Crazed Fan

You’re sitting at the breakfast table one morning, looking at the top news stories while drinking your coffee. The top story this morning is a crazy fan who was arrested for breaking into a local bookstore and stealing all of YOUR books! He’s quoted as saying “I just want to be their best friend!” Your first crazed fan. What do you do?

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

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320 thoughts on “Crazed Fan

  1. Writer82

    I snatched the paper up from the table with shaking hands as my eyes scanned over the headline. My heart starts to beat faster when I force myself to read the article. My debut novel Forever Yours had hit stores a month ago and while it was receiving rav reviews from critcs but this one was anything but glowing. “ ‘I just want to be their best friend!’?”‘ I mumbled in disbelief.
    I read a little further, hoping to get a name, and there it was a few lines in. “Cassidy Blankenship… Why does that name sound familiar?”
    All at once it hit me and I grabbed my cell phone and called my literary agent.
    It felt like creative writing class all over again…

  2. Shade Mill-Wilson

    Ok so this is my first attempt at writing a short story and also the first time I’ve had the guts to put something I’ve written out there so other people can see it, Hopefully it’s worth reading.

    The Library

    Writing was in my blood. My father had been a writer, quite a successful one at that. I had always loved reading his stories. I started writing when my father died. It helped me get over his death. His last words to me had been to write. To never give up on writing. So I didn’t.
    Unlike my father I never used my real name. I would rather have not had the expectations that follow you when the world discovers you have a talent. So I used a pseudonym. I saw what the stresses and strains of being an accomplished writer could do. The heart attack that killed my father had been brought on by the stress of trying to meet demands.

    But I still had my own, self induced, expectations to deal with. My last novel hadn’t turned out as I had wanted it and I had been awake and writing for three days straight to correct the atrocity that was “The Library”. It was my first venture away from Sc-Fi and into horror.

    I decided I needed a sense of normality. Hot, sweet tea was the answer. Abandoning my desk and the disorganized notes strewn across its surface, I headed for the kitchen.
    I heard the comforting rattle of the letter box and soft fwump of the post hitting the doormat. Normality achieved.

    I was shocked to see the headline of the paper as I bent to pick it up.

    LOCAL BOOKSHOP ROBBED

    I knew the bookshop. It was just round the corner from my house. I went there whenever I had spare time. They knew me well in there. I scanned the article for details. My heart stopped.

    ‘The only things taken from the shop was the latest novel ‘The Library’ by critically acclaimed Sci-fi writer Willow Mortigan. The back entrance to the shop had been opened. It is believed that is how the thief gained entry to the shop.
    The following day an envelope containing money was left at the scene with a note saying it should cover the cost of the books and apologising. it ended with the line ‘ It needs to be fixed’. Police are still baffled by the confusing crime.’

    Only ‘The Library’ by Willow Mortigan? That was my pseudonym. It sent shivers down my spine. It needed to be fixed? Of course it did, That’s why I was re-writing it. But the book hadn’t even gone onto sale yet so no one else aside from me and my editor would know that it wasn’t up to my usual standard.
    I had remained crouched by the door as I read the paper, my feet and legs getting cramped and aching. Forgetting about my plans to make tea, I checked the doors were locked and retreated to the safety of my workroom.
    Trying to push it from my mind, I went through the rest of the letters. A bank statement showed that a large amount of money had been drawn out of my account a few days ago. It was the same amount that had been left at the bookshop to cover the cost of the books.
    My heart was racing. I needed to calm down. I needed to forget all of this and calm down.

    I set the newspapers and letters aside and started to gather up my notes. I had spent too long on this re-write and came to the conclusion that it was driving me mad. I stuffed the notes roughly into a large folder and strode defiantly towards The Cupboard.
    It was an antique cupboard that I had inherited from my father. It was where he had kept all his notes and transcripts. And that’s what I put in it now. It was the cupboard for novels I would probably never finish and most likely not even start. But when I opened the cupboard, ready to catch the avalanche of note pads and folders that always feel out on me, I froze. Instead of the usually cacophony of papers, I was met by the sight of neatly stacked, pristine books. Each one the same, each one staring guiltily back at me.

    The folder I had been holding fell open as it crashed to the floor. Twenty copies of ‘The Library’ took up the space in the cupboard.
    I looked down at the folder that I had dropped. It had fallen open. But all the pages that spilled out bore the same message.

    FIX THE ENDING. FIX THE ENDING. FIX THE ENDING.

    Written over and over again in what was unmistakably my own handwriting.

  3. Craig the Editor

    Thi offering is a continuation of last week’s story….more or less.

    The Morning After

    Once again the day was starting far too early for my taste. I had been up well into the early hours of the morning, working on my book. My mother, who had decided to drop in for a visit while her place was being renovated, was up and taken over the kitchen. Soon she would be taking over my life.

    “Well. I see you’ve decided to join the living. Your father was the same way. If he didn’t have to go to work you could not move that man out of bed before noon.”

    “Thanks for the recap on the family history. Is that coffee that I smell?”

    “Yes, I got a new roast from the coffee shop near your bookstore. Speaking of which I think there’s something you should see in the paper.”

    “I am sure it can wait until I’ve had my coffee.”

    “I don’t think so, dear.”

    I opened the newspaper, yes an actual newspaper. I love the feel and smell of newsprint in my hand. I guess I am just a throwback to earlier times. Now let’s see what mom was so anxious for me to see.

    “Oh my God! Why didn’t you tell me? It’s on the front page of the paper!”

    “You were in your writer-mode, with your door shut and those sound proofing headphones and you gave strict instructions not to be disturbed.”

    “Since when have you ever listened to me? My store was broken into and you didn’t think it was important enough to disturb me?”

    “Don’t worry, I took care of everything with the police. Turns out you have a secret admirer. Well, not so secret anymore. Mark, the young man from the donut shop, is quite the fan. It seems he must have got himself locked in the store. Apparently he was very excited about your book, “Roanoke Revisited”. The one about umpires, English settlers and South America. He says he knows it’s all true.”

    “It was vampires, not umpires! Why would anyone go to such lengths? No one but me believes my story connecting vampires to English settlers that i uncovered and now some donut guy shows up claiming its real? He’s not the kind of authority to lend credibility to my case.”

    “You’ll find out soon enough. After he posted bail I invited him over so you could meet. I figured anyone who went to that much trouble deserves a face to face meeting. It’s good to meet your public. Besides he might be single. You’re not getting any younger.”

    “Meeting lunatics who break into my bookstore is not helping my book sales, nor does my social life concern you!”

    There was a knock on the door. We exchanged glares.

    “That must be him. Give him a chance.”

    Gathering my coffee and morning paper I started heading back to my room. “You started this, you get to finish it.”

    But before I can make my escape, my mother has opened the door and my admirer bursts through. I recognized him from the donut shop.

    In a gush of words he blurts out, “Thank goodness, you’re here! Your mother gave me your address last night. Look, I am really sorry about the break in and everything, but I am sure the insurance will take care of things, if they don’t I’ll pay for the books and window. I brought some donuts, I didn’t know which kind you liked so I ….I am babbling, aren’t I?”

    “Yes, …I know you. You’re the manager of the Sunshine Donut shop.

    “Assistant manager, actually”

    “Whatever, you broke into my store to steal my book, “Roanoke Revisited” just to meet me? I wrote it under another name so people wouldn’t find me. Thanks to my mother, my cover is blown. According to her, you believe my book is real and not an attempt to get in on the current vampire craze.

    Shifting nervously from one foot to the other, Mark takes a deep breath and looks at Karen. “I know it’s true because it happened to my father and now I am trying to save him and my mother.”

  4. rav maneesh

    I stare at the article and read it again,
    Then I look at the man’s face…
    It looks familiar…
    Very familiar…
    “WILLY BLACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
    I yell.
    “SHUT UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
    My sister yells back.
    I look at the man’s facial features and clothing,
    He looks like the villain from my book,
    “It can’t be him “I say to myself.
    “But it could…”I say to myself again.

    I spend some more time looking at the man’s face and convince myself that I will go to the prison that he was sent to. The next day I go to the local prison and look for the man.
    “Where is he?” I ask a police officer
    “Who?” He asks
    “The guy who robbed the book store” I answer
    “Name?” The man asks

    I stop for a moment…The article hadn’t mentioned a name; I try my luck and say
    “Willy Black”
    “Okay” The man answers.

    He takes me with him into a long corridor where he takes a key out of his pocket and opens a lock to a `door painted as the same color as the wall.
    “This is where we keep the freaks” He tells me.
    I nod and we move forward into another long corridor with jail rooms at either sides.
    “Wataaaaaaaaaaa mataaaaaaaaaaa lataaaaaaaaaaaaaa” An old man in an orange uniform says.
    “I am runinnnnnnnnnnnnnn away from home…the place where I roam “Another man says.

    I keep walking and hear tons of nut jobs say their part until I come to a prison cell,
    “This is it” I hear the prison warden say
    “Okay “I say

    I look at the man I saw in the newspaper and he looks the same except for an orange uniform
    “You are the creator; I will destroy you…Why did you make me born!”He yells

    I motion the warden to leave
    “What do you mean by that wily” ask him
    “I mean this “He yelled

    In the blink of an eye I appear on a tall grassy hill where I am standing with a sword shield and amour.
    I see all the characters I created bowing down to me
    “When will we fight Willy Black and his army “Leo says
    “We will fight now and we will take their head as reward” I end saying

    I don’t know where the words came from but I was ready to fight.

    p.s i prefer to be called rafay.

  5. chadjacobobrien

    Lost and Found–A Reunion Story

    I am incapable of satisfaction. I’m not talking down on myself; it’s just a fact. You see, I’ve had a fair share of fame in my life. From handsome high school valedictorian, to strapping young college football champion, people knew me. But my most prized souvenirs of my past go far beyond tangible diplomas and trophies. I value the hundreds if not thousands of hours spent on writing my art, piece by piece, success after success above all. But what drove me to keep on grinding out those award winners was not the readers, or the money, or even the women, but the briefness of the fame they generated. I wanted my name to stand higher than high tide, but every time I published, waves of people slowly receded away.

    So what, I was popular. I achieved valedictorian because I could take directions. Anyone can take directions. I became a college football star because it was fun. Anyone can have fun. None of this brought long-term satisfaction. But then I did something else: I wrote. I wrote because it brought fame, and kept writing because fame is not eternal. Oh, and because fame satisfied me. That’s right. The one thing I could grasp but not hold brought satisfaction. It destroyed me.

    Things change. Every once in a while someone turns 94 years old and coffee shop rendezvous turn into tea with yourself, The Times, and an empty chair in front of you and The Times. Sometimes you find another old man sipping tea and reading and sitting by himself and very rarely he says, “Hey Jon! Did you read? Little Marshy passed. 85 years. She was a real sweetheart, God dammit she was!”
    He would finish with a deathly cough and you would nod in agreement.

    Other times you would find a headline that caught your eye. A new casino, legalizing cannabis, suspected terrorism—but not like this time. It was bolded. Front page. Boston Public Library Robbed for all of Jon O’Brien’s Books. Did I just have a heart attack? Boston Public Library Robbed for ALL of JON O’BRIEN’S Books. My books. I noticed something then, right there. I was famous. The second largest library in the world robbed for ALL of my books, brought to you by The Times. Fame, the one thing that was supposed to satisfy me. But I wasn’t. I was confused. I read the first few lines. When the police officer detaining the Boston book thief asked what the hell they were doing, the thief replied, “He needs to recognize me! He NEEDS to see that I read ALL of his books!” Crazy? Yes.
    “I just want to be their best friend!” Good taste in literature? Obviously. But that’s not what I thought when I read it. I was more annoyed than anything. Why couldn’t I just accept his compassion? What was that warm, tight feeling in my chest? Anger? Appreciation? Resentment? Am I incapable of satisfaction? I woke up smiling.
    “Mr. O’Brien, are you awake? O’Brien?” It was the nurse. There were a few other people in the hospital room.
    “Are my eyes open?” I asked, sarcastically. A couple of laughs. A voice I didn’t recognize.
    “Oh Jonny, dear, is that you? Jonny, I’m your guardian angel, Jonny!”
    I wasn’t dead.
    “Oh sweet Jonny, you had a heart attack, I saw from across the street. It was mighty good that my binoculars were focused; I called 911.”
    It struck me. My high school sweetheart. 93 years old now. It lasted until I found out she was psychotic.
    “I brought a pen, Jonny, and the book you signed for me back in ’39! Can you sign it again, sweetie? Can you?”

    Narrator: Jon O’Brien died on July 13, 2015. His last words were “Oh, f*ck this.”

    1. chadjacobobrien

      Hey, just a bit about me!
      My name’s Chad Jacob O’Brien and I’m 18 years old. I live in Massachusetts, but most of my family lives in Florida. This is my first post on Writers Digest. Let me know if you think I should keep writing! Please be brutally honest about what you think!

      1. Observer Tim

        Well Chad, welcome to the site! 🙂 If I were to discourage you from writing in any way, it would be out of jealousy or fear of competition. I’m about three decades down the road and I’ll give you the advice i never got at 18: keep writing! Your work is already strong and will only get better as you practice.

    2. Observer Tim

      This is a strong story, Chad, and very entertaining. You did a good job creating a somewhat self-obsessed author looking back with the combination of pride and regret that only comes from age. And you did it in a spirit of fun, which is even stranger. Great job! 🙂

      My style advisor notes that the first two paragraphs kind of repeat each other, and might be better merged into a single unit. Though it does highlight the self-absorbed nature of the main character (MC) somewhat.

      I’m wondering if yourself, the Times, an empty chair and the Times is deliberate.

      My red pencil notes a slight shakiness in verb tenses, especially the past perfect. Example: “It had lasted until I found out she was psychotic.”

      You can omit the “Narrator” tag on the last line by putting in a divider like you did after the first two paragraphs.

      My favourite line is “It was mighty good that my binoculars were focused.” 🙂

      1. chadjacobobrien

        Wow, I didn’t think I’d get any feedback! Thanks for the advice!
        “yourself, the Times, an empty chair and the Times” was deliberate, but I did question myself about how it played out to the reader before writing it. –thanks for the constructive criticism, I need it!
        I felt like the part where I wrote,
        “It had lasted until I found out she was psychotic” needed to be worded differently, but it was 5am and I was a little tired! Maybe I should go with my gut.
        Again I really appreciate the feedback.
        Chad

  6. WritingKittenOfLoki

    I found that I have a hard time following the prompts exactly.

    For this one I am bringing back my characters Jessie and Seth that I first introduced in the Note on Your Car prompt in Jan. Enjoy!

    Another Crazy Fan

    Authoress Jessie Rollia, was sitting at her table, eating cornflakes and drinking coffee; when a handsome young man burst into the room waving a newspaper, causing Jessie to spill her coffee.

    She stood up, grabbed a towel, and said, as she wiped up the mess, “Sure, just come bounding into my house! Don’t bother to knock. Just come on in.” She looked up at him, “How did you get in?”

    “You hide a spare key behind the name plate above the front door.” He explained

    Jessie face palmed. She had hoped that she could have had a few more days of peace after the last crazy idea Seth had had.

    “Well?” He interrupted her thoughts, “Don’t you want to know why I’m here?”

    “I have a feeling you’d tell me even if I didn’t,” she sighed, “What’s in the paper?”

    He looked at the paper in his hand, “Oh, I don’t know. I just picked it up off your doorstep. No, the real news is here,” He pulled is cellphone out of his pocket and showed her the article dated today.

    BOOK STORE ROBBED OF ONE AUTHOR’S WORKS

    She would have kept reading if Seth hadn’t interrupted.

    “Someone robbed the book store last night and took every copy of every book written by a certain author.”

    “What? Why would someone do that?”

    “But what I find more interesting though, is, which author the thief adores.”

    “Well, which was it?”

    “Guess.”

    “Come on, how in the world am I supposed to guess?”

    “You know her,”

    “The only author I know personally is myself. So just tell me!”

    Seth raised his eyebrows in expectation

    Suddenly the truth dawned on Jessie like a load of bricks; she sat down dizzily. “Me? They took my books?”

    Seth nodded and took the chair next to her, “What do you think of that?”

    “Well, part of me says they have good taste in literature,”

    “While that is true, I can’t help but think of inconsiderate and selfish this person is.”

    “What do you mean, Seth?”

    “They took EVERY copy. Which means they are getting a surplus of books, but keeping other people from getting any. Also, you profit from each book sold right? But now, you lost a lot of books, and didn’t make any money!”

    “So, I take it that you’d never do anything like this?”

    “Of course not, I’m much more considerate than that!”

    “Uh huh,” She replied without trying to disguise the sarcasm.

    Realizing what she was implying, he stood and said, “On that note, I think I’ll be going… let you have some peace and quiet… and solitude…” He nodded, and made a cartoon dash out the room. A moment later Jessie heard the front door slam; a split second after that the door opened again and Seth yelled, “Sorry!” This time he closed the door gently, and he was gone.

    Jessie shook her head, Seth sure was a handful, and now it looked like she had another crazy fan. Hopefully this new one wouldn’t make contact.

    1. Observer Tim

      I wonder when the new crazy fan is going to make contact, and what’s going to happen when he or she does. This is a pretty little tale, Kitten, mad more interesting by the new psycho staying totally offscreen. The banter between Jessie and Seth is very well done. Overall, great job! 🙂

      My favourite line is “Well, part of me says they have good taste in literature.” The subtle arrogance this portrays is perfect.

      1. WritingKittenOfLoki

        What? No critiques? Well, alright then. 🙂
        I’m so glad you liked it O.T. I love writing about these two, and their relationship.
        I was afraid that that line would come off stiff, so I’m glad to know it didn’t.

  7. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

    I had a crazy fan once. This story is based on what that person said; so much of this reflects a true story. However, for clarity (and for legal reasons), I never met that person, so while all of this is fiction, everything that happens when the author in the story meets her crazy fan is most certainly complete fiction.

    Grandma Loves You

    When the contest ended, Sherri had no idea what kind of person with which she’d be dealing. She was a veteran author with more than ten years under her girdle, but nothing could prepare her for Dolan Thicke.

    According to the contest, she was to have dinner with whichever fan won. She didn’t like the idea because she’d always been kind of a recluse. Despite this, she agreed since the contest was going to a charity she was incredibly passionate about. So, she arrived at Dolan’s house around seven that evening ready to enjoy a nice quick dinner.

