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Weekly Short Story Contests > Week 330 (October 5-11) Stories Topic: Dying to Live

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message 1: by C. J., Cool yet firm like ice (new)

C. J. Scurria (goodreadscomcj_scurria) | 4263 comments You have until the 11th of October to post a story and from the 12th to the 16th of October, 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. Only one submission per person is allowed.

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: Dying to Live

Thanks goes to Rachel for suggesting the topic!

The rules are pretty loose. You could write a story about anything that has to do with the subject/photo but it must relate to the topic somehow.

Have fun!


message 2: by Edward (new)

Edward Davies | 1727 comments Title : Heaven Help Us (Feedback Welcome)
Author : Edward Davies
Word Count : 1688
Rating : PG

Janelle Winthrop inhaled deeply, her eyes shooting open as she found herself staring up at a strange sky. It was a yellowy colour, not the usual blue she’d grown used to all her life, and swirls of pink danced amongst the irregular clouds.

As she pulled herself up onto her elbows, she took in her surroundings. She was on what must have been a hilltop, and she could see for miles around. There didn’t seem to be any buildings close by, but then if the sky was any indication she probably wasn’t on her own planet any more. Maybe not even on her own plane of existence.

The last thing Janelle could remember was walking back to her small apartment from the local corner shop where she’d purchased a ready meal for one. She’d heard a police siren, then seen a car just ahead of her jump the curb and...

It had hit her. She could remember the sharp pain as she’d been thrown in the air, then the further pain of hitting the ground.

Then she’d woken up here, wherever here was.

Janelle stood up, breathing deeply again, tasting the fresh air and taking in the view before her. Even she, in her limited experience, had to admit that this was a pretty fantastic view. A gentle breeze on the otherwise completely still air tossed a few hairs from her shoulder, and she smiled to herself as she began to walk, choosing a direction at random.

Wherever she was, it was unlikely that anyone would miss her. Both her parents were dead, she had no boyfriend or husband, she hadn’t had a job in months, and her only company in the past year had been a cat that had recently decided to stop visiting. Continuing to walk, she crossed over the crest of the hill, seeing a small cottage near the bottom. Maybe someone was in there; or maybe she could settle down there for the night. Maybe forever, she smiled to herself. If no-one lived there, then who was there to object?

She remembered an old house near her primary school when she was a child. An elderly woman lived there by herself, and the other kids at school used to knock on the front door and run away. Janelle never joined in this game – no-one ever invited her to. She’d always been a solitary soul, sometimes through choice, other times through necessity. It was one of the reasons she’d never held down a job for more than a few months; her personality – what little she ever displayed to people anyway – never seemed to gel with anyone, and her work colleagues tended to think of her as something of a weird loner. Nine times out of ten this led to her bosses quietly letting her go. The tenth time usually resulted in her quitting due to the harassment she received from some of the more obnoxious members of staff.

When she reached the cottage, she gently tapped on the door, not sure if she wanted a response or not. If there was a response, she might be expected to interact with someone on a level she was never comfortable with. On the other hand, if it were empty, she could just try to find a way in and settle down for the night.

Footsteps approached the door, and Janelle’s heart sank a little. A lock turned, and the door eased into the cottage and away from Janelle. A small, wrinkled, female face peeked around the door at her, sizing her up as it took her in.

“Can I help you?” the woman asked.

Janelle swallowed nervously, “I hope so,” she said as politely as she could manage, “please, I don’t know how I got here.”

“Most likely the same way everyone else gets here,” the woman replied. She was small, with a head of curly white hair and a twinkle in her tiny eyes. For some reason she reminded Janelle of a mole, but she obviously wasn’t going to say that to her face.

Instead Janelle cleared her throat and asked, “And how does everyone else get here?”

The old woman chuckled. “Usually through bad luck.”

“How did you get here?” Janelle asked, “If you don’t mind me asking.”

The old woman shrugged, moving out of the doorway, “Come in,” she said, “and I’ll tell you all about it.”

Janelle cautiously walked into the cottage, the old woman closing the door behind her, “Thank you,” Janelle said as she looked around the room she now stood in.

“Do you have a name?” the old woman asked, “Most people do.”

“Sorry. It’s Janelle,” she told her.

“Pretty,” the old woman said, sounding a little surprised, “Mine is Esme.”

“Glad to meet you,” Janelle said, holding out her hand to shake. Esme took it lightly, then moved over to a firelace, sitting down in an armchair facing the fire.

“Please,” Esme said, “come and sit with me.”

Janelle walked over to the fireplace, sitting in a chair opposite the elderly woman. She sat quietly, waiting for Esme to speak.

“It was 2005,’ Esme suddenly began, “and I’d been unwell for quite a long time. Some mornings I’d cough up blood, other mornings I’s simply not be able to get out of bed. Then one morning I woke to find myself on a hilltop, staring up at a strange sky.

Janelle nodded, “That happened to me,” she said.

Esme nodded, “I get a lot of visitors here,” Esme continued, “Usually young like you, remembering something like being in a car accident or falling from something. Head trauma is usually involved.”

