(DEADLINE EXTENDED!!) May 4- May 24, 2017 Flash Fiction Contest “Obsession”

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

Folks, this prompt is wide open. You can take any angle that deals with an obsession of whatever kind you choose.

Scorned lover, crazy and obsessed, a bad combination. Watch your pet rabbits around this one.

 

Word limit: 1000.


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

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

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

Story Submission Rules:
  1. One story per author. You may post more than one but only the first story will qualify for voting.
  2. Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
  3. Stories must fit into a single comment box and must be less than 1000 words.

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

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

***the next writing prompt will be chosen by Carrie Zylka 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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90 thoughts on “(DEADLINE EXTENDED!!) May 4- May 24, 2017 Flash Fiction Contest “Obsession”

  • May 4, 2017 at 8:24 pm
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    Hi, All

    Alice/ Carrie have sought to help by giving some textual and photographic suggestions … but just to let you know that the prompt I suggested was a little simpler: ‘Obsession – any angle’. That’s it.

    So, as Alice said above:

    “This post is for stories related to the Contest theme: ‘Obsession’. Folks, this prompt is wide open. You can take any angle that deals with an obsession of whatever kind you choose.” (full stop/period)

    Cheers

    Reply
    • May 4, 2017 at 8:29 pm
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      I changed it Phil to reflect the prompt you suggested.

      Thanks.

      Reply
    • May 15, 2017 at 8:51 pm
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      DEADLINE EXTENDED TO MAY 24th!!!

      Reply
  • May 5, 2017 at 7:05 am
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    Thanks, Alice!

    Reply
    • May 8, 2017 at 9:12 am
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      Ohhhhhh but THAT kind of obsession can be so much fun 😉

      This is going to be a fun prompt. Not sure what I’ll choose since I’m obsessed with a lot….podcasting, writing, coffee, lol so many ways to go!!!!!

      Reply
  • May 6, 2017 at 12:43 am
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    She who rules…

    I’m cured! Yep, 100%… cured… thanks to She who rules the house. I was an addict, oh not like you think, nothing as mundane as drugs or alcohol or even sex… none of that common stuff for me. No, I had fallen hard for practical jokes… any of them… all of them… whoopee cushions, firecrackers, water buckets over the doorway… anything that would scare the crap out of you, I loved them all ! I was obsessed !

    I was king of the practical joke. I was sly, clever, inventive and always on the look out for my next victim. It had reached the point all my friends and colleagues walked on egg shells around me for fear of being next on my list of pranks. With my head swollen with the pride of my ability, I had become a tyrant and loved every moment of it. I was unstoppable!

    At least so I thought. Several of the cowards went behind my back… speaking to She who rules the house… my wife, Dearheart. They begged her to get me to stop, begged her to rein me in, to save them from my antics.

    “I can’t stop you from tormenting them,” she conceded, waving a dismissive hand.

    I was secretly thrilled and my head filled with plans of retribution for those that dared to stand against me.

    “Just don’t bring it home,” she warned sternly.

    A light bulb when on… until that moment, it had never occurred to me to make her one of my conquest. The thought burned in my brain day and night. I argued with myself contentiously… I shouldn’t, I couldn’t. She would make my life a living hell if I did… but if I did, how good would that feel? To good to pass up.

    I searched for the next few weeks to find just the right situation until I found an Italian candy. Hidden inside its delightful cherry flavored exterior is by-carbonate of soda. The instant the hard candy is cracked, the by-carbonate of soda foams wildly and can no longer be contained. The victim foams at the mouth like a mad dog. The more they wipe away, the more there is to take its place… the perfect practical joke.
    I bide my time, waiting for the right moment. Days went by, each eating at me more than the day that proceeded it. I could wait no more. I slipped the first piece into my mouth, being extra careful not to crack it.

    “Did you want one?” I asked with as much disinterest as I could fake.

    “Sure,” she returned quickly.

    My heart began to race, adrenaline pumped wildly through my veins and then… and then I heard her piece crack. Every fiber in my body vibrated with excitement.

    At that moment, to my surprise, she spit her piece out into her hand… intact.

    “You shouldn’t have done that,” she said, her voice full of venom.

    “Awh, I was so close. How did you know?”

    “I knew and pay back is a bitch,” she countered.

    “Bring it on. I’m the best. I can’t be beat. You can never get me,” I bragged.

    “I will and when I do I will be she who rules the house,” she demanded.

    “Deal,” I said foolishly.

    To my disappointment a month or so went by without a single mention. I assumed she had simply given up and forgot all about it. At least until… one night at around two in the morning she woke me up.

    “Did you hear that?” she whispered harshly.

    I tried to sit up, shaking off a deep sleep.

    “There it is again. Did you hear it? Someone is in the house.”

    I didn’t… I didn’t hear it at all. I strained as hard as I could and still heard nothing.

    “Someone is in the house! I think they’re in the kid’s room,” she cried grasping my arm tightly.

    Instantly, I was awake. Goosebumps rippled over my skin… I had heard nothing.

    “There! Hear it?” she asked, more frightened than I had ever seen her.

    I didn’t! I didn’t hear a thing.

    “Go! Check on the kids, please,” she pleaded desperately.

    I nodded my agreement without a word. My mind swirled with genuine concern. Slowly, I made my way in the dark to the hall toward the kid’s room. To my shock, standing in their door way, with his back against the frame… a man. He stood six foot two if he were an inch. My heart jumped into my throat. My body gave a quick shake of fear and all I could think was “Dear God, please don’t let him hurt me.”
    I swallowed hard and then made my move. I lunged for the intruder grabbing him by the neck. We fell to the floor, fighting. I swung with all my power but he held my arms in place. I couldn’t move. I had no choice, panic over took me. I wrapped my hands around his throat and squeezed with all my might but he fought me fiercely. I began to beat his head against the floor to free his grip on me. My panic had now become anger and I was suddenly willing to kill to stop this madman.

    Then the unthinkable… his skull gave way… pieces of him began to fly off in every direction.

    “My God, I’ve killed him,” I gasped, releasing my grip, standing. I stared at my hands expecting them to be covered in blood and pieces of the man’s brains.

    Nothing.

    Only then did I realize his head was Styrofoam. Hanging from it a flowered sheet in which I had gotten tangled.

    Now I was mad.

    I stomped back to our bedroom, mad as hell.

    “Was anyone there?” my wife asked with a snicker.

    I was too angry to speak….

    I’m cured… all hail She who rules the house.

    Reply
    • May 11, 2017 at 3:03 am
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      Sounds like you got what you deserved. 😁 Loved it Tegon, it was fun and flowed nicely. Loved the light-heartedness of it. Nice way to start the competition.

      Reply
      • May 13, 2017 at 1:09 am
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        Alice… I thought sure you would be on my side ! Clearly I’m the victim here… well victim might be to strong a word but you have to admit she went to far ! After 47 years together she still holds it over my head !

        Reply
        • May 13, 2017 at 11:45 am
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          Ha, ha sorry Tegon, seems to me that your lovely wife was simply showing you some tough love. 🙂

          Reply
    • May 14, 2017 at 10:40 pm
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      Great story Tegon. I really liked the way this story flows.

      Reply
    • May 22, 2017 at 5:09 pm
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      Really great fun, Tegon. I like stories that address the reader directly right at the start (not always possible, of course – depends on the tone of the story), and you do that here, and it works well. There’s good pace, and some satisfying comeuppance. If you could have masked the ending a little, made more of a reveal of it, it could have been even better – we know as we read that the figure is a trick. But still, a great read.

