5 Prompts to Keep Your Writing Going Over the Holidays (Win Books!)

It’s the holidays at Promptly and WD headquarters, so it’s probably only right to have a year-end blowout swag giveaway, right? I’ll post five prompts below—respond to any of them, and when WD is back in operation after the new year, I’ll throw all the names of the story-posters in the Promptly 10-gallon hat, and draw three for an assortment of books and magazines. (We’ll also finish out the WD Top Tips series when we’re back.)

The halls are quiet around here and few creatures are stirring, so I’m going to slip out before I get locked in and have to spend the break feasting on my emergency peanut butter cracker stash and reading back issues and the various gnome books scattered about Chuck Sambuchino’s desk.

Here’s to hoping you and yours have a great holiday week. See you in January.


WRITING PROMPTS: Holiday Extravaganza 2010
Feel free to take the following prompts home or post a
response (500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below.
you’re having trouble with the
captcha code sticking, e-mail your piece and the prompt to me at
writersdigest@fwmedia.com, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and I’ll
make sure it gets up.

  • You wrapped the present with utmost care, and placed it under the tree. Then, laughed.

  • Craft a story featuring a cell phone, a lost and found box, and a blizzard.

  • An incident spurs a mall Santa to reexamine his life.

  • You quit smoking, you quit drinking, and you gave up something else dominating your life, all in one day.

  • “That’s not a New Year’s Resolution. That’s a death wish.”

Also, what are you and your writing doing Jan. 21-23? Join us in New York for the Writer’s Digest Conference.
We always have a blast, and it can be a great move for your craft and
career (at one of our recent events, agents Janet Reid and Andrea Hurst
signed clients, and went on to negotiate six-figure deals for them). On
tap this year:

  • Our signature agent pitch slam, featuring at least 57 agents representing a variety of genres and styles
  • Sessions on the future of publishing, craft, platform, social media, freelancing and much, much more
  • Panels and Q&As with agents and other pros
  • Our off-site poetry slam in SoHo.

Click here to learn more. Hope to see you there!

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19 thoughts on “5 Prompts to Keep Your Writing Going Over the Holidays (Win Books!)

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  4. Nathan Honore

    Craft a story featuring a cell phone, a lost and found box, and a blizzard.

    Lisa was working at the resort when the blizzard hit. It was unexpected and swift, as most blizzards are, rendering the area completely useless. A great whiteness washed over everything. At least the blind know how to move around without their sight. Those with sight would squint until they couldn’t squint anymore.
    The snow was still falling in heavy quantities when Lisa put
    down her binder. She was the head of the Lost and Found department and
    the Backcountry Resort and Golf Course. Though she was not
    enthusiastic about her job, she worked like it. Making calls and
    e-mails about blankets and cell phones that were left behind by their
    careless owners was rather tedious. But Lisa enjoyed people and
    helping them.
    “Holy shit…” Lisa said. She was alone.
    “When did all this happen?” she thought.
    She emerged from behind her bar-like desk and walked towards
    the huge glass doors. There was pure whiteness outside. Lisa thought
    she saw an inch or two of the black handrails but couldn’t be sure.
    Her arms crossed. She stared for a few minutes into the ungodly white
    You put on quite a show, really had me going…

    The ringer broke Lisa’s contemplative and stoic state. She walked back to her desk and picked up her phone, looking back at the snow every few seconds. It was mesmerizing.
    “Hello, this is Lisa,” she recited.
    There was crackling and a terrible wind noise on the other end.
    “Hello? Is anyone there?” She looked at her phone. It showed
    that a hotel number was calling, which could have been anyone on the
    More noise.
    “Do you need help? Are you ok?” Lisa continued.
    “L…Lisa…” a deep, smoke-ridden voice said. She knew who it was
    before he had actually gotten her name out: Jonathan from Security.
    “Jonathan, where the hell are you? Are you ok?”
    “Outside where?”
    More crackling and wind noise.
    “Jonathan, where are you?”
    “Park….ot-“ The phone disconnected.
    Lisa ran to the door again, looking into nothing, hoping to
    see something new. She knew that if she opened the door and went
    looking for Jonathan she would be able to see even less. The harsh
    wind would blind her and knock her down. She would need supplies.
    The Lost and Found closet held a lot of summer clothes and
    flip-flops, but there was a bin of swimming goggles. Lisa thought that
    those might make it a little easier to see. Some poor blind person had
    left his walking stick. It would work for Lisa now. She donned her
    winter jacket, hat, and gloves. The goggles were tight but they fit.
    Lisa strode to the door and pushed. The wind was formidable foe,
    warning her to stay put. She lowered herself and lunged at the door.
    It opened enough for her to get out. Her goggles immediately fogged up
    and the cane had fallen somewhere in the snow. Now she wondered if she
    would be able to get back in.

