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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Martinelli Gold said...

The hand, the blade, and the head all came down at once, and the brown hair and curls that belonged to a live man were now to be prized by birds for their nests. High above the heavy guillotine, on a golden balcony blazing in the sunlight, stood the royal family. Duke Drew Marcory in full regalia, with as much filigree on his person as there was glowing from the terrace. Behind him stood 12 mistresses, all dressed for the occasion. On his left, his wife Tirrenial, a swan of silver whose delicate face wore its usual shade of overcast. To his right, his second wife, clad in her iconic red and clapped in irons: High Mistress Marielle.

Laurie Boris said...

In Sarah’s opinion, her ineptitude at life in general and male-female relations in particular started at the age of eleven, when she popped a button on her favorite blouse and set about to fix it herself. While searching her mother’s sewing kit for a needle and the right color of thread, she found a pamphlet titled “Helpful Hints for a Happy Marriage.” Having no interest in marriage, happy or otherwise, she’d picked the thing up hoping to read about sex, a topic that wasn’t discussed much in her house. Instead of a convenient education, she was disappointed to find the yellowing pages filled with tips on etiquette, menu planning and good grooming. Another frustrating dead end in her quest to learn what the world expected of her as a newly-minted woman.

Anonymous said...

Every morning on his way to school Ignatius Sherman would stop by the old junk yard stare at The Car. Part of it was just to make sure The Car was still there, that no one had scooped it up once they realized what it was, an old cop car, one of the ones used in the Super Villain division. Part of it was just to look at it and have an excuse to daydream that he was riding through the small winding streets of the city with Mary Jayneson smiling in the passenger seat.

Astrid Dalmady

de la O said...

If I stopped to think about what I did, I might feel guilty. Well— probably not. Contaminating people and making them sick, all for the sole purpose of revenge was my calling. Maybe if I had a choice, maybe if I knew there would come a day where my existence would mean more to people than a death sentence, I might have cared sooner. But I didn’t— I didn’t have time for regrets.

Carson Lee said...

"I've left Bill!" She told me this eagerly -- with pride, and clarity. Her soft voice, and smile. "It's been coming for a long time." (Married right out of high school, married 40 years. Now, getting divorced when you're 60. Wealthy. with grown children and grandchildren, all living nearby. All available targets for the inevitable smug gossip.) That's a decision that means SOMETHING. It was hard to figure -- for me. She didn't get mad, or yell, she told me. She just told him and walked out to the car and drove away. Must have had her things all in the car already. And a place -- a nice place -- to stay, all arranged. How much planning went into that moment? How long had she been weighing that out in her mind, visualizing it the way an athlete visualizes making the basket, or the touchdown? And in the next few months, when miscellaneous hangers-on started asking me, in hushed, conspiratorial tones, what was up with this couple, I realized that she must be telling everybody.

Stephen said...

How much water does New York City need? The question was on the lips of every person Tommy met as he walked the streets of Downsville. The farmer from Winter Springs on some errand in town, stinking of sheep shit. The man who ran the feed store annex, from horseback, heading towards the valley as Tommy headed away. Two old men on the bench outside Downsville Savings. Even the president of the bank greeted everyone on the street by asking or trying to answer the same question. How much water does New York City need?

yuvi zalkow said...

When my wife comes into the room and sees me in my underwear, with my $30 Lamy pen in my fist, and standing on my desk, she isn’t terribly impressed with me and my work habits.

Shannon Chamberlain said...

During the summer between high school and college, when I was 17 but told people I was 20, I came into a large sum of money. The first thing the lawyer holding it in trust asked was what I planned to do with all of it. I didn’t have an answer then: just something I tossed off like a used shirt. In fact, I was pretty much a one-celled organism when it came to money, having had little cause to think about it in the last five years. At the top of a sheet of notebook paper, I wrote the sum, circled it twice, drew stars around it, and sat back to admire my work. The number stared back. A ring of star doodles was obviously inadequate payment for its secrets, I can see that now. To understand money, you have to use it.

Mariah Irvin said...

Jane leaned her body closer to the horse beneath her, gripped the reins tighter in her callused palms, and spurred it on. Faster, faster. She could not go fast enough. Her heartbeat was louder in her ears than the hooves pounding across the unyielding terrain. The moon was high above her, illuminating the landscape with its silver glow, but Jane knew she had little time before the sun took its place. By then, she would be long gone, far away from all that she knew. She hoped it would be far enough.

C Scott Morris said...

Ethan was drunk when he stumbled across the dead man. Poets should be drunk, he firmly believed, and should not trip over dead men in the middle of the night.

Janet said...

The vertical eighty-foot beast roared at Erik Vega's back, threatening to devour him. He hesitated before letting go of the lifeline and remembered the Jet Ski driver's advice to give thanks when he caught the wave. But Oceana would catch him, not the other way around. Tenuous filaments of hope held his feet to his fiberglass board bouncing on the choppy water. He accelerated into the barrel, exultation and terror pulsing through his veins, as the strap on his left foot gave way to a force beyond his control.

Amy Laurens said...

I’m not sure where this story began. I’m not sure where any story begins. Mum always says stories begin with “Once upon a time,” or “In the beginning” – but that only works for written-down stories. In real life there’s no one standing behind your shoulder waiting to whisper the magic words that let you know something Big is about to happen. Pity.

Corrie said...

Sam was the poster boy of the alien training program. Literally, there was a poster in the lobby and he was on it. The cameras zoomed in on him, standing at the front of the stage. He and the other cadets stood at the front of the Crystal Cathedral in Los Angeles. The bright California sun refracted through more than 10,000 panels of glass to illuminate Sam and his cohort to the camera crews filming this historic moment. The sight of all those squat, one-eyed cameras boring into his face sent chills down his legs.

Susan Koenig said...

“And now miss, may we please see your body.” I was in the well worn back room of Irving Brodsky’s Hollywood modeling agency facing a panel of three strange men who were lined up in a straight row on metal folding chairs in front of a grimy white wall. The room’s stale air was ripe with the residue of old cigarette smoke, the grease from a crushed Kentucky Fried Chicken carton, and the faintest whiff of Old Spice. Moments before ushering me in, Irving had held his hand to my ear and whispered in a conspiratorial tone: “You’re about to meet Mark Howard. So, do your best. He’s a very important producer.”

Anonymous said...

Lilian O’Hara wanted to escape her life, but she couldn’t do this. It was the night before Thanksgiving and Lilian stood in the middle of the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. She was flying to Chicago to surprise her boyfriend, Erik Chang. The ticket had been a spontaneous buy, as well as her decision to surprise him.

Jeffrey Russell said...

What’s the word for when you’re standing on the horizon? Standing on it, mind you, not crossing over it. Not approaching it or even looking at it. But standing on it––one foot on this side, one foot on the other. If there isn’t such a word, there ought to be. I’ve done that a lot in my life. There’s been so many times the very place I wanted to go was already under one foot; while the place I needed so badly to leave was still under the other one.

Cathi said...

Patrick traced his finger along an old ink stain on his desktop. He stifled a yawn as the teacher paced the floor, lecturing about the Reserves War, which ended in a cease-fire twenty years ago with neither side, the Northern or Southern Reserve, claiming victory. History, the mundane writings of those reaching out in desperation to recite adventures they themselves were never brave enough to seek. He found learning about grown men killing each other neither interesting nor important.

Jenise Frohlinger said...

What was that noise? It had to be sometime around midnight. Were mom and dad awake? Sam crawled out of bed and crept over to the stair railing outside his bedroom door and looked down onto the first floor. Through the darkness he saw something moving. There was someone in the house! Sam stood frozen for a moment. Could they see him? He ran into his parents’ room. “Dad, Mom, wake up. There’s someone downstairs,” he said as he shook his Dad.

K.Victoria Smith said...

Samhain

Her hopes for a nice, normal weekend away from the office died on a dark bend in Massachusetts Route 7. The crisp October air smelled of an early snow in the Berkshires. Micaela flicked on the high beams wary of the deer that often darted into the unlit road. She downshifted the Porsche Cayman around a sharp curve. As much fun as it might be to floor it, she wasn’t in any great hurry to get to her grandmother’s farm. A mile later, a shadow at the edge of the road made her slow down even more. In the shoulder, a man dressed in bloody shreds of clothes sat hunched over his knees and stared into her eyes. His mouth formed words she couldn’t hear. Reece.

susieisome said...

It wouldn't be until days and weeks and months and many,many miles had passed that Zachary would realize that he was a very lucky rabbit. It would only be then that he would appreciate the poppy field, with the beauty of it's rolling hills and the safety of the chain link fence that surrounded it. He already knew that his life was going to be far from ordinary, full of mysterious joys and unseen forces. He could feel it in his bones. They just wouldn't let him rest. While his friends and family enjoyed the simple pleasures of being a rabbit, Zach was busy trying to manage the annoying details of things that mattered to no one else but him. This sometimes made him feel strangely alone and out of place in this nearly perfect world that was his home.

Steve Bradley said...

I stare at the bedroom wall, off-white and unadorned, illuminated only by the city lights trickling in through the window blinds. I glance over to the digital clock on the nightstand, then back to the wall. Back to the clock, and once again to the wall. I'm trying to be very careful where I look. Amanda's photo, framed and smiling, is next to the clock, and I know that if I look at it I will pick up The Answer. And if I pick up The Answer, I will undoubtedly consider using it. I try instead to focus my attention on the shadows on the wall.The tree branches outside sway gently in the breeze, and the street lamp outside the window casts their shadowed images on to the wall as though it were a movie screen. The motion is peaceful, soothing, almost hypnotic. I actually manage to allow myself to get lost in it for a few precious moments. But one thing I have learned lately is that precious moments, by their very design, never last.

Jenise Frohlinger said...

Was the land of broken hearts near the island of forgotten toys? Lynn was sure they were both somewhere in the frozen tundra far up north. It was always cold where things were broken and forgotten.

TheLadySmoke said...

Hunched in a corner, Andreia gasped for air. The room had finally stopped spinning long enough for her to focus on her surroundings. It was dark, real dark. She pressed her palm to her chest and winced in pain, the two wounds on her left breast were deep enough to almost pierce her heart. It was a close one tonight. A single tear rolled down her cheek as she silently cursed herself for living this life. Reaching out on her hands and knees she desperately searched for her clothing or a nearby towel, anything to cover her exposed body. Finding only shreds of her prized satin gown tossed carelessly around her, another tear escaped from her eyes as she cried out in defeat. It hurt to cry but it felt right to scream, Andreia’s body was beaten to a pulp.

Eric said...

When we exhaust complacency of spirit, we let go of reason. Therein lays the wonder of love. Love is the collapse of human behaviour to access a fruitful journey beyond.

Rachael W said...

Davion Mordecai Jackson liked the rain, although it made his route to school more difficult. He thought that, at age fifteen, he could count on two hands the number of times he had seen rain as hard as this in Los Angeles. Walking west on Imperial in the heart of South Central, he was indifferent to the stench that oozed from the streets, slick with oil after two warm winter months. Although he could see the skyscrapers downtown, which stood against the November onslaught like pallbearers at a funeral, Davion was as oblivious of the far-off businessmen in their drenched Armani suits as they were of Davion’s stained school uniform and the Watts-hard poverty that kept him from going to the laundromat too often.

Hilary said...

Jesus Arturo Alvarez was born on the thirteenth of September in the year of the Lord, after Whom he was named, nineteen hundred and ninety. It was a Friday, and also market day in the village of Guadalupe, Arizona, which lay just east of Ahwahtukee and southeast of Phoenix proper. During her most severe labor pains his mother screamed at the nurses for a drink and his father pinched her hard on that soft skin just above the elbow and told her to shut up. She didn't feel the pinch but she told him to go to hell anyway and then bit him on his left hand between the thumb and forefinger. Forever after Jesus' father had a crescent-shaped, dotted-line scar that he would rub absentmindedly with his right thumb during conversation.

