November 1 – November 14, 2018 Flash Fiction Contest “Something Strange”

Theme: Something Strange

The story must start with: (I)(He)(She)(They)(We)(It)(A Name)(The) … knew there was something strange…”

Requirement: NO spaceships in the story

Word Count: 1,200



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  • To leave feedback/Comments directly relating to a particular story – click “reply” to the story comment.
  • Specific critiques, comments, and feedback are encouraged. If you do not want honest professional feedback do not post a story.
  • Keep feedback and critiques to a civil and constructive level, please. Please critique stories for construction, style, flow, grammar, punctuation, and so on. The moderator has the right to delete any comments that appear racist, inflammatory or bullying.

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

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

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 Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.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

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

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

***the next writing prompt will be chosen by Robert Emmett 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.




34 thoughts on “November 1 – November 14, 2018 Flash Fiction Contest “Something Strange”

  • November 1, 2018 at 6:22 pm
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    Read the stories here:

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

    Reply
  • November 1, 2018 at 9:13 pm
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    Signing in for comments

    Reply
  • November 2, 2018 at 10:31 am
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    Signing in for comments.

    Reply
  • November 3, 2018 at 7:23 am
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    Yeah don’t like the pic! Sorry!

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      • November 5, 2018 at 4:13 am
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        The picture kind of reminds me of a story about a guy who goes to the doctor with a frog growing out of his head. The doctor says ‘Oh my God! How did this happen?”
        And the frog says, “Well, it all started with this boil on my butt …”

        (I hope that eases your feeling of being weirded out, Ilana!)

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        • November 5, 2018 at 7:54 am
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          Very funny, Andy.
          I don’t know where Carrie and Alice get the pictures offered up with the prompt on this site, but they’re usually pretty funny. Like this one.

          I’m not signing in for comments.
          I never get any comments.
          Doesn’t matter which buttons I click, forms I fill out, likes I avow, threats I make, or promises I break. I DO NOT GET ANY COMMENT NOTIFICATIONS.
          Thank you. Okay, I’ll go sit down now.

          Reply
        • November 5, 2018 at 9:47 am
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          Hahahaha Andy, love it. Hope we see a story from you this week 🙂

          Reply
  • November 3, 2018 at 11:44 pm
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    The Change of Fate
    I knew there was something strange happening as holding my glasses I wiped them and looked at the Winners’ List again. And without any further ado..by Alice. And then the rest ….you all are familiar with those ageless words by now, right?
    WINNER November 30 – December 13 Flash Fiction Contest “The Murky Petticoat” etc. etc.
    1st Place- The Change for Life by R.N.Bhattacharjee
    2nd Place – The Shocker of a Stalker by Nam Raj Khati
    3rd Place – On A Comeback Trail by Andy….
    I couldn’t go any further down. Is it true or are my eyes playing tricks again? I took off my glasses and rubbed my eyes to make sure. The ever so familiar words stared tauntingly from Alice’s post again: And without further ado..God! Who coined these incorrigiible, age-old phrase? It’s time someone thought of bringing some changes, changes like you can’t have a place in the Writers’ Roaster and stay forever there just by writing two snail y, smelly scribbled stories in two months.!Like the prompt-maker will have the highest points to be awarded to her/his choice of the winner, let’s say if a writer gets five points for being selected for the first position by a fella contestant, the prompt-maker’s choice will get 10 marks. Five marks for the one getting the top billing and One for the one who gets the fifth place. Total up all the marks from each contributor to decide the eventual winner..You know, Buddy, change is the name of the game in this Century of Wonders and Innovations. All these thoughts were crashing against my mind shore as I found tears of happiness welling up in my eyes.
    I was a two-penny writer with the distinction of never earning more than a few bucks from my writings. That nearly put paid to all my writing aspirations. I stopped dreaming big and focussed more on being a good teacher. One serene evening I’s busy going through the write-up of a favourite blogger on his site, when I was asked to post something on a given topic in the Comments Section. That done, I was further directed to send it to The Write Practice and from there I was redirected to this envious Flash Fiction site.
    I started writing again on topics as varied as ‘the hippo’ to ‘the eunuch’! Writing for such a site was tough and competitive. There were some great writers, all seasoned and veterans. The people who caught my notice almost immediately were – one Phil Town; Andy the Brit; Ken Cartisano, the man who delighted in calling a spade a spade. Soon others joined in. A host of very talented storytellers like Jen Rourkey; Anindita Basu, and not to forget the indomitable Nepal-born-US-bred lad Nam Raj.
    Soon it was heartening to find my stories among the Top-Five. ‘One day,” I found myself daydreaming often, “ I’ll occupy the first position. People will start noticing this RNB.”
    March turned into April and April made way for June. But my dream of being a world-class writer remained a dream only. When my next story for the site started receiving a lot of praise and appreciation, I’s in seventh heaven. The story increased my market rating and won me a second position for the second time. By the time November arrived, I started patting me on my back saying: It doesn’t matter whether you win the first place or the last as long as you continue to entertain the public. Soon afterwards, I began to have serious doubts about my potential as my next two stories kept being relegated to the bottom. That’s when I started cursing myself. “You’re deemed not good enough for this site, RNB. Try looking out for other pasture.” I found myself Google searching for sites conducting Flash Fiction Contests. Soon I learnt about Friday Flush Fiction with brief notes on three hundred of its most prominent contributors and the accompanying pictures.
    “Should I send them an email for membership and withdraw from this site? There’s something fishy about this site.” I found myself venting out my frustration. But I heard my conscience rebuking me “That’ll be sheer cowardice, man. You have a lot to offer to The Write Practice.”
    “The Write Practice?” I heard myself doubting the dictates of my conscience,” You mean this h—-d site for the privileged few? I’ll sooner make myself a writer of some substance before I can prove to be good enough for this site!”
    There ware Forgiveness and Friendship in the early December air in and around the area of my adopted country, when the latest prompt posted on the forum propped up on my screen. The topic was ‘The Murky Petticoat’. I was chuckling to myself thinking of the topic and the prompt-maker, when something from the distance past flashed in the recess of my memory. Natasha was leaving that day. The previous night we had spent in my bachelor’s den watching “The Other Side Of Midnight”. She had fallen asleep in the wee hours of the morning. Her head on my bare chest, under my chin. I kissed lightly the tresses of her auburn hair before turning off the night-lamp. I slept with a lump in my throat. She was leaving for the States for her postdoctoral. I tightened my arms around her, pulled the sheet closer to her translucent neck, kissed her on the forehead once more. She nuzzled letting out a sigh, nibbled me on the chest putting her hand around me. The streak of light coming from the street light cast a hypnotic spell in my otherwise dark room.
    When I came back having seen her off at the airport, the first thing that caught my attention was her perfumy petticoat lying at the side of my bed. Natasha had told me on the previous night that she was settling down in the USA with her childhood crush, Steve Smith..
    I wrote a story based on this incident cashing in mostly on my imagination, mixing it with a touch of reality. The reviews of my story from time to time in the next few days, were nothing spectacular and when Ken posted his story just before the day of the voting, I knew that I had no realistic chance of being among the top three. His story entitled ,”The Slut” was about how the chance finding of his wife’s petticoat in the room of his brother, who was staying as a guest temporarily, turned Polly from one of the most adorable of wives into a vicious slut.
    I didn’t even look at the result that night after the voting. Next evening as I pushed my plate away on the dining table, the mobile beeped. Alice had posted the link to the Winners’ List. Habitually I logged on to the link. God Gracious! This site is not partial at all, all my thoughts of racial discrimination and prejudice were unfounded. There was my name at the top and Nam’s was also there below mine occupying the second position. Whoever thought and taught about the Superiority Complex of the West, had to be booed and shooed.
    The end