“What does it mean?” Janelle asked, leaning forward in her seat, “Are we dead?”

Esme smiled, “I don’t think so,” she said, “my best guess is that this place is a sort of limbo, between life and death. Most likely we’re in a hospital somewhere, hooked up to a life support machine that’s keeping us going while our minds mend.”

“But you’ve been here for more than a decade,” Janelle pointed out, “what makes you think that we’re not dead? That there is a way back.”

Esme smiled, “Come with me,” she said, rising from her seat, “I’ll show you.”

Janelle followed Esme to a doorway at the back of the main room. Esme turned the handle, and the door opened outwards towards them. The two of them entered the room, and Janelle looked around in disbelief.

The room was filled with dozens and dozens of people, all of them busy in various recreational activities; some reading books, others playing games, some even watching television. Janelle stared at one of the television sets – it was showing an old episode of ‘I love Lucy’. Clearly they weren’t able to get new shows, only ones that people had seen before and remembered vividly.

“What is this place?” Janelle asked.

Esme smiled, “When I first got here, I found this little cottage, completely abandoned. I set up home here, and everything was normal at first. But when others began to arrive, I offered them a place to stay, even though I didn’t have much room. This room, however, began to expand, to grow to accommodate all the new people that came to visit.”

“Visit?” Janelle repeated the word, “Do you mean some of them have left?”

“Yes,” Esme said, “it’s a wonderful and sad thing when one of them leaves. Most of the time they begin to glow, then dissipate into the ether. It’s scary at first, until we realised that this simply meant they were moving on.”

“Moving on?” Janelle repeated.

“Yes,” Esme frowned, “I’m not sure; it either means that they have woken from their coma, or that they’ve been--”

“Switched off.” Janelle said flatly.

Esme nodded.

“So what do we do in the meantime?” Janelle asked.

“Well, you’re more than welcome to stay here, if you wish,” Esme invited, “most people do.”

Janelle looked around the room. She’d never been one for personal interaction, but everyone looked so happy and nice here. They all seemed to be enjoying themselves, so maybe it was past time she tried to enjoy herself too.

“I think I’d like that,” she said to Esme, “I think I’d like that a lot.”

Months passed as Janelle started to get involved with her new community. Lead by Esme, they were a wonderful group, and Janelle finally began to realise that being part of a world could be rewarding and not just terrifying, and that people could be kind as well as cruel. She made friends and found that the company of others didn’t have to be scary.

One afternoon, as she sat with her new friends playing a board game, she suddenly felt a pain in her chest. Esme placed a hand on her shoulder;

“Are you okay, Janelle?” she asked.

“I think so,” Janelle said, clutching with her fingers, “I just had a sudden pain in my chest.”

“You’re glowing!” one of her new friends cried, and Janelle looked down at her arms which were now swimming with a strange golden aura. She stared at Esme, who nodded happily.

“It’s your time,” she told her.

“My time?” Janelle repeated, “My time for what?”

“Either to go back,” Esme told her as she began to fade, “or move on.”

Everything turned black for Janelle. She could hear a strange growling noise just behind her, but she couldn’t turn. As she tried, she saw a dim light just in front of her. Reaching with one hand, she watched her fingers move towards the light, glowing as they did so...

Janelle’s eyes snapped open and she took in her surroundings. Medical staff surrounded her, all of them looking worried, and she took a deep breath as she tried to move.

“Don’t get up, Ms Winthrop,” a doctor advised, “you’ve been in a coma for a number of months. Your heart stopped beating moments ago, but we managed to revive you. Are you okay?”

Janelle smiled at the doctor, “I feel better than ever,” she said, “in fact, I think I’m finally ready to actually live again.”


message 3: by James (last edited Oct 10, 2016 09:45AM) (new)

James Meadows | 146 comments Sorry I have missed the last couple of weeks. Things at work have me getting pulled in a lot of different ways. I'm trying to stay active though, and I will definitely get to everyone's stories. Thanks for understanding!

Title: The Elevator Game
Words: 2921
Rating: PG

(Part 1)

Some of you are, no doubt, going to tell me, with unwavering conviction, that if you were in my position, you would never have done something so stupid and childish. Of course, you also, I’m sure, will tell me you never stood in front of a mirror chanting “Blood Mary” or played Three Kings at your friend’s house.

To all of you, I have these words, “A coward dies a thousand deaths!” Having quoted Shakespeare, I will now go to a rather less eloquent, though no less profound, quote by Jimmy Buffet, “I’d rather die while I’m living than live while I’m dead.”

Both these statements summarize my own personal view on life, a view shared by my good friend Stephen. This philosophy, and this philosophy alone, brought he and I to opposite sides of a hallway at midnight one lonely Friday in October.

“I bet my elevator gets here before yours does,” Stephen teased, glancing over his shoulder at me.

“No way,” I snapped back. “No elevator wants you or that crummy old jacket inside it.”

“Don’t be a hater.” He teased, displaying the old burnt-orange jacket, with its numerous tears, rips and stains, toward me as if it were made from white mink. “Just because you lack fashion sense, doesn’t mean I can’t look good in these regal robes.”

