Weekly Short Stories Contest and Company! discussion

Weekly Short Story Contests > Week 149 (December 21st-December 28th). Stories. Topic: Hostage

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message 1: by Edward (last edited Dec 20, 2012 09:59PM) (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments You have until December 28th to post a story, and on December 29th through the 31st we’ll vote for the one we thought was best.

Please post directly into the topic and not a link. Please don’t use a story previously used in this group. Only one story per member please!

Please keep your story between 300 and 3,500 words long. We don't reject longer ones, but they are less likely to be read.

REMEMBER! A short story is NOT a scene. It MUST have a BEGINNING, MIDDLE, and END.

This week’s topic is: Hostage

The rules are pretty loose. You could write a story about anything that has to do with the subject. I do not care, but it must relate to the story somehow.

Have fun!

Christa - Ron Paul 2016 (christa-ronpaul2012) | 1365 comments Oh I can totally use the story I was writing for last week but didn't finish in time, convenient.

message 3: by Caitlan (new)

Caitlan (lionesserampant) | 2869 comments Hmmm, sounds interesting :D

message 4: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Mornington | 39 comments Feels great to be back. Haven't wrote in ages, so I don't know how good it will be. But, here it goes.
Im not quite sure of the word count though.
Picking up a bag of tomatos, I sighed and tossed them into the trolley. Looking at the list that lay in my hand, I realised it was going to be at least another 20 minutes of mindlessly walking through the supermarket, attempting to find whatever crap Mum needed for her next cooking 'masterpiece'. 'Cabbage, lima beans, bacon, oysters...what?' I thought. 'How the heck will this create food? Or at least edible food.'   Turning the corner and going down the next aisle, I grinned. Mum had given me a budget, but I knew I could spend a little on myself. I mean, hello! She forced out of the house on my one day off when there was a storm going on. I deserve a reward. I grabbed the first 5 blocks of chocolate I could find. As I was humming and walking down to locate the lollies, I suddenly sensed that something wasn't quite right. Leaving the trolley behind and walking towards the frozen food section, I saw the sliding doors open, and heard the heavy clomping of boots walking on the newly polished floor. Peering out around the edge of a newly stacked shelf of canned goods, I took one look at the guys face and straight away pulled back to where I was. "Shhhugar." I whispered, narrowly stopping myself from outright swearing. He was one of todays biggest criminals, who holds up any and every shop he comes across, taking hostages until his demands are met. After 25 robberies the cops still can't catch him. And right now, he's holding up my shop.   "Everybody, down on the ground!" He yelled, and everyone obeyed. Then he walked over to the cash register, and demanded that the cashier give him all the money. The cashier ducked beneath the counter, and reappeared with a baseball bat. I silently cheered for the man. It was a pretty courageous move. But the criminal didn't even blink. Instead he burst out laughing.   "You think that tiny piece of junk can stop me? I come prepared." As he said that, he pulled a gun out of his jacket pocket. "I said, GET DOWN ON THE FLOOR!!" He roared. I knew it was now or never to do something, or else he would start hurting people.   Grabbing a bunch of tin cans, I stuffed them in one of the shopping bags I had brought with me. Spinning the bag round and round my head, I let it go, and it went soaring towards him. It hit him on the back of the head, but it was not a powerful enough throw to knock him out. Luckily, he walked away from the other hostages to come find me.   "Come out, come out wherever you are. I won't hurt you". He called. "Much."   "Too bad I didn't make the same promise." I said as I leapt from where I was perched above the freezer.   The man went to flick of the safety on the gun, but that was all the time I needed to kick him to the ground. Grabbing handcuffs that were attached to my belt, I put them around his wrists.   "You are being placed under arrest." I told him. Turning around to face the other customers, I called a few of the strong looking males over. "Keep an eye on him." I said as I walked off to make a phone call.   Dialing the first number in my phone, I smiled. "This is Seargent Sarah Johannesen. You'll never guess who I just found."

message 5: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Mornington | 39 comments There were supposed to be in paragraphs, but I'm typing on a tablet and it's rather screwy, so sorry for that. It was it paragraphs when I wrote it though.

message 6: by C. J., Atm Seeker in the "Lin Kuei" (new)

C. J. Scurria (goodreadscomcj_scurria) | 4214 comments I have a story!! I didn't think I would be able to come up with one. It will be on here really soon!!

message 7: by Edward (last edited Dec 25, 2012 12:30AM) (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments Here's a Christmas tale for y'all. (Not really.)

Damsel in Distress
Word Count: 5,583

The grandeur of City Hall – even the cathedral-like grandeur of Philadelphia’s City Hall – could not hide the mind-numbing and pedestrian boredom that imbued every type of bureaucrat facility. Temperance Austin, while a very patient young lady, found boredom one of the most aggravating ailments to befall a society. A violent society was likely to be corrected by those that repay their violence, but a boring society would fall before they realized anything was wrong.

This and other cheerful thoughts were the only company she had as the county clerk’s records line moved not quite as slow as a line at the DMV, but no faster than molasses either. Had she been there for anything less than Saint Lucia’s Catholic Church, she probably would’ve walked out in irritation by now, having plenty of other work to attend, but as such she simply occupied her mind and hand with a chain of plastic beads – a Rosary.

She approached the third mystery when they walked in. Perhaps it was her boredom, perhaps it was her focus on the prayer, or perhaps she simply didn’t read passing strangers like she read conversation partners, but the Catholic girl noticed nothing amiss about them until one of them turned, shut the door, and placed a piece of paper upon the handle. Everyone in the records reception area turn to look at the quartet – and immediately a sense of real, undeniable danger filled the room, drowning the occupants with a rushing flow of fear.

The four men, each of a different race and wildly different body type, moved further in, brushing past Temperance as though she weren’t there, and made their intentions quite clear. A short Asian, Japanese by Temperance’s guess, conducted himself as the leader.

“Listen carefully and you might not die,” he declared with unreasonable calm, accented by a British education. “Someone will go into the next room and retrieve the clerk. If the clerk is not back here in two minutes I will kill someone one. If the clerk is not her in three minutes I will kill two people. If four minutes pass so will four more people – are there any questions?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “The clock is already ticking.”

The person at the front of the line, a tall, toned man in his thirties, instantly ducked into the next room, starting an argument with the guard standing on the other side of the door. To make it clear that they would follow through on the threat, the skinny Caucasian pulled out a revolver, the burly man of African descent flipped a nine-inch knife in the air and caught it by the blade, and the miniscule Hispanic expanded a baton in his left hand. The Asian held no weapon.

Temperance, meanwhile, had completed the decade as this occurred, not allowing herself to react to the situation until she had finished. As such, she looked it with a considerably calmer mind than her fellow hostages, regarding the four aggressors with frank interest. Fear, inevitable though it was, had not yet set in.

Then the guard they heard arguing with the thirty-year-old suddenly burst into the room, leveled his side arm, and fired at the Caucasian without warning, shocking everyone with the immediate report of the firearm in the tiny room. The Caucasian had no time to react – but somehow the Asian did. He held his tiny had aloft in front of him in a dismissive gesture. Though it happened to quickly for anyone to follow, the bullet shot out the window, a full sixty degrees off from where the guard was aiming. Instead of punching cleanly through, most of the window pane shattered and spilled onto the floor, allowing a rush of cold to accent the shivers already ailing the people inside.

Then the true horror began.

The dismissive hand abruptly became commanding, motioning as though he wanted the guard to kneel before him. The motion didn’t stop there, however, as he curled it into a fist with the palm and fingers facing the floor. Silent thunder rolled through the room, more shocking than the gunshot. The guard made no move to continue his attack; his hands were shaking too much. Eventually his whole body shook. His lips quivered and even his eyelids twitched.

His ears were the first to bleed. The eyes weren’t far behind. The guard collapsed on all fours before he started coughing the red life onto the floor, staining the wood permanently. He fell sideways, convulsing violently.

Several minutes passed before he finally died.

“Sixty seconds,” the Asian said neutrally. “Then two more.”

Temperance breathed shallowly; fear that she held at bay earlier now occupied even the parts of her brain set aside for necessary functions. Like everyone else in the room, she didn’t – couldn’t – know what to do.

Eventually, and miraculously, she managed to control the fear well enough to notice that the four men had moved past her completely. Though they covered the records door, where another guard may enter, they had somehow forgotten the door leading out to the main hall, where hostages could escape and help could be found. The door was ten feet from where she sat, the path unobstructed by foe or furniture.

By the time this realization occurred to her, however, the sixty seconds had passed and the Asian prepared to kill two more. His finger was tracing the air among the many victims, looking for the best two to make an example of. His finally settled, pointing with dreadful finality, at two young children.

Temperance was still afraid. Her fear couldn’t be banished and could barely be controlled. She had a clear line to freedom – a clear line that could eventually lead the cops to saving whoever was left. Every muscle in her body strained for her to run, to escape.

But there would never be any escaping the screaming of the desperate mother as the African American roughly tore the two children from her arms. The huge man shoved them into the center of the room, simultaneously holding the wailing, screeching woman against the wall. The noise was worse than the gunshot and more soul-shattering than the silent thunder.

Temperance was faster than the Asian’s hand. The book that soared towards the back of his head was small and soft-backed, but anything to distract him would be sufficient for Temperance’s purposes. Halfway between the hurler and the hurled-at, nearing the height of its arc, the little volume slowed and eventually, impossibly, came to a stop in mid-air. It floated there, abandoned by gravity and embraced by the empty air.

The Asian turned slowly, very slowly. His unrushed demeanor and bored expression hammered home the vanity of the act. He simply looked at Temperance, almost without malice except for that passive kind that nested in his heart long ago, and shook his head. The prayer book dropped with a surprising loud knock upon the floor. He walked towards her, pointedly stepping on the book in the process, until he stood directly in front of the girl. She was half-a-head taller than him, but that changed nothing of his dominance in the situation.

“And what,” he said, “did you hope to accomplish?”

Strange, how even a cliché can be bone chilling when one was frightened enough. Temperance felt the fear like a physical wound; she breathed just like when she broke a rib rock climbing – shallow and barely controlled. Then, stranded with only one ally to help her move, she wasn’t able to help her rescuer pull her to safety until she accepted the pain, refusing to reject or ignore it. She did the same thing now, accepting her fear instead of rejecting it, until she could safely set it aside. It remained, a steady weight on her mind, but suddenly her thought-process and imagination opened up, organizing her desperate actions into something resembling a plan.

“What do you think they were doing back there?” she demanded, surprised at the confidence and even slight authority in her voice. “Arguing about whether or not a hostage situation is actually taken place? I think your victim” – she emphasized the word heavily, firmly digging her heels in as the defiant one – “was better trained than that. He probable alerted the authorities – and if you keep killing hostages, they won’t hesitate to come in and slaughter all you and all your … partners.”

The Asian nodded, a smirk marring his smooth features. “I’d like to see them try. I have more power than the entire Philadelphia Police Department at my fingertips.”

“But not their numbers and organization,” Temperance argued, not bothering to dispute the claim directly. After what they witnessed, it might be true.

The Asian seemed unperturbed, but his answer was surprising. “I suppose I should at least wait until we have what we need. But know, I’m really only holding off for one reason.” He lifted a hand up to her cheek, brushing the back of his fingers against the softest area. She felt the cold steel of a ring on his middle finger and turned away from the chilling and invasive touch, though she refused to step back. His voice dropped to a whisper. “I’m doing this for you. I’m going to have fun breaking you.”

He turned away, leaving Temperance with an absurd realization: She, a seventeen-year-old Catholic girl, had just become the controlling factor in a madman’s actions.

She closed her eyes, accepting once more the pain and, this time, nausea of the situation. Then she opened them again and started to fully take stock of the situation. Four captors, all armed in some sense, nearly two dozen hostages, none apparently armed, and police either on the way or not. The mother whose children nearly perished was holding the two little ones close, eyes shut against the world, trying to create a safe little space with her babies. A man in his forties was seated against the windows, hands twitching on his lap. The clerk was finally at the door.

He was as much a wreck as anyone and seemed ready to throw up his lunch at the sight of the guard’s body. He managed to look past the body and at the four men, clearly trying to decide who was in charge. The Asian spoke before he could.

“You’re finally here. We’re here to check something out.”

“Most files can’t be removed,” the clerk began automatically, finding the familiar words safe and comforting. Silence fell quickly as everyone in the room quietly acknowledged the absurdity of that sentence. To his credit, the clerk merely grimaced. “Of course. Follow me.”

