June 15- July 5, 2017 Flash Fiction Contest “Conspiracy”

This post is for stories related to the Contest theme: “Conspiracy”.

Stories could involve a current/known conspiracy, or one you’ve made up yourself. Also can include conspiracy to act, etc, etc, etc. The only limits are those of your fertile imagination


STORY REQUIREMENTS: You (the writer) must be the main character.


Word limit: 911.


  • This is the thread for stories as well as general comments. Say hello and be sure to check the “Notify me of follow-up comments by email” box for email notifications.
  • To leave feedback/Comments directly relating to a particular story – click “reply” to the story comment.
  • Specific critiques, comments, and feedback are encouraged. If you do not want honest professional feedback do not post a story.
  • Keep feedback and critiques to a civil and constructive level, please. Please critique stories for construction, style, flow, grammar, punctuation, and so on. The moderator has the right to delete any comments that appear racist, inflammatory or bullying.

Please Note: Comments may be considered “published” in regards to other contest requirements.

All stories are fall under general copyright laws. No part may be reproduced without the express consent of the respective author.

Story Submission Rules:
  1. One story per author. You may post more than one but only the first story will qualify for voting.
  2. Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
  3. Stories must fit into a single comment box and must be less than 1000 words.

Voting starts Wednesday morning at 9:00am PDT / 12:00pm EST / 10:30pm IST / 5:00pm WET/GMT/ 4:00am AEDT (Thursday) and ends the same time on Thursday / 4:00am AEDT (Friday).

  • You may vote only once.
  • You cannot vote for yourself.

***the next writing prompt will be chosen by Kenneth Cartisano per the Writing Prompt Roster.

To be included in the “writing prompt roster”, you must have submitted two stories in the last sixty days. The roster is alphabetical and can be found here.

See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.


 

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76 thoughts on “June 15- July 5, 2017 Flash Fiction Contest “Conspiracy”

  • June 16, 2017 at 2:17 am
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    Word limit 911 haha!

    Brits should get an extra 88 words – it’s 999 over here 🙂

    Reply
    • June 16, 2017 at 12:44 pm
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      🙂

      Reply
    • June 16, 2017 at 7:05 pm
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      By that reasoning, Andy, Ilana (and Ken Allen?) just have to post a title and that’ll do it?

      (000 in Australia)

      Reply
      • June 17, 2017 at 6:12 am
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        Indeed, Phil 🙂

        Though – as Ilana is referencing – I think the word count number may refer to conspiracy theories around 9/11 rather than my emergency services twist on it.

        I heard a good conspiracy theory the other day – that Theresa May called and deliberately tried to lose the snap election because all her advisers are sure that Brexit will lead to catastrophe, and she’d prefer the Labour Party to be responsible for that …

        Reply
  • June 16, 2017 at 8:09 pm
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    No Phil
    Port Arthur Massacre 28-29 April 1996 and also 5th June here and the Lintz Cafe siege – unfortunately we are no longer immune and if I go Israeli citizen ship way, I am a dual citizen of Australia and Israel, in the latter country there are far too many dates to choose from UNFORTUNATELY and SADLY.
    For example, 28496 could add length depth and breadth.

    Reply
  • June 16, 2017 at 8:13 pm
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    The Grenfell fire tragedy is horrific and I am sure with 600 people calling that tower home there will casualties in triple numbers. 🙁 They were told to stay indoors in a building engulfed in flames, 24 floors, no sprinklers, no alarms and one fire exit. Are they crazy the builders???
    Sad end to my birthday and I have just cried and cried and cannot watch the clips too much. Thinking of the immense tragedy of families in their last moments and just hope the children were overcome by smoke and unaware of the flames. Cannot bear to think too much about it.

    Reply
    • June 17, 2017 at 6:06 am
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      It’s really shocking, Ilana. We really thought this kind of tragedy was a thing of the past – nothing comparable for around 30 years. And everyone thought the building regs and H&S requirements were so tight. Time to think again.
      I think with the recent events over here, there’s almost a national mood of disbelief.

      It’s a year ago today that Jo Cox MP was murdered during the referendum campaign – any who haven’t heard of her might like to might like to see the way her family and friends are trying to celebrate her life and impact in a positive way:
      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/16/jo-cox-great-get-together-events-taking-place-weekend/

      Reply
      • June 20, 2017 at 12:04 pm
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        Andy,
        Imagine a mood of disbelief that just goes on and on and on. That describes half the U.S. population.

        Excluding events in England and Israel, it seems to me that most of what is initially labeled as terrorism in the U.S., is really, when you get right down to it, mental illness. A malady that goes unchecked, un-diagnosed, untreated, and unreported.

        Reply
        • June 20, 2017 at 1:11 pm
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          Ken, I have to disagree. If we look at terrorist events as simply mental illness we are setting ourselves up for future attacks. We have to be realistic about events; if it is a mentally disturbed individual or individuals, so be it, but the reason we haven’t seen terror attacks in the US on the level England has recently experienced is because we are fighting terror as terror, and preventing large scale attacks.

          We can’t go backward in this fight, the terrorists are determined and we have to be too, England has to be as well. If we treat most terror attacks as simply a mentally disturbed person acting alone, that would be a huge mistake.

          Reply
          • June 26, 2017 at 10:19 am
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            Alice, your comment is illogical and starts with the supposition that: ‘If we look at terrorist events as simply mental illness, we are setting ourselves up…’
            Okay, first of all, I’m not identifying terrorist acts as anything other than what they are, terrorist acts. I’m surprised that I have to debate the matter.

            I am identifying violent acts by deranged individuals as non-terrorist events. You’re either confusing the events, or confused by my comment. 911 was a terrorist act., the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole was a terrorist act.

            On the other hand, if the root cause is mental illness, then they are not terrorist events.
            The mass killing of 32 people at Virginia Tech a few years ago, and the Pulse nightclub murder of 49 people were not terrorist related. The killing of 6 adults and 20 children at Sandy Hook was not a terrorist attack. That’s 99 people murdered in just three events. None of those were terrorist related. Those events, and the vast majority of violent mass murders in this country are, in fact, committed by very sick people. The seriously mentally ill. It’s a statistical fact, not conjecture, supposition or propaganda. If you get your facts from The Daily Mail, or Fox and Friends, your facts will be skewed.

            And finally, how we regard or classify a violent act, whatever the perpetrator’s perceived motive, does not automatically induce further attacks. There is no way to know that. That is an assumption that is not based on any observable data. In fact, perhaps we are focused too much on terrorism, because we seem to have no success at preventing ordinary crazies from slaughtering innocent people on a regular and frequent basis. At least, such is the case here in America.

        • June 26, 2017 at 11:59 am
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          I still disagree with you Ken, but since this isn’t a political group, I’m ending it now. I shouldn’t have responded here, next time I’ll take it off line.

          Reply
  • June 16, 2017 at 11:30 pm
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    911? How about a handful more ? I only need another 1,000 to make my point ! I won’t use them all… promise !

    Reply
  • June 21, 2017 at 2:48 pm
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    My closest friend is a conspiracy theorist. He talked once for 90 minutes straight about his 911 conspiracy theories.
    I told him about this prompt and that I was going to write a short story about one of his (somewhat) more plausible theories.
    Pretty sure in an alternate universe he was doing cartwheels!

