Choose Your Own Story

The office building seemed normal enough. You shrug off the feeling of dread as you enter the doors. There’s no receptionist. Simply two doors. One is green, the other orange. Which do you take? Why are you there? What happens next?

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

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249 thoughts on “Choose Your Own Story

  1. reynac

    It is bright and early Monday morning, it felt like the weekend when so fast because I dreaded the moment that I would walk into that office building knowing I am about to be under the influence of medication that would cause me to be completely sedated to the point that I would be in a deep sleep and would not wake until the procedure is over. As I entered the green door there was no one there at the desk to greet me which made my anxiety grow even stronger. It seems as if I was standing at the receptionist desk for hours before I saw a familiar face when in reality it was only about two minutes before I saw a friendly face that reassured me that the oral surgery would be quick and successful! True enough she was right, it felt like I was only in surgery for five minutes, and I have been free of pain ever since.

  2. Pena360

    To the eye it seems as if it could be no more bigger than a nine hundred square foot home, but why does it feel like beyond those doors it goes on for miles. Suddenly this feeling of regret and terror in an instant flood the entire room. At that moment I knew exactly that this was where I needed to be to find answers about her. A little over a year now and I think I’m finally going to learn the truth, but which door holds it.
    Taking a deep breath I find myself finally inching my way closer to the doors. I know I want to know what really happened, but my heart rate doubles with each step I take due to the fear of what it could be. It crosses my mind that I could easily turn around and leave and save myself the trouble that is about to come, but I have come to far to do that. Taking my time I’m a mere couple of feet away from both doors, the green on my left and orange on my right, I can only take one and there’ll be no going back after. It could just be that orange is a favorite color of mine, but before I had time to realize what I was doing I had my hand extended ready to open the orange door. Going for the motion to turn the handle, that’s when it hit me. From the direction of the other door I was able to make out a slight distinctiveness of that smell.
    “It can’t be…Can it?” I asked myself this question in a soft voice, and realizing I now knew where to go.
    Standing in front of the green door I took a deep whiff of the air surrounding it and was brought back to the winter nights out in the freezing cold just staring at the sky, with her by my side. Winter time meant everything to me and I wasn’t ready to see another without her, without another second guess I gripped door’s handle and turned it to see I still have a long way to go.

  3. Julia Tello

    I woke up Monday morning and got ready to go to work. As soon as I enter the hospital where I work, I saw two men transporting a patient. I did not pay too much attention to it since I see that all the time. As I kept waking and got closer to them, I realized that they were somehow estrange and scary. I then tried to go back, as i did that I saw two doors that I have never seen before. One of these doors was green and the other one was orange. I then looked back to the men and they had a very scary look and they started walking towards me. My heart stated to pound very hard. I looked back, looking and thinking which door am I going to take. I felt like that time for me had stopped but not to for the men that were getting closer and closer to me. I looked to all directions to see if I could see someone and ask for help,but there was not a single soul to be found. Finally, I decided to enter the orange door. What I found in there was ever scarier. I realized that I had enter the morgue. At that moment, my husband woke me up and asked me if I was ok…

  4. M.H.Chavez

    One cold morning as I jumped out of bed, realizing that I have a doctor’s appointment to go to. What time is it? I thought to myself. 9:15am, NOOO, I’m late. This is my first time at this doctor’s office I have to fill out new patient paperwork. I rush to get my clothes on, put my hair up in a ponytail. There isn’t any time for make-up. This appointment is crucial. You see, I have been having lower abdominal pain for a few weeks now and can’t take it anymore. As I pull up to a house-looking medical clinic. There are a couple cars in the parking lot but I have an eerie feeling about this place. I shake it off and make my way inside. Once in the door, I see the receptionist desk but no one is there. Looking around, the lobby is empty. Then I notice two doors, a green one and an orange one. What is going on? Hello? Is anyone here? I know this is the right place. Should I go through one of the doors? Well, here it goes, as I opened the green door. I hear a heart monitor its flat lining, “Miss, stay with us”, they yelled as doctors and nurses are doing chest compressions I quickly go over to see who they are trying to save. Shocked when I looked down, it’s me… Is this real or am I dreaming?

  5. esmeralda.lizardi

    Walking down time square with headphones in, head down, and hands in pocket. I could feel the breeze become cooler as the season is beginning to change, it isn’t long until the snowflakes start coming down. Although I was surrounded by hundreds of people and billboards so colorful that people were confused at which to look at first, I felt so alone. How is it that someone can be surrounded by so much life yet feel so alone? A question that was banging at the door of my brain, yet the door never seemed to open. I sat on a bench to quietly admire all the people, wondering if maybe they felt just as empty or if their bodies actually carried life? My music was so loud I couldn’t hear the rush but I certainty felt the tap on my shoulder. I turned to face an old man, beard as long as Santa’s, reeked of rotten milk, and had not bathed in at least a month. I would usually blow him off and tell him I didn’t have any money but for some reason he seemed intriguing. He asked if he could sit and I motioned with my head a slow nod. As he sat I could tell he hadn’t ate a proper meal in days and felt compassion towards the man. “When’s the last time you had a nice meal?” I asked, he replied “Years”. If I have more than this man and he looked happier than me there was certainty something wrong. “Do you like steak?” his eye lit up as he nodded, “c’mon” I said standing up, I wasn’t sure if he would follow but sure enough when I turned my head he was right behind. I saw a steak place online that looked astounding, but I have never had anyone to go with. This would be the perfect time and the perfect person, if I couldn’t be happy maybe I could at least make someone else happy.
    After dinner and the talk I had with the man about how empty I had been feeling lately he asked “do you think if you could travel in time it would help?” I looked at him confused as ever, “what do you mean?” I asked. He looked me straight in the eyes and gave me an address.
    I waited until the next day to visit the place, standing outside of it thinking of the old man and where he could be now. I walked inside to see nothing else but two doors, a green one with “past” written on it and an orange one with “future”.
    I stood there amazed, wondering if it was real? And if so why didn’t the man come and change his past and make something of himself? Then it hit me, no matter what you’re going through, where you’ve been, or where you’re going, you choose your destiny. I choose the life I want to live. I’m responsible for my own happiness. Whether the doors are fake or not, it does not matter. I turn back and go the same way I came in, only this time I leave with a new perspective on life.

  6. WriterBella

    Im getting ready for my new job interveiw and I stand by my closet door debating if I should take my bow and quiver which might seem weird to some people but where I live mostly everyone hunts in there spare time and owns a bow or two. And my bow was like my shield, my protection. I finally just sling the bow and quiver over my shoulders and lock my door and start walking to the office building. I listen to the birds as there songs mingle together in almost a perfect un written tune. I stop at the door and take a deep breath then put my hand on the handle and walk inside.

    Once inside I blink confused. There was noone at the front desk or anyone in the lobby. So I go to the front desk and ring the bell once. But within about 5 minutes noone comes. I start to take a look around and two doors catch my eye. I walk up to stand in front of them. One door to the right was green and the left one was orange. I leaned my head on the green door but no sound came from it. The same for the orange door. By now I was completely confused. I stomped my foot on the ground as the noise echoed around the empty lobby. I finally decided on the orange door and placed my hand on the knob and took a deep breath then jerked the door open.

    Inside was a white room with sevral platforms on the walls. The door slamed shut behind me as I was thrown to the middle of the room. Some words started to flash on the roof that were to bright to read as I saw a opening where daylight started to filter inside. Someone was definally messing with me. But I will not let a few stupid platforms stop me. I jump all the platforms until there are two more till I get to the opening in the roof when suddenly a growl makes me jump and I see a wolf at the bottom. Where did that come from? Im suddenly happy I brought my bow as I load it and fire a arrow at the wolfs chest. It wines and falls to the floor as I quickly scramble out of the room and onto the office roof. I take a deep breath as I jump down back onto the ground. I sat down trying to think what the heck just happened. Aliens? A prank? A murder attempt? All thease questions remain in my mind unanswered.

  7. Ed Holiday

    “You’ve got this shit. You’ve got this shit. You got this shit. You are a badass motherfucker. The sun is second to you. Kick this job interview’s ass!”
    This is an example of the sort of pep talk I would say to myself before an job interview. Usually while I was sitting in my car, staring myself down in the vanity mirror of the car visor. And like usual, about an hour too early. First half of this hour is spent thumbing my phone to death. Gorging on all sorts of useless media. Then when it’s thirty minutes away, it’s monologue time. When it’s fifteen minutes away I feel sick. The door opens slightly five minutes later and I let out a little puke on the pavement.
    To keep myself presentable I devour an entire container of Altoids. One last deep breath and ready. I leave my car behind and approach the building. Which appeared like any other so I couldn’t understand why there was a feeling of foreboding. Something deep within my monkey subconscious was telling me to flee but I dismiss the warning calls as nothing more than the jitters. After I opened the door, I decided maybe I judged too hastily.
    There was no receptionist that greet me. Or even other people who worked there buzzing in and out. My car wasn’t the only one parked in the lot so they had to be somewhere. Briefly glancing at my phone, I felt a tinge of terror as there was only two minutes left before my interview was scheduled. My good first impression of being early was kaput but there was no one around for me to announce my presence. I began to sprinting, perhaps at the end of the hallway here I would find someone.
    No one was waiting for me at the end of the hallway. There was two doors. One green. One Orange. That’s it. For a moment I stood there. As still as my body was my mind went into problem-solving-detective mood. The best sort of conclusion I could come up with was this was the interview itself. A test. Behind one of these doors would be my future boss and his co-worshipers. The other, I don’t know, a pit of fire. Death. I sat down on the floor and assumed a famous pose for deductive reasoning. They wouldn’t want to hire someone who made rash decision, now would they? However a choice had to be made timely to show I wasn’t someone who let something sit around for weeks. This was testing my ability to make a decision in an extreme circumstance and how well I could handle the pressure.
    After the weight of thought had become more heavier than I could bare I stood up. Walked over to the green door and opened it.
    I was wrong.

  8. Mhafez

    Yesterday, I was preparing myself for the job interview. I wore a formal suit, classic shoes and assured that my look was pretty good. I took my car to the company’s office. It was to some extent far from my home. It took me 30 minutes te reach their. it was well decorated from the outside. I entered the building and as per the invitation interveiw it will be held in the fifth floor. I took the elevator to it then entered the office and seeked for someone to tell that I came for the interview but there were no one in the reception. I looked around and found two doors one is green and one is orange. I come near to them to look for any sign for the interview room. How may I help you, sir ? that was a sound came from my back I turned back and said I am here for the interview. It was a woman in the middle of thirty’s who welcomed me and offered me a seat and asked me to wait 30 minutes till my turn come. I sat down and begin to prepare myself.

  9. FarahDaher

    Volatile

    Oh, shit! I’m late to work, i begin to freak out as i tripped trying to get into my business skirt and my bloody black pumps, i quickly bite into my apple as i rush out my apartment and into the busy streets of New York, i have been working at Ne’s technology center relentlessly and sometimes, i wish i could just make a living by eating pies in only two minutes just like other women do.

    I feel my stomach whining a bit as i come to a spot in front of the building and a deep intense gut feeling that something gruel is about to happen, i enter the building and tried to look for the gossipy secretaries rushing or even the receptionist whom i never liked but can find none. It’s like i’m the only one who came early, i glance at the clock flashing wildly at me that it’s 8 am and i still can’t find anyone, gosh! is it the holiday already? i take in a deep breath as the orange and green doors appear when i entered my department area. Okay, what the heck? we never had colored doors, how foolish was I to go into the wrong building? my gut wrenched again and i groaned at the dread i felt, shit, that wasn’t the wrong building at all, it was the damned poisoned apple!

    Did i turn into a rat, maybe? i look at the mirror beside the orange door and see my usual tired face, was that how i looked like? even the idea of turning into a rat sounded tempting.

    I took a deep breath again, trying to compose my routine and myself and my life together, and just choose to see behind that hideous orange door, i clutch the gold door knob and got inside.

    I see my bedroom and me sitting on it, chugging vodka and eating ice cream, bloody hell! i gasp at the flab of belly i had and my dirty legs, if it wasn’t for that stupid wish i had in my mind, this wouldn’t have happened, i wouldn’t be standing watching another version of me live the opposite way i lived, i shake my head at the lowest version of me and look at the trashed apartment, me, she was still eating and farting for god’s sake, constantly, i plugged my nose and closed my eyes, only to return with my boss’s face right in front of mine as he was trying to wake me up from my daydream. I did the most embarrassing thing.

    ”Oh god, thank you so much for this job, i appreciate your mean personality already, thank you!” i shrieked as i hugged him tightly and ran to my office, this gave me a chance to respect my job and i loved it.

    I sat on my chair and twirled with it, laughing and smiling, oh god.

    I still look like a rat.

  10. neko

    “I didn’t know I could choose between heaven and hell.”
    Kuroha, the soft hissing voice that had been in there since forever, laughed. “Katsumi, you aren’t choosing between heaven and hell. You’re choosing between hell and hell.”
    “So what’s the difference?” She cried out.
    “The very same thing I’ve been explaining to you for the last century or so. You get to choose between going back to the hell you left with superpowers, and going forward to hell. The green door and the orange door respectively. There’s a price to pay for the former.”
    “And this is the hell in between hells?”
    “Correct. You can stay here, but soon your soul will be corroded by mistrust and deception.”
    “What do you want me to do?” She threw up her hands in exasperation.
    “Choose.” His voice cackled. “But while you’re here, you can tell me a story, so I can report to Boss.”
    “Does that free me from having to make a choice?”
    “I could make your choice for you. But I won’t because where’s the fun in that? So now, your choices are choose or tell me a story. Or die, of course.” He flicked his tongue. “Wait, no. You’re already dead. By suicide, too! Hmm, such an intriguing prospect. As long as it wasn’t pills. I hate pills. So bloodless.”
    “What kind of story do you want?”
    “Your life, then. I don’t suppose I would care.”
    “I committed suicide. That’s it. That’s my life. Or at least, that’s what’s defining my end.”
    “Oh, screw this! You’re boring. Tell me a story about evil snakes.”
    “Once upon a time, there was an evil snake. He died.”
    “Don’t them teachers teach you vocabulary that isn’t related to death? What kind of education system is this?!”
    “Once upon a time, there was an evil snake. He lived for a while. He did terrible things. He died.”
    “Get out of my realm, you idiot. You’re a waste of my time.” He popped a koala bear into his mouth. Yeah, the cream-filled, chocolate ones. “Just kidding. Here’s one last chance. Tell me about something or someone who was dear to you in your life. If you fudge this up, I’ll throw you off a cliff. Crap. I keep forgetting that you people are dead.”
    “Kanade I suppose. She is, I mean was, my girlfriend.”
    “Say what?” He choked on a koala bear.
    “Like, you know, female best friend?”
    “Oh. Oh. Oh. Seriously, what is wrong with all those English teachers.”
    “She used to be my support rod, my light in life….”
    “All that wishy-washy, sappy stuff. Move on.”
    “We had a couple of conflicts over our religion. I worshipped the traditional Gods. She was Christian.”
    “Oh yeah, they’re real. So is every other God, you see. You bore me, in fact. Choose. Now.”
    “Which one tastes better? Screw this, I’m hungry. Can I have a koala bear?”
    “No. Those are my precious babies, you idiot.”
    “I’ll eat the doors, then. Since you’re so unwilling to share.”
    “Go ahead. The green might taste better.”
    She bit the handle.
    “Bye, sucker. Enjoy your life.”
    Organ music sounded.
    There was too much white for it to be a funeral.
    Kanade owes me an explanation as to why I’m standing next to a Kuroha lookalike in a church, she thought, pulling her veil further down.
    Besides, it’s not like I like that baka anyway… right?

  11. gregmyarbrough

    “I’m in love with him, and I can’t help it.” He watched the foot traffic behind him on the sidewalk flash along in the reflection of the sunglasses perched on her head. He caught the peripheral movement of her lips as she spoke and he knew that she was saying something to him, but he wasn’t really paying attention. The words were just the credits playing to no one at the end of the movie.

    His cue to leave.

    She was the brilliance and sophistication that England was supposed to be, or so he thought when he met her in Georgetown just before his contract in the service was done. She was finishing a fellowship at GWU and got the job teaching back in London, so it was easy to ditch the Defense contract job and follow her on spec. She would make enough to carry them until he caught on.

    The café was breezy and empty and so was the table as he plopped down and turned to the traffic. “You look like you could use this”, she said as the cup of tea simply appeared in front of him. She was long and tight in the skirt and white serving shirt. A tidy mass of jet black hair framed ice blue eyes that seemed to bore through him to the pavement. Falling into the chair beside him, she lit a Marlboro and exhaustedly blew a stream into the air above them both.

    “I don’t have any money to pay for the tea.”

    “Shocker Yank, and you’re welcome!” The stationary appeared out of blouse and she sat it down on the table. Blood red embossed lettering gilded with what for all the life of him looked like real gold stared back at him. “Life’s bloody tough, wouldn’t you agree?”

    “Who are you?”