The Asian nodded at the African American and Hispanic to follow the clerk back into the room, leaving the Caucasian to help keep the remaining hostages in line. Temperance had been staring at the forty-year-old man the entire time, watching the way his fingers twitched – always in the same direction, towards his right-hand pocket. It was quite possible that the Asian with the British accent and his cronies would leave without hurting anyone if they got their file – whatever that might be – and Temperance had a feeling that the middle-aged hostage was going to complicate their search.

She was still standing in the middle of the room, so crossed over and sat down next to him under the pretense of moving out of such an awkward position. The Asian smirked and rolled his eyes, but made no comment.

The Caucasian had glanced out the window as she sat down next to the other hostages. He muttered an obscenity rarely heard even on most high-number cable channels and quickly shuffled over next to his boss, dragging his feet in the manner of introverted children on their first day of school at a new town. To complete the image, he whispered in the Asian’s ear as that same child might into a teacher’s because he feared the ridicule of the rest of the class.

Temperance used their conversation to cover her own whispered instructions to the middle-aged man. “Don’t try it.”

message 8: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments The man froze suddenly, expression not waiting to shift from shocked to angry but immediately displaying both with prominence. Despite his abrupt rage, he managed to keep his voice low as well.

“What do you know, girl? We have to do something.”

“Lack of action does not presuppose lack of decision,” Temperance countered. “I’m not suggesting you don’t try to help, but moving now would be dangerous.”

The man looked dangerously unconvinced; if anything, the hand next to the suspect pocket was steadier as it slowly reached for whatever game-altering tool he believed was there. Temperance huffed out an annoyed sigh.

“It’s called biding time. Wait until the opportune moment.”

He bit his lip, suddenly nervous again. “There are only two of them now. What better opportunity do we have?”

“Yes, two. Which do you plan to shoot first: the one who also has a gun or the one who can stop objects in midair?”

The man closed his eyes, as if her logic hurt him. “But …”

“Let’s at least figure out what we’re dealing with. We don’t know what else he’s capable of, do we?”

The man tensed even more, causing Temperance to tense in nearly equal measure. They both seemed to hold their breath, hearing only the continued sobbing of the half-despairing, half-relieved mother and the hissed conversation of their captors. Then the man released his breath slowly, allowing the tension to pass from him and his hand to fall away from his pocket.

Temperance followed the suit just in time to the ringing of a cell phone to startle the tension back into her. The ring was dialed to max volume and sang out with an irritating, repetitive shrill squeak that was undoubtedly included with the phone. With all the embarrassment and slightly more terror of looking around in an elevator for the instigator of particularly noisy flatulence, everyone, hostage and hostage-taker, glanced at each other in silent inquiry until someone finally realized it was their phone causing the disturbance.

The Asian somehow managed to draw the offending device from his pocket and answer with unflappable dignity, “This is R.”

Under any other circumstances, Temperance would have found the self-designation with a single letter an intriguing idea worth looking into, but at the moment she was more interested in the rest of the conversation.

“Well, you made it here quick, Agent Fry. How’s the local office treating you?”

Temperance had trouble fighting her frustration at only hearing half of the banter, but the negative emotion wasn’t nearly powerful enough to distort her focus on the half she could hear.

“Well, I’ve only had this phone for a week, so I can hardly underestimate your skills. So don’t underestimate mine. If you try anything, everyone dies. And you know me well enough to be certain I will deliver on that threat.”

The Asian – R, apparently – paused to listen to Agent Fry’s response. He raised his eyebrows in surprise and pursed his lips as though some revelation required more thought than usual. He finally nodded, forgetting the pointlessness of the gesture.

“Alright, put him on. This should be interesting.”

And interesting it proved to be – to R, anyway. He began pacing the length of the waiting room, rubbing his chin and asking the new caller questions like, “How do you know this?” and “What else do you know?” His excitement was not merely aggravation; if anything, the leader of the captors looked thrilled, as though a master martial artist had found a true challenger to his skill.

Finally, he said, “You want to talk to one of the hostages? Seems reasonable enough.” He looked directly at Temperance while continuing to listen to this mysterious new player. “Naturally. You have sixty seconds.”

He tossed the phone at Temperance, who smacking it back up into the air instead of closing her fingers around the little plastic electronic. She managed to catch it as it fell back down a second time. She could hear nothing as she placed it against her ear.

“H-hello?” she said, not sure what to expect.

For a heart-stopping moment she thought that she may have bumped the end key by accident, cutting off the call and perhaps negotiations entirely. The moment of terror passed only to be replaced by a moment of mind-numbing confusion. Though she didn’t know what to expect, she certainly didn’t prepare for the voice that the tinny phone attempted to mimic.

The voice was half an octave lower than hers but half an octave higher than a full grown man; it was the voice of a teenage boy. “Uh, yeah, hello, miss. My name … never mind, we don’t have time for that. I’m going to ask you some questions, but they aren’t the kind you’ll expect. I need you to answer as though they are questions a normal hostage-negotiator would ask. Do you understand?”

Temperance didn’t at first. She was still working through the inexplicable youth of the man – boy – apparently trying to save her and everyone else. A very small portion of her brain processed what he was asking her to do, and not until after she agreed that, yes, she could act as requested did she realize that she had no idea what sort of questions a hostage-negotiator would ask a hostage.

The boy on the other end of the radio waves didn’t wait for her to catch up. “Okay, I’m already ninety percent certain of the answer, but tell me anyway if one of your captors has a ring on his finger. He would scare you more than the others but wouldn’t carry his own weapons.”

In spite of the absurdity of the inquiry, Temperance kept her wits enough not to glance at the Asian; he would undoubtedly get suspicious if the first thing she did after beginning the conversation was look at his hand. Instead she scanned her memory of the last ten or twenty minutes, remembering the cold metal pressed against her cheek as R tried to assert his power over her.

Yes, he had a ring, but how would she tell the boy? What would she want to know first if she was a hostage-negotiator?

“Yes,” she said slowly, “there are other women and children here.” She forced herself to look at the Asian’s face, searching for some hint of how far she could push this. He shook his head almost as slowly as she spoke. “But I can’t tell you how many.”

The boy sighed in relief, confusing the phone’s speakers with a brief gale of nonsense. “Brilliant. Now, one more thing, and this is absolutely vital: Is the ring on either of his actual ring fingers?”

Temperance let her gaze slip away from R’s face and down his arm. She made sure to let her gaze drop all the way to the floor without pausing on his hand, but she managed to take note of which finger he wore the strange item on. “No, no one else has been hurt.”

“That’s good, that’s good. Wait, did you say no one else has been hurt?”

R abruptly took the phone from her before she could respond, leaving her to contemplate the meaning of the conversation with half-truths and guesses to guide her.

The Asian spoke to the boy as he might to a respected businessman of an opposing company. “I think it is clear that my hostages are in reasonable health. You know better than to try anything at the moment – now you have ten minutes to convince the police to let us pass without a body count.”

He hung up without waiting for a reply. Temperance might’ve been worried about the ten-minute time limit if she hadn’t already formed a solid theory about the whole bizarre situation. Clearly, the power the R wielded, the power that allowed him to crush security guards, stop books in midair, and sneer at cops with confidence, came from the ring on his finger. R completely believed in the power of the ring and was clearly indulging a power trip. Surely this file they were after could’ve been obtained a much safer way? This wasn’t the act of a professional; this was the act of a child with a new toy that he wanted to show off, something he believed made him invincible.

That is why he didn’t just kill Temperance for her defiance. He wanted to dominate her, to force her to accept defeat.

Temperance smirked. Everything she learned in the last minute made R the most predictable person in the world.

Almost in defiance of that revelation, the Asian turned to the Caucasian and told him to tell the others to be ready to move in five minutes. The skinny captor ducked into the next room, leaving his Japanese leader to mind the hostages alone. No one tried anything.

Thirty seconds later, five people returned from the record’s room: the clerk, the lean hostage who informed the poor security guard of the situation, and the three uncannily ethnically divided captors. Temperance noted that the lean hostage actually looked almost like a movie star with a chiseled jaw and nicely tone arms. Typically, he wouldn’t play a role that involved shaking uncontrollably with a knife pressed into his back, but Life’s author had many artistic differences from Hollywood.

The Asian, apparently, did not. “Did you get it?”

The Hispanic held up a curiously thick file. “They tried to hide it among public tax files. Guess it would stand out among the birth certificates.”

“Good. Mr. Rook will have a hard time saying no to us now.

“But there’s still one more thing to take care of,” R added, carefully turning his gaze from his short partner to his lean prisoner. “I think our friend here has something to explain.”

The hostage didn’t even try to look him in the eye, simply shaking his head a fraction of an inch to each side rapidly. R rolled his eyes and made a lazy gestured with the hand he wore the ring on. The hostage’s chin snapped up and his gaze directly met the Asian’s.

“You didn’t just inform some two-bit security guard, did you? He told you to call the police while you were back there? That’s why the FBI is staring at us through sniper scopes right now.”

“N-n-n-n,” the man stuttered, unable to complete the syllable.

He suddenly stopped stuttering and instead mimicked Admiral Motti after his ill-advised and uncalled-for slur against Darth Vader’s religion. Showing slightly more creativity than the Dark Lord of the Sith, R didn’t use his power to merely constrict his victim’s breathing; the hostage’s neck start to widen, as though exposed to a vacuum eagerly pulling his atoms apart to fill its emptiness. Undoubtedly, this choking-from-the-inside would be messier than most Star Wars deaths.

Starting to seriously doubt her sanity, Temperance once again intervened, standing in between the faux Sith and faux Hollywood hero. She half-expected the strange force to start expanding her throat from the inside, but she felt nothing, unless the shiver that ran the length of her spine was due to more than fear. Her gesture wasn’t without effect, however; she could hear the fellow hostage gasping in relief behind her.

R’s eyes narrowed so sharply that the color of the irises became unidentifiable. “You presume to have too much weight in this situation. I won’t spare everyone just because you ask.”

“I’m not asking that you don’t take your revenge,” Temperance said, completely unaware of where her defiant speech was heading. “I’m just offering a trade; you want a life for the inconvenience of FBI presence, then you can have mine.”

message 9: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments A very loud silence follow in which the gears in everyone’s brains, including Temperance’s, could be heard whirling, trying to process that offer. R recovered first, indulging in a smile that would make Hannibal Lector worry about the man’s sanity. Temperance breathed very slowly, comforting herself with the fact that she couldn’t take those words back; the situation was completely out of her hands now.

“You realize, of course, that giving your life does not equate immediate death. I will make you beg for it first.”

The Asian wanted to make the depth of hole Temperance had dug herself into painfully clear. Temperance responded by continuing to dig. “Go ahead; you only have five minutes.”

“Or,” R sneered, stepping close enough to trace the tiny bit a flesh showing between the top of Temperance’s shirt and the bottom of her neck, “I have all the time in the world. Police are of no concern to me; they wouldn’t be able to stop me from taking you away.”

The Caucasian objected first. “Whoa, R, I’m not sure that’s a good idea. I’ve seen this happen at least a dozen times.”

The annoyance on the Asian’s face couldn’t be clearer as he asked his partner to clarify.

The Caucasian continued in some unidentifiable accent, “You know, everything goes well for the criminal mastermind until he takes a token women as a prize, prompting a hero with his merry band to come rescue her. The hero kills you after his two powerhouse friend tag-team to take down Hakeem while I die and embarrassing death at the hands of the comic-relief side kick.”

The Hispanic soon concurred. “What happens to me?”

“You probably die off-screen, either torn apart by a mob or captured and later hung.”

“I agree; that’s a lot of price of to pay over one plain girl.”

Under the circumstances, Temperance didn’t mind the slight to her appearance.

“This isn’t a movie,” R snapped irritably. “There’s not a hero on this Earth that can stand against this power!”

Finally, Hakeem, the thus-silent African American, spoke in a crackling voice suggestive of disuse. “But it is unnecessary. We have the file; let us leave now. The body count is already too high for my comfort.”

R considered Hakeem with notably more respect than other two, considering his words with less contempt, though with no less disregard in the end. He quickly walked all over Hakeem’s opinions as Temperance slowly raised her hand to shoulder level.

“I know you’ve survived thus far by being cautious, but don’t you see that it’s no longer necessary? We don’t need caution, we don’t need to scheme and plot – we can simply do. We can do anything.”

