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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jaraix said...

"I had never belonged here, to this city of gold. Amongst the stone-hewn facades, glass interwoven with running lines of brass and gilt, amongst the rivulets of people that trickled between the display windows of shops and restaurants, and flowed into the very heart and pride of Prospero. Out in the harbour, great pillars of stone stretched towards the sea, a Midas' hand that drew the distant smoke of ships into its glittering spans."
- The City and the Sea

Jackie Buxton said...

Etta took the stranger’s hand and held it with her own cold, yet sweating fingers.
“ABC: Airways, Breathing, Circulation,” her words tripped over each other. The driver’s twisted hips were wedged under the steering wheel and her face planted in the well of the passenger seat. “Can’t see the airways,” Etta whispered, her head shaking indiscriminately from side to side. “How can I tell if they’re clear?”

Lynn said...

He stood in the doorway asking us to keep it down; a silhouette with a curly mop of hair.
“You’re keeping me up”, he said. “My window is right there”, and he pointed at the 600 year old stone house just a few feet away. What does one do when confronted with the unknown thousands of miles from home in a remote mountain village? My friend Corrine knew what to do: she offered the unknown a glass of wine.
“Well, it’s better than going back to bed and not sleeping because of the noise” he said. And it was…much better.
That 600 year old house is now my home and that curly headed silhouette, he’s the reason I went from living in Chicago to living in a village in the middle of mountains in the south of France. I quit my job, said goodbye to my friends, and moved thousands of miles away from my family; I stepped into another world, another time, and the start of a brand new adventure.

Lynn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RosieC said...

Her eyes snapped open. A muffled alarm beeped somewhere, drawing her attention into consciousness. She blinked several times in the dark, unsure if her eyes were open. Am I blind? She raised her right hand in front of her face. A thin, metallic reverberation echoed around her as her hand hit the… ceiling? Instead of worrying about her eyes, she laid her palm flat against the cold metal only inches above her face. What the hell? Feeling the panic pooling inside of her, she reached her other hand to the left. It had hardly drifted away from her body before it clanged against the cold metal wall.

Emily said...

She wasn’t dreaming, Evie knew that much. Yet as her eyes flickered open she suddenly had the distinct and ridiculous idea that she hadn’t quite connected to reality either.

McDermott said...

The first rock came from the back of the mob. It arced high and plunged downward, into the forehead of the angry motorist berating the gas station attendant. Five minutes earlier, the mob had been a crowd, drawn by raised voices at the pumps, and earlier still, individuals, lounging against their cars in the kilometer long line. That had all changed at the appearance of the SOLD OUT sign. As the bloodied motorist fell, word spread the attendant killed him, merely for demanding fuel.

Riots began in earnest.

Slushpile Slut said...

A load of dirt, corpses and stone hovers above me. The bulldozer’s hydraulic arm is jerking back and forth trying to locate the perfect spot. One of the guards is motioning, a little to the right as if he’s just managing a typical day of construction and not filling the earth with the dead like they were heaps of rubble. I want to clamber to the rim of the landfill, where the looming onslaught of death will not weigh me down further but I can’t bring myself to wade through the silent, cold bodies surrounding me. The perverse thought of pressing my weight on their unyielding limbs for leverage to move, paralyzes me. The guard signals a triumphant thumbs up to the dozer. I cringe, shutting my eyes, trying to hurry and decide if I want the privilege of death or the agony of living in these times.

YA Dystopia – The Culling

K. L. Howard said...

I broke away from an important conversation to walk down the strange corridor. The walls were sterile white, decorated with closed doors of the same color, and stretched to infinity. My feet carried me forward and yet I went nowhere at the same time. Still I kept walking, never realizing the counter-productivity of the action. My focus was on the end of the hallway, where a door just like the other doors waited. A woman stood in front of that door, her back to me. She repeatedly opened the door as if to enter, and every time she opened it, she was opening the door for the first time. In a way, I was at both places, but I couldn't walk through the door unless the me walking through the corridor arrived at the door. I wondered why I couldn't just teleport directly to the door; this is a dream after all.

Mel said...

A bead of sweat trickled down my forehead and into my eye. It stung. The room was unnaturally hot. No one else seemed to notice. Maybe it was the lamp directly over my head—burning down on me like the sun at high noon. My throat was dry.

Roza M said...

I’m innocent. I’ve had to remind myself this at least a thousand times. Most people didn’t believe me. My parents, all my teachers, hell even my friends thought I was a murderer.

tommy vice said...

You know the kind of Tuesday that bends you over, butters you up and proceeds to shaft you at every available opportunity? First it was the phone call at 3am- how could something break at that time of the morning?! Then the car was too cold to start. Then a tyre punctured halfway down the road, follwed by the realisation that I'd left my wallet at home so couldn't even buy breakfast. Nighmare. Despite being Tuesday's bitch I arrived only half an hour late, the feeling of how-the-hell-did-I-manage-to-end-up-here almost overwhelming me as the revolving door smacked my ass.

AnnD said...

Shortly before three o’clock on the last afternoon of November, Elinor McPhail pushed open a rust-stained door and entered the house she must now call home. Ahead of her, at the top of the stairs, her stepdaughter stood quite still, arms folded, dark hawk-like eyes narrow and watchful. An ache of dread formed in Elinor’s chest, heavy as rock. She glanced down at her hands for a moment, then straightened herself, forced her lips into a smile and gazed steadily at Briony.
‘There’s news of your father,’ she said.

Bill Myers said...

Jimmy Morris’s bones bubbled while he slept. Their hard outer surface flexed and bulged, while his skin rippled in waves. His skull, and the skin covering it, throbbed between its usual shape and something closer to a rugby ball.

Jami Gold said...

Jewelry trickled through Elaina Drake’s fingers to fall back into their safe-box. The priceless ornaments lacked the satisfying clink of gold coins when they landed. They just didn’t make treasure like they used to. Such a shame.

Jabez said...

I catch the phone on the seventh ring. It’s Fin. He says he’ll be here in an hour. I fill my valise with a change of clothes; my various tonics, salves, and pills; a couple diapers: all the dignity-shredding supplies needed for comfort and survival on a fool’s errand road trip. Then I add my well-worn copy of Plutarch’s Lives, which, unlike my own forays into history, was intended for moral instruction.

ahepburn05 said...

I knew I was dreaming. I knew I was as far away from my little flat in Flagstaff as I could possibly get. I could feel myself standing on the familiar soggy forest floor. I could smell the moss that covered the rocks and the wet bark from the old oak trees that are so tall it actually hurts your neck trying to look at the top. Id been here many times in my dreams so I could tell, even though my eyes were squeezed shut, that I was standing just yards away from a little stream. I think my mind knew when I needed to visit this dream; the trickling of the water running at a slow pace and the smells of the surrounding area brought me a deep sense of calm. I opened my eyes and inhaled deeply, then instantly wished I hadn’t! Everything changed.

tct said...

The bullet severed my spinal cord, so I can’t tell you if it hurts to die. What I can tell you is that being raised from the dead can be likened to burning at the stake with no promise of death to give you peace.

KeriOkie said...

Dreamsayer - Erotic Fantasy Romance

“Lemons?” Wolfe exhaled the scent as his stomach twisted. On the anti-grav delivery wagon sat five crates of fresh produce for rush delivery from Damal to Ecaru, a job that would net them a good sum. However, Reef failed to mention the crates contained that fruit. Wolfe would have refused the job because the scent triggered boyhood memories of his sex tutor. The old woman used the acid to burn away of the roughness on her skin. It didn't help. He'd get even with his big brother later.

Blog said...

I should have said something about Petra. The two, in the grass. I should have spoken. I hope they aren't hurt. They needed to know what I knew, though I don’t know why. I couldn't bring myself to speak, not with Chef so eloquent. I can't speak so well by half. My hands get to itching and I stumble when I try to speak, and Mama right near us might start her crying and Petra might come back as a ghost. That would be frightening. She might be dead, but even dead I bet Petra would come to send us out of the park too. Maybe she sent these two. But we wouldn't have to save them from the police if they came from her. Still, it might be true. And if it were, me talking would just make it worse. Besides, why conjure the memory? Sometimes it's best not to speak. Words are too real. They bring ghosts. But I remember. Memories are like ghosts themselves. I can't stop that. I remember stories. I remember Petra. I looked back because I would have told them. Chef wouldn't like it if he knew, but I remember.

Ulysses said...

On the second-last day of the seventy-ninth year of the Ninth Cycle of Yaan, during sparring practice in the Hunshi monastery, the Aspirant Zhangxin kicked Master Zhu in the head and knocked him down. That is why the Hunshi Grandmaster ordered Zhangxin's death.

cvfdcff said...

My death was imminent. The day I knew I would die dominated my imagination. These thoughts often kept me wide-awake during the dark hours of night as I crafted and carved out the details. I would bend and draw events, stagger the line between reality and fantasy, envisioning every detail that day would bring.I didn’t think today would be that day.

Holly said...

I clapped my hand over my mouth, trying to hide the smile I couldn’t hold back, and watched my dad’s face turn red. My mother sputtered, looking for words. It’s not that I wanted to ruin the first family dinner we’d had in a long time, especially because my brother and his boyfriend were visiting. I didn’t have a choice. I’d been given a deadline.

TreeFeathers said...

Somewhere a dog barked. Melanie stood on the porch of Aunt Violet's house, key in hand, her breath coming in frosty puffs, and listened. In her mind's eye she could see the dog, somewhere beyond the trees. A small black Lab mix, barking at the kitchen door—dinnertime! You're fat, she thought. That boy shouldn't feed you so much. The dog wagged his tail in happy agreement.

Alpha-Mom said...

I first heard the amber alert on my drive to work. Later I’d wish I’d paid more attention to the radio reports of Jasmine Howard’s kidnapping, but right then I had other things on my mind. Twenty minutes late and running on Red Bull and fumes, I was praying I’d make it into work before my boss did. But as I pulled up to Mile High Mediums, located in a seedy strip mall a couple blocks east of Denver’s historic Ogden Theater, Manny’s truck was parked out front. I couldn’t delude myself into thinking it belonged to someone else, either. Only Manny had the balls to drive a cherry red monster with vanity plates that read, PUMP3D.

Mark C said...

If you want to hear the story about the war on the Great Plains, one place to begin would be Little Crow. The trouble with Little Crow began in the time the whites called the 1850s, but which the Indians had no name for. It was in Minnesota, where he signed a treaty with the United States.

Yarrow Kae said...

She takes a sip of her double-bagged overly seeped black tea and in three distinct movements she, again, looks at the clock—now 6:03 a.m., puts the pencil to the page, and draws the first line in mapping the game. She reads quickly, her brain mathematically processing as she reads, ‘If G and S are reduced then so is W.’ She draws and maps and plots then finishes---------- 6:10. Her eyes linger at the top of the page. She should be completing that problem in 6 minutes. Taking a deep breath she grumbles, “Every fucking millisecond counts in this damn test.” She grips the right side of the book and presses it closed.