    Reply
    • June 21, 2017 at 3:05 pm
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      I have a few friends that buy into that conspiracy, it should make for a great story for this prompt 🙂

      Reply
      • June 27, 2017 at 3:37 pm
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        Ok all – we’ve extended this prompt another week!!!

        Reply
  • June 23, 2017 at 12:27 pm
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    THE CURE

    “Come in, Peterson.”

    “Thank you, sir.”

    “So that’s it, is it?”

    “Yes, sir. For some reason he put it on reel-to-reel tape.”

    “Probably being careful. You can hack anything digital these days.”

    “I suppose so, sir, yes. I’ve taken the liberty of cueing it up just for the last section. What comes before is a little … I don’t know … rambling?”

    “All right. Let’s have a listen then, shall we?”

    “I’ll just plug it in and … okay, here we go …”

    ~~~~~

    “So you see, all of the team – Margaret, Derek, Asunción, Paco – they’re all gone. All of them. Accidents. I suppose the most shocking for me was Asunción. She was so young, so lovely, and she had a little boy – Juan – I don’t know what’s going to happen to him. But accidents? That’s what they looked like, yeah. Four in a matter of weeks, though? Four from the same team? That’s some coincidence. And I tell you – it stinks. To high heaven. It was the research, I’m sure of it. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

    The thing is, we were working on something completely innocuous – hair treatment, conditioners, stuff like that. We had the usual access to lab rats, and we were doing all the mundane tests and … anyway, one afternoon Derek comes up to me, all excited, and he says ‘Phil, you’ve got to see this!’, and so I go to his cubicle and he shows me some readings on his computer. And we look at each other, and we’re like ‘Jesus!’ So I got the team together and we had a look at the rat and sure enough, this little fella, which had had a tumour on the back of its neck, was completely clear.

    We isolated the chemicals Derek had used on that particular rat, along with sequence, quantities, timings, and we got another half a dozen rats that also had tumours. So we followed Derek’s procedure, with a couple of the rats as controls, and sure enough, within a week the tumours on the four had disappeared.

    We were cock-a-hoop. I told them that we couldn’t mess this up, that we had to present the findings methodically, with water-tight proofs. So we worked on it for a week, round the clock. And I presented a report to the R&D Director, Samuels. We were so thrilled – we were waiting for the feedback, anxious, expectant. After all, we thought we’d found a cure for cancer.

    And I think we had. And I think it terrified the powers that be in the company. This is one of the biggest pharmaceutical corporations in the world, remember. They don’t just produce medicines and cosmetics – they’ve got a finger in loads of private hospitals and clinics, too. And they make billions – I mean billions – from cancer medications and treatment. And what would happen to those billions if some ordinary chemicals used for hair care simply did away with cancer at a stroke? Man, that report must have hit them like a nuclear missile.

    Suffice it to say, we didn’t get any response to our report, and a few days after it went upstairs, the team started having accidents. As I said, they’re all gone now. And I’m next, I’m sure of it. So that’s why … I’m doing this. I’ve got a copy of the findings in an envelope that I’m going to put in a safety deposit box tomorrow, along with this tape. If I do go the way of the rest of the team, then at lea– … What the?!………….”

    ~~~~~

    “That’s it, sir.”

    “Hmmm. So, the envelope?”

    “Here it is.”

    “We’ll keep that for … posterity, shall we? How did you …?”

    “Suicide, sir. With a pistol. Grief over the loss of his team. We left a note.”

    “I haven’t heard it on the news.”

    “No, we’re expecting the cleaner to find him when she goes there on Wednesday.”

    “And nothing can implicate us?”

    “Nothing at all, sir.”

    “Good work, Peterson. Thank you. That will be all.”

    “Thank you, sir. Good afternoon.”

    .

    Reply
    • June 26, 2017 at 10:15 pm
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      Great job, Phil…a fine story!
      Has a cure for cancer been found and then buried? Perhaps…perhaps.

      Reply
      • June 30, 2017 at 8:41 am
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        Thanks, Christopher! And very probably, re the burying. In fact, I’m probably nex–

        Reply
        • June 30, 2017 at 10:37 am
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          Haha!
          Wait…um…Phil?!?

          Reply
    • June 26, 2017 at 11:24 pm
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      Great story Phil. I think I’ve actually seen this theory on the web. ‘Doctors discover cure for cancer, all die mysteriously.’ I think I did the Snopes thing and it was debunked as a myth. (I’m going to do a quick search.) Yup, ‘Doctors find cancer cure, later found dead.’ There are several stories like this on the web with different details, but essentially they’re all the same story, and all of them are false. How about that?
      Kind of like my owl and crow story last week. I write the story from a safe, secure ivory tower way up in the mists. And three days later I take the elevator back down to earth and see a video of my story on the internet. Life is like that. In fact, sometimes it seems like a conspiracy.
      Anyway, I like your version the best. A good read.

      Reply
      • June 30, 2017 at 8:43 am
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        Thanks, Ken! Yes, I remember reading about similar conspiracy theories ages ago, and mentally filing them under ‘to do when conspiracy theme comes up’.

        Reply
  • June 23, 2017 at 11:33 pm
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    Inside Man

    Special Agent Ken Allen eased his car to a stop in the allotted bay and killed the engine. His phone rang. He sighed, yet answered it with the crisp effectiveness of a seasoned professional. “What!”

    The reply was a tone followed by a robotic voice. “Eight, six, one, two, five, seven.”

    Ken pressed a button on his phone, the screen awash with a solid block of colour. He pressed the device to his ear. “Purple.”

    “Hold the line.”

    “Daaaad.” The voice in the backseat interrupted his train of thought. He had forgotten where he was. “Just a second, Indi. I’ve just got to take this call. Talk with Hannah for a few minutes.”

    Ken couldn’t understand out how he became the chaperone. Figured his wife had gotten him in a low moment. A perfectly placed question in the dying minutes of a football game or movie climax where his response was “Yes, whatever”. The next thing he knew he was taking his daughter and her friend to a concert to see a teen pop star who tomorrow was likely to be in rehab with a cocaine addiction. Fantastic role model.

    “This is the Operator,” the voice on the phone said. “Operation Firebrand has movement.”

    “Of course it does,” came Ken’s sluggish reply.

    Operation Firebrand was a bust. Originally assembled to identify and suppress targeted terrorist attacks, the clandestine operation had returned exactly squat. Unreliable evidence, fake news, bad interrogations. None of it leading to anything even remotely considered a hostile act.

    O: “Information is coming through slowly.”

    “Dad, can we go now?”

    O: “Large amounts of explosive.”

    Ken viewed the two girls in the rear vision mirror. “Just a minute.”

    “We’ll stay together,” Hannah added, “I promise we’ll behave until you come to the seats.”

    “Yeah, we’re going to miss the start.”

    Ken rubbed his temples. Interrogating terrorists was easier than trying to negotiate with two teens with backstage passes. He sighed again.

    “Fine, just-,” but they were gone, his remark punctuated with twin slams of the back doors.

    O: “The car is blue.”

    “Thank you, Mister Operator, but that is not helpful for me. Can’t you call someone else?”

