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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Laura said...

"Follow me."

The words are whispered as he walks by my desk in music theory class. They aren't a command; they're an invitation. But with Conor, commands and invitations are one and the same. He walks right out of theory, bag slung over one shoulder, and aside from our teacher tripping over her words about Bach and counterpoint, his sudden exit goes unacknowledged. That's Conor's way. If he wants to disappear, he vanishes. If he wants to be seen, you can't see anything but him.

I haven't been able to see anything but him for a year.

Anonymous said...


There were fish swimming all over the Shopping Precinct, brightly coloured shoals of them swirling past me as I waded against the tide. The colours became a rainbow blur so I took refuge in a doorway. From there watching the stream as it flowed past, made me feel dizzy. I knew I would have to wait, before launching out again. I should have known better than to venture into the shops on a Saturday, but had to go out. I had promised David Collins. I closed my eyes to steady myself. I knew the doorway was safe. A man like me, if he stands very still, becomes invisible. If you hold out your hand, as if begging, they ignore you even more. It can be very useful, at times. But you could also die in that place and no one would notice. When I ventured a peep, of course there were no fish, just people rushing about, hurrying by, going about their business, shopping for things they thought they needed. I wondered how big their houses were to be able to have so many things inside them. I wouldn't want to be living like that. When you own very little, you have room to breathe.

Fontaine.

Anonymous said...

I order eggs benedict with smoked salmon and champagne hollandaise sauce. It was days after Hurricane Sandy and Babette’s in East Hampton was doing brisk business. Hampton’s Booksellers and even the town’s Starbuck’s had reopened. Charlie Rose and Amanda Burden were dining in one of the outside tables and halfway through their meal Alex Baldwin stopped by to say hello. Virgil was facing the street and could barely hold back his distain as he drained his bloody mary. After a few minutes, he couldn’t help himself and went over to say hello. I stayed in my seat and sipped warm tea. He came back smiling but as soon as they left he was full of sighs and complaints. He had been in a foul mood since the day the storm hit. Ginger from the New York Times had called to politely cancel and Samantha from ARTNews emailed to reschedule.

“They’re acting like they’ve never been in a god damn rain storm before,” he said.


~Stephanie Smith, NY

Laura said...

Whispers hiss through the room, slipping through cupped hands and coiling on eager shoulders as secrets are spilled. None of the shared murmurs reaches my ears, but I’m not surprised. My classmates are more likely to talk about me than to me.

Glory Lennon said...

It was a horrible thing to say, but the best thing that ever happened to Briana Leybold was her Great-Aunt Eliza Sheffield dying and subsequently leaving all her worldly possessions to her estranged niece. This was an aunt Briana barely knew and only just remembered her when prompted by the lawyer who had been searching tirelessly to find this poor old lady her last remaining relation.

Sean Breves said...

I didn’t know what was more nauseating, the cab driver’s overuse of the brake pedal or my head spinning to crane at the buildings. Back home, we had one stop light, and that usually just flashed yellow. But, this is what I wanted, a fresh start, an opportunity to move away from the daily hazards of my old school, where bumping into one of the burly football players would usually end with me in search of dry clothes and a taste aversion to toilet water. Years of torment because everyone thought I was different. I’m sorry; I wasn’t into sports, and I didn’t get the girls who fought over whatever new teen pin up boy was popular. The only identity I could forge was behind the safety of a computer screen. There, I was confident. I was someone whom others respected. In short, I was the opposite of who I presented myself to be. But now, I get a new start, a second chance at high school with others who were more like me. That is what Professor Drillings preached, a group of likeminded teens on the precipice of greatness.

Sharen Ford said...

Slipping through the midday crowds, she searched the oncoming faces for any indication that she still existed. There were more tourists than New Yorkers pushing their way through the doors of the Fifth Avenue stores, and she could identify at least four languages among the snippets of conversation. The Italians among them would once have looked her up and down in swift, approving appraisal. Compelled by the feeling that she had somehow become transparent, Allegra tried to make eye contact with at least one of the strangers she brushed against. When that failed, she glanced sideways to make sure she could still create a reflection in Bendel's window.

David said...

Through his nose Hapi took a deep breath and thought to himself, ‘I’m fucked up.’ He leaned against the bar and began the effort of focusing on the girl in the white tank top who was throwing darts again. She and the dart machine seemed to sway left and right, and a bit sideways too which reminded him of why he hated boats. Or was it that that boats reminded him of when he was fucked up, he wasn’t sure

Kim Jorgensen Gane said...

She closed her eyes against the bright overhead lights and tried to remember her yoga breathing; tried to be someplace else; tried not to wish too hard that this time things would work; tried not to curse her barren, wretched, traitor body for the millionth time for not being able to do the most natural thing in the world.

Kim Jorgensen Gane

Krystal Marquis said...

I hear them before I see them. I always do. Something gives them away like a thought too loud to conceal. This time it’s two pairs of footsteps, wheels on a tile floor, and angry whispers. Keys jingle in a singsong rhythm with my increasing heartbeat. “Please, keep walking. Keep walking,” I chant to the girl in the mirror as if she has any power to keep the quarreling couple from entering my temporary living quarters. Deep in the apartment I wait, motionless, straining to follow the sounds emanating from the hall. The soft glow of the night-light casts dark shadows over the room. Cracks in the tile stand out like potholes. The gourmet coffee in the pantry tugs at my insides. Images—thoughts—that aren’t mine skip through my mind. It’s happening again. All it takes is a little adrenaline. I close my eyes and let my exceptional hearing do its work.

Donna said...

It was so quiet, you could hear a mouse fart. The mice always broke wind just before daybreak. I took hearing them loud and clear as a sign that my debut crow would run like clockwork. After all, the rodent’s biological proclamation was the first rule of three in the Top-Rooster-In-All-The-Land-Wingbook. It specifically stated: Once the mice pass gas, it is time to prepare for the morning crow.

Barbara Binns said...

Four months. One hundred twenty days. Two thousand eight hundred and eighty hours. I refused to do my time in minutes. My old clothes stretch tight across my chest. My pants are too short. I rip off the black canvas slip-on shoes we inmates have to wear, no laces, because God forbid we should try to strangle someone, even ourselves. Suicide is frowned on; the media makes a big deal out of death in juvie. My real shoes, size eleven high-top sneakers, smell a little ancient after sitting in a locker for months. At least my feet didn’t grow and they still fit. For a few seconds my fingers can’t remember how to tie the laces. Then I step out of my cell for the last time, and face my cousin.

Mia Hayson said...

The second act nearly always involves fire, that's what Biscuit told me this morning as he adjusted my shoulder plate. THEY'LL TRY TO BURN YOU, he said. He began brushing soot across my cheek bones, his fingertips tracing the patterns of our ancestors, before he continued with fingers that puffed up soot as they spoke, BUT YOU MUST REMEMBER WE WERE BORN IN FIRE, AND SO IT CANNOT TOUCH YOU.

Carrie.l.roth@gmail.com said...

Carrie.L.Roth

My mother holds my face in her hands for a brief moment before returning to the morning dishes. I wish she could hold me like she did when I was a boy. Maybe then some of her goodness would rub off on me and make me a better person.

K Callard said...

Zane slouched in the shade of a stall, casually eating a fig, while he watched his prey move with purpose through the market. The man seemed anxious to keep out of the sunlight that was drenching the market in heat and light, but whether it was to keep cool or to protect his shadow, Zane didn't know. Either way, he'd have to be careful.

adkwords said...

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

Dee Dee Mozeleski said...

The first man my mother brought home was broken by life. The second, third and fourth were destroyed by it.

V. N. said...

They say my father was a hero.

Tonya Assid said...

The three year old girl peered down at the old man lying in the bed. He was dying and only the two of them understood what was going to happen. She so new to the world and he so old – they had the knowledge of what was before and what was after.

Joanna said...

Four thousand long nights had snaked by, yet I immediately recognized the voice calling to me from the hallway. I begged him to be quiet but he repeated: "Amalia, Amalia... let me in!" Over and over again. I worried that my neighbor would hear the noise and see him there. Just how would I explain the presence of this man in front of my door? My fingers slipped as I fumbled with the lock, but finally the tumblers clicked into place. I pulled hard, the heavy mahogany panel swung inward, and I watched helplessly as Alejandro Mendez fell into the room, and back into my life

Pamela Kripke said...

My mother had planned a tag sale for that day, Saturday, not expecting my father to die on the Thursday before. At five minutes to midnight, the nineteenth of August, so many Augusts too soon. Linens and sneakers and cassette tapes were piled on tables in the garage, and Mom thought we should just have the sale because we were prepared. We had written prices on stickers, determined whether someone would want a typewriter or a vase that comes to the door when you get a bouquet. We had categorized items by type and made it look like a store and we had nothing else to do that day, that Saturday, as the oxygen tank had been picked up and the dishes rinsed and beds made after leaving in a hurry, a horrible hurry three days before. The arrangements were set for Sunday, so we should have the sale, she thought. We should welcome strangers into our garage and take their dollars in exchange for board games and costume jewelry that we did not like anymore. It would give us something to do. It would be good for us. While the people made new life of our old belongings, my brother stood on the driveway and communicated the plan.

Debra Lynn Lazar said...

Alice grabbed the knife from the counter and began swinging wildly. It was a good thing Lila and the boys weren’t home or heads would have literally rolled. Ooh, her sister could make her so mad! How dare she suggest Alice move out? The house had been in their family for generations. Who did she think she was to lay claim to it? If only Mama and Papa were still around. They’d set things straight. Chills ran down her spine as she whisked the pesky memory from her mind. What was done was done. In the meantime, Alice knew it was not only time to make dinner, it was time to make a few choice decisions. The loud noise from the knife smacking hard on the granite countertop made her smirk. At least the horsefly wouldn’t be bothering her again anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

The hieroglyphics sealed Teine's fate. They were chipped into the cave wall and filled with vibrant oil paints. Three suns, each identical apart from the rays, which grew stronger and more pronounced from left to right. Below the suns, a lone mermaid with a fire-red tail swam ahead of her blue-tailed tribe, leading them to a new home.

Kate Lansing

Carter Higgins said...

Even the grass grew taller that summer, and it wasn't because Franklin Mattingly was dead. Strange things happened to all of us, the kinds of things that make your eyebrows wrinkle and your bare feet itch. “In time, Sugar Sue,” June Mattingly was always telling me. She was right. Triple's champion turtle won at the Heritage Inn Fair On The Fourth Of July. The Raphine Rockskippers won more games than they lost. Betsy and Lollie Plogger finally stopped ignoring me. And I, Derby Christmas Clark, knocked it out of the park.

Easier Read than Done said...

I promised myself I wouldn’t cry, but I couldn’t help it when my father smiled up at me. It was the same look my two year old gave me when I came home from work. He reached out with his bony hand and pulled me closer. "Don’t cry,” he said, his voice slow and weak from the morphine drip. “I remember it all.”

Holly Alexander said...

