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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Jason Kenney said...

You stare at the ceiling as you lie awake next to a woman you have not loved in over a year. Loved in an emotional sense. The physical representation of love is still there, the movements, the actions. It’s the small parts, the important parts, the light touches and strokes, the simple contact that comes when you lay near one you truly love, that has been gone for almost as long as the emotion itself. The small talk, the pillow talk, that is gone too.

Ted Fox said...

It’s one of those dirty little secrets I don’t like to admit to people, right up there with my affinity for Lifetime original movies: I get my hair cut at the mall. And I like it.

Karla Nellenbach said...

All my hiding places have disappeared, vanished into thin air within a fraction of a second. There was no place left to run, no corner to cower in until this storm passed. This storm would never pass. It rained down on me, a torrential downpour that made the monsoons look like a slight drizzle. Soon, I would be flooded, carried away by the destructive tide, but now…now I was still as a stone, letting the water swirl around me, collecting my misery and compounding it until I was sure to collapse under its oppressive weight.

Sessha Batto said...

Takahashi Yoshi had a secret. Okay, to be honest, he had lots of secrets. But this was a secret he tried to keep even from himself. The infamous ookami no kumori, shadow wolf of the Takahashi clan, was exhausted, splattered with blood and other best left unidentified substances, and sported several nasty wounds. Right now a hot shower and a soft bed were what he really needed. Instead he was lounging aimlessly in a tacky love hotel, trying to find excuses not to go home. Coming up with no better option, he decided to stop delaying the inevitable and gathered his belongings.

Taryn Simpson said...

In a matter of seconds, I witnessed the deaths of my parents and oldest brother. It was then that I realized that my lonely childhood had come to a reverberating halt. This moment in time would forever be seared into my psyche, destined to become part of the psychological baggage that I would carry upon my shoulders for the rest of my life. My innocence was gone and there wasn’t time to mourn.

Author: Taryn Simpson
Paragraph from: "The Long Road to Extradition" (work near completion)

Watcher55 said...

“This man is too smart for such obvious mistakes. Why is he making trails in the meadows? He wants me to follow him. It’s a deception. He’s inviting . . . . What?” A confrontation? No. Confrontation always proved fruitless. They were damned to deathless battles and had abandoned them long ago. This was another one of his murderous tricks to subvert the membrane. Theodorus paced the marble floor. He didn’t trust this. “Is it your object to torment me?! You are a demon! Which of the gods have I offended?” Theodorus laughed at his own dark humor. He couldn’t have offended many of them because they were dead – hell; he had killed most of them. He looked around the apse at the empty niches. There was only one that still held an icon. He stroked it tenderly. He allowed Nemesis to live after he had driven her mad. Inside the idol was the source of her authority. To him it was a source of power.

Misty Nelson said...

“Dude, this isn’t a basement, it’s an amphitheater.”
Chris Johnson grinned at the other fourteen-year-old and angled his lantern to try and light up more of the cavernous space. Built during the height of the Cold War the room was originally designed to be a bunker, complete with sectioned off areas for storage and hidden passageways to be used in case of Communist attack. He leapt off the bottom few stairs sneakers slapping against the concrete floor and echoing. Behind him Jeff huddled on the final wooden step as though standing on the opposite side of some impenetrable barrier.

Lauren said...

There had always been people who mistrusted the doctors, avoided them, feared them. Men who had convinced themselves that taking care of oneself was a greater sign of weakness than a stubborn march into the advanced stages of disease. Women who kept the latest crops of shamans and snake oil salesmen fattened and well fertilized. Skepticism was healthy. But the prevailing attitudes were not skepticism and even now--after everything--Kallie would not join them. Her rationality would not allow it.

A.B. Fenner said...

A proper lady would not have locked herself in the manor library with a corpse. A proper lady would have overlooked the desecration of her dead sister, placed the holy oak and apple branches in the casket, and closed the lid—if only for the sake of moving past this entire unpleasant drowning episode. Miss Lyanne Floret, bastion of Floret decorum, clutched the holy oak and apple branches and stared at the splayed angles of Rya’s newly-broken fingers. Leaning over the coffin, she considered her obligations. The last two days she had marinated in lung-crushing grief. Now, as she touched her younger sister’s cricked fingers, fury heated the grief to a boil.


"Miss Floret and the Luministe: A Cautionary Tale" - Fantasy

Me said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Me said...

"The Twin Revolutions"- Nasim Mansuri

A burst of air, rushing through his lungs, tearing at his insides, making him shudder and shake with the force of breathing. Cold wind scrubbing his skin with icy fingers, tensing his muscles painfully under their nails. Hector awoke to the horror of not knowing where he was.

ninidee said...

Someone once asked me how it felt to have faith. My reply was, “Having faith when you know you are a sinner gives you promise that even you can be saved.” I never thought that my faith would make me a catalyst to defeat evil. I wasn’t looking to save anyone. I was just hoping in the end I would be saved.


Maribeth

Chelsey said...

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.

Juliana Brandt said...

The soup was poisioned. Henry knew it. He watched as she carefully lifted the spoon to her lips, tasted it with her tongue, and then let the concoction slide down her throat. With childish glee, he wondered how long it would take her to die.

Phil said...

In the kitchen the kettle began to sing. The sound was thin and desperate and when the young man became aware of it he realized that he was unsure for how long it had been sounding. His fingers paused, hovering above the keyboard, and he cocked his head to one side, listening to the ongoing shriek of steam. His train of thought which but moments ago had been so urgent to the point of blocking out such a penetrating sound for untold minutes was finally broken, and with irritation he looked back at the words he was writing and realized that he had forgotten what he was about to write next.

- One by One, by Phil Tucker

A. Lockwood said...

Someone told me once that before the end of the world apples were available year-round. People could go to food stores and expect to find them regardless of the season. Earth had a lot more apple trees back then. A lot more people too.

Sara Kellar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Damyanti said...

A starfish has two bellies. Depending on what kind of starfish it is, one of its stomachs can come out, grab prey too large for the mouth, digest it, and pass it to the other, internal stomach. While I have one big belly, much bigger than any starfish could hope for, I would rather have two to fill. I wouldn't ask one of my stomachs to go out and do the work either.

Joanne Sher said...

Rivka’s wishes didn’t matter. Others had already made the decision, and she knew it. No matter how hard she pleaded, how badly she wished things would change, it wouldn’t happen.
But that didn’t mean she had to like it.

Livia said...

Maybe this James fellow wanted her dead. Kyra mulled this over as she peered off the ledge, squinting at the cobblestone four stories below. A false step in the darkness could certainly kill her, and even if she survived the fall, palace guards would finish her off. But she had known the job was dangerous when she took it. At this point, she just needed to keep moving.

Cheryl said...

Erin liked shiny. Shiny usually meant pretty. Given her current location, that assumption probably overstepped some boundaries. The Raven’s Nest did not settle easily on the eye with its plaques, dragons, and broomsticks hung on the wall and red velvet fabric draped haphazardly in someone’s idea of medieval chic.

Gina Mosley Lamm said...

It was after midnight. I huddled into the bus seat, doing my best to make myself as invisible as possible. The other occupants of the bus were quiet, for the most part. The one exception was a man three rows behind me, who was singing “Fly me to the Moon” aloud in an off-key voice. He seemed drunk. Or high. I wasn’t sure which.

S. Kyle Davis said...

I was halfway through the guitar solo for "Die Love, Die" when I first saw him. The twenty-something self-confident creep in the third row was kind of hot with spiky green hair and strong, angular features. Still, something about him made alarm bells blare in my head, louder than the roar from my amplifier. There wasn't anything remarkable about the guy, really. Even the green hair was standard for this place. It was just that he was watching me, ignoring the ameobic mass of bodies that churned around him. The perv was impossibly still, the only unmoving thing on the tile floor, which so slippery from sweat that it would have to be squeegeed later. He was just staring at me, making my heart keep time with the double kick drum. I knew Green Haired Guy had no clue I was only sixteen, but it still creeped me out when old guys looked at me like that. I mean, the dude looked nearly thirty! Gross! I put him out of my mind and focused on the solo.

M Kathy Brown said...

My ex decided not to bring Christa back that day. She had just turned four in April, and ironically, it was Mother's Day. I had a mind to just show up at his parents' farm. I knew that's where he had taken her. One slight problem in getting there - my car had just been totaled. It was a hit and run while parked out in front of the duplex I called home. My roommate, who had been working late, quietly and calmly woke me up in the middle of the night with her most serious tone of voice.

Lisa Blandford said...

Her life had been a series of events that intertwined in such a twisted way, the only explanation was it happened exactly as it should. She felt at peace. All of the experiences she had endured throughout her life had groomed her for who she was today. To prepare her for him. She would do it all again, if she had to, because he was worth it and their love could survive it. But thank God she didn't, because it was hard. Very hard.

Cyndy Aleo said...

He woke up that morning like he did every morning: trying to remember who the hell he was. He knew from the calendar on the wall it was Thursday, and the clock on his night table told him it was two minutes after seven in the morning, but there were no hints in his room to help him recall his own flipping name. It was getting frustrating, like Groundhog Day, only more annoying.

Tchann said...

The window looked out over West Carbonthorpe, across the roads and marketplaces and busy back alleys. It wasn't the highest vantage point in the city – that privilege was reserved for the airship dock at the southern end of town – but it was a good point nonetheless, and exactly why Otto had chosen that tower specifically in which to reside. He liked knowing what was going on, and if he couldn't have ears everywhere, he could at least attempt to have eyes.

MBee said...

There was a hole in the sky. Not a literal hole, but a gaping stretch of the darkest black where no star shone. A head turned reluctantly, to look around. There were several other patches of dark inky blackness, void of starlight. The sigh that escaped wizened lips was long and pregnant with unspoken knowledge. A sharp piercing whistle echoed in the silent night, followed by the soft sound of flapping wings. A small owl landed on an outstretched arm, head cocked and eyes bright. It preened itself while a small tube was attached to its leg. The bird gave an indignant hoot as the arm swiftly moved up to give the owl the sign to be on its way. Taking to the air, it crossed the dark sky heading east toward the sleeping city.

Susie Sheehey said...

