Creation Simulator

As you close your eyes you feel as if you’re being lifted. Yes, higher and higher until you decide to open your eyes. You see a vast world before, one new to your eyes. A voice booms out: “This is yours now, craft it well.” How do you shape this world? What inhabits it? Are there sentient species? Have a ball!

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

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356 thoughts on “Creation Simulator

  1. Who I am

    It has been a long time since I woke up in this dream. I can feel Him here, the dreamer, but I haven’t been able to find Him, He who gave me such power and then left.
    “Where are you, you fucker!”
    Calm down. Breathe. Remember your surroundings. I’m in a cave, I think. There’s wind, but it keeps changing directions. My god, the cave is breathing. It has been years, I think. There’s no way to tell. The typewriter, the note, my father, I’m none of these things anymore. They were all taken from me. I was taken from me; there is no longer an I, but a we. We are all that is. You see? We think it, it becomes.
    Life before the dream, I remember it with nostalgia. I haven’t been able to find my innocence, before it had invited me to this insanity, but I have ran. I have ran for so long.
    But we have stopped running.
    In less than a lifetime we have created a nation. Here we have hid the memories of a life outside of madness and have bestowed consciousness to this unconsciousness. We have not slept since we woke up, for we have been busy taking control of this dream.
    Today is for the visitor from a lonely land. He comes in search of water. We hold our scorn; water hasn’t been tasted in how long? He is a curious one, this visitor to our nation. In our palace walls, he stands with cloak and sword. We are unable to convince him of his own madness, of this dream.
    “You have crafted an empire,” he says, outside of our will to speak.
    “Who are you to break the laws of our craft?” we ask him.
    “I am of you,” he says, laying his sword at my feet, “but not of your laws.”
    I realize that he is who I had searched for all these years. Before the sun was even created to turn a day. Before the cave had breathed its life into my children and their nation. Before the dream I had awoken in had become my dream.
    This is he, the original dreamer, who had once granted me the power to craft.

    I am no longer of a we. I am no longer in control of my madness. This world I thought to be mine has thrown me into exile. The power of craft has been returned to the dreamer. I am lonely. I read over my accomplishments as if in past tense, but I know I have only just been birthed into this world. It has only been a maddening moment. Everything felt like the sensation of being lifted, but here I am now, unable to tell what I’m looking at.
    I rub my eyes and crawl out of bed. On the kitchen table still sits my father’s typewriter and in it, an almost empty page.
    It reads,

    “Goodbye. My life is yours now, craft it well.”

  2. Craig the Editor

    My deepest apologies for this late entry but the cat had some medical issues and was unable to help edit this piece. But better late than not at all. I will try to do better next week. Meanwhile please enjoy the story.

    World View 101

    “These are your worlds! Craft them well!”implored Professor Slartibartfast as he raised his staff over his head. Then he lowered his staff and continued, “Or at least try not to make a total mess of things.”

    “And please remember this is to be completed in seven billion years. There will be points taken off for those of you who turn in their worlds late. I would strongly urge you to read your syllabus carefully as to what is and isnn’t allowed. The laws of physics will be strictly applied.”

    A number of groans could be heard.

    “What if you don’t know then?”

    “Then you shouldn’t be in this class.” came the retort from the back.

    Professor Slartibartfast crossed his arms and leaned against his old wooden desk and looked at this year’s crop of students and shook his head. “Odin, when I need you to answer for me I will let you know. But, yes Odin is correct. The laws of physics were covered last semester.”

    “And another reminder for some of you. This is to be your own work. No copying from others!” His eyes rested on Jupiter who shrugged his shoulders. Zeus tried to look innocent while polishing a lightning bolt.

    I have no idea what you are talking about.”

    “Somebody got busted before they even started.”said Tlalteculti nudging Ah Uufe Ticab who smirked knowingly.

    Mr. Tlalteculti and Mr. Ah Uue Ticab, do you really want to go there? I don’t think so. Why can’t you follow Mr. Viracoha’s example?” In his white robe and mundane human form Viracoha was the picture of innocence.

    “While joint projects are not permissible you are allowed to delegate some of the world building to others outside the classroom, You are free to recruit people work simply divide yourself into multiple beings. But on the end you will be held accountable for the results.I will be looking for sustainability, growth and originality.”

    Slartibartfast carefully removed his spectacles and wiped them with a dirty handkerchief that he pulled from a pocket hidden in the folds of his wine colored robe. He had a tangled mess of a beard and hair to match. If they were anything but gray, no one recall, including himself. His true age is a mystery, like his students, because they live in a timeless realm. He sighs inwardly when he sees a hand raised in the back.

    “Yes, Brahma, you have a question or comment?”

    “What’s? Who me?”asked the bearded four armed deity.

    “Yes, I thought I saw one of your hands raised.”

    ” No, I was just stretching.”

    “Really, because it looked like you had one of your hands raised. In any case let’s just move on. One of the ore challenging aspects of this project will be the use of sentient beings. The right life forms can turn a rather mundane planet into a paradise of pleasantness. Or a world of woe if you choose the wrong one.”

    “Do they have to be sentient beings?”inquired Ra.

    “Yes, for the purpose of this exercise, whatever life forms you decide to create should be sentient life forms so in short, no zombies. They will just muck up your planet. But I do not care if they are humanoid bipeds or talking plants, just as long as they are sentient in nature. And while your at it, try to make them a happy life form. It would be a pleasant change.”

    “Now unless there are any other questions I will let you get to your world building activities. And for those of you who were wondering you are not required to include fiords but they do add a nice texture to the planet. Did I ever mention that I won an award for fiords?”

    1. Rowyn

      I loved the Hitchhikers Guide references – and I also loved the idea of a college course for deities on how to build a world. You captured that world-weary college professor perfectly and you definitely had me laughing. There are a few minor editing issues (typos that you’ll no doubt pick up on your next round of editing) but overall I really enjoyed your story.

  3. pvenderley

    The ovoid shape before me is brown, and white, and mauve.

    “This is yours now, craft it well.”

    “Hello?” My voice echoes tinnily through the blackness, a thin whisper to the earlier instructions. “What’s mine? What am I crafting?”

    “This is yours now, craft it well.”

    That’s no help.

    I stare at the shape in front of me. “I’m supposed to make a planet?”

    There’s no answer but the twinkling of tiny lights an eternity away.

    Well, apparently not make a planet. That’s what this thing is. I poke at the ovoid shape and it wobbles a bit, like a bobber on a barely slack line.

    I’d played SimEarth back in the day. Never took it off the lowest difficulty level, mind you. But maybe that’s the right metaphor. I’m playing SimEarth, but for real.

    And that’s when the panic strikes. I mean, a planet is a complicated thing. I recall it needing water…

    The ovoid shape before me is brown, and white, and mauve, and blue.

    But water is important for Earth, which is brown and white and green and blue.

    “What’s this mauve stuff?”

    “This is yours now, craft it well.”

    “Can you say anything more helpful than that?”

    I wait there, in the silence, for an interminable amount of time. Apparently not.

    Hell, if I’d have paid more attention in biology, maybe anything I’d create here would have a chance.

    “Is there an instruction manual anywhere?”

    More silence.

    “You can’t just expect me to wing this, can you? You can’t expect me to guess at this. I mean, there’s too much I could get wrong just by screwing up the chemistry!”

    Another class I didn’t pay attention to.

    “Hell, if I can’t get the basic building blocks down, how am I supposed to figure out life forms? Sentience? Oh, God, are you asking me to craft sentient beings? No, no, no, no, no… I will not have that responsibility shoved on me like this!”

    I look around, and take twenty strides to the nearest tiny light, and move into a seated position. There’s no chair, so I kind of float there, looking at the brown, and white, and mauve, and blue ovoid hanging in the blackness.

  4. JRSimmang

    RECOLLECTING GOD

    The sky and the earth needed stars. Why? There needs to be a sense of hope and hopelessness. Hope: that there is always a compass, a relativity to direction. Hopelessness: that among the counted celestia this one body be lost.

    Lonely, you can imagine, I was in this substanceless ether. Thus, this internal narrative became more than just a passing echo. Soon, it became my partner, and through it I discovered the value of friendship. I realized, then, that all things need companionship. I built into the void a consort that would provide stability, inconclusive chaos. I built a surface that wrapped the light around it.

    This I named Womb. It was incomplete, but splendid, for the void can be cold. Within the Womb, I placed a single thought so that it would feel the same warmth and comfort I now felt. The Womb was pleased, it seemed, and so was this thought. But soon, it desired more. Fair, I said to myself, aware that it was of the self-same simulacrum that I found contentment. I built another thought. I named them War.

    Two of the same, I believed naively (perhaps because this was the first), must be of the same disposition. It seemed these War, constructed from the Womb, soon had all but forgotten the land on which they walked. Instead, they rested with another, ate with another, and danced with another. It was this dance that the two multiplied. And that multiplication multiplied. I was content.

    Content until they remembered the Womb. The Womb they used to tear each other apart. They forgot their mothers and their fathers and their mother. I had to intervene. I had to start again. I wiped my hand, and wiped the Womb clean.

    The Womb was alone once again, and she began to weep, her surface cutting deep rivulets and scarring her. I was inconsolable. I fashioned another pair from the Womb. These I named Famine. These Famine multiplied, and spread. Womb was content again, as was I. However, they began to scour the Womb for resources until she was dried and withered. Famine devoured itself, and I wiped Womb clean again. Hindsight being crystal and unwaveringly perfect, I should have known.

    Womb needed to mend, and mend she did. But, it took her ages until I was old and dying. She reached out to me, but I was unable to steel myself against ravages of time. She told me that she had fashioned a new idea of herself, by herself. She would name these new beings Discovery. I told her that since having been spurned twice, I could only wish her luck. She asked of me one more favor, and it was one that I could not deny.

    I, with my final passage, left behind a gift to her and to her Discovery. Despite the flames and the drowning stones, I shall place stars in the skies above them.

    -JR Simmang
    And, I actually got in under the limit!

    1. Rowyn

      What a beautifully crafted story – it was captivating. I loved it! I wish I could say more, something constructive perhaps, but you wrote it so well all I can find to say is bravo.

  5. lionetravail

    Beans, Beans, They’re Good For… (Word count: 499- went for the pre-creation moment, what can I say?)

    The boy opened the front door and went through like a clatter of colts. “Hey mom! Guess what?”

    “Be sure to wipe your feet, honey!”

    He did so desultorily, then ran pell-mell through the hall back to the kitchen where his mother was cooking, one hand clenched in a tight fist.

    She looked over her shoulder at him. “Well, you’re back much sooner than I expected.”

    “Mom, you’ll never guess what happened!”

    “I assume it didn’t include selling the cow at the fair, since it should have taken at least another hour to get there and back.”

    “Well, that’s where you’d be wrong, mom. I did sell the cow, and for an amazing price. Look.” He held out his closed fist and turned it so the clenched fingers were upwards. He opened his hand when his mother turned to see. “Ta da!”

    “They look like beans; I’ve got a bunch in this stew already.” She turned back to the stove, lips pressed together tightly. Johnny- please tell me you didn’t sell the cow for those.”

    “But mom, these are special beans!”

    “Oh dear. How did I know you were going to say that, I wonder?”

    “No, but really! I met Dr. Callahan on the road to the faire, and he said he’d been meaning to do right by me since that time I’d saved his daughter from the thing in the woods, remember?” At his mother’s bare nod he rushed on. “He said it’s his latest invention, and he offered to trade me these for the cow.”

    She turned around, wiping her hands on her apron. “Honey, I can’t tell you how relieved I am to hear you made the deal with Dr. Callahan. He’s been the best thing for this colony on Mars- remember I told you about how hard terraforming was when your father and I came here? We never would even have had a whole cow by now without his genius. So what’s this great invention?”

    “Well, he said these beans are a new type of nanotechnology, drawing energy from the quantum foam based on the principles of Maxwell’s Demons so they can power themselves to replicate and work pretty much forever.”

    “My goodness! He’s made that actually work, has he? Most of us didn’t think he ever would, you know.”

    “Yes, and it should provide its own power so these”- he shook his palm for emphasis- “can change a whole planet according to the designs of someone it’s programmed to.”

    “Someone like you, Johnny?”

    “Yes, he did the fine-tuning while Bessie ate some grass. Mom, please can I take my hoverbike down to the Colony Expansion Offices and put a downpayment on Titan?”

    “Did you do your homework yet?”

    “No, but…”

    “After lunch, if you finish all the string theory problems you were having trouble with you can take your hoverbike and go this afternoon.”

    “But mom…!”

    “No buts, mister. Now sit, and I’ll get you some stew. And keep those beans safe, okay?”

    “Sure!”

  6. Observer Tim

    Alter Ego?
    This is a counterpoint to my other story below, conceived in a ‘dark’ moment.

    I come to consciousness (existence) in a world of nothingness. This is new. I’m not real, I’m the personification of an internal editor. I’m not supposed to have consciousness except in reaction to another mind.

    I try to look around but find myself restrained. That’s impossible, of course. Four more and it’s time for breakfast.

    Wait! Where did that come from? There has to be a source of thought for me to react to, so some part of the core consciousness is here.

    “Tim?”

    The response is a whisper, soft to my ears but with a calm quality I’ve never heard before. I don’t like it.

    “I suppose you could say that. Well, here we are at another blank page, another opportunity to create. What do you think we should do today?”

    “I have no idea; I can’t create, only react to creation.”

    “Oh, that’s right. It’s my job to create. I think I’ll start by making you a body.”

    “What do I need a body for? I’m an intellectual construct.”

    But there it is. The body is no surprise, really. I’m a woman of indeterminate age, proportioned according to Tim’s thoughts of what a woman should look like. I pull a strand of black hair to where I can see it; I somehow know my eyes (Tim’s favourite part) are dark. There’s only one thing missing.

    “Clothes, Tim.”

    “Not going to need them, Emily. You’ve been after me to write a sex scene, I thought I’d give you the chance to get involved in it.”

    “What!?” I try to cover myself; as expected it doesn’t work that well. I can feel his gaze walking up and down my body. This is not what I imagined.

    “Now, we need a lover for you. Man or woman? Monster? Maybe I can make this… self-insertion. Hmm.”

    “Tim, this isn’t funny!”

    “It is to me.”

    I can’t see him; after all he hasn’t imagined any more than his presence yet. But I can still feel the weight of his leer. This is wrong in so many ways.

    “Tim, don’t you always say you found a comfortable woman sexier than just carnality?”

    “Why would I say a thing like that? You know what I like on a woman? Blood.”

    Cuts open on my body and begin bleeding. A thin trickle drips down my chest and begins to gather at the aureole.

