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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Jennifer said...

The candles stink of dragon fat as I light them. “Luna hear me, for the day is dark and I cannot find my way.” The last candle in the semi circle sputters before it catches. I blow out the match before it reaches my fingertips. It leaves a streak of black on the sandstone when I toss it down. “So there’s this boy.”

Josh H said...

The crash of metal against metal filled the Winter Quarter of the palace, and when Audra closed her eyes, she imagined for a moment hundreds of other soldiers fighting alongside her, in defense of the king. When she opened her eyes again, a sword tip flashed in the air in front of her and appeared to end inches before her throat.

Joanne Huspek said...

“Honey, the pain is temporary. Trust me, the payoff will be fabulous.”
Easy for you to say; you’re not on the receiving end. Janna Abraham puffed a series of Lamaze breaths as her arms clenched around the lower column of her enormous four-poster bed. Behind her, a smart ass Southern leprechaun dressed in tight, black spandex pants, flaming fuchsia silk shirt, and indigo velvet vest pulled at a series of intertwined cords with all his might. Janna wriggled away and managed to turn back to her tormenter, a feat of contortion since her stomach muscles strained hard in the opposite direction. After four minutes of constant squeezing, Janna’s once luminous face had turned a ghastly shade of putty. She managed to gasp her displeasure. “What the hell kind of medieval torture is this, Rhett? Do the Feds use this at Guantanamo? If they don’t, they ought to.”

Robyn Lucas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carolyn said...

The strangest thing of all was the relief. I didn't expect it, and yet there it was all the same. I was relieved I wouldn't have to wonder anymore, I wouldn't have to hope. I wouldn't have to hear their hushed voices arguing on the other side of closed doors. It was settled, now. Father had won, Mother had lost, and I was being committed.

Istvan Szabo, Ifj. said...

“Thousands of stars could tell thousands of stories,” whispered the old man with a gentle smile. “I hope others also see the story of our beautiful star.”
Decades creased the countenance of the weary old man. He propped himself at the balcony, the silky wind ruffling his grey hair. His aged eyes never tired of the stars that pierced the infinite night sky. But despite the enchanting skyscape, his soul, which desired endless peace, was restless. He had one final promise he had made ages ago still unfulfilled; to share the past with those living in the present. A long held secret, a story to tell. Sorrow embraced him, as he knew as the sun rose to greet a new day one unheard story would pass along with him to vanish for eternity. And the time was close.

Rebecca J Blain said...

Kalen stared at his feet, at the thick, black mud oozing between his toes, and wondered what had happened to his boots.

Christine Tyler said...

Marielle pressed her face to the bathhouse screen, eyeing the world through geometric carvings. The scent of blood, dust, and burnt sugar bloomed in the heat. Steam escaped past her fingertips, mixing with smoke from the vendors below. Fires kicked and crackled. Succulent vapors of herring and ginger, tamarind and saffron, oozed up the sky until they shattered in the cool blue of the ocean breeze.

Anonymous said...

The figure under the table shifted again. It was a deliberately slow movement, as if whoever it was didn’t want to be discovered, so Kit didn’t say anything. Instead he relaxed his aching body in the black, tepid water, savouring its remaining warmth, and grinned up at the man who had spoken to him last. “Beg pardon, sir?”

Rebecca McMath

Matt Borgard said...

Some equations were beautiful for their simplicity. Some for their ability to pair completely unrelated numbers in an elegant way. Some astounded by fashioning real world phenomena as a mathematical formula. Still others were memorable simply because of the sing-song way students retained them. Professor Nin Rylock’s newest discovery was none of these. Nin’s equation was ugly.

Rebecca Harwell said...

That stupid android wasn't listening to me again.

MacEvoy said...

What is it the old Chinese Proverb says? A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step? That’s true enough I suppose. But then I’d never had a problem with that all-important first step- dad’s drunken beatings had prompted more than a few of them across our threshold. No, it was the thousandth, or ten thousandth step that always tripped me up and turned me inexplicably back home. Looking back with the clarity of years, it should have been the easiest thing in the world for me to skip out on my father. I guess it was the passport that finally set me free.

Justine Dell said...

I soared down to Earth and hit the pavement of the school parking lot without a sound. Elizabeth bounded down the stairs from the building, brushing by all the people I couldn’t see. An electric smile lit her young face. Today was her day. She’d earned her trip out of Hell. This was the only part of my job I enjoyed. I slipped into the passenger’s seat of her red coupe and waited for her. She hopped in, still beaming, as the engine roared to life. She didn’t see me—no one on Earth could actually see me. I wasn’t a spirit or ghost, though. Only a man who had a job to do. I could reach out and touch her if I wanted, but she wouldn’t feel it. Not that I wanted to touch a human anyway.

heatherkamins.com said...

​When I was 14, I was diagnosed with a disease no one knew how to pronounce. My pediatrician wrote its name on his prescription pad, and all the letters looked like they ought to add up to something speakable, but when I opened my mouth to say it, only strange sounds came out. They were the sounds of distant animals in a rainy jungle, the sounds of metal grinding against rusted metal. “We’ve never known how to say it,” the doctor said. “But there’s a lot of research, and we’re closer to a pronunciation than ever.”

Elaine Smith said...

Hal hid in the shadows by the stable door. He hoped no one would notice him standing back from the competition. He didn’t know why the challenge had been called but everyone knew that the knight, de Moreville, had named the prize.

Carrie Jo said...

Where is she? I shift as inconspicuously as I can, although I know it doesn't matter. I could probably lift the skirt of this dress to flash everyone in the pews and only the other bridesmaids and groomsmen would notice. Every single head in the church is turned, waiting for my sister to come through the back doors and walk down the aisle. As usual, she's making everyone wait.

John Barnes said...

I was cutting across the DU campus, on time for work and trying to hurry enough to make it early. It was well over seventy in the first week of November; Denver has lots of days out of season. Against the dead-computer-blue sky, the sparse and clumpy leaves on the trees still flamed orange and red. Dribbling traces of the Halloween snow held on in the concrete drainage gutters and the shadows. The weather was nice but most of my attention was about twenty feet in front of me. You know that state of mind a guy gets into when sex and love and all that is the furthest thing from your mind? You haven’t had any in ages, you think you’re never going to want any ever again, but then you notice someone’s hair is nice or she’s got a real pretty face or something? Like you see some woman just going about her business but while she's doing it, she's being so beautiful, or cool, you think, Wow. Not like you’re all interested and whatnot, necessarily, but you notice.

susanbishopcrispell said...

The rules of summer were simple: only one ice cream sandwich per day, no swimming without appropriate supervision, and be home before dark. On the day Luca Grable died, she broke all three. The first two were acts of seven-year old rebellion. The third was an unintentional side effect of drowning in her best friend’s pool.

Lauren Monahan said...

When people around here, Southern California, talk about 9/11 they usually don’t talk about the victims, the heroes, or the villains. They talk about themselves. They talk about where they were when the towers fell. They talk about what they were doing, their connections to a friend with a missed appointment or whatnot. And when someone uses “they” to describe a behavior, often it’s her own. Or so I’ve heard. When Karly was attacked on the tenth anniversary of the infamous American tragedy, I was being dumped. By someone I loved. A lot. And now whenever I think of any of the events, I hurt for all of them.

LCS249 said...

Wherever you go, there you are. Alan Watts, the Zen teacher, said that. Deceptively simple sounding. But it’s not. It means you’re still you no matter where you go. Being somewhere different doesn’t make you different. You are who you are. Wherever you happen to be. I hadn’t figured that out yet. Hadn’t internalized the lesson. I was still counting on being a different person just by going someplace different.

LCS249 said...

Wherever you go, there you are. Alan Watts, the Zen teacher, said that. Deceptively simple sounding. But it’s not. It means you’re still you no matter where you go. Being somewhere different doesn’t make you different. You are who you are. Wherever you happen to be. I hadn’t figured that out yet. Hadn’t internalized the lesson. I was still counting on being a different person just by going someplace different.

Cristina said...

Cora’s arms ached in protest as she dug the shovel into the dirt one last time. The physical exertion had helped her forget, even if just for a little while, the recent deaths in town. She wiped the dirt off her forehead and climbed out of the child sized grave. Peeling off her gloves, she opened and closed her fingers working the stiffness out. A smile crept on her lips. She’d done it. She’d actually dug a grave all on her own.

Hong said...

The pink cloud morphed into the shape of a dragonfly in the sky. Linh gasped. It was as though someone had created the creature to leap out from a pop-up book. She stepped away from the window in her study room, opened the front door, and ran barefoot out of her house in her nightgown on a breezy day, ignoring the cold sidewalk stinging her feet.

Vicky said...

I should have known why all the other bikers were taking the right-hand trail. I knew it had rained the night before. But when the trail split into two parallel paths, giving me the chance to pass Letty on the final part of our XC run, swerving onto the left trail was a no-brainer. At least for someone with no brains.

Mirka Breen said...

It was going to be the greatest competition in the world, and I was going to win it.
So what if I hate sandwiches? What’s love got to do with it? The prize of all the sandwiches I could eat for life and the title of World Champion were worth going for. Oh, and Mom and Dad thought the promise of a full college scholarship was something too.

Mike C. said...

You’ve seen the statue David – Michelangelo’s marble rendering of the ideal male form. My body is a counterpoint to it. No self-respecting Renaissance master would’ve ever wasted his time sculpting me.

Anonymous said...

The Mazda hit ice. Carter cursed, fought for control, lost it in kaleidoscope swirls, and the vehicle hurtled down a steep bank, jamming Tori against seat and headrest. Terror strangled her heart, breath refused to come and let out her screams. Stillness as the car stopped, engine running, headlights shining on pristine snow. Relief caught laughter in Tori’s throat, until she realized where they’d ended up. The Coldwater River. Confirming her fears, ice cracked loud as a pistol shot. Carter undid his seatbelt. Tori depressed the button on hers. It refused to give despite her frantic efforts. Carter opened his door, got out the car, then bent to peer back in. “Goodbye, Tori,” he said.

Anonymous said...

Oops, that last annoymous was me - Sue Curnow

Tom Braun said...

Not many are left who still remember the World Before. All are old and most are doddering relics, stunted and grayed by the wonders they have lived through. But I have been careful. I have kept my mind as sharp as the sword that my old master gave to me. I have tended its blade like a flower, oiling it every evening and wrapping it in silk. After fifty years it can still split a green reed down the middle. After fifty years I can still remember the day the moon was broken, and the Old World ended.

