Nathan Bransford, Author


Monday, January 24, 2011

The 4th Sort-of-Annual Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge

It's time of the granddaddy of them all, our sort-of-annual first paragraph challenge! Will your paragraph wow the masses? Do you have the first paragraph to end all first paragraphs?

We shall soon find out.

Let's get to the good stuff. THE PRIZES!

The ULTIMATE GRAND PRIZE WINNER of the SUFPC will win:

1) The opportunity to have a partial manuscript considered by my utterly fantastic agent, Catherine Drayton of InkWell, whose clients include bestselling authors such as Markus Zusak (The Book Thief), John Flanagan (The Ranger's Apprentice series) and Becca Fitzpatrick (Hush Hush), among others.

2) A signed advance copy of my novel, JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW, which is coming out in May:



3) The pride of knowing your paragraph was like the platonic ideal of first paragraphs it was so awesome.

The FABULOUS RUNNERS UP will receive the satisfaction of knowing that they were among the very best, as well as a query critique from yours truly.

There may also be honorable mentions, where still more satisfaction will be had.

So! Here's how this works. Please read these rules carefully:

a) This is a for-fun contest. Rules may be adjusted without notice, but this one will always remain: please don't take the contest overly seriously. This is for fun. Yes, the grand prize is awesome and I would have kidnapped a baby koala bear to have my manuscript considered by Catherine Drayton without so much as a query, but don't let that detract from the for-funness of the contest. For fun. Seriously.

b) Please post the first paragraph of any work-in-progress in the comments section of THIS POST. Please do not e-mail me your submission. The deadline for entry is THURSDAY 4pm Pacific time, at which point entries will be closed. Finalists will be announced.... sometime after that. (Possibly Friday, possibly the following Monday, possibly the year 2032 but probably not the year 2032). When the finalists are announced you will exercise your democratic rights to vote for a stupendously ultimate winner.

c) Please please check and double-check and triple-check your entry before posting. But if you spot an error after posting: please do not re-post your entry. 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.

d) You may enter once, once you may enter, and enter once you may. If you post anonymously, make sure you leave your name.

e) Spreading word about the contest is strongly encouraged.

f) I will be sole judge of the finalists. You the people will be the sole judge of the ultimate winner.

g) I am not imposing a word count on the paragraphs. However, a paragraph that is overly long may lose points in the judge's eyes. Use your own discretion.

h) Please remember that the paragraph needs to be a paragraph, not multiple paragraphs masquerading as one paragraph.

i) You must be at least 14 years old and less than 147 years old to enter. No exceptions.

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

That is all.

GOOD LUCK! May the best paragraph win and may it be rather awesome.






1515 comments:

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Aerin said...

No one was having fun at Apple's birthday party. I could tell, looking around, that the herd of 6 year olds gathered on the back lawn wished they could shed their formal clothes and run down to the lake or over to the city-sized playground or anywhere else they didn't feel like decoys their parents for predators. The birthday girl herself looked neither miserable nor particularly enchanted. She rested her rosy chin on one little manicured hand, her eyes darting from table to table where her classmates sat and squirmed and tried not to spill Italian soda on the white tablecloths.

Suzanne Dritschilo said...

The free immigration lawyer has been worth about as much as we paid for her. She always talks down to me and seems in a rush to be somewhere else; always looking sideways at the cracked, grey door, trying to glance at her watch without us noticing. These last couple of visits, she hasn’t even tried to hide it anymore. She doesn’t want to be here. She doesn’t want to have to waste her precious time and all her precious smarts talking with a kid and her illegal immigrant mother. God forbid she actually try to help someone who isn’t paying to have her Dolce and Gabbana suit dry cleaned after she had to sit in the grimy little room, on the grimy little chair, with the grimy little immigrant kids. Trust me lady, with that attitude I don’t want you here either.

Mari-Anna Frangén Stålnacke said...

What has been the scariest thing you’ve ever done? For me, it was daring to love again after I had been badly hurt by someone I had once loved. At least, I had thought it was love we shared.

JES said...

Maroon-proof. Mikey would wonder about that for a long time. It barely sounded like English.

Todd said...
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Todd said...

The two acolytes lifted the large oaken beam from its resting place as Lamiel slammed the door shut before the approaching hoard. The acolytes dropped the heavy beam into iron braces just in time. The door shuddered ominously as their pursuers crashed into it, but the brace held.

NRH said...

The greenhouse would burn. It was the only possible ending. Lester was no arsonist, no pyromaniac, but he knew by now that fires sometimes served a purpose; the greenhouse would burn, and his first beginning would truly be complete. Tyron had been gone for several hours, and though Lester knew more of loneliness than most people twice his age the prick of solitude that stung him now felt strange and new. And yet, he did recognize the feeling. Tyron seemed strange and new once as well, but he was gone now, and like him, the loneliness would eventually fade into the trees.

Sean said...

Paul Thomas stared through his rolling breath at the dusty board games stacked on the bottom shelf of a nearby oak bookcase. Scrabble, Yahtzee, Chutes and Ladders, Trouble, Trivial Pursuit and Monopoly. He choked down another mouthful of the Hostess apple pie. No one ever won at Monopoly. Would this nightmare be any different? Would anyone ever win? He turned back to the large family portrait hanging above the rustic fireplace. The brown haired man with a mustache, his wife, young boy and girl in the photo were dressed in their Sunday best from the eighties and had eyes that followed you wherever you went in the farmhouse living room. Shuddering, he tore his gaze away and wondered where the family had gone, catching a quick smile from Sophia in the process. A smile she had to work at.

Stef Mcdaid said...

Scoot walked nonchalantly along the dimly lit tunnel, but underneath his flight suit a cold sweat trickled steadily down the sides of his chest. He took a long, deep breath of the lean atmosphere as the checkpoint came into view – stealing a spacecraft was a most serious offence, though not quite as reckless as flying into the time-spiral.

Kristan said...

We waited by the side of the road, hidden within shadows and shrubs. Peering through the early winter night, I could just make out the row of spikes we had positioned in the hard dirt. Would a tired driver notice those sharp points glinting in the moonlight, those hungry beasts so eager to chew up his tires? We would find out soon.

Laura Drake said...

The grief counselor told the group to be grateful for what they had left. After lots of considering, Charla Rae decided she was thankful for the bull semen. Turning to the sink, she eyed the bottle of Valium. To keep from reaching for it, she drew a glass of water and sipping it, gazed out the window to the spring-skeletal trees of the back yard. As always, her focus zeroed in on the two-foot wide stump. Tentative grass shoots had sprung up to obscure the obscene scar in the soil. She hadn’t known a tree could kill a child. She hadn’t known a coed could kill a marriage. And if those pills could kill the knowing, she’d take ten.

jennthewriter said...

Why is it that the most dreamy men are always the biggest jerks? You watch movies and read books, and the men are great! Then you go out into the real world and meet Mr. Dreamy himself while standing in line at Starbucks. He asks you out, you say yes, and before you realize what you’re doing, you’re in bed, curled up under your favorite blanket, imagining your wedding day!

Rachel PG said...

In retrospect, Amanda Jones should have seen it coming. As she flew through the air she realized the glint on the bike path wasn't a random shard of glass but a trip wire, pulled at the last second to catch her. In the instant she comprehended she was quickly hurtling toward the ground without her bike, she realized she did know the old man sitting on the bench. Something about his eyes, how they didn't really seem to look at the newspaper he held in his lap. She had brushed it off as paranoia, some silly bit of long ago training creeping in from her old life.

Marcus Brotherton said...

The whores and the sodomites—they’d go to hell. The liars and the perjurers. Them too. These Japs. They’d roast for all eternity in Satan’s lake of fire. But not me. I walked with my head held high and my shoulders back, even though my lips were parched and my hands didn’t hold a rifle no more. I hadn’t done nothing wrong, so I had nothing to fear, even though the guards had twitchy fingers and kept their rifles aimed at our heads.

jamiekswriter said...

The grim reaper pushed his way back towards the locker room, carrying the bleeding and squawking chicken.

Brenda said...

From a dark corner table in a seedy nightclub, Mel studied the crowd of humans as they drank and partied. Humans were clueless. Completely unaware vampires lived amongst them. Unaware one was amidst them at this moment, watching their every move. They'd probably trample each other, running for the nearest exit if they knew. A dark part of him wanted to bare his fangs and shout, "I vant to suck your blood." Yeah, too bad he left his Dracula cape at home.

Sage said...

Rule number eleven in the Superhero's Handbook? No long hair. It's really a rule about anything long, thin, and easy to grab or get caught in the wind. Hair and capes are the main things the League focuses on. The only thing worse than getting your cape caught in some contraption that's going to kill you is getting your hair caught in it, so it can pull you in from the head. But I think that's dumb because if I'm going to be anywhere near something that would start to pull my hair, I'll just change it. Besides which, I look way better with long hair.

Alice said...

By the time my mother finished her last treatment she looked like a stick figure. She nuked my favorite frozen lasagna to celebrate. The savory scent of sauce and mozzarella permeated the kitchen and she darted to the bathroom to vomit.

Writer and Cat said...

They had eight hours before dawn and a lot of grave dirt to shift. Jane propped her Hush Puppy on the back of the shovel blade and pushed, but nothing happened. She swallowed a curse. Rennie didn’t like it when she cursed.

--Jody Wallace

Anne R. Allen said...

Her Royal Highness Regina Saxi-Cadenti, Princess of San Montinaro, backed out of the bathroom stall on her knees, pulling the scrub bucket. She felt her backside collide with something; someone. She froze. So the assassins had found her, even here at the Recovery Clinic, half a world away from the palace and its intrigues. They were back to finish last night’s botched job. She knew the falling oven hood in the kitchen had been no accident, any more than the other “mishaps” back in San Montinaro. Through the thin silk of her Dolce and Gabbana skirt, Regina felt human flesh: bony and death-cold.

Amber said...

The girl fled in a blind panic, not at all mindful of the sharp stones tearing at her feet or of the tree branches scratching roughly against her limbs. Her pursuers would not be far behind once they discovered her missing from the room in which she had been confined. There she would have remained until Bishop's Council decided her fate, if not for sweet, loyal Daavid. Perhaps it was true that her queerness was unnatural, as the Council had so recently claimed. But Marjaana had not bargained with the devil. Of that she was entirely certain.

Annette Lyon said...

I pushed my twin sister Rey’s wheelchair into the dim town hall, set the brakes, and tucked the blanket around her legs. A few steps away, I touched the buttons on wall panel. The lights came on too bright at first, and I cringed, knowing the light hurt Rey’s eyes. With a hurried a drag of a finger, I dimmed the lights. Rey sighed with relief. I did too. Each week we performed the same orchestrated dance, Rey and I, as I became her arms and legs in preparation for her to preside over the meeting as the youngest mayor our town had ever seen—sixteen.

hopejunkie said...
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Aphrodite's Mortal Friend (ME) said...
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Deniz Bevan said...

