Nathan Bransford, Author


Monday, February 4, 2013

The 5th Sort-of-Annual Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge!

UPDATE: TIME'S UP! COMMENTS CLOSED!

It's the grandaddy of them all. The big kahuna. The 32 oz porterhouse with a side of awesome.

It's our FIFTH Sort-of-Annual um don't point out that the last one was two years ago oops too late Stupendously First Paragraph Challenge!!!

Do you have the best paragraph of them all? Will you make Charles Dickens wish he ditched "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" for your paragraph when he wrote A Tale of Two Cities?

Let's see.

First and most importantly: ALL THE PRIZES.

The ultimate grand prize winner of the SUFPC will win:

1) The opportunity to have a partial manuscript considered by my wildly awesome agent Catherine Drayton of InkWell. Who does Catherine represent, you might ask? Why, only authors such as Markus Zusak (The Book Thief), John Flanagan (The Ranger's Apprentice series), Becca Fitzpatrick (Hush Hush), and many more amazing writers. This is a rather excellent prize. You don't even have to write a query letter!

2) All the finalists will win a query critique from me trust me I've still got my query-revising skillz. Said critique is redeemable at any time.

3) All the finalists in the USA (sorry non-USAers, international postage is bananas) will win a signed copy of my new novel, last in the Jacob Wonderbar trilogy, in stores and available online on Thursday, Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp!! Please check this bad boy out I swear you'll love it and you won't even get eaten by a dinosaur:


The Jacob Wonderbar trilogy:

Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow
Jacob Wonderbar for President of the Universe
Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp

4) All finalists and winners win the pride of knowing that you are in some truly fantastic company. Let's review the now-published authors who were finalists in writing contests on this blog before they became famous and fancy published authors:

Stuart Neville! Victoria Schwab! Terry DeHart! Michelle Hodkin! Michelle Davidson Argyle! Joshua McCune! Natalie Whipple! Josin L. McQuein! Jeanne Ryan! Peter Cooper! Travis Erwin!

Are we missing anyone? I sometimes forget THERE ARE SO MANY.

There may also be honorable mentions. You may win the lottery during the time you are entering this contest. Who can say really?

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

a) This is a for-fun contest. Rules may be adjusted without notice, as I see fit, but this one will always be here: Please don't take this contest overly seriously. This is for fun. Yes, the grand prize is awesome and I would have willingly picked a fight with Mike Tyson to have had my manuscript considered by Catherine Drayton without ever having to write a query, but please don't let that detract from the fact that this contest is for-fun.

b) Please post the first paragraph of any work-in-progress in the comments section of THIS POST. If you are reading this post via e-mail you must click through to enter. Please do not e-mail me your submission it will not count.

c) The deadline for entry is this THURSDAY 7pm Eastern time, at which point entries will be closed. Finalists will be announced... sometime between Friday and the year 2078. When the finalists are announced this suddenly becomes a democracy and you get to vote on the stupendously ultimate winner.

d) Please please check and double-check your entry before posting. If you spot an error in your post after entering: please do not re-post your entry. I go through the entries sequentially and the repeated deja vu repeated deja vu of reading the same entry over and over again makes my head spin. I'm not worried about typos. You shouldn't be either.

e) You may enter once, once you may enter, and enter once you may. If you post anonymously please be sure and leave your name (no cheating on this one).

f) Spreading the word about the contest is very much encouraged. The more the merrier, and the greater your pride when you crush them all.

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

h) There is no word count limit on the paragraphs. However, a paragraph that is overly long or feels like more than a paragraph may lose points. It should be a paragraph, not multiple paragraphs masquerading as one paragraph. Use your own discretion.

i) You must be at least 14 years old and less than 178 years old to enter. No exceptions.

j) I'm on the Twitter! And the Facebook! And the Google+! And the Instagram! It is there I will be posting contest updates. Okay maybe not Instagram but pretty pictures!

That is all.

GOOD LUCK. May the best paragraph win and let us all have a grand old time.






869 comments:

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lalammar.net said...

It was a bridge that first lured me to Teradolus.
Teradolus, where myths are harvested, memories are mutated, and lies are braided into the fabric of your mind. It is a land of perpetual darkness where the only light to be found is that of a capricious moon.
That moon… I can see it in my mind’s eye even now as I relate this story to you. I've not seen it in years, but the beaming blue cheese grin remains fresh in my mind, filling me with equal parts excitement and terror.
Just like Carroll’s Cat, that moon would drift in and out of relevance as I crossed the land. Its grin would stretch wider whenever I lingered in the Reeds of Misplaced Recollections, taking great pleasure as I floundered between the real and unreal, enjoying my struggles to reconcile it all in my mind. The grin would settle into a pernicious smirk as I skipped along the banks of Accidia, the unbearable numbness leeching onto my toes and crawling up my legs, causing me to break into a run for the Ponte Veritas as I wondered how I'd found myself on those shores when I’d sworn I’d never return.
And the moon would always, always, dip completely out of sight whenever I ventured into the Redwood of Lies as though it too were fearful of those flaming trunks.

Hywela Lyn said...

“Hold tight, Shifter, this is going to be bumpy!” The small vehicle plunged through the tangled branches of the slender trees and shuddered to a halt. For a moment, a blur of green and brown, severed leaves and twigs on the screen obscured the view. ‘Kat’ O’Brien gritted her teeth and activated a control. A gust of recycled air blew the offending foliage from the external screen, revealing a bleak, almost featureless landscape.
The silence rent asunder with the unmistakable whine and shriek of blaster fire, as she emerged from her now useless transit vehicle.

(Hywela Lyn)

Kate Larkindale said...

The notes swim on the page, blurring before my eyes. My bow stutters across the bridge and I wince at the piercing noise that squawks out as the E-string breaks.
“Goddamn!” I want to throw the bow across the room, but I know better. I set it down on the table beside me instead. I glance at the clock. Four fifteen. Great. I got an hour in. Maybe a little more. That’s going to get this piece nailed. Not. Stupid Shostakovich. Whoever picked this to be the compulsory piece for the summer school auditions deserves a kick in the ass.

Kathryn Leonard-Peck said...

“That’s the yeti’s bed. Yours is over there.”
I let go of the handle of the weird ice-blue box I was about to open, and spun around. My head whipped back and forth, trying to pinpoint the origin of the voice. I could smell the delicate perfume of flowers, along with a deeper, earthy scent, but there was no-one in sight. A pair of lips appeared in front of me, covered in a blackberry lipstick just like mine. Electric blue eyes followed, then a pale face, framed by ringlets of glossy black hair.

Courtney Filigenzi said...

Momma always told her that omitting details was equivalent to lying, but Cassandra knew the information she found needed to disappear fast. A sudden breeze off the South River rustled the tall bay grasses and broke the intense, afternoon heat of the sun broiling Cassandra’s skin, as beads of sweat rolled down her forehead and dripped off the end of her nose like a leaky faucet.

Alys Cohen said...

Frantic, Juliette St. Claire folded and packed football gear. She gasped, twitching at the slightest sound. The jersey she needed was still in the living room. She sprinted to retrieve his shirt, hoping he would be lenient.

Chris Redding said...

There isn’t enough L’Oreal on the planet to cover her white trash roots. Daria Jacks thought this as her black pump went tripping down the long, elegant staircase. It clicked and clacked its way to the bottom of the marble steps.
Chris Redding

lyudmylam said...

It started with a lightning storm and a pear tree, although, some may tell you it started with a parade, or rather the fact that I missed it. And miss it, I did.
Weak with fever and cough, and sick to my stomach, I missed the biggest event of the year: the chorus of the hunting horns and trumpets announcing the spectacle, the soft flutes that accompanied the dancers dressed in the cross-stitched holiday attire; folks in their best black vests embroidered with burgundy clematis and gold sunflowers, pannas with knee-long fat braids and fresh-flower wreaths crowning their heads, and husbands wearing linen hats embellished with feathers from roosters' tails. The music and dancing lifted the spirits of the spectators, the fried dough and pirojki-rolls with chicken liver and cabbage filled the bellies of the on-lookers, and, of course, the exhibition of the magical beasts that the Tzar of Khariv was so proud to showcase to his people with the magical firebird being the highlight of the event - I saw none of it.

Cameron Collins said...

As he walked across the cold glass, his bare feet left the impression that a ghost had been there. No sound was made or heard except the faint buzz of the air conditioning unit. The man didn't try to avoid the detection of the cameras. The slight bit of human nature left in him told him to hide. Humans always hid, never wanting to be seen, never wanting to be caught for the pleasures they partook. This man was different; he didn't care if they caught him on camera, he didn't care if they saw his face; for he wouldn't be here long enough for anyone to catch him, and he wouldn't have this face for much longer anyway.

Amanda Leigh said...

The moment glass shatters is actually quite beautiful. The way the center splinters and spiders out before bursting into nothing. Not many people really get the chance to appreciate the magnificence because everything happens instantly. So quick that you blink and it’s already done. But when you’re convinced you’re about to die, the world tends to move in slow motion.

Marcy Campbell said...

Just a few years after Reverend Simon uttered that detestable word in his sermon, I was in front of our house, on my knees, in the moist, fragrant dirt I’d just turned over with my trowel. Deborah knelt beside me, wearing her favorite kitten shirt stained with blueberry yogurt, and cupping an apple seed in her pudgy little hand. Was the hole deep enough? Too deep? I didn’t know. I was gardening on a whim, lately giving myself over to spontaneity, in small and large ways, since life seemed to have no use for my meticulous planning.

Marcy Campbell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lizzie starr said...

Buffeted by moist, swirling winds, Tane balanced at the edge of a red rock outcropping near the canyon entrance, watching the rising stream. With storms the past three mornings, he’d expected the creek to flood yesterday. Anticipation, like the empty space filling the moments between lightning and thunder, churned in his belly. No other reason would have brought him out today, on a morning like any other in this eternity of lonely mornings.

Marcy Campbell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

This could go two ways: live or die.
Right now, I’d take death.
The pain came first. Pain. Such a stupid word, created by ignorant, naïve fools who knew nothing of true agony. I slumped against the wall, swallowing a scream. My skin prickled, a million stabbing needles, the sensation crystallizing into an acute burn. This isn’t happening. Denying the truth—that’s the way. Despite the beauty and avoidance of voluntary delusion, this was happening.
Soon.
So soon. Now. I needed to Change, to fully feel like a dragon again.
But this was just another thing out of my control.

-Emily Watson

curtcovert said...

When kids have a nightmare, people always say, “Don’t worry. It’s just a dream.” Those people are idiots.

They say it in a voice that sweetly tries to convince you that the dream isn’t real and that the horror you feel is somehow less valid, as though you can just sweep it away like it never happened. But it did happen. The terror is real and there’s only so many times you can be told, “Just think happy thoughts and go back to sleep,” before you realize you’re on your own, truly on your own. That you have to face the demons by yourself and find the courage to go back to sleep, knowing what awaits you when you return. And of course, that was before I knew the truth, before I knew there really ARE things to fear in your sleep.

Jaime Theler said...