I am a ninja. My name is MacKenzie.

Ria Frost said...

“I think we may have damned the world,” Adriel said, at last.
Zachery almost laughed, but the frown that had lingered on his sister's forehead since they’d met meant she was serious, troubled even. All the same, he couldn't help but give a little jab at her dire proclamation. “Is that all that’s been bothering you?”

untitlement said...

Mid-tackle, feet in the air, Jim realized this was the stupidest thing he’d ever done. But it was too late. Cartoon characters could stop time, could backpedal and change direction as they fell. Lowlife vermin Jimmy Scott was no cartoon character.

untitlement said...

Untitlement = Caroline Bridges
sorry!

scarletprimrosepress@gmail.com said...

I place my hand on the nose of the brown work horse as Father and Johan remove her dead body from its carriage. He shakes his head and snorts, the steam of his breath floating into the cold March fog. I am not supposed to be motherless. That happens to other children. Yet here I am, watching Father place Mother on a pyre. My legs shake as I approach her for the last time. I haven’t slept in days.

Shawn said...

(1927)

Garvin Reynolds knew two personal saviors, Jesus Christ and Thomas Edison. His faith in Jesus was not optional. The devotion to Edison solidified after Garvin read a profile in the Telegraph Star where Edison said he did not believe in luck. Luck was just so much science that had yet to be counted, measured, and weighed. Garvin's father, Doyle Reynolds, didn’t believe in either Thomas Edison or Jesus. Doyle Reynolds said Garvin was a bad luck boy. Doyle had said it a million times. Garvin’s mother had told his father to quiet his sharp words almost as many. Almost.

Darrell B. Nelson said...

Nomi had no problem getting naked in front of the crowd. It was the snakes that bothered her.

Tom Bentley said...

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

DailyDoseofAlli said...

Sometimes, when Corrine couldn't sleep, she would close her eyes, breathe in, and lift her arms and legs above the comfort of the crumpled, warm flannel sheets. She’d shift to balance her limbs, and breathe a little deeper. Then, her head and back would forgive gravity and she’d gently leave Moose, her unsuspecting St. Bernard, contently snoring at the foot of her bed. After a few minutes, when she had lifted hundreds of feet into the air, Corrine would finally exhale and let herself come careening down, the cool whip of wind on her back and her hair spreading like a wind-blown halo above her head. She’d be overwhelmed by the freedom and the lightness until it all would culminate in a collision into not the gnarled coils of her old mattress, but into the deep blue water that waited for her below.

Ann Noser said...

Dead people don’t scare me…at least not as much as live ones do. Nothing’s as intimidating as a band of mean junior high girls determined to make your life hell. Even though I’d ‘gotten away’ and was now a sophomore at UW-Eau Claire, their insults remained on repeat play in my head. And despite my good intentions to be brave, awesome, and cool in college—so far it hadn’t happened. Stupid things that everyone else on the planet could do with ease—like making small talk at keg parties—paralyzed me with fear. I tried to avoid such situations. Like this cookout my roommate wanted me to go to tonight. Like boys I might meet, fun I might have, none of it seemed worth the risk. Being comfortable meant staying home with a book. Where I was safe. Where nothing bad could ever happen. Nothing good, either.

- Ann M. Anderson Noser

Samantha Heath said...

Everyone said she was only running from her feelings, trying to avoid grieving. The truth was, she'd grieved every day for seven months as the cancer in her mother's chest spread throughout her body, into her lungs and down to her bones. Death was on that doorstep long enough for Stella to deny it, to cuss it, to bargain for a trail treatment, and to sob for days on end. By the time her mother drew her last breath, she'd already accepted it.

Atthys Gage said...

“Okay, here’s the thing.” Byrne gave the basketball a hard spin between his finger-tips and caught it again. “Originally, there were two different races – one with brow-ridges, the other without. The ones with ridges were rare at first, but then later they became dominant, probably because the females liked that ridgy look.”

Anna Roberts Moore said...

“He only touched my breasts. That’s all. It’s not a big deal.” I said. The child protective services officers had taken us out of third period. We were escorted to the teacher’s lounge. Lynn and I staring at each other, wide-eyed, wondering how much trouble this was going to land us in. We knew why CPS was there. The week before during our girls youth group meeting we’d been asked to open up to God, to share our problems with our Heavenly Father, and either Lynn or I – we can’t remember who said it first – had shared that our stepdad molested us. I realize now they probably only used that “open up to God” line to sniff out the troublemakers who were sneaking out, having sex and smoking pot or those who would give up names. Little did they expect to hit jackpot that night. Everyone left the room wiping tears away, hugging each other, assuring us everything would be kept secret.

Artemis Grey said...

Viola croaks on me in the backwater banjo-picking town of Sunder. No amount of pleading or sobbing can bring her back. I stand there and watch as two supersized hillbillies roll her body onto a removal truck. Part of me knew she'd never make it, but I had to give her a chance. I couldn't just leave her trapped in that junkyard. And she got pretty far for a '58 Chevy.

Amy Saia said...


He owned one of those automatic coffeepots, the kind where you set everything up the night before—the filter, three scoops of Folgers, poured the water in—only he always forgot to do all that shit, and the coffeepot beeped every morning like a dry bomb ready to explode. That’s why he never bought, or used, an alarm clock. He’d gotten so used to the coffeepot going off at five a.m. that he didn’t need one. But dammit if he didn’t need a cup of coffee.

The Screaming Guppy said...

Six smiling faces stared back at Trevin Lash in an otherwise undecorated apartment. It wasn’t until after the children were killed, years ago, that he hung their pictures. He touched his cheek just below his left eye, running fingertips over six black dots. The marks of a murderer.

Elizabeth said...

I was six years old the first time I died.

Liz
shinyontheoutside@gmail.com

Gianetta said...

Eleanor Ann cursed silently to herself as the old lady swerved into her lane as she approached the intersection. She had a lot on her mind this morning and dodging traffic wasn't one of them. Officially, she was approaching an age that was really no different from the year before. But in her mind, 45 was the tipping point. It was the beginning of the end so to speak; the time that everything began to flow downhill. It was harder to do everything--from getting out of bed in the morning to bending over and tying her shoes. Walks around the block were becoming less fun and her breasts; well they hadn't been anywhere near perky in about ten years. Yes, life for Eleanor Ann wasn't turning out quite the way she expected and honestly, she didn't really know what to do about it. "Watch it, lady!" she exclaimed as the old lady swerved in her lane again. "I'm miserable, sure, but I'm not ready to check out yet. Maybe you need to have a driving test or something."

M. R. Pritchard said...

One thing I have come to learn, is where there is soil, there are roots. And it won’t be long before they come for me. I can feel them already, stretching through the dirt, reaching for me like a corpse from the ground, calling to me. I kick myself towards the door, my back against it. I scream. I yell. I bang on the old wood with my fists. I call for someone, anyone, to help me, to let me out of this soil walled room. But no one comes. They’ve left me, all of them. Even Dylan, the one person I had left. I watched him swim away, he didn’t even look back. There’s nothing but silence from the dungeon on the other side of the door.

Michelle Roberts said...

The orphanage was locked up tight—like a prison. One Kollin had to escape. He tiptoed around the perimeter of the boys’ sleeping chamber. His empty pallet lay forlorn in the midst of the sleeping boys, but Kollin was on a mission. The doors stood directly ahead of him, but they were probably locked. They were always locked. The gates to leave the compound were always guarded; just as the oldest boys were guarded coming and going from their jobs. Gods forbid that any of the orphanmaster’s labor force run away in the night.

Stephanie Garber said...

The lightships always came to port on Sunday. Sometimes if I looked hard enough from my boardinghouse window, I swore I could see this planet’s murky brown sky change color. Fragments of blue and white, like pieces of broken stars, signaled the great ships’ arrivals.

jeffwenker said...

I sat in my well-worn Lazy-Boy watching Monday Night Football, cursing the Minnesota Vikings, cursing Dan Dierdorf, just plain cursing, when The Roommate walked in, raised a magnum of Anchor Steam and said, “Off your ass, Jack, we’re celebrating!”

T Aydelott said...

Drowning Macbeth was an accident. We hadn’t been planning anything so off-script as that, even though our plays usually wound around themselves and did funny things at the end. There were only four of us, so we combined roles and collapsed scenes to make the plays our own. It was never neat when we got to the end of a play. Miss March, who taught literature and wore a bitten pencil in her hair, would have hated it. But we never invited anyone to our performances, not even our brothers, though they sometimes helped out with rigging up the sets and finding some of the more obscure props. They could have asked to watch, I suppose, or maybe they had and we’d forgotten because it was so long ago. Mostly they left us to ourselves and made it seem like they never had time for our antics. And, anyway, what fun is a ruined play to a bunch of boys who train dogs and hurtle up and down trees and are planning to be dragon-wranglers or wood-mages?

Mark Hough said...

They called her the pig-woman. No one said it to her face of course—that would be suicide—but they all thought it just the same. She had a great meaty head, a face like a grapefruit gone bad, and a vast, swollen body that left the meat traders desperately trying to get the words “price per pound” out of their heads.

Anonymous said...

I shouldn’t shape at school. That knowledge is always there, like someone used a staple gun to fix the warning into my grey matter. Sometimes I do it anyway…and then I feel guilty.

Arianna Mercer

Liane said...

That summer, there was garbage everywhere. Huge piles of black plastic mouldered under the sun in the parks, while the stench of decomposing fish heads and rotting diapers slithered into our scented, suburban homes. In apartments high above the city, women fanned themselves with old copies of Elle and Harper’s Bazaar while men turned up the air-conditioning and installed domestic trash compactors. Dogs nosed out decaying chicken carcasses, rats chewed on sour milk cartons. The wind, fetid and hot, flung newspapers and discarded magazines across suburban parking lots, as if it meant to repaper the world page by page.

aryllian said...

I've always loved my father. What's not to love? He's famous (moderately), he's talented (conceivably), he's gorgeous (arguably), and he stays far far away from me, never substantial enough to matter in day to day life. Which is fine. It's like knowing the daydream about being a secret princess is true, without any of the worries of a future figurehead queen.

K.E. Skedgell said...