Everything darkened as a head appeared in the gap above me. All I could see was wisps of curls and the outline of Will's jaw but I knew he was angry. He reached down towards me and I grasped his hand, letting him lift me to the top of the rocks in one motion. The waves were much closer now and a shudder jerked my shoulders as I realised the crevice would be flooded in under an hour.
'Jesus Ari, you're freezing.'
Will's voice dropped to a sigh as he spread his fingers and began to rub heat into my skin, pausing for a moment on the ridges of my spine.
‘How long did you last today?’ he asked.
A lie formed on my lips but I swallowed it, knowing there was no point.
‘Until lunch.’
‘They’re going to call your dad soon Ari, you know that right?’

mandy said...

The forest lay thick with canopies of trees. The humming of birds and buzzing of busy bees could be heard all around. While the sun shone bright and the world stood happy, eight best friends spent their time playing in the wide forest glade. This was a place they had known all their life. This was a place they called home. This was a place where they grew up and lived the free life.

JamieKate said...

I used to like observing people at traffic lights, but since everything in the world had imploded, it had just become depressing. I caught fewer lip-synchers and nose-pickers and more people crying or just staring into space wondering how to pay off their credit card debt. It was downright sad. Not that anything in my life had ever been particularly uplifting, but the nose-pickers had been a comfort, somehow. They meant that even if my life was its own little tragedy, even if I lived alone and had only enough money to pay for groceries (not electricity, heat, clothes, or cable), other people’s lives were okay. It used to be enough.

Zan Marie said...

(Yikes! I think my comment was eaten.)

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 Jen hadn't whispered her story to us, I'd have known that this girl had lost it all.

Alicia said...

I didn’t know where I was going, but I knew where I was: 8th Avenue, the vein that runs from Greenwich Village to the rest of Manhattan. My tan flats pounded the pavement and my long brown hair flew out behind me. I didn’t know what I was going to do next, but I knew I wasn’t going to turn around, un-slam the door of the brownstone, climb the narrow steps to my apartment, and take back what I’d screamed at my boyfriend of five years: How could you? I didn’t know that I would end up running farther than I thought possible, to the foothills of the White Mountains in New Hampshire, to a town called Hecate that you will have difficulty finding on a map, to a farmhouse you would get lost trying to find, to a room whose ghost you will never see.
I only knew that I, Suzie Monarch, was heartbroken.

rsantos said...

My father never had much to say. He wasn’t interested in the sit down have a beer how’s life oh that’s too bad it’ll get better kind of thing. No way. Instead, he communicated through grimaces, smirks, and an occasional arm yank. He’s been dead twenty years and my right bicep’s still bruised. My brother had it a little better. Lighter bruises.
The old man never fit in New Mexico, land of a thousand Catholics. He was an only child. Maybe he was alone too much. It made him mean.

Kevin Harkness said...

Jenny hated the bus ride home. Nothing matched it for sheer misery, not even gym class or spreading chicken manure on Gran’s garden. Today she was late, the last one on the bus. It wasn’t her fault; Mr. Haynes had kept her after school to talk about her history mark. It was one of those oh-so-serious chats about consequences and lost opportunities. She had dutifully nodded and said “yessir” in the right places. Then she had run for all she was worth to the front of the school to catch the farm kids’ bus.

A.K. Watts said...

“/.../”

And so it was. The sky grew dark and lightening tickled the rolling clouds over the small island. In the center of a large ring of people stood a dark-cloaked figure folded down onto his knees by the pressure of the vacuous air around him. Oh, how he hated them and their close-minded values! He managed to reach up and cling to the onyx obelisk in front of him for support and fought not only for life, but to defeat these insufferable maij. For centuries this pathetic Council had been no match for him—but this was majick that even he, in his wildest dreams, never expected the Council to have the gall to attempt with all their rules, regulations, and taboos for harmful magic. His thoughts were interrupted by the sudden sensation of prickling hairs on the back of his neck, and the full force of his situation began to hit him: Oh, shit.

Danielle Villano said...

I want to know the reason why I was named after Olivia de Havilland, but what if that means asking about my parents’ sex life?

(daniellevillano.blogspot.com)

Don said...

Magda Hochov√° and Emil Sirotek sat across from each other in the tavern, mother and son, prostitute and orphan, two strangers. Fourteen years had passed since Magda had last seen her child.

Joe Niemczura, RN, MS said...

If John and Barbara were his closest friends instead of his parents, he would have told them that he was going back to Nepal because he had fallen in love with a Goddess when he was there before, and he was returning to find her now even though he worried that she may be dead. It was more than just a remote possibility and he needed to know for certain. But since he never even hinted about this before, it was too late to tell them now.

chriskellywriter said...

Rosaleen hesitated in the gloom outside the rehearsal room. Her breath came in a shudder, as if she had just stopped crying. She pushed her violin case against the door and slipped inside. A painful double helix of oranges and reds exploded across her vision. She stumbled against a black music stand, setting it rocking. A boy thumped a melodramatic chord on his bass. Laughter rippled through the aisles.

Gina Kiyuna said...

Whenever the teachers at Sunnyside Elementary school got a Paxton child, they expected amazing things. Over a period of ten years, the first three Paxton children graced the halls of Sunnyside. They were athletic, intelligent, and extremely talented. Jeffrey was the family athlete. Emily was a musical prodigy. And Kevin was a technological wizard. So when the youngest Paxton child started at Sunnyside, there was no question that she would be extraordinary. Until they met her.

Birdy Jones said...

When someone commits suicide, people naturally think of the big three: pill overdose, gunshot to the temple, carbon-monoxide poisoning. No one considers the several thousand other ways it could happen: impaling yourself on a fence post, cutting your body in half with a commercial saw or laying your head down on a lit stick of dynamite. Vincent’s dad - Paul Rutherford - shot himself through the neck with a mini-crossbow that was strapped to his wrist. The cop that found him said, “You could see straight through the hole to the other side, no problem.”

CourtneyC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PM Kavanaugh said...

Anika stood in darkness, in silence. Eyes blindfolded, ears muffled, mouth gagged, wrists and ankles bound tight. She was standing. That much she knew. Cool air drifted across her shoulders, arms, the tops of her thighs. But not her torso, lower legs, or feet. So she wasn’t completely naked. A promising sign.

Brenda Isaacs said...

“Hey freak - get off the field!”

Do NOT throw up! This was the single thought running through Diane’s brain as she stepped out of the dugout. She ran to left field, her long brown pigtails bouncing off her back, beating in unison with the chant running through her thoughts.

Linda Sharon Rosenberg said...


I don’t know what I was expecting on my first day of school in South Africa. But it wasn’t neat rows of Prep School Barbie. Where were the Africans? And more importantly, where were the boys? Not that I let any of this get in the way of my new-girl-first-day-routine. I waited to be invited to introduce myself and then, deadpan, laid it out. “I’m a University brat. That means my parents move around a lot. This is my seventh school. I never stay anywhere long enough to steal anyone’s boyfriend or best friend. Also, all the jocks can relax. I won’t take your place on any teams, and although I’m smart, I’m kind of lazy; so all the teacher’s pets can relax too. I recommend you all just ignore me, and I’ll be gone soon.”

Becky said...

Daphne wished that her parents hadn’t kept so many secrets.

- Becky Donahue

Angela Woiwode said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ben & Becca said...

It could have been the earth itself humming the low, firm melody. The notes defied the morning chill and the grove of squat, delicate trees stretched mightier at the sound. And though William’s boots plodded to the song’s rhythm, his whole soul pulsed against it, cursing the cresting sorrow. “Grandfather Ulliam?”

Angela Woiwode said...

The sound of the downpour drowns out all other noise as Raine tucks the squirming newborn under his cloak and sprints through the streets. He'd chosen this city, this desert, to be safe. Why would it rain tonight of all nights? As Raine pushes past pedestrians seeking shelter from the rain, electricity snaps in the air, a minion gathering power from the moisture. Instinctively, Raine looks back. He finds it in the light streaming from an inn window, yet the minion somehow remains in shadow and barely discernible. Raine can only make it out because the raindrops do not touch it.

Tyson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

When the men carried Ben in from the woods, I was making bread. My fists deep in the warm dough, my knuckles rolling in a rhythm that lent itself to singing. A naked candle in a dish sat on the table near my elbow, adding its light to the purpling evening glow. A tune came to me that I had long forgotten, a favorite song of my childhood nurse, Mercedes. I hummed it, remembering. There was a line, I was sure, about a river that curled like a ribbon to the sea … I puzzled out the words, the play between mar and serpentear. My voice faltered when I heard shouting from the edge of our land.

Kat Carrasco

ali said...

After eleven years and twenty-one days of living on a floathome, Feenie Bailey should have been able to sleep through a dark and stormy night on the river. But the day had been white-hot, and the evening prickly purple, and for night it blew up in thunder and lightning. A loud, echoing crack woke her, and she thought about Mom, still in Helsinki, on the other side of the world.

Tyson said...

Meteor showers—I lived for them. Not to mention stars and planets and the million mysteries of the world. Something about gazing up at the vast night sky and knowing how small and insignificant life was calmed me. Not to mention, it reminded me how unimportant Amblethorn, the school of bitchcraft and snubbery, actually was. People always said the social aspects of school didn’t matter, that things changed once you graduated, but in the moment, the whole BFF and socialization thing felt like the entire world. Granted, the snobby prep school was my stepping stone to greater things. Berkeley. Still, it would have been nice to have a confidant, a friend, someone to say 'Hey' to in the halls. At least I had the stars to keep me grounded.

elizabethmarianaranjo.com said...

She was a striking girl, all shadow and stillness. Judith watched her carefully. Twenty years teaching middle school had taught her the subtler ways to approach them, the ones who wore solitude like a shell. If you look away, they disappear. But if you look too close, they withdraw. You have to learn to look sideways.

Aaron Morris said...

After we all made love, Greta and I were lying on the bed, twirled up in the sheets, which were still damp with all our sweat, and we were watching Clarence put his clothes back on. I noticed how one of his suspenders looked as if it had been chewed on by a rodent. The same suspender slipped of his shaking shoulders as he died a few minutes later. It hangs over the side of his chair now. I stare at the tiny nibble marks blankly, wishing I were as infinitesimal and insignificant as whatever made them.

Marsha Sigman said...

The Buford Ulysses Randolph Private School was famous for two things, initials that gave it the most awesome nickname ever…and the Pinching Wars.
Lots of people think they know how the Wars started. I’ve heard it was a secret government project to test us for early recruitment into the military. Stupid. Or that the school staff was behind it in an effort to teach students teamwork. Stupider. It was even rumored that it started with a crazy sixth grader who tried to burn down the entire school. Not true either. I was trying to save it not burn it.

Shannon Thompson said...

I dreamt of a field of white.
Silver flowers stretched to an electric night sky as lightning flickered over purple clouds silently. Shivering violently, the flowers melted down to stems and pooled across the ground, reflecting what stood above. Like a ghost, I was unnoticed, and four young boys wildly ran past. They were the wind, and they circled, tackling and fighting, biting and clawing each other. Golden hair fell to their petite waists, and the elements of the world burned inside their opaque bodies.
Fire and water thrived in the tallest two, while earth and air consumed the others, swallowing them whole. The dreamland melted, and the boy with water at his fingertips met my eyes. He cried, and I woke up, unable to breathe any longer.


