Contest: Get your fiction published in Writer's Digest magazine

Once again, it’s time to bring out your jealous lovers, leprechauns, hard-boiled cops, vampires, construction workers and all protagonists in between—it’s time for our Your Story competition, a chance to appear in the only fiction spot in Writer’s Digest magazine.

Up for the challenge?

In 750 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring, send your entry to, and/or post it in the Comments section below and I’ll enter it in the competition. By posting below, you’ll also be automatically entered in our occasional around-the-office swag drawings. (If you’re having trouble with the captcha code sticking, feel free to e-mail your story to me at, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and I’ll make sure it gets up.) ??The latest prompt (deadline: Sept. 10), from our September issue, follows. Good luck!

* * *

Your Story No. 28??

During your weekly housecleaning you find an unfamiliar cell phone in the cushions of your couch—but can’t recall having had any recent visitors. It rings.

Want more writing prompts and exercises? Brian Kiteley has packed more than 200 wildly original ones into his 3 A.M. Epiphany. Check it out here.


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19 thoughts on “Contest: Get your fiction published in Writer's Digest magazine

  1. Zac

    @Carolina, sorry for my delay! I’ve been sporadically out this week. The winner of the prompt will be contacted soon, and will officially be announced in our January 2010 issue.

    Thanks to everyone who submitted a piece! We’re still accepting entries for Prompt No. 29, too.

  2. Dana Datko

    "Hello, Goodbye"

    Lambent moonlight is diffused by yards of lace I’ve draped across the window behind the sofa where I lay spent from a long, curious dream. Shadowy patterns tattoo my bare arms. I rise, stretching toward the ceiling fan spinning above me. My watch displays 11:22. I’m still in my jeans and work shirt. Why did I go to bed here in my darkened den?

    Probably passed out from exhaustion. The fall cleaning I started two weeks ago metamorphosed into a monster remodeling job. I never know when to quit.

    Light intensifies, streaming through sparkling glass. Holy heck. It’s 11:22 a.m., not p.m.

    What a power nap. Lazy wench.

    My new couch cushion whirs. Can’t be a June bug. It’s October. I uncover a strange silver cell phone. Outdated, with a tiny antenna.

    Buzzing stops and the screen darkens.

    Whose phone is this? Maybe a furniture deliveryman, but the sofa’s been here for a month. My only other recent visitor was my ex, a techie who wouldn’t be caught dead with this relic. Figuring the owner will eventually call for it, I slip the phone into my shirt pocket and wander though the quiet house.

    A full carafe of cold coffee sits on the kitchen counter. No wonder I couldn’t stay awake.

    Outside, radiant sunlight beckons and I follow.

    My collie snores on the front porch, dead to the world.

    "Hey boy, want some lunch?" He doesn’t stir. We’ve come down with narcolepsy.

    The mailman’s Jeep screeches to a halt at the end of my driveway so I strike out in that direction, breathing in the peppery, pungency of autumn.

    It’s eerily quiet without summer’s birdsong. I think of Mom. She loved birds and hated fall. "Everything dies," she’d say.

    I love autumn. It enlivens me. There’s a sense of rebirth, limitless possibilities. I feel that way today. Guess the long nap did me good. I walk past the mailbox, up the road, trying to embed this beautiful day in my memory.

    The mailman loops back from my neighbor’s lane. I wave, but he zooms past.

    How does he drive and sort mail at the same time? I’m so uncoordinated, I can’t imagine.

    When the cell phone rings I nearly jump out of my skin. Not rings, but sings –like a song sparrow. I’m surprised older cells have that app.


    Static, then a woman’s voice, "You say she was painting the ceiling?"

    "What?’ I say. " Pardon me, but I found this phone and…."

    Another voice, somehow familiar, "Yes, the ceiling." The backlight fades..

    What the heck was that? Crossed signals, overlapping cells?

    I’m back inside the house when I realize my dog’s not around. I peer out every pristine window, room by room, until I’m by the bay window in the back bedroom I’ve been remodeling. There’s the old boy. He’s meandering around the yard, as if lost.

    The cell thrums like a love-starved katydid. This is bizarre.


    A man says, "Are you sure? You know she doesn’t think she’s finished."

    Another voice. "I know, that is so like her." Again– black screen, silence.

    It dawns on me. I know those voices from somewhere.

    I face the eight-foot step ladder set up near my armoire, which is only partially covered by a paint smudged sheet. The ladder’s shelf holds an open paint can. Down by my feet, a roller leaches sage green into the carpet.

    Church bells peal from the phone. Text on the screen reads: please climb the ladder Aunt Marge, who’s been dead for seven years.

    I stand on the next to last rung, but haven’t touched the ceiling.

    I stretch a hand up toward whirling lights that dance across the glistening expanse.

    "Catch her, here she comes," calls a sparrow. I hear a rush of wings, feel them touch my cheek.

    Now I see the cell phone descend from this high place, twirling down towards the woman in the rags on the floor. She lays perfect and still, snug against the armoire, asleep in the pool of sage green paint streaked with blood red.

    Goodbye, me.

  3. Sue Fuller

    Laura stripped off the yellow latex gloves and tossed them in the trash, looking forward to propping her feet up and watching the latest episode of "Castle," her weekly reward for a sparkling fresh house, until she reached the den. “Andie! I just vacuumed that.”

    With an unrepentant yawn, the white Labrador rolled on her back and beat a steady rhythm against the sofa’s cushions with her tail.

    “Off. Now.”

    Andie hopped off, trotted to Laura’s side, and leaned against her.

    Laura sighed as she scratched behind Andie’s right ear. “Yes, I love you, too. But no more getting on the couch.”

    Andie flopped on the floor, head on her paws, while Laura wiped at the smear of white hair on the burgundy upholstery. She jerked her hand away when her fingers brushed something metallic.

    She cut her eyes at the dog. “What did you steal this time?”

    Andie’s tail swished across the floor in response.

    Laura eased the cushion out and stared in horror. “You stole a cell phone?” And it had to be stolen. No one had been to the house in three weeks. Besides, everyone she knew had a smartphone these days. The flip phone before her was basic, except for the teeth marks on the black casing.