The Inquisitors blindfolded her at the town gates. Before that, she had to watch and listen, unable to retort, as strange men growled and spat at her feet. Women crossed themselves and pointed her out to young children, whispering. If she lowered her head to avoid their gazes, the Inquisitors simply jerked it up again, one or the other yanking fistfuls of her hair under the hood of her cloak. She twisted in their grip, looking back down the road, but there was no sign of Brother Arcturus, her guardian. Had he led her into a trap?

Leah said...

A field of skeletal arms thrust up before the headlights, desiccated fingers raking the sky, a million dead supplicants begging for release. The cold was thick and pure as alcohol, stinging her throat. Rosa caught her reflection in the windshield as the driver killed the engine but left the lights on, high-beams like pitchfork tines goring the reaped corn. The sleek, dark hair folding around her face melted into the unleavened blackness of night in rural Iowa, and for a moment her eyes burned out of a white mask. Something in her thrilled to her own ghoulishness, to the night’s uneasy stillness.

Karen Bloxham said...

That exact moment I looked up from doing the dishes and looked out the window, to see my mothers car coming up the driveway, I knew my life was about to change in ways that I knew I would never be the same person again. The sense of dread that I felt weighed heavy in the base of my stomach. Slowly and purposely I wiped my hands on the tea towel and breathed in deeply, trying to steady myself against the rising anxiety of why, after a year, was my mother visiting me, unannounced.

Robert said...

Killing a human being is difficult. Stab a man five times and fail to hit a vital organ. Shoot a man three times at point-blank range and puncture him in different places with little damage. No one knows the enduringness of the human body better than an interrogator, and my interrogators happen to be very good at their jobs.

Lydia Sharp said...

It's just like me to be late for my own going away party. This. Is the party of the summer. The pinnacle of getting high and/or drunk and/or laid. People have been talking about it since June. Me? Not so much. Because no one can convince me that ditching all my friends and changing schools right before senior year doesn't blow harder than Moby Dick.

Aphrodite's Mortal Friend (ME) said...

No one knew for sure how it had gotten there, but people seemed to understand that it remained- an essential necessity created by the current political climate. Abandoned it was, but not alone and far from vacant- at least not on this night.

Annie said...

Transmission: Sent

The vial is on board The Misfit. The captain keeps it on her person at all times. I did some digging; Trudy Loveless is an alias. The captain’s real name is Tabitha Dixon. I do not consider her or her crew to be a complication should you attempt to recover the vial. She is barely 17 years old. I doubt she realizes what she is in possession of.

How should I proceed?

Summer said...

“Move your fat ass.” He forces the words out, obviously annoyed at having to speak to me but even more annoyed that I’ve taken up wall space that apparently belongs to him. I look over at Principal Keating. He’s standing right there. He had to have heard, but he’s really good at pretending not to if the offender is wearing a letter-man jacket. Nick’s a starting linebacker so it’ll just be my word against his and I’ll lose so instead of punching him in the face I slink over to the other side of the hall. I keep my eyes on Nick though. I’m trying really hard to telepathically murder him.

Mary Vettel said...

Long ago before time began, well, before ten-year-old Brogwin Frayney could tell time, was a land called Wagetannia. Snug between England and France, in the middle of the English Channel, 14th Century medieval Wagetannia was ruled by the firm but fair hands of King Arnotto and Queen Cecilie. Until their only child, eleven-year-old Prince Jocko caused the kingdom to explode.

C. said...

My school- year therapist, Dr. Atchley, told me I had to write down all my thoughts over Christmas break. He said it like I have a problem with thinking too much and editing myself until everything I do say is as dry and tasteless as week- old toast. So I think when I go to write out my day in the black and white composition book I appropriated from our family supply drawer, I will start with this sentence: Dr. Atchley looks a potato- head with hair coming out of his ears, and whenever he crosses his legs and I can see his argyle socks that reach too far above his ankles, I kind of want to throw up. How’s that for unedited, Dr. Atchley? You’ll think twice about giving someone therapy homework over Christmas break after this, I guarantee. You’ll wish I kept editing my thoughts after this exercise in making me feel like a jackass.

Dana Rose Bailey said...

I sat on the edge of a large rock jutting out of the top of Braeberry’s Peak, high up in a remote spot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, mulling over the countless so-called myths and legends I had researched. Was it DNA altering, genetic mutation, or something more mythical like sirens or harpies? After all this time, I still had no clue. And if I was honest with myself, part of me didn’t want to know. Part of me just wanted to be me, alone, not linked to anything else, like I was now, sitting on this ledge. With all that had happened, it scared me to think how it was possible and what that meant for me and my family. But not knowing was like having a wound that wouldn’t heal. I took a deep breath and let it out. I really didn’t want to think about it right now.

Carol Riggs said...
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Monica McCabe said...

One glance at our Brazilian river guides and I could practically touch their anxiety. They were staring at my parents like they confounded every reasonable law known to the people of the Amazon. Which, of course, they did. But that was neither here nor there. We needed to get our party of five on the river if we were going to make first camp before dark. Night fell quickly in the South American jungle, which I admit is not an average thing for a teenager to know, but my life has rarely been shopping malls and high school proms. No matter how hard me or my grandma wished otherwise.

The Sasquatch said...

The funny thing about tennis, my father used to tell me, was no matter how hard you worked, no matter how good you got, you’d never be as good as a wall. My father didn’t like most sports. Football players, he said, were just drunks in training. Golf was what rich people did when they didn’t want anyone to call them lazy. Hockey was exercise for the criminally insane. And soccer? Well, let’s just say that, all debates of free speech aside, some things are inappropriate for a team of ten year old girls, and the next time he sets foot in the Hamilton County Sports Metroplex, he’ll likely face a $2000 fine and six months in jail. Not that it would matter to him.

christinadraws said...

“Have you ever considered throwing out some of this stuff?”
I look at mom as if she’s sprouted horns. Not hard to imagine with the way her short hair is sticking out from around her headband. I can’t say that my hair is looking any better since we have spent three hours trying to ‘tidy’ the house before mom’s ‘guest’ arrives. Mom’s guest is her new boyfriend and her version of tidying is like a Sumo wrestler’s version of snacking. I’m still not sure why my room is involved in the assault as I’m pretty sure I’m not going to invite this guy in for a movie and smores, but mom insisted. And then she threatened.

mgeary927 said...

Clouds faded in the shadowy glow of an Irish spring morning. Wind gusts billowed landward off the great Atlantic ocean, coursing across Noreen McCarthy's fresh young face. The spectacular sunrise broke free of its inland mountain captor, erupting over the crashing waves, burnishing the expansive waters. Her unruly black hair flowed in streams on the currents of the wind, as the pink pre-dawn radiance kissed the western ocean skies. Herring gulls screeched in disharmonic unison. A strident whine answered their call. The horse shied, then reared violently. Noreen scanned the beach with apprehensive eyes. Her faithful donkey, Lorcan, lingered conspicuously by her slim silhouette. Two baskets, perched aside his dutiful back, brimmed over with evidence of her beachside pilfering. Transfixed by fear, wet sand swallowed her feet, waves nibbling her bare ankles.

Perri said...
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Katherine Hazen said...

It took me two weeks to come to terms with it, but I knew the first time I changed into a cougar that I had to run away from home. No, not the old lady who’s into 20-something guys kind of cougar, the big furry kind with pointy teeth and a hankering for raw meat. Chicago is a terrible place to live for a girl who randomly turns into a giant cat. Which is why I was standing alone in a bus station on a Tuesday morning, about to leave behind everything I had known for the last sixteen years.

Roberta Walker said...

When I saw her, for the second time in these sixteen years, she knocked the breath right out of me. Or rather, her dog did. That wretched, loveable creature – recognizing me instantly as long lost friend, or however dogs classified such things – landed square on my chest, his tail whipping his entire body from side to side as he grinned and swiped at me with his tongue. I pretended to fight him, hiding the joy that was bubbling up from some long buried place behind wide-eyes and a hammering heart. Let her think I was afraid of being mauled.

A.E said...

“You know, it pisses me off that I live in a world where people just don’t go away when they’re dead!” I took another long drink from the bottle I was clutching. “I mean, isn’t death supposed to be the ultimate end? The grand finale? The big bang?”
“Actually, the big bang is that theory by scientists about the beginning of the life…” I turned around and shot the speaker a glare that was strong enough to cut off his sentence.
“Now Liam, really?” I narrowed my eyes. Liam sighed.
“Sorry, I forgot logic isn’t welcome during ‘drunken times with Blake’.”
“Exactly,” I said, waving the bottle sloppily in front of his face, which caused my all too important beer to slosh around. “Now, where was I?” I sat down on my stool at the bar, then immediately got up again and started pacing. Liam was sitting hunched over the one beer he’d been nursing for the past hour, and watched as I took my bottle to the head and chugged it, then slammed it down on the bar and demanded another from the bartender.

Richard Mabry said...

The body sprawled in the entryway added nothing to the Christmas decor in Dr. Anna McIntyre’s house, even though the man’s jacket matched the green of the tree by the window, and the blood pooled around him was almost the color of the garland draped on the mantel.

Alwyn said...

“This is absurd Hugh, I have never felt more ridiculous in my life.”

“Shhh, keep your voice down will you Jasper. Do you want to bring the headmaster down on us?”

“I should say he doesn’t, we’d all be thoroughly caned for being out of bed at this hour.”

“All the more reason to return to bed immediately and be done with this nonsense.” Jasper Frost ran an anxious hand through the shock of bright red hair that fell stubbornly across his brow, furrowed with scowling. At sixteen he already stood taller than most adults, but his height was less than impressive when he could only gangle over his peers with scarecrow like skinny-ness. And it was with shoulders slumped in reluctant obedience that he followed his two companions through the empty hallways of Blackwell’s Preparatory School for Boys a little before midnight.

Matthew said...

It was always the pot plants that gave it away. The rest of the room could look like it had been left only the day before, with the desks and the chairs all neat and tidy, computer monitors just waiting for somebody to fire up the operating systems to spring to life and with just the quiet hush that only places that would be soon filled with numerous voices could have. Maybe on closer inspection you might notice that things were a tad on the dusty side but the cleaner might not be due around until the following morning or might not even be that good and you could still, just for the moment, imagine that things were the same, that nothing had changed, that the world as you knew it had not come to an end beyond that which happened every evening in the gap between leaving and returning to work. But then you saw the plants. Dead. Dried out months ago and left to wither away to just brown stems of nothing. And then you knew it was for real. That it had really happened. And that this office was never going to come to life again.

