November 28 – December 11, 2019 Writing Prompt “Choose Your Adventure”

Theme: Choose Your Adventure

The story must include a skull, a map, and a casualty.

 

Word Count: 1,200



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Voting starts Wednesday morning at 10:00am PDT / 1:00pm EST / 11:30pm IST / 6:00pm WET/GMT/ 5:00am AEDT (Thursday) and ends the same time on Thursday / 5:00am AEDT (Friday).

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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.

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There will be a 1 week Christmas prompt posted December 12, 2019, then we will break for the holidays.
The writing prompt for January 2, 2020 will be chosen by Phil Town.





 

170 thoughts on “November 28 – December 11, 2019 Writing Prompt “Choose Your Adventure”

  • November 28, 2019 at 2:30 pm
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    Read the stories here:

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

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

    Reply
    • December 5, 2019 at 8:16 am
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      Signing in for comments.

      Reply
    • December 10, 2019 at 11:10 pm
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      Hey everyone, I know it’s been a while and I sure have missed the fun here. Between working and teaching and everything in between, everything just kind of got put on hold. How’s it going? I don’t know if I’ll get a story in but not sure I’ll make the deadline. 🙂 🙂

      Reply
    • November 28, 2019 at 8:37 pm
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      Sorry Liz (Sierra), I left last prompts theme in, there is no outer space this time. This time around it’s a Choose your adventure theme. The adventure is up to you as long as you include a skull, a map, and a casualty.

      Sorry for the confusion.

      Reply
      • December 10, 2019 at 5:25 pm
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        Hi Alice,

        Not sure why part of my story is highlighted but not all of it. The title is; Chooseyouradventure.com
        Can this be amended?

        Thanks,

        Ken Frape

        Reply
  • November 28, 2019 at 5:34 pm
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    I want my name not the Prospect site come up..how do I change it?

    Reply
  • November 28, 2019 at 7:38 pm
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    Signing up for comments. Goody, Bug Eyed Monsters. I didn’t miss it after all.

    Reply
    • November 29, 2019 at 12:58 am
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      Great prompt. Love this one 😊❤️

      Reply
  • November 29, 2019 at 1:43 am
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    Signing in for comments. I’ll see if I can put something together. I was in a head-on collision Wednesday evening, car is totaled. A little sore, but also a lot alive. Long story short, oncoming vehicle crossed center line. Always something.

    Reply
    • December 2, 2019 at 5:33 am
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      At least you’re in one piece, JJ. As melhoras!

      Reply
    • December 8, 2019 at 5:04 am
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      Hope you are ok?

      Reply
  • November 29, 2019 at 6:21 pm
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    My Choose – by Liz Fisher

    1023 words (hurrah I broke 1000)

    What is wrong with Miss Zink? You know ever since I fought to get into this class she has singled me out. She just doesn’t like me… she needs to get real, what the hell is she thinking a skull, map and casualty in outer space… topics for our next short story.

    I wonder if she ever thinks about what goes through her English/Literature student’s heads. Being a Sophomore in her Junior’s class has made me a target. I’ve noticed she has a problem with anyone who appears to be bright and well read and tries to outwit them with clever retort.

    I should have known better than thinking she was a teacher above the rest of the dullard staff here… Joanie told me the comment Miss Zink had made to a group of devoted students as they sat enthralled around her perch on the Ottoman in a discussion on religion at her home. Yes, she was a teacher who invited favored students to her home, she had said, “Jesus was either a bastard or a freak,” and then explained based on reasoning..if his mother was an unmarried mother he would be a bastard, and of course if he was born to a virgin then he would be a freak. Ok that made sense to me…why hadn’t anyone else ever thought of that…and of course I wanted to get transferred into her class.

    The evening I had finally been invited to the fandom group in her home I felt part of the special chosen ones. I still think of just getting there.. it was a dark and stormy night…yeh, it was…no joke.. the buses had to stop running so Joanie and I were walking down the middle of Fairfield Avenue in a snowstorm for 3 miles to get to Miss Zink’s house.We didn’t have a map, not even an address, just a description of an old house on a side road. No cars, no other people, just me and Joanie, laughing and talking and feeling very independent, intellectual and in charge of our lives.

    Miss Zink opened the door and led us into her den where another 5 girls were sitting in a circle on the floor in front of her Ottoman, I don’t remember what the discussion was that evening or how I felt or if I was enthralled. There’s recollection of Joanie and I talking about the Jesus comment on the city bus the next day loud enough for people around us to be shocked at this blasphemous statement. We wanted to shock.

    My next vivid memory was my fall from grace. Fink offered an assignment of poetry reading and then a discussion of the context and meaning of poetry… specifically what was the author offering… what did they mean by their words…. I was excited to read poetry with this quest. During the class the next day I eagerly volunteered to be the first to read the poem and offer my interpretation. I was brilliant, an interpretation beyond my years..and as I finished my
    spiel… I waited for my praise and…

    “No” Fink said, “that’s not what author meant at all,” she continued into a diatribe about what the poet was saying and what he actually intended for us to think… she went so far as to tell me, her student, that I suffered from an empty skull. I wish I could remember what the Poem was…I think it was a classic that went oat some length maybe riding in the woods or something.

    Anyhow I stood my ground, “You’re wrong”, I said to Miss Zink…the respected and feared teacher at Warren G. Harding High School, great school right? named after the most lowly esteemed President to date (the year of Trump isn’t over yet)

    Warren Gamaliel Harding (November 2, 1865 – August 2, 1923) was the 29th president of the United States from 1921 until his death in 1923. A member of the Republican Party, he was one of the most popular U.S. presidents to that point. After his death, a number of scandals—including Teapot Dome—came to light, as did his extramarital affair with Nan Britton; each eroded his popular regard. Harding is often rated as one of the worst presidents in historical rankings.

    Anyhow back to high school, I continued informing Miss Zink that Poetry is for the reader or listeners interpretation as is almost anything in life really. Well,- the ‘interpretation of almost anything in life is up to you’ came much later in life that wasn’t part of my rebuttal to Zink. Needless to say Miss Zink was not impressed and insisted I was not listening to her and didn’t understand what she was saying. I countered with the same argument. She called on someone else and I sat down.

    It was the last semester of the school year and up until that moment I had been receiving A or A+ in English, my grade dropped to D in her class, I protested but she insisted my inability to see my way to agreeing to her view was worthy of the lowered grade and at least she wasn’t failing me.

    No one understood her topics, it isn’t just me, Major Tom had not yet been lost in space and no contact with Ground Control. Kennedy has not been elected President. I did fracture my skull that summer doing a back flip at the YWCA Pool hitting the diving board, it was just a hairline fracture so whether my skull was empty wasn’t determined. Somehow my skull is still full of Miss Zink. I wish it wasn’t.

    I had a dream last night, I think it was Miss Zink although a younger version..she said…”forget Outer Space just Choose Your Adventure”… right she thinks I don’t know she delights in torturing me… I’m not abandoning Major Tom and President Kennedy on her whim… but I do wish I had taken that job as an EMT in Alaska back in the 90’s that would have been an adventure.

    Reply
    • November 29, 2019 at 10:17 pm
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      Clarification- the ninth paragraph was lifted entirely from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warren_G._Harding , I knew Harding had fell from grace but copied that paragraph directly from Wikipedia it was so designated on my original paper but in putting this up it just fell out so I am stating Para 9 is straight out of Wiki..

      Reply
    • December 1, 2019 at 5:48 pm
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      But how did you really feel about two weeks in a row with Outer Space? lol. Great story. A lot going on in that girl’s head. Even with the fracture.

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    • December 2, 2019 at 5:52 am
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      Hi, Liz – a good depiction of teenage angst, brought on by friction between the student and a teacher. Teachers are such important people and mark us so heavily (I don’t mean with a ruler or cane … but that too, I suppose). I remember vividly most of mine from school, for good and bad reasons. I like how the student’s comments take on an almost obsessive tone. I think there might be a small time issue: in the first paragraph, the student is obviously still at school, then later she’s looking back at her time at school, without any real transition showing us the change.

      Reply
    • December 11, 2019 at 7:49 am
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      Liz,

      I enjoyed the story. It was well written and reminded me of a Spanish teacher I had in high school that we all had a strong dislike of. Ok, it was hate and I was glad to get out of her class. I admired the student’s courage in standing up to Miss Zink (Fink). Good work!

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    • December 11, 2019 at 1:35 pm
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      Hi Liz, I love that you wrote about a teacher’s impressions on her students whether they are good or bad. I had a favorite teacher in the second grade (Mrs. Hodges) who loved to encourage her students but had a tendency to irritate us at the same time. She loved to make the work we were supposed to be doing seem very dull and push us into doing things that were well above our grade level. I hated that but loved her dearly and miss her so much now that she has passed away.
      Anyway, way to go with this awesome story!

      Reply
  • November 30, 2019 at 1:15 pm
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    Lia- what a long strange trip… you really took us on a memory ride. I particularly enjoyed the way you made the main character sassy.

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    • November 30, 2019 at 9:18 pm
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      Thank you trish… I wondered why you called me Lia and then saw I spelled Liz with an “a” . I kind of like Lia… Liz is so common…

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  • December 1, 2019 at 9:36 am
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    Lizzzzzz,

    This is a funny and interesting story. (I could call it ‘Prospect’s Complaint.’ But I won’t.)

    It seems the character has experienced the joy of a biased teacher, which causes her to focus on the wrong message, the instructor’s prejudicial behavior. The character’s need for positive strokes is a measure of her lack of depth, or immaturity. Which is understandable for a high school student, less forgivable for a teacher. There’s humor in the character’s inability to remember the author, poem, or misinterpretation of the work in question: Only the teacher’s bias. Even the other students don’t really occupy much mental space in this character’s narrative. She appears to present a student who gets what she deserves, a near-failing grade. (Which bothers her to this day.)

    Technically, I enjoyed the writing, the smooth delivery and clarity of the action, the myopic attitude and juvenile resentment are effective at recreating the high school student experience. A job well done. However, the references to David Bowie and JFK toward the end of the story did not enlighten me as much as the Freudian name change in the seventh paragraph where Miss Zink becomes Miss Fink.

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    • December 1, 2019 at 10:43 am
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      Glad to hear you are OK! Head on sounds serious.

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    • December 1, 2019 at 4:07 pm
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      Oh my…but but… I thought I was so mature… but I thank you for the smooth delivery and clarity comment… I didn’t feel that way at all… and the David Bowie Major Tom and JFK was just to get “Outer Space” and casualty in the story as I had finished the story before Carrie sent the clarification on the Prompt so just trying to get all the elements in as the last paragraph was added after the correction… meanwhile it also proves I am a lazy writer… I’m so sorry Miss Zink… yeh Miss Fink definitely was Freudian… yeh I did deserve the D last semester…

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      • December 3, 2019 at 12:32 am
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        Liz,

        I don’t know if you’re lazy, but you sure are fast. (I’m still working on the last prompt’s story.) I think I’ve been taking this writing thing too seriously. I should lighten up and have a little fun, as you seem to be doing.

        Like Phil, I remember many of my teachers, and what strikes me as the most astonishing thing, is that out of all the teachers I had, while some were decidedly more effective than others, I only had four bad teachers. Mrs. Shan was mean to one of the slow kids in class, not me. She quit, or was fired in the middle of the year. Mr. Brumm despised me. (Probably because I was so immature. But then he ended up marrying one of his students.) I only had him for home room (15 minutes a day.) A math teacher from the eighth grade who’s name I don’t remember, (he quit or was fired just days after the start of the year), and a terribly insecure English teacher in college who confessed that she became a teacher to overcome her fear of speaking to groups of people. (The last thing I want to be is my teachers restorative vehicle.
        Four bad teachers. The rest were, to varying degrees, wonderful. And some were so much more wonderful than others. I feel stupid and guilty now after all these years that I didn’t put forth more effort, show more appreciation then, and look some of them up twenty years on, just to show them that I remembered them, that they mattered to me.

        Now they’re all dead and I can’t.

        I think teaching is a divine profession. Vastly underappreciated. Enlightenment comes, but it comes too late for me.

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    • December 8, 2019 at 5:09 am
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      Liz
      Fink or Zink I do zink the fink a funny dinky teacher if she do not allow her students a rink to think their own sinks about ze literary zings. Ah well those who sink to imprison zere minds of others bothers me as a good piece of writing text can be flexible in interpretation. 😁😂

      Reply
      • December 12, 2019 at 7:38 am
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        Liz,

        This story goes to show, amongst other things, just how influential a teacher can be in a young person’s life. As a former teacher of getting on for 40 years experience, I just wonder if I got the balance right at least most of the time.

        Your story, of course shows how we can happily go along with opinions that mirror our own but that all changes if we don’t agree. I am sure there is a danger also in not really listening carefully to the opinions of young people or not giving them due attention.

        This was a well written story that has very few flaws. I can’t think of anything that others have not already identified.

        Well done, Liz.

        Kind regards,

        Ken Frape

        Reply
  • December 1, 2019 at 11:19 am
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    YO-HO-HO
    By Phil Town

    Once upon a time there was a pirate – Pirate Pete he was called. Actually, his surname was Potter, so that would be Pirate Pete Potter, but he never used his full name because … well, pirates don’t.

    Pirate Pete was an awfully nice chap and would have given pirates a good name if he hadn’t been the exception that proved the rule. What his gentle nature did do was make the running of his ship – The Perilous Pinnace, which is a type of boat (you can look it up – I had to) – a difficult task. The crew took advantage of him something rotten, you see, so that when it came to duties on board – like splicing the main-brace, hoisting the yardarm and swabbing the deck, boaty stuff like that – the crew would just scoff at him when he tried to give them orders.

    So why didn’t the crew just throw him overboard, or make him walk the plank (preferably the latter for extra fun)? Well, because the ship belonged to Pirate Pete. He’d inherited it from his father, the renowned and much feared Terrible Terrence (Pirate Terry to you). Pete had been the product of an illicit relationship (read ‘kidnapping’) between his father and a Tahitian princess called Yoofa Gon Toofah Distaim.

    Terry had been brought up in the ways of piracy but proved a poor learner. All he wanted to do was draw seagulls and portraits of the crew, and Terry soon realised that he’d sired a lily-livered, land-lubbing loser.

    One day, though, in a skirmish with a couple of French warships near the Strait of Gibraltar, Terry was crushed by a cask of rum that hadn’t been lashed properly. Funnily enough, a physician had once warned him that drink would kill him, and so it turned out. The nippy Perilous Pinnace easily outran the lumbering warships and escaped their clutches, but Terry was dead.

    Because they saw her as bad luck, the crew decided as one (except of course Pete, who rather liked his mother) that Yoofa Gon Toofah Distaim should die, and so they made her walk the plank (for extra fun). Her last words as she sank – gracefully, as befitted a princess – beneath the waves, were her own name, repeated multiple times.

    The crew were divided about Pete, however. Terrible Terrence had treated them … well, terribly … and so the natural move would have been to take it out on his offspring. But Pete had been kind to many, helping to treat their scurvy sores, giving them extra biscuits when his father wasn’t looking, etc.

    An intense discussion ensued, a very civilised affair as it turned out. The winners were democracy and Pete, who was voted in as the new Cap’n.

    The first job Pete did was to re-design the ship’s flag, keeping the bones but giving the skull what was a much wider smile. “I want it to be really jolly, Roger,” he told the cabin boy. He also changed the background from black to bright pink, “to make it even jollier, and to confuse the enemy”.

    But as I said, Pete was really too nice a chap to be a pirate captain, and the crew basically did what they wanted. Of course, corporate piracy – stealing from everyone and giving to yourselves – cannot function properly without organised management and malleable workers, so the ship’s fortunes soon plunged and the crew began to get uppity. Pete could see his position reflected in the name of the ship, and nightmares of planks and cutlasses poking him in the back haunted him nightly.

    Then one day, a stroke of good fortune for a change: Pete was doing some spring-cleaning of his cabin – yes, even pirates have to dust – when he came across a cloth bag that he’d never seen before. In it were some baubles belonging to his mother and a portrait of her – drawn by his truly – but also a map on parchment.

    It was treasure map and there was no mistaking it for three very good reasons: i) Pete had seen treasure maps before, and they looked exactly like this; ii) what other kind of map would you find hidden on a pirate ship?; and iii) next to a large red cross, possibly made in blood, there was the word ‘TRESURE’, spelt badly but let’s not get into the quality of education in the 17th century.

    Pete called the crew together and they of course ignored him. He told the first mate, whose nickname was ‘Mate’ – not so creative, these pirates – what he’d found and Mate called the crew together. Within minutes they were assembled on deck, and a more bedraggled bunch of skinny, scurvy sea-dogs you could not imagine. Or maybe you could. Anyway …

    … they were in a terrible state and were easily convinced by Pete’s persuasive prose to take the map on face value and sail to the other end of the earth, being careful, of course, not to fall off the edge.

    To cut a long story short, on an island not a million leagues away from Yoofa Gon Toofah Distaim’s home – though Pete didn’t know this – Pete, Mate, Roger and most of the rest of the crew stood on a hill and regarded the surroundings. There below, in a turquoise bay with white waves breaking on the equally white shore, bobbed The Perilous Pinnace, with a few members of the crew left there to guard it against possible native attack. On all the other sides of the lushly vegetated island, sea, sea and more sea, as far as the eye could … er … see.

    Pete held up the map, compared it to the spot where they stood – next to a cleft palm tree – and took ten paces north. He bade three members of the crew to dig, and for a change, they did his bidding, motivated by the proximity of untold – because I haven’t told you yet – riches.

    Soon enough, spades struck wood and the crew hauled out a large chest made of oak – or some such wood, who’s to say?

    The men scrambled to open it but Mate, having learned to respect Pete over the preceding months of voyage, dragged them off it.

    “Let it be the Cap’n!” he cried, stepping aside himself.

    Pete thanked him and went to open the chest, but it had a lock and, well, Pete wasn’t too handy with that sort of thing.

    “Er … could you … Mate … please?”

    Mate strode forward, brandishing his cutlass, and struck the lock a hefty blow. It smashed into smithereens, one of which flew up and took Pete’s eye out. In subsequent years, he would have to cover the hole that was left, but it made for a catchy new name: Pete-the-Patch.

    Anyway, now I can tell you that the chest did indeed contain riches – you know, gold goblets, ruby necklaces, doubloons, that kind of thing. And in the previously established spirit of equitability, the booty was distributed fairly between all the members of the crew.

    Who shouted “Hurrah!” and sang “For he’s a jolly good cap’n.”

    And never again failed to respect Pirate Pete-the-Patch Potter.