Mister Fweem said...

I disbelieved Admunsen when he wrote they were careful, in Antarctica, when they listened to the gramophone. “We knew we should soon get tired of it if we used it too often,” he wrote. “Therefore we only brought it out on rare occasions, but we enjoyed its music all the more when we heard it.” When I read that, I laughed. I scribbled “Liar!” in the margin of the book. I would never tire of my music. But I do. Even the most eclectic and obscure tunes, I’ve listened to over and over again. I can no longer bear Johann Sebastian Bach or Bernard Greene. Robert Moog is as galling as Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. But I listen. Like breathing, like blood pumping, the music is a basic fact of life. Cut off the oxygen, I die. It is so with the music. Yet Easter never comes here. Every day is Christmas. I heave no sighs of relief. Every day is a holiday. Every day is tiresome.

susieisome said...

It wouldn't be until days and weeks and months and many many miles had past that Zachary would realize that he was a very lucky rabbit. It would only be then that he would appreciate the poppy field with the beauty of it's rolling hills and the safety of the chain link fence that surrounded it. He already knew that his life was going to be far from ordinary, full of mysterious joys and unseen forces. He could feel it in his bones. They just wouldn't let him rest. While his friends and family enjoyed the simple pleasures of being a rabbit, Zach was busy trying to manage the annoying details of things that mattered to no one else but him. This would sometimes make him feel strangely alone and out of place in this nearly perfect world that was his home.

Katie's Angels said...

It was June, but a crisp, wintry breeze raced over Rachel Patterson as she lay prostrate in the muddy snow, her .22 trained on an oblivious jack rabbit. Motionless, she barely breathed as she watched it hop around. Her steely eyes registered every twitch of its long ears and every wiggle of its nose as it pawed the soggy ground in search of food. Its efforts were futile, and after a moment, it stopped to groom its face, sliding its filthy paws down its muzzle until they met in the middle. For a moment, it seemed to be praying. The woman’s cold eyes narrowed. She fired the .22 and the rabbit fell dead to the ground.

Chersti Nieveen said...

The clock read 10:54 and thirty-two seconds when the soldier came into my class. I knew the exact time because I only had one minute and fifty-four seconds left to hack into the Military’s database before the Intelligence Unit would be all over my case.

Lynn Ford said...

Secrets, she was tired to death of secrets. They were a treacherous undertow in her life, threatening to pull her under for the last time at any moment. And now, she was going to have to work harder than ever before to keep from drowning and to keep everyone else afloat with her.

Gregg Podolski said...

Okay, so before I tell you about the androids--which you’re obviously interested in, seeing as how you bought a book with the word androids right in the title--I have to tell you about James Patterson. Yes, that James Patterson. If it weren’t for him, then I never would have been in a position to fight the androids in the first place.

Kaitlyne said...

"Eight hundred and thirty-two requests, twenty-six people looking for a job, twelve thank-you notes, one little boy who wants The Torchbearer to adopt him because his mommy took away his Wii, and eighteen death threats," Danny said as he set the stack of faxes on my desk. I wondered if he’d really bothered to count. If so, I might have to start looking for a new assistant.

Lilia Thomas said...

Lira kissed his cold, wet forehead. Her lips move to his. The kiss is so different, cold, and empty. She closes her eyes. A tear falls and drips down his cheek, a warm tear on a forever cold body.

Dawn Pier said...

The truth is I came to Mexico to learn how to surf. Some people are still operating under the false impression that I came here to save a coral reef. Some of them even think I was already a “conservationist” when I arrived. They would be wrong. The only reason I moved to Baja was so that I could follow my dream of becoming a surfer. That dream came about by a rather round-about series of connected events. At the time I didn’t see it happening and just thought I was going through the most difficult time in my life, but in retrospect, it was all part of a bigger picture that I was busy coloring and couldn’t see the details of, let alone the outline.

susieisome said...

It wouldn't be until days and weeks and months and many, many miles had passed that Zachary would realize that he was a very lucky rabbit. It would only be then that he would appreciate the poppy field with the beauty of it's rolling hills and the safety of the chain link fence that surrounded it. He already knew that his life was going to be far from ordinary, full of mysterious joys and unseen forces. He could feel it in his bones. They just wouldn't let him rest. While his friends and family enjoyed the simple pleasures of being a rabbit, Zach would be busy trying to manage the annoying details of things that mattered to no one else but him. It would sometimes make him feel strangely alone and out of place in this nearly perfect world that was his home.

Gerard Trey said...

“What if I told you I am alien?”
Carey throws her head back and laughs.
“Seriously.”
Mork’s stare is in fact serious. He has always in fact seemed strange to Carey. Her body tenses and her breathe halts. Blood begins to stream from her eyes. She can’t see. “What the fuck?”
It all ends and Carey finds herself in a white room.
“Do you believe me now?”

Chris Tonkey said...

It is not a pistol that takes a life, it is gut and character. When it is the life of someone you used to love, it turns into a different story. A story of pain. My story, my pain.

shelldolb said...

Shellie Uchtman

Steven stood in front of the jury box consisting of five women and seven men. He knew before he even gave his closing argument that he was about to lose his very first case. Had it been any other case other than this one, he would have been extremely upset, but he knew better than anyone else that the man sitting at the table next to him was without a doubt as guilty as hell.

D. Michael Olive said...

It is said that Death rides a pale horse, but it's not true. I drive a black Mini Cooper. I am an Angelic Throne, a living symbol of the Big Guy's authority, placed here to dispense his justice with perfect objectivity, a task that‟s easier said than done. I am a killer, an assassin hunting down the human and non-human scum who do not deserve to walk this earth. They call me the Dark Angel because my targets never see or hear me coming. They simply die.

Vanessa K. Eccles said...

I don’t really know that I can find the words to completely explain my immediate infatuation with Mr. James Ballard. He was amazingly beautiful, that was the first thing that I noticed, but it was more than that. He made me feel almost…unreal. I still don’t know how to make my story about him make sense. I have been searching for words to explain his very existence, yet I’m at a lack. I suppose all I can do is just tell you everything from the beginning and hope to God that you can find some understanding that I, myself, have yet to find.

karenmkrueger said...

Every summer, when my mother tells me her secret about music and magic, the only light comes from the moon and the lightning bugs in our backyard. The very first time I can remember, I was snuggled up to her, listening to her humming a song that seemed to harmonize with the cicadas, as she kept the beat with the steady creaking of the porch swing as she pushed it back and forth with one foot. My twin brother Isaac sat on the other side of her, playing with the seam on her jeans.

layinda said...

Jack awakened early, the island still in slumber except for the songbirds, whose warbling kept him from rolling over and going back to sleep. Drowsy, he listened for their different voices, identifying a cardinal and then a robin. A mourning dove cooed its gentle trill, and he could hear the distant tapping of a woodpecker. A jay screeched overhead, breaking the peacefulness of the moment. Rolling over, he peered in the half-light at his identical twin, asleep in the other bed. Jim was lying on his back with his mouth open, a light snore issuing with each breath. Jack grinned, reached over to the desk, and tore a corner off of some scrap paper.

Kirk Kraft said...

Garith Dern dreamt about dragons. From a very young age he remembered dreaming about them. Bronze dragons flying effortlessly high above the plains. Blue Dragons basking in the sun on the hills surrounding Halifire. Pleasant dreams they were, except for those with the red dragons. Those dreams more resembled nightmares when the dragons would soar high above and then swoop down to destroy homes and burn fields.

unclescary said...

The snow kept falling and falling, mixing with the blood to form a red velvet pound cake of betrayal. Something was missing. Vic knew this instantly after second gaze. A snow angel would be so befitting of this troubled, pitiful soul and his tasteless moustache. Swinging limbs in the snow next to the corpse, Vic thought of the ghoul’s priors. A shudder of mental causation rippled deep, closing eyes and rising to the feet. The corpse gazed miles towards the moon, soon to be replaced by the gleeful omnipresent sun. Vic circled a length away, flakes dancing towards the ground. She admired the image of death and her mind twitched. “They better have skim milk at the diner” rambled in her head. She turned and shot the body once more.

sirra_girl said...

As she stood inside the terminal of the Honolulu International Airport, her eyes quickly scanned for the location of the locker. The terminal was bustling with groups of tourists being led in different directions by their guides and the greeters handing out leis to passersby. The array of vibrant tropical flowers caught her eyes and the intoxicating scent nearly broke her concentration. The mumbling voices and the announcements coming through the speakers echoed through the vast terminal. Noises crashed into her eardrums and the environment bombarded all of her senses, but she redirected her concentration to her eyes to regain focus.

abc said...

My father often says that there will always be people who threaten peace. There will always be people who are angry and want revenge. This is the history of humanity, he says. A man feels wronged and that man gets angry and anger leads to violence, oppression, and destruction. There are so many stories that people tell--stories passed down through the generations, some caught over the radio, some written in family journals, some collected in the great library of the capital. My father tells us some of these stories, too. Stories about violence and cruelty, stories to remind us what we are capable of. I’m not sure if my father speaks from wisdom or from fear, but I like to think that despite all the wars and hardships, humanity is more good than bad. I keep this thought with me each night I go to bed, hoping not to be awakened by the sound of the sirens.

Frank said...

Marcus is riding in the second row with Brianne and I have claimed shotgun and control of the radio. We're all so close because Calvin has his newly dry-cleaned suits hanging on the handrails in the third row. He threatened that if any of us even looked at them the wrong way he'd rip us a new one. And of course he didn't say it any differently than his usual bland tone, but I still took him seriously.

Zoltan James said...

In the half-light of dusk, Austin Langley sat in a hardback chair facing a bed in a hotel room that was not his. In one hand, he coolly palmed and flipped his cell phone, over and over. In the other, he gripped a rolled piece of paper he had moments ago removed from the hand of the naked woman who lay dead on the bed. Her head had been severed. It was positioned between her knees facing the valley at the upper end of her long tanned legs. Her mouth and eyes were still open. The scene was disconcerting, but even stranger was the fact that he didn’t know her, at all.

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

The field didn’t end so much as trail off, beaten back by the rusted out trailer and circle of junked vehicles surrounding it. This was the place. The girl’s bare and bloodied feet tripped and stumbled over each other, as if they had forgotten how to be still. Slowly though, the momentum that had brought her through the night and into the cold gray dawn, drained away. She tugged at the garbage bag she’d refashioned as a poncho, worse than useless at keeping her dry, but its constant crinkle had been a steady companion, and now that she’d reached her destination it seemed wrong to let it be lost to the wind. And then she waited for something to happen. Certain that something would. For someone who didn’t know where she was, or even her own name, she felt certain of this.

Elissa Sussman said...

It was midnight and Valere was awake. Awake and waiting. Waiting for the clock to chime, waiting for carriage wheels against cobblestones, waiting for the rustle of satin in the hall and the drowsy laughter of her parents. Far away the clock chimed its twelfth tone and somewhere, past the pond, past the bridge, past the town the ball had ended. And so Valere waited with nothing but the moon and a head full of wants.

Brian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
remember said...

Out in the remote backwaters of the metaverse eight unreal figures stalked across an alien landscape. Ina Blue put her shaking approximation of a hand against one of the vast mushroom creatures that loomed over her. She scanned for danger. There was nothing within seven kilometres, which was the distance to the horizon, but she knew they were out there, ready and waiting and deadly. She could feel it deep in her far-away bones.

Brian said...

After two hours of dogged sparring, the dragon swallowed Bershad whole. The veins and tendons of his great throat strained as he forced the armor-clad knight down and into his belly. The dragon scanned the scene of destruction and carnage before him, looking for remaining opponents. Satisfied there were none left alive, he leapt into the air. His wings echoed like heavy slaps against an enormous skin drum.

Red Boot Pearl said...

