March 9- March 22, 2017 Flash Fiction Contest “Night Photography”

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


Contest theme: “Night Photography”.

This theme is wide open my friends, your story can be about anything as long as it in some way relates to night photography.

This Prompt’s Word limit: 1500.

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

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

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

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 Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.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

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

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

***the next writing prompt will be chosen by Ilana Leeds per the Writing Prompt Roster.

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

See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.


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87 thoughts on “March 9- March 22, 2017 Flash Fiction Contest “Night Photography”

  • March 10, 2017 at 10:05 am
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    REMEMBER TO COMMENT AND/OR CRITIQUE ON ANY OF THE STORIES, HIT THE REPLY BUTTON BELOW THE CORRESPONDING STORY. WE ARE NO LONGER USING LINKEDIN FOR OUR CRITIQUES.

    THANK YOU, THE MANAGEMENT.

    Reply
  • March 10, 2017 at 2:00 pm
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    Congrats to Alice for the win and the rest of the gang for some bang up stories. I really liked Tegon Maus’ story of the napping man and his cat, but failed to read it until after I voted. It could have nudged a few other stories aside in my vote had I noticed it sooner. A totally humorous take on time travel indeed.

    A bit surprised that Ken Allen’s story didn’t win easily. I thought it was the best story by far, with several others all vying for second. Judging by the effusive comments it received, I thought that was the general consensus. Apparently not, but it certainly earned my first-place vote. It was a great story Ken A. Publish that sucker, now.

    Reply
    • March 10, 2017 at 2:35 pm
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      Thanks Ken C.! Ken Allen also got my first place vote, I thought it would be between Ken A and Phil for first, but I am grateful for the votes. Thanks you all.

      Reply
    • March 14, 2017 at 6:36 pm
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      Ah, so this where congratulation measages are being posted! Thanks Ken C for your kind words … the process is sound – writers choose the winner, there is no disputing that.
      Also, congrats to Alice – I also posted on LI …
      Now, what’s this Night Photography business??

      Reply
      • March 15, 2017 at 8:43 am
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        Thank you Ken A, there were some wonderful stories, anyone of them good enough to be top dog.

        Now this Night Photography is a prompt given us courtesy of Ralph. It’s wide open, the story just has to include something about night Photography. The rest is up to your fertile imagination. 😊

        Reply
  • March 10, 2017 at 3:21 pm
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    I was picking Alice as the winner and liked Phil’s story too. Actually good stories and congratulations Alice. I will give you a prompt in the next day. I have something boiling away in my head, just hope it does not boil dry before I get it to you.
    Great story Alice and all writers good writing.

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    • March 10, 2017 at 7:07 pm
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      Thank you Ilana!

      Reply
  • March 11, 2017 at 1:49 pm
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    I posted my congratulations on the ‘Winners’ thread, which maybe no one has read … so in case anyone thinks I’ve got a case of sour grapes, let me repeat them:

    Congratulations, Alice! Great story.

    Reply
    • March 11, 2017 at 1:58 pm
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      Thanks Phil, and sorry guys. When I first put up the winner’s thread I forgot to open up the comments. Then I did after Ken had already commented here. I didn’t want this thread to be filled with comments about the last contest, but it’s okay if this is where we want to do that. My fault, I’ll get the hang of this new way soon. Thanks guys, looking forward to everyone’s story for Night Photography!

      Reply
    • March 11, 2017 at 5:59 pm
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      Yes, Andy, this is where we post stories, as well as comments and critiques. Welcome back my friend. 🙂

      Reply
      • March 11, 2017 at 6:18 pm
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        Thanks, nice to be back!
        What’s been happening?

        Reply
        • March 11, 2017 at 6:47 pm
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          Well, LinkedIn has become even less user-friendly, so we’ve shifted everything over to WordPress. Had a few new writers, with the last contest, which was nice. And i just released an ebook of short stories called Hell is for Puppies. All in all, it’s been crazy as usual since you were last here. 🙂

          Reply
          • March 12, 2017 at 5:08 am
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            Hmm, tell me about LI becoming ever more user-unfriendly. I’ve dropped out of almost every group I was in, and the updates I get are dominated by pointless promotions. Ah well.
            I look forward to reading stories by new writers in the group. And congratulations on your ebook – I’ve just bought it. Though the title worries me … 🙂

            Hopefully my book of SF shorts will be out this year ‘Us and Not Us’ – have a cover for it now, just not the time to organise all the practicalities. My days are completely taken up with work all over the country until the end of April – which is why I haven’t been here so much lately.

          • March 12, 2017 at 2:29 pm
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            Andy, thanks for buying my book!! I truly appreciate it. Well LinkedIn recently re-designed their interface, proceeding to make it even more difficult to navigate the place. The menu that used to be on top of every page, is now only on top of the homepage, so you have to go back there to see if you have any notifications, because for some reason, we don’t seem to get those notifications, only those pointless promotions. So that’s why we moved. Please let us know when your book comes out.

  • March 11, 2017 at 6:06 pm
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    Night’s bright shadow completes the man

    By day, who could be more respectable than I? Sitting just a rung or two below the Prime Minister, I am a well-regarded man, a benefactor of hospitals, an advocate for the improvement of the masses.

    But I am also more. The gentleman of the daytime blends into the man of the night. Late night sittings in Parliament keep me away from the safe environs of my home, and I can indulge my other self in the inns and alleyways of our capital. To roam from the licentious streets of Whitechapel to the exotic dens of ill-repute in Limehouse – these provide an entry to the range of pleasures that cannot be spoken of amongst those worthy men and women content to live only half a life.

    My pleasures are not of the ordinary kind. Though I drink and laugh and gamble with friends who dabble at the foothills of vice, their simple and innocent vice bores me. The beast within demands more.

    At midnight the streets of East London throng with the drunk and dissipated, gentlemen adventurers, students learning the necessary secrets of manhood, as well as the lonely, desperate and deformed. There are singers, tricksters, jugglers, actors and actresses – all looking for a way up in the world as instead they sink to the bottom.

    And there in the depths is my Anya, my exotic angel of pain, for whom nothing is too much to endure.

    To discover the deepest pinnacles of vice, you need to roam those streets and alleyways that the gaslight does not reach; where tall tenements keep the sun from ever penetrating the shadows; where church bells are only heard as muffled echoes through the fog.

    The smells of this vital wasteland excite my soul: the foul miasma of the river, the whiff of an opium den as a door quickly opens and shuts, the cheap perfume of the streetwalkers as they pursue you with lewd shouts and gestures.

    I have ventured through all their tricks and secrets. Yet always I craved further exaltation in degradation. Until I found my Anya, who so captured me with her art – the only woman to dominate me so completely. She is my saint, my harlot; my most complete, perfect and terrible woman.

    I was happy to shower her with gifts, to set her up with a finer life. Yet her demands increased – for her ‘sick brother’. But this brother was a fraud: in reality her lover, husband, daemon, pimp – a wastrel of huge appetites and cunning.

    He – Petrovsky by name – took all I gave her and more. Then, one ill-starred night, they drugged me with opium. They entrapped me in intimate poses with chains and whips, embracing every kind of monstrous creature from the gutter. Exploiting my stupor, Petrovsky took photographs of it all. Then blackmailed me with ever increasing demands.

    Yet it was all too plain to see that Anya was not prospering from the money I gave. For Petrovsky was addicted both to narcotics and gambling.

    Then one day in Limehouse, I chanced to see Anya entering a pawn shop. I waited in the shadows and went in after she left. The pawnbroker showed me the silver necklace she had pawned. It was nothing of great value, but one I knew Anya treasured greatly, a parting gift from her mother.

    Still the demands for money kept coming, and the threats of exposure. One morning I saw these words scrawled on the wall outside my home: “The world will know who you are!”. The writing was indeed on the wall – but for them, not me. It was time to unleash my other self and end this.

    In Stepney I hired two ruffians. We went to Petrovsky’s grim and foul-smelling lodgings. I offered a final payment, demanding in return the photographic plates and all prints in their possession. When they refused, I had my ruffians bind Petrovsky and hold a razor to his throat.

    Anya had a choice to make: Petrovsky’s life for the photographic plates and prints. It disappointed me a little how eagerly she accepted the trade. We went through the darkest alleys to the home of her friend where they were kept. She assured me there were no others, and I believed her.

    Returning to her lodgings, I had the ruffians take Petrovsky to a certain dockyard and wait for me. Meanwhile, I would have my last moments of exhilaration with Anya.

