SECOND DEADLINE EXTENTION! October 26 – November 22, 2017 Flash Fiction Contest “Post Apocalyptic”

Theme: This post is for stories related to the contest theme: “Post Apocalyptic”.

Story Requirements: The story must be set in any type of Post Apocalyptic future. (Can simply be implied, or even a movie set, etc. for the non science fiction type.)

Required Elements:
1. A horse (real, dream or stuffed animal)
2. A scarf

Word Count: 0-1500 or 2500-3000 (can not have a word count of 1501-2499)

Flash Fiction Contest Post Apocalyptic Writing Prompt


  • 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 Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.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 stay within the word limit set for each contest.

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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137 thoughts on “SECOND DEADLINE EXTENTION! October 26 – November 22, 2017 Flash Fiction Contest “Post Apocalyptic”

  • October 27, 2017 at 3:59 pm
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    CONGRATULATIONS! Christopher. Well done. I am looking forward to this week’s prompt and the fact that we can write up to 3000 words if need be. Why can’t we write 1501 – 2499 words. I might have the perfect story at 2498 let us say. Adding two or three more words may just spoil it. Good stories and looking forward to this week’s stories and maybe we shall have an influx of good writers saying, “Aha the the apoclyptic scene is right up my ally.

    Reply
    • October 27, 2017 at 7:49 pm
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      Ah Ilana, that’s the beauty of the contest, trying to fit our stories within the limited parameters.

      Reply
    • October 30, 2017 at 9:42 am
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      Thank you, Ilana!

      Reply
  • October 27, 2017 at 10:36 pm
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    Congratulations peeps et al. I get to choose the next prompt, and i’m toying with the idea of being stuck in a bathysphere with your mother-in-law, a stripper and a blow fish. But I need more time to think about it. Not sure. Or— stuck in the gondola of a hot air balloon with a priest, a werewolf and a glockenspiel.
    I should probably consult with Ken Allen on this.

    Reply
    • October 28, 2017 at 1:23 pm
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      This is why we love you… ❤️

      Reply
    • November 14, 2017 at 2:15 am
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      Where is everyone? Are they thanksgiving or getting ready to give thanks?
      It seems that many are busy these past weeks. I hurry on to this site in the morning ready to read something NEW and have been bitterly disappointed by this.

      Reply
      • November 14, 2017 at 6:15 am
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        I was out of town for most of this prompt.
        I’ve been working on my story over the weekend but not sure I’ll get it in on time dammit!

        Reply
  • October 28, 2017 at 12:50 am
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    The hot air balloon sounds absolutely amazing. I think we could go a drag queen and a priest. Maybe a martini shaker and a runaway hot air balloon?

    Reply
  • October 29, 2017 at 8:29 am
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    Congratulations all you clever people. If I don’t come up with a story next week it’s because the aliens have abducted me – again!

    Reply
    • November 6, 2017 at 4:17 am
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      Are we going to extend this topic? I have my story going, but I will probably be over 2,000 words and hope to finish it tomorrow. What’s up Alice and Carrie? Extend???

      Reply
      • November 6, 2017 at 12:25 pm
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        I’d be fine with extending!

        Reply
        • November 6, 2017 at 5:47 pm
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          Me too in order to give others a chance to submit a story.
          DEADLINE EXTENDED ONE MORE WEEK. CONTEST ENDS NOVEMBER 15TH

          Hope that helps everyone to get a story in!

          Reply
  • October 29, 2017 at 3:40 pm
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    EVER AFTER

    “All right, my lovely. Just one more.”

    The man pulled the blanket up to his daughter’s chin. Her short breaths came in tiny wisps of vapour. The cold air coming through the broken windows made the man shiver.

    “It was a freezing winter and–”

    “Once upon a time, daddy.” The girl’s voice was a whisper.

    The man laughed, which set him coughing. When he’d recovered, he started again.

    “Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there was a little girl called Iris.” In the dim, flickering candlelight he could just make out his daughter’s smile.

    “It was a freezing winter, and Iris’s house was very, very cold. Her daddy wasn’t very well, so it was Iris that had to go out and find firewood.”

    “Where was her mummy?”

    “Well,” something caught in the man’s throat. “Her mummy was visiting her family on a lovely, warm island in the south, with sunshine, white beaches, warm, blue water – oh it was paradise! She sent them postcards, and Iris put them on her wall.”

    “I wish I had postcards.”

    “You don’t need postcards, my lovely. Daddy’s going to take you to an island just like that one, very soon.”

    “Will mummy be there?”

    “Oh, I’m sure she will be, yes.” The man turned his head away from his daughter and swallowed.

    “What about Iris, daddy?”

    “Of course! Iris,” said the man gratefully.

    “As I was saying, Iris had to go out and get firewood because the house was soooo cold. So that’s what she did. But before she went, her daddy made her wrap up warm, with two coats, fur boots, gloves and a lovely thick woollen scarf that kept her throat nice and snug.”

    The man pulled the blanket up to his daughter’s chin again.

    “So Iris went off looking for firewood, but all the good stuff that was close had already been found, so she had to walk a long way.”

    “Did she meet anyone?”

    “Funny you should ask that, my little dumpling. She didn’t meet any people, no, because they were all in their houses keeping warm. But you’ll never guess what she did meet!”

    “I hope it was a horse. I like horses.”

    “I know you do, and it was indeed a horse, standing in a frosty field, looking very sorry for herself.”

    “Was she cold?”

    “She was very cold, my darling. So cold her nose had turned bright blue.”

    The little girl laughed, and like her father before, this set her coughing – dry, hacking coughs that made her body shake.

    “There, there, lovely. Maybe I’ll finish the story later.”

    “No, daddy. Go on.”

    The man peered at the dim form of his daughter and knew that, yes, he needed to continue.

    “So the little girl got talking to this horse, whose name was …”

    “Maisie.”

    “Exactly. And she found out that the poor old thing was aching so much with the cold. She … Maisie asked Iris to help her, but what could she do?”

    “Scarf.”

    In the candlelight, the wisps of vapour came ever more rapidly.

    “That’s exactly right. You’re so clever, sweetie. Iris took her scarf off and wrapped it around Maisie’s neck. And you’ll never guess what happened next.”

    He paused to involve his daughter in the story, but she said nothing. He pushed on.

    “Maisie changed into a fairy! A beautiful, bright, pink and white fairy with shiny wings. And what did the fairy say, do you think?”

    The man paused again. He could still hear his daughter’s breathing, but it was very weak.

    “She said: ‘For your kindness, dear Iris, I grant you one wish. You can wish for anything.’ ”

    The man began to rush now; he had to reach the end of the story.

    “And so Iris wished to be on the sunny island with her mummy and daddy, playing on the white sand and diving into the warm, blue water. Then WHOOSH! There was a flash and Iris found herself flying, hand in hand with her daddy, flying through the air at an incredible speed. But she wasn’t frightened because she knew that she was going to a happy place, and sure enough, after a little while, they landed on the beach, and there was her mummy waiting, and all three of them danced and laughed and hugged. And they lived happily, so happily ever after.”

    He stopped and listened. He could only hear his own rasping breaths now. He slipped his hands under his daughter’s limp body, lifting her out of bed and into his arms, kissing her poor, blistered face.

    “Oh, Iris, Iris.”

    Outside, the black, ash-laden sleet started falling again.

    .

    Reply
    • October 31, 2017 at 7:02 am
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      OMG Phil ….. I’m reading this at a breakfast place trying desperately not to ball my eyes out!
      Wonderfully written. A very powerful story!

      Reply
    • November 2, 2017 at 2:54 pm
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      A well-written story, Phil, and captivating. From the beginning I had an idea of where the story was going and how it would end but I thoroughly enjoyed the short journey. I was right there with them, in the cold and enjoying the story within your story. Great job!

      Reply
    • November 5, 2017 at 5:44 pm
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      Great story Phil it is really well constructed and you involve the reader. Tremendous effort.

      Reply
    • November 11, 2017 at 9:28 pm
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      Beautiful Phil, like Christopher I had an idea where it was going, still the tension and expectation was there and all those feelings that go along with knowing the end won’t be a happy one. Well constructed with full characters.

      Reply
    • November 14, 2017 at 3:54 pm
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      Wow Phil! Thanks for the story and for the good cry. This is well written.

      Reply
    • November 15, 2017 at 12:56 am
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      Great story Philipe. A very well crafted tale of woe. Didn’t make me cry though. (I do cry at weddings however, sometimes for the groom, sometimes for the bride, occasionally for both.) A WEDDING people. A post-apocalyptic wedding. Who will write it? Not me, I already did two stinking stories for this prompt. Not doing another.

      Reply
    • November 15, 2017 at 2:21 pm
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      “That’s the way it’s gonna be, little darlin’
      We’ll be riding on the horses, yeah
      Way up in the sky, little darlin’
      And if you fall I’ll pick you up, pick you up…”

      A surefire winner, Phil – like a combination of The Road by Cormac McCarthy and a Victorian deathbed scene worthy of Dickens. No heart-string unplucked.

      Reply
    • November 22, 2017 at 6:15 pm
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      Not sure exactly where this comment will appear – it seems to have a life of its own, this board (unless it’s me … it’s probably me …)

      Thanks All for these positive comments – really reassuring and gratifying.

      Very astute observation, Andy, re the mood – I was kind of going for a Cormac McCarthyesque scene (I haven’t read him, but I have seen the film!), not the Victorian death bed (although you’re right). And I’d never heard that song but had a listen on YouTube – lovely!

      And Ken … I was at a wedding last weekend and cried! It was the first time I’d ever cried at a wedding. It was either your comment prompting me, or the amount of love in the room … probably the latter … it really got to me!

      Reply
      • November 23, 2017 at 11:43 pm
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        Phil, I doubt that I have that much influence. I was at a wedding this past year, and at the conclusion of the ceremony, everyone turned and followed the bride and groom. I went the other way to congratulate the Minister for performing such a lovely natural wedding. He was heading straight toward me, shook my hand and thanked me for attending and asked me my name. I said, “Ken.” And he said, “What a coincidence, my name is Ken, too.”

        His lighthearted, and easygoing style eliminated the anxiety of the couple who were tying the knot. And without embarrassing them, turned it into the most natural and sympathetic thing in the world. I merely tried to express my appreciation for how well he’d performed his duties when my voice caught in my throat and my eyes got watery. I could barely finish my sentence and remove my self graciously.

        I’m just saying, it’s amazing how little control we really have over our emotions, and how they can overcome us without warning.

        Reply
  • October 31, 2017 at 6:57 am
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    Phil. You’ve done it again! got right to the heart of the story. Your word picture is superb. I can see no faults. That last line is a killer.

    Reply
  • October 31, 2017 at 7:07 am
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    Star wars
    Stepping into the galactosphere I pressed my thumb to the recognition pad and prompted the teleport. It was not necessary to overburden myself with luggage as I had blueprints for clothes and shoes, whatever the weather conditions turned out to be.
    This was to be an exhilarating conference; there would be a cross section of the most innovative brains in the Union of Galaxies. The nuclear holocaust of the mid 21st century had devastated large swathes of Planet Earth, and although some life still remained it was confined to the underclass who had neither the entrepreneurial spirit nor the intellect to break free. Also the robot population presented a constant threat, having proliferated and mutated to a dangerous level. There had been warning signs, but such was man’s ambition, that when the government of the time made it illegal to produce these monsters, it led to the development of several underground factories. These, of course, were unregulated resulting in flawed robots with a kind of intelligence, but without morality or
    conscience.
    Decades ago a disabled scientist, Stephen Hawking, had warned of just this eventuality, but his words went unheeded.
    There had been many obstacles to space travel in the early days, but the brave pioneers who had ventured into the unknown had blazed a trail that was to be followed by millions. First rodents, then monkeys were sent to test the feasibility of life on far flung planets. Men came next, and after them came two horses, a mare and a stallion. The initial problems of supply were overcome by the advent of 3 dimensional printing machines. Once laboratories were established on the new planet everything necessary could be produced almost immediately, including bricks, stone, metal, textiles, even food and innovative medical equipment.
    The first baby born in space attracted galaxy wide publicity. Unlike its earth parents it was born with the ability to breathe alien air without filter masks or bulky space suits.

    Hidden away deep in the mountainous regions of planet Thor, surrounded by barren rocks and shrouded in mist, lies the top secret listening post, station Z. Manned day and night by some of the keenest observers and sharpest brains in the galaxy; their boast is that there is no message or code that cannot be broken. Eustene Thomas, a third generation Andromedan yawns and stretches his cramped muscles. The last 12 hours have yielded nothing except white noise and static. He turns to his colleague, Mironwy Bolton.

    “Quiet tonight, Ron, give me a nudge if I fall asleep.”
    “Buck up, mate, only another 12 hours to go.”

    Half an hour passes, and Eustene becomes aware of a change in the normal transmissions. He adjusts his earpiece, not quite sure of what he is hearing. An unfamiliar pattern of waves, not unlike the old Morse code is coming through the stratosphere.

    “Hey Ron, come and have a listen to this.”
    “Sounds odd, not the usual interference. We’d better pass it on.”

    In the conference bubble on neighbouring Jupiter a heated debate is taking place between the representatives of planets Mars and Venus. Mars maintains that her elected government should have free rein to pursue their own defence strategies, whereas Venus is in favour of a union of all the galaxies under one central government – strongly headed by Venus. This argument has been brewing for the last year or so, with neither side willing to compromise.
    The group co-ordinator pauses as his screen flashes red, interrupting the meeting.
    Calling the group to order, he makes a grave announcement.

    “Gentlemen. I have received intelligence of unusual cyber activity from the North West wasteland. These Mutants are observed to be rounding up the herds of wild horses that have evolved. It also appears that their science department has developed a neutron resistant scarf that will repel our most powerful cyber weapons. While I do not deem it a threat, I suggest we take the following action.
    Firstly, that we scramble the drones nearest to the area.
    Secondly, we increase the size of the galactic army, deploying robots if necessary.
    Thirdly, that we increase our arsenal of defence weapons. It is vital that we be prepared for any threat.
    And finally, we strengthen the firewall around our group of galaxies.”
    This is greeted with uproar from the delegates, the warlike Martian inhabitants advocate pre-emptive strikes. The gentle Andromedans suggest that we assess the extent of the threat if one exists, before we rush into a situation we find difficult to control.

    High in the stratosphere the Supreme Being sits on his cloud. Speaking in the now defunct language of Planet Earth, he utters one phrase.
    “Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose.” “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

    Reply
    • November 3, 2017 at 9:59 am
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      I liked the idea of this story but found that it was mostly surface information, and I found myself left wanting to dive deeper into the specifics of an interesting story hidden away in the information you provided. The allowed word count gave you the opportunity to go into much more detail, and if that had happened the surface information would have been both helpful and complimentary to the story. It almost seemed like there was too much information provided, given the length of it.

      A story can capture a reader in many ways, but I find one of the most effective (and also the most difficult) is through the characters, feeling like you can relate to them and nearly touch them. I think this story was missing that. A nice balance of characters, dialogue, and plot is always a difficult task to accomplish.

      Reply
      • November 7, 2017 at 8:45 pm
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        I concur with Christopher’s assessment. More engagement of the audience is needed through characters. It reads a little flat and I know why as I have also been guilty of similar in presenting a story like a mini documentary without enough character engagement.

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      • November 15, 2017 at 6:59 am
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        Thanks, Christopher. That was quite constructive and it’s given me something to think about.

        Reply
    • November 15, 2017 at 12:52 am
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      Hi Maud,
      I think Christopher just taught me something, a formula for writing maybe. Start with some dialogue, throw in some background info, some more dialogue. It sounds like something I do from time to time, but not something I KNOW to do.
      As for your story, I believe this story is meant to be (I’m just going to sit here until the word comes to me) tongue in cheek satire, set up to deliver the punchline at the end. I like the concept and your writing of course, the problem is the story starts from first person POV, then switches to third person point of view with the observers on station Z. Not sure if that’s copacetic. Later on in the story, even though your federation, or alliance is strictly ‘solar systemic’ the references are galactic, as if the terms are interchangeable, which they are not. However, that could be part of the satire.