    “Don’t answer a question with a question, its rude. Plus my name is not important; you listening is: so let’s try this again. Life is tough and it really gets tough when you get what you want and she turns out to be bollocks.”

    “Who are you?”

    “We picked a bright one this time!” She pointed to the paper. “Go to this address and just inside the entryway you’re going to see two doors, an orange and a green one. One will take you back to where you started, the other will take you where you think you want to be. You can only pick one, and it’s for keeps.”

    “How do know either of these things about me?”

    “Remember when you left her a few minutes ago and muttered that you would give anything to be back where you started to get where you were going?” She stood up, lifted the serving tray off of the table, and moved away.”

    “Yeah?”

    “I do too.”

    The building and doors were exactly where the paper said they would be and he could see light bleeding from underneath the doors, voices muffled behind their heavy oak panels. Pick one and she said that he would be back at the beginning, pick the other and he would be at the end. Easy enough, but what if he want to go back to the beginning and what if he didn’t like the end? She had told him that he had to choose one or the other, and he couldn’t take it back.

    Take it back.
    Take it back.

    “I need to take it back”.

    He dropped the paper and it glided silently to the floor as he turned and chose the third option, walking out the pristine glass doors and onto the street, the glittering rays of the waning sunset danced off of the gilded letters:

    Provide the bearer of this note his stated desire literally and in full regardless of benefit or consequence. This note becomes valid upon the bearer crossing the orange or green threshold. Payment will be one human soul upon physical death.
    Signed, Naamah

    Control may not have been what he wanted, but it was what he needed; and if you can’t always get what you want…

    1. Observer Tim

      Sometimes the only winning move is not to play. This is very nicely done, Greg. I’m surprised the mystery woman didn’t show up again to egg him on in some way; probably she was counting on his own internal slacker to keep him in check. 🙂

      The first paragraph made me feel immediately unsympathetic to the MC, probably because it was about ignoring someone. After that I ended up not too concerned about his choice, which I think lessened the impact of the story. My though, for what it’s worth, is that the tale would be a bit stronger if I could identify with the MC rather than disliking him.

  12. JosephFazzone

    Dim lights greeted her as she slowly opened the heavy oak office door. That it creaked in protest was her first sign, that the lights were dim was the second, and the lack of people anywhere was the third. Three immediate signs and she knew better. She had to ignore that. She was no fool, she was afraid, and she had a right to be. She also had no choice.

    “Take your step”, she told herself, “This is your fault. This is your doing.”

    The lights rolled off her coal black hairy in an oil spill a reflective indigo ablaze within its twirls and tendrils. She crept, as she felt creeping was appropriate. Her fingernails were digging into her palms as nausea swept through her frail frame. In desperation she scanned the room. The front desk in front of her with an apparent sign in sheet, a pen, and behind the desk two odd doors, one green and one orange, and to the immediate right of the desk was her salvation, a small black plastic rectangular trash can. She made a beeline for it, and retched. Hunched over on the floor, she paused to catch her breath. Tears rolled down her cheek both from her recent exertion, and her current dilemma.

    “What are you going to do you pathetic excuse for a person?” Angry, she balled her fist and punched the ground. Pain awakened her as it shot into her, a double espresso for her lulled senses. She collected herself, reached into her purse, fished around for an eternity, and then produced a tissue. She carefully wiped the corners of her mouth, took a few deep breaths, and rose up from the ground. With a sniff and a bit of guilt, she almost gave into an impulse to hide the trash can.

    “What to do? What to do?”

    She looked at the sign in sheet. It read, ‘Sign in and the enter one of the two doors’. All the signed names above where she was to sign in were blurred as if the ink were submerged in water. She shook her head in irritation. She had no choice. She signed her name neatly.

    Before her eyes, the ink swayed and wandered effectively blurring out before her eyes. Her heart raced. She placed the pen down, and walked around towards the two doors. The left door was a rich verdant green, its frame was a heavy thick oak, carved in a way that emulated branches, and a small owl was carved seemingly nestled behind a beautiful oak tree. The letters KEEP were gashed right above the door with deep angry gashes in vicious slants and angles. It almost appeared to be tired and impatient. The handle was a bent and unpolished brass handle with a keyhole the shape of a heart. The other door was fluorescent orange. It glowed with a bioluminescent light. There was no rhyme or reason to its odd dance, but it moved slowly methodically, steadily, and relentlessly. The handle was stainless steel and polished smoky grey. There was no keyhole, and there was no frame. Above the door was a small metallic plaque with the letters RID written crisp and clean, neat and precise.

    She could feel the sadness from the green door while the orange door hummed with purpose and efficiency neither knowing nor caring. In both there was peace, and yet in the green there was everything to lose. To go through the orange, she only had to lose one thing.

    “I’m eighteen!” she shouted. “I’m too young.”

    No sound, nothing at all was her reply.

    “She was sixteen”, she said with a sigh. “And raped. We were just foolish and stupid.”

    Tears rolled down her cheek.

    “And drunk”, she whispered, “And high.”

    Her nerves were raw as her trembling knees could no longer sustain her weight. She crumpled to the floor in a heap of wails and ‘why me’s.

    She choked on her tears and self pity for a spell until at last she looked up. She understood the doors a bit better. Neither was a short cut, and both were risk. The system, the functional system, prim and proper, cut, and dry, gristle and bone moved in a seemingly random pattern with ties upon ties connecting to make the points on point, a chaos of order. Every step may be traceable, and with purpose, but what it lacked was the opportunity for heart. The green spoke of the unknown, of fresh air, and open fields, and it was wild, harsh, and unforgiving. It spoke of an infinite wisdom, and the folly of man. It spoke of freedom of choice, but servitude unlike anything she’d ever known. It meant hard work, and no excuses.

    Neither door cared for her excuses, or her age. She had to choose.

    “I’m afraid”, she cried.

    “Well, Ms. Wearing Her Big Girl Pants?” the annoyed doctor asked, “Would you like to discuss your options?”

    She closed her eyes and saw the two doors. There was only one choice for that raped sixteen year old, and although that same girl will probably kill her when she finds out the news, she was forever grateful for the choice she made.

    “There are no options”, she told the doctor sharply. “I’m keeping my baby.”

    There was a softer tone on the doctor’s face, one of patience and guidance. “Well, for starter’s let’s getting you an appointment with an obstetrician.”

    She had her answer. She stood before the huge oak door. Without hesitation she reached into her chest, ripped out her heart, and slammed it into the keyhole. She heard an angry click. The door swung open with a cacophonous roar. She was assaulted by sniffles, and sneezes, some wails, some shakes, running noses, funny noises, skinned knees, and crying eyes. There were monsters under the bed, poundings on the head, sleep deprivation, learning nutrition, and ambivalent feelings of dread. All these unknowns and worst of all, knowing she wasn’t prepared. She was a party girl, and now all these pesky imps were screeching in her ears did a bit to shaken her decision. The wind roared in her face. She stood her ground. She had to stand her ground. This was her choice.

    Years later as she recounted the story to a dear friend, she was shocked and filled with a heavy dread to hear tale of a black door with no handle rumored to be a third option. She was grateful she never saw it.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is very powerful and loaded with meaning, Joseph. The imagery does a fantastic job of putting the nature of her decision into a clearer perspective. This is a tricky subject to approach without preaching, and you did an excellent job of it. Well done! 🙂

    2. gamingtheblues

      Your writing reminds me of my writing when I was in college. You write with strong, powerful descriptions that seem to come straight from the heart. There is a strong sense of the poetic romantic in your descriptions.

      Beware though, the risk that comes with writing like that. There were a number of sentences that were difficult to interpret, and would have been impossible without going back and re-reading with the reveal in mind. That being said…they were immensely powerful when put in proper context. Not all readers will go back and read though, so…take that as you will, and it is really just an artistic trade off one way or the other.

      Also, “especially” with such strong wording, it is important to re-read and edit your piece a number of times. Straight from the heart writing (as I call it) has a tendency to cause run on sentences as the thoughts tumble out, as it also creates some sentence fragments as certain sentences are re-written to better fit the soul of the piece and usually done quite quickly. I found both of these in your piece.

      One last critique, her age is a little old compared to the age she was when she got pregnant, she should be no older than 17, and there were a few times I thought we were reading about two girls. (Still not 100% sure we are not, but I don’t “think” so.

      Now…I decided to be a little stronger with this critique than some others for two reasons. One, I think it would be a dis-service to you to only hear how amazing the piece was as a whole. Second, BECAUSE this piece is amazing as a whole. It is a little unrefined though and I think you have the capability to be an exceptional writer.

      This was an excellent interpretation of the prompt and showed off your writing chops quite nicely. I look forward to your next entry.

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      I have a son who says, “it’s all about choices,” and I think most of the stories from this prompt illustrate that, as does yours. I agree with Cosi, the last paragraph was moving. Perhaps there is always a third door. I think I’m using that for the new prompt that I see is up.

  13. charkhanolakha

    Hey guys. This story is what happens when cough syrup and caffeine combine. I am not sure how much sense it makes. It isn’t complete, I wanted to talk about the characters more but my brain refuses to cooperate; so I’m sharing it as is rather miss out on the prompt.
    ——————————————————-

    Every morning Zarmeen dons the black burqa; and melts into the crowd pouring out onto the city streets. The crowds move fast; stopping means clogging the narrow arteries of the city; choking, backing up, disrupting a well-established flow.

    She hangs on to the rod attached to the bus ceiling; feeling the press of bodies around her, longing for the empty expanse of the stage. Her space.

    She arrives at the old theatre, sheds her burqa to unveil her lithe young form, clad in a white angarkha on performance nights. She spends time in front of the mirror; carefully lining her large eyes with kohl, as her stylist braids strings of jasmine into her hair.

    The performance begins.

    Zarmeen’s feet beat out a rhythm on the polished wooden floor. One foot lands, soars back up followed by the next; her feet dance with the tabla-wala’s hands.She is conscious of his gaze. She knew his lust is mirrored in the eyes of the crowd, following her form, paying homage to her with their eyes.

    She feels her spine straighten, feels as the straightening pushes her breasts against the light cotton of her kameez. Her waist shrinks. Her jumps have an extra bounce; the arcs her arms form become crisper. As the violinist picks up speed, she courts the crowd with her eyes, inviting admiration.

    The audience’s clapping mix with the beats of the tabla in a divine rhythm as she spins faster and faster; her outstretched hands rising gradually higher.

    She is lifting the mundanity of this world up now with her hands, and gifting it to the heavens. The heavens could inspect it at their leisure; and decide where to trim, where to prune and where to water.

    Her mind is rotating with her body, becoming more and more fluid with each turn.

    Zarmeen’s feet begin to move faster now; her mind becomes fluid enough to slip under, over and through the cracks in the wall surrounding it. It is now ready to ascend too.

    She is finally free of her earthly cage. Her spirit is vast; vaster than the expanse of the stage, too big to be contained. It seeps into the walls of the auditorium, in the tiny spaces between the red bricks holding the building up, into the city, through memories and through time.
    ———————————————
    The old auditorium has been many things since Zarmeen’s time. It was converted to an office in the 70’s; and then to an apartment complex.

    It has been declared unsafe safe now; and sits dismal and alone in the heart of Sadar, as the crowd ebbs and flows around it, unaware and uncaring.

    Ahmed pushes his glasses up his nose, and adjusts the straps of the camera around his neck. The city administration has not allowed him to photograph the inside of the building; but that has never stopped him before.

    He spots a side door, wooden. The hinges are rusty, the padlock old, tarnished. One good shove and the doors fly open, unsettling years of dust. Pulling the collar of his jacket up to cover his face, Ahmed carefully pulls the door closed behind him and walks into the building.

    The ceiling is high, arched. The afternoon sun pours in the through the large French windows. Specks of dust are dancing in the warmth of the gold light; as if celebrating the presence of a human among them once more.

    The air in this building is different from other old buildings he has visited; it hums with energy. He suppresses a shudder. There are presences here; voices in the walls. He can sense the buildings story; he can hear the echo of violins and laughing women through the years, smell the scent of jasmine, feel the texture of expensive brocade under his fingers.

    His eyes are immediately caught by a pair of large intricately carved cedar doors. He is inexplicably drawn towards them. Placing his camera equipment in the dust on the floor, he walks towards the doors as if a man in a daze. He pushes the doors open; they give way after only a little bit of resistance.

    He finds himself standing in a vast hall, before he has time to look around his eyes are pulled towards a figure draped in white on the stage. Her arms arced gracefully over her bowed head, one leg angled out, heel resting on the floor, toes pointing up. She has frozen; mid dance, at the disturbance in the atmosphere for the first time in years.

    The air in the auditorium is new now; fresh. She looks up, spots Ahmed, looks him in the eyes and smiles. She has an audience once more.

    1. charkhanolakha

      Oh shoot; I meant to add this in earlier, I completely forgot. I meant to translate the urdu words in here so that its easier reading.
      Tabla is a rhythm instrument played by hands, tabla wala is the tabla player. Angarkha is a long A line dress, worn over tight trousers.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      I so enjoyed reading and feeling this. As Beebles wrote, the difference between city and stage was just great. I wonder how long Zarmeen has been dancing, waiting for her audience.

    3. Observer Tim

      Wow; I’m not sure if this is a tale of mythical time or a ghost story, Charkhanolkha. Either way it’s both riveting and enthralling. The only problem in my eyes is that you stopped just when the interesting bit starts. Either that or you ended at the real beginning, if that makes any sense. Just about anything else I can say drifts into the world of Hindu mysticism or Buddhism, both places where I have woefully little knowledge. 🙂

      I looked up the words (thank you internet), and the associated pictures helped draw even more out of the story.

      1. charkhanolakha

        Lol I wasn’t sure either, OT! I don’t know what show or movie I’m thinking of; but I remember watching something as a child where ghosts are explained as residual memories. So maybe she was both.
        I meant to develop their characters more; showcase her love of admiration and then have him fall in love with her. I wasn’t thinking straight enough, so I let it go! But yes I probably would not have gone much further after their meeting. Ending at the beginning, as you said. As a reader, I hate stories that end at the beginning, but writing them suits lazy me.

    4. gamingtheblues

      Can I describe how grateful I am to you as a writer for bringing your knowledge and culture to this forum for us to share in. Probably not. Your stories, and this one perhaps more than the others, pulse with energy and heart. Feeling and emotion. Passion This story raised goosebumps, something only special stories can do. Usually this is reserved for amazing music. But the descriptions and textures, the taste of your writing is exquisite.

      Were there editing or spelling mistakes, awkward phrases?? Who knows. We were all trapped by the gaze, the dance of Zarmeen.

      1. charkhanolakha

        🙂 Thanks, blues, that is appreciated. I am trying to reconnect with my culture and I think a lot of it comes out through the stories.I am just grateful for the platform !
        Also, that is very high praise indeed! Thank you for making my day!

  14. Kemter

    Winter had captured the city.

    Benson didn’t know exactly how long it had stalked his wilderness of concrete and glass; but silently, when he’d turned his back, it tucked in its frigid wings and descended with talons outstretched. As he strode down 8th Avenue, the winds feasted on his shivers and his coat provided pathetic armor.
    When he moved it wasn’t quite so beastly.

    His destination was within sight: a steel monster of a skyscraper that housed Harevem Industries. Under the gloomy light of a slate sky it seemed to glare at him reproachfully. Benson’s stomach grappled with a pinch of anxiety as he convinced himself that his mother was right. This was his father’s corporate kingdom and he was born to inherit the throne.

    His hair rose distractingly as the wind licked around the nape of his coat. Benson could not be distracted today. Most definitely he could not take time to notice the black crow that had followed him from his apartment. He had all but blocked out the noise of its raucous cawing and the flag of its inky wings.

    No one else was bothered by the bird, and so Benson dutifully ignored it. He looked up from across the street at his father’s building and tried not to imagine he was gazing upon his own tombstone. The raspy call of the crow startled him. Before he could stop himself, Benson beheld his obnoxious antagonist.

    To his surprise, it was already beholding him. The crow’s dodgy flight had deposited it on the lid of a rusty man hole in the middle of the road where it stood stock still with its beady eyes fixed on Benson. Shaking his head of the nonsense, Benson walked straight for the bird and the man hole, determined to end this business.

    The stubborn creature refused to fear him, glaring him down even as he approached the metal cover. Benson stepped fully onto the lid and his insides gave a startling lurch. The gray light of the morning was swallowed up as he fell into perfect darkness.

    Terror and curiosity mixed as Benson fell much further than a city man hole ought to be. The end was coming and coming fast as a tiled floor grew below him. His eyes closed for the last time, but the dreaded impact of his fall was much more like the startling thump of tripping.

    Benson gasped in relief as he looked around himself, patting his dress shirt to be sure that all of him was still attached. Bewildered laughter echoed around before he realized something very important. There was no ladder back to the surface.

    On every face of the octagonal room he had fallen into was a door, and to Benson’s dismay when he tried the handle of a dark oaken slab, the doors were locked.

    Benson glowered at a beautifully carved exit with faded orange paint. The planks were old and the paint was barely an accent to the cracks over time, but a lovely tree had been precisely whittled into the center. It was practically an insult to his situation that this particular door didn’t even have a handle.

