Weekly Short Stories Contest and Company! discussion

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Weekly Short Story Contests > Week 150 (December 29th-January 5th). Stories. Topic: *Picture Prompt

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message 1: by M (new)

M | 11047 comments Oh, my! Thank you, Alex!


message 2: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie (chasmofbooks) | 2875 comments Whoa. That's a great picture.


message 3: by M (new)

M | 11047 comments Alex, you’re welcome to anything I have that you want to use. Stephanie, thank you!


message 4: by Guy (new)

Guy (egajd) | 11105 comments Beautiful, photo M. Has the feel of your poetry! Interesting prompt.


message 5: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Mornington | 39 comments Can some one tell me what the picture is? It wont let me view it.


message 6: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments A musty chandelier with little lightbulbs in it, only one of which is lit. There are spider webs haning from it and the overall picture has an auburn shade, though the tiny chandelier is actually white. There's wood in the back ground and something else I can't quite make out, as well as what look like a string of decorative pinecones mixed with some other round things, out of focus and off to the side in the foreground.

More or less.


message 7: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Mornington | 39 comments Thanks Edward.


message 8: by M (new)

M | 11047 comments Good description, Edward. Maybe there should be a verbal version of the prompt, something like “Rusting, cobwebbed chandelier.”


message 9: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments I am not going to edit this; I'm just going to post it in its raw, stupid form:


Because He's the DM, That's Why, a Dungeons & Dragons parody
Word Count: 2,535

The night was dark and the room was lit only by a chandelier above the heads of the five intrepid travelers. Not all of them were known to each other; three of them were working together on a temporary job – a quest to find an item of great importance to a duke. As there was a storm raging outside at the moment, however, they thought it best to hole up in a little hovel that, from the outside looked abandoned. Inside were two of the closest brothers in all in the land, though they shared no blood.

The first one, a mischievous and clever gnome by the name Pock, had only managed to fill the chandelier with one candle from his backpack before hoisting it back into position. He regarded the intrusion of the three adventurers frankly.

“Well, you didn’t waste any time using the prompt,” Pock sneered at me. “Though, if you notice, the ‘candle’ in the photo is electric, so really you should be disqualified from this contest altogether.”

I kindly asked the gnome to repair the fourth wall. Instead, he flipped me off and said, “Not until you stop using so many clichés – I mean ‘The night was dark,’ and ‘As there was a storm raging…’ Seriously, whatever happened to using the active voice?”

If you must know, gnome, the active voice is usually ideal because it suggests action – movement, excitement. I was trying for a more sedimentary feel to start.

“Judging by your aggressive use of my race and the passive voice, I guess that means you’re being passive aggressive.” Pock seemed impressed with his lame joke. “Lame? You named the ‘mischievous and clever gnome’ Pock. Everyone knows gnomes are almost fairies, but no one appreciates your rip off of Shakespeare.”

“At least he didn’t go with the gnome Capulet and dragonborn Montague storyline he originally came up with.”

Pock jumped half his diminutive height in the air. “Ah! A disembodied voice!”

No, that’s your brother, Vondal the dwarf. He’s a rogue, a pickpocket that once saved your life, so you owe him a life-debt.

“Cool,” Vondal said, “I have form and substance now!”

I’m going to start deduction experience points every time someone breaks the fourth wall.

The gnome rolled his eyes. “We don’t have experience points yet, dumbass. Oh, and great job referencing the actual class from the book, instead of just calling him a pickpocket like a sane narrator would do.”

“Well, at least I can look up my powers now,” Vondal said reasonably, but the gnome would not be satisfied.

“And he’s a dwarf rogue? Again, with the clichés.”

“Huh?” The rogue looked genuinely confused. “A dwarf being sneaky isn’t ironic?”

“It’s the original ironic race-class match up. It’s been done to death. Though I don’t get why I’m fulfilling a life-debt – that sound more like the crap a dragonborn would pull.”

Yes, well, I was hoping that would help you create report with Sora, the beautiful dragonborn paladin, who is a prominent member of the Montague Family, whom your kin, the Capulet Family, are great rivals with. You are already smitten with her beauty –

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Sora interjected, rudely. “You are going to do the Romeo & Juliet crap? I’m not romancing that ass—“

Okay, fine I’ll change it.