    Reply
    • November 5, 2018 at 9:13 am
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      Raff,
      Do you know how long it took me to come in first on this site? I was 53 when I joined, didn’t win till I was 62, about 3 years ago. You’ll be getting no sympathy from me, pal. Judging by your picture, you’ll probably be no older than 32 by the time you eventually win. (And still a long way from ‘weatherbeaten.’) Nice story though. Not as strange as it could have been, but still a fine, straightforward, plausible use of the prompt. (That’s right, I said plausible.)

      Reply
      • November 5, 2018 at 9:50 am
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        Thank you, Ken. If someone like you had to wait for nearly 10 years to win the first place, I think I shouldn’t complain, buddy.
        I haven’t been keeping well lately. Feverish. My wife keeps on calling me. She wants me to show her the plate with something on it. I just one to go sleep now.
        I love you, Ken, for being who and what you are. Looking forward to another stunner of a story from you.

        Reply
    • November 10, 2018 at 7:46 am
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      Theme of this episode is “Strange”. Principally story with most strange thing in it must win. You are the winner either way. If your intent to be winner (as you have expressed in the story) is strange you will win. If this is not a strange again you will win.

      Reply
    • November 11, 2018 at 10:22 am
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      Your last line is interesting. So, whoever it is that thought and taught about the Superiority Complex of the West, needs to be booed and shooed. Does the West come off as having a superiority complex in India? If so, is it a holdover from the subjugation of India by the British thinking that they, and they alone, could fix India’s perceived problems?

      I am aware of the phrase Ugly American, and think that it is probably more prevalent these days thanks to the current prevailing attitude of America’s leadership, but in all my travels, and time spent with peoples from other countries, I seldom encountered a lot of prejudice, although it did happen occasionally.

      Nice story, Rathin, but, I really think YOU were the one who had the inferior complex. Personally, I think if you spend time with your stories instead of hoping they win, make them good enough to win, is the day you will become that great writer you want to be.

      You see, one of my problems is I have always believed that I was as good as anyone, and no one is better than me. I mean that in the terms of deserving, not in ability. I am completely aware there are better writers than I, and yet, I feel I’m as good as many writers who are famous and published. Ego? Perhaps. Writing is so subjective. Your talent comes in spurts, this story was nice, but I feel it was like what I do sometimes. I’ll get an idea, and no matter what, after writing the story, and realizing it really needs work, and maybe doesn’t really fit the subject, but will, through sheer laziness, lack of time or interest, or whatever, post it anyway. Then, wonder why my “excellent” story didn’t make the top three. After all, I wrote it. Can’t these people recognize my genius?

      The answer my friend, is nebulous. What makes a story great ? Originality? Surprise? Honesty? I think, the secret is good writing. A good writer can write a good story with a bad plot, but a not so good writer can write a bad story with the best plot ever thought of. Glad you won first place a year ago. Now, let’s see what you can do. Come on, man. You can do this.

