July 6 – July 19, 2017 Flash Fiction Contest “Snakes”

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

Story Requirements: Can be singular or plural, but “snake” must be an element in the story.

Word Count: 1200

Incentive: Winner will receive choice of $5 Starbucks Gift Card or $5 Kindle Gift Card


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

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

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

Story Submission Rules:
  1. One story per author. You may post more than one but only the first story will qualify for voting.
  2. Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
  3. Stories must fit into a single comment box and must be less than 1200 words.

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

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

***the next writing prompt will be chosen by Dean Hardage 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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93 thoughts on “July 6 – July 19, 2017 Flash Fiction Contest “Snakes”

  • July 8, 2017 at 8:37 am
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    Post general comments here!
    Good luck to everyone!

    Reply
  • July 9, 2017 at 3:17 am
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    This has very erotic overtones you realise? Be interesting to see what we will get in the way of stories. LOL

    Reply
  • July 9, 2017 at 9:36 am
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    Snake Charmers

    “Wow! These people know how to put on a party!” Dave Storm looked all around, wanting to absorb every detail. The restored country house. The rolling landscaped gardens. The marquee where a chamber orchestra played appropriate music, and the throng of guests in sombre designer attire.

    Detective Inspector Malcolm Durrant looked sideways at his younger companion. “I wouldn’t use the word ‘party’ in front of the grieving widow,” he advised.

    “Okay! By your tone, I guess you don’t think she’s too overwhelmed with grief?”

    “The £1.4 billion inheritance softens the blow, no doubt.”

    Storm chuckled. “She certainly plays the part well, if that’s the case.”

    “You know, ‘Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it’.”

    “You make that up?”

    Durrant looked at him, incredulous. “You’re a writer and you don’t recognise it?”

    “Dickens? Tolstoy?”

    “Shakespeare! From Macbeth. It’s Lady Macbeth who says it, to be precise.”

    “She kill her husband too?”

    Durrant rolled his eyes up to the heavens. “I thought you writers had to absorb the great canon of literature before being let loose on the world.”

    Storm smiled. “I’m a crime writer. I’m here to learn about police procedures in action, not ancient literature. If you’re going to connect with a modern audience, you’d be better off referencing Harry Potter or Grand Theft Auto, to be honest. No one reads the old stuff. Well, unless someone’s persuaded them God wrote it, of course.”

    They stood in silence for a moment, watching the 200 guests helping themselves to the buffet while uniformed caterers continuously refilled glasses.

    “Take a good look around, Dave. We have here the elite of London’s dodgy property developers, many of whom have an eclectic range of outside interests. Money laundering, people trafficking, drugs. You could get some insights from the other side.”

    “I’ve chatted to a few already. On the surface, they seem like a friendly bunch. And they seem to have had a genuine affection for old Samson.”

    “And why would they not, gentlemen?” interrupted a voice from just behind them.

    “Ah, Mrs Samson!” exclaimed Durrant, a little embarrassed. “May I once again offer my sincere condolences?”

    “Of course you may, Inspector. I know the real reason you are here – you have a suspicious mind to satisfy. Now, introduce me to your junior detective here – or is he your ‘plus one’ for the occasion?” Annabelle Samson smiled, narrowing her eyes a little.

    “This is Dave Storm – an almost-famous crime writer, shadowing me to understand more about police procedure. Don’t worry, he’s signed a very binding non-disclosure agreement. He can’t write about anything he comes across while he’s with us.”

    “That’s only partially reassuring,” said Annabelle, looking sharply over the top of her sunglasses while wafting her hand in a loose handshake. “But I suppose there are enough people writing about us anyway. The less they know, it seems, the more they write. I can tell you all there is to tell. My husband was bitten by a snake. He died. That’s all. Though your Inspector here would like there to be more.”

    “I understand your husband was a great snake collector – ” said Storm.

    “Yes, he was. In our ophidiarium we have snakes from all over the world. George – my husband – was fascinated by them, and an expert in handling them. Which is why your Inspector is so suspicious. How could such an expert be bitten and die? There’s no mystery. Animals are animals, and sometimes even bite the hand that feeds them. Samir, our reptile keeper, was at lunch and didn’t find him until it was too late.”

    “And do you like the snakes, Mrs Samson?” asked Durrant.

    “It’s how we met, actually. I used to run snake handling sessions at London Zoo. George was a regular visitor. And it seems a man is often charmed by the way a woman handles a snake.”

    Then with a sideways glance, she smiled graciously and eased herself into a nearby small group of friends, with ostentatious hugs and air kisses.

    “Well, she’s quite something, isn’t she?” said Storm. “OK, how about we go and look at the snake house, the apparent crime-scene. You said you’d take me through how they did the forensics.”

    Durrant looked lost in thought as they walked over. “Annabelle was a couple of thousand miles away at the time. She’d have needed an accomplice who can handle snakes. And we’ve put Samir the snake-keeper through the mill. We’ve ruled him out. But – one last throw of the dice.”

    With that Durrant took out his phone. “Ah, no signal. It’s a long shot, but I I’m going to get Tina to ask London Zoo for a list of everyone who ever attended a snake-handling session with Annabella. See if any interesting names crop up.”

    In the ophidiarium, Durrant showed where Samson’s body was found, a short distance from an empty glass tank labelled ‘Egyptian Cobra’.

    “The cobra was the perpetrator?” asked Storm. “And they’ve disposed of it?”

    “There were two, Samir said. One has disappeared.”

    After Durrant talked through all the forensic activities, they made their way back towards the reception.

    “That looks impressive,” said Dave, pointing to the large Orangery. “Be good to get an insight into how dodgy crime bosses live.”

    The heat and humidity hit them as soon as they stepped inside. Tropical trees reached up thirty feet towards the glass ceiling, above huge ferns and a stunning array of orchids. Parrots and lorikeets flew through the treetops or sat sleepily on branches.

    “Imagine having a place like this in your back garden!” exclaimed Storm as he stepped in amongst the foliage. “Oh, what’s that?”

    “What?”

    “Something moving ….”

    “Don’t go near it!”

    “Too late ….”

    Then Durrant saw a snake moving slowly across Storm’s shoes.

    “Keep completely still,” whispered Durrant.

    “I’m not going anywhere ….”

    Then in one swift, flowing movement Storm bent down, expertly picked up the snake and advanced towards Durrant.

    “What are you doing, Dave?” exclaimed Durrant, backing away.

    “I can’t let you make that call, Malcolm.”

    Durrant tripped on a tree root as he backed away. As he tried to get up, Storm hurled the snake at his face. Durrant threw up his hands to protect himself, but the snake bit him first on the arm and then on his cheek, holding on there for several seconds before vanishing into the undergrowth.

    The venom rapidly began to paralyse the Inspector. He was struggling for breath and mouthed, “Why?”

    “I couldn’t let you make that call, Malcolm. Of course you were right. Annabelle and I …. Well, you can guess the rest.”

    Storm squatted down beside him, patting him gently on the arm. “They say the venom of this snake doesn’t hurt too much. The paralysis kicks in, you feel drowsy, and before you know it the heart, the lungs, the brain give up. In ancient Egypt, they used to call it an asp, you know: “The pretty worm of Nilus that kills, and pains not’. I’m afraid, Malcolm, you’ve underestimated me all the way along. What’s that you’re saying?”

    “A ….. A ….. An ….”

    “Yes, Malcolm. That’s from Anthony and Cleopatra!”

    (1191 words)

    Reply
    • July 17, 2017 at 3:25 pm
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      Nice job Andy, did not guess who the accomplice was. I really liked the dialogue and the way the story flowed, and the bit of misdirection.

      Maybe it’s just me but this line, ““That looks impressive,” said Dave, pointing to the large Orangery. “Be good to get an insight into how dodgy crime bosses live.”

      I wasn’t sure how going into the greenhouse had anything to do with getting an insight on crime bosses, seemed like an odd segue into the next section.

      But that’s a minor thing that stuck out for me. All in all I really enjoyed your story.

      Reply
      • July 18, 2017 at 4:37 pm
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        Thanks, Alice.
        The greenhouse (a posh one, of course) bit – is that me or the character? He has to manoeuvre
        the other guy into there somehow, even if it does not entirely make sense ….

        So point accepted. When I first wrote it it was about 400 words longer, so there is little compression here. And originally there was a different ending. Can you guess what it was?

        Reply
    • July 19, 2017 at 7:50 pm
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      A fine story, Andy, with a good twist of an ending.
      “And it seems a man is often charmed by the way a woman handles a snake.” Indeed…indeed!

      Reply
    • July 20, 2017 at 12:56 am
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      And last but not least,
      Andy, (373 words)

      Well, I liked it. The dialogue is great, really great. Snappy and smart and realistic. Except for one phrase, ‘I know the real reason you are here…’ Could’ve been a contraction. (Unless her tone was imperious, she squinted her eye so, maybe she WAS being haughty. Otherwise…I sell contractions on the side. Let me know if you need any.)

      So. You say you had a different ending?