    “I can’t believe you stole someone’s phone,” Laura said as she picked it up. “Where did you—”

    She jolted when the phone vibrated then gave three soft beeps. Her mind racing to come up with an excuse, she didn’t glance at the display before she flipped it open. “Hi. I’m so sorry but my dog—”

    “It’s time for your mission, Laura.”

    Hearing the voice from so long ago was like being hit by a Mack truck doing ninety. She was at once hot and cold while the pounding blood in her ears blocked all sound. Her knees buckled, and she collapsed onto the sofa, clawing the arm to keep from screaming.

    “Did you think we’d forgotten you?”

    Laura drew in a shaky breath. “I had hoped.”

    The man laughed, the baritone rumble as chilling as it had been the day he recruited her. “Your life was purchased for you; now, it’s time for you to do your part. That was what you agreed to.”

    “That was twenty years ago,” Laura whispered, head in her hands. “I was young.”

    “Is that an excuse?” No bark, no snap, just a quiet question that made the scars on her back throb in remembrance.

    “No.” Laura slumped in defeat, swallowing the knot of tears in her throat. “What do you want me to do?”

    “What we trained you to do. The mark’s picture is stored on the phone. You have forty-eight hours.”

    A click then silence.

    Laura stared at the phone for a minute before pulling up the photo. A hysterical giggle bubbled forth. Roger, the mail guy at her office with the corny jokes. Sweet, mild-mannered Roger who was eighteen months away from retirement after twenty-seven years of service. He was no threat to anyone, merely a test.

    One indiscretion, one poor choice as a teenager. Too afraid to face the consequences, she had sold her soul to make it go away. How many people would pay for her sins? How many already had?

    Andie laid her head on Laura’s knee and stared with trusting eyes.

    “Oh, baby, what am I going to do?”

    A rhetorical question. She had chosen this path and she had to walk it. To refuse would be unthinkable.

    Andie snuffled and wiggled closer.

    Laura stroked her ears then kissed her head, sparing a glance at the innocent face staring up at her from the phone still cradled in her hand. She snapped it shut as panic built in her chest.

    She couldn’t kill Roger.

    She couldn’t not kill him.

    She was trapped, again. Laura pushed to her feet and stumbled to the bathroom to splash water on her face. Droplets mixed with tears as she studied her reflection. Bobbed blond hair, laugh lines, green eyes rimmed with blue. “A trustworthy face,” a customer had said.

    Laura braced her hands on the sink and let her head drop forward. She couldn’t go through with it. She trudged back to the den and picked up the cell, dialing quickly before she changed her mind.

    “Nine-one-one. What is the nature of your emergency?”

    Laura sat down and wrapped an arm around Andie’s neck. “I need to report a murder.”

    “A murder? Who has been killed?”


  4. DJ young


    She could do without the sofa – this Emma decided. The worn-out skin of the ancient Chesterfield (a long-ago birthday gift from her parents) never really fit in with the rest of her things, always standing out like an elderly, rich, corpulent rogue, smirking at her. She’s always hated taking care of it, all the expensive polish it needs and none of it keeping the cracks together or the stuffing from peeking out of the cushions. She hates it – and she needs the money.
    Eighteen months and no work yet, no calls, no offers. She won’t ask her parents. They think she’s spoiled enough. They don’t even visit.
    Priorities, Emma, reeling herself back in – at least you don’t have to sell the car – not yet.
    The cobwebs are becoming a priority, too. It’s hard to think about cleaning when you feel like you’re about to lose everything. It’s easier to daydream on the lawn and pretend someone will just turn up, a dangerous-looking stranger with a gold-leaf invitation to some adventure – or one of those billboard-size checks from the lottery commission.
    The aging feather duster reaches only a few inches under the sofa; just enough to make it look good, if anyone comes to look at it. Instead of furniture polish she applies a little glass cleaner to a cloth and gives it a good once-over. Shiny. She takes her pictures and transfers them to the desktop of her computer – when the phone rings.

    Not her phone, she frowns. She looks about the room, growing confused. That odd ring, musical, almost like Chopin or something – is coming from the sofa itself. As she lifts the seat cushions, feeling for it, she knows someone must have sat there recently and lost it. This thought repeats itself, even as it weaves into another thought – when was the last time anyone visited? She finds it, smooth, narrow, and holds it up to the light.

    The object is a solid black, no obvious buttons or interfaces of any kind. Music is definitely emanating from it, but she feels no vibration. She runs a finger over the glassy surface – a small screen lights up, with a grid of red numbers.

    She touches the keypad, and the music stops. Holding it up to her ear, she answers it the only way she can think to.


    There is no response.

    She touches a key below the grid of numbers – a single red button – and the grid changes to a phone menu with only one item: Directory. This item links to only one number: 1-211-1781

    Straight to her computer, images of the Chesterfield glowing back at her, she opens a browser and types in the number to a reverse phone search. No luck. She begins to file through the cabinet of her brain for an answer – no one visits. Not even her parents. The last bottom that wasn’t hers that settled on the old sofa was her friend, Brenda, now living across the globe and never once in four years ever complained of losing a phone.

    Her parents bought the sofa from an antiques dealer in the UK. They told her it came from one of those old gentleman’s clubs, it belonged to some famous lord – a Darling or Dashing – something like that.

    The phone is too much mystery right now. She wants certainties. Her hands shake a little as she types up the ad, uploads the photos and confirms the posting. She won’t tell her parents. Not right away. They would be so upset.

    Chopin startles her. She reaches quickly for the phone, maybe the owner this time. She touches the red button –

    The accent is male, English, rich – makes her think of Christopher Hitchens. She is picturing Christopher Hitchens on the other end.

    “I’m calling about the Chesterfield. Is it still available?”

    The phone almost slips from her hand, a heart attack of a second – her lips pursed to a single syllable.


    She glances at the browser, still open, the ad still fresh on the screen – the number listed is her own, not the other. How –

    “I’d like to see it today if possible. May I come round?”

    She cannot think how the words left her, the address, directions – she stares at the gleaming Chesterfield, still mocking her. The doorbell rings.

    The man at the door is no Christopher Hitchens. A red-cheeked gentleman in a black suit and dog collar, smiling.