The stands were full of anxious and excited fans. Competitors surrounded the diving well in the Olympic-sized natatorium, breathless and silent for the last diver on her final dive. Just a few whispers could be heard among the crowd. The familiar sound of the water spray underneath the diving boards comforted the last diver, announcing where the air stopped and the water began. Stacey’s heartbeat was calm and steady. She could hear the faint thump in her ears as she stared at the water. In ‘the zone,’ she visualized the last dive ahead. It was her favorite dive, the one she saved for the end of every meet because it was her best. The reverse one and a half, two and half twists was her crowd pleaser that not only scored high points, but added the additional ‘wow’ factor to the judges.

JasonF said...

Deustemp wished that, just for a moment, the clocks would stop ticking. His head was pounding, and although the sound usually faded into the background for him, today each tick echoed like a cannon roar in the small cave where he made his home. Stretching his ancient bones, he leaned against the rock wall at the mouth of the cave and hoped the fresh air would help ease the pain. Far below him, coming out of the small wooden shelter he had provided for her, Daphne was beginning the morning Gathering.

LINDA MCMAKEN said...

“Mother taught me how to kill.” The voice carried like frost across a foggy valley. “It was easy. Sometimes, I would make a game of it. I’d make them so very sick. For days, I would let them think they were dying. Oh, the pacts they would make with their various gods, confessing their sins, praying, praying for redemption. Weak creatures, men are. When all signs of their impending mortality passed, it would be mere hours before they would break their sacred agreements."

Christine said...

I grabbed my backpack and glanced out the front window, half expecting to see a pair of eyes watching me from behind one of the trees. Which of course, was ridiculous, since it had only been a dream.

Josh H said...

Gabriel Reynolds stepped outside Larrington's Alchemical Emporium and adjusted the buttons on his waistcoat. He inspected his cuffs for any trace of chemical residue and found none; despite another day of spilling, dripping, and dropping, Gabriel managed not to ruin a shirt. Some small consolation.

Michelle Mason said...

Ethan wanted to kill someone. The problem was that the person he wanted to kill was already dead. But if he could kill him, he thought lynching sounded like a good way to do it. According to Ally, his sister, that was how the town wanted to do away with Winston Stanford III before people talked them out of it. But if Winston were alive now, Ethan wouldn’t let anyone talk him out of bringing Winston to justice. Because that’s what it would be – justice, not murder.

Hollee J. Chadwick said...

These are mysteries so deep, that we may not speak of them directly—it is verboten. I, though, have talked along their edge and have been done no harm. Therefore, I shall speak speak of these things more clearly now—and quickly, before I am silenced. If I do not, my consolation will be less than kind.

Hillsy said...

Layne sat on his bed, datapad in one hand and head in the other, unable to decide which message to open first. One from the Garrison, one from Tania: neither promised good news. In the end he couldn’t face them, not yet, and let the datapad slip from his fingers to the floor. His head ached; his back knotted from another fruitless night contorted on a bed three inches too short. Grains of sleep scratched at his tear ducts. Insomnia was killing him - one torturous morning at a time.

Kelli said...

The TV is on, tuned to the only station I ever watch, Food Network. As usual, it’s muted and the radio is blaring the only local station I can tolerate. I take a sip of my first Mt. Dew for the day and set it back on my side table. As I dust the crumbs off my stomach, I notice the small hole forming in my tank top – same hole that I had in the one yesterday, and I’m pretty sure the day before.
As my tanks get older, they get downgraded to sleep shirts. And seeing as it is half after one in the afternoon, this one seems to be riding the fence between day and the night before. I haven’t showered today. But, it’s OK. I didn’t shower until almost three yesterday, so I haven’t exceeded the twenty-four hour mark. I wasn’t always like this. Five short months ago, I had everything before me. I knew my life was going to change as I walked across that stage, shaking the hands of university staff that I had never met. I had earned my MBA. Life would be different.

Sharon Cullen said...

The fever was catching up to him. Slowing him down. Killing him. By the grace of God and the sheer force of will that sustained him through his long journey, he forced himself upright. His only thought was to put one foot in front of the other. He would think of nothing else. For to think would be to remember.
And to remember would be his downfall.

Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

I am a prisoner. I don’t want to feel this way, but I can’t help myself. ‘Why not add a dropper full of pain, stir and enjoy?’ I want to ask Maidy. She is cooking. She’s good at it. I wish I could. Maybe that would make her happy. But I can’t help asking the questions she doesn’t want to answer. They are on my mind again. The questions. My mouth wants to open, shout even, but I can’t bring myself to ask. Partly because I know what the answer will be: Maidy can’t give me an answer. She saved my life. Isn't that enough?

Hannah Jenny said...

The sun was rising over the battered old castle wall. An orange sliver shone brilliantly, the sky beginning to turn pale blue around it. Slowly, the castle became more visible as the shadows and the light stood out more sharply on the grey stone. Some of the stone looked green; the castle had long been out of use, and nature had had years to take it over, enough years that what was once the tallest tower had only half of its original height, while moss and vines thrived in the cracks between the crumbling stones, many of which, no longer in their proper places, were lying scattered around the walls.

Amy Saia said...

Her contractions were coming every two minutes. He knew this because, despite the broken reading on the car’s dashboard, the distance between her last moan and the current one could be measured been between Dairy Sue’s on the south side of town and the First National Bank of Woodsocket over on the north, just a few blocks before county road 115. That’s where Woodsocket ended, and the rest of the world for all anyone cared.

adamo said...

Cha-chunk. Machined metal on metal; it sounded like the Devil clearing his throat. Everyone knows that sound. Little boys in backyard wars know that sound. The peaceniks in the toothless, doughy enclaves of Berkeley, Portland, and Cambridge know that sound – it was a shotgun.

CPatLarge said...

A pale glow from the Tiffany lamp cast a muted kaleidoscope of color across the barren white walls of the efficiency, broken only by the dim shadow of a man with a burden. It took six steps to cross the apartment, but he was panting when he eased the limp body onto the narrow bed. He bent down and slipped off the woman’s sandals before straightening her legs onto the flowered sheets. He folded her arms across her chest and tucked the matching comforter up around her chin, smoothing out the wrinkles in the blanket on all sides of the still form. The man stood over her, silent, watchful, until his breathing returned to normal. He double-checked all the window locks, closed the bathroom door, and replaced the CD in the stereo with one from his jacket pocket, careful to handle the disk by the edges. A final circuit of the room to wipe down any surfaces he noted touching earlier. In the kitchenette, he opened the oven door and turned the gas on high, blowing out the pilot light when the electronic ignition kicked in. One more glance at the unconscious figure on the bed and the man was gone, leaving only quiet music in his place. “Happy birthday to you…”

Samuel D. Grey said...

I hated field trips. Sitting on my ass for God knows how long in a tin can crammed full of bored, hyperactive seventeen-year-olds. Yeah, that's a recipe for a fun time.

Ken Lindsey said...

An autumn wind pushed through the branches of the old tree, fluttering golden leaves around him as he made his way to the top. His long fingers gripped each bough gently, the dry bark, rough against his skin. He ascended slowly but purposefully while he enjoyed his conversation with his brethren, still asleep in the nurturing earth. Their branches were intertwined, and their roots close to overlapping; it was so easy in this dark forest, in the silence, to enjoy the company of his family.

Ted Cross said...

Fuzzy white poplar seeds floated on the cool summer breeze. Zoya stepped carefully over broken sections of concrete. Trash and broken glass littered the yellowed grass and weeds that lined the sidewalk. A sound from the abandoned building to her right brought her to a halt. There was a crash of metal followed by a yelp. A wild dog, she thought. Perhaps a pack. No one -- no one sane anyhow -- lived in this part of the city anymore. The ancient dormitories that had once housed university students now towered forlornly in staggered rows along the decaying street. A rusty fire escape lay across the sidewalk, and Zoya was forced into the street to skirt around it. She peered out of the corner of her eyes at each dark doorway or window, imagining drunks or rapists lurking in the shadows, watching, waiting to pounce. Why did I let Georgy talk me into this?

Ria said...

Zachery was used to the stillness, the silence, the absence of air and ether, the sheer emptiness that comprised the netherial plane. There was no sky and no ground to give a sense of depth. It was a grey void and he accepted that. That was normal.

Beth said...

Sometimes there are rules. They aren’t written down or hung on the wall, but you still have to follow them. One is not using your school scissors to cut someone’s hair. Also, girls should like pink and dolls. I don’t follow that rule. I don’t follow most rules actually. I’ll tell you more about that later.

Paty Jager said...

The humidity clogging her lungs was as unexpected as the yank on her backpack. The wide straps seared the tender flesh of Isabella Mumphrey's arm pits two steps outside the Flores, Peten Guatemala airport. She whipped around to confront the antagonist. An assault by the heat was one thing. A mugging was entirely different.

seekingmeme said...

The doctors say Daddy won't live through the night. I was daydreaming my way through freshman English class again when Mrs. Anderson came in to our classroom and whispered something to Mr. Fields. He frowned and shook his head, then said in his deep, always stern voice, “Katy, you are needed in the office immediately. And take your things with you.”

Stephanie@thecrackedslipper said...

In a ballroom packed with those who live their lives governed by strict decorum, a harried woman elbowing her way through the crowd attracts considerable attention. This is doubly true when the woman in question has been on the arm of the crown prince for most of the evening. She does not bother excusing herself; she plows on regardless of who blocks her path, be it a strapping soldier or a frail grandmother. Her corset is a tight fist around her chest, and she fights for a clean breath through a hundred conflicting perfumes and the scent of burning candles. The spell is slipping through her hands. She trips over pieces of tulle dangling from her petticoats and is jerked backwards as others step on what trails behind. It seems inevitable she will be left standing in the middle of the ballroom in her servant’s rags.

kristen dickson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
richfigel said...

Steam rises from a delicate bowl as hot water mixes with brownish-green powder inside it. As he watches her prepare the tea, the old Japanese man thinks: Everyone is addicted to something. Tastes. Sensations. Rituals. He lights a cigarette, smiles because he knows the fortune teller’s next question -- the same question she always begins each session with.

kristen dickson said...

It wasn’t till three weeks after his accident that I first started losing my head. I felt it in my chest, this feeling like a tiger prowling heavily on my breastbone, his weighty strides fissuring each rib and crushing the air from my lungs. He woke from hibernation the night before, when my younger sister called to trumpet her engagement.