Tanya Reimer said...

Remembering my past lives is supposed to be a gift, but after thousands of lives, I still haven’t figured out how something so horrible could benefit anyone.

Judy Mayhew said...

The day of my twelfth birthday party I found my mother on top of the kitchen cabinets, up above the plates and the mismatched mugs, on her stomach in the foot-and-a-half clearance below the ceiling with one arm dangling down. Scared the shit out of me, not just the voice whispering from somewhere around the light fixture, but the sick feeling I got when I looked at her face. She’d crossed the line between eccentric and psychotic, but I wasn’t familiar with those terms back then.

JJ said...

Telephone poles zipped by like lights on a carnival ride. Shanna bit her lip, afraid to speak. Never upset the person behind the wheel was what they taught in Drivers Ed class.

Stacy McKitrick said...

Jack VanAllen pushed his way through the crowd as they gyrated and bounced to the music. Booming bass and beating drums reverberated in his chest and invaded his ears, but the vision of loveliness wiped out any unpleasantries he encountered. She stood at the bar, wearing heels which added three inches to her above average height. But it wasn’t her height or her long slender legs that caught his attention. Nor was it her face, for she was turned away. It was the mass of red hair cascading down her back that woke up Little Jack. Oh yeah, it had been way too long since he’d been with a woman.

sylsome said...

Starting over is as easy as breaking into a new squat in a new city. I work the lock in darkness, the alley stretching silently toward Main Street behind me. Among the artless graffiti and remnants of deteriorated paper notices, a little circled “N” with an arrow—the universal squatter’s tag—is etched into the door at eye level. Small flashlight in hand, I step into a carpet of dust. The wooden floors, hollow under my feet, stretch toward a bar at the back wall, much like a saloon. I sweep a wide beam across tables and chairs piled and overturned in the corner: missing cushions, snapped legs—a heap of wood and bent metal carcasses. Starting over is this easy, if you’re willing to trade one kind of wreckage for another.

MG Braden said...

The rain fell down in a torrent. A staccato drip and splash were indicative of the overflowing gutter right above the window. Kaity watched as the water made a hole in the dirt of the window box, and splashed mud up on the glass. She gripped her coffee mug tighter, trying to make its warmth penetrate her cold fingers. She was always cold these days. And always watching out the window–looking for someone who would never come.

Kitkat~Kate said...

When a guy goes through puberty and becomes a werewolf he generally goes on and lives a normal life. He’s capable of transforming from the lanky geek that gets shoved into lockers into a star lineman on the football team or a motorcycle bad boy. Big. Tough. Masculine. Girls go crazy for them. But when you’re a girl, like me, the symptoms aren’t as pleasant. The aggression and super-strength are much less desirable and much harder to disguise. I haven’t actually physically changed yet, but I have all the symptoms and there have been more than a few unfortunate incidents where I have snapped. And now after a few fights, run-ins with the law, and an unfortunate incident or two with handsy jocks, I have been discovered.

Sion Dayson said...

It should have been harder for a young black boy to slip undetected from a small Southern town. To hitch rides, travel back roads, set sail for who knows where. And yet he did. A boy green to the world has power. A boy freshly cut can move unseen. Greer might have thought demons had come to claim him at the time, but in fact, he had angels.

kit said...

A painting undermined my father. And, as you will see by the end of my story, a painting nearly destroyed me. Art is dangerous like that, an unruly thing. I used to consider it as ineffectual as those who dedicated their lives to creating it. But I no longer do—I've learned this lesson, along with so many others, over the past few months. During this period my life has become as foreign to me as another land. I hardly recognize it or myself these days.

Anonymous said...

All stories have a beginning. Everything that has a beginning must have an end. I knew that when I started this journey, when I started a story the people of every world and race would tell until the end of time. But as things are going now, my story might not end then. I’ve been through so much already...what’s the end of all things? Just another apocalypse, and I’m probably going to have to fight through it as I have so many others.

-Will Foley, "Harbinger"

Dea said...

I don’t like having people over. I don’t like noticing, as if I’m seeing them for the first time, the chips in the black veneer of my coffee table, or the mystifying stains on my brown couch. No doubt my partner doesn’t care about my furnishings’ shortcomings – he’s a cop too, and we like comfort above all. But we notice these things.

TOURIST TOWN by Dea K.

Susan Bearman said...

Arching the cards into a perfect bridge, Ian Bradley enjoyed the soft swish and flutter as the two halves of the deck merged back into one. He shuffled again, not even glancing at his hands. Instead, he studied his multiple reflections in the mirrors that lined the basement, seeing himself from every angle, the way his audience would see him. Ian knew, as all real magicians know, that the magic happens exactly where you aren’t looking.

Marsha Sigman said...

I don’t believe in a shiny afterlife. You live, you die, the end. This sort of made my mom’s job even more irritating.

“Cross my palm with silver.” I intoned.

karenlee said...

Today is Sunday morning and I head out to Stephanie’s earlier than usual, because usually, Stephanie is with her family in church, until noon. I ride my bike east on route 693, until I reach Ridge Road, where the Maiden Villas sit; elevated above the valley of Pine Crest. I came earlier to see Mrs. Egremony and find out how I might help her, with an odd end or two. But I also want to ask her about my departed Grandma Rose. She told me just yesterday, they were friends years ago.
YA--or maybe upper middle grade fiction.

Marilyn Peake said...

Gazing through a shatterproof glass wall into the Hologram Generator Room, General Nate Williams tapped instructions into his computer through a touch screen embedded in his desk. Fingers moving swiftly across the glowing surface, he slid icons from one strategic location to another. A magician pulling rabbits from the tenebrous depths of a top hat, General Williams then extricated pictures from the flat screen into 3-D images that hovered before him. As he moved on to creating new visuals, he collapsed the old. Blue light illuminated his face.

****
Thanks for running this contest, Nathan!

Paul said...

The corpse in the back of Carl's van was smelling gamey.

SV said...

I am Maddy the fearful. No one calls me by that name; that’s a name I call myself. I also call myself Maddy the mouse, Maddy no backbone, Chicken-a-la-Maddy, and Maddy Milquetoast. But like I said, I mostly call myself Maddy the fearful. It’s my favorite. And with good reason. I’m pretty much always full of fear.

David Raffetto said...

Never trust people with silent letters in their name. It was the only piece of advice my father every offered. “They have something to hide,” he reasoned. This coming from a man who fixed games for a major Las Vegas sports book. Fifteen years later, lying face-down in the sand with a boot to my neck, I realized he was right. That asshole.

Ian Tuttle said...

He curls over the kitchen table, drawing a fleet of spaceships attacking a planet surrounded by swirly green clouds. For the spaceships he uses brown because he has completely used up the black pencil and there is not enough of it left to hold. The red is almost gone too. He draws yellow laser fire coming from the brown spaceships and orange explosions coming from the blue and green, cloudy planet. Down the hall he hears his mom’s sewing machine ratcheting along. The people upstairs have their music on and it bumps down through the ceiling. Ba-dump, ba-dump, ba-dump. The fleet of spaceships flies through dark purple outer space. Outer space is always purple nowadays.

Shelley Watters said...

The jagged rocks on the edge of the cliff were like broken glass beneath my bare feet. The roar from the water crashing on the rocks below drowned out all else. Hot wind whipped my long, dark hair around my face, drying the tears that fell down my cheeks.

Ed Miracle said...

In 1970, we were steely-eyed killers of the deep: we killed lots and lots of deep. In fact, we nearly killed ourselves, more than once, but that is not the heart of the matter. When you live in a nuclear submarine, nightmares are too simple, too ordinary, to compete with the enduring wallop of sharing a two-hundred-foot steel tube with one hundred fifteen of your very best friends. You took LSD in college? We took stranger trips, did weirder stuff, without the chemicals, without even our trusty bandoleers of Budweiser.

aryllian said...

I've always loved my father. What's not to love? He's famous (moderately), he's talented (conceivably), he's gorgeous (arguably), and he stays far far away from me, never substantial enough to matter in day to day life. Which is fine. It's like knowing the daydream about being a secret princess is true, without any of the worries of a future figurehead queen.

Jen P said...

There is a town in a country whose name has no importance, yet what it is called means everything to anyone who has ever lived there. There is a church in the square of that town. Its tall, white-daubed walls had been built by the incoming Swabians in the 1300’s and its stone canvas stretched between columns and buttresses painted light red, like that of the wine maturing in the vineyards of the region’s chiseled hills in the centuries since. Flanking each side of the massive gothic entrance stands a shallow rooted chestnut tree, each trunk as wide as the door. After every storm the town had seen, the talk at the tables at the Gasthof zur Post café would turn to the trees, and how they should surely come down one day. In a niche at the very top of the façade, a grey statue of seated Mary. The cherub Christ child stands churlishly between her knees, protected in the folds of her stone skirt. She holds the staff of justice and a book of unwritten names in her right hand and looks down at the long since dead of the town lying barely below the grassed surface of the ground. And at the very top, a silver crucifix. A lightning rod built to channel the eye and the mind Heavenward more often conducted the fury of God to the Earth. The September sky was always an orderly metallic grey before the coming storms, but the day they hung Anna’s Grandfather from the chestnut tree with nine other old men, the sky was a vivid blue and the sun punishingly hot.

Catherine Blakeney said...

The day was warm and clear, as always, as Matilda sat outside the coffee shop with her friends. Rain was not unknown to her, but the weather people usually scheduled the serious showers at night time, and left the days bright and sunny. The soft rays, stripped of their most dangerous radiation by the thick glass plates but still strong enough to give light and heat, filtered down through the honeycomb struts so that the shadows of the scaffolding were barely visible on the ground. The girls ignored the shifting sunbeams, other than to scoot around to more solid shade of the umbrella as the afternoon wound down. No one paid attention to the dome. It had been there all their lives.

zegota said...

The crunch of the massive green and brown leaves below her feet told Victoria exactly where she was. She was home. Well, not home. Not exactly. Arden hadn't been her home for nearly 20 years now. But somehow, even in that time, the tangible memories of the place hadn't faded. The smell of the Ardenwood, littered with wild pinecones and pungent mushrooms, had stayed with her even as other memories of her childhood faded. She was surprised how strange it felt to navigate the woods after all those years, but another part of her felt completely in her element.

Aimee Bea said...

You'd think that way up North there would be no rednecks. But that's not true. There are rednecks everywhere, even when you live hundreds, if not thousands of miles from Alabama or Louisiana or Kentucky. Even way up North in Michigan you'll find guys wearing those cut out shirts that reveal the sides of their ribs and their arm pits, just so they can show off their biceps. You'll find people named Junior and people who say things like 'I ain't gonna say nothing,' or 'I buyed some popcorn when I seen that movie.' You'll find people with lawn decorations. If you can call those patchy brown squares of earth a lawn. I even have a friend whose mother is missing three teeth.

