February 28 – March 13, 2018 Flash Fiction Contest “Dark and Stormy”

Theme: 1st line contest

The story must start with: “It was a dark, stormy night.”

These words will NOT count towards your 1200 word limit. i.e. you may write a story with 1206 words.

Word Count: 1,200



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  • 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 Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.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.

See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.


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120 thoughts on “February 28 – March 13, 2018 Flash Fiction Contest “Dark and Stormy”

  • March 1, 2019 at 9:45 am
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    Read the stories here:

    (If you don’t see your story linked here within 24 hours after your posted it, please let us know as we may have missed the comment.)

    Reply
  • March 1, 2019 at 10:15 am
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    Signing in. And thanx again! Writerly greetings!

    Reply
  • March 1, 2019 at 11:13 am
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    Signing in for comments! Congrats Jurgen on the last contest!!

    Reply
  • March 1, 2019 at 7:23 pm
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    A Spell of Peace and Quiet.

    by Ken Frape. 1206 words including prompt and title.

    It was a dark, stormy night. Deep in the darkest heart of the enchanted forest it was perfect weather for all sorts of mischief and mayhem. It would have been business as usual if only Witch Griselda hadn’t just been forced to retire.

    All she wanted now was a spell of peace and quiet.

    Her potions and spellbooks (heavily redacted on grounds of Health and Safety) had sold out at the charity jumble sale at the castle, along with all those besoms. People seemed happy to believe that they were all hers, used regularly. “Only one careful witch owner,” she chuckled as she wrote the words in raspberry juice as red as blood on the labels.

    Griselda was tired now and she was becoming increasingly clumsy. Why, only last month she had accidentally dropped her magic wand when she was polishing it and as the magic tip touched the cast-iron cooking cauldron it disappeared in a flash of coloured stars.
    Gone, never to be seen again.
    “Oh, bugger!” she had grumbled angrily. “I really liked that cauldron!”

    Nowadays, she just wanted to sit back in her rocking chair by the fire and watch the yellow flames as they licked their way up the sooty chimney. Her old familiar, the coal-black Shadow would be curled up on her lap and the two of them would doze away their days until bedtime. Sadly, no more dark, stormy night jaunts for them and they were really going to miss Hallowe’en.

    As word quickly spread that Witch Griselda was retired and no longer licensed to practice her devilish arts, the curious came in droves to gawk and stare at her sweet cottage, their mouths flopping open like stupid gold fish. If Griselda appeared at her window, or opened her front door, they would squeal and run away, shivering at their bravado, like poking the body of a dead spider, their skins tingling with excitement. Now, someone had even been bold enough to take a bite out of one of her caramel gateposts.

    Eventually, Griselda told herself, “enough is enough!” She retrieved her yellowing false teeth from under the bed before slipping them into her puckered cat’s-bottom mouth, licking off the dust and some other unidentifiable substance with relish. She ran her wizened, walnut knuckled fingers across her tinder-dry scalp, sending a cloud of dry skin particles to dance dizzily in a stray flicker of firelight before turning to silver dust around her rat fur slippers.

    Griselda had hoped that her work clothes would stay in her wardrobe, rotting away in the dark, gathering dust and lovely green mould. She loved the taste and smell of mould, especially when added to her speciality Guts and Gizzard soup. She smiled as she felt the familiar weight of her black cloak as she slipped it around her bone-thin shoulders, followed by the wig, everything liberally coated in fresh, silky cobwebs. Her spiders clearly hadn’t retired yet because Griselda had forgotten to tell them her news so they were still merrily spinning their webs in the darkness. She rouged the huge, pink, hairy boil that grew on her nose and topped things off by donning her black pointy hat and picking up her gnarled old walking stick. She stole a quick glance into her disfigured looking glass and Mirror awoke with a start, mistaken in thinking he too had been retired.

    “Am I not a true beauty, my old friend?” Griselda cackled to her reflection as another crack appeared. She slipped her wand from under her cape and waved it with a practice flourish towards Mirror. He recoiled in alarm but too slow! As the magic tip of the wand touched the frame Mirror disappeared in a flash of coloured stars. Gone. Never to be seen again.
    “Oh, bugger!” puckered Griselda. “I really liked old Mirror.”

    Meanwhile, Shadow had sat patiently, licking his bottom and watching with a quizzical look on his face and now he curled his long tail around Griselda’s varicose veins, purring at the prospect of some of their old mischief again.

    “Brrrppp, mmiiiaaw!” He yawned with feline anticipation whilst keeping well away from his mistress’ wildly waving wand. He had been fond of old Mirror too and he hadn’t forgotten about the cauldron either where Griselda used to boil up his favourite rat and snakeskin broth.

    “Right, Shadow. Let’s do some scaring!”

    The instant that the old woman and her cat stepped out into the darkness, the trap was sprung. The first missile, a chocolate brick, hit her on the chin, dislodging her hat and several false teeth, knocking her to her knees. That brick was followed by a barrage of toffee roof tiles that cracked her brittle bones and split her desiccated skin. Despite her feeble cries and Shadow’s pitiful mewling, the merciless onslaught continued until their bodies were almost buried under a mountain of sickly sweet, blood spattered confectionery.

    The old woman and her cat were dead meat.

    Then, for just a few moments, all around the dark cottage and garden there was a collective holding of breath, disbelief. Then a joyous, softly scented breeze set the leaves a-dancing before a-skipping and a-sighing exuberantly through the woods. The newly emboldened sun bullied the dark away to hide and birds started to sing. Excited children seemed to arrive from everywhere to chew on marzipan and caramel, licorice and chocolate, fizzy sherbet and cola cubes. They were devouring the witch’s confectionery cottage, morsel by morsel. Their whispers grew to a shout, then a chant, “The witch is dead! The witch is dead!”

    The witch’s assailants, her murderers, buried her and her cat in the corner of her garden, behind the woodshed, next to the privy. Then they carried on feasting. Well, murder is a hungry business. Soon more and more children heard the news and arrived to join in the feast. They were guilty of greed and gluttony. And murder. Don’t forget the murder.

    As the crowd gorged on the sweet rewards of this cold-blooded crime, no one gave a thought to looking over their shoulder towards the witch’s freshly-dug grave. If they had, they may have espied at first a long, bony finger, then a hand, then a claw and then a paw as cat and witch forced their way up through the entombing stickiness. Moments later, the fearsome couple were revealed once more in all their gory magnificence. As they stood there, the dripping blood disappeared, their wounds healed and their broken bones mended. The witch and her cat were not only alive again and fully restored but now they were oh so angry and hell bent on vengeance.

    “Retirement will have to wait,” Griselda growled and Shadow hissed in agreement.

    They both took one menacing step forward but before they could even begin to release their terrible anger, oh dear, the clumsy witch sneezed and dropped her wand. She and Shadow watched in horror, helpless, as it fell, magic tip first, onto her foot and then bounced up to touch the top of Shadow’s head.

    As they both disappeared in a flash of coloured stars, gone, never to be seen again her final words hung in the air,

    “Oh, bugger…”

    Ken Frape (Ken 2)

    1206 incl. title

    Reply
    • March 6, 2019 at 9:33 am
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      Hahahahahahaha. Wonderful writing, Ken. As a witch sympathizer, I can’t say I like the ending much, but I loved the story. You wasted no opportunity in adding descriptive elements to the characters and the scenery. Well done, Ken. Well done.

      Reply
      • March 6, 2019 at 5:32 pm
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        Hi Ken 1,

        Thanks for your kind remarks. I had fun with this one. I think Witch Griselda is quite safe where she is now with her cat for company. She is in some sort of Witch Limbo and I guess that is a better place than she was in before…….No Donald, no wall, no Teresa May, no Brexit…….
        Ken 2

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    • March 6, 2019 at 1:18 pm
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      Great story Ken2! I could see this as a children’s book (without the gory parts). Awesome Halloween story. I love the clumsy old witch and the detail you put into describing her! I liked the ending – having her disappear rather than rotting away in a grave. Good work!

      Reply
      • March 6, 2019 at 5:39 pm
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        Hi Adrienne,

        Thanks for your comments.

        Yes, I’m sure there is a children’s book in this and I do wonder if they would actually like some of the gory stuff. They love toilet humour, for example, The Horrible Histories ( a UK TV series for kids much loved by parents too).

        Really my story is a parody of some well-known fairy tales such as Hansel and Gretel, Babes in the Wood and the like.
        It is great fun to rewrite this kind of stuff with a modern slant.

        Regards,

        Ken Frape (Ken 2)

        Reply
    • March 11, 2019 at 9:55 am
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      Great story, loved the character of the old retired witch, only one thing stuck out as odd and that was why it was only after she retired the curious folk came to gawk and such, I would think that would have happened all along. That the townsfolk would be more scared of her while she was practicing magic rather than retired.
      But I really liked the descriptive work and how you wove the whole town into it.

      Reply
    • March 12, 2019 at 9:02 am
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      Hello Ken! (I forgot your number. Was it 1? Or 2?) I like all the little details in that story, and the surprising twist in the end. Great!

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      • March 13, 2019 at 5:47 am
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        Hi B,
        In my house and family I am definitely Ken 1 ( and only one) but in this writing group I am definitely Ken 2!
        Thanks for your comments.
        Ken Frape (Ken 2)

        Reply
        • March 13, 2019 at 2:19 pm
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          Ken,
          In my house and family I am affectionately referred to as ‘Yo’, ‘Hey’, ‘Dufus’, ‘The Kenster’, ‘Kenny-baby’ and ‘Whassup?’ But we’re a very informal and disrespectful group of idiots. Perhaps we (you and I) could refer to ourselves as Ken F. and Ken C. I don’t want to give any newcomers the false impression that the ‘1’ denotes any kind of rank or privilege. What say you?

          Reply
          • March 13, 2019 at 4:10 pm
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            Yo,
            Let’s do it!
            Ken F

    • March 12, 2019 at 11:38 am
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      Ken 2, I love the “oh bugger” that recurs throughout this story, it makes her character lovable to me for some reason. It’s a charming story and love the imagery of the bony hand and paw rising out of the grave. I do agree with Carry though, that it would make a little more sense if the people rose against her after she retired rather than right as she came back. It also seemed like the townspeople liked her a bit even before she retired, so why would they attack her. But ultimately I like this story and her clumsiness is adorable.

      Reply
      • March 12, 2019 at 1:41 pm
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        Hi Wendy,

        Thanks for commenting on my story but I have to say that your comment leaves me a bit puzzled. As far as I can see from rereading the story and from the original intention behind it, the people did not come and gawp at the sweet cottage UNTIL they heard that Griselda had retired but they were still scared of her. ( 6th. para.)They were just a bit braver once they heard she was retired.Still scared of her though, hence the dead spider analogy.

        “As word quickly spread that Witch Griselda was retired and no longer licensed to practice her devilish arts, the curious came in droves to gawk and stare at her sweet cottage ………………Now, someone had even been bold enough to take a bite out of one of her caramel gateposts.”

        They were taunting her and eventually, she had enough and got dressed up again to get her revenge.

        Or have I made a horrible mistake in thinking I have written something that does not come across that way?

        Regards,

        Ken Frape

        Reply
        • March 12, 2019 at 4:12 pm
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          Maybe it’s my misunderstanding. It seemed to me that she had been retired for a while, then decided to come back and that was when everyone had started to attack her. I guess I thought they would have gone after her while she was “powerless” if they wanted to take her down. It’s possible I misread the passage of time. I do want to reiterate that I liked this story.