The goats hoofed at the rails of their pen trying to escape, baah-ing and bleet-ing with desperation. Gheorghe pushed one upon its face back to the ground and set down the pail of water, then leaned over the pen. “Damn it Dan! You forgot to fill their trough.” No wonder the goats made so much ruckus, they'd gone the whole morning without any water, or grain. He lifted the pail over the pen rails and emptied the water intended for his horse into the trough, the goats trampling over themselves to reach the cool drink. They sucked and slopped the water as fast as they could, nudging the other out of the way to get every drop. A hot day like this was not a day to forget to water any of the animals. His brother was going to owe him big.

anya* said...

I was born the day the lights went out. I’ve lived sixteen years in the dark. Light. Without it I can’t find anything. The underground bunker is freezing and I feel my latex covered fingers tightening up as the warmth abandons them. I move empty crates around attempting to find the bag of rice Mom swears she stored down here. Some light would really help.

ddelano said...

My life began on the sea. Not with my birth, for that had happened in the large state room of our London house with the curtains drawn against Mother’s screams and Father pacing back and forth, his neck damp with sweat. Yet their toil and agitation was not for me, but for the brother who arrived in this world and then departed it even before my appearance. Their grief was so heavy that my emergence from the womb was of no more consequence than the expulsion of the afterbirth.

Randy said...

Sabrina stands on the Revere Beach shoreline basking in the crisp ocean air. Cool gentle breezes stroke her hair as she watches the morning sun dance off the rippling waves. Not even the nervous babble of the police officer, shouting into his radio for backup, could destroy her moment of peace. She's home, and, to her, nothing else matters.

Lisa said...

“One of you will die.”
Did she just say die? My gum is lodged in my throat, I can hardly breathe. Coughing a little, it goes down, a lump rises; surely, she’s kidding. Death? It’s a joke right? Staring at the closed eyed woman exhaling and inhaling heavily, she’s either going to pass out or her eyes will open and be blood red like something out of a horror flick.

Mister Fweem said...

Know this, Jarrod. I will not sing. I will not wear a twee waistcoat, nor allow any damn bird to fly about my head or perch on my back as I work. I will not work. I will not say things like ‘Oh my paws and whiskers.’ I will not scamper. If provoked – and being approached with a hat or bonnet or shoes to wear is provocation enough – I will bite. And draw blood. And I will not – I absolutely refuse – to listen if she sings.

Sam Beringer said...

(Sorry if I double-posted; my computer's acting wonky)

It’s hard not to stare at someone with leaves sprouting from her head and skin like birch bark, but I manage not to. For one, the gas station cashier isn’t the first weird-looking person I’ve seen in the past six months and she won’t be the last. For another, if I stare at her too long, she might start wondering if I can see her real face. And if she thinks I can… well, I only have an idea of what would happen based on past experience. But that’s enough for me.

Stacy McKitrick said...

Charlene Gentry didn't know what to expect when she died. She wasn't necessarily an evil person, so would heaven welcome her? She wasn't an angel, either, so would hell be her destination? Not that she had a choice, but she assumed those were her only two options.
Certainly not 5542 Sycamore Lane.

Kristie said...

When I look in my mirror, I see a girl of flesh and bone. She may not be a beauty queen, but her features are not plain or disfigured. Why is it no one else can see me? I walk by the same students I’ve gone to school with my whole life and not one of them bats an eye. Even the school bus driver misses me every morning – he doesn’t see me either, which means I have to huff it on foot to make it to homeroom on time.

John said...

Tessa lived in the most beautiful city in the world and she knew every inch of it: the nooks and crannies of Enki’s Grand Cathedral, each seat in the old amphitheater, the exact location (down to planks of wood) of all three hundred and seventy bridges, and every rose bush, shrub, and lemon tree. Nobody in the city knew it as well as she did. Tessa held a perfect map of Beldessario in her head and she had never seen it.

Lauren Kinney said...

A tan and orange beast of an RV was roaring and shuddering down the highway. It was moving at its normal pace, which was a speed that made highway lines tear by, while the sky hovered above like a bad memory. Cynthie had made so many memories lately that she couldn't tell you when they all began if you'd asked her. "My life feels like a dream," she told her dad one day from her spot in the back of the RV. "You know how you said that if you try to think about the past while you're dreaming, you'd realize you were in a dream?"

JC said...

Sometimes, there are places that feel like home. As familiar and comforting as a cup of hot chocolate. And not just any cup of hot chocolate, but one topped with whipped cream, dark chocolate shavings and a cinnamon stick. A place where you know beyond a shadow of any doubt that you belong. Well, this isn’t one of those places.

Noel Dwyer said...

Heather awoke in the middle of the night, convinced she had lost something. At first she grumbled and told her subconscious that of course she'd lost something, as Alex had stormed off a week ago, and could it please leave off the hysteria and let her get some sleep? She rolled over onto his empty side of the bed and punched his pillow before burying her head under it. But the conviction stayed. Not Alex. Something else was lost. And the trouble with being a practicing witch was that when some deep intuition sat up and told you 'something is wrong,' you couldn't be sure it was just nerves, even when that meant flopping out of bed and into a ratty bathrobe and blundering into the kitchen to make tea at four in the morning.

tonyl said...

Amy Rose Ardan pushed the hair out of her face for the fourth time, but this time, she put the pen down and slid the script covered paper into its envelope. She wrote ‘For Beckie’ neatly across the front, licked the flap with a grimace and pressed to seal it. Reaching down, she grabbed the duffel and placed it in her lap while she rooted through it. Okay, she thought, got the special passport, and the GPS. The boat’s papers are… here, good. She rustled through the papers making sure they were complete. The duffel went back to the floor and Amy stretched out on her bed, ready to lie there for the next six hours. Waiting. As she’d been trained, she went over the plan one more time. The weather was predicted good, with, atypically, north-westerly winds fresh enough to move Guppy at seven or eight knots. Sunrise would be at half past six. When the sun broke over the horizon, she wanted to have been underway for at least thirty minutes headed on course 097 for Providenciales Island.

Carissa Taylor said...

She’d seen one once before - years ago, with Cameron, in the grove by the seaside. Its little round body flitted between palm fronds like a tiny jeweled fairy. They were supposed to turn it in. But they hadn’t. They’d watched it all afternoon, until finally it leapt into the sky and flew away, back over the Outer Wall. Their secret.
This one seemed even more out of place, amidst the asphalt and the early evening glow of the rail lines in the podcar lot. For a second, she thought she was just imagining it. But then Ethan saw it too.
“What is it?” he asked, gaze transfixed on the emerald blot making its way across the dull bronze shine of the hood.
“A beetle.”

Tiffany said...

The woman in the chair was a disaster. She sat in it, the lime velvet upholstery wrought with cigarette smoke. Spilled red wine stained the worn fabric with purple blotches like fat, throbbing veins burst from exhaustion and overuse. An explosion lay beneath her innocent questions. I smelled it. Disaster seethed across the blocks and between us like the stench of burning waste. It was in the stairwells, walls, the etched cracks and divots of concrete. I smelled it on her, this familiar stranger, with the keen sense of a tired but hunting dog.

Mary said...

Two hours before Dallas Langdon saw the first zombie, she sat in an uncomfortable plastic chair backstage at the House of Blues in New Orleans. A table covered with microphones and wires stood in front of her, and a fancy camera was pointed toward it. A tray of cupcakes coated with bright pink frosting sat at the edge of the table.

Saybe Scott said...

My favorite part of these contests is browsing through the entries... but I don't envy you the task of having to read so many, nor having to pick finalists! Good luck, and thanks so much for hosting this!

Here's mine:

The gravel of the rooftop pressed uncomfortably into my belly as I lay at the building’s edge. Waiting. Over the last month I’d established that Monday mornings the target would come here, to this back-alley doorway, out of sight from the public eye. He was careful, never arriving at the same hour, always taking a different route. But not careful enough. I knew he would come. And today I had brought my rifle. Today was the day he would die.

ferris robinson said...

I have thirty seconds. My thighs are on fire, but I crouch low to the mat and circle him, moving in and out quickly. I shoot in and grab his leg, then explode up through his body. Again. And again. Sweat streams into my eyes, but I couldn't see him clearly even if he was really there. I watch him, my imaginary opponent, as Three Doors Down blasts Kryptonite around my head. If I go crazy now will you still call me Superman? I check the clock behind the basketball goal, and go again.

Crittias said...

"I give her less than a minute 'til she smurfs."

Theo Nicole Lorenz said...

“It’ll be okay,” Jaime said, and if he wasn’t dead, I might’ve listened to him. Not that it mattered whether I was listening. He’d stuck to my peripheral vision for the past week, acting like my own personal commentary track. Last night he’d nitpicked my graffiti and hummed Top 40 hits during the security officers’ interrogation, and now, in the headmaster’s aggressively beige office, he’d launched into optimist mode, which was even worse.

Nicole said...

I skipped home on Halloween night, the happiest five year-old in the world. My bucket felt heavy with sweet treasure as I dashed to our front porch. My foot slid from beneath me, spilling me forward. The plastic bucket flew into the air. Candy rained down as my chin split on impact. I had slipped in egg yolk. A group of rambunctious, and rather thoughtless, teenagers had egged our house. Worst still, they had smashed all four of our carved pumpkins. The happy faces of our jack-o-lanterns were left a desecrated mess of broken squash. My parents ran to me, their sobbing daughter. They worried at the sight of blood, but I wasn't crying for my chin. My tears were not for the scattered candy or ruined pumpkins. That night, I cried because the spell had been broken. In that mix of egg and blood and shattered smiles, I saw a new truth. My world of wonder could also be a very cruel and ugly place.

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

I soared down to Earth and hit the pavement of the school parking lot without a sound. Elizabeth bounded down the stairs from the building, brushing by all the people I couldn’t see. An electric smile lit her young face. Today was her day. She’d earned her trip out of Hell. This was the only part of my job I enjoyed.

agilebrit said...

This wasn't the first time the Law of Unintended Consequences bit Alex Jarrett on the ass, but it was definitely the weirdest. That included the time he accidentally turned a private investigator into a werewolf with nanotech. He walked into the basement lab of his exclusive Beverly Hills mansion with a hangover and before he'd had his coffee yet , which was the exact wrong time to be confronted by a two-headed rabbit--with two different heads. The original was white with pink eyes, and the new one was gray with tan rings around its eyes.

Kimberly Unger said...

She spat.

Everyone spat. The gutters of Five Points ran thick with spit and offal and the unmentionable sick of everyday life. Annie picked up the habit from Ma whose tobacco habit only added to the seeping stink that trickled down the streets and corners.

kelli_call said...