    Dolan, a diminutive man with pale skin and sagging features, ushered Sherri to the dining room. He’d preset the table with silver dinnerware and crystal glasses. Four long, though partly melted, candles split down the length of the table, and the dim lights gave the room a slightly horrific glow. The lighting bothered Sherri, but she allowed it because there was never any harm in low light. She just had to be extra alert.

    Dolan didn’t say anything, but neither did Sherri. She talked among her friends, but they still called her The Mime. In here, however, when faced with meeting someone she didn’t know, she didn’t know what to say. Her publicist had told her she must make conversation, but how? If she couldn’t do it in the first place, what made anyone think she could do it now? So, she was quiet as a mime until Dolan broke the silence.

    He spoke in a low, cold voice that seemed eerily flattened by the room. “I read your books.”

    Sherri smiled thin, and decided to break his iciness with a joke. “I guess you’d have to seeing as you won the contest.”

    His face remained slack and dead. The rings around his eyes darkened, or at least she thought they did. It could have been the flicker of candlelight causing the shadows to mess with her, but she was certain something was wrong with him.

    He said, “My grandmother is a bigger fan than me.”

    “Oh, yeah?” She said, and for some reason felt at ease.

    “Grandma loves you.”

    Unsure how to respond, she nodded. “That’s nice.”

    “Can you sign something for me?”

    “Of course,” she said, and dug around in her purse. “I’ve got a pen around her somewhere.”

    Dolan stood, and moved next to her. She felt a little nervous that he was so close, but when he reached for the ladle to pour food into her silver bowl, she relaxed.

    After two scoops, she said, “That’s more than enough, thanks. I eat like bird.”

    “All right. Well, enjoy your food. I’ll be right back.”

    “Wait, where are you going?”

    “You said you would sign my grandmother.”

    Assuming he’d misspoke, she said, “You’re right. Okay. I’ll wait here.”

    Finally, he smiled. His teeth were clean and well kept. She half-expected them to look embittered by yellow tartar and hollowed by craterous cavities, but it was a surprisingly clean smile.

    He disappeared through a door, and she began eating the bowl of stew. To her surprise, the food was excellent. The meat was tender, the vegetables weren’t too soft or hard, and the broth had a slight spicy kick to it. It tasted a lot like her own mother’s home cooking. She had been long gone for many years, so it was a pleasant dish.

    As she took another bite, someone grabbed her from behind. She grabbed their arm to pull it away from her neck, but they were too strong. Was this her end? She didn’t know, but even in those last moments of fear, she couldn’t help but think about that stew.

    # # # #

    When Sherri woke, the world was a blur. The smell of spicy stew was strong in the air, but now there was another smell. No, not a smell. It was a frightful stench, the stink of rotting trash. Soon, her bleariness ended, and she stared face to face with her biggest fan.

    “Hello,” he said, his smile now terrifying.

    She couldn’t say anything because he taped her mouth shut. He’d tied down each of her limbs except for her left hand. She tried to reach out for him. She didn’t know why, only that she hoped she could grasp him and maybe save herself. He simply stepped to the side, just out of her reach.

    “Come on, now,” he said, and clicked his tongue. “Don’t act like in your fan’s home.”

    She merely stared at him, hoping her eyes would tell him to let her go.

    “You’re right. I was supposed to get Grandma for you.”

    He smiled again, put up his finger, and disappeared from sight. Sherri couldn’t move her head to see where he was going. She could only wait and listen. What she heard was the scrapes of metal on wood, and soon, the squeaks of well-worn wheels rolling into the room.

    “Ah, here she is,” he said, though she wasn’t sure to whom he referred.

    Sherri glanced at him, and then at the dolly he brought into the room. Strapped to it, was a woman. She looked to be long dead because her skin was dry and flakey. Her lips had peeled back to reveal small, decayed Chiclets attached to brown bone. Her hair was straggly, and white. She wore a soft yellow dress, also very dirty and old, which had a pattern of flowers on it.

    Dolan reached down, and put Sherri’s lucky pen in her hand. He unbuttoned the dead woman’s dress, and pulled it aside to reveal the flat mummy-like chest.

    “Go ahead. Sign her.”

    Her hand trembled as she reached up and scraped the pen against the dead flesh. Pieces flaked to the ground, and she thought she could hear a low laughter coming from her captor.

    “That’s it,” he said, “perfect.”

    When she finished, she dropped the pen. He quickly wheeled the dead woman out of the room, and returned a moment later.

    “Are you ready?” he said as he revealed a large, serrated knife, “Grandma?”

    1. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

      Oh my…. I totally didn’t even think about the prompt. Sorry… I just realized this story has nothing in common with the prompt except for the crazed fan. I hope you enjoy it anyway, and I sincerely apologize for not sticking with the prompt at all. 🙁

    2. Observer Tim

      Yike! This is a truly macabre story, Doc, in a very good way. I’m very glad this is fiction; otherwise we’d have to give you a new nickname – Grandma. I love the shades of Psycho and the way things kept getting stranger and stranger. Why do I get the feeling the stew also had a little Grandma in it? 🙂 🙂

      It’s fairly close to the prompt (as close as several other stories). I’m sure you’ve read several, but even if you’ve been way busy take the time to read Dennis’s story below. 😉

    3. Dennis

      Man what a psycho. I too thought grandma stew. I always thought the prompts were a starting point and yours is definitely in the spirit. Glad you read my prompt.

      1. Rene Paul

        This reminds me of a 60’s TV show that aired in the L.A. area called ‘Chiller’. You painted this story well with the macabre brush. Enjoyed reading the tale.

  8. Nicki EagerReader

    Hey guys!

    Not sure this is the right place to pop the question, but too bad- I trust your scroll wheel is in perfect working order if you’re not interested.

    So. After posting here for more than half a year (and reading for two) I feel I got to know some of you really well, at least in terms of your writing. Quite a few have styles that agree well with mine, and I value everyone’s feedback.

    What I’d like to ask, therefore, is if anyone is interested in entering a sort of “feedback” partnership with me- we read each other’s manuscripts (also longer ones) and provide honest, trenchant feedback (and don’t get annoyed with the other party if it takes them some time to comb through the manuscripts- we all have lives aside).

    The reason I’d like to do this off-forum is a) because it’d probably bug everyone enormously if I dumped literary escaped unrelated to the prompts on them , and b) because I’d like to try and get some of the short stories published in magazines- and they don’t accept anything that has been previously published (including posts on open forums such as this one).

    So, anyone interested, let me know. I’m not looking for anything contractual -I’m neither a devil nor a fiancé- just for some like-minded spirit who wants to IMPROVE their writing and HAVE FUN.

    Thanks for reading! And thanks for the wonderful support, too!

    Yours

    Viktoria (aka Nicki EagerReader)

    1. jhowe

      Oooh, are we getting a writer’s group together? I’ve read that this can be a very good method for great feedback if one can get involved with the right people and I think you hint that this may be possible. I have recently had some stories accepted at Horrified Press for some anthologies and they specifically forbid anything that has appeared on a forum or blog. Are you thinking an e-mail group would work?

      John (aka JHowe)

    2. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

      I generally only do paid edits for authors (right now in the middle of novel edit), but I do free edits of short stories from time to time. Since I enjoy reading your stories, I’m definitely willing to read one of yours every once in a while to give you valuable feedback. If not short stories, I’d be willing to do a free chapter edit to give you any advice I might have to get you going in the right direction! Let me know!

    3. Observer Tim

      Gladly. I have already done this a few times for people I know (some even from this site), as well as having some done for me. observer-at-telusplanet-dot-net. (or just click through to my website, which includes a link to my e-mail). I think the idea would be wonderful.

    4. Dennis

      Hi VIktoria
      I might be up for this as well. I’m waiting to see if I get into tis online writing program which will take my time. I’ll know at the end of the month.

    5. Nicki EagerReader

      Wow. I’m just utterly overwhelmed by the response. Positively. Wow.

      I suggest we start with a mailing list until somebody comes up with a better idea how to organize this (although maybe good old-fashoned email IS best). So anyone who’d like to join send me an email and I’ll forward the addresses to all the other members after collecting for a week or so (of course, stragglers can still contact me at a later point- that sound okay, Dennis? 😉 ).

      Email: jvstormwriting@gmx.de

      (No, this address is not for you, strange people who pretend to be a bank or lottery and badger me for account details- FINGERS OFF!)

      To all the writers: looking forward to your mails! 🙂

  9. njensen

    ‘200 copies of acclaimed bestseller ‘The Man Below’ stolen from central Barnes & Noble location at 3:45 am this morning. Shelves, storage, and delivery truck emptied. No response yet from Author. Suspect in custody claims “I just wanted to be his best friend.”‘

    They’ve snapped a picture of him. He’s being pressed into the police car, only a sliver of his face visible, pixelated and hidden by lank black hair. But you can see one eye, shining silver. It caught the light of the camera. If his mouth was visible, it would be smiling. I fold the newspaper over, covering his face, and then crush it and push it into the nearest bin.

    The woman at the desk doesn’t need to ask my name.

    “I’m such a fan. It’s an honor. Really. You’ve come about – yes. The things people do, right? You want – I see – are you sure? – Yes, of course. I’ll see if it can be arranged.”

    The room is clean. No romantic dark and damp for him. There’s a cot, but he’s slumped over in the corner. Even from here, you can see the bone-thin limbs, the too-long hair, the sharp lines of his face. Beautiful, still, in a savage way. He always had been. Beautiful, petulant, and uncontrollable.

    “Won’t co-operate. Can’t get a lick of sense out of him.” Two officers came down with me. For my protection? They stand on awkwardly either side, waiting. Their prisoner has spotted us. He pushes his hair back with one hand, a smile widening, growing, sparkling.

    “You came!” He’s a picture of excessive, childish delight. He pounces over to the bars. “I’m honored. Sir. Please, you have no idea. I can’t begin to say – ” he flattens himself suddenly to the floor, his hands clasped in front of him. If not for the bars, he’d have kissed my shoes. “I’m your very biggest fan. It’s a masterpiece.”

    “Could you give us a minute?” I say quietly.

    The guards hesitate.

    “A minute” I repeat. They look at each other, and then back away, just far enough. Respect has its benefits.

    “Get up” I mutter, to the prostrate worshipper.

    He lifts his face, his eyes sliding up. He’s grinning. “Your very biggest fan” he murmurs, but this time it’s ironic.

    “All this for my attention? Is that what you wanted?”

    “I wanted to wallpaper my room.” He manages to be sincere and mocking all at once. “To sing odes to your genius. To plaster your words across a city-block of rooftops.”

    “They won’t press charges” I say coldly. “I’ll see to that. But I’ve found a facility. They have a place ready for you.”

    “You were always so good” he whispers. He presses himself up, catlike. There’s a new gleam in his eyes. “Do you tell yourself that at night? Do you believe it, now?”

    He’s far more sober than he initially seemed. Dangerously sober. I’m ready to leave – not sure, entirely, what possessed me to come in the first place. Curiosity?

    “My brother” he says, and now his grin is flickering and wild.

    Half-brother, to be specific, and different last names. No-one would ever guess it. The papers would go mad.

    “You always had everything, didn’t you? But not this. This was mine.” The smile has dissolved into madness, black and chaotic. “They’ll know, one day. They’ll know how you took it.” His hands reach through the bars, and the guards jump forward. They have to open the cell to wrestle him down and cuff him.

    “It was my life” he shouts.

    Another guard opens the door for me. I nod to him, politely, and walk out. The door closes behind us, but not before his last, maniacal words make their way out.

    “It was a masterpiece” he says.

    It was.

    1. Observer Tim

      ‘The Man Below’ strikes me as a book that plumbs the depths of madness, depths that can be readily seen from the actions of its (real) writer. The question now becomes, what will the MC do when he has to write something else?

      You did a great job creating the image of a madman, njensen. 🙂

  10. Critique

    Crazed Fan

    Elliot hooked a stool with his barefoot, sat down, smoothed the newspaper open on the counter and picked up his steaming cup of coffee. He enjoyed this little ritual in the early mornings before the rest of the world woke up.

    The top story grabbed his attention.

    Local Bookstore broken into early last evening.
    Complete inventory of best-selling author Elliot Harding’s books stolen. The thief was arrested two blocks away with a shopping cart full of the stolen property. The thief was quoted saying repeatedly: “I just want to be their best friend!” Charges are pending.

    Manny Jenkins. Who else could it be?

    Years ago he met Manny loitering outside a coffee shop. He looked down on his luck so Elliot bought him a pastry and a coffee and since that time, Manny shadowed him. He had the uncanny ability to show up wherever Elliot happened to be when he was out and about in the city.

    Manny, wearing his filthy Yankees baseball cap, his plaid shirt tucked into tightly belted high-waist too-short baggy jeans, would crowd Elliot’s personal space, his oversized teeth spraying spittle as he rambled on about the best seller he had ‘up here’ – he would tap his forehead with a dirty finger – and what could he do to ‘best writ my story’? Sprinkled throughout every conversation were heartfelt thank yous for the coffee Elliot bought those many years ago. Elliot was obliged to repeat the gesture over the years.

    Out of necessity Elliot developed a Manny radar and for the most part managed to escape the time consuming encounters. It was clear Manny idolized him.

    Elliot chuckled. How could a simpleton break into an alarm equipped bookstore, steal dozens of books and manage to escape – at least several blocks – before getting caught?

    Manny had an intelligence most were unaware of.

    Manny could warble the lyrics to every James Taylor song written, recite verbatim the King James version of the Twenty-third Psalm – he learned that at his Mother’s knee, and he made it his business to know the title and year of every one of the twenty-five novels Elliot had published.

    In spite of this Manny had trouble stringing an intelligible sentence together.

    As far as Elliot knew Manny had no family and lived in a shelter somewhere in the city.

    The clock on the stove told Elliot if he left now, he could be back from the police station with time to work in a good chunk of writing. He set his cup down and strode to the bedroom.

    The words of James Taylor’s: You’ve Got A Friend, scrolled through his mind as he dashed out the door minutes later.

    Manny needed a friend.

    1. Critique

      Reposting my late prompt here. No worries if you have no time to comment. I’ll post the sequel as soon as its completed.
      Night at the Museum

      Ciara chose a different stall the second time and climbed onto the toilet seat just as heavy footsteps paused outside the main door. Pressing the cellphone to her chest with one hand and the other against the wall for balance, she held her breath as the security guard entered the bathroom, the beam from his flashlight spearing the ceramic floor.

      Methodically he banged open every stall.

      Perspiration ran down Ciara’s back soaking her tank top and her bare feet slipped a little on the toilet seat. The stall door next to where she was hiding banged open, he slapped the flashlight three times rhythmically in the palm of his hand while whistling tunelessly through his teeth. Then he walked out.

      Ciara’s cellphone lit up and her trembling fingers fumbled the buttons. Another text from Lenny.

      “How’s it going? We need to leave.”

      She typed in a reply.

      “A psycho guard is on to me. I’m coming out.” She hit send and the cellphone slipped from her grasp. She scrabbled desperately for it but it fell hitting the rim of the seat with an echoing clunk and into the bowl splashing water onto her feet.

      Frozen with fear her ears strained for any sound.

      He was coming back!

      Why did she ever agree to this crazy scavenger hunt. The team thought she was a shoe-in for the last item on the list – getting a selfie in the closed museum – because she’d toured the place recently with her Aunt Martha who was visiting from England.

      Measured footsteps approached the outer door then passed and faded into silence.

      Lenny and Robyn were waiting in the truck two blocks down and they might do something stupid – like leave her. Scavenger hunt be damned. It was time to split.

      Feeling her way across the dark bathroom she cracked open the outer door then sped on silent feet down the dimly lit hallway to a wide staircase that led to the front entrance. Halfway down she heard his whistle then the powerful beam of a flashlight splashed on the floor below. Ciara flew back up the stairs, slid behind a pillar, pressed back against the cold marble wall barely breathing while her heart threatened to jump out of her chest.

      To be continued.

      1. Critique

        Thank you for the comment Manwe38. Yes, Manny’s intelligence was that of a savant – similar to the Rain Man movie with Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise.

    2. Observer Tim

      Even before I read the comment I got the feeling that Manny is an autistic savant. You did a great job portraying the behaviour, the obsession, and the activity pattern. I’m kind of curious what got into his head to make him steal the books. I actually find myself interested in the character. 🙂

      To ‘best writ’ his story, he should have a ghost writer (or at least a ghost editor) to turn the ideas into coherent prose; perhaps he could do like R.L. Fanthorpe and dictate his book onto tape, where the editor would then transcribe and fix it.

      It’s interesting how you managed to make the main character stand on the periphery of the story, much like Dr. Watson in the Sherlock Holmes stories. That’s an interesting technique, and hard to pull off. Bravo, Critique.

      1. Critique

        Perhaps Manny got wise to Elliot’s ‘radar’ and felt shunned too many times – decided to steal the books to get his attention. I actually didn’t think that through OT.
        Thank you for the comments. They are much appreciated 🙂

    3. Kerry Charlton

      I also noticed how you placed the MC on the edge of the story, I’ve never tried doing this. The story is more powerful for the reader and brings a rush of sympathy for Manny. Very cleverly written.

  11. Rene Paul

    Every Sunday after church, my wife visits and spends the night with her mother in Scranton. She’ll stay, depending on how well they get along, until Monday or Tuesday afternoon. That leaves me to fly solo and fend for myself until then.

    Every Monday morning, like clockwork, I’ve set out for Joe’s Diner. It’s my favorite place to get a bite to eat and write my stories. Why? Because everything that happens in this town is discussed there. Gossip is great fodder for a fiction writer. The newspaper rack outside Joe’s had one Daily Herald left in the rack, so I drop three quarters in the slot, yanked the door up and retrieved it.

    Flow, the waitress, – not here real name – has been serving my breakfast for the past three years. She drops a cup of black coffee on my table, places her leg up against mine and asks the same question she has asked me a hundred times.

    “What’a you have, sport?”

    “You know what, Flow, I know I’m a creature of habit, but I’m going to try something different today. I’ll have the French toast, bacon and hash browns on the side.”

    “Oh boy, miracles never cease?” She says this as she turns and walks back towards the counter. “Hey, Joe, she yells out, hold the omelet, Sam wants an FT with bacon.

    I ease back into the cracked faux leather booth and hunt for the sport section. My eyes end the search as they catch a headline smack on the front page of the local news.
    ‘Book Store Robbed’.

    The story reads: A woman broke into Clark’s Bookstore around 8:00 pm last night. According to local police, the woman had no identification on her at the time of her arrest. She was apprehended a block away by a police unit responding to a tripped silent alarm.