    In defeat, Benson slid to floor. He would miss his interview, there was no doubt, and his parents would be furious. What a curiosity it was, however, that he was almost relieved by the thought.

    A muffled caw breeched the silence of the room with impossible exits and Benson sprang to his feet. He followed it, the hoarse shout of that blasted bird until he came to the door directly across from the orange masterpiece.

    The chipping emerald paint spoke to him of pine forests and a grace that was akin to the power in the progress of a lonely blue whale. Benson peered through the key hole and shouted when he saw the offensive crow laughing at him from the branch of springy young tree. Through the small hole he could see a verdant forest.

    Benson grabbed the cool antique handle and pressed down vigorously. Like all the others, it would not budge.

    Frustration compelled him to spin around, determined to ram it down if it would not open nicely. There in the middle of the room where there had been nothing, a small table had appeared. On the shiny surface an ornate bronze key sat dulled by years and usage.

    His hand closed around the metal and instantly the world tipped over. Benson fell backward, slamming against the orange door as gravity shifted. He looked up in disbelief at the emerald paint above him. Defeat assaulted him once more as Benson heard the crow coughing from the other side.

    Sighing, he looked despondently at the smashed table that had fetched up next to him. Benson blinked and looked again. Somehow, the table hadn’t simply smashed but had become polished boards in a tidy pile. He picked one up, stroking the smooth finish in wonder before tossing it aside. A plank of wood would no good to help in this situation when he had no hammer or nails.

    Benson realized something was missing as he stood in hopeless irritation. The plank he had tossed had forgotten to clatter against the new floor. He turned, and saw to his fascination that the board was hovering in the air with no supports to hold it.

    With his toe, Benson nudged the floating slat, but it stuck tight to nothing at all. He kicked it, he tried to pry it with his hands, and he stepped up to jump around on the impossible board but it would not move. It held his weight.

    So Benson noticed the rest of the pile with a clever spark in his eye, and he began to lay the boards out in the air above one another, testing his weight at each height, until he had constructed an impossible stair case to the emerald door. He fit the key to the lock and turned the handle with growing excitement.

    At last he pushed the emerald door open to be washed in a pure pine breeze.

    1. Beebles

      Hi Kemter,
      This was an unusual and intriguing take. It seemed to be starting off heading in one direction and then very quickly became quite Alice in Wonderlandesque, even Tomb Raider like. I could feel the irritation Benson felt at the crow, as if it were his parents homonculus. Now I am intrigued to know the ultimate significance of the forest beyond the door – his own path, rather than his familial obligations perhaps?

    2. Observer Tim

      Wow, there’s a lot of imagery built into this piece, Kemter. The story is made more fascinating by the detail drawn into the world, though I have to admit I’m more curious about what’s behind the door than I am about Benson’s reaction to it. This is like a brief visit to wonderland, only more down a raven-hole than a rabbit-hole.

      1. Kemter

        Thank you, it was definitely inspired by Alice and Wonderland. I’m excited for the next prompt to see if i can twist it enough to continue through the door. There are things that need to be explained still, such as why is there a raven/rabbit hole. And of course, why Benson.

  15. sudhiriyer

    “Ministry of Information and Broadcast”, reads the signboard at the entrance to the building.

    I notice there is no sentry and so I walk in with curiosity.

    This is my fourth day as tourist Udnishtan, the nation that has known to be democracy’s envy, and it is very rare to find a government establishment without an array of security.

    Unlike other government buildings which are usually multi-storied, this one has only one level and unguarded too!

    I enter the main foyer. There is a reception desk but unmanned. I look behind, up and down to warn myself of any approaching danger. Not one person around to question what my business is. This is strange, very strange I think to myself.

    I look around and find a door that has “RAVESHPA” written on it in blue – meaning Entrance. Audacious that I was after having come this far without challenge, I resolve to open the door and go beyond.

    Two more doors inside. On one I see – “ATYSA” written in green. It means “Truth” and on the other, “ARSAVA ATYSA” – meaning “Absolute Truth”, in Orange.

    This is becoming like a quest for the unknown I had watched in movies and read in teenage detective novels. Without inhibitions, I open the Orange door of Absolute Truth.

    There is a TARDIS like chamber inside, and that is all there is. I enter in. It is pitch dark. I move my hands forward and try to feel the space if there is danger. I stumble upon a chair that seems to have been kept facing me, and I happen to fall in such a way as to land myself on it to take a seat. No sooner do I sit on it than an oculus rift descends down to my eye level. There appear to be some rapidly changing visual scenes. I wear it and I see these visuals:

    21/12/15 -09 am. The Prime Minister of Udnishtan addressing public grievances on a recent scam around misappropriation of government’s coffers and promising strict action against those found to be guilty.

    21/12/15 – 09:05 am. A juvenile convicted of brutally raping a 23 year old woman sentenced to life imprisonment and the public hailing honours on the country’s highest court for a ground breaking judgement that resonated with vox populi.

    21/12/15 – 09.10am. The state minister of a state in Udnishtan visiting the deluge affected areas of his state after a recent cyclone that affected the costal belts of the state.

    21/12/15 – 09.20am. The Udnishtan Army proudly claiming to counter insurgency by killing 5 terrorists hiding in an underground tunnel near the border; the video shows 5 slain and badly disfigured bodies laid in a row on the ground where the encounter happened.

    I find it uninteresting to catch up any further on current affairs of the country I am touring. I detach the oculus rift.

    I begin to summarize my experience as nothing more than a self-guided tour of current affairs of Udnishtan. I dismiss any further inclination to stay in there and emerge out of the room and start walking towards the entrance that led me into the chamber of absolute truth.

    I turn around to close the door behind me and I read “ATYSA” – the green door. What is that for? How different can that be? Interest draws me towards it and I enter the chamber of Truth.

    It’s the same inside – a TARDIS like chamber, pitch dark inside, a chair facing me, upon which I sit and an oculus rift drops to my head level which I wear and start seeing similar visual recordings as in the chamber of “Absolute truth” – almost a déjà vu?

    The Prime Minister of Udnishtan addressing public grievances on a recent scam around ……….Except that video was dated early in January this year! The video ran its timestamp as 15/01/15 – 04:45am. The scam was only reported a month ago! Everything is scripted?staged?

    A juvenile convicted of brutally raping a 23 year old woman sentenced to life imprisonment and the public hailing honours on the country’s highest court…….. Immediately after this, an internal courtroom video shows the Judge’s acceptance of bribery and a promise to the defendant’s party that the sentence will be no more than 3 years of incarceration. Lies and Betrayal at the supreme court of justice?

    The state minister of a state in Udnishtan visiting the deluge affected areas of…..The camera zooms out and the minister steps out from a studio that imitated a flood affected section of the village the minister was shown to visit. False sympathy propaganda?

    The Udnishtan Army proudly claiming to counter insurgency………..The video further shows the army chief distastefully expressing the inadequacies of his regiment,” The next time I want to show the media real terrorists not these unclaimed bodies from local hospitals. The public will believe we killed terrorists, but for once find ‘em real terroists and slain ‘em.”

    The video blanks out. But it starts again, and this time it shows me. I am watching myself.

    It shows me walking into the building, my looking up and down at the reception in a confused state of mind, my entering the chamber of absolute truth and watching the visuals, my exiting the chamber of absolute truth and then entering the chamber of truth. I see myself sit down.

    I see someone standing right behind me with an axe in his hand.It was dark all the while and it still is. But there is someone with me in the chamber of truth.

    I am scared for my life. I detach the oculus rift and dash out as quickly as I can. But I can’t open the door leading to the main foyer. Suddenly, the chamber of absolute truth behind me lights up and flashes images of an unidentified dead body found near the Ministry of Information and Broadcast.

    The reporter states, “The victim appears to have been a tourist as his passport states, but no clues on what led to this death. Police suspects it could have been a stroke or a heart attack.”

    The man with the axe emerges out from the Ministry of Truth and stares at me. What I just saw was my own death herald.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a creepy and disturbing tale, Sudhiriyer. It makes a clear statement about media manipulation in Udnishtan, and by reflection everywhere else. The effect is wonderfully thought-provoking. Excellent story!

      The only jarring thing is the last sentence; to my eyes it would read a bit more powerfully if you ended the story at “…and stares at me.” The reader can fill in the rest.

    2. gamingtheblues

      This was a very visceral ride. Often the search for truth in society and government shows more horror than a slasher tale. When I read, my mind quickly stops seeing the words, and instead plays out like a movie in my mind.

      This story feels like the screenplay for a Stanley Kubrick film. The deep, dark sense of something wrong, something all encompassingly wrong. And more importantly, the well done thoughtful questioning of society, morality and of course truth. I am quite impressed.

      Well done.

  16. Chad J. O'Brien

    Part 1: (I wrote this at 3am and wanted to sleep, so didn’t really make it anywhere. Comment if you want to see the rest).
    One of Wisdom, One of Fate
    I’m dead inside, y’know? I’m so sick and tired of disguising my homelessness as an adventurous nomad, or the vagabond on top of the world. No, I’m a hobo—not the kind that builds teepees or goes camping under the stars, but the kind that makes a bed out of concrete and bulging garbage bags, who sleeps with maggots and eats at soup kitchens and holds up a sign saying, “Tell me off for $5.” It’s a lucrative job in the homeless world, but only the lowest of the low possess it.

    These were my thoughts exactly on the day my life changed. These were my thoughts exactly as I sat sifting through my garbage bag of a pillow, teeth ratting, feet shivering. Shoes with holes in them? I swear, whoever invented Crocs hated the homeless. Anyway, I found something in my pillow. A beautifully decorated envelope with no return address. “To the dumbass that finds this.”

    Magnificent. Absolute stunning genius. A package designed to tell someone off. This was mine. This had to be mine. I opened it, disheartened at first. No money? I had been robbed five dollars with no one to confront. Who was this genius? I slid the contents out. A single buffalo nickel with the word “dumbass” engraved on its obverse. I smiled. That’s ten dollars. Well, $9.95…I did get a nickel. A note came out with the coin. I unfolded it. I read: The Hampton. Back entrance. Basement. Cell 14B. Tile: D3. Code: Bellum Stella Planeta.

    What’s this? A code? My code? A Hampton that has ‘cells?’ I’ve never been great at directions, but these were straight to the point. Pretty self-explanatory. I ask myself one more question. What do I have to lose? The answer was too painfully obvious. The answer was nothing.

    1. gamingtheblues

      I found the overall story to be interesting, and with some quite good lines in it. I especially like the second line of the story.

      There are a few lines that felt out of place though. The first line about being dead inside. It feels…self indulgent and did not seem to fit with the tone of the rest of the piece. Too conversational and then not paying off. Your MC does not seem dead inside, with the ability to smile self deprecatingly about not being paid for being insulted. Also, the term hobo didn’t seem to fit the rest of the piece. It is an awkward sounding word that does not flow easily. Finally, I felt dumbass was a little soft, like a story for kids but in actuality your piece borders on being quite dark.

      All that being said. I really like the attitude of your MC, I think he could be a compelling figure and I think your attention to the small details in your descriptions is good and offers a lot to the reader for understanding your MC. I would definitely like to continue reading your story. Just be careful of keeping your tone consistent throughout!

  17. Observer Tim

    CHOOSE YOUR STORY

    33

    You land on the heliport of Henderson’s office building. It ends here. Downstairs is a small army of guards; the only small thing you’ve got is yourself. That and your ray pistol.

    You keep your bubble helmet on as you shrug out of the rocket pack. Henderson has used gas before, and the sealed environment of your space suit will protect you from it.

    The roof access door opens easily and you head down the dark staircase to the topmost landing. Once again the door opens easily, too easily. The penthouse lobby is totally bare except for two doors. One is green, the other is orange.

    If you open the green door, go to number 85.
    If you open the orange door, go to number 74.
    ________________________________________

    42

    You bolt out the door and run back into the penthouse lobby, despite hearing your parents call after you. You take the only other option, which is through the orange door.

    Go to number 74.
    ________________________________________

    59

    You smile and run to your parents. All is well with the world, and you know your nightmare is over. Soon you’ll forget all about this silly childhood fantasy of going to outer space.
    ________________________________________

    61

    You charge in the door and fire your ray gun at him. Henderson falls, but as he does so he pushes the chair. A moment later Aunt Aggie and the chair roll out the open window. With your rocket pack upstairs there’s no way you can save her.
    ________________________________________

    74

    Henderson’s office is large and super-modern. He’s by the window, next to a rolling office chair, and in that chair is Aunt Aggie. She’s still wearing her space suit, but her bubble helmet is off and her hands are tied behind her back.

    “Well, Susie Q,” says Henderson, “now you finally decide. If you go out that door I’ll let your aunt live, but you’ll never be able to go to space again. If you stay here, I’ll give this chair a push and your aunt will have seventeen storeys to contemplate her end.”

    If you leave the room, go to number 93.
    If you try to stop him, go to number 61.
    ________________________________________

    85

    The door opens into your living room. Mom and Dad are there waiting for you, looks of joy and relief on their faces.

    “Susie, you made it back,” your father says, “are you all right? Did anyone try to hurt you?”
    The whole space adventure must have been a dream.

    If you choose to stay home with your parents, go to number 59.
    If you don’t believe him and run back, go to number 42.
    ________________________________________

    93

    You say “I surrender,” and back out the door. He thinks he’s won, but not yet. The stairwell handle melts in the beam of your ray gun and you kick the door open. Up on the roof is the ultimate cure for a seventeen-floor fall; your rocket pack.

    1. gamingtheblues

      This was absolutely delightful. I LOVED these stories as a kid. I thoroughly enjoyed going through the different paths you laid out, short as they were.

    2. No1@C0m0n

      I really got inspired by your writing. I was very intriguing as a reader to go up and down the page to find the missing puzzles to complete the story and the ending had multiple variations, which as a reader I enjoyed.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is wonderful and touching, Gingin. The subtle mention of her husband’s death is portrayed with just the right amount of weight to make it tragic, and the sense of hope in opening the clinic provides an excellent counterbalance. I sort of figured out what was going on by the halfway point and the reveal was timed and executed perfectly. All in all this is an excellent story. 🙂

    2. gamingtheblues

      I agree with Tim and Turtle. This was subtle and well portrayed. Perfectly touching the right tone of loss and hope that made it very believable. I look forward to reading more of your work. This could easily be the intro to a novel.

  18. turtles88

    A male lion wearing a broken crown emerged from the open green door. He rushed over to Leon, grabbed his hand and said, “Quickly, human! You mustn’t miss this.” He dragged Leon through the green door and sat him down on a cardboard throne.

    “Sit here,” said the male lion, “and don’t make a sound or I’ll eat you.”

    The male lion adjusted his crown and marched toward a large stage which was placed in the middle of the room. On stage, there was a beautiful open coffin. Leon could see a lioness sleeping peacefully inside. Her paws were folded across her chest, which rose and fell at a steady pace, and her eyes were covered in jewels.

    Male Lion placed a heavy paw on the lioness and cried out, “Oh dear wife! Dear Queen! What will become of us now?” He bowed his head and sobbed.

    Three lion cubs stepped out of the shadows and stood next to Male Lion.

    “Father?” said the tallest cub. “What will become of us?”

    Male Lion faced his cubs and painfully said, “My children! Oh, my children! Your mother is dead and soon I will too.”

    The youngest one touched Male Lion’s arm and pleaded, “No, Father. You will find love again. Somehow you will. And we, we still love you, Father. Isn’t that enough?”

    Male Lion kissed her paw and sadly shook his mane. He removed his crown, smashed it to the ground and lifted himself into the coffin with the lioness and shut the coffin with great strength.

    The three lion cubs picked up the remains of their father’s crown and waited and waited for his return.

    1. Gingin07

      This was lovely. I could really feel for the three lion cubs waiting for their father who was unlikely to ever return. I also liked how you invited the human and the reader into this sort of fantasy world where anything might be possible. The line “You mustn’t miss this” at the beginning added an element of suspense that made me want to keep reading.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        This is a glmpse at another side of a fairy tale. Sad as the story was, it had a real charm about it. The human being able to help the three lion cubs.

    2. Observer Tim

      This is absolutely beautiful, Turtles. So the POV character was kidnapped by a lion and made to watch the equivalent of a school play. Absolutely fantastic. This put a smile on my face for the morning. 🙂 🙂

      I guess everyone needs an audience.

    3. gamingtheblues

      I feel like there is an allegory here. Some overarching lesson that I can not quite put my finger on. I get less a school play, and more an Alice in Wonderland vibe, where anything extraordinary can happen, but has meaning and value beyond “ordinary.”

      1. turtles88

        Now that you brought it up, Blues, I’m wondering what the lesson could be too, even though I wrote this. If it helps, I was trying to imply selfishness, I think. Where Male Lion was so depressed over losing his wife that he didn’t look back and see if his own children were okay.

          1. turtles88

            Thank you, Reatha! And, no, not under a spell. I wanted to let the reader know that the lioness was not really dead, that she was only pretending to be dead because it’s a play. But now you got me thinking!