      Hmmm. I don’t know, I didn’t do so good on your last quiz— but Detective Durrant was a little sloppy. It was he, after all, that knew there were two asps, one was missing, and yet none were present in the cage. (Perhaps the asps lived in separate quarters?) I’d have been a little edgy about that, but then, I would’ve thought it was in the ‘ophidiarium’ anyway. (The second asp, that is.) (I’m assuming an ophidiarium is a place where you keep snakes. Over here in the states, we call it ‘The Congress.’ Seriously, that’s what we call it.)

      Let’s see, one option is the Detective was in on it, and Dave Storm, the crime writer gets bit.

      A better approach might be, Dave Storm leads the Detective into the ‘greenhouse’ looking to club him over the head with a pike, but the second snake is coiled around it when he picks it up and he gets bitten instead. Maybe it’s a rock.

      Justice is served, the Detective is lucky, not smart, and Annabella, queen of the criminally elite, comes out of it unscathed, in fact, she really needed to get rid of that annoyingly pesky low-class crime writer anyway. It’s the perfect murder. Storm kills the husband, Samir kills Storm. No loose ends. Annabella flirts with the Detective, but he already has a cat. So her efforts are futile. The end. All you need is 5,401 words. Case closed.

      I would’ve named it ‘Charmers.’ (Two Charmers.)? Or, ‘Pardon My Ophidiarium, I’m Sure.’

      Too bad you couldn’t work an asp pun into it somewhere.

      “I’ll wager this diamond that you’ll never find any evidence of murder, Detective.”
      “Maybe, but I’m thinking you wouldn’t want to bet your asp on it, would you ma’am?”

      (I know, that was terrible. But you know what I mean.)

      Well, it’s been fun tearing your story apart. Your writing is exemplary. IMNVHO. (In My Not Very Humble Opinion.) Very satisfying. (There was quite a lot of skin on that potato. (?) There was a lot of foam in that dog’s mouth. (?) That ghost had a lot of spirit, I’ll give him that.
      Cheers!

      Reply
      • July 20, 2017 at 5:49 am
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        Thanks, Ken. And – wow for the creative extensions 🙂 LOL. I loved “Annabella flirts with the Detective, but he already has a cat.”

        You’re right about Annabelle being a bit haughty. She knows what she’s doing.

        I thought in the final edited version there was not enough of Annabelle, so that’s a self-critique. She vanished a bit in the editing. She had quite a few more imperious and double-edged lines, which were chopped out and are lying on the floor of my study for use on another occasion, unless time hoovers them up.

        And the alternative ending: she finds them in the orangery, and disposes of the writer/lover in a snakey way too. An unfortunate accident, and this way without any potential loose ends (or sharing of the profits) for her. So you were not far off. Except that the detective has to go too, or else he’ll make that call and discover the potential for collusion.

        Reply
    • July 20, 2017 at 4:39 am
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      Good stuff, Andy. Shades of ‘Castle’ and ‘Murder She Wrote’. Nice Machiavellian touches and a satisfying twist. I agree that the diversion to the orangery seems a bit forced. But it’s a very enjoyable read.

      Reply
  • July 12, 2017 at 9:11 am
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    SNAKES ALIVE!

    Barry crouched down and nervously lifted the side of the bedspread, peering under the bed. You could never be too careful where snakes were concerned. He let his eyes get used to the darkness under there and saw that the space was clear. He stood up and breathed a sigh of relief.

    Vera slammed the door of the shop and stomped round the back to the van. Who did he think he was, old man Simpson? Her boss or something? Well, yes, thinking about it, he WAS her boss, in fact. But that didn’t excuse the way he talked to her. “Do this! Do that!” And ne’er a please or thank you. Ooh, if she only had a bit more nerve …

    The living room next. Where might a snake hide there? Under the sofa? Barry got on his hands and knees this time and had to lie with the side of his head flat on the parquet floor. Once again, after getting accustomed to the gloom, he was grateful to find that here, too, there were no snakes; another sigh of relief.

    If things weren’t bad enough already, the traffic was terrible. Monday morning in the rain and everybody it seemed had decided to take to their cars. Didn’t they realise that Vera had deliveries to make? Didn’t they realise that old man Simpson was on her back to get them done before lunch, even though it was logistically impossible? Bloody Mondays! Bloody rain! Bloody other drivers!

    The only place they could possibly be hiding in the kitchen was behind the fridge. Barry would have to pull it out to check. This he did, with great difficulty. He found no snakes (phew!) but he did find a lot of fluff that he’d seen there yesterday, too. He decided again that it wasn’t the right time to clean it up – there were more pressing things to do – so he pushed the fridge back against the wall and headed for the bathroom.

    What was that noise? The last bend had been a bit sharp. In her haste, Vera had taken it a little too quickly, and now there was a clonking sound coming from the back of the van. Maybe one of the crates had fallen over? What if it had broken open? What then? Vera glanced over her shoulder, but of course all she saw was the solid partition separating the cab from the back of the van. But what if…?

    Barry stood facing the shower curtain. The tap was dripping in the bath. Could he hear something else? A slithering? What should he do? He could pull the curtain open sharply and jump clear, probably frightening the foe and possibly causing it to attack. Or maybe peek round the curtain – that way he could observe what might be in the bath without disturbing it. But he’d had enough of creeping round today so he went for the first option, and WHOOSH. Relief again. Nothing there but the dripping tap and a marooned loofah.

    The phone. Vera looked at the sender. Old man Simpson. God – she’d only been out of the office a few minutes and here he was getting on her case again. Should she answer? No. She pictured his face as he called and she didn’t pick up. Getting redder and redder, his rheumy eyes popping with rage. And she smiled to herself: small pleasures in a crappy day. The phone stopped ringing. Vera went back to concentrating on the road – a suburban avenue on the way to the first drop – and wondering about the crates in the back. Thirty assorted– … Blast! The phone again! Old man Simpson! She grabbed the phone off the dashboard and pressed the receive button.

    Barry flopped onto the sofa (but not before taking another peek under it), exhausted by the stress of searching for snakes. Of course, he knew deep down that it was irrational to expect snakes in a bungalow in the suburbs of Guildford. But rationality lost out every time to the fear he’d had since that day in the cemetery.

    Tending his grandmother’s grave, he’d shifted some dead leaves and there was an adder (he found out later at the library), staring up at him, threatened and now threatening. Barry dropped everything and fled, and from that moment on he’d been obsessively fearful of the evil creatures. He rarely set foot outside the house; the probability of encountering a snake beyond the relatively safe four walls of his bungalow was unmentionably high, while those same walls afforded a minimally effective barrier to full-on invasion by the monsters. And so he relaxed now on his sofa, secure in the knowledge that for today at least, there were no snakes anywhere in his house.

    In the second that Vera took to glance angrily at the phone to find the button to press, a car came out from a T-junction on the left. Right in front of her van. She saw it – too late – and jammed her foot on the brake. The van swerved, skidded, spun, flipped and crashed backwards through the bay window of a small bungalow next to the road. The back doors of the van flew open and the cargo spewed out into the living room. A cargo that would not be entirely welcomed by the owner of that particular property: thirty assorted species of sickeningly exotic snakes, of all shapes and sizes, and all really rather annoyed.

    .

    Reply
    • July 12, 2017 at 10:31 am
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      When an irrational fear actually turns out to be rational – or is it? Kind of situational irony, like Mr Play-it-Safe who was afraid to fly (etc)

      Liked the alternating story structure, works well. Kept me guessing how the strands would come together and it’s quite a vivid image one imagines at the end, both amusing and horrifying.

      Reply
    • July 18, 2017 at 7:24 pm
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      Well done Phil, loved the two story lines running alongside each other. Like Andy, I was wondering how it would come together, and it came together nicely. I shouldn’t have laughed considering Barry’s fear of snakes, but it did make me laugh when they ended up in his place, and I loved this last line, “all really rather annoyed.”

      The only thing I would critique, and it’s small because this is a wonderful story, when the story lines were shifting from Vera to Barry, maybe some kind of indicator that the point of view has changed. I picked up on the rhythm eventually, but at first, it seemed like you had made some grievous error.

      Any hoot, loved it still very much.

      Reply
    • July 19, 2017 at 7:59 pm
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      I agree with Alice, Phil – I found the back-and-forth a little confusing at first. But it tied nicely together, and I enjoyed the read, wondering where and how it would finish up!

      Reply
    • July 19, 2017 at 10:51 pm
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      Philip,

      A wonderfully devised story. The two independent threads is a cool way to tell a tale, and you did it really well. But it leaves me wondering, what if there was a motorcycle involved as well, with a side-car, and now you have a third thread, and then a balloonist lands in the middle of the collapsed roof, and you have a fourth thread, and then…

      All kidding aside, it’s a fun story. I think, if it lacked for anything, I’d say it was slime. It probably could’ve used a little more slime.

      Reply
      • July 20, 2017 at 9:16 am
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        Thanks, Ken. The next draft will most certainly contain a motorbike (with sidecar), a balloonist and slime. And an elephant.