    I set the paper down. My first published book became available in that very store just two weeks ago. The owner called me last night saying a few locals had already bought my book. I was ecstatic.

    I continue reading the story. The woman, in her late to mid fifties, was carrying a large number of books down the street when sergeant Nick Adams approached her. “She had a crazed look about her,” Adams said, “she took off running and when I caught up with her she refused to talk”. The woman was booked into the city jail and charged with petty theft, breaking and entering, and evading arrest.

    I leaned back and spot Flow walking towards me with a full pot of coffee. She reaches my table, tops off my empty cup, and says my wife called.

    “What do you mean my wife called?”

    “She’s on the back phone, Sport”

    I take a few sips of the fresh brew, set my cup down, and walk to the payphone in the hallway next to the bathrooms.

    “Yeah, Millie, What’s up?”

    “It’s your mother”, she says.

    “What’s wrong with my mother?” I ask.

    “You’re not going to believe this…but…she got arrested last night.”

    1. Observer Tim

      Freaky coincidence; either that or his mother-in-law came all the way to his town to steal books. I can see the MC turning this one into a story. Probably a comedy. This is a nice strange take, Rene. 🙂

      My only issue is that the first paragraph is a little awkward. The sentences might benefit from subtle re-crafting to make them a bit less rambling. For example, the first could be Every Sunday after church my wife goes to visit her mother in Scranton.

      1. Rene Paul

        Strange you should mention that about the first sentence. The way you worded it was exactly how I had it originally. I changed it to move the info about the days of the week from another paragraph up. I didn’t notice the awkwardness of the new structure. Thanks – good feed back.

      1. Rene Paul

        Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. This was a fun little story to write. I like to end my short stories with a twist, glad you liked it. Thanks again.

  12. Marie Therese Knepper

    idiot.

    I stare at the screen speechless; not from lack of words, but from the inability to vocalize.

    Misery, that’s what this is literally. Misery.

    Is this payback? Was I too cocky? Most writers struggle for years before their big break. Me? My first novel is now in its third printing. James Cameron is set to direct the movie version of which I have sole screen rights. IF I make it out of here . . .

    There it is again, the now too familiar needle jab. I open my eyes to a side-ways image of my – no words for what she is. She moves in for a close-up. I start to go under again from her breath’s stench but she slaps my right cheek.

    “Unh uh, mister. No more sleepies for you.” She fades, then shows me a close-up of a Burger King bag. She smiles, her battered teeth a backdrop against her hard-life skin. “Now let’s see if we can work through this failure to communicate.”

    Vowing passionately to devote not a little amount of time teaching nouveau authors the wisdom of not sharing too much personal information on writer’s junkets, I try to convey with my eyes a willingness to cooperate.

    I wonder if there have been any psychological studies done on the various types and effects of smiles. I know the effect hers has on me.

    Note to self: also teach new authors the importance of acting classes.

    I closed my eyes and conjured up the best memory of my most passionate love. Maintaining that memory I opened my eyes and ESP’d my thoughts to her – brain? She was unwrapping what appeared to be my favorite burger but paused when she saw the look on my face.

    She jumped up and out of the dinette chair so suddenly that the Whopper splattered unceremoniously around her feet.

    “You care! You really care! I see it in your eyes. Oh my love!”

    After a plethora of wet tongue-kisses I realize her angst at my lack of anticpated response. As she twirls in rage around her dungeon-like studio I make ready to implore her with what appears to be my only working body part; useless unless she actually looks my way.

    I see her plunge for the butcher knife.

    look at me, damn you!

    1. Observer Tim

      This is intense and fascinating, Marie. I am curious about whether she’s paralyzing the MC (which seems likely) or somehow preserving him(?). You’ve done a great job with the MC’s thoughts; understandable, given that’s about all he has. This is a very enjoyable read. 🙂

  13. JRSimmang

    Another, more real, story. I’m thinking of polishing this one up for publishing, so any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

    TOWARD THE PERFECT NIGHT

    When the sun rises these days, it hits the wooden sill first, then glides up the linoleum, bathes the plastic visitor’s chair, then drapes over the left side of Ian Southers’s body. He pretends it’s the gentle caress of a lover, warm and wanting, but the other side of his body is still cold. Cold for another few minutes.

    He lets one eye open slowly, believing he’s still on the archipelago, fingers wrapped around the firm stomach of Laila, mouth full of her black hair, the smell of palm leaves and sand still clinging to her flesh. He wishes he could still get an erection, but has come to understand that sexuality is something people exchange for wisdom.

    He wakes up over several hours, sometimes never fully leaving his dreams before he sleeps again. Today, he is craving coffee like he used to, and he thinks for the first time that he might not be dying. The doctors would be in soon. Their fingers would poke and prod his wrinkled skin and drying organs. He would say thank you like his father demanded. He would smile like his grandmother did when she knew that her life would end and she had to make amends for all the times she had swatted her son, spat on sinners, and not loved her daughters.

    “Mr Southers, how are you this morning?” Dr Riemer pokes his head into the room, a disembodied face floating next to the latex curtain.

    “Fine, sir.” He replies carefully, trying to conceal the pain in his liver. “Have you seen my most recent x-rays?”

    The doctor shuffles in, hands in pockets. “I have.”

    “And?”

    “And… they’re… well…”

    “All I need to know.” Ian tries to sit up, the muscles in his arms confused as to why they are suddenly being used. “It’s okay, doctor. I’ve loved too well, lived too hard, and drank too much.”

    Dr Riemer chuckled. “Well, you are a writer.”

    “I am,” he says, and he falls back to sleep while the blood pressure cuff compresses his arm reassuringly.

    He dreams still, which he considers to be a sign that his blood still pumps and his mind is still being honed on the whetstone. He is never fully aware of the room he’s in while he’s sleeping, but he can always tell when someone is watching.

    He opens an eye.

    “Mr Southers?”

    She’s young. Still older than his fantasies. And beautiful. He tries to smile past the cannula feeding oxygen into his nose.

    “It’s an honor.”

    The nose looks familiar, he thinks. Perhaps the eyes do too.

    “You and I haven’t met.”

    He thinks maybe he knew her mother.

    “But, I wanted to ask for your signature.”

    She slides a hardcover book under his hand; her silver pen captures the sunlight and causes him to squint against it.

    He remembers, year ago, it could be a dream, that morning he stopped writing. Coffee, he is still craving coffee, sat unperturbed on his kitchen table. Laila, naked, sang a song while she mixed berries, bananas, and kiwi in a bowl. That was their breakfast that morning. That was their breakfast most mornings. He looked at her over his newspaper, mesmerized by the perfection of her skin, by the carelessness of his sin. He would regret not sitting in that chair the next morning. He would regret not sleeping with her one more night. He would regret moving to New York.

    He did not care that a bookstore was less one book.

    “I had to have the last book,” she says, her lips moving with her words. “And I didn’t have the means to get it.”

    “I remember,” he lies. He remembered the sourness of the kiwi instead.

    “And now I’m too late to get to know you.”

    He smiles halfway, his liver wrenching his body.

    She moves to the edge of his bed and sits. “So, I wanted to at least say I met you.”

    Laila did not cry when he stepped on the airplane. She said that the reason they had slept together was because he was interesting and unable to keep his hands off fleshy thighs. She laughed, though. She breathed him in when she enveloped him in her long, thin arms. He wished their bodies would have deliquesced into a fine mist, lace and souls. But, the city was calling, and he would be back someday.

    “I will sign your book,” and he does, the arthritis making his signature look like a child’s. Repentance, perhaps, would have saved him his humility.

    She puts her hand on his, slips her fingers into the space between his thumb and memories, and squeezes. “You were always my favorite.”

    “That was why I didn’t care,” he tries to say.

    She squeezes his hand again, and he lets the afternoon turn to evening, and evening turn to night.

    The moonlight first hits the windowsill, then slithers along the linoleum, then hits his left side. Cold. Cold like it is every night. But his right side is still warm, and she will still hold his hand.

    -JR Simmang

    1. Manwe38

      I am speechless, JR Simmang.

      This was gorgeous, heartbreaking, and expertly written. The poetic opening of the story–which you bring full circle to complete at the end–really just made it for me.

      I wouldn’t change a thing. Loved the metaphors here (“He tried to smile the cannula”), and everything else.

      Good luck with getting this published!

    2. Jakelong

      There are few minor changes which I felt could be done,

      1. “When the sun rises these days, it hits the wooden sill first, then glides up the linoleum,” – Here there is a modifier error…. the sun’s rays hits the wooden sill, glides up the linoleum. The sentence construction implies that the sun hits the wooden sill, giles up the linoleum
      2.”prod his wrinkled skin and drying organs” – Here I am assuming it is “dying” organs right.
      3. “He remembers, year ago, it could be a dream, that morning he stopped writing.” I felt this sentence could be rephrased. It gave a chopped impression to me.

  14. Dennis

    (Sorry Jay, had to run with this idea. Also sorry it went over. Didn’t have much time to edit.)

    King of Fans

    Doc glanced at his watch as the private jet began making its approach to the runway. He hoped to be in and out in a half hour. Maine was one of his least favorite states, which is why he almost refused to fly out. But the situation called for it.

    One crazy fan bought all of his new novels from the local bookstore, claiming to be Doc’s only fan and became hysterical. But this wasn’t just any fan. Doc knew how to handle those, as he had done many a time. No, this was more of a disease that had been slowly growing and would bring him down if not removed soon. He decided this would be the perfect opportunity to excise the cancer.

    A car was waiting for him at the airport and drove him to the holding cell where they were keeping the crazed fan. Approaching the city hall Doc noticed a huge crowd of people and several media vans. He’s going to pay for this Doc thought, exiting the town car.

    The crowd grew quiet as he approached. This was in part due to his tall stature, dark features, and long, black overcoat. But even with his sunglasses on, his piercing stare made even the boldest turn away, afraid to cast even a quick glance. That was how Doc liked it and what he expected.

    Inside City Hall Doc was escorted by a Sgt. Billings.

    “So Sergeant, has he said anymore?”
    “No, he won’t talk until he speaks to you first. Frankly, I’ve never seen him like this.”

    Unfortunately, Doc had but found ways to help him keep it private. He supposed one could only hide from his demons for so long.

    “I’ll see if I can get him to talk.”

    Upon entering the interrogation room, Doc was surprised by his reaction to seeing his old friend. It pained to see his disheveled look, as if he hadn’t slept or bathed in a week. But quickly he snapped out of the feeling knowing the business at hand and pulled up a chair.

    “Hey King.”
    “Doc.”
    “You look like shit.”
    “Feel like shit.”
    “So, what gives with this stupid prank of yours?”
    “I thought it was time for you to have a fan. You need to quit scaring them away.” King gave Doc a crooked smile.

    Doc shook his head. “I have plenty of fans. I just don’t want them bothering me. So what really gives?”
    “You know I haven’t been right since the accident. And now with your new best seller, I was afraid you’d forget about me.”
    “Nonsense. You taught me everything I know. But something does need to give.”
    “What do you have in mind?”

    Doc sat back in his chair, stroking his goatee.

    “This is the climax of your life story, King. A big ending needs to be written. It’s only a matter of time before someone finds out I ghost wrote your last three novels. You don’t want that to be your ending, do you?” King shook his head, dropping it low in shame. “No of course not. So, I could write it for you, but what better way to gain back your dignity than to write it yourself. Something your fans would approve of.”

    “But what?”
    “I’m sure you’ll think of something.”

    Doc rose from his chair smiling. He turned and walked out, leaving King staring at a stiletto knife he left on the table.

    Doc closed the door behind him.

    “Sergeant, give him a few minutes and then I think he’ll be ready to talk.”

    Outside, Doc walked to the town car. He glanced at his watch. Half an hour on the dot. Moments later came the screams within the city hall as the town car pulled away.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a great story poking fun at a legend and a legend-to-be. Excellent take, Dennis. 🙂

      Your description of King brought back an old movie line: “Meteor shit!” (Creepshow, 1982). The story somehow befits his style, except that the word count is under 150,000. 😉

  15. Kerry Charlton

    TEN WAYS TO SKIN A CAT

    Harold watched his wife over the breakfast table. An antique clock in the dining room chimed twelve times. He wondered how forty eight years had flown by.

    “I can’t believe this? he said.”

    “What’d you say honey?”

    “Are you wearing your hearin’ aids?”

    “We don’t have any hens laying eggs,” Delores said..

    “Sigh….” He placed the front page in front of her.

    “I need my glasses, be right with you.”

    She speed read the article. ‘Man steals 47 books titled ‘Ten Ways To Skin A Cat’.

    “I don’t blame the poor man. Why’d you name your book that title? He thought he was saving the world’s cats.”

    “It’s not a book on cats, you know, I used a figure of speech. It’s a guideline on economy.”.

    “I’m sorry I didn’t make any?”

    “Make what?”

    “Hominy, you know the corn stuff.”

    Harold slid out of his chair and headed for the front door, “I’m going to work.”

    “I have no idea, you’re the one that pays the bills.”

    “What are you talking about?”

    “You asked me how much we’re worth. Are you losing your memory.?”

    ‘Gad,’ he thought, ‘getting old isn’t for the faint of heart.’

    He headed down to Thrifty Books. A line had formed at the front door and people were clamoring,

    “Why not, why not.”

    “ You’re not going to understand why they’re here.” a store manager said. “We have over two hundred orders for your book.”

    “Two hundred in one morning?”

    “More coming every minute.”

    “Why for God‘s sake.”

    “They‘re curious.”

    “Why didn‘t you tell them?”

    “Because they wouldn’t buy it?”

    Why not?”

    “I’m sorry Mr. Fitzgerald, it’s not a heart stopper.”

    “So you’ve read it, have you?”

    “Yes don’t ask me any more about it.“

    Harold left the bookstore and drove across the city to Barnes and Noble. They hadn’t ordered any of his books. Obviously someone read it also. That’s when he made his decision. He walked through a mob of people pushing and shoving at the service desk demanding a copy of ‘Ten Ways…’. The two clerks needed rescue,

    “Hello everybody, I’m Harold Fitzgerald and I wrote ‘Ten Ways…’”

    The friendly group circled him asking for autographs which he gracefully signed.. The crowd waited for him to explain why there were no books,

    “I’ve had a change of heart, I’ve seen the light, cats needs to be protected, so I cancelled all printings.

    “Where are we supposed to find a copy?“

    There won’t be any but keep your cheer, I’m writing my new book.

    “OOOOOOHHHH” the crooned, what is it?

    “How To Wipe A Gorilla’s Ass And Live To Talk About It.”

    “AAAHHHH,“ they chanted, ‘Can we preorder it?”

    “Certainly,“ both clerks answered.

    Harold left the store, grinning ear to ear.

    He opened his front door,

    “Delores, we’re going to be wealthy.”

    “We already are healthy dear. Now come eat my fresh hominy”

    “Do you know you are my princess?”

    “Yes dear, I did rinse them before I cooked them.”

    1. Reaper

      Kerry, this is awesome. I like the interplay between the older couple that speaks of gentle, persisting love so eloquently. The stuff at the stores is good and defines the character of a man who would write a book on economics. Love the titles of the books. I’m curious if you named him Fitzgerald on purpose as this has a ring of being related to F Scott and how he lived his life.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Reaper. It isn’t hard to write this way especialy when I have no idea I’m doing it Some of the conversations around our house are like this however it’s not my wife that gets confused, it’s good old yours truly. Good thing she doesn’t throw me out with the dish water. Thanks for the review. The Fitzgerald name just came out, no reason as far as I know.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Kerry, I enjoyed this for so many reasons. I think you perfectly captured the sheep-like mania for the next big thing, and the dialogue between husband is wonderful, if a bit too close to home.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Reatha for the compliment. You think it’s close to you, you have no idea. But for myself, I’m standing right next to it.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        THank you Manwe 38. Oh it’s real alright, you should follow me around during the day. The calls are dwindling , but the emails and texts are going all day and half the night. It’s easier since some of our children are experiencing some of the same problems.

    3. Observer Tim

      The combination of the hearing aids and crafty Harold made this a truly marvelous tale, Kerry. It calls to mind the folk stories of one of my favourite authors, Stephen Leacock (sometimes called Canada’s Mark Twain, but his style is actually quite different; strangely enough, Mr. L taught economics at McGill University). I love the way it all comes together at the end, and how it works out so well for the MC. Absolutely wonderful! 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Tim, you are so kind with your words. I did enjoy writing it and I read it to my wife, she said,
        “Oh, so I’m the deaf am I, what about you.?”
        “I don’t think so.”
        “What are you talking about?”
        “It’s too hot to go to the zoo.”

    4. Critique

      The dialogue between the elderly couple told a lot about their relationship and was done well!
      Several years back I had both set of parents over for Christmas – three of them were hard of hearing and I listened to three different conversations around the table – everyone unwilling to let on they hadn’t a clue what the other said but so important to keep face. Wish I could have recorded it – hilarious. But in reality not so fun losing the ability to hear correctly 🙁
      Enjoyed this story a lot. You had me smiling all the way through Kerry 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Critique, even though it’s hard to understand, one of the main reasons, take a dinner party for example, hearing aids are so powerful now, you hear three or four conversations at the same time, even though some are closer than others. Sometimes with my children, even if I hear them perfectly, I’ll give them a real zinger of an answer just to keep them on their toes.

  16. Observer Tim

    PRANKMEISTER

    “So what’s your mom’s book about, Flower?”

    “It’s a tell-all about the time she worked as the Council’s stenographer. There’s a lot of dirt in there.”

    “Are we in it?”

    “It ends when Mom and Thundergirl announce their pregnancies so I guess we are, at least as fetuses.”

    Vixen giggles. I love when she does that because she only does it for me. She’s my best friend, and one of a very few people who are totally unaffected by my power to fade into the background. While she’s parking the Foxwagen I realize where we are.

    “The mall, Vix? It doesn’t open for another hour.”

    “We’re here on business, Wallflower. While we were busy playing sleepover like ten-year olds, somebody broke into B&N and stole every copy of Council Confidential. Your mom called my mom, and here we are.”

    The security guard lets us in the bookstore. Sure enough, two hundred copies of mom’s book are missing. In their place is a jack-in-the-box, PrankMeister’s calling card.

    Vix winds it up. PM is a C-lister, barely more than a vandal, and unlike other famous clowns he’s not a psychopath.

    The ‘box pops up and says, “Flowers are pretty, violets don’t bend, I kidnapped the books, and you’re next my friend.”