          Reply
          • March 13, 2019 at 6:03 am
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            Hi Wendy,

            Thanks for the further comments and I hope my reply didn’t sound a bit “off”. I know that it is really important to take the reader’s and listener’s views and impressions into account as they often pick up things that we, as writers, miss because we are too close to the story.

            I tried to post a comment upon your story a couple of days ago but it wouldn’t go so…….

            Such a great and timely comment upon our modern society, our love and devotion to the mobile phone. We see people having accidents as they walk into solid objects whilst staring at their phones; we see whole families in restaurants all using their phones when they could actually be talking to each other. So, why shouldn’t Death take away something precious……he always does anyway!
            Great term, “poofed into existence..”

            I think this is avery astute pieceof social commentary, well -written and entertaining.
            Well done,

            Ken Frape
            (Ken 2)

    • March 12, 2019 at 7:08 pm
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      This story is, of course, very funny, Ken. However, it is also an interesting commentary on the ambiguity of Good & Evil, as the ‘evil’ witch turns out to be quite normal and sympathetic, while the ‘normal’ folks turn out to be murderous looters.

      Reply
    • March 12, 2019 at 7:17 pm
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      Terrific story, Ken – really well written and great fun. You’ve got all the fairy-tale tropes there (from Hansel & Gretel primarily), but done up in delicious irreverence. And the plot is great, too. I wouldn’t put it past Griselda (and Shadow) to reappear one day – nothing’s impossible in fairy-tales, is it?

      Reply
    • March 14, 2019 at 10:27 am
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      That’s a funny and cute story, Ken. I’ll have to agree with Adrienne: a fun children’s book – at the same time disagreeing with her: yes! kids LOVE gory parts and toilet humor! Aaah… sweet age of no boundaries…! 😉
      And your writing, always a nice flow.

      Reply
  • March 2, 2019 at 11:22 am
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    Hi All,

    I thought I should check the spelling of “mistress” when it is in the possessive form i.e. the cat belonging to the mistress. Apparently, it should be “mistress’s cat.”
    Doesn’t look right to me and the Oxford English dictionary was no help.
    Anyway, there it is.

    Ken Frape.

    Reply
  • March 2, 2019 at 1:35 pm
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    Dark Rift by Carrie Zylka
    Version 2 | 1197 words

    It was a dark, stormy night.

    The night was dark, with angry clouds and arctic winds that sliced through the heaviest of coats.

    The men who watched over the Dark Rift shivered and pulled their woolen hats lower, trying to keep the bitter wind from touching skin.

    One man, barely old enough to serve in the Rift Army made his rounds along the wall, wincing as thunder rippled across the sky, causing the old bones of the valley to shiver. He’d walked this path a thousand times, back and forth, back and forth, the monotony making it hard to keep his eyes open.

    The wooden walkways creaked as he stepped, causing him to shake out of his reverie and to pay more attention to his footing than the dark thing sneaking up the far side of the wall.

    He squawked awkwardly as the tentacle snaked up and grabbed him around the chest. But his short-lived cry was enough to alert the soldiers on watch. It had been several years since the dark things had tried to come across the Rift, but many had witnessed that epic battle and the men knew their duty well. Shouts rose from that darkness and a soldier ran to the horn, sounding the alarm.

    In the exact midway point of the wall, a great tower had been constructed. Hundreds of steps led up the winding stairs to the top where you could see every point along the wall. Each board, each nail had been imbued with hearty magics, allowing the structure to stand tall in defiance of the constant weather.

    The alarm horn sounded a single great awoooooooaaaaaaaa sound and people within hearing began to scramble in panic.

    The sound traveled through the valley and made its way into every crack and fissure. But the true duty of the horn was to awaken the Weather Witch.

    Hundreds of years old, she stood guard atop her watchtower. Waiting to be needed, her body in a standing comatose state until the spell in the horn woke her.

    The process to become one such as she is long and arduous, trials must be defeated and each one causes a bit of humanity to fall away in the process. Imbued with a fierce and hungry power, like all Weather Witches she’d become barely human and the comatose state kept her from unleashing her sorcery until a threat presented itself.

    As the spell from the horn washed over her, a hardened cocoon of dust and ice slid from her, the pieces hitting the floor with a delicate tinkling sound, an elegant sound, odd amongst the howling of the growing storm.

    Freed from her sleep, a tall woman who’d once been one of the greatest beauties in the land, opened her stormy eyes, shivered in delight, she took a step forward, searching for the threat.

    Her black lips peeled back over her teeth like a hungry wolf as she spied the inky figures moving across the Dark Rift, intent on invading. Defying the concord forced upon them the last time they’d attempted to span the fracture. Her eyes narrowed, it was her responsibility to keep the creatures from gaining ground. She was part of an elite guard, women and men stationed at key defensive points and imbued with violent, somewhat unpredictable, but by far the most powerful magics.

    She lifted her arm and called forth Storm. Chanting the spell in her head, her entire body called out to the clouds above. The heavens responded with boiling clouds and pelting rain. She laughed as the cold water bombarded the valley, causing the dark things to falter and sent the humans running for cover.

    The air sizzled with static and making a fist, she called forth Lightening, creatures of nightmares exploded into gooey black messes as the forked electric spears struck here and there.
    For more than an hour she worked, directing lightning strikes and sending waves of cascading rain to confuse the enemy.

    But every creature hit was replaced with two more.

    The Weather Witch grimaced in consternation, in past attacks, her magic was more than enough to drive back the hordes, her eyes scanned as she fought, working quickly to generate the next bolt of electricity and send it flying. But as fast and powerful as she was, the dark creatures were gaining ground, inch by inch, they were advancing.

    She’d never called Tornado before, never had to. The spell was dangerous as it split her power into sections. But she did now, and the air answered her call with three F4 tornadoes, the vertical funnels stepped into the fray, eagerly tossing monsters and creatures into the air like ragdolls. She concentrated, holding on to them with all her might, knowing if she allowed them to gain in intensity or to get loose, they could turn and destroy the wall and pave a path for the dark things to invade. Sweat beaded on her brow as she grappled with the force of the twisters.

    The Weather Witch gasped as an invisible punch landed in her gut. She watched as the tornadoes twirl and sputtered out and she knew the only thing that could negate her magic was another Weather Witch.

    She righted herself and leaned forward, it had been centuries since she’d had a true adversary and she was eager to see who it was she’d soon be battling.

    But her cold heart sank as she spied the head of the dark army moving towards the perimeters. It had been centuries since she’d felt true human fear.

    She turned at the creaking of the stairs. A general stepped onto the platform, he’d seen her double over and immediately came to offer assistance. “Mistress?” He spoke softly, hoping she wouldn’t mistakenly unleash her magic on him. He trembled as she turned her ice grey eyes to him. When she spoke, it felt like a cold front slammed into him.

    “Summon the Vela, tell them the wards of the 7th gate have failed, and demons have crossed over. I can hold them, but only the Angels will be able to defeat him.” She turned her gaze to the tall figure of darkness. “His name is Maelic and he is a prince among his kind. His power is greater than mine own, but I can hold him back until they arrive.”

    The general paled at the realization. For a Weather Witch to call for the Vela meant the situation was dire.

    “Send your soldiers away General, save as many as you can. If Maelic defeats me before the Vela can arrive, it will not go well for your men.”

    In the distance Maelic stood, a regal figure amongst the chaos.

    He’d easily defeated the tornadoes and sent a small hello to the one controlling them. He smiled, his perfect white teeth bright in contrast to his black eyes.

    He’d worked hard to get to this world. Here, where the Vela were most numerous. Here, where one Angel in particular, was sure to be.

    He nearly laughed out loud in delight, his eyes filled with madness and vengeance, destroying this world and settling an old score would surely be a treat.

    Reply
    • March 12, 2019 at 2:55 am
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      Carrie,
      I like the concept of giving a kind of living entity status to things like rain, wind, lightning and tornadoes. And the writing is clean and the imagery is powerful.

      I noticed a duplicate phrase:
      You use the phrase, ‘It had been centuries since…’ Twice in two successive paragraphs.

      And a couple of sentences sounded unnecessarily convoluted.

      She was eager to see who it was that she would soon be battling. (She was eager to engage her unknown adversary.(?)

      He nearly laughed out loud in delight, … (How about: ‘He licked his lips in anticipation…’)

      Reply
      • March 12, 2019 at 9:42 am
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        Thanks Ken, as always these are great suggestions. I swear I want to hire you to be my proofreader if I ever actually finish one of the 8 novels I have started!!

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    • March 12, 2019 at 9:19 am
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      Powerful words. The story reminded me a bit of Game of Thrones. Which is surely because otherwise I do not read much fantasy. The canyon, the wall, the guards, the magic. Where beings fight without laptops, cell phones and tablets.

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      • March 12, 2019 at 9:44 am
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        Great comparison, I’ve never seen the show (weird I know) but I do believe I’ve seen a bit of that in the previews.
        And I know the story line is not very unique, I’m pretty sure I’ve read many novels in the last 4 decades where a rift or gulch prevents the bad guys (heck even Pacific Rim – one of my all time fave movies has a breach where creatures come through).

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    • March 12, 2019 at 11:47 am
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      Carrie, I thought this might be related to your other stories! You have an interesting fantasy world going and I love your descriptions. Ken C got the only technical things that struck me, but I would love to get the full story on what happens next in this world. Do they survive? Does the weather Witch live? Is the land overrun with the dark creatures? Tune in next time for the thrilling conclusion. You really make the characters actions come alive.

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    • March 12, 2019 at 7:10 pm
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      Brilliant, Carrie. Absolutely brilliant. Definitely makes me wanna read more of the story.

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    • March 12, 2019 at 7:18 pm
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      As I think I’ve said before, Carrie, I’m not a great fan of fantasy fiction, but you do a great job here of creating a striking world and populating it with vivid characters: the Weather Witch, the dark things, Maelic, the Vela (Latin for ‘candle’, as I’m sure you know), who we don’t see but get a sense of their importance. The battle is obviously part of a greater war, so that we’re left a little in the air at the end, but it’s intense stuff all the same.

      Reply
    • March 13, 2019 at 10:30 pm
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      Great story Carrie. I loved the characters and personification of the weather elements. I’m jealous. My brain does not allow me to write fantasy fiction of this type. I’d love to, but I just can’t imagine the worlds like this one until I read about it. My son writes this type of fiction as well as my boyfriend. It’s just not fair. LOL

      Reply
  • March 3, 2019 at 5:02 am
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    Hi Carrie,

    I really liked the world that you created in this story but certainly wouldn’t want to live there! You made it very realistic.

    The fierce elements and the impotence of mere mortals.Great descriptive words used that really give a sense of unlimited power.

    I sensed a metaphor within this story ( Greek Gods?) whereby an initial threat is met by lesser mortals and then ever-increasing force beyond that of man is required to keep ahead in the battle. Finally, it was all in vain as the superior power (Maelic) can win whenever he chooses as he sits and watches the unfolding scene.. Celestial chess.

    Regards,

    Ken Frape (aka Ken2)

    Reply
    • March 3, 2019 at 7:15 am
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      Hi Ken,
      thanks for the very insightful response yes you could certainly take it that way. The best thing about fantasy fiction the reader can interpret so much of it themselves.