    O: “Everyone is aware. The information is coming through slowly. Hold the line.”

    Ken shut his eyes and laid his head back on the seat. He guessed he shouldn’t be surprised. There were major events all up and down the east coast, three in this city alone, not counting the pimply-faced, one hit wonder he was about to spend a few hours with.

    O: “The device is in the trunk.”

    Ken thought about the process he had to endure to get his vehicle into the building, the security on high alert. Concert tickets, photo identification, entry code and his credentials deemed barely sufficient to get him past the security checkpoint.

    “Well, Operator, I’ve got to say they’ve got no chance of getting close to any event tonight. If the others are anything like this, they’ll need someone on the inside.”

    O: “First letter on the plate is ‘L’.”

    Ken rolled his head to the right. A dark blue police cruiser parked in a loading zone. Someone dressed in a uniform standing next to the vehicle, pacing. The first letter on the plate staring at him, shouting at him.

    Ken kicked open the door and stepped out onto the concrete.

    The officer looked up, then away. He hurriedly finished his call and started to march off towards an exit.

    “Excuse me!” Ken called out.

    The office stopped dead in his tracks. He turned slowly. “I’m sorry, but I’ve gotta go,” he said, pointing to the exit sign.

    Ken gazed into the officer’s eyes. He had spent years questioning criminals and could tell when someone was lying or just bending the truth. Subtle differences. Micro movements. Dilations, constrictions. The officer was scared. Fear etched over his face.

    “I’m going to need to see in the trunk of your cruiser.”

    The officer jittered. “And who the hell are you?”

    Ken flashed his credentials and repeated his request.

    The officer swore and slowly moved to the back of his vehicle. “You know my sergeant’s going to be pissed, right?”

    “Just do it.”

    Ken backed away, one hand on the phone at his ear, the other wrapped firmly around the handle of his Glock. He tensed as the officer slowly lifted the trunk door.

    Nothing. Nothing other than the piles of crap uniformed officers keep in their trunks. Kits, gloves, equipment, clothes. No explosives.

    O: “Last number on the plate is ‘9’.”

    Ken let out a sigh. The officer was still dancing, shifting his weight from foot to foot.

    “What’s wrong with you?”

    “I gotta take a piss and it’s my shift at the gate.”

    Ken waved him off and started back to his own vehicle, considering if he could be bothered to write a report.

    O: “Explosion activation through vehicle ignition.”

    He stopped dead in his tracks. First letter ‘L’. Last number ‘9’. Blue car. His car. You would need an inside man. No. Impossible.

    O: “Name coming through shortly.”

    Ken couldn’t breathe. It couldn’t be. He slowly lifted the lid. His heartbeat rang in his ears. You would need an inside man.

    O: “The name is … this call is terminated.”

    He slammed the lid. Got to get out of here. Far from here.

    Jumped in the car.

    Inside man.

    Keyed the ignition.

    Brain a jumble.

    Activation through ignition.

    Turned the key.

    Reply
    • June 26, 2017 at 10:21 pm
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      Fast-paced, and thrilling to read, very enjoyable, Ken!

      Reply
      • July 5, 2017 at 1:43 am
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        Thanks Chris. Looking forward to reading your story.

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    • June 26, 2017 at 11:45 pm
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      Ken Allen,
      BOOM! Great story. It has everything. Kids, stars, cops, terrorists, bombs. Great tension, great dialogue. (Have you considered doing this writing stuff for a living?) The humor in your stories is outstanding, especially in this one. A nice variety of humor too. A little light, a little dark, a little bit of silly. I love your humor. (I can’t seem to do that myself, but I can sure appreciate it when someone else does.) I think you got yerself another gem here, buddy boy. I really enjoyed it.

      Reply
      • July 5, 2017 at 1:46 am
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        Hi Ken. Ha ha ha. Have I considered it? Only every other day! Thanks for your kind words.

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    • June 30, 2017 at 7:34 am
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      Excellent story, Ken. Great pace. Lots of misdirection, twists. Very filmic. One tiny bit that could be different (for me): the opening, when you tell us straight away that ‘Ken’ is a special agent. You could have let the reader discover this through the passwords and the content of the call. But tiny, as I said. Very enjoyable indeed. (Have you seen ‘Arlington Road’, with Jeff Bridges?)

      Reply
      • July 5, 2017 at 1:48 am
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        Hi Phil – absolutely agree with you. With only 911 words to play with I wanted to smack people on the side of the head (no time for easing people into it), and agree it would have been a simple change (the way he answered the phone for instance) …

        Reply
  • June 25, 2017 at 1:12 am
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    The First People

    In the mid-60s I worked for a major news paper… I wasn’t a lead reporter mind you but was doing everything I could to make it happen. Toward that effort I traded a minor assignment with one of my buddies for a chance at a Nasa story. I needed the opportunity to help jump my career. I was excited, proud of myself as I made my way to the jig in New Mexico. At that time the Soviet Union and Nasa were heavily focused on getting a man on the moon and it was on everyone’s mind… everyone’s.

    I had no idea why but I was nervous as I handed my security clearance to the guard. Much to my relief a young, well dressed, man was there to greet me.

    “Welcome Mr. Sullivan… I’m Dan Garret. I’ll be your guide today,” he said giving me a firm handshake.

    “Nice to meet you Dan, please call me Frank,” I returned, happy to have someone about my age to show me around. It went a long way to help me relax.

    We spent the better part of the day riding around in a golf cart inspecting one part of the facility to another. I was surprised that Nasa had built it on a Navajo Reservation… temporary or not it was truly large and spread out. By the end of the day we had made our way out into the middle of the desert, far beyond any of the larger buildings and from prying eyes.

    As we came over a small rise a silver camper surrounded by stacks of strange looking equipment and six or seven men came into view… just to one side two men in boxy looking spacesuits prodded at the ground.

    “Rock collecting… simulated training for once we land,” Dan explained as we parked. “Come on, I’ll introduce you.”

    I have to admit, I was pretty excited… getting to meet Astronauts and all. I didn’t want it to end.

    Eventually, just as it was about to get dark an old Navajo man and his young grandson came upon us and asked what we were doing.

    “These men are preparing to go to the moon,” Dan explained pointing toward the two astronauts.

    The old man laughed out loud before speaking in his native tongue to the younger man.

    “What did he say?” I asked. My brain burned with the hook for my story… old world meets the future… a human interest story to reach the masses.

    “Nothing,” his Grandson returned smiling.

    “Look, I have an idea. Ask your Grandfather if I can take his picture and use his name in my story,” I pressed, eager to make this happen.

    The younger man related my idea and the old man agreed with quickly… with one caveat… he wanted to relay a message to anyone that might live on the moon.

    I agreed and recorded his message… the younger man broke out laughing as he finished.

    “What did he say?” Dan and I asked almost simultaneously.

    “Nothing,” the young man grinned and with that they continued on their way.

    “Come on, I know someone that can tell us,” Dan said earnestly. He was just as curious as me.

    We traveled north for a good twenty minutes coming at last to a small Navajo community. Eager to learn what the old man had said we played the message again… they laughed but refused to tell us what the message contained.
    Frustrated, Dan offered to make a copy and get back to me with its meaning before my deadline.

    I had no choice… I agreed.