    I cannot describe the ferocity of our passion. From deep within, an ancient memory stirred: my inner reptilian self emerged, cold-blooded and predatory, like the great lizards of prehistory, savage and tyrannical. When the frenzy passed, I saw her broken and mutilated body. The passion that had enslaved me was gone. A few strokes of a knife, and people would believe her to be the latest of the Ripper killings.

    And Petrovsky? I paid the ruffians off, then cut his throat and dropped him in the Thames. Another victim of the opium gangs, it would seem.

    I burned the prints. As I studied the photographic plates, I saw myself in negative, and was for a time fascinated. The outer edges of the plates were white, where the darkness of the night was in negative rendered bright. Conversely, the wicked acts in the centre image appeared darker on the plate, where in life they had been briefly illuminated by the flare of a magnesium lamp.

    I broke the plates and crushed them underfoot, before consigning the shards of my entrapment to the fire.

    Some may think I have sold my soul to the devil. That is not so – I have merely lent it to him. I use my wealth and power to do much good, and overwhelm my peers with the generosity of my donations. Thus I will redeem my soul, as if from that very same pawn shop where Anya parted with her cross.

    But not yet – for there is so much more I have still to taste.

    Reply
    • March 15, 2017 at 11:58 pm
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      Great writing, Andy. A complex, exciting and sophisticated story, brimming with powerful imagery(?), exposition(?) ‘Yet always I craved greater exaltation in degradation.’ ‘…briefly illuminated by the flare of a magnesium lamp.’ ‘…consigning the shards of my entrapment to the fire.’ Great stuff, carefully wrought. The writing reflects the historical period in question too, and the reference to a real historical event is a nice touch. This is a good story just for the writing, but offers so much more.

      Reply
      • March 16, 2017 at 6:42 pm
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        Many thanks for your comments, Ken.
        I had to step out of my normal kitten-cuddling character to write this one.

        Reply
    • March 16, 2017 at 7:18 pm
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      Andy fantastic story! I could see this being a longer story, a book even. I was hooked right from the start, the flow, the inner dialogue of the main character was brilliantly done. It had a 19th-century feel, I could see the gas lights, and the dirty streets of the time. In case you aren’t sure, I LOVED this story.

      Reply
      • March 17, 2017 at 5:52 am
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        Many thanks, Alice. Glad you liked it!
        Not sure I could sustain the tone and everything for a whole book – but you’ve set me thinking …

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    • March 17, 2017 at 8:08 pm
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      This is terrific stuff, Andy. Elegant, evocative, exciting … every line a gem.

      Flawless, I’d suggest.

      Bravo!

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    • March 20, 2017 at 10:51 am
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      Andy – what an extraordinary story, your world building skills never cease to amaze me. I loved the main character and the visual elements took me into every scene. Bravo!

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    • March 22, 2017 at 1:27 pm
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      Andy,
      Such a dark story, but you wrote it so poetically it was harder to notice.
      The depth in the story was fascinating. So many layers to uncover to get to the real man and his cover ups.
      Great job.

      Reply
  • March 12, 2017 at 10:31 am
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    LIVE FEED

    Weed: check. Beer: check. Crisps: check. Kleenex, for later: check.

    Aaah. That’s some seriously good grass.

    Another night in front of the computer screen, surfing through the infinite. This is the life.

    Some would say I’m wasting God’s gift. You know what I’d say to them? Go and–

    Hahaha! Facebook puppies! Fluffy little puppies. Playing. But someone’s put a caption on the clip: “Warning: graphic dog fight!” That makes it funny.

    I wonder who makes up these captions. They must be funny guys. Or girls.

    I could never come up with anything as witty.

    Maybe because I spend all my life consuming and not creat…

    Wow. That’s some goal. That’s a goal and a half. I’ll have to watch that again.

    How did he do that? That’s superhuman. That’s gotta be … well … one of the greatest goals … this weekend.

    Ha! I made a joke! Not a hilarious joke, I admit. But … I …

    Now, where was I? Ah, okay. Some YouTube, why not? Who shall I have a listen to?

    A bit of 60s garage. Yeah … that’s nice.

    Ah, man. A bloke could get lost in YouTube. It’s like a maze. You go in thinking you’ll just listen to one song, then there’s that sidebar that takes you …

    No! I mustn’t get trapped. Just this one song.

    Then maybe that other one by them. Just two. Or maybe just their first album.

    Nonono! Just the one song! Come on! You can’t be here all night!

    Yeah, that was good. I’ll come back to them. I’m humming it already – very catchy.

    I think I’ll look in on the badgers now. Then the porn.

    Let’s see. Favourites. Animals. Live feeds. Badgers. And here we are.

    I like that night-vision quality of the image. Kind of eerie.

    What have we got, then?

    Some undergrowth. Sticks. I think that’s their sett, there on the right.

    Not very clear, but it IS night-time – what can I expect?

    Fascinating, I don’t think. I don’t know why I come to this site every night really. I suppose it’s a kind of escape into the countryside – from the sofa. But I could go to the surfing sites – they have more action, AND it’s during the day so you can actually see things happening.

    What have I got here? Undergrowth and sticks. I’ve never even seen a badger yet – oh, except that one time, I caught the tail of one going into the sett.

    Okay, so I’ll give it five minutes, just to see if any of the little blighters show their face.

    I bet they know there’s an automatic camera pointed at them and they’ve burrowed a back entrance to the sett, and they’re coming and going in and out like nobody’s business … fooling the whole world.

    Or fooling me, just me. “Currently watching: 1.” Lucky they’re not relying on advertising revenue!

    No, I’ll give it another couple of min–

    Hang on! What’s that!? A foot!

    A lady’s foot! What the f…?! What’s she doing out there?

    Hahaha! Tripped! On the ground.

    Hey, she’s nice. Nice pair of–

    Wait. Who’s that?

    A man!

    Two men! What … what are they …?

    Bloody hell! Don’t do that! No!

    You bastards! You can’t …

    Leave her alone!

    They don’t know there’s a camera! They don’t know there’s a camera!

    What can I … Call the police! I could call–

    But they’d see I’ve been at the weed. Bound to give me a hard time. And then there’d be all the forms, and the questions, and the suspicion…

    No, I can’t be getting involved with the police. I can’t. I’ve got work in the morning. Up at 6.

    No, no police.

    Oh, man. That’s not nice. You shouldn’t be doing that.

    Get off her. Get off! Get … what’s that?

    A … looks like a … knife?

    You can’t! You … can’t do … I can’t. No!

    Cats. Jumping over furniture. Ha! That’s funny. That’s cute.

    I wish I had a cat, so that I could post videos of it online.

    Hahaha! That one fell in the waste-paper basket. That’s hilarious.

    But I’m sure she’ll be fine. She can look after herself. She’ll find a way out of it. She’ll be fine.

    .

    Reply
    • March 14, 2017 at 2:40 pm
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      Well-paced and involving story, Phil – captures how we have the technology to be more connected than ever but at the same time become more socially or morally disconnected from each other. Disturbingly real.
      As flash fiction it works really well, both encapsulating a moment and the emotional reactions of the story-teller.

      Reply
      • March 17, 2017 at 8:27 pm
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        Thanks, Andy – you’re very kind.

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    • March 16, 2017 at 7:58 pm
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      Phil, I liked your take on the negative aspects of modern technology, and I really liked the scattered-brained pot smoking main character. Even though he rarely completed a sentence, it was still easy to follow his train of thought or lack thereof.

      As usual, your writing is spot on, but I think the story itself lacks something, but I can’t quite put my finger on what it’s missing, and I’m sorry I can’t be more specific, it’s always a feeling for me when it comes to writing, it’s something intangible and I don’t always have helpful words to express those feelings. A very interesting premise though.

      Reply
      • March 17, 2017 at 8:34 pm
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        Thanks for the positive words, Alice. I don’t know what might be lacking for you – maybe the fact that there’s no resolution to the rape/possible murder? I wanted it to be that way really, because the protagonist has a similar feeling at the end there.

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    • March 20, 2017 at 10:52 am
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      Phil – great story, it flowed very well, like Alice said, even though some of the sentences were clipped you could still follow very easily. I remember reading articles about women who were being raped and facebook live streamed it, or that disabled man that got kidnapped and taken into Chicago where his captors live streamed while they made him drink dirty toilet water and beat him for all the world to see. I can imagine there were many people watching and while disgusted, chose not to do anything for whatever reason. I love technology but I hate it too. I thought because he was both male and stoned out of his mind, his mediocre reaction was pretty fitting. (not a dig at men – I just think women would have had a more emotional reaction because they’re wired differently.)