  5. Azrosey2

    As Jeremy sat at the mall in his santa suit waiting for the next child to sit up on his lap to tell him what the child wanted for Christmas and probably would be getting, he started thinking about the orphanage that he visited ealier. Leaving the wrapped presents under the tree, he smiled at the thought of the children waking up early on Christmas morning and lighting up the room with all their smiles at seeing presents that they never thought they would receive on Christmas day.

    It made Jeremy think about his life. He never realized just what he was put on this earth to do. But after thinking about the orphans, being thankful just having a bed to sleep in and food to eat, he finally realized that he was put on the earth to be a dad. And a good dad he would be!

  6. Linda Studley


    It was snowing heavier now. The flakes bloomed and swirled in the high beams. He knew now that he’d taken a wrong turn; maybe more than one. It had been at least half an hour since he’d seen any lights, either from passing vehicles or from passed farmyards. The farm where he’d bought the puppy had been easy to find in daylight, before the blizzard. The puppy whimpered from the back seat. “Yeah, I know how you feel.” Why hadn’t he left earlier? Even if he found the highway within the next few minutes he’d never get back to town in time to sneak the new puppy into the house before she got home from shopping.
    “I give up,” he muttered. He pulled out his cell phone and called her. He’d just have to confess that he was lost and have her send out the Mounties to find him. Her phone rang five times. “The customer you have dialled is not answering or the cellphone is turned off. Please call again later.”
    “Where did this cellphone come from?” the manager asked his sales clerk.
    “Customer must have left it. There was a lady here earlier, she had to really dig through her purse to find her credit card. She must have pulled out her cell phone and then forgot to put it back.” He picked up the cellphone and started to open it. “Should we look in the contacts and try to find her?”
    “Oh, stick it in the lost and found box, it’s already after nine and I don’t want to have to hang around here waiting for her to come pick it up. I have a Christmas party to go to.”
    The clerk shrugged and dropped the cellphone into a large, battered cardboard box under the counter along with the odd mittens, umbrellas, and other forgotten flotsam.
    The lights went out in the store, the door locked with a cold metallic ‘snick’, and the cellphone rang. It rang five times.
    She was surprised that he wasn’t already home. He’d promised her that he’d have a special present waiting for her when she got home. That was what had prompted her to go a little over budget to get him something special too. She placed the small, beautifully wrapped box under the Christmas tree.
    ‘He’s got such a bad sense of direction’ she chuckled. ‘He’ll love this GPS navigator system for his truck!”

  7. LaTonya Bowens

    I could see the little girl about four kids back causing a disruption. The elves looked at me warningly; this four year old was going to be trouble. As the next kid came up I could hear her mom saying “don’t spoil this for Jonathon, Brie he loves Santa” the little girl rolled her eyes. I could faintly hear her say “there is no Santa mom”, oh yea she was going to be trouble. The line of kids and parents around them groan and were trying to comfort their own kids to make them continue to believe in Santa. Her little brother came up first. “Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas Jonathon and what do you want for Christmas” I asked using his name I had heard his mom say. He looked at me questioning like is this guy for real. “You know my name” he said “Santa knows good little boys and girls” I said “What can Santa get you for Christmas”. “I want a Jeep” he said matter of fact, he smiled for his picture and I handed him to the elf. The little girl came up, “Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas Brie and what do you want for Christmas” I asked. “You ain’t Santa, Santa is a joke Jesus is the real deal” she screamed at me and jumped off my lap. All the parents gasped and the other kids started crying.
    Why was I here fooling all these kids into believing I was going to fly around the world and deliver them some dream gift their parents couldn’t afford? I’d never received one item I asked Santa for, so why did I believe in Santa. I worked a crappy job and still lived at home I waited around all year to play Santa in the mall and why. My wife left me on Christmas six years ago; my kids wouldn’t speak to me. What do I get out of this? Certainly not the pay, a few hours at minimum wage was barely enough to cut a check for.
    “Brie, you are right” I said loud enough for all the children to hear me “Christmas is all about Jesus, he is the reason Santa goes around to make sure all good girls and boys get presents on Christmas, to help celebrate his birthday” she turned to look at me, she was listening. I could hear the other children start to settle down. “I am one of the many Santa’s that go around before Christmas to help get everything organized for St. Nicholas to do his job. He has a very busy night and couldn’t pull it off without the help of others”. She smiled at me, so beautiful and bright. That is why I do this; it’s the spirit of Christmas the feeling of Christmas, the belief behind Santa. I love the huge celebration in honor of Jesus birthday. This little girl knew what millions of people are missing. “I told you he was Santa” Jonathon said.