    “I’m Father Dashwood. I’ve come about the sofa.”

  5. Elizabeth Johnson

    Close to Home

    My husband and I never lose anything to the sofa cushions: our pocket change is deposited as soon as we get home, our children are nonexistent, and our puppy isn’t allowed up on any of the furniture. So when I entered the living room that morning and noticed the cushions sitting crooked, I gave them a puzzled look and walked over to straighten them. As I reached down to lay them flat, my fingers felt a cell phone begin to vibrate, and the muted chords of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony announced a caller.

    I paused for a second before I pulled the phone out from beneath the seat cushion. It certainly wasn’t my own cell phone, but no one else had been over in the last five or six days. My husband was away overseas, the neighborhood kids hadn’t stopped by, and I had met up with my friends elsewhere. But while I stood there uncertainly, the music halted abruptly. No voice mail message was left. And then the word unavailable flashed on the screen and the Fifth Symphony started all over again. I answered before they could hang up again, and an automated voice responded:

    “Hello, Elizabeth. Something very important is going to happen today, and you must be a part of it. Be at 438 East Church Street exactly at 11 AM. Someone will give you further instructions at that time.”

    My back stiffened and my forehead creased with suspicion as I listened. My first thought was a kidnapping or a robbery; that’s what would be in a novel or a movie. I racked my brain for anything important that could be happening, and came up empty. I decided it couldn’t hurt to at least drive by the address and check it out.

    When eleven o’clock came, I was parking my car in front of Pete’s Grill. The sight of it brought a smile to my lips as I mentally replayed the first time I’d been there with my future husband. Drawing confidence from the memory, I got out of the car and walked purposefully toward the front entrance.

    A man met me there, just as I put my hand out to open the door. He was a respectable looking gentleman with silvery hair and smooth skin and a smartly tailored suit. I looked at him expectantly and he silently handed me an envelope with my name on the front. I stood there and opened it, aware of the old man’s observation and of the sudden tremor in my right hand. A business card for a local day spa had been tucked in the envelope, with a piece of paper that instructed me to be there within the hour.

    I drove slowly over to the spa, still completely puzzled by the whole game, unsure why I was going along with it. But I shrugged the hesitation off and boldly walked through the front door, looking around for another mysterious person with an envelope. Instead, a young woman’s voice called out a greeting and asked me for my name. I gave it to her, and she told me they would take me back immediately.

    A few hours later, I headed out to my car practically glowing from the soothing facial I’d received. My scalp still tingled from the conditioning treatment they had given it, and my long brown hair had been expertly pinned into a twist on the back of my head. Even my hands and feet had benefited, for they had received a stimulating massage along with a full manicure and pedicure. It took me until I was inside the car and pulling the door shut to notice the yellow slip of paper tucked under the windshield wipers. This time, the note directed me to a little boutique that I’d passed by a hundred times during my walks downtown, but had never actually entered. I just barely stayed under the speed limit as I drove over, wondering at the progression of the day’s events, and enticed by the final instructions in the note: to pick out any outfit I wanted, accessories included.

    An hour later, after trying on outfit after outfit, basking in the luxuries of rich silk and pure cashmere, I walked out with my prize. The owner of the boutique had guided my selections, and had suggested a delicate jeweled necklace and some diamond earrings to go with the fashionable dress. I didn’t find any more notes directing me anywhere, so I headed back toward the house. I was driving carefully, trying to focus on the traffic rather than the happenings of the day, when I noticed blue lights flashing in my rearview mirror. I signaled and pulled the car over, wondering what I had done to attract the officer’s attention.

    The blue uniform approached my window. He bent down to speak through the window, and then he smiled at me as he verified my name, adding that I was to follow him to my “next location.” I rolled up the window and turned the key in the ignition, waiting for him to pull ahead of me. He drove us a few towns over – thankfully without flashing lights or siren – and pulled into the parking lot of a fancy looking hotel. The officer came over to open my door for me, then walked me into the hotel lobby, where I was greeted by a female attendant. She told me that a room had been reserved in my name for the evening, and that I was to array myself in my new attire before heading there. A whole powder room had been roped off and was mine for however long I needed.

    After I’d changed and had my features enhanced by a makeup attendant, I glided back into the lobby, feeling like royalty. The attendant was waiting for me by the desk. She handed me a room key and pointed me toward the elevators. Then I was on my own again.
    I rode up to the fourth floor and found my way to room 424. Our anniversary date, I realized with amusement. My fingers fumbled with the key as I entered it in the lock; the green light flickered and I turned the door handle, just as someone began twisting it from the inside.

    The door was pulled open and my jaw immediately dropped, my eyes hardly believing what they were seeing. This handsome man in uniform, standing erect and smiling, with his hand stretched out to greet me – could it actually be my own dear husband, standing right there in front of me? As if in a dream, I felt myself falling forward into his arms and melding as one with his body. I pulled my head back to look into his eyes, to assure myself that it really was him, and started to ask him – but he put his hand over my lips to silence me and then closed the door to leave us in privacy.

  6. Leslie T. Grover

    The sound of piano music startled me as I was putting away the last of my cleaning supplies. It was late. This evening was the last Iʼd have to relax for a while. I had taken three Valium right before I started straightening the house. Now they were starting to kick in.

    “Desperado….why donʼt you come to your senses?” the music droned softly, and I felt myself swaying to the words. A couple of seconds passed before I realized the music was coming from my couch. I kneeled in front of the couch running my hand between the cushions until I pulled out a cellphone — one that I had never seen before. The caller ID read David.


    The only David I knew was the guy I worked with. He worked in accounting, and I worked in design. Our paths only crossed when one of my projects went over budget, and he had never been to my house. David. Stocky with yellow teeth and a shock of bright red hair. I thought of the last time Iʼd interacted him. We had gotten on the elevator at the same time, and I had noticed his hands. They were small, with patches of dry and blistered skin, and he had calluses and red welts between his fingers. I had not realized I was staring until he grunted at me and frowned, pushing his hands deeply into his pockets. My face burned hot. He had seen my disgust. Since that day, I tried to avoid him. Now a phone I had never seen was ringing possibly with his name on the caller ID.

