, his lower half dangling off the tracks.

“This ain’t gonna work with him around.” Jesse grabbed my arm and pulled me up, bringing me in close. Christian returned to his feet, determination moving him forward.

“Damn. I gotta get him outta our hair.” He clenched my wrist, and closed his eyes. Concentration covered his face. I reached for Christian, now only feet away. Before he grabbed my hand, he disappeared.

No, I did.

Fierce motion whipped me into a brilliant whiteness. The sensation pulled at me differently, but the pain pierced no lighter than Swinging. Snaps pulsated through my veins like Pop Rocks. The lack of oxygen singed my throat, and my lungs seized. I wanted to scream in agony, but felt too disconnected from my body to do so.

Jesse had pulled us into Time Trembling. Human bodies weren’t created to endure this sort of thing. Mine cracked in protest.

I landed face first on the tennis court, green smoke emanating from my pores.

-MELINDA

Noah said...

The door admitted only a narrow band of light; shadows crawled on half the General’s face. Sergei took a seat at the desk, across from the grizzled old man.

“Ah, lieutenant.” The General did not look up from his revolver, lying in pieces on an oily cloth. “Or should I say, retired lieutenant? I knew you would come.”

Sergei waited for the man to come to the point. The General cleaned out the barrel lovingly. The portrait of the General’s great-grandfather watched Sergei with grim, foreboding eyes.

“You’re looking at the old bastard, I see. He fought in World War I, a loyal officer of the Tsar. He often told me a story about those poor fools who lost hope in the trenches. You know what they did? They invented Russian roulette.” He started cleaning out the cylinder, oiling the moving parts. “I can’t say I blame them. The old man said that the lucky ones lost the game.”

The General began piecing the revolver back together, hands deftly locking each piece into its place.

“One in six, Sergei. Much better odds than they found on the field.” He screwed on the barrel. It was done. “So let’s play, Sergei.” He flipped open the cylinder. “I want to find out whose side God is really on.” One bullet slid in. “My lot or yours.” The gun clicked shut.

He pointed the gun at the floor and spun the barrel. Sergei watched it spin, light playing on its silver skin, as it slowed to a stop.

“Rules say the challenger always goes first.” He offered the revolver, handle-first, to Sergei. “And you always follow the rules, don’t you?”

Sergei put the gun to his temple.

Click.

He offered the gun to the General.

The older man grinned. “One in five. My great-grandpa played this very game, you know?”

Click.

The gun changed hands again.

Sergei raised it to his head.

Click.

He returned the weapon.

“One in Three. I’m a coward, Sergei. I have much better odds than the men I commanded.” He gave a low bark of a laugh. “Ten thousand men, their nerves melting in their bodies. They wished they died like this. But that’s an officer’s job, isn’t it? Sending others to their deaths.”

Click.

Sergei took the gun.

Click.

“One in two. Can you feel it, Sergei? Can you hear the screams in my head? Ten thousand men all dying together. Russians, Americans, EU… all screaming and clawing the earth. Civilians too. And the world didn’t grieve… it just had stolid news reports and solemn memorials and outraged UN hearings. They didn’t give a shit about the dead… unless it was their man. A husband, father, brother, lover.”

Click.

“Well, Sergei.” He offered the gun. “Looks like history belongs to me.” Sergei took it. “Thanks for playing--”

“General. My apologies.” Sergei aimed for the throat.

BANG

The old officer hit the floor.

Chris Gregory said...

Title: Untitled WIP
Suspense (at least thats what I was going for)

“I’m safe here,” I thought to myself. “This is a safe place.”

Being all of 10, these are the words I recite as I crawl into bed. Blanket tucked tightly under my feet well away from the beds edges. I wished I was more confident in their power outside of my beds perimeter. My bed is my sanctuary. This wasn’t my bed though. This is grandma’s house, Grandma’s house is haunted. Thats what the adults say anyway.

I’m laying here on the couch waiting for grandma to get home from work. My brother is supposed to be watching me, but decided to see if he could make it to the store and back before she returned. Here, it’s just me and the Christmas tree. Normally the tree helps ease my fear. Who can be scared with multitudes of toys waiting for them under all that wrapping paper and ribbon?

The wonderful smell of pine and fresh cut wood coming from the tree made me feel like I was in the middle of the forest. Unfortunately, after all the horror movies tonight, I also remembered what else is in the woods. Wild animals and killers. I’ve seen them in the woods behind the house, wolves that is.

It’s a good thing a wolf isn’t in the room now. He’d think he’d just hit the buffet jackpot in Vegas. You didn’t have to be an animal to smell the fear. It was so thick I could taste the bitterness of it. My terror was rolling off me in waves.

The constant feeling of being watched only adds to my dread. I was sure any minute Freddy, the Wolfman or any number of other killers would barge in and chop me to pieces.

The curtains were open on the big picture window above the couch. Logically I knew this wasn’t helping my sense of being watched. My mind told me that it would be better to leave them open so I could see the Wolfman coming up the porch, giving me ample time to run.

Looking at the picture window, I heard a noise by the tree. It sounded like a very soft, guttural moan or a low throaty growl. I’m imagining things. I’m still being watched. I can’t see anyone through the window, but I know it’s there.

I moved to sit by the tree to better see the window. I heard rather than felt a slight tremor. The sound of ornaments chiming behind me was my last straw. I jumped up screaming, “Leave me alone!”

Just then my brother jumped up from his position, outside beneath the picture window and yelled “Boo!” I collapsed, crying, grabbing my knees, rocking myself, babbling incoherently. My brother ran inside apologizing. Telling me he didn’t mean to scare me so badly.

“Brian,” my grandfather exclaimed! “Apologize to your borther. Now!”

We both looked up, shocked. Nobody was there though. Grandpa died five years ago. It couldn’t have been him, but we both heard him.

brianw said...

“What the hell?” I yelled over the pouring rain, turning in the direction of the shot. Dark forms started to emerge from the forest. There were ten of them, and they were running faster than any human could. Their strides ate up the distance between us ten yards at a time, and they ran with unnerving grace-on four legs or two, it didn't seem to matter.

I started reaching out to magical Wells, gathering more and more power inside of me. My heightened senses allowed me to see our attackers clearly, which almost made me wish I wasn’t holding my powers. I wished my vision didn’t cut through the rain so easily.

If I wasn’t mistaken—and I’m sure that I wasn’t—they were Nuar. They were man-shaped; with dark skin so black it was almost blue, the claws on their feet and hands equally dark.

Blood seeped from their mouths, dripping from pointed teeth. The lips of the monsters were curled into wicked smiles, with black tongues darting in and out of the mouths, tasting the air. They wore only loin cloths, and their chests were painted red, forming symbols I had never seen, in harsh and angular script that looked somehow familiar, and I had a sick feeling they hadn’t used red paint. The sight of them running through the forest, kicking up mud behind them was one fit for a nightmare, but nothing was as scary as their eyes. They were white… all white. They had no discernable pupils or irises and the milky white substances shifted in the sockets. With my heightened senses, I could hear the nasty squelching sound that came from their eyes.

I started to form offensive magic, focusing my will on a powerful strike. I reached out to the nearest natural Well to supplement my power, adding to my already large reserve. Before I could act, the Nuar started falling one at a time in quick succession. There were about twenty, and in seconds all of them were down. Even with the suddenness of the strike, the closest beasts were only about twenty feet away when they fell.

What the…? One of the creatures staggered to his feet. He growled, saying something in a guttural language. Thick, black blood seeped from his neck, and he only made it a step closer to us before falling down again. This time, he did not stir.

They’re dead. All of them.

I looked at Delimor, and the fire danced in his eyes. He had a smile on his face that was somehow more disturbing even than the Nuar. In that moment, for the first time, I knew I was in too deep.

Dave said...

As train pulled out, it lurched. George Bellock staggered before finding purchase on a nearby seat. It was all for show, of course. But appearances, especially now, mattered more than ever.

George kept his eyes down and averted, taking measures to draw no attention to himself. He absorbed the environment, the people, the idle chatter. His ears drew in the dozen muted conversation, but he didn't react to any, they were all of no consequence, mere gossip. And with only the briefest of glimpses, George assessed the fellow passengers while assuring himself the he was not the subject of their interest. It gave George all he needed to know. Sixteen in the cabin. Seven already seated, four male, two children, and, as luck would have it, an Asian man in the back.

George slouched forward. He coughed.

The seat facing the Asian lay empty. George feigned a limp, not uncommon in these parts, so he took his time. To go too fast risked detection. But too slow risked losing the seat.

Caution won. And this time, luck prevailed.

The Asian looked up. George said, "Is this seat taken?"

"No, go ahead."

George removed his moth-riddled jacket, a last-minute buy from the corner thrift shop, a saving grace. The disheveled hair cut, the self-inflicted scar, the odd walk all conveyed his mastery of disguise. But clothes, the finishing touch, presented George to the public as a complete nobody. A no-one that nobody should or would ever take interest in.

Or so he hoped.

George looked out the window. The featureless landscape, devoid of anything interesting blurred as the train picked up speed. Then, he heard it - the door slid open. A familiar rattle of the conductor's chain, followed by boots. Soldiers. At least two.

"Papers please, tickets."

George turned, slowly, as if pained. The conductor was already rifling through the Asian's papers with gusto.

"You are heading to ..." he said.

"Atascadero," the Asian said.

"That's in ..."

"California."

"Then why is your destination Reno?"

"I have relatives."

"More likely, you seek to join the Tahoe Separatists."

"No, that's absurd."

"Search his bag."

A soldier overturned the contents, revealing toiletries, a pen, and a gun.

The Asian starred at the weapon in horror as his face turned a bleached white. In an instant the soldiers bound, cuffed, and led the fellow out the cabin.

It was over. Almost.

The conductor took on a wry smile and shook his head. "Imagine that. The audacity. The nerve of trying to take a Union train West to join the damn Separatists."

George smiled, and hated himself for it. "Well, I for one am glad you got the jackass," he said with a cough.

The conductor chuckled. "Can I get you something? Some water?"

"No, I'm fine, thanks."

"No worries, you have a good day, y'hear?"

"Thank you."

The conductor turned away. For now, George was safe. But he pondered, where the hell am I going to get another gun?

Jake said...

Loving the posts

Meghan said...

THE FINDING
Fantasy

My strength grew with every step I took. I could sense the top getting closer and I was exhilarated. It was nice to feel something instead of fear for a change.

BOOM!

The earth shook around us. Penn and I both jumped at the noise, though there was nothing around us. I looked to Penn for some answers, but he appeared just as puzzled as I was.

“What was th—?”

The sound of scratching filled our ears.

“Oh no.” Penn’s face had gone even whiter with fear.

“What is it?” My voice was trembling.

He murmured only one word. “Soltireen.”

A long, scaly limb burst through the wall in the space between where Penn and I stood. Its large, clawed hand crashed against the other side of the chasm.
“GET ON MY BACK!” he said.

“What?!”

He didn’t ask me again. His human arms lunged at my waist and threw me in the air and when I landed, I was on Penn’s unicorn back.

He started galloping up the spiraled slope as several more tentacles exploded from the dirt.

The abyss was saturated with light as the opening approached. The floor shook once again and I looked over my shoulder and saw the entire body of the Soltireen. I’d never seen anything so big. I would have made a nice toothpick for it. It had at least a dozen limbs that were climbing toward us in a swift motion. It had no eyes or nose, though it had a large mouth loaded with hundreds of razor sharp teeth. It pulled in air with a horrible sucking sound that told me it was tasting our scent. I focused on holding onto Penn’s back and the fresh air that was only minutes away.

The creature’s rough hands were nipping at our heels and though my foot was barely larger than its claw, I kicked it with all of my might. It became furious at my retaliation and two of its arms flew out in front of our path and demolished part of the slope. Penn reared his front legs and I was thrown from his back and landed several feet down the path. I got up in time to see Penn—as a human—fall through the gap.

“NO!” I screeched in terror.

I dove forward to catch him and made it just in time. He clung to my hands like a child. I used every ounce of my strength, but I couldn’t find enough. He was already slipping from my grip and the Soltireen was charging for its final attack.

“Lily, you must let me go. Protect yourself or all will be lost.”