I stuck my finger in my mouth and made a gagging sound, as though I was about to vomit. He just laughed and turned back toward the elevator. I faced mine, with an equally determined grin, which served to mask my growing anxiety.

Although we were standing near the lobby of one of Houston’s premiere hotels, thanks to the lateness of the hour, we were the only people there. This was the way we planned it. We didn’t want anyone else getting on the elevators with us. Each of us had to be alone. If someone got on with one of us, that player had to quit. Those were the rules of the Elevator Game.

The Elevator game, which originated in Korea, was supposed to be one of the scariest and most unnerving games in existence, promising to take the player to a frightening alternate dimension from which they might never return. Like the other creepy games Stephen and I played over the years, we didn’t really expect anything to happen. After all, nothing happened when we played with the Ouija board; nothing happened when we played three kings; no mysterious man caught us when we played the midnight game.

Altogether, we had no reason to believe this one was any different. Yet, the adrenaline rush pulled us onward. The sensation of tingles, chills, and goosebumps, spreading across one’s arms as we performed each new scary ritual, awaiting the results with a frightened anticipation, called us to try the new game.

*Ding*

The sound of an elevator arriving caught my attention. I glanced instinctively upward at the lights above me. It wasn’t my elevator. It was Stephen’s. The up-light on the elevator in front of him had illuminated, signaling its arrival.

“Told you mine would get here first,” Stephen said, giving me a teasing smile over his shoulder.

I watched as the elevator doors slid open to reveal an empty interior.

“I’d love to stay and chat, but my chariot awaits me,” he declared in a mocking tone, giving a rather comedic bow, as he advanced backward into the elevator.

The elevator doors started to close as he stepped inside but his hand shot out quickly to stop them.

“Don’t forget,” he added, in his best impression of a spooky voice, made all the more humorous by his exaggerated expressions and forced attempts to keep a straight face. “Before you get off the elevator, check every single detail to make sure you come back to the correct dimension. If even one thing is out of place or incorrect, don’t get off, or you may become trapped in the otherworld forever!”

Then, still wearing his usual grin and his comic smile, he let the doors close. Yet, as he faded from view, I could tell from his body language that he was nervous. The eyes gazing at me as the doors slid closed revealed a mix of mingled excitement with nervous agitation. The same agitation gripped me. Up until this point, we had always performed our various stunts together.

Even when we played Three Kings, though we each sat alone in the room, one of us was assigned to check upon the other after an hour passed. This time, however, we were on our own. Somehow, this made everything just slightly more frightening.

I pushed the up button again to call the next elevator and waited. The lobby around me, with its empty chairs and unmanned desk - the clerk had walked into the back just a short time prior to Stephen’s elevator arriving - were dull and lifeless, kind of like the whole last week, which Stephen and I spent studying for our mid-terms. It was this monotony of studying, working, and walking to-and-from classes, which motivated Stephen and me to seek this break, this adrenaline rush, this small chance to escape our ordinary daily lives.

*Ding*

My elevator had arrived. I took a step back in case people needed to get off. No one did. The elevator, like Stephen’s elevator, was completely empty. I took a step inside then hesitated. Without Stephen here, I felt my courage wane slightly.

“It’s just a game,” I said aloud to myself, willing myself to get on. “It isn’t real.”

I knew it was a game. I knew it was stupid. I knew I couldn’t turn back anyway; because Stephen was already on his elevator. What would he say if, after all of our talk and teasing, I chickened out now?

Mentally forcing myself onward, as though my brain were some telepathic device dragging my frozen feet across the threshold, I advanced into the lift.

“Well, here I am,” I said. “There is nothing else for it. Let’s go.”

I reached out my hand and pushed the button for the fourth floor. The elevator rose.

“You can do this,” I muttered to myself. “There is nothing to be afraid of. It’s just a silly game, like all the others.”

The elevator doors opened onto the fourth floor. Determined not to give myself further opportunity for doubt, I immediately slammed the button for the second floor. After a moment, the doors closed and we were on our way down.

“Please don’t be anyone there,” I said to myself, trying to sound convincing in my own ears; ignoring the silent voice in my head secretly wishing for someone to get on so I could abort this stupid game.

No one did. The elevator doors opened and shut. To the sixth floor – nobody. Back to the second floor – still nobody. Now up to the tenth floor – no one there.

The doors shut again. I stared at the back of them, my heart racing so fast I could hardly breathe. This was the moment of truth. Fighting the urge to abandon the game – the urge to cheat and head straight back down, the urge to chicken out and claim that I had done it even if I really hadn’t – I extended my finger toward the number five.

“It’s just a game,” I repeated aloud, “a really stupid game. There won’t be anything there.”

I gave a small laugh, which sounded hollow even to me.

“Just one more floor and I’ll be back with Stephen, laughing this whole thing off as the nonsense it is,” I said again, trying to reassure myself.

Closing my eyes, as though unable to watch myself do it, I leaned forward, feeling the five button compress at my reluctant touch. The elevator lurched downward.