    Reply
    • December 1, 2019 at 1:09 pm
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      The Tahitian princess wife’s name might sum up how readers feel about your piece, but I liked it. Jolly good fun.

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      • December 2, 2019 at 5:28 am
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        Thanks, Trish. Yes … much too far, probably! 😉

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        • December 5, 2019 at 1:25 pm
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          Haha Phil, the wife’s name is awesome, great job lol!

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          • December 9, 2019 at 6:01 am
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            Thanks, W!

    • December 1, 2019 at 4:21 pm
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      I chuckled all the way through the word and name play is great.. catchy feel good story except for Terry’s untimely death, and I keep trying to get the meaning of Loofah Toofah but I must be dense..

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      • December 2, 2019 at 5:29 am
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        Thanks, Liz! (Keep saying the name over in your mind and it’ll come to you … not very funny, but anyway …)

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    • December 1, 2019 at 5:59 pm
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      Absolutely amazing action adapting alliteration! It is similar to a tale told by the cleric Owata Goo Siam. Loved every word!

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      • December 2, 2019 at 5:31 am
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        Thank you, JJ. (Is that cleric any relation to Owata Clut?)

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    • December 3, 2019 at 5:15 am
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      Someone has pointed out a mistake:

      “Terry had been brought up in the ways of piracy but proved a poor learner. All he wanted to do was draw seagulls and portraits of the crew, and Terry soon realised that he’d sired a lily-livered, land-lubbing loser.”

      … should read …

      “PETE had been brought up in the ways of piracy but proved a poor learner. All he wanted to do was draw seagulls and portraits of the crew, and Terry soon realised that he’d sired a lily-livered, land-lubbing loser.”

      Reply
      • December 9, 2019 at 2:51 am
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        Philip,

        I’m harassing you because I’ve been waiting four and a half years for you to make a mistake, and when you finally do, I failed to notice it.

        I encourage you to critique my story. Be as funny as you like. You don’t even have to read it first.

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    • December 6, 2019 at 12:43 am
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      Philip, This story evoked a number of responses. All of them were equally valid.

      1. Philip, Is this your first time on acid? You probably shouldn’t write until you get used to tripping near a word processor. You’ll want nothing to do with a food processor either.

      2. Philip,
      Phili[p, Philip, Philip. I have a suggestion. Two, actually. Number One: Don’t write children’s stories. Number Two: Don’t do gay pirates. As far as I know, the only gay Pirate is Jack Sparrow, played by Johnny Depp. There are no other known gay pirates. (Except for those two women, but that’s a slightly different deal.)

      3. Philip,
      I am doing everything in my power to avoid reading this again. Like, pretending I remember what it was about. (I read it four days ago. I can forget almost anything in four days.. With the right drugs and proper attitude.)

      4. Philip,
      I predict that this story will win widespread acclaim,come in first in the contest, and vault you into international prominence practically overnight. It’s been nice knowing you Philip. Now that you’re a mega-star, you won’t want to associate with peons like me. I understand. Could you loan me fifty bucks? I’m afraid they’re gonna shut the water off again.

      Reply
      • December 9, 2019 at 6:08 am
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        Thanks, Ken. I’m sad that you didn’t really like it… but paciência! (as they say here).

        1) Nah. That’s so yesterday. Crack.
        2) I actually had a children’s story up my sleeve. Must go to the back-burner now. Pete isn’t gay.
        3) Green tea for memory.
        4) If I had any money, you’d be the first person I’d lend it to, but I don’t have two coat buttons to rub together. I don’t even have a coat, and winter’s coming …

        Reply
        • December 12, 2019 at 12:59 pm
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          Phil, Hah! Very funny. I would like this twice if I could.

          BTW notwithstanding anything that Una may have said, (in her stupor) but your critique of my story was brilliant. You totally panned it while making it sound fabulous. You’re a fricking genius. Has anybody told you that lately? I swear, that review was so brilliant, it almost made my story worth reading, even though you pointed out that its only redeeming feature was the omission of ‘it was all only a dream.’ I swear, I read it and just marveled at your ingenuity.

          I don’t know why your wit hasn’t made you famous yet. (Or gotten you beheaded.) You need to be discovered Phil. Before you die. That’s always the best way. So I hear. (And before they shut the water off.)

          Reply
    • December 6, 2019 at 1:42 pm
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      Phil, only someone with your talent could write something like this and get away with it (that means make it work). I LOVE IT! ITS GOOFY, ITS FRESH, ABSOLUTLEY LOVE IT!

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      • December 9, 2019 at 6:09 am
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        You’re waaaay too kind, Dennis, but thanks, and glad you liked it.

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    • December 9, 2019 at 8:07 am
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      Loved the story Phil! It was goofy and fun. I could see this made into a children’s book. Great take on theme.

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      • December 10, 2019 at 6:54 pm
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        Thanks, Adi!

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      • December 11, 2019 at 5:21 pm
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        Thanks for the kind words, Amy!

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    • December 11, 2019 at 4:40 pm
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      Personally, I think you’ve gone too far this time. That’s pretty much all I’ve got. Great place and pretty funny.

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      • December 11, 2019 at 5:20 pm
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        Very probably, Roy (re going too far – see msg to Trish above). Thanks!
        (Hope all’s well now.)

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        • December 12, 2019 at 7:45 am
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          Hi Phil,

          One of the “punniest” stories I have read for a long while. It took me a few minutes and a couple of readings to pick up on Pirate Pete’s wife’s name but it was worth the wait.
          This would make a great pantomime ( oh no it wouldn’t did someone say? ) or children’s tale as others have suggested.

          Above all, on the day that we in the UK go to the polls to elect our government, I really need a laugh. In this case, YOU will get my vote!!

          Kind regards,

          Ken Frape

          Reply
          • December 12, 2019 at 9:12 am
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            Thanks Ken!

            I hope the election goes as you would wish (as long as that doesn’t go against what I wish …)

  • December 1, 2019 at 1:00 pm
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    The Cave

    JJ Hershey
    WC: 1200

    Never having seen fresh human bone before, he assumed that is what tore through the surface of his thigh. This can’t be good was his first thought. How to get out of the cave was the professional spelunker’s second.

    The fall was mostly a blur. Spinning wildly clockwise, then counter, and for a few moments head over heels, he doesn’t remember most of it. He can’t even be sure when his thigh bone snapped, or when it broke through the skin, bringing pieces of muscle along for the ride. The saving grace was at least it was a clean break and on the way out of his leg, it didn’t appear to puncture any arteries. At least he didn’t see any blood spurting onto the rock below.

    All he can do now is try to bandage and splint it is as best he can. He thought at first he’d just call for help, but watching his communications devices: cell phone and handheld radio, tumble off into the darkness below ended that fantasy. The single light on his helmet would also be out of power in a couple of hours, so he’ll be completely in the dark. No time to formulate plans and sort them out for being good or bad. His shirt will have to do as both bandage and securing device. The splint itself will be a problem unless he hasn’t lost his folding shovel. Reaching behind him he is relieved to feel the handle still sticking out of the backpack.

    Unfortunately, it is the only thing. All the extra food, stick lights, compass, and GPS are at the bottom of that darkness below. Perhaps he’ll find them on the way down since down is the only way now.

    Slowly inching his way along the wet rock, checking to make sure the moisture was water and not blood, he wonders what other problems can arise. Now is not the time to dwell on failure. It was bad enough he had an unfinished manuscript this trip was supposed to help complete.

    After a few minutes of sliding along, he found an opening wide enough to sit up. Sad to say, his equipment didn’t stop here. It continued on down the tunnel taunting his inability to keep up. He restarts his slide downward, remembering the only light he has will be extinguished soon.

    Progress is slow but steady, and about 200 feet down he discovers a side tunnel to the right. He can’t be sure if that is East or West, or honestly North or South. He is certain his equipment didn’t take a quick ninety-degree turn. He has to decide if changing directions will be beneficial. Without knowing just how deep this particular vein is going, he decides to take the turn, hoping to find a path back to the surface. What he finds instead is something he’d only heard of in stories around the Boy Scout meeting campfires.

    This tunnel opened into a very large space that looked more like an amphitheater than a cave. Near the far wall was something similar to an altar, against the closer walls were seating areas, and the open floor was worn smooth by thousands of feet walking upon it. He wonders when it was last occupied, yesterday, last week, one hundred years ago? He was seriously hoping the latter unless the people who used it were friendly and would take him to the surface.

    Going around the altar area he determined that wouldn’t be the case if they arrived unannounced. Behind the altar, he discovered a pile of human bones, and a bone knife used to carve away the muscle. There were several skulls, and at his first count, at least a dozen were sacrificed here. Picking up the largest of the skulls he placed it on the altar. Who were you he wondered? He asked himself if someone had brought these people here for sacrifice, or did they, like him, stumble on to something they shouldn’t have seen? Was this even a place of sacrifice? What if the people here were cannibals and this was their lunchroom?

    His backpack came off without complaint, and he discovered it was not ripped open as he had suspected, it had merely come open and spilled its contents out as he tumbled down the cave opening. He placed the skull inside the pack. He tossed the backpack on top of the altar and started to investigate the room more fully. His leg was completely numb at this point thank God, but not being able to feel his foot made walking a chore.

    The room was mostly empty, except for the stone altar and seating area. The more he examined the room the more and more it looked like a theater than a cafeteria, so he made up his mind it was for sacrificial purposes. Finding nothing else, save another entrance directly opposite the way he came in, he went back to gather his pack and leave through the newfound doorway.

    Picking up the pack and slinging it around his shoulders, his lamp illuminated the altar top. What he saw was unexpected. Carved into the stone were several religious looking icons, and even more exciting, a map of the cave system. The carving was filled with the dried blood of the sacrificial lambs, but it was still recognizable as a map.

    Off to the right was where he came in from the downward-facing tunnel, and that tunnel showed no definite ending point. Off to the left, was another doorway appearing to lead to another room, not quite as large as this, but that room has four entrances. Two of those appear to end the same as the one that brought him here, only one appeared to lead to a point where the sun had been carved into the stone. He wished he had his phone so he could snap a picture of this map, but he’ll have to rely on his memory this time.

    Grabbing the knife, he started off to the next room. When he entered that room he saw three entrances before him. Center of the room another altar. Maybe this is where the accused got their last meal? Or said goodbye to their family? Of course, it could be just a poker room or something. This altar had no carvings on it.

    He suddenly realized he had walked around the table so many times he had forgotten which entrance he came in. He should have placed something on the ground to remind him not to go that way. As he was getting a closer look at the doorways, his light went out. The last thing he thought he saw: a carving over one of the doors. A carving of the sun.

    He never told anyone about the cave. Hoping to finish his manuscript with the story. One nurse in the hospital did ask him about the skull they found in his backpack. “It isn’t like anything I’ve ever seen,” she said. “It has a third eye socket.” He quietly planned to go back and find out for himself who owned the skull. For now, he was happy they could save his leg.

    THE END

    Reply
    • December 1, 2019 at 1:44 pm
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      On the edge of my seat for the whole story. Sad to say, I was kinda hoping our friendly spelunker would end up as a casualty after his headlamp went out. Seemed a fitting end for such a suspenseful story.

      Reply
      • December 1, 2019 at 5:15 pm
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        Thank you! I was tempted to kill him off, but then we’d have to wait for the next unfortunate chap to come along and find the skulls. This way, we have something to look forward to in the near future. <3

        Reply
    • December 1, 2019 at 4:27 pm
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      Alright.. so there can be more exploring in the future… quite an adventure…

      Reply
      • December 1, 2019 at 5:16 pm
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        Thank you! Yes, seems as though we need get a team together and go back down. Heaven knows what they will find next.

        Reply
    • December 2, 2019 at 6:13 am
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      A suspenseful and mysterious story, JJ, reminiscent (for me) of the film ‘The Descent’ (2005) – do you know it? The first couple of paragraphs had me squirming in my seat. It’s possibly part of something longer (?) – the ending feels a bit rushed. How did the person get out? I think it deserves to be extended to find out about the cave-dwellers. A couple of things. If the person’s leg is as badly broken as you depict at the beginning, I don’t think they’d be able to move around as easily as he apparently does. Also, the tenses are a little inconsistent; I think the description of events in the cave would work best in the present – which is what you do mainly, but then lapse into the past (e.g. “After a few minutes of sliding along, he found an opening wide enough to sit up.”) A good read, though.

      Reply
      • December 5, 2019 at 7:22 pm
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        Thank you for the great response to my story. Taking in comments on the story I have already begun a rewrite in which he isn’t nearly dead to begin with (lol) and finds his way out of the cave. (I also fixed some of the tense oddities) I know this one will grow into something much larger.

        Reply
    • December 4, 2019 at 2:08 am
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      Great writing JJ,
      Exciting and suspenseful story. Lots of tension. I agree with Phil though, in that the mc wound is much too severe. You could argue that people have survived far worse, and that’s true, but those stories are about their survival. Your story is not about that, So a crippling injury makes the story less believable when it’s completely unnecessary. And it doesn’t improve the story. There’s no benefit. Why undermine a story’s believabilty for no discernible gain.
      But the story and the storytelling was riveting.

      Reply
      • December 5, 2019 at 7:24 pm
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        Thank you, Ken! As I mentioned above to Phil, a rewrite he is not as badly injured and more detail is added. I’m quickly learning that I have several versions of a story inside of my head, a 1200 word, a 1500 word, a novella, and a novel.

        Reply
    • December 5, 2019 at 12:39 pm
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      I agree with Phil and Ken on their points that this seems as if it belongs to a longer piece and also the badly broken leg made me think this was going to be a survival story and I was kind of disappointed at the end when the guy was suddenly safe and sound in the hospital. The bad injury only serves to create a false sense of tension in the story and is not needed at all. The writing in itself is well done, so keep up the good fight.

      Reply
      • December 5, 2019 at 7:25 pm
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        Thanks, Dennis. I am accumulating all the critique and rewriting, not for this submission of course, but who knows what the future will bring, right?

        Reply
    • December 9, 2019 at 8:14 am
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      JJ,

      Loved the story and the action and mystery. Great story telling except for one little flaw. Your protagonist was able to do a great many things that would have been impossible with such a severe injury. He would not have been able to bear weight on that leg not to mention the bleeding and risk of infection from continuing his adventures with an open wound.

      The story was suspenseful and I would like to know more about the cave and the activities held there. This could easily be a longer story.

      Reply
      • December 11, 2019 at 8:42 am
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        Thank you. Yes, I should have research the actual injury a bit further, I looked up a compound fracture and discovered sometimes it doesn’t bleed so much, blah, blah, blah… There is sequel potential here, I agree. I have already taken all the comments and suggested and applied them to a rewrite of a much longer story. 🙂

        Reply
        • December 12, 2019 at 8:09 am
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          Hi JJ,

          I think the previous comments pretty well sum up my thought too. It’s areally good story, well told but with the odd area suitable for further thought.

          I was expecting the injured narrator ( he’s the casualty by the way) to hear noises and to raise the tension regarding sacrifice or cannibals. Distant voices, scuffling noises in the dark, drum beats etc.

          The rather unexplained end does suggest that you ran out of words. 1200 can seem really tight. Thus, if you wanted a completely explained escape, you would have had to sacrifice! some earlier description. It’s always a choice.

          You could help him out with his movements by rigging up a matchshift crutch from bits of wood found in the tunnel. Not sure where all his equipment went if he is in a tunnel. Wouldn’t it have landed below him or is it a tunnel next to an abyss or has he fallen down a deeply sloping tunnel?

          Good story though that kept me interested. Spelunker was a new word for me.

          Kind regards,

          Ken Frape

          Reply
  • December 2, 2019 at 1:15 pm
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    Signing in for comments.

    Reply
  • December 2, 2019 at 4:23 pm
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    From Dinosaurs to Space
    By: Adrienne Riggs (w – 1,187)

    The door frame was covered in thick ivy and leaves. “Prepare for Adventure” was spelled out in twigs, visible through a few hanging vines.

    “Oooooh.” The children gave an audible and collected murmur of awe. They couldn’t wait to see what lay behind the mysterious door.

    “Is it safe?” Anna whispered to her mother.

    “Of course! You are in for a treat this year.” She was smiling.

    Just then, a face appeared at the little window in the door. A woman was smiling and waving happily at the children, bright red hair framing her freckled face. Her eyes were a sparkling bright blue and she was wearing some sort of hat. She opened the door with a flourish, causing the ivy and vines to sway around the door frame.

    “Welcome, my friends. Welcome! I’m Miss Poppy and I’ll be your tour guide this year.” The children were wide-eyed as they took in the khaki uniform, hiking boots and safari hat Miss Poppy was wearing.

    Taking off the hat, she waved them inside the room. They entered slowly, trying to absorb all they were seeing at one time. A large palm tree was in one corner of the room. In another corner, a tent was erected next to the glowing “embers” of a fake fire. Camping gear was positioned near the tent. Around them they could hear birds chirping and other animal noises. A furry monkey hung by one arm from the palm tree. A large map of the world was posted on the wall near the tent.

    “Are we going on a trip?” Jimmy asked.

    Miss Poppy clapped her hands in delight. “Yes, yes we are! Come to the front and let’s sit together on the grass.”

    She led the group to a deep green shag carpet. As they sat down, Poppy perched on a camp chair to address them.

    “We will be going on amazing trips this year! We will be on an exciting journey of exploration, adventure, discovery and learning. We will be reading about our destinations, learning new words, meeting new people and creating wonderful things in each place we go! We will solve puzzles to gain entry into each new place. So, who is ready to travel with me?”

    25 hands were thrust eagerly in the air, waving with excitement. Some of the children were bouncing where they sat. None of them noticed that their parents had disappeared, fading into the background as the children had entered the room.

    “Wonderful! Wonderful!” Poppy clapped her hands. “Now, let me see how much you already know about where we are.”

    “We’re at ……” Scott scowled as the other children began shouting answers.

    “Whoops! Hold on” Miss Poppy whispered, and she looked around with big eyes. It was magic. As the sound of her whisper, silence fell on the room.

    “I forgot to go over the safety rules for our trips.” The kids listened intently as Poppy outlined a few rules. “We must not be loud while we are exploring. Does anyone know why?” She glanced up at the monkey hanging from the palm tree.

    “We will frighten the animals” Susie answered softly.

    “That’s right. Also, we will be learning from each other and I want to hear every important word that you say. We must show respect for each place that we visit and the people that we meet. We must treat all materials carefully and work together. Now, are we ready?” The children nodded.

    “Where would you say we are?”

    “The jungle!” several children answered.

    “What kind of animals live in a jungle?”

