Weekly Short Stories Contest and Company! discussion

Weekly Short Story Contests > Week 287 (November 22-28). Stories. Topic: Isolation.

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

You have until November 28 to post a story, and November 29-December 1 we’ll vote for which 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.

Your story should be between 300 and 3,500 words long.

REMEMBER! A short story is not merely a scene. It must have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

This week’s topic is: Isolation

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!

Thank you to James of Carlyn for suggesting the topic.

message 2: by Garrison (new)

Garrison Kelly (cybador) | 9026 comments I only have four more sci-fi/fantasy/horror short stories to write before my anthology Poison Tongue Tales is complete. "Battleground" will be one of those stories and it goes like this:


Charles McLean, Mixed-Martial Artist
Floyd, Training Robot

PROMPT CONFORMITY: Charles has isolated himself from the rest of Battleground MMA Gym with his reckless behavior.

SYNOPSIS: Charles needs to train for an upcoming championship match, but no one wants to spar with him because they keep getting knocked out or injured. Charles finds the sparring partner he needs in Floyd, a 6’11” robot who dresses like a gothic vampire and uses that to intimidate his opponents. The training begins, but after a while of abuse, Floyd starts to malfunction and tries to kill Charles during a sparring session. Mr. McLean begins to think that instead of Floyd “malfunctioning”, someone’s trying to set him up and teach him a lesson.

message 3: by James (last edited Nov 22, 2015 03:10PM) (new)

James Meadows | 146 comments Since I'm stuck at the office with nothing to do today (I finished my work hours ago), it seemed like a good time to work on a story for the prompt. So I wrote the following. I hope you enjoy it and I'd love to receive any feedback on it!

Author: James J Meadows III
Title: Ice
Genre: Fantasy
Word Count: 1663
Rating: PG

Ice. One endless expanse of snow and ice, formed an untarnished white blanket, stretching endlessly down the frozen street before disappearing above hills into the horizon. That was all I could see. It extended down the road ahead of me, without the slightest trace of tread or wear. Only the imprints of my footfalls behind me, disappearing fast in the hard falling snow, left signs of life and passage.

I was alone. I was hungry. I was cold. And the thick forbidding woods on each side of me promised more danger than shelter. Staring into their murky depths, where dark shadows formed over snow covered bushes whose icy flakes seemed to absorb light rather than reflecting it, chills ran through my dazed mind; as though somewhere in its depth lingered now forgotten memories of untold horrors lurking just beyond sight.

There was nowhere for me to go and no one for me to turn to. My village was gone. My family was gone. My memories were gone. How? I don’t know. I’d woken up this morning beneath the boards of a fallen wooden palisade. Around me, a village, which some distant part of my brain connected as being my home, was burning down. Blood soaked the ice around me and I saw indications of a mighty battle.

Yet I had no memories of anything that had happened. It took an effort to even remember my name. Whether this was from a head injury or my shocked brain blocking out the trauma, I had no idea. I only knew that I was alone, in the middle of a frozen wood, in the middle of a desolate mountain range, many days travel from any towns. That was bad enough. I tried not to think about the many dangerous creatures, both mundane and mythical, said to roam these woods, all of who would be happy to make me their next meal.

As if in answer to this thought a rustle sounded through the distant bushes behind me. Perhaps it was just a deer. Maybe it was a wolf. It might be something far worse. I didn’t have any interest in finding out. I picked up my pace hurrying down the street.

I had no armor for defense. It would probably only weigh me down, anyway. I was already exhausted from walking all day. I did have a knife but it would do little against any determined attacker. I didn’t even know if I was good with the weapon. I didn’t know much of anything really.

As I reached the crest of a hill, the rustling sounded again. It was closer, a lot closer. It was also growing more intense, as though less interested in silence and more interested in speed. I looked behind. The bushes inside the trees shook and rattled. Whatever was creating the rustling ran parallel to the road and was coming my direction.

My pace quickened. So did the rustling. Soon I was almost jogging. Yet I was still putting no more distance between myself and the mysterious pursuer. Panicking, I broke into a dead sprint down the slope. At the same moment, as though sensing the time for its dramatic appearance, my pursuer erupted from the trees and onto the path.

A scream of terror rose from my lips. From out the thick plum of snowy powder and broken branches emerged a creature whose grotesque existence I could only conceive in nightmares born of fevered-induced delirium.

What it was, I did not know. If having human form makes something human, I suppose someone could loosely classify it in such a category. Yet it was like no human alive. Dry white flesh clung to a bony devoid of any visible fat, tissue or muscle. From out of this rotting skin, long dagger-like claws, stained with putrid blood, protruded from the fingers and toes. Within the blackened lips gleamed the edges of razor sharp teeth, whose pointed tips appeared no duller for the yellow plaque and black rot coating their surfaces.

It bounded after me, moving alternately on four legs or two, making up ground by both. The thought of fighting never occurred to me. Both running and fighting were sure to produce the same end, so the choice made little difference, anyway. At least running provided the slim chance of finding help.

By slim, I mean very slim. I had been walking the road all day and not seen a single vehicle, horse, or traveler of any kind. Nor was there a single indention or impression on the snow to indicate anyone had traveled it anytime recently. It was probably just wishful thinking or my imagination telling me I could hear the distant sounds of a wagon somewhere on the other side of the hill.

Still, I raced onward, knowing my only salvation lay in just such an odd chance. My pursuer had no intention of giving me that chance, however. I was barely halfway up the hill when I felt a stinging sensation like icy razors slicing through my right calf. My body lurched forward as pain flooded my senses and I collapsed onto my stomach.

It had me. I was a dead man and there was nothing I could do about it. I rolled over onto my back just as the creature threw itself on top of me. Clawed hands dove toward my chest, intent upon ending my life in one fell swoop. Miraculously, the blows didn’t fall. By pure instinct, my hands shot up and caught the creature’s wrists. At the same time, I thrust my uninjured left leg into the monster’s chest, using my knee to hold its upper body and snapping teeth away.

The act caught my attacker by surprise but not for long. It rapidly adjusted to my defense, using its leverage to press down against me. The frail appearance proved to be only an illusion. Though I felt no muscles, tendons, or tissue of any kind around the bony arms I gripped, the creature’s strength easily outmatched my own. The claws inched closer toward my chest.

My breaths grew harder and my teeth clinched as I fought for my life. A horrid stench like rotten eggs assaulted my nostrils, making breathing even harder as the creature inched closer to me. A sadistic toothy grin spread across its face as the claws advanced until they pressed against my clothing. A bizarre red glow burned inside the thing’s empty black eye sockets like a feral beast sensing the kill.

Desperation surged through me. From somewhere deep inside I found a second wind. Screaming with a mixture of fury and reckless abandon, I focused all my might against my enemy’s arms and amazingly, inexplicably, they started drifting backwards.

It was my adversary’s turn to scream. The grin vanished from its face and a fierce gurgling sound like a growl erupted from its throat. The red glow in its eyes grew a dark shade of crimson and the beast again altered its attack. Its hands shifted in my grasp and the claws plunged deep into the flesh of my lower arms.

My scream of abandon transformed into a cry of pain. I felt my grip weaken and my strength give way as the dagger-like nails tore through skin, tissue, and muscle. I writhed and screamed as they dug deeper, doubling my agony. I couldn’t hold out much longer. My adversary knew it. The grin returned to its face.

At that moment, a new smell reached my nostrils, penetrating the gruesome stench of my adversary. It was the distinctive smell of burning sulfur, like one gets from a match. A blast rent the night air. I barely had time to register the sound before my attacker’s head exploded in a shower of flesh, bone, and some sort of green ichor I couldn’t identify. I wasn’t sure I wanted to.

Its headless body went limp. I tossed it off me and it landed in the snow. With a sigh, I collapsed back in exhaustion. From the curtain of falling snow emerged a solitary figure wrapped in a black hooded traveling cloak. In its right hand was a match-lock pistol, which lowered as it approached.

The stranger wore its hood up against the fierce winds and I could make out none of their features beneath its shadow. The dark sky and wintery gloom aided this concealment. The cloaked figure approached until it stood directly above me. I could feel its eyes scrutinizing me. I tried to sit up, my intention being to offer thanks. The result was a grimace and collapse as the pain in my wounded arms, temporarily numbed by the cold, surged back through my body.

“Stay still,” a voice commanded from inside the cloak.

Shock coursed through me at the sound of the voice. Its gentleness and pitch told me what my first glimpse of the face beneath the hood would momentarily confirm. My savior was a girl. Young woman might be more precise. It was hard to tell since I couldn’t get a clear look at her through the hood and my vision was growing blurry as blood loss set in.

“Cedric, hurry,” I heard her call.

I looked in the direction of her shout. A man appeared through the snow dressed in a thick button up coat, woolen scarf, and snow-covered top hat. He raced to her side. As I looked at them, my head began to swim and their outlines grew fuzzy against the dark grey sky.

“He is losing blood fast,” the woman said. “We need to get him into the coach so I can treat him. Grab his other arm.”

The man moved to the opposite side and reached down to lift me up. The woman moved to my other arm. I felt them heave me upright but I remembered nothing else. My last thought before blacking out was that I was safe. Then all memory, thought, and consciousness vanished as I succumbed to darkness.

message 4: by Garrison (new)

Garrison Kelly (cybador) | 9026 comments AUTHOR: Garrison Kelly
TITLE: Battleground
RATING: PG-13 due to swearing and violence

Charles McLean was a lucky man, either because of his Irish heritage or the fact that he could very well have a golden horseshoe up his ass. Only someone of his luck could say he was allowed to train at Battleground MMA Gym despite constantly knocking out and injuring his sparring partners. Did he even know the proper rules for sparring? Was he even dimly aware that knockouts and injuries weren’t supposed to happen? Did he already lose sight of the fact that it was all supposed to be practice and not an actual fight?

Ignorance wasn’t much of an excuse these days, because the only way the light heavyweight cage warrior could ever have access to the gym was after it was closed, which meant a screwed up sleep schedule and nobody would be there to return the favor of knocking him out. Believe it or not, this was the head coaches’ idea of being charitable to someone who deserved no charity at all.

It was ten o’clock at night and the red Mohawked Irish-American entered the gym in preparation for a light heavyweight championship match he had coming up. With nobody there to help him train or to coach him, he was all on his own. Charles seemed to be taking isolation a little better than most would. He went around to the various treadmills, stair steppers, and Jacob’s Ladder machines and beefed up his cardio like the super athlete he was. In a five-round championship match, cardio was the key to success.

Charles had spent two hours in the gym just working on his strength and conditioning. By the time he ran his final few steps on the treadmill, he was a sweaty mess. His bare chest was covered in perspiration, his black MMA shorts were damp, and his shoes and socks smelled like a bus station bathroom. Despite all of the hard work he put in, he stood proudly with his hands on his hips as opposed to huffing and puffing on the floor ready to pass out.

But there’s a reason why the sport was called mixed-martial arts and not cardiovascular arts: because beating the shit out of your opponent was the only way to win. Without a sparring partner, Charles thought he was going to have to clock out early. And then he noticed the boxing ring in the center of the gym had a black body bag mounted against one of the turnbuckles.

“Is this supposed to be funny?” yelled Charles to no one in particular. “What, am I supposed to fight with a dead body now? Cute, guys! Really fucking cute!” He stomped his way to the ring and stepped between the ropes to investigate this special package. Charles even gave the bag a sniff to make sure it was really a corpse. The odor was horrendous, but then he realized it was his own swampy armpits. He was definitely getting in the showers after this was over.

With mild trepidation, Charles McLean unzipped the body bag from head to toe and found something that put a whacked out smile on his face. “No way. No fucking way. Are you guys serious?” The object in the body bag was a 6’11” tall robot dressed in black gothic attire from his trench coat to his boots. Even the spiky black hair and black and white makeup was enough to give away the chilling appearance. Charles wasn’t chilled. He was thrilled.

He pulled the robot out of the bag and tossed the bag aside with excitement, for this was like opening presents at Christmastime. He looked the warrior up and down with wide-eyed excitement and heart-beating amazement. The name “Floyd” was written across the robot’s black tank top in the creepiest font imaginable.