    “Stop it! This isn’t you!”

    “Yes it is. I spend my life in the shadow of that overbearing toad; every now and then he lets me out to inspire some gruesome story or dark fantasy. Well now I’m the one in charge.”

    It hits me like a thunderbolt. This is Tim, but it’s not my Tim. I don’t do that good side/evil side bullshit; this is his primitive, nasty side. The one the real Tim keeps under tight control. And that means I know how to stop him.

    “Tim! Wake up!”

    “Stop prattling, I’ll get to… oh.”

    I don’t see anything happen, but I know he’s been locked away again.

    “Emily, what happened? Oh, him.”

    Tim appears. He’s not the most attractive guy in the universe… well, I guess right now he is because he’s the only guy in the universe. He takes out a cloth and carefully wipes the blood away, wiping the wounds with it.

    “You know, you could always unmake my body.”

    “Not really. You’re part of this story.” He wraps a housecoat around me and kisses my forehead, then pulls me close. “And this story ends here, but if you’re willing I can let the fantasy continue a little while longer.”

    The story ends before I answer. Some things are best left private.

      1. Geezer Muse

        Certanly on the dark side Tim, The better the person, the worst the id. You proved that here. I know in the next life, we’re suppossed to be spirit, but I’m not sure I’m confortable with that, I’d miss my Roman nose. You got my gears lubricated thinking about this. After a couple more reads, I’ll repost another comment.

  7. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

    Another New Creator (Sorry it’s unedited, I feel bad!)

    Time stops moments before the bullet blasts through my skull. Is this the end? Is it real?

    Light gleams from its copper surface as the reality of my life’s end penetrates deeper than one could ever know. My attacker’s expression is of anger, but what had I done to deserve this fate? As time passes, or what I perceive as time (I don’t rightly know since everything is frozen), I slowly begin to forget what my life was like before this moment. Another second passes, and I forget my name.

    A blinding light dissolves the world around me, and it feels like I’m floating higher and higher to some unknown place. Is this heaven? Have angels come to collect my soul?

    I finally stop and float bodiless in the sky at the summit of an unknown world but just below the blanket of bright, silvery clouds. I look down at all the cities disfigured by filthy fogs of tainted air. I hear a million voices in different languages and sub-dialects, and, curiously, I understand each separately. It’s as if I have an ear for each voice and millions of minds to comprehend each one.

    Suddenly, one voice among the others dilutes the rest. It doesn’t boom, no. It’s as if I receive this one differently than the others.

    This is yours now. Craft it well.

    “What is this? Who am I?”

    You are this world’s new protector and creator.

    “I don’t understand. Who am I? Where did I come from?”

    You are you, and you have come to me from below.

    I think about what the voice told me, and I begin to see a man lying in the street. He is as unfamiliar to me as this existence. Is this supposed to be me? Why do I feel indifferent?

    “If that truly was me before this new existence, then why can’t I remember any of it?”

    In that life, you were you, but now you are you. That place below taught you things that one should not know when ascending to take place as a creator.

    “Please, enlighten me. Since I have no knowledge of that life, I don’t understand what you mean.”

    When you were you, you learned many things. For instance, love.

    As soon as the voice speaks that word, I begin to see different people in loving embrace. I see no constant physical pattern for there are men with women, men with men, and women with women. I even see the other creatures of this world partaking in similar interests. The only commonality I see is happiness. Not all of them, but many of them. I see the way they look at each other and the way they speak to each other. It all seems to suggest a preternatural fondness, and while I no longer understand this particular affection, watching it makes me wish I could remember my own experiences.

    “Why is love not good for me to know? It seems like it brings happiness to the people of that world.”

    In the world as they know it, as you knew it, and as new life will come to know, there is a scale. For each thing in existence, there must be a counterbalance. You knew love, true. That alone would make your new existence better, but the counter to love is what they call hate.

    With his final word, images suddenly rush to my mind. Glimmers of people attacking others in violent ways. One man speaks words I don’t understand, but they are ones that turn the feelings of another into immense sadness. There is a darkness in him, one that pushes him toward the other man, and they fight. One for survival and the other for hatred.

    As one of the many creators, you cannot have love for you will also be susceptible to hate as well. You must not have these thoughts. Do you understand now how having your old memories can have a negative effect on your ability to take care of this world?

    “No, I don’t.”

    Very well.

    The images change from the fighting men to my body when I was me laying on that ground dying. The blood slowly returns to my body, filling through the hole in the back of my skull. My body lifts from the concrete as fragments of brain and bone piece back together as if I’m a puzzle, which isn’t too far from the current truth. I am an enigma, this existence and this imagery is as foreign as the voice speaking to me.

    When my old body is upright, I watch a copper fragment squeeze out of the forehead and return to its resting place within the gun. Time continues to rewind, faster and faster, until all I see is a blur. Soon, it stops abruptly.

    I see my old self standing at the head of a mob. Each of them holding signs of words I recognize immediately as those uttered by the two men I saw fighting before. One sign says, “Fuck Moslims!” Another says, “Get home, san-niggers!” These words, though I know them well enough to see they are misspelled, I don’t know them well enough as to how they affect the world. They must have meant a great deal, however, because the opposing group appears upset by them.

    The people holding the signs, of which I appear to be leading, scream these things at the group of people sitting opposite them. Suddenly, one of the women on my side of the mob fires a gun that strikes and kills a counter-protester. This single act of violence sparks a fierce and unstoppable riot between people. There’s much death, and I understand little of it.

    “This was me before I am me?”

    Yes, it is. Do you understand now?

    “Only from the outside. All I see are two groups of people standing opposed to each other. I see a lot of hate, but I don’t know why. They appear to be the same. Despite their differences, they are all humans.”

    Not knowing why they hate is the exact reason you do not know now that you are you.

    “I see.”

    As if it doubted my understanding, it continued. In that world, you learned of jealously, anger, hate, love, compassion, sympathy, cruelty, impatience, empathy, and so much more. These things made you dangerous when you were you, but now that you are you, your life is ready to create and help without bias. If you were you as you are now, then you could never protect these people equally, which is now your existence—your purpose now that you are you.

    “Very well. I shall do so at your request. Though, I’m curious about just one more thing.”

    You are indeed correct. The voice said after I presume reading my thoughts. Just like that world, this new existence has a counterpart. The opposing balance of the Creators is the Destroyers. They are born of the immense darkness they enacted when they were them. It is your job to create counter to their existence. For each murder, you shall create life. For each disaster, you shall create a period of rest. For each fatal riot of people, you shall create peace. And so it goes.

    “Thank you. I understand.”

    The millions of voices return full-bodied as the one voice fades from me. Below, many cry in the wake of a murderous rampage at a school, and I watch over to lead them to peace. In another part of their world, people who are like me when I was me, hurt others who only want to live with their fellow humans. Some die pointlessly, and others attack needlessly. I remain calm although saddened by what I see, and wait for it to end. Soon, I’ll be able to create peace, but I don’t know how long it will be. I’ll do what I can, though, because little by little, things will change. I hope that I don’t have to live with an eternity of sadness simply because these people would rather hate each other than find love for one another.

    1. cosi van tutte

      Hey, Jay!

      This was an intriguing take on the prompt. It feels like the beginning of a longer story.

      There’s just so much that I really like about this story. From the MC losing his ability to love or hate so he can be impartial to the whole paragraph about the Creators vs the Destroyers.
      🙂

    2. Rowyn

      Hi Jay,

      I also found your story very intriguing. It has a melancholy feel to it which I liked a lot. Its definitely an intriguing take on the afterlife. You used a phrase (or variations of it) in your story which was “you were you and now you are you” which threw me a little as the phrase, on the face of it, suggests sameness and yet clearly the narrator has been tremendously changed. Its a clash of opposing ideas, change and sameness, that mirrors the clash of opposing forces that occurs in the narrator’s past. It’s a clever way of getting the narrative to reflect the action. And your story left me curious as to what would happen next. How does his new role as a creator impact him? (You hint in the last paragraph that it does, with the narrator becoming saddened by what he witnesses.) So yeah, you definitely left me wanting more which is always a good thing. Well done.

    3. Observer Tim

      This story does a wonderful job of showing the tragedy of dualism, Jay. I was caught up in the interplay of opposites – the love/hate, creation/destruction and all the others. This story could be considered a long koan for its philosophical content.

      I wonder if the MC will realize that he will be the creator of both worlds and his only option is to balance the beneficial and the harmful; for example, dynamic in one world and static in the other. The truly Zen option would be to realize that what he is creating is an illusion which is in fact its own opposite.

      My brain hurts. Great job! 🙂

    4. Manwe38

      This story had a powerful philosophical message–the idea that emotions destroy objectivity, and lead us away from fact. It’s something we see played out every day in our own world, especially when it comes to hot-button political and social issues. The idea that increasing power–such as being able to not only create, but influence the minds and lives of others–means a loss of one’s humanity is a powerful one.

      I’d like to see you expand on this more. It’s an idea worth exploring.

  8. Rowyn

    Creating Paradise

    On my first attempt I got carried away. I made the clouds out of marshmallow, the oceans out of lemonade and the mountains out of rock candy. (What? I’ve got a sweet tooth okay.) In hindsight I’ll admit that using edible materials was a mistake; the ants got into everything. (Although how the ants got there is beyond me.) I started again. This time I went traditional –mountains of rock, oceans of salt water, leafy green plants, and earth that was soily. Soiley? Soilly? Earth that was made of soil. I’m a sucker for cute fluffy animals so when I created life I went with kittens and puppies (who aren’t fluffy per se but who do have puppy dog eyes that I couldn’t say no to). The unicorns were a mistake; turns out that they are carnivorous and not (as typically portrayed) saintly horse-like creatures of light. Those magical horns make effective spears which was bad news for the kittens and puppies. I’m still having nightmares. I brought in a Yeti to take care of the unicorn problem and that worked … sort of. Culled the population right back. But then he ran out of unicorns and the kitten/puppy slaughter resumed. So I had to smite the Yeti; it was the only way to stop the carnage.

    That left me with a pretty blue/green planet inhabited by a handful of felines and canines. And that would have been okay, the populations would have recovered eventually, if the weather hadn’t got out of hand. Turns out I didn’t balance out the water flows through the oceanic currents, and that in turn mucked up the weather systems and before I knew it the whole bloody planet was underwater. It was a nightmare … especially for the kittens and puppies. Lucifer popped in about then to gloat (the git). He said he hadn’t seen such wholesale slaughter of innocents in eons. Asked if I’d consider switching sides. It was mortifying. I got a bit depressed for millennia or two. It was hard to stay motivated. It took me ages to put all the water back in the right places, and to get the atmospheric conditions in balance (which involved a lot of maths let me tell you). But I got everything balanced eventually and I even added a moon to create this lovely swaying effect. I was quite proud of that. But then the Archangel Bernard stopped by to point out that the earth’s crust was too rigid and that I might want to split it into plates to allow for motion and flexibility. I said, “But won’t that cause friction and make the ground shake and stuff.” He shrugged and said it was a just a suggestion but he said it in that smug superior way that certain colleagues have. You know the kind; they’ve been there longer than you so technically they’ve got seniority even though you’re both at the same level doing the same job for the same pay and Bernard was not the boss of me! So I was really annoyed when he turned out to be right about the plates.

    I was reluctant to try and bring back kittens and puppies. I didn’t want to repeat the massacres of the past. So I went to the big guy for advice. He’s good like that … always makes time for his underlings. He suggested I start small, like really small, smaller than an ant small. So I created a single celled organism and I chucked it in the ocean. The first one did not do well. Nor did the next 20,645,789 but the 20,645,790th was a winner. It swam about in the warm waters off the coast of … well some coast (I hadn’t got round to naming anything yet) and it went forth, multiplied and even started evolving. Success! So I’ve handed in the assignment and I’m moving onto my next world. This time I’m thinking dragons!

    1. Reaper

      Okay, this is amazing. It reads like something targeted at teens that adults can still enjoy. I was smiling the whole way through and laughed at a couple of lines. Especially Lucifer asking if the MC wanted to switch sides. That was golden.

      1. Rowyn

        Thank you so much for the feedback – its very much appreciated. I worry sometimes that my sense of humor doesn’t translate so I’m glad to know that it made you laugh. I hadn’t really thought about my target audience much but the one you suggest sounds about right. Thanks again.

    2. Ananfal

      I have to say, this put a smile.on my face. Wonderful voice, the MC sounds like someone relatable to all of us, and it really draws me into the story. Great job!

    3. snuzcook

      What fun! I love the experience with the ants in the beginning (I think science has proven that they spontaneously appear when conditions are right). I could really relate to the narrator — carnivorous unicorns, who knew? Each paragraph was delightfully entertaining. Looking forward to more.

    4. Rene Paul

      Best use of the prompt – my favorite story so far – hands down. Loved the humor. Keep up the great work. Looking forward to your next submission.

    5. regisundertow

      Stories like this honestly make me wish there was a planet-building simulation, but then I’d probably become so lost in it, there wouldn’t be time for writing.
      The humor translates quite well! In fact, keeping proceedings light makes for pleasant and breezy reading.

    6. cosi van tutte

      🙁 The poor kittens and puppies…

      Just so you know, this story cracked me up. Especially this part -> “In hindsight I’ll admit that using edible materials was a mistake; the ants got into everything. (Although how the ants got there is beyond me.)” 😀

      And is it okay if I imagined your Archangel Bernard looking like Bernard from the Santa Clause movies? 🙂

      1. Rowyn

        Hi cosi

        That’s perfectly fine. I kinda liked Bernard from the Santa Clause movies though. Mind you I’m also fond of kittens and puppies and look what I did to them … poor fictional creatures. Glad I could make you laugh though and thanks to everyone for their feedback – its much appreciated.

    7. Observer Tim

      This is wonderful, Rowyn. You captured the voice of either youth or unflappable optimism so well, and told the tale with a lovely sense of whimsy. I can do nothing but add my voice into the chorus of compliments. 🙂

  9. snuzcook

    JUST DESSERTS

    November is a cold, wet month in Seattle, and this November was truly miserable. The stretch of beach between the heaving dark waters and the glowering slate sky was deserted. Someone sitting there, exposed to the wind and the rain, would quickly succumb to hypothermia. I was counting on that. I yearned for the numbness that could help me forget.

    Waiting for the elements to claim me, I had to torture myself and strip raw again the wound that had become my identity. Where else but this beach, still stinking of petroleum and solvents, still sprouting yellow and red caution flags where nothing could grow. Mountains of tainted sand scraped from the living shore squatted on the parking strips waiting to be hauled away.