Artists, musicians, and writers try to capture emotion, but they never get it right. Feelings aren’t colors, sounds, or words—they’re much more physical. The emotions that rode in with the latest visitors were especially tangible. Desperation. Like the gouges of fingernails raking across unprotected skin. Fear, molasses-thick and suffocating. And something else. But buried deeper so Lara couldn’t tell what it was unless she went looking, which she wouldn’t.

Anonymous said...

The distance between me and the ground was about five feet I guess. Okay, I’d fallen further than that in the past and survived. Admittedly, on previous tumbles I hadn’t had four stomping hooves to avoid.
‘You nervous?’ I heard Ben call.
I turned to look at him as he sauntered across the yard, his ruffled golden hair flopping into his face over his sky blue eyes. A girl looked over a rustic stable door, admiring his muscles as they bulged through his tight fitting grey top. It was hard to believe he was related to me.
‘No,’ I replied, trying to sound defiant. Why people around here considered this was fun was beyond me? Horses have their own minds, or did people not realise that?
‘I’ll look after you,’ he said, smiling. He squeezed my hand.
‘It’s supposed to be me looking after you. I’m the older one, remember?’
‘Age is just a number,’ he replied.
Despite his reassurances the churning knots in my stomach were getting tighter. Thank God I hadn’t had any breakfast this morning, otherwise it would definitely be making a second appearance.

Karen Taylor

Linda Covella said...

POUND-POUND-POUND-POUND-POUND!
I bolted up in bed. A streak of yellow light shot under my door then snapped back into darkness. Footsteps creaked past my room. Then a noise that sounded like a monster’s long, loud burp vibrated through the walls. I fell back onto the pillow. Just Mom or Dad using the bathroom. What passed for a bathroom, anyway, in Mom’s hundred-year-old “dream house” with hundred-year-old pipes that made the rudest sounds.

sllynn.com said...

I didn’t always look like this, you know. I was beautiful once. Before the Emperor. Before the war. Before the fire.

Linda said...

Invisibles might be angels. I don’t know for sure. I don’t exactly see them but I know when they’re around. They showed up right after Dad left when I was seven and a half. Dad’s a jazz pianist and, according to Mom, a rotten jerk. If she quit saying that, maybe he’d come back. Invisibles love music, same as me. Songs help people who need help, the Invisibles told me. Well, they don’t use words. More like feelings way down in my belly. My head’s a tape recorder, too. I can play or sing anything back exactly, even if I only listen once. Because of that I’m an oddball, according to Mom. According to Dad, a Special Ed head.

Wendy said...

The rest of the world is asleep. I know some doctors and police and other people work at night, and they’re out there somewhere, but sitting on my bed, holding my flashlight, I feel like no one else is awake. This is my favorite time of day. Night.

Lisa Weikel said...

The description of the day-long program was cryptic and sparse, quite unlike most announcements made by the master sound-shaman and respected academic from whom this offer arrived. An indigenous Elder carrying medicine that pertains to the times to come would be in our area. No name provided, very little background given. If you want to come, come, was the essential message.

GSMarlene said...

Most fifth graders think recess is one of the best parts of the school day. Second only, perhaps, to the ringing of the final bell, signaling an escape to after-school activities. Mike didn’t agree. Recess meant fear, hiding and avoiding attention until the bell rang and then sprinting to the door. If he could lay low during recess, he had a decent chance of not landing on The List of Those To Be Pounded After School.

Kel Heinen said...

The band Closure was gathered in a large, open office in downtown Los Angeles, California. The skies outside the window were dark, and while a storm was brewing outside, there was a bigger one brewing inside. There were details to go over before Closure and their families left in two weeks on their sold out tour and the most important detail was being uncooperative.

Nomen Nescio said...

Wow. Reading so many first paragraphs makes me dizzy and my eyes blink. My name is Justus and here's my first paragraph:

It frightened me. The wooden stairs to my new apartment moaned and cried underneath my feet. I couldn’t help but imagine in which horrible way I might die when it would finally collapse. Unfortunately the elevator wasn’t any better. Its doors made an even more terrifying rattling noise when they opened and closed. It wasn’t as if my fears came as a surprise, the entire house looked as if it should’ve collapsed at least two decades ago. Still, nothing could explain the origin of the various stains decorating the walls of my apartment. And yet, all the elevators and stairs and stains in the world couldn’t have prevented me from taking the apartment. There were two large windows in my living room. Outside was a wonderful tree.

meredithmansfield said...

Astrid leaned into the freezing wind, staggering down the beach hunting for driftwood to feed their meager fire. She kept one eye open for anything edible. The gale felt like needles of ice penetrating even the thick white bear pelt she wore as a cloak. The wind swept up the fjord straight off the icy sea, funneled by the steep hills on either side. Astrid paused to take shelter for a few moments under a rock overhang that blocked the gusts. With nothing to hunt for, she let her mind drift, retelling to herself some of the stories her grandmother used to tell her. It was almost as good as sleep to take her mind off her hunger and keep her company.

Julie Schewlakow said...

Elizabeth Hutchinson never realized she was being tracked since birth. It wasn’t until the day an owl rested outside her window that there was evidence to the contrary. The blue of her eyes seemed to reflect off the dawning sky, staring at the perched bird. The owl stood without flinching as the warmth of her fiancé’s body pushed against her. She couldn’t help but gaze upon the crisp earth-toned leaves slowly drifting back and forth in the breeze. The delicate detail of the owl’s feathers drew her focus from the warm hand pushing the cotton of her nightgown up around her waist. Gusts of fall barely swayed the animal from its perch. Elizabeth closed her eyes as the tips of Dominic’s fingers brushed her inner thigh, sliding the lace thong from her moist skin. Inhaling she opened her eyes to the frozen owl still perched beyond the window.

Julie Schewlakow

Tori Chester said...

At eleven o’clock on the last Saturday morning in May, when my father and the moving team were packing our lives into four-by-six cardboard boxes, my sister Zoe got kicked out of swim lessons. It was her first class of the summer, the fourth instructor in two years, and when Brendan called I sat for a moment, sinking beneath the chatter in the dressing room, wishing I didn't believe that it had really happened again.

Zoe said...

Fun...great concept.Here's my entry.

This was not the first time I had come home from work to find three saffron robed monks in our back yard cavorting with our chickens. "Tsering has asked us to call but we were here so we came..." My partner Tsering was a Tibetan national living in exile in Massachusetts. We would often hear of the sightings from our neighbors who were concerned to see strangers in our yard when we weren't at home. We reassured them that a trio of pacifists was in all probability, not going to wreak much havoc. None the less, we asked the guys to call ahead when possible.

Anonymous said...

Alexis surged through a rusty metal door and quickly swung it closed behind her with as much strength as she could muster, throwing her weight onto it with a desperate grunt just as a violent force rushed her in pursuit. Screaming and tearful with fear and pain she struggled to keep the door secured and tried to hold back the entity that was pounding on it, but each thud and ghastly wail made her feel weak and chilled her to the bone. Each blow was a dreadful warning that death was on the other side of that door.

Lee Sampere
lsampere_17@hotmail.com

Megan said...

The blade curved from years of sharpening. Marisol gripped the handle and sawed at alfalfa, trying to finish the harvest before her knife became too dull to even cut the tender plants. She arched her back and sucked at the new blisters emerging under callused hands—tokens of a long day of work.

CJ Black said...

The corpse of the witch had long been claimed by the denizens of the earth but Isbet knew the old woman right away. She knelt in the rich loam and laid her staff Gaemyr beside her, barely noticing that his carved face was in the dirt.

Melinda Friesen said...

I yell my voice hoarse and pound my fists numb against the thick steel door. Defeated, I stumble backward. The scent of stale urine mixes with the damp, musty air as
I drop onto the soiled mattress: yellowed circles of dried urine and drops of blood from its former occupants. A fluorescent bulb dangles from the ceiling, buzzing and flickering, washing the room in a swampy hue. The doctor will be here soon. I curl my legs to my chest as though layers of flesh can protect the life inside me.

Joe Arechavala said...

The diner was never busy at one in the morning, but this night was slow even by our standards. Just one half-drunk couple in the corner, the girl giggling and the guy groping as they kissed. The only reason Gus hadn’t thrown them out was because the little perv liked the entertainment. At least he had something else to focus on besides my ass. I’d never make any tips tonight. Great. Another month behind on the rent. Hopefully I could sweet talk my way out of this latest time and get myself off the hook without sex with that barbarian. Getting back to school next semester was out of the question too, dammit. My life was going nowhere. Or worse, to the proverbial hell in a handbasket.

Susan Cushman said...

Mare’s backpack clinks as she ducks in and out of the pre-dawn shadows. A cold front moving across the state has dropped temperatures to the low forties. She rearranges the aerosol cans and wraps them with tee shirts to silence them. Pulling up her hoodie, she looks down the street. No one is watching. Storefronts are still dark in this Southern city of a quarter million people. Macon, Georgia, feels big compared to the smaller towns of Mare’s childhood. But not so big that she can’t find her way through the mostly abandoned city streets on her clandestine missions.

Connie Berry said...

She took a final photograph, crouching down for a close-up of the exquisite inlaid banding, before tossing the camera—a disposable—into her Italian leather purse. The London dealer wanted something to show his contact at the Victoria & Albert. It sounded promising, he said, especially with the unusual provenance. Providing that would be risky, of course—perhaps impossible. But even without provenance, the small, jewel-like box would fetch a tidy sum at auction. Enough to carry her through till May, which was all she needed. It was a beneficence, sent by the god who watched over her—had done so all her life.

Kelly said...

Pádraig left the Circle despite his father’s protests when he was 523 years old. He stood at the edge of the Circle, and watched life on the outside as it shifted and changed before his very eyes. The once bare slopes of Connemara were now littered with farmhouses, rocky fields and rangy sheep. Sealed roads had appeared where there had only been rock and hard earth before. Everything changed out there while everything within his home stayed exactly the same. No one really left the Circle any more, but those who did returned with items that they had procured from mortals and with tales of life outside the Sidhe realm. These stories fascinated Pádraig deeply. He wanted to see it for himself. He longed to be part of a world and a life that seemed so full of life and colour, where things were constantly changing.

mlbasham said...

On a quaint, tiny street lined with quaint, tiny shops Kelly’s Books and Toys was the quaintest and the tiniest. It was built of red brick and had a bright green door with a gold handle. And from the outside it looked very much like the stationery shop with the blue door and the silver handle on one side and the spice shop with the black door and the copper handle on the other. That, however, was where the similarities ended.

(Middle Grade Fantasy)

Adam Wallace said...

DISCLAIMER

This story is a work of fact. Only some names have been changed to protect the innocent. Characters, places and incidents are absolutely real. All resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely deliberate.

Louisa said...

Wasn’t gym class punishment enough for twelve year old Isabelle Tresdon? Coach Rayfield’s coffee breath. Spit flying from his whistle each time he piped it. Being trapped in a stifling gymnasium with ten sweaty kids, playing a crummy game of basketball. She’d rather pluck out each nose hair.

Cool contest! Thanks!

Emily Wenstrom said...