      Reply
    • May 23, 2017 at 8:27 am
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      Fun story of revenge best served cold. All the same, I think a prank like that would have spurred me to an even more extreme response, when least expected … 🙂

      Reply
  • May 9, 2017 at 7:53 pm
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    Hahahahahaha. Excellent!

    Reply
    • May 10, 2017 at 11:57 pm
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      Thanks for the read Ken C. This one was very easy to write… it happened exactly this way, word for word !

      Reply
  • May 14, 2017 at 10:33 pm
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    The Quiet Obsession
    As she opened the door of her flat, the hair on the back of her neck prickled. She felt, rather than saw, the presence of an intruder. Standing in the entrance, her nostrils flared in alarm as she detected a faint aroma of familiar spice. She thought she could place it, but if it was what she thought, then she did not want to think about it too much.

    Taking off her coat, she hung it on the peg inside the door. Then, she placed her bag and shoes on the little sideboard beside the door specifically for that purpose. It seemed to have been moved. Only a centimetre, but enough to again put her senses on high alert.

    It has been a crappy day. She just wanted to eat dinner in front of the telly with a glass of good chardonnay, her feet on the settee and lounge in her PJs. Throwing a serve of last night’s lamb and lentil stew into the microwave to heat; she stripped off her clothes on the way to the bathroom. About to turn on the shower, she stopped senses tingling. The floor of the shower cubicle was wet. She had had a bath last night. Also she was certain that she had not used the new bottles of shampoo and shower gel.

    Quickly she reached over and felt the towel hanging on the rack. It was damp. Taking a fresh towel, she wrapped it round and walked through the flat, doing a quick once over inspection.

    Going through her bedroom, she saw her bed. It had a slight, ever so slight indentation in the pillow. She leaned over the pillow, all her senses on fire, alarmed. The faint scent of almond and that familiar spice scent lingered. Someone had been lying on her bed. Now thoroughly frightened, she padded swiftly to the door of her flat and made sure it was deadlocked and the chains were on above and below it. She checked and secured all the windows and locked the security screen to the balcony door.

    Then, setting her phone to speed dial for 000 and she placed it on the shelf besides the shower. She had a hurried wash rather than the leisurely soap and wash up she had longed for. It was even more upsetting to see black pubic hairs embedded in her expensive cashmere soap. She was a blondish redhead. She thought of calling her boyfriend Joel whom she had recently broken up with. The idea was vetoed. She was afraid that he would interpret that as a prelude to reunion. That would make her seem too needy. Better to tough it out.

    Once out of the shower, she threw on pjs and sat alone at the table. Too upset to watch the TV, she decided to retire to bed with a good book. Unfortunately all the books she has on her book stand were horror stories. She had been given the task of assessing and editing a manuscript by a new author Alice Nelson whom her company were thinking of signing up to a lucrative book deal. Horror was not really her choice of reading material, so Carrie had dutifully taken a few horror stories from the library to get a feel of this new author and see how she held up against some classics like Stephen King, Richard Matheson, Bram Stoker and Shirley Jackson. She should have taken something a little less nightmarish to balance it out. Too late now, so she curled up with “What dreams May Come”.

    She thought that would be a good read, because she really enjoyed the movie.
    It was close to mid-night when she finished reading and curled up to sleep. The sense of unease had not left her. She almost felt as if someone was in the room with her. She must get another cat she thought to herself. Her old cat Kerplunk had died two weeks previously. She had found him hung by the collar from a hanging pot plant hook she had left on the balcony rail. Goodness knows how he had caught his collar on it. She buried him at the cat and dog cemetery down in Springvale. She had invited a few friends but only two showed up.

    “Carrie, Carrie my sweet darling. How are you, babe?” Carrie shot up to a sitting position in her bed. She had been drifting off to sleep when the voice startled her.

    “Who’s there? Who are you?” There was no answer. The silence deafened her. Carrie thought she must have been dreaming. So she settled back down on the pillow. She must try to sleep.
    “Don’t you recognise my voice, sweetheart?” There it was again. The voice invaded her rest. This time she did not sit up. She pretended to sleep, slowing her breathing to a rhythmic cadence of a person at rest.

    “I have been watching you, honey. You miss me, don’t you?” The voice sounded quite close to her ear. She remained still. Even when ghostly lips seemed to touch her hair and she thought she felt a hand on the nape of her neck, she pretended to sleep. As if she doing it in her sleep; she put her hand up to brush away hair. She half expected to feel a hand there.

    There was nothing but air. Somehow she fell asleep, only to wake at 3.28 am. A presence was in the room. She smelt almond spice. Her phone was no longer besides her bed. Between half closed lashes, she saw a flash from the phone over in a corner of the room where she had an armchair.
    Sitting in it was a dark figure holding her phone and going through the messages. Sensing she was aware, the figure looked across. Recognition shook her.

    “Joel, you….”

    “Yes, me, my darling. Pleasant surprise?”

    He rose swiftly from the chair and crossed the room. Totally clothed in black; his gloved hands reached for her throat.

    Reply
    • May 17, 2017 at 2:37 am
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      Yikes! Intense. Scary. (the thought of Alice getting a book deal before me, I mean.) JK. An intense and scary story.

      Reply
      • May 17, 2017 at 4:01 am
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        I decided to use some characters familiar to all of us and thought they would appreciate the irony of being written into a horror story. 🙂

        Reply
      • May 17, 2017 at 10:03 pm
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        I am sincerely hoping you do not know a Joel who is obsessed with you. Or anyone with that sort of mindset. 🙂 Any it is fiction and I do hope Alice does get a book deal. I am sure Ken will follow on someday somehow some where.

        Reply
    • May 17, 2017 at 2:17 pm
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      Ilana a wonderfully frightening story! I hope you are prescient and I do get a book deal -soon. Too bad Ken, looks like I’ll be first 🙂

      But seriously, great tension, flowed smoothly and you created a wonderful scary atmosphere. I am honored you used us in your story! Loved it!!

      Reply
      • May 17, 2017 at 10:08 pm
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        Thanks Alice. I would love to write dramatic love stories where boy meets girl, few challenges in the way, but they end up together and live happily ever after, however it always seems not to work out that way. My characters have a mind of their own. I have to go back to a fantasy novel I started in 2007 and write that up. It is about magic and a boy who is the keeper of the light who had to find the right girl for him. He meets another woman who is one of the dark angels who tries to suck his life and light from him. He is supposed to be rescued by another female light keeper, but the dark angels try to stop them and create chaos that keeps the lights from meeting until the end.

        Reply
    • May 22, 2017 at 5:23 pm
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      As other have said, you generate a really creepy atmosphere here, Ilana. The scent, and the slightly-shifted sideboard are things that she could well have imagined – nice psychological scare (but the hairs in the soap, for example … maybe not so much. Such hard evidence of an intruder would surely have had her taking some kind of action?). There’s a little contradiction (a wash or a shower?) and a couple of typos. But the overall feeling of unease is really well done.

      Reply
    • May 23, 2017 at 8:35 am
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      Indeed a creepy story, Ilana, with the tension building well through the story.
      Not sure, though, how “Somehow she fell asleep, …..” the second time. I would have checked into a hotel by then, I think …

      Reply
      • May 24, 2017 at 4:07 am
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        Some people may not want to waste money on a hotel Andy! It might be beyond their budget if they are a poor writer.

        Reply
    • June 2, 2017 at 11:14 am
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      Ilana – would you mind if I read this story on the podcast? It’s a great story and I thought it was fun that you included Alice and I.

      Reply
  • May 14, 2017 at 10:36 pm
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    Hi Maud
    Good story but haven’t you submitted this story before? 🙂

    Reply
  • May 14, 2017 at 10:57 pm
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    Nice story Maud… sounds like wishful thinking… Edinburgh Cup or not !!