Hakeem appraised his boss. Clearly, he was weighing the Asian’s ideas, perhaps considering his psychological state in the middle of the hostage situation. His face was robotic – calculating in utter indifference. It took a long moment for him to reply, a moment that R gladly suffered.

You could do anything.” The emphasis on the pronoun was nearly invisible, as was the gaze he flicked towards Temperance and her creeping hand. She froze, certain that he had discerned her intent, but he continued speaking as though he noticed nothing. “Let’s see how you do without caution.”

Temperance finally moved the final several inches, grabbing the middle finger that still perversely stroked her skin. It takes approximately twelve pounds of pressure to break a finger bone – less than twice the pressure most guns require to fire. With a full hand gripped around it and the entire upper body of a seventeen-year-old girl slamming down upon it, R’s fragile digit didn’t stand a chance. He screamed obscenities unbefitting such a self-disciplined master.

The screams and curses that originated from the pain were nothing compared to the deluge of blasphemy that exploded from his throat when he realized Temperance’s real intent in attacking him. By the time he had realized what she did, the Catholic girl was by the shattered window, arm stuck out into the breezy winter. She held the ring precariously, mockingly, in between two fingers.

Once the Asian’s obscenities died down, Temperance made a one-word reply. “Check.”

The entire power paradigm flipped in a brief, loud moment, and no one knew how to return the old balance. Shooting or otherwise approaching her would make her drop the ring, putting it in the hands of the cops or the mysterious boy on the phone. Not approaching her made them nothing more than four criminals surrounded by snipers.

Temperance could’ve sworn she saw Hakeem smile as he said, “More like checkmate.”

“You … you …” Even R’s ability to speak a coherent sentence seemed to be stripped from him. Finally, he snarled, “You bi—“

He was interrupted by shattering glass, a spectacular spray of blood from his shoulder, followed very closely by the report of a super-sonic gun. In the shock of watching their leader fall to the ground with a destroyed shoulder-bone, none of the captors reacted fast enough to the forty-year-old man standing, a .22 magnum in his hand and a steely look upon his face.

The situation devolved rapidly from there.

* * *

Until her dying day, Temperance would only remember flashes of what happened in next several minutes or hour; a scream, the crack of a gun, smoke, blood, more screaming. Her first clear memory was of sitting the edge of an ambulance, unhurt apart from a few bruises, with a round, metal object pressed into the palm of her tightly-closed fist. The first person she saw clearly was a boy about her age, whose facial features looked too small for his face and his body too lean for its small size.

The boy seemed to be expecting her to say something, and, somehow, she knew how to reply.

“I’m alright, and I have the ring with me.” She was surprised at how strong her voice was in spite of her dazed mind.

The boy nodded, managing the remarkable feat of looking relieved and worried simultaneously. “That’s great news. By the sound of it, you were quite brave in there.”

“Says the brave hero who came out of nowhere to rescue me,” Temperance said, hardly believing the words coming from her mouth. The boy looked confused, so Temperance continued to cover up her embarrassment, “I just meant … you were the one on the phone, right?”

“Yeah, that was me, but I hardly think I’m the hero here. You – “

“Hey, kid,” said a deep male voice from behind Temperance. “Can you wrap it up? I need to take her statement.”

The man was middle-aged and wearing and FBI blazer. There were at least a dozen such men milling around Town Hall, so Temperance’s assumption that this was the Agent Fry that R mention was only that – an assumption. The boy nodded again.

“Just a moment, Special Agent.” He looked at Temperance again. He suddenly looked very awkward. “Um … thing is … I kinda need that ring.”

Temperance blinked. She looked down at her hand, still holding a death grip on the steel band. “Oh, right.”

She didn’t know why she found it difficult to uncurl her fingers and hold it up for the boy to take, but the strain wasn’t nearly as difficult as working through her fear in that room an hour earlier. Her fingers trembled with the mysterious effort, but she forced herself to look directly at the boy’s face.

He looked as scared as Temperance had felt under the threat of the Asian. He ran his fingers through his short, brown hair and rubbed the back of his head nervously. Like Temperance, he managed to make a decision in spite of his fear.

“This is going to sound strange, but could you hold on to it for a while?” He looked embarrassed to be asking. “I can make arrangements for someone to take it but I … don’t think I’ll be a good keeper.”

“But you’ll trust me with it?” Temperance asked incredulously.

“After what you did today, absolutely.”

Temperance blinked, but couldn’t really think of a counter-argument. She wasn’t even certain why they might be arguing about. Yet, in spite of what the boy said about not being a hero, he had helped her when she needed it. She found it difficult to not trust him.

Still, she wasn’t so sure he trusted her as he said. “Before I do this, explain what this is.”

“It’s a power source,” the boy answered immediately. “It would take days to truly explain, but think of it like a type of technology.”

“Then why were you concerned with which finger he wore it on?”

“Because the ring can permanently bond to whoever wears it – and placing it on the ring finger is simply the easiest way. Had that happened, the ring would’ve been unmovable.”

What he was suggesting was impossible, absurd, and a bit childish. Temperance believed him.

“Okay, I’ll keep an eye on it, but I’ll need to be able to get in contact with you.”

“I don’t have a phone.”

“Okay, at least tell me where you live.”

“I don’t have a home – yet,” he added hastily. “I just got here and noticed signs of … well, it’s a fluke that I showed up at all.”

Temperance raised her eyebrows. “Well, I’ll just give you my number, and you can use a payphone or something. But I need something to call you.”

The boy laughed. “I don’t even know what to call you,” he pointed out.

“I’m Temperance Austin.”

“Temperance,” he repeated. “I’m Septimus Hart.”

Perhaps the immense stress she just endured simply made everything seem so brilliant by comparison, but she couldn’t stop herself from smiling for that one, shining moment.

- Edward Thérèse Jr.

message 10: by C. J., Atm Seeker in the "Lin Kuei" (new)

C. J. Scurria (goodreadscomcj_scurria) | 4214 comments Hello. My story now. I hope you guys will like it.

message 11: by C. J., Atm Seeker in the "Lin Kuei" (new)

C. J. Scurria (goodreadscomcj_scurria) | 4214 comments I Took Santa Hostage

Length: (APPROXIMATELY) 1,360 words

R J Fredrickson thought he would get away with all of it so easily. Since his Christmas shopping and wrapping was all done these two days before Christmas, the man didn't care if his hidden plan would possibly harm someone.

Christmas was all about giving and it was exactly why he was in this for the taking.

As he stood in line to see Santa, the thirty-five year old fantasized about the gifts he had ready at home. They were wrapped so exquisitely. His blue and green pajamas wrapped with a fresh pair of long-johns were bought at Express For Men. They were very kindly placed into the white, bulky box but somehow R J wanted the wrapping opportunity to be up to himself. So he knew that it would be a pleasant gift from he to himself.

He thought of the grey silk tie. So precious. He hoped to find out when that was going to be uncovered two days from this one.

Then he thought of his new exercise bike. He managed to wrap it up in a giant amount of red paper, for some reason covering every inch just so he doesn't spoil the surprise he had mounted there in the basement for himself.

What he wasn't dwelling on were the cheap gifts he bought and haphazardly prepared with brown paper that was for his wife and two children. Those tragedies of presents were to wait for the ones in ready mode when they would all scoot off to bed.
R J almost pitied them.

As he was about three people behind the chance to see the wretched, old, and jolly fool he couldn't help but catch a man speaking who was apparently Kris Kringle's boss.
"I am unbelievably blessed that this man chose to work here." said the raven-haired, fancy suited freak. He had bulky glasses and R J guessed a huge bald spot on the back of his head that was unsuccessfully combed over by three threads of hair.
He listened as the other person droned about why the man said so.
"The guy, of all people, works for free. I don't have to pay him. And this is our store's best profitable time of the year! I have no reason to be unhappy and I think I will die a happy man."
R J looked over to the Santa guy and couldn't help but notice how convincing he was. The guy had tremendous white hair that poured around his face, very pleasantly trimmed. Ol' Saint Nick even had his thick whiskers that looked like a drifting moustache curled upwards as if even his facial hair naturally smiled for the holidays.
And R J noticed... was it true... that he even had rosy cheeks. R J figured that it had to be a disguise or else the man should have gotten his award for The Best Impersonated Fraud of the Year hours ago.
He let the moment settle in. Then he shook his head. He had to be crazy.
R J's hand went to his brown coat pocket. In due time, he felt he would have to use his "outside voice" and call out his demands. When he entered the store he felt a huge thrill as if he felt this was going to be the most fun this he would have in the entire season! Now his hands were sweaty. He hoped he would pull this sting off and be able to point his jacket at the snowy old fart and see if he would listen.
He was now the next in line.

He hesitated. He now knew that the old crank was not loaded thanks to the boss's open honesty. So he realized he would have to go to plan b. Order the people that were at the registers to give him all of their cash. This once-appealing idea was now becoming a strange chore.

He knew he had to get the money so he could finally pay off his student loan payments.

He suddenly turned around to the crowd. "Alright I want everyone to listen up!"
The crowd was immediately quiet. It seemed even babies that were wailing in the arms of restless mothers started to quiet down from his yell.
"I want somebody here to give me all their money." he cried.
Now he heard people yelping in fear and the sound almost tore at him as if his cold heart started to change on him. Almost.

"No one here even try to set off the alarms! I will hurt anyone that even comes close to doing it."

The cashiers, from what he could see as he scanned the three available sections, looked like they were too afraid to move. This was getting serious. R J didn't exactly like this. He tried to make his eyes big like he wasn't afraid but that almost made it obvious that he was still all nerves.

Then he moved to the man on the throne. He attempted to pull him onto his feet. Children freaked out when they saw this. The man only moved because he was willing to stand. The guy had too big a bowl full of "jelly" to really move unwillingly. He was just seconds ago sunk in his chair like an anchor that had decorative red and white pajamas.

He pulled Santa's face towards his one pocket that concealed his so-called "weapon."
"Don't make me do it. I will take Santa hostage."

Santa finally spoke.
"Why haven't you taken the money? No one has moved since you started talking. You won't hurt anyone here, sir. If you do, you will be sadly mistaken. This is just ... pointless, young sir."

R J realized his folly when he said that. He noticed the old man had a sad expression. More specifically like he was disappointed. Santa continued.
"Why don't we talk this over in my office."
The man named R J awkwardly watched the old man waddle over to the door behind his big chair and grab the knob. When he did he turned around and gave R J a secret little wink.
That made R J snap into a confusion. He was speechless.
When R J entered his "office" he was discreetly brought into a warehouse that was not the same size as the outside set. About thirty-five elves were carrying supplies that they were quickly crafting into new toys for all of the new girls and boys of the year. R J stupidly wondered for a second why they procrastinated for so long... then realized that something more remarkable had become more important.
These were real elves. They were really working for the season. R J was dumbfounded.
"So R J. . . what is the true reason you want to take away the money that this place has so generously been given?"
"Uhh. . . I . . ."
"What is your true reason to try to wreck this holiday?"
"I don't know. I just. . ." and he awkwardly shrugged.
"Okay. Well that is not a good way to answer."

"Well you just showed me more than a dozen magical midgets. What am I supposed to say? I don't know what to think!"
"Dear R J. . . do you think you will ever learn a lesson this year?"
"Wait a minute. What makes you think that you know me so well?"
"How about this."
Santa confidently grabbed R J's jacket pocket and squeezed it.
"What are you doing?"
"You don't think I am the true one, do you?" Then he guided out what R J had in his pocket all along and added "could a true one have known that you really had a candy cane tucked away in there?"
R J still stared dumbfounded.
"Sweets can be bad for people. But I don't think one candy cane could kill anyone." then he gave a hearty laugh (I don't need to spell that one out for you).

"I am. . . sorry."
"Are you really? Or are you just sorry that you were caught?"
R J didn't quite know what to say.
After the two left his office Santa came out from the door and gave another laugh, this one was more tremendous than ever. Then he seemed to sprinkle something in the air. It seemed to make them forget the events that had transpired.

Things seemed to have calmed for just a little while. The cops that showed up heard what had happened so Santa, not keeping R J completely off the hook, had R J spend one night in the "mall jail." While he had R J there, he told the cops that he forgave him and would not press any charges or wish him any further treatment from the lawmen.

R J knew this was a year he would not forget. The most notable thing of all was when he got home and attempted to explain everything on Christmas morning.

