Bonus: May 6 – May 20, 2020 Flash Fiction Contest Image Prompt “Black Feathers”

Theme: Black Feathers

Many writers draw their inspiration from art or images. There are so many different stories that could be told from this one detailed picture.

Use this image as inspiration for your story, it can be the image as a whole, a single part of it or several elements inside the image itself.

Story Requirements:

  • A bird
  • A feather reference
  • Darkness

Word Count: 1,200




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  • Specific critiques, comments, and feedback are encouraged. If you do not want honest professional feedback do not post a story.
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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 Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.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 10:00am PDT / 1:00pm EST / 11:30pm IST / 6:00pm WET/GMT/ 5:00am AEDT (Thursday) and ends the same time on Thursday / 5:00am AEDT (Friday).

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

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

See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.




85 thoughts on “Bonus: May 6 – May 20, 2020 Flash Fiction Contest Image Prompt “Black Feathers”

  • May 6, 2020 at 1:51 pm
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    Read the stories here:

    (If you don’t see your story linked in this comment within a day or two, feel free to use the contact form to let us know we somehow missed it.

    Meanwhile, please be patient, moderators are not always online. We’ll get to it as soon as possible. Thank you.)

    Reply
    • May 7, 2020 at 6:19 am
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      Hi Carrie,

      This is such an amazing image that I feel I might have to try and write something to go with it.
      Watch this space.
      Ken Frape

      Reply
      • May 7, 2020 at 9:34 am
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        Right! I want to get a print made of it!

        Reply
        • May 14, 2020 at 7:33 am
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          Hi Carrie,

          Any idea where a print might be available?

          I once bought what I thought was a wonderful print in a junk shop. It was very dark but the art work was just so skillful you could pick out details that were almost hidden. It was entitled “Experiment with a bird in a glass jar” and it was based upon a so-called scientific experiment. Didn’t really know where to hang it ( already had one in the toilet!) so eventually got rid of it, much to my wife’s joy.

          Ken Frape.

          Reply
          • May 14, 2020 at 1:55 pm
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            Hahaha your wife was like “um no honey….”

            I actually ordered a print of this myself, in my new house I took over the basement room. A wonderful space someone spent some time making it feel like a library/wine cellar. I bought the image here: https://www.deviantart.com/ptitvinc/art/Thevan-and-the-raven-monster-705329146
            And then i ordered a larger print from a local print shop.

            I fell in love with it, which is why I thought a bonus writing prompt would be so cool!

      • May 12, 2020 at 2:45 pm
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        Signing in, might be able to get a story in for this one. Won’t be able for the other prompt. Just plain ran out of time.

        Reply
  • May 6, 2020 at 2:56 pm
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    Signing in! This should be fun…

    Reply
  • May 9, 2020 at 2:02 pm
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    FEAR

    The Crow King watched on as the couple shuffled through the woods. The man was carrying a bundle, and the Crow King knew what it was: a child.

    The couple stopped several times to rest, the woman flopping to the ground. After a while, the man would take hold of her hand and help her up, and they would shuffle on.

    Eventually, the canopy thinned and the air became lighter. The ground of the clearing they had entered was grey and brown: grey with the earth, brown with something else. Mixed with the earth were what looked like white sticks. At the very centre was a small oval area, made of cobbles.

    The Crow King held back, beyond the ring of brightness that entered through the gap in the canopy. He waited expectantly for what the couple had come to do.

    The man laid the child on the cobbles; it was a boy, sleeping. The woman joined the man and they held on to each other, as if their closeness might ward off the malign spirit they knew dwelt in this place. The man looked up at the patch of blue but dimming sky and swallowed.

    “Oh mighty spirit,” he began. “We of the village do hereby offer this life, that you may show us mercy throughout the year ahead. We offer it freely, without rancour. Blessed be.”

    With that, the couple turned and moved quickly away, out of the clearing, not looking back.

    For several minutes, the child slept on, seemingly at peace. Dusk was turning the blue above an ominous grey. The Crow King waved an arm and three crows hopped into the clearing, chattering, hungry.

    At this, the young boy opened his eyes. The Crow King held his breath, anxious for the terror upon which he fed.

    But the boy did not scream, nor did he run. He sat up, rubbed the sleep from his eyes and giggled at the crows that surrounded him. He found a small brown stick on the cobbles and poked it playfully at the birds. They did not understand and kept their distance, cawing angrily.

    Nor did the Crow King understand. This was not how it should be, how it had always been. Hungry for the terror that was his right, he moved from the shadows into the now-gloom of the clearing. He towered over the boy in his coat of broken feathers, his long arms and claws hanging by his side, his face obscured by a jagged, white mask. He would have terrified the bravest of warriors.

    The boy was momentarily distracted from his game by the sudden vision. In that moment, one of the crows hopped forward and pecked the boy on the arm, drawing blood. In the gloom, the Crow King did not notice that the blood was not red but black.

    The boy giggled again. Now the Crow King did notice that there was something in the laugh that he recognized, but it was too late.

    Still giggling, the boy snapped his fingers. The crow that had pecked him screeched before it crumbled to dust where it stood. The other crows flapped away into the trees.

    The boy turned to the Crow King, his young lips twisting into a kind of smile. He slowly raised his hand, preparing his thumb and fingers to snap again.

    For the first and last time in his long life, the Crow King felt now what he had always craved.

    .

    Reply
    • May 9, 2020 at 3:12 pm
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      Phil- what a terrific story! The black blood, the finger snap death, the so-richly deserved end. Loved it. Very well done!

      Reply
      • May 12, 2020 at 9:32 pm
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        Thanks very much, Trish!

        Reply
    • May 12, 2020 at 12:22 pm
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      Phil,

      I iked your story very much. And I just wanted to assure you, that I did not read your story until after mine was written. I think that’s kind of interesting in and of itself.

      Reply
      • May 12, 2020 at 9:32 pm
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        No probs, Ken – it happens. Loved your story!

        Reply
    • May 14, 2020 at 7:44 am
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      Hi Phil,

      What a wonderfully atmospheric story. You have created a dark world, not just the darkness of the wood but also the sense of bleak acceptance of the regular human sacrifice. The Crow KIng is a great character, so full of menace.

      At first, I expected that the boy was just a baby but as he sat up that notion was shown to be wrong. I liked the manner in which he was immediately in charge, not scared, not phased, regardless of his age. This was what he was born to do.

      The black blood hints at a supernatural force, certainly something not human, or perhaps something else in human form. Who knows?

      Interesting last line. I am still thinking about this.

      Lovely stuff, Phil.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
      • May 22, 2020 at 4:15 pm
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        Thanks, KenF!

        (For the last line, see my comment to KenC at the bottom of the page.)

        Reply
    • May 17, 2020 at 5:00 pm
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      Oooh, me likey this story! I love the supernatural part, the black blood and the snapping of the finger. I really liked the ending too!
      Although, after reading this story, I don’t think I’ll ever look at a baby the same way….

      Reply
      • May 22, 2020 at 4:16 pm
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        Thanks, Alyssa! Me likey that you likey!

        Reply
    • May 19, 2020 at 1:18 pm
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      Poor crow! I should say poor child, and I was all the way with him, as one of my kind, terrified all along of what the crows were about to do to him (great atmosphere, Phil!). But the tables turned, and the game is then on the crows. The child is not one of my kind after all (and I’m still wondering who – what – he is: black blood? Killing by finger snapping? The giggle King Crow recognised? Great literary devices there… I wish this piece was a tad longer to attach more significance to them. But short of that (or something I may have missed) the mystery of it all works wonders…). I’m in the end sorry for the crow, King Crow, not the one who died. I mean what’s he having for dinner tonight? Why am I even thinking of that, I’m not his mum!
      What a great ending, Phil… he missed his evening meal but gained such a valuable experience. He who never felt fear, never lived.

      Ken
      (btw. thanks for your comment to my story The Quiet One, in the last prompt, Phil, which I appreciated very much. I replied to you there, but I’m not sure if you saw it, as I only wrote after everything was said and done for that prompt. It was hell of a busy week at work!)

      Reply
      • May 22, 2020 at 4:18 pm
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        Thanks, KenM! Yes, I think that in any future draft I would expand a little on the descriptions and motivations.

        Reply
    • May 21, 2020 at 10:19 am
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      Phil,

      As always, a great story. I would have thought by now I’d get tired of writing that, but I don’t. Love the way you ended the story and how well you told the tale of the Crow King getting his comeuppance. Not that he deserved a quick and clean fate, but that he had a fate at all. No pesky little details to notice … although I could point out he should snap his thumb and finger, not fingers, but I won’t. Trust me, try it. It’s thumb and finger. And, the gesture while driving finger at that, which you are probably holding up in my direction as you read this.

      Roy

      Reply
      • May 22, 2020 at 4:22 pm
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        Thanks, Roy – very encouraging, as always, and that’s much appreciated.

        As for the fingers … well, according to the first reference I found on google: “Snapping (or clicking) one’s fingers is the act of creating a snapping or clicking sound with one’s fingers.”, so I’d maintain that’s how we say it … but then later I do specify the involvement of the thumb: “He slowly raised his hand, preparing his thumb and fingers to snap again.”

        Reply
  • May 12, 2020 at 12:15 pm
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    Raven Son. (wc 481)
    By Ken Cartisano
    ©5/12/2020

    Tis a fact that I had a boy whose mother died when he was nigh unto talkin’.

    After he done his grievin’, he took to playin’ and communin’ with birds and such on the paving stones near the wharf. He was a quiet lad and never did no harm to the birds. Ravens, I think they were, big, black, ungainly birds, with beaks as long as my finger.

    The birds ayed come every day and sometimes stay until well after dark. Standin’ around, boopin, cooing and cawing at my little boy. I was alarmed I was, what with the size of ‘em birds. They were almost as big as he was, but they could fly, so they didn’t seem a feared or mindful of him much. Ey could easily have taken my boy’s finger off, or blinded him for life. But the birds were curious and of-a-times devilishly clever. They never did cotton to me though, nor I to them.

    My boy would collect their stray feathers and bring ‘em home and give ‘em to me. One evening I come to re-collect my young’un and I saw two of ‘em birds distract my boy while a third one extracted a couple of feathers from his pocket. I caught ‘em in the act. They saw me a-comin’, dropped the feathers and fled for the sky, but I reckoned they were just a toyin’ with my boy.

    If you think this state of affairs pleased me a sum, then you’d be as skewed as a soldier what never takes his helmet off.