A stair creaks.With the rain pounding down on the creaky roof, a human may not have heard it. But I do. It is too close, just outside the door. My stomach sinks. A stair creaks, and I know I am about to kill again.

Bryan Hilson said...

So before we get started and get carried away and all that, let’s be clear about something: Cam Hanson has not run away from home. Okay, technically, he has, but really, the more sophisticated and professional explanation (out of respect for your intelligence) is that Cam Hanson has taken a brief sabbatical from home. More specifically, a brief sabbatical from his role as hands-on, day-to-day leader of his family and his parents’ only hope at healing their deep-seated psychic wounds. Not too shabby a résumé for someone who’s only been alive fifteen years ten months. Another important point in need of clarification: This temporary suspension of familial duties and Cam’s subsequent departure to an undisclosed location with his notebooks and pens and his memories to write out what you’re reading now, this chronicle of what really happened to the Hansons in those ten months following the day he turned fifteen, is not Cam’s doing by choice, but rather his best option out of several less attractive ones as a result of the unfortunate, inexcusable actions and belief systems of certain nefarious individuals, all of which will be exposed, and rightfully so, in said chronicle.

Tissa said...

The angry red lights on my nightstand read 7:00 am. For close to an hour, I’ve been trying to keep myself asleep while ignoring the loud-pitched female voice coming from the television in the living room. Defeated, I remove the pillow from over my head, and finally storm out of bed—Across the hallway, dad’s hand hangs from the side of the couch. He’s passed out. Lying on the floor below him is an empty bottle of Jack Daniel’s and a quarter way full bottle of vodka. The ashtray on the end table is overflowing with cigarette butts, while a dark cloud of smoke hovers over him. As I walk closer, the acidic smell invades my nostrils, and I rub my nose to stop the burning sensation. Every fucking morning, I have to deal with this shit!

Unknown said...

He hated hurting dogs; it gave him indigestion. But a promise made is a debt unpaid. Was a dog the size of a furball really a dog? A small voice in his head said yes. He ignored it and popped another Tums, watched and waited.

Seeley James said...

Pia Sabel sat still, listening to the limo tick as it cooled. She needed a minute to think. The heat outside began to penetrate the icy interior. Her driver picked up his book, thumbed to his place and read. Agent Marty stood outside the door scanning the street while Agent Tania sat next to her, staring straight ahead. No one spoke. Could the Department of State really press charges?

Cathrine Bock said...

Gerund. Apostolic. Vehicular manslaughter. I have this thing for words. Usually big, complicated, fat words, but not always. Sometimes they are thin and clipped. Flit. Plotted. Clapped. It doesn’t matter what the words mean, really, just the way they sound. How the syllables feel in my mouth, if they roll around the fat part of my tongue, leap off the narrow tip, or pitch out of my mouth with a throaty, guttural thrust. Colonoscopy. Fragrance. Pituitary. I draw out each syllable as if it is its own word, and I think about the way my breath hisses over my teeth. My mother hates it when I do this. “Calliope,” she says in her teacher voice, “stop muttering.”

Anonymous said...

It was a forgotten town, close enough to the City of Compton to get the spillage of criminals, and far enough from Los Angeles that suburbanites weren't bothered by the crime. The cops had long ago turned a blind eye, and when they did, no one was watching over Adelanto. Well, Mary, mother of Jesus, is speculated to have appeared over the water tower, but it was suspect since it came from the mother of Ricky, the leader of the Mexican gang. He allegedly killed someone, and ever since that day, his religious mother was seeing holy figures everywhere. But the town needed a positive stir, and clung to whatever it could. Catholics, evangelicals, mystics and cynics alike camped out at the base of the tower. Two television stations reported live from the scene pressuring the county to get involved. The Department of Water and Sanitation arrived the following day to test the sample from the marking where Mary supposedly wept tears, leaving stains of blood. It was rust.

Rachel Bates said...

Cara Medlen felt the growl before she heard it, rumbling through her leg from the dog tensed at her side. She nudged his shoulder to break his concentration. "Easy, Casper. You may not realize it yet, but today's your lucky day."

Mr. D said...

1856 – enDondakusuka, Zululand

A soft breeze rippled over the tall grass as morning’s first light warmed hundreds of crouching bodies in the golden brush. But it wasn’t the sun rousing the new day. It was the smell of blood. And by day’s end, not just the wind would carry the ominous tale of death across the African continent. The Tugela River would flow red with it.

tfwalsh said...


The pen lying on the cashier’s desk gave a sudden jerk, and then rolled a few times across the wooden surface. It was happening again. Adira squeezed the golden pyramid box in her fist, harnessing its power. A few days earlier a chair skidded over the floor with a single thought, and before that, she shook the hell out of the crystal chandeliers. Sure, her foster dad might have collapsed from fright at the sight of his antique store in earthquake mode, but this was bigger than him—it was a moment in time when everything she knew burst into a trillion pieces. Not to mention the minuscule possibility that she might now share a common trait with Jean Grey from X-Men.

Jodi Webb said...

"Why did you make me do that?" I moaned, watching Deuce wipe the sweat from his chest and slip on a clean t-shirt.

Jodi Webb

BethMarkley said...

so i've just arrived after a shakey ride. seeing the mars mt. olympus mons in the sunset is very gorgeous. glad i have my moon glasses on.
the inflight movie was great, but i'm sure those of you on earth were watching the superbowl, or the puppy bowl.

as you know, i am here to install some cooling stations on mars. but right now i am just enjoying the stunning scenary.

edmiracle said...

Schreya Picard racketed onto Highway 54 astride a one-hundred-percent illegal copy of Sticker Tulane's motorbike. Behind her she left the fourteen squabbling neighborhoods of Testament, Oklahoma and one nasty sunrise. If Sticker's scooter could out-run that storm building in from the east, a new life would be hers in Amarillo, just eighty minutes away.

bluerabbit said...

Kyle was waiting for Alexa by the entrance to the north wing. The lights had been dimmed to save electricity, and halfway down a side corridor the mall's only claw machine glowed golden and inviting.

Diana Rico said...

Diana Rico said...

Between 5:29:26 and 5:31:17 on the morning of September eighth, 1985, a police emergency operator in New York City took the following call. The caller did not identify himself. His voice was high pitched for a male, and he mumbled, stammered, and cried through the conversation.

Anonymous said...

And Magic surfaced in Shelton.
Forsaking all social graces it arrived unannounced; it did not knock gently nor wipe its feet. It climbed out of the earth and up through the air swinging a mantle of heat that smothered the town, leaving the citizens hostage indoors and the eldest of those scratching their heads. It settled on its haunches and waited away the descending suns.

site angel said...

The man who would kill Marcia Weathers sat in the dark and cold, watching, waiting. It hadn’t been long enough, but the pressure was too much, the need too great. He shifted in the driver’s seat; the car smelled of burnt dust and overheated rubber and discarded taco wrappers. Tonight was for reconnaissance, not action, not fulfillment. Knowing every nuance of the neighborhood, the rhythms of comings and goings, lights on and lights off, who had dogs—these were crucial.

Kelly
marwhitpinky12(at)yahoo(dot)com

whimsicalwerecat said...

There was endless darkness. Then, a pulse of compressed energy tore across it, unleashing an outbreak of chaos. Rows of wildly swirling lights suddenly appeared, bright enough to capture glimpses of distorted shapes rushing in and out of sight, chased down by more than their own shadows. The air pressed in, smothering and toxic with fear.

Tracy D said...

"I'm gonna shove that guy off the stage," said Townes. There was the small question of getting the lead singer's guitar away from him, and it was a sweet old Gibson -- not something he'd want to knock around. Plus he couldn't expect the guy to be happy about a takedown from a random fan. Still, Townes thought, doable.

Dr. Horrible said...

Bark had no idea how the ship got in the middle of the desert. He only knew that he would have to steal it.

DelSheree Gladden said...

My mom would leave him here to die. My dad would try to save him. But neither of them found him. I did. I have to make the choice between walking away from someone I know can never be saved, or taking him back to the village and casting my lot in with his. Seconds ago I was wishing I had a Geiger counter, wishing Luther didn’t let his hatred of me leave me unprotected as usual. Just because he suspects I have feelings for his son, Zen, he goes out of his way to punish and hurt me. In the middle of my thoughts, I had seen the movement that drew me to the boulder.

Sarah Diviney said...

Nick downed another Corona; he couldn’t relax. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way: a four-hour flight that took six, a ground hold in Ypsilanti due to fog on the runway. An unconscious young woman on the floor of the cargo hold, cast aside like nobody’s luggage.

raymond alexander kukkee said...

“Nasty business, is it not?" he asked, shifting uncomfortably in the straight-backed chair.

"Miss Moordun? --her disappearing and all, so suddenly, like the others?"

The man cleared his throat, nervously awaiting her reply. He started to twitch when she remained silent. He fidgeted uncomfortably and corrected the angle of the black felt hat propped on his knee. He tried again.

“Without a trace it was, --a couple of days ago, without a trace.”

“I say, a nasty bit of business, it was." he started. She remained silent.

“I heard them talking about it at the hotel, one never knows what shall transpire in this day and age, does one?”

“Nasty business…” He repeated, and then continued to talk, hesitantly, at first, then more to himself than to her. He nervously brushed a hair off of the crown of his black felted hat. Probably from that damned ancient cat sitting there, he thought to himself with much disdain. He disliked cats.

H.L. Pauff said...

"You're too fat," the one-eyed blacksmith grunted, trying to squeeze the armor around Pratt's bulging stomach. The enemy was charging and and so far the only thing Pratt could squeeze into was an old potato sack.

Steph Sessa said...

The thing about music in the morning is that it always distracts from the smell of breakfast. The musicians outside the restaurant turned down their synthetic amps, relieving me of the overpowering colors. The blues of the song, mostly cobalt and periwinkle, had been mingling with the violet breakfast smells, making it hard to taste anything at all. And I loved breakfast. It was my favorite. Just one of the problems of having synesthesia, my senses were always jumbled.

Colton Tapoler said...

One of the worst feelings in the world is having a story to tell but not knowing how to start it so people will believe it’s worth hearing. I guess that’s why I’m here. On paper I’m a pretty average 23 year old. Until recently, my family consisted of a mom, dad, and two younger brothers. We lived in a small town on Long Island in New York until I was 12. I went to the same elementary school and started off at the same middle school that my dad attended 30 years prior. All of my friends were the sons and daughters of his childhood clique. We were a pretty close-knit community. Until then my life was pretty average for a prepubescent boy. We moved to Florida when I started the seventh grade and being that young I never really thought about why. Most people asked if it was because of my dad’s job but I honestly couldn’t answer them. Growing up we were always told that when friends asked what my dad did that we should say he was in the business of “sporting goods”. No one ever questioned what my mom did because she had three sons to take care of and being a stay at home mom on Long Island wasn’t exactly breaking news. For years I told friends about my dads exciting job in “sporting goods” but couldn't actually tell anyone what that meant. If I thought about it I could tell them about the papers riddled with numbers and ratios all over the office, or the mystery lock boxes under his bed, or even the six-month stints in Costa Rica and Las Vegas. But at 12 years old “sporting goods” seem to suffice for my classmates. Thankfully.

