A Mad Scientist Approches You

A mad scientist approaches you with an offer: He has a secret potion that will help you get the thing you want most in this world—be it a person, a thing, an ability, etc. What you don’t know (and won’t reveal until the end of your story) is that there is one dire consequence (not death) from drinking the potion.

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

Want more creative writing prompts? Consider:
The Writer’s Book of Matches

You might also like:

379 thoughts on “A Mad Scientist Approches You

  1. DMelde

    “What do you want the most out of life? Is it fame? Standing on stage while people applaud and scream out your name? Or maybe you desire wealth? To live in a luxurious mansion where you never want for anything? Do you want revenge against an enemy? Do you lust after someone who, until now, was unattainable?”
    Doctor Bloom leaned back and waited patiently for the man to think. He was dressed in black slacks and a gold-toned polo shirt. His white hair matched, in color, the hair of the man sitting across from him, but where his hair was straight and unkempt, looking as if he had been caught in a strong wind; the other man’s hair was short and tightly curled. They sat in the early evening light in a bar on the edge of upper Bourbon Street.
    Peachfuzz Gantry thought about what the stranger had said. Deep lines wrinkled his face. He had played jazz guitar for over sixty years, ever since he was sixteen years old, when, as a brash young man, he had walked through a door and announced to the old men in the room playing jazz, that he wanted to learn to play jazz too. They nicknamed him Peachfuzz, a nickname that stuck, because his facial hair grew in thin and short. They took him under their wing, and taught him swing. After learning bebop, he was accepted as an equal. Together they explored different sounds, experimenting with bebop and Dixieland. Then, one by one, the old men left him. Now, he was the old man, with arthritic hands that couldn’t play, and with a hollow voice, barely able to sing. Peachfuzz knew what he wanted.
    “I’m ready.” Peachfuzz said, “How does it work?”
    “Relax and think about what you want.” Doctor Bloom said, “This potion is Neuro-triggered. Whatever you’re thinking of when you drink it is what will happen.”
    Peachfuzz pictured in his mind the day he walked in through the door, saw the old men, and said he wanted to learn how to play, and then he drank the potion. The transformation was amazing. He became sixteen again with tightly curled black hair, and with ebony skin that glowed with youth. Peachfuzz flexed his hands and was surprised to find the pain was gone. He looked at Doctor Bloom with gratitude in his eyes, and asked, “Do you think I could play a little?”
    With a coy smile Doctor Bloom shrugged his shoulders and replied, “Why not. It’s your guitar.”
    Picking up his guitar, Peachfuzz tried playing but found out that he couldn’t. Try as he might, his hands couldn’t form the chords.
    “What’s wrong with me Doctor Bloom?”
    “Nothing’s wrong. Did you know how to play the guitar when you were sixteen?
    “No.”
    “Then why do you think you can play now? Go back to school Mr. Gantry, and learn all over again.”
    With his whole life to look forward to, Peachfuzz looked at Doctor Bloom, and smiled.

    1. jincomt

      This is very thought-provoking. Curse or gift to have to relearn your gift. I think it’s a gift, especially if you can have the benefit of hind-sight. Do-overs! Well written, as always.

    2. JR MacBeth

      Great story DMelde. In few words, you managed to bring a character to life. And the ending, not exactly expected, but was critical to convey the kind of gift he had been given. In this case, the consequence of him not knowing how to play anymore wasn’t really a negative at all. The adventure begins anew! (And would it even be much of an adventure if it was merely about an old man who was essentially the same, who’s exterior, only, had been made young again?) Instead, I imagined that even more might have been taken from him, not just how to play the guitar, but that there was somehow youth on the inside too. Interesting concept all the way around! Seems like this could expand into something much bigger.

  2. JustANormalUsername

    You don’t talk to Dr Trebax, you never talk to Dr Trebax; everyone knows the rule and everyone with common sense follows it.

    So Daniel must not have any common sense.

    (This isn’t true: if there were awards for it, which would be strange and wasteful, Daniel would win awards for common sense. So why would he talk to Dr Trebax when you never talk to Dr Trebax? Well he must be desperate.)

    Daniel limps up the road to the doctor’s house, leaning heavily on his golf ball-endorned cane, and he just begins to pant when the small house comes into view.

    It’s about the size of a cottage, but the walls aren’t cozy wood; they’re cement. The building looks like cement poured into a square mold. But Daniel remembers construction, and he wishes it had been so simple.

    He wheezes up the steep stairs, and by the time he’s at the top he’s doubled over, hand on his stomach and eyes squinting at the ground.

    He first notices Dr Trebax by his shoes.

    They’re purple and gold wing-tipped shoes from another time, and while Daniel’s nowhere near fashionable he cringes.

    He pulls himself up and looks at the rest of the doctor, taking in his youthful appearance and tight smile. The rest of his clothes are also purple and gold, and Daniel wonders if he’s forgotten it’s Mardi Gras.

    “Hello~?” Dr Trebax trills. “What are you doing on my property~?” He sings the last syllable of all his sentences harshly, and Daniel blanches.

    He’s made the doctor angry, and who knows what happens when the doctor’s angry. He stammers out an apology and turns to leave, but when he reaches the top step he can’t move any farther.

    “Nuh-uh-uh~!” He sings, “You’re not leaving that easily~. Now tell me what you came here for, and you can go.”

    Daniel turns around, ice cold air pouring down his back, “W-when you first came here, thirty years ago, you gave everyone a wish. (I know that.) I never used mine.”

    Dr Trebax sighs, leaving Daniel to only guess what he is disappointed about. “Fine~” He resigns, and Daniel feels himself move again. “Either ask your wish or leave.”

    “I want to be young again!” He says with renewed confidence. “My wife and friends are gone and I can barely walk anymore and I want people to call me Danny!”

    The doctor rolls his eyes, boring “Okay, I can grant that. Just let me get what you’re looking for.” He disappears in a flash and reappears even quicker, “Stay here.”

    Immediately he’s still.

    Five minutes of aching knees later he appears once more, “Here,” He says with a triumphant grin, “Takes off a couple years.”

    Five days later a woman gives birth to a baby boy and calls him Daniel.

    Five years later he hasn’t grown.

    Dr Trebax sits in his library, sipping tea and reading. “Huh,” he says, “Danny was sixty, not eighty.”

    He’s always been bad at guessing age.

  3. slayerdan

    So I did three drafts of an idea and I didnt like the result of any. Some moments of brilliance, but overall just didnt like them. So this week just going to comment on others. Excelsior.

    1. jincomt

      Slayerdan, I should have followed your lead. I made two stabs at it, posted them, ain’t thrilled with either. Wise you. I will do the same next time I find myself in this conundrum.

      –Grasshopper

  4. RickDS

    Lemon/Lime
    A translucent v-shaped wake spread out behind each duck because the water in the pond was quiet, reflective.
    “Is that seat taken?”
    I didn’t know him, had never seen him before. “No.”
    “May I?”
    “Sure. Yeah, go ahead.”
    The man was short, shorter than most.”
    “I am Dr. Randolph Schoozenheimer, PHD.”
    He held out his hand from out of a brown wool shirt with green stripes.
    I shook his hand. “Hi. I’m Greg. Are you…looking for an address?”
    “Are you lost is what you mean.”
    I would have felt embarrassed, but for his smile.
    “I’m here with a gift,” he continued.
    I didn’t reply. I thought he said gift.
    “What is your biggest dream?”
    What is with this guy?
    “I’ll bet you dream of a certain young lady.”
    There is a girl. She’s new in town. But how does he know? He just looked like a John Doe on his was to visit his grandkids. “Pardon my French, but what the duck are you up to?”
    “I’m here to make you an offer.”
    “You’re selling something.”
    “No…”
    “Do your thing, man.”
    “I’m really looking forward to this part of the process”
    Greg simply looked at Schoozenheimer.
    “I have a secret potion.” Saying that brought a smile. “You drink it and your dream will forever be yours; guaranteed, lifetime, no questions asked.”
    Greg kept looking. “You want me to drink that… stuff…”
    “I know how you feel.”
    “You know. Oh good.”
    “The potion is safe.”
    “Safe.”
    “Non-poisonous, won’t cause heart burn, acid stomach, headache, or hallucinations.”
    “Oh good.”
    “What it will do is fulfill your dream of possessing the woman whose name is Trisha.
    “Just like that.”
    “It’s so simple it’s almost a crime.”
    “It’s a crime I’m talking to you.”
    I was in a hurry. I figured it was prank that somehow made the doctor feel good. I drank it. It tasted lemon/lime. I left to continue my day.
    Thirty minutes later my cell phone rings. It was Trisha, the Trisha. I picked her up that night at 6:00.
    First she asked me if I brushed my teeth and took a shower. She showed me pictures of her cats, at least 3 times. She told me stories, all true, of food poisonings, symptoms she recited with a smile on her face. She asked me if I brought my key, and told me if I really loved her I would fly her to Disneyland.
    And by the way, she said, our wedding is next Sunday at 2.
    I went back to the pond the next day, same table. The same ducks were swimming around,
    He told me Trisha is actually 124 years old.
    “I was hers for 7 years. Desperate, I wanted out so we made a deal. She told me to find her a young stud to take my place and she would set me free.
    So I did.
    I came to the café at the pond, counted 7 tables from the left, and there you were. Congratulations!

    1. radioPanic

      Interesting take. Great use of dialogue for characterization! Only thing that threw me is that the POV shifts from first to third person, and I think there may be some quotes missing toward the end. (Be nice if we could edit posts on here!)

  5. cmkalmes

    The mad scientist stood wringing his hands, urging me to drink the potion that could grant my deepest wish. With one quick jerk I threw it to the back of my throat, jerked my head back and swallowed. I hoped it would work.

    I padded into Dad’s room. He was lying still on the narrow nursing home bed, blankets tucked in around him.. His eyes were half open and cloudy, and he stared through his morphine-induced trance. His hands were curled and misshapen from the arthritis that took his strength years ago.

    “Hi, Dad,” I said softly as I stood by his bed. He looked up at me, and I saw the faint smile cross his lips as he recognized me. I stood inches from him, afraid to touch him, wondering if the potion could really give me the power to cure him, to make his body young again.

    “How’s it going today?” I asked.
    “Hey sweetie,” came the hardly audible voice. “Not so bad today,” he whispered. His grimace told me even with the morphine on board he was in pain.

    I hesitated, then reached out and touched his shoulder. His body immediately quivered. I watched in awe as one by one his fingers began to uncurl and the tangle of knuckles unraveled. He let out a gasp. “Honey, what’s happening,” he asked. Together we watched as inch by inch the arthritis left his body. His limbs straightened and his muscles regrouped.

    “I came to give you a second chance, Dad,” I said as I explained the power of the potion.

    “I don’t believe it,” he said as he sat up straight in bed for the first time in a decade.

    “Well believe it, Daddy. This is a new lease on life!” I was giddy with excitement as I helped Dad out of bed, and we danced around his room in his plaid pajamas.

    Weeks later I stopped at Dad’s house to take him out for lunch only to find the door locked and the curtains pulled shut. A couple of days’ mail was piled in the box alongside the door. Frantic, I called around to friends and family until I was told that Dad had returned earlier that week to the nursing home.

    I was out of breath as I walked into Dad’s room and found him curled up in his bed. My heart fell. My potion had worn off. My powers to heal were gone. I took hold of Dad’s hand, expecting to find it crippled and withered. Instead, his fingers were still soft and supple. Confused, I asked, “Dad, what’s wrong? Why are you back in the nursing home?”

    Dad looked up at me with sad eyes. “Honey, you can fix my body, but you can’t fix my soul. My house is empty. Your mom and the rest of my friends have all gone on before me. Now I’m an old man stuck in a young body. Just let me be.”

  6. lhollowell

    “Perhaps you’ve misunderstood, Mr.Nelliston,” Dr. Behar said calmly, as he slowly moved around his desk towards Malcolm’s chair.

    The titanium-framed glasses and neatly trimmed gray hair and beard gave Behar a professional air, but his leering grin and night-black eyes belied such a noble appearance, thought Malcolm. He looked down, making little attempt to hide his amusement at Malcolm’s discomfort. “I haven’t misunderstood anything, Dr. Behar.” Malcolm quickly stood up, meeting him at eye level. “You wanted me to be a guinea pig!”

    Behar smiled as if Malcolm had made a joke, then walked back behind the desk. He sat down, leaning back, eying him speculatively. The leer reappeared. “Sit down, sit down, Mr. Nelliston,” he said, waving a hand. “I did not mean to offend.”

    Malcolm sat. He looked around the office, at the degrees and certificates framed on the cherry-paneled walls. Accompanying Dr. Behar’s Ph.D were others which no normal scientist would have dared display. Certified Occultist. Degrees in Sorcery and Necromancy. There were also stuffed animals which Malcolm dared not look at too closely. He might realize what they actually were.

    “Mr. Nelliston,” Behar intoned.

    Malcolm turned back to the scientist.

    Behar leaned forward and placed his arms on the desktop. It almost looked like his eyes had no irises. “Let us be truly honest with each other, Mr. Nelliston. Yes, I offered you my potion, but you could have refused.” His eyes flicked to the window, as if he had seen something outside. Malcolm glanced there, but saw nothing. “You wanted my services,” Behar continued.

    “You claimed your potion could give me anything I desired!”

    “Yes, anything,” Behar replied, smiling. “But only one thing.” His eyes flicked to the window again. “Otherwise, there are – complications.”

    “You didn’t mention any complications!”

    Behar’s gaze bore into Malcolm. If his eyes had appeared dark before, they now were black pits. “Yes, I did. I told you, you could have only one thing.” His leer returned. “You told me you wanted the love of your co-worker, Melissa. Correct?”

    “Yes,” Malcolm sighed. “And now she loves me. But I’m in agony whenever she’s near.” Malcolm began to tremble.

    “How did you speak your desire?” Behar asked.

    Malcolm groaned. “I said, ‘I want Melissa to love me and be with me forever.’”

    Behar grinned. “That’s three things. Since you disregarded my instructions, you get all three desires.” He leaned towards Malcolm. “Plus pain for disobedience.” His grin broadened. Scattered tiny lights seemed to dance in his eyes. “Which gives me pleasure.”

    Someone knocked on the office door. A young woman opened it and peeked in. “Come in, Melissa,” Behar said. “I thought I saw you outside.” He looked at Malcolm, who was writhing in pain. “We were just talking about your – problem.”

    Melissa sat down beside Malcolm. “Yes, Dr. Behar.” She clasped Malcolm’s hand, caressed his cheek. “Can you help?”

    Numerous sparks glittered in Behar’s eyes. “Yes. I have a potion,” he leered, watching Malcolm’s mouth open. Only whimpers came out.

  7. Pdomoniq

    Professor West, my mentor, cleared his throat, and fitfully began walking the length of the narrow aisle of the research lab. His hands were clasped behind his broad back. His healthy middle protruded over his pants as he paced muttering to himself. The doctor’s grizzly mane was styled in its signature upright gravity defying position, and he wore a brooding expression.

    I knew better than to interrupt his ruminations. Instead, I teetered on the lab stool drying my eyes with the handkerchief that he had offered me. Despite his quirks, he was a brilliant man.

    Professor West had begun his third trip up the aisle when abruptly he turned towards me. “Marie, I don’t normally mettle in matters of the heart,” Professor West gravely informed me, withdrawing his hands from behind his back and pressing his frameless glasses back on the bridge of his nose. He paused.” Well then,” he said and promptly went to one of the overhead cabinets.

    “Professor?” I said rising to my feet, smoothing out my skirt.

    He didn’t answer. Instead, he continued his rummaging. Finally, he pulled out a small stainless steel flask.

    “Professor, I don’t drink.”

    He unscrewed the cap and then overturned the flask. A slender corked vial of bluish red liquid slid out. “Here.”

    “How is this going to help me with my heartbreak.”

    “If he means that much to you then drink. ” He offered me the vial.

    “What does it do exactly?”

    “It’s tailored to the person you desire most. It will make you irresistible to him.”

    “I tested it on myself once. It’s how I married my wife.” My mood brightening with that bit of information. I accepted the vial. “I was transformed into a tall lean machine,” he continued. “I rushed her to the church and married her immediately.”

    I started to uncork it. “Wait. You must visually lay eyes on the person you desire.” He laughed. “Unless you would like for me to find you irresistible.”

    Giving a nervous laugh, I grabbed my bag from the lab counter. Checking my watch, “Eddie would be in the his reserved study room,” I announced, and then hastily stuffed the handkerchief in my bag. I turned to face the professor,. “Thank you.” I gave him a big hug.

    “Cave Quid Optes,” he muttered.

    Ending the hug, “What?”

    “Be careful what you wish for.” As I started to question him, he shooed me out the lab. I looked at the closed door and then down at the vial before rushing off to Eddie’s reserved study area.

    Taking a moment to catch my breath, I peered at Eddie through the small glass window in the door. He was bent over his book totally absorbed in his studies. I unstopped the flask. It smelled like bean curd. I pinched my nose and drank the entire vial.

    I tapped on the window and Eddie looked up. He started to look away and then smiled.

    I smiled and motioned to come in. He nodded.

    “Hey,” I muttered wistfully. But ny voice sounded starnge. Deeper. I cleared my throat.

    “Eddie.” He extended his hand.

    Puzzled, I extended my hand as well. I stopped mid handshake. They were larger and veiny, though my nails were still painted passion pink.