    I commenced to makin’ a coat asto’ them feathers. A long feathery cloakish coat at that. When the cloak was nayair finished, I shod that coat on my stooped and weary shoulders, found me a floppy hat and a scary mask for my face. As sure as I’m a tellin you this story, I had it in my scope to scare the livin’ sin outta that boy, so he’d never tempt another bird for as long as he lived. My worrying days would whence come to hence.

    I crept up behind him of a dark and windy night, and ‘em birds did give him a warning, I swear to all what’s holy, and whatever ain’t. And he turned ‘round and looked up at my feathery countenance with big round eyes and mouth a-gape. Then collected his wits as it were and gave me a caw, in a questioning way, then snapped his fingers at ‘em birds and they all flew away in one swoop.

    He rose to his near three-foot height and took my hand and led me back home. Told me he loved me, said he weren’t afraid, and he ain’t never was afraid of anything ever since. Nor was I. Except, maybe him, of a time or two. But he’s a good boy.

    Reply
    • May 12, 2020 at 9:28 pm
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      KenC … this is excellent! From the rationale for the image, to the wonderful voice of the narrator, to the understated, sinister nature of the little boy (the penultimate sentence is perfect!) I’m not sure why the father would want to scare him – I don’t really buy the justification in the text – but it doesn’t matter. This is really, really good.

      Reply
      • May 12, 2020 at 11:45 pm
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        Thanks Phil,
        You don’t buy the justification in the text eh? What would you buy? Got any suggestions?

        Reply
        • May 13, 2020 at 11:08 pm
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          Dunno really. The father is frightened of the boy “of a time or two”, so maybe the attempt to frighten the boy is the father trying to protect himself against … he’s not quite sure what. It doesn’t work, so now he tries to convince himself that “he’s a good boy” (maybe because the boy can sense what he’s thinking, so he needs to be positive or there’ll be consequences). There’s a Ray Bradbury (I think) story that has elements of this.

          Reply
          • May 16, 2020 at 11:30 am
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            Ken C. – I loved your use of dialect in this story. Done poorly, dialects distract me from otherwise good stories, but yours was done so essentially, so skillfully, that you coaxed me gently into the fictive world you created. I thought that was really well done.

    • May 19, 2020 at 1:38 pm
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      I just love the dialect element of this piece, Ken, maybe even more than the story itself. The plot premise does make sense to me (“I buy it!”, shall I say?). A little bit more urgency for the father to do what he felt he had to do would help I think. Something real bad that would happen to the boy, if dad doesn’t act. And something just as bad that would happen to dad, if he acts. I don’t know – something more edge-of-the-seat-like, rather than “regular” fatherly worry… You had ample more words to work with. (That is unless there was something really evil right in my face, which I missed, which is also possible).

      The Ray Bradbury factor in Ken’s story? I think that’s my fault, Phil…

      Ken

      Reply
    • May 21, 2020 at 7:15 am
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      Hi Ken,
      This was a most interesting read. Not sure if I have ever read anything quite like it, in terms of the way you have written it.

      Not a criticism by the way.

      At the end of the day, language, however it is used, is simply a form of communication and if people / readers understand what has been said, then it works.

      Excellent use of the image too. I could see the picture in my head as I was reading. It’s a great image of this boy being so comfortable in the company of the birds, nearly as big as himself.

      Great stuff.

      Sorry comment is a bit short but I want to say something about each entry before voting later this afternoon.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
    • May 21, 2020 at 10:36 am
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      A critique on this site regarding one of my stories quite a few years ago has stuck with me over the years and I follow it faithfully when I write dialect. If you are going to drop your ‘g’ at the end of words like hangin’, then you must maintain it throughout the entire story That piece of advice came from a new writer on the site named Ken Cartisano. Let’s see, you missed: paving stones; one evening; worrying days; a warning; tellin needs an apostrophe; questioning way; and finally, of anything. Go ahead, look … I’ll wait. See? Otherwise a well written story that carried me along and I enjoyed every minute of it. Might even place high in my vote. No, will place high in my vote.

      Roy

      Reply
  • May 12, 2020 at 4:02 pm
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    THE FEATHER OF BLACK ANGEL
    by Ken Miles
    (1,200 words)

    “Is that blood in the inkwell?”

    Adolf rolls up his prison pants and shows Rudolf the self-inflicted cuts.

    “They won’t give me enough ink for all that’s to be written! I mixed in my own blood.” He allows Rudolf to gasp, then adds, “Besides, the feather of Black Angel works best with blood. Here, have a go!”

    “I’m an aviator not a writer, words don’t come easy to me,” Rudolf’s reluctant.

    “The words won’t come from you, but from the Angel!”

    Rudolf shakes his head. Adolf can be outlandish. But is he now flipping out? The Beer Hall Putsch was fun, but here they are now, jailed up in Landsberg. And Adolf’s take on this? He’s writing a book to change the future! The old fashioned way, with a large feather.

    Rudolf dips the feather and when it’s soaked enough bloody ink up its narrow tube, he brings it close to the next blank space on the notebook Adolf titled ‘Mein Kampf’. Without even thinking, he scribbles:

    ‘We shouldn’t occupy ourselves merely with the breeding of dogs, but also with the purity of our own race.’

    Adolf stares at what his cellmate’s just jotted down. Rudolf, too, still tries to distill the significance of what’s come out of the tip of that feather.

    Finally, Adolf speaks.

    “Great words, Hess! In the right hands, the feather of Black Angel wrote false bibles, declarations of war, the ‘Malleus Maleficarum’, every word that perturbed history, Machiavelli got hold of it too. Mightier than the sword, it pitted man against man, revealing who’s strong and who’s dead.”

    With that he held up the feather and observed it with fearful admiration.

    “Himmler found it when he ransacked the Communists headquarters. Them Communists revered it. For that scum Marx wrote their ‘Manifesto’ with this very feather. It’d been doing the rounds in Germany for a while: Wagner jotted his fiery notes with it, and in Nietsche’s hand it declared God dead. Now that it’s ours, we shall prevail in the darkness to come!”

    ***

    “The most incredible object ever! The feather of Black Angel! History’s most notorious figures held it between their fingers! €50’s the starting price!”

    No interest is shown and the crowd thins out, so the auctioneer talks up his angelic ware: “It’s the last known relic from the Age of Angels! The malediction of the Angels on the Descendants of the Ape!”

    He eyes the last potential customers departing, unimpressed, and I find myself alone listening to this salesman.

    “Don’t leave just yet, Mon Ami,” he talks directly to me, “Back in the day, people would’ve killed to lay their hands on this very feather. Nowadays nobody believes in anything anymore! I’ll let you have it for forty, below the asking price!”

    It seems like he’s been trying long to rid himself of that feather sealed in an old wooden box with a glass display window on top. I feel quite the idiot when I accept to take it.

    “Going, going, gone!” he raises his voice to make his successful sale known to all, crashing the gavel on the makeshift table, shaking it.

    “For just €40, Mon Ami, you’re now the proud owner of the most calamitous curse ever inflicted on Man!”

    I don’t believe a word he says. Neither can I believe that I forked out €40 for an old feather. But I traveled far to reach this remote corner of France, and to my delight the clandestine open-air flea-market really exists. I’m not going to leave empty-handed.

    That market found itself in my family lore, those myths and legends we all carry along since childhood. My grandpa, dememted as he may’ve been, said he’d once bought a two-headed horse from there, that could cross the English Channel, galloping on water. Then again, the assassin my dad hired to kill his cheating wife, my step-mother, confided that his murderous dagger was magical – no crime committed with it would ever be unraveled. And he’d also got it from that same legendary market.

    “If I were you, I wouldn’t ever jot a word with that feather,” the auctioneer switches from a theatrical to a fatherly tone, as he hands me over my acquisition, “For it’s Black Angel that selects the words, and whatever’s written shall be done!”

    Hushed voices spread like wildfire throughout the market. “La police! La police!” The gendarmerie apprehend a couple of hawkers, while hundreds others lift their wares and vanish magically, just to set up again elsewhere in town for the story to repeat itself. It’s as comical as it’s practical.

    Back in my car, I place the feather on the passenger-seat and set off through endless country roads back to Paris. A silver Rover overtakes me and comes to a halt, blocking my way. Four Asian men emerge. My blood freezes when one of them digs his hand inside his pocket. A gun, I think. Instead it’s hundred dollar bills, rolled up. He smashes my passenger window with his elbow, leans in, grabs the feather and throws the dollars inside.

    “We arrived late to buy fedel,” he tells me, “so we buy fedel from you.”

    They disappear quicker than they appeared. Relieved, I grab the money. More than enough to have the window fixed. That’s when I spot the Huawei. The paying thief must’ve dropped it off his jumper-pocket when he leaned in.

    I grab the phone and scroll up WhatsApp. But I’m none the wiser, it’s all in Chinese! A photo posted by a white-bearded elderly Asian man shows that familiar feather that for twenty minutes belonged to me.

    Google Translate to the rescue! Soon enough, Chinese becomes bad English.

    “Buy Black Angel’s feather from French market!” the old man had written.

    – “You now believe in angels, grandpa!? Haha!” the phone owner replied.

    “Angels! Funny, right? Not scientific term. It’s what ancient people call them! Before Age of Ape, evolution favored the Great Birds. They were intelligent life-form, had twenty-three senses, not just our five – or six. They ruled world, built cities, great civilisations. But when Apes evolved too, goodwill between Ape and Bird – or Man and Angel – not longlasting. Man finally wins, destroys all Bird offsprings. Birdkind weakness is fragility of its eggs. Last Bird-King, Black Angel revenges. On deathbed, he infuses his last fluttering feather with his seventeenth sense, the sense of revengeful-pleasure-by-will-on-others’-minds, to torment Mankind forever…”

    – “We get feather. Then what?”

    “Father of Beast lives in blood vial I gave you. He needs meet Mother of Beast at my old secret workplace. I created her before got fired. I’ll send you address later. Write letter in blood: instructions to join Father with Mother to create New Beast. When New Beast is born, world will cry. Economy collapses, world gets weak and cheap. Then we buy world! We not forever slaves in plastic-wares factories! We become masters!”

    – “How do I write instructions?”

    “You need not know. The feather will know! Whoever opens letter compelled to obey…”

    I jolt at the sound of a toilet flushing. Some people do have taste when they choose their ringtones!