Coachwood Critique said...

Waking up this morning was hard. Harder than usual. Another unwelcome visit by reality, self-doubt, self-hatred and pain. There was always pain. Pain was my life. Was it any wonder a man would struggle to wake up – and abandon his dreams – when reality was so hard?

Amy Giuffrida said...

Juan Paul Rodriguez. I remember his brown almond-shaped eyes, the ones filled with hatred and longing. I remember the stink of his venomous breath on my face and the way his blue tear tattoo underneath his left eye crinkled when he smiled at me. The feel of the menacing smile he gave me as he slit my throat.

Julia Sanders said...

Head swimming and vision blurring, the teenager collapsed on the cold, hard ground in the middle of the night…or maybe early morning, he didn’t know. A few minutes later, he groggily opened his eyes to an unfamiliar place. "Must’ve had way too much to drink," he thought, wondering why he was lying down in the middle of an alleyway and how he’d even gotten there in the first place. Literally just a few seconds ago, he’d been in the bar ordering another drink with his fake I.D. He noticed unconscious figures near him and wondered if that was his fault.

Bill Ferris said...

Shortly after I vowed to replace Matt with a drum machine, and to replace Jared with the first person I made eye contact with at Guitar Center, I needed a smoke break. I communicated that need to the rest of Snowblower--my band--but I phrased it as, “Let’s run the song without vocals.”

Drew Turney said...

I realised the world wasn't as I'd imagined it to be when I found myself leaning against the side of an army jeep in Africa with a short American woman screaming abuse at me.

storymultiverse said...

She isn't the first fare to get blood all over my cab, and she probably won't be the last. It's dripping from the long strings of her matted hair, slicking the shabby fabric of the seat beneath her. The smell is so powerful I have to hold my breath and roll down the windows until it fades enough that I can think properly again.

Hollie Sessoms said...

Patrick hated it when Nicole sat on the table, so she sat on the table that night, feeling brave, like an impetuous teen acting out while her parents were away. Everyone knew, everyone really knew that she was a nearly, almost completely, thirty-six-year-old woman drunk off white zinfandel doing nothing more, nothing more daring than sitting on the one hundred-year-old table that had passed down through Patrick’s family for ages and ages and ages. She was sick of hearing about that table and the ages it had been through. Really, who the hell cared?

Conny said...

“She’s a girl; she doesn’t need an education,” Mom sneered, swatting a hand through the air. “She’ll get married and have kids.”
Dad didn’t agree. In his opinion I should go to high school. He was about to come up with yet another argument when Mom cut him off.
“She’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer, Albert. She won’t be able to cope. She hates school. Why put her through another six years?”
“Well, then maybe an art academy,” Dad reasoned. “She’s pretty good at drawing. Let her develop by doing something creative.”
“I don’t know, Albert,” Mom shook her head in doubt. “If we were talking about a boy, I’d say fine, let him go to an academy instead of a high school, but we’re talking about a girl -- a girl who will meet a boy, fall in love, get married, and start a family. She’ll be a housewife like me. So why does she need a fancy education? I say, let her stay in the school she’s been in for the past six years; let her enter the special program where she’ll learn to cook and sew. That will be all the education she’ll ever need.”

harryipants said...

A tall broken man sits under a large stone bridge in a leaky green boat. He wears glasses, but they contain no glass. He smells of fish, but he is not fishing. He is reading, yet he has no book.

ramblinbess said...

As Adriana looked up at the crumbling villa, her asymmetrically cut Christian Dior dress flapped against her bare leg in the breeze. Except for the steady stream of passing headlights pulling up to the estate, the only light came from a lantern next to the front door. The cream-colored building glowed against the black sky. Dark ivy crawled down the exterior wall like an army of ants.

Atty Eve said...

Suicide is selfish. It tells the world that you are weak. It tells the world your family and friends have failed. It leaves them with the guilt that they should have done more but didn’t. I am weak, but I am not selfish. My suicide will not leave my loved ones with guilt and pain. It will leave them thankful that they knew me for the short time I was here. And when I reach my final goal, to meet my brother in heaven, and we’re looking down at my victims in Hell, he will say to me ‘Well done, Cosette’.

Jenilyn Collings said...

I opened the cupboard to look for cereal and found nymphs and naiads instead. If my life were some kind of fantasy, it might have been cool. Unfortunately, I live in the real world and the nymphs and naiads were just a bunch of immature insects floating in alcohol. Disgusting. I closed the cupboard.

Coreena McBurnie said...

The dreams started when I was sixteen. That first one is etched in my mind, like it was yesterday, even though it was over three thousand years ago. The hair on the back of my neck still tingles when I think of it: how the gods manipulated me, how the snakes reached out to me, how I learned about the curses that plagued my family, and how I came to realize my true power. The dreams signaled a turning point in my life, both thrilling and horrifying.

Ludmillia Jones said...

Life in the New Mexico high desert was not for everyone. Isolated ranches and farms were sometimes visited by wild weather, wild animals and wild humans. Lisa Bancroft stopped hating it there and had come to appreciate the luxurious, sprawling ranch house. As long as her husband gave her the money for frequent trips to other places, she would be fine. But lately, poorly defined events made her uneasy. Strange things were happening at the surrounding ranches and the gossip was jittery and cruel.

Melinda R. Cordell said...

As Meira Goldwater awoke one morning from unsettling dreams, she found herself transformed in her bed into a furry fat raccoon.

Aurora Nolan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tabitha Bird said...

The Exquisiteness of Seeing was given to me a very long time ago by a woman who, bless her soul, died with her glasses on, a children’s book in her hands and a pirate’s hat on her head. And by a little girl who fed her garden fairies passion fruit and never gave up hope that one day I would love her.
Emmeline was fond of saying two things: I am one hundred and three my dear. And have you found the little girl?
The day I met her she said both things, and at the time, I confess, I hated her.

Natalie H said...

Whatever made that noise had to show itself soon. There was no tree or shrub tall enough to hide behind on this hill, so David watched from the biggest rock outcrop, feet planted, knees bent, his sling loaded and swinging. He couldn't hear much above the rowdy goats, but there it was again. That wasn’t an animal. It was a voice. He used his staff to push himself high on his toes, but he couldn’t see around the bend.

PMG said...

It came from beneath, the way a shark checks out its prey, a firm, purposeful nudge that didn’t hurt as much as surprise me, jarring me from my sun-soaked reverie, and prompting me to suck my expansiveness in from the atmosphere like a vacuum. I was tight then, tense, and uncomfortably physical, on guard in a spread of sky that is my domain, where I am inviolate, pre-eminent, and most important, myself – no pretenses, no obfuscations, no watchfulness, no armor. The bump was a trespass and a battery, offensive and intentional. I rolled over to identify the spirit beneath me, like a seal bobbing in the waves, unsuspecting shark bait, pretending at languor. As if my entire being weren’t fully prepared to attack. Knowing all the while that the interloper wouldn’t be fooled, and was probably scoffing. I’d given away my surprise and alarm when I sucked my spirit in close.

Rachel Waxman said...

Every now and then, somebody on campus gets taken out by a bicyclist. I don’t mean “taken out” like a date. I mean hit. Hit hard. It’s an accident, of course. Or so most people think, and I too thought, before I became the target. Before life as I now know it ever was.

Anonymous said...

The basement of my new house stinks but for the moment it is my retreat from the seemingly perfect living space upstairs. If you look beyond the well-executed design of the main floor there is little to be envious of. Below the surface there is a dim yet still organized warehouse of items that cannot be parted with. They're a collection of memory prompts that keep a thin tightrope connection to all that I was before. I habituate to the stench after two or three deep breaths. I superficially attend to the sound of the river running through the French drain. Somewhere within the one hundred neatly stacked plastic boxes, there's a dance journal I kept from a college technique class. It reflects a time of creative birth, introspection, and few true responsibilities. More importantly, it reminds me of a time when life went as planned. Hard work naturally led to desired and expected outcomes. I wish life were still that predictable.

Joanne De Simone

B. K. Mattingly said...

The dark clouds swirled amongst themselves as if plotting to unleash hell. Gideon stared out the airplane window at them. Music blasted through his earbuds, drowning out his thoughts. Every couple minutes, he strained to look up the aisle and to the right where a girl his exact age sat. He could just see the edge of her sleeve and the very top of her head, covered in a blue baseball cap. He muted the rock thrumming in his ears. He couldn’t mess up, not again.

Teresa Richards said...

It took just one of the plastic rings, thrown haphazardly with impressive force, plus a little luck, and the fate of the goldfish swimming in it's plastic bag was sealed.

Lucy Hallowell said...

Oaks couldn’t walk through those doors without remembering the first time she grabbed the handle, her hands slick with sweat and her heart full of nervous hope. She leaned all of her weight back away from the door, her body sketching an arc, to heave the door open. She walked through the door, up the three pale gray, stone steps to the foyer and stood momentarily before seeing the common room full of girls. The door, a wood framed glass panel, allowed her to see everyone who was inside and for her mind to imagine that they could not see her standing there like a lost puppy.

Meg said...

First, there is the smell, even on a frosty morning: it is like a whiff of piglet that has waded a stream and run itself warm and oily. Sometimes they know they are not alone; they throw off the unappetizing stench of urine and sour milk, and that is their fear. Whether they make fire at nightfall or walk the bare dirt paths with big sticks, if they are afraid they don't know which way to watch, even when you are very close.

Julianne Johnson said...

I hear dead people. Believe me, I know. It sounds rather like the movie trailer for a joke film. Coming to a theatre near you, Ray Charles starring in The Sixth Sense II! You don’t have to explain the joke to me; I get it. There are days when it seems that my entire life is some hilarious trailer for a fake film on YouTube. Days like today.

Anonymous said...

Katie huddled on the stained vinyl floor in the corner of the room. The smell of Mommy’s blood on her clothing made her sick; the shrieks from her mother in the next room froze her mind in terror. Sobs shook her body, tears flooded her eyes, ran down her face. Why would anyone hurt Mommy? A scream swelled inside her throat.

Kheryn Casey said...

Maman said there’s magic in these hills, and there’s evil here too. That’s what she told Claudine. Maman got down on her knees and took that little face into her hands and she looked straight into Claudine’s eyes, like she’s never looked into mine, and she told Claudine that there’s plenty of evil in these hills, and when evil comes, she has to run and hide and make sure she survives, no matter what she sees. Even if it meant leaving all of us behind.

Gwen Cole said...

Nothing extraordinary ever happens in the country.
I’m surrounded by miles of corn fields and forgotten farms. By people who have lived here their entire lives. Some have never ventured out of the state, let alone the surrounding area. It’s a place for normalcy. A place where people are forgotten and lost.
And I don’t belong here.

kourtneyheintz said...

Good and evil are so basic. So intrinsic. So essential. To humanity. It’s why we reincarnate into humans. To get a glimpse of the best of ourselves. And the worst. But my family. We’re different. We’re the relics the rest of the world forgot. We’re still here. 
Pompeii? Yeah, that was me. Bodie, CA. Guilty again. Atlantis was all Gramps. Grams swears the Aztecs were an accident. But I think Mom meant to do it.
We have a long list of lost cities, forgotten civilizations, and decimated places to our credit.

spuddreams said...