  8. Evelyn

    Fiona loved asparagus cooked in butter-wine sauce, the New York Times, and her idea of Reginald. Not the real Reginald, who, on their one and only date, revealed himself to be beyond reclamation.

    “For New Year’s I’m going to go vegan vegetarian,” said Fiona while sitting across from Reginald at The Noodle House. “And I’ll ride my bike to work rather than taking the Metro.”

    “That’s not a New Year’s Resolution. That’s a death wish,” said Reginald. “Car-bike accidents are on the rise, and who do you think gets injured?”

    Further conversation exposed Reginald as a pet-snake-owning, environmentally-unconscious, carnivorous, conservative. Opposites don’t always attract.

    One regret haunted Fiona. Reginald had a set of spectacularly sumptuous smackers, and she never got a chance to sample them. This regret spawned Imaginary Reginald, who usurped Real Reginald, whenever he patronized the Kinko’s where Fiona worked as a manager.

    While the Real Reginald was shuffling his papers at a copy machine, Fiona would mentally switch his L.L. Bean flannel shirt with an Armani poplin button down, run some styling gel through his wild dark hair, and swap his copy originals with advertisements for Earth Day. Fiona sighed. Imaginary Reginald was beautiful inside and out.

    One afternoon, while he was collating stacks of sheets, Fiona hatched a plan.

    “Reginald,” said Fiona. “Yesterday I saw a mouse in the supply room. Maybe you can catch it for your snake.”

    “Great, that will save me a trip to the pet store. Show me where he’s hiding.”

    Fiona led Reginald to the supply room. Three florescent tubes fluttered to life when she flipped the switch. She closed the door behind them, muffling the racket from the churning copy machines. “I think the mouse lives over here.” She got down on her hands and knees and crept between two towering stacks of boxed paper. “If you’re quiet and still, you can hear him scurrying among the supplies.”

    Reginald crouched next to one of the towers. “I don’t hear a thing,” he whispered.

    “You’re too far away. Come closer.”

    “Maybe we scared him off,” said Reginald as he inched toward to Fiona. He tuned his ear to catch the rodent, unaware that in seconds he’d be caught instead.


    Fiona’s cell phone startled Reginald. But rather than answer it, Fiona pulled him to her and planted a smooch firmly on his mouth. As Reginald and Fiona kissed, a Vulcan-like mind-meld channeled through their connected lips. Fiona’s understanding was opened – transformed. She had a sudden urge to eat a Whopper and vote Republican.

    With all ideological boundaries breached, Fiona fell hard for the Real Reginald. But was he the Real Reginald? Since that first kiss, he had switched his pet’s food to Vegan Snake Chow, and purchased an eco-friendly line of hair-care products. Evidence suggested the mind-meld was bipartisan.

    After hammering out what they agreed was the best of the Left and Right, Fiona and Reginald happily wed, disappointing Reginald’s snake, who still loved mice.

  9. Mark James

    Zac, it’s been a fun year. Thanks for letting me play on your playground.

    The prompt: You quit smoking, you quit drinking, and you gave up something else dominating your life, all in one day.

    “You can’t ask me to do that.”

    “This is the last oath,” Ian said.

    Whatever empathy Stefan had once imagined in Ian’s voice, it was gone. He asked himself now if it had ever been there.

    Water ran down stone steps behind them. Water splashed and echoed off the walls of the ancient cathedral. A swift current eddied around the feet of the two vampires and rushed off, as if some great ocean called.

    The idea to fight Ian flitted through Stefan’s mind, but he balked at the thought of defying the one who had made him. “I gave up drinking.” Stefan forced his voice into a lower, more respectful tone. “And smoking. It’s only been a day, Ian.”

    “Stop your whining.” Ian bared his teeth. “You sound like a mortal.” He struck out at Stefan, sending him flying into black iron scrollwork that wound up either side of the steps.

    Carved angels looked down from their pedestals, their eyes unmoved as Stefan wiped blood from the corner of his mouth. He didn’t bother getting up. If Ian was in the mood to teach him a lesson, it was best to stay close to the ground, even in water so cold, it chilled what little blood ran through his veins. “I ask for more time,” Stefan said.

    “How long?” Ian took a leap that landed him on the stone head of a gargoyle. From over thirty feet up, he regarded Stefan with eyes almost as cold and unmoved as the stone monster that was his perch. “When do you think it gets easier, Stefan?” His voice sank to what might have been compassion if not for his hard face. “The end of the first decade? The beginning of the third? When, my son?”

    The rare show of affection gave Stefan the courage to rise to his feet. “I ask only that I may see her once more,” he said quietly.