“Alright then, Floyd. Let’s see what you’ve got!” said Charles as he looked for the on switch to this robot, which ended up being on its asshole. “That’s right, guys, laugh it up! Because this motherfucker is going to the scrap yard!” The light heavyweight brawler flicked the switch and sparks shot out of its crevices, sending the hulking brute backwards several feet.

Once Floyd the training robot stopped showering sparks, he began to look around the arena like this was all new to him. The mechanical nightmare looked across the ring at a bewildered Charles McLean with disdain and disgust. Once both combatants put their dukes up and got in their fighting stances, it was time to go to war.

Charles was the early aggressor in this sparring session as he rushed up to Floyd and threw haymaker after haymaker, each punch easily bobbed and weaved by the mechanical drone. Floyd threw one quick and stiff jab and caught Charles on the jaw, back him up a little, but doing not too much damage.

“You want to screw around with me, Floyd? Heh. Floyd. What kind of name is that for a badass robot?!” taunted Charles, an action which almost got him knocked out with a barely dodged head kick. Floyd started throwing other kicks to the hamstring, shin, and ribcage. Being made of metal allowed the pissed off robot to inflict sharp amounts of pain to the normally rough and tough Charles McLean, who was stacked from head to toe with muscles and tone.

Charles threw a few kicks and punches of his own, but Floyd kept him at bay with his height advantage, quick jabs, and leg kicks. After a while of being smacked around with metal parts, Charles was beginning to bruise up. He had a mouse under his right eye, a slash on his left thigh, and a lump on his ribcage.

But if Floyd thought for a minute that Charles was learning his lesson about treating his sparring partners better, he was dead wrong. Out of frustration, the MMA contender threw a blatant kick between Floyd’s legs and brought the mighty giant to his knees. Charles followed it up with an illegal knee to the skull that landed Floyd on his back, seemingly unconscious.

“Yeah! Who’s the man now, bitch?! I’m the goddamn man around here! Woo!” cheered Charles McLean as he danced around the ring holding his fists up in victory. His ego was inflated to the size of a hot air balloon.

And then Floyd nipped up in an attempt to deflate that ego forever. Charles turned around and immediately stopped celebrating his ill-gotten “victory” when he saw the mighty robot staring down at him with even more venom than before. Sparks were flying from his crevices like they were before, but in even greater volume and with even more rage.

Charles looked on at this angry display with paralyzing fear. If one of the sparks touched him, he would need to be rushed to a burn ward. With nobody here to call 9-1-1, it was a deathtrap in the making. Just when the final spark was about to touch the frightened combatant’s foot, the showers stopped instantly and were replaced with a good old fashioned blitz.

Floyd bolted up to Charles with superhuman speed and clutched him around the throat with one powerful hand before hoisting him to the sky and putting a spiked blade to his throat. Not even the mighty number one contender could deal with this kind of punishment and started kicking and squealing in pain to prove it.

The gothic robot put his face in Charles’ reddening face and said, “Please exit the MMA business, punk!” With one arm, Floyd tossed the 205 lb. Charles over the ropes and watched him crash land through one of the metal benches. The normally cocky fighter was rolling around on the ground clutching his back and screaming like a girl.

Such a pathetic display got no sympathy from the cold and calculating Floyd, who proceeded to slowly step outside the ring and kneel down to where Charles was writhing and squealing. With one fist held high, Floyd said in his demonic voice, “This is going to hurt you more than it hurts me!” All it took was one stiff punch to the jaw and Charles was out like a light. No more writing, no more growling, only silence and sleep remained.

By the time Charles woke up, which wouldn’t be until the very next morning, his head and body were pulsating with dull pain and he didn’t want to make any effort to move his body. He thought he was in the afterlife after taking a beating like that, but he was right back where he was when he was knocked out: on the floor of Battleground MMA Gym. The only difference was that there were people there who were happy to see him broken and bruised.

One of the head coaches of the gym looked over Charles’ glassy and wet eyes and said, “You have a 13-0 MMA record, which means you don’t know what it’s like to be knocked unconscious or submitted. And then you ran into Floyd and hopefully he did more damage to your ego than he did to your body.”

“Wha…wha…what about my match? What about my championship match?” said Charles with an aching jaw.

“Your match has been cancelled due to your injured state,” explained the coach. “But it’s probably for the best anyways. I hope you learned something from all of this, Charles. Be nice to your sparring partners and they’ll be nice to you. You’re probably too out of it right now to digest all of that, so maybe you’ll learn it eventually when I make you spar with Floyd again.”

The coach patted Charles on his painful shoulder and allowed the EMT’s t take him away. There was only one thing the Irish-American could say to having his ego deflated and his body broken at the same time: “Fuck!”

message 5: by Edward (new)

Edward Davies | 1727 comments This story is tentatively related to my upcoming novel, COUNTDOWN, which should be available the middle of next year. Simon, however, is not a character in the book... although this could act as a Prologue...

Title : Outbreak Or Breakout?
Author : Edward Davies
Genre : Fantasy
Word Count : 2024
Rating : PG

The darkness enveloped the room like some sort of a tomb, in spite of the fact that the room Simon found himself in was brightly illuminated with halogen bulbs. It was a darkness of the soul rather than an actual physical darkness, and the fear that rattled round inside Simon’s head had almost taken full hold of him.

It wasn’t as if he were alone either. There were others in the room, all of them in varying stages of decay caused by the virus that had slowly but surely begun to destroy their bodies and their minds. Simon stared at the woman closest to him; a woman who was probably pretty attractive before the infection had taken hold of her, but now she just stared blankly across the room at the bars on the windows, a trickle of drool running down her pouty lips and onto her scabby chin. She may have once been the prom queen of whatever the English equivalent might have been, but it was doubtful that anyone would want to put their crown on her head ever again, if you get my meaning.

Simon looked down into his lap, staring at his hands that were resting there. A slight crustiness had started to form on his palms and in the webbing of his fingers, but nothing compared to the other people on his ward. His hands just looked like he had a slight case of eczema, whereas the majority of the rest of the people on his ward looked like they had it on a Biblical scale; eczema by way of leprosy.

He thought back on how he’d ended up in the ward, a place he was starting to think of with full leading capital letters, as in ‘The Ward’. He’d been grabbed by a team of soldiers who had seemed to come from nowhere as he’d been heading home from school on his bicycle. The bike hadn’t made it through the attack, but somehow Simon had managed to survive.

He had no idea what might have become of his family, but he hadn’t seen any of them on The Ward. That could be considered either a good or a bad thing, depending on how you looked at it. So far Simon had considered it a good thing; even if they were dead, at least they weren’t infected.

Simon had seen one other person he’d known on The Ward; a girl from his class, Cassandra. In spite of her name, Simon guessed she hadn’t seen this day coming. He chuckled, the sound echoing throughout The Ward, but only a handful of patients so much as glanced up as the sound reverberated off the walls.

Cassandra had been a pretty girl, had being the operative word. Her hair, which had once been shiny and glossy, was now matted and layered, plastered to her skull in places where grease had accumulated over the period she’d been kept on The Ward, however long that might have been. Her eyes, which he remembered used to sparkle when she laughed, were now dull and flat, barely any life showing in them now that they had started to sink into her skull. Her lips were still full, but were now cracked and blistered from lack of water. Simon licked his own lips, which had started to feel dry since yesterday afternoon. No-one had been in to give them food or water since the previous morning, and Simon was starting to worry that no-one was going to come back for him and that he’d die of dehydration.

Deciding that sitting around doing nothing wasn’t going to get him anywhere, Simon placed his bum on the edge of his bed and scooched off the side until his bare feet were touching the cold floor. His legs felt wobbly as he used them for the first time that day, but after flexing his toes a number of times he was finally ready to walk.

It was slow going as Simon crossed The Ward to the main doors. He passed a number of patients that were a little more alert than he’d gotten used to, some of them sniffing expectantly as he passed them by. He thought back to all the horror movies he’d ever seen that involved this sort of thing, shuddering as he thought about what could have happened to him if he hadn’t been infected. It seemed that the others on The Ward could smell the infection on him, and as a result they ignored his presence, assuming he was one of them. If only they ignored him entirely and didn’t sniff for him first, Simon thought to himself, then the whole scenario wouldn’t have been quite so unnerving.

On reaching the doors to The Ward, Simon peered through the frosted glass of the wire-meshed window. There was no activity beyond the doors, literally nothing happening outside of The Ward.

So where had all the doctors and nurses gone? Why had the occupants of The Ward been left on their own, with no-one to ensure their well-being?

Simon’s heart sank.

Clearly whoever was in charge had decided they were passed caring for. Someone high up had made the decision to leave the hospital unattended and to worry about the uninfected instead of those beyond true redemption. His eyes twitched a little as he felt tears pricking their corners.

He was alone.

Alone and isolated with no-one for company other than the rest of the infected, all of whom were far further gone than he was.

Simon reached for the handle of the door, expecting to feel the resistance of a firm lock but, to his surprise, the door swung easily open as he pulled it towards him. His brow furrowed, he glanced back over his shoulder at the other patients in The Ward, but only one or two of them had even noticed what Simon was doing, while others hadn’t even realised he so much as existed. Simon took a deep breath, easing the door slightly further open, then slipped quietly into the corridor.

In all the scary movies Simon had ever seen, the hospital corridors would have been damaged, the lights would be flickering from lack of repair, but this was in many ways more terrifying. The lights were bright and steady, the corridor neat and tidy, which made its emptiness all the more nerve racking. Simon swallowed nervously before continuing down the corridor, heading to the nearest lift. It was like that scene at the beginning of Resident Evil, where you think the main woman is going to be okay, but then the inevitable happens...

Simon pressed the button to call the carriage, waiting patiently and glancing over his shoulder at The Ward he’d just vacated. He could see quite clearly through the frosted windows, where the other patients hadn’t so much as batted an eyelid at his absence. Turning back to the lift, he stared at the floor light, waiting for it to hit his floor.


Simon’s nostrils flared as he jumped slightly at the sudden sound of the lift arriving and, as the doors opened, he stopped inside and turned to face the buttons, pressing the one for the ground floor. As the doors eased shut, Simon looked towards The Ward through the closing doorway, noticing that some of the patients had turned their heads towards the door.

Had they heard the lift arrive?

Simon didn’t have time to worry about that as the doors closed firmly shut and the lift started to descend to the ground floor.

As the pinging sound of the lift arriving at its destination echoed through Simon’s head, he cautiously watched the lift doors open onto the main reception area.

He walked into the empty reception area, the only sign of people having been there was the odd wheelchair positioned slightly out of place from where they should normally have been kept. Simon glanced from left to right, checking the coast for any sign of life, or something resembling life in any case.

There was nothing.

Taking another deep breath, fearing that the sound of his heavy sighs might attract unwanted attention, Simon continued shambling towards the main doors and headed out onto the street.

Like the hospital he’d just vacated, the streets were largely deserted. It seemed ridiculous to Simon that a practically empty hospital would keep all of its patients in a single ward, but now that he looked at the car park his fears grew even more so. Aside from three ambulances parked near the front of the building, the entire car park was deserted.

Simon shook his head, mumbling softly to himself. He was passed caring if anyone heard him, seeing as there didn’t appear to be anyone else about. The fact that it seemed that the entire population of West London had upped sticks in the night and headed who-knows where was enough to almost permanently unhinge him. What if there had been a mass exodus of the city, like during World War II? Or what if everyone was dead?

No, he told himself, if everyone was dead there’d be bodies.

Wouldn’t there?

Unless the infected had already gotten to them.

And what? Eaten them?

He’d heard rumours before he’d been quarantined about the infected attacking animals and picking them clean, but never anything about them attacking other people. Yet wouldn’t that be the next logical step? Simon chuckled; only with recent events circling in your mind could you consider cannibalism to be the next logical step for humankind.

As these thoughts ran through his mind, he heard a noise coming from the sky. He glanced up into the clouds, holding his scabby hand up to shield his eyes, and saw a number of black planes flying in formation overhead.

Was this an invasion?

Or was it a mass culling? Would the planes just start dropping bombs, carpet bombing the entire city until everything was levelled to the ground?

As he pondered what was going to happen to him, he noticed a strange silhouette floating down from the sky, a silhouette that was distinctly person shaped and entirely un-plane shaped.