    Kidnap my mom? Why would he do that? It’s totally off character for him. Vix seems to be thinking the same thing. We race to the Foxwagen and drive to my home.

    The super’s lying unconscious in a pool of confetti on the front step of the building. Vix alerts EMS and then we take the elevator up to the seventh floor.

    When we get there the living room looks like the site of an epic battle between Clowns and Librarians. There are books and toys everywhere and Mom’s lying on the floor bound and gagged with party streamers.

    She shakes her head ‘no’ as I rush to her. I stop when I hear a voice behind me.

    “Hello, Wallflower; it’s been a long time.”

    He’s about forty with a bit of a paunch, dressed like a black biker except for his clown-paint face and pink afro. I can see why he’s considered public enemy number one by both the NAACP and GQ.

    “We’ve never met, weirdo.”

    “Sure we have! Nineteen years and thirty-nine weeks ago, to be precise. Happy birthday, baby girl!”

    My jaw drops. “You’re my…”

    “I believe the word you want is ‘father’, dear. Anyway, I just stopped by to drop off your present; gotta run now. You should save your friend.”

    Vixen is being mobbed by animated toys. They’re not much of a threat but by the time we’ve stopped them all and untied Mom, PrankMeister’s long gone.

    “Mom, is he really…?”

    She nods, “I made him promise not to say anything.”

    “Why? It’s obvious I’m mixed race; so’s the President.”

    “It’s not that. The whole villain-hero thing wasn’t really sorted out back in the 90’s. I didn’t want you to be stigmatized by his choice. This year we decided, since you’ve taken up an ‘alternative’ lifestyle, …”

    “Mom, Vixen and I are friends. There’s nothing sexual about it.” Well, not from Vixen’s point of view.

    “She gave you a ring!”

    “What? No she…” I whirl toward Vixen, who’s looking really embarrassed. She’s holding a tiny box with two rings in it, each set with half a ruby heart.

    “They’re friendship rings, one for each of us. You’re the other half of my heart, Rose. Happy birthday.”

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I love clown stories Tim. You’ve got a lot of things going on at one time. I need to reread it I always like to over your stories a second time. Your style is out of the box, [pun intended].

    1. cosivantutte

      Aww! What a sweet ending. OT, your Vixen and Wallflower stories are always a pleasure to read. And this one is no exception. There are so many good lines in this one. Especially the description of the Prankmeister and the phrase “…looks like the site of an epic battle between Clowns and Librarians.” 😀

    2. Reaper

      Always fun to read these and very enlightening. I like how you approach the past taboos by turning them on their heads. Lots of great lines and character in this one. For me the best one was off character. I stopped and thought, shouldn’t that be out of character? I don’t know if it’s a dialect thing but off character just struck me as fabulous after a second because it says it so well but isn’t the way I’m used to hearing it.

      1. Observer Tim

        Congrats, Reaper. You found the hardest two words to write in the entire story. I couldn’t use “against his character” because it isn’t really; I couldn’t use “out of character” because super-villains are usually too theatrical to show their true character (e.g. Iron Maiden, whose public and private personae are very different). I chose “off character” in the same way an actor can go “off script” (i.e. ad lib), except there’s no script. It’s sort of like an improv actor doing something that violates the prompt being acted to. If that makes any sense. 😉

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      Another great one. I agree that the librarian clown battle is awesome. I have a clown in my family…hmm, perhaps I should save that story for the right prompt.

    4. JRSimmang

      It’s wonderful to see the lives of the characters outside of the overarching storyline you’ve been developing. This one in particular had a TV sitcom feel about it, a short departure from the hassle the “B-listers” are going through to make it to the big leagues. Fun, as always, and insightful, as usual.

    5. regisundertow

      Tim, this is brilliant. I’ve mentioned the possibility of turning this into a comic book, but I take it back; this works twice as well in prose form. You have to go for it.

  17. Reaper

    Alright jhowe, this one is for you. For those who haven’t read my book, Mr. Edward is one of the main characters. This takes place about fifty years before that.

    It Takes a Plagiarist

    Small town, USA – Summer – 1965

    Edward Edwards, Edward to nobody and Mr. Edward to everyone he met, looked up from his desk. At his age he slept about three hours a night. So he sat in the back of The Edge of the Page when he suddenly knew something was wrong. He smelled… mud and cannabis where only the scents of well loved parchment and long faded ink should be. Rising to investigate his weathered hand reached for the nearest weapon, a crudely bound grouping of pages.

    He slid like a specter into the tomb silent front of his shop. Eyes still sharp as a hawk’s scanned for the invader. There she was, in a small section reserved for local authors, well… author. As he suspected she was a hippie but pretty in her own way. If you did not mind dry, brittle hair and breasts hanging free because of a burned bra. Mr. Edward did not. He did not mind the long flowing peasant skirt that ran to her ankles either. He did mind her bare feet tracking mud through his business. He found her unlaundered clothes and free love scent offensive. He also minded that she was stealing from him. Mr. Edward cleared his throat.

    The hippie jerked, spinning to face him. She managed to keep hold of the five books in her arms though. That impressed Mr. Edward, she understood the value of literature. She offered a coquettish smile meant to disarm him. It might have worked if he had use for sex as anything but a tool of control. He stepped forward, speaking in a voice like old paper sliding against itself.

    “I see you are a fan of my protégé, Alex Tomlin. You know if you got a job you could pay for those.”

    She blinked, tears forming in her eyes but not falling. “I can’t, but I just want to be friends with him.”

    Mr. Edward nodded, bringing the manuscript in front of him. “I see you have his latest there, The Word Thief. Have you read it?”

    “N… no.” She cast her drug-dulled eyes about for an escape. He could tell she was stupid but like many of her ilk she had an animal cunning about her. She sensed danger.

    “Too many people have for it to be valuable. The value in a rare book is how few have read it. Now this first draft? Much changed between it and the end product. Enough that the story is almost completely different. Let me read you the salient points.” He flipped to the section where the monster first appeared, because there was always a monster.

    As Mr. Edward read about the bone like hands gripping at upper arms the girl felt them on her own. At the description of the human sized mosquito beak sliding through the spine and piercing the heart her heart was also pierced. He continued to read and the unseen creature sucked words, the very essence of life, from her body.

    First she lost love and learned to hate the man she most wanted to adore her. Then feeling went, which was good because pain stopped locking a scream in her chest. Away went each word until last the thief stole life and the girl dropped to the ground.

    Setting the valuable manuscript aside, Mr. Edward dismissed the Word Thief, back to the nether. He needed to step up Alex’s program. With so many hippies in love with him the boy was dangerous to have around. But first, he dragged the body back towards his office. Nothing went to waste in his shop.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        This is truly good mystery and horror. I witnessed the first hippies at the coffee houses and then throughout the City of Dallas at they multiplied. Believe or not, I was entranced by their lifestyle of free love, protest, bare feet and braless. The reason I mention is because your descriptive verse painting the girl’s picture was so dead on, she stood in front of me as I read. This is a wonderfully written piece.

        1. Reaper

          Thank you Kerry. I always try with the hippies when I write them in. Which, sadly because of when I was born being a little too late, is not as often as I would like. I am fascinated by the culture and the beliefs, the amazing faith and love of the message. Whenever I encounter something that reminds me of it I get right back into that headspace. I’ve had a few of those recently so I was happy to have a place to put one in. I’m glad it came across so vividly.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Reaper, I could see this as a Twilight Zone episode. Some really great descriptions here, such as, voice like old paper sliding against itself and words, the very essence of life.

      1. Reaper

        Thank you Reatha. That comparison means a lot to me. One of my all time favorite shows and one of a handful I find it worth going back to watch again and again. Thank you for mentioning the descriptions, especially the voice one as I had to rewrite that to get it just right. Mr. Edward’s voice is such an important part of his character.

    2. Observer Tim

      I can see you getting a job as a terraformer considering how much atmosphere you built up in such a short piece. I also love the way you ramped up the creepy-factor until the appearance of the monster seems like just a normal part of the situation. All in all, wow! 🙂

      My red pencil suggests tomb-silent should be hyphenated to avoid double-processing of the setting.

    3. JRSimmang

      So, what’s the title of the book? I may have to browse on Amazon today.

      I agree with OT here, the ambience seeped out from behind my laptop and coated my walls in a sticky, oozing, horror film. Not literally, of course, but the setting certainly pulled me in.

      1. Reaper

        Hey JRSimmang,

        It has been a long two days and I just checked in before bed. The book is ‘Old Odd Ends’ and you can get to it by clicking my name I believe as well as searching Amazon.

    4. regisundertow

      This was excellent Patrick. I didn’t get Mr. Edward’s nonchalance, but the ending put everything into perspective. The book he was wielding really was a weapon! The last three paragraphs were pretty intense too.

    5. jhowe

      I’m back at The Edge of the Page as Mr. Edward does his thing as only he can… with a little help from you. Nicely done. Do I smell a prequel?

  18. igonzales81

    The most troubling thing about the situation wasn’t the fact that someone had broken into a bookstore, stolen every copy of my book in the place, and then insisted that they wanted to be my best friend.

    No, what was really troubling was how closely the crime mirrored a scene from my latest book, a scene that had been struck out of the final draft.

    One might ask what was so worrisome about that. After all, in the age of the digital data domain, nothing is truly private or safe from threat. But I’m something of an old-school writer. I don’t use cloud storage, and all of my files are encrypted to my personal computer. I’m even stingy when it comes to handing around hard copy samples to my writing group, demanding that all the copies never leave my sight.

    Then there’s the fact that I write supernatural thrillers for a living, with a consequent distrust in the concept of coincidence.

    I decided that I needed to be certain.

    The visitation room for the nineteenth precinct was just like I’d described similar rooms in my novels: a long space, divided by a high counter and a wall of tempered glass, with speaker grills for people to carry on conversations between the land of the free and land of the not-so-free.

    The moment my crazed fan entered the room, my anxiety went up a few notches. He was dressed just as I’d described the thief in my book, with long, tangled hair, wearing a tattered long coat over blue jeans, and a crazed look in his eyes. Maybe he was a junky still on a high, or maybe he was the prophet no one would listen to, as I had written him.

    He took a seat without looking away from me. “You’ve come.”

    “Yeah. I just wanted to know…why you did what you did.”

    “You know.”

    I was starting not to like the way this conversation was going. “I do?”

    “Yes,” he slumped back in his seat, cocking one his head to one side. “You know what’s coming.”

    My mouth had gone dry. “I know what’s coming in the story I wrote. But that’s all it is, a story. Maybe you took it too literally.” I forced a chuckle.

    He didn’t bat an eye. “Stories can come true. You’re not an author anymore. You’re a prophet.” He leaned forward, eyes burning. “He’s coming.”

    I didn’t know what to say, and found myself hoping that this man was just the deluded attention-seeker he seemed to be. Regardless, I was finished here.

    As I stood, he spoke again. “Why did you do it?”

    “What?”

    “Why did you take me out of the story?”

    I’d never been asked that question before. “Uh, my editor and I agreed that the prophetic archetype wasn’t necessary to the plot.”

    He seemed to digest this for a moment. “Too bad,” he finally said. “With what’s coming, this world could use a prophet.”

    1. Reaper

      This started out reminding me of the Dark Half and then went in a direction that floored me. That last line is so perfect. I felt a lot of sympathy for the crazy prophet. You have one line between the land of the free and land of the not-so-free that struck me as repetitive. When I read it I thought a writer like the one you have here might eliminate the repetition with something like, between the land of the free and the home of the caged. Not a necessary line to change but it was a slight bump in an otherwise smooth narrative. What is most amazing is that you got so much tension in a story where everybody on scene was likable.

    2. Observer Tim

      I really like this, Igonzales. I’m a fan of stories that blur the line around reality, and this one is masterfully and subtly done. The dialogue with the “crazy” fan is a perfect combination of realistic and chilling. Great job! 🙂

      My style advisor notes that the “crazed look” in the fan’s eyes is too close to his identification as a “crazed fan”. Perhaps a “wild look”, a “nervous look” or something of that nature might be more appropriate.

    3. Critique

      A well-written freaky story. I could picture the MC and the fan.
      I agree with the comment about using the word ‘land’ twice – eliminating the second one makes a smoother flow but NOT a big deal.

  19. Edwin Simpson

    Crazed Fan

    “Here, Dan, listen to this:

    At 11.32pm last night, a woman in her late thirties was apprehended by police officers after breaking into the Waterstones on Gower Street, Central London. In a shopping trolley, stolen from a nearby Sainsbury’s, were all the store’s copies of E. A. Simpson’s best-selling debut novel, ‘Crazy’. A passer-by heard her shout: ‘I just want to be their best friend…”

    I stopped there, knowing that Daniel wouldn’t be interested in the remainder of the article.

    Looking over the coffee he’d placed on the table, I saw a grin make its way across his usually moody face.

    “Blimey, mate, your writing seems to attract nutters.”

    Laughing, I retorted, “You’d best watch it, the best-friend position might be given to someone else.”

    He laughed, sticking up his middle finger.

    “So, what’re you gonna do about the loon?”

    “I’m not sure”, was my initial response. Attempting to steal someone’s livelihood isn’t how I’d go about trying to make friends, let alone ‘best-friends’.

    Shaking my head slightly, small smile on my lips, I finally answered, “I think I’ll see if I can talk to her.”

    He looked at me in disbelief, “Seriously? Mate, she ain’t right in the head.”

    Still smiling, I said, “She’s clearly affected by my writing, so I’d feel bad if I didn’t at least go and have a chat with her. Besides, the station’s not far from here.”

    “Which one’s that?”

    “Marylebone. The one down Seymour Road.”

    “Right, well, have fun with that, I’m gonna shoot off to work because, unlike you, I can’t set my own bloody schedule.”

    I laughed.

    “Tell me how it goes”, he shouted as he left, unable to keep the mirth from his voice.

    “Alright, mate,” I shouted back, “have a good one.”

    Taking my time to wash up the remnants of my breakfast, I pondered what I might say to her. I wasn’t angry about the books, she clearly wasn’t in her right mind. Sighing, I got changed and left the house, heading for the station.

    When I arrived, I approached the reception to be met with a middle-aged man who was all seriousness, no smiles. After informing him of my request, he yelled into the office, “Hey, Jan, take this fella to see the madwoman.”

    “Yes, Boss”, came the reply, followed by a constable who motioned for me to follow.

    I realised that I’d been holding my breath as we walked along the corridor. Exhaling slowly, I tried to steady my nerves as the constable came to a stop beside the cell. Opening the door revealed a solitary figure, shaking in the corner of the room.

    Steeling myself, I entered, and met my first crazed fan.

    1. Reaper

      Edwin, I like this. I like your MC. I love that some of the responses to this are showing humanity and kindness. I love the focus on someone who writes, who tries to touch people reaching out to someone in pain. You captured this really well.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        I agree with Reaper and was surprised that several stories had MC and fan meeting. Perhaps all writers secretly want a crazed fan.

    2. Observer Tim

      This is a wonderful story; I’m heartened by the humanity of the writer in dealing with what could easily become a frustrating and potentially frightening situation. Ending it just before the moment of meeting works here. 🙂

      The dialogue is spot on, doing just as much to establish the setting and characters as the description.

      All in all, brilliant.

  20. ReathaThomasOakley

    Night in the historic house museum, continued

    With the doors locked and no chance of the guard checking back, she climbed the two flights of stairs to the attic floor of the house museum, her place of employment for eleven months. It had taken nearly three years after that encounter with the strange man who seemed to know all about her to get to this place in time, to get to what had to be the end of her quest.

    As the grand staircase changed to narrow, ladder-like steps she recalled that morning three months before as she was drinking coffee and read in the local newspaper, Little-Read Books Stolen From Public Library. The article quoted the head librarian saying, “The books, histories of the Hightower family recalling their move to Florida in 1880, were in the Reserve Section, they were never checked out.” The article ended with the librarian saying, “Perhaps some crazed fan of local history took them.”

    That morning, after she cleared away the breakfast dishes, she took the stolen books from her tote bag and started to read. How easy that had been, she thought, just take the books, smile at everyone, and calmly walk out the door. She had suspected the books contained clues, and she was correct.

    Now, with notes from the books in hand, she opened a small supply closet just inside the attic, moved cleaning supplies and tour brochures, took out a hammer, putty knife, crow bar, notebook, and a powerful flashlight. On previous midnight trips to the attic, she’d used the flashlight as she measured walls, ceilings, and dormers. Because she had no reason to be in the attic to decorate, her cover story for the guard, she decided to keep using it.

    She was certain she’d found an anomaly. From the outside, the roof between the dormers jutted at an acute angle, but inside the ceiling didn’t follow the line of the roof. Instead there was a flat ceiling with walls at a ninety degree angle. If her calculations were correct, there was a space of several feet hidden behind the dormer wall.

    From the stolen books she knew the Hightowers had live-in help who would have slept up here, but they were all let go in 1900, the year of the disappearance of Homer Hightower’s first wife, her great, great, great grandmother. Tonight she’d remove the wallpaper, she’d told the docents she’d seen a rat up here and that the exterminator would be in next week, then start looking for a door in the wall.

    So intent was she on her task that she didn’t hear the footsteps, didn’t hear anything until, “Miss, I don’t see no poinsettias,” and this time her surprise was real.

    “Oh, I didn’t hear you…”

    “No, Miss, I reckon you didn’t. What you doing, peeling off that nice paper. Volunteers worked hard putting that up.”

    “Well,” she faltered, “well, I thought I saw a rat…”

    “Ain’t no rats, Miss. I put poison out.”

    “You? Why did you…”

    “You think I’m just this old man what checks doors and such, but if you’d paid more attention to them books you took…” she gasped. “Yeah, I knew it was you. If you’d paid attention, took time to learn my name, you’d know Mr. Hightower was my great, great, great grandfather, too, by his second wife, his true wife.”

    He moved closer.

    “Well, Miss, what you think we ought to do?”

    (567 words. Continuation of last week’s prompt, which was the continuation of BAGGAGE from March 26.)

    1. Reaper

      This just got really intense Reatha. It shocks me when you do this kind of action, in a very good way. You took me out of the calm I normally feel in your stories and got my heart racing. I am really connected to this character and love this part of the story almost as much as the stuff about the girl directly.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks, Reaper. I was hoping this week’s prompt would allow me to continue this story without straying too far. I have two or three more episodes, depending on future prompts.

    2. Observer Tim

      Aaaugh! I thought I saw an answer coming, then you swapped it out for another question! I feel like Charlie Brown with the football. This is brilliant, teasing, frustrating, engaging, and wonderfully entertaining. Fantastic story! 🙂 🙂

      I get the impression that the guard is as curious as she is, judging by the “we” in his final question.