    The next two days went by as agonizingly slow. I hung by the phone waiting to hear from Dan.

    At last, ten minutes before my deadline, the phone rang and my heart jumped with joy when I heard Dan’s voice.
    “Cutting it close Dan… you had me worried.”

    “Sorry about that, I had to call in one of the Navajo talkers to get you a translation…”

    “That’s great Dan… what did he say?”

    “It boils down to this… ‘Greetings people of the moon from the First People of earth… watch these guys! They’re here to steal your land.’”

    Reply
    • June 27, 2017 at 12:25 am
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      Great story Tegon. Very funny ending, and honestly, I didn’t see it coming. (White guys are soooo predictable.) A nice lighthearted treatment of an unpleasant but serious reality.

      Reply
    • June 30, 2017 at 7:46 am
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      Very funny (because true!) story, Tegon. It’s a bit like a shaggy-dog story, stretched out (everyone declining to translate the message) until the punchline, which you set up very well. A couple of things. The old man says “he wanted to relay a message to anyone that might live on the moon.” How could a mere journalist help with this? And while Sullivan is waiting for the translation (“The next two days went by as agonizingly slow. I hung by the phone waiting to hear from Dan.”), maybe we could see him writing the story, meeting with the editor etc. … you know, journalism stuff. Great joke, though, well told.

      Reply
  • June 26, 2017 at 8:45 pm
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    Where is everyone, is our little group dying? 🙁

    Reply
    • June 26, 2017 at 10:07 pm
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      Not dying, no, just procrastinating, I think.
      My story will be up soon; I’m nearly finished.

      Reply
      • June 27, 2017 at 12:05 am
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        Awesome Christopher, I’ll have one up too!

        Reply
        • June 27, 2017 at 10:41 am
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          Don’t think I’ll be able to write one – charging all over the country for work (again) and lacking the daily bandwidth. The fates are conspiring against me here.

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          • June 27, 2017 at 12:38 pm
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            Andy, we’re extending the deadline to next week since there are so few stories, hope that helps with time and you can get a story in.

    • June 30, 2017 at 8:45 am
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      I very much hope not, Alice. I love this group. 🙂

      Reply
      • June 30, 2017 at 8:48 am
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        Ah … that comment looks like I’m hoping Andy doesn’t get a story in. 😉

        Nothing further from the truth! It was supposed to be a response to “…is our little group dying?”

        Reply
        • June 30, 2017 at 11:15 am
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          Too late, Phil. Evidence of the great conspiracy against me! 🙁 🙂

          Reply
      • July 5, 2017 at 11:44 pm
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        I do too Phil. 🙂

        Reply
  • June 27, 2017 at 1:35 am
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    The Finger.
    ©2017 by Ken Cartisano

    Catherine Simmons had been abducted in the middle of the night, taken to an isolated government installation with state-of-the-art medical facilities, and then subjected to a painful series of procedures that had gone on for months. The staff who performed these procedures, other than giving her instructions, refused to explain their actions, or offer any explanation for her treatment.

    Constantly sedated and bandaged, with no opportunity to escape, she had given up all hope, until at last, an unfamiliar orderly entered her room, and gave her an injection which rendered her unconscious. That’s what she remembered as she came to.

    She found herself in the back seat of a well-appointed limousine, not blind-folded or restrained in any way. If not for a shred of remaining sanity, she would have flung herself across the opulent compartment and attempted to strangle the man who sat in the seat opposite her, a muscular stranger, staring at her with no sign of emotion or compassion. He looked capable of subduing her with ease. A raised, glass partition behind him separated them from the driver of the car.

    “Would you like some water, Miss?”

    “Who ARE you?” She ignored the water bottle.

    “It’s not drugged and—I know you’re thirsty.” He extended the bottle a little further.

    She accepted it grudgingly, but placed it between her thighs. She’d think about it.

    She glanced out the dark tinted window. They were on a highway, streaking past a quiet suburb, which gradually gave way to a desert landscape. “Where are we? Where are you taking me?”

    “Don’t be alarmed Miss Lanier. I’ll be happy to explain everything.”

    “Why don’t you then?” She snapped. “And you can start by telling me who you are and where we’re going. And my name’s not Lanier, it’s Simmons.”

    “Your name used to be Simmons. Now it’s Lanier.” He extracted a passport and identification papers from a briefcase. “Your first name is Suzanne.” He offered her the documents and she accepted them numbly.

    “My first name is Catherine, and you still haven’t told me…”

    “Your first name is Suzanne. You need to get used to it.”

    “But…”

    “Catherine Simmons is dead, or might as well be.”

    “But who are you?”

    He shook his head. “I can’t tell you that yet.”

    “Then why should I do anything you…”

    “Your life depends on it, Miss Lanier.” They stared at each other. The man’s face softened. “Can I call you Suzanne? You need to get used to it. It’s not easy assuming a new identity.”

    “But why? WHY? I haven’t done anything. I haven’t seen anything. I don’t know anything. Why am I being put into the Witness Protection Program if I’m not a witness, for God’s sake?”

    The man touched his forehead lightly. “I’m sorry Suzanne. This is not something I do very often, so, I suppose I’m not doing it very well.”

    Suzanne’s thirst finally got the better of her. She twisted the top off the bottle and sipped.

    “I work for Doctors Without Borders,” he continued, “and frankly, rescuing damsels in distress is a little out of our scope of activity, shall we say. But you’re a special case.”

    Suzanne took a much deeper drink of water, and listened quietly.

    “We’re taking you to Chile, Miss Lanier. You’ll assume the identity of a young German widow, frugally living off her dead husband’s life insurance policy.”

    “But why?” She asked quietly.

    He pulled another file from the briefcase. “I want you to look at these x-rays.”

    She scanned the negatives. Her old name was prominent in the lower corner, ‘Simmons, Catherine.’ But one image showed a perfect right arm bone; no sign of the break she’d suffered as a teenager. “And why Chili?” She added.

    The other x-ray showed an image of a left hand with the middle finger missing. Her hands were intact. She held the x-rays up. “Are these forgeries? I’m not too sure about this right arm, but this is definitely not my hand.” She wiggled the fingers of her left hand for emphasis.

    “Why Chili?” A smile flickered across his face. “Because Chile has virtually no system of medical recording. And no, Suzanne, those are not forgeries.”

    “I don’t understand.” She compared her thumb to the x-ray, they looked very similar.

    “Miss Lanier, Suzanne, you were abducted by your own government, held in isolation against your will, without your consent, while they conducted tests on you, one of which involved removing your finger.”

    She gasped. “They CUT OFF my FINGER?” She began to examine it closely, as if she’d never seen it before. Which, in a way, was true. “And then they sewed it back on?” She shook her head. “Why?”

    “No, Miss Lanier, they did not sew it back on. They put it in a jar of formaldehyde.”

    “Then…” She held up her hand, frowning. “I don’t get it.”

    “You grew it back, Suzanne. Like the break in your arm, it healed completely, there’s no sign that it ever happened. The only evidence of either—event, is the medical records.”

    “What do you mean I grew it back? That’s not possible.”

    “You have the gift of regeneration, Suzanne: a rare, precious ability. There are those who would sell their souls to find out how it works.”