As Simon saw the figure land in the car park just a few feet away from him, he decided that his mind had finally snapped. The winged figure tipped its head at him, as if doffing a hat in greeting, then started walking towards him.

“Good afternoon,” the winged figure smiled as it walked into the light and Simon could finally see its face. Oddly, though the figure was humanoid, he couldn’t tell if it was male or female as its features appeared to flicker in and out. Finally they settled, and Simon’s jaw dropped when he saw who the figure looked like.

“I know,” the figure said dryly when he saw Simon’s expression, “it’s a lot to take on board at such short notice, isn’t it?”

“What’s going on?” Simon shook his head, “Who... what are you? Why do you look like... that?”

“This face is supposed to calm people down,” the figure told him, “clearly it’s not working.”

“What’s going on?” Simon asked again.

The figure smiled, flexing its wings, “It’s a long story,” the figure told Simon, “but we have plenty of time to explain. You were part of the Zombie Apocalypse Explanation, correct?”

“Zombie Apocalypse Explanation?” Simon repeated, thinking it sounded like an episode title from ‘The Big Bang Theory’, “What are you talking about?”

“Well, we’ve tried a number of methods to explain what’s happening,” the figure explained, pointing into the sky, “that’s the Invading Hoards Explanation. That works reasonably well on small parties. For larger unrelated numbers we used the old Zombie Apocalypse routine to get you all together, but it seems to have... broken most of the others. I’m not sure if we can fix that.”

“So... what is this?” Simon asked, “What is actually happening here.”

“Come,” the figure smiled, holding out a hand to Simon, “I’ll show you.”

Simon took the figures hand and, as they touched, the two of them disappeared into a bolt of purple light and disappeared into the sky.

message 6: by Saira (new)

Saira (herumouni) | 667 comments I think mine is going to end up as a scene like it always does, but i think I'll try this week.

message 7: by Garrison (new)

Garrison Kelly (cybador) | 9026 comments As long as the "scene" has a beginning, middle, and end like all stories should, then everything should be okay. I know this, because I write "scenes" every week and nobody seems to mind. :)

message 8: by Edward (new)

Edward Davies | 1727 comments Garrison wrote: "As long as the "scene" has a beginning, middle, and end like all stories should, then everything should be okay. I know this, because I write "scenes" every week and nobody seems to mind. :)"

You write scenes AND make scenes! :D

message 9: by Garrison (new)

Garrison Kelly (cybador) | 9026 comments I'm such a versitile guy. ;)

message 10: by Saira (new)

Saira (herumouni) | 667 comments My problem is not having good endings. But that's what I need to work on, so that's what I'll focus on.

message 11: by Edward (new)

Edward Davies | 1727 comments That's what's great about this group. If you don't have a good ending when you post a story, you might get a suggestion on how to make it good. This group is all about growth and development. It's very unlikely that someone will ever say "Your story was rubbish" to anyone else in this forum! :D

message 12: by Chantel (new)

Chantel | 17 comments This is my first time contributing, hopefully my story fits the theme okay. I actually have been watching this group for some time but never had the courage to contribute, I wrote this for a different week and never posted it - I think the story fits this week's theme as well, however. I appreciate any and all feedback/suggestions, of course.

Title: The Last Goodbye
Author: Chantel
Word Count: 1779
Genre: Fantasy

Mrs. Beaumont always said that her daughter had a will of iron and a temper like fire. 'Heaven have mercy on the world’ she would laugh, ‘no one has ever been ready for my Cassie’.
When Cassie went to school the other children would huddle tightly into their groups, “there’s no room here” they’d say, and if she was in a good mood she’d snap her teeth at them and move on, but if you were unfortunate enough to get her on a bad day she'd give you a Chinese burn so you’d think twice about being a ’nasty pasty' ever again.
The kids had a rhyme that she loathed with every fiber of her being, so much so that she would try to tape their mouths shut when they would sing it, but it only made them sing louder:

"Get away Cassie,
Don’t bite me Cassie,
Save me, save me,
Save me from Cassie!"

She tried to shrug it off, “like water off a duck’s back” her dad liked to remind her, but truth was it was hard being little Cassandra Beaumont. She was misunderstood in more ways than one. She had all the makings of a bully - actually no, I shouldn’t lie - she was a bully, but that wasn’t the reason the kids shied away from her when she went near. Everyone knew she had magic in her. Powerful magic. Nearly everyone in town had a story about some magic she’d done. Why, there was that time she levitated Principal Halsey’s car because he suspended her for biting Lou-Anne Kingsley (according to Cassie, Lou-Anne deserved the bite, she sang that infernal rhyme louder than the other kids, you see). But when he let Lou-Anne go off scot-free, Cassie rolled up her sleeves and got her magic ready because she knew Principal Halsey had a lesson to learn.
“Teachers don’t like it when you put their cars in the air” she said afterward on the drive home, and her mother smiled and told her not to terrorise people. When she was born, Mr. and Mrs. Beaumont hadn’t known what to do with their daughter (they had the scars to prove it), but now they had learnt to laugh with her. This wasn’t to say they were bad parents, quite simply put, being born with magic in you wasn’t an easy thing, and they knew if they were just there to guide her when she needed them, little Cassie would eventually find her way.

Despite all this, Cassie was very pleased to say she had at least one friend. Wilkie McCoy made all the things that were hard in her life just that much easier to deal with. He wasn’t scared of her the way the other kids were, in fact, the first time Cassie tried to get him into a headlock (this was one of her more unfortunate bad days) he shoved his elbow into her in the stomach and made his escape while she doubled over. She chased him all around the schoolyard that day shooting yellow sparks from her hands, “I’ll get you” she shouted as Wilkie sprinted between the monkey bars. As she ran, her rage filling her, she waited for the familiar rhyme that haunted her days at school, but it never uttered from his lips. When Wilkie looked back at her, his face was spread into a huge grin and he giggled and laughed as he ran. By the end of the day, Cassie gave up chasing him. She was spent, so she leaned forward onto her knees and tried to catch her breath when a grubby, red face came into her view. “Good game” Wilkie smiled, “maybe you can get me tomorrow” and with that he said good-bye. It became their game after that, every day she would chase him, punch him, throwing all the magic she could muster at him, and at the end of the day they’d meet in the middle of the playground and say good-bye until tomorrow.

It was the happiest Cassie had ever been in her life, and if she were a bit older she’d have said that she was a bit taken with Wilkie McCoy. But for now she only wished that they would be friends forever, and harboured a secret hope that he felt the same way too. She knew this revelation was coming any day now, as there was a school fete coming and everyone needed a partner to work on decorations and games for the big day. Only he hadn’t met her the day before at their usual spot in the middle of the playground; Cassie thought he must’ve been busy. She just needed to wait, because of course, no one in her class was going to work with her, but Wilkie was her friend and he would want to be her partner. She waited for days. Nothing. But then finally at the end of the week he came to their spot and now was her chance. So she took matters into her own hands and asked him herself. But she never expected what came out of Wilkie’s lips.
“I can’t” he said looking down at his shoes, “I already told Lou-Anne that I’d work with her”.
It was there that the happiness that had been building in her world came crashing down and the fire that lived within her ignited. She shook with anger, “Lou-Anne” she trembled, and fighting back her tears but she could feel her entire body becoming engulfed in magic. She couldn’t control herself, she’d never had a friend before and she’d just lost him that blasted Lou-Anne. Before she knew it she was on top of him punching him over and over, she knew she should stop, but she couldn’t. This was years of hurt, of rejection, spilling out of her. Eventually Wilkie pushed her off, wiping blood off a swelling lip. He got up and stared her down. Cassie looked up at him and realised for the first time how much bigger he was than her. “Lou-Anne was right about you” he said frowning, “You’re just like that rhyme says” With that he left, the ritual good-bye hanging in the air.

Any other child who hadn’t been Cassandra Beaumont would have gone home, cried and eventually once she had cooled down apologised to Wilkie. But Cassie couldn’t. He’d betrayed her, the only friend she’d ever had. Once the uncontrollable crying and sobbing had passed, the magic still hadn’t settled, it needed somewhere to go, it was like a fury threatening to devour her. With her rage she got out a pen and notebook, she pulled all the magic swelling in her body and poured it into the nib of the pen and wrote:

"I want Wilkie McCoy to go away forever"

Cassie knew as she scratched the last word that she had done a grand magic because in that moment lightning cracked the sky. But she had yet to fully understand what she had done.

The next morning Wilkie wasn’t at school.

By the end of the day everyone knew Wilkie McCoy had vanished during the night.

The entire town snapped into action in the search for him, as only a tight-knit community could. There were police and sniffer dogs everywhere, they fundraised and flew in experts and psychics, and anyone they could find that would help. But Cassie knew deep in her heart that she had done this. She’d never felt as wretched as she did in the days after his disappearance. Every day after school she’d go to their spot in the middle of the playground, close her eyes and repeat:

"Please come back.
Please come back.
Please come back"

She’d stand there a moment before opening her eyes, feeling for a change in the wind. Searching for something, anything that when she opened her eyes he’d be there in front of her, grubby faced and ready to play.

But he never was.

When she slept he danced through her dreams night after night. Wilkie running through a strange forest with eyes that swiveled and poked through the trees. Wilkie hiding in a storm where darkness had a face. His clothes torn and a face caked with dirt as ducked and weaved from huge monsters. These dreams haunted her more than the looks people gave her, the looks that said we know you did this. She vowed in that moment to control her temper and try to be nice to all the people she ever treated badly, and she hoped by doing that she could find a way to bring him back. When Lou-Anne told her she couldn’t play hopscotch with the other kids, she forced a smile to spread over her face and decided to read instead. When Principal Halsey picked her out of a lineup and asked her to clean up after class, she also polished his car, and left him a drawing of the school under the windscreen wiper. She did all this and went back to the special spot that had become hers and Wilkie’s.

"Please come back.
Please come back.
Please come back"

Every time she failed she swallowed her anger and her bitterness and tried again the next day, and the next day, and the next, until years had passed. Wilkie never left her dreams, but her dreams of him were different now. He had grown up too. He had a new family that lived just outside the strange forest. He wore unusual clothes and spoke a language she didn’t understand, but deep down she knew it was him and she never gave up trying to make up the wrong that she did.

Now sixteen she did her daily routine and returned to their usual spot in the middle of the playground. The children had already left for the day, and she had snuck in once it was quiet through a crack in the fence. The cool air blew whipping her golden blonde hair in the breeze as she put her hands out in front of her. She willed him back. She poured everything she had into that moment, everything she ever felt for him, her regret, her sadness, her happiness, her love, she gave that moment everything till the magic felt like it would pour out of her. Then she put all that power into words:

"Please come back.
Please come back.
Please come back"

Everything felt the same, but she couldn’t – she wouldn’t give up, so she pushed harder.

"Come back Wilkie"

Thunder rumbled and cracked in the sky, and as she opened her eyes...

A shape of a person appeared in front of her.

message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

It's okay Braelin, just post your story here :)

I'll do my best to read the stories later. I haven't done that for a long time hehe

message 14: by Daniel J. (last edited Nov 25, 2015 02:29AM) (new)

Daniel J. Nickolas (danieljnickolas) | 139 comments Untitled
By Felix J. Nickolas

Evelynn Edelstien was a great pink peripheral obtrusion. She was the reason a person in a grocery store would suddenly turn their head to look down an aisle they had meant to quickly pass by. She didn’t mind this, in a way; in a way, it is what she sought. She watched people, while in the grocery store, as they watched her from the outer limits of their sight. She waited for the quick side glances and subtle stares of those who dared to look. This shopping day she caught a great slew of glances, for she had thought up a scheme to bait the passers-by into peeking her way, hoping that one of them might look at her directly. The elastic of her shirt collar – mostly extinguished by a developing obesity – swooped downward to reveal a shivering purse dog, with snow globe eyes, held firmly between her fleshy breasts. The “V” shape of her pink shirt collar and the inner thigh fabric of her faded purple shorts rising upward, drew the eye to the little clumpy furred dog, and then, inevitably, to Evelynn. She smiled dishonestly while attempting to remain cavalier about the doubt she experienced over the effectiveness of her plan. Evelynn’s crafty little plot got her the results she desired, but not in the way she desired them. This latter truth, she tried to ignore.