::

Thanks for the contest, Nathan! Good fun.

marilynn larew said...

“Abu Musa, Abu Musa,” I whispered. I tapped the bronze knocker on the cracked wooden door. It sounded like a gunshot in the quiet street. I looked back over my shoulder. There was nothing as far as I could see, no lights in the meshrebiya windows projecting from the second story of the house diagonally across the alley, and beyond in both directions there were only blank walls. It was after midnight and late for anyone to be abroad in the medina, never mind an unescorted woman. Hurry up, I thought. I’ve been here way too long.

Vinyl and Mono said...

It was Ricky Dick of the Turds who said that Del and I would end up together in the Punk Rock Old Folks Home someday. We were all sitting around the fire on one of the last nights at camp, but Del and I weren’t singing along to “Beat on the Brat” with the others because as usual we were knee to knee, talking about some book or maybe the latest song we were writing or how I would have to find another day job next week. Ricky couldn’t jeer at us to “just go in the woods and screw already” like he would to anybody else because people were finally figuring out by then that we weren’t about that. Jimmy Spittle from Cybyl probably came closest to putting his finger on the nature of the relationship. He once said Del and I were each other’s “muses,” a word Ricky Dick had probably never heard of. Jimmy was a pretty deep guy, as punks go. Anyway, everybody laughed, and Del told Ricky where to go, and then Steve from Head Lice started playing “I Fought the Law” on his guitar and another sing-along began. Just another August night at Camp Punksatawny; one that everyone might remember fondly at middle age if they didn’t OD or die of cirrhosis first.

From Always by Kate Tyler Wall

Rebecca said...

The city of Surya was devoured by the ground itself. Everyone knows that.

wry wryter said...

It is when I am a front seat passenger, window open, arm resting on the edge of the door, I see my mother’s hands, angular, mapped with a highway of raised purple veins and freckled with a lifetime of too much sun. When I look at them I see her, pinching a smoldering Winston between her index and middle finger or grasping a sweating glass of vodka on the rocks. I used to watch her paint her nails hot pink, when hot pink was the new red. Each little stroke of the tiny brush painted on femininity, if she was anything my mother was feminine. In the side mirror I catch a glimpse of her, but it’s me. My memories of her are like the objects in the mirror, ‘closer than they appear’.

Helen Sayers said...

Her parents lied when they said nothing bad would happen if she and her brother got enough sleep and didn’t run a red light in dad’s new car and Just Said No to Drugs. That if they didn’t play Guitar Hero all weekend and paid attention in calculus and swam hard and studied harder scoring decent enough grades to get into a good university -- maybe get an MBA or an MFA or another M followed by one or two Very Important Capital Letters -- they’d all grow up and become suburban rock stars. Just like her parents.



word verification: viogra *snort*

Kathleen Basi said...

Beth Rhinehardt was smiling when the white SUV came out of nowhere and clipped her back bumper on the passenger side, spinning her around and depositing her in the path of oncoming traffic. She cursed as the old Honda skidded on unseen ice. But a split second later, she caught some traction, enough to regain a measure of control. “Whoa,” she said, clenching the wheel with shaking fingers. “That could have been ugly.”

Barbara Kloss said...

I supposed I’d always desired a unique future for myself. One that would strip me from my lackluster life so I could uncover the world and my place within it. A future that would grant me freedom to pursue my desires, whatever those may be. And for that future—that bright shining, fantastic future—I was impatient. If I’d known what time would reveal, what that future would mean for me, I wouldn’t have been anxious for it. I wouldn’t have been anxious for that inevitable journey that began under the guise of freedom and led me straight to captivity.

Linda said...

It’s New Year’s, the girl sitting next to me keeps patting the space between my knee and my crotch, but I don’t feel a thing. Not a damn thing.

Steve Westover said...

“I can’t believe you’re doing this to me,” Ethan groaned as he noticed his mom and dad sharing a weary look. He rested his forehead against the glass as he stared out the window. “It’s abandonment you know.” Ethan looked back at his parents and waited for a response, but his mom’s lips only tightened. “I’ll have issues the rest of my life. Seriously.”

Joules Evans said...

It was five o’clock somewhere, but for me it was the middle of the night when I woke up from a dream in which I was practically dying of thirst and trying desperately, though unsuccessfully, to quench it. “Need... Water,” I sputtered out in a dry whisper like I was some kind of a tumbleweed, searching for an oasis. I tumbled out of bed, down the stairs, to the kitchen sink and diluted the dehydration, dislodging the dream. On the way back upstairs I don’t know if I bumped into something or how I noticed. But something had gone bump in the night. And the bump was on me. My left breast, to be more specific.

Excerpt from "Shaken Not Stirred... a Chemo Cocktail" - Memoir, a comedy about my tragedy.

chibs said...

What's wrong with swigging a bottle of Old No. 7 Black Label and singing along to "Sweet Leaf" by Sabbath at maximum volume at the top of my lungs as I'm cruising down the highway? It's not like I can't handle it. I once drove from Dallas to Austin with a head full of high powered acid. The trick is to keep your eye on the yellow center-line, even if the road itself ceases to exist.

Darla said...

Darla Nalley

On a blacktop road, surrounded by the woods, I blinked in the dark, unable to remember how I had gotten here. The unmistakable smell of gasoline and burnt rubber tinged the air leaving a subtle burn in the back of my throat. Somewhere nearby the incessant drone of a car horn hinted I wasn’t alone.

Casper said...

I’d been stalking Dev for about two months before I slipped up and let anybody find out. Belle Fourche High School’s motto, emblazoned on the library shelf, received my full fake attention. Incipit Vita Nova (here begins new life). Pretty appropriate actually. I ran my finger along the row of Biology books, pushing my other hand into the back pocket of my jeans. Sarah tilted forward, craning her head to see down the long row of shelves to Dev. He stood with an open book in his hand, engrossed.
‘What’s the deal with him?’ As soon as it slipped out, I mentally slapped myself. Gossip? Not high on my list of priorities. Talking to Sarah, the biggest gossip in the place? Even lower.

Heidi Sinnett said...

Luka Maxwell selected the last of his mother’s personal journal files and hit upload. He flipped the load transfer to run in the background and went back to his closet, grabbing the black nylon duffel bag from the top shelf. The bag still carried the stench of his last visit to the gym as he slid the zipper open, a dank combination of month-old sweat and mentholated rub. Not a great way to start fresh, but where he was headed, he didn't have to smell good.

L.A. Colvin said...

Sweat ran between my back and the splintered cabin door I was pressed against. I tightened my death grip on my favorite backpack. It's pink leather side marred by blood stains. Unshed tears stung my eyes and my cramping legs screamed in pain but I couldn't risk moving. Seekers where combing the dense woods for me and any movement would alert them. The fast beat of my heart nearly stopped at the flutter of wings. Would it be demons or angels who found me first? Not that it mattered. The demons wanted to keep me and the angels wanted me dead. I just wanted to go back home and pick out a prom dress. My hand clutched the detonator connected to my pack a little tighter. If I lived the gates of both heaven and hell would open. If I died humanity would have a little more time. My only family I had left was my absentee dad who I just found out was Death himself. My friends had turned against me and the one angel I loved had betrayed me. I had nowhere to turn. Hearing the Seekers coming closer I closed my eyes and let my finger rest on the button.

hgdavis said...

“I didn’t do it!” Justin’s eyes darted between the arson inspector and Amber, the girl who lived across the street. Well, she did yesterday before her house burned down.

The inspector’s brown suit wrinkled up as he folded his arms. “What do you say happened?”

“There was lightening except that it didn’t fade. It woke me up. Then this monster came through. Kind of barreled out with flames and smoke.”

Emmuh said...

The rain beat down on them as though the God of the sky himself were throwing a tantrum. The neon lights of the nearby liquor store gleamed through the rain, reflecting upon the water gushing down the slope of the street and into their eyes. They had nowhere else to go; everything else was closed at this ungodly hour, and sitting in the broken down car until the rain stopped was not an option.

Josin L. McQuein said...

The voices of the dead never truly leave us. They become the wind and roam the barren places of the world seeking solace. It's in the night they shout the loudest, when daylight sounds of work and play are bundled off to bed and the world is left to those sleep has forsaken. When restless souls find common ground with restless feet.

TLynne said...

Kaitlyn felt the need to escape and didn’t care where she was going, she just wanted to be anywhere else but where she'd been. Wanting to just get away from her past, the memories and pain. Oblivious to the towns she passed or the National Parks she drove through; stopping only for gas or when pure exhaustion forced her to pull over at a motel along the way. The further she ran though the more intense the pain and memories became. Memories of the stupid fight she and her husband, Lance, had had before he left for the Search and Rescue training program that fateful evening. The phone call telling her there had been an accident at the training grounds. Tears pouring down her face, she could still hear the dirt hitting his coffin as everyone filed away from the cemetery.

Eden said...

I was six and nowhere to be found. My mother organized a search party – herself and a bottle of tequila – and wafted around the house, warbling my name in a tone more lonely than worried. Even then, I wondered why she was bothering to look. A week before I’d sat in a pool of my own noseblood for an hour before she stumbled upon on me – a pure accident, and I don’t mean the stumbling.

Eric Laing said...

I wasn’t top of the line at anything; just another run-of-the-mill schmuck. But every lowdown Joe has to pay their rent on the first and so my shingle read, ‘Gumshoe.’ A shitty enough name only slightly better than attorney at law, some would probably say. But for my money it was a moniker with moxie in a trade that was right up my alley. Besides, the good folks with the state bar had said my solicitor days were kaput. So the wet paint outside my door read in simple block letters, 'Gary G. Abernathy, Gumshoe at Large.' I thought it clever enough. And to the point. Let the other private dicks go all New Gothic or Courier New with their gold-embossed ‘Private Investigator’ for hire titles. We all got our angles.

Michelle Miller said...