      Maelic and Heather (the angel in which he’s referring) are two characters in my “big manuscript”. In that novel series, the Vela are angel hybrids who watch over 37 gates that connect 38 worlds. One of these worlds, is an environment of lashing storms, and perpetual water, Weather Witch’s tirelessly to maintain some sort of livable atmosphere. In the books, Maelic does visit this weather torn world, so I thought it would be fun to steal one of those characters and insert her into this little story.

      Since I’ve been a part of this writing contest, every once in a while I write a short story about these two.​ Ok well more than once in a while since there are a total of 21 short stories about these two spawned from various writing prompts on this site hahaha​

      But if you really want to get to know Maelic and the Angel who pursues him, these 4 audio shorts are where it’s at!!
      The Angel and The Demon Pt 1 & 2 (7 minutes)
      The Angel and The Demon Pt 3 & 4 (8 minutes)

      Reply
      • March 3, 2019 at 4:53 pm
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        Hi Carrie,
        Well you have certainly been busy. I will check out your stories and I have also told my son-in-law who loves fantasy and graphic novels.
        Regards,
        Ken Frape

        Reply
  • March 8, 2019 at 2:24 pm
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    Midnight By: Adrienne Riggs (1,199)

    ‘It was a dark, stormy night.’

    The clacking of the typewriter keys stopped suddenly. Julia cringed at the words she had just typed.
    “What am I doing? That is so cliché!”

    Grabbing the paper, she ripped it from the carriage of the machine, loving the raw whining sound it made. It was one of the most satisfying things about using a typewriter instead of a computer. With relish, she balled up the sheet of paper and tossed it over her shoulder toward the trashcan; another satisfying part of the writing ritual.

    ‘The stormy night was dark and …..’ RIP! Another sheet of paper was yanked from the machine, balled up and tossed.

    “That’s worse than the first!” Julia muttered to her lazy feline, drowsing on the desk. Midnight just opened one eye to look at her before resuming his nap. “Of course a stormy night will be dark! Ugh! I have to be more creative!”

    The typewriter keys clacked as Julia’s fingers danced across them. ‘The storm clouds rolled across the blackened sky to cover the night with a deep darkness…’

    Julia frowned. “Midnight, do clouds ‘roll’?” The cat twitched his whiskers and ignored her. “This is redundant! If the sky is blackened of course there will be a deep darkness. What is wrong with me?”

    The typewriter platen gave a loud whine as another sheet of paper was ripped from the carriage. A ball of crumpled paper soared across the room, bounced off the wall and landed next to the trashcan.

    Julia inserted another sheet of paper and played with the keys while she thought of another beginning. Asdfjkl;asdfjkl; appeared on the page. She closed her eyes, loving the sound of her keystrokes and the motion of her fingers across the keys that her grandfather had used in his newspaper career.

    She sighed. “You know, Midnight, there is something truly therapeutic about the sounds of these old keys. Don’t you just love it?”

    The cat narrowed his green eyes at her, swished his tail in irritation and curled up with his back to her in response.

    “Ok! Ok! I get it!” Julia laughed. “I’m irritating you. Now, where was I?”

    She rolled the page out of the carriage, tossed it over her shoulder and inserted another one.

    ‘A night as dark as ebon falls, whilst storm clouds in the distance call.’

    “Hmmm. Not bad” Julia muttered, her head tilted to the side as she pondered her writing. “Ah, who am I kidding? I sound like some sort of female Shakespeare!

    Riiiipppp! The paper ball joined the rest on the wooden floor.

    ‘Darkness descended as Erebus passed by, hanging shadows in the sky. Zeus arrived with thunderous roar, tossing lightning bolts to melt earth’s core.’

    “What am I doing? Writing for Disney?” Julia yelled into the silence of the cozy den causing Midnight to jump to his feet. “What do Greek gods have to do with this story? Shall I have Hercules come to the rescue? Jeepers!”

    The cat glared at her. With a noise somewhere between a hiss and growl, he jumped off the desk and retreated to a corner of the room to groom his fur. With his back turned to his mistress, he didn’t see the next ball of paper flying across the room until it was too late. It bounced off his head and into the trashcan.

    His mistress inserted a new page. ‘The night was black, the thunder deep, across the land, shadows creeped. The lightning danced, the raindrops fell, until the lakes and rivers swelled.’

    Julia groaned and dropped her head onto the desktop, banging her forehead on the metal frame of the typewriter. “Ouch!”

    Midnight just glanced at her dispassionately and continued his grooming. She deserved that one!

    Julia held her throbbing head in her hands. “Think, think, think!” she admonished herself aloud. “It’s just a writing assignment! Don’t make this harder than it needs to be!”

    The cat shook his head. Did this crazy human have to talk to herself all the time? It was quite annoying at times. As he swished his tail again, a ball of paper rolled a few inches across the floor. His eyes brightened, the kitten inside took over and in a lightning move, he pounced on it. In no time, he had the rejects of Julia’s writing rolling all over the wooden floor as he batted and chased them around the room.
    He barely paused when he heard the clicking of the platen as another sheet of paper was inserted into the carriage.

    Julia straightened her back, rolled her neck to get the cricks out, and placed her fingers firmly on the keys. She took a deep breath and …

    Clack, tap, tap, clack, tap, tappity, tap, clack!

    ‘The stormy night covered the sleepy town, creating darkness so deep that the evils of the wicked were perfectly shrouded in the shadows.’

    “I can’t do this!” Julia groaned in disgust.

    She’d been so obsessed with getting the first sentence right, she completely lost her train of thought; and with it, the story plot she had believed to be so clever when she first sat down.

    “My train has completely derailed, Midnight.” Julia turned to address the cat. He ignored her and sent another paper ball rolling.

    “Midnight! Get it? Train of thought? My ‘train’ derailed….” The cat chased a wad of paper under the desk. “Oh, come on! You know that’s funny!” She kicked a ball of paper that had landed next to her chair. “Or maybe not…”

    When the cat emerged from under the desk, Julia picked him up and cuddled him. Stroking his soft, black fur relaxed her. Some people were afraid of black cats but he was her best friend and companion. He never argued with her when she was ranting about something. She chuckled at the thought of the cat talking and arguing with her. Leaning back in the chair, she cuddled him against her chest and felt his methodic purring vibrating through her.

    She remembered the night he was born. She’d heard a pitiful mewing coming from the back door amidst a fierce rain storm. She opened it to find a pathetic, soaked, calico cat crouched pitifully on the doormat in the dim glow of the porch light. She’d brought her in, dried her with a towel and warmed her by the fire. Julia was marveling at how fat the cat was when the nature of the feline’s distress became obvious. The cat was pregnant! In what seemed like mere minutes, the cat delivered 4 wriggling kittens onto the towel Julia had dried her in. Midnight had been the last born and was the smallest. It was love at first sight.

    He’d had trouble nursing at first and she bottle fed him supplement formula. When she searched for homes for the Mama cat and other kittens, she knew she was keeping Midnight. They had been inseparable ever since. Julia sat up suddenly. She lowered Midnight to the floor and placed her fingers on the keys of the typewriter. She now knew what she was going to write about.

    She began… ‘It was a dark, stormy night…’

    Reply
    • March 9, 2019 at 3:38 am
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      Hi Adrienne,

      This is a very interesting way to use the prompt which, as your narrator says, is such a cliche ( how do you put in the accent over the e by the way on a standard keyboard?)

      I suspect most of us writers have many false starts but the device of using an old style typewriter and ripping out the paper and balling it up is great. I really liked that.

      I like the way the cat interacts with the paper balls and of course we can’t have a dark, stormy night without at least a suggestion of a black cat! The cat knits the elements of this piece together.

      This short story is actually all about NOT actually writing a story about a dark, stormy night as the narrator can’t think what to write. I like that too.

      PS I wonder if other people in our group are also struggling to think what to write for this prompt as there has been very little action on the site this time round. Perhaps there will be a sudden rush towards the end.

      Regards,

      Ken Frape (Ken 2)

      Reply
      • March 13, 2019 at 8:17 am
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        Thanks Ken! I appreciate the comments!

        Reply
    • March 11, 2019 at 9:43 am
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      Clever. Most clever and well delivered indeed. Was experiencing a somewhat similar sensation myself 🙂

      Reply
      • March 13, 2019 at 10:34 pm
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        Thanks!

        Reply
    • March 11, 2019 at 10:15 am
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      What a great and relatable story! I owned a black cat named “Jinx” for almost 16 years, my mom had a barn cat that I brought home from Arkansas to Wisconsin, about two weeks later she gave birth to kittens inside my still unpacked suitcase (that’ll teach me) and one of them was a little black kitten so this story in a very relatable for me. I also love the typewriter reference. I miss my old Brother Word Processor for sure. Writing on my laptop of smartphone just doesn’t have the same oomph.
      Great use of the prompt…

      Reply
    • March 12, 2019 at 3:04 am
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      Adrienne,
      A lighthearted fluff piece that really showcases your knowledge and writing skill, (without hitting us over the head with it.)
      I enjoyed the different iterations of ‘a dark, stormy night.’ and to be honest, I was hoping there would be more, but then there’s the word limit.
      Great name for a cat, ‘Midnight.’
      It’s a funny little story.

      Reply
      • March 14, 2019 at 11:58 am
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        Thanks Ken C! I had fun with this one!

        Reply
    • March 12, 2019 at 9:36 am
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      Oh, you did it! I’ve been so eager to write about writing since I learned that this sentence is a kind of inside joke in the English-speaking world.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It_was_a_dark_and_stormy_night
      I wanted to write a really bad text about it. Then I did not dare to do this, because one might think I can’t write better English.
      Now you wrote so many different beginnings of the story. My favorite is:
      The night was black, the thunder deep, creeped across the land, shadows. The lightning danced, the raindrops fell, until the lakes and rivers swelled.
      And then the story comes to a heartwarming conclusion. And the protagonist finds real feelings to write about. Great.

      Reply
      • March 13, 2019 at 8:34 am
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        Thank you!

        Reply
    • March 12, 2019 at 11:55 am
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      Haha, I loved this story. It was my thought about the prompt too! I love the details of what the cat’s doing and at the end I thought the story had derailed (sorry I couldn’t come up with another word :^P) when she started thinking about how she got Midnight then you brought it all home. The repeat of the first line really tied it up nicely.

      Reply
    • March 12, 2019 at 7:19 pm
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      Great stuff, Adrienne. I was a little sceptical at the beginning, thinking that given the scenario, it wouldn’t be going very far, but then the relationship between the writer and the cat (and the typewriter) begins to take shape and take off. The writer’s disappointed with the various versions of the beginning, but I really like them! (except for the second one, which is bad/funny). The way (and reason) it comes back to the original opening is very neat indeed. The first ‘RIP’ from the typewriter threw me a little (because of its connotations – perhaps intentional?). You could maybe have used the same ‘Riiiipppp’ you used later? Very enjoyable story (especially for cat lovers, which I am).