You two should form a good working relationship based on mutual respect.

Apparently deciding to make a dramatic emotional storyline, rather than a fact from the start, the gnome regarded Sora suspiciously. “If you’re a paladin, then what god do you serve?”

“I am an envoy of Bahamut,” Sora answered proudly and with grace. Vondal bowed in a manner befitting the acolyte of such a good deity.

The gnome persisted in his annoying defiance. “Oh, yeah, Bahamut, the Platinum Dragon, the lawful good god of nobility and honor. No black and white morality there at all.”

The half-orc wizard at Sora’s side regarded the gnome with a disgusted looked that was rapidly turning into a fierce snarl.

“Shall I silence this nuisance, milady?” he growled.

“Hey, a wizard!” the gnome noted in mock celebration. “I think I’m a bard, so I guess that means we have all four class roles covered.”

Sora was flabbergasted at the gnome’s attitude and said, jokingly, I’m sure, that the wizard should, in fact, kill the gnome. The half-orc stepped forward and was searching for the right spell to end the irritation before I realized what was wrong.

No, seriously, stop – no player versus player – hey, what’re you - Sora’s other partner quickly intervened!

“Great? Who’s saving me?”

Give me a moment; no one came with their own characters. Let’s go with a half-elf warden named Laurana.

“What the hell is a warden?”

I don’t really know, but she’s a defender class, so she should be able to hold off a wizard. Oh, and the half-orc trying to kill you is named Yurk.

“Okay, Yur…k,” Sora said, taking entirely too much time on the one-syllable name. “Stop trying to kill the gnome. Thank you, Laurana, for being the cooler head.”

Laurana did not reply. Though the gnome and Vondal did not know it, the enigmatic half-elf was mute.

“He’s playing on his gameboy,” the gnome pointed out pointlessly. “Did he agree to play a woman?”

Sora realized that a pickpocket might be useful.

“Yeah, but then I get the gnome,” she mused aloud. “Don’t seem like a good trade.”

Yurk had considerably less patience. “Can we just move the plot along? I want to kill something already.”

“Fine. Would y’all you like to assist us in our quest?” Sora paused, and then addressed me directly. “Don’t edit my words like that.”

The gnome smirked. “What is your quest?”

Sora opened her mouth, but had to pause to remember that her quest was to recover the great Millennium Amulet from the depths of the Drake’s Cavern for the duke of Fallcrest.

“You kinda gave up there, didn’t you? I’m surprised you didn’t call it the Millennium Falcon.”

Shut up.

“It works,” Sora said hastily. “So, will you help us? You, of course, get a cut of the fee and loot.”

“Let me get this straight,” began the gnome that I should’ve made mute instead of the warden. “You want a pickpocket and a guy whose power is literally to cuss at people to hurt them to help you charge through a cavern full of drakes that – plot twist! – will end in a white dragon, because, duh, drakes, and any other dragon would kill us in seconds. You think a pickpocket and bard are ideal partners for this task?”

Just for that, I’m making it an adamantine dragon.

* * *

The next day, the newly expanded group of five traveled together under a clear, blue sky and over rocks so sharp that one misstep could require the use of Sora’s healing abilities.

“Wow, the weather sure changed from last night.” I doubt I have to explain who spoke. “And we’re suddenly all a team; when did that –“

The gnome slipped and cut his fragile little arm against one of those sharp rocks, forcing Bahamut’s paladin to heal him.

“What the hell? No warning?”

They realized that it would be quite a challenge to make it over this field of rocks, but they had no alternative if they were to retrieve the amulet in time.

“In time? You suddenly give us a time limit just to railroad us into a skill challenge?”

The gnome found his directionless anger at the world was making him shake and less coordinated.

“A negative two penalty to all physical skills? Who the hell – “

“Shut up,” Yurk hissed. “He’s the DM – just go with it.”

The five adventurers scurried, leaped, awkwardly clambered, and occasionally slipped, collapsing in immense pain. As they neared the edge of the heartless field of stone, where the rock more resembled strong embraces than cutting daggers, their leader knew they were nearing their destination.

“Strong embraces?” the gnome sneered.

The gnome had not fared well in the rock field; in spite of numerous healings, he was still badly hurt.