      Reply
      • November 11, 2018 at 4:04 pm
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        Dear Roy,
        I have been contributing to this site for close to half a year and before anyone else tells you, let me do so by telling you that you are an added attraction of this site. Your considerate, well-intended comments provide a lot of perspectives not only about the writings of the contributors but also about their attitude, ego, personalities, and so on.
        I won’t go into the controversy regarding the superiority of the west considering the fact that it is, after all, a story and I seem to have written it, on the spur of the moment, million of years ago!
        I can’t but agree with you, Roy, that I need to spend more time with each of my stories. The problem s that I have to change myself in that case and be someone else. You will be surprised to know that I posted the story within hours of writing it while we were picnicking!
        By the way, buddy, I never won the first place here. Nor do I expect to. For there are some quality writers contributing to this site. I want to keep on taking things easy for sometime more and then something may happen that will see the reemergence of a new RNB. Till then, bless me to be happy writing in my own, unique way. I never cared much for rewards and prizes. The list of Nobel Laureates for Literature is impressive but equally impressive, if not more, is the list of great writers, who should have been there but simply couldn’t!
        Love you and respect you more. Take care and be here for all of us.

        Reply
        • November 12, 2018 at 10:55 am
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          Rathin, I really don’t care if you come in first, because, even if you wrote the best story, it may not get the votes. I jsut want you to write the best story you can so it has a chance. After all, this is subjective voting. I’ve won with stories I didn’t think had a chance, and once won with a story my wife said wasn’t good enough to submit, she disliked it so much. My only goal in my critiques is for the person to look inward. If they see something in what I’ve said and it helps, then I’ve done my job. If you want to write just for the sheer pleasure it gives you in doing so, and are willing to put up with the follow up, more power to you. I don’t write for the rewards, Rathin, but for the validation. If I can write something that somebody is willing to read, and then ask, “Do you have more stories like this? I’d like to read them.”, then that’s all I’m looking for. I’m not sure what you are looking for.

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  • November 4, 2018 at 12:14 am
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    Dear Alice,
    Will you change the title to “The Change of Fate”, please?
    Love.

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  • November 4, 2018 at 12:55 am
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    Rathin, I have changed it. 🙂

    Reply
  • November 10, 2018 at 1:11 am
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    Blessing of the God:
    (Words:1200)

    I opened the mind book of my own life to see if there is something strange happened. A page opened and stopped at that point. I am not going to read it now because it should come at last. Before that, I need to make some background to make sufficient words required for the story. I again opened the other pages linked to this one. Memories in life hide on the pages as if it did not happen at all. When we seek with some clues as I am doing, then it comes clearly in the vision. Events went on opening. I pinned some pages, which looked like telling the story that is uncanny, and looks like the blessing of God.
    It was about thirty years ago I was traveling in a remote part of Nepal. There is a small lake on the lap of hills named Foksundo. One side of the lake is a Buddhist Monarchy and a small making community. There are bushes and small trees on the cover other sides. The place was like hidden treasures of nature. It was an amazing scene. Water on the lake was completely clean and looking blue. When excess waterfall from this lake fall from a cliff and flow in between rocks, it is almost impossible to explain what it really looks like. It was becoming milky when it moved forward after colliding with block of rocks on the way. I was not willing to divert eyes form this wondrous view. I asked myself if this is a blessing of God. Answer quickly came from inside, “No, it is not, all peace of nature is gorgeous unless it is polluted by people or over seen. Hence, I thought, I need to find something else that fits to use the phrase ‘blessing of the God’.
    Other pages, it was on the similar time I was traveling in another remote place with friends. They were local people. There came a point on the route along the bank of Karnali River. Route disappeared in some point for very short distance. There was vertical cliff on this part. Flood in the last monsoon washed the temporary ladder made by the people.
    Local friends said, “We can cross this point but it may not be possible for you sir. It is very dangerous if you fall, we will be completely lost in the river. River is very deep and flowing with high current.”
    They further said. “The alternate route goes round and crosses from the very high point on the hills that may take about two hours.”
    I was confuse whether they are giving me options, or warning or challenging. I was pondering whether I should take the risk and cross the point in a minute or go around for two hours. I was very young that time and morally could not choose second options and took a risk. If I had chosen long route they would have to follow me unnecessary. In that scenario, I would have to feel inferior and week person in the situation.
    Hence I said, “No, No, I will cross it, you just go forward I will follow you.” I observed carefully what they did and tried on self. I found pressed the stomach on the rock and found the place on the lower part to put foot on the texture of the rock and hold the hand somewhere on the intruded rocks in the upper parts. Slowly and slowly, crawled the body and moved forward as others were doing. I crossed by chance. It looks like a dream but it really happened. Knowingly or unknowingly, I had become reckless that moment and had become audacious.
    I asked to myself. “Is that blessing of God?” Voice came from the mind, “No, that was not. There are so many points in life we need to take risk and life goes on as long it has to go.”