        Reply
    • July 20, 2017 at 4:43 am
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      Thanks Andy, Alice, Chris and Ken. I think it was last time that Ken wrote a story that confused a little as you read, then it all came together. I like that – to feel a bit wobbly, but know that someone’s holding your hand. Of course, it’s a fine line …

      Reply
  • July 15, 2017 at 8:03 pm
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    Better Than Therapy
    By Alice Nelson ©2017

    It was him, there was no doubt in my mind. He didn’t recognize me, but why would he? He wasn’t exactly looking at my face during our encounter.

    I admit I wasn’t sure it was him at first, that night did happen more than a year ago, and for most of it, I was frantic. But then I saw the tattoo, and I knew he was the one. And it all came back in a flurry, those few short terrifying moments that changed me —and not for the better.

    I remembered his rough hands and hot breath. Me fighting against him as he laughed, “Go ahead girl, I like ‘em feisty.”

    But once I accepted my fate, I began to study him. While he was thrashing on top of me, I paid attention to every detail. It stopped me from giving up, from feeling powerless. Focus on him Julie, I told myself, taking in details I hoped would help police catch the son of a bitch.

    It was his tattoo that I fixated on. A very unusual image of a snake that started on his left shoulder, and wound its way down his arm, the tail ending just above the wrist, then forking into five snake-like fingers, the middle one was flipping the bird.

    “Did you go home with him willingly?” the detective asked.

    “Yes, but—” I didn’t finish, I didn’t even file a report. It was subtle, but the detective made his opinion known with the slight shift in his chair, and the faint raising of his right eyebrow as I spoke. He thought I was just some woman who changed her mind and was now crying foul. I didn’t even bother telling him about the tattoo.

    I went home…and never told anyone else.

    **********

    Tonight, he was standing at the bar, laughing with friends, his life seemed to have gone on as normal, while mine cratered as I fought depression and feelings of guilt.

    I stood staring at him in disbelief, and my heart began racing wildly. It was the beginning of the all too familiar panic attacks I’d been suffering from, since that night.

    I always wondered what I would do if I ever saw him again. Part of me wanted to run, another part wanted to see if he remembered me.

    I was only at this particular bar because a friend invited me out for drinks, but she had to cancel, “Sorry Jules,” she said, “I have to work later than I thought.” And I was alright with that, I would sit here at the bar and watch him.

    Eventually, I caught his eye, and he casually excused himself from the conversation, and came and sat next to me at the bar. He didn’t seem to know who I was, and for now, that was good.

    He had on a plaid button down shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbow, and I could see his tattoo creeping out from underneath.

    “Hey, I haven’t seen you in here before.” He said.

    I almost laughed, what a pathetic first line.

    But I said, “Yeah, it’s my first time. A friend asked me to meet her here, but she couldn’t make it.”

    “Well, lucky me,” he said and smiled. Even monsters can have pleasant smiles.

    I was staring straight ahead but could feel him sizing me up.

    “So what’s your name?” he asked

    “Britany,” I lied.

    “Pretty name. I’m Tad,” he said holding out his hand, I shook it hoping he didn’t notice that my hand was trembling.

    **********

    He was as self-absorbed as I remembered, talking only about himself, and never once asking anything about me.

    I let him talk, and drink, and talk, and drink some more. Part of me, the side that was willing to admit what I really wanted to do, was glad he was getting sloshed.

    “Well,” his voice slurred slightly, “I don’t want this night to end, Britany.”

    It was the same line he used back then.

    “It doesn’t have to,” I said.

    **********

    I still wasn’t sure what I was going to do, it was risky and stupid to go off with him alone, but it was as if I were running on auto pilot, fueled by pain and rage.

    “Let me drive,” I offered, “You’re in no shape to get behind the wheel.”

    He slid into the front passenger seat of my car, leaned back and closed his eyes.

    That’s good Tad, sleep it off, I said to myself, I want you nice and sober when we talk.

    I parked near the old fishing quarry just outside of town, it was quiet and deserted at this time of night. Tad sat next to me snoring softly.

    My mind began racing.

    “What are you doing, you idiot?”
    “This is dangerous.”
    “Are you planning on killing him?”

    It was that last question that lingered in the air. It swirled around me and became more and more concrete, then it fully formed into what I’d meant to do all along.

    **********

    He woke up and looked around confused. “What…where are we?”

    I said nothing at first, then looked at him and asked, “Do you remember me, Tad?”

    He stared at me as if I were nuts, and maybe I was. Tad shook his head, “No, I don’t.”

    “Wrong answer Tad.”

    “What the fuck is going on here?” He sounded nervous, and I liked that.

    “It was exactly sixteen months ago Tad. We met at a house party in Windham. You were cute and sweet, and said all the right things to make this lonely girl feel special.” I looked at him, there was still no recognition in his eyes.

    “When you were done, you shoved me aside and told me to leave. I remember getting dressed, and staring at that stupid tattoo, thinking, “That’s what I’ll remember most.” And I did. I saw it tonight at the bar, and I knew it was you.”

    “Listen lady, I don’t—” then he stopped. I don’t know what triggered his memory, but something did, and he smiled. I didn’t expect that.

    “Oh, now I remember,” he said mockingly, “The wall flower at Cindy’s party. Don’t tell me you’re still upset about that?”

    His response was like a punch in the gut. I was an idiot to think he would be any different.

    “Oh, are you crying now?” He laughed, “What did you expect, an apology?”

    I suppose I did.

    His hand was on the door handle, he opened it, and the interior light came on at the exact same moment the gun went off. I was able to see his face clearly; a mix of shock, anger, then fear, as he fell out the passenger side door.

    I walked over and watched as he tried to crawl away.

    “I’ve been carrying this gun for protection since that night Tad, knowing all along the only reason I had it was in case I ever saw you again.”

    I stood over him, and he pleaded, “Please, don’t hurt me anymore.”

    “Funny Tad, I said that very…same…thing.” Then I lifted the gun and pulled the trigger.

    Reply
    • July 16, 2017 at 12:19 am
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      Mean… mean, mean… not the kind of story I want in my head, not that he didn’t deserve it mind you but damn doesn’t anyone know how to write funny any more ?

      Reply
      • July 16, 2017 at 1:24 am
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        Who’s mean, him or her? or Both? You missed last contest, there were tons of funny.

        Reply
        • July 16, 2017 at 5:04 pm
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          You must mean the murders to hide the cure for cancer Or maybe the experiments on a kidnap victim that can grow back… I didn’t miss it or the one before or the one before that. People held captive for perverted pleasure, not allow to eat or drink or… oh yeah, loads of laughs.

          Reply
          • July 16, 2017 at 6:12 pm
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            Than why don’t you write a funny story? If you don’t see what you like change it, just don’t complain. You may not like the subject matter of the stories, but the writers have submitted wonderfully written stories. Complaining about it doesn’t do any good, do something instead of sitting back and judging from afar.

            And what I meant is there were funny elements in several of the stories. If you’re looking for happy happy joy, maybe turn on the Disney Channel. 🙂

          • July 16, 2017 at 6:18 pm
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            Well hell…. I thought my crow/owl bumbling wizards was pretty damn funny…. 😉

          • July 16, 2017 at 6:20 pm
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            And c’mon, Phil’s Snakes Alive was pretty darned amusing!

          • July 16, 2017 at 6:26 pm
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            See, Carrie’s right, there were lots of funny. Still, you should just write a humorous story.

          • July 16, 2017 at 6:28 pm
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            My snakes story isn’t funny, but it’s based on some damn amusing true events!

          • July 16, 2017 at 6:30 pm
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            Although I am catching up on Vikings so I may end up writing some kind of snakey voodoo hoodoo battle story hahahaha

          • July 17, 2017 at 5:56 pm
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            Tegon,

            I’m sorry to hear that you’re put off by our writing. (Or mine, at least.) It’s difficult to write good comedy. It’s difficult to write anything new, and well, week after week after week. However, your feedback is interesting. Sometimes the prompt pulls you in a certain direction. Sometimes your moods pull you towards a narrative that you aren’t even aware of until you’ve written it. To say that a plot is mean, followed by, ‘not that he didn’t deserve it, mind you,’ is contradictory.

            To say that a story got into your head, and you didn’t like it, would be high praise for most writers. I’m sure Edgar Allen Poe would consider it a compliment.

            What’s interesting about this group, is the variety of story lines generated by the same prompt.

            I think the slickest trick, is to inject comedy into a dramatic scene. Ken Allen does this with annoying, (but highly appreciated) regularity.

            Personally, I don’t set out to write any kind of story, funny or not. I often feel like a short order cook with no experience and no training, just trying to take whatever ingredients I have, and make something edible, if not palatable. The real challenge, for me, is to try and come up with something original, and to keep working on a piece after I think I’m finished with it. To hold off, wait a few days and take a second look at it. Sometimes my writing, my first few drafts (and then some), is absolutely horrendous. And most troubling, I think it’s great. If I wait a day or two, I take a second look and realize the story is good but the writing is terrible. (Phony, trite, contrived or convoluted.)