    3. Critique

      I’m waiting anxiously for Chapter Three! This is wonderful writing – the dialogue is realistic – the story line flows very well. The story could veer off in many interesting directions. I really enjoyed this Reatha.

  21. Sunnyskies77

    Crazed Fan

    The first thought that comes to mind is, “What would Castle do?” but then I realize I’m not a novelist in a drama series who writes crime mysteries. Thoughts of murderous fans lurking in wait for the perfect prey to play the part of the penned victim are not a cause of concern for me…thankfully.

    Perhaps like him, though, I have a weekly joust with friendly authors who meet to share stories and reflect on these markers of fame. In which case, one might elaborate on an occasion where his first ‘crazed’ fan waited in the parking lot of the bookstore where he had just spent hours signing the inside flaps and making small talk. However, instead of the fan waiting for my friend to exit the building, he stole the signed books right out from under each buyer, then turned around and sold each copy for a profit on eBay.

    “Wouldn’t that just make him a thief?” another would reply.

    “Well, I suppose, but they were my books he stole!” the other would inject.

    Still, another would argue that that would be better than a person who would steal an unpublished manuscript and then publish it as his own!

    “Again! Not a fan, but a thief!”

    To which I would add “Peeps, can we stay on point here? This fan is breaking into stores and stealing my books. What do I do?”

    “I don’t know. Wouldn’t one copy of the book be good enough? Why is he stealing all of them?”

    “Don’t know, maybe he thinks they’re like organs and he’s trying to sell them on the black market. He is a little touched?”

    “Ok. That’s not even funny!”

    “No, he’s just stupid.”

    Laughter resonates around the table like the hours on a clock. I couldn’t help but wonder how a simple question could quickly escalate into complete madness in a matter of minutes. Then again, all I need do was look at the faces that occupied the space around the table in answer to my own question.

    And yet I couldn’t stop myself. “Are you saying my fans are stupid?”

    “No. He’s saying they are thieves. Pay attention!”

    “Would you stop with the thief thing already?”

    “Well, look at the facts. He stole ALL the books,not one.”

    “Yes, but if he stole just one he wouldn’t be a fan, he’d be a thief. Stealing all the books just proves that he’s a fan.”

    “Auck! Your reasoning scares the shit out of me.”

    “None of this is helping me!” I say.

    “Geez louis. Would you like some cheese with that whine?”

    “Now that’s cheesy! Speaking of cheese, do we have any? These nachos could use a little somethin’-somethin’. Anyway, why is any of this your problem?” asks John as he slides his chair away from the table in search of some cheese.

    Looking around the table I watched as each turned their attention to me
    .
    “That’s a very good question.” I say in response. “Why indeed?”

    1. Reaper

      My brain hurts, in a good way. This was a really interesting and unique take on the prompt. The only thing I might suggest would be to distinguish your voices a bit more. I wasn’t sure how many people were at the card game. Failing that some dialogue tags would help.

    2. Observer Tim

      This is a wonderfully fun metastory, Sunny. For me it wasn’t necessarily about how many and who (though even a half-sentence about each speaker woven in would help), but about what they were saying. You captured the sense of banter in a brainstorming environment perfectly. This reads like my memories of such sessions; even if I knew at the time, it is hard to attribute any specific statement or idea to a specific person. Excellent job! 🙂

    3. Sunnyskies77

      Thanks everyone. It was my first prompt and I really enjoyed doing it. I’m here searching for another one. :-). Right now I need to read some of the stories others have submitted

  22. JRSimmang

    A little off prompt, and not in the same universe as Clark and “Mud Duck.”

    PRAYER OF ANGELS

    I am a wanderer, content to be called God.

    Each antique book seller in every city is exactly the same: crabby, curmudgeon old man behind hazy bifocals and yellowing teeth, standing hunched over the counter, one elbow bent propping up his head, while the other hand holds a manuscript of limited importance, probably Lewis or Bronte. They don’t hear the bell over the door, and they certainly don’t hear the sound of death.

    I am not Death.

    I am Death’s trepidation.

    My journey would end in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. It knew I was looking for it, for it never stayed too long in the same place. The door, carved oak and inlaid lead glass, creaked a hello when I pushed through it. A little bell sneezed its welcome to me. By now, my heart was pounding. I could feel my cheeks flush with anticipation. My vision had not yet become blurred.

    The man behind the counter peered over his wire-framed glasses at me, then went back to reading his book. “Welcome to Mosby’s. If you have any questions…” and he trailed off into a wheezing breath before coughing to clear his throat.

    There was another person in the store. Young. Uninteresting. He would serve well as my distraction. The hairs on the back of my neck were standing rigid. I knew I was near.

    I had to stop and focus. It was never comfortable; the whispers spoke to me in an ancient language, raw, impenetrable, unintelligible. Yet, I knew they were speaking to me. I knew they were telling me their secrets. It’s a breeze first, shifting through my ribs and joints. Then, it becomes a tempest, racking my body. I must have remained calm, collected, while my feet guided me to the last aisle. I walked in a daze, my eyes filtering out the unnecessary, shrouding everything but the book in a crystalline memory. It was there, nestled among the textbooks and fantasy, shining brightly, significantly, wantonly.

    I could feel it squirming, attempting to transgress and slip through the Veil. I would not let it. Not now that I was staring at it. I pulled my anchor, tying myself to the earth and binding it to me.

    “You alright, man?” He asked. I forgot how I looked to them when I was being shepherded. I turned my face to his, and I gain control. Weak, especially when I am this close to the book. I almost laughed at the ease in leaching into his mind. He lifted his hand, grabbed a fiction anthology of an unknown author, turned, and ran. He shouted something inane, something about being someone’s best friend. The old man behind the counter reached out, grasped the phone with his rheumatoid fingers, and dialed the police.

    The time I needed was granted, and the book slipped off the shelf and into my hands.

    He has my name. It will be soon, my children, that I will visit again.

    -JR Simmang

    1. Nicki EagerReader

      A haunting and boding beauty, JR. I liked both the concept and the perspective very much. Thumbs up.

      (Though the editor in me would like to suggest that you clarify the “He” in the third to last paragraph- “You alright, man?”, the young man asked- or something of sorts. I balk at “man” twice within four words, but I think some specification would be helpful because the young man is only referred to as “young person” in the beginning, and “he” had me thinking of the shopkeeper at first- especially confusing as the “You alright, man?” seemed a little at odds with such a stale character 😉 Another very nice touch, by the way- that one sentence told me all I needed to know to picture the remote-controlled book thief).

    2. regisundertow

      This is awesome on so many levels. The craftmanship is superb on a word-by-word basis, it gave the piece an ethereal quality. I actually pictured your MC being in two places at once, the physical and a more spiritual one. Then, you have the story itself. I love it when books are used as a plot device. Lovecraft did it well and here’s another great example of it. Great story.

    3. Observer Tim

      This is very deep and introspective, JR. Is Death’s Trepidation like a herald of death, or like someone whom death should fear? If the former, it explains why I haven’t seen him in the last seven years; if the latter he has a pretty tall task ahead of him. Either way it’s an enjoyable read. I would be interested in seeing more of the quest he’s on. 🙂

      Weighing in on Nicki’s point, I might suggest referring to the young man as “the youngster”: it seems a fitting degree of patronizing attitude for the MC as he’s been revealed so far…

      1. JRSimmang

        Thanks, OT. As for your questions, I’m not sure I’ve fully realized where I’d like for him to go. I think he’s pursuing Death, but Death won’t be caught unawares. Perhaps, he’s set about this task to bring Death to its knees, but is being pulled along the journey as a marionette, unwittingly doing Death’s work for it. Dunno. We’ll see where it goes!

    4. Manwe38

      Moody and creepy…I used to drive past the Ephrata exit on the Pennsylvania Turnpike all the time, back when I would visit my wife up at Penn State when we were still dating.

      Very enjoyable piece!

  23. Pete

    When my eyes open I’m less than two feet away from a guy grunting out a crap on a stainless steel toilet. The ground is like concrete—which it is, and combined with the county blues it’s easy to conclude that I’m in jail.

    “Hey,” the guy on the toilet says. Look, it’s you.”

    I scramble to sit up and nearly vomit. The man on the john is big and hairy, with only a brown nub of a front tooth. He hands me the paper.

    ”Look.”

    I scan the headline, LOCAL AUTHOR VANDALIZES BOOK STORE.

    I’m a local author. I’m also in jail.

    I hop up and start pacing. It’s a dire moment in a man’s life when his cell mate—sans underwear and disregarding even the laziest attempt to wipe his ass—yanks up his pants and with a gummy smile, says, “You’re crazy as shit, man.”

    I need to make a call. Several calls. To my agent. To Fran. My head pounds away at the morning lucidity and my temple prickles with sweat.
    I skim the article….naked inside Tulip’s Bookstore….on a mattress of his own books….all turned to page forty-eight.

    Drugs are suspected to have played a part…

    “Ha!” I laugh. I haven’t had a drug in two weeks. It was more of a lack of drugs that played a part, you self-serving hack! The cell walls pulse with my steps.

    I should be writing. But I’ve already written it. It’s all there in that book.

    “Can’t they see?! It’s all there!”

    “You ain’t right man.”

    A loud buzz. A cell door clanks shut somewhere down the hall. A spark flashes over my right eye and euphoria pulls me in for a hug. Fran will understand. Sure, it says here that I pissed in his store but we go way back. I gave him all those books after all. My books. They came from me and they’re mine.

    “They’re like my friends!”

    “Alright man, shit. Just calm down.

    “You don’t get it, do you? I spent years writing that book. My wife left me. I left everyone. I left the world and wrote day and night. I wanted it to be perfect!”

    “Guard!”

    I let go of the vagrant’s collar, take my knee out of his chest. He backs away and calls me a mother fucker.

    I need to see my book. I have to see it. Page forty eight holds the key to it all. I need to break the code. The code that came to me on that night, like that warm rush of strength that’s pooling in my chest. I ball my fists up so tight that my knuckles crack. The wall won’t stop pulsing.

    “Hey you, stop that!”

    A heavy set deputy unlocks the door. My fists are bloody. The deputy barks something into his little walkie-talkie then looks to the bum. “Flynn, you okay?”

    The scraggily man gives me a wobbly look. “Yeah, let me the fuck out of here.”

    The door shuts behind him. The guard gives me a smirk. “You’re headed to the psyche ward, buddy”

    “I need my book!” I say, grabbing the bars, slippery and warm in my palms.

    “Page forty-eight. Page forty-eight!”

    1. Reaper

      This is intense and wonderful. I want to know what’s on that page but at the same time I don’t. For a second I thought you skipped a bit when he got off the guy then realized it was another time lapse and that was stylistic and perfect. Good job Pete.

    2. Observer Tim

      Good one, Pete. I’m with the crowd wondering what’s on page forty-eight. Probably the key to his mania. 😉

      You did a great job on the dialogue and the description; they mesh just perfectly to tell the story and build up the reader’s impression of the MC. Great job!

  24. ShamelessHack

    I’m sitting at the breakfast table drinking coffee. I pick up the paper and read the headline:
    “Man breaks into Barnes & Noble and steals every copy of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’…”

    I spit my coffee all over the newspaper, the front of my nightgown, and onto some of the various sex toys and torture implements that litter the kitchen. What!? My masterpiece!?

    I read on: “…and the sequels as well. Witnesses saw a man fleeing the scene, his yellow Chevy pickup truck overflowing with every one of the twelve thousand copies the store had on hand. One witness, who lives in a senior community a mile from the store, alleged that the crazed man stopped for a moment to pry her copy out of her desperately grasping fingers. She was quoted as saying…”

    (The bite of Danish I was washing down with the coffee plops out of my open mouth into my lap. I can’t stop reading…)

    “…she was quoted as saying, ‘If I catch up with that nut, he’s roadkill’ as she guided her walker toward the parking lot…” (continued on page 12).

    My hands are shaking with rage, my teeth are rattling with anger, and I’m about to jump up and strangle the cat, or possibly one of the kids, when I hear the garage door open.

    It’s Niall. My husband. And his yellow Chevy pickup truck.

    In a moment he’s in the kitchen with me. His hair’s messed, he’s sweating, and he looks at me with crazy eyes. I stare daggers back at him.

    He sees the open newspaper. Finally he speaks: “It was me. I took ‘em all, babe. Every single one.” He throws a copy of “50” on the kitchen table. It’s edges are singed. “I burned the rest.”

    His eyes narrow, his voice goes down two octaves. “And…what are you going to do about it?” Menace drips from his mouth along with the words.

    A steak knife is suddenly in my hand. I move toward him. He bares his teeth and lifts his face in defiance. “Go ahead,” he hisses though clenched ivories. “Do it!”

    I cut him.

    Well, I kind of just jab at his thumb until it leaves a little red indentation, but it’s enough: he sweeps me up into his arms and strides into the bedroom. He tosses me on the bed like a rag doll and rips off his shirt.

    I look at him from the bed.

    He’s on a roll, waving a leather riding crop around his head . “This’s what I’ve learned from your books, Honey, I mean, Dirty Little Slave: Love equals Hurt!”

    “Not quite,” I say, eyeing the stupid riding crop. “That thing doesn’t hurt. But those 12,000 books you destroyed were on consignment, Dumbass. We just lost a quarter million in revenues from Barnes and Noble. And THAT hurts!”

    1. Reaper

      Hack, I almost spit coffee on the screen at your opening. I was rooting on the thief until I found out who it was. The jabbing with the knife was awesome. Am I the only one who cheered that author losing money? Probably. This was brilliant.

  25. catbr

    Sarge was aching all over from the workouts he started a week ago. No pain, no gain. That’s what they kept telling him at the gym.
    “Morning Sarge. Guess your some kind of celebrity now.” The waitress set down his coffee and morning paper.
    “Thanks Marcy. What are you talking about, celebrity?”
    “Read all about it for yourself. Be back in a few minutes for your order.”
    Local author’s books stolen by a stranger in town after breaking into the bookstore. Upon arresting the thief, he said “I only want to be his friend.” Who in their right mind would want all of those books. The store might have sold about 6 copies of “250 and one ways to prepare ground beef on a limited budget” in the 5 years of it being there. Sarge smiled and chuckled to himself remembering that ridiculous day when he thought he was going to be a famous author some day after submitting them to the store. It was the first and last thing he ever wrote. Better get over there and check this out.
    Sarge got to the jail where the loony apparent fan of his was, behind bars.
    “Remember Sarge, you only got 10 minutes. We don’t need any trouble around here with this stranger.” Barney pointed his finger toward the palm of his hand indicating the man slumped in the cot.
    “Sure, thanks Barney.” At a glance the perpetrator looked ordinary enough. One head, two arms and legs.
    “Hi. I’m Sarge, the one who wrote the cook book you seem to be so fond of.”
    “Pleasure to meet you Sarge Don’t know if you remember me. It’s Leonard. Leonard Weinstein. I was in a few classes with you back in high school. We weren’t really friends. Just knew you to see you is all. I always knew you were going to make it big someday.”
    Leonard, how could I forget. The class klutz. Nobody was friends with the guy. He’d just sit there and stare at all the girls with his oily complexion and greased down hair. And those huge thick black framed glasses. Hope this guy isn’t out to get me now for not being his buddy. “Actually Leonard, I do sort of remember you a little. You were a nice guy from what I remember. Hate to break it to you but I never did much with that book or anything else in the line of writing.”
    “Oh, that’s too bad. It doesn’t matter anyway. Do you think it would be okay to go out for lunch sometime, maybe be friends?” Still the same oily complexion but not much hair anymore.
    “What would be the point Leonard?”
    “I just thought that you could give me some pointers on this book I’ve written. That’s why I bought all of yours. Didn’t want anyone else reading them and picking up on your style you know. Thought I could get to be a good writer like you someday.”
    “Time’s up Sarge.” Barney was standing there with his hands on his belt looking all authoritative in his police uniform.
    “Right. Well, Leonard I’ll leave my email with Barney here and you can send me all your information and I’ll get back to you asap. Then we can do some catching up when you get out of jail.”
    Sarge left the jail with no intention of giving the loser any of his information, not even his phone number.
    “Morning Sarge. Hey remember your fan from about 2 years ago who stole all those famous books of yours?”
    Two years had passed since that time.
    “How could I forget. So did he break into some other book store or what?”
    “Read about it for yourself. I’ll be back in a few minutes for your order.”
    New author Leonard Weinstein writes a bestseller with his first book A heart warming story about the trials of an awkward teenager growing up in a small town. A real page turner…
    “Ready to order now Sarge? How about some fried ground beef?” Marcy looked at Sarge’s dumbstruck pale face now, trying to hold back the laughter.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a lovely slice of life, Catbr. I’m glad to see Sarge had both the good grace to go an see his “stalker” even though it didn’t work out. 🙂

      It would be easier for older guys like me if you could put a blank line between the paragraphs to help separate them. This is especially true with the time break at the end; it took a couple of moments to figure out the jump and a visual signal would definitely have helped.

    2. catbr

      Thank you for your nice comments. Sorry about the lack of spacing. For some reason my computer was slow when writing this (still is). There were some errors: “stole” all of yours, instead of “bought”; Guess “you’re” some, instead of “your”; your fan from “a while back”, instead of “2 years ago” (repetition with next line).

  26. cosi van tutte

    Virginia Mae Rosenthal is beautiful. Long blonde hair. Blue-green eyes. Smells like lavender shampoo.

    Virginia Mae Rosenthal is talented. Singer. Dancer. Published sixty-five books before she turned 21.

    Virginia Mae Rosenthal is wonderful. Animal rights activist. Clean air activist. Arrested for blocking the destruction of a natural forest.

    Virginia Mae Rosenthal is my idol. I want to be just like her. I want her to be my best friend.

    But Virginia Mae Rosenthal doesn’t know who I am. But Virginia Mae Rosenthal doesn’t know that I exist.

    Oh, but she will.

    I giggle as I break a window.

    Oh, yes. Come tomorrow morning, Virginia Mae Rosenthal will know of my existence.

    ***

    I am surrounded by Virginia Mae Rosenthal’s genius. So many letters. So many words.

    So many books.

    Her books.

    Virginia Mae Rosenthal’s books.

    I turn on the news.