    I am opening the pages nearby. It is another travel in the eastern mountain region. After walking five days, we reached a village in Chinese boarder. On the very first day of the return journey, I was feeling very weak and tired may be because reserved energy exhausted and diet was not sufficient on the journey. Climate was such that it was almost impossible to see the surrounding scene due to fog. I happened to place my foot on a stone at the edge of the road that slipped down. I loose balance and started to tremble down. It was a very steep slope. My friend could do anything, he just pronounced name of the God. After two jumps, I grabbed a bush. He extended his umbrella and I came up. I asked myself if that a blessing of God. Voice came, “No, it happens often for the people in that area. They live as long as they are living.”
    Now I need to come to the point, to the pinned page. I was travelling in the eastern hills. It was just after the rainy season. I could watch landslides in several places as I was walking on foot trail on the contour of the hill little below the ridge. Other side was also hill and river flowing in between at depth. A landslide point came ahead which was slid little below from our trails and slipped the large area and rest on the river diverting the flow to the other side. One of the friends started to open the story behind this.
    “There was a community may be about ten houses. It was night and land started to slide from the downside. In one stage whole land where the community was based started to slide”
    What happened to people?” I asked with curiosity
    People did not notice. They could not manage to relief themselves.
    “Anyone saved?”
    “No All died except one infant”
    I asked with excitement, “how that happened”
    He continued the story, “Bed the boy was sleeping floated on the top of the mass deposited on the river. It looks like a magic and happened as if some telekinetic power is doing all this. The river was blocked. Later it found the path to flow water from another side. The boy remained alive. ”
    “How was he relieved?”
    “No one could go to the point. Everyone just watched with fear and wished that the boy remained unmoved in the same location until something could be done.
    “After some time helicopter came, picked up the boy and took him to Kathmandu.”
    “Where is he now?”
    There was nobody in his family and community hence; he has was handed over to a childcare home run by an NGO.”
    I took a long breath at that point. I asked myself is that blessing of God. Voice came from my inside, “yes that is really a blessing of God.”
    This fits here. It is completely bizarre, uncanny that weird me and fulfilled both theme and title. I wanted to add present status of boy but I did not find any linked news on the internet maybe it did not come on web at that time. With this story closes and pages in my memory book as well.

    Reply
    • November 11, 2018 at 10:32 am
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      Interesting story Ram. I kind of like the memory being compared to a book and turning pages. I always use the comparison of File drawers, rather than pages in a book, because with pages, you generally turn a lot of pages to find what you are looking for, rather than simply opening a ‘mind file’. Lately, I’ve been looking in a lot of wrong or empty drawers. A product of having lived for 76 years with the same files. Plus, there is a lot of clutter. An amazing amount of clutter.

      Your stories are getting better and better. Lots of little errors, such as the word ‘week’ is spelled ‘weak’ when meaning ‘loss of strength’. And this sentence: When excess waterfall from this lake fall from a cliff and flow in between rocks, it is almost impossible to explain what it really looks like – should read – When excess water from this lake falls from a cliff and flows between rocks, it is almost impossible to explain what it really looks like. Or something very similar. You have the word looks correct, but the words fall and flow should have the extra s. ‘Excess waterfall’ from this lake is redundant. Excess water falling is a waterfall.

      Once again, I like your imagination. Keep making those tiny corrections.

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      • November 11, 2018 at 7:56 pm
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        Thank you Roy for your comments. Your comments inspire me and help for improvement and correct my self. Three in one. Thank you.

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    • November 11, 2018 at 12:13 pm
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      Nam,
      I could re-write this story, (as best as I understand it) and send it to you through the Internets. This is an intriguing narrative, but I’m still not sure I understand it. Maybe I can help you clarify your intent. I just might do that.

      Now, ep, ep, ep, ep, ep, ep… Don’t hate me now. Save up your hate until it’s substantial and then send it to me in one big pulsating cat-hairy ball of repulsion. (I’ll add it to my collection.)
      Right?

      So. The reason I’m being so magnanimous, (honestly? I don’t get many opportunities to use that word) I’m willing to do this because I can’t think of anything for this stupid prompt. (And it’s my prompt. I came up with it! How stupid is that?) All I have are little wispy idea ghosts. I’ve never even had one of these before, now I have five. Wispy little, ghost-like, notions. Uhcchh. The use of the word ‘notion’ is repugnant enough, to have them floating around in my mind is — unthinkable!

      So, I re-write your story, you look at both versions, marvel at our brilliance, (if you like) and then merge them. (Use a word merger. Wurd Murjur 9.0 is free, but, alas, non-existent, unfortunately, so you may have to do it manually.

      What say you, Nam? (Don’t expect me to do this more than once, if I do it at all.)

      Reply
  • November 10, 2018 at 10:23 am
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    Thank you Grace
    By, Christine Pfister

    Fannie knew there was something strange going on in her new home, when her three-year old son slipped on the stairs descending the main floor.

    Little mischievous James was running away from his big sister Ally who was giving him a bath. Still wet with bubbles, naked, and giggling, he made the turn to dart down the steps. Fannie heard the laughter from downstairs, and ran around the corner. Her smile immediately vanished and was replaced with sheer panic, as she watched her smallest son’s little wet feet slide on the top step. They locked eyes, and his widened as he realized he was going to fall. Fannie lunged forward, but before she could reach him he seemed to be lifted up, and floated downward.

    James squealed with delight as Fannie snatched her son into her arms. She sank to the floor and struggled to control her shaking. A few minutes later, James wiggled free and ran past Ally back up the stairs. Fannie noticed a few dried petals on the step as she got up, and regained her composure.

    Fannie told Bruce what happened later when he phoned, but he told her James must have been closer than she imagined. Fannie knew something inexplicable happened, but pushed it aside as her day flew by.

    A few nights later, Fannie awoke to the sound of moaning. She shook Bruce, but realized he was exhausted from travel. The noise seemed to be coming from the hall closet, but when she opened the door, the moaning stopped. She noticed a box on the bottom shelf that she didn’t recognize. It was open, and filled with photos of people she didn’t know. Weary from her day, she decided to check it out in the morning.