    I turned and peered at my reflection in the glass. I was shocked by my pronounced chin and emasculated features. I screamed though in my current stated it sound more like a grunt. I opened the door and fled the room.

    1. Egg

      Love the subtlety of the twist. I confess that I had to think about this (was it the reflection? was he an egotist who only loved himself?) before reaching the obvious conclusion. I think the ‘”Eddie.” He extended his hand’ confused me because at first read, I thought he said it, not her.
      Anyway, I really like how you write. Your descriptions are fantastic and your words flow so effortlessly.

  8. dcahill

    The pain coursed it way through my veins piercing my heart. It’s blackness consuming my sole. I claw at the ground. My fists full of dirt,grass, and blood. I scream to the heavens. “How can I live when you have taken my life?”
    The demon of sorrow has ripped me apart leaving behind a shell of a person. I lay on her grave,her marker my pillow.
    Carrie N Smith
    1995-2012
    Mamas angle on lone from heaven was called home
    “My little girl,” I scream,rage spitting from my mouth like an erupting volcano.
    “I can help you my child,” came a deep voice form out of the darkness.
    My eyes opened to reviel a tall,pale man looming over me. His thin mouth was turned up,not necessarily a smile of happiness but more of satifaction. His huge round eyes shone of a high gloss black rimmed with a firery yellow that actually appeared to glow.
    “There is no help for me.” My voice was lifeless,machine like. “I am but a lost sole floating in the wind waiting on death to renuite me with my daughter.”
    As if I didn’t even speak he continued his voice strong and hard but his words were smooth as silk.
    “They call me the Scientist.” “The Scientist of Lost Soles,and I know your desire,” he purred. “But,my dear you must ask for it.” “I must here the words from your mouth.”
    “Carrie,” screamed up at him. “I wish for my Carrie to be alive.”
    His hands clasped together. Blinding red flames shot out from his fingertips. A blinding white flash exploded out from between his palms. He slowly opened his hands cupping in them a delicate glass vile. The liquid inside swirled as if it were alive.
    “You must drink from the vile and your Carrie will return.” “But be warned something will be taken from you in return.”
    The potion was warm,sweet like honey with a touch of sour lemon.
    The man faded back into the night from where he came, his words lingering in the air. “When all is done you will here form me.”
    I don’t remember falling asleep but I was woken up by the sweetest sound. ” Mama…” Opening my eyes I saw darkness. “Carrie?” My words I could not here. My hands reached out but I felt nothing.
    Panic surged through my body all I could here was the crule laugh of the Scientist.
    “Carrie has returned as I promised. I have allowed you to here her voice to confirm it.” “You have lost your sences as payment for your desirl.”
    “You will never see her.”
    “You will never again hear her”
    “And though Carrie is now holding you in her arms you will never feel her.”

  9. mgb

    “Dr. Cornelius is here for his license plates. He asked to see you,” said the deadpan voice on the intercom.

    A grin spread across Scott Harden’s face, “Ah, good ole Dr. Cornelius. My greatest upsell of all time!”

    The corduroy-clad chemistry professor had come in looking for a tiny hybrid. The stereotype made Scott yawn until he realized how fun it would be to turn this green guy. Dr. Cornelius drove off the lot in the top-of-the-line SUV.

    Proud all over again, Scott straightened his tie, brushed imaginary lint from his jacket, shared a confidence-building wink with his reflection in the window, and sashayed out onto the floor.

    Scott and Dr. Cornelius shook hands like high school classmates at a reunion.

    “Still glad you didn’t settle for that hybrid? Lovin’ the Bluetooth? You can talk about your chemistry ideas as you command the road in a style befitting a professor such as yourself.”

    “I can’t lie. It’s more comfortable than any car I’ve ever owned. Still, I feel like a traitor to the environment and to myself.”

    The professor fiddled with the flap of the envelope holding his new plates.

    “But one passes the point of no return. This is that point.”

    “Don’t be so hard on yourself, Doc. You work hard discovering stuff. You deserve it.”

    “Say, I was thinking about the conversation we had while trudging through the endless paperwork to make this luxury behemoth mine. You told me how you dream of being a best-selling author. How you want to go on the talk show circuit, sell action figures, movie rights, and all.”

    “Yeah, Doc. You remember that?”

    “You said the story doesn’t have to be great; it just has to have ‘the right things to hook ‘em.’”

    “You got it. Talking to Fallon, Stewart, Letterman, Leno—that’s the stuff. Heck, I could even chat with the ladies on The View!”

    Clutching his tags, Dr. Cornelius motioned for Scott to follow him out to his shiny car. After placing the brown envelop on the pristine black leather seat, the professor pulled a tiny clear glass vial out of the cup caddy. Leaning close to Scott’s ear, he explained that the magical elixir helped Ph.D. candidates ace their written exams.

    “Doc, I sure appreciate your telling me about your work, but I gotta get back to the floor,” said Scott, staring at the liquid.

    “This vial could make your dream come true. It’s not fully tested, but based on the Ph.D. candidates, I believe this can work for you. Drink it. The rest will take care of itself.”

    Scott secreted the vial into his inside jacket pocket. The rest of the workday could not move by quickly enough, and he could not stop patting his jacket to confirm the vial was still there.

    “Best-selling book, here I come!”

    One year later, a completely fatigued Dr. Cornelius climbed into his still new feeling SUV. The radio started automatically, as usual, but what he heard jolted him to attention.

    “Today’s guest is Scott Harden, successful car salesman turned best-selling author, and his agent, Madeleine Engstrom. Harden’s first book was published a few months ago, but it is what happened right after he typed the last word that catapulted him into the spotlight: He lost his ability to speak. As Ms. Engstrom will explain, it was as if putting the words on paper removed the words from his mouth.”

  10. JR MacBeth

    “Granpa came back Mom!  He wasn’t crazy anymore!  He told me I could wish for anything I wanted!  Anything!”

    “Honey, honey!  It’s OK.  Grandpa is gone…in heaven now.  Sweetheart, I miss him too…”

    “You don’t believe me?”

    “Of course I believe you!  You had a dream honey, that’s all, they can seem so real…”

    “He was real!  He was!”

    “Shh!  Hush now, you’ll wake the whole neighborhood!  Just go back to sleep now baby.  We’ll talk about it in the morning.”

    “He was real…He really was…”

    —————————————-

    Morning came with a knock at the door.  Men in uniform.  Rachel’s mother felt her gut tighten, although there was no reason anymore.  Her husband had disappeared in the jungles of Vietnam over a year ago.

    She opened the door.  “Good morning Ma’am, hope we’re not too early.”

    “Not at all.”  She looked at them, puzzled.  They didn’t have that sad look that she had expected.

    “Ma’am, it’s about your husband.  He’s alive.”

    “Oh my God!”  The woman collapsed, hand on her mouth, her eyes wide.  The men went to steady her.

    “How?  Where…?”

    “He doesn’t seem to remember anything.  He’s in a hospital in Tokyo now, but should be released soon.  God willing, he’ll be here the day after tomorrow!”

    She stood back up, a stunned expression on her face, tears in her eyes.  She had just finally come to terms with his “death” in the days after her own father’s passing.  It seemed like a dream.

    “Mommy?  Is Daddy coming home now?”  A sleepy-eyed girl had come to see who was at the door.  She must have overheard. “Yes baby, Yes! Daddy’s coming home!”

    After the men left, she sat her down. She said they would prepare a big homecoming.

    “So honey? You dreamed about Daddy coming home?”

    “Granpa told me I could have anything I wanted.  I wanted my Daddy.”

    Her mother looked into her daughter’s big eyes.  Perhaps a strange coincidence, her dream the night before.

    “Sweetheart, what did Grandpa say to you?”

    “To drink this!”  She produced a tiny vial.  “He said my wish would come true. A magic potion!”

    “Give me that!  What on earth…?  Where did you find this?”

    “He gave it to me Mommy.”

    “Oh my God!”  There was terror on the woman’s face.  “What did you tell Grandpa you would…trade?”

    “You know about that Mommy?”

    “Yeah.  I…I know about it.”

    “He told me it had to be really important, or it wouldn’t work.”

    Her mother looked beyond concerned. Tears were forming in her eyes.

    “What…What dear? What did you tell him?”

    “I said I didn’t know what was ‘important’.” She shrugged.

    “And…?”

    “He told me Daddy’s legs were gone. He says, ‘Is walking important?’ I cried. I said that I still wanted my Daddy, but if he thought it was important enough, maybe the magic could take my legs too.”

    “Oh sweetheart!” The mother bent down to take her child in her arms. She held her tight.

    “We must never tell Daddy about this. Never!”

    “I know Mommy. Don’t worry, he won’t ever know.”

    1. Egg

      Very good. The story through dialogue was so easy and believable to read, and I love the allusion to mystery at, ‘Yeah, I know about that.’ Nice touch.

      1. Naomi

        I agree with Egg about your dialogue carrying the story so well. The mother knowing about there being a trade adds a new dimension, and a level of creepiness, to the story. Very nice.

  11. GWNynke

    My body was falling apart. Literally, it was falling apart.

    It started at my left big toe, which I never really liked, but hindsight, I would have given everything to get it back.
    After I’d blinked in disbelief, three of my toes were gone. They had just vanished, no ashes, no bones, no skin was left behind.
    Strangely enough, it didn’t hurt. I didn’t feel anything; not even my usual headaches that never really seemed to disappear, no matter how many painkillers I took.
    Because it didn’t hurt it took a while before I screamed for help. Dr. Alan Chester came running for me from behind his glass wall, where he had been all the time.

    “Do something!” I yelled, while Chester ran to a small black closet behind the glass wall. When he returned, my left leg was gone up till my knee and my right foot was starting to vanish already.
    He was unpacking all kinds of pills and drinks, stuffing them in my mouth so I had no choice but to swallow them. When I finally got to breathe again, the vanishing didn’t stop, but at least seemed to go a little slower.

    I felt my consciousness fading and I was fine with that. I wanted sleep to embrace me with it’s warm, dark arms. Chester, however, seemed to think differently and grabbed my by my shoulders, shouting at me, “Tell me, what did you wish for? Tell me!”
    I managed to mutter what I had wished for and a look of pure horror struck his face.

    Then I was gone.
    My wish, what was my wish again? I didn’t really care because I was swimming in the dark, sleeping (I hoped) when the thought struck me again. Everlasting life.

    When I woke up – I woke up? – I wasn’t dead. I was in the same room, the pills and drinks lying next to me, on the same place Chester had dropped hem when he tried to save my life.
    ‘My legs!’ I thought and when I looked at my feet they weren’t there anymore. My left leg was completely gone, my right leg missed its foot and my left hand had vanished as well. When I tried to push myself up, I saw Chester sitting behind the glass wall.

    I asked Chester what had happened, but he made gestures that meant ‘I don’t hear you,’ and held up a note which said “I don’t know how to break this to you, but” and then he scribbled wildly on another paper “you live in a vacuum. No chance to get out of there.”

    1. radioPanic

      You have an interesting, very compelling style. Which makes it hard to say… I don’t get it. I’m not following the causality.

      Some good advice I’ve heard is never to underestimate your audience, they’re smarter than you think. Either I’m NOT smarter than you think, or maybe there’s something left out that YOU know, but your audience has no way of knowing. Or else it’s just me.

      But I’m definitely looking forward to future posts!

      1. GWNynke

        Oh, wow, thanks so much for the response!

        I see, I think I left out too much indeed.
        Maybe it explains something if I mention that English is not my native language and some rhetorical techniques often used in my own language – Dutch – aren’t as well known, or something, in English.

        Thanks again for the constructive criticism, it’s highly appreciated!

  12. zo-zo

    In Wayesville, the only way a girl gets a ring on her fat finger is if she can cook. As soon as he tastes her chilli, or her roast Sunday beef, the decision is made. Sure, they pretend to be indecisive for a couple of months, but everybody knows the real hook is the first meal.

    And all my first meals were scraped into the trash and we gritted our teeth at each other in Joe’s Burgers, with the smell of grease and stale coffee lingering and Joe and his yellow holey shirt beaming over us. Joe’s gives my dates discounts, says I’m good for business. But they still don’t come back for another try.

    So that’s why I went all the way up into the city, in the middle of a four-lane highway, where people use more four letter words in a sentence than I’ve heard Daddy say in his lifetime. Dee said he was a doctor.

    My gut told me that he wasn’t no doctor. His dress too – he was all casual and dirty, smiling bigger than any doctor I’d seen. Never trust doctors that smile. But that day, I was desperate. I’d had four Fridays worth of burnt food for the month, and my mother’s ulcers were playing up due to my empty house. I had to do something.

    I walked into his room and started to feel strange. His office looked normal, with a table and a whole lot of awards sitting above it, but I didn’t feel normal. I did not feel like Phillipa Erma Jackson. I felt old and sad and kind of fuzzy in my head, like I was walking into some thick mist.

    ‘Enter with joy, little one,’ that scrawny man said as he saw me hovering near the door. He was missing teeth too. ‘Now,’ he looked at the folder in his hand, ‘you need to develop a flair for cooking.’

    ‘Yes, yes,’ he smiled with half his teeth, ‘what a sad little dilemma.’ He didn’t look sad. He looked happier than momma on pay day outside Lola’s Dresses. ‘I can help you.’

    I was so depressed in there that I began crying, just thinking of Joe’s Burgers. Well, he told me he’d give me something for free. He gave me a pink bottle, telling me to drink and I’d never have a problem with cooking. I’d be the next Paula Deen.

    I swallowed the whole bottle down, getting every drop into my gullet. It was only when it was all inside that he told me I’d have to be monitored.

    ‘Monitored?’

    ‘Yes, yes,’ he waved his head left and right. ‘We think there may be a side effect, but it shouldn’t affect your cooking.’ He paused, and chuckled. ‘It may affect your bodily… um… functions.’

    He hadn’t finished talking when a stench of beans and rotten meat filled the room. I started shaking – it came from me.

  13. MCKEVIN

    Clem’s Invention

    “Are you sure this stuff will work Clem?”
    “Trace I assure you formula sixty one is the shit. Besides, have I ever lied to you?”
    “You want a list and do you have time?”
    “Funny! I’m telling you with the right investors and marketing, we’ll be finance free.”
    There has to be something to this lime green gel. I’ve never seen Clem Fermilard this excited
    about an invention. His male ancestors allegedly, were witch doctors. One of his grandfathers
    turned water into in wine and another fed a whole village with one loaf of bread. Supposedly,
    it’s is well documented. I guess it’s in his blood.
    “What’s in it?”
    “Lemon dicks and Shouting Pussies.” He said it like they were kitchen spices.
    “Where did you get them?”
    “They’re plantation species, lab crossed breeds.”
    “Who else has tried it?”
    “Gil on three and Nate on six.”
    “The firm’s resident jocks? It worked for them?”
    “They’re rock hard as we speak.”
    I held the vial in my hand and wondered how many hours Clem had dedicated to
    creating it. Why would he try to tackle a larger than life problem? It must be a man thing.
    “Women use this stuff too?” I asked hoping to catch him off guard.
    “Women in particular like it rock hard effects and some men too.” Smiling.
    He knew I liked them hard twenty four seven, three hundred sixty five.
    “What about a man with a wife?’
    “He could satisfy you both.”
    “I don’t want her satisfied, I need her gone.”
    I smelled the tube. It was musky pungent like the smell of testosterone. My mind drifted to
    mindless sex Doug and I could have. It’s good I left that air mattress on the roof. We could have
    the life we dreamt about. We could patent greenie here and be millionaires overnight. If I could
    convince Clem to let us license it, we could add it to creams, teas and lotions. The possibilities
    are endless.
    “So why me Clem?”
    “I know how you like them hard and you would understand.”
    “You know me too well, perhaps too well.
    Clem and I, started work here at Wimberly Labs in Chicago IL two years ago. He was short,
    stout, shy and introverted. I ate lunch with him once and he considered it a date. Iprefer men
    who are tall as I am, six feet and over. I did what real men should do and told him I was
    flattered but not interested. We became friends. He showed me many of his inventions
    but never asked me take one internally.
    I stuck my finger in the tube and it felt like liquid silk.
    “What the catch and guarantee Clem?” I was looking for honesty.
    ‘No catch.” He lied. “But it will make you feel ten years younger and perform like an
    athlete. Trace, some people need a little help in a certain area and this is the solution. The only
    side effects are balding and impotence. Rock hard abs,
    GUARANTEED!”

  14. Susi G

    Mrs. Casey Vann set her groceries down on the counter, sighing slightly in exasperation. She should really put away the perishables away and start dinner, but she needed a moment to breathe. She’d just gotten home from a long day of work on her feet (she had a highly unrewarding job as a city tour guide) and a rushed trip to the grocery store. Her husband expected a meal on the table when he got home. Her ten-year-old twins were playing a lively game of ball in the yard and their delighted screams were giving her a headache.

    Casey was a pretty woman of thirty-five who had once had the chance to marry a rich and charming man but had chosen her high school student sweetheart, Mark. The marriage had started going south after the both of their youngest, who was now six years old. But she hadn’t the heart to throw her children’s lives into the chaos of a divorce. Her children were her pride and joy.

    “Mom?” her thirteen-year-old daughter Olivia asked, poking her blond head into the kitchen. Casey smiled thinly. “What’s up?”

    “Oh nothing, sweetie. Just a little tired,” she said.

    Liv frowned softly. “Why?”

    Casey didn’t feel like going into details.