    4. Beebles

      Extraordinary Turtles, both parts. Very much like a dream where the rooms and characters are part of Leon’s own psyche, either trying to tell him something or to articulate some deeper emotional crisis. Loved it.

  19. Beebles

    Enigus Peiterson slowed the PHV to a halt at the steps to the address and dismounted. It was a state holiday. The street of high rise offices was deserted and the omnipresent anonymous noise of the Metropolis was muffled, a world away. Then the peace was shattered as a squadron of HB160s burst over the shining rift, their triangular forms and glowing anti-grav pads reflected in the sheer walls for a moment, before their roaring fled as quickly as it had come: some poor rebel stronghold in the mountains was due for a pounding.

    Peiterson left the PHV hovering at the bottom of the steps and deployed the drone from the rear. It span up to drift a foot above his head. He opened the comms in his helmet.

    ‘Pierterson SP1546 confirming arrival at Yardling 02 and requesting OP support.’

    ‘Confirmation received, SP1546. OP 12948 standing by.’ The female voice in his earpiece arrived like a silken thread through the ether. He smiled. The first time he heard this voice, he had been reminded of an ornament his sister had kept on the mantelpiece in her bedroom, a glass cat with a tall thin icicle of a tail. Beautiful. Brittle. He felt he could snap it between his fingers.

    ‘Well, Ops this is a pleasant surprise.’ He shifted his automatic weapon round to the front and rested his arm on it.

    ‘Meaning, 1546?’

    ‘Meaning that it isn’t often I get the same Ops for support as sent out the assignment. And it’s a pleasure to hear you again, Ops.’

    ‘Mutual, 1546. Short staffed on account of the air operations. Shall we get this show on the road? Drone deployed? Yes, I have visuals now.’ The drone buzzed and tilted as Ops took control.

    ‘So what have we got, Ops?’

    ‘Disturbance. Raised voices coming from inside the office. Phoned in by a Metpeep. That’s all we have.’

    ‘Ok.’ Peiterson plodded up the stairs toward the glass frontage, alert, weapon ready. ‘So you working from Met or have they out-sourced you, Ops?’

    ‘Way away, 1546. Why?’

    He reached the top and smiled up at the drone. ‘Oh, I was looking for a dinner date after shift.’

    ‘And would your wife be coming, 1546?’

    He dropped his head and smiled. ‘You got me, Ops. Don’t worry, I’m just flirting. I usually get some grumpy old guy.’

    ‘Don’t forget, I’m Ops, 1546. Right now I even know which side you’re hanging. Pretty boy like you shouldn’t get a girl’s hopes up, especially one pretty enough to be a Reb.’

    ‘Eh?’

    ‘Well, here say that many of the Rebs are just teenagers. Like you, pretty boy.’

    ‘Yeah, I know. It’s a mess. Shall we keep this professional, Ops?’

    ‘You started it, 1546. So, give me the intel.’

    The glass doors parted as he approached, making him start. Weapon up, he entered.

    ‘Ok, so someone’s here, alright. Small reception area. Empty. Two doors, green to left, orange to right.’

    ‘Makes you think whose gonna be under that payload.’

    ‘Say what, Ops?’

    ‘Those HBs. Some Reb village they say. Makes you wonder. Could you do it, 1546?’

    Peiterson lowered his weapon, a little confused. ‘Do what?’

    ‘Take out women and children. Rebs or no?’

    ‘What is this Ops? This some kind of test? This is a wide channel. What sort of a question is that?’

    ‘Ok, channel focussed, 1546, it’s just the two of us. Seriously, would you do it? If there was a teenage Reb behind one of those doors? Would you down her? No questions asked?’

    ‘Ok, listen Ops. What I was actually gonna do when I finish my shift was make my way to the hospital, to see my son. I don’t know if you at OP know, cause you seem to know fucking everything, but his leg was taken off by a Reb IED. It’s taken the Docs six months to grow it back and today is the day when he is supposed to walk again. That’s six months of seeing my ten year old in agony. So don’t try to get all fucking empathetic with me. Sure. Yeah, I’d drop the load. Teach those crazy sons of bitches a lesson. Now open that channel back up and let’s get this job done! Tell me which goddam door, OP?’

    Silence

    ‘Which fucking door?’

    ‘… orange.’

    Pieterson burst the door open with his shoulder. The drone hovered in reception as three thumps sounded, like a fist hitting a pillow three times.

    Silence.

    ‘You there, Hacker?’

    The silken voice responded with a sigh. ‘I’m here, Reb 5.’

    ‘You sure took your time.’

    ‘Yeah, I know. I Just … just for a second I thought I could turn him. Get him through the green door.’

    ‘Well, he’s gone, just like the other two. We’ll find one, don’t worry. Hack us in another. I’ll dispose of the PHV.’

    1. Observer Tim

      This should have been in the book I just read.

      I love the pacing, the concepts, and the storyline here, Beebles. You kept the story going while accentuating the humanity of the MC. The only shortcoming in my eyes is that it could have used a break when the conversation changed. Excellent job! 🙂

    2. gamingtheblues

      This is one of the more polished Sci-Fi stories I have seen on here Beebs. This was very excellent. I found the transition between flirting and pissed off to be “alittle” abrupt, but not 100% sure how I feel about it.

      In all other regards the dialogue was realistic and interesting, the back story very intriguing, and the little details peppered throughout to remind the reader that there is a wider world waiting to be explored were done perfectly.

      Sci-fi is probably my favorite genre to read, and I enjoyed this immensely.

      1. Beebles

        Thanks GTB. Big fan if Iain Banks – sad loss – though this is my first attempt at SF outside the 19th century. One always runs the risk of being abrupt when trying to keep the word count down but i thought that Ops question was sufficiently left field, particularly after her amiable putting down of 1546, to just put him on edge. There is other stuff wrong with it of course. Glad u liked it.

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      Beebles, I haven’t read sci-fi for a long time, but I really enjoyed this for the dialogue that quickly introduced your characters and the back stories implied. I would certainly read more of this.

  20. Kerry Charlton

    DIABOLOS

    His hand froze to the worn wood pull. No one appeared through the open windows. Was he late or early? Wrong day? No, the day and time were correct, but why an empty building radiating vibes that seared his soul? .He opened the door anyway and the cold stone floor resisted his bare footsteps as he managed to walk to the middle of the room.. A voice appeared from nowhere,

    “You have but one choice only. Before you, two doors will appear, one green and the other orange.”

    “You think you can intimidate me with your threats and taunts, Diabolos?

    “Look around, where is your support?”

    “Are you too blind in your hate of mankind, not to see the hosts?”

    “AHA! So you brought help after all!

    “Dismiss your minions, I will tell the hosts to leave. Why do you hesitate? Is the fear still within you?”

    “Never, it is done. Are you satisfied?”

    “Only when you’re vanquished. Tell me about your flimsy doors.”

    “One door leads to sacrifice, pain and death, the other to power, greed and satisfaction.”

    What are you rules, Diabolos?”

    “You of all should know by now, there are none not trust or mercy or no prisoners, so to speak.”

    “What if my Father gave you one more chance, Fallen Angel?”

    “You are wasting my time, choose if you dare to, otherwise leave.”

    “What if I had the power to see through your doors?”

    “That is an impossible feat. The doors can not be penetrated, choose barefoot one.”

    “Do you believe all things are possible, Diabolos?”

    “Fairy tales. If you can see, tell me what is through the doors.”

    “Do you not know yourself? Are you so weak, if you knew, would you not
    try to trick me?” .

    “Why do you stall, barefoot one?” Are you uncertain about your resolve?”

    “As you wish, both doors lead to power, greed and satisfaction. I am sure you are aware of your devious behavior.”

    “So your choice is?”

    “The green door of course. I asked my Father to change it.”

    “As the door opened, Diabolos saw a road leading out of a city. Soldiers and towns people taunted a frail man lying across a pathway. A stranger broke from the crowd,

    “Let me help you with your burden.”

    The frail man struggled to his feet, set the cross across his bloody shoulder and continued along his journey.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          No prob, cosi. Kerry is Irish, means dark and mysterious. So there you have it. I took a different path with this story. Not sure I pulled it off as well as I wanted to..

    1. Observer Tim

      Beautiful, Kerry. This is a wonderful twist of the allegory to match the prompt. Bravo!

      Of course, Diabolos is still too blind to see that the new green door, which leads to sacrifice and humiliation, ultimately ends in real power, wisdom, and kingship.

      A blessed Nativity to you!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Tim, I hesitated doing this but then I went ahead, bring a conservative Lutheran turned Baptist by my better half. This year, more than many in the past, the spitit of help and frienship is truly a blessing to our country and your’s also.

    2. gamingtheblues

      Even as someone who actively identifies as “non religious” I find the mythos and impact of religion fascinating. This was a thoughtful and interesting take on the prompt, and as someone else mentioned, the ..legend? Story? of one of the greatest sacrifices in history.

    3. Beebles

      Hi Kerry. I am a big fan of religous themes and particularly in imagining all the potential ‘traffic’ that exists beyond the scope of mere mortals – that there are perpetual stories and conflicts being played out beyond our ken – although like GTB I am not religious. Perhaps it stems from my interest in human development and all that mythology and religion represents. This was powerful and I enjoyed the play off between the vulnerability and confidence conveyed between the opening description and the dialogue. Oh, yes!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you for your wonderful thoughts, Beebles. I grew up watching ‘The Robe, Spartagus, Ben Hur and all the religious drama produced in the fifties, I never realized at the time, the enormous influence it has played out through my life. Anyway, I rarely write about it but every now and then, something manages to get to the written page. Probably this time of year. I’m looking forward to all your stories next year.

        1. Beebles

          Can’t let you go without saying me too, to all of the above and what a great film Spartacus is. The performances are fantastic by any standard, especially Ustinov – as he got the academy award – but also Simmons. So many scenes of her’s reduce me to tears. Enjoy the season!

  21. Observer Tim

    DISTRACTIONS
    A Crisis at Christmas, Part 6

    The apartment building in Limbo is almost surreally normal. Tanni pulls me into the same wedge of the revolving door as her and we ride through the cramped space with her pressed tightly against me and licking my ears. The calming excitement of her purring is more distracting than I care to admit.

    The foyer shatters the illusion of normal; it’s a line drawing like something out of a black-and-white comic book. There’s a sketch of a potted plant and two elevator doors. How am I supposed to choose? How am I supposed to do anything when Tanni slides the blouse off my right shoulder and starts nuzzling it?

    “Tanni, please. This isn’t really the time or place.”

    “When is?”

    “When we’re not busy.” When we get sent home and my conflicted feelings are about Vixen, not some frisky cat-girl.

    “Okay.” She leaves my shoulder alone and starts licking my hand.

    “Why are you doing that?”

    “So I don’t forget you; taste is harder to fool than vision.”

    Note to self; this cat is smarter than she acts.

    “Any thoughts on which door we should take?”

    “The tangy coloured one; it smells like your shiny.”

    “You can smell colours?”

    “Sort of; the right-side door is tangy and the left-side door is leafy.”

    I’ll take her word for it. We enter the right-hand elevator and I press the ‘up’ button.

    “Wallflower?”

    “Yes, Tanni?”

    “We’re not busy.”

    I cannot do this. She’s warm and soft and focused on me in a way that no-one, not even Vixen, ever has before. I have to resist the temptation.

    She helps me get dressed as the elevator door opens.

    The full-colour world outside is jarring after that ride. It’s a normal-looking four-room apartment with kitchenette. The short-haired college girl looks up from her mini-desk and laptop.

    Tanni hisses softly in my ear, “Search!” Then she’s in the girl’s lap so quickly she might have teleported.

    “T-T-Tanni? I wasn’t supposed to grab you!”

    Wanda doesn’t stand a chance; her whimpers of fear rapidly turn to giggles under the purring and licking mass of orange cat-girl. I get moving before I’m tempted to watch.

    The bathroom is busy but organized. Wanda’s toiletries outnumber Eric’s, which is normal, and there are a few telltale signs of a second girl, but not enough to imply she’s living here. Girlfriend?

    Bedroom one is a girl’s; aggressively so. It’s more like someone read about girls and made a bedroom to match. The bed hasn’t been slept in. And who the heck is this “Justin Bieber” guy?

    The other room is a caricature of a college boy’s room, except that it’s immaculate; okay, that makes it the exact opposite of a boy’s room. I think. The only thing out of place is the ogre on the bed.

    He’s about seven feet tall, overweight, hairy, and …interested. I prepare to kick him, but he doesn’t seem to notice me. Instead he looks toward the open door.

    “What is that girl doing? She’s supposed to be writing away heroes.”

    1. Observer Tim

      ROGER
      A Crisis at Christmas, Part 7

      “WANDA!”

      The girl tenses despite my tickling and licking. She’s fearing again, like when I sniffed under her tunic.

      Wallflower rushes into the room followed by a large misshapen man with a big cuddle-stick. For the first time in my life I don’t want to touch it, except maybe with my claws. My hackles go up immediately while the girl curls up in a ball behind me.

      “What’s this, Wanda? You’ve written yourself a friend? Do her, kitty.”

      I hiss. “No! Tanni doesn’t hip-cuddle scared people.”

      “Then come over here. I’m sure my ‘niece’ would like to see you please me.”

      “Uncle Roger, no!”

      “It’s you or her, kid. I’d let the imaginary one take it if I were you.”

      Wanda is bawling; this human terrifies her. I leap at him claws-first.

      “Come to Uncle, kitty.”

      “Say uncle, human!”

      I land on his cuddle-stick hindclaws out and bite for his neck. It’s like attacking a statue. Wallflower breaks a broom-handle on his skull. My foreclaws draw blood from his arm but he grabs me in a bear hug.

      I can’t use my claws properly now so I bite him some more. He tastes like hate and cruelty and all the stuff that makes Stefi angry. Wallflower hits him with a flat-pan to no effect, then frowns.

      “Tanni, keep him busy!”

      That’s what I am doing! He falls forward onto me, stunning me momentarily and knocking away my breath. A big hand pins me to the floor and he’s shifting position. He’s trying to force-cuddle me! My claws are leaving nothing but shallow cuts on him; it’s worse than an arkomorph in heat.

      I hear Wallflower’s voice over by Wanda.

      “Come on girl, if you’re as powerful as Eric thinks you have to write us a way out of this!”

      “Nobody wrote me a way out.”

      “I’m sorry about that, but we need you; now put that cute little ass of yours in front of the laptop and write something! God, Tanni’s starting to rub off on me.”

      That brings a nice memory; rubbing off on her was fun. But right now I have to claw this human. He pulls back when I scratch at his eyes, but then leans his weight down and starts choking me.

      I’m gasping for air when Wallflower shouts, “To your right, Tanni!”

      I reach out and encounter a familiar handle. I know how to use this; I set the power to maximum and fire the bolt pistol into his chest. He bucks upward, which is the opening I need. The rest of the clip gets emptied into his face.

      He falls over, bloodied and unconscious. Eight bolts to the face should kill anything, but he’s not dead. I squeeze out from under him.

      Searching reveals four reusable bolts, but the power pack is almost dead. I turn to the W-girls.

      “Does anyone have a spare battery?”

      1. gamingtheblues

        I love myself some Tanni. She might just be my favorite fictional character that I have read in a very long time. You have her thoughts and mannerisms perfect and more importantly they are consistent throughout her stories. I know that you are getting some publishing done which is showing, but i wanted to give you my own props on just how well written she is.

        and THANK YOU for not one but TWO parts filled with Tanni goodness.

      2. Observer Tim

        Thanks, Blues and Nicki. I’m sure Tanni would love to know she has fans; in fact I know she would. I try to spend time inside the heads of my main characters, and developing Tanni was both fascinating and terrifying. She takes quite a bit of concentration to write, especially to keep it out of the “Adult Film” range. I’m glad the careful effort is showing.

        In another part of the universe, I got a copy of “Fall of the Galactic Empire” yesterday. There are 25 stories and poems in it, and so far the only real negative I can see is that white print on black paper can get a bit hard on the eyes if reading in dim light. It is really really super cool to see my name in print.

        This Crisis isn’t over: after all, there hasn’t been a story from Wanda’s perspective yet…

        1. Kerry Charlton

          WAHOO! Tim. It really is fun to see yourself in print. Now if only they send money, talent isn’t cheap., When I read this, I have an uncontrolable wish to see drawings with it. Does anyone else get this urge?
          Writing is sharp as always, you’re descriptive verse leaves a thrist for drawings, I can’t help it!

          1. Observer Tim

            Thanks, Kerry. It definitely is fun; now the trick is to make it happen again…

            I was going to write something about pictures for the elevator sequence, but somebody hit me in the back of the head with a sign that says “Rule 34”. If this story were illustrated, I don’t think it would be a kids’ book. 😉

        2. gamingtheblues

          I think that is what I love about her character so much. I dig the idea of her sensuality as a practical given thing that is not shown as being negative in any manner and without judgement good or bad. Also, to write a character of that nature and NOT have it fall into something too adult for this forum (And really I have read some pretty graphic stuff on here before) is impressive in its own right.