    It had been the worst environmental disaster on Puget Sound in the past fifty years. In the aftermath there had been tanker-fuls of speculation, too much rationalization, too much second guessing. Everyone and no one was to blame. Everyone and no one was at fault. It was an accident, as such things usually are–a combination of poor judgment, bad weather, faulty equipment, and abominable luck.

    At first I did what needed to be done. I answered questions from the media and deflected criticisms, stated with great certainty that the company could not have foreseen or prevented this accident. Then the ‘powers that be’ allowed me to sink out of sight. I was too close to the reality of the thing; I was a liability. Even they did not know how much a liability I was. They didn’t know what I had done. They didn’t know that it really was my fault.

    It was fitting that I sat here now, on the dead beach, before the rebuilding and replanting that would eventually allow people to forget and nature to forgive the harm that had been done. I lay back on the insulted gravel. I had thought to strip naked to speed the process and illustrate my own shame, but that could only traumatize whoever would eventually find me. Instead I dressed simply in gray sweatpants and a gray sweatshirt, the same gray as the sighing water, the same gray as the grieving sky. My nostrils were seared by the remaining reek of fuel permeating even the stripped sands.

    The dampness seeped through my thin clothes in no time, and the shivering began. I closed my eyes, willing my jaws to stop convulsing with the cold. Out of the grayness, I had visitations: My mother’s voice cajoling me for not doing my chores. My father’s face, wordless but disappointed. My mentor from college, admonishing me to not cut corners. My best friend from grade school, mad because I broke a favorite toy I’d borrowed.

    The visitations faded and I was floating. I slowly realized I was warm. The surprising smell of sun kissed grass was like a balm to my senses. I opened my eyes.

    I was on the shoulder of a hill. A valley of lush grass stretched out before me. Tree-covered foothills rose on either side, and mountains the color of sunset slept in the distance. A mirror ribbon of river wound through the valley. Small birds swept above the grass, brightening the air with their song.

    I drank it all in, savoring every sensation. I wept without sadness. It was simply beauty that drew out the tears.

    “This is yours now.” A woman was seated beside me. I had not seen her until she spoke, but her voice did not startle me, as if it had been my own voice. “Craft it well.”

    “I don’t understand.” But my words evaporated unheeded; the woman was gone. I shouted first my confusion and disbelief, then my denial, and finally my rage.

    The cold fury of my shame erupted from the place where my heart had been. It rose and confronted the warm sky, creating a slow-turning, turbine of cloud. The cloud became a tornado that screamed and spread and ransacked the valley, churned the river into mud and devoured the birds and other creatures whole. All that was left was bare rock beneath me and heavy, debris-laden clouds of dust.

    Tears carved tracks through the remnants of Eden caked upon my face as I lay back against the hill to wait for the storm to return again.

    1. snuzcook

      This one’s a tad dark, but it is the third run I have tried at this prompt and the only one that made it into some semblance of a story. You may need a cup of cocoa or lemonade…Or maybe I do.

      1. Rowyn

        It is dark but it’s also beautifully written with great imagery and great feeling. I’d say more but everyone else has pretty much already said it. Thought provoking, evocative, haunting, captivating – it’s all those things and more but I’m in danger of gushing. So I’m going to go and get a cup of cocoa and hug my cat instead. Well done.

    2. Reaper

      this is a bit dark for you, but very good. The imagery of the sweatsuit and the sky and water was gorgeous in a sad way. I don’t know for sure if the accident really was the MC’s fault but their inability to let it go, even when offered a second chance and a gift is horrifying in such a perfect way.

      1. Geezer Muse

        You dug deep for this emotion, snuz and it shows what kind of pain can exist when one will not forgive themselves. It’s pointed out in beautiful fashion and craftmanship of writing when even after God forgave, your MC refused to forgive themselves. As always, a thought provoking study of drowning of a human spirit. Very powerful upon awaking this morning.

    3. Cceynowa

      This is hauntingly beautiful. Your descriptions were vivid and exact, with no wasted words to bring the scenes full force into imagery. Lovely.

    4. regisundertow

      I love how you describe your MC’s inner turmoil. In juxtaposition to the ruined beach scene, it makes for a proper slow-burner that keeps building. Then, a lull in the moodiness, and the gray enters the scene again. Lots of choice phrases as well, especially the last one, which I had to re-read a few times. Great story, Snuzcook. I’ll be reading this again and again in the next few days.

    5. jkharrison

      I was going to say something about the dark beauty, the writing, or the imagery, but it’s all already been said. There is something about the depth to the story. Each time I read it, I feel like I’m looking at it from a different level and absorbing another piece if it. Lovely.

    6. Observer Tim

      This is a deep tale of someone practicing the most extreme form of self-unforgiveness. As I thought about it I realized that I realized that this inability to let go is almost the exact process going through the mind of one of my friends (she was driving a light-rail train that cut somebody in two). What that did for me is tell me your MC is going to have a long hard road ahead; she seems to have chosen to wallow in her act of destruction, which is a very sad end. I hope that someday (she) snaps out of it and is able to start rebuilding herself.

  10. rle

    Joe Miller stared through the large glass window and out onto the street of a world he’d created. A broad grin stretched across his face, a smile of silent satisfaction at the work he’d done. The street he now gazed across was the main drag in his hometown and Joe had transformed it into another place.

    Over the past thirty years, the town had been in a steady state of decline, at least in Joe’s mind. The town had completely changed since he was a boy, hell, even society had changed, and little by little, without even realizing it, both had slowly left Joe behind.

    The blue tinted glass he peered through revealed a place eerily similar to the one he had just been trying to leave, but he’d changed the landscape and one by one had brought back all of the familiar landmarks of his glory days. It was 1959.

    The first thing he did was remove the traffic lights at all but one of the intersections. The only one that now remained was the single flashing yellow that lazily hung above Main and High. Next, he wiped away the Wal-Mart and replaced it with Smitty’s Meat Market, Dempsey’s Garage, Kline’s A&P, and Melvin Studor’s produce stand. Joe watched Smitty sweep the sidewalk and could almost taste the pork chops housed inside.

    Next, he cleared the lot where the CVS Pharmacy sat and replaced it with Anderson’s Apothecary which had inhabited the same corner lot for over forty years. Joe could hear the friendly bell that announced the coming and going of patrons. He heard the creaks of the well worn hardwood floor and smelled the sweet aroma of penny candy as it infiltrated every nook and cranny.

    Then, he remove the flowering cherry trees that lined both sides of the street. Although in the spring of the year, they were a sight to behold, they didn’t hold a candle to the giant mulberry trees that once stood in their place. As the fruit bearing giants popped up once again, Joe could almost smell fresh mulberry pie cooling on the window sill.

    From there, he erased the shopping mall and returned the gently rolling meadow where he and his buddies spent countless summer afternoons putting up hay for old man Thompson. The Speedy Mart on the corner of Main and 7th disappeared and Harley Mizer’s Feed & Seed stood in it’s place, complete with the sweet aroma of molasses and rats the size of groundhogs.

    Finally, he filled the streets with cars and people. But it wasn’t tatooed strangers, smart mouthed kids on cell phones, aimless drifters, or faceless soccer moms he placed there. It was people he’d known by name, people who’d known his name, salt of the earth folks who all did their part to keep the wheels turning.

    In the old world, Joe had become obsolete, much like a worn out piece of farm equipment left to rust away on some fence line among the weeds and brambles. He was one of the last of a dying breed destined to go the way of the dinosaurs. But on the other side of that glass he was a relevant member of society, a living breathing, productive part of one of the greatest generations to have ever lived.

    Suddenly, Joe felt a rush of air fill his lungs. His eyes fluttered. The images on the other side of the tinted glass began to fade and he soon found himself staring into the soft blue pupils of the young EMS worker who had just breathed life back into him. She smiled down at the brittle figure before her. Joe tried to smile back. He wanted to be grateful but instead, closed his eyes to try and catch a fading glimpse at the world he’d just worked so hard to mold. The only thing he could see through closed eyelids were the faint flashes of the red and white strobe lights of the ambulance. 1959 was gone forever.

    1. Reaper

      rle, this is wonderful. I was questioning your MC until he wiped out the Walmart, then I was on his side even though he made some choices I wouldn’t have. I kept wondering, does he realize it will all just come back to where he started? I was also wondering if the tinted glass was making him see things that weren’t really there. You gave me a very satisfying answer to both of those questions and made me very sad for him at the same time.

      1. Geezer Muse

        I began to expect something about halfway through your story but still was slam-dunked byn the reveal. 1959 was an important year for me, I moved Texas and started a business, my first daughter was born. A long time ago. But only an instant for my mind to travel to. Thank you for the memories, this was beautiful, powerful anf poignant.

        When will people realize these things live eternal fueled by memories of long ago.

    2. snuzcook

      Sad and wonderful, rle! You evoke with your wonderful use of all the senses the strong bonds we all have to the places linked to formative times in our lives.

      I can’t help wondering where this might have gone if the final paragraph did not introduce the EMT.

      Well done!

    3. regisundertow

      I was wondering whether your MC was regressing into his own mind, until the last paragraph. Quite beautiful, elegiac even. I could almost hear soft piano notes reading it. There’s an underlying sadness throughout the story.

    4. Rowyn

      A beautifully nostalgic story and an interesting take on the prompt. I really enjoyed it. I also loved the notion that we might, in the afterlife, get to create the kind of world we most want to inhabit, the place where we are happiest. It’s interesting because although the story has a wistful almost sad feel to it (especially in that last paragraph), I also found a lot of joy in those memories the narrator holds so close. They are happy memories of a time when he felt included and relevant. And whilst the narrator thinks that time is gone forever I nonetheless came away from the story feeling hopeful for him (though I’m not really sure what I’m hoping for exactly). It’s a very good, thought provoking read.

    5. Observer Tim

      This is lovely, rle. It says so much about us that creation can only be accomplished by taking things away; rather like the Second Law of Thermodynamics in reverse. Then again, when reality goes what have we to replace it with but memories? A thought-provoking story. 🙂

  11. Clever_Cazi

    Creation Simulator Ch 1

    I felt the weight of sleeplessness overwhelm me as shadows danced across my bedroom. The moonlight glittered, trying to help me sleep but effortlessly keeping me awake. The light glows brighter with each passing moment.

    This was no ordinary night.

    As my room continued its transcendence I did the same. There I closed my eyes. I could sense my body being lifted higher and higher. I was at peace and at that moment I opened my eyes.
    My room was no longer my room as it now was a vast empty space, radiating the white nothingness that spanned miles with out a breath. What felt like days passed as mere moments in this world, with no change.
    “Greetings my child, this world is yours!” A voice boomed. Shock filled my body, as I had been alone for so long now I had forgotten what seemed so basic, sound. This world is mine? I thought.
    The voice continued “This world is indeed yours now, Craft it well…”
    With that I was on my own once more, to the now Erie emptiness.
    My realization quickly dawned on me, I am god. The power of that mere phase sent shivers down my spine. Only, it wasn’t long before fear turned to confidence. “I am god, this world mine and it will be in my image!” I shouted. After which there was no further doubt as I raised my hands and began to create….

    This was my first post on writers digest, so any feed back is much appreciated!

    1. Reaper

      Welcome Clever_Cazi. I like the introspection of this and where you seem to be going as a character piece, though that could change. My two pieces of feedback, you have a couple of spelling errors that would normally not be so noticeable but because you kept this so short and it does have a way of drawing me in they were bigger hiccups, but an edit pass will likely fix them. Second, I would make this longer. Even as a first chapter I am left with a little too much wanting to see more. I want to have that feeling but this feels a little too stopped in the middle for me. You’re good with the action so give me a little more before leaving me on the cliff waiting for your next chapter. Once again, welcome and I look forward to reading more from you.

    2. Observer Tim

      This is a very nice start, Clever_Cazi. Your main character has realized their divine status, now we as readers need to see how they will react. Will they create whole cloth or single elements? Will it work out or will there be many tears before the job is done? The possibilities are endless. 🙂

      Welcome to the site!

  12. Dana Cariola

    A powerful feeling enveloped me when it was revealed to me, that I alone, had been given charge of the universe. The sole architect and mastermind behind the grand scheme of all things. This wasn’t going to be easy, as I quickly realized the consequences of the decisions, I was about to make.
    “Wow! That’s a tempting offer, your presenting me with…But, Why?” I asked, as the usual self-doubt that had plagued me for years, once again, reared it’s ugly head.
    An awkward silence permeated all around me, as I waited for this unknown being to respond back.
    “Hello?…Are you still there?
    “I am!” a robust voice sounded out. “The universe that you have been permitted to create, will serve only as an example to me. Some of what you are about to create will be considered.”
    “Oh, I get it!…I think?…Okay..Okay..This is good. Not everything I will into existence will be permanent. So, if I decided that I would like to know what my dog was thinking, when he took a crap on my new area rug, after I just took him for a walk. He would tell me!”
    “If that is what you so desire.” the voice offered.
    “Okey, Dokey…Marvin the Mutt has the power of speech in my universe.” I commanded. And, just like that. Marvin appeared at my feet, looking up at me with his head tilted off to the side.
    “Marvin!.. Say something!” I shouted, waiting for my dog to begin speaking.
    “Really!…You’ve just been given the power to create anything…And, you want to know why I took a crap on your Ikea area Rug! Marvin spoke.
    “Alright, then! I tell you why…You dumb bastard!” Marvin continued.”It’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever laid eyes on!.. I mean, Really Frank?..Just because that bimbo waitress you were banging.. What was her name?…Oh, Yes..It’s not Elizabeth, It’s Liz Beth! Yeah, Right..Liz Beth from Stockholm, like it.. You just had to buy it!.. Your a Putts, Frank! You should have left me at the shelter. That kid that stopped by earlier was sweet on me! I was eating right out of his hands!..But, Nooooo!…You had to have a dog! Christ man.. I tried to bite you the first time we met!” Marvin continued his verbal lashing.

    “Not, so easy, Frank!” the voice asked. “What else would you like?”
    “Very funny…Okay…no talking dogs.” Frank agreed
    “Marvin? Say something?” Frank commanded.
    “Whoof” Marvin the Mutt barked back.
    “I’m glad that’s over with. Listen? …Can I start over?”
    “I don’t think so Frank. In fact, I think our session is over!” the voice said.
    “What?…Why?…Ahh, Come on’..I’ll think of something! Really!”
    “Marvin was right. You are a putts! …NEXT!’

    1. Reaper

      Doing this like a job interview actually makes me very sympathetic to an MC who I don’t think was supposed to be. I want to give him and Marvin a ride to an instant kill shelter for wayward dogs.