    Reply
  • May 15, 2017 at 10:34 am
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    Oh heck, llana !
    I must be having a senior moment. I can’t find the story, but I think I submitted it a while ago, with a different ending. I had deleted it and forgotten about it. I’ll take it down. Thanks for noticing.

    Reply
  • May 15, 2017 at 10:37 am
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    Carrie. Can you delete my story. I had a brainfart and submitted this one last year. Duh!!

    Reply
    • May 15, 2017 at 11:12 am
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      I don’t recognize it but Ilana’s memory is way sharper than mine. 🙂
      I’ll delete it in just a moment.

      Reply
  • May 15, 2017 at 8:00 pm
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    THE COLLECTOR

    Terence’s father gave him his first one on his fifth birthday: a Penny Black, on its own in a pristine album with crisp, squared pages, inviting companions for the white-on-black profile of Queen Victoria. Terence spent the next 30 years collecting those companions.

    His childhood passed in a cocoon of solitude; the interests of most of his school-mates of the same age did not coincide with his, and he was quite content not to have to be a part of any group. It wasn’t a question of superiority complex, rather that his friends were elsewhere: in the multiplying albums of his stamp collection.

    His appetite for the paper rectangles was voracious; he spent all the pocket money he received on them, while his birthday and Christmas presents were invariably stamp-related. He would send away for specimens that he coveted, and at weekends attended stamp fairs up and down the country, in the company of his beloved father and, when he passed away, his equally beloved mother.

    An objective eye might have feared for Terence’s psychological well-being, deprived as he was of affective contact with peers, but he was, in his own way, a very content child and later adult: he had loving parents and an interest that fed his soul and fulfilled him intellectually.

    Stamps taught him a great deal: about art, nature, politics, geography. And as he chose favourite themes, he did research and gained in-depth knowledge of them. For example, his vast collection of flower-themed stamps won him world-wide renown in both the philatelic and botanical areas.

    After school he didn’t go to university but set up a shop in the centre of London, selling rare stamps. His name was so respected in the field that the loan to begin his business was a formality, granted by a bank manager who was a fellow enthusiast. The shop did well, establishing a reputation for expertise and integrity, uncovering specimens of a British Tyrian Plum and an Austrian Red Mercury in its first year. They went to auction, earning a small fortune for the owners and a healthy commission for Terence.

    As the shop’s success grew, so did the work-load. Terence found himself needing help so he placed an advertisement in the trade magazines. There was a large response; who in the business didn’t want to work for one of the most prestigious stamp outlets in the world?

    But at interview, the candidates were very disappointing; either they weren’t knowledgeable enough, or they didn’t share Terence’s immense enthusiasm for all things philatelic. He’d given up the idea of hiring anyone and was resigned to putting in extra hours himself – an idea that subconsciously he actually relished. Then the last candidate arrived.

    Penny Rose ticked all of the boxes Terence had established for a successful applicant, but what he hadn’t legislated for was her perfect name: half of a Penny Red or Black in her Christian name, and a surname that was his favourite flower. If that had been all, Terence wouldn’t have considered her for the position, of course, but she was so much more.

    For a start, she was lovely; she had a soft, kind face with wide, friendly brown eyes and a mouth that was simultaneously sensual and playful. Her hair was long and dark and tied in a fetching pony tail. And she was exactly Terence’s height, with a body that caused him to fidget in his seat during the interview when she crossed her legs and her breasts wiggled – naturally rather than as a sexual gambit.

    The topping on the cake of her perfection was the fact that she knew even more about stamps than Terence did and was just as enthusiastic. Terence didn’t feel at all intimidated by this; rather, he found it refreshing that for once, he wouldn’t have to be talking down to his interlocutor.

    Penny started work the following day and proved just as good at the practical running of the shop as she was in naming all the first-day covers ever issued by the British Post Office (which she impressed Terence with one lunch-time). Their mutual proximity meant that romance soon bloomed and within three months they were married, choosing a stamp fair in Brussels for their honeymoon.

    And so they began a life of quiet, largely uneventful bliss. Days were spent at the increasingly successful shop, evenings at home, poring over their many albums, some of which were now shared. Each minute together brought them closer together, and their mutual love grew more and more intense by the day.

    Terence found himself getting distracted in the shop by things like her profile, or her scent, or her laugh, or the little waft of a breeze whenever she passed him. On one occasion, he found himself taking stock of what he’d done during the day as he shut up the shop and he realised that he’d done nothing – that he’d sorted no stamps, phoned no auction houses, met with no dealers. All he’d done was talk to Penny, and look at her sitting, and watch her moving, and laugh with her.

    And that evening, Penny took Terence’s hands over the dinner table, looked deep into his eyes, and told him that soon they’d be starting a new, rather different collection.

    .

    Reply
    • May 23, 2017 at 8:39 am
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      Now this is hard to do successfully – write an engaging story which only builds to ever more happiness, and pretty much no conflict involved at all. And you’ve done that, Phil.
      Really liked it. And a great take on the theme, having a positive obsession.

      Reply
    • May 23, 2017 at 4:36 pm
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      Phil, I totally agree with Andy, not conflict no building to a climax, but an intriguing well told story nonetheless. Flowed smoothly with very likable characters, and a happy ending to boot. Nice job.

      Reply
  • May 15, 2017 at 8:28 pm
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    Very nice story Phil. Quite sweet. It strikes a chord with many, I would think.

    Reply
  • May 15, 2017 at 8:47 pm
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    Okay folks, tough prompt this week. Since there are not too many entries as of today, we will extend the contest one more week, until May 24th. Hope we all find our inspiration soon. 🙂

    Reply
  • May 17, 2017 at 2:26 am
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    The Crazies. (968 words.)
    By Ken Cartisano
    © 2017

    Captain Starke was a dominating presence on the bridge of the starship ‘Velocity’: A bulky, near light speed cruiser with a complement of 230 men.

    He snapped his fingers at his First Mate. “Braddock, put it on the main screen.”

    “Aye sir.” The First Mate changed the view screen to a forward external view. A blazing round mass filled the screen.

    “What we’ve we got here?”

    “A red giant, Skipper. 9 billion years old, with one medium planet, uninhabitable.”

    “What d’you think, Mr. Braddock? See anything remarkable or interesting?”

    “No sir. No unusual metrics.”

    “Destroy it.”

    “Aye sir.” A high-pitched whine wound its way up the auditory spectrum as the weapon powered up. Thirty seconds after the sound passed the range of human hearing, the First Mate said, “The weapon is primed, Captain.”

    “Do it, Braddock.”

    The star-killing weapon fired with a barely perceptible ping.

    Aware that the bridge crew was waiting for his next order, Captain Starke delayed their departure, anticipating the signature puff of black on the surface of the star. The black spot grew, expanded at an exponential rate, rapidly turning the rest of the star black. Even before the black spread across its face, the star began shrinking, receding, collapsing on itself. A shudder passed throughout the ship, a gravity wave propagated by the incredible forces exerted by a star as it began the initial stages of an unnatural and untimely death.

    Using his command console, Starke put a star-chart up on the main screen. “What do you think, Braddock?”

    The First Mate studied the image and shrugged. A red line indicated their course on the chart, their destination was identified by a bull’s-eye. “Looks okay to me, Captain.”

    Starke shook his head. “I don’t think so.” He tapped a virtual button on his holographic console. The map on the screen zoomed by a factor of ten. Their current location was indicated on the screen by a flashing yellow blip. They were still positioned near the imploding star formerly named, NGS 904712.