I first saw him in the cemetery. I remembered it vividly. How could I not? It was the night he had come for my parents. The fresh November air came off the sea coast smelling of salt and mystery. I later discovered that was his smell. It was the week of the ‘Festival of the Dead’ and no one was supposed to be in the cemetery after midnight, but I was there. The third night, that’s when the captain was to come and lay claim on his souls, and I saw him.

Diana Sousa said...

The cold welcomed me with open arms as soon as I opened the doors. I buried my face deeper in my scarf. I did not want to be ungrateful, but I had just woken up and traces of my warm bed still lingered on me. Only then, with a deep breath to gather my courage, did I throw myself into the awakening streets.

Miller Crawford said...

Mum died yesterday. My brother killed her in the end. I tried once, almost sixteen years ago, but Mum was stronger back then. She survived. A miracle, they called it. She’d cheated fate.
Why did she try again?

Kayla Olson said...

She appeared in late afternoon, like some two-bit floozy who hadn’t slept til dawn, at the tree line where our mowed grass ended and the wild woods began. Gene and I couldn’t help but stare. With the leaves stuck in her hair, and the way she squinted at the sun just begging it to melt the slits of her eyes, and her nekkid-as-a-broken-jaybird body, we were left to conclude that the only possible explanation was that she’d been born in a hole and abandoned there. But we knew the ranch woods better than our own leathered skin; never once in our seventeen years had we seen a girl our own age out there. We’d never seen anyone out there at all.

dariakus said...

Ryoji hadn’t been in this much trouble since that terrible day three weeks ago when the chickens escaped. Master Yamato hadn’t yelled at him yet, but there wasn’t much need for yelling. The old man’s stare, devoid of the slightest hint of emotion, said it all without uttering a word. Ryoji fell prostrate, arms outstretched, nose smashed against the bamboo mats on the floor. The bamboo’s earthy smell filled his nose, eliciting thoughts of his own room over the western gate: a place he’d give anything to be right now instead of here in the main hall of the Fox temple, cowering before its master. Masao sat beside him on his knees, arms folded over his chest, lips twisted down in an exaggerated frown. Just like he exaggerated everything else. Of course, given the trouble Ryoji was in for interrupting his friend’s trial, it wasn’t much of an exaggeration this time.

Rocket said...

It wasn't her tears so much that bothered him. It was the fact that they spilled from her eyes like slow moving rivers of sludge, dark and oily and contaminated.

Jess Moore said...

My name is Ant. At least that’s what Mama told me when I was three. When I turned nine, Mama told me my name was Christopher. I remember how hard it was to remember my new alias – not to mention how difficult it was to write it in school. I’ll never forget that day in fourth grade when I accidentally wrote ANT in large capital letters on the top of my worksheet. When Mrs. Bowman – my teacher – waved it in the air to ask the class who this mysterious “Ant” was, I froze. Heart pounding loudly in my ears, I remember watching as she passed out the rest of the papers until she realized that it was I who had written the unfamiliar name on the page. When she questioned me about it, I lied and told her it was a nickname.

Erin Steele said...

Tomorrow is the day. It’s a day of firsts and a day of lasts, and it is the day that I will become my own again. Tomorrow, I will be Released.

Greg said...

John Henry Foster pushed his executive chair away from the desk and carefully scooped up the earrings and panties from where they had been sitting alongside his computer. These, along with a pair of high-heeled shoes that had been positioned under the desk, were obligatory for those times when he updated Ana Claire Johnson’s Facebook page. He crossed the bedroom of his Portsmouth flat and placed the jewelry and underwear carefully in their respective places. The shoes he put neatly back in the wardrobe. Switching the computer off, he picked up his well-thumbed copy of The Holy Bible and settled down to read a few passages. This was how he preferred to relax, lying on his bed digesting the Word of the Lord. The book spoke personally to him. He endeavoured to live his life according to the scriptures – after all, was the Bible not written with him in mind? The peace and quiet of his bedroom was the perfect atmosphere to reflect upon God’s words.

Kyra Jacobs said...

I met Evie Michaels the first time she died. As her guardian angel, it was my responsibility to escort her to the pearly gates. But I never expected the gatekeeper to send her back, or Evie to pull the free will card at the ripe old age of six. Her actions that day created a breach between our two realms. A breach that’s been discovered and now must be closed—to save her soul as well as mine.

The Sasquatch said...

Jim Stantz spent the final moments of the second-to-last day of his life on a stool at The Friendly Stop Bar & Grille. He was drunk, and he spoke loud to no one in particular.

collectonian said...

Blood dripped from the ceiling and slowly ran down the walls from randomly shaped smears that marred the otherwise gleaming white paint. The furniture in the living room lay in various states of disarray. The sofa was overturned, the bronze and glass coffee table shattered. The splintered wood scattered around the fireplace looked as if they once formed a rocking chair.

Summer Ross said...

Ebony's legs shook as she slowly put her weight down on the back of the chair, stretching to dust the top shelf of the tall bookcase. Always better to have the hardest one to reach done first. No matter how many times she’d done it, Ebony always hated this part. Heights, the bane of her existence. Well one of them anyways. Her legs shook as the wood groaned then creaked, and her heart dropped as the back of the chair leaned in toward the seven foot shelf. She wobbled and lost her balance. She grabbed both sides of the wooden monstrosity and the knick knacks rattled. That’s when she heard it. The loud thump of his plastic vase hitting the tiled floor.

Lisa Aldin said...

They found your body in an empty bath tub. Your face was turned toward the wall and your black curly hair hid your face. You were fully clothed, wearing your favorite leather jacket and ripped jeans. Your feet, snuggled in loose-laced combat boots, were hanging over the edge of the tub, almost like you were waiting for someone to pull you out, to save you from whatever it is you needed saving from. What did you need saving from, Maxwell?

Jessica Silva said...

I was going to prove Romonus wrong today. Even though I hadn’t been able to jump the old man’s deuced firewalls or cipher out his security protocols, that did not mean I didn’t have other methods of stealing Dad’s lecture. More direct ones.

Rebekah Postupak said...

Trudy was, without question, the most annoying person I knew; so it was just like her and her flair for melodrama to turn up dead last Saturday and completely ruin my weekend. And I’d had plans—shut up! yes, ACTUAL plans, with ACTUAL people—who are you, my mother??—but where other dead people might have had a little consideration, Trudy very rudely up and died right smack in the middle of my first real date in more than a year, without even bothering to return my sweatshirt first.

thewritingspider said...

The basket in Lorna's arms was heavy with woolen blankets, and heated stones to ward off the late March chill. The old woman behind her, Lorna stole through the shadows and crept up the steps, gripping the basket to her chest. The houses were all dark this time of night but in a few hours, the lights would wink on, the day would begin to stretch and awaken. The couple who lived here would find the baby on the steps. The voice behind her insisted, “She is the Celestis Navite. She will be the savior of this world. If you keep her with you, he will find you. He will kill her then he will kill you. He knows.“

JDuncan said...

The universe has its own voice. It doesn’t speak in any known language or have anything remotely cogent to say, but it is there if one listens. Perhaps it is the summation of all things: the energies given off by the stars and planets, the souls of all living things come and gone over millenia, the actions of untold billions of organisms dissipated into the vast expanse of space. It is a conglomeration of everything, settled into the sediment of existence, buried too deep for the minds of humanity to recognize, and beyond the reach of their awareness. Felice Halladay was, however, aware.

Lara Prescott said...

The thing about secrets is they’re not always secret. Dad had his. Mom had hers. And I had mine. My secret was that I knew Mom and Dad’s secrets. I guess that’s not much of a secret anymore. Maybe it never was. Maybe they always knew I knew. Maybe they didn’t care. Or that they cared too much. I played along for as long as I could. Like when I was seven and found out Santa Claus wasn’t real by stumbling upon Dad nailing together the dollhouse I had asked for in a letter to the North Pole. He didn’t know I knew. I played along for as long as I could.

Autexousious said...

I assumed the interview had ended. Alice Alderwood had stopped answering questions several minutes ago, and now rested her head against the train window, eyes closed. I started to put away my notebook when she spoke again, "Uncle Max was crazy. But, he basically raised my father. Me too. He taught me so many things. I hadn't realized just how many of them were impossible until I'd been gone for years. But, he taught me that in order to think properly, the body must move. That is the most sane thing I know." She smiled and opened her eyes, "But Uncle Max was crazy."

Andy said...

Far, far out in space nothing waited in a box much too large to contain it.

Jess said...

A haze of thick orange smoke hangs like a threat over the southeastern corner of the market. I groan and step behind a fruit vendor’s stand, where I can peek at the magicians through the slats of an empty crate. They’re supposed to be at the docks today, harassing the Islanders and making eyes at their pretty women. Yet there they are, blocking my only route to the saddler’s shop like they knew I was coming.

Zach said...

A burnt apple smell pervaded New York City. All anyone talked about that morning was the juicy, crisp and slightly smoky smell. The sun rose, the humidity blasted, and the subways trundled along their way, but as far as anyone was concerned, the apple smell was the only thing really happening. Doctor’s appointments took too long and were delayed. People on subways were unusually friendly. Talking about the smell was like talking about a particularly humid day: absolutely necessary even though everyone else was already doing it.

Jeannie said...

Jenna went to her first brothel two years after an emotional breakdown. She removed her sunglasses and squinted in the brightness of a late June evening. The grey building, with silhouettes of two buxom women on the sign, was only a few streets from the main dual carriageway going out of Sheffield city centre. Jenna knew the route well. She shoved her phone and loose change deeper into her pocket. She had left her diamond wedding ring at home.

Jessie Oliveros said...

I was standing ankle-deep in rotten pumpkin flesh when I found out my daddy had moved into the bunker without us. When my mama said there was a “bug in their marriage” the Earth stopped spinning for half a minute. Even the south-flying Canada geese stopped honking over our heads and The Doors got all fuzzy on Matthias’ transistor radio. I believe it was those pumpkin seeds sliding between my toes that kept me from flying out to the edge of space—because when the world started up again and the ground slipped out from under me, somehow I was still standing.

Adelle Yeung said...

My brother is going to pay with his car keys. At least then I can buy myself something to eat other than mayonnaise. Stealing them shouldn’t be any more difficult than opening a treasure chest in Zelda. I equip myself with a life-sized metal Keyblade, ready for battle if Aaron charges at me with his battery-operated lightsaber.