    I answered the phone, but hung up before I could see if it was him on the other end. I plopped down onto the couch, allowing myself to enjoy the peaceful feeling floating around me. The piano music started again. This time I didnʼt answer.

    It occurred to me to take the phone to the office and leave it for David. If this was Davidʼs phone, how it got in my house didnʼt matter. I wanted to get rid of David and the thought of his hands — now.

    I grabbed some lotion from the sink and squeezed a golf ball sized amount onto my hand, slathering it between my fingers and onto the backs of both hands. The piano sound started again. I finished rubbing in the lotion vigorously and examined my hands. I picked up the phone examining it closely thinking of the dry skin on Davidʼs hands. Feeling vomit rise in my throat, I grabbed a brown paper bag from the pantry, threw in the phone and headed out the door. I only lived a few blocks away, so Iʼd walk to the office. The evening air would feel good, and perhaps even clear my head. No more phone. No more of Davidʼs scaly, bleeding hands.

    When I made it to the office the music started again. I sang along, happy to rid myself of Davidʼs phone. I took the elevator to his main office, opened the door and dropped the bag on the front desk. I quickly walked back to the elevator, relieved. I closed my eyes in the elevator, rubbing my hands together, enjoying their smoothness. The doors opened, and I saw the parking garage. I had gone to the wrong floor, a force of habit since I usually drove to work.

    David was standing there. "Late night?” He glared at me, pushing his hands in his pockets.

    I looked at his pockets, thinking first of the sores and scabs and then of the Valium back at the house.

    “You shouldnʼt be here alone," he said, taking his hands from his pockets, "Itʼs late,” he grunted, his scaly finger pointing to his watch. I was relieved when the elevator reached the correct floor.

    “One question,” David scratched the back of his left hand, little pieces of dry skin escaping into the air, “Seen my phone?”

    I covered my mouth, eyes wide. “Um, what –”

    Before I could finish he pressed the door close button, and stepped in front of me his hands moving towards me. His rough hands violated the skin around my neck, the years of warts, scratched calluses and bloody hang nails searing themselves into my skin.

    I struggled with him but was overcome by the strength in his hands. I felt myself slipping away. It was strange at first, but then I relaxed floating away and looking at Davidʼs hands.

  7. Christina Castellana


    “This is the fifth time you have canceled our appointment. You’re an unprofessional dimwit and I will happily have my grandchildren post my opinion on every bog, I mean blog they can find. Goodbye!” shouted Stacy as she flipped shut her cell – certainly not as satisfying as slamming a telephone receiver into its hard plastic cradle, she thought.

    “What am I going to do now?” After weighing her options, she knew she’d have to call Steve. She dialed quickly. “Pickup, pickup,” Stacy mumbled impatiently.

    “Steve!” she said, relieved. “I need a big favor, I know it’s short notice but Sheila and the kids are coming tonight and I need the carpets cleaned. The guy I had scheduled canceled, so you’re my last hope. No, no, I’ll do all the work, you know I do alright for a 60 year old,” Stacy said, chuckling. “Can you come by this morning? Wonderful. See you in a bit.”

    “Now, where to begin? Ah, yes, the couch.” Stacy set her laundry basket atop the coffee table. There was vanilla tobacco everywhere. “Dammit Fred, times like these make me wish I had married your brother.” Though she wanted to clean up the mess, she was determined to stay on course, “First things first,” she said adamantly.

    Stacy began removing the pastel pink covers from each cushion and tossed them into the basket. She was just about to pull off another cover when she noticed something black and shiny stuck in between the two seat cushions.

    “What’s this?” She slowly slid her hand in and pulled out a sleek black cell phone. It was clearly too sophisticated for any of her friends to use; even Fred carried a phone like her own with large buttons for arthritic fingers. Suddenly, the phone started vibrating.

    “Good Heavens!” Stacy cried as she dropped the phone onto the table. It continued buzzing, causing the lose tobacco to scatter. The name ‘Jamie’ suddenly appeared on the phone’s screen. Stacy hesitated for a moment, but decided to answer. After fumbling with a variety of small buttons, she managed to accept the call.


    “Who’s this?” asked an unfamiliar voice.

    “This is Stacy. Are you the owner of this phone?” The caller didn’t respond. “Miss? Can you hear me?” The line went dead. “What on earth?” said Stacy, inspecting the screen. She thought about calling her back but decided to call her husband instead. She’d hoped he would know who Jamie was, and if he was having an affair, she’d happily divorce him. She dialed him on her own cell and hoped his hearing aid was turned up high enough to hear it ring.

    “Hello? Fred? Listen, I found this fancy cell phone stuck in between the couch cushions, do you know whom it belongs to? Think, Fred, you’ve got to know something about it. No, I was out that day. Oh, really? I see. Well, ask him when he comes back, OK? Oh, and by the way, if it’s his, tell him that a girl named Jamie called. Good. Bye.”

    Instead of waiting impatiently, Stacy resumed organizing and cleaning. Once everything was taken care of, she plopped onto the naked couch, exhausted. She was just about to fall asleep when there was a knock on the door.

    “Coming Steve!” yelled Stacy as she rushed to the door. “Oh,” she said, surprised. “Paul, what are you doing here? Is Fred with you?”

    “No,” he said, quickly moving past her. “Where’s the phone?”

    “Over there” she pointed, “It’s yours?”

    “Yes,” he said, clutching it in his hand. “Stacy,” he said, softly, “I will miss your voice. Give my best to Fred.”

    “Are you traveling?” she asked, confused.

    “ Yeah, something like that.” He rushed passed her without a second glance. “Goodbye.”


    “Oh mom, the place always looks spectacular,” said Sheila. “Mmm, even the couch cushions smell of lavender. You put me to shame.”

    “No dear, I have all the time in the world to clean. You don’t.”

    “Yeah, I guess so.”

    “Did your father tell you about Paul?” Stacy whispered.

    “A little. It’s so creepy. To think Paul’s been listening to you through a cell phone. Why on earth did he do such a thing?”

    “Apparently he’s had a crush on me for some time and planted the phone so he could hear my voice. And it was his daughter who called and hung up. She revealed everything. Now Martha is divorcing him. What a mess. So much for technology.”