“You sonofa- Of course I did badly in the rock field! I’m a freakin’ bard, not a tank or a light-footed dwarf!”

“Don’t complain too much; at least you’re still alive.” The dwarf then belatedly remembered his back story. “Uh, brother.”

Ignoring the increasingly obnoxious diatribes of the gnome, the muttering of his brother dwarf, and the thoroughly unnecessary growling her half-orc companion tossed in, Sora jogged forward another few yards up a minor incline. Though minor, the incline managed to hid a most magnificent canyon, a massive split through the continent formed hundreds of years ago – in an instant of ferocity. A fallen hero of old had turned against the gods and led his nearly god-like companions to war against them. The resulting cataclysm sank one continent and split this one open, forming the Great Crack.

“The Great Crack?” the dragonborn exclaimed, eyes popping as she adopted the gnome’s disrespect for the fourth wall. “Of all the things you could’ve called it, you went with the Crack?”

The gnome couldn’t help himself. “Smells like ass.”

Chasm.

“No doing it,” Vondal remarked sadly. “It’s the Great Crack now.”

The five heroes knew they only had to descend a little ways down a well established path to reach the cave they wanted – which was good, since the depths of the Great Chasm was place of immense mystery and power, a place they would not survive.

“Not until we level up.”

The gnome sprained his ankle on a stray rock along the path.

They quickly came to the cave entrance which was sealed, after the fashion of the elves, by a riddle.

“Okay, now I have a problem,” piped up the paladin whose god demands she follow the rules, such as not breaking the fourth wall. “If this cave is full of drakes – a dumb beast – then why is it warded by a linguistic key? That doesn’t make sense.”

“Well, dragons aren’t d-“ the gnome suddenly broke into a hacking cough that prevented him from speaking for several minutes.

In spite of this mystery –

Hack-hack writing,” the gnome managed to choke out.

- the heroes had no choice but to attempt to solve the riddle. It read:


He that made it, doesn’t need it
He that bought it, doesn’t want it
He that needs it, doesn’t know it.



Several moments passed in silence as they considered the riddle with curiosity. Several more moments passed in silence as they continued to consider the riddle with frustration. Several moments after that passed in silence as they glared at me.

The answer is really simple.

“Can’t one of us just roll an Intelligence check?” suggested the pickpocket.

You guys are really missing the point here.

Sora grimaced, but managed to look apologetic. “Sorry, we just suck at riddles.”

That’s not really convincing dialogue.

“Just tell us the an- hack, hack.”

Let’s just skip ahead.

* * *


message 10: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments * * *

Sora had her naked blade prepared, shining with divine light. Vondal had a knife in each hand, ready to let the shadows swallow him. The gnome, undoubtedly, had his tongue loose, his words soon to be laced with magic. Yurk was already chanting his first spell. Laurana was ready to fight as well.

They faced three drakes, each as tall on all fours as a horse, though their considerable bulk drooped to the floor, scraping against the rough stone. The growled with all the –

“Wait, you can’t even bring yourself to say my name? You used everyone else’s just there.”

“Brother, he hasn’t used your name since the first page.”

“Dude, stop calling me that. It isn’t working.”

Annoyed by the gnome’s high-pitched voice, the drakes struck out all at once.

Already the paladin was wading into the middle of the fray, calling the largest of the drakes to her. Confused by her shining blade, but unable to resist the dragonborn’s demand for battle, the drake abandoned its attempt to pin the dwarf and struck out at the armored warrior. The rogue seemed to disappear from sight after that, striking when he saw the best opportunity before melting away once more. Yurk kept the drakes moving, not allowing them to surround any one person, even as the brave paladin tried to take as much as of damage as possible. Laurana fought bravely as well.

The gnome saw his opening. “I use Vicious Mockery.”

One of the drakes whipped its head around to find the source of the irritating slurs that issued from the tiny fairy creature. Though it did not understand the words hurled at it, it knew very well that it wanted to kill whatever made that awful sound. Unfortunately, it smacked its head against the cave wall in the process, causing it to shy away in pain.

The battle continued, with many aggressive attacks from Laurana. The dwarf managed to kill a drake by sneaking right up on its bucking flank as it screeched at a field of fire conjured by the deadly wizard. Sora personally struck down another, bringing down a bolt of holy light from the Astral Sea upon the scaly beast. The last one moved towards the bard.