GeeBee said...

Flowers take over my notebook page. Not real ones, of course, but doodles drawn by a hand that should be taking history notes. Instead, my mind wanders while Mr. Larsen’s monotone voice drones on about the Boston Tea Party. Colonists dressed as Indians on a boat, oh my. Guess they aren’t in Kansas anymore, not that they ever were. I’m not that bad at history. My fingers clench a mechanical pencil and sketch a sad attempt of a rose that looks more like a dead insect than a Valentine’s gift. Art has never been a strong suit of mine. Oh well.

Allison Morris said...

Maria had successfully been normal for 2,477 days. Since the night of her second date with Joe. She was good at it and no one knew how much of a challenge each day once was. Wake up. Go to work. Chatter at the water cooler. Subway home. Dinner with Joe. Rinse and repeat. She barely felt the strain of it anymore.

Misa said...

Nath Valentine leant against the doorframe, watching the starship burn. It had missed the casino by a few hundred yards and ploughed into the wasteland that made up so much of the outpost now. A near-miss, it had still hit like an earthquake, rattling the rafters and making his female clients squeal in fear.

Kathryn L said...

Oscar knelt on the riverbank and rinsed the blood from his hands. He raised them from the water and watched the evidence of his deeds drip between his fingers. His victim was sprawled behind him on the slimy mud. The thrill of the chase had faded into a vague feeling of disappointment now the woman was dead. With rouged cheeks and painted lips, these girls promised so much. Invariably, they failed to live up to his high standards. Rotting teeth, pox-scarred skin, and a tendency to use unladylike language when he drew his knife.

Nicole Wolverton said...

Whoever said dying was easy was full of crap. Patrick Leahy remembered slipping down the carpeted stairs, wincing and grunting as his shoulder popped out of joint with a thick pop with the first jolt. His skin flayed off at the hip when his shirt rose up while skidding across a hard edge, a sensation he vividly remembered as lingering and grinding. And finally, he was fully cognizant of the pain as his neck made a sharp, juicy cracking noise when he crunched head first on the landing below. It wasn’t easy, and it sure as Hell wasn’t fun.

Falls Apart said...

I’m going to get one thing established right away, so we don’t have any misunderstandings: this story does not have a happy ending. If you were hoping I’d tell you that everything you heard on the news was a lie, that Libertas never fell, that “The Enemy” is as strong as it ever was, then this will come as a disappointment. The camp fell. Most of the people in it died, and the few who survived went through tough shit to make sure of that.

tracikenworth said...

Blood. So thick. I sensed the girl close, standing right there with me but couldn’t make out her face. She smelled of spring, her touch warm as the sun. Leaning into each other, we could almost kiss. I felt a tremor pass through her. Holy God, she was afraid. With good reason. My fingers traced her face. The woods beat alive tonight as every night. I wanted to pull her into the light, to look at her but knew I’d break the connection, one I hadn’t experienced with another, then the light splashed between us and she disappeared. Where did she go? Did she think of me or brush it off as part of a dream? A gush of redness poured over my vision. I listened to her cry out. The mountainside did its best to stop me but I had to reach her before it proved too late. Just like with my brother, Toby.

Debra Anastasia said...

By the time Livia had run to the train platform, she had to adjust her outfit. The usual suspects were waiting in the crisp, fall morning air. Livia nodded and smiled to each person. Most were dressed in classy business attire, but there was the occasional, causal student. Everyone had a smile in return for Livia. She had no idea how many people looked forward to her smile, a simple human action she provided like clockwork. She even included the homeless man who was always lumped under the overhang in the shade. His green eyes were without fail waiting for hers, but as soon as the smile reached her lips, his gaze would scurry away like a frightened mouse. He was always in the same spot when she got off the train at night. Livia would find his eyes and smile into them. She often wondered what could possibly have happened to a perfectly healthy-seeming man in his early twenties that would set him loose on the streets.

Silvia said...

Misha practiced being invisible in the kitchen. She was making breakfast—a porridge that took her three hours to boil the red beans, stir the pot, drain the beans, strain and stir, add rice powder, stir some more—when she remembered, while stirring mechanically, half-asleep, that she had an invisibility test in the morning.

Elise Stephens said...

The day Joseph buried the key he wrapped it in white silk and placed it in his winter coat. He buried it directly beneath a dripping faucet, which at first worried him, but his sister promised, in her way of understanding all things natural and magical, that the water would not pluck and pull the earth away. Instead it would nourish the plants that would grow on top of it. She promised, after the deed was done, to cover the hiding place with a flower garden.

Lindsey said...

The Green Zeppelin and the Plug to Nothing

The giant black plug Lily found couldn’t possibly fit into a socket like most other plugs, not because of it’s size, but the oddly shaped spiral prongs. Lily wasn’t surprised then to find that once she grabbed the plug, the ground fell away below her and she remained there hanging alone. She closed her eyes as a heavy wind whistled in her ears. It was the kind of wind that you hear in really high places, where it’s had time to circle up and gain momentum.

Carol J. Garvin said...

The back gate hung open. In the snow between it and the side door of the garage where the dogs slept there were fresh tracks – footprints alongside a strip of tire treads.

Simon Hay Soul Healer said...

When I was fifteen years old I dug a grave and filled it in. The coffin was tiny. I loved my stepmother and the Maori community my father now lived in, and I was good at shovelling dirt. I didn’t see a ghost that day.

Mel said...

I read the message again. He was beautiful in his little profile photo. I fought the urge to click, to view it in its larger form. Why torment myself? That had been my stance these last four years. Victor was part of the past.

esteewood said...

The memory was wispy at best. Amethyst wasn’t sure her recollections were true, or if she’d heard the story so many times she’d made them up. But it felt real: the hot humid air; the smell of chlorine from the pool; the cool wet grass between her little toes; the terror in her mom’s voice.

Sarah said...

Her feet crunched on the frozen mud as she stepped from the pavement on to the empty lot, and then looked up to take in the winter scene. It was early February, the gray sky was fresh with the activity of starlings, hundreds diving in unison then landing in the only tree to be seen on the abandoned city block. The birds made a dark cloud, silenced by the branches of a sugar maple. She knew this tree well. It was hundreds of years old, judging by the height and girth and indeed the bark even looked wrinkled with age. It was her tree, back when a house still stood nearby. She stepped forward and placed her palm on the trunk, feeling the roughness that did nothing to warm her frozen skin.
“When did they tear the old place down?” she asked her brother, gesturing with her head toward a large pile of dusty bricks and splintered beams just beyond where they stood.
“Sometime last fall. The termites did most of the work, they just had to bring in a big truck to pull down the walls. Was the case for most of ‘em or so I heard.”
“Crazy. The place feels the same.”
Tipping his head down, he said into his crossed arms, “If it weren’t for that tree, I wouldn’t have recognized anything when I came by last month. They wanted me to cut it down too, along with the others. I just couldn’t do it.”
She stared at the ground, trying to conjure up a memory, draw a few sketches in her mind of what used to belong here, but the images she remembered were painful. She wanted nothing more than to forget this place, but some part of her wouldn’t allow that.
“You ready?” He asked.

Nanna said...

I just want to be normal. All that time spent in rehab, isolated while my body struggled to not reject my new source of life, the thing that kept me going was my dream to be…normal. I wanted to go to school, sit with kids my age during lunch in a crowded cafeteria and complain about the food and gossip about classmates and stress about homework. The things that most teenagers lament about their existence as they wait for the next, “better” chapter of their life to begin were precisely the things I wanted for myself. I didn’t care to be popular or brilliant or accomplished or talented. I just wanted a chance to get to experience life the way that most everyone else gets to. I wanted to struggle to figure out who I was, not struggle to breathe. I wanted to obsess over the crush-worthy boys instead of obsessing over how much life my diseased heart might have left in it. I wanted to cry over how unfair my mother was being about curfew, not cry over how unfair it was that I was dying.
And, the funny thing is, I got my wish. I got my heart. I got my health. I got to go back to school. I got my miracle. But then I got this. This… this… curse. This horrible affliction that is twisting me and making me wonder if I found a heart only to lose my mind.

Irene B said...

I keep imagining the axe hitting her neck, the head tumbling down. The cap on the ground, blood spattered, the body losing the tension of life in fits and starts.

Marian Crane said...

Alone in my head one moment, god-touched the next, I felt the Sleeper's thoughts soar up from the world's hot black heart.

Nathan Nix said...

I owe so many people an apology. Just like I owed Lana one. I hope it will be enough. Dad delivered his apology with courage, blinded by lights on cameras belonging to the squad of photographers and TV crews sent to shoot him. As I’m often reminded at the most random times by people I don’t know, but who recognize my face or last name, it still wasn’t enough.

Dave said...

Oscar jammed the clutch and pulled down the shifter. His Buick roared out from under the towering elms, away from Bagatini’s fish shop and up the side of the river levee. He shifted again; the engine strained climbing the steep embankment. As the Buick edged toward the levee’s crest, Oscar eased off the gas, the whine of the engine fell silent and for a fleeting moment he could see across the fields of tasseling corn to the jutting bluffs that towered on the horizon. He caught a glimpse of the flashing, red light racing ahead of him on the bluff road towards Harridsburg. Oscar’s insides twisted in agony. He exhaled, blowing out the rotten air from his lungs as the Buick’s precarious balance gave way and began rolling down the other side of the levee.

Nett Robbens said...

Across a sheet cake topped with whipped cream and strawberries, eight strategically placed candles burned hazy swirls of smoke around a plastic Spiderman’s head, and when it cleared, Octavia Middleton lowered her head into her hands to hide her swollen, red eyes.
On each of her son’s birthdays, she died a little more.

Michele Stefanides said...

Lydia took one last look in the mirror before she left. Make-up looked OK. More grey was sneaking into her hair, but she’d earned it all, she thought, there will be no coloring. More like lazy, she admitted. Well, what you see is what you get. She gathered up her bags and walked out to the car. She tossed the overnight bag in the back seat and wrestled the rolling bag into the trunk. She looked at her watch. Leaving so early in the morning might get her into downtown Pittsburgh before rush hour got so crazy she’d be tempted to just leave the keys in the car on the parkway and walk away down the shoulder.

T. Anne said...

The ground quakes beneath them. You could hear their primal grunting, feel the wind of their bodies cutting across the court. This was no ordinary match, no friendly round of balls—it was a battering. They want to beat each other, cross the net and shove the optic yellow spheres down one another’s throats. This is years worth of pent up aggression. The, I’ll-see-you-in-hell kind of drama you see played out in fields of war, gang infested alleyways—prison.