    “Mom’s a little stressed, baby,” she said. “Sometimes life is a little hectic.”

    Liv looked thoughtful, sliding into one of the seats around the table. “Would you say you wish your life was easier?”

    “I suppose,” Casey agreed. Liv grinned and popped back up, curls bouncing.

    “I have just the thing,” she promised enthusiastically. She disappeared for a few minutes and Casey took the time to put away a few of the groceries, patiently waiting for her daughter’s miracle pick me up.

    She came back holding a beaker full of green liquid. Casey’s dad had bought Olivia a chemistry set for Christmas. Casey smiled at her daughter. It was probably water a lbs food dye, but Casey played along, sipping the liquid politely. It was largely tasteless.

    “Now go take a nap and I’ll.make dinner,” Liv insisted. Casey kissed the top of her daughter’s head and wandered off to her room to rest her aching feet.

    When she awoke she caught a look at herself in the mirror. She looked better, less worn. Shrugging it off, she wandered back into he kitchen. Liv wasn’t there. Instead her husband was cheerfully making a stir fry. He smiled at her and placed a kiss on her cheek. She blinked.

    “Hey honey,” he said. “Romantic dinner for two?”

    “What? What about the kids, Mark?”she asked. He frowned.

    “What kids, Case?”

    A sinking feeling settled in her stomach, and with the memory of gold curls and a impish grin fresh in her mind she began to cry.

  15. Anita

    “Most of them you couldn’t afford, anyway,” the guy told me, “but oh, if you could! With just a sip of my elixir, you could make your wildest dreams come true!”
    This character looked almost like he believed it himself, but then, what can you expect when you’re reduced to associating with the scraggly denizens of a dive like the Purple Lily? He was drunk, that’s for sure, and none too clean, judging from the smell. Still, on a Saturday night with no date and nothing but dust in your pockets, you find your entertainment where you can.
    “Buy me another drink,” I said. “I’d like to hear more about this.” With a little luck, and if he was as drunk as he appeared, I could drink for free the rest of the night.
    “Sure!” He motioned to the bored guy behind the bar. “I’ll have another one of these, and give my friend here another, uh, whatever it was.” His eyes looked a little glazed, but I took that to be his natural state.
    “Actually, I have potions in all price ranges. There’s a green one that will give you riches beyond anything you ever imagined.”
    That caught my interest. “Hey, that sounds good. How much is that one?” Maybe I was getting a little drunk myself, but what the hell.
    “I’m afraid that’s one of the pricier ones. I have to charge five thousand dollars for that. Raw materials, you know. Frog spit is hard to come by.”
    I cringed at the thought of frog spit, and also at the idea of my having five thousand dollars to spend on a wild idea. “Yeah, well, I think I’ll pass. It’s out of my budget, for sure.” I held up my empty glass once more..
    He took the hint and ordered another round. “I do have one with me,” he said with some hesitation. “It’s my sample, so I offer it for free. It will make all your wildest dreams come true. And if for some reason you don’t enjoy the results, there is always an antidote.”
    Free was right up my alley.
    “You got a deal, bud,” I said eagerly. I downed my fresh drink as he placed a tiny bottle on the bar, squarely in front of me.
    “Don’t sip it,” he cautioned. “Just gulp it down all at once. It’s only a few drops anyway.”
    I pulled the stopper and tossed off the contents of the bottle. The taste was mellow, like good scotch, and the effect was instantaneous.
    All around me the air was filled with flying beasts, hungry eyes and wicked beaks aiming for me.
    The strange little man sat in silence and smiled at me.
    “What have you done to me?” I cried.
    “What do you mean? Those are your wildest dreams, aren’t they?”
    “The antidote! I need the antidote!”
    His smile widened.
    “Certainly, my friend. Of course, you do realize, that’s one of the pricier ones…”

  16. metaman321

    The patient, a writer by trade, came to my office for a follow up visit after taking the experimental elixir popularly known as ‘Modest Success.’ The patient had ingested a small amount of the elixir in liquid form six months ago. I was aware that the patient had recently achieved a long-time goal of being published. I wanted to know the extent to which the elixir had helped.

    I began. “So, I understand congratulations are in order.”

    “Oh yes, doctor, it’s been wonderful! The book signing, people asking for my autograph, the television appearance, it’s been everything I’ve always wanted.”

    I said nothing in return, waiting to see what the patient would add without my prompting.

    “Life has been one high after another. I’ve been meeting people who wouldn’t have given me the time of day before I was published. And I don’t have to approach them, they want to meet me!”

    “Uh-huh,” I said, writing on my note pad.

    “And I’ve been so busy! People from everywhere are writing to me, wanting to know what I think of their work and asking me how I went about getting published. Of course, who has time for them? I mean, after all, very few people helped me along the way.”

    “I see,” I said, continuing to write.

    “There’s a group of us, you know, those who have been published. We blog back and forth, commenting amongst ourselves and pretty much ignoring the others. It’s been great being part of that crowd.”

    “And so, do you think the elixir has helped with your new-found success?” I asked.

    “Well, I’m not really sure,” said the writer. “I think at first it helped me to concentrate but as for enhancing my writing, I don’t really know. And lately, I’ve been experiencing physical discomforts that I want to talk to you about, doctor, and see what you think might be the problem.”

    “Go on,” I said, putting my note pad aside.

    “Well, I’ve been feeling sluggish lately, pressure, like someone is sitting on my chest. Tell me doctor, do you think it’s my heart?”

    “I don’t know, tell me more.”

    “I’ve been smelling this odor, this stink, wherever I go. Tell me doctor do you think it’s a brain tumor?”

    “I doubt it but tell me more.”

    “I’ve been making these involuntary noises, like ‘pft’. And sometimes it’s a really loud ‘blat’. Tell me doctor do you think it’s Tourette?”

    “No, I don’t think so, but is there anything else?”

    “Yes. I’ve been very unhappy with my writing lately. It seems I’ve lost my edge. All my work turns out to be crap. Tell me doctor, what do you think?’

    “Well,” I said, taking off my glasses and cleaning them with a tissue. “I think it’s obvious. A small amount of ‘Modest Success’ has turned you into an asshole!”

  17. Inez

    I stood at the bus top waiting for the school bus. I needn’t look at the time to know it was still fifteen minutes too early for the white bus to drive past. Mom’s habit of dropping me off too early failed to bring up the usual slow irritation that crawls up my chest to my right temple where it began a progressive throb. My mind was fixed on the test I had to write today. Mathematics. How I loathe the subject.

    I put my hands into my uniform trousers and bobbed on my feet, and then I kicked a small stone off the pavement and watched it settle into a pothole on the tarred road. It was still chilly, the sun barely out yet. People hurried past. No one stopped or looked back. I was always the only student at this school bus top at this time. There wasn’t any seat to recline on so I had to stand for forty-five minutes. But that wasn’t what bothered me today. Mathematics. I could already see myself submitting the answer booklet with a few unintelligent scribbles in it. Needles and pins went wild under my arms at the thought of it and I pinched at them to numb them.

    A bulky man walked up, but he didn’t walk past. He stopped right in front of me. My nostrils flared slightly, my eyes widened and my breathing lowered at the sight of him. He had a beehive of unkempt beard and his eyes were narrowed to slits.
    “You have a problem, boy?” He said
    I’m not sure if I nodded or not, but he went on as if I had. “You have a problem you use this” He grabbed my right hand out of my uniform pocket and squeezed a bottle into it. “You’ll remember everything” He bent over and peered at me and then he smiled. My eyes were saucer wide and I thought if he touched me again I’d scream. He didn’t. He straightened, threw his head back in a hearty laugh and walked away still laughing.

    My first impulse was to fling the bottle far away. I stopped myself as the implication of what he’d said seeped in. “You’ll remember everything”. Was it possible that I’d remember Mathematics? My hopes came up. I looked again in the direction the man had gone then I swung my backpack off my bag and quickly buried the bottle amongst my books.
    The School Bus came and I boarded.

    I spent two hours debating if I should or shouldn’t use the bottle. And another hour contemplating how to use it after I’d resolved it would be better to try than suffer another series of jibes and jests from Joe and his swarm of followers. It was thirty minutes to the test hour that I flung caution to the wind and opened the bottle. The content was liquid. In fact it could have been water. I poured some into my palms and rubbed my palms together. It felt like water. I put the bottle to my lips and sipped a bit. It tasted like water too. I took a gulp. It was water. Disappointed I flung the bottle away prayed I hadn’t drunk something poisonous and picked up my math notes. I flipped through the pages until I got to the end then I started all over again. If I had been anxious before I was over anxious now. When the bell rang for the next period my heart began to palpitate. I walked into the classroom and plunked myself next to Joe. He elbowed me and snickered. His friends chuckled and one of them said “Did anything settle in your basket brain today?”
    I didn’t reply. I focused on trying not to cry. I was low. Below low in fact. I realized that I had nurtured hopes that a miracle was in that bottle. The answer booklets were distributed and the questions followed. I flipped my paper and looked at it.
    I realized suddenly that I knew it. I grabbed my pen and my hand flew across the page in my haste to write what I was beyond surprised that I knew.
    I went to bed a happy boy that night. I woke the next morning with a huge dose of enthusiasm. I greeted mom gaily and gave her a kiss. Then I did same to dad and sis. I grabbed a pancake and took a bite. It suddenly occurred to me that I had knowledge of everything dad knew including the number of ladies he’d slept with and that mom was unfaithful and sis was having period pains. Gross!

    1. Egg

      I find the 500 word limit excellent for keeping stories short and sharp, both to write and read. E.g. The two para’s that tell us he’s at a bus stop and anxious about a maths test, could probably be folded into one. (This is just a thought for your future posts and not intended as negative criticism.)

      Besides that, I like how you pick out the distinguishing traits of your scientist, and I thought you ended with a fun last paragraph. Good one.

      1. Amy

        I agree with Egg. You set up the scene exceptionally well, but the two paragraphs could definitely be condensed into one.
        I found myself rooting for this boy…you portrayed the underdog nicely!
        Gread ending!

  18. Amy

    The Essence of Love

    As the dust settled on the winding dirt road, I recognized the wagon passing the homestead. Gathering my long black skirts, I ran to the fence to watch its progress. Independence Day was fast approaching. Dr. Fantasm’s Fantastic Potions would be setting up shop in the town square.

    Desperation drove me. Eli had been cold in the grave for almost two years. I longed to join him. Or bring him back.

    Not bothering to remove my apron or smooth my unkempt hair, I followed the plumes of dust, arriving breathless as the familiar charlatan was lowering the steps and rolling back the bonnet.

    “Well, what have we here, little missy?” he shouted in his hawker’s voice.

    My head cast down in shame and embarrassment, I mumbled, “I need your help sir.”

    “Ah…you’re in need of a love potion to capture a young man, am I right?”

    I looked up, meeting his eyes for the first time. “Not quite,” I replied. “Can we talk in private?” I gestured to the interior of the wagon. Outside, locusts began their chorus once more, as the good doctor helped me up the rickety steps.

    What lay before my eyes was a scientific laboratory, complete with beakers of bubbling potions. Dried herbs hung from the wagon’s bows and large jars held preserved human organs.

    I stifled a gasp, reflexively covering my mouth, my eyes wide.

    “I’m not the trickster everyone believes I am,” he sighed. “But folks expect a flim-flam man, so that’s what I become. Dr. Ross, at your service.” He bowed.

    I curtsied. “Then help me, please. My Eli died almost two years ago and I can’t go on without him. Give me something…painless…so that I might join him.”

    “I won’t assist your suicide, my dear. Perhaps we could bring Eli back? Would that suit?” He rummaged amongst various bottles, removing a vial filled with a liquid that shone like gold.

    “Drink this in its entirety,” he instructed “But mind, there will be consequences. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. You won’t know the nature of that reaction until it’s too late, however.”

    I offered him payment, but he refused. I went home, light of heart, and drank the physic. Then, I waited.

    I busied myself with mundane chores-shelling peas, mending, churning butter. As the sun waned in the flaming sky, the figure of a man approached.

    Wishing I’d taken time to bathe and change my dress, I gathered up my skirts and ran to the gate, smoothing my hair with my free hand.

    “Eli!” I shouted, elated.

    The familiar figure slowly approached.

    “Who are you?” he asked, his voice hoarse.

    I drank in the sight of him, whole once more. “Don’t be silly. It’s me, Ginny.”

    He backed away. “You’re not Ginny. What have you done with her?”

    I reached up to touch my flaming cheeks, but they weren’t my own.

    Running to the well, I stared at my unfamiliar reflection.

    The potion had brought Eli back to me. But I was no longer myself.

    1. jincomt

      I agree- a well-crafted story that moves along so well. The set up and description are just right for the word limit. Well done! The conclusion is unexpected and leaves the reader wanting the next chapter.

  19. imprinted

    I stared at my spouse with sad eyes. My tear streaked face glowed in the candle lit room

    “So this is it?” I spat towards the lost shell of what was once my husband

    “No, I just thought that we could find a little normality. We can’t brood forever, the police are doing all they can” He replied, regretting his words instantly.

    “Things will NEVER be normal and if you think that a steak dinner will change that then you are sicker than I thought” I said, pushing my chair back letting the legs scrape across the floor and stormed out. I sat on my bed and I wept as I stroked the shiny cheek upon the photograph of my missing daughter.

    “Shit!” I exclaimed.Picking up the photograph of Dana, jamming my feet into a pair of shoes, leaving my husband snoring. Looking at him one last time in disgust at his lack of concern I got into my car, speeding off downtown.
    I arrived at the old warehouse, I knocked on the door and it opened with an eerie creak.

    “Hello?” I called out. I jumped back as an upside down face greeted me.

    “By close judgment of the moons position. You are, LATE” he said

    “I’m sorry” I stammered.

    “No matter” he said, unhooking himself, landing, and standing straight before me. He was a short man his frazzled white hair matched the colour of his lab coat.
    I was feeling uncomfortable as he was sitting opposite staring into my eyes. Reaching into my bag I pulled out the wrinkled photograph, he snatched the photo from me.

    “Ahh… here she is!” He said as he reached into a small cabinet and pulled from inside it a cherry red potion.

    “Drink and she will be revealed to you”

    I drank it fast, not allowing myself to taste it.

    “Pay up” He said “Be warned, with great power comes great consequence” He added. As I handed over the cash I could see her, alone and crying in a basement. It was MY basement.
    I thanked the man and hurried home to discover the basement door padlocked, I ran to my husband and shook him awake.

    “She’s in the basement, where’s the key for that padlock!” I screamed. He looked at me through half opened eyes and turned over and went back to sleep without saying a word. As he rolled over I noticed a key on a chain around his neck. I snapped the chain and returned to the basement, I fumbled with the lock and freed the door. There she was, her eyes lit up from the sight of me, for a moment all I could see was the blur as she rushed towards me.

    Why?” She sobbed, “Why did daddy do this?”

    I soothed her as my hand reached for the phone, I dialled 999 and hesitated I had expected a dire consequence as the scientist had explained, but could. I really choose between my husband and daughter?

  20. Egg

    “Thank you, James. That screen door had been bugging me for months. Now, if you could just wash my cat, Mogdon, I would be eternally grateful.” My neighbor’s unruly facial hair jiggles to the words.

    “I don’t think so, Melvin,” I say with a smile. “You know, you should think about moving into a smaller place? You’re not getting any younger.”

    “Pardon?”

    I lean forward and point to my ear. “WHY DON”T YOU GET A HEARING AID?”

    “Yes, yes, quite.” He reaches into the pocket of the bathrobe that I’ve noticed he’s been wearing over his clothes for three days now, and extracts a small, clear vial. “You are such a kind neighbor, James; I’d like to offer you this potion for anything.”

    I take the bottle and peer at the contents: it looks like sea water after a storm. “Don’t you mean, ‘I’d like to offer you this potion for nothing?’ What’s it for?”

    “Pardon?”

    “WHAT’S IT FOR?”

    “It’s for anything, my dear boy. Didn’t I just say that?” Melvin gently takes the vial from me, deftly flips out the cork and raises the glass to my lips.

    I step back and lift my hand defensively. “What are you doing?”

    “You can have anything, James. What would you dearly like to have?” He waves the bottle in front of my nose, and I catch a whiff of malt.

    “Yeah, okay. What about world peace?” I accept the vial, and with a playful smirk, drain the jar; it tastes just like Newcastle Brown. “Okay, I get it. Your home brew is good, Melvin, but you could do with bigger bottles.”

    “Pardon?”

    “BIGGER BOTTLES, YOU NEED BIGGER BOTTLES.”

    “Pardon?”

    “I’LL COME OVER FOR A BEER THIS EVENING, OKAY?”

    Melvin bobs his head excitedly. “Yes, yes, quite.”

    I shake my head and wave him goodbye, my tongue playing with the heavy taste of yeast in my mouth.

    My wife, Trish, appears in our doorway as I cross the street. “What’s this all about, Jimmy?”

    “Old Melvin’s started home brewing. It takes pretty good, actually. Weird aftertaste, though.”

    “No, I mean what’s THIS all about?” Trish waves her hand toward the kitchen, and at the stacks of cardboard boxes that are spilling into the hallway. “Did you win a competition or something?”

    The boxes crowd to the ceiling and seem to grow before my eyes. The labels read, ‘Whirled Peas: baby food product.’ I stare at the smiley cardboard veggies for a minute before turning and walking back outside.

    “Where are you going?” asks Trish.