    I quickly translate the new message:

    “Grandson, the address is ‘Institute of Experimental Virology, Wuhan’.

    Reply
    • May 21, 2020 at 10:55 am
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      Ken M.,

      I liked your story, but once again it sounds clipped in spots: Rudolf’s reluctant; A gun, I think.

      I’m guilty of the same thing. I have so much to write, that I have to go back and trim. I see you do the same thing. When this site first started, the stories could only be 750 to 800 or so words, and you learned to write shorter stories, but now that we have 1200 words to write, we tend to get more flowery or add superfluous descriptions as if we were getting paid by the word. And, as I said, I’m guilty as well. So, I’m going to start practicing to write to the 900 or 1000 word level and then see if I can add a few things. I think you might want to practice the same thing.

      I would think that anything anyone could prove belonged to Hitler would have fetched a very high price as there are people out there who revel in that sort of thing and would be willing to fork over major money, preventing it from being sold on the black market. But, no matter, it added to your story.

      I did like the way you handled the dialect in Chinese by explaining it it with verbatim tech translations, which are terrible, by the way.

      So, the Russian Revolution, World War II and the Covid virus are all explained now. Why not? It makes as much sense as eating a bat caused it.

      No other problems with your story. Keep ’em coming.

      Roy

      Reply
      • May 22, 2020 at 8:11 am
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        Hi Roy and thanks for your feedback. I’m pleased you found the story engaging 🙂

        True, something touched by Hitler would fetch a fortune these days. But I assumed nobody believed the hawker’s sales-pitch. Not even my narrator, until the Asian men showed up… I think I should reinforce that “disbelief” aspect. Otherwise, you’re right, such a feather would have shown up at Sotheby’s, and not at an illegal street market.

        My stories, at first draft, usually come at 1,800 words. It’s sort of a default for me. Then I chop off what’s really unnecessary for the plot, and finally scalpel out the bits that can be trimmed or tightened.

        I start with the dialogue. I’m at war with the traditional sentence, as I’ve come to notice that people don’t talk (and less so think) in sentences, but in outbursts of words. Even educated people.

        This thing of the sentence is one of those things shoved down my throat in my school days that I’ve been trying to shed off, with varying levels of success.

        In descriptive writing, it’s of course different, but even there, I find that when stressful, panicky, painful or urgent situations are being described, the full sentence may not always be the best literary device.

        Like when my narrator thinks that the Asian guy is taking out a gun, I found it more appropriate to write “A gun, I think.” rather than “I think he’s taking out a gun.” Not just to save words, but because the situation is too stressful for the narrator (and the reader) to think straight by using the full compliment of words that usually constitute a school-sentence. Even though it’s not in the dialogue as such.

        It’s like communicating an emotion (in this case, a stressful one), not only by what is said, but also by how it is said (in this case, by curtailing or clipping the “panicky” bit).

        I’m not sure if this is effective with all readers and I perhaps exaggerate a little in using this device.

        My training is in film-making and in that field this sort of clipped grammar is shown through quicker, 3 to 4 second edits. in stressful situations, so that what is shown is amplified by how it’s shown. I don’t know if this is a good comparison to what I’m trying to do in writing.

        I’d like others who are reading this to give their views too – as readers – on this observation.

        Once again, thanks for your honest feedback – this can really turn into a laboratory for writing techniques, besides being a showcase for our stories.

        Cheers!
        Ken

        Reply
    • May 14, 2020 at 2:39 pm
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      Everything?

      Just who in Seattle, back in the 90s wrote “Program not responding”? That line has made the human race all the more frustrated, a computer-user at a time… Oh not the black feather, too? I don’t know. I think, whoever it was, actually typed it…

      Reply
    • May 15, 2020 at 12:55 pm
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      What I mean Miles is that, in one short story you’ve explained all the inexplicable evils in the world, without having to list them or tie them all together. And It’s rather ingenious too. The curse of a vanquished species. The bird people. Of note is the ending, it seems as though the bad guys are missing the final step in the process, directions on where to bring the black feather. (Although, in fairness, they’ll simply call him once they realize the grandson’s phone is missing. and have him furnish the information.)
      It all works. Everything is explained.

      Reply
      • May 16, 2020 at 11:35 am
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        Ken M. I really liked your story. Kept me racing along wanting to learn more, and the end, as Ken C. notes “explained everything” quite neatly. Two teeny tiny nits I feel compelled to pick – capitalizing Mon Ami seemed strange, and I’m not much a fan of sweeping generalities of cultural differences such as when you have the Asian robbers speak altered English. Just one gal’s opinion – great story!

        Reply
        • May 19, 2020 at 6:06 am
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          Thanks Trish, I’m pleased you liked it and that it got you racing till the end to find out what’s going on.

          Also thanks for the proposals. You’re right “Mon Ami” should be in small letters. I don’t know why I capitalized those words.

          About the Chinese man speaking in “Chinese English”, I didn’t do it to make fun of him, but for that bit of real life “flavor” – to sort of document the narrator’s real life experience of hearing a Chinese man talk that way. (I put on the Mon Ami, for that reason too, to infuse some “French flavor”). Or maybe I’ve watched too many episodes of “Mind Your Language” in my childhood: even those seemed funny back then, but are probably ridiculous, or even debatably offensive, these days.

          Of course only the “fedel” sentences are in Chinese English. The rest is proper Chinese translated (quite awfully) by Google Translate. I think it would be even more awful if I really used Google Translate, but I needed it to be relatable enough to keep the story going.

          Thanks again!
          Ken

          Reply
      • May 19, 2020 at 5:53 am
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        Thanks, Ken! I’m pleased to hear that this story works well in bringing on a new take on the human condition. Also on where that rather ludicrous idea of Angels came from.

        I like the theme of writing being the driving force of human history, too, even though, in this case it only serves for evil purposes.

        As to that final setback of losing the cellphone, I, like you, suppose that the guys figured that out and got in touch with grandpa in some other way to get the Wuhan address they needed. Anyway, that was last August, and we all know very well what happened since then…

        Right now some US doctor got hold of Black Angel’s feather and is writing out with it prescription after prescription for hydroxychloroquine…

        How do I know? Well that’s another question for another time!

        Ken

        Reply
        • May 21, 2020 at 7:30 am
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          Hi Ken M,

          A good story that really made me concentrate. I loved the notion of something ancient that can control the actions of mere humans, it decides what will be written and, once written, it will happen. Now that’s a scary thought.

          Also interesting to note that, as you say, it was only used for evil purposes. Just imagine the possibilities if something like this was in use for good, not evil.

          Shorter comment than I would like to write as I need to say something about the other stories before I vote.

          Kind regards,

          Ken Frape.

          Reply
          • May 21, 2020 at 8:02 am
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            Thanks Ken! Your comment made me think of a sequel. Maybe another Angel Bird, a more benevolent one, also left us his feather, unbeknownst to Angel King. And the actions – writings – of the two competing feathers are at the source of the battle between good and evil that has since the beginning of history characterized human existence.

            Being able to tell what was written with which angel’s feather would then be critical to figure out wisely what’s good for us and what’s not? To tell apart the false prophets from the real ones… If it fits some future prompt, we may hear more from the Age of the Angel Bird!

            Cheers!
            Ken

  • May 13, 2020 at 2:32 pm
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    Raven Claw

    The artist’s studio was very, very dark. Just as he intended. To see in such conditions required a particular kind of night vision and Mother Rat had just that. She also had a voracious appetite that drove her on. She had helpless newborn babies to feed.

    As she scuttled around on the ground, her incredible sense of smell helped her to hunt down even the tiniest morsels from the human feasts. Crumbs, skin particles fallen as dust, paper smeared with butter, a tiny sliver of cheese; they all slipped down Mother Rat’s throat. She chewed a hole in a cardboard box and gnawed her way into a metallic tube of bright blue paint. Even for her, the taste was unacceptable, bitter and rancid and she left it alone, leaving smears of colour on her fur to be cleaned off later when she lay feeding her babies.

    Mother Rat moved silently and confidently through the room. The absence of an obvious supply of food was no obstacle to her as she was, by nature an omnivore. She would generally eat virtually anything and with such catholic tastes as hers there was plenty to eat in a room used by humans. She could still scent them, especially the large one with the face covered in hair and the body covering smeared with the same stuff that she didn’t like.

    Geronimus Ackshaw, artist, liked to work in darkness in his studio, the site of most of his most famous pieces.

    Every window was boarded and taped, the doors were sealed around the edges and every other possible chink of light was ruthlessly eliminated. Only when he was satisfied that his studio was as dark as possible did he put on a pair of night vision goggles. No ordinary night glasses but the most advanced on the market built to enhance even the tiniest, faintest light source and heat. No other artist was known to work in this way and it made Geronimus Ackshaw something of an eccentric celebrity artist.

    He took a moment to allow his eyes to adjust as he peered around the room.

    Now, he stood in front of his newest sculpture, The Raven Claw, he called it. Twice the size of a female adult Raven, the sculpture was a magnificent example of this eccentric artist’s vision and skill. The open wings were spread as if in flight, her eyes sharp and focused on prey on the ground as she hunted, her beak sharp, black and ready for food.

    “So you’re here again, are you?” He quizzed Mother Rat as he caught a glimpse of her as she worked her way around his studio. She stopped momentarily to nibble a tiny scrap of bread crumb as she listened to his voice in the dark.

    “You’re welcome to stay,” he assured her, “just leave my paints alone, especially this blue one. It’s very expensive stuff. And leave this beauty alone too, of course,” He gestured to Raven Claw. Mother Rat continued about her business, the man’s voice by now both familiar and unthreatening.

    The wire armature of the sculpture was covered with a thin coating of parchment paper and then a further coating of water-thinned glue. Every curve and twist, every rise and fall of the musculature under the feathers of a Raven in flight had been captured by his skilful hand and eye, in darkness, using only his night vision goggles.

    On the table beside Raven Claw’s perch was a large metal box filled with bright, lustrous, carefully preserved Raven feathers. Ten years worth of collecting were in that box, each one a genuine Raven’s feather. None had been taken from a living bird but all were being used to recreate a vision of nature. To bring this sculpture to life.

    For weeks Geronimus worked in his studio, selecting the perfect feather for every part of his Raven. Gradually she emerged from her skeletal form into a thing of beauty until, at last, she was almost completed. Every individual feather was attached for Mother Nature’s approval, with surgical precision and infinite care.