He saw that to his surprise that before he could get a lie out edgewise, he witnessed his children playing with different toys. There were blowing bubbles, hula-hoops, three board games that were lovingly stacked in the corner, and one was even lucky enough to have gotten a new bike!

His wife did not ask for an explanation. She did not want to know where he was or what he had been doing. She was too overflowed with joy that he managed to get her a new diamond ring that replaced the one he lost days before their twelveth anniversary.

The night was topped above all that when he went into his basement to find his presents. At first he was horrified that it seemed he was robbed. Then he noticed everything still was wrapped only he noticed most of all his exercise bike was now bulky bulges on the floor.

He opened each one. Each gift he bought himself had been magically stuffed with coal.

The Ho Ho Horror!

message 12: by Edward (last edited Dec 25, 2012 08:32AM) (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments This R J is a strange man. I'm not exactly clear on his motive (he thought robbing Santa would be hilarious?), but it's funny how quickly it fell apart on him. He was probably so absorbed in how clever he was he forgot to actually be clever and think things through.

Nice reversal, Jessica. Who's a helpless hostage? Not Sergeant Johannesen.

By the way, feel free to criticize my work mercilessly.

message 13: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments Christa - Ron Paul 2016 wrote: "Oh I can totally use the story I was writing for last week but didn't finish in time, convenient."

So we'll expect your story soon?

message 14: by Saira (new)

Saira (herumouni) | 667 comments I'll try since I have tomorrow off.

message 15: by M (last edited Dec 26, 2012 07:03AM) (new)

M | 11047 comments It’s a thrill and a surprise, in Jessica’s “Undercover,” when Sergent Johannesen, picking up a few supplies at a supermarket, cuffs an armed robber who has eluded the police.

Students loans always lead to bad places. In CJ’s “I Took Santa Hostage,” I’m not convinced at the end that Fredrickson really has changed, however. This story was fun and interesting to read!

In “Damsel in Distress,” there’s so much to enjoy, it’s hard to know where to begin to talk about it. The story, through the character Temperance, is an insightful exploration of hidden strength; through the Asian, an exploration of vanity and of the irrationality induced by power.

After its initial swell, when the people in the records reception area at the city hall are taken hostage, the undercurrent of tension grows steadily throughout the story, until its sudden release when Temperance stands by the shattered window, holding the ring between her fingers.

The writing is wonderfully graphic. The fate of the poor guard seems almost like documentary footage. The narrative sparkles with little descriptive vignettes, such as this one of Hakeem: “His face was robotic--calculating in utter indifference.” The dialog seems natural and adroitly advances the story.

If I may be suffered the indulgence of taking a side road, rather than submitting this as a critique of the story, I’ll risk the stocks by making an observation for the benefit of the group. Anything posted in the story contest is fair game for the critique that would be applied to a short story--i.e., a story that’s complete in and of itself, that establishes its own world and characters, and that requires no knowledge on the part of the reader of a larger story.

“Damsel in Distress” is part of a larger story. It isn’t a freestanding story, but is more on the order of a scene. The larger story the scene is a part of is neccessary to supply the context by which the elements fantastic (in this case, the ring) make sense and place no unreasonable demands on the reader’s willing suspension of disbelief. The larger story supplies not only a context for the hostage scene, but a dimension to the reader’s acquaintance with Temperance Austin and Septimus Hart that a scene alone is incapable of delivering.

For me, without the context the larger story provides, R’s possession of a ring that channels some sort of power comes as a non sequitur that brings my inner screening of the story to a confused halt--and in a situation the writing otherwise brings startlingly to life! For me, “Damsel in Distress” isn’t a story I can simply plug and play.

message 16: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments Yeah, that's something I find to be a bit of a chore in writing - re-establishing the fantastical elements of my writing in every story. One reason I find it a chore is that it irritated me in the Harry Potter books, which is a straight-forward series that feels the need to tell us that he is a wizard in the second and third books as though we needed to be reminded.

You're right that it isn't a free-standing story, though. When I first came up with this story, it wasn't for the contest at all. It was supposed to be the last story in a collection of vaguely connected tales. The first story is going to be "Lesson One" which I wrote for the Car Music contest and provides a quick primer in biovis (magic). Additionally, this story in particular is an interesting little insert between Decay and it's sequel. It isn't required to understand either of those books, but it does add a bit of flavor.

So, yeah, I agree; it could use a bit more world-building exposition for those just reading it by itself.

Thank you very much for the comments. I'll try to remember to establish the fantastical elements of the world in future story. (Next story word count: probably around seven thousand.)

message 17: by M (last edited Dec 26, 2012 06:12AM) (new)

M | 11047 comments You did say, “By the way, feel free to criticize my work mercilessly.” Actually, I was careful to go very easy on it, and as a criticism I merely pointed out what I consider a flaw of many of the stories that are posted--and I pointed it out for that reason.

I think an argument could be made that the Harry Potter “novels” are less novels than installments (the equivalent of what, in a TV series, would be seasons) in what is essentially a YA soap opera.

message 18: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments That's basically it. If she, say, wrote a James Potter series, then reintroducing the basic elements could be justified, since you don't need to read Harry Potter to understand a James Potter series. But it would be weird to read "Year 2" or "Year 3" of Harry Potter without reading "Year 1," so re-establishing the basic premise of the first book seems like overkill.

Which isn't to say she shouldn't re-establish certain facts across each book - mentioning Sirius in the second chapter of book four made a lot of sense, since that dynamic was only briefly covered in the closing chapters of the last book; it isn't inconcievable that some readers would think of Sirius as "that bad guy who was actually a good guy" and little else.

What's ridiculous in that same chapter is giving us an overview of the personalities of Ron and Hermonie. These books were supposed to grow with the audience, so she's expecting teenagers at this point to not remember the two most important characters (after the protagonist) that we spent three books with. We really don't need an exposition via Harry's very slow thought process to remind us that Hermonie would consult a book and Ron will looked bemused and ask his dad.

The Dresden Files, which, in spite of it's multiple-book plots, one could easily read the first three books without any reference to other books, has considerably less exposition on the same subject in later books. True, he could've spent a few pages explaining his backstory with Bianca in Grave Peril like he did in Storm Front, but for the purposes of Grave Peril simply realizing that she's the head of a Red Court vampire family is more than enough.

... I should stop now.

message 19: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments M wrote: "You did say, “By the way, feel free to criticize my work mercilessly.” Actually, I was careful to go very easy on it, and as a criticism I merely pointed out what I consider a flaw of many of the s..."

It was a good criticism. I often get caught up in the greater mythology I've created, that I forget context in specific stories.

message 20: by M (last edited Dec 26, 2012 07:41AM) (new)

M | 11047 comments I added to #16 the two quick responses I had made yesterday, to Jessica’s and CJ’s stories, before I got sidetracked by “Damsel in Distress” and musings about various things I’ve taken for granted as characteristics of a short story.

I seem to be the only person in the Western world who isn’t impressed beyond words with the Harry Potter series. I wonder if its success may not have less to do with originality and skillful writing than with a vogue for rambling stories whose purpose is to keep the reader entertained without making any real demands on his critical faculties or emotional or aesthetic sensibilities. It might be interesting if somebody were to write a version of the story from Draco’s or Voldemort’s point of view, or that of one of the houses other than Gryffindor.

message 21: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments Or Neville Longbottom's point-of-view. Wouldn't be hilarious to write him as the useless fourth member of a quartet (he actaully follows Harry, Ron, and Hermonie around) only for the prophecy, as revealed in the fifth book, to actually refer to him? True, Harry speaking Parseltongue and a whole lot of other things would no longer make sense, but I can still see Dumbledore keeping Harry in the spotlight while subtly getting Neville ready for his true role.

I'm not impressed with the writing, but I do like the overall plot of the seven books together. My favorite book is the seventh, probably for the exact same reasons that others hated it: The seventh book shattered the mold, just like it was supposed to. The first six books are all about him slowly becoming an adult; in addition to the little things he learns, he also starts relying less and less on adults to figure things out. In the sixth book, he even turns out to be right the whole time (about Draco, at least).

The seventh book, however, he has no guidance apart from cryptic clues left by Dumbledore that don't actually help him. The first half of the book (part one of the movies) is slow because Harry, now an adult, has to rely on himself - and he flounders for about half a year before discovering that he can stand alone, thanks to the training and education of the previous years.

As to the fact that so many characters died - she's writing for the original audience. People who were ten when the first book came out were in their twenties by the seventh book. I believe she said the only reason that the book wasn't more adult was that her publishers were worried about children who just started the series that would probably finish it before they were ready for such things.

Personally, I would've been baffled if half the cast didn't die in the last book.

Gah, I'm talking in essays again. (I'm really just wasting time until I have to work or until I figure out this story I'm about to write.) Anyway, I liked the seven-book arc and most of the characters (not Harry); the individual books are less impressive than I expected.

So ... what exactly is a non sequitur.

message 22: by M (last edited Dec 26, 2012 07:48AM) (new)

M | 11047 comments I think of a non sequitur as anything that doesn’t follow--for instance, when, in the middle of a conversation, somebody says something completely off the wall and that leaves everyone else blank. The term probably has a more technical application, in logic or philosophy, but I don’t know what it is. I think it’s Latin for “It doesn’t follow.”

message 23: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments It looks more like a noun or adjective, if it's Latin, but it might be verb, but usually a third-person, singular verb would end in a "t." But I've only done a couple month's worth of Latin, so ...

Heh, my papa spits out non sequitur in conversations a lot; his tone of voice suggests that he's replying to what we're saying, but he's actually going down a tangent, causing a moment of confusion.

Time for work ...

message 24: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments We probably get "sequence" from sequitur, so it could mean "not in sequence" or "not in path."

message 25: by Saira (new)

Saira (herumouni) | 667 comments It means 'does not follow.'

message 26: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments It was more fun guess, but okay. We probably still derive sequence from it.

message 27: by Rose (new)

Rose Boehm (rosemaryboehm) Our old friend Wiki says:

Non sequitur (Latin for "it does not follow"), in formal logic, is an argument in which its conclusion does not follow from its premises. In a non sequitur, the conclusion could be either true or false, but the argument is fallacious because there is a disconnection between the premise and the conclusion. All invalid arguments are special cases of non sequitur.

The term has special applicability in law, having a formal legal definition. Many types of known non sequitur argument forms have been classified into many different types of logical fallacies.

message 28: by C. J., Atm Seeker in the "Lin Kuei" (last edited Dec 27, 2012 05:50AM) (new)

C. J. Scurria (goodreadscomcj_scurria) | 4214 comments Edward wrote: "This R J is a strange man. I'm not exactly clear on his motive (he thought robbing Santa would be hilarious?), but it's funny how quickly it fell apart on him. He was probably so absorbed in how ..."