This floor would reveal everything. The game claimed that a mysterious creature would appear on this floor, in the guise of a woman - a woman who you must not talk to or even look at. Otherwise, she might decide to keep you for her own. None of the stories explained what happened to such victims. Supposedly, none returned to tell.

“It’s nonsense,” I repeated to myself. “It’s just made up rubbish.”

The elevator lights flashed nine, then on to eight.

“There is no mystery woman going appear and get on the elevator,” I reminded myself.

Next to seven, then to six.

“It’s just a dumb gag!”

The elevator alighted onto the fifth floor. With a “bing” the doors slide open.

My breath caught in my throat, my body almost trembling with nerves. If the woman, who I kept reminding myself didn’t exist, did appear and get on, I was certainly not going to look at her. Fixing my eyes on the buttons, I waited.

The doors just sat there, open and expectant. They remained open for no more than their ordinary time of five seconds. Still it felt like five minutes. Several times I was convinced they had somehow broken. Yet, even as panic started to set in and beads of sweat appeared upon my face, the doors began to slide shut again.

A sigh of relief escaped my lips as I watch them drift toward each other, their reflective silvery interiors gradually masking the outside world from my sight. I moved forward to hit the “1” button, thankful the game was over.

“Hold the doors!”

*Clunk*

A female voice sounded from the hallway, followed by the clanking sound of metal and gears, as the elevator door reopened with a “ding”. Someone outside had pressed the button for the elevator. Before my stunned eyes, I saw a woman enter to join me.

An feeling of indescribably horror gripped me. I tried to dismiss it. This wasn’t a monster, I told myself. It was just pure coincidence. There were lots of women staying in the hotel. This just happened to be one of them, getting on the elevator at the wrong time. That was all.

I could feel my lungs contracting as my heart rose into my throat. Staring ahead, trying not to look at the woman, I found myself unable to resist studying her from the corners of my eyes. She appeared to be about my age, with long, beautiful black hair, a soft winning smile, and a slender-shapely body, well-outlined by the one-piece swim suit she wore, her figuresque physique only slightly concealed by the towels gripped in her hands. She looked like she was on her way down to the pool.

“Sorry about that,” she said, as she moved inside to stand next to me. “My friends are down at the pool and I’m running a little late to join them.”

I said nothing. Although going swimming at midnight might seem a little odd, the pool was open and it was a Friday. At the same time, this was the fifth floor. Was this girl really what she seemed?

I wanted to kick myself for my own stupidity. Of course, she was just what she seemed. There were no alternate dimensions or mysterious monsters who trapped people as their own. At the same time, the whole thing seemed a bit too coincidental, and my already strained nerves were not prepared for this turn of events.

“Where are you going?” she asked, gesturing at the unlit buttons before us.

As I had not yet selected my floor, the question seemed innocent enough. In my current state of mind, however, they were the most sinister words I could possibly hear.

“Where are you going?” were the words the mysterious monster on the fifth floor was supposed to say to the elevator rider when she boarded.

It’s just a game, I tried to repeat inwardly. This is just a normal woman, trying to figure out what button to press, that’s all.

I made an effort to say, “First floor” but the words caught in my throat. What if it wasn’t just a game? What if it was real? What if I spoke to her and was lost forever?

As I stood frozen, the elevator doors closed. I realized I better act fast or else I’d look like an even bigger moron. Taking a step forward, I pressed the “1” button, my sweaty hand trembling so badly I could hardly contain myself.

(cont.)


message 4: by James (new)

James Meadows | 146 comments (cont. Part 2)

Pressing the button for the first floor was the next step in the game, anyway, and the logical step outside the game. If she was a real woman, we would just coast down to the first floor and it would all be over.

“Are you okay?” the lady asked, as I retreated back into the corner of the elevator, my eyes still locked on the ground.

I didn’t speak. I knew I must look like a complete idiot. At the same time, I’d rather be a living idiot than a dead fool. So, I pressed myself into the corner as hard as I could, my eyes still fixed on the buttons.

“Oookay,” she said in a confused voice, turning to face the closed elevator doors. At the same moment, I felt the elevator lurch. But to my horror, we weren’t going down. We were going up.

My eyes shot toward the numbers above the button panel: Five to Six, Six to Seven, Seven to Eight. No, No, No, NO, NO!! This couldn’t be happening. The elevator was going to the tenth floor. It was taking me to the alternate dimension! The game was coming true!

“That is odd,” I heard the woman muse. “I guess we didn’t press the button in time. It must be going to pick someone up.”

My eyes locked onto the ground! Don’t speak to her! I thought. Whatever you do, for God’s sake, don’t speak to her!

The elevator went from eight to nine and from nine to ten. Then, slowly, inexplicably, the doors began to open.

I didn’t want to see what was out there. I rushed forward, slamming the first floor button over and over with all my might. According to the game, when the doors opened, I would see a hallway identical to the actual tenth floor, yet pitch black, with no lighting of any kind, save for a blood red cross, the only thing visible through the distant windows.

I wasn’t going to look at it. I wasn’t going to see it. There was no way I was getting out of this elevator!