    I look over my shoulder and grin. “I’ll see you later, love. I’ve got a cat to wash.”

    1. jincomt

      Love this. I think it’s my favorite so far. You write really well and the whole story of his hearing difficulty and “whirled peas” is hysterical. Your dialogue is priceless and you deftly move the story with a great conclusion.

  21. sprattcm

    The old man pulled a leather pouch from his waist and spread it flat on the ground. He scooped up the contents of the pouch and gently tossed them to the leather again. Ayize watched impassively as the withered old witch doctor studied the bones.

    Sitting beside her mortally ill husband in a grass hut thousands of miles away from home, Olivia could only think of the relentlessly modern and fastidiously sterile hospital back home in Baltimore. Three weeks ago, she and Dylan had jumped at the chance to enjoy a holiday in Ngorongoro. Three days ago, Dylan complained of feeling feverish. Three hours ago, she and her guide, Ayize, gently carried him into the hut of the tribe’s Sangoma: A witch doctor.

    “Please, Ayize, ask him if he recognizes the symptoms of this fever.” The old man had said precious little in their time together. He took no notice of Olivia’s anguished plea and continued to study the bones.

    At length, he pointed to a small bone indistinguishable from the others and spoke solemnly to Ayize. When he finished, Ayize turned to Olivia and translated, “He says this one is Hyena. It means ‘thief’.” She pointed to the one nearest the hyena bone and continued, “This one is lion claw. It means ‘strength’. Nduduzo believes,” Ayize’s eyes flickered to the old man as she explained, “that your umyeni…your husband is being hurt by a bad spirit. It steals his strength.”

    Olivia clenched her teeth and blinked back tears. She prayed for strength and guidance while she nodded respectfully. He didn’t know, and he couldn’t help her. She shifted her weight as she prepared to stand, but Ayize put a restraining hand on her knee. “Nduduzo is wise and proud. We must let him finish. I know you do not understand, but please – he can help.”

    The old man spoke again, pointing to a shadowy corner of his hut. Ayize’s eyes widened in surprise, as she looked to where he was pointing. She responded hesitantly in Zulu. He nodded slowly as she went to the shelf he indicated and retrieved a small vial.

    “Nduduzo says, ‘This is the essence of dreams’,” translated Ayize. She bowed her head reverently before the skeletal Sangoma on the other side of the fire. The old man gestured impatiently to Ayize and she turned to Olivia and presented her with the ornate little bottle.

    The old man spoke again, rapidly, fluidly. He paused to allow Ayize to translate. “Tears of Ancestors, blood of lion, also…” she searched for the word, miming twin pinchers.

    “Scorpion?” offered Olivia.

    Ayize shook her head, “No, it moves between the land and the sea…”

    “Crab?”

    “Yes!” Ayize’s smile was brilliant but brief as the old man plunged headlong into his prescription. Her translation continued, “As the crab moves between land and sea, so he links this world with the spirit world. This must be drunk and your umyeni will be cured.”

    “But how can he drink anything? He’s unconscious!”

    “No!” Ayize interrupted emphatically, “You must drink. Nduduzo says, ‘Wish only for your husband’s recovery. The muti is mighty and to ask for more would only anger the ancestors.’”

    Her hands shaking, Olivia studied the iridescent contents of the dainty bottle. Seeing no other choice, she closed her eyes and threw her head back, swallowing the contents of the bottle. I wish we’d never come to this God-forsaken continent.

    When she opened her eyes, she felt a flash of vertigo followed by a wave of relief as she saw the familiar walls of their flat in Baltimore instead of the dark sooty interior of a witch doctor’s hut. She jumped to her feet and was about to call out for Dylan when the phone rang.

    “Hello?” she answered.

    “Olivia, I need you at the hospital, your father’s sick. I’m afraid Africa will have to wait!”

    1. JR MacBeth

      Brilliant sprattcm! Your use of African language and cultural details was stunning. I have no idea if the words were real, but they sure sounded like it!

      1. sprattcm

        Thank you, JR. They are…internet real. I did a little research before I put this together, and a native of Africa would probably get a great laugh from this, but I did try to be as authentic as a guy who rarely leaves his state can be.

    2. aikawah

      Nice story man… I love the way witchdoctors are prominent in the entries for this prompt. One suggestion though, instead of a vial, you should have made it a horn. Vials bring the image of glass to my mind and that would have been kinda out of place in the setting you established so well.

  22. Heart2Heart

    His name was Detective Philip Barnett and his questions came in sequence like the rat-tat-tat of a machine gun. “How did you do it?”, “Why did you do it?” he asked in as many ways as Campbell’s Soup has varieties.
    His face was a question mark. His steely blue eyes like darts didn’t depart from mine. I wondered if he ever blinked. If he did, I never caught it. My words came slow and measured. Pacing back and forth, his thick fingers intertwined and then moved upward to form a rigid steeple. His voice was brusque, his demeanor unbending. At one time I would have been attracted to this man. A living cliché – he was tall, dark and handsome. Life had had its way with me and changed me forever. I was no longer tempted by temptation.
    “Enough with the questions. We don’t seem to be getting anywhere. Tell me your story from the beginning”, Detective Barnett directed.
    Pushing the silver strands from my forehead, I averted his steely blues. Through silver spectacles, I looked down at the ring that had graced my finger for over 45 years that now was bound in back by tape and I began.
    “You see, I almost lost him 40 years ago. I couldn’t bear that. “ Beads of moisture filled the corners of my eyes, threatening to spill over. “I made a deal.”
    “What kind of deal?”, the detective asked.
    “I was at this formal dinner party a year before I ever met Chad. This gentleman, a rather odd sort, was standing, no slouching really, in a corner near the punch bowl. I walked over for some punch and he cleared his throat rather loudly. He garnered my attention and spoke to me directly. At the worst time in your life, I will fix it.” With that he turned on a dime and left and I never saw him again until 6 years later at the hospital where Chad died.”
    “You mean he almost died then?”, he asked.
    “Chad did die then. It was the worst possible moment in my life.
    The Medical Examiner approached me and introduced himself. I recognized the slouch and raspy voice.” “I told you 6 years ago I would fix it,” he whispered to me, “but it comes with a price.” “With a cup I will bring you, you will receive 40 more years of life with Chad in return for you serving a murder sentence for life at the end of those 40 years. “ My head nodded, something prevented me from questioning him. I just wanted Chad. The cup tilted to my lips, I drank.
    “40 years have passed. Chad died mysteriously. I understand it looks like I did it.” Fingering my ring, I smiled at Detective Barnett. “It’s worth it, Detective”.
    Detective Barnett placed the handcuffs on me without a word. His head shook from side to side as the officer escorted me out. I would swear the question mark was gone from his face.

    1. jincomt

      You write in an engaging style that leads the reader from sentence to sentence wanting to know what happens next. I struggle to do this well so took special note of it. Well written.

      1. Heart2Heart

        Thank you so much!
        P.S. The comment on being the first time wasn’t mine. I do so much appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.

    2. Naomi

      You had me wondering what happened until the end. My favorite line is, “I wondered if he ever blinked.” So much about both characters contained in a few words. Nicely done!

      1. Amy

        This was an excellent story, Heart2Heart. The character descriptions were wonderful. There were a couple of issues that disturbed the flow (probably because I analyze too much!)
        One phrase, I averted his eyes…Made it sound like the narrator moved Det. Barnett’s eyes. Maybe it could read I averted my gaze from his eyes.
        Another phrase, …the ring that had graced my finger for over 45 years that was now bound in back by tape…sounded like the 45 years were bound in tape, which I’m sure wasn’t your intention! It might sound better as…the ring that had graced my finger for over 45 years had worn so thin it was bound by tape…
        Please take these suggestions lightly as they are meant to help! I really enjoyed your story and think you did a wonderful job, especially for a first time posting! Keep up the good work!

  23. William Chaz

    The Science of Regret

    It all started at a local science convention.
    I wasn’t there to show off any inventions or discoveries, I was just there to observe. I’ve always had an interest in science. I used to concoct “experiments” in my bedroom all the time. I never really accomplished anything, except getting my butt beat for blowing up my room, but that didn’t keep me from doing what I loved.
    The convention was being held in a large, vacant building. I think it used to be a Wal-Mart. A part of the building bulged out from the rest. The top was a dark blue, and the bottom was mainly glass, with sliding glass doors. Inside was very spacious, plenty of room for the many people to gather. At the end of the room was a platform, or a sort of stage, lined with people setting up the microphones and speakers. There were luxurious chairs and tables, lining the floor in front of the stage for the guests to sit in. It was unambiguously apparent that the convention was a big deal.
    It happened a few minutes before the actual convention began. I arrived early, just because I like being prompt. I went to the restroom to freshen up before it began. (I didn’t want to miss any of the presentations.) I was washing my hands, when I heard the bathroom door close and lock.
    A scrawny man in a white coat, with demented gray hair strutted around the corner. When he saw me, his eyes widened. “Perfect!” The man said. He started jumping up and down frantically.

    “Are you all right?” I said.

    He ran up to me, and placed his face in mine. His crooked, pointed nose almost poked me in the eye. “Am I all right!?” He laughed hysterically. “Of course I’m alright! Why?! What did he say to you!?” He shouted.

    I backed up to the stall behind me.“Who are you talking about?” He didn’t respond, the creep just started muttering to himself. As if he were having an argument with his consciousness. In the meantime, I started to inch my way to the door.

    He shot a glare towards me and I froze.“Tell me” he said “what would you give to have your wildest dreams come true?”

    “What are you talking about?” I asked.

    He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a corked vile. It was glowing green and it had, what looked like trash floating in it. “THIS, is what I’m talking about! Drink this and your dreams will become reality.”

    I played along. “Ok, and what’s the catch?”

    “What? I’m insulted! Just drink it, what have you to lose?” He handed me the vile, and took a step back.

    He’s right, and I could be a successful scientist if this works. I thought to myself. I uncorked the vile and drunk it dry. It didn’t have a taste, just a burning sensation as it went down my throat. I stuck my head in the sink for a drink of water, and when I turned around the mad scientist was gone.
    I heard my name being called from outside, so I went to investigate. I looked onstage, and there I was standing. I was being given a prize and large check that I don’t remember earning.
    The host spoke up. “This is for his accomplishments in the field of science. Congratulations!” The audience started clapping wildly.
    I ran up to the stage, but I got no reaction. I waved my hand in front of my clones face, and jumped up and down, but with no response. I was completely invisible to the world and myself.
    After thinking, I realized what had happened. The vile the scientist gave me, it did make my dreams come true, but I won’t be able to experience them first hand. I’m like a ghost to the world, achieving everything I’ve ever hoped to accomplish, but only in third person. I could no longer control my life, just watch as it autopilots itself through my biggest dreams, turning them into complete nightmares.

  24. aikawah

    Professor Kiruja was running towards the helicopter faster than a man his age should run. At seventy two he was the oldest member of faculty at University of Nairobi. He was also the most decorated academician in East Africa so we indulged him a lot; like this flight he’d insisted I take him on. In the middle of the ocean on a marine expedition that he’d wangled his way onto, he suddenly wanted to fly over the sea for some mysterious reason. He was clutching an odd shaped case to his chest and I reached forward to help him with it.

    ‘I’ll hold onto it, thank you very much.’

    He clambered on and I followed, handing him a headset.

    ‘What direction are we headed?’ I asked as the rotor blades began to whir.

    ‘West,’ he shouted urgently. ‘Go west, and hurry.’

    ‘Haha… alright, hang on,’ I shouted back as I eased the bird off the helipad. At 500m I eased off westwards and he leaned over to hand me a piece of paper with some writing.

    ‘Make for these coordinates’ he shouted.

    I took the slip from him and studied the numbers. They seemed familiar. The location was hardly five miles away, nothing around it but open sea. In roughly two minutes, we were closing in on the location when I noticed something that made my eyes open wide with surprise.

    ‘Where the fuck did that come from?’

    The professor was smiling gleefully, muttering to himself as he looked at the island that had seemed to appear out of nowhere right before our eyes. He turned to me, the twinkle in his eyes mesmerising, almost dangerous. ‘Put her down there, at the edge of the island, hurry.’

    I didn’t need asking twice. I began the descent, thinking to call in the strange occurrence as I did. The ship was still in range but the radio wasn’t working. I lowered the bird on a stretch of white beach bordered by the greenest palms I’d ever seen and opened the cockpit doors. I turned to see the professor stash his satchel next to the instrument console. He jumped down, tumbling a little as he did. He grabbed my hand immediately, ‘Come with me son, we still need to hurry.’

    I followed willingly now, taking in my surroundings as we ran.

    ‘Where are we going sir?’ I asked.

    ‘Not to a place,’ he replied cryptically, ‘away from one rather.’

    ‘Away from…’ and suddenly it all made sense; the strange satchel, the familiar coordinates, the sudden hurry.

    ‘Old man, what have you done?’

    He didn’t have a chance to reply, the helicopter exploded behind us then, the shockwave throwing us flat on the sand. I lay there, ears ringing with rage and fear, my vision blurred from the blast. As I slowly regained composure, I heard his excited voice before I saw or felt him shaking me, shouting into my face.

    ‘It surfaces once every Mayan calendar year for exactly one hour, I calculated it all! The Bermuda Triangle my foot, its Atlantis son, Atlantis!’

      1. aikawah

        Believe it or not there was a potion, when it was still 610 words and completely incoherent. The potion had to go… that or I’d have had to begin from scratch. Glad you like it.

          1. Egg

            Ha ha, talk about word association. The prompt prompted, you wrote, the story flowed. Nice one.

          2. Naomi

            Your first two sentences pulled me into the story so fast, and so deep, I forgot about the prompt while I read. Professor Kiruja is fascinating. I want to know more about the Professor’s motivations. Very well done!

          3. Amy

            Awesome story…I didn’t even miss the potion until the end, when I realized it was missing!

  25. TEMiranda

    “There she is.” I mumble to Kingsford as I point out the side of my classic 1964 Mustang at Annabelle waiting at a bus stop.

    “She is beautiful.” He says in a coarse voice. He clears his throat. “It was not all for naught.”

    “No it wasn’t.” I say as I stare at the long flowing tresses draping over her tan trench coat. Her face is sullen as she stares at the floor. She kicks a stone with the round tip of her black pumps.

    Annabelle was born with a weak heart and the medical doctors gave her a month to live. Dr. Kreveski administered his serum to cure her at the cost of Kingsford’s mortality. “A death for a life.” Dr. Kreveski had said through gritted teeth, as if he didn’t like having the cure. At the time Kingsford didn’t think much of the price, in fact he thought it was a perk. But after fifteen years without aging, people started to get suspicious.

    One April evening the town pastor pounded at Kingsford’s door with a slew of church followers cursing, waving flashlight, and calling him the devil. That is when he realized Annabelle wasn’t safe. He left her at a convent and led the mob out of his town and into the next neighborhood where they loyally followed. The mob grew bigger and it took a long time to ward them off. A month later, when Kingsford returned to the convent, Annabelle was gone. That was thirty years ago.

    Kingsford narrows his eyes at Annabelle as she paces under a flickering cast-iron street lamp. “Do you ever regret it Jacoby?” he asks, still gazing upon Annabelle’s silhouette dancing back and forth with each flash of light.

    “No.” I reply instantly. “My Katarina lived an entire lifetime. She died at ninety two instead of at three when she caught polio. She had children and grandchildren. She was happy.”

    “Are you happy Jacoby?” Kingsford asks and turns slowly to face me.

    His solemn expression is familiar. I have seen this in my own reflection. I was lost in this agonizing abyss for years – seeing my Katerina grow up without me, watching her grow older than me, doubting my choice, wishing there was a way to kill myself, believing I was damned. But these thoughts don’t cross your mind when your child is in your arms dying. All you think about is you’d give up your life, or in this case your death, so your child could live. It’s only a matter of time before Kingsford realizes there was never a choice to make.

    “I am happy enough,” I reply somberly, nervous at the way Kingsford shakes his head and mutters what sounds like bible verses. “But we should leave before she sees us.” I say.

    “Before she sees the devil,” he mumbles before I start the engine.

    1. aikawah

      Nice one… the army of undead seems to be growing though. At some point they must demand an end to the persecution… undead rights. Nice story.

    2. Egg

      I confess that I had to read this twice (I must have mushy-brain today), as I got a little confused about the roles of Kingston and Jacoby and their relationship. Having said that, I like your storyline, and the feel behind it.

  26. TheBigAnimation

    (Well I tried DX)

    “Apples, apples, apples, apples, that’s the key, the wondrous key; the key to this potion don’t you see?” The madman sang cheerfully. He had lazy eyes and it was all very distracting; she couldn’t seem to concentrate properly on the paper that was right in front of her. She was checking to see- if she had been poisoned.

    Though the spinning and the singing was all too distracting- plus her vision was turning blurry and red. Almost like she was seeing blood…

    “Apples.” She gasped lightly as her fingers were turning red a bright crimson color- no- it resembled blood.

    “Now I see.” She leaned back in her seat and let the mystery potion take its effect. She didn’t temper with whatever the possible outcome was- as she was a fighter. She never ran. “A symbol of blood, poison; you sneak in a rotten apple into the formula and now I’m being poisoned?” She tried to follow the mad doctor’s twists and turns.

    The madman laughed loudly, his laugh was wicked and sharp and it pierced her ears. “Neyneyney! Who said that I was trying to poison ya, little lady?!” Adjusting his goggles the madman took a closer look at the vile that had once contained the formula. “Nope- little lady- I’m lots of things- but I’m not a liar.”