    The next day, Fannie looked at the photos as searched her computer for information. She found a news article relating Vern and Grace Diem lived with their daughter CC, in the home previously. The article related that Grace died when she fell from a ladder while painting the 20 ft. foyer, and was found by a visiting neighbor. Fannie shuddered at the thought of this poor woman losing her life this way.

    Later that week, 8-year old Caleb came running into the kitchen, swinging his backpack. Before Fannie realized what was happening, Caleb’s strap hit the boiling pot of water on the stove. Fannie sprang to cover Caleb with her body and braced herself for the impact, but it never came. Ally stood in utter shock as she watched the hot water hit an invisible wall, and slide straight down and spill onto the floor.

    Fannie hurried the children out of the kitchen, and when she came back, she noticed dried petals lying on the floor next to the empty pot.

    She didn’t know how or why, but knew in her heart that Grace from the news article was somehow protecting her family. Fannie looked to the empty pot still lying on the floor, and spoke just above a whisper, “Thank you Grace,” she said.

    Fannie awoke a few nights later to the strangest sensation. She looked next to her and remembered Bruce had left early that day for a 3 day trip, so she got out of bed and went down the hall to the check on her children. They were all sound asleep, so she went downstairs and made a cup of coffee. She sat at the kitchen window seat looking outside at the hundreds of daisies in her back yard.

    As she took a sip of coffee, Fannie caught some movement out of the corner of her eye. At first it was a blur, and then it slowly became a person walking toward her. She blinked, and the vision became clearer. Fannie dropped her cup, and sprang to her feet. It was a woman with sad, hazel eyes. She was smiling at Fannie, and motioning for her to sit back down. “I’m Grace,” she told Fannie. “Don’t be afraid, I will explain everything.”

    The children awoke later, and came bouncing down the stairs. Fannie hugged each one as they entered the kitchen. They greeted Grace like a long lost friend, and sat down to cereal and fruit.

    As Fannie watched her children eating breakfast, she was comforted to know they would always be with her. She was also deeply saddened that they would never reach adulthood, but no one could have predicted the gas leak that would saturate the house. Grace told her she had tried furiously to wake them, but it was too late.

    Bruce got the call, and broke into sobs. Consumed with grief, he had the house packed up, and never set foot in it again.

    The Georgia home was on the market for weeks, and Grace, Fannie, and the kids continued as usual. Fannie realized she couldn’t leave until she saw her beloved husband one last time.

    Bruce received a call from his listing agent asking about a box of photos. Apparently, Fannie had located a number for the previous owner, and left a message. He remembered telling the movers to leave that box in the hall closet. He told his agent she could retrieve it, but after a some thought, he caller her back.

    Bruce drove halfway up his old driveway, and stopped the car. He started to sob, but managed to console himself as another car pulled into the driveway behind him. A blonde haired, girl stepped out of her car, and approached him.

    She related she was CC Diem, and thanked him for the box of family photos. She told him her grief stricken father refused to let them return to the home after her mother died.
    Bruce didn’t have the heart to tell her about his family, so he walked up the sidewalk, took out his key, and opened the front door. Maybe I need closure too, he thought.

    They all heard the key in the lock, and knew daddy was finally home. They gathered on the landing, and watched as Bruce and a young woman entered. Fannie looked at Grace, and her smile widened when she saw the illumination in Grace’s eyes.

    Bruce started up the stairs to retrieve the box, and stopped to look up at the landing. He was awestruck as his lost family materialized, and for a few precious moments he saw them all. “It was an accident dear,” Fannie said. “We always felt protected and loved.” She blew him a kiss, and faded.

    CC stepped into the house behind Bruce, and noticed petals lying on the steps. Her mother loved daisies, and together they planted hundreds in the backyard. When she looked up to the third step, she saw her mother standing there smiling.

    Grace whispered a phrase she often repeated to her daughter at bedtime, “I love you to the moon and back, CC,” she said. Tears spilled onto CC’s cheeks, as she watched the vision of her mother fade.

    Grace caught up to Fannie and her children, as they made their way to the beckoning brilliant light. Standing at the thresh hold, Fannie joyfully turned to her families protector, and whispered, “Thank You Grace.”

    Reply
    • November 11, 2018 at 3:08 pm
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      Christine.
      Have you ever read “The Education Of Over Soul Seven?”

      Now, it’s possible that I’m a genius with keen insights into worlds beyond the physical realm. Or maybe it’s something else, but… (I usually use that on a first date, if it doesn’t work…and it doesn’t…oh well.)

      I’m joking of course, because I’m married. (Not really, but my girlfriend insists that I tell everyone I am, so I might as well be. I wouldn’t have to lie about it if she would just marry me, but I stopped asking her about five years ago.)

      Anyway, I thought your story was quite good and didn’t find it confusing at all. (Like my marital status.) I had no problem understanding it and thought you delivered the two-part reveal with a very subtle touch. In addition, I felt like the lack of dialogue was a condition, a side-effect of the plot device. (I don’t really want to get married at this point. Too much trouble, and for what?) Fannie’s fate is predicated on her separation from her husband. That’s what delays her, and Grace, from their ultimate departure from this plane of existence, one last meeting with their loved ones.

      In fact, one implication of this story is that Fannie and her kids have to die before Grace can, or will let go; a dark, and perhaps completely unintended aspect of your story or indeed, an unavoidable factor in the causality of existence.