    As more and more beautiful, glossy feathers were added Raven Claw seemed to be resting more lightly on her perch, her grip on the wooden batten lighter, ready to lift off, her head craning forward, her eyes seeking her prey.

    Each night, Geronimus would work until his back ached and forced him to stop. He was no longer a young man but an artist of international stature and an acknowledged eccentric. Who else would work in pitch blackness, the art critics asked.

    No one ever saw his work in advance and he never took commissions. Any piece by his hand commanded huge prices in the febrile, overheated art world. He always worked alone and when he was not in his studio he was rarely seen in public.

    Before leaving one night, Geronimus crumbled a crust of bread on to the floor of his studio.

    “That’s for you, Mother Rat,” he spoke in the darkness as he caught a glimpse of his only companion. “Remember, you’re welcome to stay as long as you leave Raven Claw alone. I know exactly how many feathers there, so don’t steal any.” He laughed at his own joke. As ever, Mother Rat stopped and looked towards his familiar voice, her whiskers twitching over his overpowering scent, before she sloped off into the deeper recesses of the studio. There was always something to eat, for a rat.

    Geronimus knew that Raven Claw’s completion was imminent and he was excited at the prospect each time he returned to his studio. As he slipped on his goggles he saw a brief flash of grey brown as Mother Rat, or was it one of her siblings, scurried away from his work table. Next, he noticed that there was a space on Raven Claw where he had carefully fixed a feather, just yesterday. The tiny hole where the feather had been fixed was clear and vacant.

    “I thought we had an agreement, Mother Rat,” he called out. “No bread crumbs for you tonight!”

    After the third incident when a recently attached feather was missing next morning, Genonimus was more than a little annoyed.

    “Last warning,” he called out to Mother Rat and her siblings.

    That night he finally finished his masterpiece and stepped back to admire her. She was magnificent. He sensed that she had patiently accepted his careful caresses during the last few months and now she was ready. His work was done.

    As he removed his goggles and left the studio, a sense of fulfilment washed over him like a coat of paint.

    On Geronimus’ return the following day, the studio was flooded with light. He recoiled at the blinding whiteness and staggered back as his eyes adjusted. The window in the roof was smashed and glass lay all around on the floor. In the midst of the glass lay the dead Mother Rat.

    A neat round hole had been punched into the top of her skull.

    There was one black feather on the work bench but Raven Claw’s perch was empty.

    Ken Frape
    .
    13/05/2020

    Reply
    • May 16, 2020 at 11:38 am
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      Ken F. – I think your story is terrific. In particular I really appreciated the little details you use to describe the artist’s studio, the artist’s affectation of painting always in darkness, and the punchiness of your ending. Just super!

      Reply
    • May 20, 2020 at 5:56 am
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      Hi Ken,

      I enjoyed the way the cohabitation between artist and rat is minutely described, with great concern for the needs of both creatures. For the rat, it’s about survival, for the artist it’s about creation. It’s the laws of creation that win in the end, over the laws of survival. And that’s after the rat, the master-survivor, takes a nibble at the artist’s creation. It’s sad to see Mother Rat go that way (and who’s going to look after the babies, now?), but it’s at the same time fair – she was greedy and short-sighted, and a rat doesn’t nibble at a raven – it’s against Nature. And then again, the raven did what a raven is supposed to do.

      Ah, but this was an artwork, to start with. That’s another interesting bit. How the talented Mr Ashkew created life out of art. It’s usually the other way round. But well, in the dark, a seed can germinate, an egg may ovulate… I like the depiction of this artist’s unusual manners. He’s one man with a vision, be it night vision. Perhaps the wonders of how he sculpts/paints in the dark and how all this makes him renowned in the art world are a bit overworked, to the point of repetition. That’s where the story could be tightened up a bit, in my opinion. It would satisfy Ken C. too, as he also felt the narrative went on for a little too long. A lot is described, and beautifully so, but I was eager for something to happen. And then it did, but it took a bit long to come up. Something about the story arc, that fiction-gurus talk about, being too flat perhaps, and only peaking once at the end.

      There are some phrases that I particularly liked, and I wish to reproduce my fave three here, so that w’lle all savour them once again:

      “Raven Claw seemed to be resting more lightly on her perch, her grip on the wooden batten lighter, ready to lift off, her head craning forward, her eyes seeking her prey” – this perfectly foreshadows almost word for word the ending, without giving it away, though, as, till that point, the reader stills understands it as a beautiful description of a well-executed artwork.

      “a sense of fulfilment washed over him like a coat of paint” – a nice juxtaposition of the metaphysical pleasures of an artist, over the physical means by which the artist gets to the point of achieving those very pleasures.

      “He recoiled at the blinding whiteness and staggered back as his eyes adjusted.”

      Ken

      Reply
    • May 21, 2020 at 10:59 am
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      Well done, Mr. Frape. Nice use of the prompt and very original. I enjoyed it. As I promised, it will get top consideration for my high votes. No problems with the writing. Well, maybe the hole punched in the top of Momma Rat’s head wouldn’t have been neat and round, but who’s looking that close? Umm … me, I guess. Liked your story, Ken.

      Roy

      Reply
    • May 21, 2020 at 11:07 am
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      Andy and I discussed a German artist who did nothing but canvases that were entirely black and was very popular and handsomely rewarded for his works. I liked your artist better. Way better. At least he didn’t scam the public with their own pretentiousness. But, anyone who paid thousands and thousands of dollars for an all black canvas deserves scorn for his or her stupidity. Nice story, Top consideration for this story as well.

      A teensy mistake in this sentence: I know exactly how many feathers there, so don’t steal any.” Should be an ‘are’ after there. I really didn’t look for much, but that one stuck out.

      Roy

      Reply
  • May 14, 2020 at 12:00 am
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    Ohhhhhhhhhhh. Nice but, needs to be just a tad shorter in my opinion.. By the time this story got to the end, I was standing there waiting for it. I didn’t figure it out until the last moment though, so if you made it a little shorter, I’d still be wondering by the time I got to the reveal. You get what I mean? This is a cool story it deserves more work, something about the darkness, the eccentric artist. the idea of paint being everywhere, the white rat versus the black raven. There’s a lot of innate visual contrast embedded in the plot, which seems like a cool, and subtle way to lure the reader into the story.

    Reply
  • May 14, 2020 at 12:25 pm
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    There Are Things Darker Than Shadows

    The shadow man had no eyes, but he saw more than most. Two gaping holes in his skull filled with a darkness so thick and dense it almost oozed right down his dark, grotesque face. He had no interest in the physical world, no use for internalizing it’s fleeting inhabitants or ever-evolving landscape. What he saw instead, what he was rather far more interested in, were the pulsing specks of light that thrummed with life and darted around unpredictably. In the dark void, that was all he could make out, orbs of light surrounded by the faintest of traces that made lumpy silhouettes that formed a cage for the lights, anchoring them.
    It was these lights the shadow man was charged with overseeing. He wasn’t to touch them, wasn’t to let them see him, wasn’t to get too close to them until their time had come and their cages fell away under the force of his malicious sister and he gently carried the lights away.
    It had always been like this and while the shadow man couldn’t find himself happy, always a little sad with every light taken from his void and released into the vast and beautiful sky, he was quietly content. The sky by now was dotted with lights long taken, a starry night that embellished his periphery and took and took and took. He treasured every light that appeared and danced around his void, shooting stars that shone just for him. If he listened carefully enough, he could hear their soft chitters, loud joyful sounds, low mournful tunes. If he listened hard enough he could sometimes even hear a quiet steady beat. He never understood why the beating stopped when the lights were no longer trapped.

    Then one day, a crack appeared in his void. Well, not so much a crack as a hole or a tear, but just as violent and just as noticable. Suddenly, void wasn’t all he could see. Among the dancing lights, he saw… something. Where the darkness ended, a small spot of not-darkness took its place and revealed a lumpy shape at the very center. It was a being, with a face and hair and clothes and tiny hands. The shadow man crept closer, squinting at it curiously until he faintly made out a pure white light behind the fleshy face. The face blinked up at him. The shadow man blinked back at him, stepping forward, involuntarily drawn to the thing. At the thing’s feet were birds – crows that he knew served his sister. The crows had been pecking at a dead thing, a rotting cage whose light had already left, and the thing was poking a stick at the offended birds.
    “Are you the Grim Reaper?” the thing asked in voice so soft and innocent, the shadow man didn’t know how to respond.
    “I do not know what that is,” the shadow man answered, his voice a grumble in the silence that shrouded them. “What are you?”
    The thing’s face scrunched up at the question. “I’m Jonah. That’s a funny question. If you’re not the Grim Reaper, then what are you? You smell like death.”
    The shadow man smiled humorlessly, his teeth bared in a gruesome display. “I am the shadow man. How did you call me? No one has ever broken the boundary before.”
    He wasn’t sure why, but there was something off about the Jonah. His light, while white, seemed to flicker unhealthily. There was a darkness in his heart.
    The Jonah didn’t seem to know the answer, his gaze drifting distractedly to the ground before his funny eyes widened. They were brown, a strange warm colour that reminded him of the earth.
    “It was the feather,” he squeaked, his small fist waving something in the air at him. It was a crows feather. “It fell off the crow and I had just picked it up when you appeared.”
    The shadow man nodded slowly. Due to his sister’s influence, the crows had great power. It was possible they had access to the void as well.
    “Do you think- that is,” the Jonah spoke hesitantly, eyes nervous as he peered up at him. “Could you take me with you?”
    The shadow man tilted his head at the whispered words. “Take you with me? I’m afraid you wouldn’t want to go with me if you understood who I am. No one ever wants to go with me. I am the End.”
    Instead of dissuading the Jonah, he only seemed even more determined. “That’s exactly what I want. I don’t… I can’t stand it here any longer. Please. I don’t want to live. Take me with you.”
    The shadow man stared, disturbed. This wasn’t right. No light was meant to want to die. There had to be something wrong. Maybe the Jonah didn’t really understand.
    He shook his head and was about to speak such thoughts when a sharp sound cut through their conversation like a knife. A light approached them, green tinged and reeking of something unpleasant. It stopped just at the edge of the not-darkness but the Jonah snapped to attention, instantly tensing and dropping his stick. The crows flew away with a cacophony of displeased caws, one flying off into his void while the others disappeared when they left the not-darkness, confirming his theory.
    The shadow man wasn’t able to witness the exchange that seemed to occur but very soon the Jonah was straightening up and stepping out of the not-darkness, his eyes solemn and trained on the ground as his hands trembled in fear. He never glanced back and the shadow man watched him go with a strange disquietness that he couldn’t shake.
    But there was nothing he could do. The Jonah disappeared and so did the not-darkness, leaving the shadow man with only void and more thoughts than he’d ever had to sort through before. He had thought that would be the end of it, had hoped so that he wouldn’t have to deal with more conflicting thoughts and feelings.
    ‘Shadow man.’
    It happened again. This time he heard the Jonah before he saw him. Heard the cries and whimpers of pain, heard the cruel thud of flesh hitting flesh, then glass hitting flesh. Heard before he saw and then he wished that it had stayed that way because what he saw when the not-darkness appeared once more was a sight so horrifying and unjust. The shadow man saw and with a pain like he’d never felt before in his heart, he understood. Realised it wasn’t the feathers that connected them but rather something else much darker and more twisted. The Jonah hit the ground, bloody and bruised, and when his brown eyes found him, they pleaded and screamed at him for death. The light thrummed, beating sporadically.
    The shadow man sighed. Barely noticing when the green-tinged light left, he sank to ground before the Jonah. He knew that this went against the rules. He knew it wasn’t this little light’s time.
    Despite all that the shadow man gently scooped up the little light, freed him from his cage and together they left that awful not-darkness and sank into the safe nothingness of his void silently.