    The faint aroma of apple pie was becoming stronger and stronger now. The girl leaned back in her seat and observed the wild man’s movements. What was he up to? “Then what is this formula supposed to do to me? If not death, then what will happen? What path has this formula chosen for me to take today?”

    The madman stopped spinning and looked closely into the girl’s dark almond eyes. “That, little lady,”

    He held a finger to her face.

    “Is whatever you want it to be.”

  27. Poweruser75

    …how did i get here… where was… here…???

    “Sit.” I heard a voice say out of nowhere.

    I was standing in a room. I looked around but I didn’t see any identifying markings or anything.
    Just a square white room about 10ft by 10ft.
    The walls were plain with no pictures or fixtures.
    There was one steel thin looking table in the center of the room with one steel thin looking chair.

    “Sit.” I heard again but a bit louder this time.

    I walked over and pulled out the chair and had a seat.

    as soon as I sat down, a blank sheet of paper and a pen materialized out of thin air and now presented it’s self right in front of me, all shiny and new.

    What’s happening…?

    “Read.” Said the voice.

    I looked at the paper but there was nothing on it, it was blank.

    I looked up and said, “There’s noth…”

    “Read it” The voice said, interrupting me.

    I looked back down at the paper and there were in fact words on it now! What’s going on? This is crazy!

    I started to get up but when I did a great wind came from behind me. Now half standing up from the chair, i looked back and there behind me stood a man about 6 feet tall wearing a black trench coat, black boots, and a large Zorro style hat.

    I froze! What the hell?!?!

    “Who ar…?” I started to say.

    “Do you want it?” the man said as he slowly made his way around to the other side of the table.

    “Do I want what?” i said following his every move.

    “What you’ve always dreamed of?”

    What I’ve always dreamed of? What was this? What’s going on? this is crazy!

    One second I’m sitting in front of my boss at CryTech Industries being chewed out, once again, for not posting today’s variables on the poster board for all employees to review, and now I’m sitting at a metal desk looking at what seems to be a contract of some sort.

    I sat back down, enclosed by cold white walls and finely polished steel, looking at this piece of paper and pen in front of me.

    “Do you want it?” He said again.

    “What I’ve always dreamed of?” i said questionably.

    “Yes.” He said looming down at me with the kind of intensity you only read about in a Steven King novel

    “Who are you? What is this?”

    “The paper in front of you is a contract for one wish, and one wish only. You will see a line in the middle of the page, pick up the pen and write down one wish.”

    Write down one wish? This is nuts! What is this?

    I picked up the paper and started to read:

    This is a contract for one wish.
    One wish of your choosing.
    If you choose to accept,
    You must take the Mystical Potion of Dreams into you.
    Once you have taken the Mystical Potion of Dreams,
    You will return to your world.

    “What potion?” I asked.

    The man waved his hand over the table and a swirl of color spun up from the center bringing with it a small glass bottle with some kind of thickish purple glowing liquid inside. The colors faded leaving behind this bottle of mystery.

    I couldn’t take my eyes off the bottle. It was so awesome looking… The bottle looked like is was solid glass but you could see it had a liquid inside. Maybe almost like the bottle wasn’t even there, just a liquid mass shaped like a drinking bottle. It had silver clasps at the top and base in an artistic ornament arrangement.

    What could I wish for? Umm, well, I guess I could wish for…

    I reached over to grab the provided pen and as I lifted it off the table, the pen ejected the writing tip automatically!

    “Holy crap, this is awesome!” I said forgetting all about the liquid bottle.

    I looked at the paper, gave it a slight spin to the left, and wrote one word on that ever looming line, “Success” .

    I figure if I could wish for anything, it would be success. I mean, what comes with success? EVERYTHING!

    “Now you must drink,” said Mr. Trench

    “Wait a minute,” I said putting the pen down on the table and leaning back a bit, “What’s the catch? It’s a contract, so it’s got to have some kind of stipulation. So what’s the catch?”

    The man in the black trench coat leaned in, put his hands on the table, and said, “You cannot, for any reason, speak of me, this contract or this pen.”

    “Is that all?” I said half laughing.

    Mr. Trench stood up, crossed his arms, threw back his head and LIGHT!!! Eye splitting light. Such brilliance.

    “BOOM.” The light crashed away as if it had never been.

    Silence.

    I sat there, motionless.

    What in the hell is going here? Is this really going to happen?

    What the hell. I reached out and as i got closer, i could feel a coolness coming from the bottle. I grabbed it, brought it to my lips, leaned my head back and let the purple liquid flow from it’s containment…

    ***************************************

    “… Congratulations, Vice President!”

    I set there looking at my boss. Congratulations? He was standing there smiling with his hand out! Holy crap!

    I stood up, extended my hand and shook my bosses hand as Vice President! Vice President? Oh my god!

    “Now”, my boss said, “get out of here, go have a drink, on ME!” He added laughing and patting me on the back as I left his office.

    I left the building very confused but oh so thrilled! Was this it? Is it really happening…?

    ****************************************

    Over the next few years my life spun out of control! I was the big shot. The man to know. I had become the Vice President of CryTech Industries making more money than anyone should be able to make. I got the hot car, the awesome home, the beautiful wife and 2 wonderful children. Life was heaven…

    ****************************************

    “…Come on babe”, My wife said, “just one more shot…”

    We were celebrating our engagement!

    “ok”, i said, “one more…”

    We were drunk and in love. We had the life of our dreams…

    We made our way to our bedroom…

    We played up the stairs…

    “Babe”, I said getting into bed, “I gotta te’ you somfing.

    “hmm”, she said snuggling up to me

    “There was this guy this one time that gae me a cone-tract.”

    She sat up on one elbow and said, “Contract”?

    “Yeah…” I said

    She screemed.

    I looked back and there stood Mr. Trench!

    I told you not to talk about me, the contract or the pen!

    I turned toward my wife and as my head got around to her, she disappeared! Everything started to disappear around me! oh my god, my kids! I ran to their room and reached out for my boy and as i got him up, i pulled him close…

    woosh…

    he was gone…

    I ran outside screaming, “Nooo!!!”

    “Yes”, said Mr. Trench standing behind me, “I told you and you signed the contract and now you must make good on your end.”

    “My end?”

    “The fine print of the contract.”

    “What fine print, there was no fine print!”

    “You didn’t ask about it.” He said bring his hand around producing the contract.

    I took the contract and there at the bottom came forth the words:

    ~If you brake any part of this contract, you will be forced to live within the wish~

    ***************************************************

    I started to open my eyes and everything was cloudy. i couldn’t focus very well. I heard a familiar voice.

    “I think he’s waking up” said the familiar voice

    I couldn’t move very well either. My sight was starting to clear as I looked around. everything looked the same. I as in my bed again.

    My wife! It was my wife!

    “how’s he doing?” said someone else coming threw the bedroom door. He came up to my wife and kissed her on the cheek!

    “What’s going on here?” I said.

    “What are you talking about” My wife said

    “Who is that?” I said looking at the other guy

    “Him? That’s my husband Chris, are you ok?

    “Am I ok?!?!”

    “Nooooo…..!!!” I screamed as I looked down at my body, I have no arms or legs!!! “Nooooo….. What happen…???”

    “You where in a car accident, Chris and you’ve been in a coma for 3 years. You’re not able to take care of yourself so Matt and I said we would bring you to our home and you could be apart of our family.”

    Car accident? Our family? I heard kids…

    “Meet Michael and Jennifer, Matt and I’s children” She said

    Children?

    Oh my god! They looked the same! Oh my god!!! What’s happening!!!

    Everything froze. Mr. Trench stood in front of me.

    This is your wish but now with a twist.

    He smiled, took a bow, and I never sen him again…

        1. Su@dreamweavernovels

          The one thing I’ve learned from doing this…you quickly learn the meaning of editing and how to put your thoughts as condensed as possible…which is what we all need to do even if we’re writing a novel.

          It was a bit confusing in places but I like the concept. Good take on the prompt. Keep it up.

  28. Kae Lee

    After Anubis betrayed me, I spent my time roaming the unpleasant banks of the Styx River plotting my revenge. Many lost souls roamed about, confused, scared, and angry but I was far from confused and scared. Anubis had most definitely underestimated me if he thought I would just sit back and sulk in defeat. No, this was far from over.

    I finally got my chance when Dr. Craig the Crazed approached me insisting he had the potion of a lifetime and would grant me any wish. “So are you interested in having your wish granted?” He asked with that arrogant look in his little black beady eyes. Always certain someone would agree.

    I pondered his words. “You didn’t mention a price. Does this mean it’s free of charge?” I asked knowing damn well he wasn’t fool enough to give it up without a payment of some sort.

    He smiled excitedly and I cringed at the sight. Where his teeth should be, small wooden shards stabbed deep into the gums sat instead. The stench that emerged from his mouth was sickening. “If the potion works, you will then be indebted to me. I will collect when I see you next. Deal”

    I thought a moment and realized if his potion was for real, I would never see this lunatic again. So what could possibly be the harm?

    For the first time since my lover Anubis had killed me, I smiled. “Deal.”

    I downed the contents of the vial without a second thought. At first nothing happened and I felt stupid for buying into his story but then a boat suddenly materialized in the river with a hooded figure beckoning me to the boat. I lifted a few inches off the ground and floated effortlessly across the water, Craig hanging on tightly. I was so terrified by what was happening, I didn’t bother shaking him loose but clutched him tighter.

    But things happened so quickly that one minute I was in the depths of Hades and the next I was standing in BJ’s bathroom. I stared at my reflection in the mirror above the sink and confirmed I was back in the flesh. I smiled again as I touched my face with shaky hands. I was going to get my revenge a lot sooner than anyone had anticipated.

    Something felt different about me though. It almost felt like something lurked in the shadows of my mind and was trying to get to the surface. And that’s when I heard him. Craig’s voice rang through my head at first but slowly changed to a beautiful sing song voice of a woman as she spoke, “Thank you Emma for being my vessel. Your hatred for that bastard child is exactly what I needed. You and I are going to help each other,” she stated so sure of herself. “You can call me Isis.”

    Her rage was overwhelming as it swept through me and it scared me greatly. What the hell was I supposed to do with a pissed off Egyptian Goddess sharing the same body as me?

  29. Szramiakje

    Jessica had an enormous amount of work to do and she was pounding away at her keyboard, brow furrowed, and eyes locked in steady concentration at her computer screen. A slow uncontrollable smile fought its way across my face as I watched her from the other side of the office floor over the low cubicle walls. I loved the way she worked with such passion and intensity. I loved the way she bit her bottom lip as she typed. I loved the way she flicked her hair out of her eyes as it fell across her face. In fact, I thought she was the most beautiful and talented woman I had ever seen and I loved everything about her. The only thing I hated about her was the fact that she didn’t know I existed.

    Jessica and I had never met, had never even talked, and I couldn’t live another day with the unbearable weight that was crushing my heart. I sighed and leaned back in my chair, knowing I didn’t have to. After eight years of longing for her, it was time. Today was the day that I was going to make Jessica fall in love with me.

    I quickly finished up the TPS report I was working on, stood up, and starting walking towards Jessica’s desk. How could I possibly start a conversation with her out of the blue?, I thought to myself. Hey, I’m Ryan. I noticed you started working here eight years ago and just thought I’d introduce myself now. I shuddered at the thought of how embarrassing that would be. Lucky for me, there was a much easier way. I reached Jessica’s desk and kept walking, made a right turn, and went into the men’s bathroom.

    I locked the door and took out a small glass vial out of my pocket, holding it up to the light. The substance inside was a liquid, yet it wasn’t a uniform color. Rather it was a dazzling pattern of red, pink, yellow, purple, and turquoise and as I tilted the vial in my hand, the colors and patterns of the liquid shifted like a kaleidoscope. I would have been more amazed at its appearance had I not known what the liquid was. It was a Love Potion.

    It had taken me over two years, my entire life savings, an owed favor from a high school friend who was now a U.S. senator, and a trip to the basement of a night club in Armenia to obtain it. In short, I had risked my entire life for this Love Potion. I didn’t care, however. Its effect- which was to cause the object of the imbiber’s desire to fall deeply and madly in love with him- would be more than worth it. I popped the cap off and, raising the vial and saying “Cheers” to my reflection in the bathroom mirror, downed the polychromatic liquid. I immediately felt different. The chains of unrequited love that were strangling my heart had been lifted. It worked!

    I ran out of the bathroom, down to Jessica’s desk, and spun the chair around. I gasped. Jessica was sitting in her chair staring back at me, but now I no longer saw her as the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Now I thought she looked like the ugliest and most vile creature that ever existed. “Ryan! I’m SO happy to see you!” Jessica said, leaping out of her chair and giving me a huge hug and a kiss on the cheek. I broke myself free of her embrace and, dropping to my hands and knees and vomiting, cursed myself for not reading the side effects on the vial.

  30. jincomt

    Sorry folks. I never post twice (me and the postman). But this story came to me, and I liked it much better than my first. Feel free to bypass one or the other (or both) and forgive my double-posting. I promise to not make it a habit.
    _______________________________________________________________________________________

    “Hopes and fears loom large when we fly.” Dr. Abdu smiled at her, his white teeth gleaming from his face shiny and black like coal.

    “You asked what I wanted most,” Tatum said, picking a piece of straw off the floor of hut, spinning it in her fingers. This past year had almost choked the life out of her. Her brother succumbing to his battle with leukemia and then her husband leaving her for a whim with boxed red hair. She’d hoped this trip to the Teso sub-region in Uganda would occupy her ravaged heart. Meeting Dr. Abdu had been coincidence, or so she’d thought.

    “Yes, I did.” He smiled again, lifting the leather cord with the onyx bottle from around his neck. He held it in his pink palm, an offering to Tatum. He peered at her, studying the pale woman with the sad face. “Oh Tatum,” he said her name as if it was two words—Ta-Tomb, “Our wishes are never just about us.”

    As she slipped the necklace over her neck, he whispered, “Take and give, give and take, life is of what you make.”

    Three weeks later, Tatum stood on the precipice staring over the edge of Aconcagua in Argentina. She held her arms out from her side and turned, letting the cold air bite her nose, feeling her breath quick and shallow in the thin air. She reached beneath her coat and pulled the necklace out. Uncorking its tiny topper, she tipped the precious gold flaked drops in her mouth and swallowed. “Take and give, give and take, life is what you make.” The wind carried her words away as they passed through her shivering lips.

    Before her guides could stop her, she leaned forward and let her feet slip off the rocky edge. Immediately, her body fell and her breath sucked inside her chest. “Oh God,” she muttered, tears evaporating dry and crusty before they could fall.

    Dr. Abdu’s voice echoed in her head, “Hopes and fears loom large when we fly, Ta-Tomb.” Tatum closed her eyes, the wind caught her body, and she soared. A great laugh escaped her as her body sliced through the air. Over the glaciers and down to the valley, green and lush below. Finally, Tatum was released. Finally, she flew.

    Tatum returned two weeks later to Dr. Abdu with the necklace, as she had promised.

    “Was it what you had hoped for, Ta-Tomb?” he asked as she sat with him in his small hut, sorting through supplies.

    Tatum pushed a loose strand of brown hair off her face and smiled. “It was Dr. Abdu. I am released.”

    His dark face broke into a wide grin, the lines around his eyes crinkling deep. “And the payment, to come back and help, was it worth it too?”

    Tatum thought about the promise of sacrifice the potion had extracted: the remainder of her life under the hot sun of Uganda helping Dr. Abdu deliver clean water and medicine to the people in the small village. “Yes,” she said softly, rolling another bandage. “Hopes and fears loom large when we fly.”

    1. aikawah

      A good witch-doctor, and just across the border too. Maybe I’ll drop in sometime… I like it.

      I guess it depends what kind of mail the postman is bringing the second time…

    2. Egg

      I always love it when the stories are outside the U.S. I was a bit thrown by the white teeth gleaming from his face shiny and black like coal. I don’t know if it’s the syntax (the teeth being the leading subject) or just my mushy brain (since, after all, you didn’t use a comma between face and shiny). Anyway, I like how your mind soared on this one.

    3. Naomi

      A wonderful variant of a mad scientist. I enjoyed the twist of the one time experience of Tatum’s wish having the long term effect of providing a service to others. I wonder what would happen to Tatum if she ever reneged on her promise.