    “Hello, world. I am Matt Varnaloos. And I have a breaking report. What?” He looks over to his left. “Oh.” He smiles at the cameraman. Or woman. “Yes. I have breaking news. No.” He looks to his left again. “That doesn’t sound any better. Okay. I’ll try that. This just in, ladies and gentlemen. Big breaking news that you won’t get anywhere else. Someone broke into the Lotsa Books on Maybreeze Street and STOLE all of famed author Virginia Mae Rosenthal’s books.” His smile grows bigger. “Isn’t that just awful?”

    I lean forward. What about her? What does she think? How does she feel? Does she understand my feelings?

    “Unfortunately, Virginia Mae Rosenthal has chosen not to comment on the theft. And her agent isn’t talking either.”

    She has chosen not to comment? Why? She can’t be upset about it. I did it because I love her. Because I want her to notice me. Because—

    “I personally went to Miss Rosenthal’s—What?” Another glance to the left. “What? I don’t get it. Isn’t that the same…Oh. Okay. I personally went to Ms. Rosenthal’s home and pounded on her door, but she refused to answer. Maybe she is in cahoots with the thief. Or maybe she’s just too shell-shocked to speak.”

    Shell-shocked.

    Shell. Shocked.

    No.

    No! How can that be? Doesn’t she see it? Doesn’t she understand? How can I make her understand?

    Letters?

    Words?

    Actions.

    Yes! Actions. I will rob another store. That hippie bookshop on Greenfield and Main. I will take all of her books, but this time!

    This time.

    This time, I will be sure to leave a note. I will tell her all.

    My thoughts.

    My feelings.

    My name.

    She will understand.

    And yes. She will comment.

    I giggle at the happy mental image of Virginia Mae Rosenthal commenting on me.

    Acknowledging me.

    And, in that glorious moment, she will know that I exist.

    She will know my feelings and she will understand them.

    She will become my best friend.

    I grab an armful of her books and hug them tight.

    Oh, yes. Virginia Mae Rosenthal and I will be excellent friends.

    1. Observer Tim

      Fantastic. This is a scary take, Cosi. You did an excellent job getting inside the head of a truly deranged stalker. I love the way the short sentences and fragments echoed the main character’s fractured state of mind. Are you sure you aren’t writing from inside an asylum? 😉

    2. Nicki EagerReader

      It’s all been said but here comes again: good read! You really have a knack for dissecting characters, picking out the distinctive bits, and then boiling them down before you splash the essence into our faces 🙂

    3. Reaper

      Cosi, this is beautiful. I didn’t get scary from this, creepy and sad but not overtly dangerous. While you wrote somebody who is disturbed she felt very lonely to me, someone who needs to reach out to people and doesn’t so she’s spiraling down a path to dangerous. You did a great job that different people can see her a different way. Sadly, I know some members of fandoms who this kind of reminded me of.

    4. Manwe38

      This was such a perfect example of the circular logic of a stalker, it gave me goosebumps!

      Virginia’s agent better hurry up and make a statement, methinks…

  27. Dana Cariola

    “The printed word had become my bread and butter. The one thing in life, that sparked real passion from within. I set out on this journey, determined to bring the art of story telling back from the brink of extinction. I’d never dreamed it would take me places, outside of my own imagination. And, now this! Should I feel threatened or flattered?” Carol wondered, as she looked away from the morning paper, and reached down to pick up her Calico cat; Sebastian.
    “Where’ve you been all night? I was worried about you!” she cheerfully exclaimed. The soft, loose fur from the feline’s undercoat began to peel away from his sleek frame, like the outer shell of a boiled egg. Then floated gently towards the tiled flooring beneath her rocking chair. “Bad idea, Sebastian. You should go now!” she announced. Then, slowly set down the male cat, onto the cool ceramic tile squares.

    The cleaning service had started their routine earlier than usual. The sound of the vacuum sent Sebastian charging along the slippery flooring, in search of shelter from the noise. Carol turned her attention towards the maid, who was now banging the wand, into the legs of her coffee table. “Ahh, Excuse me? Could you try and be more careful?” Carol politely asked the woman. She stomped her foot onto the canister, to turn off the machine. The young Spanish woman turned her head quickly to see why the vacuum had cut-off.
    “Hi! Could you try and be more careful with my furniture?….Who are you?…I’ve never seen you here before?” Carol probed.
    “Oh, So Sorry!…Me?…My name is Anna. Fredia’s daughter,” she offered.
    “Where’s Fredia?”
    “She no work today. It’s ok, I’m here? she replied back, with a broken English accent.
    “Yeah, sure. Esta be en” Carol answered her back, nodding her head. “Be careful!..It’s new.” she stated, pointing at the coffee table, she had just bought with her first check from her publishing house.
    “Ahh, you know Spanish, Ms. Carol?” Anna struck a pose, with both hands on her hips, smiling back at her.
    “No!..No!..A few words here and there.” she modestly answered the girl.
    “Your a writer?..A famous one, too!” Anna asked.
    “Well, I wouldn’t say famous.” Carol was now becoming uneasy with the girl’s overconfidence and casualness.
    “I’ll let you get back to work now, Anna”

    Carol watched young Anna, in the mirror ahead of her, as she moved across the living room towards the spiral staircase. Anna’s eyes never blinked, as she kept her eyes fixed on Carol’s movement, upward to the second floor.
    Locking her bedroom doors behind her. Carol quickly picked up the phone from off of the cradle, and dialed Freida’s cell phone number. After several rings, her call was forwarded to voicemail. Carol listened in disbelief, as Freida’s recorded voicemail message was meant for Carol to hear.
    “Oh, Ms. Carol!” she cried. “Por Favor,! Por Favor! Some loco woman, locked me in your garage. She took phone, so I not able to call for help. But, I was able to record message, before she did!…Oh my God!…Ms.Carol, I so sorry!”
    “Jesus Christ!…It’s the nut job, that stole all of my books!…Here!” Carol jumped from side to side, as if she were dodging rubber balls. “Think!…Think!…911, Stupid! 911!” she quickly dialed emergency..
    A male voice came on over the line. “911. What’s your emergency?”
    Carol whispered into the phone. “Hello?…Someone beat up my cleaning lady and took her phone. Now, their inside of my house, vacuuming!..My name is Carol Singer, the writer? Do you read much?” Carol whispered.
    “Yes, Ms. Singer. I know who you are. Where are you?..Are you in a safe place?” the officer asked.
    “Yeah, I am. But, My cleaning lady’s not!..It’s 110 degrees outside. Please hurry!”

    The sound of sirens, racing up the driveway got louder. A piece of white paper slide from underneath of the bedroom door. “Why’d you call 5.0, Ms. Carol?..I just wanted to be friends?..That’s no way to treat your fans? the crazied woman shouted out, as she pounded on the doors.
    “Freeze!…Hands where I can see em!” the police officer commanded.

    The police officer’s escorted the woman out of the house, and into the squad car parked outside.
    “You all right, Ms. Singer? It’s Phoenix Police!”
    Carol opened the double doors. “Where’s Freida?…Is she alright?”
    “Who’s Frieda, Ms. Singer?.”
    “My maid! For Christ Sake…She’s inside of the garage!”
    “Go open the garage!…There’s a woman inside!” he ordered his men.
    “What’s the code?”
    “2367” shouted Carol.
    The electric doors slowly lifted open. Frieda wrapped her flabby arms around her rescuer’s neck, then kissed her rosary beads, and the officer’s cheek.
    “Oh, my God!…Ms. Carol?….I so sorry!…She was hidin in the bushes. That bitch push me into the trash cans and stole my vacuum!..Where is she?…There you are you!…I’m a gonna ring your neck!” Freida shouted as she stormed towards the squad car.
    The officer’s could help but to erupt into uncontrollable laughter, at the sight of this.

    The End

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a creepy tale, Dana. I’m glad to see everything worked out all right in the end; I have a feeling that locked door really contributed to the outcome. I love the thriller-style atomsphere you created. It’s quite the accomplishment in such a small space. Great job! 🙂

    2. Reaper

      An interesting read with a slightly morbidly happy and funny ending. One thing I’m curios about is the paper under the door. Was that supposed to be for an autograph? I got that impression but wasn’t sure.

  28. Observer Tim

    COMPLICATED

    This follows immediately after my first response to this prompt, second from the bottom in the stack.

    Eric rushes into the kitchen buck naked and grabs my hand. My borrowed bathrobe falls open as he tows me toward the bedroom.

    “Come on Jen, we have to get busy.”

    This is a change, considering he was halfway between tentative and terrified last night.

    “Eric? Is now the right time?”

    “Of course it is. Wanda’s in trouble!”

    “And you want to…”

    “Save her. Yeah.”

    He hands me some clothes and starts grabbing his; in just over a minute we’re both dressed, if a little unkempt.

    “I assume we’re going to the bookshop?”

    “How’d you know?”

    “That’s where Wanda was when I called her a few minutes ago looking for you. Where were you?”

    “It’s complicated.”

    He takes my hand and tows me to the elevator. It’s weird to see him like this; Wanda’s usually the take-charge type.

    As we ride down he clings to me nervously. I can smell the lavender-scented body wash they both use; in these close quarters it’s kind of a turn-on. Focus, girl.

    “What kind of trouble is Wanda in?”

    “Sapphire.”

    “The gemstone?”

    “No, the wizard girl. Wanda got really scared and Sapphire came out; I’m afraid she’s going to kill someone.”

    “Came out? Like a multiple personality thing?”

    “Yes. No. It’s complicated.”

    We’re interrupted by arriving at the parkade level. I parked in Wanda’s spot last night so now it’s my turn to tow him to the car. Pretty soon we’re on the way to the bookstore, which is luckily a very short drive.

    “We have some time now, Eric. You keep saying things are complicated; simplify them for me.”

    “Okay, I’ll try. Wanda’s special. Really special. Like, in the movies special. She can make things by writing about them: stuff, places, animals, …people.”

    This had gone to strangeland pretty quickly, but I guess I asked for it.

    “How does she do it?”

    “I don’t know. She just does it. But people are hard to make: sometimes they’re separate from her, but sometimes she just sort of turns into them.”

    “So she turned into this Sapphire, then?”

    “No, it’s more complicated than that.”

    “Stop saying that!”

    He’s saved by our arrival at the store. We park in the loading zone and head inside; luckily for us Wanda didn’t lock the door when she came in.

    They’re in the back room. There’s a brown-haired girl hogtied with her boobs hanging out and a blue-haired girl in Wanda’s clothes watching her. Blue looks up as we burst in.

    “Does either of you have a knife?”

    Eric answers her, “Sapphire! We don’t do that here, remember?”

    “She threatened Wanda. Touched her.”

    “We don’t kill people for that. We turn them over to the police.”

    “Oh yes, the town guard. Security and stupidity hand in hand.”

    “They’re not like that, Sapphire.”

    Brown-hair interrupts, “Eric! How is that possible? You’re Wanda’s other personality; how can you and the other girl be here?”

    He glances over at me with an impish half-smile, then turns back to brown-hair.

    “It’s complicated.”

  29. Manwe38

    I threw the paper onto the table and slid it towards my wife. “Can you believe this shit?”
    She reached over and picked it up, her slate-blue eyes scanning the headline. “So?”
    “This doesn’t bother you?”

    “They told us not to worry.” She took a sip of detox–excuse me, decaf–and fixed me with a narrow stare. “There are three agents right outside our door. Nothing’s gonna happen.”
    “Excuse me if I don’t trust the feds.” I inclined my head towards the front porch. “The bad guys are usually a little bit smarter.”
    “You’ve been watching too much CSI.”
    “Good show. And usually right.”
    She sat back, the front of her robe pulling tight across her chest. “It’s also fiction. These threats were real.”

    My gut twisted like a knotted rope. “Don’t remind me.” I shuddered, and my eyes flicked towards the distant front door, where the minions of the government patiently stood watch. It wasn’t supposed to be this way–my book, the story of a young man’s descent into radicalism–had rapidly climbed to the top of the charts. Set in an alternate reality where the Israeli/Palestinian conflict was the reverse of our world, it had garnered both rave reviews…and multiple threats. I wasn’t sure who was worse: the Christians or the Muslims. ISIS, or ISIL, or whatever the hell they were calling themselves this week, had issued a decree calling for my head…and now I was a prisoner in my own house.

    Hell, I’d even managed to piss off the Jews.

    I turned back to my wife. “How long do you think it’s gonna take ’til it blows over?”
    “Probably never.”
    “Great.” I chugged down the last mouthful of orange juice. “That fills me with confidence.”
    “Sorry hon.” Her tone was as dry as a pile of dead leaves. “But I did warn you.”
    “True.” I sat back. “But you also didn’t mind spending the royalties.”
    She let out a laugh. “Can’t argue with you there,” she said. “In fact-”

    The click of the door made the two of us jump. A heartbeat later, one of the agents strolled into the room. “Excuse me sir, but there’s a young lady outside.”
    My wife and I traded quick glances. “Okay,” I said, “what does she want?”
    “Your autograph.” The agent’s eyes were unreadable behind his Matrix-style glasses. “She’s your number-one fan. Or so she says.”
    “How old is she?”
    The agent shrugged. “Can’t be more than eight.”
    I pushed back from the table and rose to my feet. “Let’s go.”

    My wife reached over and laid a hand on my arm. “I’m not sure that’s such a good idea.”
    “He’ll be fine, ma’am.” The agent’s monotone was as robotic as his jaw. “He’ll be with us.”
    “All right.” She let out a sigh. “Go.”
    “Thank you.” I smiled at the agent, who ignored the gesture. “Lead the way, O Knight of the Feds.”

    I followed him into the empty hall and over to the waiting door. Looking down, I let out a gasp. Standing on the front step, flanked by two more burly agents, was my visitor. Clutching an empty piece of paper and a ballpoint pen, she looked more like a skeleton than a human being. Her dark, thin skin stretched over her sunken eyes, and hung in gaunt folds over bony joints connecting thin and wasted muscles. Her teeth, the only part of her that looked healthy, were a brilliant, blinding white, a field of snow beneath a brooding sky. For a moment, I couldn’t speak, my breath frozen in a throat, which had narrowed down to a thin-walled straw. Finally, after a moment, it let go, allowing air to pass once more. “Hi.”

    “Hello.” Her voice, soft and sweet, was in stark contrast to her ravaged frame. “Did you write that story? The one about Jesus and fighting for G-d?”
    “Yes.” I cocked my head. “Aren’t you a little young to have read it?”
    “My mommy let me.” She glanced at the two agents, then back at me. “I’m sick, and I don’t have much time.”
    “What’s wrong?”
    “Cancer.” The word sounded strange coming from someone so young. “Leukemia.”

    “I’m sorry.” I knelt down and put a hand on her shoulder. “Is there anything I can do? Besides the autograph, I mean.”
    “Autograph?” She took a step back, the pen clenched in her hand like a weapon. “What makes you think I want something like that?”
    “That’s not why you’re here?”
    “No.” She smiled, her teeth two perfect rows of Chicklets. “I’m here to save my soul. And yours.”
    “I see. And how are you going to do that?”
    “Through expiation.”

    Another word that was too big for her age. A slow, gnawing wave began to roll through my gut. Something wasn’t right, and it was more than just meeting a pre-teen Jesus freak. “Expiation,” I said, “usually means-”
    “Sacrifice.”
    I began to stand up, but before I could move, she raised the blue pen. “Too late, blasphemer,” she said. “I’m gonna die soon, but this guarantees me a place up in Heaven.” The agents lunged, but her wiry, cachectic body was faster. “Momma said so.” Her thumb slid to the top of the pen, and I heard a soft click.
    The second-to-last thing that went through my mind–before the blast from her hidden explosives–was the realization that once again, my wife had been proven right. That was followed, in the fractured second before all life ceased, by the high-pitched shriek of my killer’s righteous cry to the Lord:
    “Outrageous is RISING!”

    1. Observer Tim

      Ouch, Manwe. I had such high hopes for the next installment of the life of Outrageous. I’m sorry she ended up doing this; in fact I’m more sorry about that than I am about the main character’s death or the underlying social context of the whole thing.

      You did a nice job establishing the voices for the characters and the dialogue flows well. Great job on that, too. 🙂

      1. Manwe38

        Don’t worry, ObserverTim…Outrageous will be back.

        Think of her like Kenny from South Park–many different incarnations are on tap for her, most of which will be much more engaging.

        Thanks for the feedback 🙂

    2. Reaper

      I think I’m going to have to go back and find the first Outrageous story. This is dark and disturbing. At first I was thinking having a little girl didn’t fit into this theme because the fanatical Muslims wouldn’t send a girl. Then I realized that you, like your MC, were turning the world on its head and having her be a Christian suicide bomber. Wonderful and twisted and full of your trademark not too in your face social commentary. If you ever disappear from this site I’m going to become a conspiracy theorist and start telling everyone you were taken by the same people who did JFK. Just so you know.

    3. Manwe38

      Thank you everyone for the amazing commentary!

      Sorry I’ve been absentee lately; just busy at work (and having problems running this site on my iPad)

      I’ve been thinking about making Outrageous a regular fixture…or at least a periodic visitor from time-to-time.

      I’ll be reading more people’s stories later in the weekend and making more comments.

      Thanks again all!

  30. regisundertow

    Thought this story was fitting, given the time of the year.

    **************
    TXUPINAZO

    The ride from Barcelona had been filled with conversation on poorly understood quantum physics, linguistic psychology, and the Madrid-sanctioned insanity of Catalan road tolls. By the time we reached the town, we could barely utter a word. Without a chance of finding a hotel room on that particular day of the year, it didn’t take long before we had decided to pull over in a back-alley and call it a night. We found a spot outside a carniceria, music from a distant bar drifting to our ears. Andrés had fallen asleep immediately, his lanky runner’s body curled up on the Skoda’s passenger seat. Jessica tried and failed to finish one more chapter, her stolen copy of “The Sun Also Rises” resting on her chest, the drunk nymph on its cover rising and dropping with her breathing. Me, I couldn’t close my eyes, not after finally having arrived to the place I had read so much about. I stepped out of the rental car, careful not to wake them, and closed the door without a sound.

    I had stepped into the car hours ago and exited one year older. My birthday cake had been chorizo on crackers, eaten with one hand while navigating the lightless motorway through the plains of Aragon. As I stretched, popping bones throughout my back, I felt the bitter draft that crawled over the Pyrenees biting through cotton and latching its teeth onto my bones. All around me, Basque flags hang from balconies, the ikurrina flapping against the pin-pricked celestial dome. I spotted a couple of flags of the Kingdom of Navarre without the crown on the coat of arms, even an Arrano Beltza, the black eagle standing with its head held high on a field of yellow. Leftists, nationalists, separatists displaying their colors on streets with names full of X’s and Z’s and U’s. My eyes jumped from name to name, from sign to sign, my limited Spanish’s failure daring me to explore. My legs started moving on their own volition. First one step, then another, taking me away from my friends. When I finally turned around, I couldn’t see them. I could only hear the flapping of flags, reminding me, insisting, I was no longer in Spain. Later on, I realized I had seen three more letters grouped together on posters adorning shop windows and telephone poles; E.T.A.