"Behind"
Yarrow Bucans
yarrowbucans@gmail.com

Yuenmei said...

I’ve always had a funny feeling about Boston. That’s not to say I saw this coming. I’m not trying to tell you I’m some kind of clairvoyant or that I looked into my coffee dregs one morning and saw my fate, soggy and brown, staring back at me.

Jared said...

The bramblewood was silent, except for the soft ripples of Slate Creek as it wound its way through the forest on a late summer afternoon. Casson Tarre waited silently behind a large oak, several paces away from the bank, holding a half drawn bow. He inhaled slowly in anticipation. The pirates’ raft would come by shortly, and he would be ready for it.

Leah Petersen said...

I was barely eight years old when they came for me.

Mari Adkins said...

Running away without a plan sucked.

Stephanie McGee said...

Anshu and Kairavi arrived at the Council chambers a few moments before council was to begin. They floated in through the gossamer-thin doors that had been left ajar. Inside, the room opened into a wide semi-circle away from them. Nineteen of the twenty-four throne-like seats comprising the first row of seating stood occupied. Behind those, rows of benches filled to capacity with guardians there to watch the proceedings. The Elders nodded at those occupants as they passed along the aisles to two of the remaining seats. They took their places in the center of the first row, on either side of the last two empty thrones. Each Elder took on some element of the body they guarded, be it planet, sun or moon, creating a rather muted cacophony of color in the room.

Bonnie Trenga said...

Every community harbors a weirdo, and it seems I’ve filled that niche here in Playa del Sol, California. I shouldn’t be surprised. I often discuss grammar with my pet fish, Apostrophe, and I carry a dictionary and red marker at all times—just in case I encounter an out-of-whack sentence or an extraneous comma. In fact, plenty of grammar-related mishaps have plagued my hometown lately, and I’ve complained about them all. Too bad the local beach bozos prefer tanning to brushing up on their syntax and punctuation. And now one of them has taken revenge. Just after sunset, a disguised assailant barged into my bungalow and lashed me to a wooden chair.

Rebecca T. said...

“I still can’t believe you lied to your parents,” Layla said, grabbing onto a nearby tree branch and using it to pull herself up the steep embankment. She glanced over her shoulder in time to see Moira stick her tongue out.

Thanks for hosting the contest Nathan!

Kawai said...

It had been forty-five years since I’d started a fire, so long that I almost thought I was cured. During most of those forty-five Anne had been with me. But she had passed six months earlier, when a hemorrhage drowned the life from her brain, so I’d been left to get older alone. In those six months I realized the rudeness of time. There were whole days that went by when my skull was cold with memories and I sat in an easy chair in my bedclothes until sundown. And then one day the firestarting returned.

Stephen said...

They forgot one badge. Easy enough to do. A large company lays off more than a hundred employees, they're bound to miss a thing or two. One badge. It was all Edward Mulroni needed to let himself in through the shipping entrance.

Just Jaye said...

As I take a seat at the bar, I’m beyond focusing on the job. Wants his precious demon, does he? Heh. The boss can go suck eggs. Rather indulge in envisioning juicy scenarios of mindless destruction, the only question being, do I go for quality or quantity? Screwing up the snatch would serve Dooga right. He knows I can’t do this alone. Goldbricker. Whiny little baby. The bartender asks what I’ll have. Beer. Makes no never mind the brand. It’s just rent for the stool anyway. Reckon he mistakes my mood for underage nervousness. He asks to see ID.

JeanneS said...

When I awoke this morning, the sun barely cresting the peak of the mountains outside my window, I hadn’t seen another person in nineteen days. It’s eerie how the rustle of leaves sounds so loud, a stray breeze creating a cacophony in the eaves above. Time stretches without anyone to talk to. Minutes seem like hours and days like months. Without Scout I probably would have gone crazy. But other than my border collie I am alone on my birthday for the first time in my life.

Anonymous said...

A tabby cat chasing a squirrel darted in front of me and made my bike jump the curb. As I knelt to check the rim on my tire, the memory of a video popped into my head. A kitty named Mittens had raised a baby squirrel along with her own kittens. The cat’s owners videotaped the scrawny squirrel squirming amongst the litter of tiny kittens drinking the mama cat’s milk. The video played on Youtube, and the clip went viral. Almost one million views! Didn’t find any damage to the rim so I hopped back on my bike and pedaled, the video still playing in my head. Why were people so fascinated with it? Was it the thought of predator and prey lying together? Maybe it was because a domestic animal had raised a wild creature? Or perhaps people found it simply unbelievable that such different species could make this incredibly unlikely connection?

colleen@myartsite.com

Laura Pauling said...

Thanks for the great opportunity!

Trust me, it’s damn near impossible to escape from a French prison. Especially for a small town girl with absolutely no previous experience in digging tunnels with a plastic spoon. Not that I would need such a desperate escape plan. Truth works, right? My mom left me. Still have no idea why. My dad moved me to France where I got stuck wearing tacky disguises and acting like a professional busybody for his latest endeavor, Spy Games. And it clearly wasn’t my fault that Parisians were blinded to the fact that one of their beloved icons was indeed a nefarious pastry chef.

Jillian said...

Maureen had always dreamed in technicolor with Dolby digital surround-sound. Her dreams contained all the special effects one could ever ask for in a summer blockbuster movie. Sometimes her dreams were terrifying, while others were downright silly - like the time she dreamed she could fly anywhere she wanted as long as she wore this curious pink and white striped Angora sweater. But these were just dreams, she always told herself, just a little something to keep one's subconscious mind entertained while snoozing for eight long hours. Never once did it occur to her that this angora sweater could have ever existed, just like every crawling, slithering monster that had ever guest-starred in her worst nightmares couldn't possibly be real. After all, as a deputy Sheriff, Maureen wasn't supposed to believe in such things. That all changed when Maureen saw the very same sweater in a photo, worn by a missing six-year-old girl.

DE Tomlinson said...

The man staring up at her was evil. He laid battered and bleeding beneath her athletic frame,her knees tucked firmly under his armpits, her full weight resting on his diaphragm. He gasped for every breath. He was missing his right arm just above the elbow, his left was reduced to a mangled curtain of flesh with a hollow point through his wrist. He kept swatting at her to no avail, leaving behind swatches of gore. She pressed the silenced 9mm into his forehead. She heard the sizzle of blood as the barrel touched his skin. He let out a brief yell, which she silenced by driving the heel of her left hand upward on his cleft chin. His teeth slammed together with a sharp report; it sounded as if someone snapped the lid of a ring box closed. Blood drooled down his cheeks as he writhed beneath her. She could see a chunk of tongue hanging loosely between the canine and first premolar.

"Government Girl" by Dan Tomlinson

Novel in progress.

unwieldy said...

The day after the accident Raleigh returned to the river at dusk. The sun's last tendrils cast long shadows eight minutes in their wake. He knew it had slipped past the tree-line, its vestige of twilight only an illusion of time and distance. Still, he felt its effect. Like Elena. Like the hollow echoes left behind by their unborn child. She had made him promise not to intervene, brainwashed from birth by a dying religion, doomed by a mandate from its dying pope on the finality of death. Raleigh resolved at that moment to bring her back, religion be damned. He glanced at the bright panel embedded in his wrist to confirm the last archive of her neural map. No one else knew she was gone, least of all herself. She would be the hardest to trick. He needed a suitable body, four months pregnant, and his government post afforded him methods of discreetly procuring such things.

Austin L. Church said...

Peter Frampton ruined my life. In 1976, six years before I was born, he recorded, “Baby, I love your way,” and his album Frampton Comes Alive! went platinum seven times. Good for him. Seventeen years later, Big Mountain, a forgettable American Reggae band, covered the song. It peaked at sixth on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, so I’m sure Frampton was swimming in royalty checks. Good for him. I was in the sixth grade at the time and couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing that silly song. Bad for me. Those crashing cymbals and sunny La Dee Das scrambled my pubescent brain. One day after school, I was arguing with an unrepentant ball-hog named Adam. I intended to crush him with an accusation about his secret sexual orientation. This was, after all, middle school, and anyone with any experience in schoolyard altercations knows that creativity counts for nothing. I still made a tactical error. I sang my insult. Let me repeat: I sang an insult.

farmerswife3404 said...

I leaned up against a tree and tried to catch my breath. Had I been running? Where was I going? Why couldn’t I remember? I looked around. Trees, flowers, gravestones. I was in the middle of a cemetery. That seemed strange, not the first place I’d pick to hang out, or even visit. There was a backpack at my feet. I didn’t remember carrying a backpack. It was sitting there, open, and there was a small brown leather book on top. I picked it up and stared at the cover. You’re Dead, Now What? Um, what? I looked around again. That might explain why I was in the cemetery. It might also explain why I couldn’t remember how I got there. But…wait…what?

Jenn Johansson said...

One week after my sixteenth birthday, I freaked everyone out by dying for thirty-eight minutes. It wasn’t intentional, but when my 7-year-old sister, Rami, fell in the river, I couldn’t just stand by and watch.

Jen Barton said...

Choosing the plumpest baby was always her favorite part. She smiled and lifted the hatchling from a wriggling clump in the corner. "That's it, my love." Her breath fogged the thin, frigid air. "It's time."

SanWrites said...

Knowing he’d escaped his small-minded Texas town made Cash Flaherty’s heart race. Hot damn, he’d made it to Ireland. Grinning, he stepped out of the taxi onto the Galway street and immediately felt a jolt. Holy freakin’ crap. What was that buzzing? It vibrated like pounding drums in his head. He slapped his hands to his ears, but the thrum got louder, surging down to his bones. He glanced around. No mass hysteria; apparently, no one else felt it.

Diana Tracy said...

The smell of sulfur lingered in the dank shack as her captor lit match after match attempting to coax the lantern. With each attempt, Hagan willed it to fail—to fizzle into darkness. After all, the shadows around her were the only camouflage. If he succeeded, she would come face to face with a reality she never thought possible. Her head throbbed with the certainty of it, and as her hand found its way to the large mass on the back of her skull, memories of the assault came in flashes. Two darkened figures, a van, and a thump on the head mirrored any girl’s worst nightmare. But Hagan’s story was real—they were real—and only the devil knew their intentions.

~ Garden Summerland said...

Under normal circumstances, I would've been shocked and repulsed by the literal garbage lying on the floor; candy wrappers, soda bottles, scraps of dried moldy bread, popcorn and cigarette butts overflowing from ashtrays onto the stained smelly carpet. I kicked my way through the rotten banana peels and peanut shells, plastic t.v.dinner trays and empty prescription bottles, each one prescribed to a different person.

Debbie Lee said...

They were wasting precious time. Time better spent running from the assassin closing in on them. After several days of hard travel, they had finally reached their destination. The gate to the Evergreen Home for Boys was straight ahead, beckoning them to come inside. Time was ticking on, yet it did not hasten their decision.