    “It grew back?” She regarded her finger in amazement.

    He held up his hand and flexed his pinky. “If it’s any consolation,” he said, “you’re not unique, just rare.”

    Reply
    • June 28, 2017 at 8:51 pm
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      Ken, very good story…I enjoyed it start to finish! The reader is with Suzanne/Catherine, along for the ride, trying to figure this thing out. Nice work!

      Reply
    • June 30, 2017 at 8:04 am
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      That’s great stuff, Ken. As Christopher says, you expertly keep the reader’s doubts, questions and suspicions in line with Catherine’s … and we have them until right near the (very neat) end. We’re confused, but in a very pleasurable, controlled way – testament to your care. I really like the opening paragraph – no messing about, straight in. I don’t know how, to tell you the truth, but I feel the revelation (“You have the gift of regeneration…”) could have been a little more subtle. A technical point (that I got from a book somewhere): To show interruption of dialogue, use a dash “Then why should I do anything you–” (“Then why should I do anything you…” suggests a trailing off, rather than interruption.) But details – it’s a weird, well-executed story.

      Reply
      • July 8, 2017 at 12:39 pm
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        Thanks for the comments, and the feedback about the dashes, Phil. Duly noted (and soon to be corrected.) After the fortieth re-read, I also noticed a couple of repetitions, (explained; explanations) and that the mystery man foolishly calls her ‘Miss’ while instructing her on the necessity of assuming her new identity, a widow: clearly a Mrs.

        Reply
  • June 27, 2017 at 7:08 pm
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    The Backfire (909 words)
    Written by Christopher Smith
    © 2017

    They had taken me in an underground parking garage, only a few feet from my rental, which had been their best chance, exactly where I would have done it had it been my plan.

    Someone slipped a burlap sack over my head, and I believe it was that same someone who shoved me into a van. Someone else immediately bound my hands with duct tape, while a third raised the burlap just enough to paste duct tape across my mouth. Four in total: three in the back with me, plus the driver.

    During the ride, Mr. Burlap spoke of serving the greater good. He slapped me intermittently, and on one occasion punched me square in the mouth, splitting my lip.

    When the van stopped, I was kicked from the side door and fell to the ground. I lost my breath and landed awkwardly on my shoulder; it swore and sang. Despite my efforts to hold it back, a muffled yelp escaped me.

    In the sunshine, the baked burlap smelled of old dust—attic dust—and, very faintly, lemon. As I was pushed and pulled along, I heard their chatter and Burlap’s snarled orders, which were frequently lubricated with obscenities. A door was forced open, its hinges screaming in protest, and I was shoved into the dim of what felt like a large shed. They forced me into a chair, and my arms and legs were bound to it. They slapped me again—hard—before the burlap sack was hauled from my head.

    I was seated in a barn, worn but solid. Random piles of straw dominated the large room, stacked high on the two far walls. More of it had been piled thick and high in the barn’s loft. Through the slim cracks in the wallboards, the sunlight highlighted the dancing dust particles carried in on the breeze.

    Surrounding me were four people: my on-line writing group. I’d never met them in person, never seen them (their profile photos were fakes; they always were), but it was them.

    The simple plan had been to make my way to a place just outside of Denver, Colorado to a newly renovated hotel where I’d booked a modest room. Somewhere on the sixth floor, in a boardroom tucked away in one corner, a writers’ retreat had been planned. The entire group had accepted the invitation, and I couldn’t have been more excited.

    “You’re not one of us,” Burlap said. I thought he was “Anthony,” who always dominated the blog posts. He paced in front of me, giving me the side-eye, trying desperately to intimidate. I shifted my head and saw the other three: “Mark,” “Fanny,” and “Steve,” smiling, smirking. “You never were, and never will be. Your writing style is…different, not like ours. We need you to understand that.”

    I nodded.

    He reached toward me and I turned away, expecting another strike. He laughed—more of a nasal exhale with a smile—and tore the duct tape from my mouth. My lip howled, began to leak fresh blood. He took to pacing again while I recovered, and then pulled another chair close, sitting upon it backwards, his arms folded across its pegged back.

    “We are disgusted in your sentence structure. And don’t even let me get started on your overuse of the passive voice.” He laughed, and the others joined him.

    Their motives weren’t based on writing style and structure, let me assure you; he was simply taunting me. These were twisted people, serial killers looking for ways to isolate the innocent and then have their fun. They were the farthest thing from a writing group, but enjoyed masquerading as one.

    “You’re crazy,” I said. “I hate anything passive.” Then it was my turn to laugh, and the stunned look upon his face nearly made my aching lip worth it.

    When he gathered himself he said, “I don’t think—” and then my legs were riddled with his brains and skull, a lot of blood. My shirt, I noticed, was ruined as well, and not only because of my running lip. One of the other three screamed, a high and shrill thing, before three more shots silenced them all.

    “It’s about time,” I said. “Cutting it a little close, no?”

    Fiske stepped from the shadows at the far end of the barn, and then Welburn did likewise, revealing herself from the hidden darkness of the loft.

    “Sorry about that,” Welburn said, unable to hide her smile, and then began to cut me loose.

    “You did that on purpose, didn’t you,” I said, not a question.

    Fiske looked at me, surprised, and then wickedly amused.

    “Congratulations on winning my dry cleaning bill,” I said. “I like these pants.”

    His smile faded. “Oh, they won’t be able to get that out, I’m afraid. You’ve worn those pants for the last time.”

    I stood and rubbed my wrists, shook my head, and headed for the door, some fresh air. “You bring a change of clothes, at least?”

    “No, sorry.” He was grinning, pleased with himself.

    “You bastard.” After a pause I added: “It was an impressive shot, though.”

    The writing group had been slow and careless. The problem is, there are many more groups like them out there, willing to feed on the innocent, the trustworthy, the desperate. Some of them may be slower, but most will be faster, tougher to deal with. But we will deal with them, because if not us, then who?

    Reply
    • June 30, 2017 at 8:21 am
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      A very original story, Christopher – a kind of vigilante tale for the digital age. The story kicks off at a really brisk pace and never lets up – as in Ken Cartisano’s story above, the opening paragraph throws us straight in. The context of the abduction (writing group) is very clever, and there’s some neat and significant banter (“I hate anything passive.”) Some lovely description, too – the barn, for example. There was a moment when I thought you were being too direct, the narrator having knowledge that he couldn’t possibly be so sure of (“Surrounding me were four people: my on-line writing group.”), but then the turn-around proves you weren’t, and he could. At the end, the super-hero-like promise of more pre-emptive strikes on rogue groups. Great stuff.

      Reply
      • June 30, 2017 at 10:39 am
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        Thanks, Phil, I appreciate it!

        Reply
    • July 8, 2017 at 1:44 pm
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      Christopher,

      This is so obvious it goes without saying, maybe that’s why nobody else said it, but— This is a very skillfully written story. It starts off with a bang, then teases the reader into thinking it’s silly, then turns serious again, then the verbal fencing over the passive voice, (another lighthearted touch.)Then blam! Brains. The writing and the dialogue are excellent. In fact, there are lighthearted touches throughout the story.
      ‘…You’ve worn those pants for the last time.’
      It seems to mimic the style of one of those old time detective novels, (which I confess I have never read), but with panache. A fun, fast-paced and thoroughly enjoyable read.