“It’s not that I don’t date…” I let the sentence dangle. It’s just that I haven’t. I’ve never been on a date. No, I lied. I went to the spring formal last year with my step cousin. We’re not technically related but eww, right? I blame my parents—for the whole not dating thing. It was their stupid combination of genes that made me a social failure. It wasn’t strictly hereditary though. What really ruined my life was the skipping thing, and I’m not talking ditching class. I could have survived the boredom of school with kids my age. Maybe I would’ve had some boyfriends—or even friends for that matter.

Adi ^_^ said...

The first few months after The Queen’s "accident" were remarkably unremarkable. No plague swept the land, killing thousands. No castles mysteriously turned to rubble overnight. No forests burst into fiery maelstroms of death. No downtrodden people rose up in righteous rebellion. In fact, life continued as it had for years. People even began to wonder if all the legends of the Kings and Queens and the Country being joined were nothing more than a convenient tale told to keep the populace subdued. Then it began to rain.

medussa74 said...

“Don’t worry, Prince Eoman! I will protect you," said Morwyn, a sturdy peasant girl of six, as she faced off against Willem and Gaern. She paused to push an unruly strand of brown hair from her face, but much like a living creature it would soon wind its way back. Behind her, the “prince” squatted over a patch of bare earth, intently hunting for bugs, while her older brothers posed, motionless, in front of her. They waited, their eyes flicking expectantly toward Leal, but their oldest brother’s concentration was on the piece of wood he held, his thumb purposefully rubbing the knots and whirls. Grunting, Morwyn dropped her hands to her sides and stomped her foot. "Leal!" She cried.”You’re the evil death lord! You have to command your skeleton soldiers to fight!”

Dave Oei said...

It's funny. I made my peace, I wrote several letters of apology to those I wronged, at least to those I could recall, and I prayed for forgiveness. I also knew none of this would help. There wouldn't be anybody itchin' to grant me a pardon despite the best efforts of my fair lawyer, the only person left who cared a wit for me, and perhaps not for me but more for her lofty idealistics. And surely the judge looking down on my soul wouldn't waste a moment of consideration to rethink the verdict, nor for that matter, would I. So I just grinned a friendly smile, not a creepy one, more a sad one, one that could at least give those affected and watching some satisfaction in knowing that in mere minutes, life-taking chemicals would rob my body of my mind and I would have more in common with dirt and autumn leaves than themselves. Except that's not what happened exactly. Because after the smile, the jab, and me feeling very sleepy, somehow, sometime later, I woke up. And so life began, again.

Julie Achterhoff said...

She got up slowly, carefully, so as not to awaken the thing in the bed next to her. From the light of the candles she could see that her skin was already starting to slough off on her forearm. A small wounded sound came from her lips. There would be no escaping now. J.T. was now gone forever. And whatever it was he had become was to be her fate as well. She would be one of them very, very soon.

Tess Black said...

Cate received Zach’s immensely sensitive text message - ‘we r ova’ – five minutes after Eve arrived to console her. Cate was the last person to know about her own breakup. Her life sucked on so many levels.

Michael Matewauk said...

I hate oil spills. But this one is different. And it’s not because Mark Twain started the whole thing, I don’t want to start off saying that, especially since it’s a big thing in the literary world right now, all the Twain scholars are running around right now like kids on recess looking to capitalize and commemorate the fact that it’s the centennial of his death, and the last thing I want to do is say anything that’s a downer. Technically, it’s more like an underwater gusher than a spill but no one likes a quibbler. Twain himself said that the difference between the right word and the wrong word was like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. But that’s not what I’m talking about. Right now, as I write this, thousands of barrels of oil gush from the seafloor of the Gulf of Mexico. Black gold. Texas tea.

Sophia the Writer said...

You know it's going to be a bad day on Olympus when you wake up next to a naked butt you didn't go to sleep with.

Anonymous said...

Wildfire season, Australia’s lower east coast.

Nothing but her dripping clothes and the rifle slung across her back remained of Dr Nola Clarke’s personal possessions. But she refused to let her mind dwell on the knowledge that if she hadn’t been out euthanizing and herding fire affected kangaroos towards the Snowy River, the inferno which claimed her home and father would have ended her existence as well.


by Vicki

Kat said...

“But I don’t like princesses,” the Prince wailed. His pale eyebrows jutted like two seesaws up his forehead and got lost in a tangle of curly hair that was only reasonable every third day. He fell to his knees.

Elena Rey said...

There are various ways of escaping aging. One of them is dieing young.
29 years of Katherine’s life knotted in her head exploding into a dozen hundred thousand thoughts, ideas, hopes desperately searching for a way out, a way to stay alive, to survive this night. She stopped breathing for a moment and froze trying to see through the darkness. The persecutors could still make a mistake, the killer could still make a mistake, help could come first. Light, hushed but imminent steps were approaching – It was very close. She started crawling faster. The earthy ceiling was pushing her down, shadows were mocking at her from the corners. And then one of the shadows jumped. “Please don’t!” Katherine cried. Then there was a flash of light, a sudden pain, and then nothing.

[The Secret Mandarin by Elena Rey: a murder in the Forbidden City leads to the discovery of the mystery behind the creation of the Chinese Terracotta Army and reveals the secret to human immortality. www.elenarey.com]

D.M. Seymour said...

My name is Jude Harris, and even though you don't know me that doesn't matter. To be honest I don't really care if you're interested in me or not. So, why would you want to read this you may wonder? Well, simply put because it's screwed up, and everyone loves screwed up things. Just so we're clear though before this happened I did NOT believe in Heaven, Hell, Angels, Demons or any of that crap. Just goes to show you how much I know. Before you continue here are a few facts about me: I'm 21, I'm currently single, I'm a junior in college, I'm the son of a demon, and I'm literally going to Hell. No really, I am.

Johngee said...

....Rain fell in sheets bouncing up from the road....lingering an instant, lit by the head lights... louder than the engine, roaring across the roof....thrown off by the wipers....Lightning lanced across darkness....an instant of ghostly whitness...Arcing brightness...blinding...Clouds suddenly visible writhed within the dark sky...Silver etched outlines within a frozen moment....Trees became visible for an instant....lining the highway ahead....Distant forests across distant hills, silhouetted against more hills and black sky....Fleeting sights....almost visions....gone....Another lightning bolt zigzagged downward....Branches stood out starkly overhead...Rain hammered clattering against the windscreen and roof....Darkness of night more intense...Light reflected back from the deluge....Thwack thwack, thwack thwack....The wipers couldn’t keep up....Thunder cracked echoing.... tumbling.... rolling....lingering long moments..
....“Let’s turn back, it’s all different.....”
ohngee

Cacy said...

There wasn’t a doubt in Green Boother’s mind that Terra was the lamest city in the world. Sure, it was famous and all that, but only because it was built on the largest grouping of islands in its corner of the world. The city got a lot of tourists. Gawkers who squinted up at the tall mound of earth that was Mt. Tyda and proclaimed in amazement that it was the first time they’d seen land, let alone a mountain! But that was an entirely wrong reason to be a famous city. Not like Tynez or Green Sails or the greatest city of them all, Cada. Not like it had any Challengers.

MacDougal Street Baby said...

From the moment she was old enough to fantasize, Sara believed she would die by drowning. The idea would come to her in the most remote circumstances. At a friend's house, playing basketball, doing homework. As she matured, so did the vision. She would imagine herself under the water, her hair softly moving with the ocean's current. Her eyes opening wide, matched only by the serenity of her wide smile. As the sun poured down from above, she would lightly sink to the bottom, finally meeting her destiny. How outraged she became when she suddenly realized it wasn't the water that would eventually do her in but, rather, motherhood.

Rob Haines said...

The soup was pale pink, scented delicately with jasmine and shrimp, and laced with enough cinerea to topple a bull elephant.

beegirl said...

If she had known what was going to happen, she would have left a stash of money from the sale of the house in the bank. It could have been put in an interest bearing account. No, wait, she could have put the money in an off-shore account. That’s it. She should have put a good sum of their money in an off-shore account in Jersey. No the Cayman Islands. That would have been better. Then when it turned out the way it did, they could have just packed up, boarded a plane and taken off for the Caymans. They could have lay at the beach, in the sun, and continued on, still loving each other.

Charlie said...

"I thought you were dead!"

Anonymous said...

My older brother told me if I wanted to survive Apuro High’s intense tough guy scene, I’d need to get me some kung fu. I’ll tell you what; I got nothing. No kung fu. I’m lucky my buddy Mitch Krewman keeps me around. We’ve been friends since we were neighbors back in the second grade, but our friendship changed from playing in our combined field of a back yard to hitting guys until they bleed. Don’t get me wrong. I like fighting, but it’s not what I’m all about. Excuse me if I have a heightened interest in the new transfer student exercising some extreme MA on one of Itachi Ishii’s Shōrin-ryū monsters. That’s a type of karate, for those uninformed in the audience. It’s part of the scene to know this stuff.

~Garrett Marco

Kats said...

The thing about rumours is there’s always some truth to them. It’s figuring out what to believe that’s the hard part. I’m sitting at the back of the bus trying to force the top window open when I hear them.
“I heard April slept with Kyle Langton and then stabbed him five times.” False.
“I heard she drugged his drink.” Also false.

Rhiannon Morgan said...

They let him in. No, no. I tore the curtains together and choked on an oily clump of vomit. My bedroom door was wedged shut, but I knew that my parents were muttering at the bottom of the stairs; knew that Uncle Charles would tip his bowler hat at them, smile his sleazy smile and then....the sound of those pointy, heeled boots on the hardwood stairs.

(Suicide Cookie)

Bron said...

Peta Blackman lugged a blue icebox across the jungle clearing towards an Ivorian boy. She placed it on the ground before him and wiped the sweat from her forehead before removing the lid. The boy leant forward and peered into the icebox. His eyes widened. Nestled on top of an array of drinks and ice was a single bar of chocolate. Peta grinned. At eight years old, little Wilfried Eboué was about to get his first taste of the sweet treat.

Jacqueline Bosman said...

This One is nameless. Running. Ancestors call after in long tendrils of thought and direction. They scream in voice and not-voice, louder in mind than in ears. One of many, one without name, and yet they speak only to This One. The siblings are dead. The thoughts of ancestors come fast, slippery as fish through a mind like running water; quicker than instinct. Run, turn, leap. Wind of muscle, bunch of tendon. The deluge of their seamlessly transmitted commands power legs much smaller than their own. This One's feet slap the smooth stone of the cave floor.

Graham said...

Six months ago, I couldn’t leave the house without a €1,500 suit on my back for fear of losing face. Now I couldn’t leave the bedsit without my hi-vis vest for fear of losing my job.

Charlotte said...

Kate had known for a week but for some reason tonight, the night before the big trip, is the only night she can’t sleep. She tosses and turns trying, but can’t get her brain to shut off. She flicks off her covers, careful not to disturb Greg, sits up and stomps her feet into her slippers. She gets out of bed, wraps her robe around her and creeps into Katherine’s room to check on her. She approaches the crib and finds Katherine’s binky sitting next to her. She is lying on her back with her arms stretched above her head. Kate gently brushes Katherine’s hair away from her face and notices she is developing a little dimple on her chin. She hadn’t noticed that before. Kate then remembers that Lizzie, Kate’s younger sister, has a dimple on her chin too. Lizzie has had that dimple ever since she was a baby. Kate remembers their mom always kissing Lizzie right in that spot on her chin when she woke her up each morning. The first morning Lizzie woke up after their mom passed, she sat up and looked around waiting for her kiss and then sadly realized she wasn’t coming. Kate then had to kiss her dimple. Kate was only eleven when she learned she would have to take care of her little sister.

Dusty Stroh
1st Paragraph from "In Peace"

Charlotte said...