          She is delightfully ambiguous in her..affections and to a non adult, sounds just really cuddly and lovable =)

          It is FUN to read about her adventures, and while I have read good stories, bad stories, horrifying stories and heartwarming stories, it is VERY rare that I read FUN stories (and fun stories are far different than funny stories). Stories that are just a pleasure to read and fun to imagine.

  22. Reaper

    Part forty, yeesh, is it really so many of these? And I feel like I have no time for writing, so these prompts are saving my life.

    In the Beginning – The Northern Dilemma

    Jack followed the trail. The current case led him into an office building as the sun set behind it. Nothing seemed too out of the ordinary. His distraction might get some credit for that.

    He was thinking about Thomas. His stolen foster son, not the priest. He did that a lot recently.

    Ever since the boy ordered the box, something wasn’t right. Jack knew the boy purchased items online, but he didn’t understand the appeal of the container. Though, from time out of mind young men loved objects capable of holding worthless treasures and half lost memories. Despite this history repeating itself, their parents never understood the appeal.

    When Jack was a boy it was cigar boxes.

    As to the evolution to fancy looking containers, Jack blamed the hipsters. He did that a lot too. So why was this whole thing making him uncomfortable?

    He snapped out of his dread, into the tomb silence of the building.

    He was alone. The place where a receptionist should sit was, to him, ominously empty. It was a bit before five though. Maybe she just ducked out early. More likely, in this day and age, the fat cats running the businesses were saving money by cutting Martha the single mother from the payroll.

    They probably still paid her just as much when they saw her on the pole, Jack thought. Realizing how uncharitable that was, he tried to shake off his dark humor. He looked to the doors behind the desk instead.

    One was orange and the other green. Jack moved towards the orange one, because he was not Catholic. He thought about drawing his gun, then didn’t.

    The hallway was dim, but not enough to stop him seeing. Another door at the end stood ajar, faint light spilling from it. Silence continued to rule the building. Jack made his way down that hall and pushed the door the rest of the way open.

    He was surprised that he was not surprised to see Thomas sitting behind the desk. The teen spun a large gun on top of the blotter, causing Jack to wonder why anyone still had such a thing. Jack would have wondered where the gun came from, but he knew it was one of his own.

    Jack could have wondered at the feelings inside him. The sense of inevitability for instance. The last decade or so had eliminated most such things from his personality though. Then the boy spoke up and answered any questions he might have.

    “Did you think you could take the prophecy out of the boy?”

    “I hoped, for your sake. The box was from her then?”

    “You’ll never know. Your part of this testament is done.”

    “I’m sorry…”

    “Save it, your apology won’t save you.”

    “…that I failed the priest.”

    “Aren’t you supposed to play the hero and try to redeem me?”

    Jack looked sadly at his adopted son for the first time. “I think you were lost before I even found you, son.”

    The gun screamed once, branding Jack as the new Judas.

    1. cosivantutte

      HI, Reaper!

      Wow! That last line took me by surprise. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

      I had only one question though: Maybe I’m just being dense, but I didn’t understand his reason for not going through the green door. What did the green door have to do with being Catholic?

      1. Reaper

        I realized the last line could imply that Thomas died, when I read Tim’s comment below. I may need to work on that.

        You’re not dense, only half of the reference is in well known culture. It is an Irish reference having to do with why you wear green on St. Patrick’s day and why Kennedy was booed for wearing orange on his visit. In Ireland the colors of the flag were eventually associated to religion. Green for Catholics, Orange for Protestants and white for everyone else. Because the entire story is steeped in religious stuff the green door was the Catholic door and would have led to a very different story. Outside of the symbolism it was my nod to the title of the prompt making it seem like this was writing one path of a choose your own adventure.

        1. ReathaThomasOakley

          Another one, wow! I continue to admire the story and your ability to keep it moving. I’ve gotten a bit confused on the time line, but I’m certain when I read them all I’ll understand. Thanks for explaining who got killed and the green references, which I recalled as soon as I read what you wrote.

          1. Reaper

            The timeline is confusing for me. Keeping as close to the word count as I can I have sacrificed really describing that years have passed and just used the ages to do it.

    2. Observer Tim

      That was powerful, Reaper. I love the religious imagery (starting with the whole orange/green thing) and the uncanny way you continue to fill each story with a tense pseudo-noir atmosphere. Now I find myself wondering if Thomas was meant to die from the start. Once again, I’m running low on superlatives. 🙂

      When this is all over (in a surprisingly few weeks), you’ll have to post the master links so I can go back and reread it all without having to step back through a year’s prompts…

      1. Reaper

        Thank’s Tim. As I noted above I think I may have given a wrong impression with that last line as Jack is the one who died. The branding being a reference to what a bullet did to his flesh. I’ve realized this is about the first third of a story but will take the rest offline after getting to the end of this part. When it is done I’m going to move them around to have a special place on my blog and will post the link.

        I have been saying sorry about not replying but honestly I’m only sorry that I haven’t been paying enough attention. Been working on hitting a couple of my resolutions from last year’s New Year’s prompt. I got up the two books this year. The most recent one is a Satire that my beta reader tells me has something in it to offend everyone. I think this story got religion on my mind.

    3. gamingtheblues

      Hey Reap reap…. (hmm totally reminds of me of the fierce mouse in Lion, witch and wardrobe 😉

      Your stories continue to have A LOT to take in. There are prophecies, religious references, film noir main characters, subtle self awareness in your characters and dramatic action and twists. This world you have/are created/creating seems dark, dangerous and fast paced. As a writer you continue to put a ton of emotion into your stories.

      One….comment? Not really a criticism or suggestions but… I feel that with as much as it has to it, this story is mildly dis-serviced by the low word count format. I think that this story “needs” the meat and slower build up of a true novel to really shine.

      Look forward to next week!

      1. Reaper

        This is the beginning of a novel, about the first third. When I add in the later parts I plan on going back and adding in some words to these chapters and possibly some bridging chapters as well. Thank you GTB, you are always an inspiration.

    4. Beebles

      Reaper, I guess I am one of those comng to this late and struggling with the origins but I have to say the writing is the equivalent of an expensive massage. The description around the missing receptionist was splendidly delivered in particular, but the whole just oozes class.

  23. cosi van tutte

    “Welcome to the Jay the Silent Ninja Show. I am your host, Jay the Silent Ninja. I am going to be silent for the next hour and a half. If you try to call in, you will get nothing. Not even a busy signal. Soooo, with that out of the way, this lovely piece is by the erhu master Kenji Shinogobi. Happy meditating, everyone!”

    Jack Jilhouse listened to a few minutes of the erhu’s almost human voice and shut it off. It stirred weird ideas in his head of human versus not human. Callie versus…

    Callie. He frowned and swerved around a group of doidling cars. “What was her deal anyway? I was proposing to her, darn it! And she refused me.” He blasted his horn at a yahoo in a green Grand Am who was driving seventy miles too slow. “But she never said no.” He scoffed. “Well. She sure didn’t say yes. Why did she have to bring up Asree?”

    Even though Jack didn’t think it was possible, the Grand Am slowed down even more.

    “Oh, come on! Move it!” He honked his horn again. “Go find a parking lot, you glop eating snail!” He tried to move into the fast lane, but a slow boat Mercedes was already there, blocking him in. A maize and blue Cadillac Seville loitered in the opposite lane.

    So, Jack was stuck. Stuck in a box of slowness. He sighed. “Asree. I know her name. I know I know her name, but I don’t. Why?” His frown deepened. “Why does Callie remember her and I can’t? It doesn’t make sense.”

    A junked up pick-up honked at him.

    Jack flapped his hands in irritation. “Where am I supposed to go? The sky?”

    An image of a black Volkswagen flying through the night flashed in his mind. He slammed on his brakes.

    The pick-up blasted a ten minute screed as it zip-zoomed to the shoulder.

    Everyone sped around him. Jack, however, sat still.

    And time fell away.

    “A flying black Volkswagen. I’ve seen it before. It’s something real.” He closed his eyes to focus on the memory.

    A series of images flashed before his closed eyes. Downtown. Office building. Green door. Orange door. “You know this place. Come here, Lord Deama.”

    Jack startled and returned to the world of swerving cars and blaring horns. He shook his head. “It was just a dream.”

    That’s when the black Pontiac Bonneville ran smack into his trunk.

    To be continued…

    1. cosi van tutte

      continuation…

      Lord Eina shut off his car and sat still. “Are you sure about this, Zahn?”

      “Yes, my lord. He remembered his past on at least two occasions.”

      “Yet, he chose to stay here.”

      “Yes, my lord.”

      “Why?”

      Zahn hesitated. “I am unsure, my lord.”

      “Maybe we should just let him be.”

      Zahn stared straight ahead at the gray Cutlass Sierra’s bashed in trunk. “I do not wish to contradict your wishes, my lord, but I fear what may happen if he remembers again and chooses to return.”

      “So, it must be done.” He pulled out his blaster. “He must never return as Lord Deama.”

      “I can do it for you, if you wish.”

      “I am not afraid.” He smiled. “But I do appreciate the offer.” He put on a gas mask and pulled his hood forward. He ignored the trembling in his bones. I am a Lord. he thought. Lords fear nothing. I fear nothing.

      Zahn curled her long fingers around his shoulder. “I will be here if you should start to forget.”

      He removed her hand from his shoulder and held it for an eternal moment. “I will never forget you.” The mask gave his voice an odd mechanical ring. “I swear I won’t.”

      “Be careful, my lord.”

      “I will.” He released her hand, opened the door, and stepped outside. A mad desire to jump back into his car nearly overtook him. “This must be done.” He approached the Cutlass Sierra, completely disregarding the other cars whishing and whooshing past him. He stopped next to the driver’s side door.

      Lord Deama lay slumped over in the front seat. He looked just like any other human male, but there was no mistaking the signature three-note melody of Lady Vlan’s blood singing through his veins.

      It had seemed like the simple solution: Ship Lord Deama to the Forgetting Planet and let him live out the rest of his days in forgetfulness. Lord Eina had thought that it was too simple, too gentle of a punishment. But Chief Advisor Remna had talked him into it.

      “And now. I stand here with a blaster in my hand, ready to kill him. And I must kill him.” He raised his weapon. “It must be done.”

      ***to be continued***

      1. cosi van tutte

        Continuation….

        Jack stood in an empty parking lot.

        No.

        Not empty.

        Deserted.

        A lonely office building with darkened windows lurked before him.

        A woman’s voice said, “You know this place.”

        He frowned and glanced around. “Who’s there?”

        “Come here, Lord Deama.” A different woman’s voice.

        “I said, who’s there?”

        “You’ll find help here.” A man’s voice.

        His frown deepened. “Who says I need help?”

        “You’ll find freedom.” Another man.

        “Who are you?”

        “Lord Deama.” A woman’s voice.

        Something in his mind moved too fast, too suddenly. He stumbled backwards. “You.”

        “You are in danger, my lord.”

        “I know you. I know your voice.”

        “You need to wake. Now.”

        “Asree!”

        ***

        Jack opened his eyes and sat up. First thing he saw was a hooded figure in a gas mask pointing a gun right in his face. He scrabbled over to the passenger seat and fumbled for the door handle.

        “I’m sorry it must end this way. But you must never return.”

        He grabbed the handle and pushed the door open just as Lord Eina pulled the trigger.

        The passenger window exploded.

        He tumbled out the door and frantically crawled towards the back of his car.

        “You cannot get away from me, Deama!” Lord Eina walked around the front side of the Cutlass Sierra.

        Jack stopped. The Bonneville’s front end was pressed up against his trunk, blocking his escape route. There was no time to think and barely enough time to act. He jumped on top of the Bonneville’s long hood and ran across it.

        Lord Eina fired several shots. All of them were one second too late.

        Jack jumped off the hood and ran through the rushing, blaring hoard of cars. All the way to the other side of the highway.

        ***to be continued….

        1. Observer Tim

          Ooh, big time action; so Jack is in trouble again. Hopefully he has the luck of the anime star about him. 🙂

          You did a great job holding the tension, Cosi, and the structure is both well-paced and clearly flowing. You’d better continue this; I’d hate to spend Christmas on tenterhooks.

          1. cosi van tutte

            Thanks, OT!

            “Luck of the anime star”, huh? 😀 I’m still working on it, which is why I haven’t been commenting as much as I usually try to do.

        2. Reaper

          Ah Cosi, how I missed your amazing writing. I tried to keep up but it was like a lack inside when I couldn’t. Tim is right about this, continuation please. I loved all of this but there were some really choice moments. The forgetting planet was such a beautiful and sadly accurate term for Earth. Something moving too fast in his mind. Amazing.

        3. gamingtheblues

          The first section, I was struggling to figure out the story. It seemed to require the reader to be more invested in the history of the character. The second section though, was very very well written. By far my favorite of the three sections. I didn’t know the characters, but I “knew” them if that makes sense. I became more invested.

          The third section was “good” though the pacing on the action section felt a little rushed. Still, I like the story and am becoming more and more interested in reading the next section. Nice Job!

          1. cosi van tutte

            Continuation…

            Lord Eina opened the door and sat in the driver’s seat.

            Zahn perked up. “Is he dead?”

            He slammed the door shut.

            “Oh. I’m sorry, my lord.”

            “There’s no reason for you to be sorry, Zahn. It was my fault.” He removed the gas mask. “I just kept missing him.”

            She took the mask and studied its large rimmed eyes. This will not be an easy question to ask. she thought. “I mean no offense, my lord, but I must speak.”

            “Then, speak.”

            “You say that you kept missing him.” She stroked the inside of the mask. The leather was still warm with his body heat. “I know that you are an excellent shot.”

            He smiled at her. “You want to know if I deliberately missed my target.”

            She set the mask in her lap. “I know you, my lord.”

            “So you do.” He turned the key and started the car. “I was testing him.”

            “I’m not sure I understand, my lord. I thought you wanted to kill him.”

            He swerved around the abandoned Cutlass Sierra and into traffic with an expert’s natural ease. “I wanted to see if he was currently in possession of his Lord Deama memories.”

            “Was he?”

            “He ran away from me. Deama would never run away.”

            “He is a lord.”

            “So he was.”

            They fell into a comfortable silence. Zahn glanced at him and contemplated the many ways he differed from Lord Deama. She contemplated many other things. Things that a serf should never think about her lord. “What will you do now?”

            “I must find the Restoration Center on this planet and destroy it before he can stumble upon it.” His expression remained calm even as he tightened his grip on the steering wheel. “And if I should happen to meet him there, I’ll destroy him as well.”

            The genuine regret in his voice made her smile. Yes. she thought. Lord Eina is nothing like Lord Deama. Her smile fell as she realized what she had to do.

            ***

            Jack didn’t stop running until he reached a pig farm a good couple miles away from the highway. The pig in mud stench offended his sense of smell, but he simply couldn’t run any further.

            He grabbed the nearest fence and bowed his head. I shouldn’t have run away. I am not a coward. But only cowards run away.

            He wanted to scream, “I am not a coward. I am not afraid.” But he couldn’t say such a lie out loud. He knew the truth. And he was out of breath.

            He wanted to yell wild profanities at the sky. “But what if I had stayed? I’d be dead. I don’t want to be dead.” Why was he shooting at me anyway? What did I ever do to him?

            “What am I going to do?” He wanted to drop down somewhere and cry and scream and rant and rage. “How am I going to get home?”

            Jack closed his eyes and tried to regain control over his scattered emotions.

            A series of images flashed through his mind. Downtown. Office building. Green door. Orange door. “You know this place. Come here, Lord Deama.”

            His rage boiled upwards. “I am not Lord Deama, whoever he may be. I am Jack Jilhouse.” Yet, something about that name made his heart race all wrong. It was like seeing familiar road signs on the way back home.

            He opened his eyes and slammed his palms against the fence’s coarse wood. “I am not Lord Deama!” He glared at a random pig frolicking in the muck. “I’ll show you. I’ll find your office building with its green door and its orange door and I will show you who I am.”

            The pig noticed his glare and ran squealing to its muck mates on the other side of the pen.

            Jack stood straight and proud and tall. “I will prove you wrong.” He walked past the pig pen and into the nearby forest.

            ***to be continued…

        4. Observer Tim

          Definitely be the luck of the anime star: a little seed of hero, a whole lot of “run away”, and an enemy that decides on a more convoluted action than simply shooting him. This continues to be fascinating, Cosi. 🙂

          This story is wonderfully engaging on multiple levels. I keep hoping Jack will somehow ‘hero up’ but still manage to keep Callie.

        5. Beebles

          Hi Cosi, just to say I am enjoying this and like GTB I know them and yet I don’t know the characters. You are one of those writers who opens my eyes to different, subtly adventurous uses of language (I won’t blame it on my innate conservatism) – phrases that are instantly recognisable and yet formed in tangental ways and leave me thinking – why the hell not. If that makes sense – muck mates, as an example.

  24. BlueJay91

    I slammed the door behind me and turned around to an empty office. My eyes shut tight, as I listened to the commotions going on behind the door I just came through. How could happy cheers and clapping bring so much dread?