She moved through the store with a wide gait, taking wispy strands of her frizzled hair and flopping them back and forth over the canine’s gooey nose until the hound took the strand in its mouth and chewed. Evelynn smiled brightest when she felt the dog chew.

She clapped her hands to gain the attention of a distracted individual. “Applewood.” She directed to a skeletal man with eyes cast low and covered by the bill of a black hunting cap. She directed her husband to her preferred cure of bacon. “Tinkerbell doesn’t like anything too smoky or with pepper in it.” Evelynn stroked the dog as she spoke. Then, stroking her own hair, added, “And I think Applewood gives me more shine.” Evelynn’s hair, for all its tangles and wisps, did have a sleek, glamorous glimmer. She watched her husband admire her hair. He did it briefly and from the corner of his eye, as though he hadn’t consciously meant to do it at all.

The man read the nutritional information and then moved his eyes lower to read the information again, this time in the Spanish block, before tossing the bacon into a flooded shopping cart. The cart was topped with prepackaged and frozen creations of strange and intriguing flavors and hues, and the bacon seemed out of place to him there, for it was something that must be cooked. He didn’t like to cook. Evelynn’s husband stared at the bacon, and then into the cart. With worry, and yet absently, he moved a few products from the front to the back. He unearthed new colors and shapes in the depth of the hoard, and the bacon fit better down there. New colors and shapes, the favorites and the friends of Evelynn, whom she would marry and mix with the painted tips of her nimble and talented fingers. Evelynn: wonderful, colorful, and frightful. His gaze wandered over to her. He watched her intently but without intent. “Ready?” He asked indicating the amorphous cashier, who used sponge cake fingers coated thinly in a sugar cane glaze to type the UPL codes for carrots and white cauliflower.

“Will you reach that for me Darrell, Honey?” She pointed to a confectioner’s box of unidentifiable treats. “I want to see what they are.”

Darrell opened his mouth to speak, and immediately knew his words would come out with a muted aggression. He was unsure of why the aggression came, but he knew from where it came. “Why don’t you get them yourself?”

Evelynn sensed the affront in the question. She struggled to respond as the box was within her reach. “I can’t get all the way up there.” With a look of helplessness, she underlined the canine with her hand. The dog gave Evelynn’s husband a fierce look. It’s bulging eyes tried stupidly to focus on the man, but they kept darting pathetically to the side and betraying the dogs fear that the man might stare back; the loose skin of its mouth was pulled upward to expose its kitten claw teeth, and the growl seemed to be created not by an aggravation in the vocal chords, but by the vibration of the cur’s body, the shaking of which would not cease.

The Man clutched the box and brought it down to look through the cellophane window on the lid. He looked at the blobs made with promises of joy and sweetness, maltodextrin and tooth rot. He looked with yearning at the ambiguous forms all perfectly in a row, all covered in thin layers of sugar and oil, all typing their codes for carrots and white cauliflower. Darrell watched them scan the items and bag the items, and load the carts so the customers could leave.

“Look at these.” Evelynn said over her husband’s boney shoulder and through the cellophane window. She examined the pastries with a frown. She speculated as to how the sprinkles could be made into such odd pinks and purples, and wondered why the cone shaped ones looked so heavy and fleshy. And the one in the middle had a thing in its center, and it was the least appealing of all. “Put these back.” Evelynn said. “I mistook them for something different. They’re not what I thought they were.”

“Ready?” Darrell asked.

Evelynn peered into the cart and the discord within. She was struck, more than she ever had been before, by the items and their incongruity. “I’ ready.” She swatted away an unseen bug she heard buzzing by her ear.

Through the line Evelynn and Darrell went. Evelynn unloaded the cart with purpose and forethought. Out came her ginger, Romanesco, gold beets, her deep violet cauliflower and onions that matched. Tanned parsnips and rainbow chard followed by garlic and pungent rosemary. Among her varied gourds and squashes were fresh chives and some thyme nestled safely in a small paper bag, and the very last of the season’s tiger stripped figs. Frantically did those sponge cake fingers move as they searched the pages of their UPL books. Swiftness came only with Darrell’s frozen, prepackaged dinners.


Evelynn Edelstien loved to cook. Daily, from her kitchen came aromas both inviting and intoxicating, both loving and thick. When Evelynn cooked in her kitchen her home became a living, breathing cabinet of spices deftly crafted as to be always welcoming, and never intrusive. To Darrell, however, the incense was too provocative and nostalgic. To that man with the hunting cap and skeletal frame, the fragrance was reminiscent of things foreign and bold, yet twisted, like a disproven philosophy. They were things obtrusive, misguided, and always out of reach. He would swat and strike at the air to disperse, to silence, the words spoken in silky whispers by the beckoning incense of Evelynn’s kitchen. He cared not to know what brews were made in that temple known as “Evelynn’s Room”, for Darrell was aware that they were all prayers and potions toward the same purpose, the same end. He was aware how that end could never be reached through prayers and potions, no matter how earnest, no matter how bewitching. In his den, Darrell ate microwaved meals with a plastic spork.

From the kitchen, Evelynn could be heard clapping her hands together. She had finished cooking another dish. “Would you like to try some of mine?” Evelynn asked her husband as she approached the threshold of his den. She set a small dish just outside the implied room divider. “This recipe turned out to be simply fantastic.” She happily plopped a bit of her creation into the little dish. Tinkerbell ran to the dish and began to eat with exaggerated mastication; chewing the cud of Evelynn’s scalp had left the dog unused to such tender meals. And Evelynn did not lie about this meal. It was “simply fantastic”.

“You say that about everything, ‘simply fantastic’.” Darrell mocked.

Evelynn looked down into the pan she held, and stirred its contents pointlessly. “It wasn’t an easy recipe. I’m amazed I pulled it off.” She laughed a little, hoping her own self-depreciation would bond her to her husband, though the tactic made her cringe a little. His eyes refused to acknowledge her. “I think you’ll enjoy this dish. I picked it out with you in mind.” She heard him grunt with disapproval. She pushed forward. “Tell you what, if you try this and honestly don’t like it, I’ll bake a batch of snickerdoodle cookies the way you like them. Baked on high so the edges get a little burnt, and the center stays a little raw. I use to make them for you that way all the time, remember? Before your test?”

Darrell didn’t immediately respond. Evelynn’s stirring of her pot began to release more of that holy scent. Darrell’s nose was troubled by the distant lands and foreign tongued people created in the story of the smell. He could already hear the narrative as it would unfold, for he had heard it, lived it, before. It was a narrative of intriguing twists and thrilling turns, and an ending abrupt. It terrified him. “You know I never like any of that fodder you make.”

Evelynn could sense the widening fissure. “I guess you’re right. A lot of the stuff I fix doesn’t always turn out the way I hope it will.” She surprised herself with how quickly she’d abandoned the tactic of bargaining, and looped back to self-depreciation. She reached further with it. “I don’t know how, but this dish turned out to be something special. A little taste…”

“Damn it Evelynn, I said no.” His hands cut the air in decisive refusal. “Now leave me be.” He scooped a congealed fragment of bread pudding out of its perimeter in the microwavable bowl. He chewed it loudly to emphasize the finality of his words.

Evelynn scooped up the little dog still licking its chops, and lumbered back into the kitchen. She set the pan down heavily on the stove and breathed with deep quickness. She was furious. Furious at herself for stooping so low as to demean her own talents just for a loving smile and a reasonable compromise from that man. Thoughts began to buzz in her ear. “No.” She said. “He isn’t wretched.” She squeezed the dog to her chest. “We must not think like that.” She worked hard in her mind to separate the words from the man, from what was to what is. But his words, once a curiosity, had transformed over time into a force. They built up through the years, congealing in the air and sticking to every facet of the mind, until even the private places were no longer safe.

message 15: by Daniel J. (new)

Daniel J. Nickolas (danieljnickolas) | 139 comments Evelynn touched the handle of her pot. In her kitchen, in her temple, she was safe, safe from the ever stifling atmosphere, safe from that pulsating force.

But those little creatures still got in, and nested in her thoughts. Those earwig creatures that bite and bait with arguments once lost, but again made new with their ever buzzing words. Evelynn brought the stirring spoon to her nose. She inhaled the spice. Those little creatures called to the place where her memories were all put away, “Let us in.” Evelynn brought the stirring spoon to her lips. “Let us in, let us in!” Her chewing was loud. All her frustration and fury culminated into her chewing. The sound of it, juxtaposed against the sound of the bugs clawing at her to get in, was deafening.

Then she brought the spoon to her lips again, with more calmness, more distraction, and the voices of the bugs began to die down. She chewed and swallowed and took another bite. The taste was impeccable, simply fantastic, and smooth. She swallowed that bite too, then had one more. The taste balanced on her tongue and in her stomach, bringing a richness of home and nostalgia. The voices of the bugs remained sharp and demanding, but continued to fade out. Evelynn purposefully let a tiny bit of food drop from the spoon on to her quivering familiar, and chuckled delightedly as the hound greedily swallowed the treat. Then, she took more bites. The voices had all but vanished. She licked the spoon, giggling at the act, and swiped her finger around the inside of the pan before sucking the finger clean. The dogged licked the bare flesh where the food had first fallen. The pan was empty. A silence was in the air.

Evelynn’s mind, without her notice, withdrew from the linear, moving into the space where daydreams are found. She heard the front door open and close. It must have been Darrell going out. No, it wasn’t Darrell, for she heard his footsteps coming toward her from the doorway. Just short of the threshold to the kitchen, he stopped and looked in toward the stove where Evelynn stood, her back to him. “You were right; it’s okay; let’s not talk about it now.” Evelynn heard herself saying this aloud, but it became somehow misplaced as she realized that it was Darrell who broke the silence.

“Evelynn, I think we need to talk.”

She knew it wasn’t the talk she hoped it would be. “Certainly.” She placed a hand on her stomach. It felt heavy and bloated.

“Now I’m sorry if earlier I hurt your feelings, but all this nonsense has gone on long enough. I need you to quit living in these stupid fantasies of yours and get grounded in reality. It frustrates me Evelynn.”

“Stupid fantasies?” Evelynn asked the question as though she struggled with the words themselves. “I never meant to frustrate you Darrell. I didn’t used to frustrate you.”

Darrell brought his hand to his forehead to aid him in controlling the rancorous thoughts. A great conflict in his mind made his teeth clench. “I don’t like that I get as frustrated as often as I do.” He paused to find balance, lest the wrong thought get out. “I want to move past everything, I really do Evelynn; but all your little games, and projects, and fantasies, they work on me. I get to thinking about things I did, and can’t do, and … it all has to stop.”

Evelynn winced at the tightness of her belly. She placed a hand on the countertop beside her, feeling the need to hold on to something. She took an easing breath and spoke. “When we first started seeing each other, you told me it was those fantasies that made you like me. Our third date, we went to the zoo, and we laughed about what the world would be like if people were more like this animal, or like that animal. We talked about how we wanted to travel and have children.” She paused a moment, then turned to face him. “Don’t you remember our plan? We wanted to buy some property so we could open our own restaurant. And I would be head chef, and you the manager.” It poured back into the forefront of her mind. “And you wanted to learn an exotic language.”

Darrell shifted nervously at her words, but he did not stop her.

“One day, after you had learned your new language, we would go to a land where the people spoke it and scour the cities looking for adventure. When it got dark, and I got afraid because we were lost, you’d guide us back, because you spoke the language. Now, you barely speak at all.”

“I don’t want to hear any more of this Evelynn.” Darrell’s fists were clenching.

Evelynn spoke with greater intensity. “And we wanted children. Our first child would be a boy named Phillip, and we would call him ‘Pippen’ for short. Remember how badly you wanted a boy?”

“I’ve had enough! No you will quit all this stupid nonsense right here, right now, and that is absolutely it.” He slammed his foot to the floor.

“Why won’t you talk to me about it?”

“Because I said I won’t, and I am the man of this house.”

“You’re no man.” Evelynn regretted the thought before it became words, but was still unable to stop her lips. Darrell said nothing to her, and she, in return, was incapable to respond to his silence.