“I use Vicious Mockery.”

The beast ignored his inventive and inaccurate insinuations about its mother, taking a violent swipe at the puny gnome. Laurana rushed forward to help, but the power she brought to bear did nothing to hinder the drake. The bard tried to save himself.

“I use Vicious Mockery!”

The drake … The drake …

… The drake …

The gnome smirked. “Can’t think of another way this stupid pow- hack-hack-hack¬.”

The drake decided that the annoyance of the gnome’s voice was too high a price to pay for such a tiny meal and stomped away, leaving the passage to the inner room clear to the adventurers.

“Well, that was a stupid cop-out. How does that work?”

Yurk was finding it difficult to enjoy their victory for some reason. “He’s the DM, and he says the last one ran away. Stop being a –“

They continued to argue as they wandered down the final hall, which steadily expanded. Wider and wider the path grew until one could sail a merchant ship clear through if there had only been water to float it on. Inside they found …

“What?” Sora asked, sounding intrigued. “What did we find?”

It looks like we’re out of time for this week. I’ll have to explain it all next Saturday.

Vondal looked distraught. “But it sounded like things were about to get good.”

You see, I have a date tomorrow night, so I have to go to church early –

“So you’re just going to leave us hanging,” Yurk rudely completed for me.

“Why have us go through all that stupid crap just to leave us – “

A wave of energy and sound, a deep, grating boom originating from the throat of an adamantine dragon, crashed over the tiny gnome. Because he was too busy being a wiseass, he forgot to use his healing surges and was thus too weak to survive the concussive force. He died.

And because I’m the DM.

End.


message 11: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments Wow, that was incredibly stupid, but fun to write.


message 12: by C. J., Atm Seeker in the "Lin Kuei" (new)

C. J. Scurria (goodreadscomcj_scurria) | 4214 comments That is such a beautiful picture M. I look at it and almost feel creative juices forming in my mind for a story. Well... I said almost. I hope a story comes soon.

Anyway, again I like that picture!


message 13: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments Sounds great; I look forward to it.

Thanks for reading. I'm glad you enjoyed it, even though it's very much outside my typical writing.


message 14: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments Let me just brew a pot of tea, kick off my shoes, and sit in a dark room - then I'll be prepared to shiver with a warm cup in my hands.


message 15: by M (new)

M | 11047 comments Thank you, CJ!

I have a mental picture of Edward’s sitting in a dim room, sipping tea, and catching up on the stories.


message 16: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments Whoa, you didn't fail to deliver. Usually, I hate the in-the-mind first-person narratives that try to convey disorientation as it is happening; often they just circle around pointlessly for several paragraphs repeatedly. I liked this though, because even as his mind was whirling, the plot was progressing - he was still moving somewhere.

It managed to convey mounting dread without halting the flow to do so.

I also like the back-stitch storytelling; tell a little in present, step back into the past, stumble forward into the present again, etc. The metronome-like narrative seems to reflect his disorientated, wildly flailing mind.

Even surmising early on what the story was about didn't take aay from it. The last line, after the previous paragraph, had a surprising taste to it - the slight suggestion that, perhaps, being able to talk had consequences in the long-run as bad as his pain throughout the story.

Very well done, Kggelen.


message 17: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments M wrote: "Thank you, CJ!

I have a mental picture of Edward’s sitting in a dim room, sipping tea, and catching up on the stories."


It was fancy tea in a iron tea pot I got from Christmas, to make it better. It's green and has relief images of monkeys.


message 18: by Edward (last edited Jan 02, 2013 10:47PM) (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments A lot of the jokes in my story are probably clearer to people who have played D&D, especially the fourth edition, but I hope y'all enjoy it. I'm never going to publish it for obvious reasons, but it is still open for critiquing.