    Just as softly, Ian said, “No.”

    The single syllable echoed off the high dome of the cathedral. Gathering his nerve in a single cool breath, Stefan said, “Once more, father.”

    “If you ask again,” Ian said, with no trace of emotion, “I will fly down from here, and I will drain every drop of blood from your worthless body.” Ian spit into the rushing waters. “To think I was the one who made you.”

    “Then do it,” Stefan said. “Destroy my body. My soul is mine.”

    “No.” Ian hissed, caught between his human form and the terrifying monster he could become. “It is mine. And I will have what’s mine.”

    Stefan crouched, every muscle ready to hurl him up the steps to escape. Maybe even freedom. “Never.”

    But he was too slow. When Stefan landed, Ian was there. He caught Stefan and wrung his neck. Bending his head to Stefan’s throat, Ian let his fangs grow long. He would help his son through this final break with his mortality, and then their journey through darkness would truly begin.

  10. Mark James

    The prompt: You wrapped the present with utmost care, and placed it under the tree. Then, laughed.

    The view through the window made a postage stamp look like a mile high mural. Gray skies promised rain. The sun was a copper disc behind mountains of clouds. It was a good day for murder.

    Delaine tried not to think those things, but after years in solitary confinement, he’d figured out that thoughts came. And they went. But some of them, like killing his wife, came and didn’t go. He didn’t exactly regret what he’d done. It was more like he wanted a second chance, a way to get it right. A way to make the nightmares stop.

    In his Life Before, when he’d believed evil could only happen in bad dreams, he’d taken his wife to a Halloween Maze. He’d gotten lost. Eloise, his wife—his mutilated, buried wife—had found her way out as if she’d been born inside a labyrinth. That was the night he’d decided to kill her. It didn’t come as a revelation, or even a surprise. The thought had come to him the way he’d decide what to do for dinner on Friday nights, when Eloise went for girl-talk, dressed like a woman a man would pay for.

    After the maze where he’d gotten lost and found a new man inside himself—the Liar, he called him—Delaine went shopping. He did it quietly, and bought only one thing at a time. First came the hammer, then nails, then the spring, then the knife and last came the boards. On Friday nights before she went out smelling like something cheap, the Liar kissed her goodbye and patted her backside. He smiled at her and there was death in his heart, but the Liar, he was good. Eloise pecked him on the cheek and told him not to make a mess in the garage when he went puttering around.

    The mess didn’t come till later. And it was bad, worse than any nightmare or fantasy or dream. Thinking wasn’t doing. Long nights in solitary confinement, filled with screeching ghosts of Ellie’s screams, had taught him that.

    He spent his Friday nights hammering nails and sawing wood and thinking of the moment. After so many years married to Eloise, Delaine had forgotten why he wanted her dead. He just knew that the thought of never hearing her voice again, just the thought mind you, made him feel good. So damn good.

    Christmas Eve came. Delaine crept down his own front stairs, out to the garage, and brought his little wooden box in. He wrapped it in gold foil, Ellie’s favorite. His hands were shaking and sweating. His eyes were wet with something that could have been tears. But the Liar wiped them away, and went back to wrapping. In the end, it was the Liar who put the box under the tree. He laughed.

    Christmas Day came, Ellie’s last one. She unwrapped the box, opened the hinged top and screamed when the knife slammed into her throat.

    It didn’t go like Delaine thought. Nothing with her was ever easy. The knife didn’t go in far enough. She tugged and pulled at it, until he held her down and sawed at her neck, the way he’d sawed at the wood. A while later, the screaming stopped.

  11. Dare Gaither

    “Please? He looks like a sweet kid.”

    The elf’s white teeth glaring behind the too-red lipstick
    looked more like a threat than a smile to Blake.
    His shift was over.
    All he wanted now was whiskey and oblivion.

    He narrowed his eyes and gave a low growl.
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    seeing himself mirrored in their abhorrent behavior.

    “Santa has been waiting just for you.”

    The evil elf glared at Blake and deposited a small
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    “Why are you so sad?”

    Big brown eyes looked up at him from
    a face ringed in soft curls.

    “What do you want?” Blake asked curtly.
    This kid was undermining his fortress of hate.

    The brown eyes filled with tears.
    “He’s my dog. He got lost here yesterday
    when Mama opened the car door. We looked
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    Can you bring him home for Christmas?”

    God, this was awful.
    Anger flared to mask the ember of compassion that flickered
    in Blake’s jaded soul.

    “I don’t think so,” Blake said, avoiding hope-filled eyes.
    “Santa doesn’t do miracles these days.”
    The kid might as well learn now that there are no happy endings.