The plane pulled up to the gate and Sarah rose with the others. She picked her computer bag up from under the seat, pulled her briefcase out of the overhead compartment, and waited for the crush of passengers to thin a bit before stepping into the aisle. She shuffled to the front of the plane, responded to the steward’s polite farewell in kind, and stepped from the stagnant atmosphere of the cabin into the cool, jet-fueled air of the causeway. It swayed under the feet of the deplaning passengers, all rushing to catch connecting flights, meet friends or family, or make their way home. Personally, Sarah was glad she didn’t have anywhere to go but home.

Shaun Harris said...

The night I stumbled into the violent world of rare book dealing began in Deadbeat Dan’s cantina drinking rum with lime and scratching out the crossword in a three-week-old Tijuana newspaper. The latter wasn’t going nearly as well as the former because my Spanish vocabulary is limited to ordering food and locating a bathroom. I soldiered on and just as the sun stopped shining in through the hole in the wall serving as a door Grady Boyle sauntered in for his evening tequila. He ducked behind the bar and I heard the clink and tinkle of half empty booze bottles as he searched for something halfway potable. In the barren wasteland of Deadbeat Dan’s liquor selection a bottle of Patron was on par with the Ark of the Covenant. After a minute and a half of vain searching Grady pulled himself back up with a grimace and an unlabeled bottle of something the color of piss.

Allison said...

I like to burn things. Ok, that’s not exactly true but it’s a good conversation starter anyway. The truth is I like monkeys. They’re smart, funny, curious and make excellent helpers. On the other side, there is one thing I hate—liars. I also hate crooks, reporters and burnt almond fudge, but I hate liars the most. Monkeys don’t lie. It’s not in their genetics. They do murder, steal and make dreadful messes but at least they don’t lie about it.

Project Savior said...

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference,” Sam thought as his left hand gripped the small pistol in his pocket aimed at his lover. He forced himself to look at his right hand, his thumb poised over the button that would decide the fate of all humanity. Both fates would bring an end to civilization as he knew it. One fate would destroy all human poverty and suffering along with the struggles and redemptions that all humans must go through, the other would destroy all human life. He didn’t know if his action, or inaction, would bring on which fate.

LizzieFriend said...

“For shit’s sake, Dad, even the dogs here look like snobs.” She watched as a white poodle in an argyle sweater pranced down the sidewalk outside the window of their old Camry. Its hair was shaved into a pattern of puffy snowballs—its body mostly bare—and the puffs on each ear were dyed the exact same shade of pale pink as its owner's crisp polo shirt. She groaned and looked over at her dad in the driver's seat. “I mean, seriously. I’m not even convinced that’s an actual human and not some Stepford robot engineered to look rich and smug.”

Ann Mason said...

Hope is the enemy of reason. That was my father’s favorite saying, his motto, the way he’d explained just about everything to me; life, pain, death. And he knew a hell of a lot about the first two, and four years ago he’d gotten to the last. A couple of weeks before he’d died he’d brought me to the town cemetery and held me on his lap, placed the cigarette he’d been smoking between my lips and hugged me while I coughed. “Hester? You see all these stones here?”

JM Selkirk said...

The last time I saw my old man, there was blood on his knuckles and spattered on his face in wet red freckles. My blood. He was standing over me in the back porch. Grit from the floor dug into my elbows as I scrabbled to push myself upright, trying to get my hands up to protect my head before he put the boots to me. He had a big grin on his face, but his eyes were cold and empty. My only thought was, He’s going to kill me. This time, he’s going to kill me.

Stephanie said...

For the hundredth time that day Sergei sighed in contempt at his surroundings. He had only been in the First Realm for a few hours, but he decided he didn’t like it. Since he and Deriek had crossed the barrier neither of them had been able to use any magic to help their search; something about the First Realm acted like a damper on his magic. Sergei had naturally sharper vision, which was why he was perched in a tree to keep watch for Zerin while Deriek scouted the woods.

Alisha said...

Water sloshed and spilled over the edge of the porcelain bathtub, rivers of soapy water ran across the tiled floor seeping into the bathmat. The body that occupied the tub thrashed violently, arms and legs flailing, sending even more water to rise like a tidal wave and spill over the cliff of porcelain.

stephen matlock said...

The car ran past the STOP sign like it wasn't there, a streak of red dust in the early Texas sun. Henry stepped back, dropping the HALT sign in his hand, and nearly swore. "Danged people in such a hurry," he said to himself. One day someone was going to either kill or get killed, all because of speed and deadlines and a desire to get ahead.

Sommer Leigh said...

Finding the body had been an accident. Two days earlier a boy had crossed the yellow painted boundary into the protection zone, traveled the ten feet to the fence line, and was shot in the back of the head in less than 15 seconds. Rumor had it he'd even managed to slip his fingers through the chain links before being dropped. The boy was cremated, the sniper celebrated, and the image of the clinging boy sliding to his knees haunted parents. Overnight the shortcut home from school past the fence became absolutely forbidden.

Jessie Oliveros said...

When my aunt Meg warned me about the drop-off, she didn’t know she was tempting me. Now, with the waves brushing against my chest and my feet bouncing over the ocean bottom, I anticipate the moment it will all vanish from under me. Twenty feet ahead, the water turns from clear to cerulean blue. Be it sharks, mermaids, or Davy Jones, I want to be in that place where the unknown lurks below. Anything to chase away the guilt I’ve carried since arriving in Belize—that I’ve run away from my mom; that I’ve somehow abandoned her.

Reesha said...

“Who’s this?” asked a social worker. A man in a uniform, one hand on the shoulder of a young man, answered.
“I don’t know who he is. Caught him stealing food. He hasn’t spoken a word.”
“How old is he?”
“Don’t rightly know. Looks to be 15, don’t you think?”
“And no one’s come for him?”
“We’ve held him for two weeks and no one has claimed him. Only thing I know to do is leave him here at the orphanage. He hasn’t spoken a word except his name.”
“And what’s that then?”
“Aden Hubbard.” The lady drew up some paper work.
“You don’t think anyone will mind if I assign him an age, do you? It’ll make it easier for him, just being assigned an age.”
“I don’t mind. I just want to see him taken care of.”
“Most likely he’ll go unclaimed until he’s 16. Those that graduate out of the system are worse off. I’ll put down 14. That’ll give him a few years to get his feet.” Aden Hubbard had become a part of the system. Though he was much older than 14, he was grateful. Being in a strange country and alone was hard enough. At least this way he would have room and board.

Reesha said...

Can I vote for my fav now? Jessie Oliveros, I want to read more!!!!!!

Mark Terry said...

“Jerry’s having too good a time,” Marlene said, noting that Jerry was charging up the side of Mt. Erebus as if the Antarctic mountain wasn’t covered with ice and snow, riddled with crevasses, its icy surface spotted by lava bombs the size of SUVs. Despite the lecture on the appropriate way to use a snowmobile on the icy mountain, Jerry Klingman wasn’t paying much attention.

trishstewart said...

Each day I face Megan with her coffeehouse coffee, always the same flavor. Hazelnut. Her bobbed hair swings against the collar of her jacket. She approaches me on the platform with the click click click of four-inch heels. “You look like hell, Charlie.” She sighs under her breath, “again.”

Katy Bell said...

I was standing half asleep, which was most likely the reason that I dreamed up the correlation between my life and my shower caddy in the first place. The beaded curtain of water fell onto my body, tracing maps around my soaped skin, and all I could do was stare at this collection of materials clogging the corner of my shower. Three half empty shampoo bottles that I had been convinced of their need by a hair dresser only looking for a commission. An empty conditioner bottle that I was so enamored with that every day I attempted to squeeze out another drop. Razors without blades. Disposable razors with rusted blades. Sponges that I had placed hoping I would find the will to clean the tub someday. An old toothbrush so I could consolidate my morning hygiene routine if I was running late. I sighed and let my head drop. Just like my life, there was room for nothing new here in this small plastic bin. My life, with all its spaces and corners, had become cluttered with useless people.

Martin Rose said...

His wedding ring winks in an arc of light as he picks up the revolver from the dresser table. He takes his time, pulling ammunition from a box. Soft jacketed bullets designed to penetrate and pull apart flesh. One by one, he fits them home into their chambers, and when he is finished, he snaps the chamber back into place and holds it in his hand where he sits on the edge of the bed, the covers and sheets rumpled and dirty around him.There is no one here to clean them and fill the fabric with sunshine and sweetness anymore, and so they decay and retreat into darkness.

Kristin Lynn Thetford said...

I’ve heard it said that you can know the beginning by the end. Does it then follow that you can know the end by the beginning? Perhaps in some things. It’s glaringly obvious that if you step in front of that train, you’ll be killed. And if you don’t, you’ll be spared. You can know the end by the beginning. Choices have consequences. Actions have repercussions. But I never could have known that one conflict, one choice, one action, would entirely change the course of my life. I never could have dreamed what would become my end from this beginning. Not even close.

Anonymous said...

Zach had been gone too long. Dad’s eyes went wide with realization and everything we’d fought about fell away. The twangy country music of the truck stop, the ringing poker machines, and the mindless chatter of customers became white noise, background for my rising panic.

Beth Christopher

Jens Porup said...

The matador thrust his hoof in the air, and the crowd fell silent. The sequins of his silver costume, tight across his bovine chest, rippled in the red sunlight. He stood erect, on his feet, rear hooves tied up to his thighs. One hand clutched a scarlet cape. The other gripped a sword. Twenty thousand Crosses held their breath. As though they hadn't seen the gruesome spectacle a thousand times before.

Kay Theodoratus said...

Rowland, the director of our player troupe, cursed outside our caravan, but the pelting rain drowned out the rejoinder. A thud against the side sent our caravan swaying on its springs. A moan broke the silence before another clap of thunder shook the camp. Curbing my curiosity, I poked a couple branches to the center of the iron stove. No one challenged Rowland when he roared from the drink. I hunkered down, planning how to get the most heat out of our half-empty wood box. The scrub I gathered before the storm hit wouldn’t last the night.

Evelyn said...

Experiments featuring primitive humans were all the rage in university research, and finally –finally! – Marie was going to be involved. She didn’t mind that her historical anthropology class wasn’t going to break any new ground; it was enough that she was the one teaching it. The experiment that she was running was due to begin in fifteen minutes, and it would probably show what similar work always did: primitive humans were entertaining, clever, and resilient – but they were hopelessly doomed by their limited brain power.

Ruthy said...