    I opened my eyes and scanned the room. A single line of chairs faced a receptionist desk that was positioned between two doors. One door was a vibrant inviting orange and the other was a comforting forest green. I whipped away from the colorful doors to go back the way I had come in, but the noise grew louder. I was trapped. My heart raced in panic, as I slid down the door. I couldn’t go back. I was going to have to decide.

    I peeked through my fingers at the two doors. How could I choose between the two? Both doors where beautiful in their own way. The green door gave off a calming breeze. I knew this door promised greatness. I stood up and walked to it, but then the bright unknown orange made me smile. It was so cheerful and exciting compared to the deep forest green.

    I raced over to the enticing orange door, but my hand just hovered above the doorknob. I knew this was the wrong choice. My mind raced with feelings of betrayal and deceit. I had always liked the sturdy and secure green door. Why did I want the mysterious orange now? Was I board? I walked back to the green door and ran my hand down the painted wood. The paint was chipping and a splinter hit my palm. I walked back to the lively orange, grabbed the knob, and pushed my way through.

    “Annie? ANNIE? Are you alright?”

    My eyes fluttered open to a green hoodie. I was lying on the hardwood floor in Jake’s arms and all I could focus on was the green hoodie. He had been wearing it throughout the winter. It was his one because of the giant salmon on the backside. I knew it was the perfect first year anniversary gift last year when I gave it to him.

    “What happened?” I asked.

    “I was telling my family that we are engaged, and you must have slipped,” Jake said. He leaned down and kissed me on the forehead. “You hit your head hard and scared me to death.”

    “Oh God, my head hurts.” I grabbed my head and the scene started to replay. He had been announcing to his parents and friends about our engagement when I was starting to feel panicked. I was so unsure about life with my undecided major and him pushing me to go business instead of art. When he was announcing and they were clapping, I couldn’t breathe.

    “Here Jake, give her some water,” said a male voice from above us.

    Jake looked up and grabbed the glass of water. I looked up and saw Lucas, Jake’s best friend wearing and orange beanie.

    1. BlueJay91

      I wish I could update or delete… I made some mistakes. I would take out the “oh God, my head hurts.” It’s not needed. and some other things. Oh well, next time I’ll read it out loud.

    2. gamingtheblues

      I liked the metaphor in the dream of the doors representing the two different men. There is one thing, I don’t think you had to include the different colored clothing to represent the two men IF you did it only because you wanted to make sure the reader got the point.

      If you wanted it for your own writing aesthetic fine. But I understood the metaphor even before she woke back up. You did an excellent, I repeat, excellent job intimating the point through her observations on the doors and resulting reactions. It took away a little of the lovely subtly that your piece had with the somewhat hamfisted color representations.

      Bottom line, you are a fine writer, with a good grasp for detail and subtle emotion. Have more faith and confidence in your ability to convey your story. =) And what I said above took nothing away from how much I enjoyed the piece ultimately. So well done, and keep writing!

      1. BlueJay91

        Thank you for the nice comment, but more importantly thanks for the great critical feedback. I had put the different colored colors because I thought it needed it, but after reading your comment I realized your totally right. The piece is stronger without the slap-in-the-face-aha. I’m looking forward to learning more on how to make future pieces stronger as well! 🙂

    3. Observer Tim

      This is a great story, BlueJay. The dreamlike state was nice, as was the subtle touch of the sound behind at the beginning. Great job! 🙂

      Blues has already called you on the telegraphed ending, and that’s the only thing I could see that really weakened it. Alternately, at an event of this seriousness, a more subtly orange item like a tie clip (if he’s dressed for it) or a ring, or even his glasses frames would tone down the slight jarring effect the beanie had on me.

    4. Reaper

      I think the statement about her head hurting was not necessary for the reader but it was for the character so you should not cut it. I noted board instead of bored but those things happen to us all. You managed to hit some strong emotions here. When you mentioned him pushing for business over art I wanted her to kick him in the nuts and dump him, then guy two showed up and in part because of the best friend thing I jumped to, you fickle cheating bitch! So, wow, powerful stuff for such a mundane setting.

    5. Beebles

      I enjoyed this Bluejay and the use of the doors. Much said already, but funnily enough I thought I had gone to the other extreme the other week. Its a bit of a tight rope sometimes getting that impact level correct. I do think its a confidence thing. Are you a fan of S&G Scarborough Fair by any chance – can I leave that one with you? Good job!

  25. turtles88

    Leon opened the orange door, walked in, and looked down. The floor had two large eyes and a mouth. The floor noticed Leon staring at it and it started to cry like a newborn baby.

    This startled and disturbed Leon tremendously. He frowned, sat far away from the eyes and mouth, and watched.

    The tears ran down from the four surrounding walls slowly, like a gentle rain and it poured and it poured and it poured just so.

    Leon felt so sad. He felt so sad that he placed two hands on the nearest wall and whispered comforting words, but he knew it couldn’t hear him even if it wanted to.

    The mouth began to imitate the thunderous clash of cymbals and the eyes began to flash blinding light and an invisible darkness clouded the air.

    Leon tried to steady himself but the water took him under.

    The room shook suddenly, tilting upward, causing all of the water and Leon to collect onto one side of the room.

    The floor with the eyes and mouth was now a wall. And it blinked its red, watery eyes at Leon very solemnly and it said to Leon, “Please leave me alone now.”

    The orange door opened and everything and everyone flushed out.

    1. gamingtheblues

      This is…

      Did I just…

      … am I tripping out or just the person who wrote this???? This was weird, crazy and…yeah.

      I think I loved it!…I think??

    2. Reaper

      I am going to go take one of those online tests for you, which writer were you in a former life? Be right back.

      Yep, Kafka. That’s what I thought.

      The funny thing is, I feel like you were describing a real relationship in metaphor. He knew it couldn’t hear him even if it wanted to. And, “Please leave me alone now.” Just brilliant.

  26. Trevor

    Word Count: 520

    Choosing Fate

    “Come to this address and see what fate has in store for you.” That was what the e-mail I received that Sunday morning read. What made this e-mail even more peculiar was the absence of a sending address. No indication of who might’ve sent me this cryptic message. But I recognized the address: 5067 West Street. I passed West Street every day on my way to work. Curious as to what might be taking place at this location (and having nothing better to do that afternoon), I decided to go.

    When I arrived, I was surprised by how mundane the building appeared. It was your standard office building that was only about a foot taller than my house. The windows were all a dull gray and it appeared that the building was empty. Walking quickly to escape the cold, I hurried up the stone front steps and through the large double doors.

    The foyer was nothing but a large white room. Suddenly, my dull black coat and faded jeans were a burst of color in contrast to the monochromatic walls. It took me a few moments to realize there were two other bursts of colors on the opposite side of the room.

    A green door and an orange door, side by side.

    When I approached the door, I saw an electronic sign above the two doors. It read in red flashing letters, “Choose a door, choose your fate”. Suddenly, I felt a feeling of dread. When it came to good fortune, I didn’t have a good track record. My stomach tied up into a knot and I felt sweat appear on my forehead as I struggled to decide which door to choose. Finally, after several moments of agonizing contemplation, I picked a door.

    The green door.

    On the other side, I found myself in a beautiful living room. The carpet was a dark red, the furniture was modern and in seemingly mint condition, and exquisite paintings hung from the walls. Before I could even begin to take it all in, a lovely voice surprised me.

    “Honey, you’re home!” I turned to see a young woman walk into the living room and greet me with a gentle hug. The woman was beautiful. She had long blonde hair that seemed to sparkle, mesmerizingly blue eyes, and a small black dress that showed off her magnificent figure.

    “Dad!” A teenage boy exclaimed as he hurried into the room as well. He looked to be around 18 and shared the woman’s beauty. He had neatly combed black hair, blue eyes, and was wearing a polo shirt and brown slacks. He almost resembled a younger version of Liam Hemsworth.

    “You boys ready to hit the tennis court?” The woman asked, her sparkling white teeth curled in a lovely smile. It was then that I realized what was going on: This was the fate I had chosen in that office building. Now, instead of living my life as just another nine-to-fiver, I was going to have the life of a billionaire, complete with a beautiful wife and perfect son.

    Whoever sent me that e-mail…I thank you.

    1. Nicki EagerReader

      Nice take, Trevor. Now you have me really curious what fate lay in wait for your MC behind the other door. And I can’t help but wonder if the MCs new life is as perfect as it seems on first sight…

    2. Observer Tim

      Great story, Trevor. I was waiting for the twist that would turn heaven into hell, and maybe it’s coming later, but the twist of having no twist is delightfully surreal. Or maybe the orange door led to something equally positive, but different. This has me thinking.

    3. Reaper

      I like this Trevor. It has a flair and manages to be different than just about anything else. It has the character study of a literary story. Leaving your audience wondering is great but I think we are looking for tension and missing it. The rise is there before the door is chosen, bad luck and trouble leading to doubt.

    4. Beebles

      Good One. Like many, I was pleased at the MC’s change of fortune and yet could not shake off that feeling of ultimate dread – who sent the email and why? Perhaps we are scpetical beings. So despite the happy ending I was left unsettled – which I like.

  27. changeishard

    Today is the first day of my new job as an office manager. My business degree is fresh and I am ready. Well that is not entirely true. I never wanted to get a business degree, but my father insisted that was what would put the food on the table. I did what was best for my secure future, and now I am here. I enter the building and find a lobby with no receptionist.

    There are two doors. One is orange and one is green. I extend my hand in front of me then hesitate. I realize I have no idea what I am reaching for. Orange is a strange color for an office suite so I go for the green door since that seems like a more conventional color. That’s me, always in line with the status quo. Never color outside the lines. Get married, have babies, white picket fence, the whole nine yards.

    I enter the room behind the green door. The first thing that occurs is an assault on my olfactory system. The smell is a noxious mixture of blood and gun powder. There is another smell which I intuitively believe to be the smell of death though I have never occasioned upon it before. Out of the corner of my eye I spot a man in a dark blue suite sprinting toward me with hunger in his eyes. I recognize the creature immediately. The pale skin torn in multiple places, blood congealed around gaping wounds, and a low moan emitting from the slackened mouth. It was a zombie. Only George Romero got it wrong, they weren’t slow, they were fast.

    He closes the distance and lunges at me in the blink of an eye. He falls upon me and I stumble back, catching myself on a desk. I look into the creature’s eyes and see nothing but my own sorry reflection staring back. The smell is worse up close and I can see strips and chunks of meat and flesh clinging to his teeth. I try to resist the urge to vomit but fail and add yet another putrid aroma to the mix. He sinks his teeth into my face and the pain is beyond agonizing. The zombie tears away a chunk and begins to masticate my mangled flesh. I see with horror there are more of them approaching. A lady in a khaki skirt falls to her knees and begins to gnaw on my calf like a piece of corn from the county fair. The pain doubles and I start to sob and scream. The zombies keep on coming, biting and shredding my body until I can no longer tell where each individual assault is coming from. I am no longer a person but a writhing mass of unadulterated pain and torment. I begin to pray for death. Presently I am stuck with an alarming thought. I will not die. I will become one of them. With my last breath I screech “I DON’T WANT TO BE A ZOMBIE!”

    I am standing in an office with my briefcase grasped tightly and the scene before me is transformed. A man in a blue suit is approaching with concern in his eyes. The room is a series of cubicles, and the sounds of phones ringing, people typing, and murmured conversations fill my ears. I observe all the employees dressed similarly, doing the same thing. “I don’t want to be a zombie.” I reaffirm as I turn on my heels and exit the room.

    1. Nicki EagerReader

      Impressive, changeishard- that was a twist I didn’t see coming. You write really well, the text flowed smoothly without hiccups or glitches, and your MC’s voice was original and rang true. Two thumbs up.

    2. Observer Tim

      I think when that door opened in my life I chose the zombie-land, but then took time planting flowers under their feet. Or maybe that’s an orange door thing. Or I did like Cosi and opened the third door that nobody else could see. All I know is it’s led me here; what a long strange trip it’s been.

      You presented this so wonderfully, Change. Very well done! 🙂

    3. Reaper

      I like the writing on this, and the story, and the message. The repeat of the words seemed a little heavy handed. Then I thought about this as a speech read to teens in high school and it actually felt perfect.

    4. Beebles

      Gosh, this struck a chord, as it did with many on here by the looks. I feel like I want to tell you my life story, now. This pulled me one way then the other and finally left me satisfied. Excellent.

  28. thejim

    Choose wisely-

    I stood in front of two doors with no one to ask. The reception desk was empty and looked like no one had ever been there. A thick layer of dust made a nice home for itself across the entire desk. Now I must choose either; on the left, a green wooden door which looks like it could have come from an old farm house, or on the right, a very modern looking orange metal door. I was sent here for a job interview by an employment agency. I was looking for a graphic designer position and an ad agency. I know ad people are strange and that it could have been a test. If I choose the wrong door I could very well not get the job. I wondered if there were cameras watching me. I thought to myself I better not act like I knew it was a test and figured I had a fifty fifty chance. So I opened the orange door and it was very dark inside, I step into the room, I could not see more than foot in front of me. I took two steps in and the door shut behind me. I froze. Slowly I took another step and my fourth step was my final. I couldn’t catch myself as I began to fall in the darkness. My body twisted and turned in the air, I finally righted myself just in time to see that I was heading for a bright light. As I fell closer to the light I could make out long metal blades pointing straight up. My body wrenched upward and I gasp for air. I sat straight up in bed, my heart pounding, and sweat dripping down my face. It was only a dream, Holy Shit! I swung my legs over the edge of the bed and try to catch my breath. I looked at my clock and realized I was late. I quickly got dressed and grabbed a cab to 33rd St.

    I was headed to the 8th floor of the Bombeck Building to meet my agent. We were going to be working with a new publisher. I froze as I stepped into the reception are. The sign on the desk said -Be Back Soon- and in front of me there were two doors a green one on the right and an orange on the left. They were just plain metal doors but none the less one green and one, newly painted, orange. This time I knew which one to take. I opened the green door and stepped inside and once again I was falling I could see the light below approaching quickly this time I knew I would not wake up.

    A receptionist walks in to a lobby with a to-go bag from Ron’s Deli she looks up to see that the DANGER DO NOT ENTER sign has once again fallen to the floor. She quickly picks it up and places on the green door of the non-working elevator.

      1. thejim

        Thanks OT – Like I said above, what do you trust? – My MC trusted the color of the door, not even thinking maybe it was left or right. – Dreams are funny, they can show incite to the future but it is your responsibility to make the right choice, especially here… in the Twilight Zone. ( Ha I just had to put that in there)

  29. Witt.Stanton

    They said it would start out easy.

    Stage One: darkness.

    Pulling out the tattered matchbook from my pocket, I selected a match watched it flicker to life. The light filled the small room with a soft, yellow glow.

    Next to me, X did the same. I grabbed her hand, and her sweaty finger intertwined with mine. I wished I was allowed to know her name.

    Two doors stood before us, but we were trained for this.

    Don’t go in. Don’t move off the platform.

    We were relieved when the floor became to lower. The doors almost seemed to rise as we dropped down and into the next level.

    This time we were met with blinding, white lights.

    Stage Two: Light.

    I tried to shield my eyes, and in doing so dropped the match. It hit my foot, and I opened my eyes in shock, which was a mistake.

    Pain engulfed my head; a splintering headache that I couldn’t escape. The lights. We had to stop the lights.

    And I’d opened my eyes.

    Distantly, I heard X fire the shots. Glass rained down on us and hit the platform.

    X released my hand, but I couldn’t focus. I tried to open my eyes, but was met with total darkness. X was saying something. A hand grabbed my by the shoulder and pulled me away from the platform.

    Follow the plan.

    “. . .to follow me, okay? Can you hear me?” The blinding pain on my eyes decreased. I found that I was rubbing my eyes, but it didn’t seem to help.

    “X?” My voice sounded painfully thin.

    That seemed to catch her attention. She turned around. “What?” X sounded irritated. I wished I could see her expression.

    “I can’t see.” There it was, out in the open. I hoped she understood.

    “You looked into the lights?” I heard her screech, and internally I winced. “I can’t believe that –” She caught herself, and then sighed.

    The familiar click of the gun belt told me that she’d upholstered her small handgun. “Alright. Take a step back.” Ammunition was a necessity in the Maze. She couldn’t afford to waste it on me.

    Blind, I was useless. Only one of us had to make it. And I’d already failed on Stage Two.

    “Do it,” I said, gathering up my courage. “Quick and clean.” I could tell X was nervous.

    This was our first time in, and we needed to stand out. But she shouldn’t worry. During practice, she always scored higher than me. Sometimes the stress got to her, though.

    We’d hoped that we could make it to Stage Thirteen before one of us was killed, but quite obviously the plan was already going wrong.

    I’d made the stupid mistake. She shouldn’t be punished for it. We need her to continue.

    “Com’n, X. I know you can do it. Make it all the way. For me.”

    “All the way,” she whispered.

    Then I opened my eyes and was met with the bland tile ceiling of the Center.