      Reply
    • March 22, 2017 at 1:48 pm
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      Phil,

      This was an interesting read. I like the way it looks like dialogue but is just the one man and his thoughts.
      You captured, what this new world of computers can so easily do to us, very well.
      So many people in today’s world are hooked on reality shows either on the net or TV. But have also watched or played so many crime/violent games they are immune to the fact those on the reality do not get to replay/do over for a better chance.

      Somehow I do not think it was just the weed that keeps him from doing the right thing.
      Nice job.

      Reply
  • March 16, 2017 at 12:43 am
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    Phil, Great plot–your writing is wonderful of course, and I like the idea that this is first person, (because that makes it us, not us looking down our noses at some other person) but I feel that the character’s thoughts alone are not enough to convey the tension and distress he must feel. I get it that he is not particularly virtuous, and that he is somewhat distressed, but some description of his physical reaction might add depth to the character. (A trembling hand, sweat, an urge to look away. Something.) He could have more depth and still be shallow. I don’t know. What do you think? Am I out of line? Nuts? Cold and prickly? I hope not. I hate that.

    Reply
    • March 17, 2017 at 8:47 pm
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      Thanks for your kind words (as always) Kenneth.

      You’re never “out of line”? Please do always tell it like you see it.

      Like you, I think the first-person narration works quite well, and because of that, objective description might sound a little contrived. (“My hands are trembling. I can’t watch.”) I’d hoped that this sentiment came out in the protagonist’s thinking and action: his desperate (silent or not) shouting at the screen, his switching to cat clips to escape the horror. And his trying to convince himself that everything will be okay with the woman, although he’s finding it hard to convince himself (thus the repetition in the last line).

      I could maybe have been a little more overt about all of that (as you intimate). It’s a thin line (between overtness and suggestion) that I’m always balancing on (a little shakily at times, it must be said).

      Reply
      • March 18, 2017 at 9:58 am
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        Alice and Ken, it’s funny how stories affect us differently.
        I thought Phil’s was right on the money in portraying a mildly feckless, aimless but generally harmless person – easily amused by social media (maybe it’s the weed!) probably a bit lonely, as his preparations indicate – and then he’s confronted with a moment when he should really make a stand and haul himself out of his torpor – but doesn’t. A chance to authenticate his existence, if we want to get existentialist about it – being condemned to choose. He chooses inaction, as that’s in his comfort zone. It challenges us – would we act?

        Ken (C) is looking for visible signs of distress. The narrator is distressed for a moment, but I wonder how much? I was reminded of a couple of lines in a Tim Buckley song, “Living each day with trivial hearts / We just stop once in a while cry over the news …” – and maybe when we witness something on the screen rather than in real life we can soon bury our distress and move on to the next thing.

        Reply
  • March 16, 2017 at 5:03 am
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    What darkness lies at the heart of a man with a knife to his throat

    I held the magnifying glass up to the image and stared. It was him alright, Danny Wilks, sliding out the front door of a well-known strip club on the seedier part of town, the bit slightly more seedy than the other. He had his collar up, hat down and hands pushed into his coat pockets like he was searching for his wedding ring.

    It wasn’t glamorous work, but jobs like this are what I was good at, and what dame’s like Daisy Wilks paid for. A daily rate plus expenses, half up front, the rest on delivery of proof. And the proof is what I held in my hands.

    But as alluring as payday seemed, my attention was stolen by her. It was unmistakable. She was mid stride, her red coat pulled tight around her bust, her blond, curly locks floating in mid-air. I held the photo up to my desk lamp, inspecting the illusion, running my thumb over her as if doing so would make her disappear. Unfortunately, she was as permanent in the photo as the flask stashed in my coat pocket. The only thing I had to figure out was why a dead woman happened to make her way into my photograph.

    I put the photo down with the others on my desk and spun in my chair to face the window. I eased out my old friend from my coat on the back of the chair. I looked past the rain dribbling down the pane to the night beyond. The dull world intermittently emblazoned by the gaudy neon sign of the bowling alley across the street. I sip. It’s the kind of drink that burns your throat and sits heavy in your stomach, banishing your emotions to a dark pit. I hate bowling. It’s a game for boys to impress the girls or for old people to spend their days to take their minds off their impending deaths. I much preferred drinking, the sport where I’m a winner and everyone else can go to hell.

    My heart beat in rhythm to the neon glow. I inspected my washed-out reflection when the light subsided, giving me three seconds to inspect my unshaven face and saggy bags under my eyes. I hadn’t slept in days, but who needs sleep when you’re curled up with some broad who’s retainer is paying your rent. I pulled my revolver out of my shoulder holster with my free hand and inspected it. I had the type of job where my friends were either the low life scum I beat for information or the tools to help me put up with them.

    I looked at the two items in my hand and wondered which one I should put in my mouth. I opted for the slow burn, letting the cheap booze do its work. I shuddered as a chill ran down my spine and decided it was time to retire the two for the night. I wouldn’t need them for my late-night rendezvous with Daisy. And I had the feeling once she saw the photos she was going to cough up more than a few bucks.
    I turn back around and place the items on my desk. I look up and just about mess my pants.

    She sat in the chair opposite, her hair wet and her makeup perfect. She smelt like the ocean. It reminded me of making love to my second wife on the beach, the sand finding its way into places that sand should not go. It was a pity I was still married to my first wife at the time. The woman stared at me, seductively, like she wanted more than some polite conversation.

    “Christ, Mrs Masters, you’re going to give someone a heart attack sneaking around like that.” To tell you the truth, she almost gave me a heart attack. She ignored me, so I continued talking.

    “You know there’s a lot of people around the place saying you’re dead, but here you are, sitting in my office.”

    She pulled out a cigarette from her carry case and lit it before I could stumble over my desk to be near her. Her blue eyes were as pale as her soft skin, her curly hair an unmistakable marker. She brushed some hair away from her face and blew the smoke into the air. I follow the smoke trail, mesmerised, as it disappeared like Betty Masters supposedly did over a month ago.

    “Yes, here I am,” she said. Her husky voice begged, no, commanded, my attention, and I was powerless to ignore it. “But I’m not dead, not yet anyway. And call me Betty.”

    “Betty, what on earth are you talking about?”

    “My husband is planning to murder me.” She drew on her cigarette.

    I took out my own stick of dynamite and lit it. If it blew up right now I’d be a happy man. “If you don’t mind me asking, Mrs Masters … Betty … why not go to the police?”

    She laughed. “Because Johnny owns the cops. He might be shaking hands in city hall but he’s just as dirty and twice as crooked. Besides, I haven’t got any proof, none I could give you anyhow. This is why I’m in a place like this talking to a man like you. You are a man, aren’t you?”

    I just about swallowed my smoke. I’ve always wanted to be referred to as a man like me. The very thought made me as soft as butter and hard as steel at the same time.

    “It’s not going to be cheap,” I said. “Your husband has connections, bodyguards. I can’t just walk in there and beat it out of him.”

    “Mr Chadwick …”

    “Please, call me Rocky.”

    She smiled and I was sure I was in love. She’s the kind of girl you’d take to see your parents and marry her the next day. A real keeper. Every man wanted to kiss her, sleep with her or marry her, and I was no exception.

    “Rocky, money isn’t a problem. I have plenty stashed away. I just need you to save me, and I will be eternally in your debt.” She batted her eyelashes like she was starting a monsoon.

    “Yeah, sure thing,” I stuttered, trying to find words that didn’t make me sound like the drunk I am. “Let me just get some details from you …” I turned to my filing cabinet and retrieved a piece of paper.

    When I turned back around, she was gone, the last wisps of smoke disappearing in a haze, the faint hint of her perfume clung to the air delicately. I stood and approached the chair, trying to understand the magic trick that had just been played. I got down on my hands and knees and looked under my desk.

    The door burst open and I spun around. It was Doris, standing in the doorway with a clipboard folder on her bountiful hips.

    “Mrs Wilks here to see you.” She removed her glasses. “For God’s sake, Rocky, what are you doing?”

    I stood and dusted off my hands. “Did Betty Masters get by you?”

    She placed a hand on her other hip and I prepared myself for the onslaught. “How long have I been working for you?”

    “Seven years?” Give or take.

    “And in seven years, have I ever let anyone slip by me? Let alone someone as well-to-do as Betty Masters?”

    I ignored the question because Doris was right. She once held off a police raid of five detectives to give me time to climb out the fire escape.

    “Keep this up, Doris, I might have to start paying you.”

    “Rocky, I’ve been slipping notes from the payments for years.”