  31. massagemom84

    I wipe my sweaty palms on my jeans, staring at the purple viscous liquid in the vial taunting me, to make a decision. I am not sure why I am hesitating, to literally swallow what the crazy old man explained to be the answer to my perfect life. Everything I have, or will want will present itself to me he said his eyes shining as only an insane persons can. All I have to do is say my desire, and the universe in its infinite generosity will provide it.
    Why not? I think after the life I have been handed I deserve things to go right for me. An orphan my parents dying when I was five just long enough for me to have memories of love. My divorce finalized while I try to put my life together without a job prospect in sight. I could use some good karma.
    Again I attempt to lift the vial to my lips. What do I want, will I become greedy in my desires, and will it work?
    What the hell, I take the stopper out of the bottle and gulp down the liquid before I lose my nerve. The abhorrent potion coats my throat burning its way into my stomach, I wish for a moment that it would hurry up, and eat through me so I didn’t have to feel the pain anymore.
    I pull myself up into a sitting position, placing my palm to my forehead which is in agony.
    “Please stop hurting.” As soon as the words leave my lips, my body instantly becomes harmonized not an ache or pain.
    I get up tentatively, and pull out my compact from my purse. I look at my face; I look a little pale from the painful ordeal I just went through.
    “I wish I had a flawless face” and once again instantly my face has the sheen of a supermodel. Giddy I stand up, and run to the full length mirror in my room.
    “I want the body I had in high school, but stronger.” instantaneously my body transforms in front of me. I can’t help but jump up and down ecstatic.
    I don’t know where to start, do I wish for a dream job, or just money so I can travel? I need to think, but my mind is swimming with ideas.
    Then I think of my long time crush, my best friend who has never tried to make our friendship any more than what it is.
    “I want John to love me.” My phone rings, and I rush to it thankful the phone company hasn’t made good on their threat to shut it off.
    I pick of the receiver breathlessly rasping out a hello.
    “Racheal? It’s Jeremy
    “I need to see you” emotion heavy in his voice.
    “I am coming over, & please let me talk. What I might say may take your breath away, but I have to tell you.” He hangs up the phone before I can reply.
    Knowing I wished for this, I am still astonished.
    “I am speechless” I mutter to myself, and then in horror I reach to my throat knowing that I will never be able to form another word.

    1. Egg

      That was such an unexpected twist that it had me smiling, so well done. On a technical note, attention to grammar might make it a little easier to read.

  32. Pandora1262

    Love this story!! I read all the others but this one appeals most. It’s bizarre with much of potential. The last line is brilliant. My only reservation would be that the reader (or perhaps it’s just me) fails to understand why her wish to help stop the extinction translated into her body producing the species which have become extinct. Perhaps her wish could be worded somewhat differently so that the misinterpretation of it is more evident?

    1. Naomi

      Thank for your comment, and question, Pandora! I agree with your assessment that the “why” behind the main character’s ability to produce extinct species is not clear. My original draft for this was almost 1400 words. During the course of much cutting and editing, I think the tie between Dr. Stanley’s secret potion (the “water” in the bottle that the main character drank) and the main character’s new ability is lost. I need a lot more practice in learning to edit a story to its essence without losing vital information.

      I really appreciate your feedback, and perspective.

      1. jincomt

        Really creative, Naomi. You totally stole my thoughts on the writing and editing process of a 500-word story. I cut, cut, and cut again this time until I felt like I lost the essence of the story in the process. I actually think you did a good job maintaining your story flow.

        1. Naomi

          Thank you, jincomt! I appreciate your comments, especially about the story flow. I worried that the story was becoming too clipped as I edited. I could have let the prompt percolate, until another story idea formed in my mind, but I liked the characters.

      2. Pandora1262

        Naomi, I hope you kept the original 1400 word version. Some time ago, I started writing what was meant to be a very short story and before I knew it, it grew into a book. You just never know. I’m writing something else now and again, it is based on a premise I came up with over ten years ago! Do finish your story. It would be nice to know what happened to the unfortunate girl!

        1. Naomi

          I did keep the original 1400 word version. I will write a longer version of this story. I want to know what happens to the main character, too!

  33. Naomi

    Ready for the huge quantity of questions usually on anything volunteer test subject related, I was surprised to see only one:

    What thing do you want most in this world?

    I quickly wrote down, “I want to help stop the extinction of species put at risk by the actions of an uncaring humanity.” Easiest $100 I ever made. I handed everything back to Dr. Stanley. He read my declaration, then slid towards me what looked like a bottle filled with water.

    “Drink this,” he said.

    “What is it?”

    “The way to get what you want most.”

    I shrugged, and picked up the bottle. The college wouldn’t allow dangerous testing on its students, right?. Plus, $100. Removing the cap, I drank the stuff, feeling the cool sensation traveling down my throat.

    That night I developed a headache. I took two aspirins, then filled a drinking glass with tap water. After one swallow of water, I began choking, and set the glass roughly down on the counter. Leaning over the sink, I coughed, and gasped, feeling as though my insides were coming out of my mouth. Finally, a lump moved up my throat, and I spat it into the sink. Gasping, I looked. I coughed out a fish. A 1” long fish, alive and struggling in the air. Grabbing at the fish, I managed to catch it, and dumped it in my glass of water. It was still alive. When the hell did I swallow a live fish? Maybe it came through the plumbing, and landed in my glass. Yuck. I almost drank it.

    A knock at the front door of my apartment broke my reverie. I walked over, and looked through the peephole. I saw Dr. Stanley. Great. I can ask him about my headache. Unlocking and opening the door, I said, “Dr. Stanley, I’m not …”

    Two men I hadn’t seen quickly grabbed my arms. A leather clad hand covered my mouth before I could scream. A third stranger moved in. I felt a sting on my arm. I began a slow fade to unconsciousness. Drifting, I saw Dr. Stanley and needle guy move into the kitchen.

    Needle guy peered at the fish in the glass, then exhaled harshly.

    “What?” Dr. Stanley said.

    “Tecopa pupfish,” Needle guy said. “Extinct since 1981.”

    “Not anymore, apparently,” Dr. Stanley said. “Now, about my …” Darkness, my switch turned off.

    #####

    I awoke in the Facility. I’ve been here since. I’ve tried to escape. I’ve always failed. The Facility treats all failure the same, with cruelty and pain. I never saw Dr. Stanley again. Somehow, he made what I thought I wanted most in the world real. I’m now an acolyte of Nature, extinct species division. I can literally cough up new members of any extinct animal or plant species.

    Once, I felt a minor flu virus flare into existence. I felt when it died out. I felt when I restored it. I didn’t tell the Facility about this. A girl needs her secrets.

      1. Naomi

        I really appreciate your comment, Chancelet. I originally wrote more about her plan to bring back a deadly contagion, however, I had to edit that part out to stay within 500 words. I wasn’t sure that her intention would still come through after editing, but based on your comment, it did. Thank you!

      1. Naomi

        Aikawah, your comment makes my scifi loving, nerdy heart sing. Thanks!

        Heart2Heart and Sprattcm, thank you for taking time to read my story, and for commenting!

      1. Amy

        I agree with jincomt…my throat hurts when I think about the fish. I hope she doesn’t have to restore the woolly mammoth in the same fashion!

        1. Naomi

          LOL, jincomt! Again, thank you.

          Amy, my first draft included the main character bringing back a much larger animal, and describing the experience. 🙂 I had to cut it to stay within the word limit.

  34. creativemetaphor

    It was a cozy apartment; small, but clean and tidy – just the thing for a new family starting out. The sun was coming up now, shining through the living room windows and giving a healthy glow to the two occupants. It had been a rough night; she was just waking up, but he had stayed awake, keeping an eye on her. When she opened her eyes and began to look around, he crouched beside her.

    “You never thought it would work when you accepted, did you?” He smiled, and she smiled as well in echo. “You thought it was a prank, some drunk at the party passing around the good stuff. How high were you? Do you even know what you had been taking?

    “When I pressed the glass into your hand and told you to make a wish – that whatever it was you wanted most would be yours – you laughed. You didn’t even listen to my warning as you got on the table, tore off your shirt, and announced to the whole room, ‘No job, no bills, no responsibilities! Young!’

    He stood and began paced a slow path beside where she was laying; her eyes followed him.

    “Then you downed the drink in one shot and threw it to the floor and screamed ‘ANOTHER!’ like some drunken Norse god, and everyone laughed then. Everyone thought you were the life of the party.”

    He stopped again and leaned over her, cupping her cheek with his palm. “You really ought to have listened to the warning, my child.”

    She looked away, a bird outside the window drawing her attention, and he shook his head with a look of sad disappointment.

    “But this is what you asked for after all.”

    The bird flew away and she began to cry. He lifted her into his arms and she quieted, eyes fixed on him again.

    “I suppose I could fix you. I suppose…” He held up a small, stuffed bear. “Would you like that? Would you like me to fix you?”

    “Da!” she said, reaching for the toy.

    He let her have the bear and she chewed on its ear. He set her in a high chair and turned on the television where a breaking news report was showing the face of Lisa Yuan, a pretty young girl of twenty-three, last seen leaving a party just after two in the morning. The edge of his mouth turned up and he changed the channel to PBS.

    “Don’t worry, Lisa,” he said, going to prepare her a bottle. “You won’t even remember you had another life before I became your father.”

      1. jincomt

        I do that with every story I write on here. Drives me crazy and I always have to resist adding a PS with all my corrections. Hopefully we’re all gentle with each other! (I hope.. please…) I’d like the ability to delete stories sometimes. I post things and think, “Yeah, that sucked.” You write so well the typos don’t matter.

  35. jincomt

    Marigold and her sister Rose sipped iced tea on Marigold’s veranda, enjoying the song of the Whippoorwill. Rose, recently widowed, had just moved in with Marigold, who, at 52, had never been married. Marigold insisted she was waiting for the right man. But he never seemed to come along.

    Marigold never wanted to grow old and sick from cancer like her mama or Frank, Rose’s husband. And she didn’t want to grow stooped like Papa, until the weight of standing became too much for this world.

    She thought about the formula Mr. Leon, her eccentric neighbor and inventor, claimed he had created. He was forever showing her a concoction from across the picket fence. This time he swore he’d discovered the liquid of youth.

    “Are you sure it works?” She had asked when he first showed her the tiny vile.

    “Not entirely, no.”

    “Are you going to try it?”

    He hesitated. “Maybe staying young isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

    Marigold thought about all the opportunities she had lost. “Would you be willing to give it to me then? It’s a curse to grow old.”

    “I’m not sure that’s the curse,” he’d said.

    But she’d begged, offering him anything, until he finally relented extracting a promise of one of her delicious pies each week for as long as they were neighbors. That night, after Rose had gone to bed, Marigold swallowed the liquid. She waited, but nothing happened. She should have known; no one can stay young forever.

    The following morning, Mr. Leon knocked on their front door. “Morning ladies,” he tipped his hat. “Well Marigold, don’t you look well-rested this morning.”

    “I do feel good,” she said.

    He licked his lips. “I was thinking, if it’s not too much trouble, I would really enjoy a cherry pie. I have a hankering.” He looked at Marigold and held her eyes.

    “Of course, Mr. Leon.” Marigold said feeling tricked out of a pie.

    But eventually, Marigold felt a spring return to her step. Over the next thirty years, while everyone aged, Marigold reveled in her youth. Her friends and Rose begged her for her secret. “I try to drink plenty, get rest, and always tend my garden,” Marigold would demure.

    And Marigold continued to bake Mr. Leon’s pies, until one Monday morning, he didn’t show up. A week later, on a Monday, Marigold placed an empty pie plate on his grave.

    Eventually, Rose, too, lost her bloom and grew ill. Marigold tended to her dear sister until Rose also passed away. That evening, Marigold sat on the porch and listened to the Whippoorwill just like she and Rose had forty years ago. All her friends were gone now. Marigold felt alone and isolated from the people who looked like her, but were nothing like her. She was 92, but no one would ever believe her.

    She stood up and stretched her still limber body and walked slowly up to bed. Now she understood. The true curse was never growing old.

    1. Naomi

      Kudos on having a veranda in your story, and for the age you froze Marigold at — old enough to know better, but still young enough to do it anyway. There is a cadence, and a beat, to your story. I marched with all the characters, and felt them live a long time in a few words. I see what you meant by your July 3, 2012 at 4:40 pm comment, however I don’t think that you lost the essence of the story through editing. I think the story’s essence is woven into the tale. I do see how there wasn’t much chance at the end to show Marigold’s thoughts about eternal youth, instead of stating them outright. Still, I think the story is a lovely, folksy, narrative that feels real.

    2. JR MacBeth

      Ah, the philosopher in me enjoyed the story very much! Now, to contemplate growing old anew: A curse, or not a curse, or only a curse “if” (those around us also age, or not, etc.). And then, what of Death itself, the Thing at the End. (What end?) Thanks for the entertainment! 🙂

      1. DMelde

        I agree and like your story very much. You aptly showcased the dissonance between internal and external reality. Her external body didn’t age, but her “heart”, or internal reality, aged along with those she loved. Well done!

  36. mike91848

    Manny dropped in with a friend without notice, as usual. My apartment was a mess, full of dirty laundry and old pizza boxes. What did I care?

    “Hey Manny, why so late and who’s your friend?” My sarcastic tone didn’t faze him. He was my best friend and understood me well but his friend looked like she was being dragged into a dark sewer with rats running around. I almost cared.

    “Steve, my man, this is Vanessa. Say hi and wipe that cheese off your chin.” Vanessa flinched. “Today is your lucky day. Vanessa has a magic potion that can grant you one wish, anything. Think before you speak dude. Once you speak the words after you drink, it’s done, no going back. Vanessa, the potion.”

    Manny knew what I wanted. Could I really wish for my old girlfriend to be back just like that? Why not? I wiped away the cheese and took the little green vile filled with a foul smelling liquid. Vanessa’s smirk should have tipped me off but what did I care? I’m the one that had lost my one true love, Liz. She had dumped me for a guy in a suit. Made no sense. God I missed her.

    I put the vile to my lips, almost gagging, and gulped it down before I could rationalize the absurdity of the act. Magic potion my ass. But, what did I have to lose; Liz was already gone. Life had changed. I was the loser.

    Once the potion cleared my throat the effect was startling. I felt great, empowered and wide-awake. Not just that, wildly alert. Vanessa cackled, how strange. Manny just smiled. Who cared, I didn’t. I remembered Manny’s warning so I stood still, thinking of just how to word my wish . . . my wish. Liz. I want her back. I need her. I needed to be a better man, for her. I needed to be the man that she wanted. That was it. If I was the man that she wanted to be with then she would dump the suit and come back. I felt the urge to scream realizing that I had had the answer all along, but now this, the potion. Be careful. Speak the words.

    “I wish to be the man that Liz wants to be with!” I screamed then everything faded.

    I was in bed with Liz, she was asleep. I looked down on her beautiful face, so peaceful. It worked. How, who knew? Who cared! Her eyes opened and she looked up at me and smiled. My heart melted. She was so soft. Then she spoke.

    “Bill, I love you.” My terror was hidden behind my mask, Bill’s face. I screamed, he smiled. She saw the smile but didn’t hear my scream. Bill was a serial killer, I knew this, she didn’t. Bill felt my presence. He grinned. I screamed as his knife plunged into her heart. Bill laughed. I couldn’t go back, I was trapped, forever.

    1. jincomt

      I really liked the first half and the build up. I liked that Steve had to give careful consideration to his wording. I thought the premise, that his wish backfired and he woke up as Bill was great. Probably given the word limit, it seemed a little too much, at the very end, Bill was still there in presence, turned out to be a killer, and killed Liz. Good writing.

    2. Naomi

      You had me laughing out loud with paragraphs two and three. Steve’s debasement is beautifully painted in those first few paragraphs. Then, I read the reason for Steve’s state of mind, and felt bad for him. Nicely done. The end is abrupt, and jolted me.

    3. Egg

      Nice gruesome twist, and I thought you handled the dual person-person pretty well, or were there three people in the bed?? (Only joking – your narrative was nice and clear.)

  37. billblue

    The science sounded good. Impossibly good. A poetic string of proven discoveries and research. First the ‘lucky gene’. A gene possessed by people whose actions over time prove amazingly fortunate. Naturally skeptics abounded and the research was considered flawed or inconclusive. But on the face of it the evidence could prove a true conclusion.
    Then the gene and neurotransmitter stimulant. The research into this was voluminous. Neuroscience took off where ancient thuergy and alchemy, then psychocybernetics, then pharmacuetically enhanced neurolingual programing had led. I was asked to be a guinea pig for a formula that promised success of a dreamlike quality.
    I accepted. Then the havoc began. Every woman I had ever experiemced even a slight lust for came back into my life seeking to please me in every way. I could not walk down the street without the most prominent and talented people in the vicinity aproaching me enthusiastically with lucrative and exciting offers that I was perfectly suited for. Many knew me little or not at all. They had sensed something or saw something in me immediately. They just knew. People spontaneously entered my name in sweepstakes and contests just to be nice and have some fun. My backyared soon had 3 swimming pools, all filled with darling and mostly naked women. I have 7 Harleys, 3 classic Corvettes, a 57 Thunderbird, a Bentley and a dozen portable storage containers full of appliences and furniture.
    I parachuted last night onto the center of the Mohave Desert. I woke up in a puddle of light sweet crude oil.
    “What could go wrong?” Dr. Dinwiddie had exclaimed. “What could possibly go wrong?”
    Now I’m no scientist. If I were I would probably be turning swamp gas into gold bars and diamonds right now. But isn’t normal to have antedotes or means of containing experiments gone amuck? But anything eventually runs it’s course and wears out. Right?
    Dr. Dinwiddie’s not sure. Makes me wonder what else he’s not sure about.

    1. tdogg369

      I liked this story, specifically the background information on the different fields of science that have studied the gene. Made me think of Michael Crichton or Dan Brown.

      I kept waiting for the ish to hit the fan, but it was left open to imagination. Wouldn’t normally recommend an ending like that, but I think you made it work, especially with the cursed word count!

      Numbers under 100 are usually spelled, and almost always spelled when under ten. The ’57 Thunderbird would just need the apostrophe in front of it.

      One of the better reads I’ve seen so far.

  38. Pandora1262

    His genius was the only thing that stood between him and a padded cell in a lunatic asylum. Dr. Ross’s newest formula needed human subjects for testing. His brilliant reputation and the promise he made erased any doubts I might have otherwise had.