    Blake tensed as a small hand touched his weathered face.
    “That’s okay, Santa. I forgive you.”

    Against his will, he gazed down into the child’s shining face.
    His tired body shook as he saw himself reflected in the eyes
    of pure innocence. Tears flowed unnoticed as he beheld the
    child he once was. For that brief moment, forgiveness cast out
    his demons of despair, guilt and fear.
    “Thank you,” Blake whispered as the child’s mother approached
    with outstretched arms.

    The red-lipped elf began shutting down the Santa stage.
    She was anxious to be off to her Christmas Eve festivities.
    Blake slowly walked out the employees entrance.
    Something had changed.
    He wasn’t sure what it all meant, but he knew he would never be the same.
    As he pulled his coat tight against the cold, he heard a whimper.
    There, huddling against the dumpster, was a small white dog.
    A shiver raced through Blake as he reached down to read the
    tag on the dog’s collar. Could it be?


    With trembling hands, Blake dialed the number engraved on the tag.
    Miracles could still happen.

  12. Dare Gaither

    I knew I wasn’t dead because it hurt too much.
    Pain ripped through the darkness and silence of
    my dim awareness as proof of my existence.

    My last memory was my wife asking,
    “You did turn off the power first, right?”

    “Of course!” I had replied with indignation, “I’m not an idiot.”

    It seems I was wrong on both counts.

    It was an easy job, just install a heater/exhaust fan in the bathroom
    Anyone could do-it-yourself, it said so on the internet.
    The first step was to turn off the power to the old fan
    at the circuit breaker. That was obvious.

    I headed downstairs to the breaker box, already anticipating
    the rush from finishing my project. As I passed through
    the kitchen, a cold beer seemed like a good way to start my work.
    I leaned against the counter and took a cigarette from my
    last pack. I had promised my wife I would quit. Again.

    Fortified by the alcohol and nicotine, I headed back upstairs.
    My wife met me at the door with a worried look.

    “Maybe we should just call an electrician.”

    “Why pay for something I can do myself?”

    In truth, I just liked the feeling of conquest
    and victory. I am King of my castle and all therein.

    As I reached up with the screwdriver, my wife uttered
    those annoying, fateful words.

    A vague hum interrupted my thoughts.
    The darkness began to lift and I saw a round face
    peering down at me.

    “Can you hear me?”

    I grunted and attempted to sit up.

    “Whoa, there big fella. You seem to be okay,
    but we’re taking you in to be sure.”

    Was I going to jail?

    I felt a warm touch on my hand.
    “I’ll follow the ambulance and meet you at the Emergency Room.”
    My wife gave me a kiss and squeezed my tingling hand.

    The EMS techs hefted me onto a stretcher and
    rolled me out the door.

    “Next time call an electrician,” one of them said with a chuckle.

    Don’t worry, I will.
    No more Do-It-Yourself for me.
    I can pay for it with the money I save on beer and cigarettes.

  13. Evelyn

    The first day of the New Year I gave up smoking, drinking, and stalking Henry Rutner. I worked in Accounts Payable, and Henry in Accounts Receivable. I would have loved to receive something from Henry, but, like most men, he was not attracted to women with oversized noses and oversized behinds.

    Stalking Henry was my way of evening up the score with Mother Nature. She dealt me an exceptionally unfortunate deck of DNA which rendered me homely and hopelessly romantic. I couldn’t have Henry, but I could pretend I could have him.

    I wasn’t a hard-core, drive-by-your-house, hide-around-every-corner stalker. I was a stalker-“lite”; same motivation, half the skulking. I would just “happen” to take my work break the same time he did, or need to use the copy machine when he was refilling the paper tray. And there was that strategic meeting at the dental office, after I overheard him talking about his upcoming root canal. I “happened” to have a cleaning scheduled for the same time.

    When I saw Henry I always played it cool. I was smooth, polished even. I never looked into his eyes. If he found out that I was crazy in love with him, he’d probably quit on the spot.

    One afternoon I discovered that Mother Nature had given me one lucky gene; I could make Henry laugh. Sally, our boss, had a nasal voice and manic mannerisms which I could impersonate to perfection. She used to throw her head back when she laughed and you could see up her nose. In the break room Henry and I were splitting our sides as I demonstrated my Sally-like head-throwing skill. The sound of his laughter made me love him more.

    Yet, Mother Nature was working up a gaggle of giggles at my expense. My pretend romance with Henry ended when I spotted him making out with some girl named Lucille at Fred’s New Year’s Eve party. I put down my cigarette and Corona, and lifted my oversized behind off of Fred’s couch. At my apartment, the New Year rang in with my pillow soaking tears. I made my resolutions early the next morning. No smoking. No drinking. No Henry. I quit my job a few days later.