I guess the best way to possibly explain RJ's motive is that he is an extremely selfish man and that he is only doing this particular action (in the story) because he feels he can get away with it.

message 29: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments Silly man, you can't rob Santa Clause and get away with it. Even if it was a fake Santa.

message 30: by M (new)

M | 11047 comments What CJ left out is that the coal Fredrickson’s gifts had been magically stuffed with was anthracite coal recovered from the wreck of the Titanic, carefully bagged and with certificates of authenticity.

message 31: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments For normal protagonists and antagonists it can turn out good or bad for either or both, depending on the story, but Santa has the ultimate plot protection.

message 32: by M (new)

M | 11047 comments Imagine if characters in stories could buy insurance to protect them against being done it by their writers. The insurance company’s slogan could be “Plot protection when you need it!”

message 33: by Tim (new)

Tim Thanks, Rose, for the explanation of non sequitur.

message 34: by Violent Vi (last edited Dec 27, 2012 03:28PM) (new)

Violent Vi (violetk) | 133 comments Hostage by Violet
Length: 1,275

I was curled up in a ball while Wonko the clown wiped off his makeup. I was quietly crying for my mother, but I knew she couldn’t hear me. I couldn’t remember anything, he knocked me out. All I knew was that I wasn’t at home. I looked out the window, we were in Seattle, it was rainy and it said so everywhere. It was my birthday. Wonko threw a phone at me. “Now I want you to call your mom and tell her you are ok, you just went with your friend and you forgot to tell her. Got it?” He said. I nodded and dialed my mother’s number. “Hello? Who is this?” I heard my mother say. I choked down a sob and spoke. “Hey it’s me Xandra. Listen, I’m ok, I’m just at Rainey’s house. I’m going to spend the night there ok?” I didn’t have a friend named Rainey, but Wonko didn’t know that. Seattle was known for rainy weather. “We are going to ride horses, in fact right know I’m putting on a saddle. Bye mom.” I spoke precisely, pronouncing saddle like Seattle. I handed him the phone and curled in a ball again. “Riding horses?” He mumbled. I prayed to god mother got what I was trying to say. He hit the brakes and I flung forward. My head was bleeding. “Damnit!” He said looking back at me. He flung a rain coat and napkin at me and exited the car. I held the napkin to my wound and put the rain coat on. I heard his phone go off. “It’s your mom. Want to talk to her again?” I knew it was rhetorical but I nodded, which made my headache worse. I got out of the car and he walked me into his house with a gun on my back. We entered the house and he turned on a video camera. “Y-you do this a lot?” I said with a sniffle. He ignored me and continued messing with the camera. I looked for any mail or anything so I could know the address but there was none. I walked around the area. “Don’t try to run anywhere. I’ve got a tazer and gun on my waist.” He said, not looking up at me. I wanted to cry. My fingers were sticky with blood and my hair was covered in it too. I sat down on the floor and sobbed. “Alexandra, Alexandra. Showing weakness isn’t good for your position.” He said, walking over to me. I swallowed my tears and took a deep breath. “My parents aren’t rich. They are poor and on food stamps. You must be a desperate son of a gun to steal me. You’re lower than the Mariana Trench.”I lied through clenched teeth. He heartily laughed and nudged me over with his foot. “I’m not an idiot. I know you better than you do. Your grandparents are millionaires. They will willingly give money for you.” He said. I stood up and punched him in his jaw. He stumbled to the floor and I ran. I looked for a phone. I found his phone and quickly dialed my mother’s number. He was just scrambling to his feet and fumbling at his waist band. I ran upstairs and locked myself in the bathroom. “Xandra? What is it?” She said. “Mom, help me! I’m in Seattle and Wonko took me and he’s going to hold me for ransom!” I said through tears. He was ramming in the door so I put my feet to it and put all my weight on it. “Xandra where are you?” My mother said, through tears I could tell. “Track down this number, have the police and FBI raid the house, send an Amber Alert. Please help me mom!” I cried, practically yelling into the phone. “Peter, call the police! Honey you need to tell me where you are.” She said. “I don’t know mom, I don’t know!” I yelled. A hand punched through the door and I screamed. “Xandra!” Mom yelled through the phone. The hand grabbed the phone and pulled it through the door. I screamed and scrambled up and looked for something. I found a gun in the bathtub and shot it at Wonko’s hand “Son of a bitch!” He yelled. I could see blood and took the phone. “Xandra, please talk to me!” I could tell mom was sobbing. “Mom, I’m ok!” I said. The barrel of a gun poked through the hole and I dropped to the floor. He fired off bullets and I cried. When he was out of bullets he put the tazer up to the hole. Before he could fire it, I snatched it from him and fired it through the hole. It hit his face and he blankly stared up at the ceiling. I aimed my bullet at his chest and fired another just to be sure. Blood spurted out and I sobbed. I had just killed Wonko the clown. I exited the bathroom and walked down stairs. A hand flung up, the hand I shot. I screamed and shot another bullet at him. I ran down the stairs and went to the front door. I fumbled with the lock, for the adrenaline coursing through my veins made me shaky when all at once I felt a gun on my head. “Get on the ground.” I still had the gun so I turned and shot him through the head. The guy flung back and blood pooled around him. I exited the house and sobbed. I found the address and called the police. “911, what’s your emergency?” The operator said. “I was just taken hostage and I’m in Seattle and I’m at 45632 George Street.” I said. “There are two dead men in the house, one the person who took me hostage, the other an accomplice.” I breathed heavily and let out a sob. “M’am, who killed them?” She asked. “I did. There was a gun in the bathroom and he was going to kill me so I shot his hand and then tazered him through the head and then I shot him twice through the chest. Then I shot his accomplice through the head. I’m outside the house right now and I’m scared.” I said, sobbing. “Okay, we’ll have the police come pick you up. Where do you live?” The operator said. “I live in Helena, Montana. 85644 Franklin Road.” I added, biting my lower lip. “Ok, we’ll have the police come there stat.” I hung up and everything just happened in slow motion. The police came and identified the bodies. I went home and was reunited with my mom and dad. That night I cried myself to sleep. And I had a nightmare too, where they had killed me. I was on the morning, afternoon, and evening news. Everyone was calling me brave, fearless, amazing. I felt weak, spineless, and cowardly. I hadn’t found any other option but to kill the two, and even though I knew they would’ve killed me, I still felt a boulder-sized weight in my stomach. The next day we went to the hospital and checked out my head, which happened to be a minor injury. Everyone asked me how I had done it, how I had stayed so calm and collected, how I held that gun so steady. And I told them I hadn’t, I told them I was a nervous wreck, even now I am. Every night, there he is in my dreams, Wonko the clown, and my 13th birthday which had gone from a good day, to the worst day of my life.

message 35: by Paul (last edited Dec 28, 2012 02:13AM) (new)

Paul Toderas The dark room was filled with only one small beam of light that was so weak, it didn't even mattered until the moment the door was opened and a wave of sunlight filled it up. A person was pushing another one inside, and then a third person followed. The man being pushed was made to sit on a wooden chair (the cheap one you can get for 2$ and eventually forget it in the backyard where it will get overgrown by weeds and somebody may stumble upon it after a proper, earth scorching apocalypse).

The man on the chair had a black mask over it's head and after the man who pushed him punched him hard, he lost his consciousness.

Mr. Z: Now why did you do that for?
Bungles: He must remain silent!
Mr. Z: Silent? We're in the middle of nowhere!
Bungles: Still, it's better to be sure he can't call out for help!
Mr. Z: You know how much I detest violence.
Bungles: Sure, that's why you're part of a hostage mission, cause you're so anti-violence.
Mr. Z: I am, you should know. Even when I fight people, I try not to kill them.
Bungles: How sweet of you! Bet them poor souls are really thankful and all.
Mr. Z: Now you're being rude.
Bungles: Ehh? Am I, then?
Mr. Z: Yes. In order for this to work, we need to lay down some rules.
Bungles: I love rules. I heard rules are good. Like for board-games and such.
Mr. Z: I don't mean rules for Monopoly. Real life, hostage kind of rules.
Bungles: Like what?
Mr. Z: For example : Do not punch your hostage.
Bungles: All right, I can do that.
Mr. Z: You can?
Bungles: Sure! Here's another one : Shut the fuck up.
Mr. Z: Nice language. I presume you learned that while shoveling pig dirt?
Bungles: Pig dirt? Do I look like a person who would do that?
Mr. Z:- Yes.
Bungles: Are you insulting me, then?
Mr. Z: You just told me to fuck off. I think I deserve one rebuke. And I could have used a nastier word instead of dirt, you know?
Bungles: I don't care. We're going to wait for the call first. Until then, we need to protect this lad here.
Mr. Z: Who is he, by the way?
Bungles: Some rich kid.
Mr. Z: How can you tell?
Bungles: By his watch.
Mr. Z: I don't see a watch on his hands.
Bungles: Exactly.
Mr. Z: You stole the poor lad's watch?
Bungles: Stole it? He practically gave it to me! Or drop it to me.
Mr. Z: How long do we need to keep guard?
Bungles: I hope not too long, I'm getting bored here.
Mr. Z: Do you know how much they will pay us?
Bungles: I was told that each of us will get 200 pounds.
Mr. Z: Nice.
Bungles: Ye, I mean if we survive, that is.
Mr. Z: Survive? I see no imminent danger!
Bungles: Danger hides behind ever door.
Mr. Z: There's only one here! You're going to be the first one out, I can tell you that.
Bungles: Don't panic. See? You woke him up!
Bungles: What now lad?
Mr. Z: He makes no sense!
Bungles: Would be good idea to remove the cloth from his mouth.
Mr. Z: No! He might try to bribe us.
Bungles: Ehh? I fail to see what's wrong with that.
Mr. Z: It's called loyalty!
Bungles: Loyalty my ass, pardon my French.
Hostage: What on earth is this?
Bungles: You've been kidnapped lad. Are you going to try to bribe use now?
Hostage: Bribe you? I will have you both hanging by the end of the day!
Bungles: Now now, it's just a plain hostage mission, we don't need to go over the horse here.
Hostage: I will have you both in jail! Heads will roll!
Bungles: He's getting annoying.
Hostage: Blood will be spilled!
Mr. Z: It was you who removed his cloth.
Hostage: The gates of hell will be opened upon you two!
Bungles: All right, now shut up lad.
Mr. Z: I told you it's a bad idea.
Bungles: Yes, yes... smart ass.
Mr. Z: I asked you to stop being rude!


Mr. Z: It's the boss!
Bungles: Answer it!
Mr. Z: Yes, hello? Yes! Sure, we have the hostage here! Yes boss, on our way!
Bungles: What did he say?
Mr. Z: We're to move the hostage to the meeting point!
Bungles: Sure sure!

The moment the hostage was about to be released, he freed his hands, and, using an elegant kind of karate,
he knocked out both kidnappers in mere seconds. He opened the door, looked around and ran for it.

After the door closed, the room was one again filled with darkness, and two idiots.

message 36: by Stephanie (last edited Dec 27, 2012 06:58PM) (new)

Stephanie (chasmofbooks) | 2875 comments I like how you ended your story, Paul. "again filled with darkness, and two idiots." Haha. And I have to say I also liked the line, "Danger hides behind ever door." I enjoyed the banter between the two kidnappers.

If you don't mind, I'd just like to suggest you use dialogue tags so we can tell who's saying what. It's hard to differentiate from the two kidnappers and it'll just improve the overall clarity of the story. Also, show don't tell as much as you can. I liked the sarcasm in the story though. Very nice.

Sorry if I offend or anything. These are just suggestions, that's all.

message 37: by Paul (new)

Paul Toderas Stephanie wrote: "I like how you ended your story, Paul. "again filled with darkness, and two idiots." Haha. And I have to say I also liked the line, "Danger hides behind ever door." I enjoyed the banter between the..."

You didn't offend me in any way. I do need to add tags, guess I was too lazy. I will fix that with and edit.

Thank you for the the feedback ^^

message 38: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie (chasmofbooks) | 2875 comments I'm glad you found it helpful. Have fun!

message 39: by Caitlan (last edited Dec 28, 2012 11:39AM) (new)

Caitlan (lionesserampant) | 2869 comments Okay, this story is kinda personal, but you can critique it if you want to. It's short, though. Sorry for those of you who like long stories with a message. These are just flashes of thoughts.

It's dark in here. The cracks are sealed tight, and no light can get in. The air is stale, and I know I've been in here for a very long time. I locked myself into this box because if I ever let myself out, I'd run away; turn into smoke and dissolve into the world.


The sky is a deep blue, and I imagine: if I had wings, I would jump out of this window and disappear. The stars would become my companions. I would leave behind the heartache, the hurting. But I can't -- I'm trapped here; leaning out of the window while the wind dries my tear soaked face.


The mirror holds my reflection. I see a gaunt, broken girl, her hair standing wildly out from her head. My fingers find the brush, and as I pull it through my hair, I image brushing away all of my insecurities, everything that makes me different. The now silky strands hide my secrets from the world.


I look at the sunset, and instead of seeing a sky, I see a canvas where angels learn how to paint, creating masterpieces every second. My own canvases lie forgotten in a closet, riddled with holes, with broken brushes scattered on the floor and dried paint splashed on the walls. I imagine the angels weeping.

message 40: by Guy (new)

Guy (egajd) | 11105 comments A Fugue on Being a Hostage
           by Guy Duperreault
              2600 words.

"How do you know that you haven't been bewitched?" The question was rhetorical, a professorial ask in the small university course he'd been directed by the dean to call "Media and the Communications of Control". He, Jonathan Trappe and on track for tenure, had wanted to call it "The Efficacy of Social Propaganda: How Can you Know that it Hasn't Worked?"

As he had come to expect, there was no significant response from the handful of students who were looking down at their smartphones or tablets and poking them with varying degrees of finger and thumb dexterity. He let the question hang for a moment as he moved his eyes around the small room. Arthur Erickson institutional, he thought: lots of cement and stainless steel. Or is that brushed aluminum? There was so much cement that the carefully placed expensive looking woods only accentuated the cold dysfunctional-utilitarian nature of the space instead of warming it.