    Christina Castellana

  8. Randy Aveille

    "Jimmy’s Karma"
    Within moments of returning home from the grocery store, all of Charlie’s attention was immediately diverted to the refrigerator door, which was wide open. Naturally, his curiosity was peaked, so he walked over, knowing he didn’t leave the house with it open. As he approached the door, he was stunned at the sight. The refrigerator had been frantically ransacked.

    “What the hell?”

    It looked like the culinary version of a blood-spattered, gruesome triple homicide within the walls of his tiny white refrigerator, except instead of blood and body parts, it was food. All of it—even the condiments.

    The only thing left untouched was the lettuce, tomato, carrots and onions in the bin where vegetables were kept. “Well, that figures,” he said, trying to keep a sense of humor about it all. “Great. The one thing I couldn’t care less about, they left alone.”

    Confused and befuddled, Charlie checked the rooms of his house a few times before stopping to clean up the worst of the mess and refrigerate the perishables; but he was feeling especially tired after a long day at work, and since the next day was his usual day to clean anyway, he decided to go to bed and clean the rest if it the following morning.

    The next day as he was cleaning he noticed chicken wing bones and other random food particles, along with what looked like ranch dressing down the cracks between the cushions of his couch.

    “You’ve got to be kidding me. This has to be some kind of stupid joke.”

    As Charlie was cleaning the couch, he noticed a shiny, silver object barely poking out from between the cushions. He reached for it and pulled out an unrecognizable cell phone and a small brown wallet.

    “Where the hell did this come from” he said to himself, “I haven’t had anyone over in months.”

    Charlie figured the whole fiasco must have been a prank, and the phone probably belonged to whoever was behind it all. He decided to check the wallet for ID, so he put the phone down and began looking through it when suddenly, the phone began to ring. The incoming call appeared on the phone’s screen as ‘Home.’

    Unsure if he was in the mood to deal with confrontation, he let the phone ring a few times while debating whether or not he should answer it. However, expecting it to be the mastermind behind the prank, he relented, answering with an inquisitive tone.




    “Um…yeah, is this Charlie?”

    “Yeah, who’s this?”

    “Uh, well, th-this is…this is Jimmy, your neighbor,” he said, with a nervous stutter. “I…I was calling because I wanted to ah…apologize for something…and I also kinda have a problem.”

    “Jimmy from across the street? You mean you’re the one behind all this food everywhere!”

    “Listen man, I’m really sorry about that. I’ve never been so drunk in all my life. I don’t even remember going to your house last night. I woke up today on my lawn with all kinds of food everywhere and found that key you keep under the mat by the back door in my pocket, covered in strawberry jelly and ranch dressing, or something. I wasn’t even sure where my phone was until you answered.”

    “Jim, that’s not cool man. I freaked out thinking I was robbed. And you totally trashed my fridge! You ate almost everything, and whatever was left, you friggin took a few bites of!”

    “I’m really sorry about that, Charlie. I promise I’ll make it up to you.”

    “I dunno, Jim. That was pretty dickish.”

    “I know, I promise it’ll never happen again.”

    “You’re damn right it’ll never happen again. I’m changing the locks and I’m sure as hell not leaving a key out anymore!”

    “Hey, listen…I have a bit of a problem.”

    “Are you kidding me? Are you seriously asking me for help right now?”

    “Well, no…I don’t really need help. But I’m in a bit of a predicament.”

    “Oh brother, I can’t wait to hear this.”

    “The thing is, I play the same lotto numbers every week, and today I checked last night’s results…you’ll never believe it…I won!”

    “Are you serious?”

    “Totally, man! I can’t believe it!”

    “How much is the jackpot?

    “Five million! The only problem is, the ticket is in my wallet and I can’t find it. Did I happen to leave my wallet there, too?”

    Charlie held up the wallet, pulled out the winning lottery ticket, and innocently replied:

    “Wallet? What wallet?”

  9. Delia Marcinuk

    Thanks for the great prompt, Mr. Petit. Here’s my story.

    "Change in the Cushions"

    Mary Sheehan cursed her vacuum as she pulled the hose out of the couch cushions to see what was clogging it this time. Probably a cheese puff. The cheap thing couldn’t seem to handle them.

    She shut the vacuum off and the obstruction plunked to the carpet. It wasn’t a cheese puff. It was a phone. And a damn fancy phone, at that, in an extraordinary shade of sky blue.

    Mary picked it up and brushed the lint off. She tried to recall any of her friends having a phone like this and couldn’t. Even if they had, she hadn’t had friends over for a while because she’d been working overtime before she left for vacation. She’d definitely vacuumed the couch since vacation.

    It dawned on her then, and her knees buckled at the thought. Someone had been in the house, was maybe even still here. Mary tensed, listening, every strange noise suddenly amplified. She nearly lost bladder control when the phone rang in her hand.

    There were several minutes of ringing while she debated the various pros and cons of answering. In the end, what decided her was simply that it kept ringing. It never went to voicemail.


    “Good afternoon, is this Mary Sheehan?”

    Mary threw the phone across the room. <i>Get out,</i> she thought. <i>Get out of the house right now.</i> She turned to go, but stopped again when the phone squawked at her from the floor. She must have hit the speaker phone.

    “Ms. Sheehan? It’s very important that I speak with you. Would you please pick up?”

    The voice waited and Mary tried to swallow her heart back down to its proper place. It would be best to answer it. Then, if someone was watching, she’d know. They’d say something. Maybe. God, this was like a bad horror movie.

    Picking the phone back up, Mary’s throat constricted with fear. “Hello?” she said, not quite touching the phone to her ear.

    “There we are, much better.” The voice, a woman’s, was amiable and professional. “I’m speaking with Mary Patricia Sheehan, born October seventh, nineteen seventy to Thomas and Margaret Sheehan, is that correct?”

    Mary’s heart wouldn’t stop hammering. “How did you know that?”

    The woman sounded like she was smiling. “Thank you for verifying. I’m calling in reference to a conversation you had with one Ms. Kirsten Anderson at The Port on the eleventh of August, two thousand and six.”

    <i>What the…?</i> “That was years ago,” Mary said, right before suspicion set in and she started looking around for cameras.