Shannon Thompson
ashleeironwood@aol.com
ShannonAThompson.com

Waugh Wright said...

Joni Margulis fiddled with her camera, attaching it to a railing on the overlook. Below her was the Schuylkil River winding its way past Boathouse Row to center city Philadelphia. Behind her was the art museum, rose-colored in the light of the setting spring sun. At her feet was her dog, Grendel, big and brown, slobbering over a tennis ball she had been chasing for the last ten minutes. And hastily taped to a nearby bench, unnoticed by Joni or Grendel or the tourists wandering about, was an envelope containing a photo of Joni, dead.

Erika said...

Erika Beebe said...

It would have been easier on me if she just screamed my name.

I sat in Senior English so long I blocked out the world, scribbling flowers on the edges of my notes, and all around Mitch’s name, the boy of my dreams, which I wrote so light anyone else would have missed it.

Thomas Burchfield said...

"They don't call it Butchertown for nothing," the bartender said.

Anonymous said...

I hated Istanbul, with all that damn yelling and oppressive nationalistic Turkishness and construction everywhere and all that new money and boats roaring around and insufferable whirling dervishness twirling and the worst wine you can imagine (and it cost a lot, too, with the morality tax) so when I finally moved to Beirut, where life was supposedly much better, with better wine and good friends and the charms of a small town on the edge, it seemed like everything would finally be OK. But fuck if I could make heads or tales of the fact we'd been shot at and then that big bomb detonated.

Brendan O'Meara said...

Did he, Phil Schoenthal, a thoroughbred horse trainer, say what I think he said? I looked out the window to my right. The trees smeared, the rumble strips a conveyer belt, an ashen stripe. My right ear felt pressed against the headrest. “I’m OK if I flip this car over and we die because we were supposed to die,” Phil said.

cstuarthardwick said...

Almost to the cliffs, the fat, leafless stalks crowded the freshly-beaten path till he couldn't see squat. It wasn't that, though, not lurking alien predators, or rumors, or dropping everything to fly up here, or even the explosion in the dead of night. No, it was the note—scribbled charcoal on a folded paper napkin, tucked safe inside his boot. There were always predators wherever people went, and human-nature too, and that could kill you quick as anything.

dmichaelolive said...

Two young women laughed and chatted as they exited Macy’s pushing their baby strollers toward The Children’s Place, unaware that they and their children were about to die. They paid no attention to the man dressed in maintenance coveralls wearing a Royals hat pulled low to hide his face and carrying a small blue backpack over one shoulder. They took no notice of the fact that although the late April temperature was in the seventies, the man wore cotton gloves. They were so engrossed in their conversation, they didn’t see him squat and take off his hat, momentarily exposing a shaved head before he pulled a black nylon balaclava over his face.

Charli Mac said...

I don’t dream anymore. Not since I was five. Not since the night my mother tried to kill me. The last dream I recall may not even be real, just wishful thinking or a faded memory before things changed, before she went crazy. Mom and I were in a lush field under an ancient tree. We danced and sang until we collapsed on top of a red and white checkered cloth, out of breath and laughing. We were happy. But that was a long time ago. Ten years to be exact. I don’t dream anymore. There are only nightmares. The same one, every Tuesday, about the night I lived and my mother died instead.

Ice Cream for Zombies said...

When Nathan came to, the dead girl was crying. He was relatively sure she wasn’t supposed to do that. Come to think of it, he was relatively sure he was supposed to be dead, though he obviously wasn’t. There was not much else he was sure about, but he did seem to have most of his parts, and his head hurt too much for him to be dead.

Jodi Su Tharan said...

Walking by the old opium den covered with stones each morning on her way to sixth grade gave Lovely a lot to think about. Lovely knew opium was linked to heroin somehow. And Lovely knew more than she ever wanted to know about heroin.

David Bock said...

At the end of Pumpernickel court there sat a dispirited stone cottage. It had a pointed roof of green shingles, covered in a carpet of yellow moss. Years of autumn leaves had long ago filled the gutters, and they were home to a variety of plants and rodents. Ivy grew clumsily up one side of the home, along its chimney and right to the very top. Long ago, a path of paver stones lead to the front door. Now the yard was full of overgrown trees and thorny bushes, with weeds as tall as the mailbox which no one had seen in over three years. Parcels were simply left on the curb under a large brick. The curtains were always pulled shut and daylight rarely reached the interior. From the street it smelled of mildew and rot and within the crumbling walls lay a catacomb of small rooms, hidden closets and numerous cupboards that could hide all sorts of terrible and frightening things from the world. That is if one wished to do so.

Regina Sokas said...

Comes a time when going to hell is not a bad option. That time came for me on a cool November night in the autumn of 1968, but I went to California first.

Regina Sokas

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
marymascari said...

At the Royal Wedding of His Royal Highness Nathaniel Albemarle, heir apparent to the throne of Carminia, I was the bride. I was also the only survivor.

jil Plummer said...

St. Stephen's nave resembled the belly of a great whale, showing ribs of bare wood and allowing flashes of daylight only when doors opened to let mourners in like schools of minnow, to slip about until they found somewhere to settle. The organ boomed, moaned, sobbed and sighed. Rustles, coughs and whispers caused wavelets of movement, and flowers massed around the large casket gave off a scent close to decay. Andrea's gaze rested on where her husband's nose protruded like a grotesque stamen from behind the petals of a purple tulip. She had said goodbye to him that morning at the mortuary, in a small room like a Motel Six and soon she would be free to fulfill his last request which would break her heart.

Tammy said...

Bosnia, 1994- Two Years into the War
Each shot had to count. Alaga sighted carefully along the barrel of a rusty rifle. Bullets were scarce, more valuable than money, and he had allotted only three for today. Still more important was the meat he hoped to bring home. His vision blurred. He rubbed a grimy hand across his eyes, forcing them to focus. Hunger, fatigue or hatred caused the head of a large, brown rat to morph into the face of the soldier who had changed his life forever. He steadied himself, sighted again, then squeezed the trigger.

Bethany Valles said...

"It all happened so fast," I said to the EMT, police officer, firefighter, and my insurance agent, all crowded around my bed in the ER. The doctor didn't seem happy to have his space invaded with extra people, but no one asked his opinion. Why the insurance guy and the firefighter were there, I don't know. I think they wanted to be able to tell the full story to all their respective cronies. Everyone crowded around my bed, waiting to hear why I decided to run through a picture window. I tried to think of a plausible explanation, something,... anything, but the truth.

Iso Nuys said...

I stared at the meat and the meat stared back. It lay in the rabbit hutch, its succulent flesh glistening, wheezing as though every breath were its last. It didn’t have ears, or a nose, or a mouth, but when that blue eye appeared, as bright as a marble in an abattoir drain, it turned towards me, blinked, and held me in its gaze.

Wendy Myers said...

"I can't believe I ever trusted him, Star!" Frannie spit out between sobs. She winced as she leaned her head against the mare's warm, wet, sweetly pungent skin, stroking along her neckline with one hand. The mare looked to be in pretty good shape. As she pulled the rope out of her bag and cut it into cords to make the pieces she would need to tie the herd together, blood ran down over her eyes, obscuring her vision and lengthening the amount of time to finish the task. She let out a laugh as she watched her stolen floatplane bobbing wildly in the waves of the Cat 3 Hurricane bearing down on them. She had not been near a plane since the violent wreckage years ago that had stolen all life but her own.

barbara i. f. said...

Jimmy sat still, barely able to breathe. His eyes began to water, a reaction to the acrid and sulphur smell. He had been a policeman for, for. Jimmy swore out loud to the stillness in the vehicle. “How fucking long, how many years have I been a cop?” He couldn’t remember. "Okay, I’ve been a cop for a long time and I’ve never smelled a gun that was shot."

David Burton said...

Justine Kroft sat cross-legged on the floor, fingers tapping impatiently on the sword laying across her lap, her eyes intent on the naked man bound and gagged on a straight back chair in the middle of his living room. At sixty-three Bill Service kept in good shape, rode a bicycle to work in good weather, ran a couple miles once a week, though he didn't like running much. He played a mean game of tennis with his wife or friends twice a month. Mean being the operative word as he was known to be a gracious winner, but a bad loser. Service was losing big time at the moment, and he was not happy about it.

Jay DiNitto said...

The wild man, with his only arm, dragged the inert man’s body by the ankle. Nearing the edge of the promontory he became aware of something like a memory spilling out from him like sands from a broken hourglass.

Tanja said...


I look, I listen, I learn. I came, I saw, and I conquered. Much good it
does me; they tied me up again today, because they said I am in a
self-destructive mood. But it’s not true. I am not necessarily me.

Sammy Crone said...

Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, Charlotte. Yeah - none of them are mixed in this mess. You heard of Sex in the City? Well this, this is Celibacy in the Suburbs. And this is my story. A story about how I wanted a love like Cory and Topanga, Ross and Rachel, Sabrina and Harvey. But no, I get one like Carrie and Big. A dysfunctionaly sane on again off again love triangle stretched over many months. My name is Sebastian Campbell, Seb for short, and this hot mess I call a wonderful life starts my senior year at East Northumberland High. Well, actually, it starts in Cleveland, Ohio a few weeks before hand.

Jennifer Luitwieler said...

That day, in the kitchen, I didn't know it would be the last peaceful time we'd all have there. I didn't know that in a few days' time, she'd be gone, her face covered in one of the white linen napkins we were all pressing and folding.

Deniz Bevan said...

The Beast stirred from his long sleep. Hunger and thirst ruled his waking, and he snuffled around the rocks surrounding his bed. A leftover bone from last night's sheep poked out from the matted grass and hay. He crunched it with his back teeth, and clambered up on all fours. A shivering stretch of each back leg, and then all trace of sleep was gone. He bounded up through the cave, snout lifted, scenting for movement, for news. He slid to a halt in the last passage. Far down, framed by the entrance, stood a man and a woman, arm in arm, the man's head resting on her shoulder. A deep sniff, and her full scent hit the Beast's senses. Roses, sea salt, and something else, a smell he had no name for, but which the Man part of him recognised as maple. He inched closer. He had not been near other humans for five years. Not since the night of the curse.

Jen C said...

March 1959:

It was the fifth time in the two weeks since my mother’s suicide that I’d come home from school to find my stepfather in my bed.
This time, however, Rob wasn’t passed out and drooling the last of that day’s whiskey into my pillow. This time, he was sitting on my clean sheets in his filthy Southern Railway overalls, polishing the steel of his revolver with a rag and stroking the barrell like it was a wounded tabby cat.

Anne Brooke said...

Redallek Castonar fled through the driving rain, heart pounding as the night-police tracked him. The high walls on either side of the path left him no choice but to keep on running. From experience, he knew he would find no grip there, and the thought of the trackers overpowering him once more was too much to endure. Not now, not when he’d come so far, this time. He had to find safety. They were closing in on him. He kept on running, the scars on his feet opening to bleed again on the rain-soaked cobbles. Please the lower gods he wouldn’t slip. That would be fatal. A piercing whine and something flew past his shoulder. They were firing at him, the bastards, truly they intended to finish him off for good. No live-man reward for them, although after three failed escapes his death-price wouldn’t be that much different. How he hated them.