Susan said...

Jaclyn Pace could smell desire. Not in the a-wild-bear-can-smell-fear kind of way, but in the physical, literal sense. When she came within two feet of someone desperate for something sweet to eat, she could tell, with one inhaled breath, what they craved. With some people, it was a subtle whiff of chocolate that tickled her nose. With others the sensation was so strong Jack had to hold on to the edge of the counter to keep from being knocked over by the overpowering scent of strawberry short cake or rocky road.

Mariam said...

Daring Ivy
MG Adventure

Two days after school let out the sky exploded, snuffing Cotton’s anticipation of eighty-two (he had counted) sunny days of freedom. The rain hung around for three gray days. Rain that normally ended in April. It was June, time for heat and humidity to bully their way into the season. Since things in Jolly had been anything but normal since April, summer had decided to play along.

Patricia Stoltey said...

“If I have a say about it,” Jo Mae whispered, “Caswell’s going to Hell and the sooner the better.”

Jennifer Winters said...

I’m a Chameleon. Not a small green lizard member of the Chamaeleonidae family, just the skin-changing to avoid predators part. It was a valuable skill since there were plenty of dangerous hunters in my life. No, I wasn’t a secret agent or an escaped convict. It was worse than that. I was in high school.

AJ said...

This is a story about me and my cousins. It's a story full of villains, monsters, and mystery. I'm sure you'll enjoy the action, but please, for my sake just as much as yours, I would urge you to learn what I and my cousins learned. And if you learn what we learned, I'm sure it will be a story you'll treasure forever, as I do.

A.J. Cattapan said...

A single woman approaching forty doesn’t hear “the clock ticking”; she hears knives sharpening. Why knives? They are very useful to the single woman. They can chop the many vegetables she’ll need to eat in order to ward off breast cancer. They can defend her against strangers who might attack in the night. In a broken-can-opener emergency, they can pry open the can of cat food for her only truly loyal companion. They can even be used to threaten blind dates who get too handsy. Better yet, knives can be used to cut off the tongue of the next person who suggests she go on a blind date. At least, that’s what Cozy McGillicuddy was thinking as she watched the blood drip off the pointed tip of her steak knife.

Justin Matott said...

I have always hated my mother for killing my father. She didn’t kill him in any of the traditional ways. She killed him in the same way a faucet drip grinds the porcelain off a sink over decades of continual abuse, until it has reduced it to rust. She used no weapons, no drugs, and no violence, just the daily snuffing of his spirit. The way she responded to all of his enthusiasms slowly sucked the life from him.

Ramona Dark said...

My mother steered our aging Sunfire down the pitted dirt road. Driving twenty miles per hour didn’t stir up enough of a breeze to relieve the oppressive August heat. Using the neck of my t-shirt, I sopped up the sweat pooled in the hollow of my collarbone. In my mother’s excitement to meet her latest Internet lover, she’d neglected a few things. Most noticeably: fixing the broken air-conditioning. In the front seat, my older sister Norah folded her arms over her chest and glared out the window at the dense line of pine trees bordering the road. Though sweat beaded her brow, I knew the heat was the least of her concerns.

Melody said...

Ivolet had been known as the general's daughter for only two days, but she already believed it. She liked walking beside her new father through the palace halls, her small, nine-year-old fingers dwarfed in his great warrior's hand. She nodded to the salutes as if they were meant for her, smiling charmingly and making a good impression on all. Ivolet welcomed their smiles; pleasing the courtiers and slaves that hurried down the halls was more interesting than her father's discussion with the sultan.

Sara said...

I did not arrive expecting to love them, or even to like them, really. As long as the music provided enough noise to mark the end of the week, and as long as I returned home within the swirling brilliance of intoxication, I’d consider the night a success. We’d arrived late, Claire and me, because she spent an hour on the telephone and I’d waited.

Vivien Weaver said...

“Get your hand off.”

Before Lindsay could move his hand from the back of the wheelchair, Cary swatted it away. When he was nervous, he got testy. In another typically Cary gesture, he seemed to catch himself and fell still, denying himself the temptation to look up and down the dark road. Lindsay had no qualms about expression his nervousness, shifting his weight from one foot to another, glancing at the closed hatch of the Explorer. It felt like its contents practically screamed their presence to the quiet area. Cary didn't remark on his shifting, which meant he was just as nervous.

“We done this before,” Lindsay murmured.

“Yeah,” Cary agreed.

Vivien Weaver said...

“Get your hand off.”

Before Lindsay could move his hand from the back of the wheelchair, Cary swatted it away. When he was nervous, he got testy. In another typically Cary gesture, he seemed to catch himself and fell still, denying himself the temptation to look up and down the dark road. Lindsay had no qualms about expression his nervousness, shifting his weight from one foot to another, glancing at the closed hatch of the Explorer. It felt like its contents practically screamed their presence to the quiet area. Cary didn't remark on his shifting, which meant he was just as nervous.

“We done this before,” Lindsay murmured.

“Yeah,” Cary agreed.

Elisabeth said...

I take her side of the bed, press my face against the cold pillow and weep. I don’t know how long I am like this because I pass out at some point. The jangling of the hotel phone wakes me from a fitful sleep the next morning.
“Hello,” I say. My voice is hoarse from crying.
“Mr. de Marcos,” the woman on the phone says in lightly accented English. “This is Louisa Maria Hernandez with the Mexican Federal Police. I’m assisting in the disappearance of your wife.”

Ryan said...

Violently the behemoth fell, burning a streak of crimson light across the utter blackness of space. The ring of fire around this world tore him apart, shredding his ruby scales as he entered. He descended with sickening speed far past the planet’s surface unhindered. What was left of his mangled flesh and shredded wings etched a gruesome scar through the rocky crust. Finally, far beyond the reach of light or life, slowing, he tore a hole through the ceiling of a pristine cavern, undisturbed since time began. Here, he landed in the dark waters, broken and alone. He lay there motionless for what seemed like ages, writhing in blackened agony. When his strength returned, he began to lick his wounds as his anger grew. Before long, he was seething out of control. He hurled murderous insults at the sky as he stumbled around in the dark, his enemies now hidden from sight and hearing. Utterly betrayed, he vowed revenge for this unfounded treachery, no matter the ages until the day of reckoning. Rising to his feet, he pushed his murderous thoughts inward, hiding the ugly truth forever behind a dark mask of pain. That day, “Paragon” (as he called himself from then on) began to build his glorious machinations, crafted with ancient words from another world. War was inevitable, he would make sure of that. All he needed was an army. He knew just where to find one.

Sierra McConnell said...

The steel sword was heavy in his hands and pulled on his already taxed arms. His feet slid shoulder width apart and bore down into the sand as he pressed to one of the rocky pillars spread about the desert. He could see Thomas as a dark spot in the distance, and was able to differentiate him from the stone for constant bobbing and weaving he did as he worried. Carmine spat to the side to clear the sand from his mouth and waited.

Tiger Holland said...

“Rikki?” Mom's silky alto voice woke me up.
Out of habit, I rolled over in bed to check on the glass jar that held my heart. For humans, organs in containers were the stuff of horror films, but I was a harlequin. Heart jars were our version of normal.

susankarr said...

Not even an hour had passed since the police had left Deirdre’s house. It was the middle of the morning, ten a.m. to be exact. The Smith & Wesson, which Deirdre pointed toward the sky, went off with a blast, pushing her back and almost causing her to launch into what should have been a flowerbed beside the foundation of her house. Deirdre fell back on her butt. Struggling to get up, she rolled over in the red clay dirt, unearthing a few worms that had been covered by stones. She brushed up against a row of red bricks that lined the barren patch. She steadied herself. Gripping one of the bricks with her left hand, and with the handgun—which could hold six rounds of ballistic firepower and easily be used to hunt large African game—still in the other, Deirdre came to a crouch and then a stand.

Kendall A. said...

A blue dot. I press my finger up to the glass and when I pull it away, the dot is in the center of my print, a faded blue freckle. Earth. Everyone I've ever known or cared about or hated, there on a rapidly-shrinking point of light. I hold my gaze, focusing on the light even as my vision blurs. If I close my eyes, I think, it'll disappear, and then what am I supposed to do? I hold the image until my eyes burn, I blink, and it's gone, vanished or indistinguishable from the million other specks that surround me. That’s when I know, I’ve made a mistake.

Deserae McGlothen said...

Wednesday was psych day.

Anonymous said...

"Dear reader, I welcome you into my pages and I do so hope you enjoy the story I have for you. I've been waiting so very long for you to pick me up and have been engaged in much thought. Have you ever considered how similar you and I are? How you hold me so carelessly in your lap shows that you clearly don't. I, as you, have no control over where my story begins, it is all up to the author who writes me. Lucky for me though, my author's name is written right upon my binding, while yours remains mostly unknown. I move, often consecutively, through events, as your life does, and just as you, I have no say where my story ends. Have you ever thought about that? Where your story ends? I suppose not, why would you. My ending is on page 53, which you might already know if you are one of those impatient bastards who skips to the final chapters before even starting. For my characters I hope it ends well, I'm sure it will, I have much faith in my author. But how unfortunate for you dear reader, to have no binding. I often pity you, as you flip through my pages so pretentiously. You who has no binding, and knows not of your publishing company, where you came from, or, the saddest yet, your author."
With all sympathy,
The book.

Jay said...

“My name is Zydeco, and I am a recovering mythological creature.” I stood at the makeshift podium and looked out over the musty, high ceilinged room, my fingers clutching the stone hanging on the black rope around my neck.

Holly West said...

“Before we continue, Mistress Ruby, I must ask--are you a witch?”
Sir Edmund Godfrey’s eyes shifted about my sparsely furnished, shadowy room and widened as they paused to explore the contents of the bookcase behind my desk. Crowded with books, it also housed bottles of various types of alchemical liquids, a human skull, and several other curiosities, displayed for the sole purpose of exploiting my customers’ unease.
Now, however, it was I who struggled to keep my nerves steady.

Jen Albin said...

They came for me in the night. Once, my mother told me, families had fought them, neighbors coming to their aid. People died, which sort of missed the point. Now that peace was established and the Loom proven, people did not fight them. They still come at night, but now to avoid the throngs of disciples with eager hands. It is blessing to touch a Spinster as she passes. That’s what they tell us.

Sharen Ford said...

She walked up Fifth Avenue, searching the oncoming faces for anything that would prove her existence. Once, she would have lowered her eyes to avoid the stares. Now, compelled by her own apparent transparency, she tried to force the passing strangers to look at her. When that failed, she glanced sideways to make sure she could still create a reflection in Bendel's window.

