May 30 – June 12, 2019 Flash Fiction Contest “The Book that set the World on Fire – Image Inspired Prompt”

Theme: The Book That Set the World on Fire

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

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

Story Requirements:

  • An important book

Word Count: 1,200

 



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

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

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

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 Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.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

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

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

To be included in the “writing prompt roster”, you must have submitted two stories in the last sixty days. The roster is alphabetical and can be found here. According to the writing prompt roster, the next person to choose the theme/first line/dialogue prompt is Adrienne Riggs.

See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.


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100 thoughts on “May 30 – June 12, 2019 Flash Fiction Contest “The Book that set the World on Fire – Image Inspired Prompt”

    • June 4, 2019 at 3:56 pm
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      @Ken Frapes,

      Hey Ken,
      Belated but enthusiastic congrats on your first-place finish in last months contest. Well done.

      @Phil,

      Hey Phil,
      Your story was not bad, (it did pretty well in the contest, too.) I just got to making jokes and, you know, got carried away. The truth is, I wasn’t attacking your story in particular, Phil. I was lampooning Britain, and English people everywhere. Because I love the British. Everyone loves the British. Even the French, and the French hate everyone.

      But as a people, (Let’s leave the Irish out of it for a minute.) and a culture, you’re very easy to make fun of. And everyone does. Everyone. (Exrept possibry the Japanese.) Everyone in the world, Phil. Even the Maori’s. (Fubiloo ich tich sech Englishman actoobia ack ack pub?’) Have you heard that one? Yeah? No. Don’t speak Maori? Me either. Okay. So, you get it then. My point, I mean. No?

      Basically, I was trying to make you sound bad, Phil. Just for being English. But then I remembered Trump is my President, and realized I’m the one who has to apologize… To the Maori’s. Especially to the Maori’s. And that’s going to keep me pretty busy for a while.

      I have to write each one of them, individually. Otherwise they’ll be offended, and declare war on Florida. (Editors note: He doesn’t really know anything about the Maori’s. It’s a miracle he spelled it correctly.)

      And I do NOT, I repeat, I do NOT want to mess, with the Maori’s.
      I hope this explains everything sufficiently, Phil.

      Thanks for your forebearance. (And hindbearance as well, if applicable.)

      Reply
      • June 4, 2019 at 5:38 pm
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        Dear Kenneth

        You silly sausage – no need to explain anything. I took your words in the spirit you wrote them. All’s good!

        Now if you could just take your … ‘President’ back asap – pleeez!

        Reply
  • May 29, 2019 at 2:40 pm
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    I have a feeling this one shall require a lot of thinking

    Reply
    • May 29, 2019 at 2:49 pm
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      There are definitely several directions to go in with this one!

      Reply
  • May 29, 2019 at 5:47 pm
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    This one will take some time. Hmmm….

    Reply
  • May 29, 2019 at 6:53 pm
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    Love this prompt, agree with the others, this one will take some thought.

    Reply
  • May 30, 2019 at 7:14 am
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    Uncounted Casualty
    by Robt. Emmett ©2019

    I roll my shoulders and flex my arms. It feels good to be walking down the hall and out of my room. I enter his office. Settling into the chair, he motions to them, it is okay. The guards leave us. He’s sitting behind his empty, immaculate desk.
    He adjusts his silk tie and opens the manila file folder, “Let me see. Ah yes, last time we were we discussing,” looking over his tinted half glasses…, “what?”
    “Hell, doctor,” I say.
    “Oh yes, now I remember.”
    “A real, live, burning hell on earth.”
    “Ah, Mister Benôit, I believe you are as vague now as you were last time. I don’t quite know what you are referring to.” He plucks a nonexistent something from the sleeve of his dark Armani suit. “Please, let’s be a little less ambiguous, yes?”
    Nodding my head, I gather my thoughts. “You don’t understand, is that it? Okay, I’ll give it to you clear. The place I’m referring to is a hot, stinking, valueless, hunk of jungle, a million miles from anywhere. It’s a shitbox country. It’s full of people you don’t know and don’t give two hoots about. For some reason, they’re trying to kill you and your best friend.”
    Long forgotten memories of the things Dan and I had been through flood back. The good times, the bad times, the fun times, all flashed through my brain. The recollections incited me. My mouth sours. A bitter bile taste this stupid bastard’s never tasted. Yet he’s acting as though he understands me. He doesn’t, he can’t. He’s never seen war up close and touched it as I have. He has no clue what it’s like. The noise, the smells, and the overwhelming fear gripping your soul to the point you want to puke your guts out. But you can’t, you’re that damn scared.
    I shoot him a look of disgusted. His unaffected attitude infuriates me. “Picture this,” I say. “Imagine you’re there. You’re with the best guy God ever placed on this earth. Someone you have known since the second grade. He’s the one person who has been there with you and for you forever. The one person you could count on to always be watching your back. A guy who helped you even when you didn’t ask him to. He’s the guy who’s happily married to your cousin. A cousin who’s more than a cousin, she’s the little sister you never had. The two of you grew up together. You lived next door to each other all through your school years and beyond. He’s the brother you never had. You were the best man at their wedding. You’re as proud as you can be of their two little redheaded kids, a girl, and a boy. You treat them as though they’re your own, even though they are your niece and nephew.” The thought of those kids chokes me up. I paused. I wipe my eyes.
    I have to continue. I have to make him see the reality of the situation.
    “The smell of cordite claws at your nostrils. The heavy fog of gun smoke hangs in the still air and clouds your vision. As you cradle his head in your lap, he asks, ‘I’ll be okay, right?’”
    “‘Yeah, sure,’ you say to your best friend. ‘I hear the evac choppers comin’. It’s a lie. You’ve never lied to each other, never. But now you have to. You’d need to keep his hopes up. There are no chopper sounds, all you’re hearing is sporadic gunfire in the distance and out-going 60mm mortar rounds. You stare at the ragged, blood-soaked holes in his shirt. He asks you for a smoke. You take the brass cigarette lighter from one of his shirt pockets and the tattered pack Pall Mall cigarettes from the other. You spill them on the ground, pick out the least bloody, and light it for him. Your hand shakes as you put his brass Zippo into your shirt, knowing he won’t need it again. With your dirty fingers, you take the lighted cigarette from your mouth and place it between his dry, cracked lips. You reassure him again that help is coming. Tears he can’t see flow free down your grimy, soot-stained cheeks. You pray. You plead to God, all to no avail.
    “Then … then you take the half-burned cigarette from his lips and flick it away. Slowly, you run your hand over his face and close his eyes. Close them forever.”
    Emotionally spent, I pause as a lump forms in my throat. I try to swallow. I can’t. I squeeze my eyelids tight together and tell myself, I won’t I can’t let this unknowing, uncaring bastard see me cry. I get myself back under control and continue.
    “You hug him one last time. Bitter tears pour onto his dirt-streaked face, and you don’t care. You’re sobbing uncontrollably. Your world has ended as surely as his life, and you don’t care about anything. You’re baring your very soul to the world. Your tears are not only for your loss but for your failure.”
    Glaring at him, I shout, “You got the Gawd damn picture, Mister Head Doctor?”
    He swallows. Fear is in his eyes.
    I need to calm myself. I can’t let my voice reflect the turmoil tearing at my insides. I will my emotions back under control.
    Softly, “What’s more, I now have to tell a good woman, his wife, my cousin, she’s now a widow. I’d have to tell two adorable little kids their daddy would never be coming home. They will never feel his loving arms around them. How do you explain this to two innocent little kids so they’ll understand?” Softening my tone, “How, how do I do that?”
    His fingers, steepled at his lips, he sits motionless, saying nothing. He looks as if he is listening. He isn’t.
    The anger inside me returns to my voice. “Yet you sit there and tell me these feelings will go away? You don’t know jack-shit, mister. Your books are lies. Your words are lies. You, you go and be where I was. Then and only then, will you understand. I mean truly understand.” I yelled at him. “Maybe then you will know for damn certain the feelings I have bottled up inside me will never … ever … go … away!”
    “It wasn’t your fault,” he said smoothly, as his hand moved to the button I knew was under the edge of his desk.
    He has no clue, I thought. His total lack of understanding enraged me.
    My inner voice screamed, don’t. They’ll use drugs this time.
    I don’t care. I’m beyond caring. I have nothing to care about. Bolting out of my chair, I scrambled over the top of his desk. I grabbed his tie. I wrapped my fingers around his throat.
    They’re grabbing me from behind and are trying to pull me off him.
    My fingers slowly slip from his throat. A velvety warm fog swirls around me. A calming darkness surrounds me; It’s comforting and …
    -ℜ-
    [1180 words]

    Reply
    • May 30, 2019 at 4:50 pm
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      Robt,

      WOW. I have no words, but I have tears flowing down my cheeks. This is very powerful and you’ve set the bar very high for this prompt. I literally cannot put into words how this story affected me. Well done. Wow.