      Reply
      • November 15, 2017 at 7:49 am
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        You are quite right in your assessment – it is satire, reflecting the power games being played out in all the corridors of power, worldwide. As for the tenses, on second (and third and fourth) reading, I see what you mean. I thought the planets were part of the galaxy, was I wrong? Incidentally, I had to look up ‘copacetic’ I just learned a new word. I love this group, it keeps me on my toes.

        Reply
    • November 19, 2017 at 10:53 am
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      Bahahahahaha Love, love, love this!
      It’s super fast paced (by design I believe) and choppy in parts to keep that pace going.
      Kind of like a stand up comedian that just keeps throwing jabs.

      Very fun Maud!

      Reply
    • November 19, 2017 at 3:46 pm
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      Hi Maud,

      I always love your writing style, and really I was fascinated by this story. But as Christopher said, it was like the lead up to a longer story. You gave us a lot of information, and it was succinct and informative, but then there was little room for the story part of your story.

      In this limited space, I would’ve started with the transmission that Eustene found and sprinkled in some of the more informative things needed to understand the story.

      Still, you are a wonderful writer, that made this mostly informative story, very entertaining and interesting.

      Reply
    • November 20, 2017 at 4:45 am
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      I loved the concept of this, Maud – that we get the technology to escape a toxic (in all respects) planet, only for that toxicity to follow us. (Although – and I know it’s the point of your allegory – the final line expressing that idea is a bit too ‘on-the-nose’ for me.)

      I think I agree with the others – that it’s a little info-heavy at the mo’. Alice’s idea of ‘sprinkling’ the background throughout is a good one. You could maybe have given the characters a bit more ‘meat’ (the ‘first person’ disappears after the first paragraph) – the generous word limit this time would have allowed for that.

      But to go back … the concept itself is a very good one and deserves a bit of a re-working, I reckon.

      Reply
      • November 21, 2017 at 7:56 am
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        Thanks, Phil.
        I went back and rearranged a few paragraphs and added a bit, and now it reads much better. It’s a bit late to re-submit it now, but the critiques were valuable.

        Reply
  • November 6, 2017 at 5:03 pm
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    Henry and Vincent
    By Alice Nelson ©2017

    I often watch him from my hiding place. He always wears a long aviator’s scarf that flows out behind him when he walks, and one of those old leather bomber jackets.

    Maybe he was a pilot in his old life —back before The Order.

    He wanders late at night when the streets are empty and quiet. That time of night when you can pretend you don’t live in a society run by a group of brutal monsters.

    The Order of the Void is in power now. Traditional governments were disbanded after The Order won the War of Annihilation. Chaos followed, and most of the population fled to the outer regions known as the Unknown Territories, the rest of us are captives within these borders, and at the mercy of madmen.

    People laughed at daddy when he told them the dangers of The Order. I wonder what they think now.

    Daddy would hold secret meetings, trying to organize a group of men and women to rise up and defeat The Order. But they took daddy away when I was six, then it was just me, mama, and my big brother, Esau.

    Mama died two years ago, and Esau left soon after, “I need to see if I can find a place for us outside the zones,” he told me, “Because we can’t live like this forever.”

    I haven’t seen him since. I don’t know if he’s dead or alive. I’ve just accepted the fact that at fifteen, I’m on my own.

    **********

    I come out of my hiding place in order to find food and other supplies. My provisions are pretty low because The Order had forbidden anyone to leave their homes for a whole week. It was the annual Cleansing, as they called it, when The Order’s army of soldiers, The Apostles, do their sweeps of the zones, gathering up those believed to be enemies of the state.

    The citizens have to remain inside, all fearful that it will be their door The Apostles kick in. But me, I feel safe in my hiding place —for now, at least.

    The sirens rang out early this morning, we are allowed to go out again.

    I like the quiet of the nights like the man in the bomber jacket, that’s when I do my scavenging. The Order does feed the citizens of The Zone, but the food the soldiers eat, then casually toss away, is much better than anything they give the citizens.

    On my way home, my pack loaded with goods, I see the man in the pilot’s jacket, feeding the stray animals that live in the alley behind the old Union Bank Building. Imagine, feeding animals in this day and age. Most people just kill them outright, either for sport or nourishment. He did neither, and that’s why I follow him, because he seems…different.

    You must understand that this is a very stupid and very dangerous thing to do, also it goes against my usually cautious nature.

    Mama used to say, “Careful when you go out Henry, watch out for the clans.”

    These clans are groups of rogue citizens who are known for snatching kids and using them as slave labor, or worse, as a food source.

    The Order does nothing to protect us from them, in fact they’re often as brutal as the clans, coming into the zones to take workers to their factories, and these people are never seen again.

    The Order keeps peace through the brutality of The Apostles. They allow the clans to exist, and even encourage the violence, as long as no one tries to usurp the authority of The Order.

    **********

    I follow the man, past the Union Bank building, then down alongside what was once a small amusement park near the Beach. The previously blue waters are now bleak and murky, and most of the sea life died out long ago.

    The man sits on the short wall where beachgoers of the past sat, laughed, and ate hot dogs they bought from Frank’s Hot Franks on the boardwalk. I’ve seen pictures that my mother showed me from some old newspaper clippings.

    I watch him feed a sickly dog that had limped in his direction. It had been shot and one of its legs dragged uselessly behind it.

    The man is humming a song that sounds familiar to me, it reminds me of a tune that mama used to play.
    I listen to his voice, music is rarely heard these days, and I get lost in it; lost in the memories of mama, and Esau. Without even knowing it, I begin to cry, an almost imperceptible sound, but in the quiet of the night, the man hears, turns, and catches a glimpse of me as I try to move back into the shadows.

    I curse myself for being so careless, and try to retreat back into the darkness. But he cuts me off near the old Cinnabon stand, and grabs me by the arm. I squirm and hit, and bite him, just to try and get away, but his grip is strong and firm.

    He turns me toward him, and I piss myself when I see the insignia on his jacket. The man is a member of The Apostles.

    “Why are you following me?” he asks.

    I don’t dare say a thing. He will kill me for sure if he knows what I was doing, so I just shake my head.

    “You’re lying to me,” yet there was no malice in his voice, in fact a small smile spreads across his face. “It was you’re crying that gave you away.”

    “I wasn’t crying,” I’m surprised that I say anything, but I feel I have to defend my honor.

    The man laughs, “Okay fine,” he says, “Just don’t be so careless next time.”

    He releases me and sits back down on the wall, “So, why were you crying?” He asks.

    This is why I followed him, he intrigues me. What Apostle would even care why I was crying? Still, I have to be careful.

    “Look,” he says, “If I wanted you dead, or wanted to turn you in, you’d be in the back of the van already, so come on, tell me why you were crying.”

    I shrug, then I tell him, “That song you were humming, it reminded me of a song my mother used to play.”

    He nods, as he absentmindedly feeds the crippled dog that is at his feet.

    “My wife used to sing it,” he says finally. Then he asks, “What’s your name?”

    “Henry.”

    “I’m Vincent,” he says, sticking out his hand to shake mine. It was a silly old custom that no one does anymore, and I think it is some kind of trick. I’ll shake his hand and he’ll cut mine off just for the hell of it —that’s what an Apostle would do.

    Sensing my hesitancy, Vincent says, “I’m not going to hurt you, besides, it’s rude not to shake another man’s hand.” He smiles again. It is a real smile, no villainy is in it at all.

    So I shake his hand. Mine is trembling of course, so he puts both of his around it and says, “It’s nice to meet you Henry.”

    Vincent turns back to the dark ocean, “Sit with me,” he says, “I could use the company.”

    I don’t want to sit, I want to run, and I could too. I am fast, even an Apostle can’t catch me if I have a head start. But for some strange reason I stay, and we sit in a comfortable silence looking out at that dead ocean.

    Finally Vincent says, “I used to sit here with my wife. The water was so blue back then.”

    I wait for him to continue, and when he doesn’t I ask, “Why did you become an Apostle?” I instantly regret asking it.

    But Vincent answers very thoughtfully, “I thought it would keep us safe, me and my wife Anna.”

    “Did it?”

    “No.”

    We both stare off into the dark night, and I feel very comfortable with him. If it were a different time, maybe Vincent and I could’ve been friends.

    “Anna left me after I became an Apostle,” he says suddenly. “She couldn’t bear the things I had to do, and now, I can’t bear them anymore either,” he pauses, “I thought I did this for her, but in reality, I did it to feel powerful in a world that had gone batshit crazy. And because of it, I lost her.”

    “Did she get taken by The Order?” I ask.

    “No,” Vincent says, “She left with a group who decided to take a chance in the Unknown territories. I can’t blame them.”

    “I thought no one could live outside the zones, that cannibals were there, and crazy cults who took women and children prisoner?”

    “Ah yes, that’s what we’ve been told, Henry. But really, how safe are we here?”

    “But you’re an Apostle, it is safe for you isn’t it?”

    Vincent lets out a bitter laugh, “There is no safety, when there is no freedom,” he says.

    I don’t know why, but all this talk makes me want to cry. I am tired, tired of being alone, tired of just existing. I feel more hopeless than ever.

    “Mama died two years ago,” I tell him, “Then my brother Esau went to the outer territories after that to find a safe place for us, but I haven’t seen him since. I don’t even know if he’s still alive.”

    “So you are alone, then.” Vincent says.

    I nod.

    “Just like me.”

    Then the sound of a car approaching brings us both out of our contemplative moods.

    “Go!” Vincent says. “It isn’t safe, they’re patrolling and you would be easy prey for them.”

    I learned long ago that when danger arises, you retreat, and Vincent didn’t have to warn me twice. I rush around the south end of the boardwalk, and slip through the long ago abandoned shops. Then I feel a hand grab my pack, and yank me to the ground.

    **********

    A very large man is standing over me, The Apostle insignia is on his black trench coat. He lifts me up as if I weigh nothing, puts his face close to mine and says, “What’re you doing sneaking around you little maggot?”

    Then for the second time tonight, I piss my pants, and the large man looks at me with disgust, “You filthy pig! Did your mama forget to put your diapers on?”

    I can hear Vincent rounding the corner, I think he’s coming to my rescue. “Oh, hey Sam, good you found him. The little bastard managed to squirm away from me. Thanks, I’ll take it from here.”

    Sam smiles and launches me in the direction of Vincent.

    “What’d he do?”

    “Sneaking around the old amusement park, up to no good I’m sure.”

    “Yeah, these little fuckers are always up to no good.”

    “You know it.”

    “Hey Vince,” Sam says conspiratorially, “Let’s take him to the pits and toss him in. I always love hearing them scream on the way down.”

    “Maybe another time Sam, I’m taking this one in.”

    “But I wanna have some fun, you against fun Vince.”

    “Yeah Sam, I’m against fun.” Vince says sarcastically.

    Vincent attempts to walk away, but Sam steps in front of him, “What’s your problem Vince?”

    “Sam, I’m just doing my job.”

    Vincent turns to leave, and the other man grabs his shoulder. “Let me have him Vince, I’m not askin’.”

    Sam reaches for me but Vincent turns and strikes him, knocking him backward. Before Sam can recover, Vincent pounds his head into the cement walkway over, and over until he isn’t moving anymore. Blood oozes from the back of his head.

    It’s so quiet, as if every sound has just been swallowed up. Vincent and I look at each other for what seems like hours.

    “Stay here,” he says.

    Vincent leaves and comes back with the van Sam was driving, “Help me, Henry.”

    We put Sam into the van, and that is no easy feat, the man is at least 275 pounds. Vincent looks at me and nods, and I know exactly what we’re going to do.

    The Pit Sam spoke of before, is the aptly named location where the bodies of the dead are thrown. There aren’t funerals anymore, and most people die of some kind of disease or are tortured and killed by The Order. The bodies are simply cast into the deep pit, where they’re left to rot.

    We drive for miles, and I have to ride in back with the corpse as Vincent drives through checkpoints on our way to The Pit.

    Vincent stops at the third checkpoint, and is talking to two other men. I panic, He’s going to turn me in, I just know it, and I desperately look for a way of escape.

    But the van moves on, and we ride for another hour at least. Finally we stop, and the back of the van opens. Vincent’s standing there, and for a long while he says nothing. He doesn’t move, he just has this blank expression on his face that I can’t read.

    The smell of The Pit is horrible, and I swallow hard, so I don’t vomit. Vincent drags Sam’s body to the edge, and kicks him in. We listen as it hits the pile of other dead bodies.

    “He was your friend,” I say to Vince, on our way back to the van.

    “In our life before yes, but as an Apostle, you have no friends,” Vincent says flatly.

    “Why did you save me?”

    Vincent glances down at me, “Well, guess I do have at least one friend.”

    We are on the outskirts of The Zones, in between the world of The Order, and the Unknown Territories. I have never been this far from home —ever. Vincent hands me a sandwich, it tastes like ham. We eat in that comfortable silence, and watch the sunrise. Even now, the sight of it is still so beautiful.

    “The Order will soon figure out Sam is missing. They’ll search for him and when they can’t find him, or me for that matter, The Zones will have hell to pay for it,” Vincent says.

    “What’re you going to do?”

    “A few miles west are the Unknown territories, that’s where my wife Anna went. I don’t know what’s out there, but I’m going to try and find her,” Vincent says.

    The thought of going out there scares, but it excites me too, and I wanted to go with him. I mean, there’s nothing back in the city for me, and I should at least try and find out what happened to Esau.

    “Can I go?” I ask tentatively.

    Vincent looks at me, but says nothing.

    “I know, you don’t want to be bogged down with some little kid, but I can pull my own weight.”

    Still he says nothing.

    “I know that the only way out is through pretty rough terrain, but I’m willing to take a chance if you are.”

    Just then, we see a large herd of horses burst through a forest of trees —it’s breathtaking. I thought horses had all been killed or taken by The Order. But this wild bunch, led by a large black mare, are untamed. To me it’s a sign from heaven, an omen that our own freedom from The Order is at hand.

    Vincent and I watch them until they are completely out of sight. Then he looks down at me and smiles, it’s as if he feels the same sense of hopefulness that I do.

    “Well, let’s go then,” he says.

    We fill a bag with food that was in the van. Both of us know we’re headed toward an uncertain future, but at this point it doesn’t matter to either of us.

    We look in the direction of where the horses ran, “That way,” Vincent says.

    Then he takes my hand as we cross the forest of trees, and into the Unknown Territories.

    Reply
    • November 9, 2017 at 12:52 pm
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      Wow…loved this! It really does sound like the beginning (or possibly the middle) of a bigger story, but it stands nicely on its own. Great job with painting a vivid picture of what their future is like. Nicely done, Alice…great job!

      Reply
      • November 10, 2017 at 2:03 am
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        Christopher, thank you so much! I truly appreciate your kind words, dude. 🙂

        Reply
    • November 19, 2017 at 11:01 am
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      As always I love your stories. You weave a touching story of two lonely souls. Great idea adding in the savior element and the fact that the pits were close enough to the start of the unknown territories, it would have been less believable had they needed to trek through the town again.
      Great job !

      Reply
      • November 19, 2017 at 3:32 pm
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        Thanks Carrie! I loved this prompt. 🙂

        Reply
  • November 7, 2017 at 4:17 am
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    Captivating ! I found myself holding my breath, afraid to read on. Surely this is the beginning of a book, the pair could have endless adventures. The change of tenses confused me at first, but on second reading it became clear. I felt in touch with each character, they were real to me. A great story.

    Reply
    • November 7, 2017 at 12:48 pm
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      Wow Maud, thank you. Dystopian futures are not something I usually write about, so I’m thrilled you enjoyed it.

      Could you tell me where the tenses confused you, I’d like to see if I could clear that up before I post the story elsewhere.

      Thank you again, my friend. 🙂

      Reply
      • November 8, 2017 at 8:26 am
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        Hi Alice. the tenses that confused me were 1/ ‘I came out of my hiding place….the provisions are pretty low.’ maybe you could say ‘I come out…’ OR ‘ I came out… the provisions were pretty low’.
        and 2/ ‘ I don’t dare anything. he will kill me for sure if he knew (knows) what I was doing . Neither of these stopped me from enjoying what is a brilliant story.

        Reply
        • November 8, 2017 at 9:21 am
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          Thank you Maude!