Tom J said...

1892 – Sandringham, Norfolk.

It is not every day you collude in the murder of your elder brother. Not every day you sacrifice truth for the sake of family honor. George stared through the window at the night’s serene sky as if in a dream--or nightmare. Surely, this could not be happening. Murder had no place in this room. The whole idea was absurd like Jules Verne’s rocket-man to the moon.

Kelly said...

I’ve had a crush on Peter Watson since I was twelve. Every year that I’d see him on our yearly trip to the Caribbean, I would fall completely to pieces like some moronic idiot. But not this year. I was determined to not fall over my own two feet when he looked at me or spoke to me. The problem was not just his to-die-for-good looks, but the way he spoke always made my heart melt. But what girl doesn’t love those adorable English accents? I literally had been counting down the minutes until I would see him again. Spending ten whole days frolicking in the sand with him was simply the icing on the cake.

Kass said...

It all began after José died. The depression set in. Then the need for escape. Followed by suicidal thoughts.

Tiffany Dominguez said...

I could never rest, not even while I slept. He chased me then, too—in my dreams. During daylight, his face haunted me as I floated among the living, never really one of them. He would never let me join them, not while he was alive.

L.G.Smith said...

I am too much my father’s daughter, I thought, as I blew a puff of warm breath on each lens of the binoculars and buffed them with the only clean spot left on my shirt. A hairline crack in the antique glass distorted the field of view, yet even with the defect I could still see miles farther than with the eye alone. Sweeping left to right, I scanned the line between sea and sky and found it empty. I doubted it would stay that way for long.

Kelly Lyman said...

I don’t remember anything before the age of six. What I once thought were memories from my past, are in fact dreams. They have to be. They’re much too like a fairytale to be real. So, I secretly pretend these dreams, even the bad ones, are my past. It helps me feel more normal.

Shanley Belle said...

Hope is advertised to be the one thing no one can take away from us, our last choice at the bottom of our bag of tricks. I'm ashamed of it. I know that if I could go back to that night, the night of my senior prom, I would still hope he had good intentions. I would hope he was drunk and might pass out, or would stop and begin to cry in between profuse apologies and stories of the way childhood abuse made him the way he was. “I’m so sorry,” he would say in my CW-scripted daydreams, “I’m not really like this. I’ll get help, I’ll never do it again.”

Taryn Tyler said...

Taig Feargal dropped his silver pieces, one coin at a time, onto the table in front of Ol’ Con Eibear the Lodge Master. The rough imitations of King Mauro's silhouette were smudged and scratched as they clinked against the decaying wood. Taig did not like debts to settle anymore than he liked dealing with unlawful men but some things could not be helped. He had needed the money when the taxes were levied and now it had to be repaid.

Chrys said...

My mother never had an orgasm. For the first seven years of her marriage she’d close her eyes and wait until dad was done with his rutting. On her wedding night, dressed in a blinding white peignoir with Swiss lace, she almost threw up when he entered her. For the next two minutes she said it felt as if she'd wandered into a dark cloud, and Satan watched from the ceiling.

Yat-Yee said...

I survived my parents’ wrath when I unwrapped the cloth that bound my feet; I can survive anything, even their deaths. Auntie Jiew has arrived to walk me to her house. My peasant feet will have no problem covering the distance to my new home.

Sarah said...

Lost: unable to find the way, no longer visible . . . no longer known. People think they know what it means. But they’re all wrong. I know what Lost is. I found it in those woods. It whispered to me in the secret language of hot blood trickling over icy skin. It sent me crashing through the burnt pines, their denuded branches thrust out like stilettos. It was with me when I lay cooling in the mud. It waited as I looked up into a dark sky peppered with stars that couldn’t move or blink. I know what Lost is – but I can’t tell you. It’s a secret.

Jeni said...

I could be riddled with it. Maybe it’s been there all this time but I’ve been looking the other way; by the time I realise it’s there it’ll be too late. Half of my life now has been lived around this fear, a moon of fear with a tidal force that pulls upon and pushes against my life in cycles, and quite frankly, it’s getting extremely annoying. I was 14 when I had cancer. It was only Hodgkin’s disease and I only had eight months of chemotherapy and a couple of operations before I recovered and could embark on getting my hair back, but that makes it half my life that I have been a cancer survivor, and at the risk of sounding a bit weird to you if you don’t know me very well yet, that’s half of my life I’ve had to live with being still alive.

MacDougal Street Baby said...

Sara crouched on the cold tiled floor, holding her knees tightly. Maybe, she thought to herself, if I hold my breath long enough, maybe I’ll just disappear. The tears tumbled down her cheeks, chilling her deeper. She could hear them arguing, their voices getting louder and angrier. This can’t be my life, she thought. I was made for better. Images of Susan Smith and Andrea Yates played over and over in her head. The realization was too much. I’m next. And there’s nothing I can do it about it.

Lucinda Bilya said...

*NOT AN ENTRY*

It has taken me two days to get to #1059, but I did it.

Three dozen (36) opening paragraphs make me want to read more, including a couple of those funny, "NOT AN ENTRY" ones.

This is so great Nathan!! Thanks for another peek into the life of the poor agents we pester with our spectacular, next best-sellers, and absolutely, fabulously, fantastically, written creations.

Lucy

Anonymous said...

The lab tech guys hated it when you vomited all over their crime scenes. That was a mistake I had no desire to make again. So as I fought the urge to hurl, it occurred to me that they probably weren’t going to be too thrilled that I had trampled all over this one. Well, crap. If only I hadn’t answered the door, I’d be eating dinner instead of standing in my neighbor’s apartment looking at a dead guy.

Charli Mac said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lisa_Gibson said...

I scanned the campus for any sign of pink flamingos. Thankfully nothing bore a resemblance to the damn pink birds that trigger my panic attacks. Standish Academy, is supposed to be some big freakin’ to-do school that fast tracks kids their last two years of high school, turning us all into ivy leaguers. I knew I didn’t need it, but Mom wasn’t one to leave anything to chance. Her dream revolved around me going to one of the Big 8. Ivy league all the way.

danaalisonlevy said...

Oh, it feels so GOOD to swim. Our Community is big, stretches for miles of deserted jagged coast, but it doesn't feel big when that's supposed to be your whole world. It takes that long just to get my stroke just where I like it. Once I get moving I don't want to stop. My tail does most of the work, thrumming through the water leaving a thick opaque trail of bubbles behind me, but sometimes I slow and use my arms, pushing the water out of my way like I'm digging through the sand. Today I leave Callie far behind in my bubbles, but before they even fade I roll and twist and move back towards her. Again and again I twirl — darting ahead, swinging back — until I feel the stronger push and pull of the water and realize we're getting close to shore. With one strong push of my tail I shoot up to the surface and peer out. Perfect. We're still beyond the big rocks and even Callie can't worry. I let my glamour slip over me and loll in the water, enjoying the sun on my bare skin. Bliss.

Stephanie Barr said...

Lofar stopped suddenly, for no apparent reason. "Well," he said to himself, evidently as confounded as any passerby would be that he was there. "I'm here. Now what?"

Melinda said...

“Tell me, Meri, have you ever seen a witch?” 
I looked up from my breakfast to see Tate leaning against the castle doorway grinning sideways at me. I tried to reply but instead choked on a bite of my dry biscuit. Surely I had misunderstood. A witch? He knew the law about witches, everyone did--death. Even talking about them was dangerous. At this moment, though, there was nothing in the world that I wished to discuss more than the possibility of witches.

Logic said...

“My stepmother is coming to visit.” Chelsea tossed the phone on the couch and went back to her grape nuts. She loved the woman but hated cleaning up after her. Blood and sweat stained everything.

Pants said...

As her eyes fluttered open, Jillian slowly began to remember where she was. Looking around the cold, cluttered hospital recovery room her eyes finally rested on the sleeping figure of her mother reclining in one of those all too uncomfortable chairbeds. The previous night's horror now came flooding back. The unexpected blood, the pain, the jostling ambulance ride, the pain, the admitting lady's round, scared eyes, the pain. Now as Jillian searched the ceiling tiles for answers her brain and battered small-framed body came up with one definite conclusion. She must find Father McNeil...and kill him.

Anonymous said...

Four years after winning the green card lottery and moving to America, Mother and I faced an uncertain future, living in a house that did not even belong to us. The owner of this 1972 ranch home in North Springs, Mother’s second husband, Mathew Caldwell or Matt, the man I had come to love as a dad had mysteriously disappeared, but all Mother did was worry about preparing food for Ramadan, and killing those tiny rats invading our quiet attic.
Ugly, ugly, ugly, she said, In Pakistan servants took care of such creatures. Servants…Helplessness ringing in her usual calm voice.
Here in America you don’t say servants, I corrected her. You, you say hired help.

Ann Best said...

Emotionally, I knew the desert long before I learned about its history. As a child growing up in it, I felt the wilderness beyond Jordan, fifteen miles of useless alkali flats that bring you to the Great Salt Lake Desert, once the graveyard of western wagons, its waterholes seventy-five miles apart, its heat blistering, its white wastes as hard on the eyes as a snowfield. Oxen, horses, and men left their bones in this desert, the same desert that killed Jed Smith when he made the first crossing in 1827, and betrayed the Donner party, killing their cattle, weakening them, and slowing them down as they struggled toward California. The same desert country I crossed one summer in a car with my parents and my brother to visit my sister in California, naively thinking that I was safe. Years later, I would recall that trip and see it as metaphor of the trouble I would have with my brother.
Ann Best, Author

Hannah said...

It’s El. Not Elle, not Ellie, not short for Elizabeth. Just El. At least it’s not L. When the Forrmas created the scale, to accommodate for all those over the age of 14 continually changing their names, they decided that each person could only add one letter per year…but only if they had fulfilled the task given them. It was a reward system that kept the name-changers continually seeking to finish their tasks, continually supporting the government.I’m thirty years old. And in those thirty years, I have gained a total of two letters. Accomplishment 1: I was born. Accomplishment 2: I own more than seven pairs of yellow shoes. It’s not that I couldn’t accomplish my tasks, or that I didn’t try to accomplish some of them. The stories surrounding my life are so bizarre that I am constantly fleeing all people wearing the royal blue capes with the Forrma insignia, for fear of them realizing that I am a two-letter…an ill-accomplished nothing fit only for manual labor or factory work. I was there before, twelve years ago.

Nikki McCormack said...

Prince Yiloch appeared before them, stepping forward with one booted foot to catch his balance after the rough transition. He tensed, his pale eyes taking in the aged, volcanic landscape that stretched around them and assessing the opposition with the quick efficiency of a hunting falcon. He gauged the six guards in seconds, dismissing them with cool arrogance. His gaze lingered an instant longer on Myac, acknowledging the threat of an adept, then came to rest upon his father. The dark, stormy sky and the distant haze of heat from the active lava fields created a fitting backdrop for the fierce hatred boiling off him.