      Reply
    • March 14, 2019 at 10:41 am
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      Adrienne, loved your story! I must confess I felt no small amount of envy, seeing what you were able to make of that prompt, which drove me crazy as well. Such a great idea, to incorporate it into the very subject of the difficulty of writing! Bringing in the cat with the balls of paper was brilliant and brilliantly executed. It evokes the metaphor of a ball of thread a story is all about unraveling (which a cat will have a BALL doing…! (pardon my (easy) pun)…)
      Thanks to Phil’s comment, I saw the ambiguity of the RIP only after the fact. I only saw the (Christian) RIP… But now that he made me aware of it, I actually love the double meaning. Personally, I would be tempted to leave it at that…?
      … and now I want to read that cat’s story, because… seriously: how on earth are you going to make it work with THAT prompt…?! 😉

      Reply
      • March 14, 2019 at 11:51 am
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        Thanks for the comments Flo! I intentionally left the ‘RIP’ the way it was, aiming for the double meaning. I was curious to see how many caught the connection – the paper being ripped from the machine and the ‘death’ of a cliche prompt. LOL. I had a lot of fun writing this story. I wanted to see how many variations I could come up with for “It was a dark, stormy night.” The writing of each variation was exciting. Thanks again!

        Reply
  • March 10, 2019 at 11:00 am
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    Death Makes a House Call by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin ©2019 [word count 864]

    It was a dark and stormy night. OK, it wasn’t really stormy, more of a light breeze and drizzle. To be honest, with all of the streetlights, it wasn’t really dark either. But doesn’t ‘dark and stormy’ have a more ominous ring than ‘damp and dim’? Not to mention, it was only about seven pm.

    It was a damp and dim evening on the fringes of Ravenhurst. (Yeah, you’re right; it was Columbus, not Ravenhurst. I’m trying for a mood here.) So, it was a damp and dim evening in the suburbs of Columbus. I was walking with my hands deep in the pockets of my black hoodie, the brim of a baseball cap keeping my face mostly dry. What? You expected me to say ‘billowing black cloak with a deep hood hiding my skeletal face’? This isn’t 1690. Death, while inescapable, can update with the times.

    I felt myself drawn in a specific direction – left down this street, right down another – until I ended up at the front door of a generic ranch style home. The porch light was off, but the windows had a warm glow cutting through the grey haze of the evening. I could hear a child coughing through the flimsy walls and a tea kettle starting to whistle. I reached out and pressed the doorbell which set-off a small yapping dog.

    The woman who opened the door had a light sheen of sweat on her face and the bags under her eyes were dark and puffy. Her hair wrap was slipping back and the shabby sweats she was wearing had remnants of the day’s meals on it. The toddler she held on her hip was even playing with an old spaghetti noodle. She looked up at me, wiping her nose with the crumpled up tissue in her hand.

    “I was wondering if you’d show up.” She gestured for me to enter and drifted back to the kitchen where the sound of an old dishwasher kept time with the whistling kettle. “So, who did you come for? Please say it isn’t Tyrone. His fever finally broke this afternoon and I thought he’d moved past the worst of it.” She stared at me through half lidded eyes crusted at the corners. “I feel awful enough that I’d almost welcome it at this point, but Tyrone’s daddy is on his second tour and won’t be back… It isn’t him is it? Please… I can’t… No, you would be there not here. I can’t think straight through this fever.”

    She moved to the stove, gently parting the toddler from her, and turned off the kettle’s burner. I waved off her offer of a cup and she poured hot water over her teabag and slumped into a kitchen chair. She blew on her cup and looked at me expectantly.

    “I’m not that Death.” Her raised eyebrows invited me to elaborate. “You see, with the population explosion over the last couple hundred years Death needed to specialize to keep up. There’s still the big Death who comes for you humans, another aspect for animals, one for abstract ideas like countries or languages…”

    “Well, what are you in charge of then?”

    “Technology I guess would be the best term. You modern humans have surrounded yourselves with machines. You’ve come to rely on them to transport you, cook your food, wash your dishes, do your taxes. They’ve become such an integral part of your lives that you mourn their loss. So, I poofed into existence to take the souls you’ve given them once their time comes and their usefulness ends.”

    “Oh, thank God it’s not Tyrone! What is it, the car? The furnace? Please, not the furnace.”

    I shook my head. “Unfortunately, it’s something much more important to you.”

    She set down her tea and her eyes went wide with fear. She darted looks around the kitchen, first the table, then the counters. She jumped up, patted her pockets and then ran to the fridge. She yanked it open, but slammed it shut after a frantic, fruitless search.

    My eyes pointedly went to the dishwasher as it finished its cycle. With a haunted look, she went to it and opened the door, steam billowing out into the room. She pulled out the top rack and there next to the mugs and cereal bowls was a brand new, but now utterly useless, iPhone.

    “No, please, not that! I’ll do anything, isn’t there something I can trade? We still have a two year contract and couldn’t really even afford this phone, let alone a replacement.” She grabbed my arm, her desperation making her bold.

    “I’m sorry, but you can’t bargain it back to life – that isn’t my domain.” I reached out and grabbed the ghost of the phone, sliding it into my back pocket. I moved to the front door. She stood there looking hollowed out as her toddler sat sniffling on the floor beside her. I opened the door, but before I headed back out into the damp, dim, Columbus evening I turned to her. “I’m so sorry for your loss.” I shut the door and her sobs haunted me as I headed back out into the night.

    Reply
    • March 11, 2019 at 9:38 am
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      I love it. Witty and well delivered.

      Reply
    • March 11, 2019 at 10:18 am
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      BAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! I would so raise alters and temples to this particular apparition! Absolutely loved this story!!

      Reply
    • March 12, 2019 at 9:45 am
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      Oh, I’m glad she did not try to swap the kid for the iPhone. Funny story, but with more truth in it than we would like.

      Reply
    • March 12, 2019 at 11:57 am
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      Thanks guys! I actually was inspired to write two very different stories from this prompt, but I want the other (more serious) idea to have some space to breathe, so I went with the funny one this time.

      Reply
    • March 12, 2019 at 7:21 pm
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      Hi, Wendy. This is a very unusual, topical story. The reformulated opening is very nicely done, setting the tongue-in-cheek tone well. The encounter between the mother and ‘Techno-Death’ is good, too, in that it all seems matter-of-fact (the mother seems to be expecting it, and they have a very civilised conversation. And then the twist: it’s come to claim her phone, and there’s a great bit of irony in that she seems almost more concerned than if it had been Tyrone. I think you may have missed an opportunity at the end for a little moral lesson from TD – something like: “Play with your kids more!” But maybe you considered that and thought it was a bit too predictable. Refreshingly original story.

      Reply
      • March 13, 2019 at 6:01 pm
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        Thanks, Phil! I tried to get across that she was worn down from being a sick mother taking care of a sick todler by herself so that is why the matter of factness. I see what you’re saying about the moral ending, but I wanted to keep Death as a guy not judging, but just doing his job.

        Reply
    • March 13, 2019 at 10:40 pm
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      Priceless! I loved it

      Reply
    • March 14, 2019 at 10:51 am
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      Fun fun fun, Wendy! I like how the lightness of tone reflects the superficiality of our contemporary priorities it points out, at the same time as it entices us to listen to the deep question your story raises. I also see it in Death’s demeanor, so ambivalent: both caring and detached. I’ve observed it often in people who are in professional care of others, each time leaving me with and incredulous sweet-and-sour taste…

      Reply
  • March 10, 2019 at 4:47 pm
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    Where all stories go to die
    By Sarig Levin

    “It was a dark, stormy night. The kind of stormy night in which the benevolent would rather stay warm and dry in the comfort of their own homes, while malevolence, wicked and tempestuous, is given to lurking at every corner. The kind of night favoured by mad scientists everywhere, and in which stagecoaches tend to belt along corniche roads as if the Devil was on their tails.”
    Kenneth Lockwood set down his quill and with a soft sigh turned to gaze at the drab, greyish shaded landscape seen from his upstairs study window. The two rather successful Gothic novels he had previously published had turned Mr. Lockwood into a man of decent enough means for renting this country cottage for as long as it might take him to write his third. However, the view was entirely uninspiring; life in the countryside seemed to move at a pace even a snail would find insufferable and not a single raven had yet to have perched above his chamber door.
    “A brisk walk across the moorland would perhaps get the creative juices flowing,” he thought to himself, and without any of his usual dilly-dallying he put on his Frock coat, grabbed his walking stick and popped into the kitchen to give Nelly, the housekeeper, final instructions for his supper, before stepped out into a nippy mid-autumn eve.

    The sun had already set behind the mounds, and poor Lockwood lost his way in darkness that had spread through the countryside like a deathly veil. Shivery and somewhat dismayed, he trudged through the marshy heather and bracken, not knowing which way to go, until suddenly spotting the dim light of a flame dancing from a distance.
    As he drew near, Lockwood was able to make out three dingy figures in cowled black robes, hunched over a large cauldron in the middle of a forest clearing.
    “By the pricking of my thumbs,” he heard a woman say, her voice rustling like dry leaves brushing against a tombstone, “something pickled this way comes.”
    “Knock on wood, open locks,” crackled another, spitting into the cauldron while she stirred.
    “Serve we would, whoever knocks!” added the third one and stumped her foot.
    “Knock, knock…” cried Kenneth Lockwood, edging closer to the warmth of the bonfire.
    “Who’s there?!” shrieked the three hags in alarming unison.
    “Ken,” enounced he, his voice barely more tangible than a breath of air.
    “Ken who?” asked one of the old women, turning her head.
    “Ken I have some of your soup?” replied he. “It’s cold out here and I’m famished.”
    “Agatha, you gullible fool,” cried out one of the other two women.
    “You always fall for that ol’ trick,” spat the second one, slapping the one called Agatha on the side of the head.

    The soup, however, wasn’t half bad, and the three crones turned out to be rather good company, all things considering, passing a flagon of homemade plum brandy around and sharing gruesome tales of days of yore their age-old eyes have seen. They spoke of headless horsemen roaming the land, bumping into things and making a big mess of it all; of blood-thirsty vampires who had bitten more than they could chew and had grown too fat to fit in their own coffins; of a fiddle-playing fiend who had tried to hustle souls by offering a game of chess to people who couldn’t count their own toes. And the brandy kept tugging at Lockwoods’ eyelids, and his mind was beginning to spin out of control, and to the dimming sounds of crackling and gulping, the man passed out.

    When he came to, the ladies and their cauldron were gone. In their stead, there was a huge, black wolf sitting by his side, smoking a cigar and blowing smoke rings into the night sky.
    “Good, you’re awake…” said the wolf with a slight German accent, and put his furry arm around the startled man’s shoulder.
    “Hope you don’t mind me sitting ‘ere watching you,” said the wolf, gently brushing off muck that stuck to the man’s Frock coat. “It gets awfully lonely out here all on your own.”
    “You can…you can speak!” cried out the bewildered Lockwood.
    “A very keen observation, my dear man,” replied the wolf. “’Ere, let me help you up,” and he grabbed the frightened man by the hand and pulled him back to his feet.
    “The name is B. B. Wolf,” he added, shaking Lockwood’s hand.
    “Are you…are you going to devour me, Mr. Wolf?” whimpered Mr. Lockwood.
    “Why does everyone assume I’m going to eat them?” howled the lupine interloper.
    “Well, they don’t say ‘wolf something down’ for no reason, am I right?”
    “Guess you got a point there, mate. Well, I don’t eat people. Not anymore. Not since I came across that little red hooded girl in the Black Forest and woke up with a belly full of rocks. After that, I lived on a diet of other talking animals, but that was no good. A wolf’s got to eat, you see? But I’d still wake up with a belly full of rocks, or worse yet, a live duck quacking in my stomach. Sounds a lot like a clarinet, if you ask me,” he added, grinning. “Anyway, if I was to keep on trying to devour everything that speaks, I wouldn’t have had anyone to talk to. So, I became a vegetarian and have been devoting my time to my one true passion – folk dancing. But enough about me. And you are?”
    “Lockwood. Kenneth Lockwood. Currently of Thrushcross Grange. Well, as you can see, kind sir, I seem to have gotten lost in these moors while seeking inspiration. Hunting for story ideas, you might say…”
    “Oh, have I got stories for you, dear sir,” interrupted the eager wolf. “Come, I’ll show you the way back home and we can exchange stories on the way.”