    I coughed. “Well then, I guess we’re even.” I sat on my desk and prepared for my client. Betty Masters would have to wait.

    Doris left without another word. Her leaving allowed Daisy Wilks to appear. She stood in the doorway clutching her bag, her mousy features containing her indecisiveness like she wanted to know and not know all at the same time. But that’s why she was here, to see the photos, cry into my shoulder, and sleep in my bed.

    “How are you, Mrs Wilks? Please, come in, take a seat.”

    She sat with a shiver and looked at me with pleading eyes. “Did you find anything?”

    “Mrs Wilks, Daisy, I have some terrible news. Your intuition was correct.”

    “Show me.”

    “Are you sure, Daisy?”

    “Yes,” she said quietly.

    I smiled. They always want to see the photographs. I turned to retrieve them and stopped. The photos were gone.

    “Is everything alright, Mr Chadwick?”

    “It’s just that …” I mumbled. “Betty Masters …”

    “Oh, the movie star. I heard it on the radio on the way over.”

    “Heard what?”

    “They found her body, washed up near the pier.”

    THE END.

    Reply
    • March 17, 2017 at 8:26 pm
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      Great stuff, Ken! You’ve emulated the style of the hard-boiled detective story really well – the neon sign, the whisky, the ‘femme fatale’, the wisecracking … (this is a brilliant line: “I’ve always wanted to be referred to as a man like me.”) … and the name ‘Rocky Chadwick’! That made me giggle. But it’s not just style, it’s also a really good story, with a strong beginning, middle and end.

      The only thing I can fault it for is (a bugbear of mine) the inconsistency of tenses (you slip various times into the present).

      But that’s a detail because it’s a really well done and enjoyable story.

      Reply
      • March 19, 2017 at 2:13 am
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        Thanks for the comments, Phil – agree about the tenses. It wasn’t until I was reading it out loud after posting it (because where else are you supposed to do it, right?!) that I picked up on a range of issues, tense being one of them – I damned the ‘tense’ rules to hell when I write. 🙂

        Reply
    • March 18, 2017 at 9:34 am
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      Ken A, I enjoyed this tantalising crime mystery with a hint of the twilight zone – it’s a very interesting premise for a story. Some very good, sharp lines, and description through the eyes of the narrator.

      I lost my way though in the plot a couple of times and had to reread. e.g. I was initially a bit confused by the use of pronouns – 2nd paragraph “my attention was stolen by her” – the last ‘her’ mentioned being Daisy Wilks, but it’s Betty Masters the ‘her’ refers to, it emerges. There are also a few typos and (as Phil notes) tense changes.

      There’s a lot of attention to building (very effectively) the picture of the seedy and hard-boiled detective with suicidal tendencies and the creation of a Chandleresque feel to the narration. But I wonder about something: if the detective had a completely different character, e.g. been a church-going stickler-for-the-rules, would it necessarily have made much difference to the central action or outcome? So there may be something about integrating character and plot together a bit more tightly. Just a thought.

      Reply
      • March 19, 2017 at 2:18 am
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        Hi Andy, thanks for commenting … yes, a big fan of pronouns (and confusing people). Perhaps I was trying to create more “mystery” than was required …
        I agree the PI’s demeanour had little to do with the story outcomes, however I just wanted to have fun with it (and I was channelling all the film noir tropes). I like your thoughts about mixing it up a little – perhaps a hard nosed female PI with male secretary and clients with cheating wives … something in that.

        Reply
      • March 19, 2017 at 2:26 am
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        Andy, also, keen to know about the typos – there shouldn’t be any as I leave it to Word, Grammerly and God to find them all for me … seems like someone let the team down here (God, I’m looking in your direction)

        Reply
        • March 19, 2017 at 8:11 am
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          Hi Ken – and Ken C too – probably didn’t express my comments too clearly, but rather than suggesting actually changing the character of the PI (though that would be possible), I was musing on why Betty Masters chose this PI rather than another to ghost into his life – and into his photo. So is it because he’s a dodgy character who, she thinks, can take on her husband? Or is it because he drinks a lot and hallucinates? Or is he especially susceptible to her charms? How does his being suicidal make a difference? Just a little hint as to how the plot-line and the nature of his character intertwine (and why an alternative type of PI doesn’t fit the bill). Hope that makes some kind of sense.

          On typos – apart from the tense-mixing (esp in paragraph 2), and a couple of other ambiguous pronouns, these were ones I spotted:
          2nd para: dame’s should be dames (plural rather than possessive)
          3rd para: mid stride should I think be mid-stride, though some might debate that
          5th para: who’s should be whose
          5th para: Low life should be low-life or lowlife.

          If Grammerly disagrees with me, it’s pistols at dawn!

          Reply
    • March 18, 2017 at 10:53 am
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      Ken, This is so good, you leave me no choice but to praise, praise, praise, and then point out specific errors that, though minor, detract from what is otherwise a fabulous story. I loved this story. It’s really fun to read. The writing style is incredibly authentic and is much better than the genre it emulates. In fact, I sampled the works of some similar famous detective writers after I read this, and this was SO MUCH better. Better writing. Better story telling. (Harder Boileder.) There are (IMO) ten mistakes which I suggest that you fix (before any future publication) because this is such a great story and such entertaining writing. (Not including putting ‘THE END’ at the end.) (I’m not suggesting you re-post it, just fix the errors at some point.) It’s really funny too. The second time I read it I got like, four more jokes than I noticed the first time through. It’s fabulous, Ken.
      I made a list of the errors, which I could send to you privately, but I don’t have your email address. So I’ll send it to Carrie, and she can forward it to you.
      I disagree with Andy about one thing, which is that the portrayal and descriptions of the characters, (as over the top as they are), is a fun, and essential part of the story. I wouldn’t change anything about this story. (Don’t worry, I have special permission to disagree with Andy, Philip and God. Although I try to be more diplomatic when disagreeing with God.)

      Reply
      • March 19, 2017 at 2:25 am
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        Ken C – you know I only include errors in my story so you will find them! for the record, I do have a copy of “The Big Sleep’ beside my bed. I’ve sent you a message on LinkedIn, so if you can bear it, send me through those errors.

        Also, for the record, something has gone haywire with the beginning of the story, for as it shows on screen is not how I posted it originally. The first paragraph should actually be:

        I held the magnifying glass up to the image and stared. It was him alright, Danny Wilks, sliding out the front door of a well-known strip club on the seedier part of town, the bit slightly more seedy than the other. He had his collar up, hat down and hands pushed into his coat pockets like he was searching for his wedding ring. It wasn’t glamorous work, but jobs like this are what I was good at, and what dame’s like Daisy Wilks paid for. A daily rate plus expenses, half up front, the rest on delivery of proof. And the proof is what I held in my hands.

        Reply
    • March 19, 2017 at 9:02 pm
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      Ken A, I love that opening line, it reminded me of the narration for that old radio show “The Shadow,”Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?” You set the mood of this piece quite nicely. I can see the dark dingy office, the blinking neon light, and the hardboiled detective, it’s like one of those old Robert Mitchum movies. Your use of the Noir lingo is spot on, your writing smooth.

      I must admit the middle section when you’re talking about both Betty and Daisy is a bit murky, and the two women sometimes merged into one, at least for me. I did have to read the story twice to get a handle on it, but that may be more me than you.

      There is a lot of self-reflection, noir style, that works fairly well, however, for me, I could’ve used less of that and a bit more fleshing out of Betty and her association with Daisy’s husband. You elude to a relationship between Daisy’s husband and Betty, but there’s only a cursory mention at the beginning then it’s dismissed for the theory that Betty’s husband is the culprit.

      And one thing I noticed, the line when you say, “She battered her eyelids,” should be “batted,” I’m certain she didn’t beat up her own eyelids 🙂

      All in all, a fine story. Nice use of the prompt.

      Reply
    • March 20, 2017 at 10:52 am
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      Ken A – I really enjoyed this story, I obviously had to read it to make the updates sent from Ken C. But when I read it through the second time I liked it even more. It took me right back to that time period and your visuals were spot on, I could almost hear the flickered buzzing of the neon sign.

      Reply
    • March 22, 2017 at 5:16 pm
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      Hi Ken Allen

      My Hubby and I listen to radio classics when we travel, and this reminded me of the Philip Marler shows.
      Cheese detective, mystery lady.

      You did a good job of taking me right to one of the radio shows, picturing the scenes in my mind rather than watching them. Who was this mysterious lady and what did she have to do with Rocky? Did they have a past? Did he solve her murder. Things were a left a bit in question.

      Very nice job.