            Sometimes a story just rolls out of my fingers of its own accord, other times, like this week, well, I’d be embarrassed to admit how much time I spent on my story, trying to make it sound natural, readable, and understandable.

            I do hope you’ll reconsider your decision and don’t give up on us. I like your writing, and I know others do too. Your point —could we lighten up a little?– is well intended, I’m sure. My point is, if you only knew how desperately I want to write something funny, that works, you would be astounded.

            Cheers good fellow.

    • July 17, 2017 at 5:51 am
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      On Alice’s story:

      Revenge after rape or domestic abuse is something that very rarely happens. But the idea touches a chord because we think it ought to happen. So Alice, you draw us successfully into the narrator’s world and we strongly identify with her suffering, and sense of injustice in being let down by the authorities.

      A few points of critique: while I know there is nothing worse than a reviewer trying to take over the story, I think there is a missed opportunity about the revenge. Maybe it’s because I’m European, but the ever-present gun/blow-him-away solution seems too routinely American (sorry, friends!!). The gun as a trope for vigorous individualistic justice … probably strikes a chord that’s missing in me. Isn’t there scope for more original revenge? Like letting off the handbrake and letting him slide into a lake full of slime eels that snake all over his tattoo as he goes under, or something? Weaves in a bit of irony, perhaps.

      The line, “I’ve been carrying this gun for protection since that night Tad, knowing all along the only reason I had it was in case I ever saw you again” seems addressed more at the reader than at Tad somehow: seems to take us out of the otherwise natural dialogue a bit.

      And – here getting nit-picky on the grammar – there’s an uncharacteristic overworked comma or two in the third sentence.

      And just to say – I wouldn’t be making these points if I didn’t otherwise think it’s a very well-crafted and involving story from one of my favourite writers.

      Reply
      • July 17, 2017 at 2:57 pm
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        Thank you Andy, I always appreciate your insight. The gun thing is very American, but I love the idea of the slime eel snaking over his tattoo. The reason I used a gun isn’t only because here in the States we are used to that angle, I thought it fit the character better. She’d been holding on to this betrayal, and it had sent her into a depression, even police didn’t believe her. It seemed she would be in a rage having seen him just living life as normal, and she’d want to watch his demise instead of doing something a little more passive.

        I totally agree with you about this line, The line, “I’ve been carrying this gun for protection since that night Tad, knowing all along the only reason I had it was in case I ever saw you again”

        I overthought it and underestimated the reader. Oh well, you live and learn, if I do this for the podcast or some other publication, I’ll omit that line.

        Thanks again, great advice -as usual.

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        • July 18, 2017 at 7:15 am
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          I have to disagree here with the whole “gun thing is very American”.
          If I’m reading a story and it’s not realistic or plausible the entire story loses integrity.

          A gun is the most effective tool for this job. If Alice had written that she was using a knife to hold this guy who had already at one point over powered her, to hold him captive and make him afraid and then killed him with it, I would have rolled my eyes at the ridiculous of it.

          As a woman, when I head into the woods by myself where I could potentially be accosted by a man who’s stronger than me, I’m not carrying a tire iron with me. I’m carrying something that is the most effective tool to stop someone on their tracks. My S&W 911 will stop a guy quicker than my pocket knife.

          I can not imagine a rape victim suddenly becoming proficient in hand to hand combat – which is what she would need to be to effectively overpower a man stronger and probably quicker than her.

          Although if she had beat him to death with a pair of brass knuckles I probably loved this story even more (of course….unnecessary gratuitous violence would probably be as “American” as using a gun lol).

          Reply
          • July 18, 2017 at 4:32 pm
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            With your mentioning the brass knuckles, Carrie, I wouldn’t dare to disagree with you 🙂

            But actually I do largely accept your point.
            I was more making a cultural point than a gun control point – I know there is a different way of doing things across the pond.

            Within the story, I think it’s logical that the narrator as you say would have a gun in order to take the risk of getting into the car with the perp (though how drunk he is might also be a factor). Over here we imagine that in America no one goes out shopping even without weapons and body armour 🙂

            But (here I risk hijacking Alice’s story again) there might be other possibilities than just shooting him dead. Violating his manhood by subjecting him to psychological terror in some way, unmanning him in a more direct way could also be appropriate revenge.
            Or am I in fact suggesting greater cruelty than just terminating him, possibly?

            Good to have this challenge and debate. And Alice, sign of an effective and resonant story to get us talking about it!

          • July 18, 2017 at 6:18 pm
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            So my husband told me about a movie called “Return to Sender”. He said apparently I should watch it to see how a rape victim can get revenge on her attacker without ever using a gun.

            I told him he was a jerk for ruining my point hahahaha

          • July 18, 2017 at 6:41 pm
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            “I told him he was a jerk for ruining my point hahahaha”

            Sounds like you are married to a wise man, Carrie, lol

          • July 18, 2017 at 7:13 pm
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            Love the discussion here.

            Really it made no logical sense to me that she would not use a gun. I think it is very American because we don’t really view the use of guns as “routine”. Europeans see it as very American from movies and books, but in real life, we take the use of them very seriously, and for responsible gun owners, we realize the gravity of owning and carrying guns.

            Guns are a great equalizer, men are generally stronger than most women, and to defend ourselves, a gun gives us the best chance at survival. I try to make the stories make sense, and any other way, as clever as your ideas are Andy, would not have made sense in this story.

            I’m stoked that a story I wrote has opened up a discussion like this. It’s what every writer desires. 🙂

          • July 19, 2017 at 3:54 am
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            On revenge tactics against a slightly different context, there’s a book by Cammy May Hunnicutt called “Considerations Prior to Shooting Your Boyfriend (Right in the Nuts)”

            Just thought that might be good follow-up reading 🙂

            [I hope this posts into the right bit of the thread – some comments have reply button and some don’t, and I’m never sure where it may end up]

          • July 19, 2017 at 8:33 am
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            Ha Andy, I love that title. 😂

    • July 19, 2017 at 8:08 pm
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      Great job, Alice. I knew where this story was going from the beginning, and usually that turns me off to a story, but I think you led the reader along nicely – I enjoyed it!
      It would have been nice, however, for her to drag it out a bit, really give it to this Tad guy. He got off easy, in my opinion.

      Reply
    • July 19, 2017 at 10:55 pm
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      Alice,

      Well the writing is excellent as ever, but I felt like you left a lot on the table with this one. It’s like, you could have made meatloaf, but you decided on hamburgers. Not that the hamburgers weren’t delicious. I think we all know, pretty early on, that this guy is dead meat. But shooting him seems a bit cut and dried. (Pardon my puns.)

      As for the ending, it’s clever, but a bit sterile; and, she’s going to jail, for sure, even though she doesn’t deserve to. (She should have shot him in his car.)

      And if it was realism you were going for, (a woman needs a gun)—firing a gun at close range, in a vehicle, could be an exercise in realism. The recoil she wasn’t expecting, the muzzle flash, the smoke, the deafening sound. I think this story would have benefited if you had emphasized either the beginning, or the end. I mean, you could have emphasized the beginning, and ended this story with them both in the car, and the reader wondering, whether he was going to die or not. Just stretch his fear out to infinity. Or, you could have been sketchier in the beginning, playing up the ending, leaving us to wonder, and not knowing, just how bad the offense was that prompted his death sentence. You know, give us something to wonder about, one way or the other.

      I’m pretty much restricted to advising you on plot strategies because, really, I can’t advise you on your writing, that’s already topnotch. I’ve given this some thought because I wrote a scene with a shooting in a vehicle once, it was horrific. (It grossed ME out, and I wrote it.) When you think about it, a car is extremely close quarters. The person is RIGHT, THERE. (This is the stuff I daydream about while standing in line at the grocery store. I think this is why I get a lot of weird looks. Then again, maybe not.)

      You have the essence of a good story here, but if we already know what should, or is going to happen, then you should make us really feel it.

      Reply
      • July 20, 2017 at 4:21 pm
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        Ken, I couldn’t agree with you and Christopher more, I showed my cards early and often, leaving little doubt about what was going to happen. You have given me some very good ideas to make the story better, and I’m going to use them in my re-write. Thanks my friend.

        Reply
    • July 20, 2017 at 4:52 am
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      A good, read, Alice. It ticks all the ‘revenge’ boxes, and so we feel we’re in familiar territory – a good and bad thing, I think. We have references that we can cling to, but there’s perhaps not enough of a ‘surprise’ factor(?) The tying up of the story makes for a neat ending but, paradoxically, makes it a little less dramatic/suspenseful than it might have been. (Maybe stop at “Then I lifted the gun.” ? – leaving a small doubt in the reader’s mind about whether she’d go through with it?) But your writing is, as always, clear and slick.

      Reply
      • July 20, 2017 at 4:22 pm
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        Thank you Phil, and you are so right about the lack of suspense. Both you and Ken have given me much to work with, and I’m going to use both of your advice to make this a better story. Thanks my friend.