Kate had known for a week but for some reason tonight, the night before the big trip, is the only night she can’t sleep. She tosses and turns trying, but can’t get her brain to shut off. She flicks off her covers, careful not to disturb Greg, sits up and stomps her feet into her slippers. She gets out of bed, wraps her robe around her and creeps into Katherine’s room to check on her. She approaches the crib and finds Katherine’s binky sitting next to her. She is lying on her back with her arms stretched above her head. Kate gently brushes Katherine’s hair away from her face and notices she is developing a little dimple on her chin. She hadn’t noticed that before. Kate then remembers that Lizzie, Kate’s younger sister, has a dimple on her chin too. Lizzie has had that dimple ever since she was a baby. Kate remembers their mom always kissing Lizzie right in that spot on her chin when she woke her up each morning. The first morning Lizzie woke up after their mom passed, she sat up and looked around waiting for her kiss and then sadly realized she wasn’t coming. Kate then had to kiss her dimple. Kate was only eleven when she learned she would have to take care of her little sister.

Dusty Stroh
1st paragraph from "In Peace"

Charlotte said...

Kate had known for a week but for some reason tonight, the night before the big trip, is the only night she can’t sleep. She tosses and turns trying, but can’t get her brain to shut off. She flicks off her covers, careful not to disturb Greg, sits up and stomps her feet into her slippers. She gets out of bed, wraps her robe around her and creeps into Katherine’s room to check on her. She approaches the crib and finds Katherine’s binky sitting next to her. She is lying on her back with her arms stretched above her head. Kate gently brushes Katherine’s hair away from her face and notices she is developing a little dimple on her chin. She hadn’t noticed that before. Kate then remembers that Lizzie, Kate’s younger sister, has a dimple on her chin too. Lizzie has had that dimple ever since she was a baby. Kate remembers their mom always kissing Lizzie right in that spot on her chin when she woke her up each morning. The first morning Lizzie woke up after their mom passed, she sat up and looked around waiting for her kiss and then sadly realized she wasn’t coming. Kate then had to kiss her dimple. Kate was only eleven when she learned she would have to take care of her little sister.

Dusty Stroh
1st paragraph from "In Peace"

Margaret said...

The circus was brightly lit, and had three rings. It was a small circus, just the right size to fit in the corner of Izzie's closet. He dropped to his knee for a closer look - and winced. He'd forgotten, in his astonishment, about the bruise.

MIDDLE-GRADE NOVEL

Daniel said...

I hate talking about God with a cripple. It’s almost as bad as talking about God with an old person. It’s not that I don’t like cripples (or old people), and it’s definitely not that I don’t like talking about God. It’s just that there’s always the risk of bullshit. Not that I think they’re full of it or anything. Most of the time, I think if anyone’s guaranteed to be bullshit-free, it’s probably a cripple or an old person or someone else without much to lose. It’s the fact that if these people can believe, with all the junk they’re going through, not being able to walk and being close to dying and everything, then why can’t I? The problem is it makes me feel like I’m full of bullshit when all I really want is to have an honest discussion about God.

Charlotte said...

Kate had known for a week but for some reason tonight, the night before the big trip, is the only night she can’t sleep. She tosses and turns trying, but can’t get her brain to shut off. She flicks off her covers, careful not to disturb Greg, sits up and stomps her feet into her slippers. She gets out of bed, wraps her robe around her and creeps into Katherine’s room to check on her. She approaches the crib and finds Katherine’s binky sitting next to her. She is lying on her back with her arms stretched above her head. Kate gently brushes Katherine’s hair away from her face and notices she is developing a little dimple on her chin. She hadn’t noticed that before. Kate then remembers that Lizzie, Kate’s younger sister, has a dimple on her chin too. Lizzie has had that dimple ever since she was a baby. Kate remembers their mom always kissing Lizzie right in that spot on her chin when she woke her up each morning. The first morning Lizzie woke up after their mom passed, she sat up and looked around waiting for her kiss and then sadly realized she wasn’t coming. Kate then had to kiss her dimple. Kate was only eleven when she learned she would have to take care of her little sister.

Dusty Stroh
1st paragraph: In Peace

Daniel said...

I hate talking about God with a cripple. It’s almost as bad as talking about God with an old person. It’s not that I don’t like cripples (or old people), and it’s definitely not that I don’t like talking about God. It’s just that there’s always the risk of bullshit. Not that I think they’re full of it or anything. Most of the time, I think if anyone’s guaranteed to be bullshit-free, it’s probably a cripple or an old person or someone else without much to lose. It’s the fact that if these people can believe, with all the junk they’re going through, not being able to walk and being close to dying and everything, then why can’t I? The problem is it makes me feel like I’m full of bullshit when all I really want is to have an honest discussion about God.

Amanda said...

Myri ran, her feet slipping across the wet floors, her white braids twitching behind her like the whiskers of a rat-catcher. He was up ahead: she could hear his feet clanging against the metal platforms that ran along the sides of the tunnel, but she couldn't make him out in the darkness. The torchlight flickered against the walls, hardly illuminating anything at all. There was a splash and the footsteps stopped. Myri stopped too, worried that he had jumped into the transport river running through the tunnel. She squinted into the distance, blinked hard.

Nadine said...

There was once a time when only God knew the day you’d die. At least that’s what they tell me. I wasn’t alive then—-back when life bore adventure and death held surprise. I guess God decided to share the coveted knowledge; either that, or we stole it from Him. Personally, I just think He gave the world what it thought it wanted—control. I look at my thin, rectangular Clock on the carved shelf across the room, clicking its red digital numbers—red like blood. Today marks the first day of my last year alive.

Michael A Tate said...

Fredrick dipped his clothes into the stream, letting the clean glacial water merge with the fresh blood. Next to him, a bloody rock sat immersed half-way into the muddy bank, and Fredrick ran his hand gently over it. Touching the rock seemed to command him to look through the trees and into the distance where he could see, lying on the ground, a small corpse. Downstream, the water turned a light pink, a silent witness to his crime.

Rebecca =) said...

The really strange thing was that after the world had ended—a crashing, burning, fiery ending that annihilated everything and left no light of existence—after all this, the sun still rose in the east, burning its way over the poplar trees behind Collier’s Inn. When life was over, and nothing was left but ashes, Madam Collier still knocked on the door of my room and called, "Breakfast, Mira. Hurry down." I lifted the covers, heavy as death, over my head and wondered how the earth could still rotate. Why was Madam Collier fixing breakfast? Could there be anything to eat? Could anyone eat it, if there were?

Big City Bumpkin said...

‘Is this the right place?’ I asked, winding down the window of our rented van.
‘Ay’ Grandpa muttered so quietly I had to turn my head to catch it. He was looking at our new house, in a new town, Harborough, the latest in a long line of them.
Doesn’t look like much I thought, but kept my opinions to myself. I know better than to question him by now. Grandpa’s got feelings in his bones, the kind most people ignore. Not him though. Which is how I know we’re in the right place.
Now all we have to do is find her.

Hadass Geyfman said...

A few days after I began working on this assignment, I got a strong ominous hunch about it but some inexplicable impulse drew me into it, and now it's too late to go back. Now, several weeks later, just as I think how close I am to my target, the clerk at the ticket booth at Fauske's train station says, "there is no seat reservation for Rebecca Whitford. You can't board without one". I am trying not to panic. "It must be there," I insist, well aware of the small line of remarkably patient people that begins to form behind me. "Would you please look again? It is absolutely crucial that I be on this train".

Author: Hadass Geyfman
First paragraph from: "Running Out of Options" (the piece is near completion)

Sara S. said...

Hell was hour eight on a Greyhound bus. The first two hours weren’t bad--I was busy managing panicked phone calls from my parents. Hours three and four, I finished my summer reading. Hours five and six, I slept. Hour seven, we crossed into Missouri and the bus started swaying and groaning like a bad actress on Showtime. Now we were pushing towards hour nine, the engine was possibly about to explode, and I was inspecting the graffiti around my seat. On the bottom pane of the window, someone had used Wite-Out to draw a heart with the initials TR+ML in the middle. Had TR and ML loved each other that much? I wondered. Or had they, like me, simply hit the boredom wall of hour eight? The plains bounced past me in dark rectangles, dirty fields passing through the clear center of the heart.

Jen said...

If I’d expected the women of my household to greet me at the door with a cup of Falernian, a dish of nuts and a cloth with which to mop my troubled brow, I was out of luck. As it was it took ten minutes to rouse the door porter, and at least another ten for Juba and him to pour me out of the litter and drag me inside on my toga. There was an art to it I was mostly unaware of – I was trying to unlace my sandals.

Ash said...

Various shades of brown, the primary color of New Mexico, greeted Raelinn Madison as she ran –as fast as her stilettos allowed- through the Albuquerque airport. While the adobe walls, leather chairs and Mexican tile tickled the edges of her memories, her mind was elsewhere. The sooner she got her bags, rented her car and was on the road, the sooner she could allow the tightly coiled serpent within her freedom. Step one was releasing June. Step two was to feed the serpent within and that meant finding a man. After throwing her luggage into the trunk, honking at a beat-up pickup in her way and speeding through the exiting airport traffic, she let out a long exhale and said, “You can come out now June.”

Matthew Rush said...

NOTE: Nathan, please don't make this an official entry. The MS is not ready for a partial critique from Catherine.

I’m trapped—in a room at the Thunderbird Motel near the airport. It’s a cheap room in a cheap motel. The carpet is thinner than a punch ballot at a polling station in the ghetto, and the windows vibrate like Baghdad each time a plane takes off. My wrist is shackled to the same chair my ass is plastered to. The cuff is not so tight to cut the skin but it chafes my wrist to the bone. I am ashamed. The old guy leans against the door, suspicious. The fat fuck lounges on the bed, the TV illuminating his dark hair and sloe eyes with flashes of color. His boredom barely outweighs his contempt. He could easily be a Puzo soldier, but he’s not. They’re bounty hunters. And not bail skipping, deadbeat junkie hunting servants of the bench either. Even those men have honor. These cowards hunt troubled teens. Delinquents like me.

H. Pinski said...

It all begins on a mountain that had no business being there at all. It was not a large mountain by any standard, in fact it barely qualified as much more than a very steep hill. It was a curious mount, boasting a lush expanse for foraging creatures; grasslands that grew out of nothing but solid ledge, and near blizzard-like conditions at its peak even in the scorching heat of summer. But perhaps the most curious thing about this mountain was that it was some matter of debate as to whether or not it existed before the year thirteen hundred, an observation that simply baffled geologists because it implied that the mountain was somehow man-made.

Ben said...

If they had me when Humpty Dumpty fell then Humpty Dumpty would not have been a nursery rhyme. He would have been just another fat egg with a balance problem. That is what I do, piece things together. I have the ability to see a crime scene and know what happened. I can sift the unnecessary from the necessary and relevant in a glance, and help the police understand what took place. The Chief of Police loves me for this.

Ben said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Francine Howarth said...

Tethered to the mainmast of a sailing ship and fifty lashes of the whip supposedly raining down on his back, Ricky Lindon sensed something or someone on the quayside. It was just a flash of creamy white in his peripheral vision. Instinct and aversion to the paparazzi kicked in. He inclined his head to see what had caught his eye: Yee Gods.

lori said...

He’s crazy. I’m sure of it. Taking one high school psych class hardly qualifies me to diagnose anyone’s crazy, but he must be . . . at least a little bit. As soon as the disinterested waitress had presented our lunch, he had begun the ritual. We were settled into opposite sides of the dingy booth now, me watching, and he oblivious. He detected none of my irritation, which generated a greater sense of his madness within me. He was doing his thing again. Being in Robert’s presence for an extended length of time was arduous when he refused to reign in his crazy. This time, his need for all foods to be sufficiently sequestered in their proper pedestrian places on the plate induced a tangible physical reaction I found difficult to suppress. No items made contact. No food juices of said items made contact. Robert’s plate looked like a strange collection of trophies not to be handled. I wanted to reach across the table and smear all his perfect foods together, and walk away. I didn’t. I wouldn’t. But, oh, how I wanted to.