    “Look at this–”, he waved a test tube filled with a clear liquid in front of my eyes, “–as your personal magic potion!” he said excitedly. “Whatever you want will be yours!”

    He had spent some time explaining to me how his formula worked. He used terminology which was beyond my comprehension but since he also assured me that there were absolutely no side-effects at all, I didn’t ask for any further clarification. I probably would not have understood it anyway. He allowed me a few days to decide. I spent all that time trying to formulate my one choice. I wanted to wish for something that was so all-encompassing, it would give me the wherewithal to get everything I desired now, and for the rest of my life.

    When we met again I was ready. Dr. Ross handed the vial to me and said:
    “Now concentrate! Verbalize, in your mind, that which you want to happen as you drink this liquid.”

    I sat down comfortably, took a deep breath, and, silently repeating my wish, like a mantra, I tipped the contents of the tiny vial into my mouth. The liquid was tasteless and I felt nothing as I swallowed the whole amount all at once.

    Dr. Ross looked at me intently and asked: “What did you wish for?”

    I was suddenly embarrassed. I was not prepared to say what I wanted of out loud. He patted my hand. “I understand. Most people feel uncomfortable when I ask them to tell me what they wished for but, I assure you, anything you say will remain in the strictest of confidences. I promise!”

    “Well, uh–” I stammered, “–I wished for the ability to make all my desires, for the rest of my life, come true.”

    Dr. Ross’s face turned very serious with concern. “Ms. Jenkins, did I not explain to you how my formula works?” he asked, then added, almost angrily: “Did I not clarify matters sufficiently?” He was speaking very loudly now. “Which part of the correlation between the amygdala and desire did you not understand??”

    I was taken aback and didn’t know what to say. Dr. Ross did not wait for my reply and said: “My formula works by giving you extra brain cells where you need them to make your wish come true but, to do that, those cells have to come from somewhere else! They don’t just materialize out of thin air!!” He was furious.
    “I don’t understand–” I started to say but he interrupted me again. “Those cells come from the desire center of your brain and, in the process, eliminate if forever!”

    1. jincomt

      Ahhh that explanation helped. So the very desire to have what he wanted destroyed his desire? A wish not well thought through. I liked your opening sentence and the premise.

      1. Pandora1262

        Thank you for your comment. Your story works because it’s simple, it flows and is easy to read. I always have a tendency to complicate things.

    2. Naomi

      I enjoyed reading this. It reminded me of every time I’ve filled a prescription while I’m ill. Whatever is causing me to need the medicine is guaranteeing that I’m not processing whatever warnings the pharmacist is trying to tell me. I like the the idea of wish fulfillment at a price.

  39. InsaneLovely

    Sweat rolled down the man’s face as he searched for his daughter in the thick crowd. “Emily!” he screamed until his lungs ached. “Emily! Where are you?”

    Aaron scanned the faces of the young girls before running pass them. Their painted faces smeared as the wiped the sweat from their brows.

    “Emily!”

    Time slowed as he approached a slender man with a smile similar to Cheshire. He wore long black coat, black pants but a white, button-down shirt. The man kept his white hair in a ponytail and thick-framed sunglasses over his eyes.

    The man lifted a solid black bottle. “Hello, would you like to-“

    “I’m looking for my daughter, Emily. She’s seven, this tall…” Aaron estimated her height with his hand. “Black hair, face painted like a lizard. Please I-“

    “I have a solution to your missing child situation, but-“

    “How?”

    “If you would let me finish…,” he huffed. “My name is Doctor Role. I have a drink that will allow you to have anything you want.”

    Aaron cocked a brow. “A potion?”

    “Please, don’t call it that. Potions are silly nowadays with all these kids…anyhow, would you like to try?”

    “I don’t have time for games.”

    “Neither do I.”

    Aaron glanced over his shoulder and stared into the crowd; the cold feeling rushed through his veins. The desperation hit him hard as he snatched the bottle from the man’s hand. The liquid was smooth but had a bitter taste by the end. It was less than 2 fluid ounces, which he consumed in no time. Aaron gave the Dr. Role the bottle back and waited.

    “She’s not back, you-“

    “Dad!” Emily smiled and hugged her father’s leg.

    Aaron’s heart stopped as he collapsed to his knees. He wrapped his arms around the young girl and sobbed loudly.

    “Dad, are you okay?”

    “Yeah, I’m fine,” Aaron replied with a grin. He slowly stood and turned to Dr. Role. “Thank you so much.” He reached out to shake but gasped when Dr. Role place a collar around his neck.

    “Ow!” Emily tugged on her collar and huffed.

    Aaron shoved another man away from her. “Get back from her!”

    “Now, now. You two shouldn’t behave like that,” Dr. Role said.

    “What are you doing?” Aaron snapped as two large men came from behind the doctor and snatched him and Emily.

    “I need you back at the Lab, Aaron,” Dr. Role replied. “And this time, I’m chaining you to the wall.” He turned to the men in police uniforms. “Thank you for helping me find my Test Subjects…I can’t figure out how they got out…I assume the mayor will take care of any issues he may face with my being here?”

    A police officer nodded and carried the reptilian girl to the large truck.

    “Painted face…Aaron must be hallucinating again…”

    My first time posting to a weekly prompt. Constructive feedback welcomed. 🙂

    1. jincomt

      You write well. I like how you built the story with good use of dialogue– that’s something I need to work on. Like a lot of stories on here, (including my own this week) this was a little confusing because there just is not enough word allowance to clarify the story. Were they reptiles all along or is this how the Dr get his test subjects or….?

    2. Naomi

      You are very deft with dialogue, and description. Questions about credibility began to form in my mind, and impede my enjoyment of the story — such as, would a frantic parent searching for a missing child spend time talking to a stranger about a magic potion? Yet, as I continued to read, I felt my questions about credibility being pushed aside, as the narrative took over. Very nicely done. I, too, am puzzled about the father, child, and doctor relationship. I don’t understand if Aaron and his daughter were always lizards, or if they are truly lizards.

      1. InsaneLovely

        Thank you Naomi and Jincomt, and I also felt I didn’t explain the relationship well enough since I had to cut down on the first draft so much. My idea of this, I thought of the dad and daughter being human-lizard hybrids that escaped. I sadly couldn’t get that across with the word limit haha. Thank you both however for the feed back, it really does mean a lot! 🙂

  40. Chancelet

    At this very moment, I have a chance to start life afresh. On such a beautifully hot and crystalline day like this, how could anyone say no?

    I only peripherally think of my niece and nephew, who without me, would be destined for foster care. After having a stable life with me for four years, they would learn to hate me.
    But this is a once in a million lifetimes chance. A chance for a new me!

    The question is, should I even call home? The conversation would not be pretty. Lots of blame, anger, then finally disgust, as I could hear my mom shout before hanging up, “You can go to hell then for what you’re doing to these kids!”

    Such a curse would be drastic and uncalled for, but inevitable. I would not be able to explain my intentions and the extraordinariness of this opportunity prior to the potent slam of the phone, which would feel more like the palm of my mother’s hand smacking me smart through the receiver and across the face. Just thinking of it leaves my left cheek feeling more burning red than any Black woman’s cheek should.

    Lying on this immense ship, with the sun’s heat pressing down almost to a searing point, makes anything seem possible.

    There is no more of the sadness of life as it was in my working world, replete with usurping responsibilities. There is only a trace of the insecurities I lived with daily. Insecurities about the amount of work I completed, not dating, and about letting myself go downhill in every aspect of my life – weight gain, nervous conditions causing ruin to my skin, lack of exercise, constant bad hair days, and disorganization of my home.

    Today, three days before my scheduled return home, this wondrous opportunity has come to me. All of the degenerating circumstances in my life could be over. Will be over. It’s decided!

    I will make the call, retrieve the hang-up slap, and then call back, knowing she will not answer this time. I’ll leave her a message with detailed instructions to send the children here, to Cabo, and I will care for them here. My niece and nephew would love to live in Mexico! I can work it out.

    As I stand up, entirely warmed and drunk from the heat, I feel the change starting within me, from the inside out. Then, just as the radical and quirky scientist promised, I can no longer stand to be outside the water. As I jump overboard, the last of my brown, supple skin turns to the black, slick hide of a dolphin, and my sleek entry into the water creates only faint ripples.

    Now I have to find a pod to accept me, and find a mate. Then I’ll make the first of three changes to a woman I have. I’ll find the scientist, who must then make this exciting new life possible for my niece and nephew. If I can find him.

    1. Naomi

      The imagery of getting a verbal face slap through a telephone is electric. Very well done. I’m a little confused with the alternating directions of the story. I’m not sure if this is a result of the main character’s manic behavior, possibly a side effect of the process. Regardless, your writing did have the main character pulling me into her world.

        1. Egg

          With all the angst and inner conflict, I think your best line is, ‘I can work it out.’ Her strength comes through, whatever she’s thinking.

    2. jincomt

      Interesting. The water is her escape– a chance to swim and find her life? I think the fact that it was personal to you, brought out some great images and feelings. This prompt, more than usual, seems to be getting hung up on the word limit. There’s just so much to the concept for 500 words. I felt like that was the case here, so the direction was a bit confusing. Writing is awesome for working out all stuff, isn’t it? You have a very nice writing style.

      1. Chancelet

        Yes, writing is great for getting your emotions out. It can also be terribly difficult for expressing those thoughts to others. Thanks for your comments, folks. I appreciate them.

    1. tdogg369

      I don’t like to say that any one thing is better written that something else. We all have our own styles. Personally, I think Michael Crichton is a moderately talented writer who bores me to death with unnecessary explanation of scientific procedures. Yet he has been published and I have not.

  41. Rebecca

    Pain screamed up my legs making a brief stop at the hips to gather more, then launched itself up my spine to the base of my skull where it spread itself out and filled every available square inch of my mind with it paralyzing grip. It’s funny almost comical actually to the point of depressing…my brain knew that my legs were no longer there yet my brain still felt them. Sad.

    “Six months?” I grunted the question out through clenched teeth, doing everything in my will power to fight the excruciating sensations that refused to admit defeat to my pain-killers.

    “As if it never happened.” The doctor assured me with a pleasant smile. Maybe if I had not been so caught up in Pain’s furious grip I would have noticed that her smile did not reach her eyes. Perhaps if the desire of having my own legs again free of pain was not the benefit I would have seen that she appeared empty, free of life.

    “Give it to me.”

    “You are our first human trial and as best as we can see there will be side effects. Would you like for me to go over those first?” She asked before moving to inject the medicine in my IV.

    “No, they can’t be any worse than this.” I gasped out between the throbbing pluses of agony that were shooting up my back.

    “Your decision.” She said simply. In hindsight I hear the ominous ring but in the moment the beating drums of torture resounding in my head distracted me. Nor did I find it strange that she didn’t argue with me. Hindsight told me I should have.

    True to the doctor’s words, I was completely healed within six months. Back to full height, strength and weight and in better shape than I was before the accident. Every moment of my recovery went down in the books…I was a miracle.

    True to my word I made weekly visits to the doctor’s office and endured the intense battery of tests performed. They gathered the data, keeping tabs on my weight and growth on a chart in their computer. Every week they told me the same…I was on track and healthy. Hindsight, the mother fucker later revealed to me that it was around the ninth month mark that everything started to go wrong. I was so caught up in my newfound life and fame that I did not see the worried or stressed eyes grow more frantic every visit.

    Not only was I blinded but dumb as well. It wasn’t until I bought a new wardrobe for the third time that I realized I was still growing. Alarm soon had me the doctors.

    “When will I stop growing?”

    “If you haven’t by now, you won’t. It’s a side effect.”

    “Why didn’t you tell me?”

    “I offered. You refused.”

    “What can we do now?”

    “Only your legs are still growing, correct?”

    “Yes.”

    “Then we can amputate and you can grow another set. Problem solved.

    1. tdogg369

      Eerie! I noticed a few places where a comma was missing:

      “It’s funny almost comical…” It’s funny, almost comical,…
      “Hindsight, the mother fucker later…” Hindsight, the mother fucker, later…

      This sentence kind of confused me. “Perhaps if the desire of having my own legs again free of pain was not the benefit I would have seen that she appeared empty, free of life.” Again, it may need a comma or to be otherwise separated to help it flow better.

      I like the idea that we are sometimes so blinded by desire that we fail to see the consequences directly in front of us. Nicely done.

    2. Egg

      Fun story… You’ve used ‘true to the doctor’s words…’ followed by ‘true to my words…’ to start the very next paragraph. Perhaps think about mixing it up. Just a thought – hope it helps.

    3. slayerdan

      Punctuation and at least one spot—Alarm soon had me the doctors.—missing a word or two. Fun idea and doing really well. The one line making amputation seem so easy was doctor like to a degree. Nice.

  42. tdogg369

    The crowd dwindled over the last hours. What was once a smoke-filled beehive of activity was now hosting only the dedicated imbibers. The jukebox had run dry, leaving only the snap of billiard balls and the rhythmic thump of darts landing on the board.

    Tucker stared at the silver ring he pulled from his pocket. “Man, my wife is insane. I came home today and she was standing in the kitchen like nothing happened.”

    Tucker and his wife had separated a month ago. She had not taken his decision very well. The gossamer fiber that had once held her marbles in place had snapped.

    “When’s the divorce final?” asked Glen. “Once it’s final, she won’t be allowed in the apartment, right?”

    “Nah, her name’s still on the lease for three more months. I talked to the office, but they said she has to sign her own name off the lease. Not happening.”

    “Bummer,” Glen said. “You’re up.”

    Tucker nodded and took the three darts. “Man, what I wouldn’t give to have never met that chick.”

    Punctuating Tucker’s sentence, a haggard drunk fell off his barstool. The few patrons remaining roared with laughter. “That’s our cue,” said Glen, chuckling.

    The two settled their tab and shook hands. “I gotta hit the bathroom again,” said Tucker.

    “All right, buddy. I’m out.” Glen was already gone when Tucker finished up and found the exit.

    “Married the wrong woman, huh?” The old, haggard drunk was leaning next to the door.

    “How did you…” Assuming he also caught Glen leaving the bar, Tucker inferred his source of information. “Uh, yeah, we all make mistakes. It’s a learning experience.”

    The man forced a laugh that tripped over a coughing fit on the way out. Drawing a raspy breath, he said, “It’d be nice to forget though.”

    Tucker couldn’t tell if this was a statement or a question. “Yeah, I could do without a few memories.”

    The drunk sat quiet for a moment. Assuming the whiskey had rendered him unconscious, Tucker turned to leave. Before he could, the man lifted a hand in his direction, a silent request for assistance. Tucker took his hand and…

    Without the memory of his failed marriage, Tucker never learned that bad experiences sometimes paved the way to a greater appreciation for life. He would live out his days, but would become an abusive husband and father, breeding hatred and evil in the coming generations.

    The chain of events rippled through history like concentric circles from a stone breaking the surface of a pond. Having little direct impact on Tucker, the course was set. A direct descendant of his bloodline would wipe out over ninety-nine percent of the human population.

    The fabric of humanity was in tatters when a young boy, one of only a few thousand people left, threw rocks against the side of a hut. Hungry and filthy, the boy stared in quiet contemplation for a moment. “What I wouldn’t give for a loaf of bread for my family.”

    1. jincomt

      You write very well. I loved the first paragraph with the descriptions of the bar. I agree with the comment: the dialogue flows really well. The ending seemed, at least for me, a little disconnected from the story. The main character had a kind of “It’s A Wonderful Life” experience except he never got to relearn what he lost, thereby disrupting the whole future course of his life and those connected to him. Did I get that right? Well-written.

      1. tdogg369

        Silly word limit. The first draft was over 800 words, so I had some work to do.
        Sounds like you interpreted it nicely. Kind of like a butterfly effect.

        Thanks to all for feedback so far!

    2. slayerdan

      You had me 100% —great dialogue and imagery—I felt like I was playing pool. The jump to summary though, took it off track–for me. The summary was well worded and such, just killed the flow you had going so well. Good job though. And it is hard–I had 900 words one I had to shave down…..thats alot of shaving you did.

    3. tdogg369

      I wasn’t sold on the ending, even when I posted it. Anyone have thoughts on how I could have wrapped it up better within the given constraints?

      1. Naomi

        Perhaps change the final character from a child wishing for food, to an adult male descendant of Tucker wishing he had never a particular woman. Have that man live in a world which has recovered from the previous devastation.

        Tucker, wishing he’d never met his wife; the epic consequences of Tucker’s wish being fulfilled; human society rebuilt; and then, Tucker’s descendant echoing the words that started everything.