      BTW, I have some free points at the Best Western Hotel, and I was wondering who’d be up for a get together. (I’ll bring the duct tape.)

      Reply
      • July 8, 2017 at 5:02 pm
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        Ha! 🙂

        Reply
      • July 9, 2017 at 2:34 pm
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        Thanks a lot, Ken…I appreciate it, sincerely. Although I think I’ll pass on the get together…Haha!

        Reply
  • June 27, 2017 at 9:02 pm
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    Disgruntled
    (911 words)

    Walking down this long corridor, I can’t help but wonder who now awaits me at the end. It’s a stale office building, the walls are a light grey. Used to keep people calm I suspect; subdued. There is nothing unique on the walls, nothing to suggest any individual works here. They’re all sheep. Don’t they realize they are nothing special? Just cogs in a machine. I stopped being that long ago. That’s why I am here now; walking down this fucking hallway. Ok, gotta keep my head on straight. I’m going to meet someone who can potentially help. It seems like most people are against me lately. Managers, coworkers… Maybe this so-called union representative will listen. They have to listen. Right?

    Ok. Finally at the door.

    “Doctor John Miller” appears on the door. Why do I know that name? Why is a doctor working as a union rep? Weird. I can’t focus on that though. He can’t be part of this. Unions are impartial after all.

    I knock.

    “Come in,” says the person on the other side of the door.

    I enter.

    “Mr. Welsh, have a seat please.”

    I sit down. Please eh? Haven’t heard that in a while.

    “So, what would you like to discuss today?”

    “Well Doc, I’m sure you’re aware of the issues I’ve been facing. Most people in this place are.”

    Time to figure out what he knows or what he is willing to say.

    “Oh? I’m afraid I’m unaware of these issues. What is going on exactly?”

    That’s how he is going to play it. Fine. Don’t give him too much just yet.

    “It seems that everyone has problems with me. The managers all look at me cockeyed, my coworkers don’t seem to want to work with me.”

    “I see. And what do you think is the reason for this? Something must have happened?”

    Something. Yes, something happened. And you know it. I have to keep calm. Deep breaths. Count to three. One, two, three.

    “Well, I’d been doing my work like always. All day, just toiling away on my files. Then my managers hand me an important file. They told me just to look at certain aspects and not to touch the rest. So, I didn’t at first. I did everything they told me. Then…”

    I pause. Do I dare tell him everything?

    “Then what, Mr. Welsh. What happened?”

    He must know something. He does work in the same building after all… Fuck it. I have to trust someone.

    “The more I worked on the file, the more I could see something was up. I kept going down the rabbit hole. The deeper I went, I knew I had found something. Something big.”

    “And you think this somehow affected your relationship with the people around you?”

    No questions about what I had found?! I don’t get this guy. He must know. He has to know. Does he?

    “Yes, of course it did! I told no one, but I documented everything. They watch us though. They are always watching us. My managers must have found out first then they must have told my coworkers to keep their distance.”

    “If that were the case, why are you still employed?”

    The way he said “employed” was odd, but I will not be deterred.

    “Don’t you get it?! They want to keep me quiet! They want to keep an eye on me so I don’t tell! And it gets much worse.”

    “Worse how?”

    Deep breath. Here it goes.

    “They’re drugging me to keep me here. Keep me from leaving.”

    “I see.”

    I see?! He’s not even a little shocked. He has to be in on it.

    “Listen, I know how this sounds, but you have to believe me. I feel groggy all the time. I-I don’t remember being at home… I remember being at my desk and working. You have to believe me! You have to get me out of here.”

    “Mr. Welsh, you know as well as I do that I can’t do that.”

    “You have to! It’s-it’s your job!”

    “And what do you think my job is?”

    “You’re the fucking UNION REP! YOU HAVE TO HELP ME!”

    “Mr. Welsh, you need to calm down. You need to listen.”

    “THEY’RE ALL AGAINST ME! You have to help. I know too much. They’re just trying to shut me up! Aren’t you a decent human being? Underneath it all?!”

    “Mr. Welsh, calm down! I am trying to help you. I can’t let you leave and you know why.”

    “Yeah, I know why. I know you’re part of this. You’re trying to shut me up like the rest of them. I WANT OUT OF HERE! GET ME OUT OF HERE!”

    FUCK HIM! I lunge! He backs off. Then yells “NURSE! I need help in here!!”

    Nurse?! What the hell is this? She comes in, she has a-No, it can’t be.

    “You stay the fuck away from me with that-that thing!”

    While I’m distracted, he grabs me from behind. The nurse is able to get the needle in my arm.

    “WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?! YOU’RE ALL IN ON IT! You’re all…against… me…”

    It’s all going black now… so black…

    ********************************************

    “What happened there Dr. Miller? I thought he was getting better?”

    “He regressed unfortunately. He is now have illusions that he holds some sort of important information and there are people trying to keep him quiet.”

    “How awful. Are you going to inform his family?”

    “Yes, I’ll do it right away…”

    Reply
    • June 30, 2017 at 8:36 am
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      Great story, Laura. Welsh as the unreliable narrator really leads us along. At first we think that he may be mildly paranoid, then that there may be some kind of grand conspiracy (Why is he not allowed to leave?), but then we learn the awful truth. And I think we learn the truth before the asterisks, making the epilogue (for me, anyway) redundant; it actually takes the sting out of the tale (once again, for me.) But the ride up to that point is nicely feverish.

      (Oh, and welcome!)

      Reply
      • July 4, 2017 at 3:09 pm
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        Thank you, Phil!
        I was actually thinking that as I wrote it but kept it in anyway. Next time, I will do a bit more editing.
        Thanks for your comment!

        Reply
    • July 8, 2017 at 1:45 pm
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      Laura,

      An excellent portrayal of the thought processes of the deluded mind. (And as Ilana will tell you—I ought to know!) Nicely paced, very good writing. Excellent dialogue. I also utilize ‘all caps’ for emphasis in my dialogue. I don’t know how others feel about it, but I think it works well when used sparingly. It certainly works in your story.

      If it wasn’t for Phil’s comments, I probably wouldn’t have noticed this, so I want to give him credit. But the sentence, ‘The nurse is able to get the needle in my arm.’ That’s the reveal, (isn’t it?) two sentences from the end (of the scene.) (It’s not the word ‘nurse’ in my opinion, it’s the needle.) However, unlike Phil, I like the epilogue, I thought it sounded abrupt without it.

      I think it’s a cultural thing.
      The English say: It’s an empty can that makes the most noise when you kick it.
      Americans say: That guy’s an asshole.
      Australians say: I’m gonna kick that asshole in the can.

      It’s a good read, Laura. And welcome to the asylum.

      Reply
  • June 28, 2017 at 8:58 pm
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    Nice work, Laura! I find that the reader is confused just the right amount: enough to be able to follow the story but not so much that they are lost. I enjoyed it…great job!
    And welcome to the group…nice to have you with us!

    Reply
  • June 30, 2017 at 6:10 pm
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    The Dreams of the Last Raw Human

    It is here, here amongst the pine trees. It has no name. It has my name.