Spencer said...

Here's my first paragraph:

Father will never forgive me for what I will do to him, then again that is if he can survive what will come to him. For far too long has the feeble minded fool ruled, making mankind dance to his every desire by pulling the little strings that tie them to him. Not that they have much choice but to obey, he and the other gods did create them. From nothing were they created therefore nothing will they be according to him. I doubt even father truly understands what he and the others did when they created life, you can’t create something from nothing and take it back without consequences.

Kira Holt said...

Lindsey seized Samantha’s arm as the lights dimmed. The two jumped to their feet and joined as clapping escalated in a semi-rhythmic fury of anticipation. Lindsey’s knees shook as Austin’s Frank Erwin Center rocked from excitement. Latecomers rushed their seats after intermission, tee-shirts in hand. flicking lighters and cell phones in individual luminarios as Lindsey blinked, looking at faces in hopes she wouldn’t come spy students she counseled. Even the air gasped inhalations of anticipation as pot-soaked exhalations permeated Lindsey’s space. She dropped her head but secretly wished someone would offer her a hit. She wouldn’t take it, of course, but she reasoned it would be nice if someone thought her hip enough to offer.

Nilina said...

"Win-i-fred O-Neilllll," came Coach Hale MacDougal's amplified call from behind a bullhorn. And with that, Winifred knew she'd rather forfeit than try for a shot at the colored target 70 feet ahead of her, a shot now sullied by her summoning. Archery hadn't been her first choice in sport, or even her third, but nevertheless not only had she taken to the practice, but embraced the solitary sport for exactly that reason. Far way from her hometown of Seattle, hidden at a camp deep in the Ozark mountain range in South Carolina, Winifred had finally escaped. Or so she had thought, because with every yelp of her name, it became clear that she hadn't. She knew why Hale was being so insistent even before she slowly turned around to face him to see the phone he held in his hand yards away. She knew who was on the other end of the line. Her parents always had to ruin everything.

Liz S said...

As I scurried down the narrow Parisian sidewalk, I saw my mother by my side, clipping along in her high heels, her lips a bright red, her hair pulled back in a severe bun--but the image of her disintegrated as I turned the corner of Rue Benjamin Delessert. Reality closed in as the wind pulled at my pink scarf, almost tugging it away from my neck.

Samantha said...

Starts with the scissors. The scissors go in the laundry basket. Four wire hangers, six belts and an extension cord. I’m the only damn one who can handle this without feeling it. Feeling is stupid-useless at this point. I try not to startle the kid—move slow. One thing to the next. Unscrew a lightbulb, but yeah, the lamp too. Can’t leave the chair. Strip the sheets. Pillow goes in the basket. An armful of shoes with laces. Pencils. Bottle of peroxide. Mirror. Outside the bedroom door people talk. Front door opens and closes. This is a good kinda show for them, damn depressing extravaganza. Photos hung-up with tacks go in. Anything he could swallow. Desperate makes for determined. Take the basket out, it hits the kitchen floor and rattles. Hundred tiny dangers. Hell, but I’m sick of this shit. Back to the bedroom and kid’s got himself smashed into a corner. I wrapped his damn arm but the blood’s already showing through. I leave him. Nothing to say. Not that matters.

Lyon said...

“Look at me. Look. At. Me.” Becca focused on the back of James’ head, willing him to turn around. Would James’ hair be as soft as it looked? To her right, her best friend, Sam stretched his gum out on a dirty finger. “Gross.” she thought. She caught his eye and grimaced. He bolted upright, dropping his hand, a sheepish grin on his face. Becca dragged her attention to the lecture. Honestly, couldn’t they teach stuff that made sense in her life right now? Like how to not be invisible to the cute boys? She slid down in her chair and peered through her bangs at James. He might not be looking at her, but her skin prickled as if someone was. She swept her eyes around the class. Something shimmered behind the teacher, smoky and green, almost the exact shade of the chalkboard. She scrunched her eyes shut then looked again. Gone.

Meg Leigh said...

Levi should have hugged his dad before he left. He slipped out the front door and down the stairs pretty sure that Dad's eyes saw only Jeopardy. That foreboding feeling churned his stomach, but who listens to that when you’re ten, frustrated, and trying to prove a point the only way you know how?
He knew Dad wouldn’t follow him, but as he ran to Hunt's Park, flinching at every shadow, he kept telling himself that he would, that he’d come gather him up and take him home. That’s what folks do, right? Forgive and protect their kids?

Debbie Maxwell Allen said...

"Peter." I wake with his name on my lips. I’m sure I spoke it just before I surrendered to sleep. Same as most every day of my seventeen years. But waking up this morning is far different. I haven’t spoken his name in one hundred years.

The Pollinatrix said...

Transplants to Taos will tell you that the diva of the mountain either accepts you or kicks you out of town. Because such people have obviously received the diva’s blessing, they tell glowing stories about how they serendipitously ended up in the Mecca of the Land of Enchantment: They felt drawn to stay the moment they got out of the car and inhaled the sage-infused air; someone approached them at the organic grocery store their second day in town and offered a free place to live in exchange for feeding their alpacas. This isn’t how it was for me. My first year in Taos was a nightmarish struggle every single interminable day. Perhaps the diva didn’t approve of my reason for barging into her sacred territory: I fled another small town in northern New Mexico when it got too suffocating, picking Taos solely because it was the closest decent place to go with little money and no job. We packed my van and my boyfriend’s 22-foot ‘78 Dodge camper with as much stuff as we could fit around four kids, and sold or threw away everything else. We then resided at the Taos Valley RV Park (“An All Season Adventure!”) for two of the most disagreeable months of my life. The diva hurled insults and laughed, but I stood my ground.

Susan Carpenter Sims

Daniel Audet said...

"what little was left of his humanity bore all corporate. Soulless vacant eyes raked her face, her form. Methodically, he pulled on latex gloves. The fun part.
Mercifully, she was already dead."

tangynt said...

I’m going to kill him.
Caleb found comfort in that thought. And he meant it this time. It would be quick and clean. He could leave the body in a ditch where they were widening the highway on the side of I-70 West. No one would bother to start looking for at least a week, and that would be the last place they’d check. Even if someone caught on, he figured he’d make a sympathetic defendant. At seventeen he was still a minor, and a public servant to boot. He could imagine the news lineup. Caleb Azriel Dunnelly, local lifeguard, was acquitted of a second-degree murder charge. Jury says they ‘would have done it too’.

Chelsey said...

Connecting to people from behind a guitar was what I understood. I should have taken the bus to New York instead of waiting the extra hour for the train, but I was desperate to play. Outside of Boston’s South Station, I’d become just a girl with a guitar again, the anonymous face I’d worn for most of my seventeen years. I couldn’t do that during my suburban exile. The late-April sky was the blue of the Parisian afternoons I’d been forced to leave behind two years before. The atmosphere wasn’t exactly the same, but elements were. The chords drove Uncle Rob’s threats out of my mind, reaffirming my choice to leave. I had to go somewhere no one would attempt to lock my music away.

Mark Hancock said...

The demon crouched unseen on the city wall as his host slept in the house below. The city was quiet in the predawn darkness. The inhabitants were sufficiently oppressed. He enjoyed his assignment - as much as oppressing could be enjoyed - and prided himself in the job he had done in securing the city of Masaria for the Principal.

Orchid said...

The screeching whine of metal on metal mingled with the screams of the commuters on the subway platform in a sickening harmony that made him smile. Gabe Shaw did not wait to see the looks of horror, or to see the damage done. Instead he headed for the street, lightheartedly bounding up the concrete steps of the station, his long legs taking them two at a time.

Durango Writer said...

For years I escaped to a private place in my mind and daydreamed about killing my daddy. The thing is I never really thought I’d go through with it. When I shot him in the back that July morning, I surprised myself as much as everyone else.

[from Mandy Mikulencak]

D Shipway said...

To the untrained eye it was a mad scientist's lab; a haphazard explosion of wiring and flickering screens. To the advanced, trained eye of an expert it was also a menagerie of random technology, but clearly it all held some important purpose. From deep within the tangled mess of a demented robot's dentist chair, a small voice squeaked, "Are you sure it's safe?."

Leigh said...

"So, do you want to talk about it?" Trish asked, pushing aside a pile of clothes to sit on the edge of Sef's bed. "Or are you just going to continue torturing your eyebrows until they confess?"

"I'm not torturing them, I'm shaping them. Ever pick up a Cosmo?" Sef huffed at her cousin's reflection, studiously ignoring the flash of purple that flared behind her irises.

Trish leaned back onto her elbows, a study in relaxed calm, and raised a perfectly manicured eyebrow at her. "I pluck my eyebrows. You perform something that looks like it should be forbidden by the Geneva Convention. You could be tried as war criminal for that."

Ruby Blue said...

“No, I will not use my employee discount to save you fifty cents on tampons,” I told Tonya again, just in case she didn’t hear me the first four times.
“Why not?”
She stuck her lip out in a pout that made her look like a bad-tempered bulldog.
“Because then I would get fired,” I said.
She huffed and shoved a five-dollar bill across the counter.
“Don’t know what’s so great about working here. If I was you, I’d want to get fired.”
“But then I wouldn’t be able to spend my eighteenth birthday selling you cheap tampons,” I said, handing her back her change and receipt. “Thanks for shopping at Stop and Save and have a great day.”

justinistired said...

“Sarah.” Mr. Clemens said, in that quiet way of exclaiming something that he had. He would never resort to an actual outcry in the direst of times, I suspect, so there was really no way to know whether this particular situation was an emergency or not. I dashed up the stairs to the wheelhouse.

Perri said...

On the lake, men were shouting. Leanne scanned the choppy water of Orange Lake, the reedy inlets to the East, but Daddy’s canoe was nowhere to be seen. Instead a bass boat headed for the put-in by the highway. “Holy shit!” the men in the boat hollered, two strangers with high, frightened voices. And Claudette was hunched in their bow, her pale hair streaming, her face all fury and fear. She leapt free and splashed the few feet to shore, stood a moment in the wet sand her eyes not catching on any one thing. “Claud!” Leanne wedged her feet into tennis shoes and ran towards her sister. It wasn’t far; the ramp had once been part of the Idylwilde’s scant allure. But before Leanne reached her, Claudette took off running down the state highway and into the brushy woods.

Kevin said...

The video triggered a tsunami of horrified expressions on the faces surrounding the conference table. I was the only person at the hastily arranged meeting who managed to watch the screen without flinching.

Anonymous said...

A) Yes
B) No
C) Both
D) None of the Above
These were the four choices to the last question on his history exam, his ticket to temporary freedom, and he didn’t have a clue. It was the one thing his father’s money could not buy for him. One of two honestly, but the other he’d rather forget. Much like money couldn’t buy love, the similarly titled Beatles tune played in his head; money could not buy him a passing grade. He wasn’t going to attempt bribery at least, for his last attempt at something he believed in left him dreaming of this day ever since. His grade was important, but to Johan Steyn answering this question correctly represented much more than what is healthy for any adult. Not to mention a love-struck teenager who quite simply, stuck out.

Jean-Luke Swanepoel

sbjames said...

Rose Woodman loved storms. Whether they blew in from the sea or the mountains rumored to rise beyond the forest, the result was the same: even the mightiest trees bowed down. Not that she disliked the trees, not at all, but a power that could bend those ancient trunks, that could rip the night apart revealing beautiful flashes of silver- who wouldn't admire that? Everyone, she reminded herself, turning away from the window. Everyone, except me.

P Andrew said...