Anonymous said...

There were many things that eleven-year-old Jacqueline Puddle knew. She knew that the name of her town, Slalomville, suited its residents and every-day pace perfectly, because it reminded her of a sloth. Or the word "slow." Or something equally sluggish and sl-ish.

Amanda Knoss, @winterone51
P.S. Thanks for the opportunity, Nathan! From a long-time lurker.

meredithmansfield said...

Rell stood, brushing the heavy clay soil from his hands and watched the dark line of clouds on the northern horizon. There'd be a storm later. At Da's glare, Rell sighed and started to turn back to the row of corn he was supposed to be weeding. From the corner of his eye he saw the lightning fork down from the distant clouds. He froze, half bent to his work and stood up straight again. That bolt had been red! He would swear to it. He watched for another ten heartbeats, waiting. Another bolt. This one was green. He cursed every one of the seven gods. Not just a storm--a mage storm.

Dawn said...

February 15
Seventy-five Minutes Before

I wait as long as I can in the warmth of the car, until the glowing numbers on the dash say 9:45. It’s time. I flip the handle but the door doesn’t move. The crackling noise tells me it’s frozen so I have to bump it a few times before it snaps open. When it does, the bitter cold assaults me with a sucker punch right to the face – just to remind me it’s the dead of winter, in case I’ve forgotten. My exposed skin immediately goes numb, my throat burns with each breath, and my eyes water. But it’s not the weather that worries me. Through my blurred vision, I see a small herd of angry faces up ahead. They carry signs and fliers, contempt and judgment. The nurse warned me this might happen. “It’s best to ignore them,” she said. “We’re supposed to have a thirty-foot buffer zone, but it doesn’t always work. Just keep your head down and your ears closed until you get to the clinic door.”

Downith said...

Claire sat at Gate 53, in the crowded departure lounge, waiting for her flight to be called. She was not used to travelling alone. Glancing idly at her fellow passengers, she wondered who she would be stuck with on the plane. Beside her a young woman struggled to control a baby whose arched back and livid face foretold an imminent eruption. Please not them, thought Claire. As the infant began to wail, she moved away on the pretext of going to the bathroom.

SueO said...

March 29, 1865
It was akin to a Passion play at church, thought Jack. The smoke drifted listlessly across the broken ground, reeking of sulfur and destruction. Tired but determined men marched in plodding tread with the seeming certainty of meeting Death as Minié balls whizzed around them. To Jack’s eyes, they looked like sinners going to the Devil on the other side of the breastworks. They shrugged their shoulders against the relentless rain from the flaming Rebel muskets and searched with haunted eyes for somewhere safe to hide. They had been at this for so long this day; it must have seemed as though they had already been to Hell and taken the Grand Tour.

Mystery Robin said...

Johnny squeezed the muscles in his shoulders together, lifted the pick into the air and drove it into the block of stone at his feet. A few bits crumbled away, but it was just a first swing. He'd need at least ten more before the block would really give. He yanked the ax out, feeling the burning through his back and upper arms, then threw it into the block again. He liked to keep track. See if he could beat his record. He'd once split a block like this with nine strokes, but he had to be perfectly efficient with each one, and he thought that first blow was a bit off. This block would take ten for sure.

dlwebb said...

After all these years, you’d think the impact of what happened would soften. But it doesn’t work that way. Not for me. Instead, the memories slam me like the recoil of a shotgun. Adrenaline and blood have a tendency to do that--outline your memories like a permanent marker that never fades.

Kristi and Ti said...

I reached outside the front door for the Sunday New York Times and scanned the headlines. What the…? I had a Russian or maybe Polish edition of the paper. I tossed the paper on the hall table and went upstairs to dress. I’ll take my Russian/Polish paper down to the newsstand, exchange it for an English-language one and have a laugh with Dmitry, who was probably behind this practical joke. But halfway down the block, on a street that I’d lived on for decades, everything suddenly looked unfamiliar. Where was I? Where was my building? I reached for my cell phone, but it wasn’t in my coat pocket. I sat down in front of a… a… what was it called? A… store, clutched my newspaper and willed myself not to cry.

Laird Foster said...

MG/YA (Tween)

The sunrise that freaky day was a sea of fiery orange. Like the sky was burning. Red sky in morning, sailors take warning. I should have given everyone some warning—but warning about what? Instead, I giggled and fed the chickens, knowing all the water in the world would never make that distant inferno even flicker, probably just make a spooky hissing sound before sizzling out forever, like a dab of butter in a hot frying pan.

Stephen DePaoli said...

Madeline was a virgin. She was not particularly proud of her virginity. Nor was she ashamed. She assumed that someday she would get around to losing her virginity, just as she would someday visit Paris, learn to paint with water colors, and finally read more than a few pages of a Jane Austin novel without falling asleep. Madeline was a virgin, and she didn’t give it much thought at all. Nevertheless, she found herself stopping in her tracks the day that the street preacher called her “The Whore of Babylon”. There was something about his blunt accusation that annoyed her. She was certainly no whore. And she didn’t look the least bit Babylonese.

Katchen said...

Twenty more steps up the hill. That was all she had to take and it would finally be over. She could barely breathe. Her chest felt as if large stones pressed down upon her, squeezing every last breath of life from her body. But that was not the chosen fate for her today. She looked up at the tall oak tree stretched before her on Gallows Hill. Its branches spread wide open, inviting and comforting against the backdrop of the raging crowd. The tree did little to hint at its deceptive purpose. She could barely hear the townspeople around her, stirring themselves into a frothing cauldron of fear and hate with a hint of shame that lingered on their breath as they screamed and taunted her every move. “Be done with her,” “God save her soul,” Death to the devil,” “Rid us of this witch!” She frantically searched the crowd, her eyes darting everywhere with an almost desperate hysteria. She could not fail. He had to be there.

Katherine Hyde said...

High, true, and clear as crystal, the boy soprano voice floated through the
final cadence of Bach's Christmas Oratorio. Danny listened to it enraptured, transported, full of awe as always that this marvelous music was issuing from his own skinny throat.

Marc Fine said...

I got married today. This event came as a great surprise to my friends and colleagues who knew me as a confirmed bachelor often heard to opine that career and marriage are not compatible. But circumstances change. And as a great sage once said, ‘Man plans, God laughs.’

(From "The Goldsmith's Daughter," by Marc Fine

Lindsey Lane said...

When I saw that dead fish lying by the side of the Hapgood Pond, I bent over and looked into its milky eyes--the same exact eyes as my sour-faced, rich Aunt Pooh has—and I was pretty sure it was a sign that Aunt Pooh was dead. The minute I saw it, I said out loud to the hot crickets, “Aunt Pooh’s dead.” The way they stopped screeching it was like they were having a moment of silence over her passing.

lisalisalisa said...

My mother always told me that we don't live in a Polyanna world. I don't need to see the movie to understand what she meant. Sometimes your life isn't quite as perfect as you'd hoped it would be, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to make the best of it, you know, believe in yourself and keep the faith that others are trying just as hard as you to be positive. I always tried to give others the benefit of the doubt, I deserve it, why shouldn't they? I guess you can say that my life began to change the day I finally realized the phrase "I'll call you" doesn't mean shit to your average male. Did I say average? I mean pretty much the entire male population.

kaylafina said...

Daniel knew, the moment he held the Skittles package in his front jacket pocket, that he was forever a Thief. Of course now, when he tells the story of his first Take to the new recruits in Quarters, he claims it was a Snickers. Because there is no way he is going down as the guy who started out stealing chick candy.

JB said...

Tommy stood pale and wide-eyed under the harsh electric lights of the Ferris wheel. The deafening roar of a nearby roller coaster barreling along its tracks made him flinch, and the people screaming at the top of their lungs set his heart racing. Even the smell of the freshly buttered popcorn suddenly seemed rancid and made him gag. He bit his lip. “I’m going crazy,” he muttered. He squeezed his eyes shut and forced himself to take deep breaths, hoping the… thing would just disappear. When he opened his eyes though, it was still there, right between ‘Diggity Dog’s Snack Shack’ and ‘Bozo’s House O’ Mirrors.’ He swallowed hard and backed away from it, wiping his sweaty palms on his jeans.

Tracy O said...

The trips down the hole always left Chloe with a thin feathery feeling as if her bones were hollow. Last night she’d passed again through the crawlspace in her mind. Unable to breathe, the ground pressed down on her, cold and mossy like she’d been buried with all the others. The bodies are stacked neatly, not in the mass frenzy of secret graves, but methodically placed like seed rows in a garden. The hole snapped closed and she crashed back into her body with a force that sucked the air from her lungs and made her bones rattle. Damp with sweat, she lay awake in bed next to Scott and her cat as three o’clock passed onto four and then five.

Nancy S. Thompson said...

I don’t know how I missed it, that moment I changed, when I became a different man. I’d made it to the age of thirty-three, still the same as always or so it seemed. Wiser perhaps, but then again I had to be, for my brother’s sake at least. I always believed people to be predictable, essentially unchangeable, that our DNA determined who we were from the very moment of conception. From day one we stamp ourselves with names, fit each other into well-defined categories and try our best to live up to the expectations of others, to be who we really want and were meant to be. But what if what truly defined you was stripped away through deceit, stolen by greed, or destroyed by the malice of others? What then?

Jennifer Crites said...

Were the sharks hungry? He chanced a quick glance at them. They sure didn’t look like gods, especially personal family gods that would come to your rescue if you were in danger. That’s what the locals preached, but he wasn’t buying it. Anyway, he doubted it applied in this case. She wasn’t native Hawaiian. And even if the sharks were gods, Hawaiian deities were known for demanding human sacrifice. He was about to make them an offering they couldn’t refuse.

Anonymous Me said...

My step dad’s the kind of man who helps the armless beggar throw his-self under the bus. Seen Steven do it too back when we was up in New York for three days after he married Momma. The beggar went squish and everybody got to carrying on- crying and screaming and shit. Nobody seen what Steven done ‘cept for me. And maybe Momma. I couldn’t tell nothing by her face. I got up on my tippy toes and whispered what I seen in her ear.

Jackson MacKenzie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bhaswati Ghosh said...

The clump of breath releasing off the ever-floating mass of people nearly nauseated Amala, as she and Kartik stepped on to the platform on a trapping humid April day. Before this, the only places where she had seen so many people at the same time were in melas—those boisterous fairs she had attended in her village. But Sealdah station was no mela; instead of the village’s bonhomie and banter, there was swirling chaos—people boarding off trains, others rushing in and pushing each other to catch trains, and some just lazing around or lying on the cold, hard platform. Hawkers passed by, screaming out their wares, beggars lurched about in torn, soiled one-piece garments, and a few stray dogs joined the disarray in their hunt for edible scraps across the platform. As she stood there, clutching her little brother’s hand, Amala did not want to make sense of anything around her. If anything, she wished becoming senseless at that instant. But it was Kartik’s, not her, turn to slip into unconsciousness. She realized the grip of his hand had slipped off hers.