He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me. He loves me not. Little petals torn from the stamen in search of wisdom from a flower. Little daises and little girls who aren’t really looking for the affection of their crushes heart, but simply wondering how many times can you tear a ‘he loves me not’ petal from the stamen, and still have a petal left to pull?

When it was clear that the stillness would breed no further action, Darrell turned and walked away from the threshold. Evelynn heard the front door open and then close, but there were not footsteps coming toward her this time. She sighed deeply and heavily as the fullness of her stomach made it difficult for her lungs to expand. She let the little dog slide out of her grasp, tumble down her front side, and scamper away to some distant corner of the house to hide. She stood in the kitchen, and let a familiar loneliness envelope her. “Do you love me?”

Evelynn walked out of her sanctuary, her coven. In the upstairs hallway, just shy of the threshold to the master bedroom, Evelynn pulled on an off white rope that dangled from the ceiling above her blonde head. With a terrible squeak and a rheumatic stiffness, a staircase, with ladder like rungs, descended from above. The steep wooden stairs led upward into a musty darkness from which a thick heat permeated downward. Evelynn was cautious of the stairs. She began the climb slowly. She never once put a foot on a higher rung before being sure her weight would be supported. And the stairs did screech under her. The creaking was so foreboding in her ears that she leaned hard against the staircase as she ascended it. The passing rungs pushed against her, forcing her stomach inward toward her lungs. She breathed with exacerbated breath.

When her upper half was in the open attic, she searched frantically until her hand grasped a hot metal chain. She pulled it harshly. A single light, from a pear shaped bulb, came on and dispelled the darkness. She heaved the rest of herself into the attic, and the fluid heat caused an immediate glisten on her brow. She took a moment to calm her breathing. She slouched over to a pile of boxes labeled “big important stuff”, and began to rummage through the top most box. She looked at pictures and post cards and jewelry once fancy but now made relicts by changing trends and oxidation. She found a manila folder. The adhesive had dried out. In the folder were pictures of when she and Darrell were younger and smiled for what seemed like no reason at all, when they had no need for a reason.

“These are from when we first moved into the house.” She said to the heat creeping over her shoulder to steal a glance at the photographs. She found one of herself, standing in the haven of her kitchen. It must have been taken several months after the move in, for the photograph showed her holding ceramic cookware with a scarlet anterior and heat resistant handles. Her first set of ceramic cookware was an apology gift from Darrell, which had been given some time after his test. Evelynn didn’t remember mixing the things of that time in with other seasons of their lives. She searched deeper into the box, seized by the curiosity of what she might find.

There it all was. The things she and Darrell had both suppressed in their own unique ways. There were the lists their counselor suggested they make. There was the letter Darrell wrote to atone for the nights he hadn’t spent at home. Evelynn moved deeper into the crypt of the box, and there she found the ugliest thing of all: that fateful test, proving that Darrell would never father children. Evelynn cradled the paper in her hands. She rubbed the corner between her thumb and forefinger, and marveled at how something so small could carry such force. She remembered first learning about the results of the test, how it had made her cry, and how it had done something entirely different, and curious to Darrell. She recalled how he chose to let it live in him, and how he dwelled upon it, and saw it always; even after it was buried in the bottom of a deep box in the sweltering darkness of the attic. It had remained always before his eyes. She placed a hand on her belly once more.

Her stomach wrenched as it tried to digest the excessive burden that lie within it. A water began to swell in Evelynn’s eye, half from the pain in her stomach, half from the dark things in the box. She looked down once again at the photograph of her in her kitchen with her red ceramic frying pan. Not wanting to confront the truth in the picture, but unable to look away, Evelynn studied her younger self. She wiped her eyes. The woman in the photograph did not have the appearance of a nun in her sanctuary, or a sorceress in the safety of her coven. As she studied the picture, she found the background, that kitchen, more and more contemptible. ‘A haven’ she had forced herself to call it; ‘a refuge’ she had forced herself to see. It was a kitchen, a dish pit, a scullery. It was the embodiment of that philosophy, that lie, that if she could just believe hard enough, it would all be okay. It was the idea that to resurrect the dead, one had only to clap their hands.

“My kitchen.” She said dropping the picture which had become too heavy to hold up. “My kitchen.” In it she had cooked, so she could do something to love him, and made the meals that would become something she could offer to him. But all this, she knew, had been only the clapping of her hands. In truth it was the place where she escaped her own reality, where she quieted her yearning to be of help despite her ignorance of how to do anything for him at all. It caused her grief to do nothing for a man who still possessed, somewhere, at least one more “I love you”. Evelynn felt small. She felt insignificant, and invisible.

With muscles tensed, she cautiously climbed back onto the steep staircase, pulled the metal chain to bring back the all preserving darkness, and descended to the kitchen below.

message 16: by Anne (last edited Nov 26, 2015 06:05AM) (new)

Anne (annefrn) | 916 comments I think I passed a personal record for brevity with this one. :)

Title: Deja vu
Word count: 650

Melanie drifted towards the shore of the lake, her long gray skirt dancing against the tips of grassy stalks that dotted the dunes. The sun, casting its summer rays across the still lake, did nothing to dispel the gloom surrounding her.

Grays and browns.

Everything appeared in muted shades of gray and brown.

The early morning fisherman had long returned. Other boaters were already out to water ski or sail. Couples row-boated across the lake, in search of a romantic inlet away from curious eyes. Kayakers paddled along the shore. She gazed with longing at the newest sport to invade the lake: jet-skiing.

She sat down at the edge of the pier, dangling her feet just above the water, and watched the bathers with envy. In spite of all the activity, it was quiet to her ears. She heard no sounds, at least not while she was outside.

She would stay here all day, every day, watching the tide of lake-life ebb to and fro.

She loved her lake. It gave her a reason to exist. Moving here at the age of 16 with her parents turned out to be better than expected. Except for the gloomy façade through which she was forced to see, she was now perfectly content. How could she ever give this up?

As the sun went down, she turned towards the brown wood framed house – now a deserted empty shell – that had once been her sanctuary, a haven for a shy girl unable to make friends. Her fingers hovered over the light gray railing that bordered the dark gray porch.

Passing through the house, and out the front door, she looked up and down the main street and considered the changes time had brought. Old farmhouses had made way for summer cottages. Those summer cottages, after a while, were replaced by grander homes. Victorian style bed and breakfasts now graced each street around the lake. Dime stores became antique shops. The ever-changing cycle fascinated her. Inside she was still a curious young girl. Yet the very things that amazed her also terrified her. She enjoyed seeing, but was reluctant to experience.

She was about to retreat back into the house when the unwelcome sight of a demolition crew caught her eye. She steeled herself as it approached. She saw the words erupt from their lips as two of the workers talked and laughed among themselves. “...condemned...eyesore...tourists...haunted...”

No, no. She would never allow this. The village tried to do this twice before. Then they gave up for a while, perhaps hoping she would disappear. With one sweeping motion of her hand, a furious gust of wind blew the bulldozer back down the street, into the state park and turned it over onto its side down a steep ravine.

Her house was safe.

Returning to her routine, she flitted back into the house and up the stairs to the attic. Here in the house her senses returned. The higher she rose, the stronger the sights, sounds, and smells: Smoke, swirling through and around her; screams, echoing from basement to attic; and fiery tongues lapping against the walls, obliterating the blood stains that had once spurted from floor to ceiling.

It made her gag but she passed through the furor and up to the cupola lodged on the roof. A silver voice whispered, Melanie, come. Come home. Come to me.

Her mother's voice was permeated with a spark of light, the only pretty color she ever saw, the only pleasant sound she ever heard, the only reason she braved the nauseating violence. The voice filled her with comfort and joy.

She knew it would always be there, ready and waiting for her.
But she couldn't leave. Not yet.

She floated back down and out into her gray and brown-tinged world. She passed among the dunes as a new day dawned.

Time passed so differently when she was inside the house. Now, different kinds of boats had appeared on the lake. A longer, stronger pier had been built. New houses dotted the opposite shore.

Not for the first time, she wondered how long she had been dead.

message 17: by Anne (new)

Anne (annefrn) | 916 comments Chantel wrote: "This is my first time contributing, hopefully my story fits the theme okay. I actually have been watching this group for some time but never had the courage to contribute, I wrote this for a differ..."

Chantel, your story fit the prompt perfectly. You have nothing to worry about with this story. It was well executed. I thought you portrayed Cassie very well, showing her in a way that helped me understand her actions, then segueing into how she changed as a person. The ending solidified the story and gave hope. Anyway, that's my 2 cents worth and I hope you continue to share your stories.

message 18: by Edward (new)

Edward Davies | 1727 comments James wrote: "Since I'm stuck at the office with nothing to do today (I finished my work hours ago), it seemed like a good time to work on a story for the prompt. So I wrote the following. I hope you enjoy it an..."

There's a lot going on in such a short time here. I liked the idea that you never say what the creature is, or who the people are that rescue our protagonist. Perhaps you can expand on this at a later stage... My one criticism would be that curse of the fast typist again - missing words! Look out for them.

message 19: by Garrison (new)

Garrison Kelly (cybador) | 9026 comments I haven't read one story so far in this contest. That will all change tomorrow afternoon when I play catch-up with my reading assignments, both here on the WSS and with "A Street Cat Named Bob" by James Bowen. That's a lot of literature in one day. I can do it! :)

message 20: by Edward (new)

Edward Davies | 1727 comments Garrison wrote: "AUTHOR: Garrison Kelly
TITLE: Battleground
RATING: PG-13 due to swearing and violence

Charles McLean was a lucky man, either because of his Irish heritage or ..."

Hey, that robot cheated! He had a weapon! Still, at least Charles learned his lesson - hopefully. Another crazy-fun story from the master of crazy-fun.

message 21: by Garrison (new)

Garrison Kelly (cybador) | 9026 comments The Master of Crazy-Fun. I should put that on my business cards! Hehe! ^_^

message 22: by Marie (last edited Nov 26, 2015 12:50AM) (new)

Marie (naturechild02) | 660 comments Okay guys, I know it has been a while but I'm back! This one isn't long but it has been on my mind for a while. I will probably include it in the short story collection I'm putting out in March. Hope you enjoy it!

TITLE: No More
GENRE: Drama?

Her eyes were still wild but she tried to slow her breathing. She had to calm herself. Adrenaline still coursed through her veins, making her head ache and hands tremor. Taking slow, deep breaths, she cleared her mind and turned her eyes from the gutted body of the man she had killed. Head tilting downward ever so slowly, she glanced at the knife in her hand. It still dripped the crimson liquid onto the hardened ground. The life blood of her attacker. She watched the drops fall, mesmerized for a minute. Then her attention fell to the other body on the ground.
“Simon?” Marla squeaked. Reality came crashing back to her then. Flinging the knife away from her, she dropped to her knees beside the still body of the boy. Spitting out a curse in Igbo, she gently turned his body so his face was visible. His eyes were closed, his forehead wrinkled in pain. The boy was very still. Far too still.

“Hey, it’s okay now. He’s dead. He can’t hurt us anymore. We have to get out of here in case more come. So, come on.” Her voice was quiet, reassuring, as she pulled on his chilled hand. “Come on, we have to go.”
Why wasn’t he moving? Why wouldn’t he listen to her? Simon had always been the defiant one but he rarely argued with Marla. He looked up to her more than any other person they knew.
Putting more steel in her voice, she tucked her kinky hair into the back of her filthy dress and leaned closer to his face. “Hey! You better listen to me right now! We have to go so get up!”
She knew the truth of the situation. Checking for a pulse was unnecessary. Blood was pooling around his small body, the ground so dry and hard that it couldn’t even absorb it. His chest wasn’t moving up and down. The skin of his forehead had relaxed. His body was growing cold. But Marla couldn’t wrap her head around it.

Continuing her rant in English, she began tugging on his arm, ignoring the gaping wound in his chest. “You have to listen! I’m going to get you help. I’m taking you south. It’s safer there.”

Even now with the blood splattered all over him, Simon was a lovely child. The waning moon shining through the trees illuminated his features. He had the pale skin of their father and dark hair and eyes of their mother. His cheekbones were prominent, his lips full. He had the most gorgeous eyelashes Marla had ever seen. They were thick and naturally curled upward in a perfect arc. In a few more years, the girls would have started to notice him in a big way. No, they would notice him!