When you give a Banshee a screaming orgasm, everyone hears. Things talk and whispers get around. They began to find me.
It helps that I’m good at my job, better than I need to be as competition is not fierce. You will not find cheaper than I. An internet search will not throw up any alternatives. I am one result of one. The first and last of my kind.
I hear hooves approach on the landing and it is completely normal. Then the knock comes on the door. I don’t need the thing on the other side to prophesise my immediate future. Sweat, tears and deprived magic.
The last and last of its kind. And me, the one and only servicer of last things.
To do this for a living, what the hell am I?

Run-on-Imagination said...

Old don’t like disturbing, Anna realized, as the crisscross weave of the wicker jabbed out unrestrained at her crawling along the dirt floor, displacing the decaying baskets. Clumps of mummified vegetables rolled beneath her knees, letting out a foul-smelling swoosh. Tucking herself under the splintered remnants of the wood shelves that lined the wall she hoped was farthest from the entrance, wiry arms coiled around bare calves, tightening her small. Spiders and mice that crept in from her imagination, became real enough to feel. She dared not move. The fear of her father outweighed fear of any unseen creepy crawlies she’d pissed off by trespassing on this, their turf. Clumps of blonde, long, dirty and tangled, fell over her knees as the fetal position offered a semblance of safety. Her sanctuary, the old root cellar, reeked of putrefied decay that rotted the air. Each breath squeezed through her throat like a lit match. The booming voice grew loud. He was getting closer as he crashed and banged his way through the house. She knew he was in the kitchen now, above the basement, above her hiding spot. Her hands flew to her ears, and the wicker's finger-like claws took advantage of the movement, ripping and tearing skin. Anna squeezed her eyes shut so the tears couldn’t get out and mouthed the only prayer she knew, though not remembering how it made its way into her memory. "Four posts around my bed, four angels around my head: one to watch, one to pray and two to keep the devil away."

Maggie said...

Liddy's face said it all. Nini rolled her eyes at Jess. “Not again!” they chimed together, turning their heads in unison. “No, not again,” Liddy said. They sighed in stereo relief. “For the last time. There's no way we'll fail tonight!” In her excitement, Liddy tossed her finger straight into the air, almost yelling the last two words. Several girls in the hallway shot furious glances into the room. Semester terms were in full gear, nerves were fried, and Liddy wanted to bust out, for the fifteenth time.

Jennifer Rose said...

I do love the smell of crazy. It makes me weak in the knees and I get a little tingle just above my tailbone at the first whiff. I suppose I’ll never quite be able to rid myself of the inner nut that still dwells within. It’s been a good two years since I was booted out of Montclair and the sight of Nurse Eleanor Frump hurled me right back to the days of whale covered pajamas and self-indulgent sessions. I smelled the hospital on her clothes and I went right back there. I went right back to moment she waddled into my life, round head and all. She has always had some nerve.

Evalyn7 said...

Into the hole that was now her heart she put her work. Words didn’t just appear on paper. On her desk: the phone logs of the recurring harassment by government officials and the news footage of the press pack camped out on a cable crossed lawn, plugging into the county grid, violating the metal panelled integrity of local street lights, hacked open by some AT&T freelancer, so that the news trucks could fire up, live, for the seething mass of stand-ups broadcast, world-wide, via satellite. She hadn’t kept Richard safe but it was his choice to die.

Why Would I Lie?

Laura Campbell said...

Rebecca placed her hands on her knees gulping air. The cold burned her lungs. Looking over her shoulder to the top of the grassy stairs, she realized she had a head start, but the barking was getting louder. She stood up looking for her boat, stumbling from the blood rush to her head. It was gone. Squinting through the fog, she saw it, a five-minute swim away. The sun is coming up. I need to hurry. As she climbed onto the small boulders making up the shore, she slipped. She sucked in air, cringing at the pain. Blood ran down her shin. She glanced back up the hill. The erratic movement of a flashlight announced the dogs at the top of the stairs. They ran down, barking their determination to stop her. She stood up, trying to keep her balance on the slippery rocks.

Iliadfan said...

"If your plan includes survival, we have to leave now," Dahab said. She stretched up on bare toes, peering over her mother's shoulder and through the window just as the mob surged past yet another roadblock. Rioters churned around the houses of the elite, setting fires and overwhelming any guards condemned to the wrong side of barricaded doors. But those distant houses weren't the real target. As if the ground tilted to pour them down the myrtle-lined avenues of the restricted quarter, the mob swept closer. They were still several streets away. Her mother, however, was an immediate danger, and even as she strained for a better look, Dahab made sure to stay well out of reach.

Wen Baragrey said...

We’d been on my parents’ front porch for almost ten minutes, a kiss that hadn’t happened yet hanging in the air between us. It was as if another person stood in the shadows, impatient, waiting for us to make up our minds.

Tracey Neithercott said...

I knew the pain would come.

My fingernails dug into my palms. Henry swabbed my arm, raising goosebumps with each swipe. My teeth chattered.

(YA sci-fi)

Cathy C. Hall said...

As a general rule, Tish didn’t believe signs just fell out of the sky. But if one (a sign, that is) ever dropped from the sky again, Tish hoped she’d have the good sense to get out of the way first.

Remilda Graystone said...

Here's my first paragraph:

It's a positive thing. Lavender would be the best color. There it was again. The whispers I'd been hearing for the past few days. Around me, behind me. Everywhere. I didn't bother to look. There was no one there, and the voice didn't belong to anyone I knew.

Brad Green said...

Of course, he’d be punished for this. After all, he was disobeying his father. Nevertheless, Elias watched his breath quicken into a white fur on the bedroom window, his right palm forming a print in the fog. What was happening outside was more interesting than studies. Between his fingers, the eastern barbwire crackled with blue spark as the dust storm pushed before it a wave of quiet in which he heard and felt all the house’s contained suffering and timbercrack. Even small crimes called down the wrath.

djpaterson said...

Despite having spent the afternoon dreading its arrival, the harsh sound of the bell caught James by surprise, and it took him a moment to realise where he was. But only a moment. Before the ringing died away, James had grabbed his bag and jacket and was running.

Ant said...

All this business with sneaking Big Macs was going to have to stop. I knew it, yet it was just so hard to actually follow through. One of these days, I was going to finish eating my clandestine Big Mac behind the Dumpster on Fourth Street, drive home in my VW beetle, and she’d smell the meat on my breath. Somehow, she’d be able to tell that I’d eaten an animal. Maybe I actually wanted her to know. Maybe that’s why it was so hard to stop. I was hiding it from her, yet I wanted so badly for her to notice that something was different, that I was wolfing down animal products at an alarming rate just so she’d pay attention. Or, you know, not. That was the problem with the two mile drive home, it was turning me into goddamned Sigmund Freud.

The Writer Gal said...

The phrase, “ego-maniacal, self-centered pig,” doesn’t come close to describing Jonathan Simmons. My boss was definitely the type of boss every employee fantasizes about running down with a large SUV…maybe even backing up and taking another run…or slowly poisoning to death with a combination of arsenic, drain cleaner and bleach.

Mayowa said...

Oh the measured prance, the dance of hip and tanned buttock under linen. The lungful snort and the classy giggle. Genteel jingle of spurs and the cultivated clink of champagne flutes. Cubes of sugar licked, hors d’oeuvres devoured. When the rich and their horses gather, it is a synchronous symphony of possessor and possession. Funmi Haruna thought it was all bullshit.

Anonymous said...

The blanket covering her was beautiful, brilliant with colors that sparkled. She could see red, gold, and orange. The colors lay over her as she rested in the valley. The clouds seemed to float down, down, down, trying to reach her. The mistiness brushed against her blanket. The blanket broke into tiny pieces. The pieces started to dance. They circled. Mocking her, they made no sound. Dancing in intricate color patterns the pieces changed shape. There was roaring, roaring, pounding, rhythmically against her aching ears. She couldn’t remember. Where was she? Mercifully, darkness closed over her mind. Pain left. The pounding, and the dancing blanket ended.

C.J. Smith
lovethatcj@gmail.com

Holly Roberts said...

Today was the day my life would change forever.
Ok, so it wasn’t that dramatic of an epiphany, it was more of a gentle prodding from my gut to be on the ready.
“Charlotte honey, you need to get a move on,” my mom called from the kitchen downstairs.
“Coming mom,” I yelled back.
I crouched down to tie my navy Converse shoes, smirking at the thought that Elizabeth would be especially opinionated in regards to my attire this particular morning. She would disapprove of my causal jeans and plaid shirt look. My straight chestnut brown hair swept up into a simple ponytail, swinging cheerfully along with each movement of my head. Yup, she would have something to say.

Bob Jones said...

A chill tickled up Gail Cullen’s slender thirty-four year old neck. Not the kind that breaks into a cold sweat; rather a sense of unreserved excitation one feels a few times in their life. The same sensation when her ex-husband asked her to marry him, and again when her first book published. A few hours ago, when she spotted the yellow and black for sale sign on 50 Stonegate Street, it hit again.

Max Gladstone said...

God wasn't answering tonight.

carolyndnc said...

Midnight; the wind through the leaves shook and shivered, casting shadows like rats running in the underbrush. The headlights of the car lent an eerie illumination to the October night, sparkling on the veil of shimmering frost like stars that had fallen from the sky. Richard Malcolm drove farther away from the warm welcome of the Victorian Bed and Breakfast where he often spent the long nights curled safely under the covers with a mug of steaming coffee and worn manuscript that he had written and rewritten for most of his life. Tonight would be different however, and he had accepted that fact before he rummaged through the settled dust of the attic, stirring up the remnants of old ghosts that lingered on the surfaces everywhere he turned.

Susan said...

Huddled in the dark on her bed with just a sliver of night visible from where she lay, Anna would often gaze at the darkness beyond her tiny window and imagine lying down on a soft sheet of springy grass and snuggling under a shimmering blanket of stars; the moon to tuck her in with a kiss and the wind to sing her to sleep. Sometimes she would tell herself a story with the wishes she made on the stars stretching endlessly beyond her grasp.

Michaele Stoughton said...

The pewter cup sat in the stone cubby, looking like a trophy. Like a reminder of a proud moment in your life, when you were the best at something. I couldn’t look at it. I didn’t feel proud. I felt sad and empty. I imagined myself whipping it out of there and rubbing its side like a magic lamp, resulting in a hail of smoke that would bring my mother back. But I knew better. She wouldn’t be coming back. The pastor said his final ceremonial words, and then turned to my father. “You are welcome to stay while the vault is sealed.”

Bart Kelly said...

Mar-ga-ret”! The syllables sputtered out of Samantha’s mouth like bits of dirt. Not just any dirt either, but the kind of dirt you get stuck to the bottom of your shoes. You know the kind, one third schoolyard dirt, one third lunch garbage and one third trouble. That is exactly what Margaret Munkle was too, Samantha thought, 100 % shoe-bottom dirt and no matter how many times you tried to wipe your feet, she was still there getting you into trouble.

Gloria Oliver said...

One moment I was in my apartment, about to relax after a long day at work, the next I found myself on a dark street with a set of headlights coming right at me.

Anonymous said...

Good morning.
Welcome to Foreverland.
My people are the Bards.
We act upon the fabric of Foreverland.
I wander, searching for the one who looks like me.
He is hiding, seeking.
He just wants to play.
He flies like a shadow up walls and through trees.
Searching for the one who looks like me.
But there is another.
He looks as we.
And yet he is sleeping.
Whisper his name.
Wake up.
We are waiting, for the one who knows our name.
Good morning.
I am the Player King.
Welcome to Foreverland.

LJKuhnley

Sam said...

Olivia felt breath on the back of her neck. Someone was following her. She spun around and gasped. Silhouetted in the moonlight, Olivia found herself face to nose with a llama. She reached up and gave the shaggy beast a pat. It was definitely tempting, but getting acquainted with a llama would have to wait 'til she found what she was searching for. You know, if she survived. Olivia shoved thoughts of a slow, lonely death out of her head. She shoved thoughts of a quick, brutal death away too. She'd navigated through a jungle full of deadly snakes and llama spit. She'd peed in the Peruvian jungle where no other eleven year old had peed before. She'd be fine; it was the others she wasn't so sure about.