“I will not leave you here to die! You have to keep trying.” Tears welled up in my eyes.

The monster was right on top of us. It wrapped its limbs around Penn’s ankles and pulled him from my grasp.

Jewel Allen said...

I skimmed the top of vaults and ran over crosses and statues, scrambling and hurtling myself across space, determined to reach the church before Mang Fermin could reach me. I caught a glimpse of it, a pale fortress against the monstrous night. Behind me, I heard wings slashing the air in hot pursuit.
Finally, I reached the edge of the graveyard, where the vaults ended, and my feet hit the ground running. There was just one final stretch, to the parish house where the priest could let me in. A gust of wind swirled around me as Mang Fermin landed on both feet between me and the parish house, wings spread out at first behind him, then retracting.
I stopped and searched frantically for another avenue of escape.
Father Aguilar’s old sedan sat no more than thirty feet away. I ran to it, my body slamming to a stop against the front passenger door, reaching for the handle.
The door was locked.
I ran to the back passenger door and pulled on the handle so strongly that when the door opened, it bounced back on its hinges. I got in the car just as Mang Fermin dove for me. I heard the crunching of bone as I slammed the door shut and pounded down on the locks. He snarled, then hovered and shadowed my actions outside the car. He clawed at the car windows, and my breath began to fog up the glass.
My body shook and perspiration poured from my skin. Father in heaven...
Thud!
A mabolo fruit hit the window where I was sitting and slid down. Another sailed towards the window, and another, each time making a dull, thudding noise. I dove for the glove compartment. With shaking fingers, I pried it open. I rifled through its contents; papers, coins, sunglasses, a flashlight.
Bingo.
I pulled out the flashlight and pushed the button but nothing happened. I shook it, please please please, and the marvelous light came on. There was an outraged shriek as Mang Fermin launched himself backwards. I kept my beam of light facing front, my eyes scouring the darkness.
Smash!
Slivers of glass rained on me. I felt the sting of cuts on my skin before the rock hit my temple. The rock was followed by Mang Fermin’s claw of a hand, reaching for my throat.
I swung the flashlight in one fluid arc and clubbed at his hand with all my might. He lunged another attack, his hand knocking the flashlight to the floor. I kicked at his hands, but he got hold of my right foot. I kicked repeatedly while reaching for the flashlight, feeling the cold metal at my fingertips. Just as it felt as though he was going to snap my ankle in half, I trained the light onto his face. He let go of my foot.
Plink!
The bulb in the flashlight gave out, leaving me in darkness. I heard the low rumble of a triumphant laugh.

C said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Troy Masters said...

"Hey you!" the security guard yelled.

Joe knew better than to turn around. Once Mack had a clear look at a face, there'd be no escaping him. He'd walk from classroom to classroom until he identified the suspect.

"Keep it together," Joe whispered to himself. He stood up, brushed some dirt off his pants, and pretended like he was going to turn towards the guard. Then he took off in a sprint.

Behind him, the buzz of Mack's electric golf cart told Joe the chase was on. The skinny, balding guard certainly didn't look Australian, but he wore his trademark Outback hat with pride. The only time he ever took that hat off was to wipe a forearm across his brow, and he only did that after he'd rounded up a student.

Joe was determined to make sure that didn't happen. The usual way would lead Mack right to their escape route, so Joe darted left at the quad, hearing a trio of gawkers holler as he ran passed them.

"Outta my way!" Mack yelled at the three students. They only laughed. The hum of the cart quieted slightly as Mack maneuvered around them.

Up front, Joe's foot hit a patch of mud, almost sending him -- and Gimli -- sprawling forward. Two more strides and his shoes were on the grass of the football field. It would slow a golfcart, if only slightly.

"Hope you have a fast forty time!" Mack said, his voice all too close. Even without the voice, Joe could hear the wheels of the golfcart, and knew his hunter was closing in.

A couple girls were walking on the track that surrounded the field. Joe didn't recognize either of them, but he did hear one tell the other: "He doesn't have a chance."

With over a hundred yards to the fence ahead, and his underwear riding up, Joe closed his eyes. His heart was pounding and his aching sides were telling him to give up. He slipped into a trance.

Suddenly, his legs began to burn -- not the usual pain of running, but as if someone else were now helping his move his joints.

He opened his eyes. The yardlines came faster now, disappearing under him rapidly. His legs were merely gears that someone else was cranking. And not only was the fence coming closer, but the sound of Mack's cart were fading.

A smile crept across Joe's face. Originally, he had planned on climbing over the six-foot fence -- a tough feat while carrying a Mechfighter. But now, as his feet moved without effort, there was a different plan. Another track-runner stood with his jaw hanging. Joe took two more paces, then leapt.

"Don't think I won't be able to find you!" Mack yelled from far behind. "I got a good enough look at your face." But Joe was already on the other side of the fence, off campus, and outside of the security guard's jurisdiction.

Christina said...

(A dumbed down excerpt from my young adult series, The Elegant Ladies Brigade)


Dinah sprinted from her locked room, leaving a comatose guardsman. She carried a large key ring and five very promising keys. Her draped satin dress swooshed with ever step she took. It was strangely calming to her. Her heels exploded like thunder with every step she took on the cold stone beneath her. She scrambled to reach Sophie’s door. Their captor’s henchmen frantically pursued her. Their footsteps approached louder and louder. They yelled viciously down the echoey hallway. She could feel the hair on her arms raise in fear. She was barely able to breathe, wondering if she had made the right decision in joining The Brigade.

Sophie wrung her hands in anticipation, listening to Dinah struggle with the keys. “You may have to leave without me!” But that was not in Dinah’s nature.
She was so flustered and her hands shook so furiously she’d lost her place in the keys. The men's footsteps rang through Dinah’s ears like a gong. She was starting to panic. Dinah could not only hear the footsteps at this point, but could see and even feel her pursuers on the back of her neck. She could see the bloodthirsty purpose in their eyes as they hastened toward the door. The bigger one shouted, “Foolish girl! You’ve dug your grave!” Desperately she attempted her fourth key. “Please!” Dinah whispered under her breath.

Dinah could hear a whistling barreling toward her head when a dagger struck the door barely missing her ear. Her hair moved with the force of the throw and her stomach sank even further but Dinah knew there were more considerable problems ahead. The direction the men were coming from was their only known way out. They could temporarily immobilize them only and therefore, it was not an option.

Finally, Dinah found the key that worked. She threw open the door but the larger man had violently caught her long, dark hair so savagely that Dinah could feel blood trickle down the back of her neck. He pulled her head toward his gritting teeth and whispered in her ear, “Do you know what you’ve done? You’ve just committed suicide! Wait until Gasshon hears of this!” Dinah could feel the moisture from his warm breath on her neck and shuttered with every word. A small tear ran down her porcelain cheek. Was she crying from the pain or the uncertainty of the unknown? In all her adventures, she’d never come this close to death. “A word of advice”, he continued, “If you plead for your life, he’ll torture you more.” Dinah wrenched in pain. The second guard elbowed Sophie in her face. She answered with a swift kick to his groin. Dinah reached for the door-stuck dagger and pierced the large one’s leg. Sophie tore Dinah from the man’s grip and both ladies fell to the ground. Enraged, the men leapt their direction just as Dinah kicked the door shut. The girls struggled to keep them out.

Sophie locked the door and they were safe…

If only for a moment.

Lauren said...

I should have seen it coming.

On a wet night like this, a bank robbery wasn't exactly ideal. Things could go wrong under even the best of circumstances and these weren't.

I was screaming through intersections, desperate to lose my tail, when I hydroplaned.

The little white pickup spun 360 degrees, hit a curb, and then went over the edge.

I clutched the steering wheel, hanging on for dear life.

The sound of breaking glass and metal crunched in my ears as the car rolled over. Right became left and up became my down. Bits of glass, metal and plant life slashed and bruised me as I tumbled. My fingers were slick with blood and sweat as I tried to hold on to the wheel to no avail. My hand slipped off the wheel and smacked against the broken window behind me. My head was jarred and my body shook with whiplash. I hit the door face first and stars danced in my vision. My ears began to ring from the constant abuse. When I finally reached the bottom of the cliff, I smelled fuel.

It took a minute for me to reorient myself.

Carefully, I extracted myself from the seat belt, grateful I'd been wearing one. I had a few cuts and bruises, but nothing life threatening. Somewhat relieved there hadn't been worse, I brushed debris out of my hair and my clothes. Then I grabbed the bag I had stolen, and hauled myself out of the truck through the broken windshield.

I climbed over the twisted remains of the hood and jumped to the ground.

I stood there for a few moments, surveying the carnage of the wreck, when a burning pain lanced through my chest.

I had stayed still a split second too long.

As a piercing shot rang out, I collapsed to my feet.

My pursuit had caught up.

Ishta Mercurio said...

Chase sequence, written for this contest but suitable for my WIP, entitled "HUNTER":

The almost inaudible hiss, followed by a soft click that echoed through the silent auditorium, sent a shock of icy cold down my spine and across my shoulder blades where a moment before I had been sweating against the plush velvet seat. Hunter snapped his head around to face me as I gripped his wrist, and I could see in his widened eyes that he had heard it, too.

“They’ve found us. Run!”

He grabbed my left arm and jerked me forward as we sprang up from our seats, launching ourselves over the rows in front of us, shoving past the handful of audience members separating us from the nearest aisle. My shins scraped against the seat backs and arms, but the bruises and the gasps from classmates and friends were nothing compared to the realisation that my Guardian was dragging me straight towards the stage, where the curtains had burst into flames.

We hurtled down the aisle, heedless of the chaos erupting around us as people noticed the fire. The alarm sounded, shrill in the growing madness.

“We’ll never make it,” I panted, stumbling on purses and panicked feet.

We reached the stage and Hunter boosted me up ahead of him, his strong arms urging me forward.

“Go. Stage right. They’re getting closer!”

And then he was next to me, hands locked around mine, dragging me past the flaming curtains, crashing through the dark, past wheeled set pieces and costume racks and screaming stage managers. Choking smoke filled our lungs, heat seared the hair on the back of my neck, and I looked back and saw the hissing, growling demons, their teeth a million scythes snapping at my ankles, eyes glowing with fire, yellowed claws scraping the worn boards just a few feet behind me. A cry escaped my lips, and I knew that the wetness on my face must have been tears.

Through a crevice, and then we were inside the walls, stumbling down the narrow passageway, the coarse wooden framework gashing my arms and legs, the hissing scrabbling demons nearly upon us, almost surrounding us, then we rounded a corner and half-slid down an incline. Hunter punched a knob in the wall and we exploded gasping into the night air, cool with the evening’s rain.

I blinked as I saw through my panicked tears a hot air balloon, gleaming white and gold, a beacon rising out of the near end of the field, and my tears became tears of relief. We sloshed towards it, Hunter leaping in and turning to lift me, but it began to rise, my hands brushing the rim of the basket just too late.

“No!” I cried, flailing at the ropes, the demons were closing in on me now, then my Guardian’s hands closed around my arms, solid and strong, as he hauled me into the basket, and I collapsed onto him, sobbing. “Am I dead?”

“No, not dead,” he breathed in his angelic voice, “Safe. For now.”

Dave Shepherd said...

Drown



You wouldn’t believe the things that are buried underneath the beaches of California. Red shovels, blue buckets, a shoe with cash in the toe. Cause no one’ll look there, or something.

These are my problems: Why’s it dark, why’s it cold, and what’s the weight taped across my pecs?

Pull off the tape. Rips some hair out, but that’s cool, had to wax it anyway. My free hand catches the tube attached to my chest. Switch on one side.

Click.

Light.

Flashlight, if you’re into details.

Shine it around. Stuck in a wood box. There’s no room; think a cucumber trying to fit in a hotdog bun. There’s a pipe opening above my head. An air hole. So thanks for that, random drunk who choked me out in the parking lot.

Three old school polaroids stick to the wood in front of me. The first is a shot of my well-tanned self sitting a top my tower, protecting the beach, complete with ironic overuse of sunscreen on my nose. Aviators to hide my hangover. Next pic, a group of beach bunnies surround me, flirting. For obvious reasons.