    “I’m afraid there are no cameras,” the voice said.

    That about did it. “Who is this?”

    “Oh, I’m so terribly sorry! This is Tirzah with the Divine Invocations Office. I’m calling about your prayer request?”

    “Okay, I’m done. Nice prank. Tell Kirsten she’d better watch her back, because I’m going to get her. She nearly gave me a heart attack.”

    Mary powered the phone off and, against her better judgment, went to the kitchen and tossed it in her purse. She should have thrown it away. Kirsten was really going to get it for this one. She went back to the living room to replace the couch cushions. Vacuuming could wait, she had revenge to plan.

    The phone was there again, shining at her from the coffee table.

    Mary’s hands shook as she picked it up to throw it in the trash, but she managed to hold onto it when it rang again.

    The woman didn’t wait for her to say hello. “As I was saying, Ms. Sheehan,” she said, still cheerful, “I’m calling because the prayer request you made has been approved.”

    “What prayer request was that?” Mary whispered.

    “It says here that you preferred to be notified of the date of your death so that you could, quote, ‘settle things ahead of time.’ The Almighty has noted that you prayed on the issue that same night. Due to your vehement sincerity, He has seen fit to grant your request.”

    “I see.”

    “In answer to your prayer, it is my pleasure to inform you that you will die this coming Saturday at ten eighteen in the morning. Please plan accordingly. We hope to see you then!”

    Mary sank to the floor and stared at the dead phone in her hand. “You hope?”

    Delia Marcinuk

  10. Carolina

    Some miles away from where the last scenario took place, Vance was cleaning his fateful companion shotgun while the girl remained in a comatose-like state. Feeling a little restless, he removed his cape from his shoulders and Vance’s mind transported him to his oniric hiding place.

    A thunder illuminated the sky. This splendorous aerial tremor forced the girl to awake into reality. At first, everything was dark and gloomy. But the continuous lightning furies that danced tortuously in the atmosphere gave her the possibility to visualize her new surroundings.

    She was no longer in the open air and embracing the snow.

    She was in a closed space.


    Fearing he was near, she attempted to search for her keeper. But then, she knew better. If Kisuke had re-captured her, she would now be in a cell or any other acrid smelling chamber, her clothes all torn, her body all bloody and hurting.

    Once again, the mere thought of blood altered her senses. Somehow, it made her examine the place and she perceived that she was not alone.

    A strange impulse shook her mind, overshadowed her common sense and propelled her body to the one resting nearby.
    Another lightning revealed the figure. It was a man. He seemed to be covered with leather and belts all over his torso and long legs. His hair was interminable, wild and dark, adorned with a reddish bandana. His eyes were shut but his mouth was delicate and tempting. His white skin……….

    The impulse obliged her to proceed and admire his neck. It was so exquisite, so pure and pale that one can see his heart beating, his veins. The impulse drove her closely and she exposed her naked mouth in order to provide access to two prominent fangs that were eager to appear. The mixture of his sweet, manly scent and his velvet-like epidermis was the perfect ingredients for the recipe of disaster.
    She sank her tusks deep into his side and begun to drink the refined scarlet fluid that sprung from him.

    Oddly, she felt that her hunger was diminishing as the blood flooded her belly and renewed strength was filling her existence.

    A fire burning in his neck compelled him to open his eyes wide.

    What is going on? – he asked himself and a few moments later he comprehended the events that were occurring. The girl he rescued from Kisuke’s claws was biting his neck and….drinking his blood????

    What the heck….? – he thought and a few of the words uttered by Kisuke began screaming his mind: FEED, CREATION – Is she some kind of vampire-like creation designed by Kisuke’s devilish doings? – but before he could processed those ideas, he had to stop her otherwise she will empty him.

    Trying not to apply much strength so as not to hurt her, he seized her from her forearms and intended to be parted from her deadly embrace.
    She resisted but was unable to fight back; thus, she relaxed her muscles and slowly she rested in the wooden floor. Still in her vampiric state, she brushed the blood of her face with her bare hand and looked at him in discontent.

    -“Are you alright? Please understand that if I didn’t break loose, you could finished my blood and my life”- said Vance in a tender tone.

    She didn’t reply but kept her eyes fixed on his. She so was annoyed by the interruption that she emitted a low growl.

    Since he noticed that she will not collaborate with him and provide the information he was looking for, he decided to inquire about much simpler things.

    -“Could you please state your name? What is your relationship with Kisuke?” – asked Vance.
    Once again, she did not respond but it seemed as if she was returning to her conscious state, her human state after discerning something from the vigil world.

    She felt better, her belly was warm and she was satisfied. She was again in the confined location and there was a tall, curious man looking at her intently.
    She investigated him with her eyes.

    He had dark long hair, crimson eyes…crimson as the first apple of the earthly frozen season….

    When she acknowledged the color of his iris, she started to look at him, mesmerized. His expression was a combination of sadness and interest. He appeared to be waiting for something.

    Carolina Panero

  11. SM Dougan

    Beth Solloway busily worked at tidying and cleaning the small apartment she and her newlywed husband shared. Reg had been away the last two weeks on business and would be arriving home at any moment. The smile on Beth’s face glowed with the thought of her husband’s return.