  43. Leond

    “It’s a simply delightful formula,” Dr. Cavendish said, pulling a small beaker out of a freezer and placing it on the table. The liquid in it was bright blue and smoked slightly. “I’d explain to you precisely how it works, but the last time I spent any time explaining my work, my audience worked his hand loose and destroyed my base.”
    Despite the fact that I knew Dr. Cavendish was a genius, and that he was sincerely grateful to me for employing him despite his truly remarkable criminal record, I never felt comfortable on these visits. I suppose it’s always hard to be fully comfortable with someone who once threatened to detonate nuclear weapons along the fissures between Earth’s tectonic plates.
    “Cut to the chase,” I said. “What does it actually do?”
    “It hyperstimulates the parts of the brain evolutionarily designed to make inductions and then connects its impulses to-” He stopped. “Sorry. It’s a hard habit to lose. It lets you see the future.”
    “See the future?”
    “That’s right. Drink this, and you’ll never have to worry about making bad investments or any kind of mistake again. You’ll be able to see exactly one week into the future at all times. Interested?”
    “Is it tested?”
    “Yes. And it works perfectly. It’s also absolutely safe.”
    I knew that Dr. Cavendish never spoke unless he was perfectly sure of himself. How do you say no to the offer to be forever ahead of every one of your competitors?
    “All right. I’ll take it.”
    “Take a swig,” he said, handing me the bottle. “A small warning, though. I didn’t have time to adjust the taste much. But for what it’s worth, if you were a gerbil, you’d find this delicious.”
    I took the drink. Suddenly, everything faded to black. A few moments later (or perhaps more), I woke up, lying on the floor. Dr. Cavendish, wearing a different shirt, was standing over me.
    “Hi. About a week ago, you jumped up and held your hands up to about my neck. Then you started looking really sad and I realized that I may have given you a small misapprehension. You didn’t happen to think that you’d be able to see both the future and the past, did you?”

    Now, I know that your first reaction to this chronicle will be to try to get me in a nursing home and file for divorce. You’ll tell me so (Please remember to, by the way.). But on the back of this paper, I’ve enclosed the brilliant suggestions you later had for how we could make this work. And if you got them from this paper rather than thinking up them up yourself, please don’t tell me. I need to stop being confused about how to go to the bathroom before I can start being confused by causality paradoxes.

      1. Leond

        Yeah. The idea was that she gives him ideas for how to continue there life which he writes on a note that he gives to her. But if the ideas came to her from the note rather than from her own mind, then nothing causes them. They just come out of nowhere. I agree that I should have explicated that a little further. Also what those ideas were. Ah well.

    1. jincomt

      Good read and really good premise. I liked that knowing the future, meant losing the past. But then the end seemed rushed to me and confusing. It’s that darn word limit.

  44. Imaginalchemy

    1851-a small rural town somewhere in New England

    “Has true love eluded you? Has the world convinced you that you cannot have everything you ever desired? Step right up to Dr. Pontificus Hovenbecker Vundercrust’s Cabinet of Concoctions, Creations, Charms and Cure-alls! No dream is too unattainable, no hope too high, no feat too unfathomable. You!”
    The man, with the brazen voice of a trumpet and as about as shiny with all of his gold-plated buttons on his hunter green coat, thrust his silver cane at me. He flashed a smile that could blind angels.
    The crowd around me gawked at the grand display behind him, an old gypsy wagon with bright paint of gold, red, green and purple, displaying a banner that read “Dr. Vundercrust’s Wagon of Wonderment.” He offered me a hand, I took it and he pulled me up onto the stage.
    “Young man, what do you want more than anything in the whole world?” The exhibitor leaned on his cane, locking eyes with me.
    I cleared my throat, as the small crowd stared at me with eager eyes. “I…really don’t know. I guess…I would like to be extraordinary. I don’t care what manner. Just…extraordinary.”
    The doctor beamed another glorious smile. “Young man, I have the perfect solution for you.” He opened his leather satchel and produced a bottle with a greenish liquid. “Dr. Vundercrust’s Peak-of-Potential Solution. Brings out the extraordinary in even the most ordinary man.”
    I took the bottle and gave it a tentative sip. Instantly the change occurred; my muddy hair gained a golden sheen, my scrawny frame burst into lean muscle, and my sallow skin beamed a healthy peach. The audience gasped in amazement, and then the good doctor produced a rapier from a compartment in the platform. Without preamble, he ran the blade straight into my side—and the blade bent like taffy. My skin did not have a scratch.
    Naturally, Dr. Vundercrust’s wares were almost sold out in five minutes.
    Later that night, after the villagers were tucked away at home (most likely trying their new wares, praying for the miracles that would never happen), I stalked into the wagon and sat down. Vundercrust’s driver snapped the reins, and the horses pulled the wagon down the road.
    “Good show today, boy,” Vundercrust said as he counted his profits. He glanced over at me, seeing my true shape: the teal salamander skin, the blank yellow eyes, and the seaweedy hair that dropped around my head in tangles.
    “First taste is always free, the next comes at a price,” is what the doctor had told me when I first dared to drink the Peak-of-Potential Solution, and of course I had kept coming back for more. Yes, I could alter my physique, be as radiant as Adonis, but at the end of the day, the truth was constantly crawling underneath my skin, and by now my addiction meant I owed the doctor my loyalty for the rest of my life…however long he wished that to be…

    1. Naomi

      You had me pulled in, just like the most excellently named Dr. Vundercrust pulled in his audience. For a moment I believed that there was one snake oil salesman of old who was true to his word. But, then you let us peek behind the curtain. I had a good time reading your story.

    2. JJ Alleson

      A well written story enjoyable to read in style, but the plotline didn’t work for me.
      This is because it equated nature’s concept of ‘extraordinary’ with what is in effect a man-made concept of beauty. Given his physical description at the end I would have expected the stuff to leave him exactly as he was.

      1. Imaginalchemy

        Ah, yes, if the elixir did, in fact, actually work that way…
        Keep in mind, however, that the whole setup was a sales pitch to reel in customers to buy Vundercrust’s wares. When the narrator says he wants to be extraordinary, the doctor displays for the crowd what the socially accepted view (particularly for the 1800s) of “extraordinary” would be: perfectly sculpted and almost godlike. The character’s true appearance, while certainly more “extraordinary” than his handsome form, would most likely not help sell the elixir (which, in this case, turns out to be an addictive substance which may or may have not given the main character his unique physique). So, while extraordinary is certainly a subjective concept, for the plotline it is used as a means to an end. (I hope that makes sense)

        1. mjhayslip

          Well, I hate to be a downer because you have received wonderful critiques, but this idea seems sort of “been there done that” to me. It seems like something I may have already read or seen in a movie. Sorry, just my personal thoughts.

  45. morty

    He sat in my office, clutching a vial of clear liquid against his lap. Under the tussled, white hair his eyes darted around the room in a frantic pattern, cataloguing every item they came across. He needed my help, he had said. I doubted my help would be enough for the sorry bastard. He was flat broke, and I could take his word for it. The last time his lab coat had been white had likely been before Weller had left the office in disgrace. The patches on his knees desperately needed patching themselves. He offered me the vial as a payment for my services.

    The vial, he said, contained his latest invention. A liquid that could grant anyone taking a sip their deepest wish. He rambled on, incoherently pleading me to look into his case. I took the vial from him, and asked if it really worked. He nodded frantically. I felt sorry for him. I figured the old kook had filled the vial with tap water, out of desperation or pure craziness, and took a sip.

    I didn’t wish for anything particular, not there and then. All I ever wanted anymore, was to go to sleep without seeing her face in the darkness, that the whole sordid deal with her had never happened. For that I already had my own genie in a bottle. A genie which without fail granted me my deepest wish every night. It was the mornings that still killed me. The mornings, when your own sobbing wakes you up. The mornings when you had to search for your soul for a moment, before it slammed back into your chest and filled the cold void it had left behind with a bright, burning pain. All I wished for was that I never would have to go to sleep again, so that I never would have to wake up again.

    I took a sip from the vial. The liquid tasted bitter. Everything fell quiet. The old man quit his jabbering. His eyes froze mid-flight on the way from my ceiling fan to my blotter. A sheet of paper hung mid-air, as hard and immovable as a mountain. Cars stopped moving on the street. A young girl stood in the middle of the intersection with her leg hanging in the air, mid-step. I tried to wake the old man up, but he wouldn’t budge. I couldn’t even ruffle his hair, never mind yanking him up. The whole world seemed to have frozen in place.

    The old man had left my door ajar. Sucking my stomach in, I could barely fit through and reach my waiting room. That was as far as I could go. The front door was as frozen as the rest of the world. And so was she, sitting there, waiting patiently.

    1. tdogg369

      I saw some good imagery here, specifically the soul slamming back into your chest. Very vivid.

      I’m not sure I understand what the wish was that was granted or how being the only person not frozen in time fulfills that wish. Is it that the wish is never actually granted and backfires completely, leaving him with nothing to stare at but her? Perhaps I’m just not picking up on something.

      Perhaps a few lines of dialogue in the first couple paragraphs could free up some words that you could use to describe the wish in more detail.

    2. jincomt

      I agree with the images– they were like a set I could picture. The word limit is a b**** and probably kept the story from being as developed as it could have. Nice writing.

    3. Naomi

      I enjoyed your word usage, and imagery. Very vivid. The character’s motivations got blurry for me, and I think it is due to the 500 word limit. You do paint beautifully detailed pictures with words.

    4. morty

      I’m glad so many of you leave such supportive comments, thank you all for those. I have to admit that my guilty pleasure is to leave a lot to the reader’s imagination, so it’s very helpful to hear which parts became a bit muddy. Also, this time time wasn’t on my side, as we’re pulling doubles at the theatre, and this one was written very quickly between two shows. But it was an interesting experience to write this one quick and short (as opposed to my usual endless revisioning and word-bloat), and it’s very encouraging to hear that it still mostly worked 🙂

    5. slayerdan

      Liked it alot. Criticisms: the use of the word HE/HIS in the first paragraph. 10 times For the one person. And I think a tad of interaction dialogue, even if just verbalizing his thoughts to himself, would have added some power to the them.

    6. JJ Alleson

      What an intriguing story! I like that you’ve left it for the reader’s own imagination to decide where who ‘she’ is – and how she fits in. I love stories with a twist and this ending did the biz. Layers of probabilities and irony with great style and imagery too.

    7. mjhayslip

      Your response to this prompt was the first one I read that truly did capture my imagination. If you knocked that out between shows, then I say kudos to you!

  46. danmcgrath

    “Mr. Eichmann, you claim your injection of serum XX-342A increased your Intelligence Quotient by fifty points?” Mr. Fischer asked incredulously.
    “There are a few small caveats, but essentially yes, a modest increase of my already substantial intelligence of fifty points,” Mr. Eichmann replied.
    “Caveats?”
    “Would you not choose to improve your own substantial mental abilities with a small peaking of your overall faculties? Would you not trade just a few small things to achieve even greater greatness? Your fame as a world renowned champion chess player already proceeds you Mr. Fischer, the world of chess laid at your feet in shock and awe as you dominated the board in Iceland,” Mr. Eichmann replied as he wiped a trace of sweat away that was caused by the humidity of his South American enclave just a stone throw from the Amazon river in a remote Brazilian outpost.
    “I suppose,” Mr. Fischer replied as he reflected upon his legendary defeat of the Soviet Chess champion Boris Spassky in Reykjavik Iceland in 1972. “It was not a near run thing, I’m not sure a fifty point gain would make much of a difference in my upcoming match against the Soviets,” he replied as he revealed a bit of legendary arrogance to Mr. Eichmann. The presence of the wizened German scientist deep in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest had surprised Mr. Fischer as he had set out on a trip on a lark and found himself in his current position through and odd twist of fate involving the failing of a head gasket on the motor of the rickety river boat he was upon for the duration of his tour.
    “Mr. Fischer, I offer you a substantial gain, do you accept?”
    “I’m still confused by this caveat, elaborate please.”
    “The gain comes with a certain mental complication, extreme paranoia of sorts, nothing too great for a man of your mental prowess, I assure you,” Mr. Eichmann replied as he lived up to his own degenerate evil nature as a former Nazi death camp scientist as he kept the true depths of the affliction he offered to Mr. Fischer a careful secret.
    “Paranoia?”
    “Paranoia, the increase of your intelligence will be accompanied by an increase in paranoia. You’ll be suspicious of others, dreadfully so.”
    “Aren’t you suspicious of me?” Bobby Fischer asked as he examined Mr. Eichmann closely as he studied the man’s deeply weathered features.
    “Very, this is why you’ll notice that every person near you is armed. Not only that there is a room full of men next to me who are armed and have orders to watch the men in this room. To further this precaution I have a secret group of men hidden away that are unknown to both men. However, my gain of intelligence is worth the paranoia as it protects me, the Mossad hunts me like a wild animal. You are hunted, the Soviets will dethrone you one way or another. You’ll find the paranoia and intelligence worth it when you sweep the field in the coming World Championship of Chess, again.”
    “Very well, I agree,” Mr. Fischer replied as he allowed himself to be lead away without the slightest bit of awareness of where this decision would lead him in the years to come as he found himself descending into course of vehement antisemitism and lunacy.

    ——————————————————————————————————————————————-

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobby_Fischer

    If you can’t figure out what I’m going on about, have a gander at Bobby Fischer’s page, he was reportedly a raving nutter for years after his title win.Figured it would make a nice story to combine Fischer’s lunacy with Eichmann’s sheer evil.

    —————————————————————————————————————————————–

    1. JR MacBeth

      Liked the story very much. The dialogue worked I think, the attempt at more “intelligent” word choices, nice. Pretty creative to take some small historical points, and fill them out with imaginative possibilities. Also, I think it was smart to include your link at the end, probably most younger people would have no idea what you were talking about otherwise. Good job all the way around!

    2. jincomt

      I liked the premise- interesting and creative take on the prompt– very original. I also liked how you carefully selected the vocabulary to show the intelligence match of the two men.

      On thought, I found the use of “as he” in sentences a little distracting. For example in this sentence:

      “Aren’t you suspicious of me?” Bobby Fischer asked as he examined Mr. Eichmann closely as he studied the man’s deeply weathered features.

      It might read more smoothly: “Aren’t you suspicious of me?” Bobby Fischer asked examining Mr. Eichmann closely and studying the man’s deeply weathered features.

      Or maybe that’s just a preference thing on my part?

      Like JR, I liked the historic context– I thought you did a good job mentioning the chess connection which triggered an “ohh yeahhh” recall for me.

    3. Egg

      I, too, liked the historical component. Good tone, though the ‘slightest bit’ at the end stood out to me as colloquial (it’s a hard tone to keep up), and I thought your sentences were a little loaded at times. Hope these comments help. Overall, I found it a very interesting and nicely written piece.

    4. slayerdan

      As a player, I liked the idea and references. I differ from a couple of people though, I didnt like the tone. A former nazi scientist offering his said injection and I just didnt get an ominous feel. This was an ominous offer, and the side effects were potentially substantial, and to me it felt like someone selling a car—“well if you get the bigger engine youll have less mileage” type of thing. It was too matter of fact. And an after the fact–“thats why every person near you is armed”…..just seemed to be added on. I know fully some of these are related to that cursed 500 word count, so none are meant personal. Just if you had expanded the idea, focal points. I actually think fleshed out, its a decent idea for a fiction story, especially w the known peculiarities of Mr Fischer.

  47. kennydude55

    ‘’my wallet ‘’I shout as I chase after the thief, passers- by watch me run after someone who himself was darting through and past people on the sidewalk.
    ‘’stop ….thief ‘’ I shout as I put on a burst of speed barging through a couple that was holding hands . We soon get to a junction and the boy runs to the right , by now my chest is beginning to ache and I am panting my vision begins to get blurry.
    ‘’st……..’’ I try to say but by now my chest is already beginning to ache and I am having trouble breathing , I take a step forward holding my chest and then I stop . It had always been like this, ever since I had been young , the Doctors said it was a heart defect ,something I would have to live with until I got a transplant unfortunately the cost was something that had proved prohibitive for my family and now for me.
    I bent down hands on knees as I tried to get my breath back. I ground my teeth in frustration as I leaned against the wall of the building behind me ,the check in that wallet was to help pay for my rent , how in the world would I that now?
    ‘’here I will help with your problem ‘’ I feel someone thrust a card into my shirt pocket and hurry past.
    By the time I lifted up my head he was already sprinting away and turned the corner .All I made out was his brown suit.
    I reach into my pocket and look at the card
    R&D Inc
    Dr. Adesina Cole
    Head of Research
    01-8943218
    R & D? I had heard of these guys they were one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the country. I couldn’t believe my eyes the next morning I am sitting in his office and he is grinning at me through thick black glasses
    ‘’I ‘ll get down to it’’ he said rubbing his hands together.
    ‘’I need you to be a test subject for a drug I am developing from tests on animals it seems it can cure heart complications .will you agree to it? he asks pushing some papers in front of me.
    I look at him and the papers “’How did you know?
    ‘’From how tired you got when you ran ‘’
    I smile and sign the papers and then he places a bottle on the table I down everything.
    After a few seconds I begin to feel something in my stomach , something growing next thing my stomach keeps getting bigger and bigger until my shirt rips off .In amazement I look down at my stomach and from sticks out …… another living being , a baby.
    Dr Cole rubs his hands laughing with glee ‘’Quarto ‘’
    ‘’ No……’’ I scream incredulous
    ‘’no he retorts
    ‘’Another one will be coming out your ass in say ….” he looks at his watch ‘’30minutes’’

    comments and criticisms are welcome

    1. JR MacBeth

      OK, sort of funny, I think I see some “rush” perhaps due to the short word allocation, but the consistent lack of attention to caps and punctuation made the whole thing look very “rushed”, which is probably not what you wanted. Maybe it’s true that there are “no rules”, and this was just as you intended, but the average reader might not quite “get it”. Some rules are good, IMO.

    2. tdogg369

      I agree with JR. Similar inconsistencies to what I read in your “skeleton” prompt. Run-on sentences, lack of attention to grammar. Definitely seemed rushed, which is common within the parameters of word contraints.

      Interesting idea, though.

COMMENT