Last one is a brown haired boy. Glasses. Will die a virgin. One of those loser school photos that even I don’t look good in. You know, where the photo dude makes you tilt your head to the side and plaster on a smile.

Cold water shoots out from the pipe above. Salty. Smells like seaweed. Tastes like it too.

It pools around my ankles. A second spurt sends it halfway up my shins. Goosebumps pop up on my arms, but not ‘cause of the cold.

Block the pipe. Take the tape that held the flashlight, ball it up, and block the pipe. No go. Pipe’s too wide. Backend of the flashlight can’t get the job done either, so I drop it.

More water. Less air.

I press my palm against the opening. Ignore the jagged pieces of metal that stab into the skin. Ignore the salty water that reaches into the little cuts. Ignore what seeps out past my palm.

The tide rises.

Past my knees.

Past my thighs.

The worst part -- past my groin, making my manly shouts into little girl screams.

Stomach.

Chest.

Collarbone.

The polaroids float on top of the water, swirling through the ray of the flashlight. Still on cause the dude who choked me out sprung for the waterproof LED brand that divers use.

Water pours out of the pipe. A steady stream now.

Scream.

Scratch against the wood.

Ignore the splinters stuck under your nails. Ignore the mouthful of water. Ignore the burning in your lungs.

Can’t. Hold. On.

Last thing I see before drowning is that gonna-die-a-virgin brown-haired boy. Fuck, he’s familiar. So familiar.

Not sure why someone did this. But they did. You’ll find what’s left of me someday. You wouldn’t believe the things that are buried underneath the beaches of California.

Ishta Mercurio said...

I just read through some of the entries, and boy, do I feel out of my depth. Hats off to everyone who entered, and good luck, everybody!

Amanda Acton said...

Cathy’s fingers snaked toward Arrow’s neck. Arrow covered the jewellery protectively,
“Cathy?”

“Think of it as a Christmas present. To replace that silly book.”

Cathy made as if to pull her hand away, but then both palms shot into Arrow’s chest. Arrow stumbled backward, tripped on her own feet and fell onto the sand.

“Ow! Hey! What are you…”

Cathy didn’t wait for her cousin to finish. Instead, she sat right on top of Arrow’s stomach and snarled. Her fingers moved toward the necklace once more.

“No!” Arrow shouted. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“I’m taking what should be mine!”

Cathy grabbed at Arrow’s hands and tried to pry her fingers apart. She pressed her manicured nails into the back of Arrow’s fists. Arrow screamed and responded by bucking wildly. Cathy squeezed her knees into Arrow’s sides.

“Gerroff me! Cathy! Gerroff! Are you crazy?”

And then Cathy got a wild look in her eyes that said, yes, yes I am crazy. Her lips parted. She snarled and then her teeth closed around Arrow’s fingers. Arrow arched her back and yelled.

“Stop it!”

Cathy responded with a loud slap to Arrow’s cheek. Arrow’s eyes went wide. Cathy’s teeth dug into Arrow’s fingers again. The pain stuck in the bones and travelled down Arrow arm and up her spine. It jumped into her brain. Arrow’s head felt like it was about to explode.

“I HATE YOU!” Arrow screamed. She didn’t know why she screamed that, but she supposed it was true. Cathy was annoying and horrible and she was biting!

“I hate you so much!”

Arrow held on tight to the necklace. She kicked her feet. Cathy kept clawing and biting at Arrow’s hands and chest. Arrow grabbed Cathy’s hair and pulled.

Cathy shrieked in rage, “Oh you brat!”

Arrow felt hot pain in her chest as Cathy’s nails dug deeper, “Let me HAVE IT!”

“NO! You can’t!!”

“Give it to me!”

Arrow’s cheeks were stained with tears. The surface of her hands and chest were a map of red gashes.

“Stop it!” she begged. “I hate you! You hear? I hate you and I... I wish you weren’t my cousin!”

“Well I am,” Cathy sneered. “Now give it here.”

“NO! Go away Cathy! Gerroff me!”

“Not until you give it here!”

Cathy plunged her nails all the deeper. She bit Arrow’s pinky. A trickle of blood escaped from the skin. Arrow screamed. She raised her fists and beat them into Cathy’s chest.

“Go away! I wish you were never born!”

Cathy pulled her hands away and spat on the ground. Her spit was mixed with blood. She glared at Arrow.

“Do you really mean it? You wish I hadn’t ever been born?”

Arrow nodded.

“I don’t believe you,” Cathy said.

“Well it’s true,” Arrow spat. “I wish you weren’t real. I wish that you just never existed, that you weren’t ever born.”

The ground shook.

Pete Miller said...

Here is an excerpt from my (work in progress) novella, "The Zeppelin"

Clark charged down the Zeppelin’s catwalk. Two Germans stepped onto the platform in front of him. Clark saw the insignia on their lapels and his blood went cold. They weren’t army officers. They were agents from the infamous Arkanen Streitkräfte — the most notorious, ruthless killers in the German Empire.

One agent went for his gun. Clark’s blade slashed first, gashing the man’s neck. Blood splattered the other agent in the face. He punched blindly at Clark. The powerful blow sent the American reeling to the gridwork.

The Arkanen Division agent with the slashed neck convulsed off the catwalk and dangled there by his belt. He seemed to be dead.

The other agent mopped red off his face with a black sleeve. He pulled a strange object from a leather holster. It looked a bit like a gun, but thick worm-like tendrils from the butt of the thing twisted and snaked their way into the agent’s arm.

Clark realized the gun-thing was alive. It opened its eyes and smiled. Clark ducked just in time to avoid the cold cerulean shock wave that emanated from the thing’s shrieking mouth. The blast wave rippled down the line of hydrogen gasbags along the catwalk and shook the whole airship.

Clark charged. The agent tried to get his gun up, but Clark was on him. The young American stabbed and punched and the agent just stood there and took it. Clark punched him again and again. After a minute of this, Clark tired. The German agent and his gun both smiled.

The American ducked just in time, but the blast vaporized the jacket and shirt right his off back. Clark screamed. His spine was a mess of red skin, blistering and bubbling like he got a full day sunburn in one second.

Clark looked the Arkanen Streitkräfte agent in the eyes. They were as cold and black as the depths of space.

Clark lashed out with his knife. The Agent flinched, but Clark hadn’t aimed for the German. He stabbed the gun.

Clark’s knife tore through the flesh and dug deep into the bone of the gun-thing. It shrieked and the agent howled in pain.

Clark twisted the blade. Bone snapped. The gun-thing made a wailing sound that threatened to wrench Clark’s soul from his body. It was an aria of agony that dropped the American flier to his knees.

The Arkanen agent kicked Clark in the head. Clark flipped over and sprawled on the catwalk. His knife clattered to the deck. Clark dug his fingers in and managed not to fall off the grid-work when the Agent kicked him again.

The gun-thing stopped screaming and died. The agent ripped it from his arm and threw it at Clark, swearing viciously in German.

Clark dodged the dead gun-thing. He knew some of the choicer words.

Clark stood up and said, “Shut your filthy mouth, ya dirty Kraut.”

The German said, “Time to die, Amerikaner.”

Kathy M. said...

Action scene:
(Just the meat, not the potatoes.)
The blades slowly began to turn with the familiar pitch of the helicopter whining, then increased in sound as the blades picked up the pace.
“Please hurry Doug,” I pleaded as my eyes scanned the beach to see if the clones were closing in. The hairs began to rise on my arms and the back of my neck, and I knew they were near, my telltale method of intuition.
I grabbed Doug’s arm and whispered, “We have to hurry, they’re here.”
“I’m going as fast as I can, Tommie. This machinery, piece of crap hunk of metal, isn’t going anywhere until the rpm’s reach maximum speed,” he replied anxiously, his eyes scanning the beach also. I could hear the blades spinning faster and knew we were about ready for takeoff. Finally, Doug lifted us from the beach when several clones broke through the thick brush.
“Don’t look now, but here they come,” Adam said calmly, as he spoke into the mike that was attached to our headphones. “Three o’clock, Doug.”
I looked in the direction of three o’clock and saw another helicopter closing in fast.
“Hang on,” Doug yelled into the mike, as he instinctively turned us directly into their path.
“Are you crazy, what are you thinking,” I bellowed as they appeared closer than I wanted to be.
Their helicopter veered away from us as Doug hoped they would react. He corrected his position and continued towards Kilauea, the most active volcano in Hawaii. We finally approached the summit when I heard gunshots. Doug made a quick upward motion that took us up and over in a loop where we were now behind them.
Finally we were over the volcano and Doug began to drop as low as he could without getting caught in a downdraft that could pull us into the pit of its belly.
Maurice charged us again, and came too close for comfort. Feeling secure, I knew by now he could out maneuver the other guy. Doug slowed, circled the volcano, passing one more time. “This may be our last opportunity to do this. Adam are you ready?” Doug asked tensely. The guns hitting us with a barrage of bullets, they came at us again. Doug dove towards the wall of the volcano as if he would fly right into it, pulled up at the last minute, and swerved to the right to make a circle over the center once more.
I looked back to see them slam directly into the very same wall we had just pulled away from, fire bellowing out as it bounced off the wall, and pieces of the blade flying helter-skelter towards us. My heart was in my throat, as Doug pulled up again quickly, to avoid any flying debris. There was silence. It was over. We watched as the craft plummeted into the hot fiery lava and disappeared. The volcano burped and sent several globs of lava into the air, which quickly settled back into the pit.

cRs24 said...

Chelsea looked up at me like a pathetically lost actress, her eyes rimmed with dust and specks of red paint. I opened my mouth to apologize but just then the door flew open with a tremendous crash and another dozen islanders shouldered their way into the pub. The place was already beyond capacity, bodies colliding and rearranging like marbles in a teacup and forcing the excess to its brim. I reached out for Chelsea but someone shoved me from behind while another elbowed me sideways. I staggered into a wooden pillar modeled to resemble a ship’s mast and held on for as long as possible while drinkers smashed together without regard, coarse wool rubbing against fishy leather with such vigor that it seemed as if someone was going to catch flame. Yet throughout it all everyone was laughing and singing and bouncing in place as if this were some joke I wasn’t privy to, some ritual I hadn’t yet undergone.

The mass ebbed and peaked like a wave, and on the return surge I was sucked back into the current. When the bar swam past I reached out for the brass railing but was only able to grasp it for a few seconds before the door swung open and yet more celebrants entered. As they strove for the grog bowl at the far end of the pub I was spun around, knocked backward and forward, crushed against fishermen’s chests and carpenters’ backs, spun again, slammed into another pillar, then finally spit into their wake and walled off completely. I stood there a moment, dumbfounded and aching, until someone fell from his stool and the crowd pulsed outwards, forcing me against the door right as someone pulled it open from the other side. I tumbled out onto the wet sidewalk.

“I hope you saved some for us!” a fat little woman bellowed as she stepped over me. The door swung shut.

My hat was gone – the storm was sailing it down the gutter. I pushed myself up and chased it. Despite the melee in the bar, the streets were oddly devoid of cars. As if everyone had simply been delivered. The exception was a lone blue station wagon making its way toward me at a phenomenal speed. I stepped back against a picket fence and did my best to disappear but the car skidded to a halt on the slick tarmac. Three men stepped out, their coats and ties and flared pants from a bygone era. The first man to reach me was sweating lightly, pink-faced beneath long black sideburns.

“Drink this,” he said, holding out a jar of clear liquid.

I swung a leg over the fence but the other men sprung upon me with freakish deftness. One bent my arm in the wrong direction while another turned my face to the sky and the third tipped the liquid down my throat. Within moments the world slipped away, along with the cold gray rain.

Melissa Pearl said...

Harrison’s temples were throbbing when he came to. He licked the blood seeping from his mouth as he was hauled up the stone stairs.

Awareness kicked in and his heart broke into a panicky gallop.

Gemma.

Had she made it to the stables? Last he knew, she had been right behind him. An image of her bleeding in the hay had his fists bunching. He threw himself into a feisty bid for freedom.

The guard tightened his grip, but not fast enough to slow Harrison’s thrashing. He punched his way free, but didn’t get far. The guard lunged after him and they toppled down the stairs together. Harrison struggled for breath as the guard landed on him and shot an iron fist into his face. He barely had time to moan before he glimpsed the dagger.