It’s funny what you notice when you’re dying. It’s not your breath or your heartbeat, or the ripple of your mind slowly coming undone. It’s what you love. For me, it’s the color of the water. First, it’s green like bottle glass. Then it’s deep, dark blue-black, like a midnight sky. The water seeps into my ears blocking everything else out. It creeps into my clothes, through the strands of my hair. It invades my nose, my mouth, and slides into my lungs, into my stomach. It envelopes me, claims me as its own. I’m going with it.

Asil said...

I woke up Sunday morning with a hangover that could have legally qualified me as dead. My mouth was sore and cracked. My ears had a constant ringing inside them, similar to a Bee pollinating a flower. Dan, my twin brother, had not even bothered to get to his bed. I found him passed out on the bathroom floor, next to the toilet. Blood and vomit covered his jeans along with something wet— perhaps urine.

Claire King said...

The older man's eyes were blue, almost as blue as Cobalt's own, and he couldn't stop the trembling wracking his body as he looked up at the man's request. Master Conrad never asked Cobalt to look directly at him, saying the brightness of Cobalt's eyes bothered him tremendously, so Cobalt had always kept his focus on the ground in his presence.

Oh, how I wish this man were like my master in that regard, Cobalt thought.

Ava Jae said...

I don’t usually think much when making out with my girlfriend, but right now I think I might be dying.

ScifiWriterMom said...

The first thing I see when I open my eyes, is Grandma Tully staring back at me. Her round wrinkled face hovers over me. Her crescent shaped eyes, pitch-black at the center, open wide as if surprised by the appearance of my blue orbs. “Ah ha!” she sputters, as my eyes snap shut.

Victoria Dixon said...

Inside the Peach Orchard Inn, Lord Liu Jie counted around two hundred recruits. He sighed. To bring peace, we must attack our brothers. Beside him on the narrow stair’s landing, Jie’s general drained a tankard and slammed the metal cup against the stair's supporting pillar. General Tong’s armor emphasized his girth and the single eyebrow, bristling mustache and beard completed an intimidating picture, reminding everyone why they’d come.

Nicole Luiken said...

Two men-at-arms threw Leah, trembling, at Duke Ruben's feet.

Dixon Bennett Rice said...

Tyler Goode didn’t know the man’s real name until he read the obituary three days later. Everyone called the guy Brute. It fit him well. He’d become a legend in northwest Montana for taking whatever he wanted – whether someone else’s woman or a warm bottle of beer – and leaving the victim a bloody, broken mess. He wore his nickname like a medal, as if it were a compliment to his strength and combat skills instead of a summary of his personality. Smart people steered clear of Brute, all three hundred-plus pounds of him. Of course Ty had never been accused of genius.

thewriteedge said...

Ambar Chauhan stood back from the canvas, arms crossed, one hand still holding a paintbrush that dripped small points of ochre onto her smock. She felt no connection to the painting. No pressure from her deadline. No joy for pursuing her life’s passion as her life’s work. Suraj’s death gripped her shoulder tightly; it extracted all of her emotions from her.

Dixon Bennett Rice said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rachel S. said...

I didn’t like Duncan Jimenez the first time I met him. I didn’t like how he flung himself into the empty chair at our lab table. I didn't like the way his fingers felt -- warm like dough -- when he reached his hand out so I’d shake it. And I didn't like all of his bouncing. His knees sprung up and hit our table, shaking it. My pencil cup tipped over, sending my favorite Albert Einstein pencil into his lap. I glanced down between his legs -- and quickly looked away.
“What are you, ADD?”

B Miller said...

It is barely daylight on a chilly fall morning. A light misty rain is falling and heavy fog blankets the mountains where Matt Hampton and Leo Cramer and the other members of the logging crew are working. There is a thick, and very wet, carpet of leaves underfoot which makes it difficult to maintain their footing. Although the day has hardly begun, they have already felled, stripped and nearly finished loading, a truck load of giant logs. This crew has worked together for some time. The men get along well and each man knows his job and can be counted on to do it. Once the final log is placed, the load will be anchored for transport. As this truck begins its long slow crawl down the mountain, work will already have begun on the next load. The men are a good-natured lot and they are joking and wise cracking among themselves as they work. Seconds later many of them will be dead or critically injured.

Ms. McNeilly said...

Four years she tailed him. Lost him twice, once in a mall in Tucson, how stupid is that? Picked up his scent again—the smell of his Social Security number—when he made the fatal error of getting employed on a ferryboat. But she left him on purpose at the Tahlula County Fair. Who wouldn’t? The dope missed what anyone could do: get the stinking the ping pong ball in the fish bowl. A blind monkey could do that, given that fat sack of quarters and the right ambition. That’s why she finally gave up on her daddy: he was flat out of ambition.

L.K. McNeilly

Durango Writer said...

I’m positive Mom wanted me to find her body. I’d been taking care of us both for so many years that she trusted I’d know how to handle things. She’d say, “Arlie, if something ever happens to me, don’t let the police or ambulance boys find me in a compromising position.” Translation: flush any remaining drugs down the toilet, make sure she had on clean panties and tidy up the motel room. These instructions were rote by the time I needed to carry them out two weeks ago.

Courtney said...

They found her lying face-down in the dog's water bowl. Just floating there, motionless, tan skin baking under a relentless July sun.
At least, that's what Ebbson's Marshal, Jesse Clacher, managed to gather from the frantic, bickering twins standing in front of him.

Katie O'Shea said...

I’m sure there was a time when I didn’t love Jessica Sterling. It would have to have been before we got married though, and that was when we were five. It was a simple ceremony: just the two of us in a tree. My backyard, not hers, of course. Afterward, we shared a box of animal crackers. The giraffes were always her favorites, and I let her eat them all. She saved all of the gorillas for me. We bit off the heads of the lions and threw them into the bushes from our perch in the tree. Like all good things, it happened during the summer.

Jabez said...

Cayo sat drinking two-penny rum in an overheated wharfside tavern in a town he couldn’t name, and he thought, unexpectedly, of his father. He took another sip of rum and grimaced as it burned his throat. His scalp prickled as if his brain were trying to float and carry it aloft; the room continued its slow orbit around him. A greasy cloud of woodsmoke and tobacco clung to the rafters. The tavern boys pranced about in mysterious patterns, ferrying steins to men clustered in hap-chance groups to dice, play at cockroach races, or swap stories and jokes in four languages. Other men sat alone at the bar or the long tables, brooding or sleeping or waiting their turn with the whores upstairs.

Victoria P said...

Marli dropped the knife and fled her market stall. She pushed past small children who jumped puddles in loose summer sandals as if enjoying the strange upheaval until they were tugged away by parents who cast terrified glimpses in Marli’s direction. A long streak of blood followed her. It snaked its way through cascades of dirt and debris. It burrowed beneath centuries worth of grime that was being purged from the town. It pursued her relentlessly. As confused shoppers scattered from the market, Elders rushed to tell of impending doom and the town whispered that Marli was to blame for the unprecedented torrent that streamed down unprepared roofs. And for the first time Marli wondered if, just perhaps, they were right to be accusing her.

jme said...

I do not belong here, but everyone probably thinks so. County Corrections Orange looks particularly right on me. I have that “damaged goods” look. Perhaps once I had potential but now that I’m wearing this jumper that works nights as a traffic cone, I’m just another poor miscreant on her way to a life of crime. Here is the secret though: I never had potential. At least I never had potential to do any good. Just bad, always bad.

Backfence said...

Luke was pining for a woman he had never even met. Even in this quiet moment between battles as he lay savoring the precious and, oh, so rare, solitude, his mind persisted in its nagging obsession with Anna Pickett. Yesterday, he sat on a hill that overlooked an Arkansas farm field and watched hundreds of brave young men fall in death, and yet–there she was, still occupying the better part of his conscious thoughts—her, and that mystifying clock tower through which Julia Pickett had entered their lives.

Suzanne Anderson said...

“Do you know what it’s like to die?” Sitting on a bed in the busy Emergency Room of the university hospital, Elizabeth willed herself to concentrate as she held her breath and waited for the answer.

Donna L Martin said...

The setting sun bathes the deck in an unnatural light. The men are restless. They have been too long from land, too long from home and it weighs heavily upon their spirits. This night will be a rough one with choppy seas and razor sharp tongues. My hand is firm upon the railing and my body sways in rhythm to the waves. My eyes peer into the fading light as if to see land just beyond the portal. I will get no rest this night.

D.D. Queens said...


Oh. My. God. Someone had taken a baseball bat to Albert, and there he was, splattered all over the driveway. His compressed-foam innards were now outards, grinning whitely in the June sun. “And I didn’t even go to UF,” I grumbled, bending over to pick up the pieces of the once-proud University of Florida alligator mascot who had held my mailbox aloft.

Molly Pascal said...

The first thing you need to know about me is that my middle name is the letter B. It doesn’t stand for anything. Just B, no period, no full stop. My first and last names don’t matter much in this world. The second thing you need to know is that I have a gift. While the only genetic inheritance at work here is a decent IQ, I have developed a talent. I’ve learned a way of wringing the drops out of the physical universe like a wet towel. I’m no wizard. I’m not psychic. Maybe I’m just the next step on the evolutionary chain. It boils down to this: I have the heightened sensory, auditory and mental skills of a blind man.

Cori Bair said...

Standing ahead of me was the monstrosity that had killed my boyfriend: The Third Gate of Hell. The graffitied concrete walls glared at me with their blood red words, as if warning me not to do this. Ignoring their caveat, I got out of the car and grudgingly inched my body closer to the site. There was very little evidence the accident occurred, just a small, missing chunk of cement in the old railroad trestle straddling the road.

Taryn said...

Mama called it a castle, but I didn't believe her. Castles were painted in shades of fairy tales. Turrets don’t make castles. Tapestries and ballrooms, mosaics and lounges, French doors and French cooking—these things don’t make castles. Princesses and stories make castles. Our old home was a castle.

Attorney At Large said...

Reading these has been so much fun! Such a great contest.

**

The boat bearing Queen Angharad and her retinue swayed above the bay, each heave of the sailors lowering it inches at a time. She held her chin high, but her knotty fingers clutched the planks until her knuckles were as white as her powdered wig. If a rope slipped or the boat pitched, it would be a race to see if the Queen or Arzhon’s naval career would drown first.

L. Valentine said...

I discovered the picture between the pages of an old book. His face was unexpected. At first, it took my breath away. Oh! Where have you been? For a moment, I imagined him sitting on the steps of an unpainted ramshackle porch, a guitar on his knee, a good floppy-eared dog at his feet. He was surrounded by old black, blues-singing men, and he was teaching them Tupelo Honey.

Ian Hunter said...

Novak inhaled the smell of musty Kevlar, gun grease and clean sweat. Body armor creaked. One of the younger SWAT agents was breathing out in short, percussive bursts, like he was about to give birth. Novak could smell the chorizo the guy had for breakfast. Behind Novak, someone was whispering a prayer. If Novak had been the type to pray, he might have thanked somebody up there. In more than four years he hadn’t felt this alive.