Glen Jordan Spangler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Glen Jordan Spangler said...

There once was a man who sat, every day, with his little scruffy brown dog, next to a little copper bucket of blue paint, a pile of old newspapers, and a cardboard sign that said, in blue paint,

1 diMe i rite suMthin


Shaunna said...

For weeks now, I have had the same dream right before I wake up -- every time I wake up. It starts with a vaguely terrifying Something chasing me. It ends with me aiming a sword rather dramatically at the heart of Someone else, Someone specifically awesome and nonterrifying and, furthermore, distinctively unworthy of being run through with my (or Anyone's) sword. I assume there is a reversal in the middle -- there must be -- but that part of the dream is always fuzzy and unmemorable. On the whole, I have not looked forward to waking up. Or, rather, I have not looked forward to the penultimate event before waking up, but have wished I could just skip it and get right down to business. Tonight, however, I expect all that to change. Tonight I intend to dream about Sebastian.

ed miracle 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.

Eugene Snap said...

Seven was a coarse year for George Snap. It was when he started to think about death, attraction to girls and how long it takes for a giraffe to throw up. It was this year that father Eugene Snap told George Snap the problem with his birth. They were on a trip to Florida. Eugene Snap took his son to a shack tavern, hunkering down in a corner booth for dinner. The bar was full of red cheeks, stiff collars and hair tied back. Cocktailers threw mugs into outstretched hands with side plates of hard cheese and moldy, beautiful salami. A badly drawn illustration of a mermaid hung above their booth. Young George rolled his eyes. He'd given up merpeople at age six.

Walt Socha said...

“Damn.” Frickin’ holidays were hard enough. All his buddies were in lock down with their families. His relatives weren’t worth hanging up on. Alcohol just gave him a headache. Not a damn thing to do until it was over. And now this. Cody looked down. Red with white fur trim. Who’d have thought.

paulamcmichael said...

When the door opened, Katie just stepped inside. Dee tried to pull her back, but her fingers only raked Katie’s hair. She followed her in, and the door slid shut behind them, and they were left in the musty dark, alone. They could hear the voices of their classmates, faintly, through the walls, but were left with no idea, exactly, how to get back out. Dee did what she did best, which was panic.

Mark Sutz said...

From the day I emerged at 2:48 and seventeen seconds PM on January 19, 1992 – caul glossy, eyes sealed tight and limbs akimbo, silky lanugo from ankle to neck, a head of black hair so thick the doula commented, ‘Your baby, your boy, he already looks like a star’ – I was an epidermal, biological, respiring and (already) recalcitrant human art project.

masutz at gmail dot com

Gdub said...

Fifty years. More than that. Fifty-two. It hit me the other day when I was looking for the car online. Three marriages ago. I thought about those smug people who say, "I wouldn't change a thing." Lying sonsabitches in my opinion. But that's me. Maybe they actually wouldn't. Perhaps they were perfect. Could be they always sidestepped life's steaming cow-pies and made the right choices and decisions, never drank too much, or hurt anyone, or...well, I don't believe it. I'll find the car, I'll have it. I'll die in it if I find it, I'll guarantee you that. It's a metalphor for my life, this blue evanescense of art nouveau's last days, shipped over from Italy. This graceful wraith.

Caregan said...

Rose City was made of mud. Glorious red mud that had been baked hard into bricks and moulded into domes and arches, narrow towers and twisting spires; but still mud, all the same. The city surged up from the toppling cliffs of Rose Island like a demented wedding cake; an anarchic pile of buildings crowding around and on top of each other in crumbling red tiers. Stairways, paths and ricketey wooden ladders snaked through this ramshackle maze and tangled around the whole structure in a bewildering, twisting muddle. It was said that only a Roser born and bred could navigate these tumbling streets, but that was all right, because only Rosers were welcome here. There were no signs that said ‘Keep Out’, but mainland folk from across the sea knew better than to walk the noonday causeway to the big gate at the foot of the island. So when Gateman Amos Pedd spotted two black specks moving slowly along the path towards him, he guessed right enough who it would be.

mykhe hesson said...

Li Nezha, the Chinese demigod of lotteries and protection, was hammered. And I don’t mean ‘Chinese Mafia’ protection, I mean the guy who saves the asses of the alpha-male insane badasses-after-kung-fu-stars taxi drivers of Hong Kong, Beijing and Taipei (and Vancouver, and Seattle and San Francisco.) To his credit, he drank like the guys he protected. He also fought like them. And tonight he wanted another Hot Rita. Unfortunately, it was the same one that the dragon just ordered.

Sue Fuller said...

Sleep had become Lauren’s nemesis. It taunted her with promises of rest yet danced beyond her reach. But then, when she least expected or wanted it, sleep pounced, using the endless rows of pine trees and the roar of the bus’s tires on the asphalt to lull her into a stupor. Her head drooped toward the window. Her eyelids slid shut. And the recurring nightmare started: metal shrieking as it twisted. Screams for help. The sickening stench of coffee.

Connie Barrett said...

On Sunday mornings in Crabapple, Georgia, most people were in church, but Tyrone Lincoln didn't care to hear what a sinner he was. His only regret about sin was his lack of opportunity to practice it.

Haley said...

He smells like fish. It is all I can think so I shift my chair a little to the left, edging away from my stepfather, and pop another piece of cinnamon gum. I inhale deeply taking in the heady scent. Sadly it only takes a few chews before fish replaces the spicy smell again. How can mom sleep with him? I can't fathom getting naked beside someone who always smells like dead trout.

!ntheSpirit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
!ntheSpirit said...

He flung the paper. His banging fist rattled the cup in its saucer, sloshing coffee over the brim."Damn. Now? After seventy-two years?" The cigarette case in the newspaper article had belonged to his father. If the evidence was locked away somewhere by the key hidden inside the case, then he must regain possession of it

mykhe hesson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Angie Kay Dilmore said...

Stella Bella Belusi has lots of shoes. She has pink and orange flowery flip flops. Yellow and white checked sneakers. And sparkly red dress up shoes with tiny heels that click clack on the tiled kitchen floor. She puts on dirty white Velcro shoes when she digs in the sandbox. Lacy blue princess shoes for playing make-believe. And plush pink piggy slippers at bedtime. She wears strappy tan sandals on Sunday. Brown leather loafers with buckles to kindergarten. And zebra-striped high tops on weekends when Grandma takes her to the zoo. Stella Bella wears furry warm snow boots in winter. Slick yellow rubber galoshes on rainy days. And aquamarine water shoes for swimming in the summer. Stella Bella loves shoes.

Chris Roberts said...

The great sycamore among the even greater stand of like trees sways in the wind and I am driven pell-mell among these woods and am flung into a creek bed and deposited so in New York’s wild brooding land and it is dry and I lie unmoving and staring at the flat sky that disguises itself in its broad ever spreading conspiratorial way and I am absent at the present moment to add further adjectives to the firmament but am sure the words will come soon and quite rapidly and so I lie and think of how I came into the very many fortunes of having traveled this full week and now I am at the very end of my collected days the very last of the seven.

Charline said...

Please, God. Don’t let me puke on the University of Arizona stage. Or pass out like Ravi Pathik did a few rounds ago. After three hours of spelling word after word after word, I couldn’t think straight. All I could do was pray silently. It was just about over, down to me and Ali McPherson—a girl I’d had a crush on in third grade. If I didn’t puke, if I didn’t pass out, maybe I could beat her.

Dale Estey said...

What I desire, and what I expect, are horrible opposites. But my desires still exist, which makes me a fool.
The reading in Munich two weeks ago was a disaster. But we learn from disaster. My work was called "repulsive" - which, of course, it is. Am I to learn from that? And then the meeting with Felice. The fight in the pastry shop. Am I also to learn from that? I'll continue to write letters. I'll continue to hunt for our apartment. I'll continue to have my hopes. For a while longer - hope. But still, my eyes wince at every mirror.

robinellen said...

I’d have to say it began with a combination of my name and my looks. I didn’t have anything to do with either, so I felt a bit disconnected. My parents chose the name ‘Joahna’ – pronounced, of course, Joe-ah-nuh. That alone probably wouldn’t have made a huge difference, but when you combined it with my looks (which I find rather average, truth be told – after all, tons of people have reddish hair, and despite my pale skin and green eyes, it’s still not that exotic), it somehow produced a whole new entity. When I turned five, my parents were approached by a child-talent agent who’d seen me playing in the local playground. “She’d make an incredible child model,” the woman said.

RR said...

The letter was from Toronto, that much was undoubtedly confirmed by the thin, carefully crafted cursive I was so familiar with. It was cold out as the first tinge of autumn skated through the air, the sky was a soporific gray. Sirius looked on curiously from across the yard whining as I stalled at the mailbox inadvertently holding his mauled tennis ball hostage. Autumn can be particularly grim along the east-coast. The leaves turn and bring all their beautybut one day they are gone, just like that sometimes overnight; then begins the dry platitudes of the gradual decay of the surrounding environment--Autumn is nothing but nature's slow death, nature the root of all love. The letter was from Toronto which meant enclosed was nothing but a piece of paper, that much I was certain of. With this envelope from Toronto I could draw only one conclusion the deed was to be fulfilled and I was going to carry it out with the only person I knew from Toronto, Terry, which meant that George had become terminal why else would Terry send this sign. I opened the envelope to confirm my suspicions, two objects fell: one blank piece of paper and a faded image of our sly faces. Terry always was too cool to let anything get him don meanwhile nausea began to stir inside of me. The envelope and the blank piece of paper meant that Terry was on his way, chaos would ensue. Terry had always been a piece of work and being a family-man myself, with two kids, I had all the excitement I could take. All this unexpected tumult while waiting for the results from Dr. Sinclair, god damn cancer--I was exhausted. Another crisp wind brought me back to reality where Autumn was in its infancy and some leaves had just donned their hues of yellow and red. Although my thoughts were still racing I remembered what Winny always said: breathe. Regardless of her at times annoying persistence like any woman she was always right. Before I could crest the apex of complete relaxation Sirius gave an assertive bark demanding the return of his fraying tennis-ball. "That's right, we came out here to play" I reminded myself hurling the ball and gathering the rest of the mail. An unpleasant uncertainty loomed on the horizon as I made my way inside I couldnt complain yet not until the deafening roar of his 1978 Virago.

Katharine Manning said...

It began with the fireflies, as magic often does. Jenny was out in the field behind her grandparents’ house with her brother, chasing fireflies. Billy had caught three already, and she wanted to get another, she’d only caught one. She spied a good one, low-flying and lackadaisical, and followed it to the far edge of the field, past the shed and into the woods.

Tony D said...

Amelia stared at her closet door, feet frozen to the ground, eyes darting back and forth, waiting for it to make the first move, but nothing happened. It stood there, taunting her, and it was only a matter of time before she gave in. She moved forward and grabbed the doorknob, the handle cold to the touch, as if she had wrapped her fingers around a pile of ice cubes and squeezed.
“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” she said, practicing the exercises her therapist told her to do each time she felt afraid. “There’s nothing in the dark. They're not real. They can’t hurt me.”

Jane Courtney said...