          Reply
    • November 7, 2017 at 8:58 pm
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      Really liked it, but Alice, I am going to be a pain in the butt because my anal retentive editing eye I couldn’t rein in. Sorry but here goes:

      “The citizens have to remain inside, everyone is fearful that it will be their door The Apostles kicked in. But me, I feel safe in my hiding place —for now, at least.”
      the tenses need to be consistent. It will read better thus:

      “The citizens have to remain inside, all fearful that it will be their door The Apostles kick in. But me, I feel safe in my hiding place —for now, at least.”
      and this one:
      “You’re lying to me,” he says, but there was no malice in his voice, in fact a small smile spreads across his face. “It was you’re crying that gave you away,” he says.”

      should be
      “You’re lying to me,” yet, there was no malice in his voice. In fact a small smile spreads across his face. “It was your crying that gave you away,” he says.
      You could also cut out the second he says and it would not take away from the test. Sorry, I am a minimalist I just hate putting stuff in that is not necessary and I also correct my own work in re-editing far more savagely too.
      Sorry to be such a bitch, Alice and a nit picker, but … forgive me?

      Reply
      • November 7, 2017 at 11:39 pm
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        Not at all Ilana, thank you for the corrections. You know how it is, when you write a story, after awhile, you can’t see the mistakes. Really thank you very much. I’m going to make those changes right now.

        And my friend, you are NOT being a bitch, you’re being honest, and you being such a stickler will help me to be a better writer. Glad you still liked the story 🙂

        Reply
        • November 8, 2017 at 6:56 pm
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          Ok. No problem. Are you able to remove the first story of 2677 words as i have revised my story and it is now 2903 words. Sorry so long. But it grew and grew and grew…

          Reply
          • November 8, 2017 at 8:40 pm
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            I just removed the story with 2677 words. And I removed the word “up” from the last sentence in your current story.

          • November 9, 2017 at 4:27 am
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            Thank you Alice, you are a darling. If someone is standing, they’re up, aren’t they? No need to say standing up unless the character has been sitting and now is standing up. Thank you my gorgeous girl, not only can you write good stories, you are a superb anticipator. Thank you.

          • November 9, 2017 at 12:19 pm
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            You are welcome Ilana 🙂

      • November 20, 2017 at 4:40 pm
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        Excellent story, Alice. You’ve created a believable, grim world, and a couple of very vivid characters; Vincent especially is very well drawn, and the anticipation you build before we’re properly introduced to him is just right. The action is well described, and the story ends nicely poised; it’s like a film with an ending that’s an open door to a sequel (although, as Cristopher says, it stands alone well, too).

        At times it comes close to being a bit too expositional, I think (e.g. this bit of dialogue by the narrator doesn’t quite sound natural because its job appears to be to impart information to the reader rather than engage in conversation: “I thought no one could live outside the zones, that cannibals were there, and crazy cults who took women and children prisoner?”), but in general I think it steers just this side of the line. As mentioned by others, the tenses could do with tidying up a little to make them consistent (e.g. “It was a silly old custom that no one does anymore.”), although opting to use the present for the narration overall is perfect.

        Great stuff, though!

        Reply
        • November 20, 2017 at 5:43 pm
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          Thanks Phil! I was worried it would be too expositional, so I tried to add some dialogue to break things up. And I’ll clean those tenses up before I post it anywhere else or read it for the podcast.

          Appreciate the critique, my friend and the kind words.

          Reply
  • November 7, 2017 at 4:46 pm
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    Hey ladies and gerbils,
    Been out of town. wrote a story anyway. Violates the word count, takes place BEFORE the apocalypse, (no post in it anywhere). Now that the deadline is extended, I will rewrite it until it sucks, but conforms to the rules. (as per my usual.) This is the reason for the dearth of witty insultisisms. With luck, and a regular diet of grains and starch, I will be able to make up for lost ground in the near pre-apocalyptic future. Talk to you zall latah.

    Reply
  • November 7, 2017 at 9:03 pm
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    Oh cropduster! Forgot the horse and the scarf. Well, I know that Jay can have a scarf and the horse we shall write in in the rewrite. Oh, bother bother bother. They can have a horse ensignia on all the breeder uniforms.
    Cruddy mental fog, forgetting to read the criteria. Oh dear.

    Reply
  • November 8, 2017 at 6:52 pm
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    Afterwards, it was quiet.. (2903 words)

    Ally checked the viewing window. It was dark still. It had been dark for three months now. Winds lashed the thick glass of the bunker viewing panel. Bits of flying debris – broken limbs of trees, garbage waste, flying beds and household furniture, dead birds and even some small animals smashed constantly against it. It was built to withstand an anti-tank missile. While she felt safe, in other ways, it was claustrophobic. The nuclear generator deep in the bowels of the bunker kept a dim light glowing through the rooms and the tunnels.

    She jumped down from the viewing platform. It was her job to listen to the radios. They crackled and whined periodically as she tried different band widths. It had been three weeks since their group last heard a human voice coming from the radios. The door to the viewing platform opened. A slim man entered. He was dressed in overalls and white T-shirt with a magnificent cream silk scarf that had a re-occurring motif of chestnut and black stallions rearing on it wound loosely around his neck. He twirled the scarf absentmindedly, as he walked over to Ally.

    “Ally, we missed you at the meeting. What’s happening?” He gestured at the bank of radios. “Anything today?”

    “Giday Jay. Nope. Dead as a radioactive dog’s balls.” Jay strode over to one of the radios and played with it for a few minutes as Ally watched. He sat back after about twenty minutes, a frown creased his forehead.

    “Nothing.”

    “It’s been like that for weeks. It could be the storms. They’ve gotten worse in the months since the test catastrophes.”

    “The last contact we had with someone outside, was from the Kunlun Mountain ranges. We pinpointed that through the satellite GPS system. We couldn’t understand them. No one here speaks even passable Chinese. Mandarin or Cantonese.”

    “Do we know the extent of the devastation yet?”

    “Well, not really. Our last USA contact in Colorado said that Yellowstone Park blew up when North Korean missiles hit the Yellowstone Lake. The resulting explosions took out the whole of Wyoming, Montana and the surrounding states down to New Mexico and Texas, as well as the three bordering Canadian states of Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan. The devastation has been catastrophic. It sent off a chain reaction. Can only guess what happened on the western seaboard and California. There’s been no news. He was alone with his family in a weekender up near a place called Sawtooth Mountain. Reckoned the forests and mountains are all on fire. Only a matter of time before he was burnt out, I am afraid.”

    “And what of North Korea, China and Japan?”

    “No radio contact except for the Kunlun Mountains guy. No one speaks Chinese. He doesn’t speak English. I think we have total devastation. Nothing from India. Apparently, some missiles went astray from the Korean Peninsula, so India and Pakistan and most of Asia are pretty much wiped out. Also, Malaysia and parts of Indonesia are experiencing widespread devastation from earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions all the way down the “ring of fire”.”

    “Everyone is saying that the storms are not abating, but getting worse.”

    “Yeh. Increased volcanic activity all through the pacific region and parts of Africa. The underground tests the North Koreans did appear to have weakened the earth’s crust in places. Hopefully we can wait it out.”

    “So, what does the committee want to do? Now we do not look like getting out of here soon. Not in the next few years anyway.”

    “Well, it’s got to be getting on with life as best we can. We are working on the hydroponic gardening and growing food for our needs. We must keep food up to the animals. The hens are laying and we need to hatch more chickens. There’re goats and sheep in the pens about to give birth. They have decided to slaughter all the cattle.”

    “But why the cattle? We need them.”

    “And you are not going to like this. All the horses too.”

    “You can’t be serious? Not the horses. Not the horses! Oh my God. NO!” Ally’s hands covered her face.

    “Sorry Darl. We must.”

    “But why? Can’t we keep just a few?”

    “They are large animals. Heavy on our limited resources. We get milk from sheep and goats. They’re smaller animals. Takes less to maintain their body condition, easier to house and handle.”

    “So let them keep maybe two cows. Keep semen from the bulls. Also, the horses. One day we’ll need them.”

    “Well, then, maybe you should be at the next committee meeting on Thursday. Write a submission. However, I doubt it’ll change their minds. They’re about us surviving, and keeping only what’s necessary to that goal.”

    Ten years later …

    Ally struggled against her restraints. It was no use. They had her firmly bound to the chair, which also converted into a bed at night. At this moment her legs were being pushed in a cycling motion. The wide Velcro restraint straps encircled her hands and feet and upper thighs and arms. Every half hour, she was forced to cycle for 7 or 8 minutes and exercise her arms in a variety of motions. She was constantly massaged by the bed pads and a monitor measured her heart rate and oxygen levels.

    She wanted to scream, but the mask over the lower part of her face prevented her opening her jaw to do so. It also prevented her from spitting her food out. All her food was a liquid nutritious mix that was important for the lives growing inside her body. She looked over at the other girl similarly bound in a bed beside her bed. The girl appeared to be sleeping – her eyes closed. Her blond hair spread out on the pillow besides her. She was also heavily pregnant. Her legs cycled lazily in a regular rhythmic fashion and then stopped. Her chest rose in a regular pattern, she had not spoken aloud for several days now.

    The door to the room slid open. Jay and his partner Steve entered the room. They were followed by a doctor and a nurse bearing two clipboards. All four wore a badge with the motif of two stallions, one chestnut and one black rearing on a coloured background. The doctor’s badge had a white background, the nurse’s badge was green and the badges that Jay and Steve wore had a rainbow background. Jay had a magnificent scarf wound loosely about his neck with the stallion motif of the badges repeated in a linear pattern over the soft silk scarf. He fondled the scarf running his hands up and down its silky length.

    The doctor stopped and looked at the nurse who read off the clipboards she was carrying.

    “Carrier Ally’ll be ready to harvest in two weeks. Carrier Bella is ready in three days. Both subjects have live foetuses that appear healthy and are developing normally. Ally has twin males and Bella has triplets. Two females and a male.”
    “Good. And all the tests indicate normal foetal development?”

    “Yes. There is nothing to indicate any deviation from the norm.”

    “Splendid. So, we will prepare the nursery for the new arrivals. What is happening with the carriers afterwards? Dependent on normal deliveries, that is.”

    “They will be taken down to the lower levels to work in the gardens for six months before another implantation. It’s not healthy for them to go straight back into another “Bearing Stage”. We’re trying to give them between six and twelve months rest, particularly if there are triplets and more carried.”

    The doctor took the clip boards and gave them a perfunctory glance through. He turned to the two men.

    “It’s a pity about the male to female ratio. We need more breeders. We’ll test the fertility potential of the males later in their life. Which ones are you raising and which ones do you want to go to the common nursery?”

    “Jay, hon, let’s keep the girls at home, shall we?”

    “Maybe we should take the triplets? The boy too?”

    “Oh no. I couldn’t manage three. Just the girls, please Jay?” Jay rolled his eyes. He glanced over at the Doctor and nurse waiting patiently for his response.

    “Ok, ok.” He stroked Steve’s arm affectionately while talking to the doctor and nurse. “We’ll take the females and raise them in our apartment.” He then turned to Steve warning, “but you do know that ultimately they’ll either be breeders or go on to the Amazon Quarters. They won’t be able to stay with us forever.”

    “I know, I know. But it’ll be such fun to raise girls. We’re going to have such fun. I just want to get the nursery ready now.” Steve clasped his hands together in joyful anticipation.

    Hearing this, Ally wanted to scream in pure anguish. It had been bad enough being impregnated against her will to someone she had come to despise, but to have no control over the lives of her sons and in addition, to have them ripped away from her at birth, was unbearable. The mother of the triplets appeared to be unconscious and unaware of the fate of her children. She lay prone. Her eyelids fluttered occasionally. She seemed to be sleeping. Only when they brought in the food mixes to force feed the women did she open her eyes. Blue eyes, clouded with emotion, she would mutter to herself, sometimes struggling against her bonds, but mostly submissive.

    After examining the two women watched by Jay and Steve, the group left the room. They were alone. Ally wiggled her tongue against the mask and finally the apparatus slipped, and she could speak.

    “Bella, Bella, BELLA!” She whispered loudly. The girl’s eye lashes fluttered against her cheek. “Can you hear me? Nod, please. If you hear and understand me, NOD!” Slowly the girl’s head nodded twice.

    “Do you want them to take your babies?” The lashes fluttered frantically on the girl’s cheeks. A trickle of tears streaked slowly down to her chin and dribbled onto her neck.

    “We must do something. Neither of us will ever get to see our babies again. They’ll be raised in the common nursery. They’ll belong to the community. Others will decide their future fate. Oh, God!” Ally struggled furiously against her bonds. Then the bicycling motion started. She realised it was half an hour since her last eight-minute cycle exercise session. Exhausted, she sank back against the bed and let the machine take her limbs where it would. She submitted. Nearing the end of the session, she suddenly jerked to attention.

    “That’s it!” she thought to herself. “Submit. Wait and submit.” She moved the mask’s mouth guard back into place. She looked across at Bella and thought about how to communicate with her. She did not want to make it too obvious. She knew they had cameras in place, but audio, no. There would be a way.

    The next day…

    “All councillors in agreement raise their left hand and say Aye.” Jay looked around him at the twenty-nine other people seated in the room around the long table. All except four of the twenty nine members, who he gave a searching hard stare, had raised their hands and there was a chorus of Ayes. “Motions carried by the majority vote.” I’ll read though it now again and a full copy is to go in the minutes.” He brought out two sheets of paper from the pile in front of him and commenced to read.

    “ Motion 1.1 All females will be designated either Breeder Stock or Neutered Stock on the results of a DNA test carried out at six months of age. In the case of Breeder Stock, the individual will be tattooed with BS and her year of birth on her left shoulder. They will be bred from the onset of puberty using Assisted Reproductive Technology and inseminated with the semen from a designated donor who will be the best genetic match. The year of her parturition and the number of live births will be tattooed below the BS and year of birth. When not breeding or carrying progeny, these females will be put to work in the gardens, in a research capacity, looking after the animals and kitchens of the community, but not in a capacity where they will have contact with raising of human children. The danger of attachment is too great. As they will be the best of the best, the goal is to get as many progeny from each breeder as possible and to use a variety of semen to avoid close relatives breeding and subsequent genetic problems.

    Motion 1.2 Neutered Stock will be tattooed on the right shoulder and have the year of birth also tattooed on her right shoulder. They will be give puberty blockers around seven to eight years of age to prevent the normal development of secondary sexual characteristics. They will be designated for work stations looking after the offspring of the Breeder Stock.

    Motion 1.3 All males will be allowed to develop to puberty where sperm levels and genetic tests will be carried out, to decide which of the boys’ semen will be stored for use in the breeder cycles. Those with defective or genetically undesirable traits will be culled. Their testes will be removed and they will be put into administration work and working alongside the Breeder Stock in the gardens, stables, kitchens, hothouses and other facilities where there Breeders or the BS units will be employed.

    Motion 1.4 Those males kept entire, will be working with the NS or neutered stock. Semen will be collected once a week with the help of the NS.
    Motion 1.5 Further to this, our research department will be looking at collecting and storing ova, so that the process is further refined to allow all breeding to be controlled by the science department. There will be no such thing as an unplanned mating or breeding. The goal being to breed the best possible human beings for the future of the human race.

    Tabled for further discussion at future meetings: Certain individuals with admirable traits of either male or female gender, will be nurtured to take over administration and leadership roles in the future generations.”

    Jay finished and looked over to a man with a white shoulder length hair and a flowing beard who had had his hand raised during the reading of the motions. He was one of the four who had not voted in favour.

    “Yes, Tomer?”

    “It’s been eleven years since The Great Catastrophe destroyed the greater part of humanity. We have learnt nothing, it appears, from the cause of it.”

    Jay nodded impatiently.

    “Your point being?”

    “Well, the way I see it,” Tomer settled down in his chair, “the human race was destroyed in greater part because there was a lack of attachment to family, loving others and the failure of empathy…”

    “Stop there. Now. The human race was almost completely destroyed,” and here Jay held up a warning finger, “because people were too emotional and not driven by anything except passion. We need rationale and reason to have the upper hand. Don’t we?”

    “No. don’t be absurd. We need love, spirituality, values and attachment to others. You cannot go around treating people like breeding stock on a farm. That’s a recipe for disaster. You’re going to breed psychopaths with no empathy for their fellow human beings.”