      Reply
  • March 18, 2017 at 5:32 pm
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    Dark Room. (3-16-17)
    by Ken Cartisano © 2017

    Becky was still perturbed. The argument between her and her boyfriend Mark was still fresh in her mind. Mark rarely passed up an opportunity to disparage her hobby. ‘It comes between us,’ he always said. Like a broken record, that was his constant complaint: That her hobby was more important to her than he was. Which was true, but that was no excuse for him to be such a jerk about it. He had stormed out the door in a huff, more than likely heading to a bar for a few drinks. A part of her felt remorse, but it was a very small part. It would never have occurred to Becky to find fault with someone else’s hobby, especially photography. It seemed to her to be a pretty harmless pastime.

    In the subdued red light of the dark room, she immersed the special photographic paper in a large porcelain pan filled with a special solution.

    The situation was ridiculous. The more she thought about it, the more indignant she felt. He had no right to dictate anything, much less what she chose to do with her free time. Okay sure, converting the spare bedroom into a dark room was a bit radical, but it was her house, not his, and she could do whatever she wanted with her own house.

    Slowly, chemicals in the solution reacted with a substance on the paper and an image began to take shape.

    Becky’s love of photography had started when she was in grade school, about fifteen years ago, but only recently had she begun to experiment with night photography. Capturing images at night presented a whole new series of challenges, but it also offered endless artistic opportunities. By day, she studied the various aperture and shutter speed options, along with filters, and lenses; and then at night she would experiment with various combinations, develop the photos, and compare the results.

    To help the developing process along, with the photo still submerged, Becky picked up the pan and sloshed the fluid back and forth ever so gently.

    Becky considered her relationship with Mark. He was strikingly handsome, clean-cut, confident and easy-going—usually. He held a steady job, had good manners, and, while their relationship might never end in marriage, Becky was quite content, happy in fact, for the first time in years.

    She set the pan back down on the make-shift shelf and checked the timer, then, out of habit, checked her watch.

    There was hardly any comparison between Mark and her previous boyfriend Joe. Joe was about as refined as his name. He was arrogant, rowdy, obnoxious, usually inebriated and always disheveled. He laughed too loud at his own bad jokes, wore tattered jeans and shirts, shaved infrequently, and though he could be entertaining at times, the drunker he got, the more boorish he became. Their break-up had been painful, even frightening. ‘You never really know someone until you break up with them.’ An old friend had told her long ago, and she could believe it now. Her encounters with Joe after the break-up had induced her to purchase a gun, and to learn how to use it. In fact, she had a crush on the young man who was tutoring her in the use of firearms, but fooling around and cheating was not her style.

    No, her current boyfriend was a definite improvement over the last. He read books, enjoyed going to the movies and even cooked from time to time. But he had no hobbies, and that re-stoked Becky’s anger. ‘How dare he? He has no right to disapprove of me under any circumstances,’ she thought, ‘unless he wants to live somewhere else.’

    She removed the paper from one solution and dipped it into another. The rough beginnings of two faces began to emerge on the glossy paper.

    For experimental reasons, she had used black and white film. Later, once she understood the effects of the different settings, she intended to switch to color. For that same reason, Becky’s latest shots were all taken at the same location, an old stone bridge over an icy stream. Behind the bridge, the river opened up into a wide, shimmering lake whose reflection transformed the cities’ lights and the distant buildings into streaks of vibrant color; and the bridge served as a fixed and intricate object to further provide a stable control image for the time-lapse images she had taken.

    The resolution of the immersed photograph continued to improve. She took a set of plastic tongs and held the paper under the surface of the fluid.

    In addition to the lighting effects, the bridge was a popular spot for tourists, locals, solitary strollers and starry eyed couples. This latest series of photos was taken after sunset with a zoom lens. The affect she was looking for was blurred faces in the foreground with the shimmering lake and city as a backdrop. And that’s what the photos revealed, except for this one.

    This exposure was proving to be quite different. The city lights and buildings were smeared and blurred, but the faces in the foreground appeared to be resolving with ever more detail. Although she did not remember it, she decided she must have triggered the camera accidentally while setting it up, because this was a single, still shot, no time-lapse, and it appeared to have been taken in twilight.

    She heard the front door open and close, and the jingling of keys as they were tossed onto the coffee table. “Becky. You in the dark-room?”

    The voice was muffled, and it was an unusually dumb question for Mark. Where did he think she was, on the fire escape? ‘We don’t have a fire escape,’ she mumbled to herself. Then ignored his question as she focused on the photo that was reaching the final stage of its development.

    She turned the photo around with the tongs, took a closer look at it, and then nearly gasped as the significance of the image registered.

    What she expected to see was the faces of two strangers, a young couple perhaps, or just two friends walking along the causeway. And yet, judging by the image, it was clear from the proximity of the two people, and what they were doing, that they were something other than friends.

    It was her boyfriend Mark, locked in the embrace of someone else, caught in the act of kissing, and the person he was kissing was her ex-boyfriend Joe!

    Reply
    • March 20, 2017 at 10:52 am
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      Ken C – OMG! I literally burst out laughing at the end. The abrupt way you ended the story was perfect!! And obviously a fellow photog, your details really helped encompass the photographers obsession.

      Reply
    • March 20, 2017 at 11:44 am
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      Ken, when I read that last sentence, like Carrie I just laughed (literally) out loud. Great flow, I kept wondering where things were going, then Bam! The end. I didn’t realize you knew so much about photography, and the details didn’t bog the story down at all. And for those of us who aren’t familiar with photography, it was all very easy to follow and understand.

      It’s hard to do a good job writing an interesting story, and getting a bit technical with the details of someone’s profession. But you did a fantastic job of providing both entertainment and a little knowledge about photography.

      Reply
      • March 21, 2017 at 10:01 am
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        Alice & Carrie, Thanks for your feedback. There’s a story there. (Isn’t there always?) But I won’t bore everyone with the details, but–I didn’t know anything about photography when I started. Did a little research, then I wrote the story, then I did some more research and realized that my story was scientifically inaccurate, so then I went back and changed the inaccuracies and blending the changes back into the story. It made my mom and my girlfriend laugh out loud, so I thought it had some promise.
        After a couple of days I went back and re-read it, and decided the first paragraph was redundant, tedious and bulky so I went back and trimmed it. I won’t re-post the story since I won’t be voting this week, but for anyone interested in the changes, I’ll post the new first paragraph here.

        The argument between Becky and her boyfriend Mark was still disturbingly fresh in her mind. His antagonistic attitude towards her hobby was inexplicable and troubling. ‘It comes between us,’ he had said. ‘I feel like your hobby is more important to you than I am.’ Which was true, but no excuse for him to act like a jerk. He had left in a huff, leaving her alone, in the dark, to develop her photos.

        Reply
    • March 22, 2017 at 5:51 pm
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      A carefully constructed story with a little bit revealed at a time paralleling the slow reveal of the photographic image. A different kind of Cartisano story – more detached than the ones built with snappy dialogue through the POVs of the interacting characters. Very cleverly done, and then a thumping twist in the tail with the Brokeback moment. But this is 2017 – why were we not expecting it, lol?
      A bit of clever ironic foreshadowing too, when Becky muses that “their relationship might never end in marriage” and the narrator saying “This exposure was proving to be quite different.” All artfully done, Ken.

      I wonder what Mark sees in Joe, btw. Are they the kind of “starry-eyed lovers” who meet at the bridge or is it something altogether more transactional? Anyway we find out what (or who) Mark’s secret hobby is – but I wonder if Becky can now keep to her principle of not criticising a boyfriend’s hobby?

      Reply
    • March 22, 2017 at 11:13 pm
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      Ken C.
      Haveing worked in the dark room way too many times myself, (While teaching)
      I felt you did a fine job of explaining the process. Some of your terms made me chuckle, though.
      The blend of what she was thinking and they watching of the photo appear a nice touch; I think you could have blended her life and the development a bit more to give it, even more, sunifigance.
      The ending was a bit crazy but believable. Sorry, your story won’t be in the lineup.
      You did a nice job!

      Reply
  • March 20, 2017 at 1:27 pm
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    Tempest by Carrie Zylka (908 words)

    Mitren knew he had to keep calm. He stood in the midpoint of the crossroads; his dark eyes squeezed shut and tried to regulate his breathing.

    All around him a tempest raged, the storm plucking at his clothes, he silently began the calming count…

    1…

    2…

    3…

    4…

    The winds around him lessened as the young prince calmed down. He opened his eyes and nearly wept at the destruction around him, in the rising sun the ugly grass divots and cracked concrete looked ethereal, showered in golden early morning light.