    The answers came from all corners. “Lion!”, “Tiger!”, “Giraffe!”, “Monkey!”

    Poppy smiled at them. “Do you know those are the correct animals or are you guessing?”

    “Um, guessing” said Matthew sheepishly.

    “That’s fine!” said Miss Poppy, “That’s what we are here for. We are going to learn about the jungle and the environment and what kinds of animals live there. We will find out why some animals can’t live in a jungle; or a desert, or in the mountains, and many other places. We will use that map on the wall, and we will be able to find out where the jungle is. We have so much to find out! Who thinks this is exciting?”

    All hands were raised eagerly in the air. It was the beginning of a great year. The children were excited to get to their room each day and absenteeism was minimal. The parents were impressed with the vast amount of knowledge their children were learning and how their adventures reinforced skills through math, science, spelling, English, art, and music. The children were learning geography and social studies of various cultures.

    They traveled back in time to the Jurassic period to walk among the dinosaurs. Each child could identify the dinosaurs by name and type – herbivore, carnivore, and omnivore. They knew the names of the three primary periods of the dinosaurs including the Cretaceous and Triassic eras and which dinosaurs lived in specific eras. They knew who a paleontologist was and what they did. They practiced collecting fossils by gently chipping miniature dinosaur skulls and bones from hard sand. They sang songs of the dinosaurs and moved like them to music. They built a large Tyrannosaurus Rex out of papier-mache. He reigned fiercely over the room after he was painted.

    “Who were the casualties of the Ice Age?” Poppy asked

    “The dinosaurs!” the children responded.

    When they studied space, the children were delighted to discover the 10’ rocket standing in the corner of the classroom. They all had their pictures taken in the astronaut suit created by Miss Poppy. They explored the concept of gravity, illustrated by the female astronaut floating over their heads, through science projects. They could spell the names of the planets and knew their order in space. They knew the names of the space shuttles and many of the astronauts throughout history. They lay on the “grass” carpet as Poppy turned out the lights and they saw the moon glowing above them in one corner of the room before they turned their attention to identifying the constellations created from glow-in-the dark stars on inky black paper. They read stories about how the constellations got their names.

    Each unit of study was greeted with excitement and the children flourished in the interactive environments of creativity and learning. Parents and teachers alike were amazed at the knowledge of the 6- and 7-year-olds. Each child had a “passport”, complete with pictures and stamps from each leg of their journey throughout the year. They had tasted foods from different cultures and learned how to say hello in different languages. Pins dotted the world map showing their “travels.”

    The end of the year was bittersweet as Miss Poppy said good-bye to the children who had grown in confidence and learning throughout the year as evidenced by their passport photos.

    “Have a good summer!” Miss Poppy told them. “Remember, life is a journey. Make the most of it. Take what you learned and make your own adventures!” Smiling, she closed the door.

    Reply
    • December 2, 2019 at 4:53 pm
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      What a lovely story. Ms. Poppy seems like the teacher everybody dreams of…

      Reply
    • December 4, 2019 at 8:52 am
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      Adi,

      This is a lovely and enchanting story. Your writing is exemplary. If only all teaching was like this, what a world this would be. I think one of the things that comes across really well, is the ease with which children’s imaginations can be nurtured, and how willing they are to cooperate and play along. A wonderful read, Adi.

      Reply
      • December 9, 2019 at 7:49 am
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        Thanks Ken!

        Reply
    • December 9, 2019 at 6:29 am
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      That’s really lovely, Adi. As Ken says, if all teachers were like this … (but think of the lesson preparation!) Miss Poppy puts me in mind a little of Fred Rogers (I didn’t grow up with him, but I’ve read and seen some things about him, and there’s a recent film, isn’t there?) – a love of children, and a determination that they will learn through fun.

      It’s very upbeat, so I was kind of waiting for some sort of tragic twist … which didn’t come (except for the fact that the kids maybe won’t see Ms Poppy again). What it gains in feelgood it kind of loses a bit in dramatic tension … but that was obviously your intention. Do you know a Miss Poppy?

      (‘collective murmur’, I think)

      Reply
      • December 9, 2019 at 8:04 am
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        Thanks for the comments Phil! I just wasn’t in the mood for anything dark, dangerous or depressing, so I followed the old tenet “Write what you know.”

        My secret? I am ‘Miss Poppy’. I taught 1st grade for 3 years and my first-graders will never forget their first grade year. The 10′ tall rocket was a reading center. 3 children could fit inside. It had a window looking out into space and the “earth” far away. We had the glow-in-the-dark moon and I created each constellation from glow-in-the-dark stars. We had a life-size astronaut suit that I drew and colored for realism and each child had their pictures made looking through the “glass” in the helmet. We had books and songs about space.

        Our T-Rex was really made from chicken wire over a wood frame and covered in papier mache. He was 4 1/2 feet tall and 10′ long. Each child had their picture taken with “Rex”. A tent was erected as a cave and that was our reading center. I drew large pictures of the dinosaurs and had them all over the room. I drew a large mural of a Jurassic world and the children got to color it when their work was done. We had books on dinosaurs and music about dinosaurs and had a dinosaur party at the end of the adventure. We had Pterodactyl eggs (hard boiled eggs), Prehistoric “mushrooms” – (cupcakes), Crystal rocks from the dinosaur lagoon (Fruity Pebbles cereal) and Orange Bug Juice to drink.

        When we read Dr. Suess’ Green Eggs and Ham, we ate green eggs and ham. When we read How to Eat Fried Worms, I made “Dirt dessert” with gummy worms for the kids at the end of the book. The children were completely immersed in all of the subject matter and I coordinated reading words, vocabulary, science, math and social studies to center around the main theme. We had a great time! I loved those years.

        Adi

        Reply
        • December 10, 2019 at 3:50 am
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          Ah – I had a feeling it might be you … good for you! You’ve marked lives … in a good way.

          Reply
        • December 12, 2019 at 8:29 am
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          Hi Adi,

          I also wondered if it was you. Glad to hear that it was. You know, you really made me reminisce about how teaching should be and how it used to be when my wife and I went into primary classrooms in the early 1970s.in the UK. Everything was based upon the child, their interests, their thirst for knowledge.

          In terms of planning ,if we were teaching about say, space, that word would go into the centre of a sheet of paper from the flip chart. Then we would brainstorm all the language we could glean from it, then the history, geography, art, music, PE etc. leading outwards from the centre, a topic web or topic spider we used to call it.

          We had no formal targets, the parents knew if their children were engaged in their learning. And we, as trained professionals, were trusted.

          Then came the National Curriculum. Not a bad thing in itself ( not all lessons were as good as yours, Adi) but it rapidly became over prescriptive, target-driven. If you couldn’t test it, it didn’t really count. As if weighing the baby makes it bigger!

          So sad.

          Thanks Adi, for such a wonderfully welcome blast from the past. It was a lovely read.

          Kind regards,

          Ken Frape

          Reply
  • December 4, 2019 at 9:03 pm
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    Escape Tunnel
    Dennis Wagers
    1198 words

    The darkness is dank, silent and suffocating, and the sound of their breath is loud and hissing. There’s a ruffling sound beside him. A spark, a flare, and then a dim yellow light pushes back at the darkness. Mace stands tall before him with a lantern in his hand, wide-eyed and pale-faced. His voice strained and breathy. “This is the escape tunnel that Father worked on for years. According to his map, it will take us to the river and away.”

    Mace’s voice seems far away. Nothing matters to Shane now. His sweet mother, his, his brothers, they had been left behind in a house full of angry soldiers. Shane’s anger flared. Mace hadn’t raised a hand to help them. “You Coward!” he pushes at Mace. “We’re going back to get them!”

    Mace’s voice is a growl. “You, nor I, will go back out there, Mother, Father, our brothers, they’re all dead by now.”

    Shane’s heart explodes. “You may as well have killed them yourself, Mace. You did nothing but run like a worthless rat.”
    Mace’s eyes go blank.

    You killed them! Shane screams. “I hate you!”

    Mace winces as if he had been hit in the face. Seconds later he lunges forward pushing Shane hard against the cold dirt wall of the tunnel, his forearm against Shane’s throat. “You listen to me brother.” His words are raw and sharp. “We must survive! The King’s soldiers are above us, slaughtering people, and I would like nothing better than to go out there and fight, but I can’t. The most important thing I can do is keep it from them, keep it safe, as all the keepers before me have done!”

    Dust and pebbles fall from the dirt ceiling above them, and in the startling silence, they can hear muffled screams and shouts of people, the stomping of heavy war horses. Mace releases Shane from his hard grip, holding the lantern before them, he shoves Shane ahead of him, and they are off, down the dark tunnel. They go only a hundred feet when something horrid happens. One of the King’s warhorses above, having lost its rider, rears in the mayhem, and it’s two thousand pounds is concentrated right above the tunnel. The earth near the ocean is soft, and the tunnel’s ceiling gives way. The heavy horse falls backward and comes crashing down into the tunnel.

    A rock hits Shane’s head, and the weight of the combined horse and dirt falls upon them. Shane goes down. Stunned and coughing from the dust, he pulls himself to his feet. He can hardly see through the dust and the darkness. The light of the full moon comes through the gaping hole above him. He hears the screaming of the terrified horse. The horse has landed in such a way that its neck is folded underneath it. It continues to jostle and kick in the air, desperate to regain its footing. Shane looks for his brother, as the battle rages above. Finally, he spots him in the rock and dirt beneath the horse. Taking up one of his arms, Shane heaves, but cannot budge him. He calls his name, and there is no response. The screams of the horse continue. Just then, the horse manages to heave itself upward in such a way which allows Shane to move his brother forward, and once the forward motion starts, he commits all his strength into it, suddenly, Mace is free, and with a loud snap, the horse breaks its neck and the shrieking stops.

    Shane continues dragging Mace across the floor of the tunnel. In his free hand, he grips the still burning lantern Mace had carried. Eventually, going weak from exhaustion, he falls onto the damp earth. There’s nothing to hear, but his own breathing. After a moment, Mace moans. Using the lantern, Shane checks his brother. Red bubbles escape from Mace’s nostrils. “Mace,” he says. His voice high and broken. Nearly in tears, he pleads. “Get up, Mace, please get up.” Suddenly, Mace’s eyes open wide with panic as he struggles to breathe. Shane watches he brother shudder in attempt to draw in a breath. “Shane, He gasps.”

    “I’m here Mace.

    “You…, you have to take it.”

    “No.” Shane protests. “I won’t, I will not take it.”

    “Take it and go,” Mace pleads, his hands shaking from the pain. His eyes desperate as it takes all his effort to breathe.

    “What about you?” Shane asked through tears, giving in to a horrid realization. “I want leave you.”

    Mace coughs. “You’re not, you’re not leaving me.” He grimaced and catches his breath. “I’m the one who’s leaving you….” Mace attempts to raise his hand, but goes unconscious. He draws in a few more breaths, and then his life slips away.

    Shane can’t breathe, all of the air has been sucked from his lungs. His chest heaves, his throat feels as if it will close. He gasps as the tears trail down his face. He whispers his brother’s name. He cries for his mother, father, and his other two brothers, but most of all he mourns for his kind and gentle Mace.

    It was sounds of yelling and screams that brings Shane out of his mournful stupor. Slowly getting to his feet, he begins to follow the tunnel. He cannot allow himself to think of anything else, nothing except the tunnel. Then, he runs back, taking the chain from around his dead brother’s neck, he places it around his. He is actively aware of the crystal skull bumping against his chest as he starts out alone.

    As he nears the mouth of the tunnel, he can hear the Serpentine River and then something else. A scream, a loud smack, followed by another scream. He crawls closer to the rough, overgrown exit of the tunnel and dares to look. There, about a hundred feet from him, stands a tall royal soldier. His armor has been removed and, he stands in the moonlight with his trousers down around his knees. He moves in a way that Shane can see his prick, stiff and swollen. At his feet and nearly out of Shane’s line of sight, lays a young village girl bruised and beaten. Shane pulls himself out of the tunnel’s entrance and stands to his feet. Anger and vengeful desire boil in his blood. He takes a jagged rock from the ground, approaching the soldier, he chooses his way like a cold, calculating murderer.

    The blow is hard and true. The soldier falls forward, slumping over her. Shane drops the rock and helps roll the big man from off top of the girl. Once free, she gets on her feet, kicking and spitting at the soldier in silent rage. Retrieving the same rock Shane had used, she repeatedly hammers the soldier’s head with it. As Shane watches her, an arrow whispers through the night and thuds into the girl’s back. She sits there motionless for a moment, then the bloody rock slip from her hand. Shane watches her fall sideways. He never sees the man who brought the solid wooden club down against the back of his head. His mind is lost to darkness.

    Reply
    • December 5, 2019 at 8:19 am
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      I was completely surprised by the endin, which seemed perfectly suited to your story. A riveting read.

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    • December 5, 2019 at 3:06 pm
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      This is a terrific story Dennis. Exciting, gripping, and like Adi’s story, demonstrates incredibly skillful writing, a real pleasure to read, regardless of the plot. Good stuff, man.

      Reply
    • December 9, 2019 at 6:45 am
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      Great action and pace, Dennis. There’s no messing about – we’re straight into the thick of the action, and you grab us there and take us on. And mystery; it’s really good how you refer to ‘it’ until halfway through when we find out what ‘it’ is. The scene with the horse is terrific – its screams and desperation to get up (I wonder why no-one on ground level notices the tunnel?) And the brutal fate of the girl – deliciously out of the blue. It’s obviously a part of something longer – there are so many questions up in the air at the end. This would be a great trampoline into a longer story (novel?). A couple of tense lapses (e.g. “He never sees the man who BRINGS the solid wooden club down against the back of his head.”) Really enjoyable story!

      Reply
      • December 9, 2019 at 10:49 am
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        Thanks Phil, you are absolutely correct concerning this piece belonging to something bigger. This is a snippet from a novel I’ve been working on… of course I changed some things to make it fit the prompt and tried to make it work as a stand alone piece. I’m not sure I was successful at that.

        Reply
        • December 12, 2019 at 8:39 am
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          Hi Dennis,

          Such a great story. I should have predicted the ending but I didn’t. I wondered if the girl might be his sister and that they might escape together but your ending is so fitting.

          Phil mentions a couple of points with which I agee.

          Great story that should get appear near the top of the votes.

          Reply
    • December 9, 2019 at 10:30 am
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      Dennis,

      Masterful story! You dropped us right in the middle of the action and we were swept along with the drama of the escape. The horse falling through the tunnel and its fight to survive was very realistic and clever. Have you ever heard a horse scream? It sends chills through you. I was expecting some of the soldiers to fall into the tunnel as well or follow the horse.

      Great tension and drama right up to the end. Loved it!

      Adi

      Reply
  • December 4, 2019 at 11:39 pm
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    cas·u·al·ty
    /ˈkaZH(o͞o)əltē/

    noun
    a person killed or injured in a war or accident.

    Reply
  • December 4, 2019 at 11:48 pm
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    THE INTERVIEWER

    “And where were you three nights ago?”
    The trouble with interviewing, like archeology, is that it can be more about the searching than the finding. It takes a labyrinthine path, a mapping of the mind, to unearth a repressed truth. Certain knowledge is disconnected from the circuitous convoluted highways within the skull, like a ghost town far off the main arteries. These hideaways conveniently allow us to conceal our traumas and also to slough off banal events that would only clutter our clearer intentions.
    Other memories are surreptitiously secreted like small communities consumed by a sprawling metropolis. The often humiliating and sometimes incriminating evidence is deliberately confounded by spiraling skyscrapers and layers upon layers of parking lots distributed among twisting cloverleaves and endless miles of synaptic transportation designed to create road blocks and detours.
    Sitting at the station’s interrogation room table, she caressed the warm paper coffee cup between her thumb and very thin index and ring fingers. After a short pause, the middle-aged woman droned, “I was home.”
    Home is where the mind’s map will try to turn north into south and east into west. Every turn is a hopeful distraction, a redirection from the treasure, the truth.
    “Forensics has fresh Condon Park sod from your car tire. We know you were near the body. Now I need to know why you are lying.”
    The serpentine roads of her manipulations crumpled a crashed. Her hand also crumpled from the cup to the table with a soft thud. She looked at the interviewer more intensely to construct a new topography. “I didn’t mean to shoot him. He pulled the gun on me while driving to the park. I fought with him and the gun went off. I was scared and pushed the body out of the car into the deserted park.”
    The interviewer instinctively sensed the new direction. There is a characteristic change of composure when the predicted pattern of thinking is suddenly thwarted. He gulped softly holding down the urge to scream, ‘Quit screwing around! What really went down that night’. Instead, with professional calmness he explained, “Your new boyfriend, Jason, was a college linebacker. I figure him to weigh about 265 pounds. What are you? About 110? You have something else for me?”
    “You’re right. Jason was driving and I took the gun from my purse, screamed, ‘You Bastard!!’, and pulled the trigger. All five feet of her was off the ground, red hair indistinguishable from her complexion, screaming ‘You Bastard! You Bastard!”
    The interviewer knew thoughts of outbursts are those that evasively spider along nameless avenues, become clouded and vanish, like a building collapsing from a faulty foundation. Her heroic efforts become more futile with ever interrogative response. The Dutch Boy . . . a dike . . . not enough hands.
    A police uniformed messenger dropped a note to the interviewer. He scanned the missive and said, “You have been an impressive adversary ma’am. The warrant that was served at your house was intercepted by your 17 year old son. The gun residue on a shirt in his dresser cinched the case. I’m very sorry for you and for your son.” The map in the skull, the protective lioness, her impulsive cub, and a lifeless actor become the casualties of the living and those passing on.
    The interviewer reflects on his limited understanding of the most complex and dynamic mystery of creation, the mind. His passion for the search is his lust but, unlike the archaeologist, he finds no enjoyment in the unearthing of the find.

    Reply
    • December 5, 2019 at 8:25 am
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      I liked your choice of theme – taking us on an inner adventure of the mind. I’m not sure if it is just the formatting of your piece as displayed here, but I found the dialogue distracting from the rest of the piece. I wonder if it might have been more powerful to have the piece only consist of the interviewers thoughts & his reactions to the woman’s paraphrased words instead of actual dialogue? Just a thought…

      Reply
    • December 5, 2019 at 3:43 pm
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      Paul,
      Personally, I find this story brilliant. The first paragraph is amazing, full of information but none of it confusing. Your comparison of the human mind to a cities thoroughfares is incredibly insightful. I can’t believe I’ve never encountered the comparison before, having seen it now, it seems so obvious. They have so much in common.