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

For centuries, the world outside the Biome has been dangerous. Unlivable. Or so they say. I sit at the tiny window – the only one that’s been carved into the solar panels covering the South Side - and stare out at the dunes folding in the bright sun. I’d give anything to feel the natural warmth on my skin, a cool breeze in my hair, the sand sifting between my toes. Funny. Doesn’t look that dangerous out there. But, evidently, the sun's too hot; the air's too poisonous; and the land's too barren. Leaving everyone trapped in some strange eco-bubble the size of New York. Stuck inside with no way out. This is all about to change. Today, my father will go down in history as the first man to step out of the artificial ecosystem in over a century. On this day, he will test the BioSuit and finally open up my suffocating world.

Jackson MacKenzie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jackson MacKenzie said...

“Congratulations students. Tomorrow, you’ll see the sun.”

The words sent chills down Dare’s spine. He couldn't believe it. After nearly a decade of training, they were finally ready. And just in time for his sixteenth birthday.

Kayla Olson said...

Speck Hawkins fumbled in the weeds for the thick, black-rimmed glasses he’d worn forever, only to discover he no longer needed them. Sunny yellow splotches appeared all over the lake, blurred through the lenses. He yanked the glasses from his face. Marigolds. Without his glasses, he saw them with perfect clarity. Ten flowers floated on the water; ten more plopped up from below the silver-gray surface. There were no ripples. Every curve of the petals, each fuzzy green stem—one by one, the flowers shriveled and disintegrated. Turned to ash. Disappeared under the calm surface of the lake, until every last flower was gone. It freaked him out.

Mark j Austin 2012 said...

Over a hundred comments were posted on Dr. Sara Jackson's genetic science blog and more were pouring in. "They have no idea you were murdered in Guatemala yesterday," Noelle whispered hoping her sister's spirit would somehow reappear."I think I can keep your on-line idenity alive but how can I protect your baby from the anti-cloning fanatics? I've got to find someone who can help me decipher the secret to eternal life you encrypted in this web page." Silently facing her greatest fear, Noelle knew her sister's digital finger prints would point her to the Mayan ruins where she'd so far refused to venture.

Looking forward to reading Jacob Wonderbar. Thanks Nathan!

Joan Strading said...

An unkindness of ravens darted into the afternoon sky, their cries echoing through the forest. I held my breath, listening for breaking branches or footsteps, and sought for whatever had startled the birds.

Nancy W said...

Something ain’t right about that man George thought as he stared at the homeless man standing across the street. George had been homeless for the past two years and after getting robbed and beaten a few times, it hadn’t taken him long to learn that his survival on the streets required that he become a diligent observer. He took another swig of bourbon from the bottle he held that was sheathed in a wrinkled brown paper bag. He savored the burning yet smooth taste and then the warmth spreading throughout his body and was grateful that he had collected enough money to buy a pint of Jack Daniels rather than the horrid tasting whiskey he usually bought. After all, today was his wedding anniversary and he felt like celebrating.

Anonymous said...

“Flute!” The word echoed down the bright blue hallway, followed by a resounding thud. Arthur lay sprawled face down on the copper tiled floor. Above him a clipboard hovered effortlessly in mid-air.

Zac skidded to a halt several feet ahead, his silver suit sparkling in the light. He sprinted back to Arthur’s side. “Uncle A! What happened?”

“The nanocomputers?” Arthur asked, scrambling to a kneeling position and knocking the clipboard with his head.

Zac took the clipboard and inspected the attached watch-like devices. “They’re fine.” His exasperated voice then took on a hint of panic, “Come on! Aunt Jean is flipping her lid.”

MJ Atkinson

Keith Popely said...

The doctors at New York Hospital in Queens all agreed that Jared Schwartz was the ugliest baby they had ever seen. His mother, feet still in the stirrups, took one look at him and blacked out. The child’s head looked squashed and too round, the ears small and curly. His brow stuck out over his eyes like the bill of a baseball cap and his truncated chin pushed his purple, puffy lips into what appeared to be a prune stuck to his face. Whereas most people are welcomed to life with smiles and joy, Jared was greeted by an awed silence. The maternity nurse nearly dropped him in her rush to hand him off to his mother, who, as mentioned, was out cold. Whereas other children spend their early years getting lifted up, kissed on the cheeks and swung about like helicopters, Jared was left to sit alone on the floor with a stuffed bunny. No one ever touched him unless they absolutely had to. As he grew older, every year seemed to reveal a new malady. He itched all over and farted when he walked up stairs. By the time he reached middle school, his back was so furry that hairs stuck up out of his collar. In high school, he stopped growing north at five foot three, but continued expanding to the west and east until he resembled a map of Australia. And yet, he was not an unhappy person. He smiled often and enjoyed helping others with their chores. His diesel engine laugh could often be heard roaring through crowded school hallways. Once the other children had several years to get accustomed to his appearance, they realized that they liked him very much. However, throughout his life, there was only person who ever loved Jared Schwartz. Her name was Sarah Fishbein and she had been born on the very same day he was, twenty-five minutes away by subway in another world called “Manhattan.”

Raven Blackmane said...

It was time to make breakfast. Ellie felt a twinge in her heart. The Sams wanted pancakes. Her grandmother always made the best pancakes. Ellie remembered to use oil and not butter because butter will burn, a tip Grandma mentioned before she slipped into a coma and died. Ellie added chopped walnuts and banana to the batter, mixed and poured a laddle full into the hot skillet. After the bubbles told her it was time to flip, she flipped the pancake. There it was, clear as crystal, right on the pancake. "I'm allergic to nuts."

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Annabelle Williams gave birth to a beautiful baby boy named Ryan.
Beautiful lines for a heartless bitch.
Two days later, she was gone.
Seven months later, seven fucking months.
Alex, get over it. Alex, move on.
They didn’t get that I couldn’t. So I moved out.
Ryan on one hip, I opened the door, already pissed at the guy standing outside.
“Come in,” I muttered. I shut the door after him, watched as he carefully sat on my couch.
A hole in the middle would probably never be fixed.
Ryan liked the stuffing.


-Lauren

wondering04 said...

Daddy shakes me awake. With his face inches from mine, he whispers, “Shirley, don’t you dare make a sound.” From a fog of sleep, I open my eyes to see Daddy’s fist next to my face.

Sarah L. Blair said...

Dirt rained down into Gabriel’s hair as he made his way through the narrow tunnel. He fell against the wall when another tremor shook the castle far above. It was a losing battle. He checked the tiny bundle in his arms. The babe was awake, but silent; as though she sensed the danger they were in.

Terri Tiffany said...

It was wrong. Showering when she should be at the hospital with Peter. The shut-off knob nestled against Norma’s palm as she twisted. She stepped from the tub, exhausted. Peter hadn’t even recognized her yesterday, or the day before. Slipping home for much-needed sleep seemed acceptable at the time. She ran a finger over his comb’s broken teeth. A space the size of a dime cradled both ends. Broken. Like her life.

H2 said...

“It fits, it fits!” said Suha, the largest and most weathered of the Beech sisters.
“Oh huckleberries!” exclaimed the gallant Prince Phillip as he fainted and landed on the ground. Rosemary Alcott, the young maid, rushed to his side and fanned him.
Prince Phillip's servant, Jacques, said dramatically, “Give me room, back away, back away.” He gestured to the room of women who were equally shocked that Suha's beastly foot made into the glass slipper.
“See. Look. It fits! It fits!” Suha repeated with a shrill cry. She bounced across the room to make sure everyone had a good look. Suha's long, witchy hair and wandering eye seemed half a beat behind as she bounded to the richly embroidered couch and landed next to the prince's servant. She looked at him with pleading eyes and he put a lace handkerchief over his mouth.

Sarah Enni said...

I don’t know a lot about relationships. But I think it goes without saying you’re not supposed to break up with a girl when she’s sitting at the edge of a cliff. That’s what Caleb’s doing right now. To me. The night before I move halfway across the country.
And that’s not the worst of it. The worst is, I wanted to break up with him.

Emily P. W. Murphy said...

Rusty kept a packed bag in his closet for when his uncle left. For weeks his father’s younger brother had received packages in the mail-- packages he concealed under his shirt and took straight to his room. The first had arrived about a month ago, meaning it was almost time for him to leave.

RobynBradley said...

When Maggie showed me her birth certificate and claimed my mother was also her mother, I didn't know what to think. I mean, my mom had never once hinted about some illegitimate child from her past. But the more I thought about it, the more I remembered the other truths she'd tried keeping from me as a kid: Santa Claus's identity. The reality that words can hurt. And the fact my father committed suicide when I was five years old. My curiosity piqued. A sister? I had a sister? (Okay, a half sister, but still.)

Jenn said...

Evie wasn't pretty enough to be a famous princess. She was sort of pretty, but in the land of fairy tales, sort of pretty was equivalent to ordinary. Besides, blue eyed blond princesses were a dime a dozen around here. Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Sleeping Beauty took care of that. And like her mother said, she was no Cinderella. Thankfully, Evie didn’t care.

Lena Hillbrand said...

Sometimes I think I’d never even know I existed if it weren’t for freak accidents where I run into someone and they say “Excuse me,” and I say, “Sorry.” Sometimes that’s all I say all day. I might as well be invisible for all the attention I attract. Being invisible can have its perks, but most of the time it totally sucks. Like right now, when the hottest guy on the planet is walking right towards me.

yrmama said...

Poor Brenda Rich was trapped. Like a mouse with just one leg caught, she was aware of her predicament and mad. On her way to a high school reunion, an insidious snare in itself, she'd been changing a flat when her car fell from the flimsy jack and crushed her arm between the frame and the tire. Oddly, it didn't hurt too much. She had screamed when the car slipped, but anyone probably would have.

Robin Edmundson said...

I came to this place in December. It is a lonely place in the winter. In the winter, you can see large sections of land where grizzled trees stand haggard sentinel over the bleaching skeletons of their fallen comrades, casualties of a war against the earth herself.

Lee Rogers said...

Julian Steele just knew: he’s going to want the Truemore story . . . again. The mauling, the terror, the overwhelming descent into animal savagery. Whatever happened to happy endings? To playing with puppies in a field?

Martha Ramirez said...

Christmas Day, Valle del Otoño 1:00 a.m.

"Residential fire on 1429 20th Street. Smoke and flames seen, multiple calls." The scanner dispatch sent a chill down Ezra's spine. He threw the latest copy of Black Axe magazine against the wall and stormed out of the Day Room.

Kate said...

Champagne and promises. New Year's Eve. It wasn’t even noon yet, but Fleur could already feel a shift, a change in space filling with hope. Fleur loved this time of year – time to make new resolutions. She had been making New Year’s resolutions since she was ten and lists for even longer. It all started with Santa, and the first thing she ever wanted.

Heather said...