    The three women sitting with Tomer nodded their assent. “by depriving children of a mother and father, by institutionalising them, you are not allowing them to belong. To feel a sense of attachment to a group or a family. That is so wrong. Children need to know who their mother and who their father is.”

    Jay shook his head rather sadly at Tomer and the three women.

    “You have it all wrong. We need to follow a rational approach to this problem and this is our survival at stake. The council has voted. You and your three fellow councillors will be off the council committee next month. You are being replaced dependent on the vote of the other members.”

    The four looked at each other and then back at Jay and the other councillors.

    Tomer spoke softly.

    “Do not say, I did not warn you. The seeds you are sowing shall bear a hard fruit, without softness. A fruit devoid of true nourishment…”

    He would have gone on, but two guards quietly entered the room and each placed a pistol at the back of the head of Tomer and each of the three women. Phiffftt, Phiffftt, Phiffft Phfffitt and it as all over before they had time to even register shock or surprise. Then the bodies were quickly removed from the room and the double doors closed.

    Jay dusted off the front of his shirt. He grasped his cream silk scarf tightly in both hands and then twisted it around his right hand.

    “Well, let’s move on, shall we? We still have more to do. The air filter function and safety procedures must be reviewed. The outside air is still quite toxic after all these years.”

    The twenty-five other council members dutifully turned the pages of the thick documents in front of them.

    They lowered their eyes and did not look up at Jay still standing , twisting and untwisting his scarf around his hand.

    Reply
    • November 16, 2017 at 10:56 pm
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      Great story, Ilana,

      Well constructed, with an imaginative plot, and your inimical touch of horror. My only criticism is, you don’t use more contractions in your dialogue. As in:

      “Splendid. So, we will prepare the nursery for the new arrivals. What is happening with the carriers afterwards? Dependent on normal deliveries, that is.”

      “You are being replaced dependent on the vote…”

      “Do not say, I did not warn you. The seeds you are sowing shall bear a hard fruit…”

      When people are emphatic, (as in the last example) I guess you can get away with it, although it makes the line sound a little pompous. But the other two examples (I’m sure you’d agree) would clearly sound more realistic and flow better with more contractions. (So we’ll prepare the nursery… What’s happening… You’re being replaced…)

      And two typos: An extra quotation mark. And ‘though’ should be ‘through.’ “Motions carried by the majority vote.” I’ll read though it now again and a full copy is to go in the minutes.”

      That’s it, that’s my only criticism. I think it’s a bodaciously good story.

      Reply
      • November 17, 2017 at 2:32 am
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        Thanks many thanks my favourite critic. I always like to have my errors picked up and then I can go about the editing process.
        Jay is being pompous, because he is. I hope I successfully used the dialogue to show a character trait of his that was less than charming. I mean, there are some people I adore and they have some simply awful traits, but they are who they are and have other things to endear them. This may not be the case with Jay as you cannot make perfectly horrid person likeable and I think you as a reader need to like the character who will be your villian /antagonist just that little bit. It makes them just more human.
        I am going to review the story though as any goodish writer should.
        I am looking forward to reading the redraft of yours and working on the next two prompts. Should have two good stories and maybe get the gay turkey story for Glimmer magazine’s Family Matters or their short story competition. I am totally intrigued with you guys and your thanksgiving. I actually think that is a worthwhile festival of eats and acknowledgement of a greater Divine Being’s hand in your fate. Be nice, give thanks. Cook lots, invite family and eat heaps have a fight or two, but make up and be nice to all family members at the end and give thanks for the family. We have Hunnukkah, eat lattkes, Purim eat Hamatashen, Passover, (passover the bread, eat matza) great meal after reading about the Exodus, Shavout – eat dairy food, Rosh Hashannah apples and honey, Yom Kippur eat nothing for 26 hours, Succot eat everything in this little booth for seven days or eight if you are outside of Israel and start all over again for the next year. So food and festivals are very important.

        Reply
      • November 17, 2017 at 2:24 pm
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        Ilana,
        I did not mean to use the word ‘inimical’ in my critique. In fact, I didn’t even know it was a word. I meant, inimitable. Big, big difference in implied meaning. (Hope you’re still talking to me.)

        Reply
    • November 19, 2017 at 12:40 pm
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      Ilana – a chilling and extremely well thought out story!
      I always hate/love the stories where women end up as nothing more than breeding stock.

      Although I did feel like I was left hanging a bit – at the end of the section with Ally, it seems like she’d thought of a way to break out but perhaps not?

      Reply
    • November 20, 2017 at 12:44 pm
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      Ilana this is a terrifying story, in a very realistic way. I love this line, “Dead as a radioactive dog’s balls.”

      The story flowed well, you gave us a good look into who each of the main characters were, and the change after ten years with Jay being such a bastard and poor Ally as nothing more than a baby making vessel, was well done.

      Is this the beginning of a longer story, because it seemed Ally had a way of escape, but we never found out what that was. That was the most glaring part for me, you opened up this story line where it appears Ally might have a way to escape, but you never discuss it further. For such an important part of the story line, that was a bit of a disappointment.

      Still, it was well written and well thought out. There were a few minor errors, that I know you have already seen, from your comments.

      Great job Ilana!!

      Reply
    • November 20, 2017 at 6:02 pm
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      This is frightening stuff, Ilana (in a good way!) – how a closed society can lose its moral compass (I was reminded of ‘Lord of the Flies’ in that respect). The women’s predicament is harrowingly described and truly chilling (and here I was reminded of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ a bit). This is not to suggest any plagiarism whatsoever, by the way – just to describe my impressions. Jay’s transformation from obviously respected and trusted leader to despot is well done. I really like this simple line for its elegant and efficient suggestion of organisation and hierarchy: “It was her job to listen to the radios.”

      The nature of the catastrophe is well described, although (as in my comment to Alice), some of the dialogue between Ally and Jay sounds to me like it’s exposition and therefore not very natural (Jay tells Ally things she probably already knows). Having said it’s well described, though … I was wondering whether that whole first section was strictly necessary, at least in such detail (?). The core of the story is the description of the post-apocalyptic society, isn’t it? (Just throwing that in there to see what you think.) The little bridges between the sections (“Ten years later …”) could have been extended a little, I think – a bit jarring as they are.

      I thought you handled the establishing of the inhumanity of your society really well, though, and I enjoyed it.

      Reply
  • November 8, 2017 at 6:55 pm
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    OH No. I see errors still. there should be no up after standing in the last sentence. Bother, bother. 🙁

    Reply
    • November 12, 2017 at 6:46 am
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      Oh no!
      Post the corrected version and I’ll delete the first one!

      Reply
  • November 12, 2017 at 7:52 am
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    A chilling story. The best part was the way you brought in the fact that humans need love and nurturing. I guess that it will be just a few more generations until the suppressed underclass will rise up and the ruling elite will have a battle on their hands.

    Reply
  • November 14, 2017 at 12:48 pm
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    Hey Writers,

    We just wanted to update those of you who faithfully submit stories to our contest that the current contest, “Post Apocalyptic” will be extended again to November 22nd. We realize that it is a busy time of year and want to give everyone an opportunity to submit a story.

    After that, the topic will be “Element(s),”Any way you want to use the word. Properly, informally, the weather, the periodic table, the basics. No more than 1750 words.”

    After the Element(s) prompt we will take our Winter Break and return in January with a new prompt provided by Maud Harris. If Maud could get us a prompt idea as soon as you can, we can have the prompt ready to post First week in January.

    Thank you guys for participating, we truly appreciate it, and love reading your stories. Carrie and I love, and want to keep this wonderful little group going, so if you have any friends interested send them our way.

    Thanks again for all your hard work, and take care.

    Carrie and Alice 🙂

    Reply
    • November 14, 2017 at 1:56 pm
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      Hi Alice
      The January prompt will be … drum roll… ‘Murder at midnight’ play it how you like.

      Reply
      • November 14, 2017 at 2:15 pm
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        Thank you Maude, I love it!

        Reply
        • November 15, 2017 at 7:53 am
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          Hi Gang. Januarys prompt – Murder at midnight, 1000 to 1500 words.
          Maud.

          Reply
      • November 14, 2017 at 6:24 pm
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        That could be a good story from the point of view of a turkey before Thanksgiving.

        Reply
    • November 14, 2017 at 6:23 pm
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      Awwww WAHHAAA guys I wanted a prompt for Thanksgiving. So looking forward to having a thanksgiving prompt????? Nooooooo, (BASH BASH head against the wall) throwing self on the floor, having a big big tantrum drum, (DRUM ROLL) I was looking forward to writing something about Turkeys and Thanksgiving.
      Somehow I have to fit this into the scenario of Elements? Yeah, well I have to stretch those mental muscles and get to work… I am so glad Ken has finally posted and I can read a new story.
      I tried to post a great emotoji but it is not allowing it. No illustrations except the wonderful written word pictures.

      Reply
      • November 14, 2017 at 7:43 pm
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        Hahahaha
        We can post a bonus prompt just for you if you’d like!!!

        Reply
  • November 14, 2017 at 7:12 pm
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    Ken I want to be honest. Your story disappointed me a little, but it has so much potential to be better. I felt the first two paragraphs added nothing to the real story.
    You could start the story from here and it would allow the reader to jump right into the story. You don’t need to explain too much to the reader about what it was in the first two paragraphs. I could not see any reason to include them in your story. So I am left scratching my head, and no I have not got fleas. I am thinking hard and pulling my plaits in puzzlement.
    I got excited when I read the first paragraph and did a rewrite to show rather than tell. However when I read the rest of your story I realised that the first paragraph had no real connection to the rest of the story. Why did you do that?? Was it just to kid us into believing we were reading about an imminent attack on an enemy camp and then further into the story, he sets up an ambush and walks in to parley with the Skraags or whatever they are. You provided some tantalising titbits of information and then did not follow through.
    Anway here is the first paragraph rewritten and I have a chutzpah I know, but I just used it as a springboard to provide some “light relief”.
    I am off to start a story from the POV of a gay turkey who has to watch his intended partner be slaughtered and stuffed for Thanksgiving, but who takes consolation in the taste of cranberry sauce and decides to eat the leftover scraps of his beloved’s body despite being told by spurned hens whose remains they are. The hens were actually quite fond of Rudy the dead gobbler, but they are not fond of Gravox Gobbler because he is an arrogant sh*t.

    Crouched behind a boulder, Zack waited for the others to move into position. It was a dark, moonless night and he and his men formed a silent crescent of death around the enemy camp. When the signal was given, they would cut through their ranks like a scythe through dry wheat.

    Rechanneled so to speak.
    Zac peered over the boulder he was crouched behind. He beckoned the others forward with a barely perceptible waving motion. They moved furtively swift over rocky outcrops shrouded in shadows by a blackout curtain sky.
    A deadly crescent rings the enemy camp.
    Two sentries on watch meet; exchange soft greetings, watched as they part, unknowingly for the last time.
    The watchers wait for the signal. Flash, one, rise, flash two aim flash, flash firing in unison they move forward.
    Two sentries fall before their rifles are raised. Bodies bounce in the dirt as bullets ricochet off the rocky ground. Tents are ripped by rounds in rapid fire, screams from within are cut short as the men move forward. Men who move in trained precision stopping only to reload magazines of death and destruction.

    The smoke of gunfire cleared. Broken bodies strewed the ground. Shattered limbs were visible amidst the torn tents and human viscera and blood pooled – littering the terrain.
    The last moan echoed, the last movement of dying men shook shivering limbs. The killers stood in the silence. Somewhere a night bird hooted a protest. The scent of lavender bushes from the gully below the camp mingled with the breath of dying dead men – their blood and bodily excretions strong in the clear sweet night air.

    Reply
    • November 15, 2017 at 1:41 am
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      Ilana, Are you kidding? You left the ‘k’ off of Zack. How can I take you seriously if you can’t spell my main character’s name right?

      On a more serious note, you have a good eye and a good point. I didn’t realize the disconnect until I posted the story. It’s a simple matter of smoothing the glaze over the crack, letting it dry for awhile, and sprinkling some sawdust in with the–oh wait, that’s a different problem. But similar. I forgot to adjust the middle of the story to accommodate the beginning.

      Your re-write, which, some might say provides a fascinating glimpse into your obsession with goats, has far too much lavender for my taste. I will probably ask Carrie, aka, Zylka, to delete the post while I attempt to fix its myriad errors, duplicate words, run-on sentences, and dearth of gay turkeys.

      On an even more serious note, if that’s even possible, this story was originally 1730 words. I let Kim read it, she didn’t like it, wasn’t as good as the first story I wrote for this prompt, and added that it needed more words as she tossed it disdainfully onto the dashboard. (Even though, she was so absorbed while reading it, she failed to notice a gigantic red fire engine, with lights flashing, right next to us.) I thought about divorcing her, but realized we weren’t really married, so I added more words. ‘Explanatory’ words. Another woman friend of mine suggested the horse could die, hung by the scarf around its neck. At this point I’m thinking, maybe there are too many women in my life. (And not enough fire engines.)

      Reply
      • November 15, 2017 at 5:14 am
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        OH NO Ken
        I forgot the goats. They should have been some where sprinkled in the mix and perhaps these were Afghani Taliban and their goats were… NEVER MIND, I have to stop here before I let my bad fingers take over the keyboard and I write in Zack with a K and give him a goat friend.
        I think you have some greater parts to the story later on, rather than earlier. I fancy imagining what the Skraags may look like and perhaps a few hints of mutant generations. I gathered early on that they communicated with deep minds rather than word noises.
        I think you just need to leave out the first two paragraphs and your story will glide along smooth as a mutant gondelier’s oar in the mirrored water in canals of Venice.
        Why fire engines? Maybe Kim was being truthful and giving your story her full attention?
        I do not want the horse to die. The horse is one of the best parts. I could only fit in a horse emblem on the scarf of my character. Sad. Sad. I am obsessed with writing a story from the POV of a gay turkey. It could be quite Kafkaesque. We get these little obsessions and play with them for a while until one is tired and yawns off to bed and dreams of turkeys both gay and straight having a debate on some subject or other. One could wake up after turning into a turkey just before Thanksgiving and be in line for promotion to the table of plenty when really one just wanted to be a simple field turkey happy gobbling away with the hens and practising pirouettes with rainbow scarves trailing or scarves with NO WAY HOSEA and horses on it twirling.
        I must be tired and get off to bed. You have another week to put in a very very good story. I wish we had more stories up this week. Really need to get some new blood happening. Now I sound like Herr Van Bloude from Transylvannia – come into our castle, here is a pen, use your blood for ink and ve vill tell you vat ve think of you and your stories. Do not mind ze teeth, ze eyez zee tell me vat you zink… come little writers, ve vant to read your stories…..I am tired and must get to bed.

        Reply
        • November 15, 2017 at 3:38 pm
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          Man, you’re on a creative comedy roll, Ilana.
          Kim WAS being honest, as were you.
          I already took your advice and removed the first paragraph, started the story with the second, and Kim panned the first shorter version of the story. However, when she read the version that I posted, she said it was confusing and explained to me the parts that confused her. So my intention, since we have seven more days, is to re-write with an eye towards clarifying the plot, (if possible.) So, don’t worry. I’m not traumatized. I feel like I have a good story here, if I could just hammer it into a recognizable shape.
          I’m not giving you any of my blood though. You can forget that.
          Your story is very good, by the way. I only have one criticism which I will post under the story, but aside from this one thing, I think it’s excellent. Very imaginative and well written. Good hardcore science fiction.
          I’m still waiting for Carrie or Alice to delete the original before too many people read it. Could you pop on over to their house and remind them? Thanks. You’re a doll.

          Reply
          • November 16, 2017 at 2:30 pm
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            Hi Ken, tried to teleport over to Alice’s house but she was out shopping at Walmart. And Walmart does not allow teleporting Australians to enter without a valid televisa. It takes 38 seconds to reach the USA via teleport. However to get the televisa takes 3 to 4 months, provided you have not visited the short fat guy’s state of North Korea lately or taken a holiday in Iran. If you have been there, it means an extra six to twelve months to go through the security checks and that is provided you have not posted anything threatening on fb. Yes we also check your phone records and your emails. It is all in our CIA ASIO linked data base which Vladmir Putin’s mob are trying to access. They have already accessed part of it, but don’t worry they can only get into your medical records and shopping details. You are perfectly safe unless they put your doctor in a compromising situation and then he will proscribe the wrong medication to you in order for your rapid decline in health to take place. Don’t worry though, you will not suffer. We are passing an assisted euthanasia bill in Victoria and you can always visit us if you are suffering and we shall ensure you go to the right doctors.