      Adi

      Reply
    • June 8, 2019 at 9:11 pm
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      Hi, Robert

      This is very intense – is it a personal memoir? It feels like it. The trigger for remembering and recounting the incident is very well set up – a reaction to the shrink’s remoteness. There are some great details, like this: “You take the brass cigarette lighter from one of his shirt pockets and the tattered pack [of] Pall Mall cigarettes from the other. You spill them on the ground, pick out the least bloody, and light it for him.” By the end we feel Benôit’s pain, and sympathise with his anger. A couple of times and near the end you slip into the past tense (opting for the present for most of the story was a good idea) which took me out of the story a little, but not so much as to not appreciate the intensity of it all.

      (Do vote this time! It’s a shame that your stories seem never to be in the contest.)

      Reply
    • June 11, 2019 at 3:16 am
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      A heart-gripping story about the hell of war and the unability to understand it. Well done.

      Reply
    • June 12, 2019 at 2:00 pm
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      For me, Robt., this is the best story of yours I have ever read. Excellent. I have a few tense things I could quibble about, and some unintentional typos, but otherwise, absolutely damn good. A deep look inside a man’s soul and there are still thousands of military men who have shared that same experience. I think you spoke eloquently for them.

      And yet, we send more of them to war every day. We talk with pride and about patriotism while we send others to fight the battle. I am a veteran myself, but never had to experience watching a best friend die. As a hospital corpsman I saved a few lives and saw a few die, but it was part of my life and I looked at it differently then. Death is ugly. We should be figuring out ways to avoid war, not embrace it.

      Reply
  • June 1, 2019 at 4:18 am
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    Posting for comments

    Reply
  • June 2, 2019 at 11:13 am
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    Hi everyone,
    I’m going to try to get a story in this prompt but if I can’t…. I wanted to drop a hello 🙂 .

    Reply
  • June 2, 2019 at 2:17 pm
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    Epitome
    (1196 Words)

    My eyes snapped open as I jerked awake, a cold sweat broke out over my body making me tremble as much as the fear that something was way out of whack. I glanced at the clock which said it was three in the morning, so I climbed out of bed to go get a glass of water, chalking the fear up to whatever I may have been dreaming, even though I had no memory of what that might have been and why a dream would scare me so badly.
    Maybe it had something to do with moving from my cozy little apartment that I had shared with a couple roommates to this creaky old cottage that looked down on an ancient looking village that someone had placed in the middle of no where. Being relatively new to the town and not knowing anyone didn’t really help much either.
    The cottage had belonged to my uncle Paul until he passed it on to me in his will. Paul had been a writer, not the kind that published anything, he always said he wrote because he genuinely loved the written word especially when written in the twilight hours.
    On my way out of the little bedroom I realized the night outside my bedroom window had a blue-green glow that lit up the city with it’s hue when it should have been pitch black with a few stars.
    “Your mind is playing tricks on you.” I muttered to myself as I headed down the hall to the kitchen. I filled a glass from the tap then downed the entire thing. I hadn’t realized I was so thirsty. I filled the glass again and brought it to my lips again as another realization occurred to me: I hadn’t turned a single light on.
    I checked the rest of the house and discovered that every room was lit up with the strange hue that filled the night outside. Looking out the front window provided no real reason for the lack of darkness at this hour. I could see a few people walking along the sidewalks and none of them seemed to be bothered by the odd light which made me consider that this may be quite normal for this place.
    I remembered Uncle Paul telling me that his favorite time to write was in the wee hours of the morning when he couldn’t sleep. I sat down at his old desk in the living room in front of his favorite window and began looking for some paper and a pencil thinking maybe writing something would settle my nerves so I could rest a bit more before the day officially began.
    Rummaging through the desk drawers I found an old book that had blank pages, a quill pen and some small bottles of black ink. I set them all on the top of the desk, dipped the pen into the ink well and began to write what I was bitterly thinking:
    ‘Nothing good ever comes of waking up in the dead of night and finding the world around you glows in such an eerie shade. The sky looks like a chemistry experiment that went completely awry and no one below seems to have a problem with it, not even the large birds that fly around as if it’s daylight. I considered calling someone to ask if this is normal for this place but I don’t know anyone and from what Uncle Paul told me when I was young, there is no police department or sheriff station in the town of Epitome so I guess I’ll just have to wait it out and ask someone when I go to the market later today. I just hope this is not one of those strange places that wouldn’t notice if the entire world burned down around them.’
    I simply signed my name- Paulette, at the bottom of the page and cleaned up everything I had used then placed everything neatly in the drawer on my right since the one in front of me was locked.
    Still feeling restless I sipped from the glass of water and stared out the window lost in my own thoughts. Everyone in the family said Paul was nuts for living so far away and that he lived only for the little town of Epitome but then again the family said I was just like Paul and they prayed I would not turn out like him. That thought made me wonder why I was named for him in the first place.
    “Probably some crazy family tradition, we have so many it’s hard to remember them all.” I muttered again.
    Knowing I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I went back to bed, I began looking for the key to the locked drawer. I found it under the cushion of the chair I had been sitting in. I took the key and sat back down to unlock the drawer. The key unlocked the drawer without hesitation so I pulled it open. Inside there was a single book that was thick with aging pages and an old leather cover that had Epitome burned into the top.
    I recognized Paul’s handwriting as soon as I opened the cover. The first page had ‘Rules’ written across the top followed by a few sentences that said:
    ‘This place is the epitome of the phrase- So It Is Written, So It Shall Be- therefore, written things shall come to pass.
    Beware of what you choose to write, words can inflict just as much damage as any other type of violence, sometimes more.
    As humans, we generally write how we feel in the moment- do not be rash- write to make things better instead of worse.
    Don’t forget- bad things can be erased by good things.
    When my time is done here I will pass this cottage and it’s contents to my niece, Paulette. God willing, she will not be as sarcastic and hot headed as I was when I first inherited this blessing- call it a Family Tradition.’
    “Maybe Uncle Paul really was off his rocker.” I shook my head as I closed the book.
    Out of the corner of my eye I noticed the sky had begun to glow bright orange and the air had become thick and hot as if there was a fire nearby. I jumped up to look out the window and saw smoke billowing in the distance with glowing fire under the black clouds.
    “He was being literal?” I whispered as I opened the side drawer and took out the book I had written in earlier.
    Using the quill and ink again, I wrote on the next page:
    ‘I’m sorry, the last page was an error in judgment. I can’t erase it but hopefully I can fix it. Epitome needs a quenching rain to put out the flames born of my irritation. Never again will my anger bring harm to these people. I wonder how Epitome would feel about midnight blue skies with stars shining instead of twilight nights?”
    As I was signing my name to the bottom of the page rain began to fall, putting out the flames in the distance.

    Reply
    • June 6, 2019 at 10:12 am
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      Very imaginative story Amy. Very creative. The first paragraph is a little clunky, but the story builds and carries you along very well afterwards.

      Reply
      • June 8, 2019 at 3:58 pm
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        Thank you Ken C, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Your absolutely right though, it was a rough starter wasn’t it? I didn’t realize it at first but I see it now. 🙂

        Reply
    • June 8, 2019 at 9:33 pm
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      Hi, Amy

      A very original idea (I think!) – the world becomes what you write. I suppose the green ‘hue’ is what someone else in the town had written (?) It all seems initially like a nightmare Paulette is having … and maybe it is, in fact, a nightmare within a nightmare (that she mentions was the thing that might have woken her) (?) Perhaps I agree with Ken (and you!) about the first paragraph. I think that maybe this would help: Instead of “Maybe it had something to do with moving …”, you might say something like: “I had moved from my cozy apartment …”, and this would link to “The cottage had belonged to my uncle.” Just a thought. Nice idea (the ‘writing affects the world around us’ thing).

      Reply
      • June 12, 2019 at 3:40 pm
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        Hi Phil,
        Thank you for your comments, I’m glad you enjoyed the story and yes I totally and wholeheartedly agree with the clunky first paragraph thing. (It was one of those moments when my spelling and grammar check and proofreading just didn’t catch the errors. Which in turn makes me slap my own forehead saying something like “Awe man! Really?” lol. It happens, especially when I’m trying to get the creativity flowing.) Hopefully I will do better with the next prompt but I did have a lot of fun with this one once the idea finally set in.

        Reply
    • June 11, 2019 at 3:30 am
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      The eerie atmosphere got me, the old books, the strange lights. And yes, language can be very powerful, so written words can get alive. Great story!

      Reply
    • June 11, 2019 at 3:43 pm
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      I agree about the first paragraph but it evens out as the story moves along. It is an interesting idea for sure. At first I thought it was going to a darker place, but in the end it’s more of a nurturing phenomenon than a horrific one, as long as she doesn’t get mad at her neighbor lol.