    That damn woman. He felt his blood pressure rise at the mere thought of her and her stupid camera and immediately checked his emotions.

    “Mitren, you are the crowned Weather Prince; you can’t let someone incite such emotion in you.”

    The young man spun to face the voice belonging to his maternal grandfather, his confidant, and his only friend. “I know grandpapa; I should have known better, I should have known…” The corners of his mouth turned down and the ground shivered.

    “Easy boy, we all fall victim to pretty faces. I don’t know what she promised you, but surely you knew you could never have it.”

    The corners of his mouth twisted and huge black eyes looked over at the old man. “Molly, her name is Molly. And she promised a bit of happiness. I’ve been taking those online photography courses; she was one of the students. This week’s assignment was night photography. She offered to team up and experiment with some different techniques in the Big City. She made me feel good and wanted and that she was a friend, or that she maybe could’ve been more. But she lied. She was only trying to get my picture for the newspapers.”

    Somewhere in the distance huge bolts of lightning rained down from the sky, blasting trees apart and sending great crackling sheets of noise into the air.

    Grandfather laid a calming hand on his arm. “Enough child.”

    Mitren yanked his arm away, for some reason his grandfather’s stoic presence only made him angrier. “No grandpapa, it’s not enough! It’s not enough to stay locked up in that infernal concrete bunker, hiding away from the world because I might lose control of my emotions and cause a flood.” Rain immediately began falling from the sky. “It’s not enough that I study constantly so I may have the knowledge to become the next king.” The rain stopped as suddenly as it began and huge boulders rose from the ground, an invisible hand pitching them this way and that. “It’s not enough that I want to meet other people my own age but I can’t because someone might try to kill me.” A river of wildfire erupted and eagerly sped across the field. “And it’s not enough that I try to control my emotions so I don’t tear the world apart and kill everyone in it because I’ve had a BAD DAY!!!” He threw back his head and flung his arms wide, screaming into the brightening sky above.

    And the heavens responded with a rendering of the very fabric of the world.

    From nowhere great clouds sped towards the apex above him, crashing together and littering the two of them in huge droplets of startled water.

    The sun became an angry orb, and the sky turned an ugly yellow, supercharging everything.

    Mitren could feel the fine hairs on his body begin to stand up as the static electricity gathered around him.

    All his pent up anger, all the emotion he’d been taught to carefully control threatened to erupt from him and scour the earth, destroying everything and everyone in his path.

    “Mitren…?” Her small voice barely penetrated the chaos whirling around him.

    He opened his eyes and he nearly wept at her frail beauty. Her dress torn and she held one hand trying to keep her long red hair from whipping wildly around her.

    “You!” His voice thundered across her.

    A garbled shout caused him to look towards his grandfather, just in time to see the boulder slam into the old man and bowl him over.

    “No!” Molly lunged towards the bleeding and broken man. The boulder had rolled on, oblivious to the bloody mess it had left behind. She knelt in the dirt and cradled his head and shoulders in her lap. “Mitren!” She cried. “Make it stop! You have to calm yourself!”

    “But this is your fault? Don’t you see?” His voice roared. “If you hadn’t tried to take my picture for the newspaper none of this would have happened!”

    She looked confused for a moment. “What are you even talking about? I didn’t want to take your picture for the newspaper…I wanted OUR picture in the newspaper…together. Because I liked you and wanted people to see us together! That’s all!”

    Mitren looked confused. “But you said…you said you wanted to get the picture for the papers. To profit off of me.” As he spoke the anger began to slide away, and with each passing moment the fury around him dwindled.

    “No….no. That’s not what I meant at all. You totally misunderstood me.” Tears streamed down her face. “All this destruction, all the destruction happening all over the world…is because of me? Because you misunderstood me? Because you got angry with me??”

    Mitren’s world came to a stop. “Oh god what have I done?”

    He closed his eyes and began the calming count…

    1…

    2…

    3…

    4…

    Reply
    • March 21, 2017 at 9:16 am
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      Hey, hey, hey. Nice story Carrie. A weather god. Great writing. Nicely paced story. One typo, ‘…with a rendering of the very fabric of the world.’ Cool message. I hope this story of a minor misunderstanding wasn’t inspired by me in any way.

      Reply
      • March 21, 2017 at 2:40 pm
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        lol no, definitely not – I saw a writing prompt several months ago about a person who’s emotions affect the world around them and this was the perfect excuse to use it!

        Reply
    • March 22, 2017 at 1:33 pm
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      This is why someone emotional should never control anything as powerful as weather. Nice story, the misunderstanding that ruined the world. I liked your characterization of Mitren, a bit bratty, a bit sad and lonely. I could feel the tension from the beginning until that fool realized his mistake and began that countdown. I really enjoyed it.

      Reply
    • March 22, 2017 at 6:14 pm
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      A very visual story, Carrie, which packs a punch. Could almost see it as a graphic novel.

      Though actually, I see it as really being all symbolic and a modern-day parable. You see, there’s this guy who’s really incredibly powerful and wants to be loved, and especially he wants to be loved by the person with the camera – who represents the media – but is obsessed about not being portrayed well through the lens of the camera (media), and he’s got this terribly bad petulant temper, and because he is so all powerful he can destroy everyone and everything, and ends up destroying people dear to the people he wants to love him …. And he even talks in capital letters: “…I’ve had a BAD DAY!!!”
      And this guy could really do with having a ‘calming count’ in his locker …

      Have I got it right?

      Reply
    • March 22, 2017 at 11:50 pm
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      Hi Carrie
      Good story. If only we could all see what cause and effect we have on the world around us. We may not be king of the weather, but what we do can have just as much impact as the main character in this story. And yes usually do to misunderstandings.
      would like to have seen a bit more about the night photography in the story, you did have several more words this go round.
      but overall nice job

      Reply
  • March 21, 2017 at 9:20 am
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    Carrie,
    Despite the fact that my story would have been a sure lock for 5th or 6th place this week, based on the five entries submitted so far, I have to request that you don’t put it on the voting list, as I will be out of town this week, and unable to vote.

    Reply
    • March 21, 2017 at 2:40 pm
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      No problem and thanks for letting us know, enjoy your vacation!

      Reply
    • March 22, 2017 at 6:41 pm
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      That’s a shame, Ken – like your story.
      BTW, have you checked out these new-fangled things called wifi and mobile phones? Can be useful when travelling.

      Me? Haven’t been home since Monday. Interesting assortment of hotel rooms I’ve seen on my travels this month. Now in an unexpectedly large room, the whole group could fit in here, and spook each other out with ghostly night photography stories!

      Reply
  • March 21, 2017 at 1:07 pm
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    The Heart of Night

    Dean Hardage

    “Why am I here, Alvin?” asked his friend James.

    “Can’t I ask my best friend over for dinner once in blue moon?”

    “Of course and I appreciate the beef bourguignon but there’s something on your mind. I can feel you trying to start a conversation but something’s holding you back.”

    “You remember that job I took on Nocturne?”

    Yeah, I remember. I’m still amazed you took it.”

    Alvin had always been afraid of the dark. As a child he’d slept with the lights on until he was in his late teens. People who knew him, as well as Alvin himself, thought it was ironic that he had become famous as a photographer who specialized in images taken in the night. That was his thought when the door enunciator chimed, announcing a visitor. His visitor offered a singular opportunity, to photograph new planetary system. It was located deep inside a nebula, the gasses and dust blocking much of the light of all but the most brightest stars, making the night sky on the new world almost lightless.

    “So was I at the time. I never imagined I’d go to someplace like that but it was a once in two life times kind of thing. Not to mention the way the value of my work skyrocketed after I got back.”

    “Ok, so what has that got to do with anything?”

    “I want you to look at some photos I took there, ones I never released.”

    Alvin was an old fashioned photographer, eschewing the most modern digital imaging systems for lens, shutter, and film. James had to wonder what kind of images his friend had kept and why. His curiosity was soon satisfied. Alvin went into his darkroom and returned with a photo album

    “I haven’t shown these to anyone. I’m half afraid that they’ll be blank.”

    With that cryptic remark Alvin opened the album and laid it on the table. At first glance the four large prints seemed to be nothing but blackness but as he watched an image seemed to emerge. Tangled vegetation, darker black against a black velvet background at first, then something that made James draw back and gasp quietly.

    “What is that?”

    “Not what, who.”

    “I thought you didn’t do holograms?”

    “I don’t.”

    “Then how is that picture moving?”

    “Because she’s living in it.”