Writer Tessa said...

Up until that fateful Friday the Thirteenth, Jacob Beanblossom’s claim to fame had been the ability to fart on cue. But that was about to change.

Tiana Smith said...

When a princess misbehaves, most kings and queens send them to their chambers. Not mine. No, my parents send me to the dungeons. And I don’t get to just sit there and “think about what I’ve done.” I have to clean. It probably says something about my temperament that we have the cleanest dungeons in all of Farfel. Even now, as I sat on my royal *ahem* and polished the bars outside the second-largest cell for VIPs only (Very Important Prisoners), I was hard pressed to find one speck of dust. Of course, that might be because I’ve been on dungeon duty every day this week. Let me just say—cleaning out chamber pots? Not. Fun.

Lauren Thoman said...

Something was blocking the door. Breathing shallowly into the crook of his elbow, the soldier’s boot crashed into the dry wood. Dark smoke seeped from its seams like water from a cracked pot. He kicked again, and again, yelling his frustration. The door barely budged. He didn’t have time for this. At this rate, tunneling through the stone wall would be faster. Something shuffled behind the door, and his heart did a nervous somersault. Someone was still alive in there. If only he knew who it was.

Kelly Johnson said...

Everything ends. Peace. Distress. Good days. Bad dreams. Life. It all ends eventually. Generally this is something I find very comforting. But generally, I’m not doing everything in my power to postpone an ending.

Jennifer Carson said...

Sophie’s knees crushed against her forehead, her breath hot on her face. The small wardrobe she hid in felt like an oven. A rush of prickly heat spread down her arms as her mother cried out. Sophie clenched her hands tight over her ears. Their apartment door had broken into a thousand tiny slivers, scattering across the floor and colliding with the pale pink walls. The ornate silver knob dangled from the ruined cherry panels.

Jennifer Meils said...

Death is a cold-hearted bastard. I would know. Being 16 shouldn’t make me an expert at much, but I could tell you more about death than most things. Why would someone know that dying leaves skin dry like shoe leather? Or that the act of dying itself will leave a man’s eyes dark and cavernous like a shameful secret? These are details I wish I could scrub out of my mind, banish them to the darkness where they belong, but I can’t because wherever I go, whatever I do, death lurks and waits to be discovered.

Olivia Haberman said...

Three weeks after Nora’s body washed onto the shore of the river, Ivey climbed Catbird Hill to sing her spirit a lullaby. It was easier than apologizing.

birdinabowler said...

Jessamine swung one arm above her head, trying to make the long, awkward sleeve of her oversized trench coat slide down to her elbow, while holding a crystal ball in the other. The man in front of her, bright goggles atop his head and a top hat clenched in his fists, peered eagerly at it as she fluttered her slender fingers in the air. She could tell he was desperate and that made everything easier.

Anonymous said...

My cell has four white walls, a little window too high for me to see through, and a doorway. The doorway looks empty, inviting, but I can’t walk through it. When I try, it feels like invisible hands are grabbing hold of me, gripping my arms and legs, my face and all down my front, and then I’m thrown backwards and end up with an extra bruise from the hard white floor. It’s not just an ordinary force field though. My guards can walk through it either way, no trouble at all. And I can throw things through it, like a shoe. I only have one shoe now.

Christina Cameron

Stephen Boyd said...

It has to be tonight, the soon to be father was thinking as he races down the highway it’s colder than usual for this time of year and the falling snow is reflecting the light of the headlights looking like diamonds floating in the air sometimes so thick it seems like he is driving straight into the sun. He has a very important meeting in the morning and if he can make a good impression on these people they could become investors in their fledgling programming company. The only reason they live in this god forsaken place is the remoteness aids in the security of their company and isn’t too far away from civilization that they’ll have a difficult time promoting the new software. At least this time of year the daylight is almost twenty four hours now so it could be far worse he was thinking, the baby might have decided to get here early when it was really cold or worse yet still dark.

Charlee Vale said...

Today is my 6,570th day of life. When you say you’re eighteen, people think you’re young. But when you throw around a number like that—almost 7,000 days—they start to realize no one is as young as they think they are.

Robin Dodd Photography said...

Echo Raney worried constantly about her pants falling down, and most of the time she wore skirts… what kind of sense did that make? Her decision to go to Camp Catskills Drama Camp this summer instead of Camp Pakawanka, the camp her mother had gone to and her grandmother had gone to and her great grandmother had gone too.. you get the picture…was a victory like no other. She just couldn’t HANDLE the thought of riding lessons, with a helmet, who was she Athina Onassis? Or having to play tennis… or wear those collared white shirts with the navy shorts.. EWWWW. She had fought hard for Camp Catskills and she would stay strong… the very nature of her over dramatic nonsensical way of turning things to her side.. would see her through.. She’d gotten that spectacular talent from her Aunt Crazy, her daddy’s sister. She remembered fondly how Aunt Crazy made black bean soup for New Years Day brunch three years ago and everyone freaked out because it wasn’t the traditional black-eyed peas.
“Her only job was to bring the black eyed peas,” Her mother whispered to her grandmother who then in turn whispered it to her great-grandmother… “And she can’t even get that right!”
“Now we’re ALL going to be cursed with bad luck!” her cousin Joy Ellen exclaimed, mashed potatoes trying to escape both sides of her cheeks.
“PLEASE!!” Aunt Crazy yelled at the top of her lungs..” Get a life!!” Everyone shrank back in horror… and Echo personally vowed that day, to be just like Aunt Crazy when she grew up.

Remus Shepherd said...

In a stream of stars that humans labeled the Orion Spur, in the galaxy they called the Milky Way, in a large city named Chicago on their home planet of Earth, in an alleyway off of N. State Street behind a bar called the Zebra Lounge, Eli found a giant lizard unconscious in his gutter. His gutter. Where he slept.

Emily Steele said...

In the movies, people wake up slowly. At first it’s just a finger twitch, or an eyelid flutter. They don’t usually wake up screaming. Cassie woke up screaming.

Leigh Michael said...

“A disgrace. That’s what they are,” I overhear. One head nods, then another. “We go hungry. We work our fingers to the bone. Them—” the man points, “they reside in the largest house in town.” I refocus on the building these strangers speak of. Like the past fifty-four days, I stare across the street at the Ipatiev House and yearn. Perhaps it’s closer to fixation—I fixate on the wooden fence revealing only the tops of its windows. I don’t yearn the same way as these men though. No, their insults fist my hands into balls. I suffer, waves of longing and rage, because my family is inside and I am not.

Jonathan Wade said...

It was an irreverently normal day when Emryn saw his wife laid to rest. There was no hushed silence in the small church plot, which nestled into the side of the Swansea valley. No dark rain clouds gathered overhead to reflect the mood, and there was no chorus of skylarks singing a mournful requiem above the final resting place of his last love; nature, as only he could know, was as imperturbable as time to the sanctity and demise of life. He looked one final time upon the soft brown coffin as the priest spoke his comforting but hollow words, and the mound of dirt was prepared which would mark the passage from person to epitaph.

Leigh Michael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
burningtreelindsay said...

I wake up inches away from death. One foot to the right and I would be falling from a twentieth-floor balcony. Just one foot to the right and that freefall would take me somewhere, maybe somewhere beautiful, somewhere without pain or memory or warmth. Just cold, dark nothingness. There’s a strange kind of beauty in melancholy.

deciv said...

When the idea of leaving—of just getting the hell out of there—finally came to him, it felt like the best idea he’d ever had. Savoring the tiny speck of excitement he felt, Will Brown tiptoed to the garage and started pulling camping gear down from the wire shelving that ran along the back wall. When his arms were full, he turned and regarded the two parking spots. Leigh’s Odyssey would have been the better choice, given its superior storage space and all-wheel drive. It probably had better ground clearance too, which would have been good for where he was going. But it wasn’t there. It was in a junkyard somewhere.

Rose said...

Paddington is central London, central means busy, busy means going unnoticed, unnoticed means blending in, blending in means I’ll be anonymous. For fourteen days straight I’d told myself that, and yet fourteen days after my arrival my feet had yet to go within ten inches of the front door.

Susan Warren Utley said...

In the early morning hours of the third day of the third month of the year, at the precise moment the second hand on the round analog clock which hung in the waiting room of Saint Joseph’s Hospital ticked over to 3:33 and 33 seconds, a baby was born. The waiting room in which the clock hung was empty, save one pudgy, unshaven man sitting in the corner of the room examining a racing program from Buda County Weiner Dog Races & Slots. Shoved in his pocket was a betting slip with Copper to win and Tyson to show. Certainly he could not have been waiting for a baby to be born. No, there was only the birth mother who lay hyperventilating on her back in Birthing Room 201 on a steel gurney equipped with squeaky wheels and sweat soaked linens, her feet up in stirrups.

Susan Warren Utley

Lori A. Goldstein (@_lagold) said...

A chisel, a hammer, a wrench. A sander, a drill, a power saw. A laser, a heat gun, a flaming torch. Nothing cuts through the bangle. Nothing I conjure even makes a scratch. I had to try, just to be sure. But the silver bangle encircling my wrist can’t be removed. It was smart of my mother to secure it in the middle of the night while I was asleep, unable to protest.

Melissa Petreshock said...

Dawn over Boston Harbor peeked amidst the capital city's buildings and shone brilliantly through the floor to ceiling windows of the thirty-first floor penthouse as he resolved to pull off the silk tie, opting to open the top three buttons instead. Feeling a tiny bit rebellious in the action, King Corrin smirked at the sun, absentmindedly touching the precious silver and gold lodestone ring on his right hand, an ancient habit of self-preservation.

TheJuliaNelson said...

Oh shit. Anyone but him.
Lauren froze at the top of the stairs, too stunned to move. Although the gallery loft held several dozen people drinking and chatting, they melted into background noise as she gazed across the space to Taggart Olson—Tagg to everyone who knew him.
And boy did she know him.

thegetoutgirl said...

Aurora scrunched in her favorite corner of the couch, glaring at her family, and at HER. The family and SHE carried on oblivious, playing their silly card game as if it was the most fun thing in the world. Which it wasn't. It was gin rummy. Aurora didn't exactly know what she would consider the most fun thing, since things had not really been very fun at all since her mother died. But still. Whatever “most fun” was, it was not these people being silly and childish over a card game. Her father, sisters, and HER. Ms. Martinez. Aurora's former guidance counselor from Fox Chase Middle School. And now, apparently, her father's new GIRLFRIEND. Her pale face got red with fury just thinking about it.