            Then I put on my silver foil cap and tried to contact Carrie. She was out dancing in the streets with rainbow flags and other things. She was busy, so I thought to myself – let the poor girl have fun. Life is dismal enough without me being a total wet blanket. I am wringing wet at the moment.
            Bit of rain but it is needed before the summer really hits. My least favourite season of the year. I wish spring and autumn and winter lasted forever. Anything over 25C is a heat wave to my way of thinking.
            Good thinking on the rewrite. I am off to go job hunting again.

  • November 15, 2017 at 1:45 am
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    Carrie,
    Would you be a dear friend and delete my story please?
    Thanks.

    Reply
    • November 16, 2017 at 3:25 am
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      It’s deleted.

      Reply
  • November 16, 2017 at 3:44 pm
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    My comment is being moderated? If I have offended thee please accept my apologies.

    Reply
    • November 16, 2017 at 4:50 pm
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      Ilana, You’re not being moderated. I merely asked that my previous story be deleted. Please feel free to read the re-write. You might like it.

      Reply
  • November 16, 2017 at 8:18 pm
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    The Man With The Crazy Horse. (Word Count 2873)
    by Ken Cartisano ©2017

    The apocalypse wasn’t over quickly for everyone. Only the lucky ones died instantly in a flash of thermonuclear hell. Those that survived suffered a long, painful spiral into oblivion. For decades it seemed that only the craziest survived. And if you weren’t crazy to begin with, survival made you crazy. It was that kind of world.

    But all things must pass, and this too passed.

    *******

    Zack steered his huge draft horse back towards the office. Three times a week he traveled the fortified perimeter of his extended village. Some sections were walled off by stone, some concrete, the rest by a log barrier with ramparts and a pit running in front of it. Sentry posts were located at roughly regular intervals and, in the beginning, due to the primitive conditions, smoke was the main means of long distance communication. As the decades passed, other methods developed, and the smoke signals became a tradition rather than a necessity. But traditions have been built on less, and over the years, much smoke and ritual attended the ascension of every new sentry to his post.

    The duties of a sentry carry considerable risk and responsibility, the training is long and arduous. But it was always a prestigious calling that offered an elevated degree of status within the village community. Originally, nuclear fallout was the single greatest threat to the villager’s well-being, and a sentry’s foremost task was to stop roaming bands of fugitives at the gates, and determine if they’d been exposed to radiation. Many were turned away, sadly, along with their possessions, much of which would have been a boon to the village and its inhabitants, but for those deadly invisible rays. As the decades came and went, the threat devolved from the radiation they carried, to the roaming bands themselves. Especially those survivors, and their descendents, who had been turned away.

    Zack was the Captain of these honor-bound guards. Though large and muscular, he was a throw-back, born without the gift, and further marked by his recessive traits: Light skin, green eyes and blonde hair. As if that weren’t enough to set him apart, he was forced to wear a tomato-red scarf around his neck as a kind of signal flag to discourage those unfamiliar with Zack from trying to converse with him. Both of his parents and grandparents had the gift, but despite his unassailable lineage, Zack looked and felt like an outcast, and never fully integrated into the community of his birth.

    On this particular morning, just before sunrise, with mist in the air and dew still clinging to the wet grass, Zack ambled into the center of town on his incredibly huge horse, Taloa. A small knot of village leaders clustered around a single guard on the porch of the dilapidated gas station that served as his office, and headquarters for members of the Guard.

    The six men and three women watched in silence as he dismounted and tossed Taloa’s reins loosely around a bent steel post. After dusting himself off and removing his hat, Zack entered the building with the group silently filing in behind him. He dropped heavily into the chair behind a large desk, it’s wooden surface scarred and cracked by time and the elements. “What’s up?”

    His First Lieutenant, Talbot, was the best communicator. “Group of Skaags camped on the lake road, blocking our access.”

    “How many?”

    “About fifty. Give or take.”

    “That’s a small outfit. They look like trouble?” Zack asked.

    Talbot looked around the room. They all nodded. “They’re packin’ some machine weapons.”

    “I see.” Zack ground his teeth. “You think they got any ammo?”

    “Hard to say.” Talbot replied. “I guess we’ll find out soon enough.”

    “What ‘re you thinking? The usual?”

    Talbot nodded.

    The ‘usual’ was ambush.’ “They got any friendlies?”

    Talbot made a dour face. “We think so, yes.”

    Zack flinched. “Sorry. That was a stupid question.”

    No one said anything, and he could only imagine what they were thinking. “How many can we muster?”

    “Fifty men and fifty women,” Talbot said. He glared at the other leaders, as if daring someone to contradict him.

    Zack knew they would never muster fifty women. Not that they couldn’t: most of the villagers were competent hunters, skilled with knives, bows, compound bows, crossbows and other weapons. It was customary for boys and girls to participate in hunts at an early age. They were expected to dress the meat as well as carry it back to the village. But he knew that it was unlikely that the leaders would conscript as many women as men on such short notice. This lack of fidelity to the truth only added to Zack’s feelings of exclusion. There was no reason for them to mislead him. “That’s a perfectly even number, Talbot.”

    Talbot shrugged and seemed to have missed Zack’s point. “They have fifty, we’ll have a hundred.”

    Zack leaned back in the ratty office chair. Foam was sticking out in numerous places. “What else they got?”

    Talbot pursed his lips, as if considering his answer when the voice of one of the women intervened. “They got a lot of mechanicals, Zack, at least some of it’s heavy.”

    There was silence. “So they’ve got fuel then. I wonder where they got fuel?” He turned this fact over in his mind and then looked up. The entire group was patiently watching him. “All right. We’ll split into two groups, a classic pincer movement, but we’ll do the old one-two in case they have something up their sleeve.”

    His decision was received with relief, followed by a peculiar frenzy of quiet but coordinated activity. Plans were made, bows repaired, bolts and arrows were gathered and stockpiled. He sent out reconnaissance teams and doubled the sentries. At the end of the day, he plodded home on Taloa to his small bungalow on the outskirts of the heavily protected village. He had one last question for Talbot before going home for dinner. “You’re sure you’ll be able to see the scarf?”

    Talbot replied, “We’re not colorblind, Zack. Trust me.”

    Zack’s wife and daughter were expecting him, as usual. He felt for them, and yet, it was a wonder that they didn’t pity him. What must it be like to have such a freak for a husband and father? He chose not to think about it.

    He took his seat at the end of the plank table where his wife had laid out large portions of fish, spinach and a salad seasoned with a variety of savory spices. Fresh fish was still rare, delicious and regarded as a delicacy. She waited a fair amount of time before speaking her mind. “I hear they have mechanicals,” she said in a worried tone.

    He wiped his lips with a clean white napkin. “I doubt they have anything useful.”

    “Do you know that for a fact?” She asked pointedly.

    “No, but Talbot didn’t seem to think…”

    “Talbot? Talbot, Talbot, Talbot. Why don’t you talk to someone other than Talbot?” She seemed cross.

    “Why doesn’t anyone but Talbot talk to ME?”

    There was a moment of stasis between them until his wife leaned closer, tugged gently on his shirt front and said, “I’m sorry Zack. I’m just—worried.”

    “I know,” he said. “Me too.”

    She released his shirt as he stood. “I feel like a smoke, El. Care to join me?”

    She blinked. “Of course. I’ll be out in a minute—or two.”

    He retrieved his pipe and pouch, along with a sliver of burning wood from the fireplace and stepped outside while his wife El turned her gaze on their daughter, Vine.

    It was obvious to Vine that there was a great deal of tension in the air. Her dad liked to smoke a bowl of tobacco after dinner, always on the porch. Her mother hated the smell, and the whole village knew it, the only one who didn’t know it was her dad. Her mother came over and together they cleaned and dried the dishes, stacking them in the handmade cabinet. This left Zack a few minutes by himself, alone with his thoughts.

    He packed the pipe with tobacco and pondered his circumstances as the sun set behind a distant ridge that marked the opposite boundary of the village. It was more than a village, he thought, but didn’t know what else to call it.

    He considered the Skaags. He didn’t know where the name had come from. Skaags were nomads, scavengers, traders and pirates. A loose association of mechanics, engineers and tinkerers: They liked tools, and machines, which they maintained and kept running by means of more and more improvisational strategies. They were ingenious in many ways, but hostile, aggressive and, Zack had to admit, wholly untrustworthy.

    *******

    The villagers had arranged for a parlay with the oppressive Skaags that evening, sometime after sunset. Zack had been chosen as the village representative, the decision was unanimous.

    As he prepared to leave the cottage, his wife El adjusted his red scarf with near comic meticulousness, spreading the long tail of it down his back, rather than in front, and seemed to cling to him even more possessively than his daughter did, but he separated himself from the only two people he really loved, barely managed without help to mount his gargantuan horse, which carried him in a ponderously slow walk to the village gate. From there, Zack dismounted, rubbed Taloa’s nose and head affectionately, and then handed the reins to a guardsman standing nearby.

    It was a dark, moonless night. All fires in the village had been quenched. The path to the Skaags encampment was a wide, straight thoroughfare that led down a steep incline. The terrain resembled a natural amphitheater, with the glowing Skaag campfire at the bottom, as if on a stage. The village’s raiding party had split into two groups, one group snuck in among the rocks to the north, the other group spread itself out among the rocks to the south. Once in place, they formed a silent crescent of death above and around the Skaag camp.

    When all were in position, hidden among the rocky outcrops, Zack’s lieutenant tapped him on the soldier, and Zack slowly descended the hill unarmed and unescorted.

    A group of about two dozen men sat around a large campfire and there was a rustle of movement and rattle of weaponry as Zack emerged from the darkness. “I come in the spirit of peace and trust,” Zack adlibbed.

    The Skaag leader stood. He was a large man too. Bigger than Zack, dirtier, smellier, and endowed with more scars than seemed possible. He waved Zack forward, who introduced himself.

    The Skaag leader assayed him with sinister, inappropriate interest while peeling an apple with a foot long Bowie knife. “You’ve got a lotta guts, Mister. I didn’t think anyone would actually be stupid enough to meet with us.” This earned a smattering of laughter from the group around the fire. “You’re their Chief,” he guessed, “aren’t you?”

    Zack shook his head. “We’re a democracy. I’m just one of the indians.

    The Skaag leader hesitated, then extended his hand. “Name’s Morgan, Morgan Freebirth.” His face broke into a malevolent grin and his teeth gleamed in the firelight. “You don’t look like an Indian. Have a seat,” he said, pointing at a stool with his knife. “Care for a smoke?” One of his men rounded the fire with a large smoldering pipe, the acrid odor of skunkweed followed him.

    “No thanks.” Zack waved him off, along with the smoke. “I was speaking metaphorically.”

    Morgan smiled amiably. “You’re educated too. Why don’t you join us, Zack? We could use a man like you.” He squinted into the darkness, as if he could see the men who surrounded them. “They don’t trust you Zack. You belong with your own kind. I could offer you a…”

    Zack held up his hand. “We’re not here to discuss my loyalty—or affiliations.” From what he could see in the firelight, Morgan’s band of followers were not used to taking baths, their attire was more decorative than functional. They had encamped on the western side of the lake at the bottom of a concave hill, leaving themselves exposed, with no room to maneuver or retreat, and had used the water source mainly for filling jugs, canteens, tanks and radiators. Though clearly intelligent, they struck Zack as being complacent and immature; dealing with their circumstances, and the environment, in unrealistic or inappropriate ways. “We’re here to discuss your immediate withdrawal from our land.”

    This evoked hearty laughter and chuckles from the assembled group and a confident smile from their leader, Morgan. He pointed the knife at Zack. “Your land? And if we don’t?”

    Seconds passed as the firelight flickered.

    Zack sidestepped the question. “You have women and children I presume?”

    “We have wives, and sweethearts, if that’s what you mean. And a few brats and whores.”

    “You have mutants?” Zack glanced at the faces around the campfire. If they did, they were probably bound and gagged.

    The Skaag leader squinted thoughtfully. “I’m not sure what we’ve got, to tell ya the truth. They might be—they’re certainly different. They don’t talk much.”

    In rapid succession, thud-thud-thud-thud, four arrows struck the side of a metal tank, piercing its side, spilling its fresh contents onto the dirt. There was a rush of shouting and confusion as several of the Skaag jumped to their feet and raised their rifles, but only one of them blindly fired a series of bursts into the night.

    The remaining members of the Skaag dove for cover behind an assortment of supplies and equipment. Their scar-faced leader lunged around the burning campfire and grabbed Zack by the shirt, pulling him to his feet, holding the knife to his throat.

    “Call ‘em off Zack—or you’re dead.”

    Zack remained silent. But the volley of arrows had already ceased.

    Morgan barked an order at someone behind him. “Hit the lights, Jocko!”

    The ‘lights’ turned out to be one poorly powered spotlight that barely illuminated the surrounding terrain. “Come on out Mutes, or Mr. Wonderful here gets his throat cut.”

    There was a rattling of small stones in the darkness, as the spotlight scanned the hill to their left, an occasional bow-wielding villager could be seen standing among the boulders, but they remained motionless.

    Down by the fire however, one by one the Skaags emerged from behind their supplies and boxes, slowly gaining confidence in their leader’s masterful strategy.

    “Drop your bows and approach the clearing,” Morgan bellowed, as his men began to whistle and howl. “We won’t hurt you.”

    Those were his last words, as a single arrow punched a hole in his face and passed through his skull. But something hit Zack in the head at the same time, and that was all he remembered.

    It was over for the Skaags in a matter of seconds. The second group of villagers, on the hill to their right, released a withering volley of arrows and bolts that decimated the rest of the careless opportunists.

    *******

    Zack regained consciousness in his bed. That fact alone indicated the ambush was a success. His head thumped lightly and a dull ache emanated from the area near his left shoulder. Other than that, he seemed to be in one piece. A thick comforter covered him from his feet to his chin. The enticing aroma of his wife’s Elk and cabbage stew permeated the cottage. He heard the sound of words, which resolved themselves into voices, one of which turned out to be his young daughter. It was as light as the wind and as beautiful as a tree full of songbirds. “What happened? Why is he sleeping, mom? Is he all right? Can I go in and see him?” She rarely vocalized her thoughts, and even then, only when she was nervous or stressed.

    “Yes child, he’s fine. It’s only a flesh wound. He just needs rest.”

    “I heard they had slaves, mom. Is it true?”

    Silence.

    He was about to clear his throat when his daughter said, “Why do the boys call dad ‘the man with the crazy horse?”

    “Because he’s different, sweetheart. Young minds make fun of those who are different.”

    “You mean, because he can’t read minds.”

    Silence.

    “And that makes him different from us.”

    More silence.

    “It must be like—like living all alone in a small cave. How can he do that, mom?”

    Zack heard his wife’s moccasin’s scuff the floor near the doorway. “He manages, Vine. He manages.”

    It was so quiet, as he lay there with his eyes closed, that he could hear his wife’s sigh, the pop and crackle of the fire in the next room, the shriek of a hawk piercing the night.

    “Well why don’t you go in there and…”

    If there was more to the message, it was sent telepathically, with the gift that Zack never had, but he could sense his daughter’s presence as she approached the bed. He opened one eye and smiled weakly. Hers were pink and puffy from crying, so he raised his arm and ruffled her long, straight black hair. “How’s my little girl?” He said, and then winced as she scrambled onto the bed.

    Reply
    • November 19, 2017 at 12:56 pm
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      Awwwwwwww
      I loved the ending to this story!!!!
      And the way it was set up I definitely felt empathy for Zack.
      I do still wonder why the horse was “crazy” and I wasn’t totally clear in regards to the significance of the scarf?
      Was it to ensure they didn’t shoot him by accident?
      Either way – great use of the prompt and required elements!

      Reply
      • November 19, 2017 at 11:31 pm
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        Carrie,
        Yeah, the scarf was to ensure he didn’t get shot, and the horse was just ‘crazy big.’