ALEX
This is it: the assignment that almost ruined my life.
You will blog online with a student from a public, if you attend this school, or private, if you attend a public school.
Purpose: Interact with your partner through writing and grow as individuals.
Only your English teacher and you both will read this.

Rules:
Blog a minimum of 2x a week
Minimum: 5 lines
Keep the language clean.
Both of us will be reading weekly and grading periodically.

Good luck,
Mr. Goss, Collegiate Academy
Ms. Hershfeld, Lincoln High School

CHIKA
Is a fallen angel-food-cake automatically a devil's-food cake?

ALEX (that’s me)
16.5
White
Jewish humanist/look it up
Privileged private school partier
Sex: on agenda
Those who go are happier than those they leave behind.
Aspiration: class slut

CHIKA (that’s me)
16.4
Self-loathing Japanese female
Sex: See above. Also see HAHAHAHAHA as if!
Aspirations, hopes and dreams: To make enough food for two people and have two people eat it instead of just me.
Do I need a clever aphorism as well? Can I make something up?
Um...spaghetti is ready when it sticks to the wall. Spaghetti is ready when it doesn't fall.

ALEX
What if we woke up one day and discovered that our parents weren't who we thought they were? Would we love them less? What if they were the most loving people in the world? Why would it matter if they were on the most wanted list for twenty-five years and had been drug smugglers and pirates and or murderers? Why would that change all the feelings you had ever known for them? If you only knew them as the good guys, there for you, why would it matter?

I could be the child of some really badass people and not know it. I could be self loathing like Chika, or I could just stay me, criminal parentage and all.

Charlene Nevill said...

At precisely 10:41 PM on Saturday, the sixth of August, Selene Doherty sat straight up in her bed. She quickly checked her almanac one last time, pulled on her sneakers and tiptoed across the room. Holding her breath, she opened the door slowly and listened for the usual chorus of nocturnal grunts, snorts and wheezes before slipping into the hallway. Just as she crept by her parents’ bedroom, she saw a flash of light out of the corner of her eye. She stopped, heart pounding. But before she could convince herself that she had imagined it, the light was back. Only now it appeared as a tiny ball with a faint pink glow. And it was suspended, pulsating, in midair. As she stood transfixed, it darted straight at her and stopped right at the tip of her nose. She gasped and pressed both hands over her mouth as she watched it zip up to the ceiling and down to the floor before it whizzed away.

Jenny said...

The zombies invade overnight.
The transition isn’t gradual, so much as immediate and shocking. Eyes take on a glazed, foreign quality and skin flakes off in large patches, leaving behind raw and bloody gashes.
The disease starts off like any other: coughing, a slight throbbing behind the eyes and muscle aches. The fever kicks in some time after that, followed by a loss of feeling in the body, sometimes progressing to partial or total paralysis. Cognitive functions and brain activity deteriorate almost as soon as the disease enters the body, a slow growth that accelerates as the heart slows down. Death usually occurs within hours after the patient is incapable of speech.

JK Leo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JK Leo said...

I was still drunk the morning they sent me to kill Anchorage Lyons. We rolled down the winding highway – the road snaked across the desert like a dammed river driving its way home. Everything felt overbright and hurried as Klein drove me to the place we were supposed to start from. At that point I didn’t know what kind of person Anchorage was. I didn’t know about the trail of broken arms and teeth the man had left in his wake – the welts he’d grown on other men's faces – the subdural hematoma – the jaws wired shut and the bruised hearts and crippled egos. Klein shoved the piece roughly into my hand as we exited the highway. Exit 291, Sunrise Road, Nevada. The sleek sedan curled to the right and around a bend. A bum wailed on a streetcorner something about the end being very, very nigh.

Sarah Grimm said...

A studded, black glove reached for Jaden’s elbow. She flicked her wrist and the warm handle of her last knife dropped into her palm. Gripping it tight, she swung toward the gloved man. Surprise widened his eyes as she dragged the blade across his neck. His fingers grasped only air before he fell next to her horse.
Stickiness coated the reins, covered Jaden’s hands. Blood. She’d just killed her fourth man. Four … a lump rose in her throat. Killed. As in gone. Like her family.

gg said...

There are ninety-six ways our patented, non-profit system can kill any number of your detractors. From a torrent of fire arcing from the sky to a massive block of solid screaming bone--and including our perennially popular Backhand of Our Lord and Savior--our system has perfected the art of retribution. The pamphlet you hold contains the Good News of our finest refinement yet, and we'll bet our eternal souls you'll be signing your name to the line by the time you're done.

Wordfly said...

She awoke with her hand resting on a soft hillock of wavy brown hair. Feeling a collision of concern and fear for the child whose head was on her lap, she pressed his head closer to her belly. He was perhaps one or two years old. She left her hand where it was, inhaling the brackish air, not unaware of her pounding heart, but more focused on the rapid intake of details. The boat (a ferry?) was chugging steadily, no land in sight. There was a wooden bench beneath her. From the ache in her back she imagined she had been sitting for a considerable time, maybe several hours and wondered how long the child had been sleeping. She moved her hand to lift the child’s hair from his face and cried out, a sort of mewl. She hurriedly readjusted the coat so as to completely cover the boy. A few benches in front of her, a man was playing a set of drums and singing a language she didn’t understand. Many of his words were lost in the moan of engine and the crash of surf but she sensed loss in the rhythm. There weren’t many people on deck, even though it was a sunny day. Apart from the musician, most were sleeping and had luggage gathered around their feet, like sleeping animals, sandbags against a possible storm she thought. Suddenly she got up and walked to the edge of the boat, knocking the sleeping child to the ground. He woke and began to cry and then to scream. She watched him, holding her hands to her ears and then turned to grip the boat’s railing. She was without bearing, without memory, without language.

Corey Wright said...

It’d be so easy to blame this entire mess on The Divorce. Everyone saw it coming. I’d known it my entire seventeen-years of existence, and the tabloids had been speculating about it for the last few years. They took the affair angle, filling their glossy pages with snapshots of Dad and his twenty-something co-stars on set, but what they never seemed to understand was that my parents just didn’t get along. I often wondered if they ever had. But The Divorce wasn’t to blame for my current situation. No, I owed that muffin basket of gratitude to the sender of the letter addressed to my mother and postmarked Pilgrim, Alaska.

ChulaSlim said...

For the one hundred and fifty-second time in her short career (she’d kept count) Cheyenne Jackson stood to address the court.

Doug Welch

Michele Nelson said...

The morning of the storm, Emmett Lefevre stood facing the hickory-paneled wall, staring into the photograph of the man on the horse. He lifted his hand to straighten the slim black frame, then pressed an index finger to the glass, on the spot in the grandstand where he’d sat with Jordi the night the picture was taken.

Erica Naylor said...

Work Brain! Work! Closing my eyes for a brief second, I willed the appearance of spontaneous inspiration for the final writing prompt listed on an electronic post-it note located in the upper right hand corner of my desktop. When my eyelids flicked open a moment later, my mind remained as blank as the page on my laptop screen. The blinking curser taunted me and my writer’s block. Look, I know it’s the last day of a three day weekend and all you want to do is veg out; I do too. But Brain, I need you to focus for one more hour. Scratch that; focus for 56 minutes and 37 seconds. You can do it, right?

Precarious Yates said...

This was my least favorite part of what we did. I had so many least favorite parts, but visits to the abortion clinic took that cake. This was my third. Claudia said if we were stupid enough to get pregnant, we had to take care of the consequences. She refused to come with me this time. Delyla came with me. Last time I couldn’t walk out on my own but had to be wheeled to our motel. This time it’d be a two mile hike to our campsite. At least it didn’t hurt as bad this time. The anesthetics worked this time. If only they worked on my heart.

Richard Leis, Jr. said...

When the boy saw the mule, he took off his glasses. Angela, his mother, happened to be watching when he did so, and her eyes opened wide. Children today did not often take off their glasses readily, especially at night, when their parents insisted that it was time to take them off and go to sleep. She was more successful than some because she did not allow Manuel to go anywhere near his room at bedtime with the glasses on his head.

Will Overby said...

I’ve spent my whole life learning how to be invisible. You’d be surprised at how often people will overlook you if you sit quietly and never speak up, never move. That part’s easy, especially with a name like Zachary Zane Ziegler. That kind of thing assures you will never be chosen first for anything. Even with roll call in class, the teachers always kind of lose their strength by the time they get to my name. I’m not even sure if they really check to see if I’m there.

Rebecca Klein said...

The breaking point comes with a difficult question. “What parts of the body experience growth at different rates, called anagen, catagen, and telogen?” The color is green, Science and Nature. The stakes are high. This is for the wedge, to tie the game, and it’s clear they don’t know the answer. It’s our big secret, and through unspoken contract we never tell. Indeed, my family, in Leave-It-To-Beaver style, plays Trivial Pursuit. At dinner, between bites of spaghetti and meatballs, someone raises the infamous question, “Anyone up for a game tonight?” It’s addictive, the opportunity to use the random pieces of knowledge we’ve amassed over our brief and uninteresting lives to prove our superiority. The game can take hours. Occasionally the phone interrupts us, and we’re forced to keep the conversation short, gracefully exiting with a vague, “I’m busy right now, I’ll call you back later.” After all, playing games with your family just isn’t cool. Nevertheless, we play. It’s our thing.

Jennifer Malise said...

The house sat on the cusp of Gutter’s End, a foul little village that marked the edge of the great city Delwyn in the kingdom of Siris Banor. The once purple paint had darkened over the years from dirt and grime. It had also begun to peel, giving it the resemblance of a shedding crow, and parts of the house jutted out at severe angles. The walls that surrounded the city were visible in the distance, so high that the buildings inside were completely hidden. Tall enough to keep the riff-raff out. To keep them where they belonged, in Gutter’s End. Most travelers took the main roads and avoided Gutter’s End altogether, except for those who came looking for this house in particular.

kim Foster said...

Trinket Parsnips was just a baby. She was two, but still more baby than girl. She had a head full of ferociously red ringlets, fat cheeks, wide green eyes under lashes that curled like a sea wave. She was beloved by her parents, the only child of Gerty and Fred Parnsips. That baby had never lived a bad day in her life. In fact, her life was so good, so filled with hugs, and cookies, and belly laughs, that she could not even imagine there might be things nearby that should scare her deeply. She did not know, nor could her parents ever have imagined, that she was being watched. That she had already been chosen. That these were the last few hours of her life.

Kim@FosterEntertainment.net

raffi said...

THE SADNESS WAS ALL OVER THE NEWS, painted across the television. Even the teachers were affected by the sadness, suddenly our whole schedule shifted and every day we would talk and play games. Charlie Watts left school early, his mom was crying in the office; Cindy Lane said Carol Watkins told her something had happened: police were seen circling the parking lot. No one knew what happened but when I came home I was greeted by sadness as I looked into my mother’s eyes and she was crying—“come give mom a hug,” and she squeezed me so hard my back cracked along with all my bones. She told me to go upstairs to her room and put on Monster’s Inc. so I went, she stood outside with Mrs. Smith our neighbor and there the two of them talked, both of them with their tears. I ran inside but took one last look before I reached the door; Aunt Susan was in the Kitchen, hiding her tears she waved. I ran up the stairs skipping every other stair thinking about the hug and how Aunt Susan had just been standing there. I turned on the television and that is when I saw the sadness—children and parents, all of them crying, firemen and policemen crying too. Twenty-six people dead, what was death; I knew people like Grandma could no longer be with us but what was death? Did it mean to die, or did we just die, was death something else like big and small carrots? I heard the door close and turned on the DVD player. I didn't want to be sad like mother, I wanted to bring happiness. I didn’t know anything about death but I did know how to smile and laugh which made mommy smile and laugh. No more frowns, no more tears and silence.