“Close, close!” I all but screamed, hammering over and over again on the button, as I watched the doors slide apart, unable to take my gaze off the image I knew they were about to reveal. With a sudden buckling sensation, my knees gave way beneath me. I found myself kneeling on the floor, still pressing the button for all I was worth.

A man stepped into the elevator from the well-lit hallway beyond, speaking on a cell phone and holding a pair of car keys in his hand.

“No, you don’t need to be driving here if you’re like that,” he was saying. “I’ll come pick you up! You said you’re at the West End Bar?”

The man froze as he entered, staring at my pale face, sweaty skin, and frantic manner.

“Are you okay?” he asked, lowering the phone to address me.

I didn’t answer. Unable to think anymore, I collapsed backward into the corner, burying my face between my knees and curling my arms above my head. I don’t know what the girl and man must have thought. I didn’t hear any words that they said. If I did, my agitated mind was too weak to hold them. Instead, I remained in a state of complete paralysis all the way down to the first floor.

The moment the elevator opened, I erupted from the shaft, without even a glance at my surroundings, my body a frenzied tornado of flailing arms and racing feet. I was so desperate to get out of there I almost plowed straight into Stephen, who caught me with an expression of shock.

“Dude? What’s wrong?” He asked, concern evident in his voice. “What happened?”

I looked back at the elevator. The man and woman stood staring at me in astonishment. They didn’t say anything, though. They merely exited the elevator and went their separate ways – the girl toward the swimming pool and the man toward the parking garage – each watching me out of the corners of their eyes until out of sight.

“They were real,” I gasped. “They weren’t monsters. They were real!”

“Oh my god!” Stephen exclaimed, realization dawning on his face, along with an obvious urge to laugh. “Those people got on at the fifth floor and you thought they were the mystery woman didn’t you!”

He started to laugh.

“Well, at least I got that far,” I replied angrily over his laughter. “What did you do?”

“I had a janitor get on at the sixth floor so I had to abandon. Want to come back and try again tomorrow?”

“Definitely not!” I shouted, a response which only served to illicit more laughter from my friend.

“Come on, then. Let’s get you home,” he said, pulling the car keys from the pocket of his maroon jacket and guiding me toward the parking lot. Together we headed out the door and into the night.


message 5: by Steve (new)

Steve Ross  
BLUBBERTOWN [2900 words, part 1]
    
A Dying Town
 
Blubbertown was dying. When my hometown’s whale blubber trade was outlawed, the jobs went away. And when the jobs went away our young people went elsewhere to make their fortunes. Except for me.

I’m Leo, the town inventor and Bubbertown needed me. “If only we could do something high tech we could build a business, bring the people back and restore Blubbertown, Washington to its former glory,” I said to an empty classroom during our high school’s career day, heavy ocean winds rattling the second-floor windows.
    
So the city and its inhabitants were sad and some said no longer even a city. People from healthy neighboring towns laughed at the few remaining residents. “Where you from, that Blubbertown?” Scoff, mock, snicker--they did all of these and more. It was hard to be upbeat in the face of such derision, but, hey, sticks and stones and all that.
 
 If our economic woes weren't enough, the citizens of Blubbertown were also among the fattest in the nation. Our McDonald’s and KFC restaurants were still going strong. It seems we’d been eating more and more as the town's prospects grew less and less. This to ease the growing stress, no doubt. Myself included as I started wearing extra large shirts to conceal my big belly.
    
Then one day Leo, our young man with a dream, [I’ll make no apologies for occasionally lapsing into third person-self-referential] asked a question: “What if human blubber could be harnessed as a source of pollution-free energy in a world of diminished fossil fuels that stink up the world?

And maybe we could kill two birds with one stone by also thinning these fatsos, turning them into lean, mean fighting machines. Wholesome energy, renewed health, and our town will be saved.

“If only I can find a way to efficiently convert the body’s fat--and its hungry, energy-rich molecules--into a new bio-fuel.” This speech at a local American Legion Post, one floor above a sports bar with a machine at the center of a plastic-pin bowling league, all of this one floor above a one-lane bowling alley in the basement that made it difficult for some overweight older guy in an ill-fitting black with gold stripes uniform to hear my words of wisdom.
   
 My first attempt to solve the blubber energy problem was called The Burpmeister™. How does it work? An internal heating device insulated from the stomach wall turns 60% of the raw incoming food material into a gas. A hot gas. Heat rises. The heat is captured by a white plastic tube that exits the nose or mouth—really any orifice.

This heat, in turn, can be used to warm your home--like a bio space- heater. Or it can be attached to a thermoelectric device for turning it into electrical energy for more general usage. Or sold back to your local electric company with the right equipment attached.
    
However, there is an unmistakable odor—sulfur compounds and methane. Also, expect an array of sounds typical of your classic burp and often of the basso-profundo variety, like that voice over guy on Telemundo. (But how many can make the twofold claim of burping the alphabet while simultaneously losing weight with each expulsion? Not many, I dare say.)
 
The Burpmeister™ proved unpopular for all segments of the buying public except boys ages 4 to 14. Unfortunately, their mothers wouldn’t let them keep it around the house, so I had to try something new. 
    