Lifting his arms, he blocked the first blow and held the knife at bay, but knew his fight was futile. The guard was built like a bear. He forced his brain to shut-the-hell-up and pushed against the dagger. His arms were about to collapse when the man lurched back. His eyes bulged wide then his body slumped, an arrow piercing his throat.

Harrison whipped around and saw Gemma running towards him, bow in hand. Grinning, he pushed the guard off and struggled to his feet.

“Take my hand!”

She pulled him towards the stables, but quickly spun at the sound of clanging armor.

“Come on!”

They raced up the stairs and ran around the perimeter of the tower until they were forced to stop outside an immovable door. Harrison glanced behind him and saw the guards charging into view. He looked to Gemma who paced to the side of the wall and looked down into the courtyard.

“We’re going to have to climb down.”

He looked over the edge then back at her with wide eyes.

“I know,” she grimaced, throwing the bow aside, “but we’re running out of options.”

She jumped onto the wall and lowered herself over the edge.

“Hurry up.”

Harrison swallowed convulsively and followed her. Gripping the edge, he found a minute foothold. He wedged his toes in, clung to the wall, and began to shuffle.

The clamber of the four guards above them faded. The shouts rising from the courtyard suggested a contingent of pissed off guards were waiting to lynch them.

Awesome.

He took another step down, following Gemma’s descent, and felt his insides split in half as Gemma let out a feeble cry and her body jerked. Two arrows protruded from her back.

“Gemma!”

She went limp and fell. He caught her hand as another arrow shot past his head.

“Hold on!”

He fought against her sweaty skin, glancing up to his cramping fingers, begging them to stay attached to the wall. It was pure agony watching them slip from their hold. The air rushed past him as he plummeted for the ground. He closed his eyes and grasped Gemma’s hand, yelling against the feeling of her slipping from his grasp.

Dan Holloway said...

From "Solid", in "(life:) razorblades included" (WIP)
(n.b. all punctuation and (lack of) capitalisation is intended:

The clock on the screen says it’s night so it must be dark out but I haven’t seen a window for days, or maybe hours, or since who knows when. I put the phone to my ear and listen but it’s not really words, or a voice, just a series of broken sounds punctuated occasionally with scared and help and square.

I listen and I think. I think, it must be dark out, but not as dark as it is in here in this room with walls and boards, and a ceiling and switches and fabric made from pain cut in strips so thick and woven so tight that nothing could ever escape. The sounds coming from the speaker are so much quieter than the sounds in my head and eventually they fade to a level hiss, and I throw the phone across the room.

Our bodies are slick and in the darkness it is impossible to tell how much of the liquid drowning us is sweat, and how much oil, and how much blood.

No matter how we bite and fuck and fist we still sit apart in the blackness, separated by skin, and as long as we sit and we fist and bite and fuck we will always be separated, and she says, I can feel every part of you beneath your skin and I can see your soul behind your eyes and I can press up against what’s there and the gap between us is infinitesimally small but it will never go away; and I say, What kind of torture is this? and she says, It’s just what it is to be human, to be part of this world, and I say then we must sit apart in the darkness forever and never see into each other’s soul, and never feel each other’s blood or hear each other’s breath, we must sit each one of us in our separate cells and keen into the night in our loneliness, and she says, No, that’s not the answer, and I say, What is?

and I hear the sound of metal and feel nothing but warmth and she takes my hand in hers and presses it against hers, and the warmth becomes heat, and the heat becomes cold, and from somewhere I hear sounds,

a different world. with different rules

dcharb said...

I saw him three quarters of the way across the ice. His head and arms hung over the surface, the rest of his body invisible below the water line. Chunks of ice floated around him where the ice had given way. He appeared calm. His blond hair was slicked back and flecked with ice. His glasses lay on their side on the ice, the right lens cracked.

I panicked, screaming my brother’s name.

What do I do?

Oliver disappeared below the ice. There was still a current, despite the frozen surface. The ice was never safe to cross here on foot. Oliver knew that. Of course he knew that. He knew it as sure as I did. Why had he tried to cross without the damn swing?

“Oliver!”

Oliver’s face appeared again in the hole. His skin had tinged blue. He gurgled for help again. He looked so calm. How could he look so calm? I scanned the shore and found a fallen branch, six feet in length and several inches around. I banged it against the rocky shore to test its strength and held my breath before streaking across the ice toward the hole.

Oliver had turned a shade of gray the color of death. His yellowed eyes locked on to mine—pleading for help. He stopped flailing. His arms dropped and his head just bobbed at the surface. He was going into shock.

I dropped to my stomach several feet from the hole, reaching the branch toward my brother. I felt the rain puddles on the surface of the ice consume my jacket and pant legs.

“Grab it,” I urged.

Oliver just stared in response, his eyes vacant.

“C’mon,” I yelled, shaking the branch in frustration. “Grab it already.”

No response.

I cursed and tossed away the branch. I inched forward on my stomach toward the hole. The ice growled but held. I grabbed my brother by the shoulders and pulled. The water seemed to double his weight.

I pulled each arm out of the water and hung them over the ice. Somehow, the ice held. I gripped Oliver by his coat and yanked. Oliver inched forward but sunk backward into the water. I needed more leverage. I swung my legs around and dug my heels in at the edge of the hole. I grabbed Oliver around the collar, heaving him forward. This time I broke free of the waterline. I re-gripped him around the chest and locked my hands around him.

I had him.

I leaned back, rolled my brother onto his side, and collapsed onto the ice. I stared at the pale blue sky above and thanked whoever was up there. My headache was gone, replaced by the surge of adrenaline coursing through my veins. Beside me, Oliver sputtered something that sounded like thank you. I twisted my head toward him. His breathing was labored but steady and he shivered as though stricken with palsy.

“Almost lost you, Ollie,” I said. “Almost lost you…”

Tiffany said...

From Shadows Fall Behind You
Suspense sequence

It was night. The mark stood in the center of a small clearing, his head bowed in heated discussion with his Johnson.

“Come on now, you can do better than that. Have some pride…”

A hot breath grazed his neck.

He turned.

The hint of a shadow retreated into the darkness.

“Hello? Who’s there?”

A rock skidded across his foot. He jumped.

“Not funny!”

He narrowed his eyes trying to discern shapes in a colorless night. Where had his headlamp gone?

Another rock hit him in the hand.

“Ouch.”

He jerked his hand up and stomped his right leg. “This really isn’t funny.”

He turned full circle looking for his assailant. “Jen?” He spun again. “Peter?”

Silence.

Mac’s body began to quiver. “God damn it, who’s there.”

First one rock, then another struck him in the back of the head.

Panicking, Mac ran for the edge of the clearing. As he did so, his attacker charged, taking him from the side with a tackle. They skidded across the ground, Mac’s face colliding with a tree trunk. His attacker jumped free and disappeared into the forest.

Mac sat up, spitting blood. “Fuck man. I’m sorry about your wife. She went after me. It doesn’t have to be like this.”

An unforgiving laugh echoed through the trees. “I’m not Peter, you swine. Try again.”

Heart pounding. “Who?”

“Think hard. You know.”

Realization.

A surge of adrenaline charged through Mac. He jumped to standing and flattened himself against the tree.

“You killed Brian?” he whispered.

“Yes, very good.” A laugh. “I expected you that day but made do with him.”

“Why me?”

“You destroyed me.”

“I’ve never met you.”

“You lie.”

Before Mac could reply, his attacker burst out of the darkness, driving his club into Mac’s abdomen.

With a whoosh of expelled air, Mac collapsed to his knees and then fell to his side. He coughed, gasping for air.

The killer kicked Mac roughly in the shoulder, rolling him onto his back. His knee landed heavily on Mac’s chest, pinning him to the ground.

Mac’s eyes met the soulless gaze of his attacker.

He grinned. “Remember me?”

As the club split his skull in a killing stroke, a final thought screamed through Mac's mind.

NO.

Holly said...

The overweight male local plopped down and put his feet up. Locals in colorful uniforms bounced a ball and sprinted across a huge television screen. “Kings versus Wizards!” the announcer said. Nothing new there. Locals were in love with their television or something similar to it all over the galaxy.

And the television made a good distraction. I’m invisible. It’s okay. Go in. The alien opened the sliding door, crept inside, and peered over the top of the table. Too short to reach the food with the incredible smell. He grabbed a shiny green cylinder and popped it open. Cold liquid.

Tech 29 swigged the most delicious stuff in the universe. His cluster of eyes bugged out. Amazed, he guzzled the rest. Fabulous. Two seconds later his insides erupted, gas shot out of his mouth, and he shrieked just as cheering erupted from the television.

“Keisha, the quesadillas are done,” the male local called.

“Okay, I’m coming,” a female local said from another room. “I just want to finish this post.”

“They’re getting cold.”

“Be there in two seconds.”

“You’re missing the playoffs.”

“I said I’m coming.”

“Keisha, you better get off the internet.”

“I told you, I’m coming. Just get off my case.”

“There’s an alien in the dining room.”

“Yeah, right.”

“There’s an alien from outer space in here and he’s trying to get the quesadillas.”

“Terrell, you are so full of bull.”

The local’s voice rose. “I’m telling you, there’s an alien in here. He’s three or four feet high with a big head and a bunch of eyes and he’s got a Mountain Dew. He just belched. Now he’s stealing the Doritos!”

Still parched, stomach grumbling, Tech 29 grabbed another shiny green cylinder and a colorful bag. He couldn’t understand the male local’s words, but he understood the meaning. His camouflage wasn’t working. He could feel the local’s excitement and greed. Somehow the local wanted to profit off him. Suddenly the local crept around the dining table, hunched down with his arms spread wide, and angled in front of the door.

“Hey, little alien guy,” the local said. “You hungry? You want some ice cream? I got Rocky Road. I got pistachio, too, and it’s green just like you. I got barbecue ribs and cold shrimp and potato salad and potato chips and lemon cake and cheesecake. You like those Doritos? Take some more. Take the whole bag. Why don’t you have a seat and I’ll bring you a nice big bowl of ice cream.”

The local was going to grab his arm. Tech 29 skittered into the condominium, looking for a way out. The dark hall didn’t feel like it connected to the outdoors. The male pounded after him. When the hall abruptly ended, the alien rushed into a narrow room with smooth blue tiles and slammed the door.

A key rattled in the knob.

“Okay, so where’s this alien?” the female laughed.

“I locked him in the bathroom.”

louisa said...

Title: The Silver Strand
YA Fantasy

So you understand what's going on, the MC has been turned into a Toad. Thanks. Enjoy.

‘No, Max. Shoo,’ Isabelle said, hopping away from her dog, the trained toad hunter.
Max trotted along behind her yapping is his high-pitched warning tone.
‘Max, what are you carrying on like a pork chop for?’ her father, the toad killer shouted.
The beam of a flashlight skimmed over the stony ground ahead of her. A second later it stopped on her.
‘Good boy, Max! Get the toad.’ Her Dad’s boots thumped down the wooden porch stairs. Metal scraped against the pavement.
Her heart pounded. ‘Max, rack off or you’re going to get me killed,’ she squealed. His hot breath disappeared from the back of her neck.
‘Get the toad, you stupid mutt.’
With a quick glance over her shoulder she saw Max sitting on the pavement, his head turning from her to her father.
Then she heard Max’s galloped steps behind her. It wouldn’t be long till he caught up.
Besides the rock wall and garden beds lining the path, little cover remained to hide in. With Max hot on her tail, her father would kill her in no time. Further away from the house lay patches of ferns, trees and shrubs. If she could reach these she may survive.
Torchlight bounced up and down across her path. Wet leaves crunched beneath her father’s boots. Branches snapped and whipped as he tore through them searching for her. She stole a glance over her shoulder, only to catch the metal glimmer of the garden spade in the moonlight as it rose above her Dad’s shoulder. His eyes flashed with a wicked gleam. He wore a crazed smile. The tool thumped on the grass behind her. The ground quaked and she jumped higher than normal. Her trembling legs were slowing her down. She changed course toward the silver shed.
Her stumpy legs were no match for Max and within seconds he cornered her beside the toolshed. She backed away and yelped when her behind touched the cold metal. The sway of his tail shook his whole body. Her throat was so dry that she couldn’t swallow. Adrenaline pumped through her veins. She poked at him with her claws warning him to back off. He withdrew and growled.
Torchlight darted around the mowed lawn. It focused in their direction courtesy of Max’s barks.
‘Get it, Max, get it.’ Distracted by his master’s praise, Max let down his guard enabling Isabelle to scurry away. ‘Get it Max!’
Light darted about searching in the direction she disappeared.
The skin across her chest and back crawled as if thousands of ants marched across them. She disappeared into a cluster of shrubs. Her throat stung from her sharp, ragged breaths.
Max tracked her down in an instant. He sniffed, projecting watery blobs of mucous on her back.
‘Max, leave me alone,’ she panted.
The leaves of the shrubs parted. ‘There you are, you filthy toad.’
Her eyes widened.

a-r-williams said...