      The reveal is equally impressive, set up in a single paragraph, distilled down to a single sentence. ‘The map in the skull, the protective lioness, her impulsive cub, and a lifeless actor become the casualties of the living and”… (the dead.)

      The dialogue is great, but it needs contractions to give it that natural sound. There’s not much dialogue anyway so that’s a small task.

      Normally Paul, I dislike stories that are heavy on the narrator’s philosophy, but philosophy is the heart and soul of this story, because the main character is trying to find the path to the truth in someone else’s skull. (Mind.)

      In fact, the use of the skull in the prompt as a repository or puzzle rather than a relic or a forensic object is very creative.

      This is a pretty complex plot for such a short story, I think, but you totally pulled it off. Very impressive. Very enjoyable story.

      Reply
    • December 6, 2019 at 11:44 pm
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      PaulyD- Hmmm.. your word use is interesting, whereas I think of myself as a pragmatic writer and dislike wasting time while reading on long descriptives, your winding pathway of imagery is catchy and somewhat mesmerizing. Did you know when you began this story where it was going to end or did you just reach a point where you just thought— Ok got to get out of this mess somehow — and brought in a supporting escape note? Just curious it seemed a little abrupt..

      Reply
    • December 10, 2019 at 5:48 am
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      Hi, Paul … this is a great angle on the prompt. The analogy of mind/cityscape is excellent (though possibly a tiny bit overdone?), and using that as a backdrop to the crime investigation works really well. The metaphors (though well-rendered) perhaps get a bit much later on (boy and dike, lioness and cub …).I think the paragraph beginning “You’re right. Jason was driving …” might have ome punctuation missing (or it might just be me!) Vivid language and refreshingly different.

      Reply
      • December 10, 2019 at 6:56 pm
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        “…might have ome punctuation missing”
        (And that might ave ome letters issing.)

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    • December 12, 2019 at 8:50 am
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      Hi Paul D,

      A most impressive piece of writing with so much squeezed into so few ( relatively speaking) words.

      I tend to agree with Phil that there are perhaps too many complex sentences ( I think that’s what he means) that made it a little harder to follow than absolutely necessary.

      I salute your lirerary and philosophical construction though. I could not replicate this.

      Great stuff.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
  • December 5, 2019 at 3:16 pm
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    ‘Circle Of Death.’
    by Ken Cartisano ©12-5-19
    (WC 1157)

    I remember it so vividly. I’m on a beach but there are no waves, the water is as black as ink. The sand is cool and soft under my bare feet. A half moon lies hidden behind the clouds, but a crackling bonfire offers more than enough light to see a body, lying face down in the sand.

    It looks like a man, wearing pants and a t-shirt, lying awkwardly with his rump propped up. I place my foot against the dead man’s haunch and push. He rolls onto his back and there’s something underneath him. I drop to one knee to get a closer look at what appears to be a human skull. Clean, smooth, white, it almost glows in the moonlight. The firelight creates eerie patterns and shadows in the eye sockets: Along with something else. Curious, I pick it up and check. Sure enough, there’s a rolled up piece of paper inside the skull.

    I’m fishing for the note with two fingers, wiggling them around inside the skull when I hear footfalls and a large man approaches cautiously. I stand and step back from the corpse but he isn’t interested in the body. He holds the biggest knife I’ve ever seen, points it at my chest and says, “Give me the fucking skull. Now.”

    Having filched the note, and no comparable weapon handy, I must comply, and hope that he doesn’t kill me anyway. I’m about to toss the skull to the angry stranger when I get an idea. Instead of surrendering the skull, I throw it towards the fire, whirl around and flee down the beach towards the tree line. He pursued the skull as I had hoped he would.

    I haven’t gone far when I hear a scream of frustration and anger. For what he couldn’t find? I shove the piece of paper into my pocket, wondering what it is. ‘A note? A map? A deed?’

    My progress through the sand must have been poor because in a moment the skull comes flying over my head and rolls in the sand in front of me. The next thing that comes flying my way is the knife; skidding past me just a few feet to my right. I pick up the knife and retreat to the skull, collecting that as well, and wait, panting like a wild animal. I hold the knife out defensively and wield the skull like a rock. Sure enough, the angry stranger materializes out of the darkness.

    He’s a large, terrifying vision and appears ready to kill me with his bare hands until I wave the knife menacingly at his chest and face. He backs away, but doesn’t leave, loitering just out of easy range, measuring me, taunting me. His contempt is humiliating. I can’t turn my back, or safely retreat. He starts telling me what he’s going to do to me as soon as I give him a chance, which he’s sure I’ll do, eventually.

    He shouldn’t have been so convincing, because something inside of me clicks, like a tripped switch or closed relay. I go after him in a blind rage and would’ve killed him too, but I believe he got away. It’s a little troubling that I don’t remember exactly what happened, but the man’s presence was so threatening that, even with the knife, I had to convince him that I could be deadly too.

    Pretty sure I succeeded.

    I look around for the skull in the aftermath of our tussle, but can’t find it. So I take off at a trot for the parking lot where I left my car. I patted myself down. ‘Yessss, the keys are still in my pocket.’

    I traverse the path through the trees to discover that my white sports car is the only vehicle in the lot. It gleams in the moonlight like the skull did. ‘Everyone went home hours ago it seems, so what am I doing here?’ I’m thinking this as I start the car, lock the doors, depress the clutch and put the car in gear. I cautiously leave the parking lot.

    I haven’t gone more than half a mile when I look in my mirror and see blue lights flashing.

    Some kind of cop. I pull over, stop, engage the parking brake as I stare into the rear view mirror, waiting for him to get out of his car. An impolite rap on the window makes me jump. It’s the cop. I roll down my window.

    “License, registration and proof of insurance.”

    I give him all that stuff and when he comes back, he uses my license to point at the passenger seat next to me and says, “That’s a mighty big knife you’ve got there, Mr. Johnson.”

    I can’t believe I left the knife lying on the front seat.

    “We had a little trouble earlier this evening on one of the beaches. Someone was attacked with a knife. You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you? Mr. Johnson?”

    “No, sorry. ‘Fraid not.”

    “Is that your knife then, Mr. Johnson?”

    “Uhhhh, well, actually no.”

    “That’s—not your knife? Well, whose knife is it then, Mr. Johnson?”

    I couldn’t remember. “Somebody threw it at me, okay?” I feel groggy. The next thing I know I’m in the back of the patrol car, in handcuffs, heading back to the beach. The beach with no waves.

    I decide to level with the cop and lean forward. “Look,” I tell him. “There was a skull, and in the skull was a note. I don’t have the skull, but I have the note.”

    The cop says, “A note? How do you know it isn’t a map?”

    “I don’t know,” I tell him. “I never got a chance to look at it.”

    We arrive at the beach, the deserted parking lot. The officer puts the car in park and says, “So where is it? Where’s the map?”

    I don’t know and I tell him so. I try feeling in my pockets, but it isn’t easy with the handcuffs on. He gets out, opens the door and pulls me out, takes off the handcuffs and begins to escort me back to the beach.

    I’m tapping my pockets frantically. “I can’t believe this. It should be in this pocket.” As we’re passing through the narrow wooded barrier between the parking lot and the beach, the officer swears and says, “I forgot something. You can wait here or just go on ahead and wait for me at the fire.”

    I watch him recede into the darkness.

    The light from the bonfire beckons and guides me.

    I remember it all so vividly. I’m on a beach but there are no waves, the water is as black as ink. The sand is cool and soft under my bare feet. A half moon lies hidden behind the clouds, but a crackling bonfire offers more than enough light to see the body, lying face down in the sand.

    Reply
    • December 5, 2019 at 3:39 pm
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      I was riveted. Terrific story. Loved how you described the main character’s thoughts- “pretty sure I succeeded” set off as its own paragraph was a stroke of genius. I must admit I’m befuddled by the end- it was all a dream? Or he returns to see the body and contemplates all that happened? Sorry, I might be muddle-brained today…

      Reply
      • December 5, 2019 at 3:58 pm
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        Trish 4694 –
        He doesn’t remember. and it starts all over. That was my intent. Is there some way I could make that clearer? (Serious suggestions are welcome. Less than serious suggestions are taken less seriously. But still welcome.) The first and last paragraph are nearly identical. (a bit of a gimmick.) Maybe it doesn’t work. (Maybe there’s too much sand. Maybe the author fell asleep too many times while editing this.)

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        • December 5, 2019 at 5:30 pm
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          I thinks it works as it is Ken, I was thinking Rod Sterling’s The Twilight Zone where the characters relives a terrible situation over and over again… trapped in some kind of mental madness or eternal damnation.

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        • December 5, 2019 at 5:31 pm
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          Well that makes sense given your title, sorry I didn’t make that connection earlier. And it’s a pretty cool concept for our Choose Your Own Adventure theme as it is reminiscent of the Choose Your Own Adventure books from my childhood. That said, for me, your story seems grounded in reality (the car keys, the handcuffs, the police officer’s skepticism at Mr. Johnson’s possession of the knife, etc.). And you do have some indications that there is something amiss with this reality – the note’s disappearance from Johnson’s pocket, the police officer’s jumping to the conclusion that the note was a map, and the police officer leaving his suspect to walk alone towards a murder scene. But somehow, for me, these indications were not strong enough to make me find the current ending believable/concretely understandable. I wonder how you’d feel about emphasizing Johnson’s grogginess and perhaps having the officer shove Johnson toward the crime scene, causing Johnson to trip and bump his head. When he awakes, Johnson no longer hears the siren or sees the patrol lights, but he sees the body, described using the same words as in the first paragraph. That keeps the reality with a small twist concept, but gives the reader a cue to understand that things might be different when Johnson awakes. Another option would be to remove the “I remember it all so vividly” line in the final paragraph if you do not want Johnson to remember his action-packed evening. All that said, I wonder if the story could stay grounded in reality by having the ending be Johnson, with a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, escorted by the police officer back to the murder scene (as he knows he is going to be dealing with a murder charge soon). You’d give up the cool factor of a circular story, but perhaps you’d gain in creepy-crawly “oh-no” feelings in your readers’ minds. Just one gal’s opinions…

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          • December 6, 2019 at 12:10 am
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            To Trish and Dennis,

            Thanks Dennis, Yeah, I was going full ‘Twilight Zone’ there. I think this theme has been done, even overdone, many times, but the difference is in the circumstances and the reveal. I think what I was shooting for was just a literary circular story, and keeping it all in one tense. (I could have done without the dead body, but that was part of the prompt.) Which, sucked me into doing a more morbid story than I would have liked, but what the hey

            Trish,

            Thanks for the thoughtful feedback. First, I really appreciate it when a reader catches things that even I wonder about, (and I’m the author.) Like the cop jumping to the conclusion that the missing item was a map. I’m not saying it got in there by accident, far from it. I agonized over the cop’s assumption. I took it out. I changed it. And then I put it back in. I was just never really sure what it meant, but I felt like it should be in there.

            I thought of the story as kind of like a coma, or your first day in Hell. But I decided against categorizing it, or defining it.

            As for your suggestion to turn the story into something more concrete. I appreciate the sentiment. And I sympathize with it. I think the story has too many things happening for a story essentially about nothing. Which is what it is. But, if I could figure out what the story might be about, I would consider re-writing it. That’s what the story needs, a more definitive ending. Or, as you say, get rid of the ‘vivid memory.’ (Good catch — If he doesn’t remember it, then… how come… it’s so vivid?) You caught me being clever, that’s how. Or trying to be.

            I had all the parts of this story, the basic structure and concepts and dialogue,, and then I let it sit around for a couple of days, trying to find a kind of twist, or as you say, a more concrete ending, but I couldn’t come up with anything. (So I handed it some sun glasses and pointed the way to the beach.)

        • December 12, 2019 at 9:30 am
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          Hi Ken C,

          Just another piece of great writing hewn from the log of Cartisano, or something like that.

          I got the repeat bit, kind of, he can’t remember.

          What did catch me out though was the mention of the car keys in the pocket. I don’t know why but I was thinking of a bygone day on a desert island not an up to date setting.

          As ever, a great read.

          Kind regards,

          Ken Frape

          Reply
      • December 8, 2019 at 6:15 pm
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        Great story Ken I am dazzled, bemused and mystified by the riveting twists and turns of your story. It held my interest, not one yawn or eyelid twitch.
        I also like the circular plot where your main character ends up back where he started.

        Reply
    • December 6, 2019 at 11:11 am
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      Well Ken, except for the nightmares I’ll have of fingers groping around in my skull… this was riveting and a for a while more riveting than Rod Serling… I started thinking ok this really weird when th police office started questioning and decided he was the vision on the beach you attacked still trying to get the map and then I morphed to a bad drug trip and then the final paragraph took me to Groundhog Day…. what an adventure…

      Reply
      • December 6, 2019 at 11:24 am
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        Liz,
        LOL. Thanks. Nice summation. All I can say is, “So THAT’S what I was thinking.” As I was sort of wondering about it myself. I think you put the story in perspective very nicely.

        Reply
    • December 10, 2019 at 7:49 am
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      A cracking story, Ken, full of Maguffins. Who is the narrator? Doesn’t matter. Where exactly is he? Doesn’t matter. Who’s the dead body? Doesn’t matter. Why the skull? Doesn’t matter. What’s on the paper? Doesn’t matter. Etc., ad infinitum. It IS very nightmarish (you didn’t, thankfully, end with “but it was all a dream.”). Great description, pacey and elegant action, the right choice of tense (but … touché … “I patted myself down.”) Great piece of writing.

      Reply
      • December 10, 2019 at 6:13 pm
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        Damn Phil,

        You made my story sound good. That was incredible. Would you do my obituary for me? And my eulogy?
        Assuming you live longer than me, and since you never make mistakes, I think it’s inevitable. I make mistakes. That’s what kills people, Phil. Mistakes.

        Like accidentally choking on an eraser.

        Or, for the ambitiously unlucky, stepping into traffic in the rain during a thunderstorm with a nine iron in one hand and a defused WWII hand grenade in the other while wearing an Anarchy Rules t-shirt. On Easter. In Rome.

        Sorry. I got carried away with my own bullshit. I was talking about my obituary. Now, I don’t think I’m dying anytime soon Phil, it just seems like a waste of perfectly good talent, that’s all. If you can do this for a story, imagine what you could do for my dead (weather-beaten) body!

        Let me know what you think, Phil.. About my obituary. Is it even possible? For you to do what you did for my story, for my post-mortal coil? I would be posthumously grateful I’m sure. No need to answer right away Phil. Think about it.

        Reply
        • December 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm
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          B..b..ut… Ken and Una are una persona?! Why wasn’t I copied on the e-mail?!

          I’m going to take it up with my MP! (… although on second thoughts, with a bit of luck he’ll lose his seat this Thursday. I’ll take it up with whoever replaces him.)

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          • December 12, 2019 at 12:33 pm
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            Phil,

            Yo-ho-ho. As they say. (I think that’s what gay pirates say. Sure sounds like it. Fortunately, I’m not well-informed on either — thing.) Now, I don’t want to dissuade you from whatever allusion you conscribe to, (well, it SHOULD be a word, (I invented ‘underwhelmed’ you know. Decades ago. In my twenties. I don’t get any credit for it though. Like my picture next to the word or something.)

            Although some say me and Una are joined at the modem, I’m not sure you could call us the same person, I mean, we have different names, for one thing. (Same body, true, but why get so technical when it clearly isn’t called for?) Just think of Una as a Russian, eating gold on Mars. (A Russian with a tattoo of the Phoenix on his uh, well that’s not important.) Or better yet, think of Una as a Russian Republican, a dissentress, perhaps. (Two words! I just invented two words! I hope that helps, Phil. Sincerely. LOL

            Seriously though, now that I’ve gotten rid of everyone else, just between you and me Phil, a lot of people enjoyed the humor in your story, and I’ve been trying to write something funny for months now, and all this dark shit keeps coming out. (And Una has nothing to do with it, just in case you were wondering.)

            It’s tough, writing something funny.

            All my friends used to say, “You’re so funny in person Ken, you should write funny stuff. You know, comedy? Ever think about that?”

            And I say, “Why don’t YOU write some fuckin’ comedy, asshole?”

            This is why i don’t have any more friends. But no stupid questions either, so it kind of balances out. I think.

      • December 10, 2019 at 6:32 pm
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        Don’t let Una fool you Phil.. She’s a master impersonator. And she’s not dying either.

        Reply
    • December 11, 2019 at 8:15 am
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      Ken,

      Another piece of wonderful writing. I love the trip you take us on, leaving us wondering what is on the piece of paper from the skull and why it was so sought after. I felt that the police officer knew more than he was telling and was maybe in on the intrigue. I loved how you ended the piece by bringing him back to the opening scene. Great technique! Now, you have to keep going. I want to know more! Loved it!

      Adi

      Reply
  • December 5, 2019 at 8:20 pm
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    Out of Time
    Written by Writer2019
    (1200 words excluding title)

    I lunged to the left, feeling the rush of air as the claws missed me by a millimeter. Recovering my balance I whipped around, seeing the creature towering high above me. It’s freakishly long arms brushed the ground, claws, red with blood, glistened in the dull light. Leaning down, the creature came face to face with me, it’s skeletal muzzle opening wide. Putrid air wafted out, and I gagged, holding back bile. I glanced to the side, and saw my sister, mauled beyond recognition, lying dead on the ground. A sob built up in my throat, and I inhaled shakily, getting my emotions under control. This creature had killed my sister, eating her alive as if she was some animal. And I watched it all. Anger filled my chest, and I looked up. Meeting the creatures yellow gaze. It was time to end this.

    *Thirty minutes earlier*

    “Cmon! It’ll be fun!” I begged, looking pleadingly at my sister Skyler. “Hank, it’s dangerous” Skyler sighed, shaking her head. I slumped down, pouting. Even though I was older, Skyler continuously shut my brilliant ideas. “It’s not a brilliant idea” Skyler snapped, seeing my expression. “You found a map in Grandmas attic, and want to follow it to wherever it leads.” I shrugged. “It’s not that bad, it’ll be fun.” Skyler scoffed disbelieving. “Yeah right.”

    I sighed, disappointed. Mom and Dad had left us at our Grandmas house for two weeks to go on a vacation for their anniversary. It was okay. But the adventure of the trip was always shot down by Skyler, who did nothing but sulk. I saw Skyler glance over, and her face soften. “Fine. Let’s go” she suddenly said. I glanced up, surprised. “Really?” I asked, getting to my feet. “Why not” Skyler sighed, copying me. I reached into my pocket, pulling out a old, paper map. Grinning, I spread it out on a table, smoothing the edge. A map of the local area stared back at me, written out in ink. A place in the map was circled in red ink, a skull drawn above it. I felt Skyler lean down, and her finger pointed at the red circle. “I know that place” she said, surprised. I glanced up at her, taken back. Skyler nodded slowly. “It’s a cave, I’ve been there once or twice” she explained. I raised my eyebrow. Once or twice? She glared at me, seeing my expression. “Let’s get going” she growled, snatching up the map.