    Its imminent fate reminded Starke that the ship possessed a powerful, automated system for finding, charting and cataloguing all the stars in the galaxy. “What’s the status on the catalogue?”

    His first officer equivocated. “You want a number? Thirty million, give or take a few.”

    “That’s all?”

    Most cosmologists agree that there are about 200 billion stars in the galaxy.

    “Give it time, Captain.” They’d had this discussion before, too often. Even at near light speeds, it was impossible to visit 30 million stars in a lifetime anyway, let alone 200 billion.

    “Look at the chart, Braddock.” The Captain had already forgotten about the catalogue. He gestured at the screen. “If we alter our course by 35 degrees, we can hit that star on the way to that one.” The First Mate said nothing. “This would allow us to get to two stars in the next four days, as opposed to just one.”

    Braddock nodded. “Aye, Captain. I see your point.”

    Captain Starke signaled his navigator. “Upload the course corrections, Mr. Claren.”

    “Aye sir.” The main screen reverted to what was left of the imploding star. “New course loaded, Skipper.”

    “All right.” Starke said. “Let’s get out of here.”

    The navigator spun the ship 120 degrees and applied forward throttle as the dying sun slid sideways off the main viewing screen: replaced by a new field of stars.

    *****

    The First Mate and the Chief Navigator were hunched over a table in one of the ship’s mess halls. “What’s on your mind, Mr. Claren?”

    Due to the noise, the mess halls were the only place where conversations were largely free of eavesdropping. “This has got to stop, Mr. Braddock. Fragging stars is not the mission. I was talking to the ship’s Chief Astrophysicist. He says individual gravity waves are no big deal, but if several waves coincide at some unknown and unpredictable point, the effects would be devastating. Creating the space-time interstellar equivalent of a planetary rogue wave.”

    “So?” Braddock swallowed the remains of his freeze-dried apricot. “What do you propose, Mr. Claren? Mutiny?”

    “Well,” the Navigator was clearly conflicted. Mutiny is a word that shouldn’t even be mentioned on a ship. It has spelled the end of many a shipboard career; and careers are entirely superfluous when you’re dead. “I don’t know what else we can do. I mean—the skipper is completely off his rocker. Surely you can see that, Mr. Braddock.”

    On the other side of the mess hall, two second-class ship’s engineers were on their coffee break, discretely watching the two officers having an intense discussion, but couldn’t hear any of the actual conversation. Unbeknownst to the ship’s navigator, Mr. Claren, they observed a two-man security detail standing in the gangway just outside the mess hall door. By all appearances, they were there on business.

    One of the engineers leaned toward the other over the table. “They’re gonna arrest Mr. Claren.”

    The other engineer nodded.

    “Awf, that blows. He’s a good man, and an excellent navigator too. Remember that business with the black hole? The Skipper didn’t know what the hell he was doing. If it wasn’t for Claren, we wouldn’t be sitting here having this conversation.”

    “I know.” The other engineer agreed. “None of us would. Including Claren.”

    At that moment the security detail stepped into the room. They quickly removed the protesting Chief Navigator, but the fuss was over in a matter of moments.

    The First Mate stood up, finished his coffee, and then gave the two engineers a long, hard, eerie look before he set his empty cup on the plastic table. Then he left the room without a word.

    The quieter of the two engineers whispered, “It’s not the crazies that get ya.” He poked his shipmate in the arm. “It’s their crazier followers.”

    Reply
    • May 22, 2017 at 5:38 pm
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      This reads really well, Kenneth. The events are clear and well described – the details of the opening section are very vivid, and the second part, seen from two perspectives, is nicely done, too. It’s like a future-set ‘The Caine Mutiny’, isn’t it? In that film/book (or ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’), if we just saw the respective captains being challenged and no more, we’d probably feel a little frustrated … and that’s how I felt at the end here a bit. I like the snappy bit of ‘crazies’ dialogue, but I felt there needed to be some kind of resolution. Maybe it’s an excerpt from something bigger?

      Reply
      • May 24, 2017 at 12:19 am
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        Philip,

        I’m disappointed to hear that my story left you feeling frustrated. I appreciate your honesty though. I feel like my muse handed me a silver tea service, and I tripped over the threshold as I brought it into the room.

        Did I ever tell you about the time I was an usher at a concert? (I did? Well I’m going to tell you again,) The orchestra was in the middle of a movement, only the stage lights were on, and I leaned back against the wall and turned most of the auditorium lights on? And since I was one of just a handful of people who didn’t know where the light switches were, almost every person in the auditorium, including the conductor, turned and looked directly at me, with expressions that spanned the entire spectrum of human emotion: Sadness, scorn, disbelief, shame, disgust, amusement, pity, some more scorn, a lot more pity. A couple of more scorns, incredulousness, anger, oh yes, and frustration. I recall some frustration in the crowd.

        Can you imagine the dose of humiliation I received at that moment? No. No you can’t. Don’t even try. But that’s what makes me immune. I’m like the Incredible Hulk of Humiliation. I overdosed. (Fortunately, I did not turn green, except around the gills.)

        The conductor liked me, up until that moment in her life. All that practice, all those rehearsals, and then some idiot turns the lights on in the middle of the performance. I was that idiot.

        I hope you don’t think I’m complaining, or bragging. It’s autobiographical. It’s just one of those things that supports my theory that—with me involved, futility is ultimately achievable.

        Reply
        • May 24, 2017 at 8:27 am
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          That’s a funny story (about the orchestra).

          Please, Ken – I didn’t want to humiliate you (obviously) – I was merely looking for a way that the ending could be improved because I felt it kind of finished in mid-air (like Roadrunner desperately trying to run back to the mountain ledge … and we don’t see him drop).

          Soz, anyway, for the disappointment.

          Reply
          • May 25, 2017 at 4:03 pm
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            Phil,
            Not to worry. I didn’t really feel humiliated by your comments. I was just trying to add levity to the thread. (You know how I am.) I hope my humor doesn’t come across as sensitivity to criticism because I’d hate to discourage comments and feedback especially when it’s instructive, like yours are.

    • May 23, 2017 at 8:49 am
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      I like this smoothly-written and well-constructed story, and particularly its punchline – very apt for these times And especially in view of last night’s tragic events.

      My inner and half-hidden geek feels here may be some mathematical and astronomical challenges in the story. At sub-light speeds getting from any star to another in 4 days seems a tall order.
      And if you wanted to visit 30 million stars, even at the rate of 1 a day, it would take you about 82,000 years. I think. Unless the captain has some wormholes up his sleeve, or is using the destruction of stars to create some kind of anomalies to propel him to the next star …
      On the other hand, maybe the story runs smoother without any explanations!

      Reply
      • May 23, 2017 at 9:29 pm
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        Well Andy, I’m glad you noticed the astronomical anomalies. (Not really.) Actually, I thought that the hopelessness of the endeavor, provided additional evidence that the captain was crazy, since he was unfazed by the impossibility of the task, which he (himself) had decided upon. However (that’s right, there’s more) these stars were all in a bunch. They’re called ‘bunched stars.’ (I’m surprised you’ve never heard of these.) Oh you HAVE heard of bunched stars? Ahh, well then, I guess I’m forced to admit that your observations about the logistics is) or rather are (correct.) I should have made the ship FASTER than light. I could’ve done that. It was within my power to make the ship faster than light. In fact, it’s such a standard Sci-Fi strategy that it’s generally referred to as FTL.

        Actually, it didn’t even occur to me to think that through. I just assumed that the star ship was equipped with really fast engines. (I mean hell, they had a gun that would implode stars! Why not really fast engines? What d’you want from me, man? Realism? Would the ship make it to the next star in four days if it traveled at, oh, let’s say 99.999 percent of the speed of light? Does that work? (Answer: It would if the star was only three and a half light-days away.)