      In light of that condition, ‘separation,’ it’s not surprising that the balance of the story is weighted towards ‘tell,’ using dialogue sparingly but effectively. Since you used so little dialogue, I felt that what little there was, however, should have utilized contractions in every instance. Other than that, and a fair amount of grammatical errors, I thought this was a beautiful narrative, gracefully delivered. Though the errors were abundant, none were so drastic that they took me out of the story. Still, they should be corrected—the only thing this story lacks, in my opinion, is polish.

      Reply
  • November 11, 2018 at 10:47 am
    Permalink

    Christine, first, I like your story. I think there are a few things that could make it better, one of which is that I was slightly confused with how you handled this series of paragraphs.

    It was a woman with sad, hazel eyes. She was smiling at Fannie, and motioning for her to sit back down. “I’m Grace,” she told Fannie. “Don’t be afraid, I will explain everything.”

    The children awoke later, and came bouncing down the stairs. Fannie hugged each one as they entered the kitchen. They greeted Grace like a long lost friend, and sat down to cereal and fruit.

    As Fannie watched her children eating breakfast, she was comforted to know they would always be with her. She was also deeply saddened that they would never reach adulthood, but no one could have predicted the gas leak that would saturate the house. Grace told her she had tried furiously to wake them, but it was too late.

    I had to go back and reread them as I was confused. After reading her husband had been called with the bad news, I put it together, but I think you could have made it easier on the reader of if you had simple said – after the sentence “Don’t be afraid, I will explain everything.” – these words, or something similar. As Grace explained, Fannie realized what had happened, and why Grace looked so sad.

    Or, better yet, don’t tell, show. Use Grace as a dialogue model and unfold a bit more about the gas leak. A dialogue between Grace and Fannie before the children come bouncing down the stairs would be nice, I think. Your story could use less tell and more show, IMHO.

    Liked the concept behind your story, and your writing is crisp, not in need of many corrections, and flows well. I think there’s a few spots that could be tightened up, but I truly liked where you took me with your story. Writing a story having so many people die and still have some sort of a happy ending is a gift, I guess.

    It’s that ‘life after death’ thing that keeps most religions in business, and it has to be happy, doesn’t it, or what’s the point?

    Hope to see more from you.

    Reply
    • November 11, 2018 at 3:06 pm
      Permalink

      Roy,

      I think comments and feedback are two of the main rewards for posting on this site. I wish more people did it. And, I’ll be frank, I am the least diplomatic person I know, (except for what’s-his-face.) So my feedback often comes across as harsh and overcritical. And I’m sure that some people see my jokes as ‘jokes’ with scare quotes, rather than what they are, genuine attempts to amuse people. (I know, it’s hard to believe sometimes, isn’t it?) …but it’s true!

      In contrast:
      Your comments are always kind, well-intentioned and generally useful, with one exception. You often chide people for an imbalance of show vs. tell and I think this is a mistake. I concede the value of ‘showing’ ones story, and who can doubt the benefits? But I consider it one of many ways to measure a story, and should not be considered a rule or a standard to follow or suggest.

      In the case of Christine’s story for instance, I adamantly disagree with your advice and opinion. But in the interests of fair play, since part of my critique is based upon your comments, I invite you to respond to or rebut my critique, if you like.

      Reply
      • November 12, 2018 at 10:38 am
        Permalink

        Ken,

        A big part of me agrees with your interesting, and kind critique of my critique of Christine’s story. As I do tend to go more toward ‘show’ vs ‘tell’, so you are right.

        But, since you disagree ‘completely’ about that critique, I have to respond and say it’s my humble opinion that show vs tell is better, and one of the easiest and best ways to do that is to use dialogue. It is never my intent to rewrite someone’s story, or to be overly critical. When this site was first started, there were far more individualistic critiques than we have now. A comment here, a comment there, and pretty soon we’re all singing Kumbaya.

        My only reason for taking the time to critique is to try and help writers become who they want to be. In Christine’s story (feel free to jump in Christine, and either take me to task or defend my position if you think I’ve hit on something) I felt she left a lot of tension out of the story by simply telling us what happened. And, this was a good story. A little disconcerting in parts, but all in all, I really liked the plot, how she got there and there certainly isn’t anything wrong with her grammar and punctuation that I would be overly concerned about. I felt, and still do, that a little more show and a little less tell would have turned a good story into a great story. An absolutely great story.

        I realize we are dealing with a minimum of words. Remember when we only had between 750 and 800 words to work with? Now that was a challenge, and that’s where I learned to use dialogue as one of my means of show vs tell. Maybe I should point out something like this as show vs tell as well.

        The falling leaves quickly tiptoed across the surface of the snow, gathering in small groups in corners of the garden, plotting their next moves. Or, I simply could have said: The leaves fell on the snow’s surface and were blown by the wind into piles.

        That’s what I’m talking about. Show vs Tell. Your turn.

        Reply
  • November 11, 2018 at 2:13 pm
    Permalink

    INSIDE

    – Process 3875/18, Ref. 001/AS – Statement transcript (extract)

    “I knew there was something strange about her the moment she walked in the door.

    I’ve been … I was married to her for 20 years. You get to know a person after such a long time. And you have routines. Our routine was this: I’d get home from work first – my office is only a couple of blocks away – and start preparing dinner, de-frosting things, cutting up the vegetables. I’d always have a shower, just in case she was up for something before dinner. I’d never know if she would be or not, but I always made sure I was prepared. Then I’d put some nice music on; she really liked Frank Sinatra, and I don’t mind him. That night it was Ol’ Blue Eyes on the turntable. I sat in the living room with a glass of whisky, waiting. She was very late. Then I heard the key in the lock and jumped up to give her my customary kiss.