Next came the Human Candle®. Here our inventor reintroduced the old Eskimo idea of the candle made from fat. Whale blubber is a form of stored energy. Why not human blubber? Take Inuit know-how and elevate it to the level of 21st century technology and voila! The Human Candle®. Transform yourself into a portable makeshift stove or a romantic fireplace or backup power in a blackout.

I was so excited I was thinking Nobel Prize here. Also hefty bags filled with stacks of twenties. And I came close to returning to my high school weight.
    
A small incision is made in the area of highest fat concentration--usually the gut for men and the pelvic girdle for women. Then we insert the appropriate comes-with-the-order fiber optic cable--your wick (including green rubber conductors and conduits--both input and output), which burns using a safe, low-frequency laser, channeling the energy with a high degree of efficiency.

Just add the protective asbestos ring and you're ready to take one fat guy and get enough energy, heat and light to power a small town . . . like Blubbertown!
    
But wait! In the fine print you could find an assortment of techniques and information about hypnosis for pain control to low-dose Corpulo-Novocain to deaden flesh burning warning messages to the brain. The Human Candle® , with its eye-catching smiling blue whale on the package,  came complete with a smoke alarm and fire extinguisher. Sprinkler optional.

My lawyer, Sophia Streeze, Esquire, explained how these unadvertised fine-print details meant danger, fear and justifiable worry for prospective customers. Also potential lawsuits and/or prison time. This planted seeds of doubt in me and I backed off using the invention myself, soon regaining all of the weight I'd lost. Besides, sales were slow. So once again it was back to the drawing board.
  
Research and Development
  
If I could just streamline the process. Retain the blubber-energy conversion idea while solving the burning flesh problem and giving our firefighters a needed break. After months of trial and error including thousands of dollars spent on acid reflux medication (I had selflessly experimented on myself), I found a way. A new invention:
    
Pre-intestinal stomach gases could be pressurized, stored and burned in a self-contained thermoelectric unit (in the belly) and the resultant energy transmitted as a tightly focused (non-injurious) beam of short-wave radio energy, a stepped-up version of the power used for radio controlled toys such as airplanes and cars.
     
As I explained to Blubbertown leaders, "This energy could be sent up to a satellite and sent back down to any spot on earth. Think about it: one's internal gases could be used to power homes in India, or businesses in China. Or schools in Jamaica, or gas stations in Iceland. Or--”

“Okay, I think we get the picture,” our humpty-dumpty like mayor said.
    
Once our city’s security measures were in place to prevent abusers of the system from using the trigger energy to set off bombs and other unpleasant things, Blubber- Energy (a tentative name) became operational.

Now it was just a matter of informing the meager Blubbertown public and then convincing them of the value of testing and using my new invention. One strong point in our favor was how the city would earn a percentage of any and all income generated from my invention, since the town was the principal investor (Blubberpreneurship!).

We won in a close vote, seventeen to twelve, despite a strong oppositional statement from my one time lawyer Streeze (I had switched to an automated patent lawyer to cut costs), who now insisted on seeing all of my ideas in the worst possible light. We were endangering our fine citizens with a system that could never be foolproof, we were inviting legal action from individuals or governments, etc.

Right. I was the New Frankenstein.
    
Of course the technical specs were a trade secret with patent information, documents and engineering details computer password-protected with the key phrase: WHO-YOU-CALLING-A-BIG-FATSO-NOW-PUNK? which is odd and thus unlikely to be correctly guessed by hackers and other nosy people.
    
My first test-worthy application involved transportation; very practical. Despite the high cost of gasoline and electricity, people still needed to get to work, to shop, to drag race, and so on.  Enter Blubber Power©.

Once a test subject (guinea pig/dupe) completes the surgical implant of the Blubber Power©  device (Blubbertown Hospital was working overtime) and the installation of a radio (fat-energy) receiver/converter affixed to his car's “fuel source” component . . . “Just hop in your car and away you go, burning ugly (yet environmentally friendly) fat along the way.”
    
However, automobiles require huge quantities of the viscous energy which is good for weight loss but bad for long drives. One average person--even a very heavy one--doesn't have enough blubber to do the job for more than a few days.

However, if you have chubby relatives and friends you could form a kind of fat cooperative, drawing on community resources, especially non-driver adipose tissue. A telephone call: “Hey, Bob, if you don't mind my asking:


message 6: by Steve (new)

Steve Ross Blubbertown [continues, part 2]

How much do you weigh? ... That much? Listen, what are you doing tonight?” As a consequence of this pattern, fat people became very popular. For a while.
 
Most people want to be popular, so being needed and appreciated encouraged food consumption and greater girth as my Blubber Power prototypes were being tested.

Food consumption itself is costly but once the invention became available nationwide, Blubbertown was flooded with dollars to spend on even more food, a new Feed-Your-Face market doing record business, thus insuring a large energy supply. The Big Man & Women shops were also doing brisk business. The town was starting to make a comeback.
    