        Now that I think about it, I believe there was a caution label on the bulkhead. “Warning! Device Not Designed To Exceed Speed of Light. Maximum Speed, 99.999 percent speed of light.” And there was a fuse box. Just in case they did it by accident. (You know how fallible humans are.) Definitely a fuse box. “In Case Of Accidental Light Speed – Replace Fuse. Then Restart Engine(s).”
        This story needs work, or more comedy. But I appreciate your feedback Andy. I think everyone’s being very gracious in their comments, but I like the essence of the story, it just needs more work.

        Reply
    • May 23, 2017 at 4:49 pm
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      Ken, the story flows nicely, there’s a good amount of tension with the nutty captain picking off stars. For me, it loses steam during the part where Braddock and Claren are talking. I found it hard to follow and I had to read it twice for it all to sink in. Of course, that could just be me, Phil and Andy had no such issues. Writing from two points of view is tricky, and I thought the flow in that scene could have been smoother. Still, this is a cool story, and I agree with Phil that the ending leaves something to be desired, that this feels like part of a longer story.

      Reply
      • May 23, 2017 at 10:00 pm
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        Alice,

        Reading my stories once can be painful enough. The fact that you had to read part of it twice shows real stamina.

        Seriously though, I agree with your critique.
        I cut a huge chunk of this story from the beginning, and then, before I pasted it back into the story in the middle, I read the story and it was shorter and better without the missing chunk, but then I pasted it back in anyway. Although that chunk was not the part you had to re-read, so that wouldn’t have fixed THAT problem.

        This was the second story I wrote for this prompt, and after discarding the first story, I didn’t give this one the effort and time that I do with most stories. Still, like you, I think this could be a cool story with some more work.

        Reply
  • May 20, 2017 at 7:50 pm
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    Getting into character

    Neil’s always been a fine writer. One of my best. His debut crime novel was more than good. The second, even better. That should have set him up for a great career. But his next attempt was a turkey no publisher would accept.

    “OK, you want to know what the problem is?” I said as we met at the Wig & Mitre to discuss his latest manuscript. “I think you’re too nice.”

    He raised an eyebrow.

    “What I mean is, your writing is – very accomplished. Storylines are great. The way you weave together all the strands and sub-plots, I’d say you’ve become the master of the police procedural.”

    “But?”

    “It’s the villains. To be frank, I don’t think you have villainy in you.”

    “You think my bad guys are two-dimensional?”

    “No. But they do need to be more engaging.”

    “You think Lowther should be likeable? He is a serial killer, you know.”

    “Sure. But it’s not about likeability, Neil, it’s about drawing the reader into the killer’s world. Messing with our emotional responses. Think of The Talented Mr Ripley. Or Hannibal Lecter. Even T-Bag in Prison Break.”

    “Tea bag? Anyway, you know how much research I’ve done for Lowther’s character.”

    “Of course. But do you feel his character? Can you emotionally get inside a sadistic killer’s point-of-view?”

    Neil stared into his beer glass. “Maybe that’s beyond me,” he said at last.

    I looked at him firmly. “Tell me, Neil. What is it you want more than anything?”

    “Hm, what do I want?” he said, then paused for several seconds. “I want to be a great writer of literary crime novels. Not too highbrow, just enough to get the critics purring. And accessible enough to keep the pages turning. So what about you. What do you want?”

    “Easy. I want someone to write me a totally kickass novel that will have publishers and film producers falling over each other to sign up. And make me huge amounts of money. I think that could be you, Neil.”

    “Oh, you told me once you were searching for the perfect woman. Has she fallen by the wayside in your lust for riches?”

    “Ok, I’ll take both! Talking of perfect women, your other half is at the window behind you.”

    And there she was, Carla, locking her bicycle against the pub wall, her cheeks flushed by the November chill. She smiled and waved as Neil turned around, her breath steaming up the window. Seeing the two love-birds bright-eyed in their bubble of happiness, I despaired at the thought of Neil ever finding any inner evil to channel into his writing.

    As I returned from the bar with a drink for Carla, Neil was telling her about our conversation.

    “Alex wants me to make him rich. And to do that I have to conjure up an evil but engaging villain. And he doesn’t think I can write such a character until I can empathise with him. Step into his skin.”

    “Exactly,” I agreed.

    Carla laughed. “This is the guy who opens windows to let mosquitos out instead of thwacking them.”

    “He doesn’t need to kill anyone or anything, Carla. It’s imagination. Perhaps he just needs to act some things out …”

    “Method acting,” added Carla, nodding thoughtfully.

    “You want me to go stalk some women in the park?” asked Neil.

    “Risky,” I said. “Could you guys try something at home? Like hiding in the wardrobe and leaping out at Carla when she thinks you’re not in the house?”

    “So scare the pants off her in the interests of art?” said Neil. We all laughed.

    “Hmm, who knows where that might lead,” said Carla, widening her eyes playfully. After a few more drinks, we had half a plan.

    I next saw Neil at his house after he’d sent through a batch of excellent chapter revisions. He was more animated than usual, eager to tell me about his experiments in method acting. Carla joined in laughing at the stream of anecdotes, looking coyly at us both as she chopped vegetables. I couldn’t help but notice, though, the bruises on her wrists. “He’s having so much fun, I’m not sure he wants to come out of character,” she joked.

    Neil’s serial killer character, Lowther, had acquired several layers of depth. And the interplay between Lowther and the other characters sharpened over the next few revisions. We were on to a winner here, for sure.

    Then I got a call one night from Carla, her voice etched with anxiety. “Things are getting weird round here,” she said. “I’m constantly on edge, not knowing what mood he will be in. I know he’s playing me, but it’s becoming unbearable. And … someone’s been killing cats around here.”

    “You think it’s Neil?”

    “He goes out at night. Won’t tell me where. And some of our kitchen knives are missing …”

    I promised to have a word, and met Neil in the pub the next evening. He was very jovial and laughed off my concerns. “Just one more revision to do, and then I can come out of character. Have a look at this.”

    He opened his holdall and showed me a collection of chains, manacles, pulleys and fixings. “Just want to work through the scene where Lowther has his last victim hung up by her arms. There’s something I’m missing in Lowther’s dialogue.”

    “You can’t be serious.”

    “It’ll be fine,” he said, patting me on the shoulder as he left the pub.

    I called Carla urgently, and she was at my apartment by the time I returned. I saw new bruises on her neck, and the sadness in her eyes. I laid my open hand against her cheek, and she nestled into its gentleness.

    Then Neil was hammering at the door, ranting and threatening to cut us to pieces. Eventually the neighbours called the police.

    They say Neil’s doing well at the hospital.

    And me? I have my bestseller, and my perfect woman.

    Reply
    • May 22, 2017 at 1:09 am
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      Andy,
      Great writing, very effective and polished. The story itself is clever and diabolical, with a damned good ending. A fun read. I was going to read my story to my mom, saw yours and read yours first.

      Reply
    • May 22, 2017 at 5:56 pm
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      A fiendish plot, Andy, the various strands all coming together very neatly. The choice of first-person narrator works well. Early on, the narrator’s advice to Neil is actually very sound – I found myself nodding inwardly. You use the language cleanly, efficiently, elegantly. There were a couple of moments that jarred a little for me: “Oh, you told me once you were searching for the perfect woman.” … doesn’t feel like an entirely natural response to what the narrator’s just said (I know we need that fact for the ending to work, but …); “You think it’s Neil?” is a suspicion too readily offered – maybe needs some circumspection there; and the last few lines feel a little rushed – maybe a question of space? Details, though: it’s a v. good story.