    She dropped her keys on the table in the hall and walked straight past me; she actually pushed past me, in fact, so she knew I was there. This had never happened before, in 20 years. I stood there in shock for a moment, then followed her through to the bedroom. I found her lying on the bed, staring up at the ceiling.

    “What’s the matter, darling?!” I said to her, sitting on the side of the bed and placing a hand on her arm. She didn’t move a muscle, just responded, repeated, in a whiney voice that chilled my blood.

    “What’s the matter darling?!”

    I stood up and took a step back, looking down at her. She didn’t acknowledge me, but her chest was rising and falling heavily, and I could see the side of her jaw twitching.

    You may not be a believer, officer, but I am, and I’m absolutely terrified of them. This wasn’t my wife lying there, of that I was certain. After 20 years? You think I can’t tell the difference?

    In our meetings, other members have described similar situations – not ones that they’ve experienced as such but ones they’ve read about or heard about – and they’ve talked of what to do.

    So that’s what I did. I went to the kitchen. […]”

    – Process 3875/18, Ref. 002/WS – Statement transcript (extract)

    “Yes, I’d known her for – what? – three years? Give or take. I met her on one of my visits to her firm. We’re … we were both smokers, and she was outside the back door smoking when I went out there to do the same. There were just the two of us, so we got talking, as you do. We hit it off immediately. Chemistry, I suppose you’d call it. The next time I saw her, doing the same out the back, I got her phone number – her direct work number; she told me that I should never try to contact her at home or on her personal phone. Because of her husband.

    She said he was a right weird guy. Just listening to her speak about him gave me the willies. It was obvious that she hated him and the creepy routines he maintained for them both. She told me that he had some really weird interests, too. He was a train-spotter – those guys that stand on station platforms taking the numbers of trains. What kind of hobby is that for a grown man to have? And he was also really into science fiction. Convinced that aliens exist, and that they’re here amongst us. He was in a club of similar-minded folk. According to her, he was terrified of body-snatching – you know, aliens taking over your body or the body of your loved ones. Absolutely horrified by the idea. Utter nonsense, of course.

    After a few times of meeting for smokes at the back of her office, we started going out. Then I’d get a hotel room in the centre and we’d … well. I really liked her. Loved her, I suppose. And she felt the same about me. I was in an unhappy marriage myself. After one meeting in the hotel, I said I was going to get a divorce. I don’t think she believed me. Then on the evening in question, I told her I’d left my wife – who was pleased to see the back of me, to tell you the truth.

    I left the hotel with her, and we hugged – the most intimate moment I’d had with her, even after all the evenings at the hotel. She was crying and smiling. She was going to tell him that night that she was leaving him. […]”

    – Process 3875/18, Ref. 003/AR – Autopsy report (extract)

    Subject: White female, 45

    Cause of Death: wounds to main arteries and vital organs; blood loss/organ failure

    Observations: 38 separate cuts and deep wounds, some defensive; one deep laceration from sternum to groin; one horizontal laceration, lower abdomen, with resulting disembowelment; kitchen knife, blade 15 cms – murder weapon, based on width and length of blade – found rammed in mouth, through to neck, inserted post-mortem. […]

    .

    Reply
  • November 12, 2018 at 3:03 am
    Permalink

    Hi, Alice and Carrie

    I realised that my story didn’t actually begin with the required phrase, so I’ve tweaked it a bit.

    Could you please remove the first version (above) and this message?

    Thanks

    Phil

    Reply
  • November 12, 2018 at 3:07 am
    Permalink

    INSIDE

    “I knew there was something strange about her as soon as she walked in the door.

    I’ve been … I was married to her for 20 years. You get to really know a person after such a long time. And you have routines. Our routine was this: I’d get home from work first – my office is only a couple of blocks away – and start preparing dinner, de-frosting things, cutting up the vegetables. I’d always have a shower, just in case she was up for something before dinner. I’d never know if she would be or not, but I always made sure I was prepared. Then I’d put some nice music on; she really liked Frank Sinatra, and I don’t mind him. That night it was Ol’ Blue Eyes on the turntable. I sat in the living room with a glass of whisky, waiting. She was very late. Then I heard the key in the lock and jumped up to give her my customary kiss.

    She dropped her keys on the table in the hall and walked straight past me; she actually pushed past me, in fact, so she knew I was there. This had never happened before, in 20 years. I stood there in shock for a moment, then followed her through to the bedroom. I found her lying on the bed, staring up at the ceiling.

    “What’s the matter, darling?!” I said to her, sitting on the side of the bed and placing a hand on her arm. She didn’t move a muscle, just responded, repeated, in a whiney voice that chilled my blood.

    “What’s the matter darling?!”

    I stood up and took a step back, looking down at her. She didn’t acknowledge me, but her chest was rising and falling heavily, and I could see the side of her jaw twitching.

    You may not be a believer, officer, but I am, and I’m absolutely terrified of … them. This wasn’t my wife lying there, of that I was certain. After 20 years? You think I can’t tell the difference?

    In our meetings, other members have described similar situations – not ones that they’ve experienced as such but ones they’ve read about or heard about – and they’ve talked of what to do.