Naomi B said...

The mobile slowly turned, humming a soft lullaby to the baby sleeping below. Its light cast a soft glow of dancing fish about the ceiling and walls. The house was quiet; exception given to a rather loud cricket who managed to escape death at the hands of the leopard geckos, and now roamed the house chirping contently. A small shadow, avoiding the silver rays of the new spring moon, slithered up the spiral staircase. The mysterious darkness stole over the top, gliding soundlessly down the hall pausing briefly before slipping under the nursery door. The shadowy figure concealed itself in the darkest corner beneath the crib and waited.

Laurie T. said...

Pucker Up. It's two-eighteen on the morning of my college graduation and the number one item on my to-do list is coating my toenails with this clever polish, a light coral shade that's so glossy I can practically see my own reflection.

Melissa said...

Cassidy was as sallow and pale as old chalk under the hospital’s florescent lights. Her blond hair was greasy and tangled. Her whole body seemed to shake and she had a rank, metallic smell like old blood. Mercy did not trust herself to be civil. Cassidy was nearly dead. It wasn’t the time to air her grievances.

Crafty Green Poet said...

We used to have a language, a culture. We used to have islands, a chain of coral atolls that stretched across the still turquoise seas. We used to have a home. That was all before I was born. One of my earliest memories is of sitting in a harsh dry cabin, blinking dust out of my eyes as Grandma told me the stories her grandmother had told her about how when she was a very young girl she used to swim above the corals, that even then were dying but were still beautiful in places and home to vibrant coloured fish. As she told me these stories, Grandma herself was already slowly dying. Her lungs were scarred by years of breathing harsh desert air, her health weakened by bouts of the cholera and dysentery that swept through the desert camp every few years.

Jessica Knauss said...

The stars shone over Zamora. A boy lay awake, his mother’s arms his only defense against the night. It had been a summer, a winter, and most of a springtime since the city gates had opened. Zamora was under siege.

Raven Marlow said...

“Part of me wants to run away screaming. But where can I go? What can I do? The only family I have are the man I was created to marry and the teacher/maid he hired for me, Reena. Sure I‘ve met a few people in the nearby town, but I don’t really know them. Besides, they are probably loyal to my betrothed, the Titan, Epimetheus. No, there is nowhere I can go. This is going to happen no matter what I do. Tomorrow, at the ripe old age of 6 weeks old, I will be married.”

Breanna said...

Rather unluckily I happened to be invisible that day. Invisibility will give anyone a headache, and it always gives me a sore throat as well. Any sort of anthropomorphic conjuration will—I think it’s swallowing the runes—but invisibility is the worst. Of course, being unseen has advantages that sometimes make up for giving oneself the equivalent of a nasty head cold.

Dan Hope said...

Tuck hated that all but the most deaf of humans could hear him coming. With every step, his left knee let out a shrill squeak of metal scraping on metal, and his right ankle cracked loud enough to echo down the dirty back alleys. His corroded metal foot clomped down on the metal walkway running alongside one of the many muddy side streets of New San Francisco, the rotting industrial center on the planet Magnus. The other foot, in no better condition, swung unsteadily by to plop down ahead of the first. With every step, what was left of the synthaskin that once sheathed the feet crumbled and flaked off. The pattern of footfalls continued, an inconsistent thump on the rickety walkway creating a syncopated beat with the squeaking and creaking joints connected to the feet. Lurching along above the feet, on top of a body equally broken and tattered, Tuck's head remained fixed straight ahead, eyes scanning the surroundings in frequencies throughout the electromagnetic spectrum. His original designation was TUC-67/c, but no one had called him that in over 150 years.

Kristy Marie Feltenberger Gillespie said...

My heart is frost bitten. The ache in my chest is so pronounced it hurts to breathe. I feel as if I’ve just sprinted 400 meters, in temperatures below freezing, with my mouth wide open like a fish.

Anonymous said...

Friday, April 10, 1818

My dearest Rosalind,

Alas, I’m being banished to the hinterlands. Perhaps that is a trifle melodramatic, but Mama is most vexed about the trick I played on Mr. Drayton and has decided to ship me off to Aunt Mary’s immediately. I really don’t think that so much fuss is called for, after all, there was only one toad and it’s not like his hat was permanently ruined. However, Mama refuses to see it that way. She had an attack of her nerves, and after much fainting and fluttering declared that she couldn’t take it anymore. And despite her faith in Aunt Mary (a shameless tomboy like me should be easy for a woman who raised two sons), Mama has decided to send Alex along to keep an eye on me.

Kristin Standley

Rachel Stevenson said...

By the time I was 31 my liver was shot. My love affair with vodka probably helped this. I should have been concerned when I started introducing people to "my good friend vodka." I had sold my soul to the highest bidder three times, because honestly, who's going to collect on that? And I officially have the worst dating life on record. I looked down at my meal: a white Russian and raw cookie dough. On second thought, maybe this is not the best breakfast.

Nathan Sauerhage said...

I sat in the parking lot with a can of lukewarm beer and a snickers bar and waited for Art Howard to emerge from the monolithic black building that towered before me. Inside the car it was hot, and I could already feel the perspiration sliding down my sides from my armpits, each bead leaving one long wet trickle. My window was cracked just a tad because I didn’t want any one of Huerto’s nearly one-hundred employees to notice their Vice President of Operations drinking in his rusty old Grand AM at two-thirty in the afternoon. The air conditioner’s compressor had burned out some time last summer, and I had never gotten around to getting it fixed. Rodrico, my boss, often asked why I didn’t buy a new car. “Memories,” I told him. “This car helps me reminisce about times long past. High school girlfriends. Hills overlooking valleys. Fumbling hands and misplaced contraceptives. You understand?” He would just shrug and laugh and go back to whatever nonsense he was busying himself with. The truth was I didn’t have any particularly special memories about times had in my old Grand AM. I just found it hard to throw things away.

David Daniel said...

The sun was just beginning to rise when the Dragon crested the hillside. It was an accepted fact that any maiden, offered to the Dragon, if she survived from sundown until tea time the next day, would be freed and a new, more pleasing sacrifice chosen. You can imagine Millicent’s disappointment then when the great scaly beast came looming over the top of Hagar’s Hill. The huge body was held aloft by great wings which looked to her as if they were two sheets of unspoiled night, preserved unharmed from the killing grasp of dawn’s first light for the specific purpose of bearing the monster to her. It was a poetic thought, and Millicent was proud of it. When she survived the Dragon’s visit, she resolved to become a roaming poet instead of a house wife; though she was certain the town would feel as great a sense of loss for her wanderings as they would for her death.

Elisabeth Lanser-Rose said...

When I was a college girl, the Pennsylvania Turnpike was my carotid; it ferried my life between heart and head. Every Friday, two other lovesick girls and I left our studies at West Chester University and made the one-hundred-and-seventy-mile journey to Penn State. We took the Turnpike over the round green hills of southern Pennsylvania to Harrisburg, then swung northwest on Route 322, cranking the gears lower and lower as the highway tilted steeper and steeper. Trees got taller, mountains rockier, and farms and houses scarce. The main artery narrowed until we reached the vertiginous cliffs known as Seven Mountains. The cliffs were the work of men. Men had drilled down into the rock, dropped dynamite into the holes, and blown off the sides of the mountains. You could still see the gouges, like claw marks made by a giant grizzly bear as it fell. We girls would hold our breath and hurtle between the towering stone faces and the freefall. Ours was pretend fear. Amusement park fear. Movie fear. Years later, one of my students died on Seven Mountains. He fell asleep at the wheel, hit a stone face, and pitched his car spinning airborne, like a football.

David Daniel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michelle Sussman said...

It wasn't my idea to keep this journal. The school psychologist, therapist, mind screwer, whatever you want to call him, suggested I do it. He said it might help me deal with the post-traumatic stress of the last year. I'm not stressed. I think everyone else in this tiny town was traumatized. After all, ninjas do not show up in corn fields every day.

Kay Kauffman said...

The woods called to him; they always had. Ever since he could remember, Michael had had an overwhelming desire to find out what lurked beneath the branches, what lay hidden in the underbrush. He dreamed of pirates and buried treasure despite the fact that the nearest ocean was twelve hundred miles away. But with age came wisdom and a deeper longing to understand this connection to the forest his father so despised.

Fiona McGier said...

He was disturbed to realize that he was naked and hanging on a cross. When he turned his head, he saw that both arms were outstretched and tied with ropes to the two arms of the cross, and his shoulders were going numb from his body weight being held up by them. His legs were tied together. He had no idea how he had gotten here, or why he was being so abused.

Pat B Rivera said...

“Gran, come on, we’re here!” Gladys did not understand why her youngest granddaughter had been so insistent about coming to this old house. She couldn’t quite manage the door handle on the SUV that her son insisted was the safest mode of transportation to the beach house, so her granddaughter, her youngest and if truth be told, her punahele, her favorite, yanked it open and held out her arms to help her Gran climb down from the back seat. Smoke billowed out behind her and her granddaughter wrinkled her nose. She knew she was going to be scolded-again-for her own good.

Elizabeth Pax said...

This story is true. True in the sense that it really happened and not true in the way my English teacher is always talking about how things are true if they really mean something to people. I don’t understand what she means when she says that and I don’t think I agree but when she says it she always gets that sentimental look on her face so I know it’s important to her and it’s probably going to be on the test. I always pay more attention when she gets that look on her face. Anyway, this story is true, but I changed the names and the places. Partly because Momma always says you shouldn’t air your dirty laundry, that’s what white trash people do, and partly because I know if my family found out I’d told our story that I wouldn’t ever get anything for Christmas ever again. I know if I write it all down none of them will know I did it because they don’t really do a lot of book reading. I made the publisher solemnly swear not to ever sell the rights to be made into any sort of movie, especially not a TV movie, because then I know they’d see the movie and recognize themselves and I’d be in a heap of trouble.

dkfwriting said...

It was a hot day, and I spent it as I spend most hot days—-standing on top of my poop.

-- from There's Seamen on the Poop-Deck! (A Gay Pirate Romance Novel)

Daniela Torre said...

When Mr. Chaplin came home one particularly soggy night, the last thing he expected to see was a large gaping hole where his house should be. Most neighbors were asleep and those who insisted on exploring their refrigerators in the dead of night didn’t seem to notice the house-shaped hole or Mr. Chaplin standing before it.