    It was the darkest hour, just before dawn, when the two finally reached the edge of the forest. Clouds had been gathering in the sky for a while and light rain was just beginning its drizzle.
    “This is where I leave you, my friend,” said the wolf. “Thrushcross Grange is just behind these mounds over there, across the stream.”
    Kenneth Lockwood shook Big Bad Wolf’s paw, wished him all the best, and made for the stream that ran across a valley of moss covered limestone. By the time the nocturnal wanderer made it to the top of the mound on the other side, however, the rain had already turned into a full blown hailstorm that threatened to tear the soaked and shivering man from solid ground and carry him in its gusts to wherever it is that storms go to die.
    And for the first time that dark, stormy night, Lockwood felt real terror; terror far more fundamental then what one would experience meeting witches and wolves in the middle of a forest. For with the madness and fury of that storm, his mind got blown away and he could feel all of his stories washing away into an ocean of fancy that is never full, where all that could have come to pass had already come to pass, until there was no more originality left in the world.

    Reply
    • March 11, 2019 at 9:47 am
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      Hi Sarig,

      There are a number of words that could sum up your story. “Stew” is one, Meze is another, melange ( sorry, don’t know how to put accents over letters on a UK keyboard) is another, all with culinary connotations. You created a mash-up of a number of well-known pieces of literature or themes and made them your own. I particularly liked the three witches and the “Ken” pun. In my opinion, you can’t have enough Kens. So you take a number of pieces of the raw ingredients, chop them up and mix them into an unusual concoction, then taste it ( that’s the edit) add a bit of flavour ( that’s the use of description) and then serve it up to the unsuspecting reader on a paper platter (that’s posting it).

      Great word “corniche”. I had to look that one up and it’s perfect. “Lupine interloper” is great too.

      A couple of minor points in my humble opinion;
      “enounced?”
      “bitten OFF more than they could chew,” perhaps.
      Stumped her foot.

      Well done,

      Ken Frape (Ken 2) Ken who?

      Reply
      • March 12, 2019 at 6:57 pm
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        Ken’t thank you enough 😉

        Reply
    • March 11, 2019 at 10:27 am
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      Sarig , what a whimsical and crazy story you’ve come up with. I love how you pack a lot of details into so few words!
      Great character development and the minute details really pack a punch.
      And I love the thought of having all these great stories in our head and then poof! All gone in an instance! We’ve all been there!

      Reply
      • March 12, 2019 at 6:58 pm
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        Thanks, Carrie 🙂

        Reply
    • March 12, 2019 at 12:04 pm
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      Another funny one! This week is going to be a tough decision. I love the three old crones with their crazy stories and plum brandy. Then the vegetarian lupine interloper. Even Lockwood had a strong enough character to give him a personality and that terror of losing all the stories he’d learned to the howling winds was a good idea for a story, but a real shame for Lockwood.

      Reply
    • March 12, 2019 at 7:22 pm
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      Hi, Sarig. You’ve marshalled all your skills with language here to create a very vivid and satisfying read. Lockwood’s nocturnal adventure is really well drawn – the normally frightening inhabitants of fairy tales transformed into really rather cool, decent folk. That middle section feels very ‘James Thurber’ (that’s a compliment!) – have you read him? And then the last part brings Lockwood to the real nightmare: originality blown away. Smashing stuff!

      Reply
      • March 13, 2019 at 9:35 am
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        Thanks, Phil. I value your encouraging comments and am flattered this particular sandwitch comes sans-filling 🙂

        Reply
    • March 14, 2019 at 11:10 am
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      Sarig, that is a deeply beautiful and moving story. I’m particularly touched by the tone of nostalgia that seems to pervade everything: it seems like fairy tales should all be about wonder and bewilderment and big effects that sweep us out of the ordinary. But your character is so blasé, bent by such a profound fatigue… It touches on how old humanity is at this point, how much it has already gone through and seen, and how difficult it is, to keep that ability to marvel that defines childhood and youth.
      The last paragraph resonates very deeply.
      It exhorts me to throw this question out there: when did we start believing that art was all about originality…?

      Reply
  • March 11, 2019 at 2:28 pm
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    The Disappearance Of Gavin Flint. (wc) 1201
    K. Cartisano

    Intake Statement.
    Case File: 043766653
    Patient: Munns, Alton
    Date Of Admission: Unknown.

    It was a dark, stormy night. Literally. But the hospital’s large tinted windows provided a virtual shield against the maelstrom just beyond their thick panes. They reflected my face, and the soft cozy image behind me of indirect lighting on pale yellow walls.

    I turned around. The prisoner lay face up under clean sheets, eyes closed, his chest rising and falling in a steady, healthy rhythm: The heart monitor beeping sedately.

    ‘All this care,’ I thought, ‘dedicated to a man destined for a lethal injection.’

    My name is Detective Gavin Flint, Homicide Division, Boston P.D. I could tell you some stories that would keep you up at night, but one of my more elusive and reprehensible fugitives was the man sleeping peacefully in the hospital bed before me, Alton Munns.

    Most homicides fall into one of two categories, premeditated and impulse. The impulsive kinds are driven by passion. When that happens, there is no weapon of choice, it comes down to whatever’s convenient, a hockey stick, a steak knife, a shovel. Wielded with the kind of savagery that only the heart can summon.

    Another common type of murder is premeditated: The cold, calculating disposal of a rival, an enemy, or even a friend. The motive is always some form of greed or jealousy.

    By far the most despicable kind of murder is motivated by opportunity. The unnecessary, dispassionate termination of a human being—for no reason at all.

    That’s Alton Munns. That’s his style. He has no empathy, cares nothing for the victims, and doesn’t pretend to. He has no remorse. He can be cultured or crude, one minute he’s petting your dog, the next minute he’s waving an ice-pick in your face. He’s a textbook psychopath and should be in an asylum.

    What makes this case interesting is that Alton Munns was attending his last, pointless legal appeal, which was denied without debate, when halfway back to the prison a massive sign, laden with snow and ice, collapsed with such precise timing, that despite a personal entourage of half-a-dozen state police, Alton was the only one injured when an icicle pierced his heart.

    But a peculiar series of events transpired. At the same time, a solitary victim from a local one-car accident had left a headless body with a perfectly viable heart, which was harvested according to protocol, but an ice-storm blanketing the region prevented the heart from being airlifted to its’ designated recipient. All planes were grounded.

    The EMT’s managed, on icy roads, to keep Alton Munns alive and get him to the Trauma Unit while still breathing. (Allegedly.) As the doctors proceeded to treat Munns, the officers tried to intervene. Despite, or because of the knowledge that the patient was a resident of death row, the doctor’s insisted that as a state funded hospital, he was entitled to every medical technique at their disposal, which, only later did they realize, included a major organ transplant.

    He was prepped for surgery, given a new heart, moved to intensive care, and attended by a top notch post-operative rehabilitation team. All at taxpayer expense.

    We were hoping he would die.

    Immediately after surgery he looked comatose, surrounded by machines and tubes and monitors. When he regained consciousness, Alton Munns’ first words were a bit garbled, and barely audible, but they were uttered in an unmistakably Irish accent, something he never had before. His condition improved rapidly and he was soon sitting up, talking, telling jokes—and praying. Gradually, as his strength improved, the machines were turned off, removed and carted out, except for the heart monitor. His demeanor improved markedly. He seemed more, forgiving.

    Munns was ambivalent about his behavior. He and his doctors claimed he was suffering from complete, but not total amnesia. He claimed to have no memory of anything before the accident. Nothing.

    Naturally, I didn’t buy it. Not for one second. And to be honest, I missed our acerbic verbal jousting, so I deliberately attempted to jog Alton’s memory.

    “Hey Alton. Remember that housewife you raped in 1988?” There were actually three victims in 1988.

    His face went blank. “I don’t—remember that.”

    “Not one of ‘em?”

    “What–what d’you mean?” He said.

    “You murdered three people that year, yet you can’t remember even one of them?”

    Munns turned pale, sickened. It surprised me. Frankly, I didn’t think Munns was even capable of faking remorse.

    On another occasion, I entered the room to find Munns sitting silent and motionless, a tear running down his cheek. Maybe it was a trick of the light.

    Despite myself, I inquired about the source of the donor heart and learned that it came from a Bishop McCarron, a senior member of the Church who had enjoyed excellent health up until the accident. The name McCarron sounded familiar, so I called the local diocese, who confirmed my suspicion. He was the same Irish priest I’d had as a kid almost thirty years ago. He was in curiously good shape.

    Within weeks, Alton was remanded to the penitentiary and aside from the driver, I was the only officer willing to ride in the same vehicle with Mr. Munns.

    Alton’s behavior was impeccable as he boarded the transport, hobbled by shackles. He half-smiled at seeing only me in the cavernous rear compartment. “Where is everybody?” For a moment, I thought he sounded like Munns, and that finally, now that we were alone, Munns would end the charade. But as we got underway, in a genuine Irish accent, Munns said to me:

    “You stopped coming to Church when your parents divorced. What were you, nine or ten?”

    I stopped chewing my gum.

    “I remember you,” he continued. “A shy boy, but industrious and honest, honest as the day is long. I always gave you harsh penitence. Too harsh.”

    With his shackled hands, he reached out, plaintively, and touched me. I presumed he was asking for forgiveness. He said, “This will be the harshest of all.” I felt a sudden jolt, then weightlessness, then heard the sound of breaking glass.

    When I regained consciousness I was in the hospital, immobile, covered in bandages, with no voice. I immediately rang for a nurse and a cheerful, blue-clad intern strolled in. “Well, well, well…look who’s up and lookin’ for trouble.”

    I saw a uniformed officer through the open door and motioned to the intern. “You wanna talk to the cop, honey? Is that what you’re trying to tell me?”

    I nodded vigorously.

    “Calm down, Mr. Munns. Calm down. There’s a policeman right here.” She pointed to the man sitting at the foot of the bed. “Try to remain still, Mr. Munns. I’ll go get the doctor.” And she whisked herself out the door.

    The detective had risen and as he approached, I could see that I was looking at my own image, the face of Detective Gavin Flint. He leaned close and whispered with a slight Irish accent, “I don’t know how to break it to ‘em, lad, but Alton Munns is dead.”

    He walked away and Gavin Flint was never seen or heard from again. That’s because I’m still here, trapped in Alton Munns.