    The words GAME OVER blinked across my vision before fading.

    I looked over to my left, and there X lay, still playing.

    We might have a chance.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a fantastic scenario Witt, in both senses of the term. I can see something like this happening in a high-end video game tournament. Hopefully X makes it and he can join back in the next round.

      Of course, “sudden death” may mean just that, too. 🙂

  30. JayAllenWrites

    Horace looked to see how high the faceless building in front of him was, craning his neck back and back until the sky’s haze made him turn away.

    Two seconds ago, or so it seemed, he was at his desk yelling at Gill for a grammatical error in his motion papers and asking him how he expected to make partner if he kept losing cases by submitting shit like that to judges. He then felt the tingling in his left arm, blinked, and found himself in front of a slate of glass and steel spanning so high that he couldn’t register its height. He would have been scared if he wasn’t overcome with the fury that was came to him when he looked at postmodern architecture. He hated postmodern architecture.

    Nevertheless, he walked through the revolving doors, instantly hating the building more as he saw that the lobby was decorated with teak walls and garish furniture that was little more than a collision of curves and sharp angles. He hated art deco probably more than he hated postmodern buildings.

    Without thinking about it, he walked to the elevator and pressed eight. He didn’t know why he did it felt like the thing to do.

    At eight, he walked to Suite 812 and opened the door. There he saw a uniformed security guard sitting and reading a Tiger Beat that had Ricky Schroeder on it. The guard looked at him, stood up and for the first time since Horace saw the building, he felt fear. The guard was obscenely tall, with a combover and moon craters of pockmarks on his face. While not heavily muscled, he had a mass that made Horace step back until his back was to the door, which he knew was locked.

    Behind the guard were two doors, green and orange. At least they appeared to be green and orange. As he walked past the guard, they alternated between a dull green and orange and a fluorescent green and orange, but if he looked at them from an angle other than straight on they appeared black.

    “Choose,” the guard said and when Horace didn’t move, he felt a push in the small of his back. He turned around to see the guard holding a billy club. “Choose,” he said again with another nudge.

    He walked through the orange door on the right and found himself in an anteroom with two chairs against a beige wall opposite him and a door on the left. He walked through that door and found himself in an identical anteroom, with identically placed chairs and also a door on the left. He walked through that door and found himself in the first room with the guard, who was back to reading his Tiger Beat. The orange door he walked through first was next to him.

    Horace walked back through the green door and found himself in the same room with the two chairs opposite him and a door on the right. He walked through that door and found the same thing, with again the door on the right. He walked out that door and found the guard again.
    He looked to the guard for guidance.

    “Choose,” was the only response he got as the guard got up from the chair, billy club in hand.

    1. Observer Tim

      Despite Ricky’s presence, as soon as the guard was introduced I started hearing CSNY’s “Ohio” in the background. I don’t know why. I wonder how long it’s going to take the MC to realize that some choices don’t with foreknowledge and have to be made on instinct. If this somehow alters his life, I hope he becomes someone who appreciates rather than denigrates. Or maybe the point is that sometimes the choice doesn’t matter so much.

      You’ve put down a fascinating story about choices in a wonderfully subtle way. 🙂

    2. Reaper

      This fascinates me. The story is well told and the obvious stuff is wonderful. I don’t know if you meant to do this or not, I’m assuming you did, but there is some beautifully subtle here. It feels like a comment, or a message. Someone being forced to make a choice where both outcomes are the same. Both choices are wrong because they are the same choice, the wrong choice. The right choice might be to take the beating, or fight the much bigger man making it seem like the choice is between two things that lead to the same place, and yet Horace doesn’t realize the real choice is between obedience and defiance, not green and orange. If that was intentional, well done. If not, still a wonderful story of being trapped in a creative hell.

      1. gamingtheblues

        Reaper is 100% correct, not surprising with his own…unique disregard for writing conventions. I LOVE the idea that there is a third choice Horace has not yet thought of…defiance.

        Intentional or not, the fact that the story creates those questions is a testament to its own power. This one will sit with me, and perhaps even influence my own writing. Bravo.

  31. Nicki EagerReader

    Neither nor (626 words- inching my way towards 500!)

    As long as I can remember, the doors have been there. Not high brow, lacquered doors with fancy knobs that are opened by white-gloved lackeys to allow ladies in swishing gowns and gentlemen in tailored shirts to enter a parlour in which bubbly is served in crystal glasses. These are working doors, doors with a purpose. Doors that squeak on their hinges, that keep out drafts and rain and prying looks, that squeeze careless toes and needle the floor with splinters of aging paint.

    There is two of them. How else could it be? The world is made up of twos- the thing, and the thing that is not the first thing. Opposites. They prove that we are prisoners of our brain’s binary. A neuron is either excited or not. It cannot be “a little” excited, as much as a woman can be “a little” pregnant. You either are, or you are not. Yes, no. Left, right. Female, Male. Young, old. Light, dark. Life, death. Absolutes that don’t leave tolerate the slightest deviation. Love, hate. Friend, enemy. For, against. No space for in betweens.

    When I wake up in the mornings, the doors are already waiting for me. They flank my closet when I pull out my clothes, they squeeze in next to the fridge when I make breakfast, and they hover behind me when I reach for the umbrella and leave it standing after all. They follow me around, shadow every second, and watch every breath. It’s okay as long as they keep discreetly in the background, but occasionally they get pesky. I remember exams I wrote with grinding teeth and boiling eyes because they squeaked on their hinges, high-pitched, whiny, in a bid to win my attention. Other times they plonk down in the middle of my path, favourably where I can’t sidestep them, and lie there like trapdoors. I even once very nearly broke my nose when I walked across the room, eyes fixed on the paper’s job offer page, and noticed too late that one of the doors had jumped up in my way.

    The doors are metaphors. I know because they appear in impossible places and nobody else ever sees them. These two doors -one orange as a fire, the other green as water lentils on a pond- feel personal, intimate almost. They are mine . Other people have their own set of doors, invisible to the rest of the world, or possibly they don’t. Maybe they walk down forking roads instead, or swallow differently coloured pills. Maybe they flick a switch. I can’t tell. I never asked anyone what they see when they are forced to decide. When they are faced with two options, two chances, two futures- and only one choice.

    Two. For or against. Either or.

    Always.

    The doors loom in front of me. If doors could have an expression, they would look suspicious. Maybe they know what I am planning. Maybe they feel how sick and tired I am of being an either or.

    I open the tool box and get out the handsaw. Wood shrieks and shavings cringe on the floor. An orange door jamb clatters to the ground. A green one follows. I swap the saw for a hammer and pick up the plank that I painted with red and blue and yellow and purple spots. I fasten it over the two lintels, joining them with silver and gold and bronze nails. When I am done, I take a step back.

    There. A double door. One side green, the other orange. Crowned with a rainbow. The world as it is. An exit from a prison without walls.

    The doors creak confusion. I smile.

    Then I step forward, open them, and walk through.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Ah, yes, the double doors as a way to solve so many problems, very clever solution nicely presented. There are a few spelling/word usage problems. Could just be an auto correct issue.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Nicki, oh if only the world could be that way, think what fun life could be. Well, maybe not, it depends. Lay your life down for a friend, well maybe, then maybe not….. the friend lies ded from a delayed decsiion. Your stoy’s sharp and crisp, makes me think. That’s a good sign your reader got into your tale, I certainly did.

    2. Observer Tim

      One of the many aphorisms I’ve thought of having printed on a t-shirt is: It’s more complicated than that. Your story exemplifies it. I love the way your MC doesn’t take the ‘standard’ way out of making the door a blend from red to green, but instead opts for many colours that can lead in many directions. This is a lovely metaphor you’ve twisted into existence. 🙂

      It reminds me of an exchange from Airplane (one of the funniest movies ever made):
      Doctor: “What was served for dinner?”
      Stewardess: “Steak or fish.”
      Doctor: “Ah, yes. I had the lasagna.”

  32. ReathaThomasOakley

    The Lady or The Girl

    (1906, seven days after last week’s story)

    Horace stood in the dirt street, staring first at the building on his right, then the one on his left. He opened his watch, the one his father’d given him on his fourteenth birthday, time was running out.

    Three days before, on Monday, he’d been on the same street, hurrying toward the courthouse, the building on the right with the newly painted green door, when he’d heard,

    “Well, Horace Hightower, been a while since I’ve seen you.”

    “Uh, Sue Ann,” Horace stammered as his former fiancé moved toward him, dressed as she usually was in white with a blue sash at her waist, a wide brimmed straw hat on her blonde hair.

    “You going to see Daddy?” The familiar scent of her freshly ironed, starched dress brought back years of memories.

    “Yore daddy?” He couldn’t think what she meant.

    “Yes, silly, we’re right in front of his office.” In his haste Horace hadn’t even noticed the new Palmer Building with the bright orange door.

    “Yeah, I ain’t seen it since it got finished, I been, uh, busy.”

    “Oh, Horace, I know all about it, Daddy told me everything.”

    Horace stared at Sue Ann.

    “What you mean?” Horace’s throat felt as if it was closing after every word.

    “About how that awful woman, how she, how she…” Sue Ann searched for words. “How she used her wiles on you. Oh, Horace,” she moved closer and put a gloved hand on his wrist. “Daddy told me things, things I didn’t know, about how men, how men have, um, needs,” Sue Ann’s voice dropped to a whisper and she blushed. “Horace, I didn’t mean to be cold to you. I just didn’t know about, about men.”

    Horace stood as if frozen, what was she doing, what was she saying.

    “Sue Ann, that ain’t it, I jest…” He stopped, what could he say to her, this woman he’d worshipped for four long years.

    “Daddy says the house looks beautiful, just like we planned,” Horace had a vision of the house as he’d left it this morning, that baby screaming, diapers and sheets and towels drying in the kitchen because of the rain yesterday, at least Dessie was staying on to help and to cook. “So, if you aren’t going to see Daddy, where are you rushing to?”

    “I, uh, gotta get the baby recorded at the courthouse, I ain’t done that yet.”

    “Oh, dear, are you certain that’s what you want to do? After all, your marriage isn’t recorded here.” Sue Ann gave him a smile just like she used to.

    “No, we went to Palatka…”

    “Horace, Daddy told me he talked to the Putnam County Justice of the Peace and seems that record got lost. So, if you want the baby to be legitimate, you’ve got to bring that girl to this courthouse and marry her before you do anything else.”

    Horace felt as if the earth had shifted, that he wasn’t on Main Street, that he was in some foreign land without a map, without a compass.

    “Horace? Are you ill? You look so strange.” Sue Ann’s words seemed to come from a great distance.

    “No, no, not sick…”

    “Dear, why don’t you think about this for a bit. If it makes her happy, for now put the marriage and the birth in the family bible.” Horace took a step back.

    “Horace, I’m going to visit my cousin in Ocala, but I’ll be back on the Thursday afternoon train. I usually just come to Daddy’s office and ride home with him at five. I believe the courthouse also closes at five.” She ran her hand up Horace’s arm. “Perhaps in three days you can make your decision.” She touched his face. “Until Thursday?” And, she was gone.

    Horace looked at his watch again, four-forty five. The two doors were closed, but he knew he soon had to open one and leave the other closed.

    1. Nicki EagerReader

      Very enjoyable, Reatha. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to follow the Girl’s story over the past weeks, but this part stands very well on its own. The first and last paragraphs I liked especially; they mirrored each other and framed the ensuing dialogue nicely. Good job!

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thank you, Nicki. I do appreciate your reading and commenting. Last night I went back to the January 28 prompt. That was my first posting and the 1960 Girl appeared. It was also fun to read stories from others still posting. I also did some simple math and I should have nearly 20,000 words of Girl stories. This is such a great place to experiment and to force me to write something every week. Thanks again.

    2. gamingtheblues

      I feel ill-equipped to criticize Sue Ann because I want to call her a bitch and she SEEMS a little callous and manipulative if this were a stand alone story…but it is not at least seemingly because I think you have written more on the background of these characters, so I will just go with I do not 100% trust her motivations.

      As for the writing itself, I enjoyed this story immensely and found it to be well written, interesting (as you can see from my questions into the nature of your character,) and find myself curious how the entire story fits together.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Reatha,your writing flows smooth on this story. I can assure myself that Horace better run for his life from Sue Ann, he’s no match for her knd. When are you gearing up for the next chapter, this prompt?.

        1. ReathaThomasOakley

          Thanks, Kerry. Your comment came in while I was replying below. While I have the end of the saga in mind, I never know from week to week how I’ll use the prompt, but I have tried to incorporate it in some way. I’m also trying to portray Horace as a man to be pitied.

      2. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks, gaming. As I wrote to Nicki above, there are eleven months of history for these characters, and often I’m not certain how it all fits together. I appreciate your comments on this story and you are correct, Sue Ann isn’t to be trusted. In January I’m going to attempt to bring all the weekly stories together. Thanks again.

        1. turtles88

          I feel bad for Horace. Hopefully something good will happen to him. To be honest, I haven’t been caught up with this series(?) of yours, Reatha, so I don’t know Horace or Sue Ann, but I FEEL like I know these characters which is a good talent. It’s like as if I randomly opened a novel and instantly “felt like” I knew all of the troubles the characters went through. I hope that made sense. So, I enjoyed this.

          1. ReathaThomasOakley

            Thanks turtles, telling me the characters are real to you is a very high compliment. I am honored.

    3. Observer Tim

      Poor Horace; why am I thinking he might be thinking how much easier his life would be if there were one less woman in it? If so, you’ve created a wonderful, sympathetic and deeply-layered villain here, Reatha. If not, you’ve created a man to be truly pitied, standing on the railroad tracks of history looking in the wrong direction to see the oncoming train. 🙂

    4. Reaper

      Reatha, this keeps getting darker, every time I step in. While it still has the same flavor the voice and the writing is different and beautiful. It works really well for separating the pieces.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Ah, I know the voice is different from the 1960 Girl stories. I’m not certain what I’m going to do when I tackle all the stories in January and try to make one something from them. I’m exhausted just thinking about that. Thanks.

    5. cosi van tutte

      Hi, Reatha!

      Sue Ann is a regular bit of poisoned candy, isn’t she? 😀 And poor Horace just keeps sinking deeper and deeper over his head. I can’t wait to see what happens next. 🙂

      And, just so you know, I love the symbolism of the last line.

  33. Pete

    The office Christmas party. Get in, get out, and don’t utter the phrase “Happy Holidays” around Glenda from accounting. Pretty simple stuff, really. But when I walk into the lobby I see that all the furniture had been removed and the doors had been painted. One red, one green.

    Whatever. All the noise is behind the green one. I shrug it off and push through, plowing right into the embrace of my highly shit-faced boss, Jimbo Riley.

    “Ethan, my boy,” he rumbles, waltzing back with a sloshing drink. He’s sweating like a boxer and wearing about as much liquor as he’s drinking.

    “What’s up with the lobby? I ask as he wrangles me in for another squeeze. It’s all I can manage to keep us both from tumbling into the tree.

    “Huh, oh, getting the carpets cleaned tomorrow, he says, leaning in. “And let me tell ya, I’d love to clean a few carpets in here tonight.”

    I think my mouth falls open, because he points at me with a dry, Goodfellas-type laugh. Then he claps me on the back. “Well, I gotta get. The wife beckons.”

    As he fights with his coat I notice that most of the female employees have retreated to the walls and outside of Jimbo’s groping radius. He lumbers about, jake-walking his way into and around tables. Rafi has his phone out, no doubt getting fodder for Monday’s “Did you see Jimbo?” discussion.

    I hit the lobby but there’s no sign of him. A glance to the red door…

    I’ve met Deborah Riley a few times. Nice lady, excellent brownies. But now she’s hardly recognizable. Somber and pale, collapsed and shoulders quaking with her sobs. I rush over to help her and the glaze from her face joins her husband’s sloppy bourbon on my shirt.

    “Why didn’t you stop it?” She looks hard into my eyes. Her brow creases with confusion. “Why did you let him drive home?”

    “Mrs.—uh, Deborah, I didn’t…” I look back at the door. A house door. Coats on a rack, pictures of big Jimbo and the kids on the wall. I get back to my feet, my work badge flopping with the movement.

    Through the door, through the lobby, then through the green door I find a much alive Jimbo. He’s red-faced and flushed again, probably because he’s got one of his chubby paws down the back of an intern’s pants. Kirstin, or Kristen maybe. She giggles and Jimbo flashes a locker room smile my way.

    “Ethan, for crying out loud, a little privacy?”

    “Jimbo, you can’t drive.”

    He shoots me a look. “Not planning on it, now get the hell out of here.”

    My job done, I rip back into the lobby. To the widow behind the red door.

    “He’s not dead!” I say, rushing into the living room again. Deborah, still crying, but when she speaks, her tone is well, vengeful. “I wish he were, the cheat. How long have you known?”

    Huh? I know little or nothing about anything at the moment. Only an intense fear when Deborah saunters up to me. “Don’t’ play dumb with me, Ethan, not about that little slut.”