David was entitled to one phone call. A devout husband and a successful businessman, he spent the third Saturday of every month volunteering for a local homeless shelter. He voted, paid his taxes and recycled all of his cans. He prided himself on being honest, hardworking and refined. As he sat in the jail cell waiting for the guard to lead him to the telephone, he only regretted two things; the blood on his lapel, and not killing Jack when he was sixteen.

Mark said...

Someone on the boat was going to try and kill her. And the boat wasn’t particularly big. In fact it was tiny, barely a tub, bobbing and bucking its way through the spray. Jordan squatted on the damp bench at the back, sandwiched between two large lads. She could feel the rain and spray soaking through her jeans and supposedly waterproof jacket, making her scowl from under her hood.

Heidi B said...

I knew Bob would kill me if I was late again, but I couldn’t take my eyes off her. And not just because she was standing there, talking calmly to a group of murderous cyborg women. I think maybe it was the hair, the bright red hair pulled up into two messy buns on either side of her head, or maybe the way she oozed confidence, one hand on her slim hip, her chin thrust out at the world. Or maybe, maybe it was because she looked familiar somehow; staring at her, it felt like a hidden memory was brushing against my skull, softly trickling its way to the surface.

Kate Larkindale said...

The darkness is absolute. For a moment I’m not sure if my eyes are open or closed. I strain to push the lids up, but they are already wide. It’s dark. Not a pinpoint of light penetrates the space I’m in. Something covers my mouth and nose, making breathing difficult. My lungs burn for air, but I can only suck tiny mouthfuls through whatever smothers my face.

DRC said...

“NO! Oh, god no, please! Tell me it isn’t true, I beg.” Blake could hear his father’s screams from where he stood in the dusty street. His blood chilled in his four year old veins. He didn’t know what was happening. He was too young to understand, but he knew his father was angry. This upset him.

Marquita Hockaday said...

Thursday Morning 6:45 AM
Henry Knight was found bludgeoned to death early this morning. I’m pretty sure I was whacking off to one of those phone sex commercials at the same moment that someone was bashing his head in. I don’t know if anyone is going to miss him. Hell, I don’t know if anyone even remembers him. Maybe David Warren does. Especially since he’s our friendly neighborhood drug dealer. I know I remember Henry. He’s my best friend’s number one customer at school. Henry’s the main reason Kyle was able to buy me that badass skateboard for my birthday.

Roque Neto said...

It was early in the morning when she woke up. She took a quick shower, combed her long black hair, but didn’t look in the mirror. She knew that the marks of a sleepless night were splashed on her face. She went to the kitchen, opened the old red refrigerator, and looked into its emptiness. All she had there was water, a piece of bread and a little bit of milk. Under normal circumstances she would just give that to her one-year-old son, but she was pregnant.


Author: Roque Neto
Twitter: @RoqueANeto

Peggy said...

The wind howled in glee. The old house moaned and creaked under the pressure of the wind and the falling rain. Clouds scuttled across a nearly full moon making macabre shadows dance across the lawn. Strange mist covered the weedy ground and snaked its way up tree trunks bare from fall's arrival.

Anonymous said...

When Bisa Owiredu ran, her heart expanded. But that was the nature of running. At the sound of the gun, something swooped into her, beating its wings against her ribcage, hot needles at the ends of its feathers. Her breath brightened – a torch illuminating cave paintings on the walls of her heart. Thundering over the same 50-100-200 meters as part of the Varsity Track Team, coeur-courir-couramment set her pace, insistent as a snare drum. The similarly-rooted words for heart (coeur), run (courir), and fluently (couramment) would be the only high school French she kept. They would resurface years later at the oddest moments, buying Boar’s Head cheese at the Piggly-Wiggly or driving down a causeway suspended over a swamp. Oddly, it was then that Bisa would remember the night she slut-shamed her best friend, called her humanity into question, and cast her out.

-Jessica Cole

Sue Harrison said...

Eight-year-old Marisol Torchowski jams the shim into the padlock and chooses a pick. Her picks are strung on a neon pink rabbit foot key chain, poor bony thing. The pins drop. The cylinder turns. The hasp gapes.

Sarah Allen said...

The night his sister-in-law called, Sam went to Pike Bridge for the first time in thirteen years. He hung up the phone, put down the paper he was grading and got in the car, even though it was almost midnight. He didn’t know why he encouraged her to stay; God knows he wouldn’t want to be married to anyone even remotely like his brother.

***
Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Ben Carroll said...

Mr Graham (among others) says a picture speaks a thousand words, but that’s not true. A picture doesn’t say any words at all, that’s the point. Certainly not my pictures. I would rather paint this. I would rather say nothing at all. Pictures don’t say, pictures do. Pictures are.

Tucker said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Munk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Meg said...

A group of squires spilled into the narrow passage ahead of Zayne, their voices echoing off the low stone ceiling. Most of them were engaged in an argument about whether or not a dragon had been spotted along the northern borders and if it had, how much damage it had caused. One of the smallest boys was insisting he heard it had swallowed three knights whole.

S.P. Bowers said...

Anna should have felt guilty. Instead, something she could almost call relief bubbled up and tried to fill the empty spot inside her. It had been three weeks since she had been here. That was too long without the smell of brine and crash of waves.

Helen S said...

Only when the gopher fell from the sky, nearly hitting him, did Miles Vincent put down his ax and look up. A red-tailed hawk, having dropped its kill, flapped hard toward the mountains. The dark mare kicked at her fence. Even the cows bawled in panic. But the prairie wind, something as constant as crickets on a warm night, was silent, gone.

Leah Miller said...

The bodies floating in the water looked serene as she peered down at them, but Penny knew they were dead. There were all types of people down there: young, old, men, women, all nationalities. Their arms and legs stretched out, their hair and clothes suspended and flowing around them eerily. In the slight moonlight, their faces looked so pale. They frightened her.

SM Schmidt said...

I can remember perfectly the sound of gravel crunching underfoot. A band of soldiers marching in unison, off to fight in battles of titanic forces crashing against one other until a bloody victor arises. The jingle of many prisoners’ chains, captured by the terrible Wizard of the Mountain, sent to toil away their lives in the mines. Sailor’s calloused feet jumping onto a new beach of undiscovered shores. In reality, the field hands who traveled along the gravel path beside the cottage could not help echoing their iconic steps through my window. They never knew the sound of their casual journeys took me far beyond my lonely world. Away in my mind I could be everywhere, anywhere, far from suffocating home.

Sarah said...

Magda was unmistakably ugly. What little hair she still possessed stuck up from her scalp like cocky clumps of weeds. The spaces between tufts were covered in scabs and age spots. A procession of warts traveled from behind her right ear, across her face and disappeared into the high neckline of her nightgown. Her breath came out beleaguered and stale. Magda had known for quite a while that death was on her tail and now, now that she could no longer make her own breakfast or sweep out her home, now that she was relegated to the comfort of her little wooden bed, it seemed time to let him catch her.

Ann Bedichek Braden said...

I stand on tiptoes to peer through the crowd. I can just barely make out his face as his body spins on the rope, rotating away from me. He doesn’t look familiar, but that seems impossible in our small town. A man’s first day here, and he starts off dead? No one says a word. Above us two crows call to each other, their hoarse shrieks piercing the air. It’s never been like this. No trial. No explanation. Just the ringing of the meetinghouse bell and a man hanging by his neck from a tree.

patlaff said...

She didn’t look human. She didn’t even look real. Her skin had lost its color yet there still remained a variance between the freckles that stretched across the bridge of her nose and the skin upon which they rested. Her hair, stiff and dirty, looked like matted, twisted straw. But there was no denying it: these were the sweet, soft features of Madeline Cranston, partially exposed by the recent warm spell. If the eyes are truly the windows to the soul, her body lay beneath the mound of snow utterly vacant.

Daniel Smith said...

Genre: Middle Grades/Mystery

Darkness was just giving way to a foggy January morning when Roger Coffey noticed the headlights following him in his rear-view mirror. He glanced down at the little notebook in the passenger seat. So, there must be some truth to the rumors he was investigating.

Patti Struble said...

Sunday, another dictionary cuddle Sunday. Me, Blake Chapman and the New York Times, kick-my-ass, Crossword puzzle. Sure it’s a week behind and most certain my brain will crumble under the weight of the far-reaching. For a went nowhere, did nothing, small town girl, it could be worse. That’s what I’m supposed to believe. Crosswords lie.

Dave Symonds said...

How is it that the word “over” has so many different meanings? Shouldn’t it just mean that you are literally above something? But when I ask: “How am I going to get over this?” I sure as heck don’t mean that I’m trying to get above it. And when I think to myself: “You’re not supposed to cry over a girl”, it doesn’t mean that a girl’s hair is getting wet because I’m crying on her head. But then there’s the phrase “It’s over.” That can only mean one thing.

Rebecca White said...

The rain sounded like a thousand fingers pounding on the roof of my car. Rivers of water cascaded down the windows around me. Wind whipped across the road with such force my car swayed back and forth as if it had a mind of its own. My knuckles turned white as I gripped the steering wheel. The world was an abstract swirl of colors as my windshield wipers struggled to keep up with the downpour. Desperate to see the road, I leaned closer to the steering wheel. Every nerve in my body tensed as I fought to keep the car on the road. I still wasn’t sure why I bothered to make the trip, it would have been so much easier to turn around and go home, but something pushed me forward.

Ted said...

I pocket the flask and reach for the Colt. With the magazine full, it feels balanced in my hand, the checkered rosewood grip a bit warmer than the night. I extend my arm to sight a silhouette along the barrel and imagine that it's not just a swamp-oak flanking the graveyard. It's Finn Garrett standing in the woods near Moss Creek, on the night in 1902 that he and Drew shot each other dead before Garrett's cabin went up in flames. My index finger flexes until the safety catches. It doesn't matter -- I'm twenty-two years late. My brother's bones are decaying beneath my feet, and Henry Zimmerman will have to answer for that tonight.

Henri said...

It sounded like a cannon shot in the forest. Davy Jenkins and I were laughing so hard that we could hardly stand up, and poor Johnny Crane was hopping round the campfire screaming like a wounded banshee and acting, as if he’d been shot by a rocket. … Well, actually he had been shot. But it wasn’t with any bullet or rocket. No, Johnny had tried to open a hot can of pork and beans with his brand new boy scout knife and the metal container had exploded like a hand grenade, sending a hot load of legumes into his armpit.