      Reply
    • June 12, 2019 at 2:11 pm
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      Very good story, Amy. Once I got into it I liked the way you danced around and kept us (well, me at least) in suspense, allowing us to discover how powerful writing in this journal could be. But, it leads me to wonder if there was that much power, why couldn’t you write about how happy you are, surrounded by family, with all kinds of luxuriousness around you when you wake up in the morning. Starting with these six numbers are the lottery numbers in tonight’s drawing and then go buy a lottery ticket with those numbers. It’s a start. Don’t know if it would make you happy, but I’d like to give it a shot one day and win the damn thing. I’ll take my chances on how things work out.

      Reply
      • June 12, 2019 at 2:41 pm
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        Hi Roy,
        Thank you so much for your comments. I’m still laughing at your reply. Yes it would definitely make my day to be surrounded by all those wonderful things (including the self projected lottery numbers, haha.) but of course I’m still stuck with picking the wrong numbers since I don’t have a magic journal like Uncle Paul’s, lol.

        Reply
  • June 4, 2019 at 3:28 am
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    Well-written.

    ***** Fantastic!

    A fantastic book. Very well-written. I really recommend it.

    ***** Could not put it down

    I got the book from my daughter for my birthday. After I started reading it, I could not put it down. I’ve never experienced that in a non-fiction book. Inspiring!

    ***** Magic!

    If there’s a book that could change your life, it could be this one. Believe me, it’s magic!

    * Nonsense!

    What nonsense! No one needs alligators! We have so many problems in this world, even without deadly beasts in our homes!

    **** Unique Style

    The author Theodore Recks knows very well how to turn non-fiction material into a fascinating story. The breeding of alligators may not be of interest to every reader. But Reck’s unique style of writing is able to convey the fascination, that lies in raising the little fellows. How many readers will want to start their own alligator-breeding after reading this book?

    ***** Can’t wait

    A friend gave me the book, and I read it in one night. I simply couldn’t put it down. Now I ordered alligator eggs on the internet. I can’t wait to see the cute little beasts hatch.

    ***** What a book!

    What a fascinating book! I first saw the author on a talk show last week. He seemed to be a nice fellow. But I wasn’t sure, if I’d like the book too. Sometimes I like authors, but their works disappoint me. The bookstore in the little country town where I live didn’t have it in stock, so I ordered it on-line. What a pleasant surprise! Recks describes the rearing of the little alligators so vividly that I feel I am there with him watching them hatch. Now I want to breed alligators too. It’ll give my life a new meaning.

    * No Pokemon!

    This book is a typical example of what people in our affluent society do because of boredom. Now all of them suddenly want to have small alligators at home, as if it were Pokemon or Tamagotchi. But they are living animals. And they will not stay small. Has anyone ever thought about that? I think the author has done a disservice to society. The book should be banned!

    ***** Cool!

    I just can’t understand all those negative comments here. Theodore Recks is cool, and his book is the most exciting thing I’ve read in my life. Since Harry Potter! These so-called animal rights activists are just stupid and boring.

    ***** New Life!

    This book has changed my life. So far, I always wanted to become a nurse because I wanted to work with people. Now I want to raise those cute alligators. I have already created an Instagram account for all the pictures of the sweet tiny things. My friends want to join as well. Alligators are the new hot trend and we owe that to you, Theodore Recks!

    * Just to make a buck!

    Capitalism is designed to pick up on new idiotic ideas again and again in order to make a profit. This book is a horrible example. The alligator hype is incredible! The book has been on the market for 6 months now and there are already reports of people being attacked by their alligators. How stupid can humans actually be? Maybe it will be a good thing to get rid of a few of our fellow citizens this way.

    ***** Share my bed!

    I can’t wait for my little pet. I want to share my bed with it! They’re the cutest things I ever saw!

    ***** Great!

    Really a great book. I wanted it for my birthday and got it. How can you write such wonderful things, Mr. Recks? My parents do not want to allow me to start my own alligator breeding, but I’ll do it anyway. I will be of age in three years. And as T. Recks rightly says: Do not let anyone stop you from turning your dreams into reality. I finally know what I want to in my life. And I will do it!

    *** Nice!

    Nice book! Delivered on time! Top!

    ***** Learn from the young!

    My grandson started breeding alligators. I did not understand that at all. Why would he do that? It sounded very silly to me at first. However, I believe that we, the older generation, can also learn a lot from the younger generation. That’s why I bought the book. And I’m impressed, I have to admit. It’s written in a very lively style. One feels immediately that this author has a deep knowledge about what people really want. And his topic is fascinating. My book is the second revised edition; it already has addresses attached where readers can buy the eggs on-line. I ordered immediately and I’m looking forward to my new housemates.

    * End of the World!

    This will be the end of the world, believe me! An invasion of alligators that we bred ourselves. And the trigger for the disaster is just a single book. If ever there was a book that set the world on fire, then this is the one.

    ***** WOW!

    Wow! The cover says it has been translated into 30 languages ​​and is available in 146 countries around the world. I also heard that alligators are now the most popular pets. No more need for cats and dogs!

    ** Real Animal Lover!

    Now I ordered the book too. In the news there are lots of reports about alligators who have eaten their owners, and I wanted to know more about it. I wanted to form my own opinion on the subject. I have read the book but am not convinced. I just think it’s an attempt to make a fast buck. A real animal lover should not support such a thing!

    ***** The perfect Gift

    I just ordered another 20 copies. The book is so wonderful. I’m giving it to all my friends for their birthdays and for Christmas. Why? Because this book and those magic animals gave my life a new meaning. By the way, I can also recommend the new book by Theodore Recks. It’s about apes and how to raise them.

    * Ban the book!
    My uncle started breeding 12 months ago. The animals grew up to three meters. Now there’s been a tragic accident. One of the alligators has fatally injured my uncle. You should ban the book.

    * Alligator Crisis

    I found the book in my grandmother’s attic. It has awakened the memories of those gruesome times again. Today we call it “the great alligator crisis”. We know now how dangerous a single book can be. To fight the crisis, whole cities were bombarded from the air and set on fire. Yet many areas on all five continents are considered uninhabitable and infested by alligators. I hope humanity has learned from this disaster. But I have my doubts. Now I will go to the garden and burn the book solemnly. Of course I have my rifle with me, as always.

    Reply
    • June 6, 2019 at 10:14 am
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      MaxBerliner,

      Another wonderfully creative, unique and imaginative approach to the prompt. I loved it. The only thing that left me scratching my head was how you come up with such brilliant plots week after week. A very enjoyable read, Jurgen.

      Reply
      • June 11, 2019 at 3:36 am
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        Thank you for the nice words. I sometimes feel like I’m getting addicted to your appreciative comments here.

        Reply
    • June 8, 2019 at 9:44 pm
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      Hi, Jürgen

      Great stuff! A really imaginative, original idea to create a story like a series of Amazon reviews. And funny: we wonder what the book is about then you hit us with: “What nonsense! No one needs alligators!” And from then on it builds as we see events through the opinions of reviewers (you could maybe have given their names, as in real reviews – you could have had some extra fun with that). That’s a killer last line, too – drawing a picture through oblique information. Very enjoyable.

      Reply
      • June 11, 2019 at 3:43 am
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        Thanks Phil! I am glad the story works. Unfortunately, the website has removed a few blank lines that I had in the manuscript to separate the individual reviews. And yes, at first it had names in the reviews. I removed them because I felt they were just distracting. The reader has to find a way in the dark for a while, and I just wanted to make it easy for her/him.

        Reply
    • June 9, 2019 at 6:50 am
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      Hi BMax,

      This is the most unusual piece of writing I have read since I tried to work my way through Lincoln In The Bardo (sadly, I didn’t make it with that book!) With your piece though, I had no problems.

      As others have said, it reads like a series of short reviews and gradually reveals the nature of the book being reviewed. This is such a uniquely different piece of writing. It doesn’t really fit any category that I can think of. You have a very creative mind and for this I applaud you.

      I think that if you had put names beside each comment ( as has been suggested in another comment) it would have been much too much like Lincoln In The Bardo and thus I am happy that you didn’t do it. Would have been a waste of valuable word count too.

      The idea of growing / breeding alligators in ordinary homes is quite absurd, we tell ourselves until we think back to the 60s and 70s when baby chimpanzees were farmed out to human families and brought up as human children. The book, “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves” by Karen Jay Fowler tells us how that turned out. It is a wonderful book.

      Great last line! On that subject, I have a friend who is an award winning short story writer ( John Holland …johnhollandwrites) who has a thing about endings and last lines in particular. He says that with many stories you can remove the last line without any detrimental effects upon the story. In your case, the last line is a perfect ending and just can’t be taken away.

      Well done, once again, BMax.

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
      • June 11, 2019 at 4:00 am
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        Hello Ken,
        and thank you for your long comment. I do not know “Lincoln in the Bardo” I just googled it, and I’ll look into it on occasion. If I had an inspiration, then it’s “E: A Novel” by Matt Beaumont (2000). This is a novel that consists only of e-mails. And as for the absurd, I’m always fascinated by the absurdities that I read about on the Internet. “Flat earth” is just one example.
        And yes, the last line is very important. Like the first line. I love it when I manage to maintain tension from the first to the last line.
        Thanks again.