Many of the moments are actually drawn from D&D games I've been to, especially the Great Crack Chasm, which was my slip up as DM. There's pleanty of material there for a few dozen sequels.


message 19: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments Next Saturday:

DM: What are you doing here? Your character died.
Pock's player: What, so I can't play anymore?
DM: Well, if you behave I'll consider letting you create a new character.
Pock's player: I'll play Pock's son - you should be able to think of an excuse to have him join. In gnome culture, Juniors are designated by adding 'y' to the end of their father's name, so he shall be --
DM: Get out.


message 20: by Jenny (last edited Jan 04, 2013 02:12PM) (new)

Jenny (aldersoj40hotmailcom) | 46 comments An Attic Light

The house is gone. Yes, years before in the countryside a spacious house with twenty bedrooms existed with my grandmother living as a little girl and my great grandmother cooking and cleaning. Now all that is left is the barn—gray and a ‘colossal wreck’ as Percy Shelley described the tomb of Ramses. Yes, even poor people have their relics and this is one for me. It represents that thing which all human beings long for—roots. This land no longer belongs to anyone in my family. But the barn remains as a shrine to my family’s existing in Kansas. Just as American Indians honor ancestors through totem poles, so I come here to honor my grandmother. However this is the first time I’ve been in years—and now I am alone.

Then I see it. There is a beam on the stairs. To my surprise, there is under it a warm, brown color—not the dull, pale gray of the rest of the house. Yet surrounding it there is nothing but dust and cobwebs—and although it moves up the stairs there is only one round ball of light glowing at a time. I—rashly, I admit—follow the light up the rickety stairs.

Following it into the loft I see there is an adolescent girl reading a book. She is dressed in Victorian clothes with hair falling down to her waist. The book is written by Robert Louis Stevenson. The light is shining on her from one light glowing on a lamp hanging from the ceiling. The lamp could have been in the main house—save that it was dirty and covered with cobwebs.

It takes me a few minutes to recognize the girl. It is Grandma! This is exactly how Grandma looked before at thirteen, a few years before she bobbed her hair in honor of the nineteen twenties. Grandma, I remember, was a flapper when she was young. Grandma, I think sadly, has been dead for some time.

I step into the center of the room.

Grandma disappears.

An alien appears—pale white with hollow cheeks and a bulbous head.

His eyes are empty holes.

He looks at me as though puzzled—as though he has not expected me.

Then he disappears.

I fall through the floor.

Luckily I have a cel-phone and I call an emergency number in hopes of being picked up and taken to a hospital.


message 21: by Guy (new)

Guy (egajd) | 11105 comments My story is just about done. I'll post it before the carriage turns to a pumpkin! Thank you, dear mods, for your patiences.


message 22: by Guy (new)

Guy (egajd) | 11105 comments What's Set in Stone
        ~2500 words by Guy Duperreault


'Is the set set?' the set manager snapped to her crew. Phoebe was tired and irritated, although not so tired that she didn't recognize that her curt questioning was her just being grumpy ironical. She could see that the set was ready, that her crew had done a good job. No, an excellent job, as usual. It was, she thought, perfect. The imagery of the scene was haunting and beautiful — it would film beautifully and that would help bring this part of the story vibrantly alive.

And yet she knew that in the end it would not. That all the work she and her people had invested in setting the scene would be lost, forever unknown, unwanted, unappreciated by anyone but her crew and herself. Phoebe had the misfortune of having worked with this particular director before. Barton was a hack. A relative of someone somewhere who had more money than brains when it came to making movies. Well, made for TV Harlequinesque romantic dreck. Hack; dreck. Despite her irritation, she found herself bemused at this curious alliteration. She'd noticed it before, that the '-ck' sounding words often had harsh meanings. Hack, dreck, black, blech, smack, quack.

'Yes, ma'am, the set's set and ready for action!' Phoebe's first assistant, Greg 'GG' Grimes called from behind the false wood panelling that would have fooled even a seasoned carpenter.

'Right!' she called back. 'Okay then!' She reached for the walkie-talkie. It squawked threateningly when she pushed the talk button. 'Set 17, romantic abandoned cabin, is ready. Over.' With her other hand she pushed from her face a lock of hair that had fallen free from the elastic that tied her hair in a pony tail.

The first assistant director's voice cackled and squawked 'Thank you, Phoebe. Over and out.'

She loathed to call what she was doing, here with Barton, making a movie. Her particular irritation, on this particular day and with this particular set came from the knowledge that dreckmeister Barton would take this beautiful set that she had conceived, designed and built only to completely ignore it. That or leave it shredded on the cutting room floor — digitally speaking, of course.