    So that’s what I did. I went to the kitchen. […]”

    (Extract from statement transcript – Process 3275/18, Ref. 001/AS)

    ~~~~~

    “Yes, I’d known her for – what? – three years? Give or take. I met her on one of my visits to her firm. We’re … we were both smokers, and she was outside the back door smoking when I went out there to do the same. There were just the two of us, so we got talking, as you do. We hit it off immediately. Chemistry, I suppose you’d call it. The next time I saw her, doing the same out the back, I got her phone number – her direct work number; she told me that I should never try to contact her at home or on her personal phone. Because of her husband.

    She said he was a really weird guy. Just listening to her speak about him gave me the willies. It was obvious that she hated him and the creepy routines he maintained for them both. She told me that he had some pretty weird interests, too. He was a train-spotter – those guys that stand on station platforms taking the numbers of trains. What kind of hobby is that for a grown man to have? And he was also well into science fiction. Convinced that aliens exist, and that they’re here amongst us. He was in a club of similar-minded folk. According to her, he was terrified of body-snatching – you know, aliens taking over your body or the body of your loved ones. Absolutely horrified by the idea. Utter nonsense, of course.

    After a few times of meeting for smokes at the back of her office, we started going out. Then I’d get a hotel room in the centre and we’d … well. I really liked her. Loved her, I suppose. And she felt the same about me. I was in an unhappy marriage myself. After one meeting in the hotel, I said I was going to get a divorce. I don’t think she believed me. Then on the evening in question, I told her I’d left my wife – who was pleased to see the back of me, to tell you the truth.

    I left the hotel with her, and we hugged – the most intimate moment I’d had with her, even after all the evenings at the hotel. She was kind of crying and smiling at the same time. But she was angry, too – that she’d put up with him for so long. She was going to tell him that night that she was leaving him. […]”

    (Extract from statement transcript – Process 3275/18, Ref. 002/WS)

    ~~~~~

    White female, 45
    Cause of Death: wounds to main arteries and vital organs; blood loss/organ failure
    Observations: 38 separate cuts and deep wounds, some defensive; one deep laceration from sternum to groin, one horizontal laceration, lower abdomen, with resulting disembowelment; kitchen knife, blade 15 cms – murder weapon, based on width and length of blade – found inserted post-mortem in heart.

    (Extract from autopsy report – Process 3275/18, Ref. 003/AR)

    .

    Reply
  • November 12, 2018 at 11:58 am
    Permalink

    Hi, Sorry for my long absence. Missed you guys, now I am back. Here is my story:

    Scared of

    I knew something was strange but could never anticipate it this way, because Zina is a brave girl. She is four and a half and she is afraid of nothing. Almost nothing.

    When the Dracula laughed out showing its bloody teeth sitting at Didun’s porch kicking fallen leaves all the children freaked out. Not Zina.

    “ It’s just a fake one, a record inside is doing the trick” she commented.

    When the wind howled hoo-hoo, crisp autumn air swung the hanging ghosts on the clothes line, Zoe pointed that in the wee morning hours when it is still dark, real ghosts do come and visit. She even showed their spits on the morning glory flower bed.

    Zina shook her pig tails. “ I’m not scared. They are not ghost spits. They are just bud spits. Soon you’ll see white flowers coming out. Daddy told me so. Trust me, Zoe, there are no ghosts, Really.”

    When Didun brought cookies for the children and Robin shrieked out,
    “ A spider!” Zina held her head up, brought a plastic cup and a junk-mail envelope, slid the spider in to the cup, covered the top and took it out side.

    “ Spiders are good things, Robin, nothing to be scared of.” She assured like a big sister.

    When Aria pointed out that their neighbor Melissa who dresses up like a witch for Halloween is a real witch, “ I am scared of her mole, her real mole…” Zina came and caressed her.

    “ Aria, she can’t help her mole. It happens to some people but she is the kindest person. Really. Trust me. She feeds the birds every morning, cures sick baby orchids, and helps me cross the road. She is not a witch, just pretends to be one on Halloween nights.”

    Didun exclaimed all of a sudden, “ Oh Zina, I forgot, I have something for you”, and gave her a big bag.

    Inside, there was a coat. A silver grey coat with two iridescent blue buttons.

    “ That’s a beautiful color!” Zoe clapped. Aria brushed her fingers on it, “ So soft!” Robin smelled it, “ Umm!” But Zina kept quiet.

    Colors from her tomato-red cheeks drained. Twinkles from her dark eyes dimmed. All the giggles from spunky Zina turned into a frown, Zina started sobbing.

    “ What happened, Zina?” Didun held her chin up. Tears rolled down. She hid her face on Didun’s bosom. “ I am scared. I am scared of buttons.”

    “ Scared of button?” Everyone laughed. “ Look Zina, they are pretty easy.” Zoe showed buttoning and unbuttoning the coat several times.

    “ Zina, other people will see your buttons, not you. They are too close to your throat, See!” Aria tried to comfort. Robin poked the two buttons
    “Like fox eyes, Zina? that’s why? But they are not real!”

    Zina cupped her ears. “ No, no, no. Stop. I just don’t like buttons. I won’t wear buttons. I don’t want other people to see my buttons. I am scared of buttons.” She jerked.

    Didun held her. “ That’s fine, Zina. We are all scared of something. I’ll fix your buttons. You don’t have to wear them.” She yanked them out and replaced with velcro circles. It managed to keep the coat fastened.

    Zina wiped off her tears and sniffles. A rainbow smile beamed on her face. Didun helped her with the arms and she skipped and danced and rushed outside to play.

    557 words Oct 25, 2018.

    Reply

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