        Reply
    • June 12, 2019 at 9:48 am
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      You just keep bringing in such unique takes on the prompts! I love the way you were able to flesh out a full on apocalypse tale through a series of book reviews. And Theodore Recks is too much lol.

      Reply
    • June 12, 2019 at 2:13 pm
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      Nice job, Berliner Max. You do come up with some off the wall shit, I have to tell you. Kept me reading.

      Reply
    • June 12, 2019 at 3:53 pm
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      Hi Berlinermax,
      Great story, I love how creative it is and how easily you used the elements of the prompt. Awesome job.

      Reply
  • June 6, 2019 at 6:30 am
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    Hi All,
    Just signing up for this prompt that, I must say, is really making me think.
    Ken Frape

    Reply
  • June 6, 2019 at 8:31 am
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    Book Smart.
    © 6/5/19 By Ken Cartisano
    wc 1127

    I was startled out of my reverie by a disembodied voice. “You have any books?” It said.

    I stopped short and looked up.

    She was standing on the top of a burned-out tractor, in the middle of a clearing in a heavily wooded area. Originally, this was a busy intersection near Grand Rapids. The wrecked cars and debris had become overgrown with tall trees and rope-like vines.

    “Well?” She said.

    “I only have one book.” I replied.

    “One book? Well ain’t you cocky.” I heard snickering in the underbrush around me. Her associates, they blended into the terrain so well I had practically walked right into their den without knowing it.

    “We’ve got thousands,” she said.

    I wanted to say, ‘Good for you,’ and leave it at that, but that would’ve been suicidal. I’d already been robbed six times and beaten twice recently for saying the wrong thing to the wrong person. It’s best to say as little as possible. You could say that the apocalypse didn’t agree with me.

    She waited a while and said, “We were thinkin’ of selling them but,” she frowned, “it don’t look like you got anything worth trading.”

    “I travel light.” I said.

    She contemplated these few words carefully. Sifting them for meaning as she moved among the tangle of vines and mangled, rusting cars, taking a circuitous route that brought her closer to me and nearer to the ground. Her handsome features were smudged with dirt. She was dark-skinned, with amber eyes and a perfectly manicured afro. And she was huge. Six-foot tall and built like a walk-in freezer. She was frightening, muscular, clearly lethal, and accompanied by a nearly invisible entourage. Who has an entourage these days?

    She paused in her descent on the only piece of metal that wasn’t mangled. “You travel light.” She studied me for a few moments, then addressed the shadowy audience, “He says ‘He travels light.”

    She was entertaining them, I now understood, but they’d seen this show before, too many times. They were bored. Boredom leads to all sorts of bad behavior.

    “Books ain’t that easy to come by any more, old man.” Her voice was rich and melodious. It rose and fell, like waves on the shore of a small cove. “Time was a time, when books was every which way you looked, and then some. But that time’s gone, old man.”

    There were some grunts from the camouflaged crowd.

    “That time’s looooong gone.”

    There were more grunts, a hoot and a low whistle.

    She squinted at me with a calculating sidelong glance. “Ain’t many of us have the voice, let alone can read. I think I know what you do with that one book.” Her timorous followers murmured in agreement. “He look at the pictures. Mm?”

    I shook my head, involuntarily. “It has no pictures.”

    She looked dubious. “No pictures? Den what do you DO wit dat book, old man?”

    I shrugged. “Same thing everyone else does with books.” This seemed like a safe response. I thought.

    She reached for something behind her back, a long, polished, visibly decorated bowie knife. She held it up in front of her and remained focused on the knife when she asked, “How come you only need this one book?”

    I swallowed. “It has a lot of pages.”

    “Ahhhh. So it’s a thick book.”

    “Well, not particularly, it’s just…”

    This response did not please her, sounding too much like a correction. She pinioned me with an angry stare.

    “How does a thin book have a lot of pages? Unless it has thin pages.”

    “It does,” I said. My relief colored with enthusiasm. “…have very thin pages. I, I, I,” I stuttered. “I suppose you could say it was a long book.”

    She moved with fluid grace, like an eel or a snake, sinuous and deft, traversing the wrecked cab, to the engine, over and around a tree trunk, to the truck’s running board, where she paused, perched upon a bent and blackened fuel tank, standing on its end.

    “Can we—see it?”

    “It’s in my backpack,” I said.

    She nodded and waited. Permission granted.

    I moved slowly just the same. Removing the frayed straps from my shoulders.

    “It’s alright,” she said, “don’t be scared. I won’t eat you.”

    “Until she cooks you.” A voice volunteered, to a smattering of snickers.

    I unzipped the bag, and slowly extracted the book. Her face lit up with anticipation as soon as she saw the black cover, the gilded gold letters.

    “What’s that say?” She said.

    “Holy Bible.”

    “I thought so. Open it.” She said. “Hold it out and open it.”

    I did as she requested.

    “Now take your right hand, and put your finger on the open page.”

    I did as she requested. She turned to her chameleon-like coterie and said, “You wanted a sign?” A murmur rolled through the unseen spectators around us. “You wanted proof that I was fit to lead?”

    I frowned, confused.

    “Read it.” She commanded. “Read what’s under your finger.”

    I raised the book, holding it with my left hand, lifted my finger and read: “But let all who take…” I started. “Let all who take refuge in you rejoice, let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over…”

    “Enough!” She cried. “Enough of that nonsense.” She jabbed the point of the knife into a convenient tree trunk and lowered herself to the ground.

    Her voice, up close, was much softer now. “That was pretty good. Did you make that up, or can you really read?”

    “I can read,” I said. “But who has the time?”

    She studied my face, my eyes, then stepped back and appraised my worn and tattered clothes. Her aggressive manner softened. “So how does it work? Why are thin pages better?”

    “May I?”

    She nodded, inching even closer to me as I pulled a small kit out of my one good pocket, extracting some small tufts of material first, as I knelt on the ground before her. She was so close I could reach out and touch her, and she could just as easily plunge that knife into my neck.

    I opened up the bible and ripped a couple of pages out. “Just like you would with any other book.” I said, looking up into her smudged face. “But these smolder better, giving the kindling more time to ignite.”

    I tore the two pages into smaller pieces, then sprinkled the other bits of kindling onto whatever Psalms they were, then, with my flint rock and striker, I created enough sparks to start a small fire in less than a minute.

    She was pleased. Her audience was amazed. I think I may have found a home.

    “Thanks God.” I mumbled under my breathe. “I owe you one.”

    Reply
    • June 8, 2019 at 9:58 pm
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      Hi, Ken

      A brilliant story, this. The beginning “I was startled out of my reverie by a disembodied voice.” is terrific. What reverie? It doesn’t matter – you’ve thrown us straight in and we can’t stop. The figure that breaks the reverie is a great creation – strong, sinister, aggressive, dangerous. The hiding of her gang, so that we can only hear them, is a master-stroke of originality and extra threat. And the trickery with the book … inspired! Really loved it. (Shades of ‘The Book of Eli’, with Denzel Washington … but only shades.)

      Reply
    • June 9, 2019 at 5:54 am
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      Hi Ken,

      This is such a great story. A true pleasure to read and you have used the prompt so well, even adding a bit of extra frisson by choosing The Holy Bible as your book.

      You create a totally believable scene but shroud it in mystery even though you tell us where it is.

      Dialogue runs really well as does the sense of threat emanating from the woman.

      Great line, “You could say that the apocalypse didn’t agree with me.”

      Without doubt this is an excellent piece of writing that will feature very highly in the eventual rankings.

      PS
      My son is getting married this week and I think it will occupy a lot of my time……as it should, so I may not get the chance to challenge your literary efforts this time round.

      Regards,

      Ken F

      Reply
    • June 10, 2019 at 6:20 am
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      Well-chosen wording and phrases urges the reader to the next and the next.

      Reply
    • June 11, 2019 at 4:19 am
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      Hello Ken!
      A great story that tells a lot and asks the imagination to fill in the rest. The description of the woman is impressive. I like “walk in freezer”. But the best part is that we do not know all the time what books are needed for when few people can read.

      The surprise in the end I liked the most. It gives the term „book smart“ a new meaning.

      Reply
    • June 12, 2019 at 9:55 am
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      Ah, Ken, I thought you were going somewhere else entirely with what thin book pages were good for, but fire is good too. I love the way that you lead people to think they want someone who can read for them and that he’ll be overjoyed to find a place full of books. But the end it really just comes down to staying alive and the best utilitarian use for a book with the added irreverence of using the bible for kindling. Good job!

      Reply
      • June 12, 2019 at 3:53 pm
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        Hahahahahahahaha. What thin pages are good for. Jesus Wendy, that WOULD be irreverent. Thank you for your comments and opinion. (Which I value very highly.).