Lorna grabbed the girl, jerked her around. “Johra?”

Her daughter stared at her, eyes clouded, then pulled away and ran down a side street that bent around a corner. Dilapidated shacks clung to the buildings and created patches of darkness.

Something was wrong. Lorna stalked forward, scanned the shadows as she moved. Three tattooed men in black leather stood in front of Johra and a six foot high wall.

“We been waiting for you, lovely,” the big man said. He looked at Johra and jerked his thumb toward the wall. Johra darted through a hole in the wall barely larger than her body.

“Well you’ve found me,” Lorna said. She drew her sword. “Do you think you’re going to stop me from getting my daughter?”

Sheridan came up behind her, panting. “I’m here my lady.”

The big man laughed. “Lovely. A woman and an old man. This will be the easiest money that we’ve ever made.”

“Who hired you?”

“None of your concern, lovely. The only thing you need to worry about is me and my friends.”

He motioned. His two companions branched out, one going to the left the other the right. The big man drew his sword and came forward, his cohorts continued their flanking maneuver.

Lorna balanced herself on the balls of her feet, turned slightly to her left. Sheridan angled right.

“I can’t wait to get a piece of this,” the skinny man said.

He swung his sword in an overhand arc. Lorna stepped in, met the blow with her sword and deflected it and then struck diagonally across her body at the big man. Both men jumped back.

She heard Sheridan engage the other assailant.

The big man came at her; his blows wild, fast, and strong. Lorna met them, held her own, but she knew from the way he attacked he was only trying to keep her occupied. Her focus narrowed, she turned to keep skinny in view, the big man in front of her.

Sheridan would have to fend for himself.

The big man engaged, again. His power forced her back. Skinny moved laterally to them, eyeing her.

Lorna turned her back to him, gave him the opening he was looking for. She stepped up her attack on the big man, her quickness and well placed feints forcing him to retreat. The big man’s mouth hung open as he gasped for air.

Was he faking? His eyes shifted, looked behind her and gave skinny away. Lorna pivoted and struck. Skinny’s eyes widened as her sword bit. Lorna kicked and knocked him back. His sword fell from lifeless fingers and clanged on the ground.

Behind her, she could hear Sheridan finish the other assailant. The big man screamed, charged forward holding nothing back. Lorna stepped in, avoided his blow and drove her sword up. Warm blood splattered her face and the big man dropped to his knees, then tumbled in a heap.

Steve Jensen said...

Suspense scene from 'The Poison of a Smile':

Within a half-hour, I was home. Out of breath and nearly out of mind, I collapsed and slept for hours, days - I know not which - until the cold gleam of stark moonlight awoke me. I made my way upstairs and, eventually, forced my way into my brother's bedroom, having had no response to my calls and pleas for access. I did not know it at the time, but that very same night Matthew had received Alatiel and ushered her to his room; he had indeed welcomed Death.

Matthew was nowhere to be seen. The creature rested upon his bed, face-down and naked still. I was wary of disturbing her, as then I might have to look upon her face.

As I pondered on my next action, I observed that Alatiel's body was surrounded by countless sheets of paper. She might have been a water nymph, asleep on an outsized lily pad, its natural pallor withered by the attention of a merciless sun. Or perhaps the image of a grey slug – glutted, contented, at timeless ease – came to mind more readily. I shivered involuntarily and slowly removed a scrap adjacent to her lank hair.

Matthew left me a heartfelt confession of his folly; he had simply misunderstood the thing he loved. He understood her now but, alas, all too late...I read his last testament in whispered sorrow, for I was certain somehow that these were the words of a dead man.

I could restrain myself no longer, and moved to assault Alatiel. Yet my hand passed through her head and I felt the cold, fresh ink on the paper beneath it. Her mouth opened slowly but a hoarse grunting was the only sound to escape. I saw her, within and without: the mouth, bereft of bloom, lined white skin merely; the inside of her throat, entirely black, the colour of mourning, the colour of night.

In mental torment, I cried out and began to falter. As consciousness started to seep away, I fell against Alatiel, whose form shimmered like a body of water disturbed. She returned to her position of repose; in death or sleep, I know not which. I am unsure if she sleeps as humans do, but if she dreams, the dreams belong to others...

I dreamt: of her unclean kisses, the dull friction of her dry lips upon my body. In the absence of affection, the desire for my possession alone inspired her hateful love-making.

I never truly awakened again. I finally saw her as she really was when she admired her new face and body in the bedroom mirror – Alatiel looked like me. She had taken my life for her own. I was taunted with my own voice and she preened, hands on hips, turning this way and that. I could only watch through the eyes which were once mine. The tears I wept were of laughter, of joy, but all the while I died inside...

She lived, at last.

Steve Jensen said...

Suspense scene from 'The Poison of a Smile':

Within a half-hour, I was home. Out of breath and nearly out of mind, I collapsed and slept for hours, days - I know not which - until the cold gleam of stark moonlight awoke me. I made my way upstairs and, eventually, forced my way into my brother's bedroom, having had no response to my calls and pleas for access. I did not know it at the time, but that very same night Matthew had received Alatiel and ushered her to his room; he had indeed welcomed Death.

Matthew was nowhere to be seen. The creature rested upon his bed, face-down and naked still. I was wary of disturbing her, as then I might have to look upon her face.

As I pondered on my next action, I observed that Alatiel's body was surrounded by countless sheets of paper. She might have been a water nymph, asleep on an outsized lily pad, its natural pallor withered by the attention of a merciless sun. Or perhaps the image of a grey slug – glutted, contented, at timeless ease – came to mind more readily. I shivered involuntarily and slowly removed a scrap adjacent to her lank hair.

Matthew left me a heartfelt confession of his folly; he had simply misunderstood the thing he loved. He understood her now but, alas, all too late...I read his last testament in whispered sorrow, for I was certain somehow that these were the words of a dead man.

I could restrain myself no longer, and moved to assault Alatiel. Yet my hand passed through her head and I felt the cold, fresh ink on the paper beneath it. Her mouth opened slowly but a hoarse grunting was the only sound to escape. I saw her, within and without: the mouth, bereft of bloom, lined white skin merely; the inside of her throat, entirely black, the colour of mourning, the colour of night.

In mental torment, I cried out and began to falter. As consciousness started to seep away, I fell against Alatiel, whose form shimmered like a body of water disturbed. She returned to her position of repose; in death or sleep, I know not which. I am unsure if she sleeps as humans do, but if she dreams, the dreams belong to others...

I dreamt: of her unclean kisses, the dull friction of her dry lips upon my body. In the absence of affection, the desire for my possession alone inspired her hateful love-making.

I never truly awakened again. I finally saw her as she really was when she admired her new face and body in the bedroom mirror – Alatiel looked like me. She had taken my life for her own. I was taunted with my own voice and she preened, hands on hips, turning this way and that. I could only watch through the eyes which were once mine. The tears I wept were of laughter, of joy, but all the while I died inside...

She lived, at last.

Anonymous said...

Declan ballied-up and then scooched behind a bush and listened to the van idling on the car park. The engine died. Thrum of traffic somewhere out there in the night. A man got out of the van and walked towards the unit. Scooping food with his hands from a take-away tray and eating it on the walk. When he reached the door, he sucked his fingers and placed his snap on the ground. Curry. Declan shifted his weight and weighed his man from the shelter of darkness. Flabby middleweight. The man jangled a set of keys in the moonlight, flipped them up and around the ring and plucked out the key he needed and unlocked the door, leaving the keys in the lock. He picked up his snap and shoulder-shunted the door open and went in. The alarm started its countdown. The door slammed.

Declan stood and then tiptoed out into the shadows. His trainers squeaked with each soft step. He waited and listened. Flick of a switch. Light rayed through the space under the door. Four beeps. Alarm code. Declan scanned the night. Blackness and stars and the insouciant moon. Nobody. Stuttering shafts of light speared out into the night through the office window-blinds and settled, illuminating elongated stretches of grass between the unit and the car park. The blinds closed. Darkness.

He shimmied across and planted himself sideways on to the door. Knees slightly bent. Weight coiled back on his right foot. Chin tucked in to his left shoulder. Eyes fixed on the door. Orthodox. He’d measured his man.

When the door opened, the man stooped to remove the keys and presented the left side of his face. Declan’s right ankle twisted and propelled his waist and torso round, unleashing the full force of his welterweight body through a straight right, which snapped out to the backdrop of an exhaled whisht, and smacked the man plum on the jaw. The man’s head thumped the door and his legs buckled. He flopped forward. His skull thwacked the concrete. Declan studied the man for some time. The body lay between the door and the jamb. Prone. Sparko. Dark red blood percolated through the man’s turban into a slow swelling pool.

From the office, a telephone screamed and quietened and screamed.

Declan took the keys from the lock and pocketed them. Then he skipped over the man, turned and, clenching him by his ankles, dragged him into the passageway. The door shut. He let the man’s legs drop. Then he took the keys from his pocket and locked the door.

Declan squatted and reached out his right hand to check the man’s pulse but stopped short. Fuck, he said. He stood and peered through a hatch into the office and thought for a moment. Then he turned and walked down the corridor into the small warehouse looking left and right along the aisles. Pallets of cigarettes stacked floor to ceiling. The lights hummed.

The telephone’s screams shrilled through the warehouse. Shut-the-fuck.

Helen Rina said...

Escape # 59
YA paranormal romance

Please, don’t let the last screw be difficult, I wheedled from my fate. Please. And after I fitted the screwdriver into the ridge and turned it, luck finally favored me—the screw turned eagerly. It might have also helped that I could wiggle it, the rest of the hose unscrewed.

When the screw was one third out of the wall, I sensed Fox. At first I thought I was imagining this. Fox was supposed to be in a detention cell, and there was no way you can escape it. Quite simply, it is a box made out of foot-thick titanium. As for the door, it doesn’t exist. I mean, it does when you enter the cell, but then it welds itself shut so that you wouldn’t pick a lock. The werewolves teach us to pick locks here. For a month you do nothing but pick locks. That’s why the door welds itself on you, and that’s why Fox could not have escaped from the cell.

And yet, there he was, out of the cell and coming, no, running toward the laundry room. He was not alone. Laraine Sorrena was running by his side. At this point I felt so confused it was physically painful. Why Laraine? Sure, there were only thirteen kids at this school, so we were all friends, but Fox and Laraine had never been close. What’s more, I knew for a fact that Laraine slightly despised Fox or at least thought him in the wrong. Not that I had ever been able to sense it in her. Her nerves were ossified, perhaps even atrophied from disuse, for her indifference was legendary. But she had once said for everyone to hear that Fox forgave me too much. She said that I could carve him with a knife, and he’d kiss my knife-holding hand. Fox just shrugged.

“A cut is a small price to pay for happiness,” he said.

What did I do this time that he couldn’t forgive? I threw this thought out. Now was not the time to think about that. I bit my lip and began turning the screwdriver as quickly as I could. Unfortunately, Fox was running faster. He was still a good fifty feet away, but I was already panicking, feeling overwhelmed by his fiery rage. My hands were jumping, and the screwdriver kept slipping off. I cut my wrist on the sharp edge of the hose. At one moment I confused left with right and imagined I was screwing the bolt in rather than out, so I began turning the tool the other way.