Georgia said...

The market-day crowd should make stealing it easy. I huddle in the wisp of alley between the barber’s tent and the pieman’s wooden stall. At the smell of those pies—fowl, sausage, goat cheese, berry, curd—saliva gushes into my mouth. My throat convulses. How long’s it been? One day? Two? Better not think about my growling belly. Better just watch and bide my time.

skywalker said...

Six faces carved out in moonlight watch me, every one of them motionless, all seemingly waiting for an answer to a very important question. I almost break the silence to challenge the logic of what I’m about to do when Thomas clears his throat and smiles at me. A chill threads down my spine when I glimpse that cracked tooth peeking out from the side of his mouth. It reminds me of the first time we met…though now I realize it wasn’t the first time at all. Not even close.

Paige Miller said...

Being Normal in Commonville was a hard thing for Norm. Norm was not the norm.

Jackie Brown said...

Bebe Kante waddled into African Hair Braiding Associates as if she were Queen Pokou herself, come to be praised by her people. Her two year old, a lump on Bebe’s back, dozed in the sling of a colorful pagne, while in front a future member of the Kante family floated in the swell of his or her mother’s round belly. In full body profile Bebe was shaped like a backwards letter S resting atop a pair of ebony legs.
“Bonjour,” Bebe sang out as she closed the door behind her, spread feet balancing her double load.
“Look who’s here,” said Adjour.
Pairs of nimble braiding fingers halted at the sight, some secured combs in loose sections of thick African hair and others left hair sticking out every which way on their clients’ heads. Bebe’s visit was a welcome break from the braiders' duties, and their regulars who knew Bebe were equally delighted. Bending over, Bebe carefully untied the knot of the pagne supporting her son and a young braider lifted the still sleeping child from his mother’s back, passing him around to the admiring women while his mother looked on with pride. Aiella had remained at her station, braiding with intent and trying to appear unimpressed by the two and a half visitors. Bebe spotted her, taking in Aiella's flat stomach.
“Still nothing, Aiella Nebie? I have had two pregnancies in the short time I have known you. When will you give Ibrahaim a fine, fat son like my own?”
Several snickers echoed around the room. Aiella bit her tongue, not wanting to cause an unnecessary scene at work to dampen the others' excitement, but still she resented being singled out so, having been on her feet for five hours straight and in no mood for nice/nasty insults. With nary a glance in the pregnant mother's direction she responded, “You are doing my share in the meantime, Bebe. You look good.”

Sara Daly said...

A cold win blew through Ana on a warm summer day, blowing her long brown hair free from it's braid, and taking her memories as it passed. She had been kneeling in a meadow, picking the small, wild strawberries that grew there. She tensed as the wind went past, and when she relaxed, she knew something was missing. Try as she might, she could not think of what felt wrong.

Jamey Stegmaier said...

Daniel Gold was late for his deportation. Again. My parents are going to kill me, he thought as he sprinted towards the train station. He regretted letting his girlfriend stay in bed instead of asking her to drive him to the Portal, but he pushed away the feeling. There was no going back now. Plus, he was too busy debating if he regretted what had happened in Gretchen’s room earlier that morning, or if he even knew exactly what they had done. The sleepless night was blur of breath mints and sweat and hair and possibly a chipped tooth. It already felt like a memory, a puzzle of moments to piece together upon arrival in 2094. That is, if he made it to his deportation on time.

Donald McMiken said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
K. Anne Raines said...

I’ve come up with a hundred different ways to end my life. But in truth, every one of them scares me. I really don’t want to die, but I can’t imagine any one of those ways hurting more than the existence I have now. At least there’d be no more. I go back to screaming for him to stop. Not out loud. Never out loud. Only in my head. I beg God for the millionth time to send me a way out, even if it’s death. I’m dead already. My soul passed long ago. The continued pain frightens me and the thought that it could get worse has my lips moving on their own volition. “I’m sorry, Dirk.”

Donald McMiken said...

Although I didn’t know it, this was the night they killed him. I didn't know who they were then, didn't know the devastation they would bring us. Didn't realise the delicate balance of our marriage was such a fragile thing.

Lucy said...

When I begin to fantasize about obtaining a life-threatening injury so that I don’t have to go to the office, when a coma sounds more attractive than a meeting with the boss, I consider quitting my job. Never mind that I worked my whole adult life to get there. It happens one black Wednesday in the cave of a Northwest winter. As usual, I start the day by pleading with someone in my head. I haven’t figured out why I continue to beseech since I already know there’s no such thing as God. My parents taught me, from a tender age, about the nonexistence of forces beyond our mortal vision.

Amelia Loken said...

Lesandro d’Orsino decided the poet Dante should have named the onerous search for a bride as one of the seven levels of the Inferno. If he included three days within a cramped carriage, the experience would qualify as the Devil’s own punishment. It hadn’t been too difficult at first, trotting on horseback from manor to castle throughout the spring and summer. The girls themselves were pretty enough, if one ignored the fact that they barely possessed two digits representing their age. The pale things even tried to flirt, coaxed by hard-eyed parents.

Jaime Alexis Stathis said...

The disintegration of my mother’s boyfriend—former Julliard prodigy, current schizophrenic madman—was a slow boil, but his final demise was swift. In the beginning we thought he was eccentric. His savant-like talent allowed him to hear a song once and then play it on the piano and sing the lyrics with perfect pitch. The first time he showcased this talent to me was with “Borderline” by Madonna, which I played for him from the kitchen clock radio.

Brooke Younker said...

First I smell the burning rubber... Then I hear the screaming. Dark. My head hits something stiff... something––someone’s––arm. Leather cuts into my shoulder and stomach... fabric... a... seatbelt. In a car. A deep voice shouts over the screaming, “Get her covered!”

Anonymous said...

A girl emerged from the woods and stood at the edge of the dusk-gray clearing. She wore jeans, a man's jacket, and a knitted cap pulled low over her forehead. She almost could have passed for a boy, but her long hair and hips gave her away. She trudged through the weeds next to his garden, her eyes fixed on the shack. She carried no weapons. When she was about fifteen feet from the front door, Zeke swung the shutter wide open with the rifle and aimed at the center of her chest.

Max Brunner said...

The tip of a knife pushes into my back and I smile. I’m not sure who it is whispering threats in my ear and to be honest it doesn’t matter. He’s either a fool or he’s hoping I am. No one’s dumb enough to kill me. Not today at least. Not here.

Max Brunner

Shelby Maples said...

The last thing I saw was the warm, red slick of my own blood, pooling on the stone floor around me. I tried to speak. I tried calling out for the guards or for my lady but failed, choking on my tongue. Nor, do I think, could I have found the words. My mind swam thick with pain, for the man hadn't cut my neck deeply enough. As I lay bleeding, every nerve screamed out in anguish. Shadows seeped into the edges of my eyes, the strange blackness clouding my vision. The ceiling was spinning, circling and fading with every passing moment until suddenly, the man stepped into my line of sight and the world fixed in place once more.

confessionsofacollegefailure said...

All it took was a second. Perhaps if the stars hadn’t shined quite as brightly that night or perhaps if that damned boy hadn’t truly believed he could fly, none of this would’ve happened. But that’s not the point. Sometimes wishing on stars doesn’t get you anywhere because the stars have far better things to do with their time than listen to us whine. After a few millennia passed, it only makes sense they’ve stopped caring.

dmlbooks said...

“Hey, Shara! The Gorgon is about to lift off!”
It was Granddad Dennis calling me, I’d been under my VR Hood scrolling through all the specs of the launch, but he wanted me with him when the ship actually took off.
“I know Granddad, I’m coming!”
I ripped the hood off and ran through from my room, Granddad was there on the couch with a space reserved for me next to him. I sat down just in time for the final countdown.
“10” I held Granddad’s hand and looked over at him, his eyes were fixed on the screen, shining with, what I thought were tears.
“9” On the screen billows of exhaust fumes were rising around the base of the gigantic lifting body.
“8” Granddad squeezed my hand “I can’t believe it,” he whispered, “I’ve actually lived long enough.”
“7” My heart was pounding, I’d seen plenty of launches before, but this was different, this was taking the main drive of the Hermes up to Earth Station to begin construction of the starship.
“6” Everything around me disappeared, all I could see was the screen and the ship. I wondered what it felt like to be lying in a g-couch on board a rocket as the power builds up below.
“5” The gantry fell away and the view shifted to a distant camera, showing the stretch of Spaceport One with the massive ship poised to go.
“4 … 3 … All systems nominal … 1 … We have lift off on the initial stage of Earth’s first mission to another star.”
The camera panned upwards as the Gorgon roared its way into the sky, it seemed to be rising impossibly slowly, but that was just a function of distance and the incredible size of the ship.
“Well that’s it,” said Granddad, “I saw the first moon landing and now I’ve lived to see the start of the next Giant Leap.”

Robin Connelly said...

The sweet taste of blood lingered on my tongue when I woke on my stomach in a padded, white room. Chains rattled as I sat up, making me aware of the weight on my wrists. I eyed the chains. Great. They were bolted to the wall. Escaping another mental institute was not high on my list.

Claire Fuller said...

Early this morning I found a black and white photograph of my father at the back of the bureau drawer. He didn’t look like a liar. My mother, Ute had removed all the other pictures of him from the albums kept on the bottom shelf of the bookcase, and shuffled around all the remaining family snapshots and baby pictures to fill in the gaps. Their wedding photograph, which used to sit on the mantelpiece, had gone too.

Helle said...

My last day began without any kind of warning or premonition. I know that’s normal, and I wasn’t expecting a flashing neon sign above my bed saying, “Lucas, this is your last day.” Still, I would’ve liked a subtle hint.

Sherryl said...

Fray
Wait, Dog. Stay.
She too close. Watch. She not one of them. Not a skweeler. She alone. Good at hiding.
Not good like us, eh Dog?
Want her to go. Want all to go. Valley mine. They ruin. Pigs everywhere. Skweelers hunt me but not find.
Might find her.
Should tell her. Warn.
She has bow. No game left. She hungry like us. Take risks. Stupid.
We hide. She walk on track. I want … but shouldn’t. Should stay here.
Trees sing with leaves. Pig smell. Whistle down valley. Skweeler.
She stop. Listen hard. They come. Get off track, girl. Dog, stay.
Dog’s heart beat hard like mine. What you hear, Dog?
Hide, girl. Now.

kamagrowski said...

Wychwood was positively creepy, Aaron decided, slurping his pop, trying hard to look cool as he walked around the summer festival. Everything was so perfectly normal, so completely all-American that there just had to be some kind of dark secrets lurking under the surface. He smirked, imagining himself in the middle of a horror movie. Newcomer to the small town gets sacrificed. Fireworks to follow.

Turndog Millionaire said...