Anonymous said...

It was a late summer evening the day James Francis rolled into East Hazel. Although nearly September the frail lingering of summer ebbed and flowed as rumor spread about an Indian summer. Far off was the looming mass of the city and as he searched along the horizon there it lay reduced to a cluster of carnival lights across the corrugated waves. As wind came in from the shore for a while he sat upon the sand and imagined the fanning flames flicker and flash.

my name is andre

Margaret Rodenberg said...

My son, I was born for war. Let me tell you what that means.

Anonymous said...

The phone rang one morning just as the sun began its arch across the sky. Daylight ran through the tattered shades, from my window the world appeared to be engulfed in sky blue. Littered next to the phone was a half-eaten scone and a pack of Marlboro cigarettes. It didn’t occur to me then to answer the phone, as most important things tend to evaporate after a series of restless nights. Another day, another journey through time, Trotsky pawed at the tassels of my pillow, and what would today yield, what mysteries would I be confronted with—what joy? What grief—the myriad of possibilities blinded me and so once more I fell asleep.

R.R

Nina Cornett said...

Please note: My first paragraph is only two sentences. In case that is considered irredeemably skimpy and/or leaves one panting for more, I have inlcuded enough additional sentences (four) to hopefully satisfy any weight considerations. Here is the first paragraph:
"I believe my siblings killed my mother. What I can’t decide is whether it was murder."

And here are four more lines in case heft counts:
"Certainly they did what they did with intent, which rules out manslaughter.
She didn’t ask to be helped to die, which rules out assisted suicide.
They knew death would be the result of their actions, which rules out questions of degree.
What’s left, I suppose, is euthanasia."

Benjamin Baum said...

Everyone waited.
They had all come to hear how they would die.
The citizens of Delphi, Greece stood gathered around an ornate golden altar. The fire in the hanging braziers cast flickering shadows on their grave faces, and upon the walls and columns around them. No one spoke. No one moved. A heavy silence hung over the crowd, broken only by an occasional cough, or the cry of a child. Instinct had brought them here, a fearful stirring inside, a stirring that had been with mankind since he sheltered the night in caves, and never strayed far from the firelight – when he was not the hunter, but the hunted.

Jason Shprintz said...

The way the honeycomb window dividers angled the afternoon sunlight into the room reminded Joseph of a jail cell. Not that he had ever been to jail in which to truly reference from, but such separation of light and dark, from the bright outside bustling city streets and into the gloomy dust filled cave like room where he sat now, made him think of sitting in a small concrete cell where a dismal ray of light entered cautiously, casting it’s shine through a shoebox sized barred window on the roof. He sat on an uneven wooden chair and placed himself onto a rickety prison cot in his mind. His black and gray striped tie itched the hairs on his neck, and he immediately imagined the noose around his throat tightening as the executioner made the final preparations on the knot. The executioner, also known as the general manager, was sitting across from Joseph in the jail cell and paging through his lackluster resume. Joseph knew it would only be a short time now until the executioner pulled the rope and ended it for good, committing Joseph and his entire afternoon of repetitive applications and discouraging interviews to an abrupt finish. Joseph wiped the sweat from his palms discreetly on his pant leg as the executioner, for some unbeknownst reasoning to Joseph, continued to scan the several sheets of paper in front of him, delaying the terminal moment as he asked Joseph questions about his prior work experience and past responsibilities. But when the call from the governor rang through and the executioner released his grip by offering Joseph the position, the lynching scenario morphed into something even more frightening - the realization to Joseph that he was in way over his head.

Susan Lower said...

There were two things a boy could always count on growing up in the village of Briardale. First, to become a man, a boy must always follow in his father’s footsteps. But of course, not every boy in the village dreamed he would become a member of the village dung patrol. Lucky for Dagmar Thorston, there was one other thing he’d learned to count on, and that was his axe.

melinda said...

So..if I said to you...Look...over there is a flower dying and the bucket has a hole...the floor creaks,the fridge hums,the former things now gone.

by melinda

Bret Wellman said...

Ten minutes ago I was the smartest man on earth, right now I was struggling to remember my name. I am nothing without my mind.
It was surprisingly warm on this night, the stars were shining brightly through the cracks of the buildings above. I was wearing my uniform stamped with the Kingdom's logo. A dart in my shoulder was quickly draining what little sanity I had left as my best friend pulled me limping along through a back alley. We were running from the government.

Darcey Rosenblatt said...

The morning Mother said she’d be proud to have me die, my life blew apart like dirt clods kicked against the school yard wall. I woke with her hand hard over my mouth, her beetle black eyes staring into mine. Her long finger at her lips signaled me to be quiet. I glanced toward the bedroom door for Dad. I couldn’t help myself. He’d been dead for over a year, and I still expected to see him.

Stacey said...

It’s not getting any easier to tell my mother what’s happened, what she’s missed, what’s been going on in my life. It’s not getting any easier to survive each day without her. It’s not getting any easier to think of her and not cry. Elbow on my writing desk and chin cupped in my hand, I stare at the yellow notepaper. The lines across it as empty as my pounding head. The spot where the tip of my favourite pen touches is marked by a growing dot, evidence that there are no right words.
It’s not getting any easier.

Anonymous said...

It was the guest of times. It was the hearse of times. Vlonken van Bluder descended from the glossy black vehicle. A few tiny scarlet droplets on his otherwise immaculate white shirt revealed the quick snack he had caught before his arrival. No one cared to bring it to his attention. Respectfully, the perspiring crowd parted— bowing, stepping backwards, dribbling obsequious platitudes into their ruffles. The midnight gala could begin!

Mother-naked said...

Today was Abel Boone’s census interview and there was no way he was passing. He hadn’t killed anyone yet.
“Maybe it will be quick,” he said out loud.
Abel lay on the cold sheet of metal that was his bed and kept sketching. He put the finishing touches of his brain being blown out the back of his head. He flipped through his notebook at the hundreds of death self-portraits he made the night before. Slit throat. Strangulation. A staff to the head. He looked back at his last rendering and added a few more bits of skull fragment.

bcomet said...

The Rantart Theatre, once the Grand Rantart, the epitome of savoir-faire and luxury, now abandoned and long closed, was a place of quiet. Its thick, richly detailed wallpaper now curled away from its walls in plumes that repelled the surfaces they had once adorned. Its only remaining music came from a water tap that echoed inside the men’s restroom, a steady tiny dripping beat you had to enter to even hear, a sound that had etched itself with rust and mineral deposits into a previously white porcelain sink, providing proof of the power of little things.

Tatjana Dleif said...

Kara woke up to the 7:45am alarm bell. Her section of the sleeping porch was right under the blessed thing and every morning it would screech into her consciousness and startle her awake. It was not unlike the expected yet always shocking noise made by a teapot signaling its contents scalding and ready for use. Rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, Kara momentarily contemplated throwing the covers back over her head and refusing to move. She had been up all night again, listening to the racket upstairs. When would it stop, she wondered? How long could they possibly keep it up before they got bored? Or before they wore the floor down so much that they’d fall right on top of her? Every night it was the same show, the footsteps pacing back and forth across the attic floor. Then she wondered why she bothered wondering; the dead don’t get bored, nor do their steps carry enough weight to wear anything down.

Gina Popp said...

He was born in an abandoned bank vault in the middle of the Great Depression. The people of Oklahoma took this to be a most positive sign. And his father boasted to anyone who would listen, “Now that James Otis is in the world, things can only get better.” And he was right. Things quickly took a turn for the best.

Cindy Cipriano said...

The first time I held hands with Victor Santana, it wasn’t romantic, not at all. We were twelve years old, shooting hoops at his house, when the ring finger on my left hand banged tip first into the basketball. Victor’s father, Will, was there instantly. He probed my finger, and proclaimed it to be jammed. He instructed Victor to hold my other hand while he reset my finger. Victor looked uncomfortable, and unsure as he folded his hands around mine. He gently stroked the back of my hand, and I was surprised by the warmth of his touch. This distracted me, until a sharp tug dislodged my finger, causing me to cry out. In that moment, my eyes found Victor’s. I’ll never forget how scared he looked, or the worry in his eyes.

Sarah Marie said...

When I was twelve my cousin Ian went on a walk and came back to us in a coffin. He was seventeen, real, solid and full of life one moment and the next a still, cold thing in a wooden box. It was an accident. The driver simply did not see him, one shadow on the road among many. This was the worst truth of his death: that he could disappear so easily it was if he had not mattered at all.

Sarah said...

My life was a whirling cyclone of busyness. I was cramming commitments like cats in a sack. Coincidently one of the tasks literally involved me having to cram actual cats into a sack. Cats do not like being crammed in a sack and I had the arm decorations to prove it, but a few scratches were worth it to be with her. Visions of her shimmered and danced in front of me like a ghost…oh wait…that is her…she was a ghost. She wasn’t the kind who died a tragic death and refused to leave this earth because she was bitter or sullen. She wanted to be a ghost. She chose to be a ghost because she yearned to terrorize others and watch them give birth to fright and what she desired most of all was for me to join her.

Harry Marks said...

Bullshit, Will Ratcliff thought as he readjusted himself on the hot metal chair under the unyielding sun. The dean, hunched over the podium and draped in a shapeless black robe, perspired under his mortarboard while his final sermon loitered just inside Will’s ears. Will remembered being told at orientation of the benefits of the degree he’d earn today, how getting ahead would be that much easier because he’d put in the effort for a higher education. And here he sat, four years later, wondering if the whole thing was a scam. Well, not just him, but the three hundred soon-to-be-minted graduates sitting and squinting along with him.

Deborah Milagros said...

Amanda Mitchell’s daydreaming was interrupted when her taxi stopped at the Bridgeport Amtrak station. Her forty five minute trip has been miserable and the rain delayed her arrival, but nothing would ruin her day. Her train to Union station was scheduled to leave at 7:58 AM and she was ready to win the battle against the morning commuters, and the families going on vacations to board on time. She was glad that all her medical prototypes were mailed to the conference site given her more room to carry all her new outfits. Amanda just wished her husband was there to carry her suitcase, even if he was not the one to enjoy its content.

Abby Annis said...

Wednesday was the best day to set my boyfriend on fire. That was what his father said, anyway—so he could get it done before anyone else turned seventeen. And I got to watch. Lucky me.

Gene Maddox said...

"Carpet-bombed again!" I fumed to myself, and the pile of fresh dog poop fumed back at me.

Adam said...