Richard Gibson said...

Non-fiction, "What Things Are Made Of"

Mine shafts breathe their hot vapors into a forty-below-zero Montana winter. The copper miners, grimy and tired from their efforts to free a bit more ore from the granitic rock, ascend from the depths of the Steward Mine’s “Chinese Laundry,” where temperatures of one hundred degrees Fahrenheit and a hundred percent humidity exhaust a man in much less time than the 12-hour shift he works for $3.50. But copper underpins a growing industrial world, and $3.50 per day is a decent wage in 1905.

Margo Berendsen said...

It started just like every other spring in the mountains, me arguing with my mother about not needing a fire to warm our hut anymore.

“As strange and wonderful it is that you are never cold,” my mother told me, “I am not gifted in the same way. The mornings are still frosty, and besides, I like a hot cup of tea before I start the day.”

“You could use a charm to heat the water, instead of fire,” I argued. I hate fire. Its flickering flames remind me of serpents’ tongues, with a cruel bite.

Stacey said...

She stood outside the door wondering what she would find inside. It was different from last time, of that she was sure. This time there were others like her actually here. Not like those from before - she could sense the difference. One was like her; the other was not, but did not quite fall into that imaginary world person - or whatever it was - she had gotten used to either.

Karri Justina Shea said...

The night before the Keepers came, Laine had a dream. In Ever, this was a seriously punishable offence.

Erica said...

Poking my head into the kitchen, I heard the newspaper rustled slightly as I watched my parents, their heads together, smile at one another like newlyweds over The New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle. After rolling my eyes at myself for forgetting how dorky they acted sometimes, I called out, "Going out for a bit." Almost completely oblivious to my presence, Mom waved me away as Dad pressed a Mont Blanc pen, my mother's wedding gift to my father, to the paper, filling in the answer to the first clue. If I didn't love them so much, I might have found the whole scene a little embarrassing. At least, they are at home instead of out in public, I said to myself, turning around to face the front door. Now that would be cause for pretending not to know them.

m said...

Everyone stares at Henry Parker sometimes. All the girls dream of being close to Henry Parker and all the boys dream of being even closer. I stared at him because I didn’t hate him.

Amanda said...

I blame all my problems on being short. Mom says that's "unreasonable," but I figure she's the unreasonable one for giving me these massive-loser genes. Not only am I still kissing the ground while the rest of my 6th grade class is off sniffing the trees, but I also have a rhino-butt birthmark, an allergy to orange soda, and I still can't remember the twelve times table. (I know. I'm doomed, right?) But my biggest problem is that I don't feel normal. And, the truth is, I'm not.

Courtney Vail said...

Majesty jolted and nearly crapped a brick when the gun flipped up and aligned with her head, the gun before his face…like he instinctively knew where she was in the brush…like his hand possessed a freakin’ heat sensor or something. What the hell! The nice, thirty-foot distance between her and the barrel hazed down to point-blank range, making her eyes sear. And it didn’t help that god-awful beads of sweat, laced with hairspray of course, rained into her watering orbs with a lovely scorpion’s sting. He could get her in one shot. One. Just like he got all the rest.

Tina said...

The scream died in his throat. A foreign sound he couldn’t set free. The surrounding quiet enfolded him, ironically deafening in its intensity. He closed his eyes struggling for control.

Kate Higgins said...

This is my first paragraph for my WIP called "Emerald Boots":

"Jade clapped her hands over her ears as another dragon-like roar belched from high above her hiding place. This wasn’t her best idea. She felt the basket swing violently and scooted as far back into the corner as she possibly could, pulling an old horse blanket tighter over her head and shoulders, hoping desperately to become invisible. Jade felt her stomach dropped as the balloon rushed upwards. She hugged her knees tight to her chest and buried her face, letting her sudden tears run down her knees. She couldn’t be caught stowing away on the Great Oz’s balloon. This was stupid, stupid, stupid. She wanted to go home. She wanted to go home right now!"

Miranda Buchanan said...

The faces of my targets haunt me. Most of the time I can blink away the memory of my actions. But there, in my periphery, is a boy about twelve, a living image of my first kill.

Cynthia Armes said...

He was taking Lucille fishing with him for his own peace of mind. It was still dark outside, and Walter had already packed a lunch of cold chicken legs, tomatoes, and cornbread. Now he was stocking the cooler with Coors and a few cokes to make her Jim Beam and coke later that afternoon. She always had her first drink of the day at one o’clock right after eating lunch which was served promptly at noon, which she would eat very little; by three o’clock, she would be drunk. At least, she would be with him instead of sitting home getting drunk alone. After last week’s fall in the bathroom, which resulted in a fractured wrist and eleven stitches over her right eye, he knew he could not leave her alone. If she tipped over and fell in the lake, he could save her. If she tipped over at home and fell on the Mexican tile floor in the kitchen, he might come home to a wife with a cracked skull.

Patrice said...

Vice President Young moved across the stage to the oak podium, striding against the current of excitement coming from the crowd. The television lights were so bright that it was difficult to see through the shimmering circles they formed. The heat was intense. A trickle of sweat started down the Vice President's back, under the tailored jacket, sliding from hairline to collar to bra strap. Stand up tall. Smile. No matter what happened now, the next President of the United States was going to be a woman.

From "RUNNING" commercial fiction complete at 92,000 words

MeganRebekah said...

An oak tree wasn’t the most comfortable spot for a stakeout but it was the most advantageous. It offered a clear view of the perp’s driveway and front porch, and its thick leafy branches kept me out of sight. Sure, the chill in the air made me wish I hadn’t left my jacket in Presley’s car and my left leg was beyond numb, but the last few years had taught me that even the smallest advantage could make a big difference. Tonight it could make me $500.

Ermo said...

Inside the second story window of the decrepit Victorian, wrapped in a white shawl and beset with eyes as black as a country night, a woman stood. Her muted red lips moved but the sound of Lake Michigan’s crashing waves stole the words. I watched her until my attention diverted to a daffodil in the garden; its yellow leaves huddled together in a fist as if cowering from the woman’s glare. When I looked back at the window a moment later, she was gone, leaving just the curtain wafting in the breeze.

Philippa said...

Georgie stared at the back of Vic’s head, looking at the wisps of hair grown long and combed over. The queue shuffled forward and a kick sent her bag skidding along the floor. She knew it would annoy him; everything about her annoyed him, especially her youth. There was only one thing he liked about her, or maybe two.She’d lied about her age. He’d lied too. She knew this because she’d picked the lock on his leather briefcase and looked at his passport. He’d told her he was thirty-eight. Fifty-one was more like it, nearly fifty-two, older than her Mum and Dad. What would they think if they knew? The thought raised a tiny smile but then she thought of his spongy skin and stopped.

Philippa said...

Georgie stared at the back of Vic’s head, looking at the wisps of hair grown long and combed over. The queue shuffled forward and a kick sent her bag skidding along the floor. She knew it would annoy him; everything about her annoyed him, especially her youth. There was only one thing he liked about her, or maybe two.She’d lied about her age. He’d lied too. She knew this because she’d picked the lock on his leather briefcase and looked at his passport. He’d told her he was thirty-eight. Fifty-one was more like it, nearly fifty-two, older than her Mum and Dad. What would they think if they knew? The thought raised a tiny smile but then she thought of his spongy skin and stopped.

Amy said...

Space, the final wasteland. It’s the sort of place you want to know you can trust those around you with your life. That’s why Flynn kept his crew to a minimum. His brother, his pilot, and his dog were all he needed to do his job and stay sane. His pilot, however, needed a bit more.

Kendal said...

The metallic squeal of the screen door woke me. I knew it was Lydia, she was always sneaking outside before the sun came up. She liked to wander through the woods behind our house first thing in the morning, no matter how many times our mother had begged her not to. I tried not to hold these early morning excursions against her—she never meant to wake me, but my bedroom was only a corner of the back porch that our mother had walled-in for privacy with the cardboard boxes of our father’s that she hadn’t wanted to unpack. I could still hear people walking by, and even on the mornings when Lydia moved silently, the old rusted door always gave her away.

HH said...

In the year I’ve lived with my father, I’ve met more than ten of his girlfriends. Why he introduces me to these women is beyond me. Beside the fact I never see them again, I rarely see him. Maybe he thinks the two-minute introductions equal quality time. But this is so not quality. Music blares in my ears, my father’s mouth moves, and the woman stares at me. Judging, dark eyes slide over my frayed jeans, t-shirt, and dyed hair while I force a smile. Until his mouth forms an unbelievable word.

Georgina said...

On my seventeenth birthday, I got drunk, got dared, and kissed my very best friend.  An hour later, he was dead.

Anonymous said...

The jackhammers throttled a sun-scorched block of veined concrete down on First, and the pen in Arlo’s hand vibrated almost imperceptibly from the aftershock. It seemed impossible that he should feel it all the way up on Grand; that the throb of the machines should penetrate the sterile chill of his steel-enclosed cubicle at the top of Bunker Hill. And yet he was sure, as he gazed through the plate glass at the construction site below, that something rattled deep in his core when the foundation was cracked. The final remnant of the old hotel, the crumbling bedrock that had anchored the hundred-year-old structure to the earth for so long, was being demolished.

GM said...

The flares of her gown swished as she cat-walked her way to the spotlight facing the judges. Her heart pounded in her chest, but her dimpled smile never faltered. As she sashayed back to her position beside the other finalists, the sound of clapping hands echoed throughout the hall. Let him come. Let him come with his printed shirt and whisky breath. This time I’ll break his other hand too.

Mary Campbell said...

Feminine laughter, tinkling on the wind, draws me to my bedroom window.They say curiosity killed the cat, but modern science calls it fueling the mind. Today's my sixteenth birthday and I haven't been to school for a week—so I'm taking the side of science. I don't dare pull the curtains open, someone might see me. But there is a tiny opening where the two curtains meet and I'm able to peek through without detection.

Lucy said...

Griffith ap Cynan was the ugliest mouse in the shire. Every time Ragnelle saw his overhanging teeth, his crooked ears and scabby tail, she wanted to step on him. But she didn't. She gave him pieces of bread, and said, "Poor Griffith," and tried not to look at the black warts on his lips, or his bald, red skin. None of it was Griffith's fault. He used to be a respectable Welshman. Now he hid in Ragnelle's room, along with two horrible crickets, who were once kitchen girls; and tried to stay out of the way.

-L.C. Blackwell

Hart Johnson said...

I was shocked to realize I'd been dead so long. The notice nailed on the door was dated 2012. Sixty years. I'd been a fifteen year-old for sixty years now. I had been so convinced the world would end in 1984, like that book said. Time had ceased to be relevant until that sign went up. That was at the new moon. It was waning again before anything else unusual happened.

E.M. Corrigan said...

She woke up on a train. Panel by panel the countryside flashed by. In front of her was a table, scarred, scuffed, empty. To her left, the window, across the aisle to her right, an older woman, with a magazine propped against her table, knitting and reading. The woman glanced over and smiled. The girl smiled back, unsure. She had no idea why she was on the train, or where it was going. The landscape was changing, now and then an isolated house, but soon there were more and more houses closer together, the landscape becoming urban. The train slowed down, she could see the start of the platform, and pressed her face to the window, trying to see a sign.

Gwen Lee said...

For years, she fashioned her heart into a plastic thing so it would be untouchable. But she had forgotten that plastic, though unbreakable, was not invulnerable. What happened this morning was just a reminder of that. The new waitress had left a stack of crockery in the oven because the dishwasher was full, and the chef turned it on without checking. When they smelt the burning odor, it was too late. The plates had spread themselves over the racks like a Salvador Dali painting, and the bowls dripping toward the oven base like newly formed stalactites. The girl was bawling. She begged to be given a second chance. She didn’t think anyone would use the oven; after all they made sushi, not pizzas. The manager wasn’t amused. She fired the girl and ordered Meg to clean up. For two hours, Meg scrapped at the mess with a spatula, her hand slowly being roasted inside the oven (which was set to one-hundred degrees Fahrenheit to soften the plastic). To make it worse, it was also the hottest day in British history, with the temperature outside rivaling that of the oven. Meg would remember that day forever, not because of the misery she was put through, but because it marked the beginning of the end of her waitressing career.