Why would he even ask for it to be built? She shook her head. Barton's delusion was that he was going to be a David Lean or Ridley Scott and that he would create 'meaningful meaning' — his words at their opening production meeting — from image. The only thing he liked to film, however, were close-ups of overly painted pouty lips and cleavage chasms embellished with carefully placed moles or tattoos. Well, that and thin blouses and taught pants stretched over tight buttocks. It was obvious to everyone that he'd spent too many years making single camera porn. Dreck!

She sighed. If things hadn't been so slow she'd have turned the offer away. She began the final walk-through, double checking to make sure the various details were just so, and that no one had left behind a tool or spent facial tissue that would ruin the shot. Well, the theoretical shot.

As Phoebe moved through the small space she could see in her mind's how Scott would move the camera through the set to set the scene. It would evoke an ambivalence between the beauty of the physical world, even in abandonment and decay, and the ugliness of the ignorance needed in the people who see despoiling it as a kind of jest against God.

'Beautiful, isn't it?' Pheobe just about jumped out of her skin at GG's baritone bringing her back to reality. 'Shame, really,' he added before she could respond.

'Yes, it is.' Phoebe watched GG raise the digital camera and move around the set. He carefully looked into the viewing pane before snapping each image. This had been their routine for years. Photographing the sets had begun as a kind of resumé, but had evolved into memory.

'We'll see you at Maguire's?' he asked without looking up at, as he turned off the camera and capped the lens before removing it from his shoulder and putting it away in its case.

'You bet.' Phoebe had felt sad before, at the ephemerality of sets. She knew that that was the nature of the business, but… But what? She rubbed the side of her nose then squeezed the lobe of her left ear, as she habitually did whenever she began seriously to think. But in the theatre your set will at least be seen because once it has opened there are no miscreant directors and editors removing, like a malevolent god, your mark from the show's arc. Good or bad, it would be ingrained and endure wind and weather. And if the play was really good — or really bad! — the scene will live on in people's memories for a long time.

''The play's the thing wherein you'll catch the conscience of the king?''Phoebe jumped. She thought she was alone. She didn't recognize the voice that had filled the space from behind her. And it had a most peculiar accent and raspy-ness. She laughed nervously as she turned to look behind her. But she didn't see anyone.

'Hello?' she asked, more than greeted. 'Hello? Who are you?'

'Nobody important,' the voice answered from, again, behind her. 'I am a writer.' Phoebe jumped again, with a flutter of genuine fear in her stomach. She noticed that with 'writer' the voice had cracked and squeaked, not unlike the anthropomorphized mice she found detestable.

'A writer, eh?' she said, also with a slight crack despite wanting to sound stern and masculine-like to convey confidence. She had learned that from an Oprah show, or something. 'A writer?' she said again, less shakily this time. 'Anything I would know?' She'd never met a writer for these kinds of shows she didn't dislike. She heard him laughing. Again, from directly behind her, but with a timbre that filled the space, despite it being a rather silly sounding laugh. It was more a giggle that felt, somehow, friendly. With that she began to relax. Practical joker, she thought.

'Well, good night, I-am-a-writer.' She turned to the studio's exit.

But before she'd taken five steps the voice reverberated 'Yes, as a matter of fact. And quite likely of far more than you are aware.' This time the voice had originated from directly in front of her. She stopped. She could see the long uncluttered path to the exit. And there was enough ambient light coming from the set to enable her to see the absence of anybody or a place to hide them self. How's he doing that? she wondered. She knew that this studio wasn't set up for elaborate sound effects. It was a simple set studio only, and any dialogue recorded in it would undoubtedly have to be looped later.

'Ha, ha,' she pretended to laugh. 'Very clever.'

'Well, not that clever. I have been cleverer, ere now.' He giggled. And again it sounded cute, and oddly endearing in an effeminate way. Phoebe hesitated between saying something clever herself, or ignoring the giggling prankster and simply leaving. Before she had decided he quipped 'Cat's got your tongue?'