      Reply
      • May 23, 2017 at 1:33 am
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        Thanks, Phil. I agree with all your observations – it was a space thing.
        Edited it down from just over 1400 words, and a few things that were introduced more gradually are a little stark. Neil was a more fully drawn character too, I think.
        But hopefully kept the essence of the story. And editing also made it necessary to transmit more through dialogue rather than narrator observations. Was an interesting challenge!

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    • May 23, 2017 at 5:04 pm
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      Whoa Andy, that Alex is a sneaky one. Great story, the tension builds right up to that surprise ending. Great flow, it hooked me in right from the start. Poor Neil.

      Reply
      • May 24, 2017 at 3:49 am
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        Thanks, Alice
        You know, I wonder myself if Alex is sneaky, or if he’s just an agent being an agent – taking everything he can from an author 🙂 He remains in character throughout ….

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    • May 24, 2017 at 4:10 am
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      Greart story and liked the twist at the end. You got me.

      Reply
  • May 22, 2017 at 2:06 pm
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    True Love
    By Carrie Zylka

    The man stands in the shadow of a tree. His hands fidget with his keys, his dark eyes intent.

    He watches her. Cute pink little dress, pig tails flying as she races around the playground with her 8 year old friends.

    He can’t help himself. He watches her every day. She doesn’t even see how intent he is, she’s so focused on her friends.

    He watches and waits.

    Patiently.

    Like a panther in the grass. Watching everything around her, but never taking on eye off her.

    His heart aches for this darling little girl. His need to hold her, to touch her, to love her, burns hot inside him.

    He simply can’t help himself.

    He thinks about her constantly. He fantasizes about the two of them together. Just the two of them, with no distractions.

    He is desperate for her attention.

    He resists the urge to call out to her, to take her hand and run away with her.

    But no, she is having too much fun with her friends. He doesn’t want to disappoint her.

    Now that he’s found her, it is like he can’t remember a time without her. The thought of her fills him with a purpose, a need.

    And he is desperate to know everything about her. Her favorite color, her favorite food, her favorite games. So he can give them to her, so he can make her happy.

    Some would call him obsessed, but not he. He knows what this is. He knows that this is the truest form of love.

    He almost takes a step forward when she stumbles, but she quickly recovers and he slinks back into the shadows.

    He stands there, for nearly an hour until she is done playing.

    His chest tightens as she spies him. His longing to hold her intensifies as she runs over to him with two of her friends.

    “Meet my friends Annie and Megan.” She turns to her friends. “Meet my daddy, I only just met him not long ago. He was lost but he found me!”

    The man feels a rush of obsessive love as his biological daughter, hidden from him until the mother’s untimely death, calls him “daddy”.

    Reply
    • May 22, 2017 at 6:20 pm
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      Brief but really well done, Carrie. The misdirection is very slick – although we (I, at least) get an inkling it might not be what we at first think, all the clues could lead to both outcomes; the fact that it’s the ‘good’ outcome is a relief. The short, sharp paragraphs, and the use of the present tense, really up the tension. I wonder how it would have been in the first person? I only didn’t like (so much) the last two paragraphs, where you want to dot the i’s and cross the t’s – I didn’t think that was necessary, in fact (others may prefer it that way, though). Good job!

      Reply
    • May 23, 2017 at 8:54 am
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      I agree with Phil about this artful story, with its effective misdirecting to mess with the readers emotional response.
      There are a few competitions around for flash fiction of about 300 words, and I think this is the kind of captured moment (or few moments) and an angle to make it really thought-provoking that could do well in such a competition.

      Reply
    • May 23, 2017 at 5:07 pm
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      Carrie, this is a sweet story. I thought, “oh-oh a child pervert,” and then the reveal. Wonderful flow, you did a great job of disguising who the narrator is until the end.

      Reply
    • May 23, 2017 at 10:20 pm
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      Carrie,
      Great story Carrie. I think your touch is just right on this. The writing is great. I get the notion that you get an idea sometimes, and you just bang out a story, and let it fly. I hope that this is not true, because I usually spend days just trying to make my stories comprehensible. So, if it IS true. Lie to me, babe. Just lie to me.

      Reply
    • May 24, 2017 at 4:14 am
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      Good story Carrie. Tense writing and loved the style. You almost had me thinking pervert bastard, but what gave it away for me was the following: “Now that he’s found her, it is like he can’t remember a time without her. The thought of her fills him with a purpose, a need.

      And he is desperate to know everything about her. Her favorite color, her favorite food, her favorite games. So he can give them to her, so he can make her happy.”

      I thought naw, it’s the dad. True perverts only care about satisfying their own selfish desires. That is so apparent and it was at that point I knew his interest in the girl was benign.
      Good writing.

      Reply
  • May 22, 2017 at 7:40 pm
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    Peccadillos
    By Alice Nelson ©2017

    It all started with a simple glass of water.

    Seafus Granger woke to see the glass, defiantly sitting on his antique dresser. The same glass he asked his wife to move the night before. The very same glass that left a water mark so complete, the wood beneath was worn and pale.

    Aubrey!” He called, but she didn’t answer, she rarely answered him these days.

    Aubrey used to think Seafus’ need to be tidy was cute. She smiled when he’d say, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.”

    “You know that’s not in the Bible, don’t you Seafus? “ She’d tease.

    “Well it should be,” Seafus would reply with a wink.

    Playful, and carefree, that was how The Grangers used to be. But now their conversations had been diminished to curt exchanges that usually involved Seafus scolding Aubrey like a child, and her openly mocking him —like last night.

    “Aubrey, please don’t put your feet on the table.”

    Aubrey rolled her eyes.

    “Aubrey, you’re getting crumbs everywhere.”

    She shook out the napkin and released the crumbs on the rug right in front of him.

    “Aubrey, for god’s sake, use a coaster.”

    Well, we know how that turned out.

    Seafus was staring at the damage on the dresser he worked so hard to restore and marched out of the room to find Aubrey and talk with her.

    “Keep calm son,” said the voice in his head, the gentle one that sounded like his dead father.

    “I will not,” Seafus replied.

    **********

    Seafus looked for Aubrey in the kitchen first, she was usually there each morning making a pot of coffee; the one holdover from when they were a happy couple.

    It was hard for Seafus to remember when his love for Aubrey used to occupy nearly every moment of his day. If work was stressful, Seafus would think of Aubrey’s beautiful red hair, and how it fell in soft ringlets just below her shoulders. He would recall the playful way he traced the freckles that ran along the bridge of her nose. Seafus would imagine her big, green eyes comforting him, and his day would immediately improve.

    Now he only saw disdain in those beautiful eyes, as she waited for him to criticize her for not using a napkin or “—A coaster,” Seafus said out loud. “I only did it for her own good.”

    “Sure, tell yourself that, Seafus.” His father’s voice said.

    **********

    All Seafus found in the kitchen was a moldy loaf of bread left on the counter, “More defiance,” he thought.

    He checked the den next. It had become Aubrey’s sanctuary of late —her refuge from him. Aubrey wasn’t in the den either, but there was evidence that she had been.

    A few albums were on the coffee table, and one was still spinning around soundlessly on the turntable. Dust was all over the furniture as if Aubrey purposely sprinkled it around the room.

    Seafus stood clenching and unclenching his fists. He left quickly, unable to look any longer at the mess Aubrey made.

    **********

    “Well, she obviously isn’t home,” Seafus said. So he called her cell. “I’ll try and reason with her, ask her to come home so we can talk —like we used to,” he’d say.