        Reply
  • July 16, 2017 at 9:42 pm
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    You’re right Alice… I wasn’t complaining just making a point. The stories don’t need to be funny but I do have to like them. Andy’s story is great, I enjoyed it very much, your story was very well written as all your stories. You should be published if you are not already saying “maybe turn on the Disney Channel” I get it. Maybe this group isn’t a good fit for me… I’m out… thanks for letting me play.

    Reply
    • July 17, 2017 at 6:55 am
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      Eve Of Destruction.
      By Ken Cartisano
      © July, 2017 (1183 words.)

      Only five of the nine commissioners bothered to attend his presentation; even by remote holographic projection, their expressions betrayed various degrees of incomprehension.

      “How do you know it even works?”

      “We’ve sent back artifacts, uniquely anomalous artifacts.”

      “Such as?”

      Djin hesitated. “The Shroud of Turin, for instance. It didn’t show up until the twelfth century, because it didn’t exist until the eleventh. We even put it outside for a short time to give it that scorched, authentic look.”

      This amazing revelation barely got a grunt out of the commissioners.

      The only one who showed interest was the Chairman, Mr. Bain. “So,” he said, “your device only sends one article, or person at a time.”

      “That’s correct, Mr. Bain, and we’re not certain that it’s survivable.”

      “I see, and it’s a one-way trip?”

      “Yes,” Djin replied. “Unfortunately.”

      “So this experiment, whatever else it may reveal, is no solution to our problems.”

      “I’m afraid not, Mr. Chairman. As a means of escape, or exodus, it’s useless.”

      “So the purpose of this experiment is purely academic?”

      “That is—essentially correct,” Djin lied.

      “All right, Doctor. Proceed with your experiment, for whatever good it’ll do, you have our blessings.”

      The meeting was adjourned, the holo-vids winked out, and Djin set about the laborious task of getting his heat-suit on without any assistance.

      He popped an OxyStik into his mouth and bit into it. It fizzed. Without the supplements, the high levels of carbon dioxide in the air could inhibit brain function by as much as 20 percent.

      After wrestling himself into the suit, Djin attached the helmet, closed the latches and got a green light on the seal. (All this for a trip across the campus parking lot.) He thumbed the communications link. “Evelyn. You there?”

      “Sure, Doc.” Her voice crackled back.

      “I’m returning to the lab. We’re going forward with the experiment.”

      “I’ll be standing by the airlock, Doctor.” Evelyn was his chief Assistant. “Kick a lizard,” she added, signing off.

      Because of the heat, airlocks were now the norm. He stepped through the inner door and was already sweating by the time the outer door opened.

      He tried to ignore the smoldering, hellish landscape. No one traveled by day anymore, when they traveled at all. Global warming was worse than imagined, the oceans had risen, temperatures had soared, fresh water was scarce, food was scarcer still, droughts, plagues and famine had devastated the planet: Except for the insects and reptiles. Earth was in the last stages of its final mass extinction.

      Dr. Djin was a scientist by training, but deeply religious by nature. It was difficult to reconcile the fate of humanity with his religious beliefs, but that same faith prevented him from surrendering to what seemed inevitable.

      He kicked a two-foot-long lizard out of his way with one of his shielded boots. Their thick hides, toxic flesh and cold-blooded physiology allowed them to flourish in the steamy conditions. And they were multiplying rapidly.

      After cycling through the airlock at the physics lab, Evelyn was waiting to help him out of his heat-suit. She wore oven mitts and a disposable mask. “I’ve assembled the team in the classroom, Dr. Djin.”

      He forced a smile as he finished extricating himself from the protective gear. Evelyn was a godsend: A smart, vigorous and exacting young woman, beautiful and, as one would expect, one-third his age. She had applied for the assistant’s position at a time when no one wanted to work, let alone pursue academics. Her energy and charisma had attracted a host of talented young people into the physics program, and she drove them like pack horses.

      Dr. Djin’s experimental research attracted its share of young talent too.

      Addressing the team of a dozen students, he said, “Today’s the day. We’ve been given the green light.”

      A clamor of approval swept through the group.

      “This is not a cause for celebration, people.” The self-congratulation ceased. “Let me reiterate the most vital aspects of this experiment. One: We’ll have no reliable means to gauge its success or failure. Two: We must believe that it’ll work.” They all nodded their heads. “And Three: I believe the machine is as accurately calibrated as it can be. If my computations—and yours, are correct, the rest will be up to Evelyn.”

      The students seemed restless until Evelyn stepped forward and clapped her hands twice. “All right then, you all know your jobs, get to your stations, and let’s get started.”

      Several students hung back to wish her well. She brushed off their concerns with cheery optimism, and almost made them feel as if they were the guinea pigs, not her. She turned to find Dr. Djin staring at her morosely. He dreaded this moment. The point of no return.

      He was genuinely distraught. “Are you sure you want to go through with this? You don’t have to go, you know.”

      Her reply was crisp and harsh. “Oh yeah, Doctor, I’m really going to miss this place: the fires, the hunger, the yellow fog, and let’s not forget the lizards.” Her tone softened. “I’ll miss YOU, Doctor, but—I’m ready.”

      He put an arm around her shoulders and guided her towards the ‘launch room.’ “If this works, you’re going to be close, very close. Probably within visual range and there’s nothing in the equations that says you can’t rewrite history.”

      She smiled. A firm, self-possessed smile. She was well acquainted with the theories and equations. They had discussed her options ad nauseam.

      “I know what to do, Dr. Djin. Have faith.”

      He escorted her to the biodegradable stool, and hovered nervously as she sat down and the team went through the pre-launch physical check sequence.

      When they’d finished, he leaned close and whispered in her ear. “Remember what we talked about, trust your instincts. Okay? Goodbye Evelyn, and good luck.” He didn’t try to hide his tears. She remained solemn.

      He retreated to the safety of the control room as a beam of tachyons rained down on his courageous assistant. She became transparent, and then vanished.

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

      She removed her clothes and took a moment to appreciate the lush tropical environment. A blue sky crowned with white clouds presided over a beautiful pre-historic paradise. A rushing mountain stream ran alongside an orchard filled with fruit trees and curious, fearless animals. She was in the right time, at the right place. In fact, Djin’s calculations couldn’t have been better.

      They were calm but curious as they watched her approach. Incredibly, the woman reached out and offered her the forbidden fruit.

      Evelyn slapped the apple out of the woman’s hand, shoved her hard into the rock strewn water, then watched her drown, the current pushed the body downstream quickly. Then she grabbed a rock and pounded the sinister snake to death and was kicking its battered carcass under a bush when Adam returned from his walk.

      “Eve! You look different.”

      “God made some improvements,” Evelyn said, breathlessly: rinsing blood off her hands. “You like the changes?”

      “I DO,” he replied emphatically, “but I’m hungry.”

      “Have a peach,” she suggested, “they’re good for you.”

      Reply
      • July 17, 2017 at 7:30 am
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        Great story, Ken. You really kept me guessing about where it was going.

        I’m not going to say any more at this stage other than that the denouement works on many levels, and is very thought-provoking. And funny.

        Reply
      • July 18, 2017 at 7:38 pm
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        What would’ve happened if Evelyn had indeed killed the serpent? Nice flow, loved the dialogue, I was wondering how the story would end, and I was surprised (pleasantly) by the turn it took. Sometimes you have to go back to the drawing board. Nice job Ken!

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          • July 19, 2017 at 5:00 pm
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            Sorry Ken, I meant to say if “EVE” of the bible had done this.

      • July 19, 2017 at 8:23 pm
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        Nicely done, Ken. Loved the ending. “Have a peach” – haha!

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      • July 20, 2017 at 5:00 am
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        Very imaginative and well-told tale, Ken. I must say that as soon as the time-machine element was established, my mind skipped to that Ray Bradbury tale of the butterfly … you know the one … and then the assistant’s name … I kinda guessed what was afoot. But it was a pleasure to get there. (This line: “They were calm but curious as they watched her approach…” I know you were trying to keep your cards close to your chest, but wondering who the ‘they’ were made me double back and jerked me out of the flow a little.)

        Reply
        • July 20, 2017 at 6:20 am
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          I was holding back on some comments about Ken’s story until everyone had a chance to read it, for fear of epic spoiler.

          Like Phil, I had an idea what was afoot – but quite the wrong idea. Went through several possibles, like going back to 2017 and not pulling out of the Paris climate deal (as if that would save the environment and avert global warming), going back to assassinate the pioneers of the industrial revolution or the internal combustion engine.
          And I also thought, in the manner of Shades of Green, saving the environment might involve ending the human race altogether. So going back and dealing with Lucy’s entire Australopithecus family or other early ancestors of ours.

          However, I didn’t twig to the notion of someone who is a top-flight physicist also being a creationist – and it all works out. Nicely ironic and humorous.

          And I think the impact is very clever. Evelyn goes back to do something evil (kill Eve) and by an evil action preserve innocence in the world. A moral and theological paradox as well as a time paradox.

          There’s also an ambiguity introduced to the doctrine of Original Sin, which is passed down from Adam and Eve. Well, after this, not from Adam. But how about from Eve(lyn)?