Moonlight gave the wintry forest a sinister glow that made it hard find good footing. One wrong step would bury Duncan up to his waist in snow and his attempted escape would come to a brutal end. Though his heart hammered against the cage of his chest, he pushed himself harder until every ragged breath was like fire scorching down his throat. His wobbling legs could scarcely afford to slip yet he couldn’t fight the need to cast a fearful glance over his shoulder. He couldn’t see them, but that didn’t mean they weren’t there, flitting through the shadows like a wraith upon his trail.

~The Secret Of Spruce Knoll
YA urban fantasy by Heather McCorkle

Robena Grant said...

A flock of Canadian geese honked overhead. Rachel Copeland raised her binoculars to the dawn sky, gray and mauve like a dove's back, and streaked with the perfect formation of the incoming dark birds. The Salton Sea, isolated and stinky, could be downright beautiful. That's why Grandpa chose to live here. She blinked back the threat of tears. He is missing. Not dead. Her instincts told her that. The cops had said there'd been an influx of drifters in the past year; dangerous men who would bump off their own brother for a fix. She watched the geese circle before landing. They knew about instinct, always migrating to Southern California during this week of November. She climbed down from the truck. There was no reason to hurry, she'd attached Grandpa's old Leica camera to the tripod hours ago.

Andrew Hamilton said...

As long as Charles could remember, the locket had hung from a weathered chain around his mother’s neck, resting gently against her freckled sternum. It almost never seemed to leave her. Not when she lied down to sleep, not when she planted her tulip bulbs deep in the earth, and not when she brought a cold, wet cloth to Charles’s forehead, letting it dangle in front of him as she nursed him through the pox that had burst onto his skin. Only before she bathed would she remove it, standing in front of the vanity and gazing into the mirror as if she were studying herself. Her jet black hair glistened in the fluorescent light. Every night, she reached up with both hands and unclasped the chain to dangle it like a pendulum over the tarnished silver dish on the counter next to the sink. She would then hesitate, and while still observing her reflection, lower the links around her prize as gently as a child might trace circles in the sand. Charles watched the ritual every night with little hands grasping the jamb until she gently closed the door. He never knew the locket’s secrets because she never opened it.

Katrina L. Lantz said...

The sun went down in a splash of color that freckled the horizon. Central park at sunset couldn’t have been more romantic, but I wasn’t feeling it tonight, even with Travis’ hand clasped around my own. There is nothing romantic about my nine-hundred-and-ninety-ninth breakup. Though it recharged me, being close to them like this—the dust of the Earth once made the brightest stars—nothing could quell the bubbling lava at my core.

Nicole Zoltack said...

Little light filtered through the trees, and I closed my book. Time to go home before Mom freaked out. I looked down at my watch — well past time, I had lost track while reading.

Hassan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Courtney Price ~ Vintage Ginger Peaches said...

Matilda Medford was the type of woman who knew a lot of things for certain. But one of the things she planned on telling her husband later that afternoon was that she knew, for sure, that Penelope was crazy. She had been watching her neighbor across the street from her own kitchen window for the better part of an hour as she washed her fragile tea dishes slowly in the sink. Matilda shook her head disapprovingly as she watched Penelope crawl through a window of her stately, Victorian mansion to pluck a few roses before heading back inside the way she had come. Why can't she just use a door like a normal human being? Matilda often gritted her teeth over Penelope's lack of decorum. In her mind, Penelope's presence and unladylike manners brought shame to the community.

Hassan said...

Pamela awoke each morning well before the sunrise to ensure that the house was fit to be seen by the light of the sun. She would begin by sweeping all of the floors twice over, making sure to move every piece of furniture out of the house as she did so. From there, she would move on to the windows, washing them with utmost care, and then draping them over the clothesline to dry. When the roof and the sides of the house had been thoroughly scrubbed and re-painted, when the house had been dusted, and when the ceilings had been swept of their cobwebs -- Pamela could finally get the rest of the family up and start her day.

flibgibbet said...

By the age of seventeen, I’d planned my wedding in such exquisite detail that the event itself might have been disappointing if not redundant. If I’d managed to pull it off, I expect that my wedding pictures would seem comical now-----Brian, the groom, looking handsome but ridiculous in his rented baby-blue tux; and me, the bride, looking equally foolish in my tacky cotton dress with the daisy appliqués, my stomach protruding like a nearly-ripe watermelon. In each of these photographs, I suspect you would have spotted the mother of the bride scowling somewhere in the background---hiding behind a potted plant or lurking somewhere in the shadows. She’d never approved of Brian Taylor. I imagine she celebrated in private the day he decided he’d rather kill himself than marry me.

Kate said...

I had two goals that summer: to get a lead in the camp play and to get to third base. I know what you’re thinking—This girl is a total slut. But I swear I’m not. Ten months out of the year, I was actually the exact opposite of a slut—I was a dork. We aren’t just talking a never-has-a-boyfriend dork. We’re talking on the honor roll, in the show choir, volunteers at the soup kitchen—dork. In real life my number-one goal was to get into Stanford. But see, I wasn’t in real life. I was at Camp Nokwisee. And camp life was definitely not real life.

jaker said...

Abel Callagan padded barefoot along the narrow space between Lakin & Westfall Mercantile and Mr. Pickett’s Crystal Palace Saloon. The boy moved cautiously, stepping around broken glass and piles of horse manure left from last night’s bar business. He emerged from between the buildings and looked up and down Main Street. In the gray light before dawn, Miles City appeared deserted. The brick storefronts on both sides of the street looked empty and hard. A single gaunt horse left tied to an electric light pole turned its head and watched the boy step up onto the wooden sidewalk and gaze at a tightly curtained upstairs window. His mother Kate stayed with Mr. Pickett in that upstairs room, and though Abel wasn’t allowed to see her any more, it made him feel better to be close, just in case she might need him.

Anthony DiPadua said...

It didn’t matter where she moved. The monsters were going to find her. Amelia tried to explain that to her parents but the only person they listened to was her therapist. Maybe, she figured, they would have considered what she said if she dressed more like him— glasses too large for her face, a tie too tight for her neck, and a suit that never matched the tie, like a doll with all the wrong parts fitted together. But she wasn’t him and her parents had not listened. So, as she gazed into the house’s lightless windows, she just repeated what her therapist had told her: They are not real. There is nothing in the dark. They can’t hurt me. I am brave. They are not real…until her dad finally broke her concentration.

-Anthony DiPadua

Mike Holm said...

Eric Black paused in the hazy glare of a streetlight just long enough to light a cigarette and release the safety on the handgun in his pocket. He continued walking along the sidewalk, his black trench coat cinched at the waist and his military-issue HRT boots slowly sounding off his pace with a steady ga-gump ga-gump ga-gump. The rotten stink of garbage and the bitter stench of body odor hung in the air. A brief summer shower had died down to a trickle, leaving behind a fetid sauna instead of the relief the storm clouds had promised. The smoke from Eric's breath lingered as he turned the corner.

Jake said...

James Algood, thirty-five years old, but when in the company of women, his boyish charm allows him thirty, has seated himself on the stern of a weathered Catalina, a joint hanging from his mouth. His eyes half watching his captain, Blind Jack, who is pushing the vessel off the dock with his foot, while at the same time manning the tiller. With the other half of his conscience James is trying to fight off a hangover, both alcohol and woman related. He knows the headache will pass, but the stomach ache will most certainly linger. James closes his eyes to shield them from the sun. He braces himself with the boat’s wire railing, and lies back, breathing deep.

Dave Fragments said...

It was one of those nights of the dreadful winter, after the celebrations of Christmas, after the singular toasts of New Years, about halfway through January. No more brisk cold and playful flurries. Instead, chilled toes and aching bodies tired from shoveling too much of a good thing. It was, coincidently, my eighteenth birthday and my 15-year-old brother Dick stood in the great room at the foot of the stairs, singing at the top of his lungs.

AKG said...

It was nobody’s fault, but the porridge tasted like lies. Zinc gummed at one last bite, but eventually curled his lip and dropped the spoon back into the beigeish mess. He propped his cheek in his hand and kicked at the wooden legs of his chair. Thock-thock-thock. It was nobody’s fault, he reminded himself. Thock-thock. Nobody’s fault.

Magan said...

If someone would have told me at the beginning of that summer, that I would come face to face with death because of a Romeo and Juliet romance, I would have never believed them. But it's not like that summer went at all like I planned in the first place.

Anonymous said...

“If you go am I to follow you? I should like to know what you would want me to do.”
“It must surely be obvious to you what I would wish you to do, Peter.”
“There is one course which is obvious to me, yes. Am I to be confident that it is the same as the one to which you are referring?”
“You do so like separating our meanings so cleanly when really they are one and the same and cannot be so divided. You defeat your own purpose.”
“It is not a question of separating our meanings, Xavier. They cannot be united, even if we would wish them to be. They are subject to minute discrepancies. I only wish to define those discrepancies.”
“Such refractions only divide us, Peter. Why can’t you simply accept my obvious meaning? You have a habit of wringing the life out of words sometimes.”
“A fault I’m sure. Perhaps my instinct for doing so is a natural response to the way you delight in setting traps with them.”

Robert Crosby
from: 'All Too Human'

Jessica said...

The mad crash of the bells resonated through the cold cries of battle. Kit skirted the palace walls, clutching her wedding gown in one hand and her sword in the other, her bare feet slapping against the cobbles. She nearly stumbled over a dead legionnaire with an arrow jutting from his throat. An arrow fletched with the colors of her homeland. Her eyes narrowed. “Centurions! To me!”

David Thornby said...

‘Jolly’ Roger Bragg found himself taking a crash course in what it’s like to be afraid. He was the kind of man whose experiences of panic had always been from the giving rather than the receiving end. His buccaneer nickname had stuck mostly because the family preferred things that were obvious, but also because he so openly took pleasure in chaos, found pain recreational, and was typically cavalier when threatened. If Jolly Roger was ever observed to run from danger, it was only with the intention of circling around and shooting it in the back. On his last night, however, he found himself running in the darkness for what little he was worth with no destination in mind, the reptile brain fully in command. His shoes were hard-soled, shiny Oxfords; not much good for running. They flapped and beat on the concrete as he ran down the back street that led to the rail yards. There were no other sounds loud enough to drown out the noise of his own blood pumping and his breath heaving. Jolly Roger was, figuratively at least, shitting himself.

Brittany said...

I am wet. Water pounds my chest, flying so hard, so fast, that my skin feels numb.

Michael L. Martin Jr. said...

The slave songs mostly prepared Cross for afterlife in the underworld. But none of the hymns ever mentioned barbots. Heaving the giant bird across the ball court was like hauling a stagecoach without any wheels. And Cross struggled more as the barbot’s talons snagged on every crack in the cemented court and tugged on roots that had burst through the ground as if aiming for them. His calves bulged tight, his lower back struck with fatigue and the red flaming sky was charring his dinner before he could sauté it. His empty stomach whined so pitifully he wanted to tell it to cowboy up. The palace was still yards away.