From Better Halves by Gwen Lee

Flattish said...

Everyone has a motive for attending a class reunion. Over there you’ll see the kids who have something to brag about—-something to flaunt in the non-believers faces so they can leave the gathering with a snubbed nose and a requited soul. Over here you'll see the class monarchy—-the boys who played their way to immortality and filled out their RSVP with the hope of reliving the glory days (if only for a night), the ice queens who rewarded the meek with pretend acceptance and came to show-off their still white teeth and Miss America waves (and fake happy lives), the girls who compensated for lack of ambition by spreading their legs (and still would), and the smart kids who people only pretended to like so they could use them as their study minions—they were here to increase regret for those who traded long-term planning for a technical school education. But you probably won’t see the kids who took the knock-out punch to their self-esteem—-the drug addicts, the nerds, the fat kids, the ugly ducklings, and the other losers who were washed away into the pool of misery that collected those who didn’t fit into one of the few acceptable molds. They were fools to show. That’s who I am—-a fool to show.

Mike C. said...

I saw my first corpse when I was 6 years old, and my grandma was putting lipstick on it. When she finished, she powdered the nose, tweezed the eyebrows, and fixed the dead woman's gray hair. She stepped back and inspected her work in the funeral parlor’s dim light. "Maybe she needs more color on her cheeks," she said, and reached into her makeup case for rouge. I sat watching, thinking that I’d like to help.

Vanessa said...

Twenty five feet into town. That’s as far as we got before the first disaster happened. Dad turned onto Main Street, and just as we pulled up next to Greywolfe’s Spells and Supplies a huge puff of smoke and flame burst from the front doors. Shattered glass and a large, hairy man shot into the path of our over-packed SUV.

sandrac said...

The sound of his screams sent a chill down my spine. That is, what was left of my spine...

The Singing Farm Wife said...

I gripped the handlebars tightly as my Outlaw slid around the third curve. Derek was in front of me and the splatter of mud from his tires splashed onto my face shield blocking my view to the right. The next part of the track involved two small jumps, one after the other and then a sharp turn to the right. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw another rider trying to squeeze past on my left. I flexed my wrist, rolling the accelerator, and shifted into fifth. My quad responded with a lurch, throwing me out of my seat, but I hung on. I had to win this race. Derek and I had a bet that I couldn’t afford to lose.

Sinkerchase said...

Abelard Guthrie’s life of lies began one summer afternoon. His mother had signed him up for Happy Acres Day Camp, a place so far out in the woods that there were more mosquitoes than trees, and Abelard hated it. It wasn’t so much that he hated the green bus that smelled like stinky socks or the happy songs that they had to sing constantly or even that it had been his mother’s idea. It was just that Abelard had other things on his mind. What Abelard wanted to do that summer had to do with the box he had discovered in the attic. He found it quite by accident when looking for the beach umbrella for his mother, and now that he had it, he needed time.

McClappin' Hands said...

Pastor Joseph's knees hurt. When his knees began to hurt, he knew he was doing it right. When the pain disappeared, he knew he was done. He knelt at the foot of his bed, his hands clasped under his chin, the edge of the wooden foot-board dug into the meat of his triceps. This was the way that he prayed, taught by his father before he could speak. That too soft hiss of a voice came back every time he asked the Lord for His guidance. In the back of his mind, his Father's hushed voice said, "Can still you feel your knees? If they still hurt, you aren't praying hard enough."

Joseph L. Selby said...

Some say it was the industrial revolution. Some say it was the three-car garage. Some say it was this or that rigged election or this or that unsigned treaty. Some say it was the Reciprocity Act. But let me tell you, the day the first Dutchman showed up on the Ivory Coast with a bottle of whiskey was the day the world began to end.

Michelle Yaworski said...

A sword blade whistling towards his face was the last thing Kai expected when he walked into the Kung Fu studio. He yelped and scrambled backwards, narrowly avoiding decapitation. Okay, so the ancient weapon wasn't sharp enough to cut anyone's head off, but it still didn't belong in the hands of a twelve year old. The sword belonged on the wall. Right above the sign that said, 'Do not touch'. In big red letters. Curtis, on the other end of the sword, snickered. Kai forced himself to take a breath and unclench his fists. He couldn't afford to get into another fight.

dcharb said...

The slight boy stood near the barn door listening to the blackbirds cry from the far edge of the western field. It was just after dawn, the sky still purple and freckled with dim stars and a shard of waxing moonlight. Though their appointment was not until noon, and the drive north preceding it would consume only a few hours, the boy had risen early, wanting to take one last look around before they left the farm for good.

Sunlight Shadows said...

Joseph should have been hiding in the copy room, playing the agency’s loyal paper-slave. He didn’t deal with models. He wasn’t supposed to cover the reception desk at all anymore, unless Martha was drop-dead drunk. She wasn’t drunk that afternoon, but she had dropped dead. Joseph tried to look casual, rolling side to side in Martha’s chair as he skimmed her obituary. The shot of her stiff, sunken face kept drawing his eyes away from the article and made his stomach clench. When the elevator buzzed, he nearly punched a hole in the computer’s touch screen trying to close the browser. His fingers staggered along the edge of his desk, their arrhythmic drumming drowned out by echoing clanks from the elevator shaft. He had to keep it together this time. He knew he only had the job because his uncle believed in nepotism. Another fiasco was not going to fly.

TCazier said...

I lay rest in the shadow of a pine tree biding my time. Dusk begins to settle as the soul that awaits me causes my hunger to stir. It clutches the dimness that surrounds me with the feeling that I could be consumed at any moment. The fact that she is still alive is evidence to the verity that this is nowhere close to my first time. I am tormented knowing the pain I will surely bring to those that love this creature, this human being. Maybe that is my penance? Though I don't know why I would have one. It's simply who I am, the senses I possess scream it from every silhouette. I expand my presence hoping to hold my hunger at bay without my preempt or those around her taking notice. I am one who believes that not all deaths need to be witnessed.

Caroline said...

Elizabeth fit her feet into the rut of a forgotten rainstorm, one sneaker before the other down the old dirt road. Just a needle in a record’s scratchy groove, she sang dirges to the dying summer sun and surrendered to the pull of her secret haven. From her perch atop Mars Hill, she’d gaze over town, imagine herself as one of the soaring ravens, and forget real life, find her breath again. She couldn’t remember ever needing it more.

KH said...

Lorna knew why Diana wanted her to go back to Italy. Diana wanted her mother to face the past, and Lorna sensed that there were memories that Diana had not put to rest. Diana had been only sixteen, and in possession of the righteous indignation that only a teenager can unleash, when she learned about her father’s double life. Somehow John thought his daughter would accept the fact that he had a mistress, and that she had a half-sister four years younger than than she was. But John was wrong.

Kerri said...

The white wine Christina sipped was smooth, crisp, and cool. She barely noticed the taste of her second glass while she struggled to mirror its sophistication. Sitting on the veranda at the Villa d’Este, Christina’s focus wasn’t on Lake Como but on the con man sitting next to her, Senor Carlo Bargini. The calming effects of the wine helped her to feel less self-conscious in the tight white linen shift, but she knew not to get too relaxed at this juncture. The dress and wine were selected and paid for by Carlo. But not her. No, she couldn’t be bought so easily.

linda t. said...

To keep her hands from trembling as she waited for the queen to arrive, Zilei ran her palms along her skirt, chasing creases down her lap. Though the weave of her new gown was much finer than that of anything else she'd worn as of late, her skin longed for the texture of Rishan silk - smooth as moonlight, soft as mist - a luxury remembered from the prosperous days of the house of Liang. She might have been able to afford it had she been willing to part with her mother's heirloom headdress. Instead, she'd bartered for this stiff, unyielding cloth with the last of her jade combs. At least the color was auspicious; the cloth made her think of pomegranates and perfectly matched the red coral beads hanging from her hairpins. The hairpins are for luck, Zilei told herself. She fervently hoped she would have no cause to poison anyone with them today.

Lioness said...

I fight to forget. A left hook, and I forget their names. A quick jab and I forget my own. A duck, an elbow to my face, and a kick to the ribs, and I forget the reason they're gone. But no matter how long the fight lasts, I can never forget how much I miss them, nor can I forget that it's my fault they died. And then, a pipe hits my head, and I forget everything in favor of a deep darkness that swallows me whole.

Keylocke said...

They say the camera never lies. But it does. A camera can tell untruths as easily as her father. And at Parent’s Weekend, it told its most outrageous lie yet. Its digital pixels declared that Eve and Owen MacIntyre were a normal, functional family unit. It offered proof by capturing an affectionate father with graying temples and a new tuition bill and a Midwestern daughter with a penchant for Crayola-inspired hair dye in its slick exterior. It whispered of genuine affection, family dinner and smooth roads both behind and ahead. But it lied.

g. eugene said...

Just so you know, it weren’t my lame idea to go out for no football or nothing like that. I’d never a gone out for it if it was left all up to me. A guy don’t even really go out for no team nohow. Instead, what he does is put some poor bastard on the spot by asking him in front of everybody if he can cough up thirty bucks to have his name read over the loud speaker at half-time like some hotshot or something. And after a lamo hands over the thirty bucks he gets from the poor bastard he put on the spot, ain’t no coach gonna go and tell him to get lost since we barely get enough lamos to start with. Coach’s always biting his nails until all eighteen of us get weighed in. That’s like, the minimum you need for a game to count and Coach’s face’ll get all red before each game and everything since he don’t never know until weigh-ins if a lamo is gonna show up or not. So they’d like never cut you even if they wanted to. I’m pretty sure Coach would of cut me if he weren’t always worried the rest of the lamos wasn’t gonna show up each week. Coach’s always saying it ain’t worth his time and grief if a game don’t count so I’m pretty sure that’s why he’s kept me around. And if you ain’t caught on by now, Coach’s always biting a nail or getting all red in the face, or saying something or another. Mostly because he’s gotta deal with someone like me. I ain’t got no athletics in me to speak of and I don’t even like football none. Not even a little. Watching tv and eating Pop Tarts is my trade. But Josh, he wanted to play something bad and he’s my best friend and everything, so a guy’s gotta do a thing or two if his best friend wants him to, even if he don’t like it none. That’s the way it goes where I come from.

cobwebz said...

"Venture forth! Bravery in Adversity, Unity in Diversity.! Despite mumbling this rousing motto at assembly each morning for three Terran years, 79% of the teenage cadets graduate from the Cosmic Space Academy still believing that you shouldn't:
1. mess with the fabric of space
2. trust an alien
3. eat the local food (without extreme caution)
and above all, never, ever be a hero. Unless, of course, you want condolences, a space burial with all the trimmings and a berylium plated medal sent to your grieving loved ones.

Lisa said...

On December 23rd, the plane crashed. Nose-dived. Bombed. Smacked into the middle of the Pacific. I survived. You survived. No one else did.

Joyce Tantalo said...

There I was on the first day of school - in a new school - and I was lost. I clutched the yellowed map of Fort Henry High School close to my chest to protect it from the swarm of sweaty bodies slowly inching down the hallway. I needed to move faster to make it to class before the bell rang, so I awkwardly sidestepped a group of little freshman laughing and giggling and blocking everyone behind them. I needed room 319 right now. There’s 316, 318, 320, Where’s 319? I slid over to a propped up window to get out of the flow of traffic and scanned the map again. It looked like I was right where I should be, so what’s up?

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