    That was five years ago. At Walmart last night, I saw Henry, heavier and balding, pushing a cart carrying one skinny stick of French bread and a six pack of Diet Pepsi. He called to me and I walked over.

    “What happened to you?” He said. “I thought you loved your job. You were always there, you never missed a day.”

    “No, I never loved my job,” I said. I just loved seeing you, I thought.

    “I missed your jokes. I missed you.”

    For a second I forgot myself and looked into his eyes. I couldn’t breath. Something was there I never thought possible. “Henry,” I said, “Do you ever keep New Year’s resolutions?”

    “Nah, that’s why I never make any,” he said. “Do you?”

    “Not anymore.”

  14. Mark James

    Nolan undid the harness for his blade, and handed his rig to Marley. “And I’m letting you do this because why?”

    Marley wrapped the straps almost double around his thin arm. “Because everyone knows you’re the assassin. I’m the good looking one.” He brushed his lips against Nolan’s and pressed his forehead against the other man’s broad chest. “We’re getting out of this, right?”

    Beyond the stone walls of the dungeon, a blizzard howled across an unknown world. In the dark corridors, something growled a tormented answer. Nolan stroked Marley’s back with a steady hand. “We’ll be out in time for sunset on the beach.”

    “Which world?” Marley said. “Yours or mine?”

    “My world’s wherever you are.” Nolan kissed Marley and nearly forgot where they were. Forcing himself to pull back, he said, “Don’t wave your arm around. Just let me take it when I need it. That knife can take off my head at the throat.”

    They both froze at the sound of men tramping down the iron steps. The cold metallic sound echoed through the stone walls around them with a finality that chilled both men.

    “Where’s your cell phone?” Nolan said.

    Marley rolled his eyes. “Intergalactic Communication Device. They haven’t had cell phones since you were alive.”

    “Get dialing or hacking or whatever you do on it.” Nolan eased toward the door. “I need to know what we’re dealing with.”

    Cold drops of sweat trickling down his neck, Marley tapped the tiny screen in a flurry of flying fingers. He studied the display on the screen a second, silent.

    “You’re too quiet,” Nolan said. “Talk to me.”

    “They’re – -” Marley swallowed. “I think they’re Keepers. No weapons.”

    “If I was hearing this over beers some place,” Nolan said. “I’d be laughing.” He raked his fingers through his hair. “How many?”


    From the other side of the door, a soft voice said, “Brothers? We ask you to stand back and allow us in.”

    “Come over here,” Nolan whispered. He blew out the candle and crouched low beside the door. “Stay behind me.”

    The door creaked open. Smells of stale blood, old sweat and dry cinnamon drifted in on cold air, typical scents of Dead Keepers. They stood in the doorway, perfectly still, waiting like the predators they were. “There’s no need to make this difficult, brothers.” The one in the lead scented the blood on the knife strapped to the inside of Marley’s arm. He ignored Nolan and said to Marley, “We will allow your souls to lift lightly from this world, without pain, if you will but lay down your weapon before us.”

    Nolan came up hard and low, kicking the Keeper in the gut, and slicing through his throat with long talons. Ignoring the splatter of blood, Nolan turned smoothly and slid his knife from the sheath on Marley’s outstretched arm, and whipped around to their attackers so fast, he was a blurred fury of deadly steel and bared fangs. The Keepers slammed into the stone floor, lifeless and stinking.

    Reaching back, Nolan pulled Marley into the dark corridor and led him up spiraling stone steps. “Next time you find artifacts in the Intergalactic Lost and Found Box,” Nolan said, “do me a favor?”


    “Don’t press any buttons.”

  15. Mark James

    The prompt “That’s not a New Year’s Resolution. That’s a death wish.”

    “Who wouldn’t go to a New Year’s Eve party in Hell?” Lucifer said.

    “The Herald Angels?” Raphael, Archangel of Healing, took a delicate sip of his hot chocolate. “I believe the flames would singe their wings.”

    “They sing off-key,” Lucifer said. “And anyway, I have so many bands lined up, I could throw a party till spring.”

    Caffeine Heaven was a tiny café on the corner of the busiest intersection in the city. Mortals rushed past, heads down against the biting wind and swirling snow.

    Michael, Archangel of War, sipped at his Double Triple shot espresso. “Don’t tell me anything else,” he said. “I can feel my wings falling off just sitting at the same table with you.”

    A ruffle ran through Lucifer’s wings. He batted at the black feathers that drifted to the ground. “It’s not like they’d be with me permanently. It’s just a party. They’d all be safe.”

    “In Hell?” Michael said.