'Ha, ha.' She was now feeling slightly embarrassed at how stupid she sounded. In a nervous gesture she pulled her hair free from the elastic that had tailed it, and shook it free. 'Okay,' she said. 'Okay, maybe you're not as dumb a writer as I would have expected, given the treacly crap I've seen spewing from the hack actor's mouths. But —

'You think I wrote this crap?' His laughter rattled the rafters and rang her ears. She'd never heard the like. 'Not that there is anything wrong with it. In theory, at least. My writing has been considered amoral and unsophisticated dreck at various times by various educated literati. Word snobbery is perhaps the most pedestrian of affectations.'

'But I'm not being a snob!' Phoebe spun quickly around to see if she could catch the source of the voice.

'You have beautiful hair.' She could feel herself growing afraid once again. 'Don't be frightened! It's just that in my time the casual freedom of woman's hair unbound in public was unheard of.'

''Your time?'' she asked. 'What do you mean by that? Who are you?' She heard the hint of panic in her voice.

'If I told you, you wouldn't believe me.' He sounded genuinely sad. 'Besides, it would just be a distraction. From past experience you'd either want to deride me for being a fake, or pester me with questions about how I could write what I did when I was 'obviously' too ignorant to be real.'

'Who are you? What do you want? Is that you, Barton? This isn't funny!' Pheobe turned, and began to run towards the exit. The act of running took the panic to full force in her, as if her life was being threatened.

'Wait!' The silly giggler's voice boomed like a thunder god. She stopped dead in her tracks. 'Wait,' he repeated gently. ''You and I have unfinished business.'' The voice giggled again. 'Did you get it? Did you?' Phoebe didn't answer. Her heart was racing and the adrenaline being pushed around her system was making it hard for her to understand anything. But wasn't that— 'Beatrix Kiddo!' he blurted out with glee, interrupting her response. 'From one of your favourite movies. I thought that bringing in a contemporary reference would … ' His voice faded out.

'Would what? Make us friends?' Now it was Phoebe's turn to giggle, but it had the strained cackle of her pent up nervous energy being released. A rather unpleasant part of herself castigated her that giggling like that was making herself look even sillier and girlier. She took a breath. 'I suppose that the next thing you are going to quote me is 'Those of you lucky enough to have your lives, take them with you'? Are you?' She paused to look around. He didn't answer. 'And how is it that you think that your being able to cite Beatrix's hacked limb joke was going to make us friends? Especially if you won't even show me your face?'

'Who said I wanted to be your friend?' The voice giggled. 'No, I am here to set the— I mean, set your record straight. To finish your unfinished business, if you will.'

Phoebe was still shaky, but instead of running she had decided to find out who was doing this. She returned to the set and began looking behind the frontage.

'That came out wrong. Sorry.' She didn't say anything, just started tapping on false walls and furnishings to see of she could decode a secret hiding spot. 'You won't find me that way,' the voice said. 'I'm not really a ghost in the machine.'

'Then what are you?' She continued her search. 'Who paid you to set this up? Barton?'

'I am the energy you have invested in setting yourself up for a fall.'

'Hah! That's just bullshit. I don't believe in that Oprah-like feel good religious mumbo-jumbo. If there is one thing I believe in, it is what my hands build. What people build. Disembodied voices are the neurological misfirings of a brain toasted on something. Or, like with me, on a lack of sleep.' She stopped. And before she could stop herself looked up at the chandelier and said ''Men at some time are masters of their fates: The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.''

'Yeah, yeah, yeah. One of my better lines. Better sounding lines, anyway.' His sigh rumbled like an earthquake. 'Nothing really changes. For Scrooge it was undigested cheese. For you, spiked brownies. You don't believe in the stars, but bodily disfunction? Snap, without a second thought. Peculiar.' The disappointment was tangible. 'Fortunately for you, I am not the foreshadowing ghost of a dead partner.'

'What? So what? I am supposed to believe that you are the ghost of dead playwright instead?' Phoebe's laughter was coloured with hysteria.

[continued below…


message 23: by Guy (new)

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



'I get that a lot. I guess, with Hamlet faking madness I kind of deserve it. It was so obvious to me that he was more sane than everyone else. Think about it: it was only he who considered that talking with a ghost to be either the sign of madness or as a source of truth. Now I am one. Ghost, that is. Although, to be honest, that is a poor description.' He giggled. 'The stars, or Life if you prefer, have a very peculiar sense of humour. Of course, I could just be mad. Or maybe I am madness itself?' He giggled again.