Kristi Helvig said...

Sunlight reflected off the clear blue water, its wavy surface punctuated by foamy crests. The sea stretched out in all directions, seemingly endless in its reach. I powered off my iGalaxy and watched the image fade to black. The oceans had tricked us all. They weren’t endless. They were gone.

Susan Cushman said...

The only person Mare sees in the pre-dawn shadows of this dusky November morning in 1981 is a homeless man, asleep next to a shopping cart filled with frayed blankets and plastic bags, stuffed with the contents of his life. His dirty fingers are wrapped around a brown paper sack, curled down at the top to reveal a dark bottle inside. Pulling her hoodie over her head, she looks up and down the street to be sure no one is watching.

Maggie said...

Her eyes were not purple. They were a shade lighter than dark chocolate, with a glint of sunshine that balanced the storms that raged in them. Jack liked to think that they were ever so slightly sunnier when she looked at him. But they were not any shade of violet, and so the mission had failed. Again.

Malissa said...

I knew I was dying. It’s weird the doctor felt the need to explain that to me. I hear him outside my bedroom talking to my mother encouraging her to move me to a hospice. My mother is refusing. I can picture her flailing her arms and insisting I stay with the family ‘during this difficult time’. Truth is, I’ve never really lived. I look around my bedroom and where most teens would have a stereo, I have a monitor for all the little gizmos attached to my body. No cool friendship beads or Hawaiian leis decorate the posts of my bed, just two IV drips with drug cocktails potent enough to subdue a lumberjack. Of course it’s the drugs that make the disease bearable; not completely free from pain but the numbness helps. I hear my mother at the door again. She sneaks in silently, just in case I’m sleep, which I’m not.

Anonymous said...

sorry, forgot to put my name, i'm the "dear reader" comment and my name is andie beahn

Anonymous said...

Marvin Gaye told us that when he got this feeling, he needed sexual healing. I never feel bad for Marvin when I hear that song. I'm pretty sure he wasn't a sexually frustrated virgin before, during, or after that song. He didn't lust after people he couldn't have. In fact, there probably weren't many people at all in the world he couldn't have had whom he wanted.

Nicole Green

Anthony DeRouen said...

Danika stood up, brushing sand off her legs and hands. She looked upon the new day uneasily. Glimpses of light filtered through dark, swirling clouds building above the horizon. A breeze with a hint of chill ruffled her nightgown. A storm was gathering.

KJ Bain said...

“I can’t believe you set me up. Why didn’t you tell me?” Teddy knew she should have stayed home. She was nowhere ready for this.

kathy w. said...

Mona is not alive today because of luck alone. But this story is about how lucky she was—and how her luck ran out when she finally stopped worrying that it would. This story is about a friend Mona didn’t see for seven years, and the ways they hurt one another before and after that space of time. This story is about the names we give to children, about mourning the world's pain on two scales—the grand and the miniature—and about how everyone (including Mona) judges other people’s work or art or choice of dessert. It is NOT a story about the Brazilian fortune-teller who predicted Mona’s death. Although she started it.

ashelynn sanford said...

“That’s so fake,” I whisper behind a milkshake. Kelly glances where I'm pointing and busts up laughing.

Vincent Morrone said...

There are times where being psychic really bites and this is one of them. It’s three in the morning and I’m up again, thanks to another vision of dream boy. Man, was I getting sick of him.

Patricia said...

“...People should smile more…” Clara woke up with a sigh and a smile as Newton Faulkner woke her singing. She rolled onto her back and stretched to click off her old brown Panasonic alarm clock. What a night, she thought, what a wonderful night of ruby red port, Frank Sinatra, old photos, and sex. She couldn't remember the last time she and Jack had made love, and this, this was probably the best ever. Actually, to be perfectly truthful, she had stolen that phrase. She had stolen it right out of her husband's mouth to be precise. “Probably the best sex I've ever had,” he'd said to her just moments before they had fallen asleep exhausted, sweaty, and satisfied.

trishtash said...

Before I even opened my eyes, I knew something was off. For a start, the pillow felt wrong: too soft. Not the crisp cotton pillowcases on my own bed. There was too much light in the room, too; I could tell that through my closed eyelids. But the biggest giveaway that all was not as usual was the soft snoring coming from my right.

trishtash said...

Before I even opened my eyes, I knew something was off. For a start, the pillow felt wrong: too soft. Not the crisp cotton pillowcases on my own bed. There was too much light in the room, too; I could tell that through my closed eyelids. But the biggest giveaway that all was not as usual was the soft snoring coming from my right.

Jenna said...

It took only one clang of the alarm to jerk Deacon from sleep. With barely enough time to curse, he was out of bed, throwing on a shirt and snatching up his gun. Downstairs, one of the Watch’s apprentices, a boy of maybe fourteen—Christ, what happened to all the qualified men?—stood at the bell in the main room. Face bloodless and drawn, he all but hung on the rope until Deacon motioned for him to stop.

Jim said...

He sipped the last of a shitty cup of coffee and stared across the street at Nino Tortella, the guy he was going to kill. Killing was an art, requiring finesse, planning, skill, and above all—patience. Patience had been the most difficult to learn. The killing came naturally, and he cursed himself for that, prayed to God every night for the strength to stop. But so far God hadn’t answered him, and there were still a few more people that needed killing.

Lani Longshore said...

Amanda Bailey barely glanced at the grade on the bottom of her progress report for Foods and Catering. She ran through excuses in her head, choosing one for her mom, another for her dad. Nothing seemed appropriate for her teacher, however.

Linda Clare said...

Mud is what I remember most. The moment my feet touched the sodden Idaho ground, an oozing, slick clay sucked at my shoes, until the heel of my boot sank into the muck. I pulled myself free but nearly fell over, stepping around the puddles. Red-brown mud was everywhere, along with clouds of insects and of course, the rain. The last thing on earth I wanted was to be a missionary in a god-forsaken land. But I had no say in it.
From Where the Sun Now Stands
Linda S. Clare

Lynne Sears Williams said...

The road was dust upon dust, its air hot enough to flay a mans' flesh from his bones and save his soul for breakfast. Puffs of earth billowed over the horses' knees, ghostlike, making the troop look like passengers to the Netherworld. An ill omen, some would say.

Eastbaywriter said...

Temptation, experimentation, addiction; I don’t know the exact time or place I began on this downward spiral but I know I’m the one who has to get this under control. I’m sitting near a nasty smelling dumpster in East Oakland waiting. I looked like every other homeless man trying to stay warm in this alley. The alcohol from last night permeates from my pores. I have to mouth breath to keep my morning coffee in my stomach. But I’m different that the others who sleep beside me. Feeling sorry and discussed with myself, my dreams are for the times when there was warmth and comfort. I knew that I was loved. Why was she taken from me? Old Sigmund would be having a field day listening to me. With an over protective mother who pushed all of her fears into her only son and a father who never seemed to be there is it any wonder that I’m always drinking and seeking the comfort in the arms of any woman who will have me. Today, my brown eyes are focused but not clear. They are shifting and searching. I hold my position. Waiting. Waiting for Makial Johnson, deadbeat.

Lemuel said...

The graveside service for the fat man was ungodly hot. Standing apart from the meager gathering of mourners, Geoff Waltz wiped the wet sting of sweat from his eyes.

Jkinkade said...

Gus Jordan rubbed a damp palm against his pants and walked toward the whitewashed storefront of Mason Dixon Antiques. He was not the kind of man to second-guess the rationality of his choices. But here he was, on the water's edge of guilt and remorse, and the modest store held his only hope of redemption.

Larry Webb said...

“Heart’s in flame,
heart’s on fire,
Lordy, Lordy she’s my desire!

Man, I can write better lyrics than half the nerds today.
Hey! Whoa! Watch out where you’re going! Idiot! Aaaaaaah!”
I couldn’t help but shudder over how clear Scottie’s voice sounded to me.

Brass Knuckles Media said...

I’m sorry, but I’m not one for boring introductions. I could say hi nice to meet you and so on and so forth and you would pretend to be interested and I would pretend to care what you have to say, but lets face it you’re only here for a story and frankly I’ve never been good at the pleasantries. I’m a Watcher, and as Watchers go I’m just as impersonal as the next. We don’t play well with others—hell I don’t even like the other Watchers. At most we tolerate each other, and that’s only because we are dedicated to our work and will suffer through the excruciating pain of company to get it done.

Vee said...

Folded and crumpled into the dirty snow in-between the sidewalk and the street, the raven looked stiff and dead. Frozen, bright red droplets of blood on its broken wings glittered in the sun like rubies. It didn’t appear to be breathing.That’s why I was so surprised when its head turned and it stared at me with one sunken black eye.

J.C. Martin said...

The disembodied doll’s head floated before Joyce Parker, staring at her with its one glass eye.

Jenise Frohlinger said...

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” The words went right through Seth as empty syllables with no meaning or purpose, just as his life no longer had purpose. In the span of minutes he had lost all he loved, his family and his God. While his family had been taken from him, his God had abandoned him. None of it made sense. He tried with every morsel of his intellect to comprehend the random acts of violence during the home invasion, but he understood nothing, least of all, how his God could allow such pain and suffering. If only he had been there, he could have done something and maybe his family would still be alive. Or maybe he would have died with them and not had to face the sickening agony of his loss alone. But he was alone, completely alone without a single person to love him. Why did a supposedly benevolent and all caring, all loving God allow such horrible things to happen to good people and allow depraved excuses for human beings the freedom to walk the earth and commit heinous crimes? Why had God spared his life? Why him? Was there even a God? Had one ever existed? Or was human existence, Seth’s own existence, a cosmic tragedy in which an eternal God spent his afternoons gloating on the delicate and finite nature of his army of Barby dolls? A lifetime of contemplation could be spent trying to answer these questions and in the end he would still be faced with the ache of mortality, his own and any one he ever loved. So what was the point of anything?

Backfence said...

The future was calling to Luke. It was as if it had punched up his number on one of those cell phones Julia had told him about. He didn’t think he could ignore the call much longer. Even as he sat down there in Arkansas, scratching out his someday-to-be-famous battlefield sketches, his heart was split. To have his finely detailed illustrations adorn the pages of “Harper’s Weekly” was the culmination of a long-held dream of his. Still, half of his heart remained back at the Hixson Mills Courthouse with its mysterious clock tower from which Julia Pickett first entered their lives.

J.G. McKenney said...

It started with the weak voices of a few scattered shoots of grass. Then, in a surging tide, the growing chorus of wailing cries crossed the pastureland breaking in waves at their feet. An invisible net of dread fell over them, impossibly heavy and suffocating. Fighting the crippling effects of fear, Amor edged forward and his son, Miann, followed. They moved slowly at first, stumbling dumbly in shocked disbelief but desperation quickened their pace and soon they were racing across the rolling hills of green toward the distant forest.