But there were unexpected consequences from this short term success.  Resentment on the part of the Fat Ones who came to recognize that people suddenly liked them not for themselves but for their fuel production potential. "You don't really love me. Your true love is Blubber Power." Or, "See if Blubber Power will keep you from being lonely on a dark and stormy night." Phrases like that can hurt! This, in turn only fueled further discord.
    
Because of the above problems—automobile energy-generation limitations and lack of cooperation from the Fat Ones--I shifted the focus of my Blubber Power business to slow-burning systems for lighting, home heating and cooling; indoor electrical power in general.
    
Gluttony

Another piece of fallout worth noting: Gluttony. Only in Blubbertown could you fulfill the long sought dream of eating whatever you want and as much as you want without the problem of obesity and all of its negative health consequences.

And it would be a public service! But lawyer Streeze charged that overeating endangered the health—nay, the very lives of our citizens through yo-yo weight changes. “And it’s all in the name of greed, yet another of the seven deadly sins,” she incorrectly claimed.
    
So, on the advice of my new “lawyer” (using the legal website’s Help and Q & A sections), I proposed that Blubbertown leaders needed to import people, preferably Fat Ones®, though Thin Ones (Patent Pending) would also work because once they got to Blubbertown there would be enough food to get them fat and therefore productive, though not up and running.

Meanwhile, Streeze shrieked and squawked, ineffectually. Still, though I couldn't publicly admit it, she might be at least partially right. Perhaps I'm a hypocrite because I stopped using the invention myself. And isn't it considered wrong or at least mad scientisty to use oneself as a test subject? Soon the spare tire that was my waist was bigger than ever. Nothing unusual for Blubbertown, though.
    
So Blubbertown put out the word to people around the world in search of work and food and worry-free eating. People of all sizes, shapes, creeds, and colors came by the thousands and the tens of thousands from every continent on Earth in search of a better life.
    
And the city grew, extending inland by gobbling up and incorporating nearby towns. Before long Blubbertown was renamed BlubberCity. The town motto: "More, please."
Gordo Gordon, the new mayor of BlubberCity, spoke: "I hereby proclaim on this day the founding of a new city. Today we present the key to the city to the man most responsible for our success: Leo the Inventor.” “Hip, hip Hooray” said the crowd. They were happy . . . that day.
    
Inevitably, the new residents put on mounds of rolling fat, but soon they couldn't eat fast enough to supply the fuel needs of the growing metropolis. Yet, the now fully tested Blubber Power kits started selling nationwide.
 
Good for me. I could have floated on air at this point had I not put on a few extra pounds myself. But Streeze had new ammunition when the state government reported an increase in per capita health problems.

In a big meeting with Streeze commandeering the public’s microphone to yell at everyone, the city council, in a unanimous vote, weighed the trade-offs and decided to continue with BlubberPower.
    
Now new people had to be recruited and BlubberCity stretched its boundaries even farther. But because food is converted to energy with way less than 100% efficiency (and some of that energy must be used for physiological needs), more and more people needed more and more food and this simply couldn't continue. There are only so many people in the world--not infinitely many--and they can't all live in BlubberCity unless BlubberCity encompasses the whole world, and that would be just plain silly.
    
Eventually, the system imploded and people lost their jobs and went back to their respective countries except those from Antarctica who finally found something they couldn't get at home and flat out refused to give it up. “It’s not the food. I’m finally warm, bro!”
    
And BlubberCity became Blubbertown once again (with fewer proclamations this time). But the trouble didn't end there. It seems that everyone wants to be able to eat what they want and as much as they want and get "free energy" in the bargain.
They weren't thinking about the lessons of Blubbertown. There were eager to chow down and damn to hell with any price to be paid. Their rally cry: "No fairsies--Distribute fat equally!" In short, they weren’t thinking very clearly. But when the people have an itch, they will scratch it. How? I know I didn’t have the answers.
 
Espionage.  Industrial espionage. Blubber espionage if you will. You got it, we want it.  A team of city officials, leading academics, scientists, inventors, military experts, and stomach stapler specialists from around the globe formed a task force with the goal of stealing Blubber Power and its secrets for themselves.

They added electronic surveillance people, spies, hotel detectives, tarot card readers and otherwise tricky and sneaky people to their group. All of these folks had one target. Guess who?

Strangely, Streeze was a member of this group, though she openly had a different agenda: “For the health and safety of everyone, we must commandeer this new technology as we would nuclear weaponry. It must be kept out of the wrong hands,” which I suppose is anyone but hers. 
 
When they first approached Leo, they tried bribes as in: We will, individually and collectively, be your best friend, if you will give up your secret, but the inventor said no. They tried threats as in, we'll withdraw our recent offer of friendship if you don't give in.

“No way, Jose,” said Leo. Then he said, “Up your nose with a rubber hose,” which really got the experts steamed. The following attempts also failed with Leo: Ingratiation, tantrums, tears induction, withholding affection, nagging, acting out, acting up, and perhaps worse of all, making trouble. No go.
    
There was no choice. Some form of torture was now on the table, mostly in retaliation for the rubber hose comment. Think dungeons, torches and wall shackles. Further details are too ugly to report, but the bad guys were successful.
    