    They had been married for less than two months. Reg had been so reluctant to leave town on such short notice, but it was something that he couldn’t avoid. Beth wasn’t really sure what it was her husband did for a living, only that he worked for a telecommunications company and was often called away. Sometimes these trips were for a couple days and sometimes, like this trip, for a couple weeks. She knew it was something that she would have to get used to, even if the specifics of the job were unknown to her.
    The pleasant thoughts of her husband were quickly pushed from her mind and replaced with an annoying ringtone that could only come from a cell phone.
    The ringtone she heard was not the one she used on her phone. It was a tune that she was not familiar with at all. She quickly glanced around the room trying to determine the location of the phone. Just as quickly, she realized it was coming from the couch.
    Beth walked briskly to the couch and began searching for the source of the annoying ringing. Finally, she found the phone stuck between the cushions. A look of marked curiosity crossed her brow as she looked the phone over.
    It was not a phone she recognized and she knew she had not had any visitors the entire time her husband was away. She had no idea who the phone could belong to. Beth was about to flip the phone open when the ringing stopped.
    She stared at the device for a few seconds. Confusion and curiosity possessed her mind as she flipped the cover open on the phone. There wasn’t a screensaver that would give her a clue as to its owner. She looked over the user interface and determined how to open the contact list. She was surprised to see that file was empty.
    Curiosity was mounting as she thumbed her way through the rest of the menus on the phone – nothing. There was nothing in the phone of a personal nature that would give her any clue to the phone’s ownership. Finally, she went to the missed calls file. There was only one entry.
    Beth stared at it for a few moments before deciding to call back the number listed. Perhaps whomever it was that called would be able to help her learn who the phone belonged to. She took a deep breath as she pushed the talk button. As she did, she began strolling casually towards the front window of the apartment.
    She could hear the familiar sound made when the recipient’s phone rang. It rang twice by the time she reached the window of her apartment and looked down into the street.
    A smile stretched across her face as she saw Reg’s car parked in a stall across from the building. As she looked down at him, she could see him fumbling around inside the car as if looking for something. The phone at her ear rang again.
    Beth saw Reg sit back up straight in the front seat of his car and he had something in his hands. It took Beth a second to recognize the object as a cell phone.
    Reg looked up to the apartment window and at seeing Beth, he smiled. He flipped the cover open on the phone he held as if to answer it.
    In that instant the car containing Beth’s husband exploded before her eyes and a fraction of a second later, the phone in Beth’s hand stopped ringing. The force of the blast shook the very ground and the building Beth stood in.
    The shock on her face was unimaginable as the phone in her hand dropped to the floor. Her mind reeled. A sickening look crossed her face as she dropped to her knees on the floor. She realized in that instant, that it was the returning of the call that had caused the explosion. Her eyes rolled back in her head as she passed out.

  12. Dorraine

    Hey, Zac! Great prompt as usual. Fab to be back around.:-)

    Êtes-vous seul Ms. Mansfield

    I long to learn a new language, French to be exact. But between having four kids, and teaching High School English, there was never time.

    But in five minutes I’m completely alone. Alone, alone, alone. Reba, the empty nest-er, the master hen minus chicks. We load up our son Austin’s belongings in the U-Haul, and I wave goodbye to my husband and the last child to leave our home for college, twelve hours away. This after kissing them exactly ten times each. My husband Rick won’t be back for three days, and I will not see Austin again until Christmas break.

    Inside the house, the kids pictures hang on walls like whispers. I bawl. I peek again and sob until I’m good and cleaned out.

    Anyway, after that, I put on Bon Jovi and speed-clean, pausing only to play the air guitar and belt out lyrics, “It’s my life, it’s now or never, I ain’t gonna live forever, I just want to live while I’m alive…” The next time I check, night arrives. I pour myself a glass of red wine and collapse on the sofa in my shiny, empty house, wondering what to do next. What to do, what to do? The music is off and it’s so quiet I can hear my blood flowing.


    Abruptly, something buzzes beneath my left butt cheek. A one cheek buzz. Fishing around between sofa cushions, I pull up a cell phone. A basic black version, not one I recognize.

    There is a new text message. Êtes-vous seul, Ms. Mansfield? Of course I Google this because I don’t speaka the French yet. Translation: are you lonely? My grin clicks on, thinking this is a slick joke Rick is pulling. He’s a prankster and certainly knows about my French obsession. Without checking who sent the text, I type back. Oui revenir ici mon haras chaude. Translation: yes, get back here my hot stud!

    Another text comes: Que portez-vous l’amour? My fingers fly on the keyboard. Translation:what are you wearing, love?

    "Rick, you devil," I say out-loud, chuckling. This is so unlike him, but I think maybe he’s turning over a new leaf in our old forest minus trees. I get up and pour more vino, deciding how to reply.

    Rien, I text. Translation: N-O-T-H-I-N-G! Ha, wish I could see his face. Maybe he’d zip home a day early.

    A text came back in English. This is not your husband but I’d sure love to be!!

    I drop the phone as though I hold a flaming bagel. Gathering up my courage, hands shaking, I check the number against all those on my contact list. It doesn’t match up. The alien phone buzzes with another text and I shut it off without looking. Mr. policeman might like to text him back, but not me.

    First I call Rick. “Honey,” I say, so relieved to hear his voice on the other end. “I don’t want to speak French anymore.”