    Reply
    • May 16, 2020 at 11:42 am
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      Amelie – super creepy. You are so skilled at evoking moods through your vividly described sentences. Very well done.

      Reply
    • May 16, 2020 at 4:51 pm
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      Amelie, I loved this story. Especially since you made the shadow master kind, not evil. I liked the unique take on that. Great job!

      Reply
    • May 20, 2020 at 7:56 am
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      A very mysterious story, Amelie. Yet, so real, for we’re all here in this “non-darkness” (what a concept!) for a short while, and the rest of our lifestory (if there’s even one) may as well be a shadowy, lonely one, out of our cage, blended with the rest of so much nothingness (the Buddhists actually celebrate this idea, but I don’t know, it doesn’t appeal to me). The mood of your story resonated with me, especially since I sometimes imagined (while in bed in almost complete darkness save for a few specks of light from my defective bedroom shutter) what death could be like. And it occurred to me it may be just that: a blob of consciousness, a lonely existence looking at distant unreachable specks of light, not knowing what to do with them or how to change one’s predicament. This while the memories of that short warm moment called life, slowly but steadily fade away. That’s the biggest horror of all. And it may not be mere fiction. You may have had other things in mind, but your story re-kindled those thoughts and emotions in me. At least your Shadow Man has some job to do, so he can fill his “days” and not get too bored…

      It’s not very clear, in the beginning of the story, what the Shadow Man has access to in terms of “information” on his surroundings. You say that the orbs of light were the only thing he could make out, but just before that you also say that he had no interest in the fleeting existence (of things like human life, I suppose). Was he unable or to see or simply not interested? I would say that being unable would justify the rest of the story: when he meets The Jonah, he doesn’t know what that “thing” is, hinting at a prior inability to observe human life.

      What makes him, for that one time only, connect with a human being is still mysterious to me – there’s something about the crow’s feather, but I still didn’t get it (but it may be just me, perhaps I need to have another go at the story…this is my raw impression right upon my first reading). Also, I sort of pictured in the eye of my mind this Jonah as a child, but only because of being familiar with the picture of this prompt. I’m not sure if another reader would independently reach that conclusion without the availability of that graphic, solely from your words. Or if it really matters.

      A good atmospheric story, all in all on the horror that belongs to all of us.

      Cheers! (if I may say so)
      Ken

      Reply
    • May 21, 2020 at 7:38 am
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      Hi Amelie,

      Great atmospheric setting and a story well told. Super creepy too. You can darken the darkest space with your writing and this is a good take on the prompt.

      There is something about these dark, black creatures in the night or of the darkness that seem to conjure up a sense of fear, in us humans, with all out cleverness and intelligence.

      Well done, Amelie.

      Sorry comment is short but I want to write something for each writer before voting.

      kind regards,

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
  • May 15, 2020 at 11:26 am
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    Black Wings
    Written by Alyssa Daxson
    Word count; 1200 (excluding title)

    Velvet black wings sliced through the air, the ragged edges fluttering in the wind.
    The crow glided over the landscape, his beady eyes fixed upon the moorlands below, watching as people glanced up, seeing his shadow skim the grass.
    “Fear. Such a delicious thing,” The crow thought, feeling his skinny breast puff up with pride.
    “I am the messenger of death, the omen of strife, the symbol of fear,” the crow recited, as he alighted down on a crooked trees branch, his eyes scanning the undergrowth.

    There was a rustle of a bush, before a small boy, accompanied by a larger male, stumbled next to the tree, his brown hair sticking up in tuffs.
    “Michael!” The larger male scolded, an exasperated expression crossing his face.
    The small boy paid no heed, and crouched down the ground, his little hands grabbing a stick, and proceeded to thwack the tree trunk viciously.

    The crow jumped in surprise as the tree shook, and he cawed in annoyance, warning the humans to back away.
    The larger male’s head immediately snapped up, and fear flitted across his face instantly.
    “Good, he knows what I am,” the crow thought, satisfied.
    He glanced down at the smaller boy, and saw to his surprise, a scowl twisting the young features.
    “Shoo birdie,” the boy hissed, waving his hands in the air.

    The crow tilted its head, intrigued and unfamiliar with this behavior.
    Usually people would glance in fear at him, and hastily retreat, dragging their trembling infants away. But this boy, he stared at him with a boldness, a fire in his large hazel eyes.
    “Michael, lets go,” the larger male whispered, tentatively grabbing his younger brothers arm.

    Michael refused to budge, and the crow found itself staring deep into the depths of those wide, innocent eyes.
    “No!” the crow cawed angrily, his feathers fluffing up in fury. The larger male cried out in fear, and retreated back into the bushes, fear rolling off of him in waves.
    Michael stayed out, not fazed in the least. In fact, his eyes were curious.

    Watching, the crow felt a weird tingle in his stomach as Michael picked up the stick, edging it towards him.
    “Here birdie,” Michael whispered, giggling quietly.
    The crow tilted away, unnerved by the unusual behavior.
    He felt the stick poke his stomach, and the crow cawed in shock, flapping his wings immediately.
    Never had he been touched! No human dared to get near him!
    But yet this Michael did…

    Glancing at the boy again, the crow saw intelligence in the hazel orbs, but no fear, no terror, no shaking of the limbs. Only calm.
    “It’s time to teach this boy a lesson,” the crow thought, hopping onto the ground, careful not to be treaded on.
    He flitted through the grass, watching as the young boy Michael stumbled after him.
    Slowly, coming to a stop in front of a cave, the crow watched with sadistic amusement as Michael approached the entrance, his hazel eyes growing wide with wonder.

    Letting out a caw, the crow hopped inside the cave, feeling the darkness overtake him, his eyes slowly adjusting to the sudden lack of light.
    The hesitant footfalls of Michael followed him in, venturing deeper into the bowels of darkness, swallowing the light whole. The crow cackled, knowing that this was where this boy would learn to fear.
    The darkness would smother him, hindering his senses, leaving nothing but stomach roiling, breath stealing fear.

    But instead of the choked sobs that usually accompanied his other victims, the crow heard a low sound, growing louder by the second, a sound he was quite unused to.

    Laughter.

    The boy giggled, his hands flailing blindly around, smiling as he stumbled around, excited about the newfound adventure.
    The crow tilted his head, confused.
    He should be crying, screaming for his parents, begging for help.
    Instead he was laughing, showing joy in a place that knew none.
    It was all very surreal for the crow, who knew he’d meat his match.
    If he couldn’t make this kid scream, then maybe someone else could…

    “Master!” The crow screeched, “master come to me!”
    He hopped from one claw foot to the other, another cackle bursting forth as he felt the familiar chill blow through, enveloping him like his feathers, comforting him.
    “I have come.” A guttural voice announced, rolling throughout the depths of the cave.

    The crow heard Michael’s laugh stutter to a stop, and the pattering of small feet against stone as he fumbled around.
    His master slinked towards the unaware child, and slowly revealed himself, spreading his jagged black wings wide, the tips wispy like smoke.
    His skull face stared down, fixing the boy in a furious red gaze filled with hate and vileness.
    “Fear me…” the crow heard his master whisper, the soft voice sending chills down the crow’s crooked spine.

    Michael’s gaze widened even more, and for a spilt second, the crow hoped that the fear would come, the boy would break down, a scream leaving his throat, tears cascading down his face as he begged for his parents.
    But the joy lit up the boy’s face again, shining a light in the darkness.
    “Silly birdie!” Michael laughed, reaching out his hands to stroke the skull face, his fingers investing the crevices and gaps.

    The crow felt horror rise up. Never had anyone dared to touch his masters face!
    To gaze upon and laugh in the face of pure evil!
    His master’s face flinched back at the touch, and Michael snorted, caressing the black feathers instead.
    “It’s soft,” he remarked, stroking them, “you take good care of them.”

    Unable to take anymore, the master knocked back the intruding hands, spreading his wings to the full length, a ear splitting screech shattering the air.
    “FEAR ME! BOW BEFORE MY STRENGTH! LET THE TERROR FLOW THROUGH YOUR VEINS!”

    Michael was thrown back, and the crow felt satisfaction as the sickening crack of bone against stone.
    His master surged forward, his red eyes boring into hazel ones, searching for the sweet feet he sought after.

    “Where is it? Why do you not scream? Why do you not cry?” His master murmured, utterly and completely confused.
    Michael’s hazel burned into his, and the crow watched as a grim smile parted his lips.
    “Go to hell,” Michael said, his voice deadly calm, before he the most unimaginable thing possible.

    He spit in his face.

    The crow cawed in shock, watching as his master reeled away, a scream torn from his vile throat.
    The was a rumbling of the ground, before the crow felt the presence of his master flee, fear dripping off of him like water, feeling the very thing he was seeking.

    The young boy sat there for a while, before slowly getting to his feet, a grimace crossing his young features.
    The crow stiffened as he glanced towards him, feeling a surge of apprehension, refusing to show fear as easily as his master did.

    “Care to come along?” He heard Michael ask, cocking a brown eyebrow.
    The crow pondered the request, before stretching his wings, and alighting on the boys shoulder.
    This was his new master.
    This was the boy who spit in the face of death.
    And won.