    Reply
    • March 12, 2019 at 12:12 pm
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      Ken, how could you? I loved the beginning of the story and how it seemed like the universe was giving just desserts to a murderer. Then he gets the heart of a priest who somehow overrides the body’s default personality. But then just as I’m feeling sorry that the priest has to die (again) he turns out to be the bad guy trapping a a decent detective into the killers body so that he can live out the rest of his stolen life. The priest was a baddy, the killer was a baddy, but the detective pays for their crimes. Shade

      Reply
      • March 13, 2019 at 1:50 pm
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        Wendy,

        After writing this I thought, ‘Everyone knows that souls don’t need a living body, but what if you have a living body desperately in need of a soul?’

        Perhaps the problem with this story is that, even though there’s a good guy, who gets the shaft, it’s not at all clear that the priest may not actually be bad, or good. Perhaps he’s just — different. I don’t know. Sorry if I disappointed you.

        Reply
        • March 13, 2019 at 5:34 pm
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          You didn’t disappoint me, good writing and a good story don’t have to work out in a happy ending. I just felt for your protagonist.

          Reply
    • March 12, 2019 at 7:23 pm
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      Hi, Ken. The ‘dark, stormy night’ is dispatched pretty quickly, but I love the transition between it and the hospital room. The plot (very ‘Creepy Tales’), is convoluted and imaginative (the icicle is a very original plot device) and holds together pretty well, although I have a couple of doubts: (i) The first person at the beginning of the story is standing by the window looking at Alton Munns (great name!), but at the end the same first person is in the bed and IS Alton Munns (?); (ii) Where is the real Alton Munns? Disappeared into the ether after receiving the heart? I love the style of this (crisply expositional), and the puzzle.

      Reply
      • March 13, 2019 at 1:36 pm
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        Phil,
        Alton Munns is dead. (I think the priest killed him, but I’m not sure.) I wrote this in first person, then converted it to third person, changed it back. I didn’t really like the story. Like Wendy says, no happy ending, no transactional come-uppance, no lesson, no moral. Nothing. I had a clear idea of the plot at the beginning, but it kept twisting away from me. Like trying to put a snake into a small wet sock. It could probably use more work. (Like that will ever happen.)
        But thanks for the feedback Phil.

        Reply
        • March 14, 2019 at 4:18 am
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          Like trying to put a snake into a small wet sock. –> Great sentence!

          Reply
    • March 13, 2019 at 6:09 am
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      Hi Ken 1,

      I have always been fascinated by the notion of transplant recipients taking on the characteristics and personality of the donor. Your story, whilst it leaves the odd loose end, as mentioned by others, is a great exposition of this but with ( typical of you!) an unexpected twist.

      Thanks for such an interesting and enjoyable read.

      Ken F K2

      Reply
      • March 13, 2019 at 1:39 pm
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        Thanks Ken. Originally, that was the aspect of the story that I wanted to expand on, but, as I told Phil, the plot just wouldn’t cooperate, it kept morphing into something else. I’ve had stories that wrote themselves before, but not while I was actively wrestling with them. Weird.

        Reply
    • March 13, 2019 at 9:38 am
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      Damn good story, Ken. Has a bit of a Fallen feel to it, if you know the movie.

      Reply
      • March 13, 2019 at 1:41 pm
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        Thanks Sarig,
        No, I don’t know the movie. I’ll have to look it up and check it out.

        Reply
  • March 11, 2019 at 8:04 pm
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    CLOSE BY

    “It was a dark, stormy night …“ Thomas turned and grinned at the woman sitting in the passenger seat, her unhappy face illuminated briefly by a flash of lightning.

    “Don’t, Tom. You know–“ Sarah’s tremulous voice was cut off by the delayed thunderclap.

    “Just kiddin’, love.” Thomas’s tone had shifted from playful to remorseful.

    “You know I’d rather be anywhere else right now.” Sarah turned to peer out of the side window at the dark shape of the house, reaching up into the wet, black night.

    “Then why don’t we just go? You can do this on Monday, during the day, when it’s light.” Thomas reached for the key, still in the ignition.

    “The Wilsons called me, Tom. They’re expecting me. If I wait until Monday, they might call another agent. I really need this sale.”

    “Okay. I’ll come with you, though.”

    “To do what? An estate agent doesn’t take her husband along for a preliminary meeting like this. It’s not done.”

    “But if you’re feeling–“

    “No, it’s all right. I’m just being a scaredy-cat. It’ll be okay once I’m indoors.” Sarah laid her hand on Thomas’s arm.

    “Fine. But take your phone!”

    “I’m sure the Wilsons are not going to try to murder me, Tom!” There was a levity to Sarah’s words now.

    “Take your phone!”

    “Okay, I’ve got it.” Sarah waved the phone in front of Thomas’s face, then leaned over and pecked him on the cheek. She turned to retrieve her bag from the back seat, opened the car door and stepped out into the driving rain. Thomas watched her dim form splash towards the front of the house before disappearing into the blackness of the porch. He leaned forward and looked up through the windscreen; there was a reassuring light on in one of the upstairs rooms.

    ~~~~~~

    A flash of lightning and deafening thunderclap almost overhead woke Thomas from his doze. It took him a few seconds to remember where he was. The rain continued to pound down on the roof of the car. By the dashboard clock, he saw that Sarah had been gone over an hour. He leaned forward again and peered through the windscreen. The light was still on upstairs. Thomas looked at his phone; no messages.

    He tapped the screen and put the phone to his ear. Sarah’s number rang, and then went to voicemail. Thomas hung up and tried again. No answer.

    Frowning, he slipped the phone in his pocket, stepped out into the rain and sprinted for the door of the house. Once on the dark porch he shook his coat to get rid of some of the water, then reached to press the bell. That’s when he noticed that the door was slightly ajar, the gap framing an even deeper darkness within.

    He pushed the door open, felt for the light switch, flicked it a couple of times and cursed. He took out his phone, but the flashlight was no real match for the intense blackness of the hall. He edged his way in, sweeping the inadequate funnel of light around to try to get his bearings. In the rooms adjoining the large hall, he could just make out the indistinct form of furniture, covered with sheets. There was a smell of something that Thomas couldn’t quite identify.

    “Sarah,” he called tentatively. He was shocked to realise how uneasy he was feeling, his wavering voice clear proof. If he’d been on his own, he would have turned straight round and headed for the car. But Sarah was in here somewhere, and he wasn’t leaving without her. He cleared his throat.

    “Sarah!” he called again, this time a little more forcefully. He cocked his head to listen for a response. From one of the rooms to his left there came a sound that set Thomas’s skin prickling. He swallowed drily and held his breath.

    He shuffled towards the room, keeping the flashlight focussed on the floor about two metres in front of him. He paused to listen once more: silence now, except for the muffled roar of the storm still raging outside.

    Inside the room, he sensed the smell again and gagged as it came to him: a blend of Sarah’s perfume, urine and something else, coppery. He lifted the flashlight to inspect the room as a whole. The walls were full of antique-framed paintings, all the furniture covered with sheets. He took a step forward and kicked something.

    He bent down to pick the object up. It took him a second or two to recognise the ring he’d given Sarah. On the finger. On the hand. On the hand that ended in a ragged wrist of tendons and flesh. He dropped it as if it were white hot.

    An overwhelming urge to protect himself kicked in at once. He turned and rushed headlong towards what he thought was the door, but he was momentarily disoriented. Before he knew it, he was slipping, falling, betrayed by a patch of thick liquid, the phone leaving his hand and clattering across the room. He cracked his head on the wooden floor and blacked out.

    ~~~~~~

    He didn’t know how long he’d been out. He was lying face up, staring into blackness. His head and right shoulder hurt like blazes. He took a deep breath and prepared himself to get up. Then he heard it – the same sound he’d heard from the hall.

    A scuttling, slithering sound. Louder than before. Close by now.

    .

    Reply
    • March 12, 2019 at 10:45 am
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      Very accurate descriptions, and yet there is so much left to the imagination. That’s what makes it scary, I think. In my head are the blackness and the noise. And of course her severed hand.

      And there is a dialogue again. I like the dialogues, they always sound so easy …

      2 new words: scuttling, slithering

      Reply
    • March 12, 2019 at 12:17 pm
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      Phil, I love the suspense in this and the growing sense of horror. You leave all the right things to the imagination and have just the right details to set the scene.

      Reply
    • March 13, 2019 at 11:01 pm
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      Phil,

      Very, very scary. The stuff nightmares are made of, that linger in the light of day haunting the edges of consciousness. Very good.

      Reply
  • March 11, 2019 at 8:21 pm
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    Hi, Alice/Carrie

    I’ve tried to re-post my story, but the site doesn’t let me (“duplicate story”).

    Could you please make a small correction: On the 1st line in the 5th paragraph from the end, it should read ‘gagged’ and not ‘gaged’.

    (Quick – before Ken C sees it!)

    Thanks, and sorry.

    Reply
    • March 12, 2019 at 1:41 am
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      Phil, the correction has been made. Hopefully Ken hadn’t seen it 🙂

      Reply
      • March 12, 2019 at 2:36 am
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        Damn! I missed it. I’ve been waiting four years for Phil to make a mistake. All I did was get up and change the kitty litter, what timing. (After four years it needed it.)

        Reply
        • March 12, 2019 at 3:29 am
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          I had a sleepless night, Ken – luckily, Alice came to the rescue.

          Reply
      • March 12, 2019 at 3:27 am
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        Thanks, Alice.
        (Phew! I think I got away with it!)

        Reply
  • March 12, 2019 at 2:56 am
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    Midnight Meeting.

    It was a dark, stormy night. A church clock was striking midnight when I left the train at the small country station. I was the only passenger who got off. There was no human being to be seen anywhere, just two black cats, wrestling on the platform. As soon as I got off, there was a shrill whistle and the train started to move on. I stepped onto the station forecourt. A swarm of crows sped low over me screaming wildly. In front of the station there was a black, closed carriage. An old man in a black coat with a face like a quarry silently held the door open for me. I nodded to him and got in. Yes, of course, the time and place were unusual for a business meeting, but if a client wishes to see me, I comply. Especially if it is a new customer. I often meet my clients in restaurants, sometimes in bars. Once I met a prospect in a brothel, but he was already drunk and nothing came of the project.

    The carriage raced through the dark, black-lacquered night. I saw nothing, I could not even recognize my own hand. I had the feeling that we were going very fast, much faster than a carriage could move. The horses were scared, that was obvious. Then we came to a city. A ruined city, I saw black ruins of burned houses in between blazing fires. On the streets I saw the most diverse beings. Some looked like humans, others like animals or monsters, some were quite relaxed, others screamed in fear of death.

    The carriage finally stopped in front of a well-worn concrete office building. We had reached our destination. The coachman pointed to a revolving door, nodded once more, and gave his black horses the whip. I came to an entrance hall with some worn furniture. A woman in skin-tight black rubber clothes greeted me and took me to a conference room. A large, very old table, some imitation leather executive chairs, musty carpet flooring, a blind with kinked slats. On a table stood a stool, on it a beamer. The conference table was set for six persons. Pitch-black biscuits, mineral water. The woman in black presented me with a glass with some red viscous liquid. “The blood of a virgin. Enjoy it while it’s warm.”