        Reply
    • November 20, 2017 at 7:41 am
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      I loved your portrayal of Zack, I found myself feeling sorry for him because he seemed isolated within his own mind. Also, I was glad that he had a wife and daughter who loved him. Good first paragraph, too.

      Reply
    • November 20, 2017 at 5:39 pm
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      Hey Ken, I liked the story, and the dialogue was of course wonderful. The characters had attributes that gave them some depth, but the story left me sort of hollow.

      Zack is an interesting character and I loved the touch with the red scarf and his crazy big horse, but although you emphasize those aspects, you don’t really delve into them much, especially the horse, which is in the title of the story. So I thought we’d find some special reason why he rides such a large horse.

      He was an outsider in his own village, people treated him differently, but they entrusted him to be their leader, but we never really know why they trust him, they just do. Seems odd to me that they would put him in that position when he lacked a crucial “gift” that the rest of them had. The story never really dug beneath the surface, so although we get a sense of Zack, it still feels one dimensional.

      There are so many pieces here that could make up a really good story, but it lacks the glue to hold it all together. Still, I think your writing is wonderful.

      Reply
    • November 21, 2017 at 5:46 pm
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      This reads really well, Ken. You’ve described the world expertly (shades of Kevin Costner in ‘The Postman’ here – I shouldn’t keep drawing comparisons between people’s stories and films, I know, but it’s stronger than me!). The apocalyptic event is very efficiently dealt with so that we can get on to the story proper, with a great transitional line: “But all things must pass, and this too passed.” As others have said, Zack is a sympathetic protagonist. You’ve introduced a couple of invented terms to emphasise that these are other times: ‘machine weapons’, ‘mechanicals’. The action is well described.

      Like Alice, though, I felt it was just a little flat. For all the action, nothing really seems to happen of any import. The community has a battle, they win, they return to the status quo (albeit with some wounds for Zack). And we find out that he’s different. That difference is very interesting – why should he be a leader if he seems to be inferior to the rest of the group? I think investigating that angle more might have made for a deeper and perhaps more satisfying story.

      As I said, it’s a good read. I was never less than interested – too much happening and a lot of good description. But it left me a bit indifferent by the end.

      Reply
    • November 24, 2017 at 5:06 am
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      Great story, Christopher! My only major complaint would be a bit too much exposition at the start, but the end reveal was brilliant.
      BTW, I can totally understand your girlfriend’s sympathy for the Skaags, and in fact, feel it myself. Here are people whose ancestors had been denied asylum and assistance and left to die, and who survive by their own wits and skills despite being disadvantaged by not having telepathy (and whatever other talents the mutants may have developed). I felt that Zack’s assessment of the Skaags was unjustifiably harsh, & would have expected him to feel at least some empathy. He may have fitted in better with them, as Morgan suggested – although his family wouldn’t. Besides, unless I misunderstood something, the Skaags didn’t do anything particularly villainous: looks like they were only trespassing but not actually threatening the village; and it sounds like the mutants they had with them had been born into the community, not prisoners. (BTW, I love the reversal – how the ‘normal’ in one community become outcasts in the other, and vice versa.) So the villagers slaughtered the Skaags for no good reason.
      Are you planning to develop this into a longer story? There’s a lot of potential, IMO: perhaps Zack will have pangs of conscience, and start questioning where he really belongs…

      Reply
  • November 17, 2017 at 5:41 am
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    Ken
    I pretty much always like your stories. In fact, I really look forward to them and I am going to read this one again after I get back from teaching tomorrow. I see more dialogue. You are great at showing character through dialogue. I learn every time I read one of your great stories.

    Reply
  • November 17, 2017 at 12:58 pm
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    A very engaging story, Ken. I loved the characters, the dialogue, how the story progressed, and the story itself. Good job!

    Reply
    • November 17, 2017 at 3:48 pm
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      Thanks Christopher. To tell you the truth, I was getting ready to ask Alice to delete this story too. I think it’s unintentionally but excessively sentimental. I don’t mind sentimentality, as long as it isn’t in everyone’s face, but this seems a bit overdone. Plus, my girlfriend was sympathetic to the Skaag’s. (Of course, that could just be her personal taste in people.) The thing is though, I thought I had gone a little stereotypical with the ‘Skaag,’ so it was hard to see how they came across as sympathetic to her. I frequently love my stories at first, then, after a day or two, I see them in a more realistic light. That’s why I like to write them early, and then sit on them a few days before posting. I think stereotypes are story-killers. So, all in all, I’m not sure about this story. But thanks for the compliments. I appreciate it. Perhaps the story has some merit after all. (Then again, maybe not.)

      Reply
      • November 20, 2017 at 9:40 am
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        I think that there is a fine line when it comes to stereotypes; sure they can be accentuated, but other times they are merited…and I feel the latter is the case with your story. In a world like the one you’ve created, you are going to see certain behaviors evolve. To deny that evolution (or to turn a blind eye to it) would be doing the story an injustice.

        Reply
  • November 19, 2017 at 12:08 pm
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    Ugh I HATE MY STORY for this prompt.
    It’s stupid and boring and I keep trying to force it but it’s just not working.
    Too much lead up and not enough action but any more action wouldn’t make sense given the location of the story.

    For goodness sakes, who came up with this god awful prompt anyway????

    A dragon.
    Maybe a dragon is the answer.

    I mean hell, isn’t that how Godzilla was born? Some horrible nuclear accident?

    Yes indeed. Maybe a dragon………..

    Reply
  • November 19, 2017 at 12:23 pm
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    Carrie Zylka “Oscar”
    1267 words

    August 4, 2355

    Dmitrika pulled gently on the reigns and the horse responded by slowing to a stop. It gingerly stepped into the sandy loam as they crested the sand dune. She reached up and tapped her temple, within seconds, her eyelids had transformed into a pair of binoculars.

    In the far distance, across dry, burnt out sand dunes, sat a concrete bunker. Gray and squat, it was slowly sinking into the shifting terrain and she watched for movement.

    Her horse shifted beneath her and let out a great billowing sigh.

    She blinked and her lids reverted, leaving pretty blue eyes to scan the distance. She reached down and patted him on the neck. “I know old fella. I’m hoping so too.”

    She squeezed her thighs and the horse started forward again.

    The bunker was indeed deserted and had been for many years. Leaving the horse just outside the door she slowly made her way into the structure, ears straining to hear any movement or sound that would betray a threat.

    The building above ground was a simple structure. A few bunk rooms, a kitchen area and a common area. She moved through them, opening drawers and closet doors, looking for anything useful. But time, scavengers and animals had left nothing behind.

    She walked back out into the main room, against one wall was an old desk and a chair that had long since been broken, pushing the remains of the chair aside with her foot she reached down to open the top drawer. Yanking again, the drawer remained stuck.

    Dmitrika made an annoyed face and yanked again. The drawer remained stubbornly closed.

    “What the hell.” She muttered. She applied additional strength resources to her right arm and yanked once more.

    The drawer let free easier than she’d expected, causing her to drop it.

    Small round glass balls spilled everywhere, their rolling sounds loud in the silence. She watched as they scattered, but some of them seemed to roll in the same direction. The floor was pitched against the far wall. She chuckled as old memories of playing marbles with her brother flooded into her mind. She moved forward, bending down to snatch up the little balls as she went. Kneeling down, to pick up the ones resting against the wall she paused. Pushing them out of the way her fingers reached down and hooked into a space between the wall and the floor. Curious, she could feel a draft against her fingertips.

    “Well now, hello…I wonder what treasures are hidden behind this wall…” She muttered. She stood up again and wiped dust from her hands. Taking a step back she transferred strength to her right foot and kicked out. Plaster cracked, and dust went flying as she continued to kick a hole in the wall.

    Finally she stood back, someone had sealed up a doorway, an entrance that led downward. She took a hesitant step forward, trying to penetrate the darkness but even her enhanced eyesight could not see into the gloom.

    She reached out to feel along the wall, searching for a handrail and her fingers brushed against a light switch. Lights snapped on, one by one, illuminating a long downward stairwell.

    “Well ain’t that something.” She whispered excitedly. Lights meant a fuel source. And a fuel source was exactly what she was looking for.

    Making her way down into a basement she nearly wept at the sight before her. Someone had taken great pains to hide their cache away. Food stores, weapons and supplies all say neatly on shelves. But it was the glass case that held her attention. Inside sat rows and rows of four inch plasma rods. A fuel source her cybernetically enhanced body could use to fuel itself.

    Taking a quick count, she realized the seventy-two rods would enable her and her horse another seven hundred and ten years. She grinned like a madman. She had indeed found “home” for the next century.

    ~

    November 15, 2356

    Dmitrika looked up from the work desk. The noise had startled her. A child laughing? Or some sort of an animal making noise? She put her tool down and flicked off the lamp, plunging the room into darkness.

    There, she heard it again. Swiftly getting to her feet, she snatched up her gun and made her way to the front entrance.

    She slowly opened the door and stepped out into the cold night. The stars twinkled above, and the moon was almost full, casting an unearthly blue tinge across the sand.

    Off in the distance she could make out a caravan. Several wagons and trailers lumbered their way across the wastelands, some were pulled by beasts of burdens, two were being towed by large trucks. And alongside, several people walked, keeping pace with the slow-moving convoy. She counted six vehicles and eleven people walking, but guessed there were more people inside.

    In the fifteen months she’d lived in the bunker she’d not seen a single person. The wastelands were aptly named. A vast desert with patches of sustenance here and there, closely guarded by small violent clans. But the bunker was situated along what seemed to be a well traveled road. While she was a solitary person, she’d hoped a traveler would occasionally happen by, bringing news or items to trade.

    Now it seemed she would be presented with a large group…

    ~

    “Aaaaaaannnnnd CUT!”

    Amy let out a sigh of relief. The overhead lights were scorching and the it was hot and smelly in here. Too many people crammed into the Hollywood set.

    She cringed as she heard Mr. Jackson shouting.

    “This script is simply NOT going to work.” He shouted waving the stack of papers in the air. “She can’t be a post apocalyptic survivor defending herself from marauders and the like and be Mary Poppins at the same time!” He made a face and adopted a whiny voice: “oh yes, please come in to my ultra secure bunker, people I’ve never met before…no of course I don’t think you’ll slit my throat in the middle of the night and steal my horse….” He straightened up. “Get me a goddam screenwriter NOW!!”

    Amy smirked. She’d expressed those exact sentiments a few weeks back and had been told to shut it. She walked over and sat in a chair as an aid brought her an iced lemonade.

    Mr. Jackson glanced at her. “Not. One. Word.”

    Amy batted her eyelashes prettily. “Who me?? Of course I would NEVER point out that only two weeks ago I told you the script wasn’t making sense. I mean, really Peter…I would never!”

    Mr. Jackson’s face turned bright red. “NOT ANOTHER WORD!!”

    “Here’s a towel Miss Adams.” Her aid said and she took it, mopping her sweaty face.

    “WHERE ARE MY SCREENWRITERS??????” Mr. Jackson bellowed, his wispy hair sticking up in all directions.

    Four men and one woman came scurrying over and the six of them proceeded to have a lengthy discussion regarding how silly the main character was.

    Amy sat back, taking in the cool breeze from the fans. She honestly liked the overall concept of the story. A cyborg woman alone in a post apocalyptic world. Turning away a desperate band of people only to have those innocent people die at the hands of the same marauders who killed her husband and child. She loved a good vengeance type movie and she loved science fiction movies.

    Amy Adams truly hoped the screenwriters got their shit together.

    Afterall, five Oscar nominations and zero wins was simply ridiculous, and maybe, just maybe she could pull of an Oscar win as a science fiction character…

    Reply
    • November 20, 2017 at 1:15 pm
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      Really enjoyed this story, Carrie…but then it was taken away from me! Didn’t expect the Hollywood film ending.
      Could it be that Mr. Jackson is uttering your same sentiments regarding the main character?
      I would love to read entire story once it is written. With so many years having passed between the story’s beginning and November 2356 I’m sure there are quite a few adventures to write!

      Reply
    • November 20, 2017 at 6:35 pm
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      I kinda liked the Hollywood angle, but it did lose its way once the scene cut. The story had a very strong beginning and like Christopher I was really into the cyborg woman.

      I thought it was clever to make it the set of a move, it just didn’t go anywhere after that and the story just sort of petered out.

      However, this has the makings of a really great, and fun story once it’s all fleshed out.

      Reply
      • November 21, 2017 at 7:52 pm
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        I am being lazy, but I do agree with Alice’s comment. I think it is a good thing to read those who commented before you to make a comment and it saves doubling up on the comments.
        Good effort Carrie, yes, though the ending needs a bit more work.

        Reply
    • November 21, 2017 at 7:42 am
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      A good beginning. Dmitrika held my interest until the ‘CUT’ then you lost me. I think it was too much of an abrupt change. I would have liked a scenario where she either welcomed them or fought them and triumphed – but hey! It’s your story. Nicely described ‘the moon was almost full, casting an unearthly blue tinge across the sand’.

      Reply
    • November 21, 2017 at 6:33 pm
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      This starts really well, Carrie. (I don’t agree with you when you say “Too much lead up and not enough action.”) It’s involving, and that moment when Dmitrika taps her temple … I was like “What the…?!” – a very neat moment. And you very wisely don’t give us a lot of exposition about the fact that this is a cyborg and she has this and that gadgets, etc. So we understand her powers without too much explanation. The scene in the bunker where she finds the secret doorway is really well done (but balls can only be round …). There’s expectation and tension about the arrival of the caravan and how that’s going to impact her life … but then, as the others have said, that’s snatched from us.

      The two moods are so different (suspense > humour) that I’m afraid the break doesn’t really work (for me, at any rate – I would have preferred to see what happens with the caravan, but I suppose that even with the extended word count, you wouldn’t have space to do that justice). Also, parts of the story before the cut couldn’t be a film because it’s not action (e.g. the whole of the “In the fifteen months she’d lived in the bunker she’d not seen a single person.” paragraph).

      I reckon that first section has the makings of a really good longer short story, or the beginning of something bigger.

      Reply
    • November 21, 2017 at 10:50 pm
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      Carrie,
      I love the idea of the cyborg woman roaming the wasteland, loved the writing and the beginning. It was just her and us. (Us being me.) And then you brought a caravan into the picture. (With eleven people and a goat.) This is no good for romance.

      And then there was the date. The first date, ‘August 4, 2355,’ I just assumed that was today’s date. I mean, who pays attention to dates these days anyway? But when I saw the second date, I knew they were connected and relevant. Then, when the narration reveals that she, ‘Dmitrixie’ has been there for 15 months, I had to calculate the exact time differential between the two dates, (which turns out to be, 15 months, 11 days. (Or 15 and 14/57th months.) You know, when you think about it, ‘month’ is a pretty weird word. Munth. It makes your face go slack. If you want someone to think you’re stoned, say ‘munth’ real slow.
      “How you feelin’ Sally? You all right?”
      “Munnnth.”
      “Go home, Sally. Get some rest. Drink plenty of fluids.”
      “Munth mooooo.”

      So the dates made me crazy, because I couldn’t figure out their significance. (Please don’t tell me they had none.)
      And who’s this Amy person? Does she really think she can win an Oscar in a Sci-Fi movie? Hah! That is so much less realistic than a bionic cyborg woman who’s hosting skills are a tad rusty.
      And how come the 72 rods, and the 710 years gave her a “home” for only one century? Why not seven centuries? Or less rods?
      You can’t intrigue the hell out of people and then tell them it was just bad screenwriting. (Or can you?)
      Actually, I really enjoy your writing, it’s so smooth and natural. This story fits that pattern, but I felt that there was some subtle reveal that, try as I might, I couldn’t figure out. Or, maybe you simply pulled the ripcord on this story half-way through. I’d really like to know what you were trying to do. Please don’t kill me.

      Reply
    • November 22, 2017 at 8:12 am
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      Hi all – thanks for the feedback – the original premise:
      A cybernetically enhanced woman finds a fuel source that can last for many years in an old abandoned bunker.
      A caravan of travelers comes along and seeks shelter but she turns them away.
      Subsequently they are killed by a band of marauders.
      Investigating she realizes they were killed by the same band of evil minions that killed her husband and child years before (hence why she was alone).
      She spends some time wracked with guilt and basically being nosy and gathering intel on this band of bad guys.
      One day while out on a scouting mission she sees a caravan camped a ways away and realizes they are the marauders next victim.
      She can either ignore what is about to happen and thus ensuring her own survival or go battle these bad guys and help save the group of innocent people.