'So, you are comparing me to Hamlet?' Her laughter was even more hysterical. He didn't say anything. After she'd recovered, she added 'And now I am to do what? Pretend to be mad? Give me a break!'

At that moment there was a very loud crack, like that of a tree being split by lightning. The set split, as if by spontaneous separation due to irreconcilable differences. The one half fell toward her with a deafening crash. The top edge of the false wall landed on the toe of her safety boot.

There was silence as the dust danced around her in its jerky helical-like path on its return to being at rest on the earth. She coughed a couple of times. Then she wiggled her boot out from under the remains of the set. The steel toe had done it's job of protecting her left foot: she could see the shine of the steel through the cleanly cut leather. She looked at the remains of what had been an embodiment of perfection, now the remains of some kind of cosmic joke.

She took a breath. Then, with calm resolve, removed her walkie-talkie and laid it on the remains. Then she removed her set pass and set it beside the old fashioned communications devices. She hesitated, but then took her smart phone from her pocket, and laid it beside it too. She took a few steps past it to leave. Then stopped, went back and picked up the phone. She unlocked it and dialled her father's number. As she left the studio she heard her phone rang itself into his voice mail.


Finis


message 24: by Guy (new)

Guy (egajd) | 11105 comments Thank you Al for all your support. Once you've read it, however, I expect the 'Yay' to turn into 'Blah!' LoL. Ah well, still fun to write.

Oh, and another fushigi thing with my story. Just after posting it, my wife started reading to me from our local paper about a promotion for a fundraiser for our Shakespeare festival.


message 25: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments Maybe I missed something due to insomnia-induced sleep deprivation, but what exactly is the significance of the last line?


message 26: by Guy (new)

Guy (egajd) | 11105 comments I'll read the entries a bit later.


message 27: by Guy (last edited Jan 06, 2013 08:20PM) (new)

Guy (egajd) | 11105 comments POLLS ARE UP!


Story;

Poem.


message 28: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments Of his story.


message 29: by Guy (new)

Guy (egajd) | 11105 comments @43 RotFL! Al, that you and at least some of the others members of the WSS even read my verbiage I consider to be a blessing from the divine spirit! Having my writing be sensical would have been just a bonus.

Edward, I love that you asked about that last line, because it confirms that I was correct in writing it. It was kind of an afterthought that almost got deleted.

I will delay answering it for just a bit longer to see if anyone has any thoughts about it. I did add it for a reason — although, perhaps, an irrational one.


message 30: by Guy (last edited Jan 09, 2013 07:36PM) (new)

Guy (egajd) | 11105 comments Because He's the DM, That's Why, a Dungeons & Dragons parody
by Edward

Edward, this had me laughing. The 'raw stupid form' is très amusant. In particular I liked the oops 'sedimentary' for 'sedentary'. I was hoping that such malapropisms would continue, LoL!

Guy: I know! I know! [Shaking both hands high over his head.]
Pandora: [Laughs.] Yeah, right. What do you think you know?
Guy: The answer to the DM's riddle. [Pauses.] I never noticed it before, but 'DM' is a kind of alliteration with 'dumb'.
Pandora: In truth, you do? Are you sure? Tell me the truth.
Guy: Hey! That's not fair? How'd you know the answer?
Pandora: Like the dumb, er I mean the DM said, it is simple.
Guy: Well I disagree. Since when is 'the truth' simple? It is certainly one of the biggest sources of fire and brimstone.
Pandora: What's not simple about death and destruction? The simplest thing on the planet. And we think we want the truth, but we don't really. The deluded need the truth but don't know it. And he who has it, lives a lonely and often reviled life until his or her usually forced premature death.


The Powerless
by Kggelen, like Edward this kind of narrative is not really a genre I enjoy. But you have put this together very well. I had no problem reading it and how it moved forward and backwards. Well done.

An Attic Light
by Jenny. I enjoyed what you wrote, but I would have liked to see it extended a little.


message 31: by Jenny (new)

Jenny (aldersoj40hotmailcom) | 46 comments Edward-- Yeah, I know it was a bit brief. So was the last one I wrote. The truth is I had time limitations. Perhaps next time I will work more on developing a longer, fuller story.


message 32: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments Hm? I didn't say anything about your story. I think you meant to address that to Guy.


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