    After a few minutes, my clients arrived. Particularly noticeable was a tall, skinny man in a frock coat who limped slightly. He had a completely dark red face and horns on his head. Obviously he was the boss. He greeted me and thanked me for coming. Smiling devilishly. Behind him there were four smaller men, who shook my hand one after the other. Obviously subordinates, they had the submissive demeanor of product managers. Three of them started to switch on the beamer. It took them a while, but then the title of a Powerpoint presentation appeared: “Think Towards A Better Hell!” “Powerpoint?” I exclaimed in astonishment. The big man nodded to me. “Yes, it has to be like this. We are in hell after all!“

    Then they explained their project in about a hundred charts or more. Hell was in a serious crisis. They needed a communication expert like me. Sales and ROI have been steadily declining for years. Purgatory could burn only three hours a day because they were no longer able to pay the fuel bills. And worst of all: hell had a very bad image. Fear had been their corporate message for too long, but in the modern world they had to show sympathy to succeed in a competitive market. And surprise, surprise: They wanted to make a big impact on social media. “We need likes!” said the gaunt man and looked me in the eyes. “We want to build a trustful relationship with our customers.” They already had some first ideas. They wanted to rent out a part of hell for weddings, funerals and company parties. They wanted to organize Heavy Metal concerts. And create a wellness area under the motto “Relax in hell”. They wanted hell to become a holiday paradise. “The slightly different holiday: Go to hell!” I sipped my virgin’s blood. It reminded a bit of a “Bloody Mary.”

    The product managers had already devised a lot of merchandise, including T-shirts, sweatshirts, bikinis, Zippos, bicycle bells, pens, tattoo templates, combs, notebooks, ashtrays, toasters, bed linen, bath sheets, a cuddly devil, a suitcase set, bumper stickers (“The devil is my co-pilot”), mousepads, espresso cups (“taste hell without sugar”), hell’s corporate song, misfortune cookies, a craft beer brand and many more. In short, pure boredom.

    Then the presentation was over and five devils looked at me expectantly. The woman in black fetish attire asked me if she could refill my virgin’s blood. I politely declined.

    “Well,” I said, “that’s an interesting project and a real challenge. Nice presentation. There are quite a few ideas that you can work with very well. I turned to the head devil: “Unfortunately I am the wrong partner for you. I’ve been working for heaven for years. And I signed a competitive exclusion clause. I am very sorry for you. Maybe you saw our campaign slogans “For a relaxing holiday come to Heaven!“ and „Only Heaven is heavenly! ”

    I looked into the faces of five disappointed devils. Silently, two of them tried to dismantle the projector. But even after they had turned it off, the thing continued to hiss. The boss shrugged and gave me his card: “Let us stay in touch. You never can tell. And please follow us on Twitter and on Instagram. We will follow back, I promise. ”

    As I said, it was hell.

    Reply
    • March 12, 2019 at 12:24 pm
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      Haha, I was wondering where this was going at first. I thought maybe he was meeting his client virtually but then it turned out it was Hell! I loved the idea of hell using powerpoint and all their silly marketing ideas. The twist of the noncompetition clause was funny as well. I did personally have some difficulty with the word “beamer” for the projector. I kept picturing a BMW on the table, but obviously different places have different names for things. See, we can learn new words for things together.

      Reply
      • March 13, 2019 at 3:32 am
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        I didn’t know the word “beamer” for BMW. Maybe because my affinity to cars is not very pronounced. 😉

        Reply
    • March 12, 2019 at 7:15 pm
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      Cute concept, well delivered. Instead of ‘swarm’ I would have gone with a murder of crows. (I think the word also fits the atmosphere, don’t you?)

      Reply
      • March 13, 2019 at 3:34 am
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        Another expression I didn’t learn in school. 🙂 It sounds like it fits perfectly.

        Reply
    • March 12, 2019 at 7:24 pm
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      I really like how this transforms, Jürgen – from what seems to be a slice of Edgar Allan Poesque horror to satirical fantasy. The fact that the devils might be more interested in the narrator’s marketing know-how than his soul is very funny, as is the offering of the card and the business-speak at the end (“Let’s stay in touch.” Ha!). Another very good story from you.

      Reply
      • March 13, 2019 at 3:36 am
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        Thanks. You’re the king of comments! Marketing now-how instead of souls, I didn’t think of that.

        Reply
    • March 13, 2019 at 1:27 pm
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      Damn. That’s some awesome writing, Jurgen. I love the beginning, the imagery is so dark and chilling, it almost seems a shame that you turned it into satire. But it works none-the-less. I love the story, the concept, the execution, BUT, it seems like such a good idea, (and such good writing) that you could absolutely make it better. The ending, that is. Honestly, this is the best story so far, will definitely get the top vote from me, but still, this is a diamond that could stand a few carefully placed cuts and grinding. Even as it is though, it’s a wonderful story, Jurgen. I loved it.

      Reply
    • March 14, 2019 at 11:40 am
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      Somehow, I feel like you are touching on something similar to Wendy and Sarig… a twist in our expectations towards fantasy stories, which is tainted by where we are currently standing as a species. It intrigues me. Good!

      Reply
  • March 13, 2019 at 8:05 am
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    ‘A Baby Boomer’s perspective from the fringe of insanity’ (838 Words)
    F. Stillwagen

    It was a Dark and Stormy night:

    Starry, starry night
    Paint your palette blue and gray
    Look out on a summer’s day
    With eyes that know the darkness in my soul

    Shadows on the hills
    Sketch the trees and the daffodils
    Catch the breeze and the winter chills
    In colors on the snowy linen land

    Now I understand
    What you tried to say to me
    And how you suffered for your sanity
    And how you tried to set them free
    —-Don McLean—

    Underneath the backdrop of a cobalt sky, dotted with Stars and Suns from billions of galaxies and ancient solar systems, an ominous storm was brewing. Not a traditional storm in the sense of foul and dangerous weather, but a new type of storm, bereft of Humanity and human dignity. Soulless in it’s newfound approach, this was a storm to defy all storms. For left in it’s wake would be the scarred and barren remains of a World once thriving, a planet of unequalled riches, and a Country of immeasurable ability and togetherness…

    “It’s all gone. It’s gone.”, said the gentleman occupying a seat on the local transit Bus. Amid the rush and crowded bus of people going here and there, taking the bus to work or to a store or to some parts unknown, the elderly gentleman’s lament was struck by deaf ears. Not so much as even a glance of curiosity or disdain or indifference was laid upon this gentleman, as the bus resumed it’s planned dance of routes and stops along the way. To be fair, the majority of people on the bus were young, damn young, and have little to no knowledge or desire to know what the decades that proceeded them had wrought. They were post baby boomers, Generations X, Y & Z, and their lives, presumably to them, had no ties to the past or to generations that helped pave the way. To them everything is in the now, only a finger tip away from all-knowledge in the form of a smart-phone, and they expect that whatever they want will be available to them in one way or another. So their lives, while riding the Bus, are immediate, and only venture to within a few hour timeframe of existence at any given time. What once was will never be to them, nor do they care. It’s their way or no way. Capitulation and/or compromise in their world doesn’t exist, even if SiRi can answer the question to both.

    So there I sat, near the middle of the Bus, a definitive Baby Boomer, and to me that elderly gentleman’s lament was Rapture to my ears. I immediately understood what he meant, and the fact that he preceded the Baby Boomer generation by one (‘Silent’) or two (‘G.I.’) further accentuated his words. “It’s all gone. It’s Gone”. Wars were fought, lives were lost, families forever changed. Diseases ravaged a Nation. Famine and hardship were nationwide. Racial strife to the point of fracture. Complete financial collapse. All things Dark and Stormy. How could a Country and a Nation survive such horrors and setbacks and still thrive?

    Now I understand
    What you tried to say to me
    And how you suffered for your sanity
    And how you tried to set them free

    The World and Nation today are such different places. Still suffering some of the same calamities that preceded these newer generations, but of lesser concerns to them than before. The Government will save them, their lives will not bear the burden of sacrifices and of learning by decades of experience and hard work. Time to move on. “SiRi, when’s the next bus stop?” So after another bus stop to exchange those getting off and those coming on, the seat next to the elderly gentleman became available. I hopped up from my seat and slowly, carefully, purposefully sat next to him. He was old, gray hair, calloused hands, body contorted from years of gravity pulling on his spine, a tattered military jacket swallowed his meager and slight body. I eased into a conciliatory voice and tone and said: “Your words have meaning Sir, and I appreciate, respect and value what you said. Today’s generations have no sense of what it took to get where we are today as a Nation”. The elderly gentleman’s eyes were distant and clouded, but right after my words his eyes brightened and focused like a laser upon me, “Yes Sir young man. Today’s young people don’t have respect for their elders, for authority, for what’s right to be done by them, and why they must learn from the past”. Fidgeting with his hands, he sighed. So I then responded “So that’s why you said ‘It’s all gone. It’s gone’. I get it, no respect, I understand”. Now fully engaged, he started to rise as the next Bus Stop came into focus. “No young man, that’s not why”. And then he handed me a Hershey Bar wrapper. It was empty.

    Reply
    • March 13, 2019 at 9:46 am
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      Potent commentary, Fred. What does the Hershey Bar represent? Does it have anything to do with Empire of the Sun?

      Reply
    • March 14, 2019 at 11:18 am
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      An ability for self-derision superbly demonstrated! 🙂
      I loved the interspersed lyrics, which set the tone for a mind following its own projections on others’ reactions.

      Reply
    • March 13, 2019 at 12:13 pm
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      Alice: This is NOT POSSIBLE!!!
      Please tell me this is not happening to me for the second time: I have computed that I have until 6PM on my timezone/
      PLEEEAAASE let me post!!!

      Reply
      • March 13, 2019 at 12:20 pm
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        The worst is that this prompt had driven me into schizophrenia (as you will see), and so I had 2 stories ready…

        Reply
  • March 13, 2019 at 12:21 pm
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    Alternative words

    It was a dark, stormy night sweetly taking hold of the mind like an invasion of abstraction, as stretched-out notes marked a languid respiration, an entry to the concentration designed to engulf body and spirit.