    Seafus dialed Aubrey’s number and heard her phone ringing from the den. Curious, he walked into the room, “Aubrey?” He said, but no one was in there.

    Her phone was sitting on the window seat. Now Seafus was beginning to worry, she’d never leave the house without her phone.

    “That’s because she didn’t leave,” the voice said.

    “What do you mean?” Seafus asked Imaginary Dad.

    “I think you know son.”

    Seafus began hyperventilating, oh he knew alright, it all began to make sense now. Why the bread was moldy. Why the watermark on the dresser looked worn and pale as if the glass was in the same spot for weeks. Why there was a thin layer of dust on every surface in the house.

    Seafus would never allow things to get so dirty, unless…

    Unless he had lost time —again.

    The first time this happened Seafus was fifteen, and his father had just died. The therapist called it Dissociative Amnesia.

    “You lose time Seafus,” she said, “It’s as if you’re sleepwalking, but you appear fully awake to the rest of the world and have no memory of anything you did during that time.”

    “How long had he been dissociating this time? Days? Weeks?” He just didn’t know.

    He didn’t want to know.

    **********

    The memories would always come back in rapid flashes, like clips from a movie.

    Seafus saw Aubrey yelling at him, “I’ve had it with your bullshit!”

    He screamed back, “The glass left a stain on the dresser, and you don’t even care!”

    She laughed, “No I don’t Seafus. I don’t give a damn!”

    Aubrey turned to walk away, and the anger welled up inside of Seafus. Then that one last image flashed before his eyes —the look of horror on Aubrey’s face, as his hands tightened around her neck.

    **********

    The extra storage room was why Seafus bought the house in the first place. It was unfinished, with dirt floors and concrete walls. They had plans to renovate it one day.

    Seafus could see that the soil had been disturbed in one corner, he got on his knees and began clawing at the dirt with his bare hands. It didn’t take long to reach her. Gently, Seafus brushed the dirt from her hair and face and kissed her cool lips.

    “I’m so sorry Aubrey,” he cried, looking into the big, green eyes that he still loved so much. The eyes that now stared off into nothingness.

    Reply
    • May 23, 2017 at 9:08 am
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      I promise I’ll use coasters in future!

      Another disturbing tale. Poor Seafus (I love the names you give your characters, BTW) – OCD, dissociative amnesia and hearing voices too, plus pyschopathic tendencies, perhaps.
      Yet we feel sorry for him as he tries to make sense of a world he can’t really get to grips with. Except by the neck …

      Afterthought: I hope Seafus leaves the storage room tidy afterwards

      Reply
      • May 23, 2017 at 10:21 am
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        Ha! Andy, better buy those coasters in bulk. 🙂
        Glad you like the character names, and thanks for the nice words about the story. Disturbing indeed, and you even empathized with Seafus, me too.

        Reply
    • May 23, 2017 at 10:42 pm
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      Alice,
      This story seems to be almost entirely character development, which is a pretty good trick considering the fact that one of the characters is crazy and the other is already dead when the story begins. So the writing is very effective and it’s a great use of the prompt too.

      A strangle victim presents a very unattractive corpse. For a guy who can’t stand a water stain, he’s pretty tolerant of the appearance of his dear Aubrey after a week or so buried in the dirt. (He KISSED her! Ew.)

      That having been said, I didn’t realize it until Andy mentioned it but, I too could empathize with Seafus, because it wasn’t really his fault.

      Reply
      • May 23, 2017 at 11:06 pm
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        Thank you Ken, this story gave me fits and spurts. I even posted it a few days ago but took it down because it just wasn’t right. Seafus is a character I’ve been throwing around for about ten years now, trying to get him right.

        Any hoot, the kiss, yeah that is an “Ew” moment, but he is insane so he might, even with his proclivities still kiss her.

        He is a sympathetic guy, and I’m glad that came through in the story. Thanks again for your kind words.

        Reply
    • May 24, 2017 at 6:21 am
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      Great story, Alice. The little interleaving sections really work well – a bit disorienting (in a good way) and perfectly logical when we have the whole story. The dust and bread are weird, and I was thinking that Aubrey had maybe just left Seafus … which might have been an option – and would have made the reveal more mundane, but perhaps more believable (? – Seafus going to the extreme of murder, and later kissing Aubrey – would such an OCD-suffering person do that?), and Seafus a more sympathetic character (I didn’t share Andy and Kenneth’s – and your – sympathy for him really … but that’s obviously just me). Final thought: was the clinical diagnosis necessary? Could the reader just have been shown that that Seafus was a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic, without the detail?These are just musings, though, because it’s an effective story and I liked it.

      Reply
      • May 24, 2017 at 8:35 pm
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        Phil Thanks! I always like your musings, they make me think more about my stories. I’m glad you enjoyed it, and I understand why you didn’t sympathize with old Seafus. 🙂

        Reply
    • May 24, 2017 at 6:54 am
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      Sad story Alice. I feel for Seafus even though quite upset by what he has done. You have presented him well.
      Good story and well balanced characterisation.

      Reply
      • May 24, 2017 at 8:36 pm
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        Thank you Ilana, glad you liked it. It is a sad story indeed. 🙂

        Reply
  • May 23, 2017 at 11:24 pm
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    The Hidden (988 words)
    Written by Christopher Smith
    © 2017

    I’d be willing to hold three at any one time, no more. More than three and I think you’re asking for a headache. More than three is busy—a juggling act—and, really, who needs busy? Mind you, there have been others to push it beyond that, but they were pros. And here I am just getting started.

    As it stands, I have two. I’ve been looking for a third for some time now (if you consider nearly three weeks some time) but haven’t smelled anything worth investing in.

    Sean was wearing Gucci Guilty when he brushed past me in the grocery store. It was busy, many carts and pushers-of-carts packed into what seemed to be too-tight isles on a Saturday afternoon. I smelled it and froze, and then my knees came unhinged. If I hadn’t been holding onto the push-bar of my grocery cart, filled with a gaggle of vegetables and a twelve pack of Red Bull, tall boys, I would have dropped to the floor. But I didn’t fall, and when my head cleared enough to move on I followed him down the cereal aisle, weaving around dazed shoppers and their carts, toward the cash registers, excited to ask him where he purchased such a fine-smelling scent: lemon, lavender, and patchouli. What is there not to love? And the look of that bottle—bulky and stiff and sleek, classic—drives me senseless, I mean, downright, nut-farm senseless.

    Ainsley was wearing Light Blue Dolce & Gabbana when I walked past her in the mall. She was standing at the entrance of one of these hipster tea shops with a tray of samples, and asked if I cared to try one. I have always been annoyed by this sort of solicitation, and when she leaned in and touched my shoulder—actually set her hands on me!—I nearly lost it completely. But I caught the trace of jasmine, bamboo, white rose, and I’d nearly forgotten what had upset me in the first place. It was a remarkable odor, and so unexpected. Within me arose a contrast of emotions: anger and surprise, annoyance and pleasure. I adored it.

    I agreed, a little flustered, she recommended something, and I took it and drank, all the while that scent consuming me. The tea tasted empty, watered-down, but that smell, it was so…intoxicatingly delicious.

    I bought twenty dollars’ worth of tea and spent another fifty on a matching loose-leaf mug and tea pot, with strainer, just to be close to that fragrance a little longer. What I was to do with this recently purchased shit I had no idea, but at the time it didn’t matter.

    And now these trophies sit high on the glass shelf in the restroom, a pleasant reminder of my true trophies locked away deep in the sub-basement. Hidden behind a panelled wall in my office on the lower level of my split-level is a concrete stairway leading down to a long hallway with three strategically placed rooms branching off from it: one at each end, and the third in the middle. There is a lot of concrete down here. Concrete is easier to clean; carpet hides more evidence than I’d care to admit.