He struggled to remove the disappointment the prison-like setting evoked in him. He'd felt it before, at this place. It struck him that the grey concrete made the act of learning in this institution feel like an oppressive subjugation of the spirit for the sake of hard edged, unforgiving constructs. When he was young he used to dream of old world ivy covered schools filled, as he imagined they were, with the patina of history and the tangible echo of achievable wisdom. Instead, here he was, trapped like a hostage in a 'new' world classroom that looked like what he imagined a spiffed-up prison classroom might look after it had been given a superficial facelift by the contractor so as to pass a scheduled 'surprise' inspection.

The ticking of the large clock brought him back to the class, the lecture— his lecture. For half a second the smartphone users looked as if they were handcuffed by their own devices to the desk-chairs and he imagined he was little more than their guard: a hostage of learning imprisoned in a room of self-imposed prisoners. He shook his head, hoping to remove from it the nightmarish day dream he seemed to be experiencing.

"How do you know that I haven't been bewitched— Errrr, ahhh. Excuse me," he interrupted himself. "What I meant to say was 'How do you know that I haven't bewitched you?'" There was a slight pause in the smartphone and tablet finger boarding during which most of the students looked up to see whether or not the prof had just crawled out from a dark hole before dropping their eyes to resume the fingering. "And by 'I' I mean the system of education you have spent many years excelling at." The fingers didn't pause.

The 'discussion' he and dean Jakob Bauer had had over the semantics of the 'correct' name for the course had baffled him. He had, at the dean's request, met with him in his imposing office. Well, imposing by university standards, Trappe supposed, because the relatively small room was overwhelmed with books. There were stacks of books and piles of paper everywhere but in front of the door and on the corner of a counter where an old brown betty tea pot and electric kettle were precariously ensconced. Even the pair of small windows had been largely blocked out with carefully stacked books. And it had a rich smell, of old books, cigar smoke and scotch.

The discussion, if it could be called that, was very short because Trappe had not argued for his title with any vigour. He had become very aware, during his time as a TA and grad student, that university staff and department politics were vibrant and merciless. He'd felt oddly disappointed with that realization because he saw first hand that the vulgar jokes he used to hear around his childhood dinner table about university professors were largely based on truth. And with that observation came the understanding that tenure was less a measure of the quality of human excellence than of excellence in vicious political acumen.

But by then he was fully committed to 'higher' learning, even as he began to feel it's political strictures bind him. He convinced himself, after a great deal of mental flagellation and a seemingly endless string of nightmares, that he would just get his PhD because, once he'd got that, then he would be free to break from the politics of knowledge. It wasn't until later, much later, that his resignation turned to bitter disappointment when he realized that the idea that so-called higher education could lead the society towards an understanding beyond self serving political pettiness, even if it wanted to. Which it didn't. That ostensible purpose was delusional aggrandizement and was a delusion. How could educators teach anyone understanding if they themselves are exemplars of the very behaviour they are hypocritically advocating against? And yet, here he was, a prisoner of educational inertia, inside a prison-like cement room, teaching bored smart-phoneys that learning is a form of intellectual imprisonment when all they wanted was the quickest way to make money.

"You have become a hostage to the idea of money and that blinds you to your being being no more than inconsequential intellectualized idiots." The words came from his mouth without his conscious intention. And they seemed to have come from a place inside of himself that he didn't know he had. His face flushed red with the realization that not only had he gone off of the course notes but that he might be in the process of having a nervous breakdown. The fear turned to a panic spiral when he realized that he may have insulted his students enough that when they completed the department's 'Likely-to-Recommend' polls he would see his life-work ended with a poor LTR-rating. Or these inert students would suddenly come to life with a flurry of withdrawals from his class. His face and tongue stopped working. He could feel his heart beat pulsing in his forehead and, strangely, on the tip of his tongue.

When he opened his eyes — he hadn't realized that he'd closed them — the students seemed unchanged, unfazed by his comment. Except one. A young woman with small black rimmed glasses and a large pink hair band that pulled her very long shiny black hair into a beautiful pony tail had her arm up. He struggled to unfreeze his jaw and tongue, to not notice how pretty was her Asian face scrunched in concentration. He remained frozen long enough for her to grow impatient and wave her hand in three short beats and quietly cough.

"Er, ahhh, errrr," he stumbled. "Yes miss?"

"What you said doesn't really make sense," she stated sharply.

"In what way?" The adrenaline had so filled his body that Trappe was unsure that he remembered what it was that he'd actually said. The one thing he quite clearly remembered was that he'd used the word 'idiot.' He hoped that he could fake his way past a few soft ball questions. From his pocket he involuntarily pulled the handkerchief his mother had given him. He dabbed his moist forehead.

"Well, to begin with, how can someone be made a hostage to an idea? And secondly, money is freedom. So how can that — money — hold anyone hostage? And as proof, is not money the usual means by which a hostage is released from captivity?"

Trappe felt some relief, initially, that she seemed to not have heard the 'idiot' remark. But then his stomach flip-flopped a little, because these were not softball questions. "Er," he said, and dabbed his forehead again. He nervously removed his eyeglasses, blew on them, and foolishly 'cleaned' them with his less than clean handkerchief. Even with his jittering eyes he could see that his sweat was smudged across the plastic.

She sat still. Her eyes drilling into him. He hardly noticed that two or three others had stopped their smartphone typing to watch. He put his glasses back on and thought about vision surgery.

"Ah," he said, "the problem is …. I mean, the challenge is that…. No, it's not a challenge, it is a problem, a social problem. What I mean is that the problem is that we don't know where ideas come from." That sounded horribly lame! " Er, what I mean is that money is an idea that forces people to behave in ways that they wouldn't normally."

"You mean greed."

"Well, no. I mean, not exactly. Not specifically, but sort of yes, I guess." I guess? What kind of answer is that! He could feel the sweat pouring onto his face and dampening his shirt.

"'Greed is good' is an idea, an idea about money. Is that what you mean?"

"Well, yes. In a way."

"Because in all the religious texts in the world, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, whatever, all basically argue that greed is bad." She pursed her lips, and tapped them with a pencil. A pencil! Trappe couldn't believe his eyes. He hadn't seen a student with a pencil, well, since he'd begun teaching three years ago. He dragged his thoughts back to money.

"It begins w—

"But that still doesn't make sense," she cut him off.

[Continued below…

message 41: by Guy (last edited Dec 28, 2012 01:05PM) (new)

Guy (egajd) | 11105 comments … continued from above.]

"W-w-what doesn't make sense?" He still hadn't recovered his intellectual footing.

"That we are held hostage by something like greed. I mean, the idea of greed. We are free at anytime to change it, if it is just an idea. Like it has been changed, between stupid religion and modern accepted economic practice. At one time it was bad, now it is good."

"That sounds okay. In theory." He was starting to recover. "But how does an idea change? Can you change it in yourself, let alone in other people?" Aha! He got a question in, a great teaching trick.

"You go to school. You read. You think." She sounded almost angry.

"But then, you have the same problem. How do you change the thinking, the idea behind what is being taught?" He paused. "Who is teaching the teachers? What is being written? What is being read? Take, for example, the suffragette movement. Woman had to change what was being thought by the leading intellectuals of the day. But, more importantly and far more difficult, was to change how the majority of women thought about their equality. In effect woman were — and to a large extent still, even today are — held hostage to an ideal of womanhood held and enforced by both men and woman. It is a mostly Judaeo-Christian-Moslem idea of what being a woman means, ideally. And woman are, in effect, held hostage by that idea."

"But that would apply to men too."

"Of course."

"But men are not being held hostage! They are the ones with the bulk of the power, the bulk of the wealth. That gives them enormous freedom. Don't try to tell me that men are being held 'hostage.' That's just nonsense." She threw down her pencil, as if to emphasize her words.

"Do you agree, then, that woman are being held hostage?" Aha, Trappe thought. Got her. He was starting to feel his feet again. He still didn't notice that a couple more of the smartphones had been set down. Without being aware of it, he put the handkerchief back in his pocket. He no longer felt his heartbeat in his tongue or face.

Pony tail sat quietly for a moment. Then she picked up her pencil and rolled it slowly between her fingers. "Well. They are there by choice, right? I mean, we have the power to make changes. The only victim, the only hostage, is the person who chooses that path."

"What if you are unaware that there is choice involved? As a child you grew up in a household. Everything was given to you. You had virtually no ability to choose anything. Okay, you could spit out mashed banana and carrot. Seriously, who wouldn't? But how language came to you, how ideas were formed in you, came long before you had the ability to choose."

"So what? Once I got older I was free to choose, freely!"

"Really? How do you know? How do you really know where the limits of your choosing are set, limits that are invisible to you? Limits that your parents, or teachers, or the society inadvertently gave you, but which you do not see?"

"But that's obvious! I just have to think about them!"

"And how do you know that you are? Have you never thought something true only to discover it wasn't? The unconscious really is unconscious! For example, the wealthy protest that they are free because of their wealth, but spend much of their time fighting to keep or expand it beyond what is needed to be comfortable. Are they free, or are they being held hostage by money? More specifically, by their idea of what money is or represents? Or something they are unconscious of?"

"But that is a bull shit argument!" a male voice from the other side of the room cut in. "Money buys the ability to do whatever you want. Whatever! Only people who are envious make your kind of argument." The young man stood up, grabbed his shoulder bag in one hand and his tablet in the other and stormed towards the rear exit. He stopped and turned. "And money allows you to think whatever you want!" He walked the remaining distance to the door before stopping again. "And I'll see your stupid incompetent ass gone from this university." And then he slammed the door open and was gone.

The others had all stopped fingering their devices. And some had even turned to their neighbours and begun talking amongst themselves. Trappe heard the words 'stupid' and 'waste' and 'bull shit' over the muttering. More than one turned their head to look at the door the student had just exited through.

"Ahhhh, excuse me!" Pony tail said. "Excuse me."

Trappe couldn't decide whether or not she was trying to get his attention or that of her fellow students until she looked at him and waved her hand.

"Yes?" He said as a half question.

She moved towards him. "Do you want to keep your job?" she asked, when she was close enough to keep her question from being heard by the other students. He found himself unsettled at just how beautiful she was. And then at how inappropriate that thought was. He felt himself starting to blush again.

"Do you want to keep your job?! she hissed vehemently.

Trappe wasn't expecting that question, even after having just heard it. "Y-y-yes," he stuttered. And then more firmly. "Yes! I do."

"Okay then. I'll take care of it. I don't think they'll fire you for one bad Likely-to-Refer. And I'm rich — well, my parents are. But I'll make sure that the rest of the class gives you a clean review." Trappe was stunned. He didn't say anything. "Well?" she prompted. "Do you agree?"

"Yes," he said instinctively. But then he realized that that was likely unwise. "Er. I mean, agree to what?"

"You'll see to it I do well. At the end of the day I don't want an A. That's too obvious, but I will get a solid B." She looked him straight in his eyes. And he knew, as sure has he knew that he had four fingers and a thumb on his left hand, that she meant every word, would be able to honour every word. And he knew that he would be seeing her in more of his classes.

message 42: by C. J., Atm Seeker in the "Lin Kuei" (new)

C. J. Scurria (goodreadscomcj_scurria) | 4214 comments M wrote: "What CJ left out is that the coal Fredrickson’s gifts had been magically stuffed with was anthracite coal recovered from the wreck of the Titanic, carefully bagged and with certificates of authenti..."

Hahaha. :D

message 43: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments Kat wrote: "Okay, this story is kinda personal, but you can critique it if you want to. It's short, though. Sorry for those of you who like long stories with a message. These are just flashes of thoughts..."

Kat, this is beautiful sorrow.

I especially like how to paint the perfect reflection of worry, self-deprication, and mental anguish without actually using any of those words. I usually just talk about emotions, especially fear, as though the Platonic ideas themselves are people who crash through my stories. This is significantly more impressive.

One note: that semicolon is probably better as just a colon. You've set up that she's imagining and now you're telling what she's imagining.