Daniela Torre (Thanks for the opportunity!)

Sydney Turfler said...

Who am I? Wouldn’t you like to know? I would, too. All I can tell you is that I’m not normal. Normal sixteen-year-old girls don’t have a body count. They don’t wait and prey on the innocent. And they certainly can’t kill you by just wishing it. I am not Mara Irons, although, that’s what everyone calls me. What they don’t know is what’s hiding inside of me- who what I really am.

4815162342 said...

“What are you doing?” I heard Gloria’s irritated voice ask from the direction of our front door as I shook out the last few bills from my wallet’s billfold into the garbage. I turned around, quickly shoving the wallet into my pocket, to face my angry, sweaty girlfriend, back from her workout bearing grocery bags filled with antioxidant rich dinner fare. The bags hit the floor with a thud as she advanced on me with arms folded across her shiny stretchy workout wear and reddened cheeks huffing and puffing with angry disbelief. “Were you just throwing MONEY into the GARBAGE?” she asked in a way that made it very clear to both of us that her exasperation with me was both longstanding and near breaking point. “Greg, can you answer me, please? What are you doing over there?”

Gary Caruso said...

When I execute my job with precision, someone always dies.
I survey the entrance to South High School from the edge of a cement sidewalk. No security guards or roaming administrators. The heat of the late morning Arizona sun is a welcome relief from the blistering cold winds of northern Colorado I weathered yesterday. The neatly-trimmed bushes, spring flowers of red and pink under each window, green grass in spite of the dry Phoenix weather, do little to cover the fear and desperation I know oozes behind the walls of this school. Next to me, the school’s red and black sign casts a shadow across the ground. Home of the Falcons. PTA meeting tonight at 7. Senior Cleanup Project: Let’s Keep South HS Beautiful. Teachers, parents, and students can be so naïve. They've convinced themselves they’re safe from the dangers of the world. That’s what makes them vulnerable.

Lynette said...

It’s 1995. I point out the year because it’s among the things that stick in the mind when a catastrophe occurs. My mother is in a rehab facility to recover from a stroke, and her illness triggers an avalanche of uncertainties I suspect will escalate. For one thing, she is secretive; she’s harbored information and concealed documents my sister, my brother, and I now need. I won’t make a point of our family’s peculiar dynamics; aren’t all families’ dynamics peculiar, even to their members? But I will mention that my siblings and I don’t know how we’ll get the money to care for our mother should her condition outlast her Medicare benefits.

Travis Erwin said...

I'm certainly not famous, but the paragraph of mine that won (I believe in the 3rd annual SUFPC)was published by a small, but honest-to-God, royalty paying publisher back in November of 2011. The Feedstore Chronicles has not made me famous but it has sold reasonable well and gotten great reviews and I'm proud to say it is a book I probably never would have finished had I not won your contest.

Nathan, I sent you an email way back when letting you know the book was being published and my offer to send you a copy as a thank you still stands if you are interested. I don't spend much time blogging these days but I'm glad to see the contest back. and that you are still helping we writers every step of the way.

Go Nathan Go and good luck to those who enter this go around.

Carolyn Woulfe said...

I’ve been to 179 funerals in three years, and this is what I know: No matter how happy, sad, pretty, plain, corrupt, saintly, or anything else you were in life, at your funeral, you will be a star.

DEMETRA BRODSKY said...

They say my mom started the fire that took everything. Then she split. Subject closed, according to Dad. But dwelling on that now won’t help me nail my approach. I have a plan: get in, get answers, and get out. Fast. Before Dad has a chance to turn the tables on me. I’m way overdue for what he likes to call our “talks.” Air quotes needed. But today, I intend to pull a switcheroo that puts him on the receiving end of the shrink’s couch. Adapt or perish. That’s what Mr. Malone, my Sociology teacher, said about survival of the fittest. And it makes sense, in theory.

Michelle Levy said...

A thick, yellowing fingernail strikes the edge of my desk; two succinct taps forcing me to look up from my poetic masterpiece. Mrs. Hickenlooper's eyes bulge as if her three hefty chins are attempting to choke the life out of her. Her labored breathing only supports the effect of strangulation. "Am I boring you Mister Blackwell?"

Bluestocking said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
vorindi said...

The necromancer’s bodyguard was a necro himself, wards tattooed on his wrist, the specs for a summoning drawn up his burly arm. But he hadn’t drugged himself yet, which meant that if something went wrong and this came to a fight, Orlando’d have maybe ten, fifteen seconds to take him down while there was still a person occupying that body, rather than a spook that paid only half attention to the laws of nature. Orlando gauged distances again; he could do it if he had to.

Teresa Robeson said...

“I knew you’d be here!” Mui-Mui’s voice echoed through the building that housed the mechanical rickshaws.

john lovell said...

“No TV,” the stone-faced boy blocking the oak double doors said. “No cameras.” To Moran he looked seventeen or eighteen, nearly a man. The boy glared down the granite steps of the church at the television news crews on the old brick sidewalk. Three cameramen, three on-air reporters.

Amy S said...

I began to wonder, not for the first time, how I ended up in such ridiculous situations. How did I end up here? I mean, I knew how I ended up in England, I even knew how I ended up in Scotland. What I really wondered was – how did I end up in this dark, cold, drippy and probably off limits hallway in a dress that hung all the way to the floor and yet I was still getting chilled. I’d asked for directions to the bathroom - forgetting to just say ‘toilet’ and was given directions one way. After not finding the toilet I asked a man – also dressed in character – for the toilet and I followed his directions. I finally found myself here, in a dark, cold hall. No toilet in sight. It was much colder in this hall than it had been on the floor where our tour was and I was starting to shiver. I couldn’t even remember the name of this castle at the moment. I could only think of two things: first - how much I needed the toilet and secondly - where the heck was I?

Misa said...

Ithaca Cain had not been born a killer. Then again, he’d not been born with the name Ithaca, either. He’d chosen that after waking, naked and aching, in a stainless steel recovery ward with Jericho Biotronics’ genetic modifications running rampant in his body. A rename after rebirth had seemed appropriate at the time. The modifications had heightened his senses, sharpened his mind. For eight years, he used them and his natural skills with a rifle to keep Genetek’s metal-hungry creations out of The Dome. Having the ability to keep those inside safe had been worth the sacrifice of some of his humanity.

Tricia said...

The memory of finding my husband is only mine and for that I will be forever grateful. I woke our eight-year old before the police and ambulance arrived and with her damp hand gripped in mine, pushed through the branches of the overgrown privet hedge.
“Is Daddy okay?” she asked, as we hurried across the street to our neighbor’s house on that warm May morning.
“I don’t know, honey, I don’t know.”
I knew.

Virginia Moffatt said...

I never believed that Adam and I would last. After all our fragile connection was only due to a combination of circumstance, a veneer of attraction and my need for someone to cling to after Mum's death. She had been my compass for so long, that her absence left me stumbling in the fog, until Adam crossed my path. For a while, he seemed to provide a solution, a way out, a Very light to guide me home. But deep down, no matter how much fun we were having, I knew we were unlikely to survive our summer of love

Virginia Moffatt said...

I never believed that Adam and I would last. After all our fragile connection was only due to a combination of circumstance, a veneer of attraction and my need for someone to cling to after Mum's death. She had been my compass for so long, that her absence left me stumbling in the fog, until Adam crossed my path. For a while, he seemed to provide a solution, a way out, a Very light to guide me home. But deep down, no matter how much fun we were having, I knew we were unlikely to survive our summer of love

trudgingthroughfog said...

I was twelve when I chose my name: Shade. Shade, with all that it implies: the sheltering darkness of the forest in the heat of the summer; the shadow cast by a lone tree or a tall tower in the moonlight; the restless spirit of one whose time came too soon.

AC James said...

The story that I speak of is not one of fairy-tales. There is no happily ever after. Beauty does not sweep in to save the Beast from his gruesome nature. We are told that the damned cease to exist and those free from sin are given eternal life. The damned can never be saved and walk the earth in an eternal hell that I can never escape.

M. S. Steed said...

I was seventeen. Seventeen-year-olds do stupid things. I'm not justifying it - I should have known better. I knew that even before Queen Diana turned her eyes on me, with a look of disappointment I had hoped would never be directed at me.

Christine said...

I'd be lying if I said I'd never fantasized about Jake Durbin sneaking into my bedroom, but I’d never imagined him with a black eye and blood-stained shirt. And his first words wouldn't have been, "I didn't kill him, Lisa. I swear he was alive when I left."

Meg said...

Today is my sixteenth birthday. It’s also the day of my husband’s funeral.
Two young men, clothed in mourning colors, lower the bundle that contains Xenres’ body into the small grave. I feel like a part of me is being lowered into that dark hole with him, but it’s a part of me I’m glad to lose.

Konfidence Kortney said...

Busting My Balls

3.02pm.
Denver.
How the fuck did I end up here? Doing this?
Waiting for my appointment to call.
Fucker better show. Fucker. Fuckingmuthafucker.
How do you trample on someone’s balls?
I’d better not suck at it…
I’d better look confident.
This milk’s gone off.
This yoghurt smells do-able.
The cheese is fattening. Some “mini bar” this is....
The only thing I can eat, pistachios, are gone. Not to mention they were $8 a fuking tin. Why aren’t the m&m’s and snickers the expensive things?!
Taking any kind of inventory is a fact finding and a fact-facing process.
It is an effort to discover the truth.

Amanda Olivieri said...

My nights are like this: darkened sidewalk, long lines of anxious customers, bronze and onyx and candlelight, music, music, music, and death.
Always death.
Before Death & Co.’s doors even open, a line forms on the sidewalk, sometimes halfway down the street. The customers wait in the dark, illuminated only by the streetlamps and moonlight, talking and shuffling, eagerly awaiting their entrance. They want to see if the rumors are true. “Are there really floating candles?” they ask me while they wait. “Why do you close so often?” or “I hear this place is haunted.”

Anonymous said...