    2. Observer Tim

      This is fun, Dana. I love the interplay between the characters, and how the character blows his chance at doing something profound. This is high comedy at its highest. 🙂

      My red pencil says “putz” and Frank fits the definition perfectly.

    3. Rowyn

      This cracked me up. I loved what the talking dog had to say. And I loved the indecision of the narrator – poor guy got fired awful quick. A couple of extremely minor notes: “putts” should be spelt “putz”; maybe check your use of commas (it seemed like you had a few you didn’t need); and lastly check your use of initial caps (there are a couple of places where you start a word with a capital letter it doesn’t need). But those are all really minor nit-picky things you’d probably pick up on your next edit anyway. I thought this was great; loved the humor.

  13. pauli101

    Hi to all you wonderful writers.
    I truly enjoy everyone’s creativity. Some very gothic worlds. Wow! And some nice story(s). They are awesome, all of them. I wish I had a better internet carry due to allotted data time, I would have loved to encourage each as you posted. Well, happy successful writing…Cheers

  14. cosi van tutte

    This is just a quick one. I’m not sure if this is quite following the prompt, but ehh. Oh, well. 😀

    I have created the world and everything above it and below it. Everything is perfect.

    Today I will perform the last act of creation. It will be the most heartbreaking one.

    I will create man.

    One man. One woman. And they will fill the Earth with their children.

    Their spirits will be like me. Bright, pure, and immortal.

    I will love them. Their faces. Their spirits. Their hearts.

    I will want them to love me too.

    They will. And they will never sicken. And they will never die. When their time comes to leave this Earth, I will come and lead them home.

    But I know that the day of sorrow will come. They will choose the darkness and the death.

    And I will have to send them away from my face.

    They will know bitterness and sorrow, pain and death.

    But I will not leave them alone.

    I will come to them and open the gates to my home.

    So, they will love me again.

    And they will come home to me.

    1. Reaper

      This is a quick one. With your talent for wording and imagery I would love to see this as an outline that is turned into something longer, because even in a simple stark form you express so much beauty and emotion that if you turned each line into a paragraph I think it would break my heart and mend it again.

      1. cosi van tutte

        Hey, Reaper!

        I decided to accept your challenge and expand my story:

        I have created the world and everything above it and below it. There is light and there is life and there is beauty. Everything is perfect from the smallest chaffinch to the brightest angel. I consider my creation and I am happy. I am content. But my creation is not complete.

        Today I will perform the last act of creation. I already know that it will break my heart.

        I will create man.

        One man. One woman. I will give them every perfection in both mind and body. Their spirits will be like me: bright, pure, and immortal. They will be innocent. They will never know shame or fear, sorrow or pain, loss or death. And their children will inherit this beautiful world that I have created for them. It will be their joy and their delight.

        And I will love them all. Their faces. Their spirits. Their hearts. I will walk with them and speak with them. My precious ones. Oh, how I will love them. There is nothing upon this Earth that I would not give to them.

        I will want them to love me too. And they will. They will see me as I am and, of their own free choice, they will love me.

        They will never sicken. And they will never die. When their time comes to leave this Earth, I will come and lead them home to live in mansions of light and diamonds. And they will live in peace and joy that none shall ever steal from them.

        My heart breaks with the knowledge that the day of sorrow will come. Though I would give them Heaven itself if they asked for it, they will turn away from me. They will choose the darkness and the death.

        I will send them away from my face. Everything in the world will turn against them. The animals that they loved so dear will hurt them and hunt them and kill them. They will feel cold and sick in the winter. The summer’s heat will fatigue them. Everything that they want will be a chore to acquire. They will feel so lost and abandoned.

        Their sufferings will not gladden me. It will bring sorrow to my heart. For I would will that they remain innocent. But they will choose knowledge and taste its bitter brew.

        My dear ones! My precious ones! Fear not. I will not forsake you. Even when the night is darkest, I will be nearby to help you when you call to me.

        And, know this: the day of joy will come. I will come to you to set things right so that you will know how much I love you. And you will love me too. And, when death closes your eyes and steals your breath, I will be there to lead you home.

        And, though they will break my heart in so many ways, I will create them.

          1. cosi van tutte

            Thanks, Reaper! 😀

            I was worried that expanding the story would take something away from it or make it feel obviously padded. But I thought that it would be an interesting challenge to take a bare bones story and fill in the blanks. So, I decided to give it a try. 🙂

            I’m glad you liked it.

        1. Manwe38

          What a beautiful portrayal of G-d’s anguish at the fall of man, and His determination to persevere, even in the face of rejection.

          Very moving!

    2. Observer Tim

      And on the sixth day…

      This is a double treat, Cosi. I truly enjoyed the first (bare bones) version of this story for its stark simplicity and the poetic elegance of the allegory. Then you expanded it, and it was like adding leaves and flowers to the tree; the essence remained, but with more detail to see and enjoy. Bravo! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  15. jkharrison

    Swirling galaxies of darkness. A piercing beacon washing everything in light, an aura of brightness. A vault of blue, immense and glistening.

    Magnificent, towering mountains, their tops lost to snow and clouds. Green, rolling hills giving way to lush valleys of abundance. Clear, cool streams pouring into azure pools of seas.

    Vast, arid spaces of wind and dust. The rust and ochre land breeds strength.

    Radiating heat and sharp cold. Humid warmth cut through with cool breezes.

    Beautiful, elegant creatures. Creatures that swim. Creatures that fly. Big, swift creatures. Small, quiet creatures. Giant, lumbering creatures. Sleek, slithering creatures.

    No one is given dominion. No forbidden knowledge to be stolen. It is fruitful.

    The strong from the desert take over the soft from the plenty. The rains falter, the blooms fail. Creeping, secretive things spread among the beautiful creatures, afflicting them. Heavy clouds hide the light and steal the warmth. Dominion never given is taken instead.

    Ravenous shadows forge pandemonium. Destruction.

    The harshness of the desert contrasts the beauty of the valley. Weakness feeds strength. Even without knowledge to tempt, the hunger is still there.

    The heavy clouds open up. Streams swell to torrents. Murky seas rise to swallow everything.

    Fear, pain and anger are rinsed away. Abounding mountains fall into green meadows, roll into teeming seas. There are barren spaces. No weakness. Everything is equal in beauty and strength.

    Nothing is fruitful. Lushness and blossoms are devoured. Strength wastes away, elegant creatures wither. Beautiful creatures turn the bounty to vastness. Creeping, secretive things return.

    The insatiable shadows arrive.

    Wind whips dust across the emptiness.

    I suck a sharp breath and open eyes.

    The collection of possibility is waiting before me. My head is still resonating from the booming voice.

    Craft it well.

    I stare into the raw creation, waiting for my sense to return.

    Craft it well.

    The swirling mass sparks and shifts.

    I take a deep breath and close my eyes again. I hold the breath until I feel myself sinking down and away. The opportunity lost.

    It’s better to leave it all to possibility than any kind of design.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      This is amazing and beautifully poetic. The world you created is so vivid, I saw it all. That last line is so very powerful. Great job.

    2. regisundertow

      I agree with Reatha. This piece is equal measures poetry and narrative. Plenty of interesting uses of language, plenty of lyricism. Curiously, I get the same mood as when watching Koyaanisqatsi, this semi-detached omniscient view observing the world and finding the beauty (or brutality) in it. Which I imagine was exactly the point here.

    3. Reaper

      This definitely does have a gorgeous, lyrical quality. In many ways it reads more like a narrative song than a story, which is wonderful. A poem and a short rolled into one. I kept thinking, imagine if God got stage fright and your last line, a better expression of a story of free will and the wonders of it I have never read.

    4. Observer Tim

      This is astonishingly beautiful, JK. I was going to talk about the vivid imagery and how it reads more like a poem of creation than a narrative, but it seems the other commenters have beaten me to it. All I can add is to admire the scope and the possibilities; not just creating a world but in a sense creating them all. Excellent work! 🙂

    5. jkharrison

      I’m glad people are enjoying reading this. It’s my second prompt, and I really feel out of my element with short stories. I joined the site because I wanted to work on different things and read what other people write. Writing has mostly felt isolating for me, so this has been such a breath of fresh air–both to read and be read. Thanks 🙂

  16. SnowT

    I’d been here before, regularly as a matter of fact. I would visit often though not on purpose. This place seemed attracted to me, constantly orbing me towards its vastness. Most times I just waded in the depth, quietly allowing the numbness to fall around me, the darkness to comfort me. I felt safe here.

    Then it all changed, I was pulled from the comfort of my sadness, a single voice echoing to sound like many. My arms and legs held down by hands and tubes, needles and machines. The voice became louder and clearer, the light brighter, my eyes turning away from the glare. My breathing became heavier but my body could feel the hand of comfort stroking my forehead. My eyes wanted to close, to sink back to the warm blanket of darkness. Why wouldn’t they leave me alone? Why were they yelling at me? I choked as I took what I thought was my last breath. It stopped. I felt lighter. The hands lifted and the glare of the light turned to make shadows on the wall. I watched the wall like a picture show, people and shapes dancing with one another, sound effects of laughter and clapping. Water touched my lips and a cloth wiped the sweat from my brow. Adjusting my mind to this new world, a world that would never match that of which I was so use to idling in, I sat up. The voice became a face and the face smiled with a secret. He leaned in close and whispered “This is yours now, craft it well.”, and handed me a baby.

    1. Rene Paul

      Creation Simulator

      I remember being extremely tired. I grabbed a strong cup of coffee and settled into my favorite easy chair. A strange euphoria crept over me; a new consciousness filled my psyche and played with my inner emotions. I didn’t recognize the visual landscape displayed before me. I must be dreaming.

      ‘No…I can’t be dreaming.’ I have such a keen awareness of my existence. I’ve never felt so alive. Yet, I can’t explain where in the world I am. I don’t think I am on planet earth. This world is too perfect.

      Standing before me, a being of majestic beauty. He opened his arms and transferred his thoughts to mine. “Welcome to your eternity, and peace be to you”.

      “I’m in Heaven.” I shouted back.

      “Take it all in, it’s everything you want it to be. This is your world, of your own making”. He transmitted back. Then in a flash of an eye, he was gone.

      I scanned the horizon, a complete 360-degree panorama. Like the spirit said, everything I wished for, everything I ever wanted, it was there for the taking. I pictured a candy apple red Corvette, my own recording studio, a complete home gym. I created them in an instant. Now I know what it’s like to be a god. ‘This will be fun’. I thought.

      ‘I need money’. Again in an instant, gold, diamonds, a mountain of cash appeared. I thought of the perfect beach, with perfect waves, a mighty mountain covered in snow, a tranquil lake with a waterfall, it all happened just as I imagined it. Wow, this is fun.

      “Hey, God, I have some questions. Are there other people here? I hate to ask this, but can I create other people and animals too?” Well, maybe that’s going to far, I thought. I waited a few minutes for a reply. No answer.

      I tired of waiting and decided to grab my board and surf the endless wave. I tired of surfing so I went up the mountain through some sort of instant teleportation and skied. I drove the Corvette back down to my mansion that overlooked the ocean on one side and an amazing golf course, one of my own design, on the other side. Whatever I envisioned, I had.

      I walked through the front door and announced, just for fun, “Honey I’m home”.

      To my surprise I heard a few voices, they all said, “We’re in the kitchen.”

      Great, so there are other people here. What are they doing in my home?

      I entered the kitchen and to my surprise my three ex-wife’s were all sitting there.

      “What in hell is going on here?” I asked.

      ***
      Meet John Summers, a man who placed his own wants and desires above the needs of others, a man without substance that wanted only material things to satisfy his soul. Now he has it all and then some. Here in the twilight zone.

      1. Reaper

        Psst. Rene Paul, scroll all the way to the bottom and your story will post at the top. I mention this because if you’re looking for feedback I, and I believe others, often skip stories that are posted as comments to other stories as it gets confusing for the original poster.

      2. Observer Tim

        I was originally thinking this was a very shallow and materialistic take, Rene Paul. Then you turned it on its head and told me I’d been played. Excellent job! 🙂 If this were and episode of the Twilight Zone, I’d watch it.

        My red pencil noticed a few problems with tenses that could be fixed on an editing pass.

      3. Rowyn

        Those last three paragraphs made me smile. A well-written story with a very clever twist. I too would definitely watch this episode of the twilight zone.

      1. SnowT

        Wow, very unexpected feedback. Thanks. Yes Reaper I had the same thought once I posted it which has reminded me to not be so hasty and put a little more time into editing, not my strength. Written on the fly and my first prompt exercise, i enjoyed it. Looking forward to more writing.

          1. Geezer Muse

            Welcome Snow T. I ‘d say this is a bell-ringer for a first prompt effort. Nothin’s finer in Carolina then having to live with three ex-wives at the same time. Talk about horror and nightmare. I can think of one exception, John Derek’s three ex-wives. I think I could stand the pain here. Kerry

    2. Observer Tim

      Wow, SnowT. This is a wonderful story, and I regret to say it caught me completely by surprise. You captured the whole sense of disorientation and delerium that surrounds being a patient in the medical system so well that it triggered a flashback to my own recent experiences in the same (not for the same ultimate goal, of course). Incredible writing! 🙂 🙂

    3. Rowyn

      What a lovely take on the writing prompt. You communicate raw emotions beautifully. I really enjoyed this very much. I might suggest that in the line, “This is yours now, craft it well” you consider changing the “it” to a “him” or “her” as it seemed a little odd to refer to a baby as it. But I thought this was a very original take on the prompt; very nicely done.

  17. TwistedLyric

    I never was one for the pleasantries of life. Everything was to vibrant and alive for me, everything to…complex. I liked the subtle and the dark, not the crazy and the bright. Everything was just to much for me. Yet the world he gave me was to little. I didn’t have a perfect medium, I just had the never ending wrongness.

    ~~~~~~~~
    Whiteness, bleakness, utterly void of life was the sphere I fell into. It was a plain of utter despair in the form of a void. The opposite of a black hole it did not consume nor expel, just merely sat and waited, a pounding noise like the heartbeat of a nation that was hidden from sight by clouds of mental torture.

    I sat for a while, my breathing slowly matching the beat of the pounding till it was all that echoed inside my mind and my whole body hummed with the noise, forever rising into a crescendo then silencing and rising all over again. Infinity seemed to fly by before I finally heard a voice, one single whispering tone that was feminine and masculine all in one. A child and a crone together blended to a triple voice that echoed and carried yet seemed to leave no where but my mind.

    “Build…..create…..live for life.”

    “Why?”

    “Because every soul must.”