I'll read everyone else's momentarily.

message 44: by Caitlan (new)

Caitlan (lionesserampant) | 2869 comments Thanks Edward. Fixed the semicolon.

message 45: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments Guy, it sounds like those students could stand to pay attention to fiction a little more. Charactes are unwittingly trapped by ideas all the time - McQueen in Cars is trapped by the idea of winning th Piston Cup and takes it for granted that he wants all the fame and the Dinoco deal. He never stops to consider that he already completely comfortable (he gets tires, repairs, and gas all for free in addition to his fee) because he does the job he loves doing. The basic premise of the movie is escaping the idea that he absolutely has to win.

My borhter also watches that movie five times a week, which is why that's the first example to occur to me.

Also, her arguement that we change our minds by reading and learning actually suggests that we are trapped by ideas. We read and learn to identify bad ideas and escape them. You don't escape if you aren't being help captive. And if you're conditioned to accept an idea, then good luck escaping it.

Reminds me of this voice-over from Burn Notice: "A rescue attempt is hard enough when the person in question wants to be rescued. It doesn't matter if it's a brother with a gambling problem or a girl who believes she about to launch her modeling career. You do what you can: You eliminate escape options, keep a low profile, but no matter what you do you'll still have someone screaming 'bloody murder' in the back of your car."

Clearly, I enjoyed the story a lot. I thought the ending was a perfect throwback to his thoughts at the beginning - an excellent way to end it.

By the way, you slipped into first-person here: "Yes?" I said as a half question.

message 46: by Guy (new)

Guy (egajd) | 11105 comments Thanks Edward. Exactly! Chomsky and Jung both argue that fiction speak more to the truths of existence than non-fiction can.

Nice catch. It was late when I did my final edit. I'll fix the voice - now.

message 47: by Kyra (new)

Kyra (Nikara) | 1221 comments Well, here we are. My contribution for this week. I'm afraid it ends rather abruptly, but I hadn't realized my word count was so large beforehand, and felt a little rushed to wrap it up.

The Ghost

I woke to the sound of tiny, skittering paws over my head, and to cold. The kind of cold that seems to come from your bones rather than the air, chilling your flesh from the inside out. Wrenching one eye open, I inspected the brig.

It was small and cramped, iron bars crisscrossing over the door and windows. Wooden planks made up the walls, floor, and ceiling, all jagged and unusually thick, as if the person who made my cell was in a great hurry while still careful enough to double up the walls.

From what I could gather at a first glance, and even a second, there was no escape.

The skittering feet over my head had faded into the wall behind me, where they stopped abruptly and instead tittered nervously. So the wall behind my cot was hollow. That might make it easier for the to break through the wall, provided I could accomplish the task quietly. Not very likely.

Reaching a hand up, I knocked gently on the wood. The mice stirred, but stayed put. Scowling, I rose from my bed with the intention of finding some way to muffle the noise of me breaking down a wall.

After a careful investigation of my cell, I realized there wasn’t much in the way of muffling the sound of a ship wall breaking. I was going to have to take my chances. I rose a foot and aimed a kick at the wall, just to test its sturdiness, but the ship gave a violent lurch, throwing me reeling into the wall with a loud crack!

“Watch it!” I heard a small voice call through the wall. I froze. Was there someone on the other side of the wall? I was bright enough to know that kicking through a wall only to land into the arms of one of your wardens wasn’t the best escape plan. But if the wall was thin enough for me to hear them, it shouldn’t be hard to break. I’d just have to wait for the person on the other side to leave, or at the very least to fall asleep, and hope that they were a heavy sleeper.

Pressing one ear to the door, I waited in silence, listening for the footsteps of the man leaving the room opposite my cell. The mice, however, did not remain silent, and continued to scamper through the crevices of the wall. Grinding my teeth, I backed away from the wall to reassess my surroundings.

Maybe if someone came into my cell, I could take them out, presumably steal their keys, and sneak onto the deck. From there, I could slip a lifeboat into the ocean and row away before they could catch me. I tried not to worry about what might happen if they caught up to me.

Phase one: Attract someone into my cell. That, I could achieve simply by doing what I do best; being obnoxious.

Twirling on the ball on my foot, I jammed the flat of my left foot into the wall again. “I said, watch it!” the voice on the other side of the wood panel warned.

This time, I smacked the wall with my shoulder, swinging back and then forward into the wood to gain momentum. Sooner or later, my cell just might break. I hoped they would hurry up and come into the brig before that happened, or I would be moved again, possibly to a location where escape would be far less likely.

“Hey!” another voice called. This time from over my head.

Slowly, I lifted my chin to stare at the uneven beams webbed over the ceiling. There, perched atop the thinnest, frailest beam of all of them, was a small gray mouse. “Do you have any idea,” the mouse scolded me, leaping to grab hold of a beam closer to me, “how annoying that is?”

“Did you just speak?” I demanded of the rodent.

The mouse made a small, guttural noise that resembled a human’s snort. “Do I sound as though I’m speaking to you? Hm, young lady?”

“I suppose you must be,” I admitted, lowering myself onto the mattress in wonder.

The mouse attempted another snort before scampering along the beams to cross from the wall onto the headboard of my cot. “Crew’s wrong about you, apparently,” he muttered, sniffing at my hand curiously. “Said you were supposed to be clever.”

“I am clever,” I protested.

“Rubbish,” the mouse scoffed. “Any half-witted person would have been long gone by now. The crew didn’t even assign a guard to you, you know.”

“Oh?” This was a promising, but somewhat disappointing, statement. They must have underestimated me.

The mouse finished sniffing my outstretched fingers, and, upon deciding they were not edible, leaned back to regard me carefully. It is very disconcerting to be regarded by a talking mouse. “But, you haven’t screamed, or called me imaginary. So I suppose that’s not quite typical of you.”

“Which makes me... not typical?”

“Which makes you crazy,” the mouse corrected me haughtily. “Or perhaps a little extraordinary. But mostly crazy.”

“I am a little crazy,” I admitted, fidgeting on the edge of the mattress. “What makes you talk, anyways? I’ve never heard a talking mouse before.”

The mouse’s whiskers twitched. “Most animals do talk, you know, if only you would listen to them,” he explained indignantly.

“I don’t listen to animals often,” I confessed, shrugging in what I hoped was a casual manner. “I would, only I was never aware that they could talk.”

“Meaning that, if you knew we could talk, you would listen?” The mouse’s whiskers twitched again, this time as if implying my answer would be important.

“Of course, provided you had something interesting to say.”

The mouse sat still, scanning my features, trying to evaluate me. Finally, its shoulders jumped in an attempt to duplicate my earlier shrug. “I imagine you’ve got some pretty interesting things to say yourself,” it muttered, swinging from its perch on my headboard to the mattress next to me. “The captain’s locked you away down here, and the whole crew’s talking about you.”

“Even though they didn’t post a guard?” I asked, astonished by the captain’s ignorance.

“Aye.” I felt two beady eyes, small and black but full of questions, prod at my skin again. “Something’s upset them, I’d imagine.”

“Something about me.” It wasn’t a question. “I’m to be sold as a slave as soon as we dock. That’s what the captain told me, at any rate, though his word isn’t much to go by. Slavery’s been outlawed in America.”

“It’s been outlawed in a lot of places,” the mouse muttered, curling his tail around his paws, almost like a cat. “And that hasn’t stopped anyone.” Silence stretched between us for a moment before he finally conceded, and broke the silence with another question. “Only one slave, though? That doesn’t seem very productive. Why not bring a shipload over? Why one girl?”

I blew strands of thick black hair from my eyes, trying to puzzle out an acceptable and deceptive lie to tell the little rodent. “I was... a stowaway. They caught me in the cargo hold, and locked me down here. They want to get me off their hands as soon as we land, and bartering me as a slave is the most efficient way to do it.”

It was a good lie on my part, and the mouse fell silent again, momentarily satisfied by my answer. When he spoke again, though, it was not to ask a question for once, but to blurt out, “You can escape.”

This exclamation puzzled me more than it excited me. “Of course I can escape. What did you think I was banging on the wall for? Because I felt like it?” I shifted slightly. “Sorry I upset your friend, though.”

“Don’t mind Neil. He’s always been an old geezer. But there are more efficient ways to escape than to pound on a wall until it busts open.”

“Like what?” I asked in a calculated tone, pressing him for an answer.

“It’ll require some patience.”

“I have patience.”

The mouse chuckled. “On the contrary. The moment your eyes opened, you began kicking at that wall. You’re obviously eager to get out of here.”

Irritated by the perceptiveness of this comment, I twisted my lips into a grimace and responded with a curt, “I will do whatever it takes to escape.”

“You sure? It means nothing more than stowing away on another ship.”

This hint at my escape plan intrigued me, but I needed to gain this small gray mouse’s trust before he would reveal what ship. “I am no one’s slave girl,” I spat bitterly.

This display of emotion won over the unusual rodent’s grudging loyalty. “No, you don’t seem the sort to be content as property.” I wondered briefly if this was an attempt at humor, but remained silent.

“I have a cousin on another ship,” the mouse confided, scampering back up to the headboard of the cot. “His name is Ray. He’s a strange one, though,” he warned, “and not as easily won over as I am. Last I saw him, he was living contently on a ship called the WSS.”

“The WSS? What would that stand for?” I spoke without thinking, and realized too late that I was straying off topic.

“How should I know?” the mouse asked incredulously, and then, much to my relief, continued on with my escape plan. “Anyway, their captain hangs out around the Jacksonville port a lot. I overheard the captain say that that’s where we’re headed now. It’s a good crew, kind-hearted and loyal, also less likely to make you walk the plank if they discover you. If they’re still in port, we might be able to smuggle you on board in all the commotion. You’ll need to escape just before we dock, or else there’ll be a guard on you.”

I opened my mouth to ask another question, but then a door slammed open upstairs, and heavy footsteps accompanied by low muttering descended.

“Thank you,” I whispered to the mouse.

He nodded, and started to leave. Suddenly, he came to a halt as he clambered to the beams overhead. “My name’s Nord,” he whispered down to me.

I grinned, suddenly joyful, and pointed at myself. “I’m Melody.”

“Melody,” Nord murmured to himself absently as he disappeared into the thin cracks splintering the ceiling. “Fine name.”

Then he was gone, and a short, broad-shouldered man with a red bandanna and a thick black beard stood at the barred door. “Dinner,” he sneered, tossing a loaf of bread into my cell unceremoniously.

I wasn’t much hungry, but I took the oaf from the floor and nibbled at it absently anyways, trying to preserve my wavering strength. “No water?” I asked, surprised.

The short man appeared somewhat annoyed. “We dock in ten minutes,” he complained, scratching at his chin and scowling. “Ye can’t wait ‘till then?”

My heart sped up a few beats, just loud enough to feel it thumping against my ribcage. I had ten minutes to escape. “How long have we been at sea?” I demanded. To the best of my knowledge, we’d just left port in Europe this morning.

The ungracious man sneered again, revealing rows of worn yellow teeth. “Whatever yer village apothecary gave to ye did the trick,” he chuckled, leaning against the wall, as if he intended to stay awhile. I hoped he didn’t really mean to. “Ye’ve been out fer about two weeks, give or take a couple a’ days. We had to feed ye in yer sleep... which is no easy matter, see.”

I hunched my shoulders, suddenly cold, and blinked in surprise. I’d been out for quite a while.

The WSS. It was my only chance, now.

“To answer your question,” I began, in as haughty a voice as I could muster, “yes, I require water now.”

The man furrowed his brow in annoyance. “Yer not here to give orders,” he protested grumpily. “Yer here ‘cuz yer village thought ye were trouble.”

“Water,” I insisted, flexing my fingers. The brig suddenly felt hot, and I could feel sweat gathering at the nape of my neck.

Grumbling, the stout man exited, clumsily grasping at the wall for support as he ascended. Hastily, I fumbled at the iron bars, trying to locate the keyhole. I had some lock picking experience, but there was nothing to pick the lock with. And there wouldn’t be, until that man came back down with my water.

message 48: by Kyra (new)

Kyra (Nikara) | 1221 comments I didn’t have to wait long. He was back down in a matter of minutes. “Here ye go, lass,” he spat, reaching a hand through the bars to try and hand me a wooden mug filled with water. “Hope yer grateful, ‘cuz I-”

I didn’t give him time to complete his sentence. Gripping his wrist, I swung him forward into the bars, twisting his arm at an awkward angel to encourage his body to follow it. The mug fell to the ground, splashing my feet with water. The man’s head struck the iron, and he promptly collapsed at the foot of the bars.