Now the world had access to the inventor's conversion process making Blubber technology available everywhere. At first the world rejoiced. Yay, we can finally feed our faces and be happy at last. But he who eats must in due time get full.  It seems that nothing lasts forever. This too shall pass, so to speak.
    
But where would all the necessary new food come from? Soon more and more of the Earth’s surface had to be devoted to food production which (on the surface) sounds good, but the supply can never fully meet the demand of the gluttonous ones. Gluttony is like a bottomless pit, as the people of Blubbertown knew only too well.
    
Everyone would become part of the food industry, in one form or another. To this end, new or alternative food production methods such as hydroponics and mass roof gardening and zombyism had to be tried, but these too failed to fill the need as the amount of food produced is necessarily finite. And the world let out one big sigh and then an even louder Uh-Oh. Not exactly what Streeze had envisioned.
     
But now we look to the night sky where there are undeveloped planets circling unexplored suns. Perhaps with enough inhabitants to feed an increasingly hungry planet.
    
And what about Leo? What did he get for all of his hard work and creativity? After all of his failure and frustration?

Resume enhancement! And a sometimes thinner waist line. Alas, all was not for naught.
 


message 7: by Edward (new)

Edward Davies | 1727 comments James wrote: "(cont. Part 2)

Pressing the button for the first floor was the next step in the game, anyway, and the logical step outside the game. If she was a real woman, we would just coast down to the first ..."


I loved this. So much fun and very tense. I'd have liked the ending to have been different - perhaps when he reaches his destination his friend doesn't show up... that would have been creepy.


message 8: by James (new)

James Meadows | 146 comments Edward wrote: "James wrote: "(cont. Part 2)

Pressing the button for the first floor was the next step in the game, anyway, and the logical step outside the game. If she was a real woman, we would just coast down..."


Hey Edward, I originally had a different ending. I had thought about the friend not appearing but I decided it made the story too long. My original ending was actually:


“Come on, then. Let’s get you home,” he said, pulling the car keys from the pocket of his maroon jacket and guiding me toward the parking lot.

"That is funny," I said. "I thought I drove here."

"Really? That's odd," he said. And together we exited into the dark night air.

****
The idea was to make use of the earlier statement where the friend said: "Check to make sure everything is correct before exiting or you might be trapped in an alternate dimension forever."

But, I started to wonder if that was too overt and instead went with just the jacket color changing. That was probably too subtle, though. Do you think I should add the last part back in? Or just go with a different ending altogether?


message 9: by Edward (last edited Oct 11, 2016 02:37PM) (new)

Edward Davies | 1727 comments Wow! I didn't even cotton on to the difference in jacket colour. I'd leave it as is though; that subtlety is pretty clever. If you wanted, adding in that last bit wouldn't make it too long, though. You still have over 500 words to play with. :)


message 10: by Edward (new)

Edward Davies | 1727 comments Steve wrote: "Blubbertown [continues, part 2]

How much do you weigh? ... That much? Listen, what are you doing tonight?” As a consequence of this pattern, fat people became very popular. For a while.
 
Most peo..."


This was silly. I like silly, though, and I like Leo's ideas. I wouldn't be surprised if some of them had actually been tried out in real life. :D


message 11: by C. J., Cool yet firm like ice (new)

C. J. Scurria (goodreadscomcj_scurria) | 4263 comments Can't wait to read these soon (especially James because I know about the "elevator game." Am hoping to get scared!). We almost would have had a fourth entry but I just didn't get my story laid out in time. Oh well, next time I guess.

And note: Polls are coming up in the next moments or so!


message 12: by C. J., Cool yet firm like ice (new)

C. J. Scurria (goodreadscomcj_scurria) | 4263 comments James wrote: "Sorry I have missed the last couple of weeks. Things at work have me getting pulled in a lot of different ways. I'm trying to stay active though, and I will definitely get to everyone's stories. Th..."

Totally fine James. Just glad to have you back whenever you can post!


message 13: by James (new)

James Meadows | 146 comments Edward wrote: "Title : Heaven Help Us (Feedback Welcome)
Author : Edward Davies
Word Count : 1688
Rating : PG

Janelle Winthrop inhaled deeply, her eyes shooting open as she found herself staring up at a strange ..."


Nice story! I liked the name "Esme" which immediately struck my mine as "Is Me". The idea of a limbo where people wait while they are on life support is a pretty cool and interesting idea. But, waking up from a coma makes it to where the reader is left wondering "is it all a dream or not?"

Thanks for sharing!


message 14: by James (new)

James Meadows | 146 comments Steve wrote: "Blubbertown [continues, part 2]

How much do you weigh? ... That much? Listen, what are you doing tonight?” As a consequence of this pattern, fat people became very popular. For a while.
 
Most peo..."


This was a fun read. The story was silly and the ideas it gave were worth a laugh.

My one problem was that the story was entirely a "telling" and no "showing" story (all narrative and no action). I don't know if that was the effect you were going for but without any action or activity it seemed to get a little long.

Still, it was a fun read which brought some good laughs! Thanks for sharing.


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