    James’ look of bewilderment prompted Alvin to explain. As he did, his mind drifted back twenty years to the world called Nocturne. There was a clearing deep in the local forest that the people living there talked about in almost mystical terms. The talked about a presence, a feeling of someone, or something, unseen but undeniably there. As the velvety darkness of Nocturne’s starless night closed in that changed. The sense of presence grew stronger until he kept looking around, certain he was not alone.

    He couldn’t localize the sensation so he started taking photos using the combination of filters and infrared and ultraviolet light sources he had devised for such work. The instant he activated the light bank, the sensation changed and something moved in the zone of its illumination. He’d frozen, not sure whether to be frightened or fascinated. While he stood motionless a strange voice came to him. It was as if a thousand people were whispering in unison.

    “You ssseeeee meeee. Hoowww?”

    “A combination of special lights,” Alvin replied, too stunned to do anything else.

    “Humannnnnnn, what are yyoouu dooooinnnggg?”

    “Taking pictures, making images of this place.”

    “Whyyyyyy?”

    “Well, we had a long talk. She had picked up a lot of the language from the colonists but her understanding was quite limited. I spent a lot of nights just trying to explain something as simple to us as taking a picture, but we talked about our homes as well. I felt a femininity to the presence and she seemed so necessary to the place that I named her Coeur, heart. By the time I was scheduled to leave she wanted to come with me.”

    “And somehow she came in one of your snapshots? That’s impossible.”

    “I agree, but she did it. I get the feeling she’s not three dimensional as we are and can inhabit any flat plane, but she can also move in three dimensional space. I actually had no idea until my last night on Nocturne. Just as I was about to pack up she asked me to take her picture. I snapped the picture and she was suddenly gone. I thought she’d just left until I developed the roll and there she was. She wanted to travel with me, to see new places. So I brought her with me and she’s been with me ever since.”

    Alvin paused as if to reflect.

    “Now it’s time to take her home. I’m leaving for Nocturne on the next transport and, well, I’m not coming back.”
    Alvin saw the question in his friend’s face

    “I love her. She is the most important thing in the universe to me and she wants to go back. I can’t let her go so I have to stay.”

    “And you want me to talk you out of it?

    “No, I want you to take charge of my things and liquidate my holdings.”

    “You act as if you’re dying.”

    “No, just changing. Will you do it?

    “As both your friend and lawyer, yes. Both of me thinks you’re crazy, but it’s handled.

    The two friends talked for a bit longer, the photo on the table between them, and finally James went home. As he’d said he would, Alvin left for Nocturne and never did return. He would occasionally send photos to James. Each one was of Coeur, somewhere in the Nocturne forest and night. The last one he got stunned him. Instead of one dark image there were two. On the back was a single line in Alvin’s handwriting. It said “She has taken me into her world and I am one with the Heart of Night.”

    Reply
    • March 22, 2017 at 1:44 pm
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      Nice visuals Dean. I love your take on the theme and you made Coeur very empathetic. I’m not a bit sci-fi fan, but your stories always draw me in because you add a humanness to the stories that appeal to me. Nice flow, believable characters in a fantasy world, and good use of dialogue.

      Reply
    • March 22, 2017 at 6:56 pm
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      There’s a lot I really like about your story Dean. I think your use of the elements in the theme is the most original this month – night, light (implied in the theme) and photography.
      And I’m always a sucker for a cross-cultural-cross-species love story. (A bit like my home life, lol!). Giving up everything for an unexpected love. Romantic, and out there in the stars. And the name of the planet, Nocturne, sets a mood of soft romance and music.
      My inner geek does ask a few SF-y questions though. Like if almost no light reaches the planet, it must be pretty cold, so how do people live there? And most of all, at the end, how does Alvin become one of the two-dimensional holographic beings? And then take a picture which he sends?
      It’s a mystery, and maybe it would be good to sneak in some explanations if it can be done without compromising the essential love story.

      Reply
      • March 23, 2017 at 7:25 am
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        Little or no starlight, plenty of sunlight. As for the photo, you remember I said she could move in three dimensional space. Also note, she only lived in one photo, not all the others. I wanted to do more exposition but my word count started getting out of control.

        Reply
    • March 23, 2017 at 12:20 am
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      Dean, a great love story.
      Getting captured in a photo was a neat touch.

      Reply
  • March 21, 2017 at 10:13 pm
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    Night Photographer
    (Around 1300 words)
    Nick loved his work. He was a wedding photographer. That was his bread and butter – photographing young women on the special day. It was his job to bring out the inner glow and glam of the “girl’s day”. He worked hard to accentuate their beauty and happiness on their momentous day. Beauty dancing within mounds of white lace and satin their long trains swirling – carried by little girls dressed in more lace and satin – pastel coloured. Eyes darkened, moist with emotion and coy lips curled in incredulous laughter barely contained, he framed them all in their beauty forever.
    However photography was also his hobby. He had gone into digital photography for the weddings. It was so much easier and faster than the old fashioned development of film.

    However for his hobby photography, he used the old fashioned film and it was 400 ASA film.
    These moments of clarity stayed with him as he would slide the strips of film out from the bath of developer fluid and watch as the shadows on the film would darken and then take on crystal clear images. Each slide or film strip would be hung by a little plastic peg on the lines that crisscrossed his dark room. He loved being in the little room with his long lines of prints.

    He had set cameras up throughout his garden. Motion activated, they took still shots at various intervals in the night. He loved to capture the unusual or the moments of animal activity in his garden.

    This morning he had risen at dawn and unloaded the cameras, took them into his dark room to develop the strips of film. There was always a sense of anticipation surrounding this. It was while washing some prints from the far corner of his garden by a fountain, he because perturbed. Alarm was not far off.

    Just by the fountain were tiny shapes. At first he thought they were leaves dropped by the old maple tree there, and then they seemed to move in unusual dancing ways. Finally he realised they were tiny humanoids. He took the photographs and enlarged them several times.

    Perfectly formed, even featured – they were miniature beautiful people. He tried to work out just what was happening in the photographs that he had.

    There was in the centre of the group, one very beautiful elfin female, clothed in a shimmering white gown that appeared to be shot through with golden silver threads. She had this elegant coffee coloured skin and slender limbs. What you could see of them, anyway, as her close fitting gown clung to her arms, shoulders and figure to her hips and then flared out into an ankle length full skirt that kept blowing up in the breeze to reveal her long legs to her perfect knees.
    On her head, was fixed a veil of similar material and in one of the photographs the wind had blown it back to reveal a pixyish face with luminous green-grey eyes that stared straight at the camera. It was almost as if she knew she was being photographed.

    There was something about them that raised the hairs on the back of his neck. He did not know why, but he felt threatened by the four or five little figures he saw by the edge of the fountain.
    He put the photographs up on the wall in his darkroom. It was strange, but for the next few days there was no sign of the little people. It was almost as if someone was perhaps playing a joke on him.
    One week later, he saw another party of little people that the camera had captured dancing around the fountain and in fact, on the smooth surface of the fountain pond. This time the central female figure was clothed in a similar white gown but this time shot through with blood red and gray threads. She also had a matching veil. There were also a couple of shots that almost appeared to be posed. The female figure – he cannot feel comfortable calling her a woman – looks straight at the camera and appears to smile. It is almost a smirk.

    There was a rather large crowd of perhaps thirty or forty small figures dressed in a variety colours and clothes. It looked like a rather joyous celebration. Also the figures hovered at times, almost as if they were flying. However, they had no equipment attached and also appeared not to have wings to facilitate flight.

    Nick could not be sure that they were not aware of his camera. He decided to set up a digital video camera in place of the other camera. It was one of the latest hi tech jobs. It was high definition and had been developed as military equipment for spy drones over enemy territory. The figures seemed unreal. He even played with the possibility that someone was playing a joke on him.
    The next two nights showed nothing more than a few night owls, a couple of fruit bats and some night rodents going about their business. For ten nights there was nothing untoward on his camera output. He did not need to develop the film, but worked from his computer loading the images up onto his PC and was fascinated how good the definition was when he enlarged images and was able to see the individual whiskers on the noses of little rodents scurrying through the grasses and sleeping flowers.

    It was on the eleventh night, he struck pay dirt in more ways than one. There seemed to be swarms of the figures skimming through the air and around the fountain. . All were clad in bright coloured cloth that shimmered and swirled around their limbs and bodies. In the bright moon light, it was the night before the full moon of the autumn equinox, a magical glow emanated from the gathering.
    Suddenly the crowd separated as if on a signal. Nick saw around twenty or so of the little figures line up in a row, pull out golden trumpets and blow long and hard. How he wished that he had sound. The melody seemed to transfix the gathering and all stood stock still where they were, until it ended and the trumpets were whisked away. Then a huge platter appeared. Loaded onto it was a huge wombat surrounded by all manner of native vegetables, fruits and nuts.