    *Fifteen minutes later*

    I stood in front of the cave, Skyler by my side, the map held out before me. “You sure this is a good idea?” I asked, uncertain. Skyler looked at me, astonished. “You’re the one who wanted to come in the first place!” She exclaimed angrily. “Yeah, but this was before the cave!” I complained. I was freaked out by the cave, but I couldn’t let Skyler know. Although I suspect she already knew. “Let’s just get going” Skyler muttered, snatching the map out of my hands. “Hey!” I protested, following Skyler as she stalked inside the cave. I hesitated slightly at the entrance, but stepped inside, not wanting to be left alone. I caught up with Skyler a couple feet in, and we fell into an easy stride, both our eyes wandering over the caves stone walls. “This is amazing” I breathed, slowly down, trying to take in everything. “Yeah, a real eye catcher” Skyler muttered, striding ahead. “What’s wrong?” I asked, jogging up to her side, bumping her shoulder playfully. “I don’t know, but something feels wrong” she growled, ignoring my carefree attitude. “Trust me Skyler” I laughed, “nothing can go wrong.”

    *Five minutes later*

    Both Skyler and I stared at the carven before us, our jaws dropping. Only a couple minutes ago the cave had started to get wider, and soon enough Skyler and I had found ourselves standing in front of a yawning carven, moonlight from a hole in ceiling illuminating our surroundings. “This is amazing” I murmured, breathless. A glint of white caught my eyes, and I walked a couple yards into the cave, curious. “Hey! Where are you going?” Skyler exclaimed, following me. I reached the white object, crouching down to get a better look. “Skyler… is this a human skull?” I asked, picking up the supposed skull. Skyler gulped, nodding slowly. “Let’s get out of here…” I whispered, quickly getting to my feet. I turned around, and froze, terror rushing through me. A dark shape stood only feet away from me and Skyler, yellow eyes glowing in the gloom. The dark shape moved into the light, and I heard Skyler whimper as we saw the monstrous being in front of us. It was deer-like creature, standing around ten feet tall, long arms touching the ground. Razor sharp claws glinted in the moonlight, and I stared, terrified, at the half wolf, half skeletal face.

    “That’s a Wendigo” Skyler breathed, and I glanced over at her, petrified. “What’s a Wendigo?” I asked quietly, my eyes trained on Wendigo. “It’s a man-eating creature” Skyler whispered, her voice trembling. I glanced over at the skull. “That explains it” I croaked. My attention was drawn back to the Wendigo as it growled, a horrid, terrifying sound. With lightening like speed it launched itself at Skyler, bowling her over. I scrambled away, seeking a corner for refuge. A horrible screaming sound emitted from Skyler, and I watched, horrified, as blood spurred into the air, shockingly red. There was a final gurgle, before everything fell silent. I saw Wendigo turn around, it’s yellow eyes trained on me. I stood up, my legs trembling like jelly. Slowly I walked towards the Wendigo, entranced by its gaze. I stopped only a couple inches from it, shaking uncontrollably. The Wendigo was still for a moment, before it launched itself at me, it’s claws aiming straight for my face.

    *Present time*

    I lunged to the left, feeling the rush of air as the claws missed me by a millimeter. Recovering my balance I whipped around, seeing the creature towering high above me. It’s freakishly long arms brushed the ground, claws, red with blood, glistened in the dull light. Leaning down, the creature came face to face with me, it’s skeletal muzzle opening wide. Putrid air wafted out, and I gagged, holding back bile. I glanced to the side, and saw my sister, mauled beyond recognition, lying dead on the ground. A sob built up in my throat, and I inhaled shakily, getting my emotions under control. This creature had killed my sister, eating her alive as if she was some animal. And I watched it all. Anger filled my chest, and I looked up. Meeting the creatures yellow gaze. It was time to end this.

    I charged at the Wendigo, screaming. My fist swung out, bouncing uselessly off its hide. It’s arm swung out, catching me in the side, throwing me into the cave walls. I slammed into the stone, sliding to the ground. I wheezed, struggling for air, feeling blood pool into my mouth. The Wendigo stalked towards me, it’s muzzle opening wide, teeth glinting. And that’s when I realized. I was gonna die. I’d run out of time.

    Reply
    • December 6, 2019 at 12:25 am
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      Writer 2019,

      It was good of you sir, to dictate this story, just before you died. (Or was this ghost-written by the Windigo?)

      Are you a fan of the boundary waters? Or William Kent Krueger?
      I am.

      But seriously, I like the structure of this story, and the writing’s pretty damned good too.

      Reply
      • December 6, 2019 at 9:26 am
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        Love the ending- didn’t see it coming. Good story!

        Reply
        • December 7, 2019 at 8:51 am
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          Thanks Trish!

          Also, my other comment was meant for Ken, just accidentally clicked reply to you instead of him

          Reply
      • December 7, 2019 at 8:49 am
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        Maybe it was the Wendigo that wrote this story… you should go check it out Ken, maybe spend your vacation time exploring that cave? Though I would advise not to die, I quite like reading your story’s.

        I’ve heard of both the author and his book, but have never read it before. I wasn’t aware that one his books was about Wendigos until recently. I decided to write this Wendigo story because I’d been recently writing about Wendigos, so I figured why not? I guess, based off of everyone else’s comments that it was a good decision.

        By the way, what happened to your baby hippopotamus? That thing was quite cute

        Reply
        • December 9, 2019 at 2:39 am
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          Writer 2019,

          I forgot your name. Was it Nikki? Or Winter? I saw it once and can’t remember it now.

          Anyway, I’ve heard of a lot of strange things but I never heard of a Wendigo until coming across Krueger’s books about the anishinabee (sp?) indians and their culture. The Wendigo figures prominently in one of his books. I thought at first that you didn’t describe it, but I went back and re-read your story and the description is there, and pretty detailed.

          Reply
          • December 9, 2019 at 7:50 pm
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            Ah yes, I mentioned my name once, which was Alyssa.

            I’ve heard a lot about Wendigos, and found them very interesting, hence the short story. And thank goodness my description of the Wendigo was good, I spent a good amount of time mulling over that, trying to find the perfect details.

            And oh my, there’s so much Kens, i keep losing track!

        • December 9, 2019 at 2:41 am
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          The baby hippopotamus is the other Ken. The nice one. I’m the sinister Ken, with the weather beaten face.

          Reply
    • December 6, 2019 at 11:28 pm
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      Well W-2019 – It’s kind of weird… the stories in this thread make me think of Stranger Things, Why I watch it is a mystery a little bit of death and gore is ok now and then it might be necessary for the story but after awhile gore runneth over.. and your story while fully doing what it was supposed to do to the reader… got me to the point of screaming in my head …enough I can’t take it any more…. I’ve got to go watch Mr Rogers right now….
      So good job of grossly freaking me out… which I suppose means you write very well..

      Reply
      • December 7, 2019 at 8:43 am
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        Thanks Liz! I’m glad that I got you freaked out(in a good way 😉 ) hopefully you’ll find refuge in watching Mr Rogers! I’ve watched a couple episodes of Stranger things, but stopped, because of the gore. Which is weird, considering the way I wrote this story…

        Reply
    • December 11, 2019 at 3:54 am
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      Hi, Alyssa (thanks for drawing that out, Ken) – an engrossing tale with a very neat stucture. I think it’s a good move to put the climactic scene right at the beginning (and return to it later). It grabs us and throws us straight into the action. (That face-to-face with the monster reminds me of Ripley and the alien in one of the ‘Alien’ films, can’t remember which). There’s some good description (although “It was [a] deer-like creature” … that’s not like any deer I’ve ever seen! 😉 ). While the structure/sequence is fine, I found the little inter-titles a bit distracting. I think you could have got away with simply separating the time sections, maybe like this …

      ~~~~~~

      … and trusting the reader to work out the sequence for him/herself. As you probably know, and it was just a slip:”it’s” = “it is” (or “it has”); “its” = possessive adjective, e.g.: “Its freakishly long arms”; “its skeletal muzzle”.

      A good read!

      Reply
    • December 11, 2019 at 8:27 am
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      Alyssa,
      Wow. I wasn’t sure where the story was going at first and was entranced all the way through. I really thought (hoped) that he was going to beat the Wendigo, but the ending fit the story and tied in with the beginning. Great story!

      Reply
      • December 12, 2019 at 9:40 am
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        Hi Alyssa,

        Much prefer this to Writer2019 as you will have to change your name on 1st. January in any case.

        I haven’t a clue what all the literary references are about. I haven’t come across a Wendigo….sounds like a character from Peter Pan…but that’s just my lack of reading. Familiar with Alien and Ripley and Stranger Things.

        What I do know is that this is a super piece of writing.

        Not sure if I am the baby hippo Ken as there is a third one hanging around in this writers’ colony.

        Kind regards,

        Ken Frape

        Reply
  • December 6, 2019 at 2:23 pm
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    “The Kindest Thing” 1118 words

    “Will you slow up a bit?” Karen glared at Bill as she struggled to catch up to him. The California hills were wearing her out, and the air seemed to be getting thicker as they walked. This vacation had been more stressful than either one of them had anticipated. They had argued over every detail of their itinerary, complained about costs and yelled at each other over stupid inconsequentials. All in all the whole thing had been entirely disagreeable for both of them. This hike was supposed to be the glue that would get them back together, but it wasn’t working.

    “You wouldn’t be having such troubles if you’d kept your gym membership.” Bill hollered while keeping far ahead and leading their huge mutt, Munchkin, along the path.

    “Where are we anyways?” Karen stopped trying to catch up to Bill and pulled her wildfire safety map out of her pocket. “The ranger said we needed to veer off the trail at the five-mile mark. Haven’t we gone farther than that?”

    Bill stopped and looked around. “I guess I forgot about that. We passed that marker about an hour and a half ago. It’s almost two, I think we should be heading back.” As Bill turned towards Karen to reverse course, Munchkin started making a high-pitched whine and straining his lead way off the trail to the right. “Whoa, boy, what is it?” Munchkin just continued his whining and restless efforts to drag them off course. Bill looked in the direction Munchkin was straining. “I see flames on the tips of those far-off trees. Thank god the wind is in the other direction, otherwise we’d be running from that fire. We’d better get a move on.”

    Karen looked to see the flames flickering in the tops of the trees. “I see something coming towards us. What do you think that is? Maybe that’s what’s getting Munchie all worked up.”

    Bill looked harder in the direction of the flames. There was indeed a small speck moving slowly and erratically towards them. “Maybe, but I don’t want to find out. Let’s hustle up and get out of here.”

    “I told you we shouldn’t have stayed so long for lunch. Didn’t I say that? Didn’t I? And I know I asked about the five-mile marker an hour ago. Now it’s gonna be dark before we get back.”

    Bill sighed. “Why can’t you ever just let things go. You always have to be right, don’t you? I’m sorry we stayed so long at lunch. I thought it might be a little romantic to snack on bread and cheese by the stream. You’re the one who’s always saying I don’t shower you with enough attention.”

    As Bill talked, Munchkin continued to strain at his lead. “Will you stop whining!” Bill jerked the lead as he yelled at the dog, but his efforts only redoubled Munchkin’s anxiety. “He keeps looking over towards the fire and that moving spot. I think its an animal. It looks like it’s coming towards us. This could be bad, K…” Bill looked around for a stick to fend off the potential marauder.

    Just then Munchkin’s lead snapped and he ran off in the direction of the fire and the creeping animal. Bill started to give chase, and then stopped and yelled at Karen, “He’ll come back, he always does. And we really gotta get moving and get out of here.” Bill strode confidently passed Karen, who was looking off in the direction that Munchkin had gone.

    “I think we need to go after him, honey. He’s pretty worked up and we’ve never been in these hills before,” said Karen.

    “I said we need to go. NOW.”

    The two walked quickly in silence, taking long strides, crunching the dry leaves under their feet and breathing heavily. As the sun crossed the sky, Bill still carried his stick and looked behind him periodically, hoping to see Munchkin, but wary that it might be this unknown animal arriving at their backs. Bill struggled with the idea of conversation – but he couldn’t manage to choke out any words as he was pre-occupied with Munchkin’s disappearance. Karen too was struck mute by Munchkin’s absence.

    After a few more hours of walking, Karen looked at her watch, “It’s five o’clock and we’re almost to the carpark. We can’t leave Munchkin, Bill.”

    Just then they both heard a crashing noise in the distance. It sounded like a large animal. “Could be Munchkin, but who knows, could be that animal we saw cutting across the brush earlier,” Bill looked at Karen a bit fearfully. Bill clutched his stick more tightly and turned to face the noise.

    “Bill, it’s Munchkin!” Karen screamed as Munchkin appeared through a thicket of brambles and brush. Munchkin looked exhausted as he heaved his large, muscular body towards Karen and Bill. He was half carrying in his mouth and half dragging a small coyote. The coyote was whimpering, badly burned, with singed hair and exposed flesh.

    “Oh my god, Bill. The poor animal is really hurt.” Munchkin dropped the animal at Karen’s feet and began to lick where the coyote’s fur was still intact. The coyote, near death, looked almost appreciative of Munchkin’s ministrations. Munchkin whined and nuzzled Karen, and then Bill, before returning to licking the poor coyote. “Bill, I think Munchkin is trying to tell us something.” Bill and Karen looked at Munchkin quizzically.

    Munchkin looked at the coyote straight-on, took one long lick of the coyote’s fur, and put his left paw on the coyote’s back. Munchkin breathed shaggily and shook his fur all over from head to tail, all without taking his paw of the coyote’s back. And then Munchkin quickly banged his much larger skull against the coyote’s head, killing the very injured creature immediately.

    Bill looked at Karen, half in shock at what he’d just witnessed, and rubbed Munchkin’s back. “Good boy, Munchie, good boy. You did the kindest thing. Karen, let’s tell the park rangers they need to take care of this poor creature. They’ll be able to give it a decent burial.”

    “Don’t tell me what to,” Karen started.

    “Karen, stop. You’ve been driving me crazy this whole trip. In fact, you drive me crazy most of the time. You need to stop…well actually, we…we need to stop bickering. Munchie is showing us the way- take care of each other as best we can, especially if one of us is wounded.”

    “And make the ending quick and painless if it gets to be too much?” Karen asked with a trace of bitterness.

    “Exactly,” Bill said softly, as he took her into his arms for a long embrace. “It’s the kindest thing.”

    Reply
    • December 9, 2019 at 4:11 pm
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      Good story with a moral point. I can see where you used the dog’s killing of the coyote as a metaphor for their relationship. Bill wants to make a quick ending of it if it is too toxic?
      One point I will say is this though, the head butting of the coyote is a bit of a jarring point. Dogs tend to rip the throat out of a weaker or injured animal. They don’t head butt. Humans will and so do goats and sheep, but not dogs or canines or felines for that matter. Munchin might bite and crush the skull of the injured coyote, but I really doubt he would head butt it to death. Hope you don’t mind my input but I have had a fair bit to do with dogs. Maybe if he was a St Bernard? I have never owned a St Bernard. I just know they are used as rescue dogs and the myth about them carrying flasks of some fiery spirit to revive travellers intrigued me. Truth however has ruined that myth.
      https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/a-brief-history-of-the-st-bernard-rescue-dog-13787665/

      Good story.

      Reply
      • December 10, 2019 at 7:50 am
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        Thanks Ilana- I did not know that about dogs. I have just seen animals acting compassionately towards one another and sought to portray that.

        Reply
    • December 11, 2019 at 10:07 am
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      Hi, Trish. Despite the little bit of tragedy (the coyote), this is ultimately a nicely feel-good story: a couple at loggerheads learn to love again. It’s touching that they learn this through the man’s/woman’s best friend. You establish the trobled relationship clearly in the first paragraph (although that might have been done through dialogue rather than exosition). The sighting of the fire and escape is excitingly told. I was a little disappointed that the ‘speck’ turns out merely to be a coyote (when I was expecting some kind of fearsome beast). and I agree that the mercy-killing of the coyote is a little far-fetched (the manner of it). Like the ironic name of the dog! Enjoyed the read.

      Reply
      • December 11, 2019 at 10:11 am
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        Thanks for the feedback. I agree with your points. Keep smiling! – T

        Reply
    • December 12, 2019 at 3:53 am
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      The nervous relationship, the forest fire, the mysterious “speck” cutting through the brush… it all adds up to build up suspense, which kept me reading on with keen interest.

      As with most suspense-filled stories, the ending might come too soon, so to speak (I mean this in a good way: an enjoyable read that one doesn’t really want to finish; the guessing game being bigger than the answer to the guess).

      But it’s a nice ending, with a dog teaching people kindness (I’m not sure if animals consciously practice euthanasia, but that’s besides the point – this is a fictional moral story for people, not a thesis on animal behavior).

      I love the metaphor of the dog-coyote vs Bill-Karen’s relationship. I’m a bit confused as to whether the kindest thing is to (mercy-)kill the troubled relationship and start over or to save it (which seems to be what Bill wants: “said softly…into his arms…a long embrace…”). Maybe Bill and Karen copy Munchkin’s example to the point of licking each other’s wounds? No head butting…

      Cheers!

      Ken

      Reply
  • December 6, 2019 at 3:28 pm
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    Just an update on our yearly Christmas break:

    There will be a 1 week Christmas prompt posted December 12, 2019, then we will break for the holidays.
    The writing prompt for January 2, 2020 will be chosen by Phil Town and the writing roster will continue from there.

    Reply
  • December 7, 2019 at 5:18 pm
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    Diamond Skull Earrings
    (1199 excluding title)
    Tom Betts was not having a good day. His latest client was more than a problem. She was downright nasty. He was beginning to feel sorry for her ex-husband. The latest phone call had gone pear shaped fast.
    “Mr Betts. Are you awake?” Her gravelly voice was not yet slurred by her early morning gins mixed with a little lime and a dash of tonic.
    “Yes, Mrs. Kilpatrick. I have been awake for the past four hours.” He spoke crisply into his cell phone thinking sourly “I am answering the damn phone to you Madam. Course, I am awake, just my bloody luck it’s you”.
    “So you have been awake since four thirty this morning?”
    “Yes.”
    “You’ve had breakfast then?”
    “Coffee.” He was curt.
    “Why are you so surly this early? It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?”
    “Not particularly.”
    “I need you here. Something’s come up.” Her voice had taken on a demanding tone.
    “Oh! What?” Probably she’s found some evidence of her husband’s latest amour and wants him to do a follow and get pictures job. He’d done four such jobs for her in the past. She was obviously gathering evidence for some big divorce scam.