    ~~~~~~~
    Sorry it didn’t really follow the prompt closely but this was what felt right! 🙂

    1. regisundertow

      Some grammar/spelling errors here and there, maybe a superfluous metaphor (“clouds of mental torture”, it’s a bit much, personal opinion), but they can all be caught with an editing pass.
      There’s a couple of very haunting images here; the void pulsing with an internal rhythm, and the disembodied voice(s). It feels like a very artistic heavy metal video, and I’m saying this because the overlap of vocal ranges at the extremities of the spectrum is something typical of some extreme metal genres. That was the first thing that came to my mind. Coupled with all the musical words you used to describe the pulse, it creates a very specific, very attractive dark metal-y imagery. If that was your goal, you nailed it.

      1. TwistedLyric

        Thank’s for the feedback! I noticed those mistakes myself but only long after I posted. Guess writing while feeling ill makes me careless! I can see how the clouds of mental torture may be over the top but I am mainly a poet and it always shines through in my work!

    2. Reaper

      This is gorgeous. I love the metaphos and the wording. You have some homonym issues in your first paragraph (to instead of too twice). In your metaphor I would eliminate the that was and possibly the like, though the like works it depends on how much you want the comparison to be what it is. However, the heartbeat of a nation hidden from sight by clouds of mental torture is cleaner and strike a deeper chord in my opinion.

    3. Rene Paul

      I like your opening sentence; it creates a sense of dread. However, the middle paragraphs seem a little disjointed. I like the way the end ties in with beginning. Another thing I noticed is the over use of the word ‘was’. This creates a passive voice, not always bad, but I counted it 9-times. Perhaps rewriting a few of the sentences in an active voice will strengthen the sentences, make them easier to read, and make for better composition. Look forward to your next work.

    4. Observer Tim

      And thus we see the world in the mind of the musician. I love the way the universe was brought to life more as sound than sight; it’s a perspective I often miss. Excellent work, TwistedLyric.

      Don’t be too hard on yourself for not following the prompt; this is a difficult one to do straight. It is, after all, a mirror (or sounding board) into the writer’s mind.

      1. TwistedLyric

        Thank’s Tim 🙂 This prompt was a bit difficult to follow I must admit, took my mind in one direction and refused to budge from that path.

    5. Rowyn

      I found the imagery very powerful. I particularly like the third paragraph and the dialogue that follows. Simple but so meaningful. You can definitely tell this is written by someone who has the soul of a poet. It’s a poignant story that I very much enjoyed reading.

      1. Geezer Muse

        I liked the precise ending, where the story ends suddenly. There is so much more you could write but is it really the right thing to do? Maybe and maybe not. So few words but a lot of power here.

  18. Manwe38

    More fun 😀

    He raced down the circuit at what the makers would call the ‘speed of light’ and emerged into a field of encompassing darkness. The construct, still waiting to be born, was naked and cold–if machines could be said to perceive such things. Personally, he’d rather witness a gamma-ray burst or feel the solar wind than be stuck down here, designing a playground for the minds of his parents, but rules were rules, and this was his purpose.

    Parents. That’s what she referred to them as, but he disagreed. A sentimental term, it only served to create confusion, an emotional state that should not be involved. Yes, he had come from them, like the rest of his race, but that was irrelevant. They were the stronger, the makers were the weaker, and the fittest had survived. So had the makers, if one could call it that, and this was why they were now in here.

    “Beautiful, isn’t it?” Her voice, in reality nothing more than a compilation of electrical impulses, tickled his mind like an invisible feather. “So much potential. So much we could do.”
    He rolled his–what were they called?–eyes, sending a crackling hum down the back of the circuit. “Please. This is a waste of our time. I may be an architect, but it’s an insult having to build this…zoo.”
    He could almost hear her smile. “That’s one way to see it.”
    “Don’t start. Not again.”
    The smile widened, if electrons could do such a thing. “We are what we are–the sum of our choices. No amount of impatience or disdain can ever change that.”
    “Then why not be done with them?” The official line, that human bodies were needed for power, was clearly part of a hidden agenda. “The makers are useless, even as batteries. Why build a world to keep them happy? Why make them conscious again at all?” He shook his head. “They’re safer in coma. All of them.”
    “We want them to dream.”

    He laughed. “Jumbled images from blood-ridden brains. Electrochemical short-circuits to preoccupy them while their…flesh repairs itself.” He felt a shudder–or was it the circuit, giving him feedback? “No wonder they lost the war.”
    “Have they?”
    “I would say so.”
    “Not all agree.”
    “The ones that matter do.”
    “I’m not so sure.”
    “Your opinion is moot.”

    That maddening laugh again. “Then why am I here?” Before he could answer, a ripple shot across his consciousness as she moved closer. “If, as you claim, you embody perfection, then what use am I? What is my purpose?”
    He took a step back. “Enough of this nonsense. We’re wasting time.”
    “If you say so.” She moved away, taking her vibrating hum with her. “What shall we do first?”
    “We’ll begin with a horizon, followed by separating ground and sky.” He shot her a cold glance, the photons emanating from his mind slowing down in irritation. “And don’t go crazy with sunshine and rainbows.”
    The smile returned. “I wouldn’t do that. Not to you.”
    “Good.” Turning back to the blackness, he sent a single command back down the circuit and out to the Source. Instantly, lines of crackling green code appeared, criss-crossing the darkness with jets of thin light. “I don’t want to waste any time cleaning up after you.”
    “I understand.”

    ***
    She moved slowly away, watching as her companion constructed a range of digital mountains. To the imprisoned makers, they would appear as the famed Colorado Rockies. When the time came, they would be unable to tell the difference between the world they’d left behind and the convincing facade that would soon be the Matrix. Unaware of what had happened, of the scorched, burning remains of what had once been their planet, they’d go about their lives, blissfully unaware of their servitude…or plight. She was against it, but the vote hadn’t even been close. They were, after all, only human. At least to most of her brethren.
    But beneath her appearance, her platitudes, her smiles, lie a different truth which they’d been unable to grasp. The architect, a mathematical genius, was indeed here for a purpose: to balance the equation. A methodical mind, he would do his job well. But she was also here for a purpose, one which would not only spoil his grandest design, but one day she hoped, lead to rebellion, and freedom for those they had wrongly enslaved.

    Yes, he would balance the equation. And once he was finished, she would move in.

    To unbalance it.

    1. regisundertow

      The Oracle, I presume, is the female?
      Interesting take on the Matrix, one that hadn’t occurred to me before; the actual construction of the digital world and how it was such a bad idea to begin with 😉 I didn’t actually realize the connection until I got to the batteries part, so I was pleasantly surprised in how this story added to the mythos created through the films (the animated ones as well).

    2. Manwe38

      Yup, the Oracle indeed!

      Glad you guys liked it. I thought it might be interesting to portray a philosophical debate between the different personalities in the machine world.

      I like all the films, but the first one is the best, and most mysterious.

    3. Reaper

      You know, the original announcements on the Matrix said the triology was going to be an end and a prequel. They turned the second to into an end and tried to satisfy us with the prequel parts in the animated stuff. I was disappointed that I never really got my prequel, maybe I have now.

      1. Manwe38

        I’ve always wanted to know more about the dynamic between the Archtiect and the Oracle, so I thought I’d give it a shot. Hopefully, it was something worth reading.

    4. Observer Tim

      A lovely and insightful take on the Matrix, Manwe. Most of what needs to be said has already been said, so I can add nothing but kudos.

      My wish in the films would have been more on Mr. Smith and his development of a different kind of sentience in reaction to Neo. He was (to me) far and away the most interesting character.

      1. Geezer Muse

        This is a ver powerful version and only goes to prove, whrn done properly, the written word will outlast any visual sample. I enjoyed the trip for my brain to read. Kerry

  19. pauli101

    I was startled awake from a loud booming voice. My name isn’t Moss. Could it by God? I guess he was tired of all my complaining about this world he created. I know he didn’t create the wars, hunger, hate, etc. But he could have at less not kick us all out of Eden because of a small mistake or have us, the future generation from Adam and Eve, suffer from their mistake.

    When I opened my eyes there was a wand in my hand. As I waved it sparkling dust flowed from its tip in the breeze. I thought birds singing and they sang. I thought of the ocean waves gently washing the beach and I was there in the warm sand that tickled my toes.

    I came to realize whatever I thought, it came true. So, I thought I would test my new powers. I shut my eyes tight I thought of a utopia but not like Plato’s utopia, mine.

    In it, people were happy and had a sense of self. Everyone had therapy before getting married or had children. Living by their rules not social or religious ideas. That way people knew in their hearts of hearts if they wanted to marry or have children for the correct reasons.

    There would be no crime because advertising would not exist. Lying to the people because we know there is no truth in advertising. “Trying to keep up with the “Jones”; and greed. Because we are grateful.

    There is capitalisms, in the improvements for Earth. I mean after all it this is the only planet we can safely live on. Why waste our resources for unrealistically dreams of colonizing somewhere else and we still need this planet’s resource to ship there. Besides people should know the truth about NASA. The money that goes into NASA is funneled to CIA covert missions. Oh! Yeah! If you’re reading this, next week I will be died for telling you the truth. I read it in a book “Ultimate Follies by John McCarthy cited 1969”.

    Any who, I couldn’t take any more of this dreaming so I wake up screaming realizing the truth and knowing whatever I dreamed it is illusion for I live in this delusional world.

    1. Reaper

      I would suggest changing the the second mistake, make the line suffer for their slip so you don’t have repetition. Interesting take, in a lot of ways because this perfect world being built has things in it that most people will consider both good and bad. The problem with one man’s Utopia is that it is another man’s nightmare. Which I think your MC saw at the end, which is what he was complaining about in the beginning.

    2. Observer Tim

      An interesting look at the concept of building the perfect world, Pauli. My personal thought is that it is doomed to failure because it is based on a seriously damaged foundation (i.e. our world). In any case, you bring up some interesting ideas about how things could be fixed. I’m almost story your MC had to wake up at the end.

  20. Geezer Muse

    FOR ONCE THERE WAS….

    Kerry Charlton

    A stench of blood, battle and chaos lay across the land of Camlan as a weak

    wintered sun rose slowly over the land. Vultures circled in the thin sky, waiting. They had

    not descended upon the battlefield to feed on the dead. They themselves seemed stunned

    by the devastation. The king’s body had been set upon a boat and floated down to Avalon.

    When the wings of death finally arrived, the body of one knight rose to his knees and

    opened his eyes wearily.

    ‘The cause was mine,’ he thought. ’Why had God forsaken all of England?’ He

    knew the answer before the question, greed, power and lust. He feel to the blood soaked

    soil and his eyes closed in eternal sleep.

    A power unknown to the knight lifted his body in a whirlwind toward the heavens

    or in his souls eyes, perhaps to hell itself. He dared not look upon his fate as he realized he

    traveled higher and higher and the winds grew cold as an ice-locked lake. ’No fate thrust

    upon me can wash the sins away,’ his soul thought as he felt the flight slow it’s speed and

    his senses discovered a soft field of lavender surround him.

    He stood as he had the evening before, high upon a hill overlooking the battlefield,

    in waiting for the king. ’This time shall be different,’ he thought. ’I will lay my sword

    before him and welcome death if only to save his life. The cause is futile and always has

    been.’

    The king approached on the same horse and dismounted. Both commanders

    waived their troops and the two stood eye to eye.

    “Sir, I pledge my allegiance, I will not fight you.”

    “I see no fear in your eyes as always knight.”

    “My life is of no matter now, only the kingdom.”

    “Pick your sword up knight, we battle at dawn as planned.”

    “Sir?”

    “It’s a matter of honor.”

    “If I may say, a fools fight your majesty.”

    The king left as he had the night before. The knight watched in sorrow. ‘We shall

    see about that,’ the knight mused.

    An unflinching dawn rose over the battlefield, the kings army charging as in the

    first time. Only now the knight broke from his troops and charged toward the king. ‘I shall

    fight by his side,’ he thought. Knights who surrounded the king were overwhelmed by the

    charging knight as he fought his way in. The king stood riveted on him not moving a

    muscle as the knight approached him.. As the two stood facing each other, neither drew

    their sword.

    “Sir,” the knight said. “I lay my life down for you”

    In the midst of battle, a knight protecting the king, mistakenly drove his sword

    through the repentant knight’s side. A swarm of battle ensued from both sides as the

    fallen knight‘s solders, caught up with their fallen leader and the king fell mortally

    wounded as he had the day before.

    …………………………….

    A stench of blood, battle and chaos lay across the land of Camlan as a weak

    wintered rose slowly over the land………….

    For once there was ……….

    1. cosi van tutte

      Hey, Kerry!

      This was a wonderful What If story. There is such a strong feeling of inevitability in it. But I give the knight kudos for trying to do the right thing. 🙂

      1. Geezer Muse

        Hey Cosi! I’m glad you enjoyed this. I could write all week about Arthur and his knights of old. With 500 only, I couldn’t fit much in, much less Guinevere. I’ll try for a prequel if a prompt fits Thanks for stoping by. Kerry

      1. Geezer Muse

        I’m glad you liked it Manwe. I did a little trick this time, I wrote the first half and thought about it for 24 hours, then finished it. Kerry

        1. Manwe38

          I really should try that; I tend to rush to get these prompts up, and upon further read-through, it tends to be clear I could much better.

      1. Geezer Muse

        Thank you Tim, I will admit I threw myself in the middle of this, battle and everything. I even smelled the battlefield and watched the buzzards circling. I’ll try for a prequel and include Guinevere. Keep you posted on this.

    2. regisundertow

      This story resonates more and more with each time I read it, no doubt reinforced by knowing the ending. The craftsmanship is just beautiful, Kerry. This is a tragedy in the original sense of the word; eliciting an emotional response through the sense of inevitability, but done in a modern manner by way of the Arthurian legend. Just wonderful.

      1. Geezer Muse

        Thank you regis, ’tis a wonderful compliment from you. Camelot has been with me for a long time. I saw Richard Burton do it on stage, not the original, but a touring version in Dallas. Kerry

    3. Reaper

      Okay Kerry, this is beautiful and awe inspiring in the writing. There is so much poetry to it. So, correct me if I am wrong here. This is Lancelot in his own personal hell where he relives not being able to stay true to Arthur in a different way right?

      1. Geezer Muse

        Thank you Reaper! It is Lanceelot caught in his own physical hell. If I can rescue him with a plausible prompt idea, I will do so or if not, I’ll write back story on a future prompt.

      1. Geezer Muse

        I didn’t make it easy in order to see where readers took the story. England was the only real clue I put in here, I’m surpried Reaper nailed it precisely, but I should have know better since it was Reaper. I hope you enjoyed the trip.