A cold shower on a Sunday morning started it all. Pretty ironic the way things turned out.
At 8:07 AM I jerked open the utility closet door with one hand while the other grappled against gravity to keep my towel aloft.
My own in-house horror flick unspooled before me. Starring the hot water heater. The metal cylinder twitched twice, vomited about five buckets of rusty water. Then uttered the Sears Kenmore equivalent of a death rattle.
Time to call the heater's next of kin, my landlord Dr. Farooz. Who answered my telephone SOS with a six-word text. @conference. cairo. deduct rent. am sorry. I looked down at my toes pruning up in the rising water. Then straight at the crackling fuse box.
Water and electricity - never a good combo. Staring at execution by electrocution, did I wrestle with
A: existential angst
B: fear of Hell
C: grief at not saying goodbye to people I loved?
None of the above.
Numero Uno thought: The dirty dishes in the sink would horrify Richard when the police called him to haul away my corpse. Second thought: Why - oh why - hadn't I put on a clean bathrobe before dying? Maybe the crisp pink seersucker with the white lace edging I had bought two years ago during one of our marital romance reboot campaigns.

Regina Richards said...

At Willowbrook nudity had never been a cause for shame. Not that it was common. It was not. But in an all-female community occasional nudity – a cool dip in the creek on a hot summer day or lingering on the warm stone benches of the steam hut on a cold winter afternoon – had seemed both natural and comfortable. That was not how it felt now.

richardsfive @ centurytel.net

Ashley Maker said...

The empty space beneath Everly’s fingertips sent a plume of panic spiraling throughout her senses like thick smoke released into the sky. She scraped her hand along the bottom of the trunk one last time before slamming the lid down in frustration, almost smashing the fingers of her other hand. Her riding boots should have been there. They were always there; she made sure of it. There could only be one answer: she had been sabotaged.

Kim and family said...

Why? Why do I do this? Robin wondered as she strained to see movement through the trees and stumbled over a fallen branch. Her nightdress clung to her legs from the damp night air. Robin clenched her jaw, and her cheeks flamed with fury, while she searched for her older brother. How did Raven talk her into playing night games while everyone else slept? The same way Raven always promised Robin he wouldn’t break the rules and fly. Yet he always hid in the canopy of leaves above her head. She should stop being so gullible since she was thirteen-years-old and knew better.

Susan Ciampa said...

“I DON’T WANT IT IN MY BODY!” That was the battle cry that came over the wall from the little girl in the chemo cubicle next to mine on my first day of treatment. It sounded like the straw that broke the camel’s back. In this case I gleaned that it was the mandate that she take some oral Tylenol, probably pre-medication for a blood transfusion. This was not a petulant child, I could tell. She had simply seen enough and was setting a limit. And in so doing, she had declared to the entire Pediatric Day Hospital and the world at large how we all felt about the disease and the treatment.

Creative A said...

Once, a long time ago, in a memory or perhaps a dream, there was a boy. It seems very real, now, to watch him walk up and down the darkening streets. He calls softly into the mouths of alleys and up at scrappy rooftops. Taxis whoosh past, so that shadows cascade down his throat. This is a night for invisible girls to dance in steam from the subway, not a night for ordinary, unhappy boys to trudge down the sidewalk calling out names. But then I wonder if it’s my name he’s calling. Me he’s looking for. Maybe he's not so ordinary as he looks.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

What I really hated about being depressed is that I still got horny. I hear it’s the opposite with some guys, but I’m not a guy, I’m a sometimes horny woman. Okay, I’m a very horny woman. But man or woman, when you’re seriously depressed, you usually don’t want to be around people and after awhile, if you’re like me, you get tired of looking at video perverts making stupid noises that most normal people would never make because it’s way too embarrassing. It’s kind of hard to get off when you don’t want to see real people and you don’t want real people to see you so you watch these real people acting fake. You know damn well in real life they aren’t like this. Half of them are probably depressed, too, but they drug out so they can perform. Or something like that. I don’t really know because I’m not a porn star, but I do know all about being drugged out. You do stuff just to get by, and most of that stuff isn’t what you’d do if you weren’t using.

Jan said...

“I don’t want to anymore!” She said out loud. Attending her five-year college reunion may have been amusing had she only been showing some sorority sisters how successful she'd become. Showing up when she'd had no real circle of friends? It was cause for more abuse to the battered self-confidence Alexandra Powell had already acquired in life.

Jeri said...

Yuri rubbed a small circle in the frost covering his fourth floor window and looked down on a city buried in snow. Behind him, Misha huddled in blankets on a thin mattress. Ice coated the walls of their small dark room. Snow drifted in around the board nailed over a broken window. And the last mouse in Leningrad was on the stove.

sally said...

Ferguson Salem parked his bones on a slipshod front porch that was almost ready to meet the stone foundation of what had once been a magnificent house. He stuck a scrap of kindling under the chair to correct the lean of the porch, then grabbed a slice of warm meat and shoved it into a mouth full of missing teeth. After a couple of chews, he spat it out as if it were second-hand pemmican poisoned by Indians who knew better than to trust a white man with gold teeth. For Ferguson, it was a matter of getting back to things he knew, things he didn’t want to forget, things he shouldn’t forget. And now, with heaven beckoning him with more urgency than ever before, all the man wanted was to sit on his porch and listen.

Taffy said...

I glance out my dirty bedroom window. The sky promises another beautiful day. If my days were normal, I might hang out at the pool, pretending not to watch the lifeguards. If my life were normal, I might sit under the shade of the trees and daydream. If I were normal, I might gossip with friends late into the night. We would sit on someone’s bed, eating popcorn and talking about everything and nothing. But I left normal behind ages ago--in quiet cemeteries.

Axel said...

I started this as a school essay, but I realized no one at my school would believe any of it, especially my English teacher, Mr. Dorfmeyer, and that’s good because I wouldn’t want them too, anyway. I’d much rather be the weird kid with the Hollywood family than the freak from the freak show. Hollywood -- it sounds so cool, and like my Dad says -- “glamour is a function of distance.” He told me the when we were walking down Hollywood Boulevard at nine o’clock on a Sunday morning, two summers ago. There was some bum puking on the Walk of the Stars, right between Ronald Reagan and Lassie. I got the point. Anyway, the kids at Dalton don’t know anything about that kind of stuff. To them it’s all movie stars shopping on Rodeo Drive and American Idol at the Kodak Theater. Going there gives me a little bump up the food chain. No big deal, just -- from kelp to plankton, something like that. I come back from Christmas vacation with a tan. That gets you some points in a New York winter.

Anonymous said...

For a long time, Violet thought the problem was she hadn't received the proper blessings at birth--or any blessings, for that matter. All her life she'd heard stories about her older sister Lily's christening, and no one would ever forget the fiery near-disaster at the ceremony for the youngest princess, Rose. Violet tried not to mind that she’d been passed over, but sometimes she found herself daydreaming about what fate might have had in store if, instead of Rose, she were the fairest of them all, or was destined to be the greatest ruler Lavonia ever had, which Lily insisted was her fate, even if her fairy blessings hadn't specifically said so. "It adds up to the same thing," Lily repeated, often and with certainty. Violet envied Lily's conviction. She had no idea what her destiny was, today or ever after. Whenever she asked her parents, she got a variation on the "just be yourself" speech, followed by a warm hug and inquiries about whether she'd finished her lessons.

~Elizabeth Passarelli

Robin Delany said...

Historical Romance

Emilia Marley stepped from her new home the evening of her first assignment. The deepening shadows and sweet fragrance of the nearby roses covered her descent into a world of debauchery. Her gut twisted and her chest seemed heavy. That she'd expected, but the breathless anticipation almost shocked her. Traveling into the unknown of this mysterious night brought adventure to her life. Adventure she hadn't realized she wanted until this very moment. After all, what sort of excitement could a chambermaid ever expect?

Riley Redgate said...

When you take them one at a time, twenty-five pills feel like nothing at all.

Rosie Pova said...

Holly Hart tried to contain her giggles as she peeped around the hallway corner, camera in hand, waiting for Kyle to come out. She knelt down when she heard the whirring noise coming from behind the door. That was her cue to get in position for the shot and be ready to run.

Shoshana said...

I need your help, reads the email subject line. It's from soldierOfFortune@funmail.com, one of those free services anyone can sign up for with a fake name and a made-up address, but adrenaline floods my veins, flushing out the film of exhaustion that has stuck there for the last three months. Dad, I think, even though I know it's impossible.

Jenny O'Hagan said...

Dead. A jolt ran through Mannok as he looked at the unmoving bulk of his father, Rokkan Kapok, lying stretched out on the floor in front of him. His eyes widened in horror. He could not, he would not believe he was dead. He clamped down on a sob and held his hands stiffly by his side to stop them from shaking. Though he was sixteen, he felt like a four year old again, consumed by a nightmarish terror. His greatest fear which had haunted him for the last twelve years had finally come true. No! No, he refused to believe it.
Jeanette O'Hagan

WM GOLDSTEIN said...

Clouds scudded across the pitch-black sky fitfully revealing a moon that seemed frightened by the evening chill.

Alien Zookeeper said...

It's hard, the not knowing. I am a starship astrogator and pilot, but my most important job, even more important than seeing us home again, is to someday destroy our data-base of known human settlements. The holomap is like a strand of pearls glowing in the darkness of the bridge, and from time to time, when we come home, one or two have gone dark. Sometimes there are new ones, and I pull up the entries like childhood sweets, to savor how here, there, are three thousand souls making a living at atmospheric mining on this gas-giant, ten thousand hiding their farms and manufacturing inside this icy little moon, or a few dozen on a powersat spreading black wings under a blue-white sun to manufacture antimatter in milligram lots. Not knowing what has happened to the ones that go dark, and dreading the day when we come home to a dead settlement, that is hard. There is something out there which does not love us. I wonder if they know our kind too well, or see themselves in us, that they can kill without mercy, wipe us out root and branch. But I'd rather not know, if the knowing invariably means my death, and the deaths of those I love.

Robert Wyatt said...

One of the hoariest adages in booklore is that a tale should never commence with a description of the weather, but what is to be done if you wish to tell about a wraith found at your doorstep in the midst of an electrical snowstorm? Skip to the good, warm part in the middle? No. You must tell it as it was.

Marie Burghard said...

Life didn’t shine anymore. It bled. Flynn grasped the rooftop ledge of the Cryton House, leaning out far enough to observe the people on the streets four stories below. The humans here walked in patterns—from building to building in routes so engrained in their lives their shoes had etched paths into the cobblestone road. He flared his nostrils, snorting in disgust. This town was no different than any of the other tired English towns—drowning in untruths and morally rigid. Such a waste, he thought. A war waged around them, but they didn’t look far enough outside their town walls or stiff mindset to see it. A breezed flaked off the dried blood coating his stone fingers. The outcome needed to be different than the last town or there would be no more blood to bleed.

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