          Hmm. So I think you need to engage in a debate with the Vatican and a couple of thousand years of Catholic philosophy here, Ken, to resolve this.
          I look forward to your answer.

          Reply
    • July 17, 2017 at 7:26 am
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      I hope you keep involved, Tegon.
      As per the conversation below, I think there’s scope for all kinds of writing and opportunities to challenge ourselves.

      I think it’s great fun to belonging to this group – makes me think about all kinds of ways of writing, both for myself and what I see other people do.

      Reply
  • July 17, 2017 at 5:28 am
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    Then again, Alice, there’s Bambi’s mother …

    Well there’s the old saying about conflict being the essence of drama.
    Writing a whole story with no conflict, only undiluted fun or happiness, would be an interesting challenge. (I’m sure a sweet soul like me would waltz away with this!)

    When it comes to flash fiction we do mostly take the approach here of writing mini-short stories, i.e. having a beginning, a middle and an end. Hence the need for conflict (from humorous to macabre) and resolution to make a rounded story.

    There are other approaches to flash fiction, usually with fewer words, that focus on a mood or a moment. We don’t tend to do many of those – although we’ve had one or two, like Carrie’s classy vignette a few weeks back.
    Nor have we had much experimentation with literary form – I think we could challenge ourselves more as both writers and readers in this regard. (Perhaps we could have a drop-down list for originality?)

    But overall, over the months, I do think we have variety of content and style. We all have our favourite kind of stories and the things that bug us. But I think we are capable of putting our preferences aside and looking at the quality of the writing when it comes to critiquing and voting. Don’t we?

    Reply
    • July 17, 2017 at 7:17 am
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      Very well said Andy, some of us tend to write the same type of story over and over, which is fine if that’s what you’re comfortable with.

      I try to challenge myself as often as possible, I write in genres I’m not comfortable in (drama lately – yuck) and the occasional humor (Remember the one about the gal who locked her keys in her car while picking up her boyfriends bagpipes? I had myself rolling while writing that one!). Or the more recent delve into science fiction rather than just always writing fantasy.

      But lots of people don’t care for sex scenes or vulgar language or violence but the great part about this group is we are so diverse, with such different styles and and so much talent.

      I remember Ilana writing a fabulous horror story for the Halloween prompt even though she expressed her distaste for the genre – but she knocked it out of the park in order to challenge herself.

      I think as a writer, in order to grow you have to always challenge yourself and step outside your comfort zone.

      Reply
      • July 17, 2017 at 7:39 am
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        Yes, I agree about stepping outside comfort zone. There’s a balance between trying to improve what we’re best at and also taking some risks.
        I’m all for risks.

        Tried most genres and none. Except maybe fantasy. Now that would challenge me.
        No sex yet either. But I guess the micro-sex you’d necessarily get in a micro-story must have limited appeal. Only room for one shade of grey, I expect.

        Reply
        • July 17, 2017 at 3:01 pm
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          Ditto, I love this group and the challenge of trying to come up with a story to fit a prompt you didn’t pick. It does stretch us all as writers. I remember Renette had a good Christmas prompt that had to do with angels and a star, and we couldn’t use any profanity, and Sarada gave us a prompt that had to be positive, with no negative outcome or cursing.

          I have to admit it was hard for me, but I loved the challenge. Also, hope you do join us again Tegon.

          Reply
  • July 18, 2017 at 10:14 pm
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    Ssnnaaakkees alive

    SSSSSSsssssssss. The sound was gentle – like wind whistling down a straw. He followed the sound barely. It was close by. Barry’s head ached from something he had drunk too much of the night before. Something was holding him down. Still dark. No moonshine gleamed bright – nearly as bright as day. He closed his eyes against the light which seemed to sear his lids. He shook his head wearily.
    Where was he? Why couldn’t he move? He felt somehow bound by a rope that was thick and sturdy to hold down a man with twice his strength. The rope seemed to coil round his body.

    Ahh, he could move his legs a little. Dead weight and why did he feel so tired. Trying to reconstruct the events of the last few hours, he seemed to remember something about a bar adjacent to the roadside motel he had checked into a few hours ago. Ordinary room, but good enough for his stop over on the way to Perth. Long road the Nullabor Highway. It has the longest stretch of straight road in Australia; 146 kilometres or 96 miles of road that goes on and on into the distance to disappear into the space where the red dirt and black ribbon of road meet blue skies and clouds.

    It was kind of difficult to breath. He felt a dead weight on his chest. Gotta give up cigarettes he thought. Nasty things. Gee the chest pain was kind of bad. He must be getting on in years. All of 32 years old. Oh well, if he wants to see his children grow up, he will have to give up. Too late for his mother. She is the reason he had started the long trip up the coast of Western Australia. The nursing home had rung him two days ago and told him she had taken a turn for the worse. He did not hesitate but borrowed the money and left that night. His dogs were kennelled at the vet’s boarding kennel and he was on his way.

    Barry had driven until nine o’clock that night. Through rain and then icy winds coming in off the Great Australian Bight. Finally, he pulled over at this dilapidated roadhouse with its shabby motel accommodation. As he stated before the room was ordinary. Faded blue chenille bedspread, chipped bedside table with something that looked suspiciously like cigarette burns on one edge. As if someone had placed their rollies on the edge of the bedside table and the darn things had burnt out and marked the wooden top.

    The room reeked of stale cigarette smoke mingled with lavender antiseptic wash. The bathroom and show recess was clean enough though. However the smoke from previous guests had seeped into the carpet, the curtains and the towels as well as the bedspread. He had put his overnight bag on the bed and opened the windows wide. One wall of the room was decorated with a rainbow snake that stretched the whole length of the room. The artist had been very good and the snake’s scales had been picked out in jewelled colours that shimmered in the low light. There were some figures by the coiling snake.

    Then to escape the smell, he looked across at the pub and restaurant attached to the roadhouse. The lights beckoned him over.

    Entering, he checked out the other clientele as he made his way through a smoke haze to the bar. It was done out in a western saloon style. A few tables, and some alcove tables and seats over to one corner. A bar man and someone who looked like she might be the sole waitress.

    The bar man was polishing glasses. He did not turn around when Barry sat on a stool at the bar.
    “Whatell it be?” Barry looked around, thinking he was talking to someone else.

    “Yeah, you intha black leather jacket. Whatcha drinkin’.” As he was the only person wearing leather out of the handful of people in the whole establishment, he realised that the barman was talking to him and could watch him in the mirror at the back of the bar.

    “Beer. Lite. Whiskey chaser.” With fluid movements the barman flipped the lid of a Perth Draught lager and then holding the beer in one hand grabbed a shot glass in the other, put it over a bottle of Double Black Johnnie Walker which he upended and then turned to place both on the bar in front of Barry.

    The barman had a greying pigtail of hair that had once been reddish brown. He was balding in front. A savage scar creased his grim smile.

    “Most people do it the other way round.”

    “What?”

    “You know” he gestured. “The drinks. Whiskey shot. Beer chaser.” Barry shrugged.

    “Beer needs to be savoured. Whiskey cleans the palate.” He drank quickly. “Again. Same.”

    The bar closed at eleven. The few locals made their way home in various states of consciousness. Barry was invited to stay back with Tim the Barman and Cheryl the waitress and have a quick drink before returning to his room.

    Somehow Cheryl figured in his memories of the previous evening. He could vaguely remember her helping him open the door to the motel room. Then his memory seemed to play tricks on him. He remember soft white skin sliding over his, melting into his body. He had had too much to drink. Blamed that on grief over his mother’s impeding demise.

    He could not breath. His skin felt solid and immobile. The room looked as it had when he first entered it. The angle from which he viewed it was also strange. He was looking down at the made up bed and his belongings – his holdall were nowhere in evidence. In fact, it was as if he had never existed. As if he had never entered the room.

    Panic over powered him. Through the open window he could see his car parked where he had left it.
    A police officer entered the room with Cheryl and Tim.

    “So, you say he came over to the bar.”

    “Yes. That’s right. Must have done before he even put his stuff in his room.”

    “So when he left, did he come back to his room?”

    “Yes. I helped him open his door. He was pretty under the weather.” Cheryl volunteered that piece of information.

    “What time was that?

    “Bout twelve. He stayed back for a while to sober up.”

    The police officer came closer and seemed to peer right into his face.

    “Interesting artwork. Very lifelike figures beside the snake.”

    “Yeah. Tim’s pretty talented when it comes to drawing.”

    They left and as they did, Cheryl looked up at the wall right at him and gave a slow, deliberate wink.

    Reply
    • July 19, 2017 at 6:37 pm
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      Nice, creepy little tale Ilana. Loved how it began with Barry waking up unsure of where he was, and how you did a great job of revealing what had happened to him. Nice job my friend, hope you’re feeling better.

      Reply
      • July 19, 2017 at 8:31 pm
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        Creepy, indeed! Great read, Ilana!