    Reply
    • May 20, 2020 at 3:18 pm
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      Another good story, Alyssa, beautifully told and leading to a satisfying ending (I won’t be suggesting you any alt-endings this time! – I like it very much as it is :-))

      Your way with words and turn of phrase has won me over, like other times. You really weave with words, Miss!

      In this story you revisit the theme of nothing to fear but fear itself. By showing, rather than telling it – hats off for that too.

      Your brave little boy, to me, represents us all – the whole human race – in the way we have, in the face of extreme adversity, gone from herbivores to the very top of the food chain. Without any claws, relatively weak muscles, no really sharp teeth, being slower than most other animals, yet too large to hide, our ancestors had it all against them. The only thing going for them was an indomitable will to overcome fear. And like your boy, they (we) became masters. I think of that each time I see a dog obeying its master – think of it, this is the descendant of the great fearsome wolf! In this sense, your story carries a powerful universal literary dimension about who and what we are.

      The danger and courage are palpable to the reader, as is also the crow’s initial incredulity to what went on. His switching allegiance is also fully believable, and speaks a lot about how leaders and followers are made, and how the attitude towards fear is critical in that regard.

      I’m sorry to bother you with some typos I found along the way. Nothing tragic that takes away anything from your piece. Here they come, for a little weeding on your part:

      as he alighted down on a crooked trees branch > tree

      “Michael, lets go,” > let’s

      It was all very surreal for the crow, who knew he’d meat his match. > meet? Oh dear – this almost makes sense as it is: meat his match – ok!! lol

      a ear splitting screech shattering the air. > an ear

      the crow felt satisfaction as the sickening crack of bone against stone > at?

      The was a rumbling of the ground > There was

      You see, nothing serious. Just what an extra pair of eyes can see!

      Cheers!
      Ken

      Reply
      • May 20, 2020 at 4:53 pm
        Permalink

        Thanks Ken M for the praise! And for spotting my typos! Darn things are gonna be the death of me…

        I find it very amazing, like you said, of how we’ve rose to the top of the food chain.
        It’s always amazed me on how we’ve been able to adapt, and I did actually decide to write this prompt loosely based off that. I’m glad you caught on!

        Also, since you’re soooooo good at spotting typos, maybe I’ll just resort to the Ken M Corrector! I’ll pay you in food! My sister makes a wicked good pumpkin pie 😉

        Of course there’s no guarantee that it’ll even make it too you… remember it does have to go through 8 hungry kids… quite a task lol

        Reply
        • May 21, 2020 at 9:00 am
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          You’re welcome Alyssa! So it looks like you and I were very much on the same wavelength with your story, when you wrote it and when I read it…

          In my story too, I tried to adapt what I saw in the prompt graphic to a wider sense. For me the little child in the foreground represented the innocent and naive human race, while, spinning off traditional Christian beliefs about the Devil, the large black-feathered birdly figure looking menacingly over us gave me the inspiration for the Angel-Bird King, whose ancient curse keeps following mankind to the most evil ends. Including, of course, the coronavirus conspiracy theory, to give a contemporary time-stamp to the story.

          Ken M. Corrector? I’d do that for you! Typos are the smallest of issues, if you ask me, once a story has a good plot, a memorable twist, is nicely written and all that. Alas, (non-human) spell-checkers only catch simple spelling-mistakes and cannot tell if a well-spelled word is written instead of another! And the English language is plagued with similarly-written words. I also speak Italian, and in that language words are generally very different from one another, so such typos don’t often happen…

          But there’s some outstandingly delicious pumpkin pie for me one day, if you keep making typos and I keep correcting them! So it’s gonna be a win-win there! Wow, your sister has eight kids you said? That’s a lot of pumpkin pie to feed them all. Get it into her head now, to start thinking nine!

          Cheers!
          Ken

          Reply
          • May 21, 2020 at 10:26 am
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            Haha, my bad on bad wording.
            I actually have 7 siblings, and my younger sister is the one who makes pumpkin pies.
            But regardless, it is a lot of kids to go through…
            No promises on wether it will come out unscathed…

    • May 21, 2020 at 8:01 am
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      Hi Alyssa,

      A great story.

      This will certainly be in the reckoning for my vote.

      I love the flow of the story and the way in which the child is completely unphased by every turn of event. Nothing seems to bother him as if he has been born without fear. Now wouldn’t that be nice,eh?

      Everything hangs together in this story and it is a complete story with beginning, middle and end. I say this as the 1200 word limit can sometimes be a tad restrictive, especially for someone like me who enjoys descriptive writing.

      One or two small points to mention;
      off of …don’t need of as well as off
      slinked…is this the past tense of to slink? Perhaps it is.
      treaded on…trodden on
      Alight down….don’t think you need down as it is included with alight
      investing? I wondered about invading instead

      I only mention these points as this was such a great story it deserves detailed comment.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
      • May 21, 2020 at 8:21 am
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        Ken F., what if we are actually all born without fear, perhaps, and then we LEARN fear from our elders?

        Shall we call it the curse of experience?

        I once read an article in a psych mag that there’s some anti-fear or memory-erasure mechanism in very little babies, for if any one of us were to remember the trauma of birth (and most particularly the double shock of the simultaneous transitions from liquid to air and from darkness to light), one’d be psychologically screwed up for life!

        I like to extend this to the other end of life, too, perhaps death is another birth-like experience (from air to “ether” [whatever that may be], universe plane to spiritual plane?) – a trauma, indeed, which may pay off in the longer term…

        Ken (M.)

        Reply
      • May 21, 2020 at 10:31 am
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        Thanks Ken F for the compliments and for pointing out those typos, which are pesty little vermins!

        If only we wouldn’t need to fear. It would be very nice I’d think.
        Yesterday I went hiking with some friends, and they took me along the ridge of a cliff. Unfortunately I’m afraid of heights… it did not bode well with me.
        It would’ve been nice to enjoy the view, instead of concentrating on trying not to pass out lol.

        Reply
    • May 21, 2020 at 11:36 pm
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      Alyssa,

      I haven’t had time to comment on most of the stories this week (there should be a story in that, but there isn’t) but I did want to tell you that the writing of your story, the way it was written was quite engaging. I mean, I really felt it. Like I was at some outdoor amphitheater, and the lights had gone down, and an unseen voice began telling me a tale, and by the end of the first paragraph, I knew I was going to be entertained.

      And I was right. The manner in which the story was told was the entertainment. The ending was the clincher and the moral was a bit of a bonus. Fear itself is our greatest adversary. Nicely done story.

      Reply
    • May 22, 2020 at 8:14 am
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      Oh, I see, so it’s you and your seven siblings who are the hungry kids when there is pumpkin pie 🙂

      Are you the oldest, youngest or somewhere in the middle?

      Reply
      • May 22, 2020 at 8:57 am
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        I’m somewhat in the middle. Third oldest. Still have a bit of influence over the younger ones… for now that is

        Reply
  • May 16, 2020 at 11:45 am
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    Aylssa – fantastic! You set a scene, fill it with a dark mood, populate it with interesting characters, create a conflict and enact a satisfying resolution. So well done in only 1200 words. I thought your plot was inventive and your word choice superb. Very well done!

    Reply
  • May 20, 2020 at 7:33 am
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    A black feather

    It was a quaint little planet. Very habitable, Corvus had thought at first. Beautiful forests and open plains with food aplenty. Lovely blue oceans of water covered most of the globe. Gorgeous snowcapped peaks towered over sweet fertile valleys and huge herds of some big furry beasts spread out over the wide expanse of grass lands in one vast continent.

    It was only when they took a closer look they understood how badly the planet was infested with a noxious species of two legged creatures. These creatures were some of the messiest, most aggressive and meanest that he and his crew had observed in the galaxies they had been traversing in the past two hundred and fifty time periods called years and used by this planet’s top predator.

    Corvus had logged observations from the year 1779 of their reckoning. Something called a revolution on one of the continents. He had tried to find meaning in the word so bandied about. It had something to do with the overthrow of some ruling order to be replaced supposedly by a better ruler. Quite blood thirsty, he thought to himself, logging on to the time periods when these occurred. Lots of deaths and very little change really, except more graves and dead bodies.
    He was going through his huge library of logged observations when Orave his mate came down onto the deck. She was a supremely beautiful bird. Her elegant glossy black feathers glowed with health, despite the fact she was overseeing the hatching of their latest brood of chicks. She leaned her head in on his shoulder.

    “Tired my love.” It was a statement, more than a question.

    She nodded. “Not long now. There are cracks appearing in the first of the eggs. I can hear them too. Tiny peeps.” She smiled.
    Corvus put a strong black feathered wing over her shoulder and rubbed. “Yes. Exciting, isn’t it? I wonder what we will get this time.”
    “Yes. I’m hoping for some hens. The last four boys were so rowdy and exhausting. So glad when they finally got their flying wings happening.”
    Corvus chuckled good-naturedly. He was also looking forward to this new hatching and hoped for hens.
    “They’re not very nurturing, are they? This dominant race of beings on the new planet.” Orave was reading over his shoulder. “Quite depraved in fact.”
    Corvus frowned. “Yes, that is an understatement. I’ve looked at what they do to their mates and also their hatchlings.” He shuddered in disbelief. “They are more than depraved. Hideously barbaric.”
    “Goodness. They sell their young too?”
    Corvus nodded gravely. “Yes, and worse.” He pointed to a country on the inactive map. “See here, they use their hatchlings to sew carpets. Here they are used in mines to collect raw materials to make their rather crude electronic devices.” Then his voice lowered to a shocked whisper. “You may not wish to see this.”
    Orave moved in closer. “What?” She looked at his white face, his eyes were widened and owlish with dismay.
    “They sell the hatchlings to older adults for…” He coughed in dismay and could not go on, so unbelievable it seemed. “For matings that have no purpose, but to give the adults pleasure…”
    Orave drew back in horror. “But the children, the young, they’re insane…they must be…”
    Corvus shook his head sadly. “For despite their technological advancement, this species are not very advanced socially.”
    “But that is absolutely insane. The children are the future of the race. The young must be nurtured and protected, not abused and used like…like…” Orave was in a deep state of shock. She shook her head in disbelief. “They’ll end up destroying themselves.”
    “Yes,” Corvus agreed, “and there you have the second problem. “They’re on the brink of doing just that.”
    “Don’t the breeders of their hatchlings try to prevent the abuse?”
    “Yes. They even have adults whose job in the community is to prevent abuses of children. Unfortunately, it is so wide-spread and insidious, they are overwhelmed.” Corvus shook his head sadly. “Even in parts of some countries, they sell people, particularly young people.” He lowered his voice. “They chop them up and use them for body parts for others of their kind. Absolutely barbaric.”
    Orave’s eyes widened and she snapped her beak in absolute disgust. “You’re serious?”
    “Unfortunately yes. Not only are they depraved in their personal relationships in many areas, but they appear to have no respect for each other or their young.”
    Orave thought a moment, her head cocked to one side. “Do you think if we took one of their hatchlings….?” She looked up at Corvus, “would they miss it? And we could raise it, perhaps with our own?”
    Corvus shook his head. “Ah, I don’t know…but then, again they are hardly likely to be missed…many of them. Let me see..?”