At last the screw was out. I yanked at the hose, and it dropped away, revealing a large dark hole. The door slammed open, but I didn’t turn my head—there was no time for this. In passing I thought about my pillowcase bag. It was a that’s-too-bad thought, not the one about grabbing it. The bag was too far away. Head first, I dove into the blackness.

Just then someone grasped my ankle. Okay, not someone. It was Fox. It was his aura right behind me, and it was his voice that echoed down the metal pipe: “You aren’t running away, are you, viper?”

Alex said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
E. Tanguay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
E. Tanguay said...

The Soothsayer
Young Adult

The sun rose reluctantly, hesitantly uncovering the secrets that had hid in the night’s shadows. A deep purple haze lingered behind, blanketing the forest’s interior. Its creatures slowly unleashed a crescendo that swiftly filled the empty air. Night merged into day, leaving only a small reflection of the waxing moon to hang lightly in the lake.

Flora stood alone, along the water’s edge, staring out towards nothing as the lake’s waves gently lapped against its small shore. Her body shook uncontrollably as she gasped for breath in short intervals. She looked around the serene surroundings with panic and began to give up hope. Time was running out.

She fell to her knees into the cold wetness. She began scrubbing the death off her hands, but the water did little to remove the stains that had set in hours before. She grabbed a rock that lay in the shallow water. She scoured her hands, with more effort and vigor, until they were raw. Still death remained.

She stopped in fear. A resonance that didn’t belong seemed to be close to the forest’s edge as a bitter wind blew across the water’s surface. She sobbed silently, trying to control her sounds as she stumbled to get up. To once again flee the nightmare that she had tried to escape earlier, but her legs weren’t willing to cooperate. The pain was too intense and powerful. She started to crawl, to try to do anything to get away from what approached her.

She pulled herself up, but she was moving too slow. There was no way she could not out run the beast that prowled inside the shadows. She faced the forest, as the fog intertwined through pines, crawling along the fern covering. She stood waiting, surrendering to death.

The figure emerged from the forests depths revealing itself to her.

Dawn had begun.

selfavowedgeek said...

Title: Footpaths of Small Town Gods
By Berrien C. Henderson

. . . Ahead of them, a patch of shadow detached itself and rippled onto the path about twenty yards away. The thing crouched and shuddered and billowed like wind-touched silk sheets. Feeling grabbed her arm and ushered her back behind some azalea hedges. The thing hadn’t noticed them, and there really wasn’t anyone else around. A snuffling sound as it sniffed the air, turned part-way toward their location, then back around. Up at the trees.

In Feeling’s mind, he looped words, found associations and patterns and merged their thought-forms into protective chimeras, and for a moment the leaden sensation of the pouch surrendered the old familiar warmth. Security. The feedback loop of glamour he’d discovered within himself in Dun Sciath in Sidhe and even here at home when he’d met the witch again after so many years. Then the heaviness returned along with a maddening memory-image of the chthonic beast that nearly sent him into a fugue of anxiety, and he felt his grip on the glamour slip a cog.

“I’m scared, Feeling,” said Gabrielle as they eased behind a hedge bush to hide.

Feeling didn’t answer. Movement flicked in some tree limbs between them and the creature, which now sprouted a set of wings. Oh, my hells no, thought Feeling, growing cold as he watched the night-goer morphing into its true form.

Then three more leaped among the trees, and onetwothree came the heavy waves through his body as he worked to open himself to the glamour again. Nearby he felt Gabrielle’s trembling, and he reached for her hand and squeezed.

“Be cool,” said Feeling.

Somehow, Gabrielle’s ashen look didn’t scream confidence or reassurance.

A screech.

A hoot.

A jibbering convocation of these little Mockers.

Gabrielle and Feeling watched it all. For several quiet, tense minutes, they stayed put. Feeling motioned for Gabby to follow. As they eased to take another way out, she screamed.

No time to react.

The night-goers discovered the couple and cut off their egress.

“You saw,” said one.

Another said, “The boy smells new and old. He knows much, I suspect.”

Yet another said, “We will tear you to shreds and take our sweet time with her.”

Gabrielle vomited. The night-goers jumped back, and Feeling took advantage of their startlement. Blue-black flames licked around his hands as he rushed forward. He had pulled the only weapon he had--the lock back knife--and sent glamour to it. He barreled into them, and the night-goers swirled and flapped and slashed at him. He sent waves of glamour at them and cut and thrust for all he was worth. Their viscous blood splattered the ground and splattered him. The scent of charred flesh and crisped feathers roiled in the humid night air. But for the crisps and pops and Feeling’s grunts, all was silent.

One night-goer hovered, dripping his ur-blood. His brethren lay dead. It wheezed.

“One day, all come, boy.”

“How ‘bout you come on back yourself,” said Feeling. “We’ll test your little theory.” . . .

C. Bell said...

A champagne flute hit the polished marble with conversation stopping suddenness and all the energy giants, oil tycoons and Houston socialites turned to see what happened.

I FOUND YOUR HOUSE.

Blindsided, Judge Haley Mabry froze mid-conversation and stared at the text message on her screen.
Without warning all the attendees of the black tie fundraiser watched Haley sprint from the River Oaks mansion in her black Oscar de la Renta.

A typical summer flash flood crippled her cell phone service and Haley couldn’t reach HPD.
Hard rain pelted the windows of her black Mercedes and the tires labored through the high water of old oak lined streets. Haley sped toward the entrance to the freeway. Through the deluge she saw a flashing yellow lights and a road sign that read, Closed for construction. Haley hit her steering wheel in frustration.
“Why did the city choose this weekend to work on the busiest interchange in town?”

Her cell phone chirped. She had another message.

SOMEONE LEFT THE DOOR OPEN.

The text paralyzed Haley’s breathing. She tried calling the police again without connecting. “Damned Verizon!” She kept trying. “Please be a joke; please be just some crazy nut with nothing better to do.” The phone chirped a moment later.

DON’T YOU HAVE A DAUGHTER?

Pure fear settled in the pit of Haley’s stomach. This wasn’t a joke. This was real. She floored it. Going 80 mph through midtown was neither smart nor safe but it might be the only way to find a cop. Haley prayed one noticed she just ran eight red lights.

Haley turned into her West U driveway. With her car still running she threw it into park. Every light in her house was on. Someone was in her house. Someone was looking for Macy.

Her phone chirped again. It was the last text message.

I GOT WHAT I CAME FOR.

Aneeka said...

Flash fiction - science fiction. Title: Thirteen seconds.

Thirteen seconds. The love of my life is right in front of me. Twelve seconds. She lies, imprisoned and bound, on that great enemy ship. Eleven seconds. They had been quick, stealing her away. Ten seconds. Never knowing of the tracker I'd sealed in her skin. Nine seconds. But why is she on the main ship? The fools! Eight seconds. They haven't detected us yet. Seven seconds. One shot and this war will finally end. Six seconds. But so will her life. Five seconds. Everyone is looking at me. Four seconds. Wondering why I'm hesitating. Three seconds. Thousands of lives or her. Two seconds. I can't decide! Don't make me decide! One second.

Jane, forgive me.

Andrea -The Blogging Literary Mama said...

The dark shadowed her movements as Holly walked resolutely towards the edge. The wind, cold and wet, blew her straight black hair around her face. Strands whipped into her eyes and she pushed them back uselessly. The salty tears mixed with the rain as they ran down her face. In her black silk dress and red leather boots, the cold cut her to the quick. But her goal tonight would not be deterred.

At the small wall that ran around the roof she paused. The images in her mind assaulted her; the silver tie on the white carpet, the discarded shirt. A single gold stiletto sat on its side hidden under the bed as if kicked off in a fit of passion.

Holly placed one hand on the small wall in front of her and placed her foot on top. The twinkling lights of New Year’s Eve sparkled down below. The last day of December was a turning point. It was the time for a new beginning. Or an ending. She stood now, unsteady but determined, poised for fate’s hand to set her free.

The images weren’t the only things fogging her brain tonight. The sounds sent her stomach churning in revolt and she grabbed onto the rail of the fire escape next to her. She could hear them as clearly now as when she had been frozen outside her own bedroom door.

“I love you Kim.”
“I want only you forever.”

The other sounds, the ones she’d buried deep inside, would remain there. If they came forward now she’d take the final step to her destiny. She needed a few more minutes because once she did take that step there was no going back.

The faces of her children swam before her and instantly her eyes overflowed; this time with love instead of pain. Two cherub angels, they were too little to know what their father had destroyed. He had destroyed all their lives.

Charismatic and handsome; cunning and manipulative; intelligent and warm - they all described Conner Fairchild. The day he had slept with Kim, likely one of hundreds of times Holly reflected, he stopped being her husband and became a man she no longer knew.

Holly let go of the railing. “If you do this, he wins,” she thought.

Her father’s voice answered in her head. “You’re a strong woman Holly Martin. For your children, you have to survive.”

“How do I do this alone, dad? He betrayed me.”

“You’re not alone. I’m here.” She could get down from this rooftop and go home and hug her children. This didn’t have to be the end. Her mind decided again.

“Holly! NO!” Conner screamed running towards her. Startled Holly turned towards him. The heel of her boot slipped and before she could right her balance she felt herself fall over the edge. Her mind cleared as the pavement rushed up to meet her. She hoped her children would remember that she loved them.

More than her own life.

authorsanon said...

Thud, thud, thud and . . .slam the door behind, lock it, stop that panting, stop it, they’ll hear you . . .breath slowly, and stop that pounding sound in your rib cage, please, please, they’ll hear that too . . .
Listening now, getting the breathing down a fraction . . .silence ? No – there it is again. That shuffling, it’s speeding up now – quick, where else is good to hide – not the cupboard in the corner, nor the great chest – it’s either the other door opposite or the window.
Door first – won’t open. Must be locked from the other side. And the shuffling has turned to footsteps on the stairs, there’s the whispering again, quick, quick , think – the window : scrabble at the frame, the handles, pull, pull, damn you, before they reach the landing . . .won’t budge – panic panic – stop panicking – and panting – they may be sightless but their hearing is practically radar – what’s this ? An old rusty nail, one of the long ones left by a workman – still a sharp point, in with it, scrape and scratch away at the dried paint, try shaking –No, they’ll hear that as well . . try again . . and quickly now, because they’ve reached the landing . . . the shuffling and footsteps have stopped, only to be replaced by sniffing. That loud sniffing which had first indicated their presence . . .
Frantically scrabbling at the window frame now, try again and yes – it shifts up a crack. Good – now again and up it goes with a horrendous screech, years of disuse having virtually soldered it to its fra- That’s bad. They’ve heard it and the stumbling footsteps are moving up the stairs to your floor now with increasing intent, surely they have already worked out which room you have run to - No time to think, only to do – get a leg up, through the narrow space, try to fit the rest of you, the window is not very narrow, but you have to force it up and it just doesn’t want to, it’s actually digging into your back, hitting a nerve with excruciating precision, and this time you can’t help letting out a yelp – which is all they need.
Thump they go at the door, scrabbling and scratching, looking for a way in, you are tearing skin off your back in a mad frenzy to be gone, mindless of the drop beneath, the broken paving, shards of glass and pottery, debris . . .
The house will not let you go willingly, however; and nor will they, you can see the door about to give way under the incessant thumping and general weight, trembling, shaking, the hinges beginning to go – shove, push, get out of it – door’s creaking now –
Free. You hope. The old drainpipe you’re clinging to isn’t going to hold out long– though whether they can follow you down . . . .it’s leaving its moorings already . . .

Deniz Bevan said...