    “Why not?” Lucifer looked out the window to ghostly towers that only an angel’s eyes could see. “Earth isn’t so safe lately.”

    “Nearly Last Days.” Raphael smiled at a passing woman. She became radiant forgot how cold the snow was, how her feet were wet, and for a brief instant, the girl she’d left behind lived in her eyes.

    “Your imps say you made a New Year’s Resolution,” Michael said. “How come you didn’t tell me?”

    “You were busy.” Lucifer avoided his brother’s eyes.

    Michael pulled his chair closer. “This has to be good,” he said. “Give.”

    “It’s a small deal he made with me,” Raphael said.

    Barely holding back a laugh, Michael said to Lucifer, “You made a bargain with the white light?”

    “It’s minor,” Lucifer said.

    The barrister flipped on the machine that ground coffee beans to a mercilessly fine powder. Michael drained the bitter brew in his cup. “I’ve got all eternity to wait, brother. So you can tell me now, or now, or now.”

    Lucifer shot Michael a glare that would have charred a mortal’s soul. “A touch,” he said between clenched teeth.

    “From Raphael?”

    “He caught me in a moment of weakness.”

    “What did you do?” Michael said. “Or is it who?”

    Raphael brushed invisible crumbs from the table. “It’s nothing we need to discuss,” he said. “For a small price, all is forgiven.”

    His eyes glittering with laughter, Michael said, “How small?”

    “A New Year’s Resolution,” Raphael said.

    His hands folded on the small wooden table, Michael leaned in close to Lucifer. “You made a promise? Is this a joke?”

    “Certainly not.” Raphael flashed a smile that could have charmed a snake out of its rattle. “Our brother has promised to go with me and deliver gifts next Christmas. He’ll be driving.”

    “That’s not a New Year’s Resolution,” Michael said. “It’s a death wish. He doesn’t know to fly a sleigh. You’ll be upside down in the middle of Siberia.”

    “Wherever we are,” Raphael said, “our brother will be happy and peaceful, if only for a moment.”

    Lucifer, Archangel of Hell, paled at the thought.

  16. Lily Elderkin

    PROMPT: Cell phone, lost & found box, & blizzard.

    “Oh, crap. This is very, very, very bad.” I tried to take a deep breath, which totally didn’t help.

    I looked down at myself – the heels had been a bad choice. I’d had a feeling before leaving the house, but I decided that putting them would just be festive. Christmassy. All that crap.

    I turned the key in the ignition yet again, hoping for a Christmas miracle. No such luck; the car still refused to turn on.

    There was no way I could go out in this…it was practically a blizzard. And heels were hellish in snow. Actually hellish always, but this time especially.

    I wondered – as I always seemed to be wondering – where my Safety Kit had gone. I’d spent good money on that thing as per the doctor’s instructions, but it was completely missing.

    There came a knock on my windshield. An angel, answering my prayers?

    Standing on the other side of my window was a very attractive male. I’m bad at judging attractiveness in males – my sister likes to tell me that my last boyfriend looked like a prairie dog, and I don’t even know what a prairie dog looks like – but this one, I knew for sure, was attractive. Sometimes you just know. Like with Brad Pitt. Or Mr. Hot Savior, looking at me weirdly because I hadn’t acknowledged him yet.

    I rolled down my window, trying to smile.

    “Hi,” he said, looking amused. “Do you need help?”

    I nodded forlornly. “My car just died. Thus I’m sitting on the side of the road on Christmas Eve, just trying to get to my sister’s house for a fun Christmas party that should be overflowing with alcohol and good food, but no, my stupid car just died.”

    He stifled a laugh. “You can’t call a tow truck?”

    I shook my head. “Cell phones give you brain cancer, I don’t have one.”

    “Okay then. I’ll call for you.” He proceeded to do so.

    “Wait! I wouldn’t want you to get brain cancer!”

    He grinned and said sarcastically, “Wow, that means a lot to me. I’ll be fine.” But when I reached out the window and snapped it shut, practically sandwiching his ear, he groaned. “Okay, get out of the car, I’ll drive you.”


    “We’ll pick up your car later.”

    “Are you gonna murder me?”

    “Your sister is Maura Glenbrook, right? I’m her boyfriend’s cousin. I’m going to the party too. We met briefly once, you probably don’t remember.”

    I gaped at him. “No shit? That’s crazy. Okay, yeah, I trust you then.” I mean, okay, he was weird, but I liked him.

    He frowned, looking into the back of my car. “Why is there this huge box that says SAFETY underneath your seats?”

    “The Safety Kit! Found it…” I shrugged, stepped out of the car. Now I was glad I was wearing heels for Mr. Hot Savior. “Whatever, that stupid thing failed to help me too many times. Let’s get out of here.”