Reaching through the metal gate with one hand, I rummaged through his pockets, feeling for a key, or at least a little bit of wire. In his coat pocket, I retrieved a slim bronze key that slid into the keyhole of my cell smoothly. In one deft motion, I twisted the key and swung the door open, locking the bearded man in my cell as an afterthought. Slipping the key into the waistband of my jeans (if I were caught before I could make it to the WSS, my pockets would be the first thing to be searched), I removed my socks and thin slippers, which were both soaked and likely to leave a trail as I tried to escape the ship. After a brief moment of debate, I also relieved the man of his pistol, then snuck upstairs, my mood vastly improved.

I was the Ghost. No one could catch me, now.

As I slunk along a row of barrels on the deck, I noted that we were already in port. The crew members were only just moving the barrels and crates from the deck to the assortment of carts on land. I only had a sparse few minutes before someone thought to retrieve me from the brig.

Slinking along the barrels, I briefly assessed my surroundings. There were twenty ships in port that I could see from my hiding spot, and probably more behind me. I couldn’t tell which was the WSS.

Perhaps I should just stowaway on another ship? The ship next to ours would be a simple matter to reach. But no, Nord had seemed adamant that I find the WSS. Thinking back on the conversation, though, his cousin didn’t sound like such an enormous advantage as a stowaway. Most likely, if I couldn’t recruit Ray’s help, he would just sell me out.

Mind made up, I decided to just board whichever ship would be easiest to reach. The question now was, how does one transfer herself from one pirate ship to another in a crowded port, without a single other witness?

The answer was simple. One doesn’t, typically. Not without a good deal of fortune.

“Oi!” I heard a man to my left call out. “Someone go fetch the village girl!”

There was no doubt in my mind abut who the “village girl” was. I needed to leave, and now.

Taking a deep breath, I sprinted for the bridge, seeing a gap in the flow of men and barrels. My fortune held, and I was able to slide down the remainder of the deck and reach the short wooden walkway.

I heard a shout behind me, and hurried footsteps. Without hesitation, I gripped the side of the walkway and swung myself under it, clinging to the underside of the planks while the men’s footsteps thundered over my head, checking the port.

I really am crazy, I thought in wonder as my fingers tightened on the narrow crevices in the plank. Water churned under me, but I knew that if I fell, I would either drown or be caught.

I reached out a tentative hand, and inched forward towards the crowded docks.

It took me nearly twenty minutes to reach the dock. By then, the men had grown bored, and many returned to the ship empty-handed. Apparently, I was not as precious as they would have me believe. There hadn’t even been a guard in the brig.

Courage somewhat inflated, I twisted onto the walkway smoothly and vanished into the crowd. Ducking my head to avoid notice, I wandered a short ways back down the docks, looking for a ship bound back to Europe.

Eventually, I found a large ship with towering masts and grand decor. The crew flowing from the deck seemed benevolent people, constantly laughing amongst themselves. I made my decision in a split second, and cutaway from the crowds to sneak on board.

Once aboard the grand ship, I scurried to the cargo hold, hiding easily amongst the various crates stored there. Easing back into the boxes, I settled back to wait. The ship might not leave for another few days, or it could leave in the next few minutes. There were ample provisions here for me to steal from, though, and so much supplies I doubted anyone would notice if any items went missing.

Something darted between the boxes behind me. I sat up, instantly alert.

“You!” a voice called from my right. “Who are you?”

Turning, I noted with a strange familiarity that there was a talking mouse seated on a crate next to me. “Can I ever get a break from you mice?” I muttered, snagging an apple from a nearby barrel.

The mouse’s whiskers twitched apprehensively. “You’ve met us?”

“One of you,” I admitted, biting into my apple. Crisp juice flowed over my tongue, and I swallowed with relish. “A guy named Nord, back on The Prince Ship.

The mouse leaned forward slightly. “Nord, you say?”

“Yes.” I lowered my apple. “You’ve met him?”

“Once,” the mouse muttered, climbing to a crate closer to me eye level. “He’s Ray’s cousin, is he not?”

“That’s what he told me.” I quickly took inventory of my surroundings, and, clenching the apple between my teeth, I began to sort through the boxes for useful supplies.

“You come here looking for Ray, then?”

My hands froze over the lid of a crate. Removing the apple from my mouth, I looked to the mouse and asked, “Do you mean that Ray is on this ship?”

The mouse chuckled. “Yes. The WSS. Where else would you be?”

I closed my eyes, trying to suppress a nervous giggle. What were the odds? “May I speak to him, please?”

“I suppose.” The mouse didn’t look very happy with the prospect. “You can find him in the cellar. He’s the one with the typewriter and the wine.”

“Of course,” I sighed, standing to clamber back over a stack of barrels. “Of course that’s the mouse I’m looking for, the one with the alcohol and ancient typewriter.”

Was Nord trying to be funny, sending me to his cousin? I hoped not.



There was no reply. Cocking my head, I listened carefully. There was a clicking sound nearby, and low muttering. Turning the corner, I found a white mouse with short, clipped whispers, murmuring under his breath as he leaped clumsily from key to key. A bottle of rum lay to the side, drained. Just my luck.


The mouse glanced up. “Ah... a human.” He leapt to the floor, panting heavily. “Tell me... human. Why does... your kind... see it fit... to place the P key... so far from the D key?”

That was not what I had been expecting. “Erm... Well, for one thing, we don’t have to jump from key to key. We merely have to move our fingers.”

“Hmph!” Ray, now having caught his breath somewhat, sat up indignantly. “Awfully inconsiderate of you, placing the keys to your convenience only! What about the poor animals that need to jump across the keys like frogs, hmm? Did you consider them when inventing the typewriter?”

“Do many animals use typewriters?” I inquired curiously.

“Maybe they would, if you humans had the foresight to create a keyboard corresponding to our abilities.” Ray’s tail jerked, annoyed. “And who might you be?”

“Melody,” I replied, kneeling to offer him my hand. “Melody Gerai. I came from Robin’s Village, near London.”

“I’ll have you know,” the mouse began haughtily, glaring at my outstretched hand. “That mouse etiquette does not require two acquaintances to shake hands. Another thing humans could consider before disturbing creatures below their awareness.”

My hand fell to my side. “Nord sent me.”

Ray blinked, surprised. “Nord?” His tail swiped across the floor again, this time intrigued. “What does he want?”

“He said you could help me.” Here goes nothing. “I’m a stowaway.”

Ray was silent for a moment. “I can probably help,” he muttered reluctantly, clearly not enjoying abiding his cousin’s wishes. “More likely you should make some alliances on board, though. Human alliances.”

“Like who?” I was a stowaway, after all. exposure to people could be more harmful than helpful.

Ray’s ears perked, as if listening. “You’re about to find out,” he revealed hastily, skittering towards the wall. “But don’t approach the Captain, at least not until we’ve left port! She could kick you off otherwise, but she’s not likely to make you walk the plank once we’re at sea.” With that, my only ally vanished into the shadows, and I heard footsteps descending quickly down the stairs.

Following Ray’s lead, I stepped backwards into the shadows, wanting to asses my possible colleagues before offering friendship.

Three girls appeared in the doorway moments later. All were about the same height, give or take a few inches, and they all had brown hair, although the shades varied so dramatically that one could hardly consider them the same color. The oldest appeared to be the shorter one, with the clipped golden hair falling around her jaw, but she looked to the tallest companion as if following her lead.

“Grab what you need, Nikki,” the tall girl (with the darkest hair) ordered the third teenager. “We have half an hour until Al’s sleeping draught kicks in, and then we need to be in and out of her cabin as quickly as possible.

“Nikki” nodded and quickly made her way to a supply of metal parts in the corner, sorting them with ease.

I was intrigued. These girls appeared to be part of the crew, but they were still intent on robbing a fellow crewmember, or perhaps the captain. This could either be a valuable alliance, or a detrimental one.

“Sara,” Nikki called over he shoulder. “Give me that sack.”

The oldest member tossed a brown knapsack to Nikki, who caught it and began filling it with odd knickknacks from the pile.

She would be done in a matter of minutes. It was now or never.

Bracing myself, I stepped out of hiding and cleared my throat.

I was expecting them to jump, or to at least turn my way. But the second I’d made my presence clear, Sara had a knife to my throat and Nikki had my arms pinned behind my back.

“Who are you?” the tallest girl demanded.

“Melody,” I explained for the fourth time since this morning. “I’m from a village near London. I’m a stowaway.”

“How did you get from London to here?” Sara asked incredulously. Her knife didn’t even waver.

“I was brought here from Europe to be sold as a slave.” Taking a deep breath, I confessed. “I escaped my captors and snuck on board. Please, could you release my arms?”

Nikki glanced at the tall, dark-haired girl, who nodded simply. My arms were released, but Sara still did not drop her knife. “Are there others your captors took?” the tall teenager asked.


The three girls found, and Nikki requested an explanation. Grudgingly, I told them the truth, for any other story had holes to be picked in it. “I have... special talents. I can’t control them. My village elders were extremely superstitious, and sold me away.”

“Your parents?”


The three girls exchanged meaningful glances. “What do your special talents entail?” Sara asked, more curiously than threateningly.

Glancing down at my hands, which were far more dangerous than they looked, I knotted my brow and whispered, “It’s hard to explain.”

“Oh, yeah?” Sara snorted. “Try being half faerie and half mermaid.”

I stared at her in awe. “Are you serious?”

“Oh, yeah.” Nikki edged around me to stand next to Sara. “This is a story ship. Most of the crew has supernatural powers. Pretty much the only normal ones here are the authors. I’m part dragon.” Jabbing a thumb towards the tall girl, she added, “Kyra’s our author.”

Kyra smiled, suddenly friendly. “Drop the knife, Sara.”

Sara obliged. “Melody, you have nothing to fear. The crew will help you. We will help you.” Glancing at her watch, she added, “As soon as we nab the Cap’n’s honeycomb.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Honeycomb?”

message 49: by Kyra (last edited Dec 28, 2012 03:36PM) (new)

Kyra (Nikara) | 1221 comments “Trust us, it’s divine.” Kyra turned back towards the stairs, ready to ascend. “Just wait here. We’ll be back in, like, ten minutes.”

Sara and Nikki nodded eagerly, then scurried after Kyra. Seconds later, I was left alone in the cellar, surrounded by empty rum bottles and probably talking mice.


“So, you see,” Nikara was explaining. “That’s why we stole the honeycomb, was to give some to Melody.”

Al glanced up at M incredulously, who shook his head, grinning. “That’s... that’s your excuse? Seriously?” She pounded the table, suddenly frustrated. “You mentioned the honeycomb, like, five seconds from the end of your story!”

“Obviously, this was an abbreviated version,” Nikara explained, irritated. “We mentioned the honeycomb a good five minutes before leaving melody on her own. And she said she’d like to try some. So we went and got it for her.”

“You could’ve just asked to borrow some,” M offered. The three teenagers in the cabin suddenly bursted out laughing, tears filming their eyes.

“Just... just... asked!” Kyra gasped between shrieks of laughter.

“Good one, M,” Sara offered.

“That’s it!” Al pointed dramatically to the door. “You three are to go help Frank swabbing the deck. And don’t stop until I can see my reflection in it!”

Still giggling, the three girls exited the cabin. Al shook her head as she watched them leave. “Honestly, M,” she sighed, leaning back in her chair. “I don’t quite know what I’ll do with those three.”

“They’re not going to swab the deck, you know.”

“I know. But there’s not much I can do about that. I’ll just feign ignorance for now.” Reaching her hand under her desk, Al felt through the drawers... then groaned and banged her head against the desktop.

Her honeycomb was gone.


Though the three companions insisted the story of Melody was true, none believed them. Many complimented them on their imaginative excuse for the stealing of Al’s honeycomb, but not a single person asked if it was a real excuse. While Melody had not been the strict reason why the girls had stolen the honeycomb, she had been there, nevertheless.
The three friends returned to the cellar later, only to find Melody was gone. Ray claimed he’d never met Melody, although the alcohol he drank during the honeycomb escapade had made his memory a little hazy.
From that day on, however, there were the occasional tellings of the supernatural on the WSS. Someone’s jacket would vanish in midair, or their book would fly across the room to strike them in the forehead. Fingers were pointed at the more mischievous members of the crew, but all claimed they had nothing to do with the mysterious occurrences.
The Ghost had never left the ship. And, as far as anyone could tell, she had no intention to.

message 50: by Saira (new)

Saira (herumouni) | 667 comments Bleh. I have something, but I'm too tired to write it in time.

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