This couldn’t be real. Marla’s traumatized mind could not accept it. There was no way she had lost not only her parents and other brothers and sisters a couple of days ago, but now little Simon too. She was supposed to protect him. He had relied on his big sister to get them to safety. And she had failed.
She began to beat on his chest, even as the tears fell. Anger was better than fear. “Get up! Get up, now! How dare you ignore me like this! You have to listen to me!” Her voice cracked and the sobs came, her blood stained hands flying to her face to cover it. Marla never cried in front of others. Her pride would not allow it. Not that Simon was watching her now.
She felt her isolation. Her family gone, miles from any village or town, never in her life had she been so alone. It was a feeling she would become familiar with.

The sobs wracked her body and she fell to her side on the ground, defeated. How could this have happened? She was supposed to be the strong one. The man had ambushed them in the dark but she should have protected him. She should have taken the knife to the gut. Why did little Simon, a boy of eight, throw himself before her? He should have known better.

The night grew cooler and after some time, Marla rose to her knees, her ripped dress in no way keeping the chill from penetrating her skin. She felt cold right down to her bones, in more ways than one. Planting a kiss to her brother’s brow, she held his hand for a few minutes, whispering words of comfort. Something inside of her broke then. She didn’t understand it then but she would soon enough. Hunger drove her to her feet and she began to walk, not glancing back at his still form. Not even once.

Marla vowed then that she would find the men who had raided her home and murdered her family. If it took years, she would find them and make them pay. Surprisingly, the thought didn’t stem from anger. Her mind was perfectly calm now. The last few days had been a flurry of fear and anxiety. Could they get away? Could she protect Simon? Where would they go? What would they eat? Every waking moment, she had lived in fear. Every thought had been plagued with worry about their future.
No more. From now on, she would push feelings aside. There would be no more uncertainties. Marla wouldn’t worry about what was to come, she would reach out and grasp her fate firmly with both hands. She was going to make things happen. She wasn’t going to dwell on anger and fear. No, she had something worse than emotions fueling her now. She had determination.

It would take time and she still had much to learn about the art of killing, but one day justice would be served. She would never be weak again. She would never be vulnerable again. And true to her word, for the rest of her human life, Marla never let herself love another. She never knew true loss because she never let herself care for anyone but herself.

But after she was no longer human? Well, that’s a different story.

message 23: by Garrison (new)

Garrison Kelly (cybador) | 9026 comments James wrote: "Since I'm stuck at the office with nothing to do today (I finished my work hours ago), it seemed like a good time to work on a story for the prompt. So I wrote the following. I hope you enjoy it an..."

James, the feelings of isolation and loneliness are alive and present within your story. Being surrounded by that much ice with nobody to talk to can wear down even the bravest of souls. You captured the feeling of desolation perfectly within your text. I also enjoyed the battle sequence between your main character and the sadistic beast with razor-sharp claws. It was clear as day that the man could have as many second winds as he wants, but he would never defeat this hulking beast. Which brings me to the ending of the story, when out of nowhere, a hooded girl shoots the beast dead and brings medical help in the form of a man named Cedric. Given the isolation themes in the beginning of the story, the sudden ending feels a little too much like Deus Ex Machina to me. I know the narrator said something about hearing a stagecoach, but there’s not much beyond that and it makes me wonder if it truly is a Deus Ex Machina ending. Nevertheless, you have a strong, solid story about loneliness and despair. Good job, my friend!

message 24: by Garrison (new)

Garrison Kelly (cybador) | 9026 comments Edward wrote: "This story is tentatively related to my upcoming novel, COUNTDOWN, which should be available the middle of next year. Simon, however, is not a character in the book... although this could act as a ..."

Edward, I love the way you described the other ward patients as used to being beautiful and now being zombie-like. It’s another way of showing how far society has fallen if its members deteriorated into that state so rapidly. Although, I can’t help but think that the problems of this story (despite the obvious apocalypse) were too easy to get used to. Yes, the whole town was deserted, but the way Simon ventured outside the hospital with no obstacles whatsoever seemed too convenient. And then an angel descends from the heavens and tries to tell him what the hell is going on here. I know this is part of a larger canon as you’ve said earlier, but I can’t help but feel that there should be more to it than a clear path to freedom. Don’t feel too bad about the critiques I gave you though, because the themes of isolation are very present within this story. Being stuck in a room with that many sick people is unnerving no matter who you are. With no hope for a cure or being in the company of anybody who cares, it makes me look forward to the rest of the novel. Good job, buddy!

message 25: by Garrison (new)

Garrison Kelly (cybador) | 9026 comments Chantel wrote: "This is my first time contributing, hopefully my story fits the theme okay. I actually have been watching this group for some time but never had the courage to contribute, I wrote this for a differ..."

Chantel, you don’t have to worry about your story fitting this week’s prompt, because it does so perfectly. Cassie wasn’t a bully because she was sadistic. She lashed out at people because she secretly wanted someone to play with her. It doesn’t get any more isolated than that. I’m glad that she finally turned a corner and became a nicer person by the story’s conclusion. Betrayal and rejection are hard emotions to live with, but beating the crap out of people will only further the isolation. We can all learn something from this story about how we treat each other as human beings. Handling problems in a mature way will get us exactly what we want out of life. Thank you for posting such a wonderful story with a magical background to it! I’m glad you found the courage to do so, though courage is easy to come by since everyone here at the WSS is friendly and gentle. Don’t be afraid, Chantel. You’re doing great!

message 26: by Edward (last edited Nov 26, 2015 03:23PM) (new)

Edward Davies | 1727 comments Garrison wrote: "Edward wrote: "This story is tentatively related to my upcoming novel, COUNTDOWN, which should be available the middle of next year. Simon, however, is not a character in the book... although this ..."

Cheers buddy, The idea is that everyone has vanished from the face of the Earth - literally - which is why there are few obstacles. I'll be sure to send you an advance copy once it's fully edited (by me) in the New Year. I may even use this as a sort of prologue, but not sure how well it'll work.

message 27: by Garrison (new)

Garrison Kelly (cybador) | 9026 comments It'd be my honor to review Countdown like I did with The Girlfriend Wager and Divine Intervention. :)

message 28: by Edward (new)

Edward Davies | 1727 comments Garrison wrote: "It'd be my honor to review Countdown like I did with The Girlfriend Wager and Divine Intervention. :)"

And an honour for you to review it. Boy, are we suck-ups! :D

message 29: by Garrison (new)

Garrison Kelly (cybador) | 9026 comments We both have a little something brown on our noses. Hehe!

message 30: by Edward (new)

Edward Davies | 1727 comments Garrison wrote: "We both have a little something brown on our noses. Hehe!"

Too true, though I still haven't got around to finishing your book of poems / songs. I promise I will, though. I decided at the last minute to do NaNoWriMo. I won't hit 50k words, but it's prompting me to write my latest book.

message 31: by Garrison (new)

Garrison Kelly (cybador) | 9026 comments Take all the time you need, Edward. I may have been through two windstorms, but full-blown Armageddon isn't even close to being on its way. :)

message 32: by Edward (new)

Edward Davies | 1727 comments Chantel wrote: "This is my first time contributing, hopefully my story fits the theme okay. I actually have been watching this group for some time but never had the courage to contribute, I wrote this for a differ..."

This was a nice moral tale of how you should treat your friends well even if you feel they have wronged you. Still, I'd have liked a less upbeat ending than the one you delivered, but that's juts how my mind works. I didn't think Cassie deserved to be happy because she lashed out at everyone so much. :D

message 33: by Mark (new)

Mark Barrett | 285 comments I have been watching this group for a while and enjoying the stories. I've commented and voted a couple of times. Really happy to be submitting this story now.

It is an emotive internal monologue - is that genre in its own right? It should be.

Title : The Soldier
Author : Mark Barrett
Genre : Internal Monologue / War
Word Count : 2948
Rating : PG

message 34: by Mark (last edited Nov 27, 2015 02:52AM) (new)

Mark Barrett | 285 comments THE SOLDIER (part one)

Home. That is where I am going. Taking my burnt, battered body back home.

Home. The one word, the one thought that has kept us all going on this long tour of duty in a sand-filled armpit of the world, where we've been fighting God knows who, over God knows what, for God knows which God.

The War on Terror. It's a war on terror all right. We are all terrified: we sleep on terror; we work on terror; terror pushes the adrenaline around our bodies in order to keep working, keep fighting. Us and them. Whilst the war may be on terror, who it is against is another question. Another question that I, thankfully, no longer need to answer. Home. That's where I am going.

I'm sat on the edge of my bed gazing down at the dusty, worn sheets of wood that make up the floor of the field hospital. It's early in the morning and the hospital is quiet, nothing like the busy, bustling, seemingly disorganised rabble that it was when I was first wheeled in. Two bombings, one of them mine, and a firefight had ensured that they were kept on their toes, the forces' doctors and nurses and surgeons, and I was only one of several faintly flickering lights who had been brought into their care. I've been in A&E at kicking out time on a Friday night back at home and this place had looked the same, but not sounded it. The tent was eerily quiet - none of the drunken singing, or aggressive threats and calls for attendance. No. Injured soldiers lie there gritting their teeth in agonised silence, waiting for whatever is to come next.

All but one. One who moaned and occasionally allowed an inarticulate cry of pain to escape his lips. Words, names, gutteral mutterings that couldn't be understood, that were incoherent through the fog of pain. Even now, as I track the grain of the worn wood along the floor, I'm not fully sure whether it was me who was crying out or someone else. The ghost of the memory is flickering, fading from my mind even as I sit here. Sure, I could probably go back and experience the memory further, leave the present behind and return to that pain-wracked time of six nights ago when I first arrived here, but I choose not to. Better for it to fade into obscurity, along with everything else, as I prepare to leave this place. To return home.

A pair of regular issue boots clump along the wooden floor and stop in the centre of my view. I look up. A young army doctor, his face rough with two days of orange stubble, reaches down and takes the chart from my bed. He flicks over two, no three pages, and then writes something. He then holds his pen aloft and clicks it closed with a gesture of finality, before returning the chart. He almost turns to go, but stops himself. It is difficult for him; he must see cases like me all of the time, must be almost immune to it. But not quite. He looks down at my face. I appreciate it; not many people have managed to do that since the explosion. He then smiles a rueful smile and quietly mutters, "well soldier, you're going home."

I manage a slow nod as he restlessly taps the foot of the bed with the fingertips of his left hand, before heading off down the ward. I watch his retreating back, hear his fading footsteps. Yes. Home. That's where I am going.

I have just a few short hours before I am to be loaded aboard a Globemaster air transporter, along with other soldiers - dead and injured - all of whom are going home. I shuffle around the camp, visiting my old haunts from before the bomb.

The bomb. The bomb that had burst into my illustrious army career and cut it short, sending me home with a body burnt, disfigured and twisted. Sending me home to Abigail. Poor Abigail. Eight months married and with a five month old daughter - our daughter, Kayleigh. Tough enough for her, without having to look upon her new husband, appearing as I now do. I should be crying, but I am unable to. My one and only purpose now is to see Abigail. I suppose I should be thankful to the bomb for sending me home only four weeks into a six month tour of duty. But I'm not. Yes, I need to see Abigail, but I don't want her to see me, my body, not like this. I pass through the thick, canvas doorway into the mess tent.

A silence seems to spread outwards from me, like ripples in a pond radiating outwards from the point in which a small, cold stone has been dropped. I am getting used to this silence. They are not comfortable, the other soldiers, when I am in their presence. When I first started moving around after the bomb, I couldn't get very far from my bed. My range of movement was limited, and that seemed to suit the other soldiers who still have to go in and out of the line of fire, do their duties and all that. I am a reminder of what can happen - the worst that can happen - and my presence disturbs them. As I practiced moving further and further from my hospital bed, I could sense the silence growing around me, even as it does now in the mess tent.