The corporal’s name was Larry Conrad and he was 23 years old. He sat and smoked on a folding stool in the building. Outside the second-floor window, the nighttime wind swept across the desert. The starlight reflected on the paved highway cutting through the sand and scrub grass. When headlights from a sedan shone in the distance, he cupped his cigarette and held it between his knees, waiting for the car to pass. The sedan pulled over and stopped on the highway in front of the building. The headlights turned off. He crushed the cigarette under the heel of his boot as three men got out and stretched in the heat.

Anonymous said...

That billboard by the highway made him blench every time he passed it: a life size photo of Misty wearing a sequined ball gown, leaning on her married boyfriend's Jaguar and clutching what Mooney knew to be a double vodka martini in her white-gloved hand. And in faded red, peeling letters as big as she was: "PARTY TOO HARDY? Hardin & Mooneyham is Your 1 Phone Call Away!"
L.J.Nye

Sarah said...

The city lay against the far horizon, dark as a lump of coal in the morning light.
I wanted nothing more than to turn around, right there in the middle of the road, with frost-twisted fields stretching away in every direction. If I had my way, I would have left Father and the merchant caravan taking us to Reggen. I would have walked the full month back to Danivir. Back to my friend Elise who laughed even more than I did. I’d be there when she married the boy with the serious eyes, the one her father had picked. I’d go back to Mama’s grave and sit beside it like I used to. I’d tell her Father had found a city without a Tailor’s Guild and that he could sew any way he wished– and that I’d never sew for him again.

James Hansen said...

Tonight Lydia would speak with her mother, who was dead.
No one had seen her slip away from the celebration. Illuminated by firelight, girls danced in long skirts with bright colors. The boys of the camp watched with eager eyes. Guitars played and women sang. The smell of roasting pig tempted her to turn around. But no, she had to do this tonight. If Sara knew she had left the safety of the camp again, she’d rope her to the carriage. Luckily Sara was distracted by another gullible man. His money would feed them for a month.

raballard said...

Fate is the coincidental act of one’s lifestyle colliding with time and circumstance. A grieving widower, a heroic Civil War general, and a great president struck down in the prime of his life are on the same coincidental collision course headed towards their own separate fates. The universe stands still for a brief moment; just long enough to listen to the widower’s life story designed by fate and written by the hands of destiny.

raballard said...

The lingering effects of the poison clouded Sara Robert's mind but not her resolve to rescue her mother. However, Sara's impending execution would certainly make finding her kidnapped mother a bit more difficult not impossible.

Jennifer Kay said...

I set out with a simple goal: convince Tony to finally see me as a girl. Not another buddy he chest bumped on the basketball court, but a perfume scented, cleavage showing girly-girl. Instead, my eyes were the ones pried open.

Marianne Gualtieri said...

Miss Kelly has one piece of pink paper on top of her homeroom folder, and I know that it is meant for me. Every Friday our teachers distribute the disciplinary demerits, and today she'll hand me a slip that’s worth at least five. Mr. Warbley usually only sends me one when I don't complete his homework, but after class this time, I told him and his horsey nostrils that vocabulary is meant to be learned from reading books and not studying lists. We both know that words have flavor to them that can't be gleaned from the units in that dumb, orange workbook he assigns every week. I could tell, though, from the immediate plague of exasperated wrinkles on his forehead that he wasn’t really listening to my point. For a second I thought that he had finally given up on me, but he made the effort to say that I was only cheating myself. And by the look in his eyes, he really believed it too. His sincerity always depresses me, especially when I’m trying to talk my way out of one problem with him, and I find myself reminded that insubordination at Peyton Prep warrants an extra four demerits.

Don Wilkinson said...

My name is Wolfgang Weisz. Before i begin the naration of my story there are four things that you need to know about me. First of all, my name is Stefan Schroeder and i know what I I said before but I do have an explanation. Second, I am a ranking member of the SS; a member of one of five elite Special Action Groups. Thirdly, for the past three years I have served directly under SS-Obergruppenfuhrer Reinhardt Heydrich both before his posting to Prague as well as now following his death. As far as anyone could ever be, I suppose I was Heydrichs one and only friend. And finally the fourth fact, the one that may astonish you and likely need a fair amount of explanation; I am a Jew!

Leanne Bridges said...

To place your body at the water’s edge beneath the moon was to hand it to death. And still, there stood a man. He was hunched, and he whimpered, and he knew how he would die, but there he stood.

wendy said...

The old library doors of wood and glass rumbled apart, and a youngish woman garbed in a colourful array appeared in the opening. With her free hand she fiddled with the key in the lock until both doors were bound together. Beneath another arm she clutched two coffee-table sized books, covers a-sparkle with metallic letters and otherworldly denizens. One book slipped to the ground, and she gathered it up nearly losing her grip on the second as well. The first was a heavy tome wrapped in a glossy dust jacket illustrated in a rich pre-Raphaelite style. A golden nymph of a girl, with a cloud of titan hair adorned in flowering ivy, accompanied by a gentle unicorn graced the front cover. Her exquisite face gazed coolly at some vista beyond the autumn-toned glen she inhabited. The slimmer book had a soft cover illustrated in comic book style of an eldritch folk with hair and eyes as dark as the night enveloping them. One ageless, cheeky face occupied one third of the cover as he peered out at the reader from a ninety-degree angle. The background showed other little men frisking and cavorting on impossibly thin limbs around trees made silvery and shadowy from the castings of the moon. Their joyous and mischievous demeanour evoked the contradictory impression of being child-like and playful yet ancient and powerful.

(N.B.: Australian spelling used)

Ryan McConkey said...

This wasn’t my first glimpse at post-skirmish carnage. I’ve sifted through the scattered appendages of women and children many times just hoping to come across something formidable enough to justify tossing a frag into the room without proper investigation beforehand. It was however, the first time in a long time that I felt anything resembling pity for the fallen. Perhaps it was because she remained beautiful even after breaking her neck. Maybe it was the look of peace on her face despite her body being contorted in such a way that even the dead would find it uncomfortable. Either way, I felt something akin to empathy for the woman, which brought me back to the days when I was still human.

ZJ Czupor said...

When the minx walked through my office door I knew there would be trouble. It was late, way past office hours, but there she stood, statuesque in the frame, backlit by the light in the hall. Her thin white dress glowed translucent and revealed familiar curves. I could tell that she didn’t recognize me. Yet. Maybe it was my white hair.

Hiram Davis said...

He ran. Terror purged all sense of course or bearing. Speed became the gospel as soft earth clutched at his faith. The dogs’ silence seduced his wit and tightened the jelly of his sphincter with cautious perception. Was Ortega’s confidence such that he would send only his men? A vision of chance dissolved as mongrel wails licked at his rasping labor for air. Briefly stilled lungs confirmed their coming. Quelled horror bounced to frontal lobes on a tsunami and devoured coherence with probing surgery. Impacted verdure disguised distance as powerful legs and hungry bellies pulled closer. The deity of survival bestowed unknown strength. He ran.

Geekamicus said...

Dante had it wrong: there were ten levels of hell. The most severely punished were confined in a tomb of marble and mahogany and tortured by irrational human beings. Kate surveyed her surroundings, felt the pulse throb at the side of her head, and considered martyrdom. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. If there was any mercy in heaven she wouldn't be stuck here forever.

Chad Sourbeer said...

Turning, I stood up and looked over the low dividing wall confirming he was still standing there. He was, but he wasn’t moving much. I knew it was the warm water on the back of his neck that kept him in place—warm and enveloping as it cascaded over his shoulders. He was leaning forward using his hands to prop up the rest of his body, no doubt feeling the coolness of the tile against his blistered palms. I watched as he let the pressure from the shower head push the heat down the valley created by the smooth muscles of his back. Facing front, I sat back down and my eyes found a dirty sock at the base of the moldy tiled wall. I took a deep breath and listened to the hot water’s music echo through the steam as it swirled in the dim light.

Rilla Z said...

“Are you okay?” Cara asked me, as we walked down the ramp from the swings. I couldn’t answer. I was afraid my breakfast of a whole elephant ear and breaded sausage on a stick would accompany my response. I just shook my head and stepped off the shuddering planks—obviously of the highest, most durable design and construction that the Longs & Oakwood Amusement Park could offer. I was concentrating on a prayer that I would not expel the contents of my stomach right there in public. It was a horrifying few seconds. I was on the brink of utter mortification for the rest of my life. You see, it doesn’t matter if you’re almost going to throw up. It’s if you do that decides things. If you can hold it down, you’re like a hero; but it’s that moment when you really have no control over whether ‘conqueror’ or ‘conquered’ will be your lasting legacy that you realize the insanity of having eaten anything for the past two years—much less fried, mystery ingredients twenty minutes beforehand—before getting on a ride where the intention is to go against park rules by twisting and swaying, solely trusting in four rather rusty chains and a cracked kiddie chair. It seemed cool at the time, suspended high above the park grounds, but not so much in retrospect.

Thanks, Nathan!

Paul Krueger said...

“Do you know why you’re here, Sam?” Nick Kirchein said through dazzling teeth. Just seeing them made Sam want to scoot his chair back, all the way to the office door and maybe out into the hallway just to be safe. Looking directly into his enamel-y maw was looking into the sun on a hung over morning, and for once he wasn’t even hung over. He was, as it happened, a stone's throw away from drunk, but he hardly saw how that was relevant.

Joanna said...

The girl screamed, though it was mostly muffled by his hand. She couldn’t figure out what to think, and wasn’t having much success trying to do anything. Aaron sat beside her - almost on top of her, actually - and held her down firmly.

Pamela Ehrenberg said...

If that boy had stared at me any harder from the photocopy on my desk, I swear he would have jumped right off the page. In the photo, he's sitting with a bunch of other kids behind a long table. If you don't look at their hands, they could be the same student government/4-H/science fair types that fill up our whole frigging newspaper most weeks. But if you look at their hands, you'll see that they've chained themselves to the table, and if you read the caption, you'll see where the table is in a school board meeting and the kids are mad because the school tried to take away their special Mexican-American studies class and make them learn American-American studies like everyone else.

Veronica Bartles said...

Sometimes, I think there should be a support group for kids with perfect brothers and sisters. Something like AlaTeen, but without the drugs and stuff. We could all sit around in a big circle in the dingy basement of some church or community center or something and talk about how our perfect family members are systematically destroying our lives.

Hiram Davis said...

He ran. Terror purged all sense of course or bearing. Speed became the gospel as soft earth clutched at his faith. The dogs’ silence seduced his wit and tightened the jelly of his sphincter with cautious perception. Was Ortega’s confidence such that he would send only his men? A vision of chance dissolved as mongrel wails licked at his rasping labor for air. Briefly stilled lungs confirmed their coming. Quelled horror bounced to frontal lobes and devoured coherence with probing surgery. Impacted verdure disguised distance as powerful legs and hungry bellies pulled closer. The deity of survival bestowed unknown strength. He ran.

DeAnne D. said...

My name is Euphoria Ophelia Barzerkly. I know, right? I’m 13 years old, and a supergenius. I’m not supposed to say that out loud, but it’s true. It’s genetic. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been inventing things. I have this massively cool lab, filled with equipment I’ve mostly invented myself. I share the lab with my dad. You’ve probably heard of him; Dr. Cornelius Augustus Barzerkly, inventor of the anti-gravity ray. Yes, the anti-gravity ray that accidentally sent a church filled with people towards the heavens. That’s why we’re way out here now, in the middle of nowhere. I mean, it’s pretty and all; there’s a forest surrounding us, and a river not more than a five minutes walk, but there are no other people around for miles. And the nearest “civilization”? A teeny crossroads village with a store, a gas station, and a restaurant, if one is willing to loosely define restaurant as a “counter with suspicious meat in a gas station”.