    Barely an introduction, instantly in the past: already, flaps of wings start an oscillation that is not allowed to develop, gives way to the beats. The body submits. An unfamiliar space created for it, stronger than an invitation. An abduction. Stockholm Syndrome oblige, heads start bopping along a line scripted for them. Shoulders mounted on ball joints launch the lubricating rotations that will loosen up all parts of the machinery the human frame has become. A mere 109 bmp will do that. Oriental accents open the door to luscious moves. They make up for the industrial cadenza that acts as the chief captor. Resonance. Unbounded imagery roams freely behind closed shutters of the eyes. Inner contemplation guided by pulsations and accentuations. A sophisticated manipulation, which liberates as much as it ensnares. The sound pellets have started their hammering and the tempest they live in overpowers any steady thought. Your mind, a well engulfed in the obscurity that has curled up inside it. There is no telling where impulses come from. Lose yourself in the reverb. A voice launches its call, never to be answered, except by echoing loops. Fades away. Not to be followed. Beats, the only lead. A flute sounds like a wail. Human. Otherworldly. Metal scraps against metal with unlikely seduction. Stammering phrasing creates an inescapable anticipation. You are its willing prisoner in the here and now. Time itself has been redefined, no more a trajectory, but a measure followed by a measure. An utterance repeated over and over again gives you a chance to settle comfortably into a movement. Use it while it’s yours. It won’t last. Breaks remind you of a clumsiness you learn to accept. Choose lightness instead, it will take you further. Your hands offer gestures in way of guidance. Allow them the freedom to discover untapped directions for your limbs. There is a spring in the pulse they yearn to be in tune with. An elasticity that breeds the most pressing pleasure. Your hands, sinewy, lead your arms high in the air, make of them tendrils extending towards virgin soils, where they will fleetingly establish themselves. Hydroponic harvests await. Your body has determined to grow in zero-gravity. Apprentice traveler exploring its freshly found weightlessness. While the beats, reliable anchors, stretch him full length back to the even magnet the ground is. Knees slightly bent, your pelvic motions speak of love to the earth while your arms shoot arrows of intentions at the sky. A spirituality of movement has taken hold of you. Body and mind entwined in a reinvented matrimony. Another stammer installs infinitesimal variations for a gesture indulged until its resolution, the blending into otherness. The frail thread of a reed draws landscapes of a mountain on the other side of the world, and the singular duo your being has become sets out towards its distance with the immediacy of instinct. You will never know how your feet found the path. Two parallel lines have opened, one above the other, and you travel the embrace they develop as a train track. Sudden falsetto pulls you up by the hair, snatches your skull in a delicate Indian-like pinch. Lets go of you before you have a chance to realize. Claps aborted by overlapping claps sew obstinate jerks in the fabric of your gyrations, and you expound fuller circles in sympathetic contradiction. The air has become solid in the matching silhouetted vicinity of its touch on you, and you push it back with a gentleness only equaled by its willing resistance. You penetrate it like one feels its way in a dream, its texture giving you support, its response providing the energy of reaction. A sudden dark hole sprouts up, swallowing notes in its center, muffling tunes as quick as other ones are born, and you embark on a sound train crossing the land of minstrels puffing into their trumpets. Your mind throws brief waves at them while your body assumes farcical postures. But they dissipate in a fog of submarine piano trills that send you back to an untouched surface. You have been drowned afresh in a grotesque baptism. And a pinball machine grabs the new-reborn that you are, hurls it back into a brand new mix. No time for transitions. No space for buffer zones. Dive back as fast as the bell that accompanies your latest host, a supple bounce underlined by clapping palms. They take you into their swaying orbit, lull you into their own ritual, side to side.

    An impromptu acceleration has made you aware of the beads of transpiration sliding along your brow, and of the mob that surrounds you in unison, while you commune with them in the shared feast of utter rhythm. Colossal subwoofer beneath your feet set to make your balls vibrate, it rocks a sea of bodies each making love to itself. Undulation among undulations, you carry within you the ocean that transports you in its wake. And you hear an ancient clicking tongue in the phrases written on wavelength. You are acquiring a primeval language, lingua franca that re-unites you with your barest humanity. Every note a word that requires no translating. You discover yourself fluent in the discourses your body improvises. Turning any pre-scripted step away, you assert your own private improvisations on a hunch, extemporize the conversation you don’t even know you want to have. Responses happening or not, your apertures are only met with the truest of acceptance, as boundaries are being undefined. You enter and leave the flow with no permission required, no warning expected for your spontaneous inspirations. Every eye, blind at last, have let go of their watch over anyone. Anything the eye could see has faded into the mist of sensations. They sustain themselves on the untried freedom from intelligence, freedom from enunciation they have unleashed. Unknown voices invite you into the ethereal home they inhabit, their graceful fingers pulling you in, and in, and in. The wreaths they trace, a direct response to the obstinate loops of harmony, they invent the unprecedented eternity that binds you to the present moment. Elsewhere has ceased to exists and your body surrenders to the addiction of perpetual flux. Bow to the blissful illusion, it is what you came to find.

    Soon enough, the dying night will spit you back out onto the sidewalk of your daily life. And as you gingerly make your way home, bathed in the sumptuous sweat of a nightlong lovemaking with music, you will be reminded of your beloved words. And you will wonder if they will be as hospitable as her, when you sit down at your desk.

    Reply
  • March 13, 2019 at 12:21 pm
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    Now what?

    It was a dark passageway firmly standing its ground ahead of her, infinite expanse of tunnel vision, an automatic attempt at exploiting the cruel, stormy night that threatened to engulf her mind. Grief was the most demanding lover she had ever had, stronger than love itself. Losing a loved one was something she had rarely had to go through, lucky woman. But being in love was also something she had never known before, queer creature that she was. Thus it seemed doubly unfair, doubly impossible to bear, this having waited what had seemed like a lifetime to find the man, the better to lose him in such an ordinary way. Whatever their story had been, whatever how it had ended. The mourning shaft remained the only window ajar on her future.

    Nights, dark or not, stormy or not, kept crashing like a heavy-weight champion pouncing on her with remorseless fastidiousness, blessedly knocking her out before the first minute of the first round had a chance to get a start. How does the saying go…? Count your blessings…? Certainly, whatever helps in making you feel a little less at a loss, a little less helpless, a little less worthless. If there still were graces for her, it had to mean that someone, somehow, was watching over her. Or not. But every tiny protruding root susceptible to stop your free fall from the cliff takes on the importance of sheer destiny, doesn’t it? So, if sleep insisted on being her loyal suitor, the pistol on her nightstand would have a chance at hiding better and better under a layer of dust made each night thicker. Whether that was a relief or not, she could not say yet, because what she was not spared, were the morning hours.

    These wretched hours obstinately welcomed her with the sadistic grin of the most devious of tormentors. Arms extended towards her, empowered by the inevitability of fate. A funnel. A bottleneck. A devouring corridor made of every annihilating thought she had been given a chance to escape during her dreamless slumber. Dutifully forming their guard of honor, each one berated her as she lamely advanced, feeling defeated even before she had had a chance to return to consciousness. Waking up had turned into the worst time of her life, the true nightmare. For she had nothing to look forward to, no distracting project that would make her get out of bed with anticipation. As if that were the worst. Having nothing to wait for… that, she might have been able to transform into a meditation, a new enlightenment. But the unacceptable feeling was how the way she felt made her feel. She, who had always disdained complacency, always had had little patience for whining. And there every single morning found her, her first clearly formed idea one of self-pity. It was as if life itself was meeting her with one giant sarcastic smile, thrilled to force-feed her with a piece of her own medicine. A most powerful adversary was staring her down in this season of her days. Self-doubt. Not that he was a new kid on the block, himself. They had cohabited for as long as she was willing to remember. And his eternal taunts had shaped the story of how she walked her walk through her adult life. At times clamorous, at times more gentle, he had been one of his most steadfast companions. After loneliness. Quite a tandem to have as life playmates… Both ugly manipulative bitches, really. With the know-how to seduce, cradle, then slap you back into your place as soon as you forgot. Quite a dance they had her dance for a very long time. And she had believed she had acquired all the steps throughout the years. Had mastered their powerful tango, and become able to get her share of improvisation and creativity in the flow. But the man who had whacked her head over heels had made her forget. For awhile. More reprehensibly, he had made her betray them, those possessive masters. Unforgiving bastards who knew that revenge is a dish best served cold.

    And now, this. This crossing of a desert she had not foreseen. Where the vision of her wandering self brought her at times on the verge of madness, so little could she suffer the image confronting her. How? When? did she become so feeble? Why? did she ever allow herself to be turned into this debilitated thing, crying and crying over her own defeats and fears and hurts, unable to react, get a grip…? She went through bouts of whimpering that left her empty, hollowed, a see-through of the woman she had thought herself to be. On a day she will long remember, she had been on a bus and asked for directions. The driver had been particularly sweet, smiling gently at her while indicating the stop where she should get off, volunteering information about the attractions she should visit in that part of town, speaking slowly after having noticed that she was a foreigner who did not have a good command of the language. When she had left the bus, huge irrepressible sobs had literally doubled her over. All because an absolute stranger had shown a kindness any one should rightfully expect from their kind. She was just as much astounded by her own reaction as overwhelmed by the emotion itself. She was increasingly realizing that she had morphed into this unknown entity to herself. Unrecognizable, untrustworthy. Abruptly, she had become uncharted territory in her own eyes.

    But didn’t uncharted constitute an irresistible attraction? After all, any form of routine had invariably suffocated her, and she had always mistrusted the known in favor of the unknown. That should be brought to account for something, for once. Wasn’t the capacity to shift one’s perspective as much a force as standing strong in one’s beliefs…? Meticulously, she set about learning anew. Her own transmutations, she would study with the intrigued eye of the anthropologist. With ever greater absorption, she would uncover new routes into herself, excavating forgotten drives. Unhurriedly, she observed how the night she had been traversing for everlasting months, however somber and tempestuous, had gradually been transforming into a bridge. For quite some time, she had been tight roping over an abyss made of that very same night. It separated the before and after, what she was leaving behind and the new grounds she would be able to walk on. Not safer grounds, as the thread that weaved the fabric of life was definitely not made of safe. But new grounds, as when one takes off to explore new land. The image held tight in her mind. “Become a world and learn to inhabit it”, she had once written in one of her teenage notebooks. Could lessons of youth past help one in her later years…? What a rewarding image that was! Her favorite spiral pattern, of things revisited at the same time as they are eternally altered. There was such depth and such elating promises in it, she fell for its spell each time she contemplated it. What Buddhists might call a mantra, perhaps…? Ha! a question answered by a question was a perfect place to start…

    Now what? she exclaimed as she bounced out of bed.

    Reply
    • March 14, 2019 at 4:38 am
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      Wow. You can do great things with language. It’s the sound that gets me

      Reply
      • March 14, 2019 at 11:36 am
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        Thank you, Jürgen! 🙂

        Reply
  • March 13, 2019 at 2:43 pm
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    Voted.

    Would have liked to offer a few more comments (or excuses, as needed) but I’m out of town. Probably just as well. I never feel quite so stupid as I do when I read the enlightened comments and insights of the other writers in this group. Good luck, all.

    Reply
  • March 14, 2019 at 1:30 pm
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    The Winner is!!

    First Place: Midnight by Adrienne Riggs
    2nd Place: Close By by Phil Town
    3rd Place: A Spell of Peace and Quiet by Ken Frape
    4th Place: Death Makes a House Call by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin
    5th Place: Where all stories go to die by Sarig Levin
    6th Place: The Disappearance Of Gavin Flint by Ken Cartisano
    7th Place: Midnight Meeting by berlinermax
    8th Place: Dark Rift by Carrie Zylka

    Favorite Character: “Griselda” from A Spell of Peace and Quiet by Ken Frape
    Character Dialogue: Death Makes a House Call by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin

    Congratulations Adi, it’s so good to have you back!!!
    And thank you all for participating.

    Reply
    • March 14, 2019 at 1:35 pm
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      Congratulations Adrienne! Your story was my Choice too!

      Reply
      • March 14, 2019 at 1:38 pm
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        Thanks!

        Reply
    • March 14, 2019 at 1:36 pm
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      Thanks Alice! It’s great to be back! I can’t believe my story came in first. I had great fun writing it but I thought several of the others would be very tough to beat. The stories were all awesome! Thank you all!

      Adi

      Reply
    • March 14, 2019 at 3:40 pm
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      Congratulations, Adrienne: it brings another big smile on my face. It seems you always do 🙂
      And extended congrats to all the other fabulous writers!

      Reply
    • March 14, 2019 at 8:42 pm
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      Congratulations, Adi! And everyone.

      (Dead chuffed, and surprised frankly, by my 2nd place. Thanks!)

      Reply
    • March 16, 2019 at 6:32 am
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      Well done everyone, especially Adrienne. A great set of stories.
      I’m really pleased to be involved.

      Ken Frape.

      Reply

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