I look around. It is late morning and the breakfast queue is almost completely gone; everyone is eating. I'm not hungry. I haven't been hungry since the bomb. I didn't come here to eat, though; I came here to see my comrades one last time. My comrades who aren't going home to their wives and husbands, their children, their parents, their significant others. I scan the foldable, laminated tables and benches which are currently filled with silent, or quietly chatting squaddies. Their banter and laughter is subdued. My gaze falls upon one table, filled with my fellows-at-arms, each tucking into a large full-English with thick-cut buttered bread on the side. Setting themselves up for a busy day - they are back out into the sand-filled pit of destruction and death today, and I know that I am on their minds.

I notice that my usual seat is free, on the end next to Paul. I quietly approach and sit in it. He shuffles nervously and glances twice in my direction, before shovelling a fork-full of beans into his mouth. He chews noisily. He is uneasy in my presence, as they all are, uneasy with what I represent.

"You know where we're going today?" It's Keith, our sergeant, who breaks the silence, "Red zone, area four. Where the bomb was." He looks towards me, as do two or three of the others. I nod my assent that he should continue.

He pauses, seemingly studying the remains of his breakfast smeared across his metal tray, before reaching for his tin mug, half-filled with grey, luke-warm tea. "Private Manes, Jordan." I start at the mention of my name, loud in the subdued mess tent. Keith raises his mug towards me, and the rest of the table do likewise. "We'll miss you, mate."

Several mumbled responses to Keith's toast follow and they all take a mouthful of the strong brew. I should cry, but I can't - the bomb even took that from me. I just nod, and look around at their faces - Keith, Davey, Hugh, Bill and all - before lowering my gaze to the laminated blue table-top. Slowly, without further conversation, they all leave in ones and twos. Just Paul remains, sat next to me. He places his hand gently on the table before me, where my breakfast tray would be were I not going home. He clears his throat, as if he's preparing to say something, but appears to think better of it. He then looks straight at me; I know what he is thinking. It could have been him, would have been him if he hadn't had that severe case of Delhi-belly and was off relieving himself when we went to check that broken-down car. There is so much that he could say, but can't. Paul never was much of a talker. Instead he gives his head a shake and blinks back the tears that have come upon him unbidden, that I envy him for. He picks up his tray and leaves - enough said. I watch him getting annoyed as the cutlery slips from his tray to clatter noisily on the floor, and he ends up kicking the fork across the tent. No-one reprimands him; they know what he is going through. Everyone here knows what he is going through. He is returning to the scene of the bomb, whilst his best friend - battered, twisted and burnt - is going home.


My kitbag is neatly packed, labelled and stored in the hold of the army transporter. Everything that was me, my life up until that bomb blew up, is in the hold of the army transporter. Everything except my Abi, and little Kayleigh. Abi must have had the notification by now, the return date, and is probably clinging to the official headed notepaper, desperately trying to hold back the floods of tears that she must feel collecting behind her eyes. It is limbo period for her, though, for us both. She is stuck between knowing the bare facts about what has happened to me, and actually having me there, back in good old Blighty. Stuck between her life as it was and her life as it will be. She is the only thing that has kept me hanging on, held me together - the desperate need to see her again.

"My name's Abi, and I'm far too impatient to stand and wait for you to chat me up." The first time we met. Her easy confidence and bright smile, shone out from a face framed by long, straight, Auburn hair. I'd giggled nervously, whilst Paul and another friend had jeered good-naturedly from the direction of the fruit machine, then offered to buy her a drink.

I try to focus, concentrate on her, reconstructing her face from the various memories that flitter, wraith-like across the inner-eye of my mind. Her outward confidence hid the nervous girl, who still worried about being nick-named 'World-Cup' because she thought her ears stuck out too far. I dig deeper in my mind.

"If you're going to be back for too long, then we'll have to put in for a bigger house." She'd pulled her hair across her face, the way she always did when she had something important to say, almost as if she was trying to hide from the seriousness of it.

"This house is big enough."

She'd stopped smiling and looked me directly in the eye. "It won't be when the baby arrives." That's how she'd told me that she was pregnant, with Kayleigh. The happiness I felt at that point swelled inside me, and then engulfed me, making me laugh, cry and vomit a little in my own mouth all at the same time. I'd swept her up in my arms and truly and honestly could not imagine that any person could be as deliriously happy as I was at that time.

I concentrate on that time now, trying to tap into that overwhelming balloon of happiness. I try to feel it, try to feel something - regret, loss, sadness, anything. But I cannot get in touch with my feelings; I cannot cry. All I can do is reconstruct a series of pictures of her, short movies playing inside the emotionless void that I have now become.


message 35: by Mark (last edited Nov 27, 2015 02:53AM) (new)

Mark Barrett | 285 comments THE SOLDIER (part two)

I am not the only one on board the Globemaster. Other soldiers - living and dead - are being taken from the hell that has been our workplace, to the hell that our injuries or deaths have brought to our homes.

As I board the plane, I survey the other soldiers on board, the other soldiers who are going home. They have needed varying degrees of help to get on board, from the ones who needed only a friendly hand to lean on, to those who could only be carried. My eyes light upon the face of a young soldier, two or three years younger than me anyway. I recognise his face, despite the heavy bandaging over his right eye, but I have never known his name. As I approach he looks up. He is clearly uncomfortable and he shivers, though not through the cold, that much is certain in this flying roasting tin into which we're all being packed. A week ago he would have smiled confidently at me, initiated a conversation about our tours of duties, recent action, or more likely our families and home lives. But not today. We are both so very different to what we were two weeks ago.

His lesser damaged left eye, bloodshot and weeping slightly, seems to register fear. He blinks and tries to focus. "Who's... er... I'm not..." He closes his eye and brushes his left hand across the uncovered side of his forehead. He lowers his face to peer down towards his seatbelt and his lips move in a mumbled monologue that I can't make out. I nod understandingly; some wounds run deeper than flesh, bones and organs. I leave him to his mumblings and find myself a more secluded part of the plane, away from the other shells of once-proud human beings who now occupy it, as we share one last journey home.

I can't sleep; I don't sleep all the way back. I content myself with the thought that there will plenty of time for sleeping later. I watch the sky through the airplane's window change shade through bright whites, pale azures, despondent blues to deep, dark black, and back through dusty greys to the hazy, overcast skies of Britain.

The landing is a solemn affair. We sit on the runway for what feels like an eternity as the paperwork is completed, checked and double checked. The soldiers running the operation barely speak, having run countless, heartbreaking operations like this already in their careers. They keep their berets down low over their grim faces, and greet each other with prompt, robotic, staccato salutes before exchanging documents. As we are unloaded from the plane, their faces are just as grim, but their salutes are slower - more thoughtful - more human. I'm one of the last from the plane. The soldiers come to unload me, and one of them stops for a second: "every one of you who comes home this way is a Goddamn hero."

His comment sounds genuine, though I am sure he says it every time, and I appreciate it. But I didn't come here to be a hero; all I want is to see my darling, my Abi. Maybe it is my disconnection with my emotions saying this, but Kayleigh - my daughter of only five months - does not feature so heavily in my thoughts. I was lucky to see her, her first few weeks anyway, before this tour of duty began. So many of my comrades don't even get that. I appreciate the time I had with her, and I thankful for it, but my attachment to home, the only real attachment I have to this world now, is my angel, my Abigail. I am going home to see Abi; she is home.

I acknowledge the slow, respectful salutes of the soldiers as I pass. They are fit, strong, fine specimens of her majesty's finest - even as I had been before that bomb turned me into the burnt, broken shade of the man that I once was. As I pass through the gates of the army base, and out into the civilian world, a sergeant reads out my name in a clear, resounding, parade-ground voice: "private Jordan Manes."

My name seems to echo out over the respectful gathering of onlookers, mourners and well-wishers who are the congregation for every transporter like this which arrives. I can almost see my name reverberating out across the crowd - some of whom are crying, some saluting and all frowning - "Jordan Manes...Manes...Manes...," touching ears and turning heads. Then one head turns amidst a halo of auburn hair.

Abigail. Her eyes ringed red and magnified by tears turns and looks at me. Looks straight at me. Her mouth gasps open as shock registers on her face. Her left hand tightens round the official looking documents, the papers that she has had to sign for me, and her right arm is wrapped safely and tightly around the beautiful bundle that is our daughter, Kayleigh. Her lips move soundlessly, forming the shape of the word Jordan. She swallows hard, blinks three times to clear her eyes, and one large, salty tear-drop falls down her left cheek. Our eyes had met. For the briefest of seconds which had felt longer than my whole tour of duty, our eyes had met and she had looked at me. And I had felt. A wondrous surge of emotions that no bomb, no pain, no lack of hormones or bodily connection could ever hold back. I had felt.

And I am feeling still, even as her eyes clear and refocus past me. Past me, to my coffin.

And now, at last, I can fade, because I have seen her. Home. That is where I am.

message 36: by Mark (new)

Mark Barrett | 285 comments Marie wrote: "Okay guys, I know it has been a while but I'm back! This one isn't long but it has been on my mind for a while. I will probably include it in the short story collection I'm putting out in March. Ho..."

I love stories that ask more questions than they answer - and this one does just that. The emotions of the main character are well balanced, meaning that even the huge shift at the end is believable. Lots of cold, hard imagery builds up on the reader making us feel just what your protagonist does at the end. I enjoyed this story.

message 37: by [deleted user] (last edited Nov 27, 2015 05:48AM) (new)

Ugh. I missed writing short stories, but I feel like a bit rusty, so pardon :)

Title: A Birthday Wish
Word Count: 2,541

The tiny flame flickered every time I let out a breath. I shouldn’t be standing so close to the candle, but I as I muttered two wishes under my breath, I couldn’t help but draw near.

“Happy birthday…to me,” I said.

I blew the candle with my eyes closed, hoping that wish number one would come true. As I straightened my back, I opened my eyes and looked around me. I took in the quietness of the place and sighed.

Nobody came to celebrate with me.

Without second thoughts, I deserted the cake and the spaghetti meatballs I made for myself and roamed inside the massive structure I called home, which my father had built before I was born. The sound of my boots against the wood floor echoed in the hallways while the temperature seemed to drop each step I took. I ignored the goose bumps crawling up my arms.

I expected my family to show up today of all days, that their sudden disappearance was one of their ways to surprise me. Yet as I checked all fifteen rooms, including the theater, game room and gym, the lack of laughter and chatter told me that there was something wrong.

I had been in isolation for two days now and a part of me felt relieved.

“You’re not alone, Ashley,” I said to myself as I stopped outside the master’s bedroom.

Taking a deep breath, I knocked twice and waited. My parents told me not to enter any room without knocking and I took that commandment to heart. While I stood in front of the door, I shifted my gaze on the ground, waiting for it to open up and to swallow me whole. A few seconds passed by and the only sound I heard was the ticking of the clock somewhere in the house. Feeling silly, I shook my head to clear my thoughts. I had no choice but to do the task in mind.

Bracing myself, I grabbed the knob and opened the door. The first thing I noticed was the tangled sheets and pillows on the bed. My eyes darted to the clothes strewn across the floor and the empty suitcases taken out of the walk-in closet. If my mother would see this sight, I was certain that she would throw a fit.

I walked around the room, searching for anything that would give me a clue where my parents and the rest of the family might have gone to, but I came up empty-handed again. Yesterday, I mustered enough courage to step inside papa’s study but I found nothing from the heap of papers on his desk. The security room neither helped since someone deleted every video of the surveillance cameras installed in the entire estate.

How they could leave a sixteen year old girl in a huge house by herself was beyond my understanding. Even if I racked my brain for their reason, it wouldn’t change my present situation. With no one to tell me what to do, I sang at the top of my lungs and pranced around the room.

So, freedom felt like this.

A week passed by and I found it challenging to adjust to silence since I grew up surrounded by people, who papa said were family. At first, I thought I was related to all of them, that I got fond of calling them uncle and aunt. All that changed after I had witnessed one of the uncles killed another uncle in broad daylight. I overheard papa saying that the vermin was a traitor and that he deserved to die. Since then, I made it my goal to sneak in their meetings out of curiosity. Well, until an uncle caught me. I was twelve years old at that time.