      I JUST COULDN’T FINISH THIS MONSTER OF A STORY IT IN 4 DAYS (much less fit it into 3000 words).

      Epic fail on the word requirement picker outer’s part…..

      So I totally cheated by abruptly turning the movie into a movie set with Peter Jackson screaming about my own frustrations!
      And yes Ken C – the whole maybe she could win while starring in a sci fi film was totally tongue in cheek lol

      Reply
      • November 24, 2017 at 4:45 am
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        Wow Carrie, that’s a very ambitious idea that begs for a much longer story to give it justice! The only way it may work within the limits of flash fiction (and I’m not sure it would fit even so) would be to start the story with the arrival of the *second* caravan and show Dmitrika’s backstory in the form of brief flashbacks. You’d lose all the details this way, of course. I hope you develop the idea into a longer story – like many others here, I’m a fan of speculative fiction and felt a bit cheated by the movie set ending just as things were starting to get interesting. 🙂

        Reply
  • November 19, 2017 at 4:24 pm
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    In A Split Second (word count: 1,121)

    By Victoria Chvatal, ©2017

    We’d been searching for water for the past week, and none of us looked too good.

    ‘It’s funny,” Lee was saying to Erin while licking chapped lips, “how all those shows assumed that once some catastrophe hits, civilisation will revert to some kind of medieval state – all carts and horses and hand tools…”
    “…Yeah, except kick-ass weapons and a stylish set of skimpy designer rags,” Erin interjected with a grin, which turned into a big yawn.
    “Well yeah,” continued Lee. “But look at us now: all the cars and gadgets and petrol and electricity you want, but no water.”

    Lee was new to the group. Good that he’d found a kindred soul in Erin, who’d been our disaster show nerd up until he showed up – the rest of us had had enough of the topic ages ago. Both had been big fans of all sort of ‘post-apocalyptic’ shows – zombies, nuclear apocalypse, natural disasters, you name it – until the shows had turned into reality TV, more or less. Not that it made the two of them any better prepared than the rest of us.

    “i bet the horses were the first to drop dead from thirst,” Voula interjected from her corner. “Too bad for any who relied on them.”
    “Actually,” old Jeff put in mildly, “horses can survive without drinking, just on moisture they get from grass.”
    “Won’t get much work out of them, though,” snorted Eddie, who’d grown up on a farm. His sister Trish added: “Anyway, why ride a horse when you can drive?”
    “That’s all fascinating, Jeff” shrilled Sue, “but are you any closer to finding us some water? It won’t help us to know that horses get their water from grass…” Middle-aged and overweight, Sue claimed to have been some sort of manager before. She may have exaggerated… not that it mattered now. I bet she only survived because she could still drive rather than walk. Still, she pulled her weight.
    “I’m looking, Sue,” Jeff responded, wiping his forehead with his jacket sleeve. “At least, we can find some plants that store water in their stems or leaves, and get a drink from them until…”
    “They are all long gone,” Sue interruped, “how about some useful ideas?”

    Sue was out of line, but the bit about the plants was true: everywhere we went, we only saw their mangled remains, long since sucked dry.

    Jeff struggled to come up with a response… then shot me a furtive look from under greying eyebrows and said quietly, “I may be running out of ideas. I’m sorry.”

    Jeff had all sorts of amazing knowledge on how and where to find water – not sure if from his former profession, hobby or what. His store of knowledge was the best thing we had going for us. And now he was out of ideas. Crap.

    Unfortunately, Sue heard it too, and on she went… Was she implying that Jeff had outstayed his usefulness???? Then Voula went off at her like a firework. Again.

    “SHUT UP, ALL!” I bellowed, “I CAN’T CONCENTRATE!”

    They did. The track was pretty rough, and no-one wanted a busted minibus on top of everything else.

    The tense silence was only interrupted when Erin paused in her weary scanning of the horison, and turned to Jeff hesitantly with: “Can you remind me, Jeff, what those trees you mentioned are supposed to look like?”

    Jeff took one look out of the window and beamed at her. “That’s just what we need!”
    The mood lightened a lot as we pulled up to the abandoned homestead, but everyone was focused again by the time I’d stopped the minibus by the grove.

    “Eddie and Lee, get the drill out of the bus,” Voula ordered briskly, “Trish and I are on guard duty.” Trish nodded and got our best rifles out the back. Guns weren’t in short supply, either.

    Guard duty was as important as finding the water, because water attracted parasites. The ones who didn’t bother doing any hard work themselves, but waited for others to do it – and then grabbed the hard-won water for themselves. And often killed the finders, as well. That’s why it didn’t pay setting up a rainwater tank and waiting for it to fill up.

    With Erin guarding the bus, Lee and Eddie setting up the portable well drill – the second best thing we had going for us, – and Voula and Trish doing their rounds, the the rest of us had a look around the property. Some of the walls were still standing and looked pretty solid. The well and the water taps were long dry, as expected. Most of the stuff was gone too, except a few random things – like a filmy blue scarf blown about by the wind.

    We’d just returned to watch Eddie and Lee drilling the ground in an open space near the grove under Jeff’s careful instruction, when Eddie gave a whoop – and water shot out of the ground! Without even a pump. We grabbed all the canisters and rushed to fill them up, getting a divine gulp, or a wonderful splash in the face, as we went…

    We had barely a moment’s warning before the parasites showed up. They’d been so quiet up till now, wherever they’d hidden, but now their bullets and racket were everywhere as we raced for cover. We had to get behind the walls and set up defence, and hope the bastards wouldn’t destroy the drill; they weren’t likely to steal it, at least.

    I reached the cover of the walls, panting, and looking back, saw Jeff straggling out in the open. I saw Voula racing to him, brown eyes blazing – and then a gust of wind blew the filmy blue scarf right in her face. She stumbled, disoriented for a moment. Then the bullets hit her.

    Jeff saw and stumbled himself, and looked to have trouble getting up. Sue almost fell over him in her rush. She spent a little too long straightening up… And then we saw that she’d grabbed Jeff in an awkward hold, and was half-carrying, half-dragging his slight frame towards us. We could hear her strained wheezing, see sweat running down her face. We shot back at the parasites, tried to cover Sue and Jeff, but Sue was too fat, and too unfit, and she wasn’t gonna make it, they were never gonna make it…

    And then they were behind the wall, with us. Sue half-laid, half-dropped Jeff on the ground, and was bent over, hands on her knees, huffing alarmingly, rolls of flesh wobbling, and still red in the face. Jeff was feebly trying to get up. A few moments passed before anyone could move again.

    Reply
    • November 21, 2017 at 12:53 pm
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      I really liked this idea, Victoria, but felt that I was left wanting more. I can’t quite put my finger on it but I felt it was missing something…
      This was an idea where you could have used the high end of the word count to get a bit more out of it.
      Or maybe that’s just me. Whenever I come across a good story I get greedy!
      Good job, though.

      Reply
    • November 21, 2017 at 7:10 pm
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      Welcome Victoria, glad to have you here!

      I was really invested in your story, you did a great job of making me care about the group looking for water, and I was rooting for them when the parasites showed up. Then the story just ends, it felt as if I’d read part of a chapter of a book, so it was a little unsatisfying. Not because of your writing, which is wonderful, but because the story didn’t resolve itself.

      You don’t need to have a definitive ending, but enough of one that leaves the reader wanting more, without being left hanging.

      You were only at 1121 words, you had a lot more room to fill the story out too, because it is a wonderful idea, it just needs a little bit more filling out.

      Welcome again, and thanks for participating, hope to see you back again.

      Reply
    • November 22, 2017 at 12:06 am
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      Hi Victoria,

      Excellent writing, excellent story. Or rather, excellent chapter, or excellent half a story. I thought it very clever the way you worked in the horse and scarf references and I really enjoy your writing style—however—you ended the story in the middle of a firefight.

      (I don’t think you can do that. I may have to look this up in my tropes index, too, but I think it’s illegal to end a story in the middle of a firefight. Unless it starts with one.)

      We still have no clear notion of what or who the parasites are, but they shoot guns, so they must be human, but we still don’t know what they look like. We don’t know who prevails.
      I don’t think you can end a scene were you did, let alone a story.
      Therefore, (e platypus ipso facto,)
      You MUST finish this story. (starticus farticus solenoid.)
      You can’t leave us hanging. There are so many ways you could go with this. (Maybe we should have a contest and let everyone in the group come up with their own ending for this story! That would be a hoot. But no, you probably want to finish it yourself.)

      Seriously, this is a great story. Are you going to continue it? Or finish it? I’d love to see where this goes.

      Welcome to the writing group.

      Reply
      • November 22, 2017 at 11:45 am
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        Thanks Ken.

        “Parasites” are human – gangs of bandits/ marauders who can’t be bothered doing the hard work of finding/ collecting water, but rather track down those who do, and once they succeed, move in and grab the water for themselves, often killing the original finders/ collectors into the bargain. I’m not sure whether “parasites” is the narrator’s nickname for them, or a generally accepted denomination in that society.

        As for the main thrust of your concrit, please see my ‘general’ comment (since I wanted to answer everyone at once). I’m not sure if I’ll take the story further; if I do, I’ll have to do a lot more thinking it through, as opposed to being lazy “because it’s flash fiction and I won’t be taken to account” :).

        Reply
    • November 22, 2017 at 11:32 am
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      Thank you everyone for your kind words and constructive comments. Particularly for pointing out that the story was left unresolved. Believe it or not, it hadn’t occurred to me; I’d conceived it as a ‘character development’ piece – a not very pleasant character is put to a test and has to make a split-second decision – and it didn’t even cross my mind that readers may want to know how the firefight ended. 🙂
      (I’m posting this as a general comment since this issue came up in a number of comments.)

      Reply
    • November 22, 2017 at 5:07 pm
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      Hi, Victoria! Welcome!

      You’ve created a different and interesting quest here: water, the essence of life, and the opening line throws us straight into the predicament. There’s some snappy dialogue, good descriptions and great action later on.

      A couple of thoughts: I wondered where the story is heading from there. It seems a strange place to stop … unless it’s meant as a sketch for a longer piece. Also, there are a lot of characters – maybe too many for such a short story (unless you do extend it into something much longer). Finally, the ‘parasites’ … I wonder if it would have been more impactful not to mention them until they attack, and only explain then who they are. (?)

      Reply
  • November 20, 2017 at 8:30 pm
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    Vicki
    Sooo excited that you are here. Will try to read your story a bit later and comment. Welcome. Doing a tango dance of joy to see a friend. 🙂

    Reply
    • November 21, 2017 at 12:33 am
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      Thanks, Ilana! 😀
      I’m here thanks to you – saw your post & decided to have a go.

      Reply
      • November 21, 2017 at 7:57 pm
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        Excellent. And yes you had a nice flow up there. Making your reader care about the outcomes for a character is what it is about. Did you write a plan for this? If not, it is a good practice for short story writing and even novel writing.
        Have that plan and you can always change it. Sometimes stories write themselves. You will start out thinking it is going to end one way, then the characters take it off in another direction the one that was originally intended.
        So often we set ourselves goals and end up going off at a tangent and are led where we must go in writing.
        A good beginning. Work on the endings. Saying that a lot lately, aren’t I?

        Reply
        • November 22, 2017 at 11:35 am
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          Thanks Ilana. I didn’t write a plan as such, just sorted out in my head how the story should go. (This seemed like a logical place to end the story – pls see my ‘general’ comment.) Are plans required even for pieces as short as flash fiction?

          Reply
          • November 23, 2017 at 9:25 pm
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            Victoria,
            I’m not trying to advise or influence you one way or another, but I’ve yet to write a plan for a short story. Not that it would hurt, if it were possible, but I get a skeletal idea in my head, like you do, from there I get a setting sometimes, or a scene. Then I write. From the writing I usually get ideas about the plot and the characters and the story starts to gel around that plot and those characters. And then, unfortunately, I often have to re-write the original idea about 3x(x+y)x + (2x – 2y) times, or twice, depending on how simple or complicated the plot and characters are, and the length of the story. Then I edit and it seems like the more I edit a story the better it gets. But the final product seems to turn out much better than the original idea sometimes, and other times, it just gets watered down. I never know. One thing is certain for me, it’s anything but a science.

            For a longer piece of work, I still start with the writing, then, when I’ve got a slew of chapters, (for good or ill) then I START an outline which I use like an unfinished blueprint that I use to keep track of where I am and where I expect the story to go. And I use it to arrange or rearrange chapters. Sort of like a map that only tells me where I am, and where I’ve been, but where I’m going is still blank.

  • November 21, 2017 at 7:50 am
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    Good description of lack of water – I had to rush and make a cup of tea! At first I thought they were in a reality show, but then it became clear.

    Reply
  • November 21, 2017 at 9:41 pm
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    The Search, the Saviour (2,916 words)
    Written by Christopher Smith
    © 2017

    He rode out of yet another town, still tired, still aching, but he liked to believe a little better off than when he had entered it. His belly was full, for one, his supplies had been replenished, for another—as much as he had dared pack into the mare’s side bags without having her tire before too long. This town happened to have provisions (unlike the last two), along with a small number of living. There were fewer of both now.

    He was down nine cartridges, sure, but the supplies and full belly had been worth the trade. In a world where ammunition was hard to come by it was necessary to use them wisely, which he felt he had—all except the one that had only clipped the shoulder of the crazed bitch with the knife. That had been the sixth cartridge. The seventh had opened a clean hole above her right eye, and shortly following that a wet and messy one on the backside of her head, painting the wall she happened to be standing in front of an odd and lively red.

    A dull life-pulse had rippled through the high street, through the side roads running perpendicular to it. That had been before he had showed his weathered face and started working his way from building to building in search of them. And now: nothing…or as close to nothing as to make very little difference. He wasn’t naïve enough to think that he had cleared the small town entirely and was sure a few had been missed, left alive.

    The old guy—the one with the worn and faded baseball cap and the ripped tie (and if there was ever a sign the world was dying then that was it)—had told him that the woman had been there with a group of others and then moved on, perhaps a week ago that had been. It was difficult to tell; time had little meaning anymore. They had tried to keep quiet and unnoticed, he had said, but any group travelling with children, especially in times such as these, was difficult to miss, and even more difficult to forget about.

    He had let the old guy live, despite the odd combination of head- and neck-wear. Call it a fair exchange for the information.

    He tugged on the reins, hard to the left, and the mare did a smooth half-turn so that they faced the way they had come. He could see a steady plume of smoke rising, rising into the brilliant mid-afternoon sky. Some kid (no more than fourteen, he had thought then and still thought now) had run from a darkened alley with a grenade in his hand. (Where the kid had gotten his hands on that, he didn’t know.) He had been screaming, and that had given him away.

    Ah, the arrogant and usually senseless bravado of the young.

    He had shot that one in the throat. The grenade had dropped from his hand immediately. It had bounced and then rolled against the kid’s one bare foot, and as he staggered backward, deeper into the alley from where he had recently appeared, the grenade had followed that foot like two lovers dancing, complementing each other’s movements.

    He hadn’t seen all of the explosion, nor the aftermath (thank whatever god there may be for such small favours), but he had seen some of it, and some had been enough. There had been a second explosion—this one much louder—and he guessed there had been a small stash of gas canisters in the alley.

    The kid hadn’t been stupid—he had been fucking brainless and balls-to-the-wall brash, so, really, in the end, he had done the kid a favour.

    Apart from the steady rise of smoke above the now quiet alley there was very little. The breeze was gentle and the sun warm against his face. On the rise, on the road leading from this town to the next, his mare waiting patiently for his command, he unhurriedly scanned his path through the town, entrance to exit, listening to his heart.

    He thought of the old man’s words and wondered who these “others” were, how it had been arranged that they would be responsible for the child—his child.