        Reply
    • July 19, 2017 at 10:57 pm
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      Ilana,

      A very creepy story, in a good way. An odd ending, a touch of something weird, (I won’t say what) which took me by surprise. You have a gift for vivid description and your use of it creates a mood. (Not just in this story, but a lot of your stories.) The backdrop, the rain and wind, the long road, the dilapidated roadhouse, (and other things) all artfully convey an ominous underlying tone.
      I was completely fooled as to where the story was going, (and dreading it) and then no, that didn’t happen.
      My only criticism is, with your descriptive skill, I feel deprived that you didn’t give me a clear visual of the character’s fate at the end. I realize you’re leaving it to the reader’s imagination, but I would’ve rather that you do it. I like my horror served to me on a silver platter.
      Cool story Ilana.

      Reply
    • July 20, 2017 at 4:58 am
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      Ilana, I recognise the hotel you describe! Stayed in a few like that in my time.

      Love the creepy twist to the tale, which I hadn’t expected at all. Interesting sophisticated misdirection at the opening, as it’s clear that he’s gripped in the coils of a snake – but not at all in ways we might expect!

      Between the beginning and the end, for me the pace seemed to flag a bit. Quite a bit of extraneous detail, perhaps, including mentioning he had put his dogs in kennels and the conversation about the whisky chaser, and maybe could have a bit more insight into the ‘why?’ of this situation instead.

      Reply
    • July 20, 2017 at 5:06 am
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      A very rich story, Ilana. As Ken says, you have a gift for description (“the red dirt and black ribbon of road” is a lovely little phrase). There’s a nice big question asked right at the outset, and the resolution answers it in a very satisfying way (although maybe we need a bit more help to work out why Tim and Cheryl are doing this.) Good, weird stuff.

      Reply
  • July 18, 2017 at 10:15 pm
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    Runaway Ball (1,199 words)
    Written by Christopher Smith
    © 2017

    When I was eight, my father insisted I take up soccer. He imposed the same requirement on my younger brother, more out of convenience than anything else. I was good, my brother was not. He was young, true, and kids change, their tastes and talents growing as they do, but sports and my brother were enemies from the beginning, and still are. But my father had decided that I was going to play soccer and so my brother was going to play soccer. Same league, same team. Convenience.

    Early in the season, once we arrived home and after yet another loss, my father did what I was beginning to identify as his routine: toss the soccer ball deep into our backyard, ask us if we had fun, and tell us to practice on our kicks and passing as he prepared supper, which was usually what he called Post-Game Pasta.

    My brother and I went back and forth for a while, my kicking to him and him returning the ball to something that loosely resembled the vicinity where I was standing. On one particular turn my brother surprised me, kicking the ball much harder than I’d expected, sending the ball wide, off of the fence and deep under the deck. Our deck wasn’t wide, but was both long and low. I walked over to the dark tunnel into which the ball had disappeared, crouched down. Once my eyes had adjusted, I saw that it had settled at the farthest possible point.

    I glanced at my brother, ready to spit something terribly smart-ass, and it was then that my father appeared in the kitchen window and called us in for supper, to wash up and be at the table in two.

    My brother asked if I would get it, pointing under the deck. I didn’t like the thought of crawling under there, but I liked the thought of him crawling under there less. I told him I would, but after supper.

    Which was Post-Game Pasta—spaghetti with pre-jarred homemade tomato sauce, grated cheese broiled on top—and it was delicious. We told our father about the ball, and he said that we could take care of that while he cleaned up. Then showers. Then bed. Maybe a story while we settled in. It all sounded good—we were exhausted—but first, the ball.

    It was bright outside, but looking under that deck was like looking into a deep well. My brother was there, but only for moral support. I glanced over my shoulder at him, he gave me a worried look, like he’d never see me again, and then I disappeared underneath.

    I hunch-crawled, and with each awkward movement the crushed stone bit into my palms. At one point, about three support posts in, I began to feel panicked, claustrophobic. I didn’t want to glance back to see how far (or, worse yet, how little) I’d travelled, and pushed on.

    The light penetrating the cracks of the deck was a taunting, teasing thing: the real world—fresh air and safety—was out there, while in here, a dungeon.

    I began to realize something the deeper I travelled: the ground sloped upward the farther back I went, making things tighter. Instead of stepping on the crushed stone my cleats began pulling through it, a grating echo in the strangled space.

    My brother called after me—a word of encouragement, I think—and he could have been miles away. Just grab that ball and get the hell out of there. Forget everything else.

    I rested against a support post, my chin nearly touching my chest, and reached for the ball. It was…right…there, my fingertips only brushing the Adidas logo, threatening to spin the ball away from me. I took another step to avoid just that, dropping to one knee. The stone bit into my shin, my knee, but I tried to ignore it.

    And then I had it, my palm resting on its top, and I wondered briefly what all the fuss had been about, which was when I had a thought: how am I to turn around? After a moment, I figured it best to back out. When I pulled the ball toward me to do just that, a garter snake—black, a yellow stripe running down either side of its long body—appeared from the neighbour’s yard, winding quickly toward me.

    I hollered—yelped—leapt. My head connected with the bottom of the deck, and the bright stars quickly melted to darkness.

    I came to on my back, my brother calling my name from a great distance. My head was throbbing and my neck hurt. My mouth held the acrid tang of adrenaline and blood. The sun filtering in from the cracks in the boards pulled me closer to consciousness, and I remembered where I was, the darkness and the crushed stone. I remembered the ball.

    I remembered the snake.

    I wanted to move quickly but my mind was rattled, my body foggy and numb.

    When I found the strength to lift my head, I saw the garter snake—on my chest, mere inches from my face. I didn’t move, and neither did it. And then its tongue darted out and touched my chin. Or maybe I only thought it did, but that was when I got moving again.

    Without thinking, I grabbed it and tossed it as far away from me as I could manage. I was turned around in less than a heartbeat, my hip connecting with a support post. I scrambled to where my brother knelt, which was when I noticed that the soccer ball was in front of me. As I made my way on all fours, I batted and kneed it onward.

    I heard hisses and whispered slithers close behind me, which was impossible with all the noise I was making, but my mind told me it was true. It was gaining on me, ready to pounce, if snakes could do that, and I was beginning to think that this one could.

    I shot out from under the deck, knocking my brother over. I kept moving, eventually stopping ten feet from where my brother lay, and my eyes went to the grass, looking for any sign of that slinking nightmare. My brother must have seen the panic in my eyes because he leapt to his feet and joined me, both of us desperately trying to catch our breath.

    The soccer ball sat just outside of the deck’s shadowed reach, forgotten.

    “Time for those showers, boys,” my father said, stepping from the back door. What he saw were two terrified kids sucking air, one with cobwebs in his hair and blood running down both of his shins. “What in the hell…?” We glanced at each other and then ran to him, watching our steps as we went, happy to be off of the grass.

    To this day I never walk barefoot in the grass. I always check the bottom of my sleeping bag before slipping inside, just in case. I avoid tight spaces, especially those that are both dark and damp, and—sorry, Dad—no more Post-Game Pasta. All I see is a nest of bloody snakes.

    Reply
    • July 19, 2017 at 7:06 pm
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      What a fun story Christopher, told beautifully. If it isn’t a true life event, it sure sounds like one. It’s hard to tell stories with very little dialogue and have it be interesting, you manage to not only make it interesting, but there’s tension and turmoil as well. Nice job.

      Reply
      • July 19, 2017 at 8:36 pm
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        Thank you, Alice.
        Some parts of the story are true, others fed in for the sake of the tale.
        Bottom line: I HATE snakes. I think I should have been able to come up with something a little more along the lines of what I usually write, but the creative juices weren’t flowing this week, I suppose. This story was a little out of my element, but I enjoyed putting it together.

        Reply
    • July 19, 2017 at 10:59 pm
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      Christopher,

      You’re taking a minor event and describing it from a child’s first person pov, which magnifies its significance. You build the tension well.
      The story is about a fairly mundane event, (it was a garter snake, not a rattler) but you tell it so well that it holds our attention throughout. You create an interest in the characters, there’s a crisis, a postponement, the fear and anxiety of the solution, action, success and the lingering aftereffects. This is really good writing, the structure is fabulous. And you don’t make mistakes. But you have to admit, it describes a minor event, and is therefore a fairly tame story. On the plus side, nobody died or got murdered, or was shot, or even bitten! I think you should be congratulated on that. (At least for this week.)

      Reply
    • July 20, 2017 at 5:03 am
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      Yes, Chris, your story does have the feel of a real event. It’s very vividly described – I could see it all the way through. So an effective piece of descriptive writing which captures the child’s view.
      I could see this incident working well also in a longer story, where the protagonist’s subsequent fear of snakes has an impact in a later situation.

      Reply
    • July 20, 2017 at 5:14 am
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      A very well described and paced story, Christopher. As Ken says, it’s a relatively mundane incident (albeit with a snake!) but you put us in the skin of the youngster, and for him it’s far from mundane, and we feel that. (Have you seen the ‘Modern Family’ episode where Phil and Luke go under the house? A similar feel, and your story brought that back to me, although there it was Phil’s terror … but then he IS a big kid.) I’m not sure the relatively lengthy intro about ‘soccer’ adds too much to the story (?)