        Reply
    • June 12, 2019 at 2:21 pm
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      Masterful story, Ken. You constantly surprise me with your writing ability which seems to be getting better and better. Loved the story and since so many people have made observations that really cover the territory, I’ll just say, “What they said.” Good, very well written story. Lots to learn from in your phrasing. Well done.

      Reply
    • June 12, 2019 at 3:49 pm
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      Hi Ken,
      You really know how to draw someone in and keep their attention with a well written story. Great work! 🙂

      Reply
    • June 8, 2019 at 10:04 pm
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      Is that a euphemism for something?

      Reply
  • June 6, 2019 at 10:30 am
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    Checking in to get responses. I am feeling well enough to write. My doctor prescribed a steroid and it has really helped, No more nausea, although I am very week and can’t shake the tremors, I feel it is getting better every hour.

    The fog is slowly lifting and I can actually put two sentences together, although it is slow going. Hope to get a story written for tis prompt, but it had better be really good, based on what I’ve seen already entered. God, you guys make it tough.

    Reply
    • June 8, 2019 at 10:06 pm
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      Glad you’re getting better, Roy. Sounds like hard work, but you seem to have got the beating of it.

      Looking forward to your story!

      Reply
      • June 12, 2019 at 2:25 pm
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        Thanks for the thoughts, Phil. Harder work than I thought it would be. Chemo really takes it out of you. The nausea is gone, but the weakness and still foggy brain have continued, although much better than a couple of weeks ago. I wrote two different stories for this, but my beta reader – my patient wife – who has been my rock through all this, read them and said you can do better. Then I looked at the stories and she had redlined them so badly it looked like the pages were bleeding. So, there will be nothing from the old dad, but I can feel the creativity starting to work, and my fingers no longer shake at the keyboard and I can hit the right keys far more often.

        Reply
    • June 9, 2019 at 5:57 am
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      Hi Roy,

      Good to hear that things are improving for you.
      looking forward to reading your next piece in due course.
      Kind regards,
      Ken Frape.

      Reply
      • June 12, 2019 at 2:26 pm
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        Thanks Ken, congrats on your son’s wedding. i’d tell you to stay sober, but that’s advice I wouldn’t follow, so ignore it.

        Reply
      • June 12, 2019 at 2:27 pm
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        Thanks, Wendy. They are indeed, just a lot slower than I’d like.

        Reply
  • June 7, 2019 at 10:41 am
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    BURNED

    The boy watched, fascinated, as the red scintillas dodged up into the coal-black night and were gone. The man sitting next to him on the log stared into the crackling fire, his haggard face with its ragged beard a story of debilitating hardship. The boy turned to him and was about to say something, hesitated, then plucked up the courage to go ahead.

    “Tell me again, uncle.”

    The man appeared not to have heard; the fire seemed the only thing that interested him.

    “Uncle?”

    “Not now, boy.”

    The boy pouted, picked up a small stone and threw it into the fire, sending up a flurry of hissing sparks. The man sat up straight and glanced sideways at his young companion. He shook his head gently.

    “It was thirty years ago.”

    The boy twisted where he sat so that he was peering into the man’s face.

    “The land was controlled by a tyrant who ruled with an iron fist. Life was hard but we accepted it because we felt safe. We had an immense army, and all the other countries feared us.”

    “Tell me about the army, uncle.”

    “We had tanks. We had cannons. We had planes that could fly unseen. We had missiles – missiles that could kill millions in an instant.”

    “They were powerful missiles, uncle.”

    “They were indeed. And we had brave men who died for causes they didn’t understand.”

    “Why did they fight if they didn’t understand?”

    “Because they loved their country, boy, and they were prepared to give their lives for it.”

    “They were very brave.”

    The man met the boy’s eyes and a brief, gentle smile crossed his lips.

    “They were the bravest. And they protected us. The other countries saw our power and never dared to attack us.”

    “But then one day …”

    The man ruffled the boy’s hair.

    “You know this story too well. Why am I even wasting my breath?”

    “No, uncle, don’t stop. Please go on. Pleeez!”

    He pulled on the man’s threadbare sleeve, again and again, until he got his way.

    “But then one day, the man made a big mistake.”

    “A BIG mistake,” echoed the boy.

    “A massive one. At a gigantic rally – he liked to hold rallies to pretend that he was loved – he was talking about another country, on the other side of the world.”

    “They were powerful too, uncle, weren’t they?”

    “Very. Almost as much as we were. He was talking about this other country and how he was very displeased with them. No one can remember why he was displeased, but he was. He held up a book.”

    “It was a very important book, wasn’t it?”

    “To them, yes. To them it was as important as life itself. It WAS life itself.”

    “And then he …”

    “And then he … took a blowtorch – you know what one of them is by now, don’t you? – he took a blowtorch and …”

    A shadow passed across the man’s face, and he went back to staring dully into the fire.

    “He burned the book, didn’t he?!”

    The boy’s voice had risen in tone with the excitement of the tale.

    The man nodded.

    The boy took up the story.

    “And the other country saw it on … the Indy … Indynet.”

    “The Internet,” the man muttered.

    “And they got so angry, so angry, that they attacked us.”

    The man nodded again.

    “But I’ve never understood this part, uncle. If our army was so powerful, why didn’t we just fight back and beat them.”

    The man turned to look at the young boy, his face a mask of love and pity.

    “Because they had some of those missiles that could kill millions in an instant.”

    “And they sent them against us?”

    “Yes. We stopped most of them, but some got through and …”

    Something caught in the man’s throat, making him stop.

    “And that’s why we don’t have a house?”

    “Why we don’t have a house. Why we don’t have enough food. Why we don’t have electricity to keep us warm. Why we don’t have almost anything we had before.”

    “And why we can’t speak to people a long way away?”

    “That’s right. We had things called telephones before – you could speak to people on the other side of the country, or the world.”

    “I wish I had one of them.”

    “And we had the Internet – the ‘Indynet’, you know – which was a marvellous thing. It had all the knowledge man had ever collected, and with a brief tap of your fingers, you could learn stuff.”

    “Like where to find squirrels?”

    “For example.”

    “But that’s all gone now, uncle, hasn’t it?”

    “It has, my boy. Because we didn’t learn.”

    The fire drew the man’s attention back to its orange tongues.

    “And that’s why we have to use drums?”

    The man nodded. He opened his mouth to say something but a distant drumbeat made him cock his head.

    “Wow! What a quinky–“ the boy began.

    “SSSHHH!!!” the man hissed.

    He mouthed silently the signal he was hearing, then …

    “.. -. -.-. — — .. -. –.”

    “INCOMING!” he screamed. He leapt up and grabbed the boy by the waist, diving across the fire, scattering the logs and ashes in a shower of sparks. He slid across the dusty earth, the boy in his arms, and came to a halt at the foot of the great oak they’d been sitting near.

    The man wrapped himself around the boy to guard him from what was to come. But his thin body was little protection against the searing white blast that hit the improvised camp moments later.

    .

    Reply
    • June 11, 2019 at 4:17 am
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      Excellent story Phil with lots of show through the dialogue. Makes me jealous that I did not write it. Great characterisation and very very believeable. Too believeable.

      Reply
    • June 11, 2019 at 4:34 am
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      Great, Phil!
      A story that consists almost entirely of dialogue. It draws me into the scene, like a movie scene. The very fact that the boy wants to hear a story he has heard so many times creates fear and tension. And the more they talk about the best weapons in the world, the clearer it is that this in the end of the story there will be destruction.
      You write really great dialogues. And great stories.

      Reply
    • June 12, 2019 at 10:05 am
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      Another great apocalypse story! I’m going to have to share this prompt’s link with my goodreads apocalypse whenever group. Again, a nice build up with just enough tension to help the story flow. Starting with his reluctance to speak helped draw me into the story.

      Reply
    • June 12, 2019 at 2:34 pm
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      What a powerful piece. Nice bit of describing a circumstance which I can see happening. (The rally and the idiot who holds them for the adulation), almost sounds like it could be a real person who would be just stupid enough to do it. I’ll leave that last line there. Good story Phil, and I got no bones to pick with the masterful writing.

      Reply
    • June 12, 2019 at 3:46 pm
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      Hi Phil,
      Well done, I really enjoyed your story. I realize I am new here but I have to say that I genuinely love how you tell stories so well using dialogue. Sometimes using a lot of dialogue in a story can make it seem more like a conversation piece with no real plot but you seem to have art of conversation in spades.

      Reply
  • June 9, 2019 at 6:17 am
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    Hi Phil,

    Looks like you have done it again! You have created another wonderful piece of writing that is a lesson, a warning, for our time.

    Worryingly, nothing in this piece of fiction is far-fetched. In fact, it is all too possible, all too likely. It doesn’t even matter who the protagonists are as such a war will be truly an extinction event, certainly for the general populace who didn’t cause the war and won’t be battened down in nuclear shelters. Thus, when the dust settles after the nuclear winter the political snakes will come crawling out of their holes in the ground. ( OOps, got a bit carried away there!)