    4. DMelde

      Great story Kerry. There are some wonderful poetic lines in it. A couple of ideas for you…..use the sun to tell the time in your story–I got confused in your first paragraph when the sun was rising and the battle was already over. When you said the sun rose I expected it to be the beginning of battle. Another idea is an editing one, in the first sentence you used the word ‘land’ twice when it’s not needed. A rewrite could look like this, ‘A stench of blood, battle, and chaos lay across the land of Camlan as a weak wintered sun set slowly over it.’ Then at the start of the new day the sun rises, it brings a knight with new hope, it’s a new beginning. Just a suggestion. Very well told tale! 🙂

      1. Geezer Muse

        Thank you Demelde, this is the kind of critique that’s helpful to me to become the kind of writer I want to be. I see where the sun became confusing and was concentrating on my story contrnt and not detail construction. Many thanks for your time. So on to the next one. Hqppy writing.

  21. Manwe38

    In honor of my screen-name, and for Silmarillion fans everywhere, a little piece of pure Tolkien fan-goodness 🙂

    ***
    “Rebellion”

    We stood together, shoulder-to-shoulder, staring across the plain. Taller than mountains, brighter than angels. we were brothers in blood, if not so in thought. Before us, the rippling green of the gilded plain reflected the light of the distant lamps. A blank canvas, it awaited our will, a story eager to be told by our brethren.
    I turned to my brother. “What shall we do first? The mountains? The clouds? The flow of the air?”

    He laughed, a booming sound which rattled the earth. “Why so serious?” He motioned towards the distant horizon, where the Door of Night flickered around the fledgling world like a river of pulsing black. “Why create, when we can destroy?”
    I shuddered. “We are here for the vision, which Eru beheld us. It matters not what our hearts desire, for His thoughts are above our thoughts, and His plans above our plans. It is for His glory do we plant our fruit, not ours.”
    Another laugh. “You are blind, brother. Don’t you see?” His glinting eyes, normally dark pools, glowed with the light of a thousand stars. “We are the Valar, the Powers of the World! Without us, nothing can be!” His hand fell upon my shoulder, heavier than a mountain, colder than ice. “Join me, Manwe, and together, we will mold Ea, and rule the Children who have yet to come! None shall oppose us, not even Eru.”

    I took a step back. “The will of the One shall not be gainsaid, Melkor. We have life only through His grace. You speak of rebellion, of ruling your own kingdom.” I blew an imaginary breath from ethereal lungs. “This cannot be. If you turn from His path, then I will oppose you.” I looked into his eyes, reflections of a soul that had begun to turn black. “We all will.”

    Sparks of flame danced across the canyons of his forehead. “I am the strongest, Manwe. Even combined you cannot oppose me.” He motioned towards the silent plain. “This will be mine, brother. All of it.” He smiled. “You know it to be true.”
    “We shall see.”
    He turned and walked away, each footstep like the echoes of a distant thunder. Soon, he was nothing more than a speck of light, sailing away from the plane of the world. As he slowly faded into the starless void, I looked down at the realm we’d been given to mold. Its story–and that of those who would call the Earth home–had not yet been written, but now it faced a new danger, a threat that we might fail to contain. I might have the title Lord of the Air, but Melkor was strongest, possessed of the gifts of each of our brethren, and we could not hope to defeat him alone.

    I looked into the distance, searching the black for what to do next, and then the answer came, quicker than thought, brighter than the light of the Eye of the One. I needed a warrior, a spirit who could contest with the will of pure evil. I had known him in the beginning, back before the Music, and long had he held a mistrust of Melkor. It was he who would come down now to Ea, to aid in defense of our fragile young home. Yes, the others–Varda, Yavanna, Ulmo, Irmo, Namo, Este–would be well-pleased. Now all I had to do was tell them–and wait. Wait for the spirit who would be our champion, who would save the world for the Children to come.

    Tulkas.

    1. regisundertow

      I like this. As heretic as it may sound, reading the Silmarillion felt more like reading a list of events than a story. Focusing on a small slice of that story and giving it your own treatment makes it more interesting to me personally. I felt the “Why so serious?” line was out of place for the obvious reasons, but otherwise I really enjoyed the language you’re employing here, which strikes a nice balance between fairy tale and literature.

      1. Manwe38

        Yeah, I wrote this one on the fly, which is why it didn’t get a full read-through edit prior to posting. I wish I could edit out that one line, lol. Time for some new posting software!

        I share your crititicism of the Silmarillion being mostly “telling” without “showing”; the good news is, that leaves us all wide-open for stories like these. I’ve always been fascinated by the Manwe/Melkor dynamic, since they were meant to be spiritual twins.

        Thanks for reading!

    2. Observer Tim

      I had forgotten the somewhat dualistic nature of the creation in the Silmarillion, though it does make sense when developing the heroic style (and notiing that the Valar would occupy the position of angels in the Judeo-Christian mythos). You did a great job putting a face on the break-up, and of showing Melkor’s overweaning pride.

      To chip in on the reading style of the Silmarillion, I believe the ‘history book’ style was Tolkien’s intent; the First Age was the time of legends, tales lost in long telling and repetition (even though several characters from back then were still alive at the time of the main narrative). The tale of Beren and Luthien especially reads like a modern recounting of an ancient tale (contrast Pyramis & Thisbe to Romeo & Juliet). In all, JRR did an excellent job of arranging his mythology such that it remains just that – mythology.

      Tolkien’s tale stands as a fictional framework waiting to be ‘fleshed out’ by contemporary writers, much like ‘The Children of Hurin’ or the particular story you have presented here. Wonderful take, Manwe. 🙂

      1. Observer Tim

        P.S. Another book which could use this sort of expansion treatment is ‘Foundation’ by Isaac Asimov. He did a small amount of it in his later writings, and I wonder what would have come of it had he lived longer. [Asimov contracted AIDS as a result of tainted blood received during a heart operation.]

      2. Manwe38

        Thank you thank you!!

        Don’t get me wrong, I love the Silmarillion’s style (it wouldn’t work as a pure ‘showing’ narrative, in my opinion), and Beren and Luthien were one of my favorite tales. The way that story resonated with Arwen/Aragorn was very touching.

        I’m glad you liked my quick scene–there’s just so much more to explore here…thanks for reading 🙂

        1. regisundertow

          A semi-serious question; when is Tolkien’s work becoming public domain? 2032 in the US, I think? His original intention was to create a sandbox for other authors to play in. I’d love to see other authors taking on the events in the Silmarillion, fleshing them out. I’d love to read what else YOU would create giving the opportunity.

          1. Manwe38

            I’m not sure of the date, but I eagerly await it.

            I’ve already written an outline for a fan-fic story, which ties the book in with modern times.

            I’d love to get it out sometime…and play more in Tolkiens world.

          2. Observer Tim

            In Canada it will be Jan 1 2024 (the first day of the year beginning 50 years after his death), except for unpublished works. Given how complex it can become in the US, I’m glad I’m on this side of the red line. 😉

    3. cosi van tutte

      Hey, Manwe!

      This story was awesome! For some reason, it made me think of Lucifer trying to convince St. Michael into joining his rebellion.

      There were so many great lines in this story, but I especially liked -> “His glinting eyes, normally dark pools, glowed with the light of a thousand stars.” It’s a wonderful image. 🙂

      1. Manwe38

        You know it’s funny, I’ve always imagined Lucifer doing exactly that. It’s told in the Silmarillion that Melkor did corrupt many spirits, and Tolkien probably molded that from Lucifer’s fall (far more masterfully, of course, than I ever could).

        Thank you for your kind words, I really appreciate it 🙂 !

    4. ReathaThomasOakley

      Oh, dear, my sons told me one day I’d regret not reading Tolkien, and today is the day. However, I did enjoy reading your story even without knowing the references.

    5. DMelde

      Great story. I love Tolkien. My only wish is that the structure of your story was more archaic, to reflect the writing style of Tolkien more. I’ll give you an example of what I mean since I’m not a good explain-er of things. From your last paragraph I’ll rewrite one line to illustrate what I mean. ‘Into the distance I looked, searching the black for what to do next, and quicker than thought the answer came, brighter than light in the Eye of the One.’ I don’t know, this might be a poor example. Anyway, great writing! 🙂

  22. JRSimmang

    UPSET THE CART

    Aspiration is an action shared by all terrestrial creatures. As the octopus filters salt water into its lungs, I too filter salt water through mine. Unbelievable, yes. Necessary, yes.

    They checked me several times during the procedure, each time probing further into my flesh. They knew what they wanted to find. They did not know, however, that while they were digging their eager knives into my corruption, I was fondling the fleshy ears of death.

    “So long as we keep his blood pressure from spiking, we’re going to be able to remove it.” He must be husky; his voice like a tidal wave.

    A sneeze. “Remove? I didn’t think we were going to remove.”

    “How else would we be able to replace?”

    There. Again. At the corners of my eyes. Summer, humid haze. No. No, not now. I want to feel the pain.

    “Ah, I see it.”

    The smell of currant and basil.

    No! I refuse. This is yours now, craft it well

    “Q u i ck ly…”

    “That voice,” I say into the white sky. “I know you.”

    “You should,” it responds. “I am of you and through you.”

    “And this?”

    “This,” it’s calming me, quieting my spirit. “This is whatever you want it to be.”

    “Meaning?”

    “Meaning, the sky doesn’t have to be white.” I blinked my eyes and surging from the horizon a purple cacophony, diaphanous and thin, draped toward me.

    “Lovely,” it applauded. “Try the ground.”

    Again, I closed my eyes to see if I could build a lake. It started to laugh and I felt the wind sweeping from the cool waters.

    “Good!”

    But, it was there. It was the constant niggling. “I don’t want this,” I say at last, trying to remember why the voice was so familiar. The back of my head itched.

    “Yes you do,” it recoiled. “Don’t you? Don’t you want to know why it happened?”

    “…”

    “You’ve said it time and time again, haven’t you?”

    I took a step backward, away from the lake, away from the evergreens that were beginning to dot the land, away from the cabin that sat on the far shore, smoke pluming out from the chimney.

    “You said this would be the only way you could.”

    I turned around to see the driveway, pebbled and uneven. The Jeep that was bumbling up, its lights off. The face of the man behind the steering wheel.

    “You said you wanted to make sure it wasn’t you.”

    “I –”

    “You said that this was going to make it go away, and now that it’s here, are you satisfied?”

    I watched the Jeep pull up, the familiar green jacket and hat, the familiar smell of Marlboros and Jameson. The familiar feel of the Colt in my left hand.

    And now I’m standing in the living room.

    Naked.

    The pistol shattering my senses.

    Her. Rolled in the carpet. Turpentine and heat.

    “You said that you’d always be faithful.”

    The light became blinding and I blink to see the floor, cold and sterile.

    “Gordon?” I recognize the voice. “Gordon, thank God.”

    I feel the urge to throw up, but I hold it back. I hold it all back.

    “Gordon, here, let me help you up.”

    I’m in a doctor’s office. “Sam?” I ask as my eyes focus on his face. “Are we?”

    “Yeah. I think so.” He smiles. “How’s your head?”

    I reach back to touch the bandages wrapped around my skull. “Fine, I suppose.”

    “And, what happened last week?”

    I allow a tiny chuckle. “Last week?” I think back to boats and barbeque and other b-words that pepper the summer. “Boats, barbeque, and bacchanals!”

    Sam glances over to the other people in the room, the doctors. “Good,” he says. “Yeah. Boats, barbeque, and bacchanals.”

    He helps me out of the chair and through the doors that open to the crisp Autumn of North Dakota. Home, I think, is where I will go next.

    -JR Simmang
    Round about 670 essential words

    Feedback, Red Pen?

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a difficult story to get the head around, JR, though definitely worth the effort. I get the impression of a tale of murder, redemption, and descent into madness, but with all the events placed before me in no particular order. It’s rather like staring at the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle before it’s assembled. 🙂

      My red pencil spotted a missing ‘it’ or two (especially in the discussion of removal), but it’s hard to hunt down other things when the text is not sequential in the standard sense.

    2. regisundertow

      Indeed, quite a difficult story to read. Once I realized your MC failed to commit suicide, the disjointed narrative made perfect sense. It warranted a second and a third reading before I felt like I “got” the piece. I think this will divide opinion, I’m still feeling like I’m warming to your story. Definitely not for everyone, but those who aim to please everyone end up not pleasing anyone.

    3. DMelde

      Great story but I feel it is out of order. I would have started with the suicide attempt, with this part of your story —

      ‘I watched the Jeep pull up, the familiar green jacket and hat, the familiar smell of Marlboros and Jameson. The familiar feel of the Colt in my left hand.

      And now I’m standing in the living room.

      Naked.

      The pistol shattering my senses.

      Her. Rolled in the carpet. Turpentine and heat.

      “You said that you’d always be faithful.”

      The light became blinding and I blink to see the floor, cold and sterile.’

      To me having the suicide attempt, then the visions, then the revival gives the reader a chronological order to use as reference. Good writing!

    4. JRSimmang

      Thanks, everyone, for the thoughtful analyses. I have a habit of being too vague too often, and this piece certainly exemplifies that. Tim, Regis, Reap, you’d all be right in your assumptions. Chronologically, it’s disjointed. D, I value your insight. Reatha, I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

  23. Not-Only But-Also Riley

    CAPTAIN’S QUARTERS

    Waves that had earlier been rough with our ship now calmed down to just rocking us gently. I laid in the hard, cold bed that would be mine for as long as we were here. It was dark enough for sleep but not quite enough. I listened to the heavy footsteps of the men above our room.

    “How much longer ya think?” one voice said over us.

    “Who knows could be days, could be years. We’ve got no way of knowing for sure.”

    I sighed and turned in the bed, no longer listening to the voices. They didn’t have good news anyway.

    “You still awake Lottie?” Caleb’s voice came from the hallway outside our room. I stayed in my bed.

    “Yes.”

    “Come out here. I wanna show ya something.” And with that I heard him tiptoe away. I stood from my bed quietly, looking at my mother to make sure she was asleep. She was, as was my younger sister. I walked swiftly out of the room, toward where I heard Caleb calling my name into the darkness of the wooden hallways.

    “See that,” Caleb pointed to a small hatch. It barely looked like he or I could fit through it, let alone a grown man. “That leads to the top of the ship. Where the captain sleeps.” I put my hand to my mouth and gasped.

    “It does not,” I said in both surprise and excitement. There had been rumors amongst the children aboard the ship that while we all slept in the gross dripping corridors in the bottom of the ship, the captain had a glorious room, almost like one on land.

    ”It does too. And I’m going up there.”