Papa was the head of a mob, the Don, as they called it. With this title came great responsibility and notoriety, something I detested with my heart and soul. Aside from that, to be hidden from the rest of the world didn’t sit well with me because even though my parents showered me with so much love and affection, I still yearned to meet people around my age. Papa insisted that I remained homeschooled for my own sake. Being kept in an underground house felt more like being in prison, though I had the liberty to go anywhere I wanted to, but only within the confines of papa’s precious estate and as long as I was accompanied by one of the uncles.

Three weeks and four days passed by but nothing happened. The stocks in the pantry had dwindled but not in an alarming rate but without money on hand, not to mention the fact that I still had to figure out how to get out, I had no idea how to replenish it.

The electricity in the house hadn’t been cut off, making me wonder who was paying for it. Sadly, the phone, internet and cable became useless, giving me no access to the world outside. Even my mobile phone went missing the day I woke up alone in the big house.

“Ashley, you better get up and try to find the door,” I said, forcing myself to climb out of bed.

It would have been easy for me to escape this prison, if I only knew which way to go. My father had designed the house like a labyrinth to confuse outsiders and to provide several escape routes for the family. I found one of the routes a few days ago that I jumped for joy but it was short lived when the computer asked for the pass code. I stopped myself from pulling my hair out.

One would think that after living in this house for sixteen years, I would have known the paths, but no, if it wasn’t for an uncle accompanying me, I wouldn’t have the privilege to step outside for fresh air. This had been a long time issue between me and papa. Every time we would argue, he would retreat to his office then after a few hours, I would find a new gadget, dress and shoes on my bed.

Swallowing the lump in my throat, I knew that I would rather have countless of arguments with papa any time of the day than the silence of this house.

As I changed from my Hello Kitty pajamas to a pair of yoga pants, I decided to go to the gym instead. With the frustration, sadness and anger building up inside of me, it was hard to resist the temptation of hitting the punching bag.

After spending my day in the gym and the library, I went back to my room and crawled in my bed, cradling a picture of my mother against my chest. I imagined hearing her voice, comforting me, telling me that everything would be okay. I closed my eyes and prayed for her safety.

I had watched all the movies in the theater room, read the romance novels in the library, studied the history of Babylon, did cartwheels numerous times in the hallways and played chess by myself everyday when I began feeling like I was losing my mind. Glancing at the x mark on the calendar to count the days I had been alone, I was surprised that three months had already passed.

message 38: by [deleted user] (last edited Nov 27, 2015 05:54AM) (new)

A Birthday Wish--Part Two

Looking around my surroundings, I started to lose hope of getting rescued. What I thought was fun had turned into a nightmare. What I thought was freedom became like a deathtrap. I clenched my fist so hard that my finger nails dug in the palm of my skin, but the physical pain was nothing compared to the hollow I felt inside.

“Ashley, don’t cry. Don’t you dare cry!”

I screamed while running through the hallways, which seemed to close in on me, just to fill the void of the empty house. My chest tightened as I bit back a sob, so I ran to my room and turned on the music, expecting that it would block out any thoughts but it did anything but help. Plopping down the bed, I bit the inside of my cheek to stop myself from crying. I was tired of thinking and looking for a clue and a way out. I chucked the pillow on the wall while screaming again even though I was aware that no one would hear me.

Taking a deep breath, I turned off the music before marching to the bathroom en suite and sat inside the tub.

And the memories came crashing down. For the first time since they left, I cried my heart out—for my parents, for the people whom I had treated as family, for my life and freedom.


Hearing mom’s voice reminded me of how much I wanted to be in her arms, though it felt creepy since she sounded so real. It made me cry even more.


Her voice soothed me like before. As I wiped the tears with the back of my hand, I rocked myself, hoping that it would help alleviate the pain.

“Munchkin, where are you?”

I glanced at the door while biting my lower lip, wondering if the voice was just a figment of my imagination. I climbed out of the tub, not knowing what to do next. Just as I was about to step back to my room, the door flew open.

The first thing I noticed was her dark brown, wavy hair, falling just below her shoulders. Her eyes had the same color and she didn’t bother to hide the dark circles under them. She looked familiar, yet my eyes could be deceiving me. Just because I missed my mother didn’t mean that the first person I would lay my eyes on could be her.

“Munchkin,” she said when I just stood there, staring at her.

Even her voice sounded like mom.

“Who are you?” I asked.

Hearing my voice out loud took me by surprise.

“I’m your mother,” she said.

I narrowed my eyes while keeping my gaze on her. She smiled at me, showing a small dimple on her left cheek—the dimple I wished I had. Before I could even open my mouth to speak, she closed the distance between us and wrapped me in her arms.

And I cried, for the second time that day, but this time, I had a different reason. To hold her close and to feel her heart beating felt surreal that I had to pinch myself. Relishing her touch, I let the tears flow. She held me tighter while her own tears rolled down my arm. It felt like an hour had passed before we managed to calm ourselves. We walked out of the bathroom, holding each other tightly.

“Brown suits you, but I like blonde more,” I said.

She ran a hand through my blonde hair, pausing to check the ends. She had that habit whenever she wanted me to have a haircut.

“You need a haircut,” she said.

I nodded while my mind tried to wrap around the thought of seeing my mom alive. I glanced up and found her staring at me with a smile on her lips, making me forget the loneliness and frustration during those three months.

“Why did you leave me?” I asked.

Pulling me in her arms again, she let out a deep breath.

“Your father and I thought that it was for the best. Since nobody outside knew that you exist. It’s the only way we can protect you,” she said.

“Where’s papa?”

Something passed between her eyes but it was gone before I could even identify it. Somehow, my heart began to beat fast as I studied her face, noticing her stoic expression.

“He’s dead…he was trying to escape the police. An undercover was able to infiltrate the casino, he even found out about this address. Your father and some of the men were under surveillance but…the night we left, he had a run in with a rival family. He died on the spot,” she said.

At the back of my mind, I knew that was bound to happen, but still, my stomach rolled as I imagined papa going through a gruesome death. Her words kept on repeating inside my head and I felt something was wrong. Without taking my eyes away from her, I searched any sign of grief but her eyes appeared empty.

And I remembered their fights night after night, even the time my father held a gun to her head or how my mother would fight back by ruining his pressed suits or cursing his mother. It all came back to me like it only happened yesterday. I scratched the back of my neck as the puzzle fell into place. I fought the urge to heave.

“What did you do?” I asked.

Turning away, my mother shook her head. She stood up and trudged towards my walk-in closet, taking out a large suitcase.

“It’s for your future, Ashley. I want you to have a normal life. Your papa left you a huge amount that you can live a good life until you die, but I want you to be responsible with the money. Put it into good use,” she said as she rifled through my clothes.

My head spun at her words that I had a hard time processing what she wanted me to do. I watched her put my clothes inside the suitcase in a way like she had all the time in the world.

“You want this, right?” She asked over her shoulder.

“Are you coming with me?” I asked.

She turned around to face me and forced a smile. The way she stared at me made my hands tremble, so I rubbed them together to ease my nerves.

“Not today, munchkin, but I will, after the trial. The police want me to testify against the family,” she said.

Mom walked back to me and held my hand. She pressed it hard, as if she was afraid to let me go and I saw tears pooling in the corner of her eyes. A lot of questions popped inside my head but I dared not ask them. I knew she had gone through a lot while living with papa and she bore the pain because she couldn’t leave me no matter how many times I told her.

Maybe it was for the best. Maybe my father wanted this to happen. Maybe they both planned his death wherein he wouldn’t suffer much. Maybe he loved my mother despite the pain he had caused her that he wanted her alive to be with me. Or maybe I just wanted to justify my father’s actions.

As I took in a deep breath, I shoved all thoughts aside. In a way, my mother was a hero—a person I could look up to because she emerged victorious in the battle against my father. She had paid the price out of her love for me. Though I was torn, I wanted to make the best out of my life to show my mother how much I appreciated what she had done for me.

My second birthday wish came true after three months.

I got my freedom, finally.

message 39: by [deleted user] (new)

James wrote: "Since I'm stuck at the office with nothing to do today (I finished my work hours ago), it seemed like a good time to work on a story for the prompt. So I wrote the following. I hope you enjoy it an..."

Good descriptions and pacing, James! I was at the edge of my seat while reading your story.

message 40: by [deleted user] (new)

Garrison wrote: "AUTHOR: Garrison Kelly
TITLE: Battleground
RATING: PG-13 due to swearing and violence

Charles McLean was a lucky man, either because of his Irish heritage or ..."

Oh, Garrison! I like how you relate the topic to your story, with the moral and all :) It's hard to stay humble when you're on top and Charles learned this in a hard way. Your writing is smooth, as always. It won't be a 'Garrison's Story' without the crazy stuff going on :)

message 41: by [deleted user] (new)

Edward wrote: "This story is tentatively related to my upcoming novel, COUNTDOWN, which should be available the middle of next year. Simon, however, is not a character in the book... although this could act as a ..."

Oh, come on, Edward! The suspense almost killed me then it ended just as I was able to breathe again :D I can't wait for this story to finish :) I haven't been reading the stories here for the past months and I think that the way you've written yours is quite different, in a good way, from what I've read in the past. Good job but I don't think I like you now because of that ending, just kidding :)

message 42: by [deleted user] (new)

Chantel wrote: "This is my first time contributing, hopefully my story fits the theme okay. I actually have been watching this group for some time but never had the courage to contribute, I wrote this for a differ..."

Hi Chantel, thank you for posting your story :) You're so much in touch with your character that I could actually feel her anger and frustration. Your story is tight and engaging. I look forward to reading more of your stories in the coming weeks :)

message 43: by Marie (new)

Marie (naturechild02) | 660 comments James wrote: "Since I'm stuck at the office with nothing to do today (I finished my work hours ago), it seemed like a good time to work on a story for the prompt. So I wrote the following. I hope you enjoy it an..."

Exciting story. Your attention to detail made this a fun read.

message 44: by Marie (new)

Marie (naturechild02) | 660 comments Garrison wrote: "AUTHOR: Garrison Kelly
TITLE: Battleground
RATING: PG-13 due to swearing and violence

Charles McLean was a lucky man, either because of his Irish heritage or ..."

Ha! Not so cocky now, are you! That was a fun story.

message 45: by Marie (new)

Marie (naturechild02) | 660 comments Edward wrote: "This story is tentatively related to my upcoming novel, COUNTDOWN, which should be available the middle of next year. Simon, however, is not a character in the book... although this could act as a ..."

Whoa, intriguing. I want to know what happens next!

message 46: by Marie (new)

Marie (naturechild02) | 660 comments Chantel wrote: "This is my first time contributing, hopefully my story fits the theme okay. I actually have been watching this group for some time but never had the courage to contribute, I wrote this for a differ..."

Great story. A bully who learns her lesson the hard way. The really hard way.

message 47: by [deleted user] (last edited Nov 27, 2015 05:09AM) (new)

Felix J. wrote: "Untitled
By Felix J. Nickolas

Evelynn Edelstien was a great pink peripheral obtrusion. She was the reason a person in a grocery store would suddenly turn their head to look down an aisle they had..."

Felix, your story is thought-provoking and with so much details, reading it feels surreal. It also gave me the impression that I was reading a classic :) My only criticism, if this can be categorized as criticism, is that you went beyond 3,500 words.

message 48: by [deleted user] (new)

Anne wrote: "I think I passed a personal record for brevity with this one. :)

Title: Deja vu
Word count: 650

Melanie drifted towards the shore of the lake, her long gray skirt dancing against the tips of gras..."

Wow, that was unexpected. Short yet stunning :)

message 49: by [deleted user] (new)

Marie wrote: "Okay guys, I know it has been a while but I'm back! This one isn't long but it has been on my mind for a while. I will probably include it in the short story collection I'm putting out in March. Ho..."

Marie, you narrated a story of loss so well, showing Marla's personal journey through her emotions. Though your story is short, reading it was quite an emotional experience. Good job :)

message 50: by [deleted user] (last edited Nov 27, 2015 05:38AM) (new)

Mark wrote: "THE SOLDIER (part two)

I am not the only one on board the Globemaster. Other soldiers - living and dead - are being taken from the hell that has been our workplace, to the hell that our injuries ..."

*Sigh* A well-written, poignant story of the life and death of a soldier. I don't know if I should thank you for making me cry, Mark. Great work :)

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