    The way the story flows is excellent as the old man tells the story around the fire, as in olden times when the youngsters knew all the stories but what was important was the telling. Your use of dialogue really brings this story to life.

    You have caused me to reflect upon the current batch of world leaders and the list does not make for happy reading.

    Great writing and brilliant competition for Ken C’s piece.

    Regards,

    Ken Frape.

    Reply
    • June 10, 2019 at 1:15 pm
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      Thanks for the kind words, Ken.

      Hope the wedding goes well. Best of luck to the couple! (Will miss your story, though.)

      Reply
  • June 10, 2019 at 3:34 pm
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    Fiery Love (wc 1192)

    Rachel put down the bundle from under her arm. She was tired and hungry. She would’ve gladly used a hammer to break the thoughts in her head. And used the same to break the hardened heart of her master. He had just fired her.

    Where could she go now? It was still morning.

    Her afternoon was free. Checking her phone, she found somebody looking for service. That’s where she’d head.

    Few rich, fat, good-looking women had gathered there to ‘fellowship’ over high tea, watch a video and sing. Somebody always brought a cake along. Covered dish, it was called.

    The madam had hired her for two hours.

    With one eye, while folding the table napkins, she watched the women. Wouldn’t she have loved to sit on the sofa with them, enjoying their discussion?

    But there were all types of women out there. The types she didn’t usually mingle with. Couldn’t either. You know being dark skinned and all that. But at this home, Lydia was ace at making everyone feel comfortable. Some of them actually greeted her warmly as she laid out the spoons for coffee.

    They looked grand, all of them. Rachel had a fleeting vision of her own childhood. Her mother, had singlehandedly brought up all her four girls to a good standing in society. ‘Once a slave, but not forever’ was her mama’s motto. She slogged as cook and housekeeper for a rich family. They were poor, so poor, but today all her girls were doing great!

    It was two years ago, in a Las Vegas street corner, that something caught her attention. Rachel heard this funny little man with a Book in his hands, preaching aloud about being saved. “Have you been washed by the blood of the Lamb?” He addressed the indifferent walkers.

    O she could’ve done with a wash. Her clothes smelled awful and her underarms were stinking.
    She stood under the lamp and stared at the guy.

    Suddenly he looked straight at her.
    “Come, my friend, let me share with you something better than gold. Allow me to read to your ears, the Word.” He whispered it straight into her ears.

    “With this truth that you hear today, Holy fire will cleanse you within. Then you begin a new life altogether.”

    He asked her a few questions perfunctorily, reminding her of the sin DNA hardwired in her.

    Rachel answered, yes, to all of them. Then he closed his eyes and prayed. She prayed too, knowing little else. This was the first time she had stood still, lifting her face to the sky above.

    Nothing happened. The moment passed and he turned from her and walked away.

    Later that night, something cracked within her. Her brother’s death flashed through her mind. Rachel remembered somebody with a similar ‘Book’ had spoken some hot stuff even then, which made absolutely no sense at the time.

    But today was different. She felt herself coming clean. Like a fire burning within her. Her small feet started dancing even as she rose from her bed in her small room to go to the loo.

    What if? What if there is someone watching over her?
    She looked behind her shoulder. Looked up at the ceiling.

    The man had told her to be anxious for nothing but just place her requests before ‘God in the sky.’

    So she did. Choosing prayer over despair.

    Where was her next job going to be?

    At Lydia’s home where the rich women had gathered, Rachel felt insignificant. Being small built and black. Meanwhile everyone was fussing over this big noisy woman who raved and ranted about her problems. She hadn’t got a dress for the family wedding. Her dryer had burnt out. Her job was insecure. Her list of complaints was endless.

    “How does this make you feel? That you are not a slave, but an adopted child?” The leader’s clear voice, reading from some notes, was heard.

    Rachel, eavesdropping, echoed, “It does make me feel good.”

    “So we are told to Believe in the Lord, Repent of our shortcomings, Confess our sins, and Receive salvation- AND BE SAVED.”

    “The BRCR formula.” smiled Sarah, one of the quieter ones.

    “All very easy for you to say,” complained Tammy. “I do all of that, but I have nobody to hold my hand when I go to the movies.” Tammy had no family. Slighted in her youth, marriage was off forever. But being the good woman, she had never slept around. Her arguments got stronger and stronger and the others could sense the dissension.

    Suddenly she stormed out at one of the women, “You are evil,” she cried loudly. Rachel couldn’t hear what the issue was about.

    Lydia was telling her to apologize to the woman who Tammy had insulted.

    “I won’t say sorry. I am not sorry. That’s who I am,” she asserted.

    “Then what’s the point of coming here and listening week after week if you can’t say you’re sorry? That’s a reprobate mind, if I may say so.”

    “No I am not sorry. Will never be,” she said.

    Rachel, standing in the kitchen, sensed something was wrong. She looked for the Book. Why was it closed?

    She had watched the great lawyers on TV opening the Book, touching it. Witnesses swore by it. Truth lay within its pages, and nothing but the Truth.

    The women gaped in shock. The joy and sense of camaraderie had vanished. A dissenter who refused to say sorry was going against the very principle.

    The answer lay in the book, but Rachel wouldn’t dare open its pages. Who was she anyway? Just a cleaning maid.

    Finally, Sarah, the oldest, to dilute the impending drama, took the Book, opened it, to this writing.

    ‘Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully.’

    The words hit Rachel like a missile. She knew she had to speak up, come what may. She may be a maid, but she was set free in her body, soul and mind.

    She gathered courage to talk to the loud woman, outside her comfort zone.

    “Ma’am, listen! God loves you. Don’t be like chaff. It will be blown away. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD. Be changed by the real stuff. Here read this.”

    From her pocket, she thrust a little Book in Tammy’s hands.

    “This book sets everything else apart. In here, the everlasting God speaks to us. The resurrection created such a stir; you see, a reversal happened at the tomb.
    Our faith is also rooted in history. Madam, do you understand?” Her forefinger, held up, was shaking with excitement.

    Rachel spoke straight into a wounded, broken heart. The alchemy switched. The women stared at her agog. Her Spoken Word had set Tammy’s world on fire.

    Tammy said nothing, but her face lit up.
    An ember started burning within her soul. She reached for Rachel’s hand and followed her to the kitchen.

    The maid did it.

    Reply
    • June 12, 2019 at 2:17 am
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      Thank you for your interesting story from a world that is very strange to me. I like the idea that it’s the maid, who “did it”. It shows that your standing in this world is not important when it comes to truth.

      Reply
      • June 12, 2019 at 5:52 am
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        Thank you so much for reading! I can imagine Women’s meetings might seem strange to a man! I was writing based on a true incident- just brought the maid in for contrast. Out of the mouth of even a maid, truth can out. The gospel story continues to rock the world and moves on irrespective of class or creed! Only a heart that is truly humbled is captured for aye! 👏🏽👏🏽

        Reply
    • June 12, 2019 at 3:58 pm
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      Hi Marien,
      I love your story and the unique way you expressed how important the truth is. Very creative, I find it pretty awesome that you took a personal moment and turned it into such an interesting story.

      Reply
      • June 16, 2019 at 1:17 pm
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        Thanks so much, Amy! Big congratulations to you and others…:)

        Reply
  • June 11, 2019 at 4:11 am
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    The Fire Book
    Angela stood at the edge of the crowd. No one noticed her. She kept her eyes downcast, but when she was sure no one was watching, her eyes lifted and searched the pile of books and magazines being tossed onto the pyre. She was looking for it. It would not burn and therefore she must take it before anyone noticed it. Soldiers moved in pushing the crowd back to the perimeter of the square.

    “Back! BACK! Back off!” Their bayonets and rifle butts jabbed at the onlookers who shrank back. She heard the mutterings of those among the crowd who watched some of their most prized tomes handed down for generations – cookbooks, encyclopedias, story books, history books and whole libraries – being thrown on the rapidly growing pile that was now chest high and extended approximately six or seven metres square – a spilling jumble of broken spines and torn pages.
    The edict against written books and the government plan for a positive future had gone out three months previously. It had been played over and over again on the TV screens in every home after the news and as part of the ads on commercial TV stations which were now government controlled.

    Dated the 31st of January 2030 it stated:
    “All citizens are required to surrender all written texts by the 1st of May 2030. The Governments for Global Unity have decreed that all news and written texts will be through the WWW. History will be recorded as it happens in real time. There is no longer such a need for written texts and literacy has become an outdated skill. The only texts allowed are those that bear the seal of the GGU and printed through the official GGU publishers of each state.

    Section1.1. Children will be taught basic literacy through internet and technological means. All knowledge must receive government approval and all texts on the internet will be passed through a government censor.