    At first he thought the wombat was cooked, but then he realised it was still alive. It seemed to be frozen unable to move. Its eyes were alive and they moved. That was the only part of the animal that moved. It seemed frozen. There seemed to be nothing tying it down to the dish which floated through to the clearing.

    There the dish settled onto the grass as if by faerie magic. The little people gathered around and piece by piece the food and the wombat seemed to fade away.

    Nick inspected the scene again and again. He ran it through time after time. Something about it made him feel distinctly uneasy. He decided to go to bed early that night.
    It was the false dawn when he awoke. He tried to get up. His limbs seemed so heavy. He lay quietly for a moment and then, he tried again to rise from his bed. He could not.
    Hearing a buzzing sound he looked up. There by his head were two small figures. They were floating by his left ear. They were extraordinarily handsome. These two small figures flew about his prone body. Both of them looked down on him and smiled. For the first time he saw their teeth. Small sharp pointed teeth. Both figures lifted their hands and made some gestures which resembled a figure eight and he found himself lifting into the air, floating up and out the window to the fountain in his garden.

    There was a dish prepared with all manner of fruits and vegetables. In the centre of the huge platter was a man sized space. Around this dish were hundreds of the little people. As he floated down to fit neatly into the prepared space, he could hear them clapping and cheering.

    Reply
    • March 22, 2017 at 3:06 pm
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      A nice eerie tale Ilana. The story seems pretty innocuous at first, but you did a good job of slowly building the tension, and giving the feeling of something bad lurking about.

      However, there were several points in the story with awkward wording and a repetition of words that took me out of an otherwise fine story.

      One example is this sentence:. “It was while washing some prints from the far corner of his garden by a fountain, he because perturbed. Alarm was not far off.”

      There were several other areas with awkward sentences whose meaning did not make sense, and made those parts of your story hard to follow.

      I love the premise of the story and wished those mistakes weren’t there, it would’ve been so much more enjoyable.

      Reply
      • March 23, 2017 at 5:20 am
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        Yes it was unedited and I am sorry. I did not do a once over but crammed it out and cut and pasted. I am sorry. I will apologise and repost with editing later. At the present time my son is grading for his Taekwondo yellow belt and I am showing goats on Sunday but yes, it would be a much better story with a bit more work. Sorry. 🙁

        Reply
    • March 23, 2017 at 12:39 am
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      IIana,
      Your story starts out with a Nomemobill feel to it, then turns more to a Gulliver.
      There were a few grammatical things; I think Alice mentioned them.
      You did a nice job describing the little people and their magic, I did wonder why the little people needed such large kills. A Human would feed thousands I would think. I guess I did not understand the need.
      I did like your take on the theme.

      Reply
  • March 22, 2017 at 4:06 am
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    Night Photographer Wanted

    Help-wanted
    Photographer
    Experience with night photography.
    Interested contact
    http://www.Borealis.org

    Amanda scanned the help-wanted ads one more time before heading out for her part-time job as a hostess at a restaurant. Her photography business was holding its own, but it wasn’t steady. They couldn’t count on it to sustain them. Nathan, her husband of three years, worked for one of the big churches in town as the music minister, but he too had to take a second job for them to keep their heads above water. It didn’t help that last week while waiting at a stop sign they were rear-ended, totaling their car.

    Amanda did a double take. Photographer Wanted, She’d been studying cameras and photographs since high school, slowly building clientele. But she needed something new to help her stand out. The ad mentioned night photos. Amanda loved taking sunset pictures; it was just a matter of timing and settings. What she didn’t know she could read up on. During her break she sent an email, requesting information.

    Amanda had almost forgotten about the ad when an email showed up.

    Thank you for your response.
    We request you send some pictures of your work.
    Especially those taken at night.
    Regards

    Amanda set about looking over her photos picking the best ones to send. She chose several at sunset, a couple shortly after, and one of a stormy night. Then she remembered her trip to the Dominican to shoot a wedding. There was little electricity, and it had gone off during the ceremony. Amanda made a few quick adjustments and had gotten good shots, much to the surprise of the wedding party. She included those.

    Amanda received another email.

    We have looked over your work and your website.
    Would be interested in talking with you further.
    Please give us a call at 1-778-250-6046

    Amanda found the note strange and mysterious. She talked it over with Nathan. They decided it wouldn’t hurt to call.

    Amanda called, putting it on speaker, with Nathan sitting beside her.
    They seemed pleased with her work and her knowledge of her equipment. The job required she come to Borealis College in British Columbia, one week each month, for the next several months. The pay for a week was more than both their jobs together, for two months. Nathan and Amanda felt it would be an excellent opportunity.

    The next month Amanda packed her equipment and a bag of clothes and flew to B.C. An attractive lady about Amanda’s age came to meet her. Once in the car, she was told they’d be on the road for about six hours. Where on earth were they taking her? They drove to the small village of Lipsky in the Northwest Territory. There she was run through a strict security regimen.

    “What is this place?” Amanda asked.

    “Didn’t they tell you? We are a highly classified group of scientist, and you will be helping document our findings. Your first assignment will be to capture the Aurora Borealis. If that goes well, We’ll give you the information needed for the project.” Her guide responded.

    The next day was a long day of touring and shooting. After a late-night meal, she was outfitted with special insulated coveralls and gloves, given a quick run through on a snowmobile, told to pack her gear in the saddlebags of the machine and keep up.

    Always up for a challenge, Amanda did as instructed. They rode for an hour, to the top of a hill. The light show that followed was like nothing she’d ever witnessed. So many colors were striking across the sky in a rhythmic dance. She had to remind herself to do what she needed to. With each new angle and adjustment, they’d ask what she was doing and why. She explained that adjusting the ISO, International Standards Organization was the light sensitivity. The aperture was like the pupil of your eye reacting to light. Shutter speed was much like blinking. The faster you blink, the less motion the subject would have.

    While looking over the night’s work, Amandas told she’d done a satisfactory job. They would see her next month. She’d be given instructions on the project then.

    When Amanda returned, she was again instructed to photograph the Aurora Borealis. She was then taken to a lab, with several tables of microscopes, beside each was a round freezer. The room was dark. The instruments lit from underneath.

    “Amanda we’re pleased with your work. What we would like for you to do is photograph what we see in the microscopes. Is that possible?”

    “What exactly will I be photographing?” she asked.

    “You will be told more as the project progresses.”

    For the next three weeks, Amanda experimented, how to get the best photos through the microscope. She contacted her brother who rigged up a system attaching a small camera lens beside the microscope lens. It would project what was on the slide to the computer screen. Amanda could control the ISO, aperture and shutter speeds from there.

    It seemed all they were photographing were ameba and strange looking tadpoles. Amanda soon learned she was observing sperm and eggs, from mice. The scientist was trying to learn all they could about the start of life.

    Six months after Amanda had started helping with the project, they decided to put the set up on rapid fire, which meant a photo would be shot ever point five seconds. They would fertilize an egg while Amanda took photos. All the lights were off, except one small one on the Dr.s head.

    Amanda watched the computer screen and started snapping shots. She was witnessing a light show more beautiful than the Aroura Borealis.The moment the sperm hit the egg, there was a spark of colorful light. They found the brighter the light, the better chance the egg had of being used for fertilization. If this same theory worked on human eggs, the possibilities for couples seeking treatment for infertility would improve by ten fold. This was the breakthrough they all had been looking for

    What’s hidden in the dark shall be revealed in the light. That certainly seemed to be the case.

    Amanda would not get notoriety for her work, but she had the knowledge she had helped in a great way. It made her feel good about herself.

    Four years later this discovery would wind up helping Amanda and Nathan start their family.
    .

    Reply
    • March 22, 2017 at 4:10 am
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      I seem to think I have lots of time then realize my time has run short.
      I think I need a good swift kick or good reminder the due date is coming up about 4 or 5 days before the due date.

      It is 3 am so I will read tomorrow.

      Reply
    • March 22, 2017 at 3:13 pm
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      Renette, a beautiful story. I love the way it unfolded, and your description of Amanda’s photography techniques seemed genuine, and you made them interesting as well. I loved the flow of the story, and how what Amanda took part in would help her later. Great job Renette!

      Reply
      • March 22, 2017 at 4:50 pm
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        Thank you, Alice.

        Helps to have photographers in the family. ;~}

        Reply

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