    The noise and the lights guided me down alleys into bigger roads, like tributaries to a river. I followed the crimson glow over the buildings, my ears telling me to go this way or that. I fell behind small groups of teenagers, cartons of sangria in their hands. They talked in screeches and exclamations to each other, masses of stick arms and scrawny legs, pulled towards the festivities like fireflies. I skipped over paddles of piss and vaulted over lakes of vomit until I finally reached the central street and the rest of the satyrs and maenads. Welcome to our white-and-red parade, they grinned as their hands and hooves grabbed me by the hair and pulled me in. They yelled at the skies, they yelled at each other, but mostly they just yelled, drunk on the need to get drunk. We, the lotus-eaters, offer you our fruit and bid you welcome. I took a greedy bite and slipped on the mask, the happy idiot one. I danced, my arms raised on either side, swirling like a dervish, and the parade smiled back at me.

    I stumbled with the wicked mob, or maybe I just let it carry me. The dust rose wherever our herd went, soil laced with beer and urine, sweat and shit. The drums beat with no rhythm or reason, but we danced nonetheless, in the only way those who no longer care dance. I didn’t realize when the blonde Australian slipped her arm around me. She later told me she sat next to me on the gazebo steps in the old square, because she thought I was having a bad trip, and run her fingernails along my back until I felt better. I haven’t even been past the old square yet, I said and she smiled. She whispered-yelled in my ear, do you like Hemingway? I stared at her, trying to focus. Who doesn’t? She pointed up to a corner occupied by a bodega where a plaque declared that there once stood Hemingway’s favorite café. This is disappointing, I mumbled. Where are you sleeping tonight? On the grass at the park, she answered. Where the gypsies usually sleep. We can be discreet, if I sit on you.

    The crowd had gathered around the city hall waiting for the blessing of San Fermin for the several past hours. It didn’t take me long to find them, Jessica sitting on Andrés’ shoulders and getting harassed by a policeman trying to get her on the ground, his wide gestures opening a circle around him. What the hell happened to you, they both asked when we joined up, looking at my black eye and swollen lip. Andrés poked a finger at my face, forcing shots of pain through my head. Celebrating my birthday like Hemingway would have wanted me to, I said pushing his hand away. You gonna live like him, you better have a decent story to tell, Jessica shot with a sly smile. I shook my head. No stories. No inspiration. I got nothing. That’s a pity, she sighed. Try not to get run over by a bull, you’ve already messed yourself up.

      1. regisundertow

        Many thanks! It was interesting how his spirit was so perverted in Pamplona. I’ve never seen so many Hemingway Cafés in such a small location.

    1. Observer Tim

      This one educated me, Regis. I’d never heard of the larger festival despite knowing about the Running of the Bulls for ages. It makes sense that alcohol is involved. 😉 The style of the story fits well with the crowded and festal nature of the setting and does an excellent job of portraying the party atmosphere. All in all wonderful.

      I wonder if the older folk are involved or hiding. We get both reactions in my hometown’s annual insanity festival (the Calgary Stampede, on now).

      1. regisundertow

        The older folk, native Basques and Pamploneros, tend to take a far more relaxed approach to it. I was fortunate enough to have been invited to a family street BBQ as I was wandering the streets and got to chat with them a bit in my limited Spanish.

        It’s still a religious festival and most people just stay away from the town center until the bullfights, which tend to attract far more locals than tourists anyway. There’s lots of locals involved with the procession as well, or the March of the Giants parade, but those are not really for the party-goers. Generally, there’s a very pragmatic approach to the partying and the frat packs. Every midnight, the fire department would hose down the streets and thank God for that, because the air in certain alleys was literally unbreathable! There’s a sense of, let’s make this work, because it’s good business, but we won’t let the entire town go to the dogs. Which is fair enough, I sure got my share of partying (and fighting), but I also got to see some more nuance.

        Oh, one more tidbit; once the run is finished, you’re stuck with the bulls in the ring. That’s when the real fun starts 😀

      1. regisundertow

        Thanks JR. Some of my favorites write like that, which is fitting in a meta sort of way. I’m ripping them off, just like the MC does with Hemingway’s life.

    2. Nicki EagerReader

      I’ll stand and clap with JR. Can’t recall having read Hemingway (I know, I know, shame on me, ab in den Genfer See) and I haven’t visited Spain, but now I’m inclined to put both things on my to-do-list.

      You are a very gifted writer, regis (One of the Really Good Writers, as Stephen King would put it), who works the details of life and motion into the story’s narration with graceful ease. Rhetorically adept, too- “paddles of piss” and “lakes of vomit”, alliteration and juxtaposition. Such things make my heart skip with delight.

      Thank you for sharing- if you have something published (or get something published), please let me know.

      1. regisundertow

        I honestly don’t know how to respond, thank you. You guys give me courage when that nagging voice inside insists writing is for others.

    3. Reaper

      I didn’t know what time of year it was until I read the comments. This was amazing. I agree with the style being just perfect for the story. It is funny how a talented writer can take things that normally drive me crazy and put them into a work in just the right way to make me question the long held beliefs. You managed to do that for me here. And make me want to go to Spain. I’m one of those heathens who isn’t very fond of Hemingway as an author because I feel he wrote like an editor instead of an artist. However, I understand the appeal and have a great respect for him as a person. You managed to bring out much of what I love about him in this narrative and I am just awestruck by your brilliance.

  31. SheepCarrot

    Leaves rustle under his feet as he walks through the woods, the spring in his step so much that he’s very nearly skipping. It’s all going exactly as he planned, and he is sure that she will see now. He reaches his tree, the one that he always uses since it has the perfect vantage point to watch her, as it’s only a hundred yards away from her back patio. The tall privacy fence she has around her back yard is inconsequential from here. Before reaching for the branches, he runs down his mental checklist to ensure he hasn’t forgotten anything.

    Binoculars…check. Headphones…check. Wireless receiver…check.

    A smile crosses his lips. He’s prepared. But then, he was an Eagle Scout; they’re always prepared. He scampers up the tree, quick as any squirrel, and settles into the tree stand he strapped onto the trunk those months ago when he started watching her. He checks his receiver to make sure it’s picking up the signal from the transmitter he hid under her patio table last week. Watching her is so much better when he can hear her breathing, talking to herself as she starts her day.

    He checks his watch. 6:30. She should be out in another fifteen minutes. Patience. He pulls a pack of fruit snacks from his pocket and pops one of the chewy treats in his mouth. These were the perfect snack. They’re quiet. He doesn’t want anything to interfere with being able to hear her voice.

    He’s just finishing his snack when the sliding glass door opens, and she walks out, coffee and newspaper in hand. He adjusts his headphones and lifts his binoculars to his eyes. Now she will know how he feels: that they’re destined to be together, just as he said in the note he slipped into her mailbox. How long ago? He frowns; he can’t remember exactly. Three weeks? He shrugs it off. It doesn’t matter. The adrenaline surged through his veins that night, as he crept up her walk to deliver it. It still paled in comparison to the day he actually met her, when he stood in line for three hours to have her sign a copy of her latest novel. That was when he found out she not only used a pen name, but kept herself unlisted in any phone or property directories. He was mad at her at first, but it worked out anyway. He still found her.

    She sets her coffee down and straightens her paper. He focuses the binoculars and reads the headline to a side article on the front page: Literature Stolen, Thief Caught & Booked. His smile stretches into a full grin.

    “What in the world…?” Her whispered question is as clear to his ears as if he was sitting next to her. He grips the binoculars tighter, watching closely as she reads the article. Her hands start shaking so badly that she sets the paper down on the tabletop. He can tell she’s still reading, but her whispers are rushed, the words blended together.

    He leans forward, eager to see her face when she reads the last line. The reporter quoted him, what he yelled on scene as the cops forced him into the back of that cruiser like a common criminal. Her speech slows, and he whispers the words with her. “He was released on $1000 bond early this morning. All he said was, ‘I just want to be her best friend!'”

    She shakes her head, nearly jumping to her feet. “No…nononono…No!”

    He frowns at her reaction. She’s supposed to be happy! Why isn’t she happy? Now she knows that he loves her and they’re going to be together. She slides the patio door open and nearly runs inside, and he can see her pick up the phone and dial a number. He turns up the volume on his wireless receiver. It has extra background static, but he can still hear her voice. “This is Lara. Let me talk to Detective Mason…..Yes, I’ll hold.”

    He clenches his jaw in anger. Fine. If she wants to overreact, that’s fine. He lowers the binoculars as she closes the door, slips them back into their case so they won’t get scratched during the climb down. “We’ll still be together,” he vows softly. “I’ll just have to show you how perfect we’ll be.” He climbs down the tree and glances back toward her house before leaving, his mind already piecing together his next plan. “I’ll show you.”

    1. Observer Tim

      Great job getting inside the head of a lunatic stalker, SheepCarrot. You have my spine tingling with this one. I have this strange feeling that the next plan is going to be more immediate and in-person. 🙂

    2. Reaper

      This is creepy, Sheepcarrot, but it could be just a touch creepier. What makes me say that is at the beginning I was catching certain wording that seemed rough, that when it isn’t necessary spring in his step so much, but it all seemed right. Then it hit me, this feels like a story that should be told in first person. You’re in the mind of a psycho, why not go all the way? Also this line set of lines, He was mad at her at first, but it worked out anyway. He still found her. seemed a bit soft for where you were going. It is almost too rational and felt like it should be something about how he forgave her when he found her anyway. Just weird random advice because I liked how much this scared me.

  32. Kaboosh

    I barely got any sleep last night. I couldn’t stop thinking about the pendant. Matter of fact, it was in my mind for all of yesterday. Why? Because, the night I got the pendant, I went to sleep with it on. I had an odd dream about me running through the Safari. I wake up to find myself surrounded by trees. I wrap my hand around the pendant, and all the trees were sucked into it. I didn’t know what it was, but I still wore it around my neck.

    I sit down and grab a mug of coffee. I open up the newspaper. On the front page, in bold letters, it read LOCAL BOOKSTORE ROBBERY! I continued reading.

    This morning in Lisle, Farms and Noble was broken into and robbed. The crazed fan, Nicky Colson, explained, “Ayush! I just wanted to be his best friend!”

    I spit out my coffee. Who the hell was this woman? I knew she wasn’t a “crazed fan”. I didn’t even know how she knew my name. And she couldn’t have been talking about someone else, considering it was Mr. E’s bookstore, which he let ME own. I quickly read the rest of the story. Apparently she was bailed out. She explained that I wore a green sapphire necklace that she gave me. Bull crap. The pendant was jade and definitely not hers. I stepped out of my townhouse and was immediately thrown into a car.

    I woke up in the trunk of an SUV. I could tell the windows were tinted, so no one could see inside. The first thing I checked was my chest. The pendant was still there. I’m not sure if the people that kidnapped me knew of the power of the pendant, or if they just wanted the gem. I looked above the seat in front of me.sitting in the passenger’s seat was Nicky. There were three other men in the car. I ducked down as Nicky turned. She started speaking to the two in back.

    “As soon as we get there, take the pendant and throw him into an alleyway or something.” she said, with a heavy New York accent.

    “Uh… OK!” said one of the men in the back. The other giggled.

    These were unmistakably two of the dimwits at the museum! But who is the man that’s driving?

    I sit up. I have to use this pendant to get out of here, but I still didn’t really know how it worked. I’m pretty sure I just had to think about something, and it would happen. I think of a gun appearing in my hand. Nothing happens. Oh, wait! I have to make it Earth related. I think of a tree appearing in front of this car. I hear a loud bang, and my body is thrown forward. It must have worked! I think of a tree appearing below me. Suddenly, I’m being pushed upwards. I laugh. I start running. Thick vines appear below my feet, and disappear behind me. I run from tree to tree. When I’m far away, I drop down, and sink into the dirt. I swim around a little bit and pop up at Chicago. Well, that’s a lot faster than the subway.

    A girl points at me. “Mommy! That man came out of the ground!”

    “That’s nice honey.” the mother replies, while staring at her phone.

    I look around and quickly dive into Lake Michigan. My pendant immediately starts glowing. In the distance I see a soft blue glow. The light rushes towards me. Something pounds into my chest, and I fly out of the water. I feel nothing around my neck. My pendant! I look around, and feel something on my chest. There were two pendants in my chest. One was my jade one, and the other was sapphire. The gold chain positioned like the sun’s rays. It was exactly like the picture, but they were inside of my chest. Then I pass out.

    1. Kaboosh

      Part two of my story. It’s probably going to end at nine or ten. Then I will start another one. Plus, I’m confused about the word limit. It says 500 words or fewer, but this is 663 words… Oh well! Hope you enjoy.

    2. Observer Tim

      Nice continuation, Kaboosh. The story is strange and gripping, just the way I like it. So now he has two of them…

      My continuity advisor tells me that if they’re embedded in his chest, they are no longer ‘pendants’ (which means hanging or dangling); perhaps a switch to ‘amulets’ would be good at this point.

      1. Kaboosh

        I actually sat there for like five minutes trying to find a word for it instead of pendant. I tried gems, but it sounded too cliché. Anyways, thanks.

    3. Reaper

      I was initially going to say that earth related might be better phrased nature related because of the trees and vines but your water gem blew that out of the water. Pun unintentional. This is fast and I know trying to keep to the word count can cause that. Some of the fast is definitely intentional and well paced but it could use a bit more exploration in parts. That’s the curse of the word count.

      For your confusion on the five hundred words. The site does not stop you at that count, it is one of the challenges. To tell a succinct story or scene within the limit. We all break it from time to time if the story demands it but most of us try to keep to it. Some notable exceptions who are amazing writers with literary bents though.

      I like the continuation. You’ll want to clean up your tenses in a couple of places where you slip into present. I am looking forward to more.

  33. benhli38

    Before I write this story I want to point out that I know my previous shorts have been a bit dark. I’m hoping what I write here is of a lighter nature.

    MORE THAN A FAN

    “Charlie, I have some good news and bad news.” My publicist called me sounding puzzled, a bit flummoxed by his tone.

    “Start with the bad.”

    “You have a stalker.”

    I sighed. I shook my head as if it were some bad dream, as if it was some bad omen of sorts. “Lovely.”

    “The good news is that your latest book has landed on the New York Bestseller list.”

    I felt my eyes light up. So, this might be a good thing after all. “Sounds like you have more news than what you told me.”

    “I sure do. You know I routed your mail so that you’re not overwhelmed and can continue writing?”

    “Go on.”

    “Yeah. Well, here’s the thing, you have a letter stating this from your alleged stalked, ‘I just want to be your best friend.’”
    “Great…”

    Hanging up the phone I sat there and wondered what to do about the situation. With the news I just received hearing my phone go off made me jump. “Yes.”

    “Look outside.”

    I hung up the phone without a word and cross over to my window. Out on my lawn an effigy was burning. I could tell it was of me. Before I could even reach my phone to call the police I noticed a man grabbing my water hose and douse it to put it out. I run outside. “Who are you and what are you doing here?”

    “I thought you got my letter telling you I wanted to be your friend.”

    I was more confused by his actions than by what I assumed would be a threat. “So, you’re looking for someone to be a friend to?”

    “Sure. We all need a little help every now and then. I figured with you being a writer and all, you could use an ear every now and then.”

    I had to laugh. It wasn’t the kind of laugh that I usually give when I want to be sarcastic or even to put another down. It was a good, old fashioned belly laugh. “Okay, sir. What’s your name?”

    “Rick. Rick Townsend.”

    “Rick, would you like to come in and have a book of mine, signed and all?”

    “You’d do that over calling the cops?”

    “Consider it us being even.”

    “I’d appreciate it a great deal. I just hope you’ll forgive me if that letter creeped you out.”

    “I do forgive you. Now…about that signed copy. Would you like some coffee, tea, whatever?”

    “I’ll take a couple of sweet-n-lows and yes, tea is fine.”

    We sat there a while, chatting like old friends who knew each other since childhood, creating a friendship where neither of us would feel alone.

    1. Reaper

      I like this a lot. benhli. It has a wonderful feel and really speaks to that need to connect and be known and loved that we all have. While the circumstances are pretty extreme and scary it asks that question of how many people can be brought back to center just by taking the time to talk to them?

    2. Observer Tim

      This is very nice, Ben; you did a really nice job telling a sweet story of a budding friendship. I’m assuming the new friend is not the one who lit the burning effigy (or if he did it was by accident). 🙂

      Good job on the dialogue; it seems natural and unforced, like the sort of things real people would say. 🙂

      My red pencil notes that your expository text seems to switch tense quite a bit; luckily that can be fixed by another read-through and edit.

  34. Trevor

    NOTICE: This is NOT a continuation of my Laine Reed series. Hopefully, I can continue that with next week’s prompt.

    Word Count: 972

    The Fan

    Ever since I was a child, I’d dreamed of writing romance novels. Love and romance were just two things I adored…even though there was very little of that in my life. My father took off when I was born, and my mother turned to alcohol to cope with the heartache. If I couldn’t experience love, at least I could help others experience it.

    After graduating college with a bachelor’s degree in English, I felt ready to take on the literary world. But instead of instant stardom that I had expected, my book sales stood at a stand still for months. Just a month after graduation, I was flipping burgers to pay the rent. My dream of being the world’s more famous novelist seemed out of reach.

    But one morning, everything changed. I had woken up early to get some work done on my latest novel, so I made myself a bowl of Fruit Loops, carried my bowl into the living room, and turned on the news. There were the usual stories on. A car accident. A home invasion. A missing child. It seems like everything in the news is a tragedy.

    But then, one news story caught my attention. The headline on the screen read, MAN ARRESTED FOR ATTEMPTED ROBBERY. It sounded normal, but I recognized the store that was being shown on the screen. It was The Book Village, a bookstore/coffee shop in town. The reporter’s details of the crime instantly got my attention.

    “What makes this robbery particularly strange is that the cash registers remained untouched. The only thing taken were novels written by local author Sara Collins.”

    Did she really just say my name? Has this deranged man really broken into a store just to steal my books? The books that I was certain were sitting on store shelves, collecting dust? How could this be?