      Reply
  • July 18, 2017 at 10:25 pm
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    Well crafted story Christopher and very believable. I like the way you have built up the tension.

    Reply
    • July 19, 2017 at 8:32 pm
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      Thanks, Ilana – I appreciate it!

      Reply
  • July 18, 2017 at 10:44 pm
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    Apologies to others who are in this group. I will try to critique but am fighting exhaustion and illness again and often go to sleep at 8 or 9pm when I put my son to bed and do not get up until 6am which is quite late for me. Used to rising at five am after going down at 11 pm and must be getting old. Very full of aches and pains all the time. Sorry. 🙁

    Reply
  • July 19, 2017 at 3:43 am
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    Look after yourself, Ilana. First things first – critiquing a long way down the list compared to your health.

    Reply
  • July 19, 2017 at 11:05 am
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    Dittos to what Andy said. I won’t be home until late afternoon, then I’ll put up the voting link.
    Take care Ilana.

    Reply
    • July 19, 2017 at 12:11 pm
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      Oh good – maybe I can sneak a story in!!!!
      Working on it now…

      Reply
  • July 19, 2017 at 1:25 pm
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    The World Gate to Seuneu by Carrie Zylka Copyright 2017

    “Snakes…” She whispered. “Why does it always have to be snakes??”

    The enormous room was cold, sterile, its walls devoid of color, slate gray and blacks everywhere.

    She shivered as the dampness seeped into her skin, and gritted her teeth.

    The writhing pit of snakes mocked her, their bodies twisting and slithering and thrashing about.

    Her eyes went to the round door laid in the floor. An area devoid of the carnivorous reptiles. In fact they twisted violently away whenever any of the slid near it.

    She sighed knowing that was the way off this wretched swamp world.

    And she was eager to leave, eager to get her prisoner to the Retributioner. Ready to be done with this chase.

    “They’re beautiful…” Maelic hissed, adoration evident in his voice.

    “They’re disgusting.” She snapped. “And we have to find a way through them to the gate there.” She indicated the doorway in the center of the pit.

    “That is where the next gateway is?” He asked incredulously.

    She nodded in affirmation, her eyes scanning the smooth surfaces, trying to devise a way to go around or over the pit and drop in from above. Her wings had been damaged in an altercation with an alligator like creature a few days earlier and they were unable to support the two of them in flight.

    She spoke softly. “When the Worldbuilders sealed the gates to this world, they must’ve had a sense of humor about them. I can’t carry us; we’ll have to figure out a way to get there without getting bit.”

    Maelic rolled his eyes in disdain. “Perhaps we could just destroy them.” He sneered, casting his arm out a wall of flame spread out across the pit.

    The writhing and thrashing became more violent as the flames touch the slithering bodies. They began roiling in what the Angel realized was a methodical manner, turning slowly in a clockwise manner, wrapping around each other to form a scaly wall. Imbued with magic of their own the snake created a barrier that deflected the demon’s magic, sending it flying back at the two of them.

    “What the-??” Maelic screamed as the fire roared over him, he turned to see the Angel snap her wings around her, protecting her from the worst of the heat. He grimaced as he saw the already damaged wings take the brunt of the fire and quickly muttered some words to kill the spell.

    “For the love of all that is holy!!” She shouted, unsteadily getting to her feet. “Did you stop to think how the snakes stayed alive without food and water? Obviously they were spelled by the Worldbuilders. Magic probably won’t work.”

    Maelic shrugged dismissively, hiding his embarrassment. “I figured it was worth a shot.”

    “It was stupid.” A deep voice spoke from the shadows.

    Maelic immediately moved into a defensive posture, but the Angel stiffened, she recognized the voice and her heart leapt into her throat.

    “Strážca…” She breathed.

    The beautiful angel materialized out of the shadows and she felt her insides twist. His brilliant blue eyes caught and held hers and he moved towards her.

    She shook herself like a cat waking up; she tore her gaze away and took a deep breath. “What are you doing here?” She cursed herself for the lack of confidence in her voice.

    He stopped, never taking his eyes off her. “I was sent to recruit someone on this world. I felt your presence and came.”

    Her heart trembled. A flight of emotions fluttered across her face. She was excited that he’d sought her out, angry at how they’d ended things, and terrified that he’d see the longing in her heart.

    Out of the corner of her eye she saw Maelic move. He stepped forward, gathering his force about him. “I can’t hurt you but this one is definitely not off limits.” He growled.

    Strážca never took his eyes off her. His arm shot out and a huge wall of white light created a barrier that absorbed the dark magic Maelic threw at him.

    Calmly he spoke to her: “I have missed you.”

    Maelic’s face contorted in anger. Gathering more power he began flinging great balls of energy at the tall angel. The balls whizzed around the wall, up and over, to the side, seeking a way to their intended target.

    The only outward emotion he showed was the downturn of his lips as he frowned in annoyance. Strážca brought his arm down, eliminating the barrier and the balls whizzed forward. He twisted his hand in the air and the spheres exploded into a bright shower of sparks.

    He took a step towards her, simultaneously conjuring a spell. From the floor great chains sprung, wrapping themselves around Maelic’s arms. The demon shrieked as he realized they were covered in runes meant to hold a creature such as he.

    Strážca stepped into her personal space. She lifted her face to his, and drank in his exceptional beauty. He reached up and smoothed away a stray hair and then cupped her face. “I have missed you.”

    “I don’t know what to say, you know how I felt about you…how I still feel about you. But I’m on mission to bring the Demon to justice and I cannot be distracted.” She took a step backwards, her eyes hardening. “Even by you.”

    His mouth curved upwards into a perfect smile and his yes gazed deep. “And that is why I’ll always love you. Come my dearest, I will get you through the world gate and into Seuneu. And if you are amiable to the task, I will join you on your travel to the Vellira gate and help you bring the monster to justice.”

    “I would love that…” She breathed.

    Neither of them saw Maelic’s face contort first with disdain and then with rage, and as the old tales goes…hell hath no fury like a would-be lover scorned.

    Reply
    • July 19, 2017 at 8:06 pm
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      Another Maelic and Angel story, still waiting for the book 🙂
      What’s funny is I read this line, “…its walls devoid of color, slate gray and blacks everywhere.” at first as black people everywhere, I laughed realizing that’s not what you meant.

      I love these two characters, and now the inclusion of a former lover just keeps adding to the tension between these two. A nice use of the theme, and I loved the dialogue and the flow of the story.

      Just these two tiny errors,
      “…whenever any of the slid near it.” “…and his yes gazed deep.”
      but it didn’t impact the story on a whole at all.

      Reply
    • July 20, 2017 at 5:20 am
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      You do this stuff very well, Carrie (although I must admit it’s not my bag). The tension between the characters is very well portrayed. The description of the action is top notch, too. The snakes are used well. Strážca is a great name for a character! At the end, we’re kinda left up in the air … yes, Maelic is p*ssed off, so …?

      Reply
    • July 20, 2017 at 5:25 am
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      Your episodes are curing my allergy to fantasy, Carrie 🙂 I enjoyed it a lot.
      It’s powerfully visual, and I can see here an episode in a picaresque novel, perhaps translatable to a video game as ‘she’, the central character, escorts her prisoner with or without his help through various situations. And here, as well as the snake-pit there’s a ‘three’s a crowd’ dynamic emerging. Interesting.

      I’m left with a number of questions – why are they there? Does ‘she’ have a name?Who is Strážca and why does he have a Slovakian name? How do they get out? How did Strážca get in? Who are the Retributioner and the Worldbuilders? How do you pronounce Seuneu?
      And not sure what to make of the macho man-struggle over Maelic’s great balls of fire. I’ll ask my therapist to interpret.

      Couple of typos as Alice noted. And I think ‘amiable to the task’ should be ‘amenable to the task’
      And the tautology ‘she nodded in affirmation’ – can you nod in negation, I wonder?
      🙂

      Reply
  • July 19, 2017 at 4:00 pm
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    I was musing, as one does, on famous snakes in literature and the arts.
    I think my favourite has to be Sir Hiss in Disney’s Robin Hood.
    And second, the anaconda in “Anaconda”.

    Anyone else have any favourites?

    Reply
    • July 19, 2017 at 8:45 pm
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      Favourite? No. Least favourite? Yes.
      How about from Indiana Jones? “Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?”
      I saw this film when I was young, and that scene still makes me squirm.

      Reply
      • July 19, 2017 at 8:55 pm
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        Ha! The first line in my story is totally a homage to that scene!!!!!

        Reply
    • July 20, 2017 at 7:24 am
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      Snake Plissken.

      Reply
  • July 20, 2017 at 11:13 am
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    Swim lessons with the kiddos today, will have the results late afternoonish. Still waiting on Ken and Carrie’s votes.

    Reply
  • July 20, 2017 at 4:23 pm
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    Just waiting on Ken, as usual 🙂

    Reply

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