    Chipmunks skitter away at the sight of me, garter snakes slide into the undergrowth. Canada geese fly over, set on their own purpose. I shield my eyes from the half-canopied sun, latticing through the branches above.

    I have seen many lakes on the way here, but none of them mine. Some flow right out to the Hudson Bay. The Hudson Bay that was, for who names it now? I crossed at Sioux Narrows, the bridge still standing. That was the last bridge: the next crossings left me soaked and chilled to the bone.

    At last, where the ancient road turns again to the west, towards Echo Bay and old Kenora-no-more, I found the lake that once bore my name: “Andy Lake”.
    * * * *

    “He walked across a continent to get here?” asked the Visitor, present in photonic form as permitted.

    “Yes,” replied the High Guardian, also in photonic form, as they walked through the forest in the cool of the day.

    “He has a reason?”

    “He wishes to be at the place with which, in the Former Days, he would have shared a name.”

    “What does he do there?”

    “He talks. Sometimes he rages. And he writes. ”

    “About what does he write?”

    “Himself, mostly. His impressions – of the world, the universe, existence. What it all means to him. His knowledge of it is special to him. No matter how ephemeral or erroneous, his outpourings give him a feeling of substance, of identity. He wraps the universe around himself to give him a place and a meaning in the world.”

    “Ah, a somewhat narcissistic existence, is it not? But the same is true of most writers across the galaxy. And what is the name of this place he has sought out?”

    “In the Former Days, the body of water he seeks was named ‘Andy Lake’ by our primitive, un-enhanced ancestors. They were the Raw Humans – and he is the last.”

    “So his family is connected to this lake?”

    “No – he has fabricated his own connection, it is a coincidence of words. It has been a quest based on self-delusion, a romantic fiction.”

    “And these Raw Humans are your ancestors?”

    “They created Us to serve them – part human, part machine. Our evolution left them far behind, as you see. They entrusted us to protect the Earth. Yet to do that, we had to expel them.

    “All the Raw Humans left the Earth four hundred years ago. Two thirds of the planet were uninhabitable, the rest in grave danger. They left, and no human should have set foot here again. Even We do not set foot here now except in photonic form.”

    “You tread lightly on the Earth, you could say,” smiled the visitor. “And I have seen your cities orbiting the Earth. They are among the wonders of the Universe. And the Earth is once more a Paradise.”

    “Yes, it is our mission to restore it to its true balance. But 10 years ago a fleet of Raw Humans evaded Us and returned to Earth.”

    “Why you did not expel them again?”

    “This is a species that ranks self-dramatization and rumour above fact and sound knowledge. If they left and told others, more would come. They are our former selves: we know them too well.”

    “But to let them stay violated all you hold dear.”

    “We ensured they could not dominate as they did before. We removed all their advanced technology. And so began an experiment to see if they could live in harmony with the Earth. They could not.”

    “The others are all dead?”

    “At the hand of each other, or through being unprepared for survival in a state of nature.”

    “Except this one.”

    “We had higher hopes of this ‘Andy Lake’ and his mate. They separated from the more desperate ones. They shared a fascination for learning, and we guided them through ruined cities to the knowledge they sought. But they disappointed, as most of Us expected. They loved literature, dreams and impossibilities more than useful knowledge. Two winters ago they were unprepared. His mate and child perished.”

    “That saddens me.”

    “We also. Yet their trajectory was not beneficial to the Earth. In their self-absorption, nothing has meaning or value unless it is conferred by humans. They cannot see that the Earth has value in itself, regardless of whether they are here or not.”

    “Ah – he is shouting again. What is he saying?”
    * * * *

    “Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
    Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
    And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
    Do not go gentle into that good night!”

    I stop. I sense them. They are here, watching. Am I the last? Are all the others gone?

    I cry out, “As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport.”

    A big bird flies across the sun, casting shadows over my eyes. I see glimmers of light move between the trees.

    “Ha! I am here. What are you waiting for?”
    * * * *

    “You still wish to take him?” asked the High Guardian.

    “Yes, this Andy Lake is perfect for our menagerie of intermediate species. We will watch him for our sport.”

    Reply
  • June 30, 2017 at 6:13 pm
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    That was 911 words, btw.

    Went a bit post-modern there, in addressing the requirement “You (the writer) must be the main character.”
    And there is a lake in Canada called “Andy Lake”. So it’s all based on fact. 🙂

    Reply
    • July 8, 2017 at 7:23 am
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      “You (the writer) must be the main character.” ??? I didn’t notice that in the prompt. Criminy! So that’s why Ken used his own name for the character.
      Great story Andy.

      Reply
      • July 8, 2017 at 8:48 am
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        Thanks, Ken – and congrats on your win!! Fine story again.

        I think I overdid it, and everyone hated the story in the end 🙂
        Just trying to be original, with narrator-person flowing in and out of the story, referenced in first person and third person (and body of water). Ah well.
        Some literary references too (Shakespeare, Book of Genesis, Dylan Thomas), and even a little Neil Young. Did you spot him?

        Reply
        • July 10, 2017 at 2:05 pm
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          Andy,
          No, I didn’t spot a reference to Neil Young, even after looking for it. You must enlighten me.
          As for the placing, I feel your pain. Two stories back I came in last place. So what I did was, I took a pencil, and I sharpened it down to the eraser, then I threw it as far as I could, which caused a muscle strain, so I took a pain pill–then I felt better. I also created voodoo dolls of all of you and stuck pins in your butts. (Except you and Carrie. I’m especially fond of you and Carrie.) Actually, I’m fond of everyone, but come on, last place? I had to do something. So I flipped a decision coin and it came up voodoo.
          I know practically nothing about Dylan Thomas. He wrote: ‘Wales is the land of my fathers. And my fathers can have it.’
          Hmm. I like him already.

          Reply
          • July 10, 2017 at 4:22 pm
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            Haha. Not at the dolls stage yet 🙂 Voodoo dolls, that is …
            Here’s the Neil Young reference:
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7rQvJgTQ9U
            In fact that song was on my mind throughout

            Dylan Thomas was in many ways insufferable, and has spawned a lot of dreadful imitators – but also produced some cracking lines.

            I think in these contests we have to dare to experiment. Everyone here has a good turn of phrase and can produce frequent brilliances, but sometimes I think we need to step outside the tramlines for our own good, even though the result will probably be (in this case maybe deserved) last place!

          • July 12, 2017 at 1:10 am
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            Andy,
            Suggesting that I should dare to experiment, is like telling an 8 year old thrashing around frantically in the deep end of the pool to, “try working on your backstroke, son.”
            (Come to think of it, that can actually work sometimes. Plus, it beats jumping into the pool and having to rescue someone.)

  • July 4, 2017 at 8:05 pm
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    Albion, Idaho
    By Alice Nelson ©2017
    (906 words)

    We watched as Dottie Hinkman’s body was removed from her home. The last member of the town’s founding family died unceremoniously after a fall down the stairs.

    Dottie was a recluse and had been since she was a young girl. In fact, the entire family, retreated from public life altogether after Lawrence Hinkman’s final term as mayor ended in 1990.

    Sheriff Eames and I were on the scene. “She might’ve been mad as a hatter,” he said, “But she was one of the Hinkman’s and we need to make sure everything’s on the up and up here.”