P.S. This is the opening paragraph from a WIP called "Cannon Fodder" by me, Hank Nielsen (alias Henri Bauhaus). Cannon Fodder is a coming of age story that takes place in Pennsylvania during the height of the Vietnam War.
hank_nielsen@yahoo.com

Look for my post on the subject, coming soon at
http://bluefoxcafe.wordpress.com

Michelle Zamora-Mackay said...

On the third Sunday of June, I decided. It was time to have my first kiss. At thirteen, this was my concern for the summer. All my girlfriends planned to do the same thing. I would not be left out. And Patrick was the boy who would give it to me, whether he liked it or not.

Naomi Canale said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Teralyn Rose Pilgrim said...

They mean it when people put “Keep Portland Strange” on their bumper stickers. I love that about where I live. Every form of human being lives in Portland, and they all come and go on the buses. It’s like a free sample of the city. People my age often show up decorated like a Christmas tree with shiny piercings and fierce rainbow hair. Everything from cars to angels is plastered in ink to their skins. Business men in suits that you’d think would have their own car come too. They flash their monthly passes without looking at the bus driver, much like someone would flash a VIP pass at a security guard. Homeless people pay in nickels and dimes. They count their change in palms warmed by fingerless gloves and they lug their belongings in packed grocery bags and dirty back-packs, often times wearing several coats and scarves even in the summer so they don’t have to carry them. High school students come in the morning and lean their heads against a window to catch a few minutes of sleep before their first class. In the afternoon when they have more energy, they collect in groups at the back of the bus where they swing on the bars and laugh loudly with the freedom of thinking they’re the only people in the world.

Tanya said...

It’s gotten to the point where you can’t trust anyone anymore.

I wasn’t always this jaded, but working night shift in a gas station tended to show me the real side of people. The nasty side. The side they kept from everyone but me.

Lucky me.

Michelle H. said...

Black leather felt so comforting under my fingertips. The hourglass-shaped case popped open with barely a flick across the lock. The instrument looked fine, but the violin bow was damaged. Broken horsehair curled on the velvet lining, a reddish tint staining the strings. The blood wasn’t mine. It belonged to Harry.

R.K. Gold said...

The light had faded fast. It had been a grey day, the rays of the sun barely shining through the thick layers of cloud. A day with which a heavy sense of foreboding had gone hand in hand. And the night would not be any better.
Loretta Narsonas sat in the window seat of the drawing room and looked out over the vast ocean of grass which seemed to fade into the horizon. She sighed. Again, her mother had ignored her, had turned the other cheek when she tried to talk about her day. Her breath created fog on the window, echoing the mist that was slowly creeping towards the house. That too had an ominous atmosphere. Almost like the night ahead would be different to the normal, repetitive routine of doing nothing and nothing again. Something had changed.

February Grace said...

Aidan Flynn was a man who rarely ever swore--until today. Today he cursed repeatedly, at high volume, and with impassioned creativity.

Brooke Johnson said...

As was customary with most princesses, the Princess of Aghaya sat in a room atop the tallest tower of the palace, lounging in her favorite satin armchair. Chanda, her attendant, shadowed her, carefully fastening gold jewelry to her long, black hair. The gold embellishments in her choli and sari sparkled in the fading light of the sunset. The princess admired the glittering effect of her ornaments and added a few more bangles to her arms.

Deb Levy said...

I don’t have a number. Yet still they ask. The curious, the skeptical, the ones who know all they need to know. They eye my wrist, searching for that telltale proof. “Where’s your number?” But I never went to a concentration camp. I am a survivor without a number.

V. N. Rieker said...

Bridget ripped a weed from the ground. Clumps of dirt dangled from the roots, and a tiny worm wiggled out in an attempt to escape, but Bridget tossed the weed away worm and all. It was early morning—so early the chilly fog still clung to the grass, and birds still warbled by the hundreds—but Bridget had been outside for at least an hour already.

Nicole L Rivera said...

Feelings can change in minutes, seconds even. By the time Sebastian’s black pick-up truck pulled next to the curb of the Fort Lauderdale International Airport I’d explored a range of emotions. The Daisy Diamond promise ring on my finger that served as a delighted surprise just twenty minutes ago now caused my stomach to churn. All the resolve and confidence I’d displayed at my grandparents graveside gone. I’m leaving. I’m going to be all alone and suddenly I’m not sure I can do it. Maybe it was the promise I’d just made, the weight of which got heavier by the second. I’d just promised Sebastian I’d save myself for him, but now I’m leaving. Long distance. Loneliness. Isolation. Can we survive it? I don’t know.

Shannon said...

I’ve never ruined anyone’s life before this. I mean, sure, my cousin proclaimed loudly in that dog whistle kind of whiny voice she gets that I’d ruined her life last month when I called her a poster board (get it? flat? it’s a metaphor) in front of some guy at the store. But I don’t think her life is really ruined. She was back to annoying me the very next day. Not ruined. And sometimes my mom gets this blighted look when I need her to do something for me, and I think it is because she’s imagining a life where she’s not beholden to children. But that’s not my fault because I don’t remember asking to be born. Plus, I’m a freaking genius. What mom wouldn’t be proud of that? My point is, her life - not ruined. And my friends, they may complain that my obsessive studying is ruining their lives, but really, it just means we don’t start playing video games on Friday night until nine instead of seven. Definitely not ruined, just slightly delayed. So, while I’m often told that I ruin lives, I don’t think any of that counts. As Ms. Finch would say, they are just speaking figuratively. But, in this case, in the particular case of that same Ms. Finch, I think it would be more than fair to say that I did. I ruined her life.

Bailey Hammond said...

When people think about super heroes, they automatically picture Superman or The Flash. Colorful uniforms, dramatic fight scenes, and witty dialogue are all trademarks of the heroic image. It’s evident from the overwhelming media available to society, that the stereotype is preferred. Who wants to hear about boring? No one. People want action. They want a protagonist who discovers he or she has a talent for saving the world from evil forces, and then uses it to save mankind from the desperate clutches of Dr. Something-or-other. Cue dramatic music and the fade to black. Blah, blah, blah. Same old story. Those flashing beacons of light-in-tights always stop the evildoers just before they achieve world domination. It looks pretty good on the silver screen. Even I used to get sucked into the shining world of those heroes. That was before.

Monica Shaughnessy said...

A voice, scratchy and high like a fork on a chalkboard, squeaked in my ear, “Broken, something’s broken.” I opened my eyes to find a moth with a crumpled wing on the edge of my pillow. “Need help,” she said, fluttering in a circle.

Deni Krueger said...

Abby lay in the cool darkness of her room, listening to explosions rattle the pictures on her walls. Tank fire wasn’t screechy like a plane or pattery like a helicopter. It was loud. Sometimes even very loud.

anabelgonzalez said...

It was two in the morning and I walked through downtown Madrid. The cold made my bones ache and turned my cheeks red. I didn’t care. I loved moments of solitude. When I was alone, I could lose myself in my emotions, which were altered only by those housed in old buildings.

tamarapaulin said...

I'm having this really inappropriate thought, and no matter how hard I try to think things like I love my boyfriend, Calvin, I still want to lean over and lick this boy's neck to see if he tastes like icing sugar.

D.A.A. Price (aka Elgin) said...

The front-page headline read, Halloween in July. Possibly not the most original ever, but an attention grabber nonetheless. You see, for a town the size of Paramount, with all of 403 residents not counting the fetus camped out inside Maggie Swindle’s swollen belly, the costumed figure spotted wandering about the streets late one humid summer night topped all other news of the day. Dressed like some sort of overlord of the universe, the sightings as reported were indeed curious.

Ralene said...

Axriel’s shadowed form slithered from the liquid fire. Traveling between rugged stone, he pushed forward until the vast starry sky opened above. Freedom. For the first time in ten years, he hovered over the sacred mountaintop. The resounding calm of night surrounded him, beckoning him from the caves of Hell.

Will Tinkham said...

I was mostly okay with the idea of my grandfather moving into the house. Me and the old guy shared the same name. I guess my parents felt obligated to pass it along to me; without him they wouldn't have this house. Some kind of super-salesman back in his day, Grandpa Hank gave my grandmother the house, in the divorce settlement, and made the payments on it. Though he disappeared for stretches of time, there were checks for everyone come birthdays and holidays. My folks got the house when my grandmother died. That first night he handed my parents a "rent" check that had their eyes bugging out. He sat sipping the almost-all-water Scotch and water I had fixed him, and he used the tv remote like an accelerator: racing through programs, pausing occasionally as if slowing into a turn, then blowing by thirty or forty more channels. He sat idling on the History Channel and a sketch-artist's rendering. "Been nearly forty years now, but that's a damn good likeness of old Danny," he said with some gravel in his voice. "Why, if he hadn't died, they'd have caught him for certain." He sipped his drink and I noticed the name of the show: The Flight of D.B. Cooper.

Chris Denny said...

I’ve heard it said that preteens and teenagers can be a parent’s nightmare reminding them of just how crazy they were in their youth. I can agree with that. I have become the nightmare that my parents didn’t want. I became a memory to my mother of her friend that died five years ago – when I lost Kenzie. I still see her, Kenzie that is, every now and then and ask her to stay and visit, but I’m still depressed. My parents thought that I was a lost cause, with my dad trying to help and my mom finally being taken away when she was more interested in drinking than the mental welfare of her son.

Tom Bentley said...

I was thinking about my Studebaker when the quake hit. Though it’s not quite a showstopper, it’s a ’63 Lark, and pretty sweet. The Studey was on my mind because a moment before the building went bonkers I’d been looking at Della’s legs. She was wearing one of those napkin-sized skirts she sometimes wears and her legs are all the way up to there anyway. I try not to stare—I think I’ve perfected this method of looking off in a fake distracted way and then flicking my eyes back. I can get away with zeroing in on her stems without getting caught. It was almost quitting time, and I wasn’t paying much attention to anything.

Shelby House said...