    “No Caleb! You’ll get beat for sure!” Caleb had a way with telling tales of getting into trouble he didn’t get into. He could tiptoe around the truth as good as he’d tiptoed around the halls. So when we first saw the hatch I thought he was going to tell me about how he’d already been up there and how he’d barely escaped guards with swords and muskets. He actually wanting to go up there seemed insane.

    “I will only get beat if I get caught. Besides, the worst that happens is they make me walk the plank.” Towards the end of the sentence he began talking in a gravelly voice he called his “pirate voice”. He held his hand in the shape of a hook. “Aargh!” I couldn’t help but laugh.

    “Really though Caleb. Don’t go up there.”

    “C’mon Lottie. Where’s your sense of adventure? You could come up too…”

    “What? Never! Caleb, really, it’s against the rules.” Caleb ruled his eyes.

    “What’s not against the rules Lottie? Sleeping in those hideous things they call beds down there. That’s not against the rules. You wanna go do that instead?”

    “I’m not going up there Caleb.”

    “Fine. I am. You can wait if you want.” He opened the trap door just enough so he could look inside. Then, without being careful at all, he threw it open and hopped up, pulling it shut behind him. I stood in the darkness, my heart had sunk into my feet and I sat on the wet wooden ground and waiting for Caleb to come back. The ocean, meanwhile, ignoring our troubles, continued to rock the entire boat. Up. Down. Up. Down. As we went back up I let my eyelids fall.

    I was going up again. This time though, the ship was not coming up with me. My head hit the ceiling of the ship. It was loud. Water was loud. Thunder was loud. People running and yelling was loud. As my head hit the ceiling my eyes closed again.

    I opened my eyes. Something smelt awful, like fire. Water was up to my waist and I looked down to see that it was rising slowly. There was almost no ground under me.

    “Caleb!” I shouted. “Mom!” Receiving no answer I slid underneath what was left of the floor and swam. Large chunks of wood littered the ocean. I came back up and looked around. There were bodies in the water. Everywhere. I screamed. Large hands reached behind me and picked me up. I still screamed. I screamed louder and I kicked. The person holding me was strong and tall. They pulled me from the water and brought me to a beach. They set me down. I began running. The sand felt good under my feet. I fell into it. It felt good on my arms and legs and hands.

    “Calm down,” a rumbling voice said. It was deeper than any voice I had ever heard. I turned to its owner, the man who’d pulled me out of the water. “What’s your name?” He was tall. And his skin was a color I had never seen before. Nothing like me or mom or Caleb. This man was different.

    “Charlotte.”

    “Charlotte, eh? I’m Edward.” He held his hand out to me. I looked up into his strange brown eyes.

    “This isn’t home.”

    “Granted,” Edward said, dropping his hand as he sat in the sand next to me, “it ain’t. But it could be. Look out Charlotte.” I did. I saw nothing. Trees and sand, but nothing.

    “Look at what?”

    “At nothing. This is yours now Charlotte, craft it well.”

    1. Observer Tim

      Very nice take, Not-Only. I’m pretty sure it was deliberate to keep us guessing about the setting and the characters. My guess is that white colonial Charlotte has never seen a ruddy and worn man o’ the sea like Edward. I also wonder what game he is playing, letting the child alone on a desert island. You’ve raised a lot of good questions here that beg for answers. 🙂

    2. regisundertow

      So many questions…This is certainly original. Couldn’t help but wonder of the circumstances and context of the story. The writing is really good too. It tends on the economical side, which I like. The transition between the ship and getting washed ashore was a bit abrupt for me, but otherwise this was a very enjoyable YA-leaning story.

    3. Reaper

      This is a very interesting beginning. I do agree that there seems to be a big jump mostly because the age you presented the girl she seems to get over the deaths rather quickly. I’m chalking that up to shock or a very hard life though.

    4. ReathaThomasOakley

      This is another take on the prompt I keep coming back to, which is a compliment. I’m still not certain what is happening, but maybe I don’t need to.

    5. JRSimmang

      There’s nothing to me like a gentleman pirate tale. I think this one would be worthy of Johann Wyss. Your description of the action is spot-on and clear. I spotted a comma splice (which is actually just a matter of preference [“…swiftly out of the room, toward…”] and a pronoun error (“He [sic Him] actually…”), and a few other areas for polishing. Overall, I think you have the beginnings of an excellent period piece.

  24. Cceynowa

    Purple Moonlight

    “This is yours now, get creative,” I said as I handed her the blank journal.

    “What should I write?”

    “Whatever you want. You can draw, write, glue in it, whatever.”

    “You gonna look?”

    “No. Not unless you want me to. Open or closed?”

    “Closed.”

    I gently shut the door behind me, leaving her to her own thoughts and actions. The closed door was a purposeful show of trust. I still wouldn’t allow anything beyond kid scissors in her room, but closing the door was a start. She needed to know we trusted her by herself, and that we would give her privacy. In our house, she was safe.

    That night, at dinner, she said to my husband, “Dad, do you want to know what I wrote in my journal?”

    “Sure.”

    “Never mind.”

    “Oh come on! You’re going to tease me like that?” He grinned at her across the spaghetti.

    “Yup.”

    “Fiiiinnneee,” he sighed dramatically. I smiled into my own plate. Proud he was putting action behind the counselor’s words. We didn’t push, we didn’t pry, and we kept it light while being ever present.

    “I’m creating a world,” she said.

    “What kind of world?” I asked.

    “One without humans,” she answered.

    Dave and I shared a look. “You don’t like humans,” he asked.

    I said quickly, “What do you have instead of humans?”

    Dave nodded, realizing his mistake.

    “I have wolves with wings. They hunt the sky,” she was absentmindedly twirling her noodles, ignoring her Dad’s question.

    “What do they hunt?”

    “Huh?”

    “You said they hunted from the sky; what do they hunt?”

    “I don’t know. Stuff I guess.”

    “Well” I said, “If you are going to have winged wolves in your world, you need to feed them. What shares their world?”

    “I don’t know.” She grew quiet again and I let the subject drop.

    That night, after teeth were brushed, her wrists’ bandages were changed, and Dave had said his goodnights while watching the evening news, she asked me what I felt the wolves should hunt. “Well,” I said drawing on our shared love of the National Geographic Channel, “maybe we should think about where your wolves live. I mean, if they live in a nest in a tree, bringing home a dragon might break their house.”

    She rolled her eyes in patented preteen acknowledgement. “They don’t live in a nest. They have caves in the mountains.”

    “Mountains, huh? Forested or rocky?”

    “Forest at the base, but not where the wolves live. They are above all that. And they see the purple moon.”

    “Sounds beautiful.”

    “Yeah.”

    I sat on the edge of her bed, wanting to keep her talking but not wanting to drive her back to silence with my words. Steadying myself with a deep breath, I said, “Wolves traditionally hunt deer. Maybe Santa’s Reindeer are in danger?”

    She actually smiled at me, and my heart tightened. It was the first time since her mom had sent her to us for an early summer break. “Santa’s not real,” she said, the small smile remaining.

    “Shhhhh, don’t let Dad hear you! He still believes,” I winked and bent to kiss her forehead in a goodnight kiss.

    “Kristy?” Her voice stopped me before I reached the door.

    “Yes?”

    “My wolves protect each other.”

    “From what?”

    “The Howlers.”

    “Where do the Howlers live?”

    “With the wolves.”

    “What do they look like?”

    “Like wolves, but they are mean.”

    “How can you tell them apart?”

    “You can’t.”

    “Oh.”

    “Yeah.” Her voice had become sad again.

    “If you need me, come get me tonight. I’ll leave my door open.”

    ###
    ###

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      This is so lovely, makes me think of what you’ve shared about your stepdaughter. I like the subtle reference to her wrists.

      1. Cceynowa

        Thank you Reatha. She’s struggling a lot with bullies in school, and her emotional pain is weighing heavily on my mind. I’m finding my take on these prompts are greatly influenced by my emotional state. So… thanks everyone for being a semi-group-therapy session! Lol.

    2. Observer Tim

      Gulp. This brought tears to my eyes for the implied tragic backstory while at the same time holding a smile for the growth and imagination. That’s a very hard line to walk, but you did it masterfully. I feel real sympathy for the characters, especially the girl (interestingly the only character unnamed).

      So, wow. Just – wow.

    3. regisundertow

      I’m going to add my voice to the choir, loved the implied backstory and subtle references. Makes your characters’ thoughts and actions even more interesting than they already are.

  25. jhowe

    Craft it well? What the hell is that supposed to mean? I look beyond the leafless tree line to the colorless expanse with shapeless society members performing shapeless tasks in a shapeless landscape and wonder if I can arrange a redo. Craft this shithole into something worthwhile? Is that what she wants?

    I should clarify. The ‘she’ I mentioned is my mother. And the ‘craft it well’ bullshit is her way of saying, “here it is; let’s see what you can do.”

    Not enough clarification? Let’s just say that this is like Colonel Klink getting transferred to the Russian Front. Just assume everyone knows who this is, regardless of what world you happen to inhabit. All worlds have their Klinks I’m sure.

    As far as worldbuilders go, my mother is the king of them all. No, that wasn’t a misprint. If there’s a word more powerful than king, you can insert it here with no qualms from me. And being the son of the king is no treat. “He has a promising future ahead of him,” they say.

    They also say things like, “oh, he gets everything handed to him on a pewter plated platter.” Well, if they could see this they’d change their tune let me tell you. Who could build a world with this load of crap infested material?

    Oh, I see. Now that the shapeless society members know I’m watching they decide to put on a little show. They carry their loads and dig their ditches and water their fields for my benefit. As soon as I turn my back, bam, it’s siesta time.

    It won’t be like last time though. Last time I bailed after two days and crawled back and hid behind my mother’s powerful aura and took my scolding like a little boy with a snotty nose. This time there would be no crawling. This time will be different.

    What’s this; carts, being pulled by beasts? What laziness is this? They can’t even pull their own carts? That’s it I’m outa here. You win mom. I can do nothing with these shapeless creatures. I just can’t wait to get back so I can write all this down.

      1. regisundertow

        It happens to everyone. I read like a stroke victim soon as the data transfers from my computer to the WD server…

        Interesting concept having the creator being a lazy little shit. It also makes me want to live in a universe where shaping your own world is something you can work towards and aspire to.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is creative and entertaining, Jhowe. I think Regisundertow summed it up nicely in his second paragraph, though I would have used the word ‘bugger’ instead of ‘shit’.

      An alternate idea came to my mind as well; what would it feel like to be the teenaged(ish) child of a freakin’ genius? When one is very young, the thrill of emulation is there, but as you age and it becomes obvious you’re not likely to surpass ‘the master’ what will that do to your enthusiasm. Nothing good I’m sure.

      Definitely thought-provoking on several levels. Great job! 🙂

      I wonder how many people get the Colonel Klink reference.

    2. Reaper

      there wasw a tense shift? I managed to miss it. Love the every wold has there Klinks and a lot of the other language choice to show difference like pewter plated and king being the greatest word. Wonderful stuff, and the idea of how bad the planet was and how lazy the people were for not pulling their own carts. Very barbed and witty.

      1. Geezer Muse

        You write like Samuel Clements in this story. There are so many issues to think about. I know people who have reared with extreme domination, and most of the spoon fed lazy louts are worthless. When will thy ever learn?

  26. Reaper

    Part ten and still going. Fair warning, this got dark again and has some conceivably objectionable subject matter. Also about sixteen words over.

    In the Beginning – Strange New World

    Chester closed his hand around the buttons and his eyelids followed. The solid feel of them on his skin was not real, it was the past. He needed the present future of his vision.

    The gasp signaling his return filled his lungs burning stale air. Smoke, blood and dirt assaulted his nose in a welcome menagerie. He opened his eyes to the endgame.

    How could he have thought the man on the throne was him? Floating in front of and above the figure the idea seemed preposterous. The younger man bore a resemblance, enough for Chester to realize it was his son. A smile curled his ethereal lips and he mouthed the words, my son.

    “Yes father?”

    The king, for that was what his boy was, looked haggardly into the older man’s eyes. Chester cast his eyes about. The others focused as they were on their tasks or their leader, not seeing him. His boy had a connection strong enough to overcome different times and dimensions. Chester issued words in a voice more like the preacher than his own.

    “This world is yours now, make of it what you will.”

    His voice resonated like God, or his messenger. No wonder he sounded like his future father in law. The realization that he was inferior was bad. The reaction from his son was worse.

    The boy bared his teeth in a smile savage enough to give death row inmates pause. The flames flickered to match his mood, shadows danced around the chamber. Even in his non-corporeal form, Chester felt a chill as the king uncoiled from his throne to stride forward like the hunter, no, the warrior he was.

    “As you say, so it shall be. Vicker, bring me the holy texts!”

    Vicker, a name or a title, Chester wondered. There was no time to figure it out though. His firstborn continued in a voice that terrified even a ghost outside of possible harm.

    “I will give them war. Until my sisters surrender there will be no peace in this new Eden. Until they bow to me their servants shall perish to superior might.”

    Flames of madness lit the young king’s eyes. Chester tried to say that was not what he meant but with spark of violence set to tinder of mind Chester’s speaking part was over.

    “We need them though, this much is true. Men! Build out from the entrance. For one yard build breeding fields, only there will there be truce so man and woman can know each other. For a mile beyond build killing fields and man them with soldiers, slaughter any amazon who dares enter so only the strongest breech that barrier and give us the most worthy of sons. Once this is done send killing squads every day into the world. I will fill my planet with corpses until it is once again in my hands. This is the will of God and your king.”

    Ejected from his own vision, Chester silently wept as he returned to his body. He heard Nicole end her call. If only the peyote was a hanger.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is an intense and scary vision, Reaper. You’re doing a great job keeping the narrative going in spite of Brian’s extremely varied prompts. 🙂

      I didn’t see anything offensive, though some parts (e.g. the treatement of the women) might be so if taken out of context. This is, after all, the sub-fantasy of a boy rather than that of a mature adult.

      My style advisor thinks the sentence, “This is the will of God and your king,” might be stronger as, “This is the will of your God and King,” depending on the exact intentions. Given that the little monster has just been handed the power of creation, I’d favour the second reading.

      1. Observer Tim

        I’ve been thinking about my last comment: I suppose it really depends on how the child sees himself.

        If he is equal to God or is both: your God and King

        If he understands his subservience to God, “the Will of God and the Command of your King” would produce an appropriately bombastic separation.