  17. Janel

    The silver foil gift wrap made the box sparkle even in the dim light from the candles. Kristen wrapped red ribbon around the present and tied a big, loopy bow. The apartment smelled like pungent, fresh pine thanks to the myriad of scented candles arranged on the stove. She glanced at the scraggly fake Christmas tree. A real tree would be nice, one like she had when she was a little girl, but thanks to him she couldn’t afford one.

    Kristen put the present under the tree and laughed. He would be so excited to get a gift from her, wonder how she could afford it. The shiny paper made it look so special compared to the used book wrapped in white tissue paper that she had bought for her brother. The cheap candle from the dollar store for her mother was packaged in a brown paper lunch sack.

    She lit the spice scented candle on the end table and a sugar cookie scented one on the coffee table. They were both nearly new when she found them for fifty-cents each at the thrift store. She inhaled deeply. The medley of scents made it smell like she was baking cookies, a real pine wreath hanging on the door. Instead, thanks to Aaron’s gambling, she was in the living room of a dingy, one bedroom apartment. Last night’s dinner had come from a charity food pantry because he had spent his entire paycheck in one night, shoveling it into a video poker machine at the casino.

    His key rattled in the lock. She ran her fingers through her hair and pasted a smile on her face. The candles were doing their job, filling the room with their scent. He’d never know what his present was until he opened it. He looked like a kid on Christmas morning when she handed the present to him. Kristen picked up her suitcase as he ripped the top off the box. She laughed at the look of disgust on his face as he dropped the box of dog poo onto his feet. She opened the door, flipped him the bird and walked away.

  18. Mark James

    Zac. . .it’s been a fun year!

    Prompt: An incident spurs a mall Santa to reexamine his life.

    “Give that to me,” she said.

    Taylor met the little girl’s wide scared eyes. “Fine. Take it. Walk out the door with it. I hope the sensor zaps you so hard you suck your thumb the rest of your life.” He yanked off the Santa beard and watched the five-year old push through the tight mob of shoppers. Christ. Did he just do that to a kid?

    “You’re edgy for a man who spends 364 days a year in a workshop full of elves.”

    The deep voice went through Taylor, a strong electric current he couldn’t resist. He turned to find a black silk suit wrapped around muscles so hard, they could have been carved from ebony. “Elves don’t put out,” he said.

    The stranger’s dreadlocks fell well past his wide shoulders. His skin was darker than good chocolate. He thrust a hand the size of a bear’s paw at Taylor. “Ethan,” he said. “It seems your mall engagement is wearisome for you.”

    Off-key Christmas music warbled from the department store speakers. “If that means the Santa bit’s getting old,” Taylor said, “yeah. My whole life’s getting old.”

    “For one so young and so beautiful?” Ethan said. “What part of life has become old for you, Taylor? Tell me.”

    “How do you know my name?”

    “I know many things at my age,” Ethan said. “It would please me if you came to dinner, and let me share them with you.”

    “It’s Christmas Eve and everything,” Taylor said, “but we’re in the middle of a city where murders before church on Sunday don’t count.”

    “Is that a refusal?”

    Behind Ethan, a woman picked up a snake shaped silver bracelet and held it up to the fluorescent lights. But Taylor saw this only as a shadow on a back screen of his mind, because something was happening to Ethan. A ripple passed through his hard body, as if he was barely holding himself back, as if he’d been hearing ‘yes’ for so long, he couldn’t understand ‘no’.

    “Do you always pick up the mall Santa?” Taylor enjoyed the surprise that came over Ethan’s face. “Your charity act for the year?”

    “I could pick you up as easily as you frightened that child.” A hint of something way too dark flickered in Ethan’s eyes. “But I find I don’t want that with you. Please come with me. We’ll find you something not quite so red to wear.”

    “And if I don’t want to?”

    That ripple ran through Ethan’s body again, as if he’d been stopped cold. “Then I’ll go outside and wait,” he said. “When you come out, I’ll ask you to reconsider my offer.”

    Ethan had the look of a man who got what he wanted any time of year, probably with a hard look and two words. Taylor bet Ethan would be asking him to reconsider until spring rolled around if that’s what it took.

    “You don’t hear no that often, do you?”

    “That word is a matter of perspective,” Ethan said. “All things are impermanent. All things change. All I have to do is wait.”

    Well all right then, Taylor thought, this could be interesting.

  19. Rickey W Rudy

    I could write a post on this definitely. Christmas two or so years ago. Frantic shopping, packaging, wrapping and 3 out of dozens of packages ended up with the tag on the wrong one. A coat for a man given to a 3 year old, nice. I could go on.

    Merry Merry!


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