    Thirty-five minutes later he was sitting across from Brenda Kilpatrick – a blonde, overweight squared woman with rather questionable taste in clothing – sipping coffee on her patio. Mutton dressed as lamb his late grandmother used to call it. She was showing a wide expanse of wrinkled bosoms, a creped neck and sagging jawline and too much shoulder in an off white tank top and creased bone trousers. Her nails were stark red, fingers and toes too as were her lips. Too much expensive jewelry adorned her fingers, neck and ears. She also had a tattoo of map of Paris on her right shoulder. Small and tasteful for some, tasteless for many others.
    He could smell the alcohol on her breath – whiskey and dry ginger ale with a slice of lime and lemon – as she leaned in too close to him.
    “I just wanta know, can I call youse Tom?” Her voice had started to slur slightly. He shrugged. If he wanted a pay cheque at the end of the month, he had to agree with her.
    “Tom I need you for the next six to eight weeks. Can you do it?” Tom shrugged again.
    “I guess.”
    “Ok. You sure you won’t have little drink? You look tense. It’d help you relax.”
    “Naw. I never drink while I am working. Thanks anyway.” He hoped she’d get down to business.
    “Ok. Barney has a new mistress.” She sighed deeply. “I want you to do the same as before. However, this time I’ll kick in for a little more.” Her mouth set in a hard line. “How’d you like an extra fifty grand?”
    “I wouldn’t mind.” He thought, “But, it depends on what I have to do to earn it.” So he said to Brenda “Tell me what I have to do to earn that amount. I may or may not, depending on the legality of the task.
    “I’ll provide the means.” She said. “But, you’ll have to dispose of them. Permanently.” Tom frowned. She was serious?
    “No can do.” He replied. She took off her sunglasses and stared back at him. Her eyes and face had a concrete quality.
    “Really.” She took a cigarette out of a packet and dangled it between two fingers. Her eyes drifted towards the lighter lying on the table and then to Tom. With a deep intake of breath, Tom silently picked up the lighter and lit her cigarette.
    “Why not?”
    “Because I am a PI not an assassin. Besides I don’t particularly like the long term accommodation, if caught. And that’s apart from having to kill someone, which I try to avoid as much as possible.”
    “Barney is a scumbag. Any trollop he picks up is a cheap slut. They know he’s married. The world is better off without him.” She took a long drag on her cigarette and blew smoke out through her nostrils. Tom thought she resembled a wrinkled dragon wearing incandescent green and gold eyeshadow as she puffed smoke through her pinched nostrils. From what she had said about Barney, Tom would have liked to agree, but he had not heard Barney’s side of the story, and frankly, he thought the man might have needed some light relief occasionally, being married to a painted-up cranky dragon lady who had always been quite demanding from his experience with her. If that translated into the bedroom, well you would need to be a strong man to last the distance. Most men would probably run a thousand miles or more, to find a less exhausting spouse.
    Finally they agreed he would find where Barney’s new interest was and get some evidence and she would arrange what she was going to do about it. Tom asked not to be informed of the details. Brenda just smiled; a cunning smirk and then she blew more smoke.
    Three weeks later, over a breakfast rendezvous Tom handed her a manila envelope with photos and details of Barney’s trysts with his “friend”.
    “Good. Now I’ll want you to do one more observation with a witness I’ve chosen.” Brenda called her maid over. “Tell Miriam to come”, she ordered.
    A minute later, a lanky dark-haired woman strode out onto the patio. Tom noted she was wearing earrings that looked like small crystal balls. On closer observation, he saw that they were tiny skulls. She saw him looking as she sat down.
    “They’re real diamond.” She smiled a disarming smile revealing even white teeth. “A good orthodontist or genes or both”, thought Tom.
    Miriam was to accompany him to the cottage where Barney met his paramour every Friday and Sunday afternoon. “Why do men who are unfaithful to their wives or girlfriends become so predictable?” Tom asked Miriam on the way to the country cottage. She shrugged. She seemed indifferent to his charms. He was still not sure of her role as a witness. He would have thought the photos would have been sufficient. They arrived and set up the observation point in a birdwatcher’s hide and waited.
    Barney pulled up in his sports car with his mistress. They got out and walked into the cottage.
    Tom watching intently from the hide had not seen Miriam take out a gold 9 mm Berretta 92 fitted with a silencer. She placed the gun just behind his ear and pulled the trigger twice in quick succession. She left his body there in the hide.
    She then strolled over to the house and knocked on the door. Barney answered. She shot him twice in the face between the eyes. Then she stepped over his fallen body and strode into the house. She found the girl in the bedroom sitting on the edge of the bed. She shot her three times in the left side of the chest, this time with a Smith and Weston. She placed the Beretta sans silencer in the girl’s hand. Miriam had been wearing gloves.
    The Smith and Weston she placed in Barney’s hand.
    Then she texted Brenda “All clean & tidy” and left.

    Reply
    • December 8, 2019 at 9:06 am
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      What a blow-out! Quite the frenzied shootout at the end. Made for a fun read!

      Reply
    • December 8, 2019 at 11:59 pm
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      Ilana,

      ‘All clean and tidy” ? Sounds like a bloody mess. I see why the PI was killed. He knew too much and he was too honest. This is why I always work alone.

      On a more serious note, I love your descriptions, especially of the characters. It adds so much color to the story. The dialogue could’ve used a few more contractions in key spots. Nice writing though, generally speaking. Entertaining.

      Reply
      • December 9, 2019 at 7:09 am
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        I did not realise you were a PI Ken.But on second thoughts that sharp wit and dark humour perhaps…. Thank you for the compliment.

        Reply
    • December 11, 2019 at 10:29 am
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      Good, pacey story, Ilana. It has a very nice pulp-fiction (the genre, not film) feel to it. As Ken said, the descriptions, especially of Brenda, are very good. Very nice dialogue (except for the uncontracted forms, as Ken suggests). I think Tom would have quizzed Brenda about why Miriam had to tag along. So what is the scenario that Miriam wants the police to observe? Barney kills Tom, then he and the girl kill each other? There’s a nice bit of a suprise when Miriam kills Tom, but then the lightning-fast slaughter that follows is. This is not quite right, is it? “He was beginning to feel sorry for her ex-husband.” Barney isn’t “ex” yet, is he?

      Reply
      • December 11, 2019 at 10:53 am
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        “… but then the lightning-fast slaughter that follows is….” maybe a bit TOO quick and clinical (?) (in terms of tension for the reader).

        Reply
  • December 7, 2019 at 6:09 pm
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    I was confused at the end… I thought Tom was going to end up with gun in his hands but of course that didn’t make sense as who would have killed him.. it is difficult to shoot oneself between the eyes twice but then I read again and focused an found 2 guns… still didn’t make a lot of sense but enough of this violence I can’t take it anymore…

    Reply
    • December 8, 2019 at 4:58 am
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      I don’t own a gun and never will. I’ve been listening to audio books by Lee Child and David Baldacci. Jack Reacher series and all read by Jeff Harding. I have learnt more about guns – hand guns in the past six weeks then I knew in the past sixty years of my life. It’s not the guns that kill people, it’s the attitude of the person holding it. There are some people who are ultimately cruel SOBs male or female they would shoot you or any animal if there is something in it for them and some who are forced to defend and take up arms very reluctantly. Some rely on their wits. I belong to the third category. If I am meant to die one day, it will happen by the means the good Lord sees fit, whether by cancer, by accident or old age – it’s not up to us but to G-D. I just am not willing to be party to anyone’s death. But in my life, I’ve known some pretty violent and nasty and downright cruel relatives. Just so long as they and their kin keep right away from me and my loved ones, I am happy. I can write about people who are nasty and cruel because I’ve experienced that sort of cruelty and neglect in my lifetime. Now thank G-D I am distant from it and we do not invite that in our lives nor people with cruel intentions.
      This is just a story and apart from the assassin with diamond skull earrings it is about a man who has the moral fortitude to not want to kill another man and woman however much money he is offered. There are many in the world that if you offered them enough of a financial incentive they would kill their own sister, grandmother, brother, parents or even sell their own kids. That sort of person I find disgusting and it bothers me that that sort of person is on the majority today. When we take G-D and moral values out of education that what we get. Narcissists who stop at nothing to get what they want. Sad world.

      Reply
      • December 12, 2019 at 9:52 am
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        Hi Ilana,

        I just love the fact that we writers can just go wherever we want with our creativity on paper. We write it, we post it and then we wait to see what others make of it.

        Noone can say we are wrong. Not really. Well, they can say it but there is no right and wrong in our minds when we are writing. Anything can happen and in this story it does.

        I loved the description of the lady, Mrs. Kilpatrick ( a great surname in the circumstances) the dialogue which does need a little more reality but still ok with me and the bloodbath at the end which is really a carefully choreographed dance of death.

        Great stuff,

        Kind regards,

        Ken Frape

        Reply
  • December 9, 2019 at 10:43 am
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    Author’s Note: RAINBOW is a sequel to my last prompt’s story RED PLANET. It can probably stand on its own two feet, but anyone who read or wishes to read RED PLANET will of course enjoy it more. This sequel sees the light of day thanks to a comment by Phil (Town) in which he pleaded with me to keep Captain Temmels alive. Then it all grew out from there. (So, thank you, Phil! Your name will forever be etched in the glorious history of imagined space-travel!). This is the first time I’m having a go at a sequel in here. I hope I’m not breaking any house-rules!

    I have also taken Ken (Cartisano)’s comment to RED PLANET very seriously and somewhat edified some of what he called “ludicrous science”. The benefits of eating gold are still not true science, of course (so don’t try it at home! It won’t work, it would almost certainly be bad to your health, and will cost you dearly in monetary terms too…). I went further with Ken’s comment: Captain Temmels actually borrows some of Captain Cartisano’s skepticism and repeats his very words! But in the end, he (Temmels not Ken) becomes a believer in “hastened evolution.”

    There is also some work for Carrie (or Alice) with the title RAINBOW. It’s exactly seven letters, like the very colors of the rainbow, which is quite lucky, I suppose… 

    For those who haven’t read (and wouldn’t by any means read) RED PLANET, here is a very brief recapitulation of what happened there: During the Cold War, Captain Temmels leads a covert US mission that takes three men to Mars. On arrival, the Americans are confronted by evolution-defying Russians, who had already secretly colonized the Red Planet and live there without the need of oxygen. The ensuing battle is disastrous for both sides. But we now know that Temmels actually survives…

    R A I N B O W

    by Ken Miles
    1,200 words (excluding author’s note, titles and this line)

    Captain Temmels had no firm proof whether he was dead or alive.

    Last he remembered was a bullet piercing his chest before he had time to duck down.

    Bit by bit, it all came back. Harrison’d opened fire at the Russians. Temmels’d been trying to negotiate with them. It was weird. One Russian had quoted something by Shakespeare.

    He now felt the bullet lodged between his ribs. More he became aware of it, more it hurt. It must’ve skirted his heart. Still, he should’ve hemorrhaged. It may’ve something to do with Mars’s lower gravity, perhaps. Or his lucky personal star alignment. Or mediocre Russian tech. Probably all three.

    Whatever happened – Breaking News: he wasn’t dead! Just almost.

    Everyone must’ve left or got killed: there was an eerie silence. A kind of silence that doesn’t happen on Earth. Not even in the Himalayan Buddhist retreat where he once spent six months, retrieving his sanity, after Vietnam.

    As eyes adjusted, he made out Carter’s dead body on top of him, across his chest. So Carter saved his life? Had he pushed him down before the next shot, getting himself killed in the process? Had he manually stopped the hemorrhage? How couldn’t he love that boy!

    Nearby, Harrison lay slain, minus his head. He counted six dead Russians, golden bodies glittering in Martian sunshine.

    The planet seemed his and his alone.

    ***

    Temmels never thought it’d come to this again. Cannibalism. But this was an adventure of necessity, not choice. It’d already happened to his platoon, in the Vietnamese jungle – a matter of utter survival. The dead were dead anyway. A fact that didn’t go into the whitewashed army-reports, less so in the further cleansed history-books.

    Now in his ninth month on Mars, skulls and bones were scattered all over. Supplies of Russian flesh were dwindling. Carter’s and Harrison’s bodies lay in state, under a board Temmels made stating: ‘Here lie two American heroes, nearly the first men to walk on Mars.’

    The biosphere in his wrecked astrocapsule was shattered, all life in it destroyed. He now badly missed the dark-green treacle they called food for the four-year interplanetary-journey.

    He wondered what the Russians ate. There was no biosphere in their craft. At least, there was a water-reclaimer. Temmels carefully fed it his own urine, every drop of it, every time, in order to get back the same amount of pure water. And remain alive.

    With no food left, and little urge to turn onto Carter’s and Harrison’s bodies, Temmels now needed to get going somewhere. The Russians must’ve had some food source. If not a human-waste-eating-biosphere, at least a year’s supply of Siberian dumplings.

    He would follow a map he found in the Shakespeare-quoting Russian’s pocket. A point on it was circled in ink. Nearest Walmart, hopefully. But it was far away, something like LA to Charleston. He’d need to figure out how to fly the giant Soviet astrocapsule.

    Inside the flying-saucer-like vehicle each button and lever, hundreds of them, was marked in Cyrillic letters. Temmels had no clue of Russian, but the foreign alphabet somehow gave him a sense of comfort, a relatively familiar sight on that strange land.

    There were still other All-Russian things he had no clue of. Like how they lived on Mars sans spacesuits and oxygen-tanks. He’d heard rumors they ate gold, which somehow turned them superhuman. Mere tattle.

    Or not.

    “This is simply not believable,” he’d told himself a thousand times over, “I mean, it’s ludicrous. Eating gold made them immune to an airless world? Come on. This is weird…”

    Well, they did taste funny.

    ***

    Temmels looked out the windshield, as the astrocapsule descended at the marked point. Much to his surprise, he’d quickly mastered the foreign craft.

    Disbelief quickly became disappointment. “There’s fuck’n nothing here!”

    He expected some sort of edifice. A habitation, barracks, something. Some sign people lived there. A larger-than-life statue of Karl Marx, for crying out loud. Not just rocks and sand, like everywhere else.

    Wait a second.

    Setting foot, Temmels looked again at a cave in the rockface. The opening was simply too regular to be natural, he thought. Maybe wishfully.

    Inside, glittering dust swirled in the air, like fireflies. The narrow corridor led to a highpoint overlooking an immense cavity –
    must’ve been half-a-mile across. Lit up spectacularly by a hole in the ceiling, the whole place glimmered. An immense gold-mine!

    A little notebook sat on a pile of satchels and power-tools. Temmels crouched for it.

    “Glynn-County University?” That’s what the embossed badge on the leather-cover said.

    A folded letter slipped out. He picked it up and unfolded it. No letterhead, it was handwritten in English with Russian-like calligraphy.

    ‘Dear Professor Morris… ten times your University paycheck… your reasearch notes… enhanced evolution…’, he skimmed through it.

    “Profs.Morris who?”

    At the bottom, in different handwriting: ‘I’m in! Terence.’

    “The bastard… usual story! We sow the seeds, they pick the fruits!”

    He flipped through the notebook. “Gold Isotope-198.666, a variant of Isotope-198 used in cancer treatment… counteranabolic effect on animal-cells… deprivation of cells’ dependence on oxygen… alteration of basic life-functions… annihilation of organic-ingestion as energy source… favors cutaneous photovoltaic-action…”

    Daunting complex formulas followed.

    “This damn isotope changes us from combustion-engines into solar-panels!” he muttered, as he mentally deciphered the scientific jargon.

    “They really ate fuck’n gold! They came here for more, before they dried up the Kremlin’s coffers!”

    Temmels stood up, exhilarated, forgetful of the low cealing. His helmet slammed hard, shattering the visor.

    He gasped on the remaining air.

    Only to realize he was still well when he should’ve passed out.

    He hadn’t ingested any gold, but eaten enough Russians who had!

    It was excruciating at first. His breathing instinct created vacuum-pockets in his lungs that hurt immensely. The bullet jabbed his chest each time he resisted the urge to breath. The Russians had trained for years in the gymlab to wean themselves off breathing. Utter necessity made Temmels a quicker learner.

    ***

    It’d been months now that Temmels lived in his newly-discovered metallic body.

    Donning a t-shirt with Lenin on it, he sat on a rocky-outcrop, staring at an amazing Martian sunset. He wondered if he’d ever be joined by anyone on Mars.

    At least by someone to mark his grave.

    If he ever died, that is.

    After all, natural death is essentially a culmination of repeated oxidization. Quite like photocopied photocopies, each time losing some quality until the image fades into nothing.

    Temmels had now evolved out of that. He only needed hydration – and sunshine. His life literally depended on urinating very carefully in the water-reclaimer. Aim never mattered so much!

    But if immortal meant living alone forever, that’s an even more fearful prospect than dying alone just once…

    ***

    A faint rainbow formed over the red Martian desert. There’s no water on Mars, a rainbow’s impossible.

    Temmels ran his hand over his brow and felt some perspiration. Sweat couldn’t be reclaimed! He shouldn’t’ve jogged so much.

    The water-reclaimer gauge was down one line. This was bad news.

    But one thing the Himalayas taught Temmels was to always live for whatever the present moment brings.

    And a rainbow on Mars was one damn wild thing to live for.

    Reply
    • December 9, 2019 at 12:09 pm
      Permalink

      I’m looking forward to reading your book! Great story and well written too. Thanks for sharing it.

      Reply
      • December 11, 2019 at 7:55 am
        Permalink

        Thanks Trish – glad you enjoyed it.

        As for a book, well, that would be nice, but I’m not sure if I’d be able to gather enough oomph to take this one that far 🙂 But you’d deserve a signed first copy if it ever sees the light of day, for having come up with the idea!

        Reply
    • December 12, 2019 at 11:25 am
      Permalink

      Ken (Miles) A.K.A. Blue (the cute) Hippo.

      Well, I think you may have salvaged your previous chapter of this ‘Martian Chronicle.’ Capt. Temmels’ dialogue is especially realistic, and sounds like something I would say if I was near death, out of air, shot in the chest and stranded on an uninhabited planet. (Actually, I think I would say, ‘Oh shit!’ For starters.) Actually, I once rammed a 3/8” bolt into my leg- accidentally of course – and said, “Oops. This looks like it should hurt more than it does.”

      And it did, once the doctors got hold of it.