    “Officer Jonathan Peters said the man shouted something as he was being arrested. He shouted to the officer, “I just wanted to be her best friend!” before being forced into the police car. We’ll have more on this story as new information become available.”

    This guy was a fan of mine. He loved my stories so much that he actually went through the trouble of robbing a store to have them. For some strange reason, I had an overwhelming sensation of pride. And an even stranger idea appeared in my mind.

    I had to meet him.
    ************************************************************************************************************************
    It took some time, but I finally managed to persuade Jonathan Peters to let me have a 10-minute meeting with the robber, whose name turned out to be Mark McCallen. I walked into the interrogation room. The ceiling and walls were a pale shade of gray and the light strip installed in the ceiling gave off very little light. A metal table sat in the middle of the room and Mark McCallen sat at one side of it. He was about my age and had unkempt blonde hair and a blotched complexion. But when he looked up at me, a beautiful smile broke onto his face.

    “Sara Collins. What are you doing here?” Mark asked as he stood up beside the table. Before I could reply, he hurried over and hugged me. That was the first time in about ten years that anyone had hugged me, let alone a complete stranger. But the gesture felt good, so I went along with it for a few moments before we both took a seat at the table.

    “I came here to ask why you tried to steal my books.” The question came out quickly. Mark sighed and began to tell the whole story. And it wasn’t a pretty one.

    His mother died of complications during her pregnancy with him and died two weeks after he was born. Overcome with grief, Mark’s father took to drugs and alcohol to cope with the pain. By the time Mark was 4, his father had died of a fatal combination of prescription pills and booze and was sent to live in a foster home. Seeking a way to escape his tragic reality, Mark began to read old romance novels he found in the basement of his home. It was an obsession born.

    After high school, he moved out of town and got a cheap apartment near The Book Village. Every day, he would go to the store to look at books. But having no college degree and working at a car wash to pay rent, he could never afford anything at the store. The Book Village was where he found my series-and immediately fell in love with my writing.

    “But I could never just sit down and read your books in the store. The employees there are so touchy. I knew it was wrong to steal them, but I had to finish them. They’re so beautiful.” Mark pleaded to me, his eyes filled with passion and sincerity.

    I couldn’t believe how much my work had touched Mark. With barely any money coming in from my novels, I thought that meant nobody cared what I had to write about. But here I was with a man who was so devoted to my stories that he was willing to break the law to have them. Out of nowhere, I threw my arms around Mark, tears streaming down my face.

    The hard knock on the door told me my time was up. But before I left, I took a pen and slip of paper from my purse and wrote down my phone number for Mark. I slipped it into his pocket just before Officer Peters came in to escort me out.

    Mark was sentenced to four months in prison, but he calls me whenever he has a free moment. I already know what I’m going to send him when he’s released.

    Free copies of all my novels.

    1. Reaper

      This is sweet in a twisted way. I love the literary symmetry between their childhoods. The only glitch I noticed was the mother dying of complications during child birth and dying two weeks later. The repetition is jarring so you might want to reword the opening to that sentence. Every week I see you grow and flourish here and it is a wonderful thing. This caught me and pulled me in.

    2. Observer Tim

      I’m with Reaper on this one; the symmetry is wonderful, the reaction is wonderful. Who knows, maybe the reading will trigger some writing, or possibly even action. Beautiful, Trevor.

      My red pencil notes some shakiness in the verb tenses that needs to be addressed, plus the birth thing Reaper mentioned.

    3. regisundertow

      This is very interesting. Is there a hint of co-dependence forming between the author and the reader? On the one hand, validation for one’s art, wherever it may come from. On the other, escapism at its most extreme. Both of them coming from broken homes and using art as a way out of their mundane lives, one of them providing it and the other consuming it. The symmetry others have commented on is very prevalent. Very cleverly written, I feel like there’s a point in there worth several hours of discussion.

  35. jhowe

    The coffee was weak and watery and getting cold. Just the way I liked it. The newspaper had been flung across the room. The doorbell rang and I kicked at the scattered pages as I went to answer.

    “Darwin Clyde?” the visitor said. I nodded. “I’m detective Monroe. I’m pleased to meet you.”

    We shook hands and I motioned him in. “Any leads detective?”

    “It’s too soon to say but I’d like to ask you a few questions.”

    I offered him coffee. He took a glance at the anemic brew in my cup and declined. “Shouldn’t you be out trying to catch the thief?” I said.

    “Just covering the bases.” He sat when I did at the table. “Only your books were stolen it appears.”

    “That does seem to be the case,” I said. “What are you going to do about getting them back?”

    “I’m sure you read about the bookstore owner being murdered,” he said making a point of noticing the paper on the floor. “That puts the missing books very low on the priority list.”

    “I’m very upset about the murder I really am but my fans want to know about the books, it’s all about the books with them.”

    “Yes, the books,” the detective said this in a distracted manner. “They would want to know about them wouldn’t they.”

    The rest of the questions seemed routine and the detective told me he would be in touch. I picked up the newspaper pages and found the lead story and read it again. Damn it damn it damn it. I left the house and walked downtown and found one of the last pay phones in the area.

    “Hello,” she said.

    “Sheila, what in the name of holy shit happened?”

    “There were complications.”

    I gathered as much and checked my temper. “Do you have the books?”

    “No,” she said. “I ditched them in the river.”

    “Good. At least you did one thing right.”

    “Darwin, I gotta get out of here.” Her voice quavered; she may have been crying. “They’re going to find me.”

    “I agree, you need to leave town, the sooner the better.” I didn’t want them questioning her. She’d crumble like cheap cake.

    “I need the money first.”

    “Ok, sit tight. Are you at your apartment?”

    “No,” she said. “I’m at the diner across the street.”

    “I’ll be there in ten.” I hung up and trotted home and grabbed my keys.

    It’s easy to look back and consider what I should have done, or shouldn’t have. If I’d been watching this all unfold on TV I would have said, “don’t do it asshole, it’s a trap.” I was already well established as a novelist, so why would I try to pull such an asinine publicity stunt? Book Heist: Famous Author Victimized. It all sounded feasible at the time. But who could have guessed that Sheila would’ve assumed an armed robbery was necessary? Go in at night, I should have told her and don’t take a goddamn gun. But it never occurred to me at the time and I didn’t even know she had a gun. And who in their right mind would choose their ex-wife as a partner in crime anyway? But hindsight is just that and you can’t go back. At least they let me work on my next novel, until lights out at 9:30 anyway. And the coffee here is really quite good, served just the way I like it.

    1. lionetravail

      The coffee might have been weak and watery, but not the story… and it WAS just the way I liked it. Fun take, Jhowe… the end really socked home that great noir quality too.

    2. Observer Tim

      I have to agree with the one major point of the MC’s summary at the end; who would choose their ex-wife as a partner in crime? I’m guessing all the evidence somehow magically pointed to him as the trigger man. But at least he gets good coffee. Brilliant, Jhowe. 🙂

    3. regisundertow

      What I like about this story is that I can actually see it happening in real life and botching it up in the same way. Loved the ending as well, especially those last two sentences.

  36. Ananfal

    I never understood some emotions. I mean, fear and pain and happiness, those are all clear to me. It’s their more obscure cousins that start to get me confused. Like hatred, or awkwardness. You’re supposed to learn emotions when you’re a child, get lessons in them like you get lessons on math in school. Oh, no one ever calls them lessons, but that’s what they are. Like when your parents talk to you about bullying, or sharing. It’s all about emotions.

    I never got those lessons as a kid. I guess it’s only fair I get them now, as an adult.

    The emotion I was currently being educated in was hero worship. Blind adoration for a near stranger. This emotion seems rather… disturbing, to say the least. Although that could be because the lesson came in the form of a young woman who had literally stalked my every move for the past month in order to figure out my house address and meet me there stark naked.

    I didn’t really get the naked part, but I didn’t feel any shame in taking advantage of the situation as she stood on my doorstep, almost vibrating with eagerness.

    “I’ve waited so long to meet you, sir…” Her voice was breathy and almost dripping with a whimpering need to be patted on the head like a puppy. She was panting too, something that did wonderful things to the globes on her chest, but only reinforced the image of dog in my mind.

    “Indeed?” I was polite, exceedingly so. If my neutral tone put her off, it didn’t show in her face or her body. In fact, she seemed to get even more excited.

    “Oh, yes, sir! I’ve read every one of your books, after stealing them from the store. You see, I couldn’t help but place myself in the place of the main character, Jess…” Ah, I think I see where this is going now. Maybe. I’ve been wrong before.

    “And you thought I would be Keen to your Jess?” I asked, just to confirm. The frantic nodding and sparkling eyes just made me sigh. “Did you not think, perhaps, that I could be Cane instead?”

    She blinked, looking a bit lost now that I hadn’t done what she had expected and praised her on such creative thinking. “B-but Cane is the villain… sir?”

    My smile was polite, I’m sure of it. But the woman paled and took a half step back, looking exceedingly upset and fearful. Darn, and I’ve been doing such a good job of not scaring her.

    “Did you ever think that my books could be more than just fiction?”

    She seemed to recover slightly at my words. “Oh, but that’s exactly what I thought, sir! I would be Jess, and you would be Keen…” Her voice trailed off as I couldn’t stop a small chuckle from escaping my lips.

    “Dear woman, I’ve already told you. I’m the villain, not the hero…”

    1. Observer Tim

      Whoa, this is heading someplace very dark very fast. So many readers seem to think the author would identify with the hero, given that the villain usually gets his comeuppance in the end. Very enjoyable take, Ananfal. 🙂

      My red pencil spotted only one minor thing: it should probably be “…image of a dog in…” or “…image of ‘dog’ in…”. And even that can be written off as a matter of style.

      1. Ananfal

        Thank you! I tried my hand at a character who doesn’t think quite the way most of us do, and I really hope it came off well. I do think that most people tend to shy away from villainous main characters, which is an absolute waste in my mind, and I’m glad I was able to impress you with my story!

      1. Ananfal

        Thanks! I’m thinking of trying to write every prompt from the viewpoint of this character, I rather like the way he thinks. It won’t be a continuous story, like some people are doing, but I want to present a main character that doesn’t think like we do.

      1. Ananfal

        Thanks, I tried to bring out the wicked in the last line, but there is such an undertone throughout the rest of it, isn’t there? I’m glad you liked it!

      1. Ananfal

        That’s exactly what I was going for! Do you think more stories from his point of view would be interesting? Perhaps not all on a continuous storyline, but his opinions and thoughts?

        1. ReathaThomasOakley

          I think self-challenges are great because you are forced into experimenting outside your comfort zone. This is a perfect place to try new things and so many of those commenting are most generous with their expertise. I hesitate to make specific suggestions because I don’t feel I have anything unique to add. Good luck!

  37. Observer Tim

    HOSTAGE SITUATION

    “Untie me right now!”

    Her expression says ‘duh, no.’ Instead she leans into my face and pulls the rope a little tighter.

    “Well at least tell me who you are!”

    “My name’s Audrey and I’m your biggest fan, sort of.”

    “How can I have a fan? Don’t I have to be famous for something?”

    “Wanda, Wanda. It is Wanda, right?”

    “Of course it’s me! Who else would I be?”

    “Eric.”

    “Eric is my brother!

    “Your brother? The one you’re never seen with? The one with the same student number and computer account as you? I’ve been watching you for months; I even cracked your psychologist’s files!”

    At least now I know what’s going on. Doc Reinholdt thinks that Eric is a symptom of Dissociative Identity Disorder, kind of like the Two Faces of Eve. Doc Reinholdt is stupid.

    “That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard.”

    “Oh? What about Andy?”

    Andy. The guy who broke into Eric’s account and wrote dirty sex scenes into his Creative Writing project. Scenes I still remember. Scenes nobody else should know about because I deleted them.

    “That got you. Where is Andy now?”

    “I don’t know.” I don’t really care, either, after what he did to me and Eric.

    “He’s in hospital after that stunt you pulled, writing him into an evil game show. That’s when I figured out what you can do. You write, you change reality around you.”

    “That’s crazy!” How the hell did she figure that out? I only realized it myself recently.

    ’There are some things you can’t cover up with lipstick and powder…’

    That’s my phone; it’s Jen. She arranged the book signing for Eric today and … oh no, she’s with Eric right now. They’re supposed to come down later, after I’ve got everything set up.

    “You’re going to answer and pretend everything’s normal. You’re good at that. Now do it!” She accepts the call and holds the phone to my ear.

    “Hi Jen.”

    “Hi Wanda. Where’s Eric?”

    But… Eric’s supposed to be in the apartment! With her! I mean they were… last night. I need an answer that will arouse her. Her suspicions! Without alerting Audrey. What was that? God, I’m starting to think like Eric; eww.

    “He’s probably on the way down here to help me set up for the signing.” Eric never does that sort of thing, and Jen knows it. Hopefully she gets the hint.

    “Sure. See you later!” The sooner later the better. Please get the hint! Audrey disconnects the phone.

    “Now, I want Eric!” She opens up her shirt and shows off her… upper torso.

    “Yuck! Put those away, God knows where they’ve been!”

    Her hand drops down and goes someplace it shouldn’t. I scream inside. Why on earth would she…

    Some half-naked bitch has me tied up in a chair and is groping me. Interesting, but not right now. I head-butt her and slip the bonds.

    “Eric?”

    “You wish. My name’s Sapphire, and you’re in big trouble.”

    1. Observer Tim

      Okay, references.

      Andy is from “One Shot” (Sept 16, 2014)
      Sapphire is from “Fantasy Brawl” (Sept 9, 2015) and “One Shot”.
      Jen is from “Night at the Museum” (last week). She’s Wanda’s best (possibly only) friend.

      The ringtone is from “Girls Talk” by Dave Edmunds and Rockpile (1979), written by Elvis Costello.

  38. Reaper

    Fifteen and counting.

    In the Beginning – Written Instructions

    Nicole sat at the breakfast table with her tablet in front of her. In her left hand she held a bone china cup containing her breakfast tea as she controlled the screen with her right. On the screen was newspaper from her hometown. She maintained a subscription despite the miles.

    It was the first morning in a long time that she could breathe. She smelled the strong black tea as if it was a new life but her reprieve was not to last long. Many would and did say terrible things about her but Nicole still had a heart and with everything else she might be, she was still a loving daughter.

    For the last week the front page had been full of her father’s death and the grisly way they found him. Today it seemed something finally surpassed news of the preacher. Until she read further. The lead story was all about some smash and grab artist named Peter. Local man steals unusual rare collection, the headline screamed. Nicole kept reading.

    A local homeless man, Peter last name unknown, broke into the local bookstore, Rare Finds, late last night. Responding to the silent alarm police found the store empty and barely disturbed. The only objects removed a collection of handwritten, leather bound tomes from a local preacher who was murdered two weeks ago. An unknown party illegally sold the books, religious texts of questionable worth and obscure origin, to the shop shortly after the death. When found the suspect did not have the books in his possession and gave no indication to their location. When asked why he stole those volumes Peter replied, “I did it for the daughter. I just want to be her best friend.”

    Nicole jerked back. Those books were meant for her. Her father’s original work on the prophecy was now in the hands of a degenerate. Well, not in his hands exactly. She pushed the tablet aside and took up her phone. She dialed Chester.

    “We have a problem.”

    He informed her he already knew about it and made a call.

    “Were you able to speak with him?”

    He sighed as he explained that two other men bailed the man out earlier in the day. The bum had already skipped town, presumably with the texts.

    “So we have another player joining those two idiots.”

    Chester agreed that it seemed that way.

    “What about this thing he said? Do you think he might be or want to be on our side? Why else would he want to be my best friend?”

    He was sure he didn’t know but he had a couple of ideas.

    “Me being hot is only a reason for you. Get home, we need to start finding our enemies. How dangerous is this Peter, do you think?”

    That was a question nobody had an answer for. Not yet anyway.

    1. Observer Tim

      Wow, good one! I was wondering how you were going to fit this in to the bigger story. Nice plot twist!

      The story seems a little bit compressed to me; it’s the word limit, methinks. I’m curious to see how it looks when it’s more fleshed out in the big version…

    2. jhowe

      When I saw your name as the first submitter, I thought maybe Mr. Edwards was going to make an appearance, but I guess he’s busy starring in your novel and couldn’t get away. But this was well done and very crisply achieved. Very enjoyable.

      1. Reaper

        Thanks jhowe. Thanks to you I got inspired and pulled the old monster out of Mothballs and wrote a little object history lesson around a different class. A man like Mr. Edward is never too busy to get his name out there.

      1. Reaper

        Thank you JR. You having to know is an amazing compliment. I am curious where Peter is going to fit in as well. Interestingly I’m also a little curious about the Father too. Initially I was going to have him as the thif but the best friend line didn’t make any sense at all. And he has enough penance to do without giving Holy Mother church that black eye.

    3. SheepCarrot

      Wonderfully done! I really need to go back and catch up on all the past installments so I’ll better understand what’s going on. I don’t feel worthy to critique…but I will. My only advice is that in the dialogue at the end, include Chester’s rather than just summing it up.

      1. Reaper

        Hey SheepCarrot. You can hit them on my blog too. I posted the link a couple of weeks ago. Please always feel worthy to critique. While on going I hope they are self contained enough to need their own assessments. For that, I go back and forth. Most of the phone conversations in this have been from third person limited omniscient point of view so while you’ll occasionally get both sides the person not in the room is often summed up. Originally I was going to put in Chester’s dialogue but the other way has received such favorable responses I stuck with it for this one.

      1. Reaper

        Thank you lionetravail! I sent you and ello invite by the way. I tried to send you a message here letting you know that but the forum demons ate it and pooped out another sequel to fifty shades.

      1. Reaper

        Thanks regisundertow. I’m trying to move towards more answers but they are coming slow with the prompts. Peter will return and you’ll get more info on him as he is part of the story now.

      1. Reaper

        Honestly I’ve been surprised I have been able to. I keep expecting that this next one will be the prompt I can’t fit in. That’s my plan, once I have you all addicted I jack up the price. Little lesson I learned in drug dealer… er… author school.

    4. Critique

      Interesting story on the prompt. Will there be a sequel – I hope so 🙂 That ‘not yet anyway’ left it wide open. Wonderful writing as usual Reaper.

    5. Dennis

      Hey Reaper
      I’m one of the many fans of this series. I promise not to break into any stores if it goes to print. I was in a bookstore today and saw Clive Barkers book Scarlett Gospels and had that image in my head while reading your story. The series has a similar feel.

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