"To never the reach the age of twenty-five is unjust, but this is the fate I face. I awoke this morning with my life ahead of me, but now, as I sit on this cold, damp, wooden bench, I see my demise clinging to the horizon. I’m a dying man, a man with a ticking clock. We all are, of course, but most don’t consider it or foresee it or give it a second thought. A few hours ago I was one of these free-spirited minds, but life has a way of changing your course in a rather quick and frank fashion."

alisonwells said...


I’m writing to tell you about the museum gallery and that particular exhibit – the Exhibit of Held Breaths. What it will mean to you I’m not sure; and that in itself is strange when it should mean everything, but I need you to believe me, believe in me. I see The Reeves Institute - to give it it's proper title - on one of the last days, my last days that is. It was a day of all seasons, valiant sunshine, flurries of rain, bracing breezes, sudden bursts of heat. A day I decided to return and see. It had long since closed but I had kept a key. I hardly needed it; the side door crumbled, rotten, into flakes and shards. Inside it was a grim place; dust shored up in the corners, spiders spinning improbable threads, descending not from old beams but from torn polystyrene ceiling tiles interspersed with chunky fluorescent lights. How quickly, I wondered, an abandoned building succumbs to decay, this building that once rose out of its stupor and shone its light far beyond the mean spirited town in which it found itself. Perhaps we never escape the mud of our roots. Even in its heyday the museum-gallery was too colloquial for the city folk, too esoteric for the men in brogues. But that wasn’t the reason it closed, it was more complicated than that.

Gwen Tolios said...

Michael blinked at the menu in front of him. It was hard to concentrate on the written words with the spoken ones in the back of his mind. He kept having to read them over again when he got distracted. The man behind him was really annoying, thinking thoughts of time and rushing.

MET said...

In the recesses of Mythenrock’s largest temple, a young woman knelt painfully on the stone floor before her instructor. None of the artistry of the temple’s façade had encroached upon the stark and cloistered prayer room where High Intercessor Rickford, head of the kingdom’s religious order, was lecturing the only child of the king. In the unadorned, octagonal room, the paltry light of a single candle was just enough for Minteir Rickford to recite from the book of the Scholars, but it cast only shadows upon the defiant princess he was trying to reach.

DN said...

I think I see a foot sticking out from under the guardrail. I'm riding in the car, counting horse-trailers, looking for body dumps on the side of the 5. Out from under, I think drowsily, that's three prepositions right there, although in English that's no great feat. Great feat. Huh. Feat. Foot. "Hey!"

Chelo Diaz-Ludden said...

I sip espresso from a Japanese tea cup with no handle. Unlike my adventurous sister, this is the way I travel the world, cup by cup. Over fifty countries grow coffee and I’ve visited them all without ever leaving The Cracked Bean. I’ve sampled Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam from this small cup. My thumb traces the porcelain’s gold-filled crack, a Japanese tradition that honors past wounds. Imagine people repaired the same way; foreheads etched with brass hairline fractures, chips of silver embedded along fingers, bolts of gold shot through hearts. I lift the cup to eye level and stare. At this angle there’s no telling how deep the crack. I can even pretend it’s only decorative.

AJ Salem said...

My cheerleading uniform hung from the top of the closet door like a corpse. I took another brief look at it before slipping into a pair of grey sweatpants and an oversized t-shirt emblazoned with the word Alaska. I shoved each foot into a worn sneaker not bothering to unlace them. My bedroom was still enveloped in darkness. Pulling back one of the red curtain sheers, I watched as the only hint of dawn was still fastened to the horizon line and I was glad to see that the morning dew had already settled onto the ground and no longer littered the air. I reset the alarm on my cellphone, left it on my night table and walked out the front door.

Lauren B. 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.

Carolynn with 2Ns 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’.

Suzanne Lucero said...

This time, Brandon would kiss me. I’d left the college campus at 2 A.M. after celebrating with all the other high school graduates who were eating free food on the quad, visiting booths set up with games, or just chilling to great music. Now I was back, and this time I’d make him kiss me.

Lucille Redmond said...

Belinda threw down her mother's leg, splashing the room with blood, and burst into tears. "That's so unfair," she sobbed. "Why can't I have a pony, just because I'm a zombie?"
- @sinabhfuil

minawitteman said...

I watch the girl while she sits on a bench that is tucked away in a corner of the park. Trees and bushes screen her off from prying eyes. But not from us. We stand behind the rhododendrons, Jimmy and I, half-hidden by an abundance of crimson flowers and the trunk of an old oak. With my index finger I trace the choppy curled letters of one of the hundreds of names that are carved in its bark. A heart dots the ‘I’ in the name. I force my eyes away from the carved-out heart and back to the girl on the bench. She smoothes her hair with her hand, tilts her face to the sun that peeks through the thick foliage. She tossed her bike in the grass not far from where we are hiding. The front wheel gyrates in a slowly dying motion. The golden rim catches the light of the sun and bounces off into the park like laser beams at a rave. The girl scratches her boney knee that sticks out from under her flowered Bermuda, absent-mindedly she stares into the thicket that surrounds her. Under her armpit, sweat colours her red tee darker. I slide the goggles down, button up my jacket and look at Jimmy. The goggle’s scratched lenses blur my vision, but not as much that they won’t let me see the foul smile that is plastered across his face. “Let’s not, Jimmy.” I try to will the tension out of my neck muscles.

Linz said...

It wasn’t the feeling of impact reverberating up my arms that reached through the rage roaring in my ears, but the sickening crack that sounded out beyond the skin and muscle tissue that wrapped around his torso. When he fell heavily to the floor at my feet there was another snap behind the thump and before I could take my next ragged breath my sneakered foot was embedded in his ribs. He wasn’t crying, but rather growling at me through the pain, and that was when I realized I was the one standing above him this time, his bat hanging by my side like an extra limb. I watched him curling in on himself, cursing me between gasps from what I hoped was a punctured lung.

Automan21k said...

It was late in the day in the city of Ducane. Early November, the kind of day where you wake up in the morning to a light frost that melts at dawn. Despite the cloudless sky a persistent rumble of thunder echoed through the soulless building. The lights gave a brief flicker and, with a pop, bathed the room in darkness. The machinery that ran the world came to a sudden stop.

Karen deBlieck said...

The grave was small but deep. It had to be so scavengers wouldn’t find it. Rosa hunched her shoulders against the chill of the early morning. The shovel bit into the dry earth. Its regular grating gave a macabre rhythm to her task. Wind caught the dust and blew the grit into her mouth and eyes.Fingers of fog touched her skin like a promise, but she knew better. The moisture would burn away once the sun rose, before any of it could soak into the parched ground. It had been so for three changes of the season, and the land was dying.

Carl Shirley said...

Of all the women who want to kill me, there's only one I'm truly afraid of. The chick with the knife isn't her. On any other day, even a petite brunette with a nine-inch blade might be enough to make me nervous, but this day all I have to do is open my jacket. She probably doesn't even see my SR9, but is smart enough to guess the purpose of the shoulder holster. That stops her dead in her tracks.

Deena said...

Dying was different this time around. More purposeful and focused. Camille’s decision to do something great and good for the sake of the entire world overshadowed the frantic cries and look of horror on Derek’s face as she mouthed the words, I’m sorry. She lifted her foot out over the well’s seductive darkness and leaned in, relinquishing her entire body to Satan’s persistent beckoning.

Michelle A. Barry said...

Noise filled the giant factory as machines hummed, metal scraped and humans and aliens alike grunted under the weight of the work and the watchful eyes of the supervisors. The sounds blurred together into the usual orchestra of unpleasant music. The workers didn't seem to mind though. They knew there were worse sounds, like the buzz of an electric baton and the sound it made when it contacted the flesh of a worker who wasn’t working hard or fast enough. No such sound could be heard in today's symphony, though that could change at any moment. An unusual and equally unwelcome noise was present today, however. The metallic click of military officers' shoes on the concrete floor of the factory. They walked amongst the workers, all slaves, all under the age of 18, debating between themselves of who to choose.

Zan Marie said...

I wasn't a mother, but I knew the look of a child whose parents were MIA. And the slight blond at the end of the table had all the signs. Even if I didn't know the story Jen had whispered to us, I'd have picked her out as a child in need.

J.M. Hoffman said...

It's like the guy in the joke. You know, the joke? About the guy? Of course you know it. The guy's on his way to work. And his wife calls. It's like that. Everyone knows the joke. His wife calls because she's heard there's a lunatic driving the wrong way on the highway her husband always takes. So she calls his cell. You know, to warn him. She calls to warn him about the lunatic. But the guy says, "one lunatic? They're ALL driving the wrong way." It's like that. But that doesn't mean I'm crazy.

-J.M. Hoffman

Gary Anderson said...

A double was levered halfway to my mouth when I got the call from Gwousz. But I had no intention of vectoring a bovey right then. Especially after having already waded well into a binge begun hours earlier to commemorate the loss of my manhood at my ex-wife’s hands. Needless to say it was an ongoing observation. And by ongoing I mean nightly.

Peter Frahm said...

John Bowman would have gladly handed over his life’s savings to avoid looking at the face under the white sheet. Already knowing what he would see there made it a thousand times worse. He summoned every last iota of willpower and forced his legs to carry him across the cold, tiled floor. He took in the stainless steel storage units set into the green walls. It was strange that the Cook County Morgue followed the same color scheme as the rest of the hospital: green, the color of healing, with stainless steel trim. Ironic that there was no healing to be found in this room, only death. I don’t want to do this, he thought.

Crystal said...

Peter had seen strangers in the road before, but there was something different about this man...something sinister. Most people passed on their way without a thought for what might lie on the opposite bank of the river that ran beside the road, but this man, in his tattered cloak that fluttered restlessly around him, stood bent and still. He seemed to be staring at a spot on the edge of the road, as if he knew that was where a bridge should begin.

Liz Mc said...

It was hot everywhere. The air was thick with waves of summer heat and the unwavering shudder of cicadas singing from the peeling bark of choked trees. It was like this one of the last times I saw my sister awake. She had fallen into the Dream the second she went unconscious. I know—I was there.

Gloria Taylor Weinberg said...

From the back seat, I could see the muscle in my father’s jaw bulge as he clenched his teeth. “Go on,” he said, without looking back. “Go knock on the door and see if this is the place.”

Margay said...

When I was born, all of the demons in Hell cashed in their chips to vie for me. Not for want of me, precisely, but for what I represent. I am cursed – or blessed – with the ability to sniff them out. Kind of like a psychic bloodhound. And unearth them. Literally. But in a crazy twist of irony, I am also the conduit for them to buy their way back into heaven. For one month out of the year, it is my duty to help the truly repentant on their journey back onto a nobler path. Unfortunately, during this time, my senses are somewhat blighted, so I can’t smell them coming. Or send them packing, back into the fiery pit from which they arose. Who makes up these rules? Well, at least they can’t harm me during this time, either. That’s the condition of the truce, anyway. Welcome to Hell –

mike said...

From my perch inside I watch as Mike separates the drapery, creating a pocket of space above the sill just wide enough to press his forehead up against the cold glass of the windowpane. I’ve lost count of the number of times he has repeated these same tired motions. Wrapped in the gossamer curtains the smell of dust and old sunlight draws up memories of a distant childhood - his or perhaps mine, it’s hard to discern. At times it feels as though I’ve lived more than one life and I suppose that in many ways I have. The line that separates us is often blurred.