Great contest idea Nathan!
Here's mine from my untitled snip, set in Spain, 1492, where Rose is creating a diversion in order to help her family escape the Inquisition:
She edged as close to the field as she dared, sliding her feet one by one across the matted layer of wet leaves. She stopped with one foot actually on the grassy verge, crushing a fragrant clump of stray [mint], peering from one corner of the manor to the other, straining to recognise Arcturus’ face in the fireglow. If the flames did not reach the house at all, they would never have a chance to run with Tante Rita and the others.
No one among the inquisitors besides Armando and the two men who had brought her there would recognise her. If she could pass among them pretending to be a woman from the town... yet everyone, regardless of whether they had seen her before or not, would remark on her tattered clothing, her unkempt hair, and if they called attention to her outlandish nature, appearing at that hour of the night, then the entire endeavour – and Arcturus – would be exposed. Unless...
Rose whipped around and plunged into the trees, heedless of the noise she made as she crashed through the limbs and branches of trees in her way. She followed the line of the field until she came to the nearest burning shrub, then yanked off her shawl and laid it on the flames. As soon as the fire was well and truly caught she tugged the shawl off the snagging thorns – sparing a passing regret for the loss of her mother’s delicate embroidery – and, holding up the burning cloth high above her head, ran screaming out of the forest.
“Help! Help! Fire! I’m on fire!”
She ran across the field, careening slightly to left and right in order to seem truly dazed, and plunged in among the bucket brigade.
“Help!” She yelled in the ear of one startled man, and before he could grab her, to offer whatever help he might have thought of, she slipped out of the line and ran toward the huddle behind the house, lashing her shawl about her as she went, so that dry stalks and hanging herb clusters caught the sparks, and flames began to lick slowly up the trellises along the walls.
“Help! Help!” She yelled, standing between Arcturus and Tante Rita. Armando was on the other side of the group, staring at her with a puzzled frown. Afraid he would recognise her at any moment, Rose threw the shawl as hard as she could, considering she had only two flame-free corners left to hold onto, directly at him. The flaming cloth landed at his feet.

A.C. Penn said...

Tom returned to the front to greet the newcomer, a small, burly man dressed in a flannel shirt despite the hot weather. “Hi, Leonard. What can I get you?”

“I want what Ben has in his hand. Isn’t that for children -- for a fever?”

“That’s the last I have, Leonard. Is one of your kids sick?”

“It’s Molly. She has a high fever and a rash. I’m worried about smallpox.”

Ben walked over to where the men were standing. “Leonard.” He nodded to the newcomer, who had earned a reputation as a hothead when he had roughed up a teenage umpire during a little league baseball game the previous summer. “I’m sorry to hear about your little girl. This is my granddaughter, Jessica. She’s running a high fever as well. Maybe Tom could split this bottle for us to share. Just until more supplies come in.”

“I need that bottle,” Barry said. “I went to the hospital. They don’t have any more of that stuff. Told me to split an adult aspirin into pieces. Molly won’t take a pill. Says her throat hurts too much.”

“I know how stubborn kids can be. Have you tried crushing the pill and mixing it with applesauce or yogurt? Your wife might be able to convince Molly to take that.”

“Look, Ben. Don’t argue with me. Just give me the bottle, man.”

“I’ll give it to Tom. He can give each of us half the bottle.”

“I don’t want half. I want it all,” Leonard shouted as he stomped out the door.

“He’s upset, Ben.” The pharmacist walked over to a shelf and rearranged some containers. “His wife’s sick as well -- probably afraid his whole family’s going to die. Could you just give him the bottle and use the crushed up pills yourself?”

“I suppose.”

“That would be very gracious of you, Ben. I don’t know what’s gotten into him. Worry, I guess. What with everything that’s been going on.”

Jessica whimpered and clung to Ben’s neck. “Poppie, let’s go.”

“We are sweetheart. In just a minute. Let me give this bottle back to Mr. Rhineholdt. Then we’ll see if he has any ice cream for you and Michael.”

Just as Ben started to walk over to Tom, Leonard burst threw the door. His sleeves were rolled up and he held a shotgun that he pointed at Ben.
“I want that bottle now, Ben.” The man’s voice shook and sweat dripped from his face.

Harold said...

Harold says:
action sequence:

The youth with the bright red hair standing in front of the bench said, “Okay you had your chance.”
The youth reached inside his jacket and brought out his knife.
Put it away,” ordered the tall one but the order came too late.
“Hey old man, you don’t really think that your mutt there is really going to stop us,” said the red haired youth.
Whether it was the surprise attraction of the blade or the sudden bravado move of the red-haired youth, Abel let go of the leash and Blacky leaped and attacked the red-haired lad who instantly defended himself by trying to stab the dog.
The red-haired youth’s knife flew out of his hand and onto the ground.
A few minutes later Blacky lay on the paved trail, with blood pouring out of his stomach area. The short blond one leaned over him. He quickly came to the aid of his red-haired comrade, jabbed his knife into Blacky’s stomach causing the dog to instantly let go of his teeth grip on his friend’s wrist at the same time that the red-haired boy’s knife flew into the air. The short blond one now continuously stabbed the dog wherever he could put the blade of his knife.
“You punks! You punks!” screamed Abel who abruptly stood up and kicked the blond-haired boy somewhere on his body causing him to fall down. He watched the blood ooze out of his mouth.
“Get him! Get him now! Get him!” screeched the red-haired one as he held his wrist.
Then Abel felt the pounding fists hitting his stomach as the tall lad started administering blow after blow. Abel bent over in pain. As he did this, the tall one punched three good ones into his face. Hitting his left eye, breaking his nose, and his cheek bone. Abel fell over and hit the ground.
“What’d you do dat for? Huh? Man! Sometimes you just don’t think! Do ya?” shouted the tall one as he went into a tirade to the blond-hair lad. “I had my brass knucks on. I was doin’ just fine. You didn’t have to use that knife.”
All three looked at Abel lying still with the red-haired youth’s knife sticking out of his chest.
“Here! Wrap this around your wrist,” ordered the tall one as he handed the teary-eyed red-haired youth his handkerchief. He looked over at the blond one, sitting on the ground, on the verge of tears, and told him “Suck it up. Suck it up now.” Blood was still dripping from his nose.
“My face hurts. He really nailed me.”
“Shut up and somebody help me tie this around my wrist,” said the red-haired one. He tried the best he could to wrap his wrist. “Damn dog bit me! It hurts! Damn it!”
“Be quiet. You want to attract company? Listen up. Let me check something and then we must get out of here. Make sure we got all our knives? “

Anonymous said...

Opening from—“Scars of the Prophet”—Political Thriller:

I cashed in my ticket and caught a cab from the airport to the Vegas strip where the neon haze lit the desert wasteland like an obscene cruise ship without water. The sidewalk was littered with the lesser fools in life, moving about the filth yelling and peddling forbidden wares that ranged from female flesh to drugs. I got a room at the Days Inn just off the main Sin City drag and sat in a chair watching the world through my peepshow window, it becomes a habit and you cannot explain the reason why.
You never notice the changes. They grow inside you and become defining traits and yet your view of the world hasn’t seemed to change. They mark you and those marks are eternal. The people that are closest to you are the first ones who will look at you differently. You catch their wary glances when they think you are not watching. But that’s just it, you are always watching. It has become you and it always will be.

When you go to a restaurant, you find the table in the corner, close to the back exit. You seek this spot out without thought but from that position, you can see everyone that comes and goes. It’s never a conscious act, it just happens.

When you enter or exit a building, even your own home, you give a quick scan to secure the area. Your wife asks you if you forgot something when you do your little security sweep. All you reply is, “Nope” because you can’t explain it yourself. It’s automatic. It’s embarrassing.

You find yourself checking locked doors a second or even a third time. You look at familiar surroundings as if for the first time. Common sounds that you’ve never noticed before give you pause: Deaf ticks of a clock in a lifeless room, bumps and thumps alert you and put you on guard.

You never take the same route on consecutive days, even to daily destinations. Your commute to work, your trip to a friend’s or relative’s house seem meandering and if someone is with you and asks why you are going a different way, you shrug and offer some obscure reason. But they are all bullshit. You can even fool yourself sometimes. Until a smell or a face or a feeling brings it all back and you remember the things that have forged the ‘new you’ and you feel a tightness in your chest because you want the ‘old you’ back. Even for an instant—just one fleeting moment of peace. Just one.

You want the old security. You want the old innocence. You look into a mirror and sometimes don’t quite recognize the stranger looking back and you wonder when it changed as if it were a single event or incident that brought about this transformation.

You never answer the phone on the first ring and whenever it rings, it startles you.

You look everyone in the eyes but it’s more than just being polite. It’s probing, looking for a change, misdirection, deceit. People can’t help but break eye contact with you because at some instinctual level, they feel you are dangerous. And you are.

You are always armed because you have become a weapon.

Massey

A. Lockwood said...

The bird woman waits in the pines, sitting in the boughs, hidden behind the browning needles of the trees. Greta knows she's there, somewhere high, perched on a branch. Greta dares not make a sound or catch the eye of Lady Rook.

Black ants scurry across her toes, hurrying to feast on the candy trail that twists along the forest floor. Follow the candy crumbs, Greta, follow them home. Home to the orphanage where Hammy waits.

She hears the cry of a raven, just above her head, and then he flies. She is alone, perhaps, but for the bird lady, who has not seen her yet.

Greta ghosts between two trees, the candy trail always in sight (blackened now with the ants roiling over it). She flows from one place to another—flee, Greta, flee—oh, how she must maintain that fluidity or risk the notice of the darkwings.

A rustle in the undergrowth, there!—in the nook that Greta just left. One of the white-eye children crawls to the trail. He looks just like Hammy, the first time you gave him bread from your own plate. He paws at the ground, searching with his hands for what his eyes can't see. He finds the ant trail and grabs an indiscriminate handful of ants and earth and sticky, decaying candy. Clumsy fist moves to mouth, and he feeds; dirty streaks now cover his pale chin.

The birds do not come for him. He is already theirs.

Greta is light on her feet, ears open for the whisper of the Rook's wings. She melds from shadow into shadow.

The air stirs, and a heavy weight hanging from a branch begins its pendulous swinging. It is a man on the end of a noose, dressed in the red, white and black of a Santa suit. His bag hangs open. Full of toys? No, more candy, and there are flies droning over it.

Greta ducks past. The candy trail winds away, down into a thicket of briars. Careful now, Greta. A restless crow screams from a nearby holly, and Greta thinks she has been seen. She closes her eyes against the fear of the birds and the sharp harassment of their beaks and claws. But the cuts never come; she is still undiscovered.

The briars resist, unimpressed by Greta's efforts to peel them gently out of her path. A coil of thorns pulls out of her grip and whips against her shoulder. Greta swallows and waits, but the scratch is too shallow to draw blood.

Her relief comes too soon. She is distracted from her caution, and a thorn rips across her bare ankle as she takes another step.

Caw, caw! the blackbird cries. Blood, blood! A flock of ravens erupts from the elder tree where the birds have roosted unseen.

And there, the rasping sound, the screech of the Rook. The bird lady has heard, now swiftly she comes. Greta hears the flap of the bird lady's wings calling her name.

Deb Smythe said...

Title: A Sinning Word

The rope pulled, bristles sawing his palm something fierce. He looked back. Girl had dug her heels in at the door. Didn't like the shed, he reckoned. Didn't like God's sunlight cut into dusty strips, maybe. Didn't like the blood, certain.

A pair of fresh-caught conies dangled from a ceiling hook. But her eyes were on the wall, on the blood, gone to black and spread like demon wings.

He hung his head. "I scrub the wall, every time. It don't come out."

A sinning word burst from her lips.

"Shouldn't spew such," he warned, quick pulling her into the shed. "Sir'll beat ya."

She laughed. The sound minded him of wood chimes. The sound made him rub his chest.

A sharp tug on the rope shut her up. "Why'd you laugh?"

"Just wondering if he's going to beat me before or after he kills me?"

"And that's funny?"

"No." She blew out a breath. "I'm Sky, by the way."

Sky.

"You?"

"Boy."

"Shit."

"That's a sinning word, a hitting word."

"Yeah, I figured. So, what? He's going to beat me, then kill me?"

"Nah. He ain't gonna kill ya." Sky.

She blinked once and slow. "He's not?" Kinda tired, her eyes, kinda nice…

She shifted. And a slat of sunlight dusted his birthday present. A slat of God's light.

Shoulders back then, reach and grip, tight, tight, sure and tight. "Nah," he told her. "Sir ain't gonna kill ya." The birthday knife slid easy from its sheath. "I am."

"Hey! You don't have to do this." Her Adam's apple bounced like she'd swallowed a tobacco-wad but she didn't pull back. Voice didn't shake neither, not even a smidge.

Wrong. He was doing this wrong. Sir'd punish him, certain. "Sit." Knuckles tight-aching on the hilt, he jabbed the blade toward the wall, toward the devil's stain.