    And so it was two nights later as their triplet hen chicks finished hatching, Corvus appeared with child carried in a scarf.

    Orave was overjoyed. “A new born?” She cooed. They wrapped the child warmly and he was put in with the nestlings and he grew along with Agnes, Beatrice and Cornelia.

    He learnt to caw. But poor thing, he did not learn to fly nor could he ever speak as clearly or as intelligently as the three girls.
    Orave was clearly not happy with his behaviour nor his social etiquette.
    “He’s kind of aggressive in his approach to things.” She told Corvus one evening.
    “Oh, how so?”
    “Well, I hate to say this, but he’s rough with them. It’s lucky he can’t fly and they can.”
    “So, what are you suggesting?”
    “Perhaps we should return him to his own kind?”
    “Are you saying he’s unteachable? Remember your ambitions to teach him, civilize him. Are you saying now, it can’t be done?”
    Orave shook her head in a tired fashion. “I wish, it’s just that the humans are …so different. They’re cruel and rather predatory. Empathy for others is clearly lacking, don’t you think?”
    “Don’t say I didn’t warn you. They have pretty bad form.”
    “Look let’s give it another couple of weeks. See if we can’t make something of this child of the humans. I don’t want to abandon him to their neglectful ways again. You do know where I found him, don’t you?”
    “Yes,” she sighed, “in a trash can. A race of beings that treat their young so, do they deserve a future? How can they build a civilization on such practices?”
    Corvus reflected for some minutes.
    “I know. But those that do survive have this streak of survival at all costs. While frightening, it’s also admirable.
    “So, let’s observe him for another couple of weeks and see. Maybe he can change for the better? I must protect the girls though.”
    Later that night, Corvus watched the human child they had named Sapien.

    The three hen chicks were patient with him, but he could see the problems that would arise in the future, if there was one for the boy.
    A black feather fluttered to the floor as his chicks escaped the clutches of the boy yet again.

    Reply
    • May 21, 2020 at 8:10 am
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      Hi Ilana,

      Wow what a brilliant take-down of the human race. It seems that it is often “outsiders” who are best placed to see what is wrong. You know, the most junior and newly appointed member of staff asks the question, “Why do you do this in this way?”
      And the answer, if there is one, might be, “We’ve always done it like this.” This rings a bell in my own professional life.

      The glaring errors in our way of life are so obvious in this story. It is so well done. It lands a blow like a ten pound hammer to the head.

      Well done Ilana. Another fine example of your writing. This should be required reading in any modern society so that perhaps some of us might just moderate our behaviour.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
  • May 20, 2020 at 9:23 am
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    Sharing Dreams
    by Roy York
    1200 words

    “Logan.”

    “Logan!”

    “LOGAN Robert!!”

    12 year old Logan sat on the end of the couch, headphones on, his hands working feverishly on the game controls resting on his knees. The TV suddenly went blank. “Ahhh … ,” he exclaimed. He sat up and turned around to see his mother standing by the end table holding the cord in her hand as the plug hanging at the end gently swayed.

    “Why did you do that? Plug that back in.” He jumped from the couch. throwing the controls to one side, reaching for the cord and plug which she jerked out of his reach. He tried again and this time seized it, pulling it away. “Ha!,” he shouted.

    He plugged it back in, then jumped over the back of the couch waiting for the game to resume. Just as the game came on the TV went off again. “What now?” When he turned, his mother was holding the plug in her left hand. Only a foot of cord was hanging from it. The cord lay curled on the ground; his mother held a pair of scissors in her right hand.

    Logan was apoplectic. He could barely breathe. “You had no right to do that. None at all.”

    “Logan, it’s time for bed. I will not say it again.”

    “And if I don’t?”

    She slowly walked over to the game console. “Then this useless game will be in the trash.”

    “You wouldn’t?” His voice squeaked. “It’s mine.”

    “It’s not yours. I bought it for the family, not for you. Now go to bed. Tomorrow you need to be up early to help your grandfather. You promised him you would meet him early in the morning.”

    “Aww, mom, I just told him that so he would quit asking.”

    Adrienne gazed at her son for a moment. ‘Where,’ she thought, ‘did I go wrong with this child?’ “I won’t force you. You, however, will go to your grandfather’s tomorrow and explain to him yourself. This isn’t something I’m going to do for you.”


    “Mom, that’s over a mile away. You’ll have to drive me.”

    “You can walk.”

    “But … “

    “But, nothing. Now, go to bed.” She pointed her finger toward the stairs. “Before you go, give me your phone.”

    “Noooo!”

    She held out her hand. Reluctantly, he handed it to her.

    “It’s not fair,” he screamed as he bounded up the stairs and slammed his bedroom door shut.

    She looked down at the plug in her hand and stuffed it in her pocket. She then picked up the cord on the rug – its plug still intact – and plugged the TV back in. “Now, where did I put my wine glass?”

    ***

    “M’butu!”

    “Yes, Momma?” answered twelve year old M’butu.

    “It’s time to come in. Bring Nkunda with you. You need to sleep, remember, you’re meeting with Oupa in the morning.”

    M’butu turned to his younger brother sitting next to him, the reflection of the fire glowing in his eyes, “You heard Momma, ‘Kundi. Time to go in.”

    “M’butu, stir the coals and put on a few sticks. I want to sit by the fire later.”

    “Yes, Momma. Here, Kundi, do you want to stir the fire?”

    Kundi gladly took the stick from M’butu’s hand. It wasn’t often his twelve year old brother let him do anything. “Thank you, M’butu.” Nkunda stirred the fire, sparks rising into the night as he did.

    “Not too fast. You’ll will light the whole village on fire.” M’butu grabbed for the stick.

    Nkunda pulled it away. “I’ll be careful. Don’t be so bossy.”

    M’butu smiled. “I wasn’t allowed to stir the fire until I was ten. You are stirring at seven. You are a lucky boy, Kundi. Come on in, now It is time for bed. One day, you will be big enough to carry the buckets and help Oupa, too.”

    ***

    Logan tossed restlessly in his bed, roused from a dream shortly after midnight. At the same time, dawn was breaking in Africa. M’butu sat straight up on his mat waking from his dream. M’butu told his grandfather about the dream after arriving at his grandfather’s hut.

    “It was a large man wearing many hats, with a bird’s mask on his face. He stood silently watching me as I poked at crows. When I woke there were black feathers by my mat. What does it mean, Oupa?” asked the boy.

    Hi grandfather smiled. He looked at the young man, standing over 6 feet tall, with great fondness. “My Oupa told me that black feathers means it was a visit from someone in your past, looking over you, and they left the feathers as a message.”

    “Could it have been my father?” asked M’butu eagerly, wanting to believe his dead father who had died protecting the family from marauders had visited him in his dream,.

    “It very well might have been. It may be a sign, because I will not be able to go with you for water today. My leg is very bad; you must go by yourself. Now, you know you will not be alone; your father will be looking after you.”

    M’butu’s chest swelled with pride. He, M’butu, would be collecting the water for his family. He would make them proud. He couldn’t wait.

    “Here,” his grandfather said, “you will need strength to carry the water,” and offered him two bread cakes he had saved.

    “I cannot, Oupa, it is not my day to eat.”

    “Nonsense. You will need strength. You will do us no good if you cannot make the journey back. Eat, M’butu. Now, go fetch the water.”

    ***

    “I had a bad dream last night and hardly slept.”

    Logan’s mother took his now empty plate. “Do you remember it?”

    “Some dumb giant crow was staring at me wearing these goofy hats. There were birds with black feathers.”

    “Did you find any feathers in your room? My mother used to tell me black feathers were a bad omen. Someone was about to die – someone close.”

    “You can’t scare me anymore, Mom. I’ve outgrown fairy tales. There weren’t any dumb feathers. Do I have to go to Granpda’s? I’m too tired – I’ll call him later.”

    ***
    M’butu slowly walked back with the two buckets swaying from the stick across his shoulders. He was glad he had eaten those two bread cakes his grandfather had given him. He frowned as he realized his grandfather had given him his portion. ‘I will make it up to him.’ he thought and it gave him strength. M’butu picked up his pace.

    ***

    Logan tried calling again – still no answer. “I’ll try later,” he said out loud. He put on his earphones. Engrossed in his game, he didn’t hear the cell phone ringing. Finally it stopped.

    ***

    “Logan.”

    ‘Logan Robert!”

    Logan moved a headphone. “Now what? Can’t you see I’m playing?”

    “Logan, I’ve been calling you on the phone for hours. Grandpa’s in the emergency room. We need to go. Now.”

    Logan reluctantly tossed the joystick down and hit save. He brushed two black feathers from the couch. ‘Where did those come from?’ he wondered. “Coming, Mom, he said. “I hope this won’t take long,” he whispered to himself. “I’m on a roll.”

    Reply
    • May 21, 2020 at 8:14 am
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      Before it’s pointed out, I would like to acknowledge the glaring bit of improper sentence structure in these sentences: She held out her hand. Reluctantly, he handed it to her.

      They should read: She held out her hand. Reluctantly, he handed her his phone.

      Because otherwise, it could be thought he handed her her own hand. And yes, I just used ‘her’ twice in a row.

      I couldn’t believe I made that rookie mistake, but I’m pleading an overdose of giddiness caused my grammatical gaffs. You see, I had a colonoscopy on Tuesday and was told I am cancer free, at least visibly, and don’t have to undergo another for 3 years. Well, provided I live that long.