    Three towns back, one that consisted of a thin main street and too few buildings to be considered a true town, he found her: his daughter’s mother. She was sprawled—perhaps had been tossed—on the floor, her frail, cold body bent in too unnatural ways for her death to have been humane. The bed beside her had been tipped, the few sheets on it scattered to the far corner. The entire apartment was in similar shape, and the same could be said for the town. Someone had been here and taken a few things, but the job was quick and careless; he had found plenty that they had missed.

    She was dead and a group of strangers had his daughter—that was both the long and the short of it. He thought of his baby, raised her woolen scarf to his face, eyes now closed, near-smothering himself with it. It was a pleasant mixture of jasmine and vanilla, which to him smelled like…home. It was a cheap second to having her with him but for the time it was all he had, and he would take it while he was forced to. Soon enough he would have her back, the scarf returned to her, hers again, and she would be his, and all would be right.

    The old guy had said they had been here and left, but that didn’t mean it was true. So he listened to his heart…and listened. And inhaled and exhaled and listened. The listening—if nothing else—calmed him, and when the listening was done he knew the strangers and his daughter had been here but were here no longer.

    And with that he tugged the reins again and was off, off to the next town, off to continue his search for them. His daughter he would rescue, he would hold, he would keep safe; the others…well…that was yet to be decided.

    * * *

    Penelope had been returning with a pail of water when she saw the two of them stumble through the west gates, dehydrated and sun-weathered. She had dropped the bucket and went to them, supporting them both the best she could. Her first thought was that they couldn’t have possibly walked all the way from Ashbridge; it was much too far. They hadn’t, she later discovered. In Penelope’s long talks with the child (Anna, her name was, and such a beautiful one at that) in the few following days, she learned that they had travelled a long way on horseback (one they had stolen, Anna admitted) before it eventually fell over dead, nearly killing both her and her mother in the process.

    The child’s mother had been sick for days when Penelope had spotted them, perhaps longer, and although Anna had been in better shape it wasn’t by much. They had both started to cry when Penelope reached them, and while her touch and voice were soft and soothing she hurriedly ushered them indoors. Penelope knew that if she didn’t get them off the high road someone would take advantage of them, and stealing what little the two travellers had would be the least of it.

    Anna’s mother had deteriorated quite quickly over the following six days. Penelope had watched over the child—making sure she drank and ate little at first, increasing the amounts as she felt better—and cared for Anna’s mother as best she could, which wasn’t saving life so much as it was stalling death.

    On the seventh day, Penelope sat on a low-backed stool and looked upon the woman lying in bed, whose chest was now only rising slightly…so slightly it was close to non-existent. She had come down with the sickness a while ago, just as so many others had before her and so many more would after. The cause was unknown, but the symptoms were familiar: fever, vomiting, severe cramps, and then nosebleeds, pneumonia, and headaches, eventually—always—death. Like all the others, Anna’s mother had been bent by it. She would break, surely, but before that happened…

    “You must take her with you, keep her safe.”

    Penelope shook her head slowly. She had a feeling it would come to this, and had been trying to think of a reasonable excuse, a way out of it, but there were none; none seemed plausible, and all left her conquered with guilt.

    The woman in the bed winced. She bit back a cough, but when another threatened there remained no strength to hold it in. The sound was wet and deep, and Penelope found it painful to listen to. She reached out and wiped the spilled blood from the woman’s lips and chin.

    Anna, crouched in the corner, close by but hidden, her knees pulled to her nose, moaned, a worrisome cry that rattled in her throat. Penelope glanced at her, their eyes locking, and then back to the child’s mother.

    The woman closed her eyes and licked her lips once her chest had settled, trying to regain her strength. When her eyes opened, they were composed, a blue like an unclouded sky. In them Penelope saw a peaceful knowing, a confidence. But behind that there was urgency, one that could not be ignored.

    “She must go with you,” the woman continued, “there is no one else. Her father is…an evil man. If he finds her…” Her breath hitched, and then another coughing fit took hold of her. Her wide eyes snapped shut, bracing for the pain of it. Her chin and chest were wet with phlegm and specks of blood, her hands too weak to lift to her mouth to suppress it.

    “Please,” she urged, “take my daughter away from this place, and as far away from him as you can. I am dead already. My daughter might be if you take her, but she will be if you don’t, if he finds her.”

    Then the girl was standing beside Penelope, had quietly crept there while her mother lay dying, and in her hand she held a small bag. She laid it in Penelope’s lap, and then sat on the edge of the bed.

    “That is all I have,” the woman told her, “that and my daughter. Use one to save the other. Go as far as you can. It will not last long, but if you are smart with it, if you are careful, it could take you far enough.”

    Perhaps it was the softening of Penelope’s eyes, the relaxing of them, or perhaps it was the urgency in her own, but the woman knew that Penelope had been, if not fully convinced, persuaded in her favour. She turned toward her daughter. “You must go. Listen to her, help her. She will keep you safe. Run from Father. You know what he is capable of.” And then, with a smile: “I love you, my child.”

    She took Penelope’s hand. Penelope stood, slipping the bag of valuables into the pocket of her smock. The child bent and kissed her mother’s forehead; it was soft and sweet.

    Her mother inhaled: the faint aroma of vanilla, jasmine. It was this memory she would hold to when, not three hours later, she slipped into deep and utter blackness, death.

    * * *

    There was very little now, but Penelope and the child stopped to pick up what little Penelope had; anything could be useful. She would not be coming back, with or without the child.

    Anna did not ask if her mother would be okay; she had seen enough death over the last two years to know better. She also knew better than to ask if they would be okay.

    Good, Penelope thought. She’s smart enough to have an idea of the odds we’re up against. They were scavengers, and now they were on the run. Penelope would do her best to keep the child safe, but was afraid of how little that best may turn out to be.

    A family—father, mother, son—with two horses and a weathered trailer was heading east, passing through, and Penelope paid a pittance to ride with them. The father had wanted more, but his wife had convinced him to be thankful for what they were offering. They were all heading in the same direction, the wife had added, and salvation was found in helping those in need. Besides, two more in the trailer would not slow them any. He had agreed, but said they would need to part ways at the next town, and on this point he was immovable…until he heard their story.

    So they left, and neither Penelope nor Anna looked back once they had cleared the adobe wall that marked the town’s exit…except once. Penelope searched the horizon for rising dust, a galloping cloud that was their fate racing toward them. There was nothing, yet.

    * * *

    The man with the child’s scarf caught wind of them three towns later.

    He was lucky enough to find ammunition, unlucky that they were the wrong caliber. He kept the rounds anyway; one never knew what one may stubble upon somewhere down the road. He was sliding the partial box of rounds into his knapsack when he heard a soft, muffled cough. It sounded wet, heavy, and even in the whisper of it he heard the rattling sound it made.

    He stood and shouldered his pack, drew his handgun, and then worked his way toward the rear of the shop, what was once a general store. The wind blew through the broken front window, hiding his footfalls on worn linoleum. There were two doors. One rocked from half-open to near-closed in the breeze. He peaked in through this one as he passed and saw nothing of interest: a turned-over bed, a broken dresser, a rug, a few shattered family pictures in broken frames. The second he set his hand on, then leaned in close to listen.

    Behind it he heard another muffled cough.

    He raised his gun, gently turned the knob, and slowly, slowly pushed the door open.

    Within the room, on the floor, he saw a man, bent to the end of it all. They locked eyes, and in that gaze each saw the other’s soul: power on one side, weakness on the other.

    “I’m dying,” the man on the floor said, and this time he did not muffle his cough. On his chin and chest were dried splatters of rusty blood recently overlaid with a newer and brighter red. “Help me.”

    “If you can help me,” the man said, his gun still pointed at the diseased man’s chest, “then I will do for you what I can.”

    “Okay,” he said, exhausted. His eyes bled tears, his breathing was rapid, although shallow, and both men knew that for him there would be little future.

    “Where did they go?” he asked. He had lowered his gun but still held it; one could never be too sure.

    Who? the dying man nearly asked but did not; they both knew who.

    “The sickness took hold of me,” he said, “and they left. I begged them to. They moved on. I wouldn’t have them see me like this.” All of this was uttered in short, tight breaths, all the while holding his chest.

    The man with the lowered gun rubbed his chin and thought. Where would they have gone? He brought his daughter’s scarf to his face, closed his eyes and inhaled. He wondered, listened to his heart and wondered.

    His heart eventually told his that this man, beaten by all odds, was telling the truth…although it was always tough to know for sure.

    “Where?”

    The dying man grimaced, eyes shut, as if it hurt him to give the answer. At last, weeping, he said: “East. All of them.” And then, what he knew really mattered to the man standing over him: “The woman and your child. Gone.”

    The man nodded, raised the scarf to his mouth and nose, and then raided his gun. It was quick. He was certain the man, overrun with sickness, would have appreciated the act of mercy.

    * * *

    They heard the distant gunshot.

    Off of the main street and behind a jagged outcrop of rock, well behind the building that was once a general store, was a barn. Within in, two horses grazed lazily on the large donation of hay at their feet. Above them, hidden in the dark of the loft were Penelope and Anna, and also the dead man’s wife and son. She wept for her husband, and the boy did the same for his father.

    Here they all waited, held their breath until the sun went down. They had provisions, and these got them through the evening, the darkness, the following day. They waited until dark before leaving the barn, and when they did they quickly stopped for as long as they dared to replenish as much as they could from the now-dead town.

    Once done they moved on, headed west, all of them, including horses and beaten trailer. They would attempt to find something together, perhaps something worth living for. None of them had yet taken the sickness, but it would take eventually, because in the end the sickness took everyone, the evil and the kind alike.

    Reply
    • November 22, 2017 at 5:49 pm
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      Fantastic, complex story, Christopher. The creation of the world, the atmosphere, the descriptions, the characters, the action, the plot, the turns of phrase … all top notch. I really love your use of understatement: you tell us almost all of a piece of information, then we have to just join the last couple of dots. It makes for a very satisfying reading experience because we’re involved in creating/completing the story in our minds (e.g. “There were fewer of both now … He was down nine cartridges …”). Nice bit of misdirection with the father figure – seems like an anti-hero initially, a kind of roaming Clint Eastwood vigilante type, then it’s suggested that he’s pure evil (although we don’t know exactly what he’s done to Penelope and Anna). And the ending is superb; he’s going east, they’re going west – they should be safe from him, but they won’t escape an equally terrible fate.

      There was, for me, a bit of confusion about how many towns feature. And there are a couple of slightly distracting typos (‘stubble’, ‘raided’). But details …

      Loved it.

      Reply
      • November 23, 2017 at 7:26 am
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        Thanks, Phil, I appreciate it…thrilled that you liked the story.

        I’m not a fan of stories that give all of the answers (rarely in life do we discover the answers to all that we would like to know), and so I like to write a story the same way…it gives it more of a realistic feel, in my opinion. What the father did to Penelope and Anna is one of those unanswered questions…perhaps to be answered in another short story:)

        I admit I could have made things more clear regarding the number of towns, but I did that on purpose, to try to give the impression that the majority of the world is desolate, that all parties in the story have been travelling a while, and to many, many places. Not sure if it effectively came across that way, though.

        As for the typos, no one to blame but me; I guess editing late at night isn’t the best idea. I will make revisions at a more reasonable hour.

        Thanks again for the kind words!

        Reply
    • November 23, 2017 at 12:24 pm
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      Christopher,
      Interesting story. Very subtly and elegantly delivered. Although you have quite a few typos, the fast pace and constant tension really holds your attention. There’s a lot of exposition, but the dialogue is excellent. It’s almost too real. I like the point, and counter-point of your two main characters.

      A few negatives (for me) I may be missing something, but… The story clearly doesn’t have a definite ending, perhaps because it’s a story about a continuous chase, a never-ending struggle. There is no resolution to the chase—although, if your last comments are to be taken literally, and I think they are, then it makes sense. ‘None of them had yet taken the sickness, but it would take (them) eventually, because in the end the sickness took everyone, the evil and the kind alike.’

      So there’s no need for more story because in the end, they all die? Is that it?

      This phrase is probably due to another typo.
      Apart from the steady rise of smoke above the now quiet alley there was very little. (Little what?)

      This is clever writing but the phrase, ‘too unnatural ways’ is awkward. ‘…her frail, cold body bent in too unnatural ways (too many unnatural ways?) for her death to have been humane.’ (The implication is that, no one killed her, she died from the disease.) Correct?

      ‘His daughter he would rescue, he would hold, he would keep safe; the others…well…that was yet to be decided. (He seems like a vigilante, dispensing his own brand of mercy, but not necessarily justice. I did not discern that he was evil, nor that anyone else was especially good. They all seemed perfectly human. (Which is how it should be.) But why his wife is trying to keep his daughter from him remains a mystery?

      Despite the typos and unanswered questions, all in all, it’s quite an excellent and creative story, Christopher.

      Reply
      • November 23, 2017 at 2:56 pm
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        Thanks, Ken!

        Damn typos. Serves me right for rushing through the editing process. I will tackle those shortly, thank you.

        And you have it, when it comes to the ending. There may be a few more towns in their future…maybe MANY more…but in the end they are doomed, all of them. The father may discover he’s been sidetracked and then regain their trail, but if and when he would reach them, would it be over anyway? Would he die before then? Up to the reader to fill in this info. (I like stories like this, but I understand that not everyone will; others prefer a solid ending.)

        As for the phrase “Apart from the steady rise of smoke above the now quiet alley there was very little,” I meant “little movement,” “little sign of life,” etc. The point was supposed to be that there was very little of everything…an attempt to explain just how lifeless the town now was.

        The phrase, “too unnatural ways” was awkward, and I should have written it differently. Yes she died from the disease, but whoever found her (and tossed her to the ground) treated her more like an object than a person expired…an attempt to explain just how ruthless and heartless their world now is.

        I should finish by saying that I dislike having to explain what I meant by this and by that in a story I’ve written, simply because it means that I failed (to some extent) as the writer. That isn’t to say the reader is not supposed to ask the questions. Doing so helps me see where I went wrong, so thank you, sir.

        Reply
      • November 24, 2017 at 4:36 am
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        IMO the father/ gunman’s characterisation is very subtle. At first, he appears as a vigilante looking for his family, and only a few small details are jarring. And then you read the woman’s assessment of him, look back – and it was there all along. Mismatched head- and neckwear as a good enough reason to kill someone? Really? The guy. Is. A. Psycho. Made me wonder whether all the others he’d killed had really attacked him first, or if he’d murdered them unprovoked. Well done, Christopher!

        Reply
        • November 24, 2017 at 7:10 am
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          Thank you, Victoria!
          And I agree: he is a psycho, indeed (although we know little of why he is)!
          Happy you enjoyed the story!

          Reply
  • November 22, 2017 at 12:02 am
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    Absolutely brilliant story Christopher. Really worked in the scarf and the horse well too. Great job.

    Reply
    • November 22, 2017 at 9:22 am
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      Thank you, Ilana! Glad you enjoyed it.

      Reply
  • November 22, 2017 at 11:43 am
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    Alright Ladies and Gents, this story thread is now closed and it’s time to vote for your favorites, before voting however, make sure you’ve read all the stories. There were two late editions, Victoria and Christopher. Here’s the link to the voting page, remember you can not vote for yourself, and you must vote to qualify.

    Here’s the link and good luck to all

    http://fiction.wwocz.net/blog/voting-for-october-26-november-22-2017-flash-fiction-contest-post-apocalyptic/

    Reply
  • November 22, 2017 at 2:49 pm
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    Plans are a good writing tool for any story or novel. 🙂

    Reply
  • November 22, 2017 at 2:54 pm
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    I had a story half-finished, but defeated by time and a batch of work deadlines
    🙁
    Great topic, I look forward to reading all the stories I haven’t yet read

    Reply
    • November 22, 2017 at 3:24 pm
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      Too bad Andy, hope you can get a story in for the next prompt, our last of the year 🙂

      Reply
      • November 23, 2017 at 5:11 pm
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        Is that referring to my (unfinished) story, Ken?
        You must have read it somehow, lol!

        Reply
  • November 23, 2017 at 4:19 pm
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    Hey folks, it’s Thanksgiving here in the States, so I’ll have the results of the contest and the new link up tomorrow. KEN CARTISANO please get your votes in, you have all day today. Thank you, love Alice 🙂

    Reply
      • November 24, 2017 at 12:27 pm
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        Yes Ken, got them. Thanks 🙂

        Reply

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