    My hand is at the door when she brings a finger to her lips, her eyes glazed and lustful. “Well, how about you and I get—“

    Lobby time. And if it weren’t for an itching curiosity as to Jimbo and Kerstin or Kristen, I’d be right out the exit into the night. But I just have to see.

    A trip through the green door puts me beside my boss again. Only this time he’s without the rosy cheeks. He’s working at a plate of sausage balls, his face a little rounder and his jaws a little jigglier, but he’s more like the guy I know. Right down to the coffee.

    “Hey Ethan. It’s about time you showed up,” he says, sharp and professional. His eyes are clear and his tie is tight. There’s some social drinking going on, but otherwise everything looks normal. I try to collect myself.

    “You look a little frazzled, there.”

    “Look, Jimbo,” I begin, sputtering. Kerstin or Kristen waves from across the room and I shake my head. Real or not, she’s tainted in my eyes.

    “Spit it out, Ethan.”

    “I uh…I hope you’re careful tonight.”

    “Yeah? Is that all?” he says, jaws working at the sausage. I nod, but something’s up. Rafi’s got the phone out. Finally Jimbo tosses his plate, wipes the glop from his face, then reaches into his coat.

    “Speaking of careful, you might want to call a cab tonight. Your shirt reeks of booze and,” he leans in for a sniff, “Chanel no. 5?”

    I glance down, dizzy at the collection of tear stains, bourbon, a whiff of perfume. And my badge is missing, the badge Jimbo dangles in my face as he leans in. When he speaks again it’s with a low lying rage in his tone.

    “You got any idea how your fucking badge made its way into my living room?”

    1. gamingtheblues

      This is a fascinating study on the many different possible repercussions of “time travel” or dimensional travel.

      I have been trying to decide if the disjointed, almost hectic feel of the piece was intentional or not, but I suppose it would be besides the point. It works to create this feeling of dislocation and almost un-reality, which I am sure your MC would be feeling with this whirlwind of misfortune and misunderstanding.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Hi Pete, reading your story is like catching a crowded bus with no driver and everybody taking turns steering it. I know the pace is intentional, skipping back and forth and I find your MC in the middle with no way to escape. How you were able to keep track of everyone and keep it continuous, amazes me. This is a new style for you and I really enjoyed it.

    2. Observer Tim

      This is an interesting tale of office politics told sideways. You made very clever use of the device of being able to change the past and find out what you did in real time. Hopefully Ethan can either (a) lie his way out of it, or (b) go back and get his tag. The real trick with a story like this is figuring out a way to end it. 🙂

    3. Reaper

      Pete, it is very difficult to tell one story in such limited space. To tell three distinct tales and weave them together? Amazing writing and a wonderful story. Normally I would say I wish there was a little more to each one, but the break neck speed of it added to your overall journey.

  34. Kerry Charlton

    THE LEGEND OF MARY CATHERINE COBB

    Part Five Part 1 and 2 Basement Pomt, Part 3 and Stranger Prompt

    ‘I have to get to the bottom of Mary’s tragedy,’ John agonized over. ‘The test will only show who might be buried in the cellar, not the reason.’ He lifted the small plantation’s desk lid and gathered two stacks of old letters and retreated to the library. A ship’s desk from a different century, nestled in front of the bay window and he settled in to read.

    Most letters were an exchange from Robert Franklin Cobb, the original owner to his wife Denise. John read through then and the story of the Civil War unfolded. Robert had taken his slaves and his older daughter to Texas to raise cotton, leaving his wife and daughter Mary to await the Union soldiers. The plan was to accommodate the forces, in hopes the plantation would not be burned to the ground.

    As the history unfolded, the plan worked, the soldiers were reserved, almost too polite to Mary. And then the tone of Robert’s letters, turned dark. Veiled threats were mentioned concerning Mary, almost in the tone of a suitor to his bride to be. ‘Strange,’ John thought, ’the father’s interest in his daughter’s activities, not her welfare.’

    The second batch of letters, preceded the first and gave no further clues. John’s eyes tired from reading and he turned his interest to the antique ship’s desk. ‘Probably, Robert Cobb’s desk’ he mused. The clues he sought just might be in front of him. He started searching for hidden panels, compartments, sliding vertical trim pieces and spring activated locks that similar desks possessed. .

    ‘Nothing, damn I thought I was on to something.’ Darkness approached, John reached for the attached oil lamp, while lay idle foe over a hundred years. .‘Why attached?’ His fingers searched the brass base and found a small, raised brass screw. The screw gave way as he turned it counter clockwise.

    A spring snapped and a small panel sprung open under the desk where knees were placed. Inside, attached by a leather strap, a leather bound journal lay. As John turned the brittle pages and read the sonnets contained, he felt ill and depressed at the same time. For Robert Cobb had written fantasy sexual trysts’ with his daughter, and put it to verse.

    That opened a whole new avenue for John, sick as it was. ’Was it possible, Robert Cobb had a hand in murdering his own daughter? How sick can one be?’ The letters began to make sense to John, horrible as the thought was. He carefully placed the journal back in place and the spring snapped shut. ’This is my secret, it goes no further.’

    Back the following day to the planter’s desk, John bundled the newspaper’s clippings frm1894. Placing the letters back in place, he returned to the library. A photo appeared on a society page of Sarah Louise Cox’s engagement announcement. December 3rd, 1894. ‘Seventy three years ago, is it possible she’s still alive?’ He continued to read, wedding held in Baton Rouge to a banker’s son. Charles Arnold, Vice president, First State Bank Of Louisiana.

    Less than an hour from Nottoway, John arrived at three that afternoon. First State occupied a prime spot downtown. John’s reception from a vice president, yielded no information. T he city court house did. Records showed Mrs. Sarah Louise Arnold, owner of property north of town in a quiet residential neighborhood, although modest, it drew a conservative air of wealth about it.

    Cold turkey, John decided and rang the doorbell. A woman answered, and appeared to be in her middle forties. John presented his business card and waited. The door opened, a woman in her nineties with lost shadows of prior beauty from a different era, stared at John intently.

    “So you’re the one that stirred up forgotten memories of our family history?”

    John hardly knew how to answer her and stood speechless as her faded eyes, bore a hole through his soul.

    “I meant no harm to your family, I had no choice.”

    “You saw Mary Catherine didn’t you?”

    Tears flowed down John’s cheeks as he continued to look at her.

    Her eyes softened and a mist of ancient memories spread across the old woman’s face,

    “There has to be a reason, doesn’t there?

    “Yes,” John managed, “there does.”

    “Well, come in, we’ll talk about

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Reatha, I am building the plot as I go along. I hope I’m not going off of track anywhere but I probably am. There are rough edges to contend with because I try to write too fast in my spare time which is zilch this time of year. Thank you for following along.

    1. gamingtheblues

      Hi Kerry! Reatha is right in saying that the story you are building is growing in quality with every installment that you share with us. Lovely might not be the word I would use ;p perhaps dark, brooding, reflective… but I digress.

      There were a number of editing errors I came across or some awkward sentence structuring where some were enough to distract me momentarily from the story. I have no doubt that you can find your own, so I will not point any out. Hell, I find a number of straight editing mistakes in my own prompts each week so its a minor point! But if you ever “do” want more direct suggestions or editing just let one of us know! Your story is fantastic.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you gamingthe blues. I am glad you’re enjoying this little tale. I also need a lot of help with edit work and would appreciate your advice. I went back over this part and found a bunch of clutter. No more typing at five in the morning, the little gray cells aren’t awake. Seriously, I have no formal training in writing and took it up a few years ago. So any tips will be most useful and that is the only way i’m going to learn to write like you do, if ever.

    2. Observer Tim

      Why do I have a sense that Mary Catherine isn’t going to be the only ghost haunting this story? This is a deeply disturbing twist to the saga, and the reveal is so perfectly done that it’s upon the reader before any chance to reflect. I hope you have this one in the “keeper” file, even after the tale is complete. 🙂

      I’m not sure about your comments on editing; the only things I can see are spelling and werpos, and not many of those. You are definitely improving your technical skills and it shows. 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        What happened to my previous reply to you Tim? I must be losing it. Any way, thanks for your comments and support. I think I might break out with this story if I don’t lose my resolve writing darker. I have to keep reminding myself, I’m not writing for Hallmark, not that I wouldn’t if they asked me. Have a wonderful Christmas. By the way San Antonio is expecting a low of sixty and a high of seventy six on Christmas day. What are your thoughts on that?

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks for joining in on my sequel. There may be three or four more parts, not knowing as the plot is writing itself with each chapter. Next prompt for part 6.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Joseph, for all your comments. I’m develping part six now but part seven is a battle going on in my head, dark, darker, darkest. I have to work n. Part six, next prompt.

  35. gamingtheblues

    beep

    The soft beep seemed to roll off the walls in the otherwise quiet entry way. Quiet? Even though everything around Stephen looked modern, brand new; the air itself had a sense of decay and stagnation. Thick layers of dust covered the computer monitors, the large glass desk centering the room and the immaculately arranged flower vases scattered throughout.
    Stephen tried to think, and swallowed, and winced at how dry and raw his throat felt.

    beep

    It was weird, that somehow impersonal beep. It sunk into him and pulled him…somewhere. He looked around for the source, drawn forward. Each step deeper in brought him a little more understanding.

    He was supposed to be here. He was supposed to do…”something.” But what? The fixtures, and design of the room were familiar, a frozen image at the edge of his mind that he could not quite bring into focus.

    Reaching out his fingertips brushed against a crystal vase, lazy daffodils drooping slightly, when something on the desk caught his eye. A tarnished name plate. Stephen Anders. His arm jerked sharply as

    beep

    and the vase fell. Eternity passed as it lilted and turned end over end, cloudy droplets flashing in the bright overheads. It shattered with a dull cough, shreds of flowers leaving wet, dark trails in the dust.

    Stephen looked up from the mess, unable to bring himself to pick it the broken glass, and then he noticed them. Two doors sat in the wall behind the desk, both shut.

    The door on the left was the burnt orange of fall. As he looked at it, the sensations of earth and cinnamon came to him and filled him. Warmth shot through his toes, and his finger tips tingled. But he was afraid of that door. Looking at it also robbed his legs of their strength. Whispers. He took a step towards it, and stopped. He pushed against himself, but could not move towards it more than a step. A mewling moan escaped his mouth. He wanted, no, needed what was behind that door. He…

    beep

    Stepped towards the door on the right. This was easier. It was a pleasant shade of green, almost pastel, like mint. This door felt cold, sharp. A mild burning filled his his eyes and nose. But he felt no resistance as he walked towards it, and the warmth of the orange door was forgotten.

    This was so much easier. Slowly walking, he held out his hand to open the door. It slowly grew larger in his mind and mint gave way to a spreading black. Tears cut tracks in the dust covering his cheeks, and as he stepped through the door,

    beep

    The soft beep seemed to roll off the walls in the otherwise quiet entry way. Quiet? Even though everything around Stephen looked modern, brand new; the air itself had a sense of decay and stagnation. Thick layers of dust covered the computer monitors, the large glass desk centering the room and the immaculately arranged flower vases scattered throughout.
    Stephen swallowed, and winced at how dry and raw his throat felt….
    ——————————————
    The girl sat next to the motionless figure lying in the bed. She held his hand and imagined she felt it move. A candle burned in the darkened room, against rules, but…it was his favorite. The machines quietly chirped and beeped around her. A nurse stuck her head through the doorway.

    “Are you ok sweetie? Do you need anything?”

    The girl looked up and smiled.

    “No thank you. I have what I need right now. He shouldn’t be alone tonight.”

    The nurse smiled back at her and left, shaking her head to herself as went on her rounds.
    The girl turned her attention back to the man on the bed and squeezed his hand again.

    “Merry Christmas Daddy.”

    1. jhowe

      After I read your comment to my story, I was really, really hoping I would like yours. I knew, after a few sentences, I had nothing to worry about. This was full of perfect little descriptions and very well done narrative. When I read the paragraph that was repeated from the first paragraph, I got the feeling that he had been through the green door before. I got the feeling that if he chose the burnt orange door (with sensations of earth and cinnamon), that the outcome would be different. But he kept choosing the green door (almost pastel, like mint), and he was destined to remain in his coma until the orange door was chosen. Am I close?

      1. gamingtheblues

        You are dead on 😉 And thank you for the very kind comments. If he does end up choosing the orange, I too believe the outcome will be different. Perhaps one day…

    2. Monique71592

      I liked this from the first sentence. Which is hard to do, get someone interested right of the bat. “The soft beep seemed to roll of the walls.” That was written very well, i wasn’t just reading about a sound, i could see and hear it. At first when reading the description of the doors i didn’t understand why Stephen chose the green door over the orange. Like if he “needed” to go through the door how could a little force hold him back? After i finished reading i understood, but i i felt less connected to the piece because i was confused until the piece ended. If possible i would say try to give the reader a better reason as to why Stephen couldn’t or wouldn’t go through the orange door. Overall very well written, and great descriptions.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Monique is right. I also felt wrapped in your story of dedicated love from a daughter sitting through the dreary night hoding her Daddy’s hand. This wants to make me weep from reading it and yet, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss the beauty and power of you writing. I’m sitting alone in my office and the temptation to cry overpowers me. God Bless You!

        1. gamingtheblues

          Kerry…that was a very powerful comment in its own right. I truly do appreciate it. I am writing things outside of my comfort zone and it is immensely relieving to have others understand and reciprocate what I am attempting.

      2. gamingtheblues

        Thank you so much Monique for your comments and suggestions. It was hard to describe what was keeping him from the door without tipping my hand on the ending actually. I did not want it to be some external force…I was trying to imply that the only thing keeping him there was himself…through lack of strength, will, ect… Thank you again!

    3. Pete

      I loved how the beep was ingrained into the story, which was fantastic. I’m with Jhowe on the coma, but the monotony of choosing that door every time has got to be hell. Very enjoyable read!

    4. Observer Tim

      This is powerful, Blues. I love the way you presented the story in such a gentle way, but still captured the emotional intensity. Using the beep for punctuation works wonderfully. 🙂

      He has to be in a private care facility; otherwise the care staff would have had that candle out in under a minute, especially if someone’s using canned oxygen on the floor.

    5. Reaper

      It is weird, saying this is definitely you doesn’t seem like a compliment because it implies certain things that can be taken another way. I can only say that those words come to mind with nothing but respect, because what you do is always so good.

  36. jhowe

    Minutes: Quarterly meeting of Vacillator’s Anonymous
    Columbus Ohio
    12-17-15

    1. The meeting was called to order at 6:59 PM
    • No one seconded the motion

    2. Attendance was taken
    • All members present and accounted for

    3. Old business was discussed
    • Peter Ball raised his hand but was unable to present his case
    • It was noted that Peter Ball also raised his hand at the previous meeting in September
    • Old business was tabled

    4. New business was discussed
    • New business was tabled

    5. The mission statement of Vacillator’s Anonymous was read:
    • It is preferable to dither and dawdle than to jump to unwarranted conclusions.

    6. The doors were discussed
    • The archives were accessed
    • The green door was first discussed in March of 1965
    • There are no records as to where the green door leads
    • The red door was first discussed in June of 1965
    • There are no records as to where the red door leads
    • The doors were tabled

    7. Peter Ball raised his hand
    • Peter Ball motioned to re-open new business
    • Gasps were heard all around
    • No one seconded the motion
    • Verbatim account of Peter Ball’s motion: It’s silly not to know where the doors lead. They’re right there in front of us.
    • More gasps, slightly louder than before
    • A motion was made to bar Peter Ball from Vacillator’s Anonymous
    • No one seconded the motion

    8. Peter Ball resigned as a member of Vacillator’s Anonymous
    • Peter Ball rose from his chair, opened the red door and walked through it
    • He didn’t shut the door
    • A motion was made to shut the door
    • Gasps were heard from all
    • No one seconded the motion

    9. A motion was made to adjourn
    • No one seconded the motion

    1. gamingtheblues

      At least??? This made me laugh several times. It is witty, clever, exceedingly well written and hilarious. This might be one of my favorite stories I have read on these forums ever. The social commentary alone is amazing, intended or no.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        It’s really blast J Hope. the year i965, the green door, strikes a cord. Remember a famour movie, not socially acceptable was releasd that year,. ‘Behind The Green Door’. Am I anywhere close on that ? The whole story’s a hoot and a kick in the bahootey to modern business. Keep the razor sharpness of your writing intact.

        1. jhowe

          Behind the Green Door: Yes, I do remember that movie. It was back when porno movies had plots. If Peter Ball had chosen the green door, I’d have a racy little sequel on my hands.

    2. Observer Tim

      I’ve been to this meeting. Great job, John, you had me chuckling throughout. Of course, since nobody seconded the motion to adjourn, they’re likely still in there and the world is safe. 🙂

      I wonder what’s going to happen when Peter Ball returns through the red door.

    3. Reaper

      I went two ways on this story, and both of them held a lot of respect and loving it. I was laughing along and then it just started terrifying me. Like one of those jokes you suddenly realize has so much truth in it that it’s still funny, but at the same time it isn’t.

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