Joanna said...

Hate; despise; abhor; detest; abomination; intense aversion. I doodle black bats around my synonyms. My dad gave me a thesaurus on my 8th birthday and it’s still on my bedside table. I don’t know why I am getting myself worked up into such a tizz. I should ace it. Anyhow, no one expects great scores from the first SAT exam. I pull out my SAT crammer for one last look through. It’s an hour and a half until the test, so still time before jumping on the bus. Ouch! I look down at the fingernail I have must been chewing on the past few minutes and see I have bitten all the way down to the quick again. WTF. At least my self-abuse ends there, well physically anyway. I look at the two bottles on my desk and hesitate between the purple varnish or that foul bitter stuff. I opt for the latter knowing neither will stop me biting for long. Charlene says my nail biting is a sign I’m OCD. Anna just says it’s part of my tomboy phase I never grew out of. That’s the difference between my US and French friends. Even at 17 so many of my high school friends are seeing therapists and psychoanalyzing stuff. My mother doesn’t like me. What’s there to analyze?

abc said...

I have seen Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. I have ridden red buses and traveled the Tube more times than I can count. I have sipped too many wines in Southern France. I am having a terrible time. It pains me that I’m going to look back on this trip and think what a big mistake it all was. It should have been awesome. I am young, free, and curious. I was going to have a magnificent adventure. I was going to have amazing experiences and learn stuff about myself. I was going to eat delicious French pastries and meet cute Belgian boys and get legally high in Amsterdam. Instead I’ve been trailing along with whom I now believe are the two worst people on earth: my sister and my childhood friend, both named Megan. And now we are trapped in some French city I’ve never heard of and I’m crying in the train terminal because the Megans are mean and they are bossy and because I never cared that much about seeing Big Ben. There is a train to Hanover and I’m staring at it. Well, mostly I’m staring at the cute boy with the purple scarf getting on that train to Hanover. I know a little German and I hate the Megans. Hanover is looking pretty excellent right now. ----Alison Coffey

Unknown said...

Two little girls sprawl half asleep on the sandy bank of a stream beneath a clear blue autumn sky. Midday sun warms their skin, glittering on the fine downy hairs that are not quite fur, but a brisk little breeze stirs the granite dust and crackles the dry leaves under the bushes. Change is in the air.

Peta said...

The cardboard coffin lay in the furnace like a giant box of take-out. The residual odour of smoky charcoal clogged my nose and filled my head with images of barbecued steak – well done – and Herring cooked over a brazier. My stomach rumbled. I would have to make sure I had a big breakfast next time, either that or clean the furnace more often.

Katchen said...

Nineteen more agonizing steps up the hill and it would finally be over. Her chest felt as if massive stones were pressing down upon her, squeezing every last breath of life from her frail body. But that was not the chosen fate for her today. Her large, blue eyes peered out from her delicate face, which looked pale and gaunt after so much time in isolation. Her long blond hair, now hacked short, lay loose under a thin cap. She gazed up at the tall oak tree stretched before her on Gallows Hill, its branches spread wide open, inviting and comforting against the backdrop of the raging crowd. The tree stood before her, strong and resolute.

PC said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Matthew Eaton said...

The small tangle in Lily's dye blonde skunk striped red hair moved and growled when she brought her index finger to touch it. She stopped in her tracks, her left eyelid twitching and shoulders sagging. She shook her head like a wet dog, trying to throw the thing chewing on her scalp out of her hair.

Margo Ball said...

Rodney rang my doorbell at two o’clock in the morning–proof positive, if there was ever any doubt, that bad luck comes in groups of three. I hadn’t seen my brother, had barely even spoken to him, in more than five years, but I wasn’t the least bit surprised to find him on my doorstep. History had taught me that when phones rang or doors were pounded on at ungodly hours, chances were good that Rodney was involved.

Francesco2409 said...

My name is Samantha Watson, I'm fifteen and I'm an apprentice navigator aboard the airship Spirit of Edinburgh. Or at least this would have been the line I'd have fed you a handful of weeks ago. Right now I could tell you I'm the killer of demons, traveller of worlds, rider of gryphons and mistress of machines the pub songs are about, but probably you wouldn't believe me if I said it out of the blue like this, so I guess I'll have to stick to the old way of telling stories and start from the beginning, back when I was still just an ill-tempered brat getting into people's way as everybody sweated blood to save the airship from the pack of dragons infesting the skies over Tokyo. And may Lord Google and Lady Wikipedia, gods of truth and knowledge, strike me dead if I’m lying.

R.S. Gregory said...

Johnny Brisco woke to a tangle of sheets that were damp with misbehavior, a throbbing headache and half a boner. At his age he thought, two out of three wasn’t bad.

Amiee Gibbs said...

Amiee Gibbs said...

The wind blew from the east the night the ship was first sighted on the Thames.

M. B. Trapp said...

The hare had only one half-functioning eye and in the death black of the tunnel he saw nothing. The wetness and cold deep in his fur. Against his neck the wild breathing of the fighters stacked behind. The constant tremors through their frames and the hot pulsing of blood. The hare knew this fear and he did not envy it. He ran his fingers lightly down the dragonleather hilt at his hip, closed his working eye and pictured the blade in the sun. His meditation broken by a wretching in the darkness and the splatter of vomit on the stone. He heard curses and then a voice: "Lead us, son of Hoentas."

CourtLoveLeigh said...

They shoved us brightly out the door. We walked, always walked, in rows of four by four by four. To my left was C, and to my right was V. I was B. We had always been this way. Headmistress strode ahead of the twelve of us while he breathed too close behind. We wore pale blue silk pinafores with white boatneck collars. Out of the corners of my eyes I could see the golden glimmer of a dozen blonde heads, hair cropped even with our chins. I saw the gold of rounded building tops, each one with dark speck windows that no face would peek through. The sharp-glimmer pebbles pushed against the soles of my feet, but I had no need to look down at them. I walked this road every day of my life. I felt the large golden-waved sun on my skin each of those same days. I trodded to the tower. We trodded to the tower.

Liz Lincoln said...

The body lay face-down in the grass. Dozens of stab wounds covered the woman’s back and legs, some shallow, others deep.

Julie Arduini said...

Less than five minutes inside Speculator Falls village limits and the whirl of police lights invade my rearview mirror. Great. Just how I wanted to start my new life—with law enforcement tapping on my driver window. I push the button and form a strategy as the glass partition disappears.
“Officer, it’s not my fault.” My stubby index finger points to the GPS on the dashboard. “The GPS made me do it.”

Saille said...

It was a good day until fire started falling out of the sky. The sun was just up, and the leading edge of the spring burn was behaving exactly as the kindlers had predicted, which was a relief, because this was Thus’s first year as an outrunner. Ahead, he could hear the high whistles of his herd of capas, and see their broad silver backs parting the grasses, leaving gleaming, vee-shaped wakes behind them. They moved toward the firebreak restively, but without panic. He supposed they must have grazed their way back across it in the night. It didn’t matter. This was the one day that Thus and the other stewards didn’t need to be responsible for their small allotments of the People’s larger herd. A capa could keep out of the way of fire more easily than the People, because capas weren’t responsible for putting it out. He still felt a wash of protectiveness, though. He’d delivered some of the young for the first time this year, turning their tapering heads and soft, wrinkled paws to lie correctly along the birth canal before drawing them, dark and shining, into the world, where the rhythm of their mothers’ hearts gave way to the susurration of the grasses.

allodoxophobia said...

The first time I saw Emmy, she looked lost. Her dishwater blonde hair was waving around her ears, so much shorter than all the other girls in our class, which is what made me notice her right away. Until she entered the school, I was the only one with hair shorter than my shoulders. Long hair was cool then. Even though we were fourteen and in the ninth grade, she looked about ten. Her tiny frame was almost emaciated and her plain t-shirt and jeans hung off her body. The look in her eyes, as I spied her across the courtyard, was pure fear, like a squirrel deciding if it should cross the busy road or not. I watched her watch everyone else, trying to decide where to sit. She’d obviously eliminated the cafeteria as a viable place to eat lunch that day. I knew how she felt. It was easier to hide and not look so alone out in the courtyard where you could sit under a tree or on a bench with a book and pretend to be studying. As she passed by me, tiptoed almost, I called out to her.

Davy said...

Puked-up orange soda. That was it, for sure. I’d spent the whole first week at my new school trying to figure out what the color of the lockers reminded me of. Now, with my arm twisted behind my back and my face pressed right up against them, it finally hit me –the lockers looked like they were covered in puked-up orange soda.

Kate said...

In the inkiest, most hair-tingling hour of the night, Jasmin Punk crept towards the house and whipped her knife from its sheath on her calf. She settled her feet in the flowerbeds beneath a low sash window and see-sawed her blade between the sill and the frame. Her nose twitched in satisfaction as the lock shifted with only the faintest of clicks.

Lavinyaa Pash said...

"The summer was really great. But it ended fast. Well, I really wanted it to end faster. Probably that I am the only girl in the world to want summer to end. I think that everyone wants to... What do they want? I don't know. I can't read mind. What I know is that I want my birthday to come faster. Not for presents, money and much love, I want that because I want to become 18 faster. My mother thinks that I am still a child and maybe at 18 years old she will change her opinions.

Marguerite Hall said...

“Holy shit! That would be so cool if it weren’t about to kill us,” Adam exclaimed as he and his fellow firefighters gawked in awe at the sight unfolding before them. The full magnitude became clear as the fire truck made the last turn as it raced toward the scene.

surreptitiousstudios said...

There are many kinds of maps. Maps that mark the paths of rivers through dark forests. Maps that line by line trace the height of mountains, hills and valleys in between. Maps of stars and maps of the moon, and maps which contain folded secrets, if you only knew the trick. Even maps of the imagination. (How many times did I have to check that map at the front of the book while reading The Hobbit?) This was not one of those maps. This was a hand drawn map of human hopelessness. Twenty-two, twenty-four and thirty-five Beasley Crescent. My little brother's paper route, and I was tucking folded wads of newsprint into mailboxes, one by one while he was at home, and sick in bed.

Katie Bartlett said...

Cape Mare, the sandy spit of land I call home, has a secret. Over one hundred years ago, the Settlers, its first inhabitants, vanished. They left behind traces of their lives, lost treasures that no one but us locals can find. Mac and I especially. And this summer, we're making money off what we know.
The mystery of our island will be available for tourists to buy.
For a dollar a piece.

Becca said...

The clouds choking the sky spoke of snow as Jacob Patterson walked bare foot along the grimy sidewalk, in search of a certain number. He checked the tarnished metal numerals on the tall and ominous buildings he passed, comparing them with the torn, soiled scrap of paper he held in his hand. The ad printed upon it bore a picture of a woman with a serene smile – she promised food and a place to live in exchange for a year. He wasn’t keen on being a “test subject,” but he was starving to death and he knew it. If he didn’t volunteer, he would be giving up on himself and his life. The ad was his last hope in a dying world, a world that was taking him and everyone else with it to the grave.

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