"Please." Breath like butterfly wings on his cheek, breath like sun fire. "You could let me go."

"Go?"

"Both of us." She brushed her girl hands, still bound good and proper, over his arms, over his punishment marks. "We could both go."

Wind chimes in her voice. That hollow in his chest again.

"He'd track us. Find us." A too-quick turn, and his shoulder knocked her to praying. He looked down, met her eyes. "Sky."

#

Sir glanced up, a chunk of venison on his fork. "Did it eh?" He snorted, nose back in the stew. "Next time, clean your knife straight away. You drip on the floor, you'll lick it clean. Got it?"

Boy leaned in. "Yes, Sir." He nodded. Then taking up a napkin, he wiped the mix of Sir's blood and coney blood from the knife. Every drop.

Kaitlyne said...

Something pressed hard against her head, and for a second she didn’t know what it was. She opened her mouth to ask, then she knew.

He leaned in, lips brushing her ear as he spoke.

"If you say one word to signal them, I will put a bullet in your brain before they even have a chance to think about kicking that door down."

She didn’t move, wasn’t sure she could. He went for her pocket with intent. When the first was empty, he tried the second.

She wished she had turned it off, that she could tell him it was just an mp3 player, but he knew better. He knew exactly what he was looking for. He pulled it out and gave it a wry grin before pressing the power button. The screen went dark.

"Do you really think that won’t tip them off?" she said.

He tugged the jacket from her shoulders. "I figure it’ll take them a minute or two to decide something’s gone wrong and you didn’t do that yourself, don’t you?"

The sickening part was he was right. Were they even ready? How much time had passed?

He threw the jacket to the bed. The gun was loose in his hand, but she suspected he could be fast if he wanted to. It’s okay. They’re coming for you. The entire building is surrounded and they’re coming for you.

"Shoes. Take off your shoes."

She hesitated, and he started to raise the weapon. The black metal glinted in the lamplight. She didn’t bother with the laces.

Then he patted her down for real, hands unforgiving. He stopped on the watch, considered it, then pulled it from her wrist and threw it to the bed.

"Is there anything else?"

She shook her head.

"I swear, I will strip search you and do a full body cavity search if I think you’re lying. Now is there. Anything. Else."

He spoke through clenched teeth, low but stern. His fingers were wrapped tight around the gun, so familiar. Weaver’s words came back to her. He was unpredictable. Who knew what he might do?

"No," she said. "That’s it."

He didn’t even try to hide the doubt this time, but the answer must have satisfied him. The gun stayed on her as he tossed the computer into his duffel bag.

"This is pointless," she said. "There’s a SWAT team down there. FBI, police, you name it. The entire building’s surrounded."

He pulled the chair to the center of the room and stood on it. The gun’s sights never left her.

"You say that like I’m planning to leave through the front door."

Debbie said...

Out on the streets, the atmosphere was tense. At the main Palace gates, there were mobs of angry people and somebody had thrown a burning torch through the railings. The gate Guards were doing their best but it wasn’t hard to see that they were finding it difficult both to retain control and avoid sympathising too much with the rabble. Deeper in the city, there were houses on fire and anxious faces peering out from the top windows of boarded-up houses.

“Some people,” observed Jale’s escort, “will use any excuse for a brawl.” Without hesitation, he waded into the middle of a fight outside a shop and physically pulled apart the two men in the middle. “Go home,” he ordered them both, dodging a fist. “If you’re still here in ten, I’ll arrest you myself.”

“Says who?” One of the men spat a bloody tooth into the gutter.

“Says me.” He raised his eyebrows at Jale, then turned back almost casually, caught the arm raised against him and with the other hand, smashed his fist into the man’s nose. He shoved the man away.

“So where are going, Cala?” The incident was already forgotten.

“A church …” He wasn’t exactly sure where. It had been so long since he walked freely in Ariathen. Things had changed; there were new buildings, reclaimed shops that he was sure had been derelict in his childhood, and he’d never been a church-goer. Incense, stained glass and a religion that wasn’t big on tolerance had been the driving force behind the Cala’s exile and Jale could well believe they were ready for a second shot at appeasing their Gods.

“A church.” The man turned to his companion. “Well that narrows it down, doesn’t it? Any particular church?” he added to Jale, “or shall we just embark on an ecclesiastical journey of self-discovery?”

Jale didn’t reply. If these were the people entrusted with his safety, how much did the general population of Ariathen hate his kind? He searched for Jereth again in his mind, tried to pick up more of a location.

“Where’s the cathedral?” he asked after a moment. “Do they still use incense?”

The two militia glanced at each other. “Delusions of grandeur,” said the fighter. “But hell, let’s start at the top, why not?”

debbie.bennett4@btinternet.com

Shauna said...

A female voice from inside the coach cried, “Save me, Lord. Jesus!”

Ortega doubled over, laughing. He whistled in the direction of our hidden wagon.

Paolo strolled into the carnage, an actor taking his cue—enter stage left. Orlando kept the injured stagecoach driver, still squirming, in his gun sight as his twin placed dismounting stairs under the door. He beckoned to the passengers. “Get out.”

Paolo ambled over and inspected the burgundy interior of the coach. A reedy man in a tailored broadcloth suit stepped out, head trickling blood and shaking hands raised in submission.

“Stand there,” Paolo said, pointing to the side of the road.

The screaming woman, momentarily subdued, came next. She had probably once appeared as fashionable as the man, but now she was a quivering mess. At the door of the coach, she took in the shotgun driver—dead, already gathering flies—and the stagecoach driver—bloodied, writhing; her body began to fold. Leaning against the doorframe, she looked at the rest of her audience.

“Dear God,” she gasped, blanching, “Paolo Diaz.”

Paolo bid me to come with a simple jerk of his head. I had hoped to be forgotten, crouched in my hiding place behind the bushes. But, I knew I couldn’t show any hesitation to participate in the robbery. I attempted to mimic Paolo’s casual strut onto the scene though my legs responded like boiled noodles. Death keens of the horse haunted the air.

Paolo jabbed his forefinger at the couple. “Get their money and jewels.”

I resisted a temptation to fidget with my bandana, staring at the passengers as they threw their baubles into my outstretched gunnysack. If they looked, I hoped they would see a kindred victim, but neither one accepted my eye contact.

“Come on, come on,” I rattled the bag, “don’t hold nothin’ back.”

Orlando, Paolo and the wagon drivers had retrieved the strong box and struggled by with their burden. Ortega stood apart, his gun and menacing eyes sweeping.

The passengers stared at the stagecoach driver, moaning and clutching his battered body, and shrank into each other. The twins bound and gagged all three.

Paolo regarded me. “Kill them.”

“What?” The air seemed heavy and empty at the same time.

“She said my name. They all need to die.”

The woman’s eyes were huge, pleading. All three prisoners raged against their gags. One of the twins turned, his gun trained on me, the other scanned the horizon. I would only have one chance. My aim had to be perfect. Once I shot Paolo, I would be murdered in turn. This was not the way I had intended to get my revenge against him. But, it would all be over in a minute or two. Unfortunately, I doubted my death would save the couple and the driver.

I raised my gun, pointing it at the woman. Paolo couldn’t know, until hit, that my one bullet was meant for him.

Luke said...

Iron Mike loomed over the table. “I know some guys, Boss; some real busters. We could take care of those mics tonight.”

Mr. Canidou leaned back in his chair and raised a pink hand. “I want the sitters out, and I want the scabs in by Monday. I don’t want to know how…”

That night Iron Mike and seven others came through the main gate to Canidou Crane Manufacture, carrying an eight-foot log with railroad spikes driven in for handles. The windows of the factory were glowing and someone looked out, then disappeared.

“Yeah, that’s right. Tea time is over,” Iron Mike roared. Swinging the ram, they plowed through the big doors. Just after the doors burst wide, someone chucked a bottle, and the concrete floor around them exploded into flames. The busters dropped their log and scattered. Iron Mike jumped back, swore and stamped out the flame on his pant leg. Then he pulled a crowbar out of his belt. He saw a few mics by the rolling press, and took off in their direction. One of them ran when they saw the giant man with the crowbar, but two stayed back, nervously holding their hammers. Mike cocked back like Mickey Mantle at the plate when he turned the corner of the rolling press, and swung for the first sitter’s head. Mike connected with his jaw, and it shattered like a teacup, but the second man brought his hammer down on Mike’s arm, and Mike swore and dropped the crowbar. It rattled on the floor. He turned to face his attacker and sidestepped another swing. The man was at least a foot shorter than Mike, and half as wide.

“You could run away,” Mike offered. The sitter swung his hammer again. Iron Mike caught it by the shaft and ripped it out of his grasp, then punched him hard in the gut. The man fell to his knees and Mike brought the hammer down on his head.

“Could have run away,” Mike murmured and turned to look back out over the factory floor. Two busters were beating someone with a chain. A mic with a baseball bat was standing on a half-assembled crane shaft, trying to fend off a buster who was swinging sledge. The fire by the entrance had almost burned itself out, and the log was still lying there, smoldering.

A buster came flying down from the second floor. Mike could hear bones crack as he landed. Mike tore up the stairs just in time to see Clawhammer Dave chucking another buster over the wrought iron railing.

“Dave!?” Mike roared.

Dave stopped. “Mike?”

“I didn’t know you were sitting in.”

“Sally didn’t tell you?”

Mike laughed. “No.”

Clawhammer Dave leaned back against a welding station and folded his arms. “My own brother-in-law; trying to kill me.”

Iron Mike walked up to the railing and shouted loud enough to be heard over the violence below. “Pack it up, Boys. Put those doors back up. We’re sitting now.”

kdrausin said...

Amelia rested her head against the window and watched the drops of rain slither down the glass until they disappeared. Occasionally, the trail of two or three raindrops would join together like tributaries of a river, and flow out of sight. She closed her eyes and listened to the hum of the old station wagon.
Suddenly she felt herself spinning in circles. Greg was screaming “Grandma stop the car! Stop the car!” Lightning flashed.
Amelia opened her eyes. She was dizzy. Fear gripped her. They were spinning so fast her neck couldn’t lift her head off the window. Amelia’s body was pressed against her seat-she couldn’t move. Faster, faster the car spun out of control. Greg yelled again. “Grandma make it stop! Hit the brakes!” She forced her arms up to the ceiling of the wagon to try and brace herself. She pushed against the ceiling and moved her head upright to try and see out the front windshield. The cooler slammed into her ribs and then flew back towards Greg. Her wheelchair crashed down on top of the cooler. Greg screamed.
“Grandma what’s happening?! Stop the car! Greg’s hurt….Grandma stop!” Amelia saw Grandma K. frantically turning the steering wheel to the left and to the right. Something huge and dark was on the hood of the car. Eyes the size of a human head were peering at her through the windshield. She tried to scream but terror shot through her veins and only a trickle of voiceless air escaped.
She dropped her arms. Her head rolled uncontrollably from side to back to other side. She swallowed, trying not to throw up. Tires squealed, thunder crashed, with each flash of light Amelia squinted, trying to see if the thing was still staring at her or if it was her imagination. Something was there….breathe. Lightning flashed… long oval yellow eyes with a cross of red in the center. Amelia gripped the door handle. Lightning flashed… sharp pointed fangs, extending down from its piercing gaze. Her heart raced. Lightning flashed… black wings with gold stripes that covered the hood and disappeared down the sides of the wagon. Lightning flashed… whispers echoing between roars of distant thunder, “The end has come….The end has come.” Grandma K. was shouting. It made no sense. “Siete deboli. Sono Forte!”
Amelia lowered her head, and covered her ears. Terror strangled her like a vine, it hurt to breathe. She didn’t want to die. Stop….please stop.
A loud crash and a sudden jolt sent Amelia’s body and the cooler flying forward, her seatbelt tightened and slammed her back into her seat. The cooler smashed through the windshield. She covered her face as shards of glass exploded through the air. Everything was still. Rain pummeled the roof. Her hands shook uncontrollably. Something wet was dripping down her face but she couldn’t tell if it was blood or tears. Was that thing still out there? Was it waiting for her? She peeked through her fingertips.

aryllian said...

test

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