      Roy

      Reply
    • May 21, 2020 at 8:26 am
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      Hi Roy,

      So many truths in this short story. Are we really building a generation glued to electronic devices? Yes, I think we are. And aren’t we there too with our I phones and tablets? We can all see it but it isn’t all that new a phenomenon, it’s just new devices, ever more seductive. It used to be cigarette cards when my dad was at school, then football cards or cars, or TV stars, then that little animal you had to nurture and so it goes on.

      I think there must be thousands, perhaps millions of children who retreat into their own little worlds, engrossed by gaming apps and parents who, especially in lockdown time, are just relieved that they are not getting in their hair or moaning. Challenging times certainly.

      I love the contrast that you point out so clearly in your story. I find it ironic though, that the people in the poorer parts of this world are, in the main, craving for the things that the first world has already, beyond the basic needs for food, safe drinking water, education, a home with a roof and decent medical care. Thus, we see on newsreels, poor, maybe starving children wearing a Man United football jersey.

      You point out so clearly just what it is that we may be losing and it’s not just Grandpa or Oupa.

      Great stuff Roy.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
      • May 21, 2020 at 9:12 am
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        Thanks for your thoughtful critique and generous praise, for that is exactly what I was trying to point out. Not that the African child is a better child, but one that understands at an early age what they have and don’t have, which the other young man has still to learn.

        I never really knew either of my grandfathers, and try my best to be a good one to my grandchildren. From what I hear from them, I think I have succeeded; at least I certainly interpret what they say and how they show their affection as doing a good job.

        Thanks again Ken. Now to reread the stories and vote. Once again, you will get strong consideration for my first place vote. It’s a pleasure to read your stories. I’m still thinking about Victorian Puddles.

        Roy

        Reply
  • May 20, 2020 at 1:53 pm
    Permalink

    Hey writers!!

    You know the drill… It’s time to vote!

    Remember you MUST vote for your story to count, you can only vote once, and you may NOT vote for yourself.

    http://fiction.wwocz.net/blog/voting-feathers/

    You officially have 24 HOURS from the timestamp of this comment to read through the stories vote.

    Good luck!

    Reply
  • May 20, 2020 at 5:08 pm
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    Awesome stories! I loved them all – which made voting very hard! No time for a story from me this go around. Can’t wait to see the winners.

    Reply
  • May 21, 2020 at 12:08 pm
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    We are still waiting on Mr. Cartisano to vote.
    I did say it was 24 hours from the date stamp of the “time’s up” post. So he (and anyone else) does have another two hours to get the votes submitted.

    Reply
  • May 21, 2020 at 4:37 pm
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    Some good stories. Ken Frape’s really stands out, but by the same token it was hard to choose the top five.

    Reply
  • May 21, 2020 at 7:41 pm
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    Carrie, (et al)
    Hey is it too late to vote? My dog ate my cat, which swallowed the flashdrive that had my operating system on it. I’ll need another two hours to vote. It takes time for the (what do you call that stuff?) The anesthetic.! It takes a while for the anesthetic to kick in. Before I can operate. On the dog. to get the cat and find the thumbdrive. You understand. It’s a process. You can’t rush through or skip any steps or it all goes bad. If you can wait a couple of hours. Have a drink or two. I have to eat first too. I never operate on an empty stomach. Not prudent. Plus I need to read the rest of the stories. Three in all. I can eat and read, but the operational stuff, still gonna take at least an hour.

    Reply
    • May 21, 2020 at 7:46 pm
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      OMG hurry up already will ya?

      Actually I am still at work so there’s a very good chance I won’t be able to tally votes til late tonight or tomorrow morning honestly.

      Good thing it’s a bonus contest so I feel like I can stretch out a little leeway 🤔😊😉

      Reply
      • May 22, 2020 at 4:17 am
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        Well, looks like I’ve got time to write a story, vote, paint the house, perform surgery on the pets (it’s catching) …

        I’ve just been to look at the other (non-bonus) thread, and it’s very quiet over there. Thought I’d come over here and ruffle some feathers

        Reply
  • May 22, 2020 at 8:03 am
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    Ok writers! Sorry for the delay!
    (I blame Ken C not my job…..)

    Without further ado here are your winners!

    In 1st Place: Fear by Phil Town!

    2nd Place: Black Wings by Alyssa Daxson
    3rd Place: Raven Claw by Ken Frape
    4th Place: Raven Son by Ken Cartisano
    5th Place: There Are Things Darker Than Shadows by Amelie
    6th Place: The Feather of a Black Angel by Ken Miles
    7th Place: Sharing Dreams by Roy York
    8th Place: A Black Feather by Ilana L

    Favorite Character: “Michael” in Black Wings by Alyssa Daxson
    Favorite Dialogue: Raven Son by Ken Cartisano

    Congrats to all! What a great round of stories!!

    Reply
    • May 22, 2020 at 9:00 am
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      Congrats Phil and Ken F! And thanks for the second place! I’m over the roof! (No literally, I’m on the roof right now as I type)

      Reply
  • May 22, 2020 at 8:21 am
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    Congrats Phil, Alyssa and Ken F.!

    And Alyssa again and Ken C. for character and dialogue.

    Give and take a little, my personal choices too 🙂

    Reply
  • May 22, 2020 at 9:05 am
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    Congratulations winners great stories and someone has to take last place. Just in the course of things 😊

    Reply
  • May 22, 2020 at 9:11 am
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    Well! You could have knocked me down with a feather!

    Thanks very much all – that’s given me a nice buzz going into the weekend.

    And congrats to everyone – great stories!

    Reply
  • May 22, 2020 at 1:26 pm
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    Congratulations on another win, Phil. I enjoyed your story but I didn’t understand the ending. So uh, what does your story mean? Could you have one of the other Ken’s ask Andy to explain it to me?

    I never considered the meaning of a black feather. So I’m sure I’m not the only one who googled it and found that a black feather is the sign of a guardian angel, of promise, good fortune and providence. ‘The symbolism of a crow feather means to do with balance, magic, ancient wisdom, cunning and skill, boldness, and release from past beliefs.’

    That’s what I was thinking when I wrote my story and that’s what I think Alyssa’s story was about. (Although I could be wrong.) And why it was my choice for first place, DESPITE all of the mistakes. The quality of the writing deserves more careful editing from Alyssa.

    I had Ken M’s story in second place. It was entertaining too, just not quite as entertaining as Alyssa’s. But far more complex and believable, a brilliant plot, really. Just slightly less entertaining in the telling. This really could’ve been my first choice. Oh well, too late now.

    Ken Frape’s story? An easy third. I thought it would finish higher, as excellent as Ken’s writing is, this particular plot was not that ‘eyebrow-raising.’ But the quality of the writing alone, deserves recognition. I thought the narration telegraphed the ending too soon in the story though. A rare mistake for Ken F.

    I had Phil (the winner) in fourth place, for the writing too, as I didn’t care for the basic plot: And I didn’t understand the ending. (Since this story came in first place, I must have missed something obvious in the ending. I should probably read it again. But that would be three times. I shouldn’t have to read a story three times to get the ending.) It was the skillful exposition that made this story pleasing. (Until the ending.)

    I had Ilana in fifth, more for the story than the writing. Supremely ironic, true sci-fi, a possible whiff of slapstick, but the dialogue needed more contractions. The abduction of the child was far-fetched and could’ve used some more (or even less) plausible set-up.

    I didn’t understand Amelie’s story. It was vivid and dramatic, but I wasn’t sure what certain things meant. The ‘green glow’ for instance. The ‘non-void’. ‘I ain’t never had no problems with no double-negatives. Not around here I haven’t. It’s hard to imagine the ‘undescribable.’ I needed more clarity. Others, apparently, did not.

    And Roy’s story seemed kind of – over-the-top. I think, for instance, the western child should be offered a ride, and expect it, rather than demanding it. Rather than handling his game console roughly, he may actually handle that… with care. I think the described behavior of both children was too stereotypical. Certain stereotypes are entertaining or necessary, but if the stereotype is your main character, your story has a lot to overcome.

    In honor of my fourth-place finish, and Memorial Day, and day 79 of the beginning of the apocalypse, in addition to being Friday, and other unmentioned occasions, I will now rename all of our stories.

    No, no. No thanks is necessary, nor expected, not from this crowd of probable mask-boilers.

    Fearling. By Phil Town. (Fuhgeddaboudit.)
    Black Wing. By Alyssa Daxson. (You were just one letter off, my dear.)
    The Lone Angel. By Ken Miles. (Just work ‘lone’ into your story, Ken.)
    Craven Law. By Ken Frape. (Make the narrator a lawyer, problem solved.)
    A Licorice Feather. By Ilana Leeds. (Because…licorice.)
    DreamShares. By Roy York. (I’m doing all the work here, I should get a cut.)
    There Are Things More Complicated Than This Title. By Amelie. (And they’re in your story, Amelie.)
    Ravenlin’. By Ken Cartisano. (Title is like leprechaun, magically implausible. Makes about as much sense as the story.)

    You people are definitely not worth the effort I’ve put in, and you know it. You all know it. But how many of you will admit it? Come on, admit your insignificant unworthiness. Admit it. I have things to do. Read your new names and weep.

    Reply
    • May 22, 2020 at 2:27 pm
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      @KenC

      It was good to see the reasoning behind your voting, and it all makes sense.

      I suppose I must have been doing something right to come in first. But anyway, just to explain that ending …

      Further up we see that the Crow King is “Hungry for the terror that was his right, he moved from the shadows into the now-gloom of the clearing.” So we can surmise that KC gets off on the fear (see the title of the story) that these children (annual event, ‘white sticks’ in the [sometimes brown – blood] earth) show … and hence his perplexity when this particular ‘child’ (though maybe he isn’t) doesn’t show any fear.

      Then the last line: KC is about to get his with a snap of the fingers and “For the first and last time in his long life, the Crow King felt now what he had always craved.” Felt what? Well fear, obvs.

      (Still as clear as mud, I expect …)

      For what it’s worth I think your story deserved more than 4th – the dialect you used for the narration was terrific. But then as we know, this voting lark is all subjective … as your voting pattern shows.

      Reply
    • May 22, 2020 at 3:56 pm
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      Thanks for your nearly-first place, and praise for my story, Ken! Second on your books is not bad either. And I agree with your top vote going to Alyssa’s story; I had her in first place too. The beautifully woven writing and overall plot redeem those pesky typos that can easily be ironed out with a bit more attention.

      I wonder what your take is on my reply to Roy’s comment to my story (about whether sentences really exist in life, except at school…).

      Ken

      Reply

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