Kathy M said...

“Boring!” Samantha’s singsong whisper carried to her team over the hidden microphone as she casually strolled down the rain-damp sidewalks of the dark city park. “I don’t think this guy is going to show tonight. It’s too bloody cold.”

Kathy Matzen

memoriesofchocolate said...

What could be sweeter than that singular moment of freedom, when the school bell rings, and the day is finally over? When ties are unfurled and tossed over carefree shoulders, when arms are locked around the waist of only the best friend in the world, when scruffy brown socks give up the good fight and relax around the ankles, when school bags eat dust as they hang off slouchy little bodies, their owners having tossed off all heavy burdens for the day? A few golden moments, that’s all it is, of stolen freedom and sunshine and glory, as a football soars into the air and sun-kissed dust particles rise up to applaud, and an ice-lolly tasting of summer and strawberries is demolished over a couple of shared-licks; and the day is over, and the day has just begun.

Wichita Sims said...

Mayben's first, and as it turns out his only, shot of the day was an accidental discharge from his shotgun into the hind quarters of his and Laurel Jane's beloved retriever, Piper. Kaboom. Piper, their dog, tumbled ass over teakettle and fell in a heap.

Kristin Butcher said...

Lucy stared out her bedroom window toward the cemetery. It was February, and it was cold. Unconsciously, she rubbed her hands together to warm them. In the tiny churchyard, a patch of frozen ground had been cleared of snow, and she reminded herself that an hour ago, she had been one of the people standing on it.

Christine bloom said...

Trish didn’t want to go home. Instead of turning into her driveway, she circled the block. She did this often. By driving slowly through the neighborhood, she caught glimpses into other people’s lives and imagined how they lived. Sometimes her furtive glances were rewarded with an open drape or a shade not pulled all the way down. Gathered around dinner tables, blowing out candles on birthday cakes, or hanging stockings from fireplace mantles, these other people seemed to live happier, more normal lives than hers. She wished she could go home to such a life.

HH Johnson said...

"Mr. Andrews, you are being followed by that girl over there, the one dressed like the angel of death." "Yes, I know." Christopher Andrews had been aware of that girl for the past two hours. She was hard to miss. She wore a long black robe and held a huge plastic scythe. It was a costume party tonight. There were lots of other guests wearing weird costumes. But even at this costume party, she stood out. Chris thought, Maybe she's nuts. She could be dangerous. Will she try to kill me? I hope she does.

HH Johnson said...

HH Johnson is my pen name. My real name is Sergio Valdes

Donald McMaster said...




I wake up slow. Feel the gentle rocking of the boat. Hear the sound of her breathing. Hear the slap, slap of water against the hull. Gulls cry while decking creaks with the swell. The air feels wet in my throat and tastes of salt. She is sound asleep, though when she moves I think that perhaps I am mistaken about the soundness. As I watch her face in the dim light of the open hatch she stiffens and flings an arm up over her head as if to protect herself; a low groan escapes her dreaming as if threatened by something only she can see.

Fizza Rizvi said...

Allah-o-Akbar, Allah-o-Akbar
The call woke me up. The mosque was just two streets away and its loud speaker was intentionally set to such a volume, I felt as if the call was meant just for me. I was lying on the charpai my wife had placed on the roof for drying spices and other kitchen stuff. She didn't like it to be used as a bed, believing it a disrespect toward an eatable. Since it was Azan-e-Maghrib , I must had been here for more than 3 hours and there was no way, my wife hadn't noticed my absence. "Ah! No more romance today, as well." I reminded myself with a smile. My wife's only way of showing anger was to stop talking to me and coming late to bed, when I got fast asleep.

chris lake said...

“When you’re about to do something bad, like this,” said Lee, “It’s important to take a slug of whiskey first.”
Stu nodded. He ran his hands through his long, curly hair and fixed it in a shaggy ponytail with a black hair tie. Bruce was sprawled in the corner, his big frame twitching, his right shoulder a corona of blackish red, with a brighter red starburst of blood radiating outwards. The lighter red stain had spread to the edges of his collar, sleeve and top pocket. In Bruce’s left hand was a bottle of Jack Daniels. Bruce took a swig and handed it to Stu.

Erin Williams said...

The two hour drive from Westover to Virginia Beach could be peaceful and beautiful. There were roads that lazily wound themselves through centuries-old plantations with a canopy of massive oak trees shading the way. But today, Tim raced us down the more industrial interstate, screaming past the line of cars in the right lane and banging his hand on the steering wheel in frustration at the slow drivers in front of us in the left.

@ilola said...

They say loving a child the way one would love an adult is either a sign or mental illness or just plain depravity, but I beg to differ. There could possibly be nothing sick or depraving with the love I had for Milkeyes. One thing about my love for her is that it is real, which is more than I can say about the ones many adults have for themselves.

Atilola Moronfolu

A. Boudreau said...

I wear me heart on my arm, just above the wrist, like a cuff of ever-changing colored jewelry. Everyone does; we get along by politely ignoring them.

Marion said...

So they gave me papyrus. Some reward! A few scraps, ragged around the edges, already filled up with writing. Old accounts, old contracts. So I write on the back, smoothing it first as much as I can with a flat rock. On this uneven surface, my symbols are ugly and smudged.

Jyoti Singh Visvanath said...

Don't judge me for what I am about to tell you. We all do things we are not proud of to survive. I am not ashamed to say, I would do it all again...only better.

kirstyfitz said...

Killing animals is surprisingly easy. It's bringing them back that requires a little more effort. After four weeks of driving I'd become the West Countries leading bunny killer - in a 1995 red Peugeot 306, class and stealth weren't two words that sprung to mind.

Julianne said...

The question was,how did the journal get in the bag?
Tristan picked up the book,flipped throught the pages and Abilene's thought streamed out like vivid motion pictures. He snapped the book shut and placed it on his desk, conscience said not to read it.

JD Revene said...

A woman dances in lingerie hinting at more than it reveals. She pouts and poses, tossing dark tresses. At a nearby table a man and woman watch. ‘Nice boobs,’ the lady says.
‘Not as nice as yours.’ Her partner leans in. ‘Not even close.’
‘Aww, baby.’ She nuzzles him and squeezes his leg. Fingers wander up his thigh.

austere said...


As he trudged to his corner store in the Queens pre-dawn quiet, Ram Patel pulled at his sleeves and brushed his fingers on the rough tweed of his coat.No, he felt just as frozen. Back home with cold as severe as this, all of them would have huddled around a bonfire, mama, kaka, fua, everyone, attired in monkey caps and British-era overcoats and shawls, squeezing out words between chattering teeth, the same lines they’d repeat every year over and over again, drawing warmth from the familiar --how cold it is this year, so cold this early! Sometimes he thought this chill had percolated into his weary bones and from that store it leached into his flesh, little by little. Just as the all pervasive summer heat had seeped in back home. Or perhaps it was just Arusha.

jrlawson4@comcast.net said...

The smell of sewage filled him with superhuman strength and he spraddled himself across the bottom of the boat, blinked to clear his vision, a “I don’t want to die smelling like urine.” Casey Cumber kicked his legs to stay afloat in the sedimentation tank and managed to get a firmer grip on the overturned rowboat. A condom floated past him followed by something round—a baseball? As he cursed the day he started working at the Decatur Sewage Treatment Plant, Casey tried, yet again, to throw his heavy leg onto the bottom of the boat. What the heck am I doing out here, anyway? My job, of course. My shitty, shitty job. But how did I manage to fall in?

M said...

Hell hath no fury like a hurricane scorned, so Betty must have been freaking livid. What was supposed to be a category one storm, spun into a strong two before blasting Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. I stepped onto the front porch of the house my sister and I shared to survey the damage, and holy mother of god was she not going to be happy. I counted at least six pine trees down, half of them laying across our gravel driveway. But what concerned me most was the now missing siding from the front of our house and the roofing shingles in the yard.

Eva Natiello said...

It’s impossible to un-know a secret. Once you know it, you own it. It can’t be returned like a ten dollar bill. Or burned like a once-true love letter. The click of a mouse won’t delete it from the conscious mind. It will stick to the walls of your memory like dried oatmeal to a dish. The secrets you wish you never knew become a burden to lug. A bowling ball without holes.

Season Vining said...

Josie sat in the dark corner as always. Graffiti riddled walls and empty chairs were her only company. A journal lay open in her lap while her charcoal stained fingers clutched the pencil hovering above the page. Hundreds of words flashed through her mind, yet she did not possess the will to choose one and write it down. The first word of a sentence, the precipice of an idea, usually held all the power as far as she was concerned. This is why, most nights, she kept to sketching–the curved lines and shading smudges were easier to commit to.

Erica said...

My sixteenth birthday was less about candles and more about death. Not my death, of course, that would have been much too macabre for my seemingly delicate mother. No, this birthday was about the death I would be responsible for. The death that has clouded my mind since I was nine and walked into the mudroom looking for my polka dot boots. Instead, I found my parents spraying their hands and forearms clean, spattering the porcelain wash bin a diluted crimson.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I drive the car, a prehistoric lump of gray metal, through the woods. Addie grips her seat belt. Our old bodies buck, our bones jar and grate, as the car lurches over the uneven terrain. It would hurt if we were still human. I head to our usual place and pull the car up onto the road's shoulder, on the edge of the primeval green quiet of the woods. The car shudders as if in fear then goes still. Addie picks at a hole in the bench seat's vinyl. She frowns out the window, absently rolling the blood soaked stuffing between her fingers.

Marcy said...

The first time MaryAnn died she was twelve years old. Polio was at its peak, claiming or paralyzing over a million lives that year. MaryAnn, however, did not stay dead as every other Polio victim did. If she had stayed dead, many people would later have suffered through one more day of hunger, of suffering, of discouragement, of loneliness, and of ignorance. Had she gone to a permanent grave, the world would have missed her boisterous laughter, the twinkle in her eye, and the smile that only half rose as her grip with Polio still weighed the other side down. The second time MaryAnn died, though, she stayed dead. This is the story of her second and final death.

D.L. Johnstone said...

Decimus Tarquitius Aculeo gazed bleakly about his stylish multi-level villa. It looked so desolate now with the crates and chests filled with every last stitch and stick of the family’s fine belongings, now stacked up in the vestibulum and along the main hallway like vegetables heading off to market. Most of the furniture was already gone while that which remained was covered in sheets of canvas, ready to be taken. The moneylender’s slaves walked back into the house, marching right through the front gate bold as could be, their sandals caked with dust from the street, ready to heft the next load into the wagon. Aculeo clenched his jaw as he watched them, wanting for all the world to kick them out into the street, but holding his tongue. Gnaeus, the toad-like little freedman, strutted about the villa, chest puffed out, touching everything with his grubby hands, barking out orders on what should be taken next.

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