    Today I meet with Ainsley first. I don’t bother knocking, and when I ease the steel slider on the door’s window to one side, I catch her on the toilet (the second time in as many days). She raises both middle fingers—no hesitation in that loving gesture—and I smile back. She has no idea what is coming…but to be honest, neither do I. I only know that in time she will lose that fuck-you attitude, learn some basic manners.

    I inhale deeply: jasmine and citron briefly carry me away, embrace me.

    And then I’m back. She is still on the toilet, and still giving me that caring, double salute. My smile broadens. I wait a beat, two, and when she doesn’t move, I simply wave and tell her I’ll see her tomorrow, to get a good night sleep, and I close her off from the hallway.

    Sean dies at the other end of the hall. I don’t bother with his window and go directly for the door. He is hugging himself on the cot, leaning against the back wall, his arms around his legs, his legs pulled to his chest. He glares at me, his eyes dull and weak, his sockets sunken and dark. His eyes begin to water, just a glaze; tears are close.

    I can barely smell the lavender and the lemon anymore; only the patchouli remains, although it is now a musky, dirty scent that does little for me.

    He asks for water, and I tell him to strip for it, that by now he should know the drill. It isn’t sexual…or not only sexual. He is impressive, and there was a time—near the beginning, this would have been—that I would have taken all he had to offer, but now I only want to see the damage I’ve done. Now that is impressive. I motion for him to turn, winding my finger in slow circles, and he obeys, and I am so proud of myself.

    I tell him that perhaps tomorrow I’ll bring him something to drink, and I relish how this crushes him, how slack his face becomes despite the weight loss.

    I ease the door closed, and before the bolt is back in place I can hear his desperate sobs…and is that the tickle of a hard-on I feel? Not a full one, no, but certainly a chubby.

    Ainsley will be fun to play with; I look forward to it immensely. Sean is on his way out, has been for some time, and the only real pleasure remaining is figuring how to finish his story.

    And then the true entertainment begins: finding a replacement scent. Only I don’t find it, it will find me.

    END

    Reply
    • May 24, 2017 at 12:39 am
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      A strikingly horrific story. Disturbingly graphic and convincing. I don’t know whether to congratulate you or shun you. Welcome to the group, Christopher. Great story, excellent writing.

      Reply
      • May 24, 2017 at 7:41 pm
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        Thanks, Kenneth! And a congrats will do just fine, thank you!

        Reply
    • May 24, 2017 at 4:10 am
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      Hi Christopher – a terrific and disturbing story. Would be Classic if he could get to victim No 5, I Guess? Great writing and pacing.
      Would be interesting to know what triggers the obsession, and what connects in his mind a passion for scents and for degrading and murdering people. We have a strong character fully developed – is there room for some insight into the development?

      Reply
      • May 24, 2017 at 7:47 pm
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        Andy, thanks! There were many directions I could have gone with the perfume/cologne of each of the victims, hard to nail down, but thought I’d stick to neutral choices, nothing too obvious like Calvin Klein’s “Obsession.”
        Tough to fit all I wanted to in such a small word allotment, but that is all part of the fun/challenge, I guess!

        Reply
    • May 24, 2017 at 6:43 am
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      Welcome, Christopher. This is excellent stuff. We’re shown a graphic snapshot of the narrator’s life and world and can only sit and be scared. I like everything about the story: the opening paragraph (What’s he [she?!] juggling? We read on…); the sub-American-Psycho descriptions; the things that are left out, letting us imagine (How did the narrator snatch the people? What exactly has he/she done to Sean? How and why – as Andy says – did he/she start?); the choice of first person and the chatty style, making us conspirators; the throwaway cruelty of letting Sean wait for water that probably will never come; the certainty (“I’m just getting started.”) that more is on the way … Really, bravo!

      Reply
      • May 24, 2017 at 7:49 pm
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        Thank you, Phil, sincerely…I appreciate it!

        Reply
  • May 23, 2017 at 11:55 pm
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    Wow Christopher, a fantastically disturbing story. So we’ll written, the pacing is pitch perfect. The narrator is frightening, and you know he’s been doing this for some time. I was on edge from beginning to end.

    Great use of the prompt, I loved this story! Oh and welcome to the group.

    Reply
    • May 24, 2017 at 7:52 pm
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      Thanks, Alice!
      I only just started listening to your podcast – you and Carrie do such a great job – and I think I’ve already blown through all the podcasts!
      And these writing challenges are great for honest feedback…nice to have a group to share your work with!

      Reply
      • May 24, 2017 at 8:32 pm
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        That’s awesome!! Thank you Christopher for listening, and I’m glad you enjoy the podcast 🙂

        Reply
  • May 24, 2017 at 6:51 am
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    Eery story and shades of Stephen King there. You have captured madness well.

    Reply
  • May 24, 2017 at 12:01 pm
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    Ohhhhhhhh yeah it’s time to cast those votes!!

    While you are certainly welcome to leave comments and critiques, this story thread is now closed and no more stories can be submitted.

    Remember, you must vote for your story to count, and you Can NOT vote for yourself. Good luck everyone!

    Voting Link: http://fiction.wwocz.net/blog/voting-obsession-2017/

    Good luck!

    Reply
  • May 25, 2017 at 4:25 pm
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    I thoughtfully renamed everyone’s story again. You are all welcome.

    Andy – A Good Agent Is Hard To Find.
    Tegon – The Prankster.
    Alice – When Seafus Met Ginger.
    Ilana – Bad Boy Friend.
    Christopher – Chanel No. 45
    Philip – Philatelistic.
    Carrie – Daddy Dearest.
    Ken – Red Sky At Night.

    Reply
    • May 25, 2017 at 5:12 pm
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      🙂

      Reply
  • May 25, 2017 at 5:26 pm
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    Just waiting on Tegon’s vote!

    Reply
  • May 26, 2017 at 7:28 am
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    Ok everyone – winners posted: http://fiction.wwocz.net/blog/winners/

    WINNERS May 4- May 24, 2017 Flash Fiction Contest “Obsession”

    And without further ado the Winner is…

    1st Christopher Smith “The Hidden”

    2nd Andy Lake “Getting Into Character”
    3rd Phil Town “The Collector”
    4th Alice Nelson “Peccadillos”
    5th Carrie Zylka “True Love”
    6th Ilana Leeds “The Quiet Obsession”
    7th Kenneth Cartisano “The Crazies”
    Story with the Favorite Character: Andy Lake – Alex
    Story with the Best Pacing: Christopher Smith
    Story with the Best Use of Dialogue: Andy Lake

    Anyone who would like to get their vote totals may send an email to liflashfiction(at)gmail(dot)com to request details.

    Congratulations Christopher!!

    New Prompt: May 25 – June 8, 2017 Flash Fiction Contest “The Crow & The Owl”
    http://fiction.wwocz.net/blog/2017-the-crow-the-owl/

    Reply
    • May 26, 2017 at 11:29 am
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      Congratulations Christopher!! A great story, glad to have you writing with us!!

      Reply
    • May 26, 2017 at 6:17 pm
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      Congratulations, Christopher. Brilliant story!

      Reply
  • May 26, 2017 at 12:57 pm
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    Congratulations Christopher, and to everyone else on a very impressive group of stories.

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  • May 26, 2017 at 4:15 pm
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    Well done Christopher – very fine story indeed

    Reply
  • May 26, 2017 at 6:14 pm
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    Thanks, guys…I appreciate it!
    Great writing by everyone. I enjoyed reading all the stories and comments. Looking forward to participating in future challenges.

    Reply

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