    Section 1.2. Children will receive adequate instruction and skills through government controlled schooling and be assigned professions after psychological testing ascertains what professions they will be most suited to using the results of those tests as a guide to their future. Testing will start from four years of age. Based on those tests, there will be many children who will not be taught literacy and numeracy as they are unable to adequately process the written word or numbers at the required level of proficiency. Instead they shall be given training in trades or work suited to their psychological testing. Not everyone is suited to an education.

    Section 1.3. This will be a fairer and more equitable education that enables citizens rather than disables them. It means the most qualified and intelligent people will be in professions most suited to them.

    Section 1.4. Those people who enjoy and are suited to manual labour will no longer have to worry about schooling and an education that does not outfit them for their future professions. The latter will be “taken care of” by the more intelligent and capable members of society who will be rewarded for their care of others less capable.

    Section 1.5. There will no longer be homelessness as all people less capable will be housed in government housing and pay a reduced rent to the Government Housing Office. They will be assigned work in local communities to service gardens, clean streets and other public service.

    Section 1.6. All aged persons and those who are not capable of work will report to a Terminal Entry Centre where they will be assessed for suitability and community inclusion. If they are capable of working part-time within in three to twelve months, they may enter a rehabilitation center where they will be brought back to working capability.

    Section 1.7. If they are assessed for a terminal illness and have no adequate means of financial support, they can be allowed to choose their termination method.

    Section 1.8. They can depart in the following ways of their choice:
    A. Blissful Separation Department where they will over several days receive a lethal dose of a drug of choice or
    B. They can depart in the Recycled Donor Separation Spares Department where they allow their body’s useful spare organs be used for other individuals to allow them to lead productive lives. (This allows a payment to be made to any dependents for such a sacrifice)
    C. Or finally the Entertainment Separation Department that arranges dangerous events that result in an exciting adventure filled death which is filmed for the enjoyment of others and also results in a payment to any charity of choice or dependent beneficiaries.

    Section 1.8. Genetic testing will be an additional tool at the government’s disposal to ascertain who will be the appropriate person for each profession or trade. Therefore all citizens are required to have a chip inserted into the base of their neck by government sponsored clinics. On insertion of the chip, each citizen will receive a $500 payment and a tax concession of 15% for the next 25 years.

    It is the aim of the government to achieve the following:
    1. Equality for all according to their talents and intelligence
    2. Full Employment
    3. Eradicate homelessness
    4. Eradicate sickness, pain and suffering from all people
    5. Eradicate inequality
    6. To make the citizens happy and productive

    Signed
    The Governments for Global Unity”

    Angela put her hand up and ran her fingers lightly over the small bump the base of her neck. It was still sore where her father had removed the chip and replaced a small harmless black grain of sand. She still carried the chip taped to her inner arm. That was necessary for the random chip checks carried out by the soldiers. By being able to remove the chip, she could avoid be tracked.
    She waited silent and watchful. She knew where it was. The book of fire spells. It would not burn. That was why it was important to retrieve it.

    The crowd was growing restless. A cold winter night. They wanted to go back to their small houses and apartments. The government was very enthusiastic about the houses it provided for the less financially able. The small units had been erected by the unemployed under supervision.
    They wanted their required presence at the book burning to end. She waited until the crowd bunched up at the entrance to the gate from the square. The soldiers were distracted momentarily supervising the crowd. She saw it. A book embossed with the fire tree of life symbol sitting amid the coals of burning paper. Quickly she darted forward and grasped the book pulling it swiftly from the burning edge of the pile.

    Cool to touch, she thrust it inside her jacket and made to slip through the gate.
    An old man with a straggling snowy beard reached over and threw a black cloak over her and himself.
    “Come, Lassie.” He whispered. “They will not see us now.”

    “Who are you?” She gasped in shock. He smiled grimly.

    “They used to call me Moshe.” He shook his hoary head, rippling his beard. “I am known by many names.”

    Reply
    • June 11, 2019 at 4:13 am
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      Sorry all for this miserable effort. I dashed it off without editing or drafting and I fear it is a poor text. I may try a rewrite in the next twenty four hours. NOT HAPPY WITH THIS AT ALL.

      Reply
    • June 12, 2019 at 2:33 am
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      Hello Ilana L.
      Is this the beginning of a longer story? The world you build in your story and all those new laws are terrifying. But why does the one book not burn? And who is Moshe? Maybe the plot is just too complicated for 1200 words. Nevertheless, reading it was worth it.

      Reply
    • June 12, 2019 at 10:20 am
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      Actually, I like this story despite your own harsh criticism. It is reminiscent of Fahrenheit 451, and I like the idea of throwing magic into the mix, but I agree, it sounds like a build up to a longer story. Moshe is the most intriguing bit since it seems he has quite the back story.

      Reply
      • June 12, 2019 at 11:59 am
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        Thanks for comments. Yes could be background for a much larger story. In the process of a complete rewrite which happened often and whileyet unfinished, it is better and a more compact story. The readers can get closer to the characters.

        Reply
    • June 12, 2019 at 2:47 pm
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      I have to agree with the others. Although well written, it is too much story for the 1200 word limit. Your path was the one my story took, but it didn’t reach the group reading. Mine was reminiscent of Fahrenheit 451, also. But, alas it wasn’t good enough to publish on line.

      Reply
    • June 12, 2019 at 11:57 pm
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      Ilana,
      This is a fantastic beginning to a longer story. You’ve set the parameters and the characters and a dozen or so questions. Now answer them. You present a very harsh, yet extremely plausible scenario. The writing is excellent. But this is only the beginning of a marvelous story. Length optional.

      Reply
  • June 11, 2019 at 12:23 pm
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    Thirst for Knowledge by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin [1200 words]

    Zhar’ra sat at the shadowed table at the back of the room. Most tables at the Harpy’s Nest were shadowy since its owner, Django, was notoriously cheap. This table was tucked back in a corner behind a pillar that allowed Zhar’ra a view of the room while concealing her dealings from prying eyes. That, and the fact Django liked her enough to water her ale a bit less than his competitors, made the Harpy her favorite tavern for business.

    A lull in the room’s steady drone of drunken noise drew Zhar’ra’s attention to the door. Two figures in hooded cloaks were glancing around while trying to be discreet in that very non-discreet way High Elves had. Those haughty bastards couldn’t keep a low profile if Molag Bal himself were after them. She gestured to Django who directed the pair to her table.

    The slightly taller one looked down her nose at the Khajiit. “You are the thief known as Zhar’ra?” She sniffed and looked around with an expression of disgust. “You better be worth the belly ache the scummy ale they surely serve here undoubtedly will give me.”

    Django looked mildly affronted and was about to say something when Zhar’ra motioned for the two to sit down.

    “Django, why don’t you bring out that very expensive vintage from Auridon you keep in the back for my fancy guests who are paying for it.” The innkeeper, looking mollified, ran to fetch it. The two Elves sat down and managed to keep quiet until he returned with the bottle and three glasses.

    “So, what is this business you have for me?” Up close she could see that under the cloaks instead of the shiny silk pastels High Elves usually favored, these two were wearing dark tones in green and black. Both had on amulets with the tentacles and eyes of Hermaeus Mora – Daedric Prince of hidden knowledge. “Let me guess, some sort of book?”

    She leaned back in her chair. If these two were like other cultists they’d want her to rob some tomb or Ayleid ruin for their prize. Zhar’ra was the best thief this side of Cyrodiil and they could go court some greenhorn adventurer for that sort of caper. This wine would be payment for wasting her time.

    The slightly shorter one leaned forward conspiratorially. “Indeed it is a book we seek, but not one buried or long forgotten. This one is locked up tight in a collector’s library.”

    “We’ll need it by the week’s end. Here is a third of your payment up front for expenses. You will receive the remainder upon prompt delivery.” The taller one slid a pouch across the table.

    After weighing the pouch in her palm and poking around inside just until the tall one sighed, Zhar’ra agreed to the job. They went over the details, drawing a map to both the library’s location and where to drop it off. As they got up to go, the slightly shorter one leaned down and whispered, “The wine was really quite good. Gabrielle is impressed even if she doesn’t show it.” Thankfully they paid Django on their way out. Zhar’ra sat back to finish her fancy Elf wine and plan a book heist.

    * * *
    The house wasn’t as lavish as Zhar’ra thought it would be. It was pressed up against its neighbors in a part of town close enough to the docks that you’d get the sea breeze without the fish stink. It had a nice view she thought, at least from the roof where she was currently crouching. She tested the rope hooked around the chimney for tightness and climbed over the edge behind the house. As she expected, the upstairs window was wide open to allow that sea breeze in.

    She knew the house was empty, but took a precautionary look around before climbing in. This whole upper floor was devoted to books. The walls were completely shelved and here and there were piles. What would have been a nice napping couch was ruined by a scattering of scrolls on its cushions. The desk by the window wasn’t much better. It only had one book on it, but there were papers and quills haphazardly arranged around a mostly empty teacup and a half eaten plate of food.