Heather B. Moore said...

“It wasn’t like this Before,” Sol whispered to me. “The gray sky. The non-stop rain.” I shoved my hands into my royal-blue jacket pockets as I peered through the gloomy afternoon at him. Mist peppered his longish hair, making it look almost black, matching his murky gray eyes. Drops of water beaded against the strands and dripped onto his face, then a bold raindrop fell onto his eyelashes, but he blinked it away, his gaze on me. He was nearly a head taller than me now, something that happened in just a few months, it seemed. He was changing; I was changing. In one week, we’d go through the Separation. Boys from girls. The sixteen-year-old class was about to discontinue.

Ellen Henderson said...

She didn't like the look of the courier. Alexandra Cole was not one to judge on appearances – she of all people knew better than that. But something about the guy loitering by the courtyard fountain bugged her. Maybe it was training, maybe just gut instinct, but whatever it was, it was setting off every one of her internal pay-attention alerts.

tiftruitt said...

Before / During / After - YA

I was sitting in English class when my whole world disappeared. Well, almost my whole world. It was a profound moment----realizing there is no such thing as time. These words, these silly, presumably ridiculous words would come to define my life. All those lessons I tried to sleep through while my English teachers droned on and on about verb tense and dictating time through words year after year would become obsolete. Nothingness. No past. No present. No future.

Jillian said...

The previous fall, Diego left. “I do not like myself when I am with you!” were his dramatic departing words. “I feel like I am a suburban husband. I do not feel like an artist. I am an artist! And that is who I need to go be!” Within an hour of his ridiculous getaway, Joanna’s sister, May exploded through the front door of the shabby apartment, arms full of vodka and pockets full of M&M’S. She was in a rage. “I don’t like myself when I’m with you? Are you flippin’ kidding me?!” Since her son Leo’s arrival, May was desperately trying not to swear, her words a hodgepodge, “G”-rated assortment of “jeepers” and “yikes”.

Thanks, Nathan!

Caroline LaVigne said...

The first vibrations went largely unnoticed. Those who did detect the minute fluctuations dismissed them as a change in the weather, or a passing military jet, or maybe the onset of the flu. The young man sitting in the control room saw the jump in the oscillation measure, but it settled back immediately into its normal range. Jimmy didn’t give it a second thought, and reached into his knapsack for the bottle of antacids he kept there to defend his stomach against the increasingly bitter coffee brewed by the crew chief. He didn’t connect his mild nausea with the brief abnormal reading.

author: Caroline LaVigne
e-mail: todmedic@yahoo.com

WritersBlockNZ said...

Mira's dress swirled around her feet as she glided across the frozen lake, leaving trails of shimmering grooves on the ice. I clutched my lantern tighter. My gloveless hands had a blue tinge, but they weren’t shaking from the cold. Mira Willow, who’d never so much as glanced my way before, was here to see me.

Carrie Keyes said...

A conflicted San Diego woman who is frying bacon in wine-stained pajamas and contemplating premature deaths of jaguars in American zoos can hardly be expected to react well when the phone rings for the first time in days with disturbing news.

Christian Yorke said...

Flight thundered through double doors into the lobby. He glanced at the chaotic reception area where skinny TVs screened rolling news. Head down, he passed the large canvases that graced the walls, taking the stairs two at a time whilst crafting withering retorts in case he was challenged. He levelled out at three and rocketed through more plate glass doors into the open plan office. Here the support teams worked the phones, scanners, staplers and hole punches shoulder to shoulder, fighting the good fight. Even so, he knew that most of them had only beaten him in by a matter of minutes.

Misty Waters said...

Death isn't what I expected. In fact, I now envy those who can die a normal, typical human death—a death that is final, no matter how it comes to pass. Before my death, I thought I understood the world and the life that exists in it. I thought I understood loss and betrayal. Now, I understand that I knew absolutely nothing. What I thought I knew was a fairy tale. But what did I know? I was only human.

Henrietta said...

Elena reached cautiously for her window drapes and peeked through the small slit to the dark street below. She had a feeling that someone was watching her. A white Explorer sat across from her house, two figures sitting still as statues looking up at her window. She leaned back a bit as her heart began to race- who were they? Did they see her looking down at them? She hoped not. They probably wouldn’t expect her to spot them in a car so far away, but like her dad so often teased her, she had the eyes of an eagle. She could see things far on the horizon that no one else could see. It was an odd talent that must run in her family- her dad said her mother had the same uncanny ability.Elena sat on her bed wondering what she should do. She thought about her recent dreams with the sinister dark man who seemed to be searching for her. Anyone else would think they were only nightmares, but Elena knew better than that. She had been tormented by dreams that predicted the future since she was a little girl, and even though her most recent dreams weren’t like her prophetic dreams, she knew they were a warning of some sort. But who was trying to find her, and why? Was it those men in the car? She tiptoed back to the window to see what they were doing. As she cautiously peeked once more through the window drapes, she saw that the car was dark and empty. She breathed a sigh of relief and laughed at herself. She was so silly, no one was there. It had probably just been college students illegally parking their car on her street. She hopped into bed, nestling deep under the covers hoping that tonight she’d be able to sleep in peace.

Annie Laracy Clark said...

On the last day of summer, midway along the Broadwater Arcade - a narrow band of sun scorched footpath linking the Princess Highway to Queensland’s picturesque Runaway Bay - three separate and distinct events converged on the precise place and at the precise time that Clare Heartland occupied. They were: a bus load of tourists, a poorly aligned pavement, and a jet plane.

Sarah said...

The smell of deep-fried tortillas drifted out an open door. Molly Franklin stepped beneath the porch of a restaurant on the east side of the plaza in Albuquerque’s Old Town. She turned to face her ghost tour group, only five people tonight. Their breaths condensed and rose in the cold night air.

Sarah said...

The smell of deep-fried tortillas drifted out an open door. Molly Franklin stepped beneath the porch of a restaurant on the east side of the plaza in Albuquerque’s Old Town. She turned to face her ghost tour group, only five people tonight. Their breaths condensed and rose in the cold night air.

Bethany Davis said...

The sound of boots slapping the grey stone floor resounded down the long corridor, ricocheting off the stone pillars as the general made his way through the candle lit castle. It was nearly midnight, and the general would have rather been in his warm bed, than appease the king’s whim.

Maj_Gen_Stanley said...

A cell phone is the wrong companion to take with you for a night on the town. I was just snuggling down with Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome. We were in his condo overlooking the Indianapolis skyline, the clothes were off, the wine had been sampled, and I’d already snuck a preliminary sip of his life-energy. That’s when my electronic chain ruined the evening. I sighed. I couldn’t ignore the damned thing; a police lieutenant is never really off duty, even after midnight.

CindyLou Foster said...

Finally the air conditioning kicks on. Maryann pushes up from the high backed chair and crosses the dining room to stand below the air conditioning vent; it blows the best cold air in the house. Tilting her face up, she breathes in the cool air, but misjudging her precarious balance, she wobbles forward. Her swollen abdomen presses against the wall and underneath her white tank top, a tiny foot kicks back.

Roscoe James said...

Marley floundered in a sea of buzz cuts, ocean of leather pants, and a tsunami of t-shirts. She pulled self-consciously on the side of her simple black dress while waiting for her eyes to adjust. After two months in the big apple the first fifteen minutes of the night she’d dreamed of back on the farm in Mississippi was trying hard to underwhelm. She’d been hit on by a butch in jeans and wife beater, glared at three times, and was having trouble finding her place at more than just the bar.

demetrab82 said...

This was it; the final hours she would spend in her house alone. Onyx stared down a maelstrom of packing supplies scattered across the living room. A triviality compared to the squall expected to hit in the form of her Aunt Laia. She closed her eyes, drawing a curtain against unwelcome thoughts, and released a long breath. Be careful what you wish for. The pestering phrase broke through her barrier despite resistance. Not surprising. It was one of several sayings her mother liked to use when hoping to make Onyx think, as she put it. Only this time it rang truer than Onyx wanted to admit.

Meg Eilidh said...

The world was sixty years too old. The millennium, that thousandth birthday of Christ Jesu, had been marked decades before and the Day of Judgment, long expected by all of Christendom, simply didn’t happen. It left us all quite off kilter. What should we fear now? The answer, of course, was the same as ever; we feared each other. Those across the seas we feared greatly and those in our own families, even more.

Alex MacLean said...

Alone in his office, Lieutenant Allan Stanton scrutinized the Ident photo, as if the clues lay beside the ravaged body it depicted. Discouraged, he felt all hope of solving this case slip away.
“What have I overlooked, Mary?” he whispered softly.

Hillary Hujanen said...

But how did it get here? It seems unlikely that the waves washed it onto the narrow sandbar. And who even knows whether a piano can float. Try googling it. Pianos and float. You get plenty of information about the relative buoyancy of airplanes, and the lyrics of some song by some group named Modest Mouse (as if a mouse could be anything but). Yet nothing online explains how a thirteen hundred pound concert grand could wind up alone on a teensy patch of eroded rock parts in the middle of the damn ocean. Frankly, it pisses me off. Because I know this piano. I could map my childhood on every small ding peppering the narrow ivory keys that smile at the joke I am not privy to. And I know I am missing the punch line because there’s no way in hell my piano should be here. “Ma’am, you’re telling me that this is your piano?”

hillary e-mail: hillaryhujanen@gmail.com

Dean K. Miller said...

The door swung open slowly, its usual groan unable to fill the void of the entry way. For some reason it didn’t catch on the tear in the Formica flooring. Zach stumbled in slowly behind. As usual, he had drank just enough at the local pub to fog his mind, though it was never enough to dull his pain. Mindlessly he stepped over the tearing in the floor. Tonight he didn’t even think about "fixing it tomorrow", as he had promised himself nearly every time he came in. The stark furnishings did little to welcome him with any warmth or comfort. It had been another cold spring day and he had forgotten to turn up the furnace before he had left for work nearly 12 hours previously.

Courtney Odell said...

As Jo looked down at the vastness of earth beneath her, she suddenly realized a truth that hit her like a sack of sledgehammers. She could take the parachute off. Or even just not pull the cord. Could she knowingly not pull the cord when it was time? Just questioning it made her doubt she could. No, if this was her final decision, she would have to leave the parachute behind. A final decision had to be just that: final. She had never once thought about suicide. Her life had been hard, but who's wasn't? The realities of one fact rang out loud and clear in her mind: her death was almost certainly eminent... and soon. At least this way she would have control over it. Not many people can say the same thing.

J. Rosemary Moss said...

The only thing worse than visiting a graveyard is paying your respects to the man you put there. No, I didn’t murder Cam—-I’m not that far gone-—but it was my fault his bones were rotting beneath that dull, gray slab.

Michelle said...

I saved the world. I didn’t get an award or a talk-show tour, or a write-up in the newspaper; not even a call from the President to thank me. In fact most people in town probably didn’t even know my name. The world was the same as it had been three months ago, because of me.

nolagirl said...