I stand in the gritty bathroom, splashing lukewarm water into my face. I look in the mirror, at the washed-out, exhausted face staring back at me. Rachel Whittier, you are a vision. The lights flicker, making the dirty, grey light even dimmer than before. I glance up at the fixture. It’s one of those new energy-saver bulbs. Great, miraculous, efficient. Break one, you have to evacuate. The Department of Energy says evacuate the room, avoid stepping on the glass. The Department for Energy says try not to inhale the dust. The Department of Energy says don’t vacuum the shards, don’t throw them in your trashcan, don’t be an idiot. The Department of Energy says they don’t really give a rat’s poo. But I digress.

Stephanie M. Lorée said...

I got on hands and knees, stared at the glob of ground chuck bleeding on the plate in front of me, and willed myself to Spirit Walk. Shape-shift. Change. Get bear up in here.

Travis Erwin said...

Grace McEwen was eight the first time she stood outside a closed door and listened to her mother squeal and sigh with pleasure. Thirty-one years later, she found the sounds just as awkward. Maybe more so, now that she fully understood the source of her mom’s vocal gratification.

Kyle said...

We skrinkle lee in leather-padded leaps across the river to the steep grassy slopes of a natural amphitheater where hundreds of people sit on handmade quilts and drink home-brewed ale from ceramic mugs that they’ve spun on their own wheels, fired in their own kilns, and decorated with their own designs, and babies nap in their own mothers’ laps and teenagers congregate in clusters of six and seven, and fathers and husbands and brothers, uncles, bachelors, and virgins, and several marijuana joints pass from family to family, from friend to friend, from stranger to stranger, and some toke and some don’t, and it’s a relaxing summer evening spent in communal celebration, so the townspeople of Indulgence sit and talk and wait, and every few minutes, individually, they look at the covered wagon at the bottom of the hill and express a private wonder at what’s about to happen.

Elena Solodow said...

/They’re coming, T./, She told me.
I heard cleats crunching dirt. Not far. So much for a break. I shot up, nearing the end of the woods path that would spit me out by home. Blood dripped on my orange Converse. I clawed at hives purpling my neck and forearms.
They taunted through the trees, words the complete opposite of sweet-nothings.

Cynthia said...

Georgia Declan ignored the persistent ringing of the phone she had just tossed into the McDonald's garbage can. People store their lives on their phones, and her biggest regret was losing all the progress she had made on Angry Birds. The man on the other end calling her, she knew was Stanley Frankel, her father's attorney. There was no way in hell she would talk to him. Now that she had inherited her father's billions, Frankel wanted to control her very existence. He deserved to be in the garbage, with any luck the phone had landed at the bottom of that can in pile of ketchup. It wouldn’t really be his face covered in ketchup, but Georgia still felt satisfaction at that thought.

Dan said...

Genre: YA Science Fiction

Ensign Dorothy Paddock tugged at the base of her uniform top despite knowing that on the other side of the door was the last person on this ship who cared about appearances. Her hand flew without command to the air around her ear, but of course, grasped at nothing. Dorothy appreciated the Navy’s strict protocol calling for hair to be placed in a tight bun at all times; it kept her from grabbing a chunk of it and putting it in her mouth. Were it not for the bun, the Lieutenant might have opened the door to a bald girl. Nerves or no nerves, chewing her hair was an embarrassing habit for any sixteen-year-old, much less an Officer of the Martian Navy, but since it was clear she wasn’t likely to see seventeen – or tomorrow – it didn’t seem to matter.

Kathryn said...

“I’m tired.”

To my left is an eerie light, glowing unlike anything you’d ever find down there on Earth. When I look at it, I’m happy and warm. And in Limbo, the rest of the travelers sitting with me ignore it. But I can’t pry my eyes away from it.

Maryn Blackburn said...

We didn't talk in the car. Neither of us had to say it. Tonight I'd give my virginity to Anton. I expected some pain, maybe a little blood, but it didn't matter. I'd kill to be his boyfriend.

Claire Gillian said...

I'm hiding in the girls' bathroom waiting for the dismissal bell. I don't have a hall pass. I didn't think he'd offer one after I wrenched myself out of his arms and ran for the door. I damn sure wasn't going to ask.

Jennifer R said...

It was a stupid reason to die. Lily sat next to the broken heap of metal on the floor. Oil pooled around it, filling the room with a nauseating odor. Her hands were coated in the stuff from her failed attempts to repair it. It was even plastered in her tangled brown hair.

Travis Erwin said...

The winner of the 3rd sort of annual contest sure dropped the ball on keeping he publishing tradition alive.

What a dead beat that guy is.

Carol C. said...

Boys. They are the time suck I need. I can’t believe it took me this long to figure it out. The revelation occurred several months ago, during the last semester of my junior year at Anders – the magnet school I attend (with emphasis in business, thankyouverymuch). While innocently standing in the lunch line for my turn to pluck a chicken burrito from under a heat lamp, I found my gaze landing on the backside of Wyatt Nicholls. I don’t now, nor will I ever, care about Wyatt Nicholls – he’s too much of a geek and not enough of a genius to render it endearing – but his awe-inspiring butt made something in my brain click.

Merry Monteleone said...

Jack Poverelli stood two feet behind his friend, Mikey, in the shadows of the gangway. He reveled in the crisp touch of the wind as it whipped down the street and sent leaves scurrying from their perches on the trees. If it was lighter out, he might have basked in it, that colorful confetti of reds and yellows so perfect that if he painted it on canvas, no one would believe him. He couldn’t paint anyway, so there was no point in trying. It was a moment of time, when even a block like his looked something close to pretty, and then it was gone. Explaining it to someone wouldn’t be anything but hollow words and an experience they’d never really get.

Deb said...

Starting your day with a gun to the head really sucks. Of course, waking before dawn, facing a friend’s betrayal, and getting knocked down and dragged through the dirt wasn’t great, but the gun meant she wanted me dead. Kneeling in the soft earth of the silent graveyard, I had to give her points for execution. No pun intended.

C(h)ristine said...

Yong emptied the metal bowl of its contents, a pile of soil that he had cherished for two decades. The approximately two cups of soil, dry and light as dust, now sat in a truncated cone on the coffee table, a mosaic-topped affair that he’d scored down the hill from a reject pile on the corner of Sixty-Fifth and Queens Boulevard two months previous. He could have sworn there was a pebble in the dirt—when he’d shaken the metal rice bowl with its lid taped shut, there had always been a peculiar rattling sound. But whatever had rattled before had disintegrated over the years so that he now had a fine pile of soil, earth he’d taken from his childhood home outside out of Pyongyang to Seoul and now to New York, to an apartment in Queens overlooking the Long Island Express tracks to be exact, earth he never wanted to stray too far from, and earth he’d never walk on ever again. It looked so perfect that Yong was tempted to scoop it back into the container. But the time had come, he decided, to make this earth something else.

Alli Sinclair said...

Tess Garibaldi wished she believed in miracles because she sure as shit needed one now.

Kristi Dosh said...

Kate Dalton’s heart raced as she replayed the voicemail, listening for clues hidden somewhere in the deep, Southern tones of Jake Bailey’s voice. She missed most of what he said the first time. She was too busy celebrating that Jake had finally come to his senses and realized he couldn’t live without her.

Hayley Carmichael said...

Grey, part plastic, and part metal; meet my best friend. Sitting opposite perched on top of several unread novels, squashed into the rucksack in the unrealistic hope they'll be opened. Red light winks to confirm every facial twitch is being recorded for posterity. I stare into the lonely eye of the lens and love it. Not because it offers love back but because it doesn’t. Love directed at me turns into something ugly, warped and best avoided.

SM Blooding said...

People cried out. Horses neighed in pain. Trees screamed and thrashed in agony. Ash was everywhere, joined with the smell of burning flesh, death and decay. A gryphon, shining black in a sea of grey, fell from the sky. The ground shook with the impact of his body. We were losing.

Frankie

Meg H. said...

Valentine’s Day. So romantic.
I looked down at the card that I gripped like a lifeline. It was red and in the shape of the most beautiful heart ever. The two sides were perfectly symmetric. White doilies surrounded the heart, and a long line of pink sparkles lay just inside of the doilies, guarding the message that was sketched into it, every letter perfect.
Like I said, Valentine’s Day is so romantic. Unless, of course, you don’t have a boyfriend.

Doug Marshall said...

It's not fair. They can't punish me for bringing an imaginary friend to school. First of all, Billy is not imaginary. Second, I didn't bring him; he came by himself. And third, I didn't start the fire.

Marlene Nash-McKay said...

I open my eyes, very slowly peeling the lids away from the eyeballs against their will. I have a nasty suspicion that there would be darkness and briefly debate whether the effort is actually necessary given my current condition. Morbid curiosity wins and I continue the torturous process. I was right. Darkness. Moonless. Starless. Lightless. Impenetrable. And silent. I close my eyes again with much less effort. This was it then? Death.

Kathryn said...

When Debra came out to work that Monday morning, she saw a dead man slumped over the wheel of her silver BMW. His fatty neck was squeezed into the tight collar of his coat. One freckled hand was inches from the ignition wires. The other grazed the tip of a crowbar in his lap. Debra stepped back, caught her heel on a buried sprinkler head, called 911, and eight minutes later Officer Jim Caldwell was on her lawn, ducking his head in and out of the window, jotting down notes.

Jack Barrow said...

In sheer terror Geoff bit down hard on his meerschaum pipe carved in the shape of the god Pan. He would have closed his eyes as the enormous double-decker bus bore down on him, but he couldn’t because his eyes were painted on. Meanwhile, the engine of the twelfth-scale biplane screamed as it carried him toward an almost certain and horrible death. It was at this very point that just one thought dominated Geoff’s mind: ‘Why does this sort of thing only ever happen to me when I get involved with these guys?’

kmullican said...

Stefan stood by the fire, burning the body of his latest victim. As the vampire’s remains burned, Stefan began to recite the last rites. Even this evil creature’s soul deserved God’s ear, he thought. Tears of blood streamed down his face as his prayer turned from last rites to a plea. He begged God for his own death, an end to the psychological warfare inside him.

Corinne O'Flynn said...

By the time I got to the diner, Charlie and the guys had already ordered. The waitress eyeballed me and wrinkled her nose. I did a quick armpit check. I’d meant to change clothes after working with the tigers but my brother and I got into it. I didn’t think I smelled that bad.