  13. Lily Elderkin

    The house is messy, yet again.
    I’m accused of being a neat freak, but really I’m just proud of my house and I want it to be shown off to the best of my abilities by keeping it clean. It drives my husband Ian crazy, but I really don’t understand why. That sort of thing has to be natural, right?
    Actually, a lot of things about me drive my husband crazy. He used to say that’s why he married me. He doesn’t really say that anymore.
    I am digging through the couch cushions and finding popcorn kernels galore when I come across something way too big to be a popcorn kernel. I pull it out, to my utmost confusion. The only person who seems to visit me is my mother, who is absolutely unable to work a microwave, let alone a cell phone.
    I puzzle over it. Upon opening it, it buzzes in my hand, and then a fearsome ringtone of some Spanish theme rings out. I drop it immediately, but then decide to answer it, just to see who it could belong to.
    “Hi,” I say.
    “Hello, Yolanda?”
    “Um, yes,” I say, stunned by my own deceitfulness. I’m probably the worst liar ever. This will not go well.
    “Hi, it’s Mark.”
    “Hi, Mark.” I make my voice neutral.
    “Well, there’s no need to be so distant! Did something happen?”
    “No, sorry, I’m just…just tired.”
    “Ooh – tired! What did you do last night?”
    “You jump to conclusions.”
    “How could I not? Only three days ago you went to that guy Ian’s house and you told me you were very tired after that.”
    I gasp. Could he mean my Ian? “What do you mean?”
    “Oh, don’t play innocent with me, Yolie.”
    “Never,” I say.
    “C’mon, girl! You at least talked about it.”
    “No,” I say stoutly. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
    “You’re just embarrassed.”
    “Why should I be?”
    “We all know you hate it. And I personally think it’s hilarious that you even do it.”
    So is this Yolanda some kind of prostitute? “I never said that.”
    His voice turns teasing, even more teasing than before. “You are so ridiculous.”
    “I am not!”
    “Oh, get over it. Anyway, just calling to check in. Call me later, okay? If anything happens with this Ian guy.” He laughs and hangs up.
    I feel my cheeks start to flush in anger. I mean, I am aware than Ian has been more out of it than usual lately, but he would cheat on me? With someone named Yolanda?
    He walks in, right then. He comes in with a little smile, but when he sees the cell phone, his face drains of color. “You know?”
    “It seems I do,” I say, crossing my arms.
    “Okay, don’t be mad. But I wanted to give you something for you.”
    “You did this for me?”
    “Yeah, of course.”
    “Why would I ever want this?”
    He looks hurt. “C’mon, you used to talk about it.”
    “Never about wanting it! I talked about trust!”
    “You don’t trust me just because of this?”
    “Just? No, this is a big deal. I can’t believe you would ever do this to me.”
    “I just thought, since we were having problems, it would be nice…”
    “Why would Yolanda coming to my house and – and – and getting with my husband be nice?”
    He looks hard at me. “Getting with me? That’s entirely the wrong term.”
    “What would you call it?”
    “Doing business.”
    That makes me crazy. How can he joke about this? “Business?” I all but shriek.
    “Stop repeating my adjectives,” he answers. “And yes. What else?”
    “I don’t know, maybe sleeping together? Cheating?”
    “What?” He’s so stunned that I become confused. “You thought she was my mistress?”
    “What did you think I thought?”
    “Darling,” he says, giving me a hug, “Yolanda is going to put that addition on the house. It was supposed to be a surprise for your birthday. She’s an architect – a really great one.”
    “But – the guy on the phone – ”
    “You answered her phone?” He shakes his head. “That’s not like you.”
    “He made it seem like she was…”
    “We were just doing business. Let me return the cell to her.”
    I hand it over to him and he smiles. Just as he’s leaning in to kiss me, the phone buzzes.
    We both stare at it, and then Ian answers the phone.

  14. Mark James

    Zac. . you know, my good angel says leave it alone. I can’t tell you what …umm. . the other angel says.

    “Tormented souls can’t clean to save their long gone lives,” Lucifer said.

    Michael watched his brother beat dust from a low embroidered stool. “What did you call me down here for?”

    Lucifer pulled a cushion from an original Queen Anne chair. “Your sword is good at burning away unneeded things. Wave it at the dust.”

    Michael pulled his flaming sword from its sheath on his back, stroked it through the air, making the tight muscles in his arms bunch and flex. “It’s that girl angel, isn’t it?”

    “She’s coming to discuss a few souls she may have for me.” Lucifer ran his hands down his body, transforming his robes into a black suit that could have been tailored by Armani himself. A red tie and black silk shirt offset the reddish highlights in his dark brown hair. “I haven’t had visitors since Shakespeare. How do I look?”

    “Like a girl’s nightmare wrapped in a dream,” Michael said.

    Lucifer turned glowing red eyes on his brother. “See to the fire,” he said. “Yours look nicer than mine.”

    “And they don’t smell like charred bones.”

    Roiling black smoke oozed up through the cracks in the flagstone. Thanatos pulled himself together, rested his scythe on the mantle over the fireplace. “Why were imps sent to summon me?”

    “Lucifer has a girlfriend,” Michael said.

    The dark angel hurled a fireball at his brother. Michael swung his sword through a deadly arc. The flames smashed into a stone wall, leaving a scorched mark in the shape of a heart. “See?” he said. “He’s got it bad.”

    “Ignore him,” Lucifer said. “Air the couch, will you Thanatos? It’s been a few ages.”

    The angel of death inhaled deeply. “It smells wonderful in here, like a locked tomb.” Thanatos was bending over the couch when a low chirping noise from between the cushions made him jump back.

    Michael saw a red cell phone glowing so bright, it made Hell Fire look dim. “Answer it,” he said.

    Thanatos picked it up gingerly, flipped it open. “Yes? Death speaking.”

    “Give me that.” Lucifer flew to his brother’s side, but Michael was there first. He slid the phone from Death’s bony grip. “Michael. Good looking angel. Who’s this?”

    Lucifer was coming at Michael, but in Hell an angel of war has more power than even Hell’s highest angel. Michael threw up a cage of fire around his brother. “Yeah. Lucifer’s here. He’s busy.”

    After an eternity with his brothers, Thanatos had no interest in their squabbles. He took his scythe, eased between the flagstones, sinking to his own domain.

    Lucifer sent an arc of flame through his bars. “Put that down.”

    Into the phone Michael said, “What? No. It was Lucifer asking if it was the pretty angel calling.”

    Michael held the phone away from his ear. Both of them heard the high, girlish laughter. Lucifer went up in a pillar of flame that was utterly trapped in Michael’s prison.

    “He said to tell you he’s on fire for you,” Michael said.

    Soft white light flowed across the soot covered roof. “Really Michael, that’s enough.” Raphael touched the flame cage, freeing Lucifer. “Give him the phone.”

    Lucifer rushed at his brother, but Michael threw the phone between them, forcing Lucifer to dive for it. “Sorry about that. You are still coming, aren’t you?” He smoothed his hair back, glared at his brother. “I’ll have the contracts ready. Yes. Midnight.”

    Michael looked down to find his armor replaced with a black and white tuxedo. He raised accusing eyes to Raphael. “What’s this?”

    “Lucifer will need someone to serve drinks, make sure the wine is properly chilled. You know how hard it is to maintain ice in Hell. You’ll do nicely,” Raphael said. When Michael raised a protest, Raphael said, “Or, I can tell a certain someone about your vacation in the mountains. The one you took without him.”

    Hands on his hips, Michael turned to his brother. “How do you figure this is making peace?”

    “Lucifer will enjoy his time with his guest,” Raphael said. “You will learn a lesson in humility. And,” he raised his hands to encompass Hell, “there are such interesting souls here. I’ll very much worth enjoy talking to them. So many ideas on sin and repentance.”

    At the stroke of midnight, a golden angel with flowing blonde hair and matching gold wings knocked on the dungeon door. Michael, resplendently beautiful in black and white, showed her into Lucifer’s parlor.


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