Not one, but two black cats sliced across my path this morning as I walked to my first day of real school. Tell me you wouldn’t take this as a bad sign. Lawson, Lewinsky, Lumpkin…holy crud, M is next. A long-necked, graceful giraffe lady is calling out names. Why couldn’t she just say, will the freshman class please come to the stage? No, that would be way too easy. I have been home-schooled since age seven, and going from that to attending an all-girl Catholic school is a big leap for me. I have never been so nervous in my life. I recite the mantra in my jittery brain: Walk. Not too fast, or too slow. Smile. Do not trip. Beginnings are always hard; they can make or break you. I do not know a solitary soul in this vast savannah of plaid skirts, and saddle oxfords, but I do know that in a few seconds, they will size me up. They are my judge and jury.

Jil said...

Kendra braked at the entrance to the field at Bull Run twenty miles west of Washington DC, and rested newly ringless hands along the top of her steering wheel. With trepidation she looked to where a ray of sunlight scorched and probed, picking thirteen Airstream trailers our from the shadows opposite, leaving them naked and exposed like a row of silver bullets. Then a cloud annihilated them all.

Jennifer Giuliano said...

He brushed her thigh with the lines of his fingers. The lines of his palm. His life line; his love line. His map. The touch of her silk skirt, now flush to her, brought her to a rush of peonies. Of violet and rubies. Of the touch of metal shocking and cold against heated skin. She glanced continually at the other dinner guests and kept the beating of her heart deep within the camouflage of the night. Into the parting of the trees outside the window where she floated.

Cookie said...

I am a creator, not a destroyer.

Rowenna said...

The volatile repetition woke Vernon, the shrieking volume of the noise a mere footnote to the meaning behind the swinging drone. Sirens. His eyes snapped open into the implacable blackness of his midnight bedroom. He searched for a silhouette or a sliver of light, but his eyes roamed vacant, capturing nothing in the slippery darkness. The siren pressed into the night. He groped in the rumpled no-man’s-land that lay between his side of the bed and his wife’s. “Helen,” he said as he shook her shoulder. “Helen.”

Krista Safrit said...

I’d break the seventh commandment with him. This unwanted thought resounded in my guilty conscience. A good southern woman would not cheat on her man. I tried my best to live a virtuous life, and saving myself for marriage was the crowning jewel in my wholesome halo. Now, after thirteen years of marriage, I fantasized about Jason instead of my spouse, knocking that halo askew and tarnishing my inner good girl image.

Charli Mac said...

People die, everyday. Heartless, perhaps, but it doesn’t make it any less true. They die in car accidents, lying in hospital beds, waiting to be born, and if they are lucky enough, in the arms of someone they love. Right now, Grace didn’t feel so lucky.

Jalisa said...

When Jack had woken up—glowing alarm skittering across his walls in a ghostly marquee, commlink buzzing inside his head with minute-to-minute police chatter—he hadn’t thought it would be one of those days. But it was. His captain stood next to him as they watched the live feed from the interrogation room in front of them. Their suspect was pretty: hair like black ink around her shoulders, flawless umber skin. It was too bad she was an android. And a murderer.

Tommy Salami said...

When you grow up Catholic, you expect to be punished for your sins, no matter how trivial. Think of it like karma. It may take years, but it never forgets, and it waits until the best possible moment to get you. Maybe you cursed out an old lady in traffic. You felt guilty, but you forgot about it. And that’s why your car got keyed by some jerk in the parking lot.

Kath said...

So it turns out I’m not a fire witch. Which explains a bunch. Seriously. If anyone had bothered to let me in on the fact that I’m a dragon, I’d never have messed with witch magic or ended up with all those overdue notices from the library for their useless grimoires. Really. And definitely the gym wing of my high school would still be standing.

Kellie Bonifield said...

The girl with fair hair leapt nimbly off the bike a yard from the bike station, landing on her feet mid-step. She twitched the backpack on her shoulder and didn’t watch as the abandoned bike crashed into an almost-full rack, toppling three others. It crumpled in a pile of government-issue yellow, gears, and wheels.

Mary Ann Noe said...

I learned to play golf so I could smoke. I remember that clearly. St. Ingrid’s Women’s College had its own golf course, stretching inland like a green cashmere scarf flung along the bluff above the Mississippi River. The first tee was perched safely back from the brink, not far from the wide stone gate that opened on the far side of the college quad. In the autumn, the trees, blazing red and yellow and that unique sugar maple orange, tumbled down to the river. Always, but especially at that time of the year, the trees provided a real distraction. Our drives down the fairway were never very long off that particular tee. My friends and I were too wrapped up with finishing conversations and admiring the trees. I never resented those distractions, though. Golf wasn’t what drew me outdoors anyway.

Mara said...

John knew it was over the night he walked into the bedroom and found her curled up next to the dog. It was only a game of waiting beyond that, slowly over the summer months, when other couples were out together on the lake or sipping milkshakes, their relationship began to dissipate. Though most people are taught that love has no expiration date, they were the carton that the grocer took a pen to change the 6 to an 8. No one bothered to tell John this though

Ron Fritsch said...

Soon after Blue Sky, his sister Rose Leaf, and the prince, Morning Sun, came of age, they incited their people to rise up against their king and the people he’d chosen to help him rule their kingdom. The three of them were as certain as the coming and going of the seasons that they had good cause to do what they did. Where it would take them, though, they couldn’t foresee.

anonymeet said...

Alma clawed at the neck of her T-shirt, sucking dryly at the air as her throat closed, fighting the pain. Don’t pass out, don’t pass out, don’t . . . She fell out of bed, hit the attic floor with a thud and woke up.

Ca.ll.y said...

I was twelve the summer Yellow Fever scourged Norfolk, blowing through town like the angel of death, only without the lambs blood or the Hebrews. We had no Moses, no magic mark to save us, and our plague paid no mind to race at all; ours took white folks and negros alike, leaving orphans and widows hiding behind boarded-up windows, praying for deliverance.

Jackie Hirtz said...

My little sister Julia and I couldn’t say exactly why we hated our older cousin, we just knew he creeped us out in a bad way. And not like Gary Gelson, the neighborhood terror who inverted his eyelids and stuck his protruding eyeballs in our faces. Alan was worse than that. Far more evil; someone who caused a sick feeling in my stomach and a vague knowing in my head that something was amiss.

Lois Hudson said...

There was only one reason Jack Davenport went to Gertrude Damien’s funeral. It was for his mother. She hadn’t asked him to go—seemed surprised, in fact, when he told her he’d pick her up. A tiny frown creased her brow for a moment before the usual serenity smoothed her still young features. He hadn’t realized there was any connection between his mother and the strange woman who lived alone down by the train depot. Ariel Davenport had never mentioned Gertrude Damien by name. But the discovery in the parlor of Gertrude’s house screamed for resolution.

(WIP, Whispers From the Dust,
hudson5107@aol.com)

Cindy Noble said...

The deep beckoned. Eldris heard the song of distance most profoundly when she slept--a chorus of vast, uncharted places, worlds whose rich soil lay sun-warmed and untouched. Dreaming, she walked the alien shores. She breathed the smell of salt and sea-spray, and her skin drank of strange sunlight.

Genre: Science Fiction
Title: Worldmakers
cin01@wheelies.net

Bombardier Bunny said...

Su Zen saw Death at the base of Mt. Huangshan. It wasn’t a figurative thing. In front of a cave, the two ghost guards—escorts of the dead—loomed ominously. From what Su Zen knew, there was no escape once the ghost guards appeared. Her heart nearly stopped. Please, please, please let him be alive, she prayed madly. For the past four days, she and her husband had been living a parent’s worst nightmare. Iron, their one year-old son, had been kidnapped. After an eternity of silence, a ransom note finally arrived. There was no mention of money, only a demand that Su Zen came to the West Cave unarmed and alone.

RJ said...

Christopher Karas lurched forward, fighting against the vertigo, heart racing and senses reeling. He tried to fathom where he was, desperate for some detail he could recognize, but the landscape before him was unfamiliar, frightening and foreign. Dense hedgerows soared to impossible heights—thirty feet or more. He could not go over them and his feverish search revealed no way through them. The thick, green foliage was an effective barrier—impenetrable. Light shown from somewhere above the shrubbery and cast eerie shadows along the pathway. His eyes saw them as an absence of light, but his mind told him that each was an abyss from which murderous fiends would spring to tear him to shreds. It was over this uneven, shadowy path that Chris clumsily picked his way in a frenzied attempt at escape

Leeona said...

I gasp for air as I go underwater. I try to swim to the surface, but I’m trapped, like a fish in a net, having no other choice but to face death. Am I going to die? I try to push away as hard as I can. The wood is thick, and it’s holding on to my foot like I try to hold on to life.

Thornton said...

My alarm clock goes off and my hand slams down on it. I get a glimpse of the time, it’s already 7:53 am . “Crap,” the stupid thing went off late again. I rub my eyes and sit up on the small torn couch. The trailers’ old wooden floor screeches under my feet as I get up. I manage to walk to the bathroom and I turn the tap. No water. “Damn it!” I try to keep my voice at a whisper. The water tank is empty.

Jonny D said...

The light of the full moon shines on a crumpled brown letter that must have fallen from the mail box. Gizmo tugs at his leash, yelping and wagging his curly tail, but I reach down and pick up the damp envelope. “Sit Gizmo!” I order. Joanna definitely spoiled this dog to the limits, for he keeps on tugging and yelping like a rabid animal. Slowly I turn the envelope to the other side. It is addressed to me; Jonny Dee-Dooey, but there is no return address, strange.

Kathryn Tuccelli said...

Gavin woke out of his deep sleep with a scream of fury, as if he had been possessed by the Devil himself. I rushed into his room and leaned over the bassinet, cooing softly. His complexion, yellow and worsening, startled me, and his eyes were as black as coal. As I lifted him to my shoulder to comfort him, he turned his head and bit my arm so hard he drew blood. Tears sprang to my eyes as I quickly set him back down and took a deep breath to steady my nerves. She couldn’t be right, I thought. Sylvie is crazy. Changelings aren’t real!

Lollita H said...

The moon falls and the sun rises, all at the wrong times, in between the cuddling pyramids that Akren calls home. But it is a home that now is a war zone, a disaster, a foray of rubbish that Akren must abandon. With a swift glance at the remains, he turns…This time, for good.

Megan said...

It started with the ostriches. They were indeed magnificent, which is exactly what William murmured to himself as he ran his hands over their great feathered backs. He took a dramatic step back to admire them once again. Two of the finest ostriches money could buy, shipped express to the East Coast just for the Fabulous Fleming Sisters. He had been studying for months, reading an enormous amount of ostrich paraphernalia. It was astonishing what one could find out these days.

Carolina Taters said...

Lovers don’t have to be young. They can be old like us. They can have passed the mazes of life, yet they can still love with eyes of wisdom vs eyes of lust.

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