Alan Jones said...

Mama and Pa fucked up. It's not like we were rich before Pa died, but things were better. Pa, like most men, thought he was invincible and didn't make plans for an untimely death. Now I live between walls so thin that if we run out of toilet paper I'll just peel a strip off the wall and wipe my ass with this house.

Beth Cossey said...

I gouge one last chunk from the wall of the shed and step back. Removing my initials seals my resolve to move on. My fingertips trace the two letters remaining--R.M. Reid Montgomery will always own a piece of my heart, just as he will always be a reminder that even psychic powers are fallible.

Kiersten said...

It began with the smell of burning hair. Stark, rubbery, and utterly disgusting it flooded the air with a scent worse than decay. It was sulfurous and sickening, consuming even the sweetness of the cedar wood smoke escaping the flames. The worst part was probably that Alley’s hair would soon be joining it.

Laura said...

The list was really all Meg’s fault.
We were walking home from school one early October day when she suggested it. It sounded like a bunch of voodoo crap to me, but then again, most of what Meg says to me sounds like voodoo crap.
She suggested after about the sixth time on that day alone that I bemoaned the lack of good looking boys at Athens High School.
“Sam,” she’d said, eyes rolling, voice impatient. “You can’t just sit around waiting if you want a man. You’ve got to do something.”
Okay, maybe that part wasn’t voodoo crap, it was the truth. I had sort of given up all hope of finding a boyfriend after my freshman year, when Landon – the only other gay boy in the school worth talking about – and I broke up. To put it in the oh-so-charming way that people do here in Appalachia: Pickins were slim.

Hywela Lyn said...

“Hold tight Shifter, this is going to be bumpy!” The small escape vehicle plunged through the tangled clawlike branches of the skeletal trees and shuddered to a halt. For a moment, a blur of green and brown obscured the view through the foreward screen as the severed leaves and branches settled across the prow. Kat O’Brien gritted her teeth and activated a control. A gust of recycled air blew the offending foliage from the screen, revealing a bleak, almost featureless ochre colored landscape. The planet was about as inviting as the back entrance to Hell.

Alysha Glasser said...

She was seventeen and alone in the dark cell, surrounded by the grief of the prisoners in the cells beyond her own. Some were crying; others moaned; and, the rest sat in silence, accepting what awaited them. They all knew what would come and dealt with it in the only way they could. Either by telling their small world or bottling the horrors inside, every prisoner added to the atmosphere of grief and fear that hovered above them all. She did neither but rather drew from within herself the courage to face what would come. What would happen next she did not know, nor did she wonder about it. Destiny pushed her onward, and this was but a step on the way. She could find a way around the fate this prison pushed her toward and would, without a doubt, benefit from this lesson. Neither brooding nor wondering she traveled through her thoughts, analyzing them for the fear and doubt she knew would soon come. She could afford no weakness.

greatwhite_10 said...

Mike Parker said...
I’ve had the feeling for some time now that I’m on the wrong side of the glass with the love of my life, an unlucky firefly caught in a jar, a love lost amusement, destined to perish, all for lighted flight. My need for her light in my life has consumed me to the point of weariness. My dimness reflects this hopelessness. I’ve grown cynical to the point of boorishness, or so say my compatriots in the precinct. I’ve clawed my mental fingers raw trying to get a grip on a situation over which I’ve had absolutely no control. Ever since we met a couple of years ago, I’ve caught only glimpses through the shield she has kept between us, merely capturing her life in fleeting peeks as our orbits crossed. Who she was, what made her tick, were rings I had failed to grasp in those fly-bys. Each time I saw her, whether one-on-one or from afar, the little love worm danced its squirmy Samba in my heart. I tried ignoring it but wound up only admonishing it when that failed. It has no ears. I tried to leash it but that failed miserably each time, too. As a last resort, I’ve tried drowning it with my poison of choice, Johnny Walker Black Label Scotch; on the rocks, of course, although intravenous still looms large as an option. Unlike the others where a few rounds of JWBL-OTR and a jigger of time worked quite well, nothing seemed to work with Beatricia.

Andrea said...

The sky was overcast and the wind carried the scent of rain as flight BA 6978 circled over the city and set down at the Johannesburg airport. From the air the passengers could see the city spreading out below them, looking like suburban America with its backyards and swimming pools. Outlying irrigation circles gave it an air of prosperity and abundance that belied its reputation as one of the most dangerous cities in the world.

Sarah Hina said...

He twirled the shovel once on its blade, before stopping it with a boot and pushing his weight full into the earth. Spring’s thaw was slow in releasing winter, and the packed Ohio soil repelled his efforts. Colin grunted, eyeing the misshapen trash bag buckled against the house’s foundation. He adjusted his digging strategy on the next downward drive—scalping the layers of grass, dirt and clay with the blade jagged almost parallel to earth, instead of sharply angling. Finely. Surgically. Like an archaeologist peeling back centuries and civilizations.

T.D McFrost said...

Bane Hollow punched Superman into the air. Over the forest trees he went--soaring up and away into the wide blue yonder. Bane fixed the cuff of his black Armani suit and yawned at the shooting dot which was now his foe. Is this the best you can do?

Kitty said...

While Tori Lewis tried to reason with the Angel of Death, the Devil stole her purse. Honestly, she should have seen it coming. The teenage boys in their hand-me-down, seen-better-days Halloween costumes exuded rebellion like it was cheap cologne. Tori thought she could talk them down, “save” them from their poor choices. Now she was the one who needed to be saved.

Alex Munro said...

The rain came down in waves, soaking Joe. He rounded the corner and heard alarms ringing from the destroyed cars and houses lining the street. His uncle’s place, or what was left of it, was only a half a block away. Every house he ran past on the crumbled sidewalk had been leveled by the quake. They had threatened to kill his uncle. They said they could do it, but he didn’t believe it. The destruction stunned him, stopped him in his tracks. What use to be a well manicured, pale yellow, two story craftsman home, had been reduced to a pile of twisted sticks, as if a giant stood in the street and ran his finger across the tops of the houses from one end of the block to the other, crushing each one as he went along.

Pamala Owldreamer said...

Symon stood knee deep in snow,his hand hesitant on her shoulder, and waited for her response.Four years ago he walked out on her and couldn't tell her why or when he'd be back.Her hand balled into a fist,lashed out and rocked his head backward.Guess that answered his first question.Should he ask the second?

Julie Huerta said...

My lips stung bad. The kind of stinging that takes awhile to get used to. She had done it again; that stupid, overgrown cow of a woman.

SAVanVleck said...

Austin’s favorite time has always been the safety of a dark night. On this bitter night, he squinted into dirty corners and listened to every ping and tick of the furnace. He pushed himself upright, rubbed his gritty hands on his jeans, held his breath and listened hard as his eyes followed the sound of sobs deep into the corner of the dusty cellar.

Jeri Chase Ferris said...

Yuri moved the board he'd put over the broken window and looked down on a city buried in snow – a city with no light, no heat, no food. He and his little brother Misha were alone in a small dark room with snow on the floor, ice on the walls, and the last mouse in Leningrad on the stove.

jj4318 said...

More often than he cares to admit, Mark Mazur requires the benefits that a few stiff drinks can provide to attain the odd (though certifiably short-lived) clarity that sinking almost nightly into inebriation seems to instill. This impending divorce, this wrenching apart of two lives once so close, has been more difficult than he could have ever imagined. But serpentine is the journey liquor provides, as the euphoria of the buzz, that cresting wave of imbibed suds, is often followed by the trough that is pure depression. Thank god for Eric. His oldest buddy is now his most dependable drinking companion, and . . . where the hell is he, anyway? It is his jokes and general irreverence, his poker face and comedic sense of style that helps keep Mark from dwelling too deeply on Ellen, his lovely – though certifiably crazy – soon-to-be ex-wife. Eric, who could always turn a phrase, said it best. He said he’d keep her casabas, but her head was a lemon ripe for recall.

Susan Poulos said...

April 29, 1950
Near Whisky Flats, Kentucky

At first, there was only noise. Thunder and water, branches breaking and the angry fast rustle of the leaves under her feet. It was the sound of speed. When her mind caught up with her legs she knew she was running, tearing through the brush. I am the noise, she realized. I am still alive, and I am running.

inconvenientbody said...

Klamath's father left her mother without ever arriving. Her mother and father did not date. They were never in love. He never bought her flowers or inquired after her health. Klamath's father had sex with her mother, and to that extent he embodied fatherhood, but beyond this detail, he was no father, at all.

Cheryl Eklund said...

Maybe it’s just me, but have you ever wanted to reach out to the perfect blonde sitting in front of you, and Sharpie her hair? Shae’s smoke reeked blonde wisps feathered across my marred desk, and skimmed the marker. I weaved my fingers through my own corkscrew locks, while the clock ticked closer to the end of another week of teen drama.

Cheryl Eklund

Marge said...

Bethenae longed to stop her headlong rush and admire the view of the port, the sailors appearing as ants from her vantage point high on the island. And wasn't that new, tender growth sprouting on the gnarled grapevines that bordered the serpentine path. Instead, she ignored every vista, every possible distraction as she raced along the path. Her feet scarcely touched the ground; one might believe that demons were threatening. She stopped when she reached the place where the path began its winding descent under the sea. Breathing heavily, she placed her hands on her knees and let her head drop as she tried to catch her breath.

Melissa said...

I was hot. I was wearing my new Marc Jacobs jacket over a basic black tee that was hiding a form fitting, waist-contouring camisole. Skinny jeans and burgundy open toed Louboutins polished off my look. Just about anywhere in the country this would’ve been the perfect outfit for a casual spring party, but I lived in central TX and even though it was early May, the temperatures were already soaring into the 90’s every day. To make matters worse my jeans were tighter than they had been last week. I expected after I wore them awhile they would loosen like they always did, but today I wasn't so lucky. At least the cut of the jacket was perfect for hiding my growing belly; the premium material hung exquisitely. I entered the party knowing my secret was safe for another day.

ElaineCharton said...

The chapel had just the correct air of solemnity and resp needed.
It better have;, my reputation is on the line.
My name is Mona DaVinci and I own
DaVinci Funeral Parlor and Crematorium located in Oakbrook Arizona. Oakbrook is between
Tucson and Casa Grande, and the founding fathers obviously had a sense of humor when it came to naming the town. In the middle of the desert there was neither an oak tree nor a brook to be found anywhere.

Limari Colón said...