Rebecca Stroud said...

Smack in the center of the state, there sits a small town whose only claim to fame is spring-bottled water and an annual corn festival. It is a blink-of-the-eye beautiful burg with gently sloping hills and towering oaks laden with silvery, spidery Spanish moss. Boasting few traffic lights, it nevertheless has one spectacular pet cemetery.

adelegriffin said...

She gets into the car and then she can’t drive it. Can’t even start the engine for the gift of the air conditioner. She is a living corpse, roasting gently in warmed leather. She can hear the quick death march of her heart. Her cell phone is slick in her hand, at any moment it might squeak from her grasp like a bar of soap. She needs to make one phone call, and she wishes she could make it into her past. Into last year, or two years ago.

Morgan Lee said...

As my family drove along the highway, the wind poured in from my down turned window and the oncoming cars became a blur of mesmerizing color until I imagined being part of that kaleidoscope--wrapped up in it--drawn into it even. The scents from the lush green mountains and spring flowers filled my senses. I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply over and over until it made me dizzy. My head poked out the window like a dog who longs to be free and run across the road and into the far away mountains. I was like that dog.

Katee said...

This alley should have opened up into a main street. Instead a brick wall blocked my escape route, cutting off any chance of reaching safety. The man behind me laughed low in his throat, not even bothering to breathe hard. He had me exactly where he wanted me. I scrambled closer to the wall, reaching behind me in hopes of finding enough of a ledge to climb. As if I would be so lucky.

Charli Armstrong said...

Run!

It was a small voice but the order was loud and clear. And Charlotte obeyed. Her heart was pounding in her ears keeping in rhythm with the clink of her white, open-toed, hard-soled sandals as they pounded the tile floor. Her breathing was labored as she ran without looking back. She made it to the double doors and pushed them open and out into the sunshine and that San Francisco breeze.

Erik Smetana said...

My name is Oliver, it tastes like deep fried peaches. To be more specific, it tastes exactly like the fruit pies my mother would make when I was a boy. Crisp and golden with a subtle hint of brown sugar and a touch of tartness. That’s how my name tastes when it comes out of my mouth, three syllables that take on a life of their own when they get smashed together on the tip of my tongue.

Anonymous said...

Sheel:

"When Mani (pronounced Money) was six, and her baby sister, Hani (pronounced Honey), was two, Mani cut off all of Hani’s black curls and hid them behind the television. Their babysitter, Barbie, hadn’t noticed what Mani had done, even though after the fact Mani casually walked around to the side of the television while Barbie watched Donahue and deposited the curls in the mess of cables behind it. She asked Mani not to walk in front of the television while someone was watching, as that was rude. "

Contact: shalu77@mac.com

earthsdivide said...

Darkness engulfed the early morning light as dawn approached. A crisp, clear air swirled around Jet as he wiped the night’s dreams from his eyes. The darkness pressed more on his intuition and his heart than on something that could be seen, as the first morning’s light began to creep through his curtains. Even with the warmth of the fire escaping from the room next door, his heart was as cold as the instant before death finally found you. Something was in the air; a change on the horizon.

Emily White said...

Too many people in the world walked around trying to be different—unique—and none of them actually knew what it meant. As I stared at my reflection in the passenger side window, going down the last street to my first day of high school, my mom humming along with the song on the radio, I was all too aware of what it did mean.

Lisa Michelle Castignetti said...

Blake smelled like smoke and blood. He opened the door to my bedroom, waking me with his rotten stench. I breathed through my mouth in order to avoid it. Sweat, beer, and dirt. Something else, something rotten and decaying; it made my stomach turn. He had no right waking me up. Blake was trying to ruin me the way he had ruined Mom. He dropped his leather boots at the edge of my bed, and I had to wrinkle my nose. The boots were covered in sticky liquid. Something bad had happened. His eyes were zombie eyes, the kind Mom got when she’d taken too many pills. My heart was pounding so loudly I thought it would burst.

Steph said...

I repeat the words in my mind. They shouldn’t be this hard to understand. They’re just three simple, little words. I try again. It’s easy when they’re said separately. But saying them all at once—that’s a different story. Inoperable. Spreading. Terminal. Put together, these words don’t make any sense at all.

Wendy Hollands said...

People are like pizzas. I was rolling out dough and preparing pizza bases when this theory hit me. My position at the entrance of the pub, cocooned by my little kitchen bench and oven, gave me some distance from the customers. At the same time, the small distance allowed me to observe them and, if I really wanted to, listen in on the people sitting and standing close by. Five metres beyond my pizza-making area was the bar. It had a new coat of varnish, and under the varnish, remnants of an older, darker varnish remained in the cracks and crevices that the sandpaper hadn’t reached. The bar was shared by holiday-makers, seasonal workers and locals. Most of my friends were seasonal workers who were attracted to the opportunity of skiing or snowboarding for months at a time, although some locals had befriended me too. My own reason for moving here was escape. Just six months ago in London, my network of friends was much closer to my own age of thirty, and now at least half my friends were kids who had just finished school. It was refreshing to hear their chatter. With the winter season half way through, I’d already seen relationships spark, friendships form and hearts break. Of course, I’d also seen a few plaster casts housing broken bones, plus a few injuries resulting from alcohol-fuelled tussles. I enjoyed my ever-changing view: it made my pizza shifts more interesting.

Theodora said...

The phone calls are rare. The visits almost inexistent. When Stella hurts, the world stops. When Stella is indisposed, the world falls to her feet. When daddy touches her, she cannot take it anymore. Abuse, she calls it. Therefore, she pushes daddy away. And gets a restriction order. Abusive alcoholic. She marries Bill two months after the divorce. Of course, daddy is upset. He drinks to forget. And Stella needs to be punished.

Alexandra said...

Laura watched without moving. The tenseness was reflected in her shortened and watchful words. Words that stumbled out as she described the scene. The lawn and walkway were now riddled with remains that had fallen off the girl when she was pushed backwards. A car alarm was going off nearby. Fresh screaming was heard in the distance and gunfire could be heard across the street. I said a short prayer for our neighbors. They had been good people. I also added a short prayer for the girl that had been their only daughter.

Empress Awesome said...

When a phoenix is reborn, it rises out of the ashes of its previous self. When a human is reborn—wait a second, humans can’t be reborn. Not physically, anyway, right? Yeah, that’s what I thought too. But when you’ve been a ghost for a hundred years and are suddenly lying in a pile of ashes, alive and well and needing to pee real bad, you start to change your perspective a little.

Weronika Janczuk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Samantha Hagar said...

Before I discovered my real name, everyone called me Marie. Marie Brown. It was a nice enough name, but like an itchy sweater, it never felt quite right. Now I know why. I started this journal the day I finally woke up, after my journey. Writing about what happened was Lucy’s idea. She said that writing everything down would be the best way to remember. She knew it wouldn’t be long before I started to forget again. She was right. Now that I’ve discovered the truth I want the memories to last forever, even though I’m afraid they won’t. Some things will stick, others will fade away. That’s what it’s like when you are one of the People. My adventure started two weeks ago. The day I uncovered the mystery that had been hiding in my house since I was little. It was raining that night.

Tiger said...

(have broken this up the way it because of stylistic choice)

The outskirts of Tikrit.

The incongruity sickened Ashrinn like it always did. He and his Delta Force team had been locked in combat maneuvers for a long time now on the perimeter, and yet the shock of people killing each other in the shade of swaying palm trees never faded.


Too sensitive, Ashrinn. This is why they think you deserve that Section 8. The dreams are bad enough.

Debbie Barr said...

It was a festival day, but I wasn’t excited one bit. We bakers have to do all the preparation work, it seems, so what sort of holiday is that? Besides, the celebration was for the return of the Keeper’s son, Flint, from across the sea. Just because his father ruled our entire province didn’t mean I cared to make him a grand cake. Especially such an absurd one.

Weronika Janczuk said...

The gray of the world outside slinks into the dead building behind me, among the broken tree limbs that used to support its additional quarter. I dread these few seconds I spend hovering, preparing, at Samson’s threshold. My mind has been playing tricks for weeks: the universe seems different, off a little bit, as if something ugly and dark is brewing in the miles beyond the rain. The downpour always brings with it remnants of what it has left behind, and it used to be just the layered scent of the oceans and forests I miss terribly, having not visited them in years. But there’s an edge to it now. The scent of blood, and misery, methinks.

Stephanie Garber said...

Ellie glanced behind her shoulder as she stepped into the uncovered hallway. The air was thick, almost asphyxiating. She cracked her knuckles and checked behind her shoulder again. It felt hot outside, yet a dark curtain of clouds obscured the morning sun. The weather was all wrong for southern California. Unease simmered inside her.

Mo Lovelly said...

My name is Phyllis and I am a platypus with a problem. I think that life is just miserable at Lyons Day School. Kids can be real mean when you're clumsy, and believe me, I am very clumsy. It's hard to get picked for team games when you trip or fall over all the time. However, I am one great paddle ball player, and tomorrow I'm going to show them just how good I am.

-Tale Of A Picked On Platypus, by Mo Lovelly

Terah said...

I was born healthy. Technically. The doctor told my mother he had never seen such a well-developed baby girl. Ten fingers. Ten toes. And (as we later discovered) something else. My mother wanted a girl. My father a boy. I guess they both got their wish.

Gaël said...

The stranger stood on the threshold of the cave and watched the sun come up. It wasn't a pleasant sight. The light that pierced the clouds to the east was harsh and bright, and turned the sky from deep blue to a dirty shade of orange that reminded him of sunrises in another country and another life. The dark, jagged peaks in the distance slowly appeared as the morning fog surrounding them dissipated, their shadows extending over the valley down below like so many fingers grasping at the dust. Soon he had to shield his eyes from the light and wipe the tears that ran down his cheeks on the sleeve of his shirt.

Alicia Gregoire said...

My life seemed to be revolving around numbers more than usual. It was either that, or I’d just been more conscious of them. Age: twenty-five and some months. Height: five-foot-nine. Weight: one hundred and thirty-one pounds. Siblings: four. Ex-boyfriends: three. Best friends: also, three. Roommates: one. Idiotic choices: well over twenty. Career paths: zero.

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