      Scientific implausibility can be sidestepped in any number of ways. The easiest of which, is to place the setting of a story far into the future, or a different universe. (You spare us this boring detail.) Without that, gold eating Russians seems like code language, for, real-politik. (On the other hand, my story doesn’t explain anything, not even itself. So, there you go. My story is actually punishment to the other writers. For whatever it is they did that offended me. Like all good villains, the actual offense is nowhere near as important as the revenge it requires us to exact. And it should win for that alone. My expression of abject disdain.)

      Setting aside the scientific implausibility of your story, the writing is a wonderful combination of your brevity of expression and your ability to skillfully insert light-hearted dollops of humor and sarcasm which lightens the tone of what could’ve been a dark and fatalistic tragedy.

      Eh?

      Actually, this story exemplifies your talent, or skill, because, despite my disdain for the original story ‘Red Planters Peanut’ and its inherent scientific absurdity, this sequel is fun, entertaining, scientifically more plausible, and fully redeems the previous story; you; writers everywhere; humans in general; and the overall state of the universe we inhabit. Not a bad thing, overall.

      What I’m trying to say is, ‘I liked it.’

      Your writing is marvelous Ken (Miles.) A very entertaining read, not for the plot, but for the way you delivered it. I’m impressed.

      Reply
  • December 10, 2019 at 12:19 pm
    Permalink

    Short Story by Ken Frape.
    1200 words.

    Decided to repost as it was not all highlighted and the title was not correctly displayed.

    “Chooseyouradventure.com”

    by Ken Frape 1196 words

    Angelica Schumman screamed the loudest screams that had ever left her mouth. The explosion on the 75th floor penthouse suite of the Carlton Plaza had left the top floors ablaze. Angelica, dressed only in a flimsy nightgown, was clinging desperately to the curtains that billowed out of the empty windows, the gusting wind tearing at her, loosening her grip on the fabric. Then, without warning, there was a rasping sound as the curtains tore free of their hooks and Angelica was hurled into space, to certain death all those floors below where the concrete sidewalk waited to crack her skull.
    As she fell a small card was buffeted in the air beside her. It said;

    chooseyouradventure.com.

    It was, without doubt, the most disappointing Christmas present that Angelica had ever received. At least it was, judging by the fact that all she held in her hand was a small red envelope. There was nothing else under the Christmas tree that morning.

    Angelica slipped her finger nail into the corner of the envelope and tore it open to reveal a red card the size of a credit card.
    “choseyouradventure.com” That’s all it said.

    Angelica slopped grumpily across the hallway in her slippers and up the stairs to her room. Sitting on the top of her desk was another Christmas package. It took five seconds to reveal a virtual reality headset.

    Things were looking up.

    Within minutes Angelica was logged on to chooseyouradventure.com She slipped the VR headset on.
    A menu of options appeared on screen and Angelica wasted little time on her selection. She skipped over the terms and conditions and ticked the box to agree.

    She chose to spend a virtual night in a top city hotel with the hottest pop star of the day, Starr Edwards. He was famous enough now to go by just his first name. Starr and Angelica, she kept saying over and over in her head. Angelica and Starr on tour in the USA. Starr and Angelica in Las Vegas.

    What a night it was! She was dressed in a new dress that she could never afford in the real world and she looked and felt like a million dollars. It was so skilfully cut that she actually felt slim for the first time in years, since Dan had dumped her. A taxi whisked her to The Carlton Plaza.

    “Angelica, wow, you look fabulous,” Starr greeted her as he stepped back and ushered Angelica into the suite, taking her hand and kissing it gently. The first of many kisses that night.

    As the space- shuttle re-entered Earth’s atmosphere it glowed red hot. The angle of re-entry was absolutely critical for the survival of the crew led by Group Captain Jeremy Beard, DSO, RAF. In this instance, the angle was a fraction of a degree too steep and the temperature on board rose rapidly. The sweat on the brows of the three crew members quickly evaporated and moments later their skin began to blister, then melt. Three minutes and forty – two seconds later the space shuttle was a coffin containing three sets of ashes, fused into the melted seats.

    Three more casualties in man’s exploration of the stars.

    In the on-board fireproof canister containing letters to loved ones and family photos, Jeremy Beard had placed one single object, a small red card with the words, chooseyouradventure.com

    Call Centre operative Jeremy Beard sat nervously in front of his computer screen as he held the red card in his hand. chooseyouradventure.com was all it said. He had found the card in the street near the Carlton Plaza Hotel the other day. Using a VR headset really intrigued his inner nerd. #

    Jeremy hit the keyboard. The array of options immediately whetted his appetite and the “command your own space mission” option seemed to say, “Choose me, Choose me.”

    Jeremy tapped the button several times before noticing the tiny terms and conditions box, followed by pages and pages of small print. He wasted no further time, agreed to the Ts and Cs and then selected his choice again. As he slid the VR headset on he entered another world that instantly engaged every one of his five senses.

    The take-off, always the most dangerous point in manned space flight, went without a hitch. The three astronauts, perched atop a billion dollar rocket, filled to the brim with highly volatile rocket fuel, were fired into space for their three month stint on board the European Space Agency’s floating laboratory. Every task was completed without a hitch.

    It was a faultless mission.
    Until the moment of re-entry…………………………

    Daisy Didcot pressed herself into the darkness of the litter-strewn alley before slipping out into the melee of the High Street flow of pedestrians. Friday evening at five. In London’s West End. It was a great time for picking pockets and her large handbag was now bulging with the evening’s spoils. She had quickly got rid of each wallet or purse in the alley. Too easily identifiable, she knew.

    Arriving back at Jed’s crummy flat she called out,

    “I’m back, Jed.”

    Jed, forty- something and a scrawny example of humanity with a beard like a goat, dressed in last month’s clothing, looked up from the sofa, his habitual pose.

    He jumped up and gave Daisy a big hug. Theirs was an unexpected love affair but a love affair it had been until recently when Jed had punched her whilst stoned.

    “How did you get on, babes?” he asked eagerly, still trying to make up for that punch. The response would dictate the kind of week end they would either enjoy, or endure.
    Jed’s eyes lit up at the sight of the cash. It would be a great week-end. He rolled a joint and minutes later he was lying prone once more as he blew smoke rings into the air, happily oblivious to Daisy’s presence.

    Daisy spread out the receipts, business cards and a folded map of the London Underground from the stolen wallets and purses. She singled out a red card that said simply chooseyouradventure.com

    Intrigued, she logged onto the computer, ignoring the salacious website that Jed had previously been viewing. The options presented to her instantly made her sit up. This was clearly a VR site so Daisy rummaged around in the flat until she found the VR headset that she had shoplifted a few months ago.

    “Who the hell ever reads those? “ She chuckled to herself as she scrolled through the terms and conditions, an old habit she had learned when she used to make bogus insurance claims. “Always read the small print,” had been her mantra, “then you can screw the insurance companies before they screw you!”

    Daisy was surprised by the final sentence,

    “The chooseyouradventure.com card must be kept in contact with the adventurer’s skin at all times. Failure to do so renders the VR experience null and void and makes the adventure an actual reality (AR).”

    Daisy grinned as she fixed the card to her chest with waterproof micro-pore tape and disappeared into the sea off the coast of California, her mermaid tail guiding her through the water.

    She won’t be coming back anytime soon.

    Ken Frape

    Reply
    • December 10, 2019 at 12:54 pm
      Permalink

      Super imaginative and super fun! Great story, thx.

      Reply
    • December 10, 2019 at 9:38 pm
      Permalink

      Great story! Loved the ending! Just to be clear tho, Daisy drowned at the end, correct? Or did I read that wrong…

      Reply
      • December 11, 2019 at 4:08 am
        Permalink

        Hi Writer 2019,

        No, Daisy won’t drown because she has the card taped to her skin with waterproof tape as per the terms and conditions. . Thus, she can carry on in the VR adventure as long as she likes. However, if she loses the card she would be in a real life adventure, way out at sea as herself not a mermaid. Then, she would probably drown.

        Her dilemna, if she has one at all, is that her boyfriend has started to beat up on her so does she actually want to return or stay as a mermaid forever. In any case, as per the final sentence, “she won’t be coming back anytime soon.” It’s her choice.

        Kind regards,

        Ken Frape

        Reply
        • December 11, 2019 at 8:24 am
          Permalink

          Aaaah okay, thanks for clearing that up

          Reply
    • December 11, 2019 at 8:49 am
      Permalink

      Wonderful imaginative story! Always read the fine print – great reminder. I enjoyed the story!

      Reply
    • December 12, 2019 at 9:34 am
      Permalink

      Great Story Ken Frape,

      I really liked this story. Once again, you have found a unique approach to the prompt and executed the telling of it with enviable skill. That first paragraph and one line introduction is excellent, then, you effectively lulled me into thinking that there wasn’t much to your story until i learn that there is. Talk about a Rod Serling style story line, this is it. This totally qualifies. Fine Print’ would be a good name for this story but that, would give too much away.

      I think what’s really nifty about this story is the way you tell the ending of each vignette first, until the very last one. Excellent story Ken. Really enjoyed it.

      Reply
  • December 11, 2019 at 1:21 am
    Permalink


    Skull Salvage
    1196 Words

    “Josh! Just what in the name of Hell do you think you’re doing?”
    “Just hold on while I bring the boat around!” Josh yelled as he grabbed hold of the wheel of the old boat’s wheel and turned a sharp right.
    “You’re going to take us into the waterfall! Are you nuts?”
    “Would you just relax, Clayton? According to the map we shouldn’t be too far away from the wreckage of the Los Lavador.”
    The water viciously pounded against the side of the decent sized boat that was outdated by nearly eighty years. The thing didn’t even have any form of communication on it save for the yelling between its two occupants.
    “You swore in good faith that you had given up your ridiculous search for that bloody old pirate ship!” Clayton was obviously angered even more by the spray of water that drenched him as the boat was violently shifted from side to side.
    Josh sneered irritably at the younger man as he turned the steer harder in an effort to not smash them against the side of the cliff they were headed for.
    “We’re not heading into the waterfall, that’s a cliff!”
    “You squeal worse than a freshly slaughtered pig! Just settle down! I can’t concentrate with all your whining!”
    With a final burst of strength, Josh turned the ship inside the waterfall, missing the cliff side by just a few feet. Violent waves from the way they had come in helped to push the boat inside where the waters seemed smooth and calm. A strange comparison to the portion of the sea they had just been tossed through.
    “Wow! That was one Hell of a ride!” Clayton yelled excitedly, appreciating the fact that somehow they were still alive.
    “Yes, well, no thanks to you!” Josh snapped as he guided the ship to a long flat rock and tied the boat to a stake that seemed to protrude out of nothingness.
    “Just what is that supposed to mean? I have helped you raise the sails and keep the deck clear of clutter while you, my good man have done nothing but lie and almost get us killed. You even ripped our sails clean off when we passed under that low lying rock bridge! Your greed is tantamount to anything I have ever encountered!”
    “Oh, quit your crying and help me get the tools.”
    Clayton was obviously still angry but complied with what Josh wanted. They had been treasure hunting for years together. He had never seen Josh so invested.
    Both men slung their tool bags over their shoulders, tossed them onto the smooth surface of the strange rock then climbed down from the boat.
    Reaching into the inside pocket of his vest, Josh pulled out the plastic bag that held the folded up map. Thunder began to crash outside the cave wall that somehow seemed to be protected by the waterfall itself.
    “It appears that we are less than ten feet from where we are supposed to dig.” Josh spoke in a low, hypnotic tone.
    “I don’t know if we should do this. It feels wrong.”
    “Seriously?”
    “Yes, seriously. Come on, look around, Josh! This doesn’t even look like any other cave we have been in!”
    “Oh, boy. Here we go.” Josh scoffed. “Is there ever a time when you are okay with finding treasure?”
    “I never complain and you know it but this is different! You have been consumed by it for some reason! You even got an old rickety ship that has no reason to still be sailing on the seas and on top of that you insisted we take it as is! I think you have finally gone crazy!”
    “No! I see everything clearly, Clayton!”
    “Then tell me what is so damned important about this dig and why you wanted that particular boat even though her name has been completely weathered off!”
    “Fine, if you must know! The ship we came in on is the Van Carlock, the last ship to have come into contact with the Los Lavador. They supposedly fought it out in this very spot where a suspected witch was being carried in her underbelly. This witch was supposedly the only survivor and it has been told that she buried the treasure from both ships underneath a skull and as you can plainly see there is a marking here that resembles the marker on the map. When our boat came out with nothing or no one on board while the other supposedly sunk just below where we stand, the legend was born. Several brave men have ventured to find this place but none have been successful.”
    “You were hoping that by bringing the two ships together again that somehow we would leave here with the treasure they once held.” Clayton realized in dismay.
    Clayton watched as Josh reached into his bag and pulled out a shovel.
    “Come on, lend a hand here.” Josh demanded in between the clanking of his shove as he dug fiercely at the strange rock. Another round of crashing thunder echoed outside the waterfall but still didn’t make it inside the cave.
    “Josh, please. Let’s just go and forget we ever came here.” Clayton pleaded.
    “Not until I find the buried treasure!” Josh’s shovel finally made a dent in the surface and began to spider web its way in every which direction which seemed to only make him more aggressive.
    “Look! That’s not supposed to happen! Let’s go!” Clayton backed to the boat they had sailed in on.
    “No!” Josh slammed his shovel harder.
    Clayton had nearly been taken into the drink before leaping up the side of the boat as the rock fractured and broke off in several places.
    “Come one, Josh! Let’s go!” He held out his hand but the crazed man payed no attention, not even when the final swing of his shovel caused the area around him to break and sink into the angry waters below the now broken rock.
    “Josh!” Clayton screamed as the water began to shoot up through the hole Josh had disappeared into like a massive geyser splashing violently against the bottom of the smooth, round cave roof above.
    The rope that held the boat to its post came unraveled as the water whooshed forward, hurling the Van Carlock and its sole passenger out of the cave’s mouth.
    Clayton scrambled to get to the steer but the force of the waterfall coming down in top of him sent him sprawling on his back, choking on the water that invaded his nose and mouth before the boat cleared the cave’s odd entrance.
    He lay there waiting for the inevitable overturn of the ship as the loud storm flipped it around and around. When it finally stopped, the sky cleared to a natural blue and the waters calmed. Painfully, Clayton stood up and looked back at the cave that had killed Josh and nearly himself.
    As if he needed any other warnings to leave this place and never come back, he noticed that the waterfall seemed to be drying up and the cliff they had nearly been slammed into looked a whole lot like a humongous human skull.

    Reply
    • December 11, 2019 at 9:14 am
      Permalink

      Your dialogue was terrific- I felt like I was listening in on the action in the boat.

      Reply
    • December 12, 2019 at 9:48 am
      Permalink

      Exciting story Amy, you convey the action very well, Your use of dialogue to advance the plot was effective. One small nit, a boat is steered by a ’tiller.’ When in doubt about an item, (such as a tiller) you could have substituted ‘wheel.’ It’s a small thing but we sailor types are very finicky about the names of our boat parts.
      Terrifically exciting story.

      Reply
      • December 12, 2019 at 11:47 am
        Permalink

        Hello & thanks Ken C.
        It’s great to be back here after so much crazy going on. I have genuinely missed our conversations and stories on here.
        I’m really glad you likes the story and honestly had no idea that the ‘wheel’ was called a ’tiller’. I will definitely remember that for future ideas. I didn’t do any kind of research when writing this one, although I probably should have. It was one of those spurred on type stories written at just after midnight.

        Reply
  • December 11, 2019 at 4:18 am
    Permalink

    Decided to repost as it was not all highlighted and the title was not correctly displayed.

    “Chooseyouradventure.com”

    by Ken Frape 1196 words

    Angelica Schumman screamed the loudest screams that had ever left her mouth. The explosion on the 75th floor penthouse suite of the Carlton Plaza had left the top floors ablaze. Angelica, dressed only in a flimsy nightgown, was clinging desperately to the curtains that billowed out of the empty windows, the gusting wind tearing at her, loosening her grip on the fabric. Then, without warning, there was a rasping sound as the curtains tore free of their hooks and Angelica was hurled into space, to certain death all those floors below where the concrete sidewalk waited to crack her skull.
    As she fell a small card was buffeted in the air beside her. It said;

    chooseyouradventure.com.

    It was, without doubt, the most disappointing Christmas present that Angelica had ever received. At least it was, judging by the fact that all she held in her hand was a small red envelope. There was nothing else under the Christmas tree that morning.

    Angelica slipped her finger nail into the corner of the envelope and tore it open to reveal a red card the size of a credit card.
    “choseyouradventure.com” That’s all it said.

    Angelica slopped grumpily across the hallway in her slippers and up the stairs to her room. Sitting on the top of her desk was another Christmas package. It took five seconds to reveal a virtual reality headset.

    Things were looking up.

    Within minutes Angelica was logged on to chooseyouradventure.com She slipped the VR headset on.
    A menu of options appeared on screen and Angelica wasted little time on her selection. She skipped over the terms and conditions and ticked the box to agree.

    She chose to spend a virtual night in a top city hotel with the hottest pop star of the day, Starr Edwards. He was famous enough now to go by just his first name. Starr and Angelica, she kept saying over and over in her head. Angelica and Starr on tour in the USA. Starr and Angelica in Las Vegas.

    What a night it was! She was dressed in a new dress that she could never afford in the real world and she looked and felt like a million dollars. It was so skilfully cut that she actually felt slim for the first time in years, since Dan had dumped her. A taxi whisked her to The Carlton Plaza.

    “Angelica, wow, you look fabulous,” Starr greeted her as he stepped back and ushered Angelica into the suite, taking her hand and kissing it gently. The first of many kisses that night.

    As the space- shuttle re-entered Earth’s atmosphere it glowed red hot. The angle of re-entry was absolutely critical for the survival of the crew led by Group Captain Jeremy Beard, DSO, RAF. In this instance, the angle was a fraction of a degree too steep and the temperature on board rose rapidly. The sweat on the brows of the three crew members quickly evaporated and moments later their skin began to blister, then melt. Three minutes and forty – two seconds later the space shuttle was a coffin containing three sets of ashes, fused into the melted seats.

    Three more casualties in man’s exploration of the stars.

    In the on-board fireproof canister containing letters to loved ones and family photos, Jeremy Beard had placed one single object, a small red card with the words, chooseyouradventure.com

    Call Centre operative Jeremy Beard sat nervously in front of his computer screen as he held the red card in his hand. chooseyouradventure.com was all it said. He had found the card in the street near the Carlton Plaza Hotel the other day. Using a VR headset really intrigued his inner nerd. #

    Jeremy hit the keyboard. The array of options immediately whetted his appetite and the “command your own space mission” option seemed to say, “Choose me, Choose me.”