Nothing made sense. She frowned several times and opened the book, reading the first page aloud. "If you are seeking truth not yielding to understand it, you delve in vain, for you will only find words within these pages. Perhaps, you are an Unlikely. Be forewarned. This book opens places that may lead to your happiest memories or your darkest nightmares. Use it wisely."

Orlando said...

In the black of night the cold winds flowed swiftly through the empty streets of a large city with tall smooth buildings made of glass, brick, stone, concrete or marble beautifully shaped like pieces of art. Soft luminous lamps glowed on the walkways of Pristaunzia the capital city of the planet Suvino, where at this time of night no one walked, for all commerce had ceased for the day. This was not the part of the city where one went for entertainment, nor where a military installation would abide. It was known for its peacefulness as well as its beauty, generally admired during daytime hours, when the sun shined on its magnificence, when the city erupted with the business of life. The wind whispered between the buildings as if to sing the city to sleep. The soft steady stride of a slender individual was heard moving, with determined confidence, through its streets. For an instant the lights showed her silhouette as she glided down the streets, almost immediately disappeared again in the shadows. She wore a black military uniform, with a thin mask like helmet that concealed her identity and functioned as a night vision viewer, which is what made this scene uncommon for this part of town. But no one took notice because there was no one around.

G said...

Jon staggered into the bathroom, flipped the light switch and screamed in pain as the soft light shot a dual laser beam into his eyeballs. Covering his eyes, he searched the bathroom for his wraparounds. After spending a few minutes destroying the bathroom with his haphazard searching, he remembered that he’d left them on the nightstand. Walking back to the bedroom, he retrieved the glasses, and after putting a couple of codeine drops into his eyes, he put them on and went back into the bathroom.

T.D McFrost said...

Bane Hollow punched Superman into the air. Over the forest trees he went--soaring up and away into the wide blue yonder. Bane fixed the cuff of his black Armani suit and yawned at the red dot which was now his foe. Is this the best you can do? As though telepathic, the speck came to a halt and expanded as it dove closer and closer...until at the very last moment when face and fist was about to collide--

Melissa Murphy said...

Jackie stood between her mother and her brother, Sam. Tears swam in both of their eyes. Her mother’s fell intermittently throughout the long sermon. Sam’s did not. His clenched jaw and stiff posture spoke of his staunchly held control. He, no doubt, heard the words of their late father running through his head, just as Jackie did now at the sight of her brother’s unshed tears.

Heidi Wainer said...

Deep inside the royal palace in Telnivian, candles burned along the walls of the wizard’s ritual chamber. Thick smoke from chunky incense sticks set into their iron sconces masked their flames and created moving shadows that crept across the floor, a foretelling of the darkness to come.

Tajemca by Heidi Wainer

Aloha Kugs said...

It was said that Alexander Underwood’s mother was many things, though considerate was not usually one of them. While Sylvia herself would maintain that she was thoughtful and kind at all times and to all persons, there was a group within her social circle who would not. The fact that this particular group was limited to her immediate family and those who knew her both well and in passing did not trouble Sylvia Underwood even a little. Such trivialities were generally considered beneath her purview. She had her moments of grace, it was said. This however, was not one of them.

Damon said...

Other kids called the game “War” or “Army,” but we just called it “Guns.” We drew our inspiration from the Saturday-morning cartoon G.I. Joe; as soon as it was over, we would don our darkest Rustler jeans and greenest T-shirts, grab our toy assault rifles, and trudge outside into the moist heat while smearing dirt on our faces to better conceal our white skin. It was all just a game, but it was taken seriously. Usually, it was my older brother and his postpubescent friends against me and my hairless and high-pitched-voice buddies … and my twin sister. (If Duke had Scarlett, Dawn was likewise accepted.)

From- For the Love of God! A memoir of Army Basic Training

Shallee said...

Grandad lied to me a lot. I’d known that for a long time. But standing at the counter at the Distribution Center, I decided everybody lied.

Azimuth said...

An hour before midnight, I took shelter in the loading dock behind the nightclub and listened to the rain. Across the East River, Manhattan’s darkened hulk sat in ruins. Floodlights illuminated the hot zone where salvage crews searched through a second ground zero. I read that they were looking to recover some of the more valuable artifacts in rubble that had been the Museum of Modern Art. Five years on and the radiation was still too high for anything but hazmat teams in lead-clad vehicles to cross the Brooklyn Bridge.

kevin shaub said...

Madison wiped a patch of condensation from the mirror and spoke to his reflection. “June, it’s obvious I can’t bring to this relationship what you deserve.” He dunked the razor through a berg of shaving cream. “Don’t say deserve. Sounds rehearsed.”

katiebowden said...

Alex caught up with him in the middle of the football field. Oliver Harris, the king of Fairvale Academy, had spent the last ten minutes beating the snot out of an innocent freshman, and now he was headed straight for the student parking lot - about to get away with it completely.
Not if I can help it.

YA Paranormal

Heidi Michelle said...

I am not a Flyer. I am a Swimmer. When I was seven years old, my father drove the family car into the San Francisco Bay, killing himself and my mother. I survived. I shouldn't have, but I did. For years, I blocked the memory, and acquired a life-long aversion to deep water, which is no doubt one of the reasons I did not discover my gift until I approached mid-life.

Jeanmarie Anaya said...

Carly knew something was off about the old man the moment she first saw him. She spotted him peeking out from behind one of the towering flower arrangements dotting the room. He twitched his head back and forth, like a rat nosing at a trash pail and hoping not to get caught.

Mary Ann Fraser said...

Starting fresh was getting stale. The snow had nearly stopped, but the car heater wasn’t cutting it, hadn’t been for the last hour. Still, that had nothing to do with why I shuddered as we passed the billboard jutting out of a muddy drift at the side of the highway, “Welcome to Ashton, Idaho, Potato Seed Capital of the World.” The sign might as well have read “End of the World.”

Melissa said...

It was on a winter evening of the year of hope, when the snows were piled high in the northern pass and the wind sang sadly through the lonely canyons, that a new prince was born to the Emperor of Ahr. Born amongst a rising tempest. One that dwarfed even the gale that beat against the city walls, and was far more deadly for its’ silence.

Jack D. said...

On a late summer eve in the month of June, a man stood at the edge of the great White Cliffs of Dover. The sun hung over the land and sea to the west. The large cliffs bore a glowing white color, as they stood above a great blue sea that stretched out for miles until it reached the coast of France. The man walked to the edge, and bent his knees slightly. A fearful look crossed his face. His legs trembled, and he wobbled back and forth.

Shannon said...

When I first saw Pinsel Brechton I thought "Ah, here is a spark of an individual that will go on to many adventures." That may have been a lot to expect from a squalling, six pounds, nine ounces infant, but I was desperate. My two previous assignments had been a fast food manager in Bristol and a shoes saleslady in Billings. Very nice human beings, but I dreamt of chronicling a life full of danger, intrigue, and excitement. I was sure that Pinsel would deliver. It was twenty years before he proved me right.

T.D McFrost said...

I am so stupid. I am so incredibly sorry for posting a third time and littering the chat section. But I posted my first entry by accident when I pressed publish instead of preview. If you would be so kind as to redact the first entry and use the second, I would be very grateful.

Thank you, Nathan, and sorry yet again. :(

Emi J. Gayle said...

My perch on top of Samuel L. Wilson — someone’s beloved father and son resting in peace for thirteen decades — should have given me the solitude I craved. Good ole ‘Sam’, though, hadn’t been fortunate enough to decompose near the entrance to Primrose Graveyard, but underneath the largest oak I’d ever seen, one I claimed for myself.

Chris Kelly said...

Sleet rattled Roiseen's bedroom window. She pulled black jeans over her pajama bottoms and shivered into two layers of sweaters. Her nose was as cold as a healthy Irish Setter's.

Ben Campbell said...

Pretending to hang Moosemush was an initiation into the Campbell Kids Gang. All seven gang members had different initiations. Horsehead was a frenzied half-teenager and she had to eat three potato bugs. Pudding was a radiant budding fourteen year old and she had to roller skate down the dangerously steep Avalon Avenue between Edinburg and Madrid Streets. Truckface was an irritating pre-teen nerd and he had to stand in the middle of the Monroe Elementary School yard and scream ten times, I AM STUPID.

Tammy said...

Chapter 1
Bosnia, 1994- Two Years into the War
Each shot had to count. Alaga sighted carefully along the barrel of a rusty rifle. Bullets were scarce and more valued than money, but still more valuable was the meat he hoped to bring home. His vision blurred and he rubbed a grimy hand across his eyes, forcing them to focus. Hunger, fatigue or hatred caused the head of a large, brown rat to morph into the face of the soldier who had changed his life forever. He steadied himself, sighted again, then squeezed the trigger, separating the rodent’s head from its body. Yes! Tonight they would have meat to celebrate Zlata’s birthday.

MAN OF THE HOUSE
By Tammy Setzer Denton

Timothy Nies said...

An arm appeared from out of the shadows. Its slender fingers reached out from the dark side of the lone street light on Cumberland Road. As it traveled further into our world and away from the darkness, a shoulder and then a face followed it. The face belonged to a man, and though it looked painfully distorted, molding itself to fit through the limited space, it appeared pleased. A foot came next and the crunch it made on the gritty surface of the pavement alerted the world that Mr. Fate had arrived. He moved further from the shadow, his elongated features rounding as he pushed away from the void. Then, taking a second step setting his left foot next to his right, the shadow’s grip relinquished its hold of him and his trans-dimensional trip was complete.

[dave] said...

I watch Chloe almost every minute of every day. And when I cannot -- when I must eat, when I must shit -- I think of her. Chloe is my everything. She has a deep throaty laugh, a skittish smile and very, very white teeth. She is a young woman who grew from a cocky, scrawny girl to a reluctant full woman-shape. Chloe is my sister. She does not know I exist.

Anna said...

It was already a crazy morning and it was only going to get worse. I forgot to pick up my laundry so I didn’t have my favorite jeans. I ran down the street, my bag flapping behind me and my hair curly because I didn’t have time to straighten it. The train pulled away just as I reached the platform. Great, I thought. What a way to start the week. When the next train pulled up to the station I saw my butt looked fantastic in the black cigarette pants I chose instead of the jeans. I lifted my chin and strutted even as I hurried to work. They can wait, I thought. I look fabulous.

Alison said...

"Donna, your phone bill is gonna be huge."
"I don't care," I say, barely glancing at the boy in the deck chair next to mine.
"If you make a call from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, it's considered roaming," he reminds me.
"Whatever."
"How many times have you text--"
I snap my phone shut.
"Deke, could you lay off for a minute? Please? Go get us Cokes. Or burritos. Or find some other way to make yourself useful."
"I could rub suntan lotion on you."

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