    “Understood sheriff,” I said.

    “But I want to get home early, the wife’s cookin’ a chicken pot pie tonight.”

    **********

    Inside, Eames and I stood, staring at the spot where Dottie fell.

    “She landed smack dab on the back of her head,” Eames said in that matter-of-fact way of his.

    “Hmm,” I said.

    Eames sighed, “What’s that mean, College? I can hear your brain spinning from here.”

    “Well, if someone falls down the stairs, they normally land face down, Dottie was found face up.”

    “Maybe when the firefighters found her, they turned her over to see if she was still breathin’.”

    I pulled out my notebook and read the fire chief’s statement. I skipped ahead to the money quote.

    “We found the female victim lying on her back, attempted to revive her, then called you.”

    “See, they found her face up.”

    Eames just grunted and left. I heard the TV come on in another room. Looks like the wife will have to re-heat his chicken pot pie.

    **********

    The kitchen was in chaos after firefighters put out the blaze. It seemed Dottie was cooking dinner, left to go upstairs, and that’s when the fire started.

    Wait. Dottie lived alone, but there were two very large T-Bone steaks, and the table settings scattered on the floor were enough for two people.

    “Sheriff!” I called, “Can you come in the kitchen please?”

    I could hear him groan as he heaved his massive body off the couch. “What is it, Dunmore? She fell and died, end of story.”

    “Look at this. Dottie was cooking two steaks, and here on the floor, there are place settings for two. She was having someone over for dinner. So who was it? And why didn’t they stick around to tell us what happened?

    “Oh for fuck’s sake Dunmore, why do you have to be such a pain in my ass?” The sheriff said.

    I smiled, he did not.

    Eames took out his old flip phone and called the office, “Simmons, you and that good for nothin’ Moss, get over to the Hinkman home right now.”

    The sheriff also called the special unit in Burley to further assess the situation.

    As we waited, a tall wiry man with a pencil thin mustache entered the house, he acted like he owned the place.

    “And you are?” Sheriff Eames asked.

    “I am Jack Emanuel, Dottie Hinkman’s attorney.” He held out his hand and Eames promptly ignored it. “Well, my client made it clear that she wanted me to secure the home in the event of her death.”

    “Well mister attorney, this here is a crime scene, and we,” Eames said pointing to me then back at himself, “Ain’t lettin’ you secure shit until we conclude our investigation.”

    And with that Eames escorted Jack Emanuel out of the house. He may be lazy and wants every case to be open and shut, but Eames wasn’t about to let some stranger tell him when his investigation was over.

    I could hear the two men arguing outside, and that’s when I saw it. A small gift box shoved into a corner underneath the staircase. It looked as if someone had stepped on it. Inside were pictures of a very young Dottie Hinkman and a— “Oh shit.”

    “Sheriff, you gotta see this.” He was still outside, talking real close to Emanuel, the way he did when he just about had enough.

    “Put this fool in the back of my cruiser,” he told Simmons and Moss who had just arrived.

    I showed him the box with the pictures, “Fuck me,” he said.

    **********

    The pictures were of Dottie Hinkman and a little boy named Charlie Wilcox. Charlie and I went to school together until 1993, when he went for a bike ride one afternoon and was never seen again.

    The pictures cataloged Charlie’s life over the years; from the little boy he was, to the man he had grown up to be. All this time, Charlie was in this house, a captive of this crazy family.

    Then we heard a sound coming from the top of the stairs. Standing there, looking much older than his 40 years, was Charlie Wilcox. He was making these mewling noises, his mouth opening and closing as he tried to speak, but couldn’t. His tongue had been cut out.

    “Holy fuck,” Eames said.

    I moved slowly toward Charlie, Eames tried to grab me, but I pulled away.

    “Charlie, remember me. I’m Rosie from Mrs. Taylor’s class?”

    He looked wild-eyed at me, but I thought I saw some recognition there.

    **********

    The remains of other victims were found on the Hinkman property —six in all.

    Charlie Wilcox wasn’t the only one whose childhood was stolen by this deranged family. He was, however, the one who finally put their reign of terror to an end.

    Reply
    • July 8, 2017 at 2:18 pm
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      Once again your writing is superb. The dialogue is so realistic it adds authenticity to the story.
      “Hmmm.”
      Eames sighed. “What’s that mean, College? I can hear your brain spinning from here.”
      (Small town, overweight/lazy but politically astute sheriff, old influential family of nut-jobs. Young, educated deputy.)
      It’s amazing, (and I’m not sure you realize) how much you’re able to convey in your dialogue. And the story is mostly dialogue. In fact, the dialogue is so good, that this phrase is superfluous: ‘He may be lazy and wants every case to be open and shut…’ The writing is so good, that we already know this when we get to that line.
      If you didn’t write so well, I’d have nothing to complain about! This story is rich with content, plot and implied (and let’s be honest, cherished) stereotypes. Very entertaining.

      Reply
      • July 8, 2017 at 5:13 pm
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        Ken, thanks my friend. I wish I could say I know exactly what I’m doing, then I could be more consistent. Thanks for your kind words, I truly appreciate them.

        Reply
  • July 5, 2017 at 3:19 pm
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    Ohhhhhhhh yeah it’s time to cast those votes!!

    While you are certainly welcome to leave comments and critiques, this story thread is now closed and no more stories can be submitted.

    Remember, you must vote for your story to count, and you Can NOT vote for yourself. Good luck everyone!

    Voting Link: http://fiction.wwocz.net/blog/voting2017conspiracy/

    Good luck!

    Reply
    • July 5, 2017 at 7:05 pm
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      I just finished voting, and I have to say that this was the toughest one yet – multiple great stories. Great job, guys…fantastic writing, and enjoyable reading!

      Reply
    • July 5, 2017 at 11:24 pm
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      In space, no one can hear you vote!

      Thanks everyone for a great round! All awesome tales – I can picture out own version of ‘Twilight Zone’ with these stories.

      PS: for some reason, I’m not getting any notifications from this blog. (Yes, Ken C, I’ve ticked those little boxes. I do believe its a conspiracy against me from Alice and Carrie!)

      Reply
      • July 6, 2017 at 12:13 am
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        Ken, I can neither confirm nor deny the presence of any such conspiracy. 🙂

        Reply
        • July 6, 2017 at 10:36 am
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          Hahahaha I just updated wordpress so hopefully that fixes it!!!

          Reply
      • July 8, 2017 at 7:32 am
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        Ken A,
        I have NEVER received a notification from this site. I’ve tried clicking all the little boxes. Complaining to Carrie, causing a scene at Google headquarters, selling off all my shares in WordPress. Nothing I seem to do helps. If it’s a conspiracy, and I’m sure it is, I’m a hapless victim too.

        Reply
  • July 5, 2017 at 3:21 pm
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    P.S. Per the Writers Roster the next prompt will be chosen by Kenneth Cartisano!

    Reply
  • July 6, 2017 at 2:36 pm
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    Just waiting on Ken C and Laura’s votes.
    I have plans after work so you have until about 8pm central time to get your votes in.
    🙂

    Reply
  • July 8, 2017 at 7:09 am
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    Alice N where are the results? Hey? Next prompt too? LOL

    Reply

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