    Jeremy tapped the button several times before noticing the tiny terms and conditions box, followed by pages and pages of small print. He wasted no further time, agreed to the Ts and Cs and then selected his choice again. As he slid the VR headset on he entered another world that instantly engaged every one of his five senses.

    The take-off, always the most dangerous point in manned space flight, went without a hitch. The three astronauts, perched atop a billion dollar rocket, filled to the brim with highly volatile rocket fuel, were fired into space for their three month stint on board the European Space Agency’s floating laboratory. Every task was completed without a hitch.

    It was a faultless mission.
    Until the moment of re-entry…………………………

    Daisy Didcot pressed herself into the darkness of the litter-strewn alley before slipping out into the melee of the High Street flow of pedestrians. Friday evening at five. In London’s West End. It was a great time for picking pockets and her large handbag was now bulging with the evening’s spoils. She had quickly got rid of each wallet or purse in the alley. Too easily identifiable, she knew.

    Arriving back at Jed’s crummy flat she called out,

    “I’m back, Jed.”

    Jed, forty- something and a scrawny example of humanity with a beard like a goat, dressed in last month’s clothing, looked up from the sofa, his habitual pose.

    He jumped up and gave Daisy a big hug. Theirs was an unexpected love affair but a love affair it had been until recently when Jed had punched her whilst stoned.

    “How did you get on, babes?” he asked eagerly, still trying to make up for that punch. The response would dictate the kind of week end they would either enjoy, or endure.
    Jed’s eyes lit up at the sight of the cash. It would be a great week-end. He rolled a joint and minutes later he was lying prone once more as he blew smoke rings into the air, happily oblivious to Daisy’s presence.

    Daisy spread out the receipts, business cards and a folded map of the London Underground from the stolen wallets and purses. She singled out a red card that said simply chooseyouradventure.com

    Intrigued, she logged onto the computer, ignoring the salacious website that Jed had previously been viewing. The options presented to her instantly made her sit up. This was clearly a VR site so Daisy rummaged around in the flat until she found the VR headset that she had shoplifted a few months ago.

    “Who the hell ever reads those? “ She chuckled to herself as she scrolled through the terms and conditions, an old habit she had learned when she used to make bogus insurance claims. “Always read the small print,” had been her mantra, “then you can screw the insurance companies before they screw you!”

    Daisy was surprised by the final sentence,

    “The chooseyouradventure.com card must be kept in contact with the adventurer’s skin at all times. Failure to do so renders the VR experience null and void and makes the adventure an actual reality (AR).”

    Daisy grinned as she fixed the card to her chest with waterproof micro-pore tape and disappeared into the sea off the coast of California, her mermaid tail guiding her through the water.

    She won’t be coming back anytime soon.

    Ken Frape

    Reply
    • December 11, 2019 at 8:16 am
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      Ken, did you want me to unpublish the other one?
      I can copy this one and paste it in the original comment?

      Reply
      • December 11, 2019 at 3:51 pm
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        Hi Carrie,
        Yes please. I would like that.
        Thanks.
        Ken Frape

        Reply
  • December 11, 2019 at 11:59 am
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    Ok writers!
    What a great turnout!

    Time is up and it’s time to vote!
    Remember you must vote for your story to count, you may not vote for yourself and you may not vote more than once.

    Be sure to take time to read through ALL the stories as we have several submitted this go-round.

    **If you are unable to read through all stories before voting in the next 24 hours just let us know, we can extend the voting time period.

    Here is the link to the voting page: http://fiction.wwocz.net/blog/voting-choose-your-adventure/

    Good luck to all!

    Reply
  • December 12, 2019 at 4:41 pm
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    Results????? I confess I skimmed some stories and did not use a magnifying glass on them. My bad….

    Reply
    • December 12, 2019 at 6:25 pm
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      Still waiting on one more, they’ll be posted in 36 minutes!

      Reply
  • December 12, 2019 at 6:46 pm
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    Ok winners posted!! Great stories all!

    1st Place: Circle Of Death by Ken Cartisano
    2nd Place: YO-HO-HO by Phil Town
    3rd Place: Short Story by Ken Frape
    4th Place: From Dinosaurs to Space by Adrienne Riggs
    5th Place: Escape Tunnel by Dennis Wagers
    6th Place: RAINBOW by Ken Miles
    7th Place: The Cave by JJ Hershey
    8th Place: Diamond Skull Earrings by Ilana Leeds
    9th Place: Skull Salvage by Amy Lynn Raines
    10th Place: The Kindest Thing by Trish
    11th Place: Out of Time by Writer2019

    Favorite character was Phil’s Pirate Pete in “YO-HO-HO”
    Favorite dialogue was “Escape Tunnel” by Dennis Wagers  

    Congrats to all!!!!
    In case you missed it there’s a special 1 week Christmas post! “December 11 – December 18, 2019 Reindeer Baby”

    http://fiction.wwocz.net/blog/reindeer-baby/

    Reply
    • December 13, 2019 at 6:56 am
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      Congratulations, Ken! And stop with all the modesty – it WAS a great story.

      Reply
  • December 13, 2019 at 1:39 am
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    I don’t know about this. I respectfully request a recount of the votes. This doesn’t seem plausible. This was not the best story. Nor did it possess the best writing. By my own standards it wasn’t even close to the best. Maybe this is the result of some kind of statistical anomaly. Like, widespread agreement that a story is mediocre, so everyone gives it a fifth place vote. And all those ones eek out a marginal victory.

    I’m going to get a copy of the vote totals, and take the numbers to a … a statistical ethicist, no, a gypsy, a gypsy fortune teller. Yeah, that’s it, a gypsy fortune teller, and I’m going to have her look through her crystal ball, and see if she sees anything fishy, statistical or anomalous.

    Then we’ll talk.

    Reply
    • December 13, 2019 at 8:50 am
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      Whatever you (or I) think, Capitano Cartisano, your story got the top vote – so congrats and enjoy the limelight 🙂

      If I’m not mistaken (and I may very well be – I’m not infallible like one Mr. Town, you know…), your other story CIRCLE OF LIFE, some prompts ago also won this prestigious contest (no sarcasm, here, really: I’d have loved to win it myself! Even if I had to go on a one-hour-and-a-half hunger strike to achieve that. I envy you.).

      So, now you’re on top of the game again with CIRCLE OF DEATH. Even if it’s fifth place by many, as you said you suspect, it’s still proved to be a popular piece. Actually, a piece that wins by getting many fifth places is FAR MORE popular, if you ask me. It means it reached a wider appeal, than let’s say one that wins by a handful of oddballs throwing precious first votes at it. A little from many is greater than a lot from a few. So be cheerful, mate! You got it good.

      Circle of Life, Circle of Death – I see you’ve certainly got things going for you with circle stories. Given you tend to like lists (you often presented us with lists of note in here) I can suggest a few more winner titles for you:

      INNER CIRCLE (does Outer Circle mean anything?)

      COME FULL CIRCLE (I have something funny about this one, but it’s too rude)

      VICIOUS CIRCLE (Virtuous Circle? Nah – virtue doesn’t sell!)

      SQUARING THE CIRCLE (or Circling The Square, for more effect)

      GOING ROUND IN CIRCLES (is it what’s happening to me here?)

      LOVE TRIANGLE (in case triangles protest for being left out of the nominations, in this politically-correct era. Can’t have
      circles having all the fun and attention, can we? Triangles are human too. Equal rights. Equal jobs. Equal pay. And they know how to make their point. Three time over each time.)

      I shouldn’t have done that! Here they all come… rectangles, oblongs, rhombuses, pentograms (is there such a shape?), parallelograms, hexagons, nonagons, bombastigons – WILL YOU ALL JUST SHUT UP! No, I’m not going to include you. Yes, there’s an unfair majority of circles. And I bit my tongue for the noble cause of trianglehood, to which I fully subscribe. I once even dated a triangle and we only split up because we had some disagreement about the issue of climate change. Lots of circles. Yes, that’s how I like it. Got a soft-spot for them. My client too. And he’s a Captain. Who’d ever win a writing contest with some story called THE RHOMBUS, anyway??

      Hey, Ken, while I’m still here, thanks for writing that glowing review of my story RAINBOW. It’s good to have you within my fanbase again. Especially after I annoyed you nearly irreparably with RED PLANET (and longer ago with that horrendous piece on robots doing naughty things with cucumbers and dangling cherries, which incidentally went on to win this contest. Even though it didn’t have the word “circle” in its title. And I had subliminally put in the word “rhombus” in it. Coming to think of it, perhaps that’s how you ended up hating it so much. You somehow sensed there was a rhombus somewhere. And it completely freaked you out.)

      Anyway, I’m very glad that the commentator-of-reference in here has again liked something I wrote. Really, I appreciate that very much. Especially for the way you put it. You praised my delivery, not so much the plot, and in particular the ubiquitous insertion of humor (even in a dark piece), which to me is the thing that counts most in a story. It’s my mission as a writer, to some degree – to make my readers chuckle. I think, yours too.

      Although I love a good plot and all, sometimes my stories are just somewhat of an excuse to bring out some humorous stuff that would otherwise make no sense in a vacuum. A platform, so to speak, to bring in some fun to the reader. Even if there are people eating other people in the story.

      So, I’m pleased that you took note of that – and more so that you enjoyed what I had to offer. As for the gold-eating, well, I had to get the gold in somehow because of the condition in the prompt. I’d have used a special isotope of popcorn instead,if it were left entirely up to me!

      On with baby reindeer now. Watch the third installment of Captain Temmels’ saga. He discovers squirrels on the barren savannas of the dark side of Mars (I know, Mars spins, so there should be no dark side, but I like that term! So just shush, will you?). Quite a big discovery, I suppose. But that’s nothing to what’s coming next. And don’t say to me that word ‘implausible’ again. Just listen and learn: if you feed a certain isotope of gold to Martian squirrels, they turn into… yes, you’ve seen it coming! F’ckn BABY REINDEER! No less.

      Temmels was astounded. I mean, who wouldn’t? I tried it, too, at the County Park where I live. I used popcorn isotopes not gold ones (for the simple reason I don’t know where the heck I put all my gold I don’t quite need). The cops are still wondering where all those reindeer popped up from. And why they ate or scared off all the squirrels.

      Anyway, Captain Temmels got an idea. He lined up some Martian reindeer (lots of them, since they are baby ones, but better lots of baby reindeer than just a handful of strong ones for a smoother ride. Just like the argument with the voters in here).

      He got them a sleigh and started his long journey back to earth. Don’t forget, they ate gold, they don’t need to breath. Or eat. Or poop. Interstellar poop, would be the grossest of things.

      Nothing implausible, you’re with me, right? Have faith and you’ll be saved. Only problem (there’s always one, especially when everything else is just fine): as he orbits the earth several times, ready for his descent, he and his reindeer have been spotted across the globe. From Jamaica to Haiti. No, those two are right next to each other; don’t make my point. From Jamaica to Japan. Children the world over believe he’s Santa Claus.

      Even those who don’t believe say they do – it’s in their interest, after all. They all expect present from him. That’s some two billion children, right? Temmels did pack a few buckets of gold for his homecoming, before he left Mars, but he’d intended to keep all that to himself. He wasn’t sure if NASA was going to pay him for all those days he did nothing on Mars but admire beautiful sweat-formed rainbows. The gold will keep him going. Especially now, that he’s seriously thinking of looking for a fourth wife.

      Perhaps he’d open a Baby Reindeer Santa Park in Finland for all the children in the world to visit and enter for free or a heavily reduced fee, once he’s done with the reindeer for transport reasons (he’ll have to find some way to rid himself of them, anyway). But he never in his life planned to be Santa… Just the thought annoys him. Can’t one just commute from one planet to another by reindeer without having to be noticed? As normal?

      Well, I actually already posted my Baby Reindeer story if you wish to read it… I’m giving a 10% discount to early readers. And no, it’s not Temmels again. Phew!

      Btw, how did you manage to fire a 3/8 inch bolt into your own foot? Were you the one who invented the expression ‘shoot one’s own foot’ after that? Seeing that you’re a master wordsmith…

      I mean, ouch! I’m troubled even trying to picture it.

      Do you walk well now? I mean, no big deal, worse things can happen in life than limping a little. But I don’t want you to go to some Rolling Stones concert and somehow end up at a Trump rally by mistake because of that lousy rerouting signage at the freeway junction, and Orange sees you and makes fun of you for not walking properly. Really, no big, deal (neither the walking nor Trump), but it’s embarrassing to be called out in front of thousands of people. Even if between them they may form as much brain-matter as half what one finds in the brain of a medium-sized swallow.

      Ok, I think I’m gone over 1,200 words with this comment! And I haven’t even got myself started. But it was nice talking to you again, Ken, like in the good old days of earlier on in the Year of the Lord 2019.

      See you at the Baby Reindeer park…

      Ken M.

      Reply
      • December 13, 2019 at 3:19 pm
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        Ken (M.) You crack me up. You’ve entertained me while admonishing me with perhaps…. —- ,,,, the longest comment every posted on this site——to date. Thanks for the advice.

        I don’t know if you’re really going to go through with, (or already have gone through with) this Martian Santa Reindeer scenario, but if you did, I can’t wait to suggest alternate names for it. (The story, not the reindeer.) It sounds like a fabulous idea for a story, (I mean, now that you’re already so far out on that ‘eat gold, no air’ limb, you might as well keep going until it cracks under the weight of all that bullshit. (Haha.)

        I suppose I should apologize for being so critical of your less appealing stories. Especially now that I understand how creative you are. But I’m too old to change. When I love a story — I gush, when I don’t love a story, I still gush, but I gush with disdain, I gush with a sustained, forceful ambivalence. If only I could moderate the FORCE of my Ambivalence. There must be a seminar or training module I can take for that. Don’t you think?

        I like your story title ideas, very creative. However, I don’t recall ever doing a story called ‘Circle Of Life.’ Or anything quite like that. I often, almost always, change the name of my story just before I post it. I have working names of stories and I’ll have five to ten saved versions. Then, at the very last minute, before posting it, I’ll compose a better name. (Or someone will give me one.) But I don’t always change the name of the file it’s saved in. I have about five files named ‘Birdwatcher,’ but I decided to name it ‘Cardinal Point’ at the very last minute, which I thought was the perfect name. MY POINT IS, I did a search of my computer, and Circle Of Life’ didn’t get any hits and it doesn’t ring any bells. Might be on my other computer. But I don’t remember it.

        As for this week, Phil’s story did not get any of my votes. It was far below his usual standard. I was joking about how bad it was, but in earnest, I felt early on that at least five other stories were, or would be better. But my comments were supposed to be funny, not real criticism.

        Phil is the best writer in the group. By any measure. Other people sometimes offer better plots, funnier dialogue, more stylish prose. But Philip, like me, posts a story every two weeks, no matter what. And it’s always a pretty good story at the least, polished, no typos, nor errors, no flaws. And he (like me) has been doing this for years. Not months, not a couple of years. Philip has been posting a new story for this site since September (or October) of 2014. That’s more than five years of stories! We joined the group within one week of each other, and he has only skipped one or two contests in all that time. I know because I’m keeping up with him. I’ve skipped very few contests myself. (And I would go to Portugal, track him down at one of those fancy outdoor ‘bistros’ he probably hangs out at, and slap him silly if he ever quit.) (I’m just kidding. I would never do that. He’s probably 8 feet tall anyway, with talons.)

        Phil’s a great writer. I have no hope of actually emulating his editorial and grammatical perfection, but he gives me something to shoot for. (And when I miss, he usually points it out.) He swears he’s never won a contest, or had anything published, not even in a magazine. So, you know, it’s hard to match that level of insanity, or devotion, whatever it is.But I’m still hangin’ in there with him.

        The bolt? It went into my shin. I was (I am not making this up) I was playing in the pool, of a friend of my older stepbrother, who played Tarzan in one very bad movie. His house and pool were enclosed in a cage because he owned a full-grown lion that lived with him in the house. I had to walk past the lion, which was perched on the guys shredded couch, which looked puny under the massive cat, and once outside, in the relative safety of the pool area, he had a rope attached to a pulley that traversed the swimming pool. (For Tarzan practice, I swear to God.) And I did the yell, jumped on the rope and swung across the pool to the other side, where a 3/8 inch bolt was sticking out of the posts that held up the swinging rope. That bolt, planted itself in my shin, but did not break the bone. It might be more accurate to say my shin tried to spit itself on that bolt, but it was too wide. It only went as far as the bone. It took about six stitches.

        I’m sure that some people will think I’m lying. (Or lion.) But I’m not. The lion, the bolt, the rope, the Tarzan, all real. He made the worst goddamned move ever. ‘The Suri-man Of Surinam.’ Look it up.His name was, or is Steve Hawkes. I wouldn’t bother looking it up but if you did, the guy who starred in that movie owned the house, the pool, and the lion and was a good friend of my stepbrother. And that’s how I got the bolt in my leg. There were no lasting effects from the bolt, but staying calm in the presence of an unleashed lion prepared me well, for high school.

        Reply
        • December 13, 2019 at 8:33 pm
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          Thanks for the name-checks, Ken – I’ll send you the cheque next week.

          I disagree with much of what you say about me (especially “8 feet tall […] with talons.” – It’s 8’6″ … with fangs.)

          If I were “the best writer in the group”, I’d be winning week in, week out. I don’t, because our peers (I include you) are very astute judges, and I bow to them.

          And “He swears he’s never won a contest, or had anything published, not even in a magazine.” Actually, I have … 🙂

          One thing you’re right about, though, is that I do manage to get a story in most themes … because I love it. I love this group. I look forward to knowing the new prompt every fortnight (it used to be every week, remember? Phew!). And I love how people are so kind, or critical but constructive.

          Long may APFFW thrive!

          (And while I’m at it, a big THANKS to Carrie and Alice, without whom …)

          Reply
  • December 13, 2019 at 1:47 am
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    Although I will admit one thing. It was better than Phil’s story. So that much makes sense. Nothing else does, though.

    Reply
    • December 13, 2019 at 3:29 am
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      Congrats Ken it was a cleverly constructed story. Congrats other place getters. Well done.

      Reply
    • December 13, 2019 at 6:59 am
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      Thanks very much for your kind words, Ken!

      Reply
    • December 13, 2019 at 12:35 pm
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      Congratulations Ken!

      Reply
  • December 13, 2019 at 4:23 pm
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    Congrats Ken! You did it again! There were so many great stories, it was hard to vote. Congrats to everyone who participated!!

    Reply

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