    The Elves had told her the book would be in the desk drawer, naturally which was locked. Zhar’ra grabbed the untouched apple from the plate for a light snack while she looked for the key. She figured it would be somewhere close by. While it wasn’t under the blotter or the oil lamp, it was in the third place she looked – resting on the upper window molding. People can be so predictable, she thought.

    She set the half eaten apple down to open the drawer. Inside was one book. Its nondescript cover had some purple and brown staining on it, but most books cultists wanted did. She decided to peek inside to see what was so important to the Elves. At first, it looked like some sort of spell book, but as she bent closer to the lamp to get a better look, a flock of birds took off from the roof outside, startling her. She glanced back down in the drawer and saw an envelope which she grabbed on a whim. She’d been here long enough and it was time for her exit. She closed everything up, finishing the apple and leaving the core on the plate as she left.

    * * *
    It had been a struggle getting to the cultist’s location. The area was thick with outlaws and tenacious wildlife. To top it off, Zhar’ra had to fight her way through some riff raff inside the building she was to meet them in – which turned out to be a temple to Hermaeus Mora.

    “Here is your book. I hope it’s worth all of the gold you’re about to pay me. Coming all the way out to this place, I should have asked for hazard pay.”

    “Luthien, make sure it’s authentic before paying her.” The slightly taller one, Gabrielle, actually looked excited.
    “What sort of book is it anyway? Necromancy, Alchemy?”

    Luthien grabbed it out of Zhar’ra’s claws and began paging through it. “It’s all here! Longfin Pasty with Melon Sauce, Orzorga’s Smoked Bear Haunch, Chef Donolon’s Jubilee Cake – Sweet Rolls!”

    “Wait, you had me steal a COOK BOOK?” Zhar’ra couldn’t believe it. These Elves were crazier than she thought.

    “Not just any cook book, this one contains Pierre the Rotund’s collection of recipes he’s gathered from across Tamriel. It’s even a signed edition!” She threw a pouch of coins at Zhar’ra twice as large as the last one. “Here’s the balance of your payment. I suggest you take the back exit this time.” The slightly taller Elf pointed toward a door left of the stairs. The two of them disappeared in giddy excitement behind the statue.

    “There’s a back exit?” Zhar’ra shook her head. “At least the envelope I grabbed will net me a pretty penny in Alik’r.” It turned out to have a different type of recipe on it – one that granted the imbiber heightened senses. Too bad the Elves hadn’t thought to ask for that too.
    ###

    Reply
    • June 11, 2019 at 12:26 pm
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      I want to point out that this story is set in the world of a video game I play. My guild has a newsletter that I occasionally write role play stories for and my idea for this theme seemed to mesh with that so I decided to set it there. The locales and the gods are the only things taken from it. Plus three of the characters are ones I play and one is my friend’s. None of the story line itself came from there though.

      Reply
      • June 12, 2019 at 2:55 am
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        Hello Wendy,
        oh, what a twist! I admit, in the beginning I was skeptical. I’m not muc of a fantasy addict. But I realized you were inspired by the picture, and I liked that. And then it turns out that you played creatively with the fantasy motif. Perfect!

        Reply
        • June 12, 2019 at 10:22 am
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          I just got the idea that the “important book” had to be a cook book because that’s just ridiculous yet somehow true too.

          Reply
          • June 12, 2019 at 12:02 pm
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            I love the idea of the cookbook being stolen, but also gathered that there could be far more to this story.
            Well written. Your characters are well portrayed and tangible.

    • June 12, 2019 at 3:34 pm
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      Wendy,
      What a great and interesting story. I love the fantasy world when written with new and out of the ordinary ideas and you certainly did not disappoint. You stepped away from the typical and incorporated the picture in a lovely way. I hope this is not the last time you will write about your rpg inspired world on here. Great job.

      Reply
    • June 13, 2019 at 12:14 am
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      I really love your writing Wendy And I could easily become of fan of a character like Zhar’ra. I forgive you (I suppose) for ——–whatever the hell it is you said you did. Feel free to do it again. your writing has a particular style that I can’t easily describe, or say why it seems so appealing, I just know that it is.

      Reply
  • June 13, 2019 at 1:01 am
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    Fictionaires,

    //I’m writing you guys, and gals this message from the porch of Dave’s 209 Diner, in Joe, North Carolina. I’m sittin at a table in the dark. All the farmers are asleep, along with their sheep. But the cows, the cows are watching. It’s 1:18, they closed the diner at 7:30. six hours ago. It’s about 55 degrees, (Freezing for a Floridian! I could get frostbite! You don’t know.)
    But they have wireless internet service so, i hiked down here in the dark, Actually I rode an Alpaca, but never mind, I walked over the ridge and down the hill across a pasture, (in my Subaru) dodging bulls and rabbits, barely avoided the electric fence and then had to ford a stream that was swollen with floodwater from some rain that fell somewhere else. But here I am. Even if I can’t write, you gotta give me credit for that. Just for being here. Even if I have nothing to say.Think of the Alpaca’s stop and think about how they feel. Okay, so I gotta make this quick, because I’m freezing.
    So, where was I? What was I going to say. (Before they arrest me, for ‘using a computer at a strange place at a strange time.’) \\
    I didn’t think my story was very good, but it could be improved, it has a clever main twist. I wrote it in one night, edited it and gave it to my dad. The following day, I looked at the story and the writing sucked. I re-wrote the whole story and posted it on the site.. The next day I stopped to see my dad as I was leaving town and asked him if he’d read the story I gave him?

    He appeared on the verge of crying and I said, ‘Dad? Did you read my story?” My guess turned out to be correct because he replied, ‘Yeah, I did. Why do you think I look like this?”
    I said, “You mean, like you lost your best friend?”
    He just nodded, gritting his teeth.
    I said, “It looks like you ate my story, Dad. Are you sure you’re all right?”
    And he said, “I should’ve eaten your story, it would’ve been more digestible to my stomach than my brain.” At which point, I think he laughed, despite still looking miserable.
    I said, “Was it really that bad?” And he looked at me like, “Is the President a moron?”
    “Well,” I said, (nonchalantly) “you deserve it, for that manuscript you showed me a couple of weeks ago. Which you’ve been working on for 67 years. I wrote my story in two nights.”
    He finally managed to get his son-in-law’s chair off his toe, and said, “It sounded like it. Or should I say, read like it was written in two days.”

    I told him I re-wrote it, but he wasn’t interested in seeing the re-write, so, I’m not feeling real positive about this story. I think it has potential,, but would need more editing.
    Such is life.

    Reply
  • June 13, 2019 at 12:33 pm
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    All the votes are in, and The Winner is!!

    First Place: Epitome by Amy Lynn Raines

    2nd Place: Well-written by berlinermax
    3rd Place: Book Smart by Ken Cartisano
    4th Place: Thirst for Knowledge by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin
    5th Place: Burned by Phil Town
    6th Place: The Fire Book by Ilana Leeds
    7th Place: Fiery Love by Marien Oommen

    Favorite Character: “Paulette” from Epitome by Amy Lynn Raines
    Character Dialogue: Book Smart by Ken Cartisano

    Congratulations Amy!!

    And thank you all for participating.

    Reply
    • June 13, 2019 at 1:34 pm
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      Congratulations Amy. I guess that beginning wasn’t soooooo clunky after all. Eh? You know, I didn’t really study that prompt’s picture until after I wrote my story and noticed all the things in the picture that people, including me, could have written about. There’s the books, of course, the wizard, the clock, the lighted fuse, the window with the castle in the distance, the birds, something else flying in the air that doesn’t look like a bird. If only I had studied the picture a little longer, I might have come up with a different story. So,,,, the moral here is… The moral is… (I confess, I’m not very well versed in morals, or even morality. Oh yes, I remember now, ‘never let your own morals (for those who have any) interfere with a good story.

      Reply
      • June 13, 2019 at 4:46 pm
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        Thanks Ken C. I still think the beginning was a bit too clunky. Once again, you’re absolutely right, there were many elements that could have been incorporated with the book. I can’t wait to check out the next prompt and look forward to being amazed again by how many wonderful writers come up with so many unique stories from the same picture. (I realize this probably makes me sound rather stupid but I really am new to writing from a picture prompt so seeing all the unique takes from the same image is still quite a written phenomenon for me.)

        Reply
  • June 13, 2019 at 3:48 pm
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    Congratulations Amy!

    Congratulations to the other participants who wrote a story too.

    I had a story in my mind but didn’t get round typing and posting.

    Reply
  • June 13, 2019 at 5:01 pm
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    Congrats Amy and others. Great stories! Did not get a chance to finish the rewrite which is far better than the first draft ramble, but thems the breaks when you are time poor.
    Looking forward to next prompt.

    Reply
  • June 13, 2019 at 6:22 pm
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    Congratulations, Amy!

    Reply
  • June 14, 2019 at 4:16 pm
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    Congrats to all of the winners! I’m so sorry I was unable to participate this go around. I read a couple of the stories but time got away from me. Here’s to the next prompt!

    Reply

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