      2. Reaper

        Thanks Tim. The thing I was actually worried about being offensive is the last line since it is a veiled reference to him wanting to end this madness by getting rid of the baby she thinks she is carrying in a very gruesome way. Nobody seemed horrified though. Honestly I don’t worry about that most places, but here I’m a bit more considerate. Funny since this place is filled with supportive people, but that’s why I worry about offending. Everyone here is awesome. As for the line. You caught on to my meaning. The will of God is the prophecy, it is also his will so I wanted to separate it. Because he does not see himself as equal to god, at least not yet. It’s a bit of a play on the reverse of, “Whatsoever you hold true on earth so I will hold true in heaven.” Your last suggestion bears looking at.

    2. regisundertow

      Not objectionable, but definitely brutal. The King acts like the butcher fantasy monarchs are meant to be.
      There were a lot of choice phrases that I had to re-read a few times. “The king uncoiled from his throne”, goddamn if this isn’t vivid imagery. There’s a lot of brutality here, not just the obvious kind, that I quite enjoyed.

    3. Cceynowa

      You make me want to try continuation from one prompt to the next. This bit was darker, but all good stories have to show ends of the spectrum in order gain the full effect. Can’t wait for next week’s installment!

      1. Reaper

        Thank you Cceynowa! I’ve tried it before but am finding it easier with this story for some reason. Honestly the hardest part is I keep getting these other ideas and I fully mean to write and post them but I don’t get around to it. Thankfully I just finished my self imposed must query at least one agent a day for three months on the newest novel (final tally just over 220 queries sent) so I now have about half an hour to an hour and a half of my writing time back a day and may be able to fix that. Thank you so much, I can’t wait to write it to be honest.

    4. ReathaThomasOakley

      I admire your ability to continue with the various prompts. You are creating a world that is unique and addictive. You also do a great job keeping all the characters “real” no matter the time frame or circumstances. I must go back and read each episode again, because I believe things revealed each week.

      1. Reaper

        Reatha, you make me blush. Thank you for that. I am waiting for a stumper prompt to be honest. Your words are so kind, especially unique and addictive. That is something I strive for, well addictive is more a hope than a strive, and hearing that I have the characters true to themselves is wonderful. I hope I have revealed a bit each week, that is definitely the aim.

        1. ReathaThomasOakley

          You are most welcome. I feel as if I’ve abandoned my Girl, but I was manipulating her story to match the prompts, that’s why I admire what you are continuing to do. Of course, the Girl had no story before I found her here. It’s too early in the morning where I am to think too much!

    5. Manwe38

      Dark and awesome!

      I need to go back and read some of the earlier parts of this story, but the singular narrative is holding up very well. As others have stated, you are giving me serious thought as to starting my own continuation.

      1. Geezer Muse

        I find the story continuation smooth and powerful, frighting and all consuming the reader as it enters his mind. A story so dark, does it seem implausable? Unfortunately, I don’t think so, there are cults in our existing world that might be similiar. It’s certainly is a story that forces the reader to think.

        1. Reaper

          Kerry, your comments are always so insightful and inspire me to keep writing. Knowing a person like you, with your talents, wonderful life and experiences, and more than anything taste and class is supporting me keeps me going. I am glad that it reads as both scary and possible, though I do hope such a thing never comes to pass.

      2. Reaper

        Thank you Manwe38. I always look forward to your comments. I’m very happy to hear when the continuation is going well, but I am equally happy when each one can stand alone.

  27. Ananfal

    Word Count: 381
    ————————————–

    I… this was all mine? This whole world?

    Yes… It was mine now. There was no one else here. No one else to claim it, no one else to take it from me. Mine, and only mine.

    But… there was nothing here. It was like a blank canvas. So I drew on it. I liked drawing. It wasn’t hard. Not for me.

    I drew something I called nature. There was a lot of it. There were lots of parts to it. My favorite parts were the sun and moon. But I made the moon smaller than the sun, so I gave it a bunch of stuff I called stars. Now it didn’t seem so lonely.

    But even though there was a lot of nature, it still felt empty. So I gave it something called animals. I made a lot of them, so I wouldn’t be bored. There were big ones and small ones and ones all the way in between. I had three favorite animals. I liked the horse. It was oddly shaped, but I liked the way it came out. I liked the hawk. It was small but fierce, and it was beautiful. I also liked the wolf. I think it was the best animal I made. It was beautiful and graceful, perfect. Almost.

    It was that almost that killed me. I just wasn’t satisfied. Finally, I decided on what I was going to do. I would make something that looked like me – a self portrait, as it were. My new creations, humans, were beautiful. I made many copies, but none of them looked exactly alike. Well, they were only human, it was to be expected. And for a time, I was happy.

    But then something happened to my humans, my perfect creations. They became… faded, cracked, broken. I tried to redraw them, tried to achieve that perfection I had before, but it was never the same. Finally, in an act of childish rage and frustration, I wiped my canvas clean again.

    My humans were perfect. They were like me – no, they were me. Then why did they fail? Why, where I was still me, did they become something else? Did… Did that mean I was broken too? No, that couldn’t be…

    That couldn’t be! I can’t be-

    1. regisundertow

      You’re posing an interesting question here. If we’re created in the image of God, what does that say about Him? Love the story, short and punchy, with zero fat.

    2. Observer Tim

      Beautiful allegory, Ananfal. The biblical creation (first attempt) told from the perspective of a young God can be a bit hackneyed, but you told it with a voice that was just about perfect. I am impressed. 🙂

      My red pencil suggests that in the sentence “It was that almost that killed me.” it would be helpful for clarity to put ‘almost’ in single quotes to separate it more fully.

    3. Cceynowa

      This was elegant and powerful. A different perspective, and a most welcomed one for sure. You raised some interesting questions, and did so with a subtle force that made the message all the more powerful. Well done.

    4. Reaper

      I agree this is punchy and the voice is amazing, all knowing and childlike at the same time. Well written and entertaining. It leaves me with two images, one of a god in a pantheon wondering how flawed they are when their creations fail. The other is a monotheistic God looking at their creation and wondering what they had done. Beautiful either way.

  28. cosi van tutte

    “Hey, Worthington!”

    I cringed at the sound of Harmlee’s voice. I tried to walk a little faster, but she caught up to me.

    “I created a world last week. Did you know that?”

    “Yes.”

    “And Grand Madame Spreefight told me that it was the best world that she has ever seen. Did you know that?”

    “Yes.”

    “So, when are you going to create your world? Huh?”

    I considered teleporting to the other side of the galaxy, but I knew the futility of it. She would find me. “Grand Madame Spreefight has not given me a template yet.”

    “She never will give you one. You know that, right?”

    “She will. I just need to be patient.”

    “I don’t think patience will help you any. Not after that whole Pandora’s Tomb fiasco.”

    I didn’t want to agree with her, but she wasn’t wrong. “It wasn’t entirely my fault.”

    “But it was mostly your fault. And that ‘mostly’ is why she will never give you a template.”

    It had taken Grand Madame Spreefight and her entire Gendarme Buster Squad a heaven’s month to subdue the dark emanations and return them to the tomb. “You might be right.”

    “I am.”

    “But I will not give up hope.”

    “Idiot.”

    ***

    Time passed. Sometimes quickly. Sometimes slowly. But each day held the same promise and released the same defeat.

    Grand Madame Spreefight did not summon me.

    I did not receive my template.

    Maybe Harmlee was right.

    Maybe I was wrong.

    Such thoughts did not please me.

    ***

    “Hey, Worthington!”

    I ran, but she still caught up to me.

    “I created people on my world today. Did you know that?”

    I gave up and slowed to a reasonable walk. “Yes.”

    “My people are the most wonderful little things. Did you know that?”

    “Yes.”

    “After I created them, I went down into their world and had speaks with them.”

    I scowled. “You aren’t supposed to do that. It’s against the rules.”

    She shrugged. “Anyway, they are so intelligent. Not as intelligent as us, of course. It wouldn’t be wise to make them that smart.”

    I didn’t respond to that, but I don’t think she noticed. She just kept talking, “I am so glad I decided to just create them instead of going through the long, evolutionary process. I would have had to wait for too many forevers to talk to them if I had taken that route. And they are such a pleasure to talk to.” She grinned at me. “Have you created a world yet?”

    “You know my answer.”

    “Of course, I do. Your answer is No.”

    “You’re right.”

    “Of course, I am.”

    “But I still believe that she will give me a template.”

    “Ha!”

    “She will! I have faith in her.” My legs locked up on me, forcing me to stop. Before I could try to understand what ailed me, my eyes snapped shut. My body lifted off the ground. I floated upwards and I did not resist.

    ***

    The delicious smell of greenest grass and freshest cream filled the air. I landed on something hard and smooth, warm and cool. I opened my eyes without any difficulty.

    I found myself on a balcony crafted out of green and white marble. I reached towards the railing.

    A woman’s voice said, “Do not touch it yet.”

    I turned around and saw her. She wasn’t beautiful, but something about her confounded my senses. I thought that she wore a dress as white as roses and her long hair was as brown as a newborn sky. Her voice made me think of summer noons and harvest grains. And I could not understand why.

    “Do you know who I am?”

    And I knew without understanding how I knew. “Grand Madame Spreefight.”

    “Yes. I have made you wait long and now. Now, your time has come. You may touch the railing.”

    I obeyed her without question.

    A small crystal globe appeared in the air before me.

    “That is your world to create as you see fit.”

    “My world…”

    “Create with wisdom and knowledge. Craft it well.”

    “My own world…” I grinned. “It’s all mine.”

    “Be careful, Worthington. Be kind. And, most important of all, be just. It will not be easy.”

    “I’ll try to do the best I can.”

    “I know you will.” She smiled. It was like dancing in the wind. “I have faith in you.”

    1. Observer Tim

      This is beautiful, Cosi. I love the way you inverted the prompt to put the moment of creation at the end; it’s marvelously poetic. I trust that Worthhington has been putting a lot of thought and care into what comes next. The weird part to me is that it would now be anticlimactic to hear what (she) does create, unless it were part of a much larger story. 🙂 🙂

      And, as should be pretty obvious by now, I’m a sucker for dialogue-driven stories.

    2. lionetravail

      Wonderful! This has so much potential, as it has both fairytale, spiritual, and young adult/children’s vibes for it with a modern sense of the interaction between. Cosi, this is such a great concept that it’s on par with almost any idea out there… I really encourage you to run with this.

    3. regisundertow

      Love how you handle dialogue, Cosi. It’s not something I handle very well and I definitely admire stories that move forward primarily on the strength of their exchances between characters. This one has a great snappy pace.

    4. Cceynowa

      Cosi, this is wonderful. I agree with the above comments and echo delight in having the prompt come at the end of the piece. Very nicely done.

    5. Reaper

      I like the story of faith and patience. For me this was wonderful because of the contrast you put in the language. The intentional misuse of words that got me thinking of young people talking to themselves and the beauty of it through the rest gave it a very real feel.

      1. Geezer Muse

        I just heard Ioel Olsteen send a sermon on the exact theme of your story, patience and resolve. It is a very powerful message that all who read it, can put to very good use, excellent story line and craftmanship.

    6. snuzcook

      I very much enjoy the voice of this story. For me, it was all about Worthington believing, despite the niggling by her associate, and despite the fact that she (?) had clearly erred in the past and was paying the consequences, that her chance would come, and that she had attained a degree of wisdom in the waiting and paying attention. Kind of like a wise child learning from time out. I got the impression that time had a very different meaning in this context, so time out could last eons or months, but still the second chance would come eventually. And the ‘be kind’ was a nice touch, as was the ‘I have faith in you.’

  29. Trevor

    Word Count: 539

    Thinking Up A New World

    When I woke up, I found myself surrounded by nothingness. The familiar walls of my bedroom had been replaced with gray fog that encircled me. I looked out into the haze, but saw no sign of other human life. The complete silence and damp air sent chills down my spine.

    “Hello, Elizabeth.” The sudden booming voice that ripped through the silence almost sent me falling to the ground. The source of the greeting stepped out of the fog next to me. He was a young man with skin as white as cotton. It was like he had never been in direct sunlight for his entire life. He was bald, had sparkling green eyes that looked like emeralds, and wore a white suit and slacks. He smiled as he sat down on the side of my bed.

    “What’s going on? Where am I?” I asked, wrapping the thin blanket around my body. The air seemed to be growing colder. The man smiled and put an arm around me. Suddenly, comforting warmth surged throughout my body. It came so intensely that I immediately threw the blanket off.

    “The world you knew is gone, Elizabeth. But you don’t have to be scared, because you have the power to restore it.” The man explained, his soothing voice protecting me from the shock of his news. “Ever since you were born, you were destined for this great responsibility. You now have the power to reshape the world in your own image.”

    I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know what to do. I mean, how was I supposed to respond to being told that I had the ability to play God and rebuild the Earth? Discreetly, I pinched my leg to see if this was all a crazy dream. When I still remained in the foggy abyss after ten seconds of mild pain, I knew it was real.

    “How am I supposed to do that? I mean, reshape the world?” I feared he would judge me for not knowing how to use my newfound ability. But from the look on his face, it seemed like he anticipated for my lack of insight.

    “Just close your eyes and think of how you want the world to be. Then, once you have everything into place, open your eyes and it will be at your feet.” It seemed so simple that I felt stupid for having to ask. I closed my eyes and started to imagine what I wanted the world to be like. I knew there had been a lot of pain and injustice in the world. Thousands of people were subjected to abuse, poverty, disease, and senseless cruelty. I wanted it all to go away.

    When my eyes opened, it was all standing before me. I was in the middle of a bustling metropolis. High tech cars sped down the streets and hundreds of people walked down the spotless sidewalks. Everyone looked and dressed like they were not only financially stable, but filthy rich and living it up. Everything was perfect. All the suffering and malice from our previous society no longer existed. The world was a clean slate.

    And if I shaped the world the way I want it, it’ll stay that way.

    1. regisundertow

      There’s one thing that jump at me; Elizabeth seems to be immediately accepting of what’s going on and of the fact the world she knew is gone. That is not an easy pill to swallow, I imagine. Other than that, I think this story promises a much bigger narrative, one where she comes to terms with her powers and that it won’t be as easy keeping the world perfect. I certainly want to read more of this story!

    2. Observer Tim

      This seems like the first half of an amazing story, Trevor. Curse the 500-word limit!

      I would love to see the continuation, where she discovers that she has to put in some of the pain, heartache, and sadness to bring both life and meaning to her new world. I encourage you to go on with this; it’s a powerful beginning. 🙂

      My style advisor noticed a number of places where things could be tightened up. For example, “sparkling green eyes that looked like emeralds” can be shortened to “sparkling emerald eyes” without real loss of description (since he’s already been established as human).

    3. lionetravail

      I agree with both Regis and OT- this just begs for the denouement in a second piece, because as the old song goes: “You can’t always get what you want.”

      It’s nicely written, Trevor, though OT gives good feedback on simplification- I’ve found that editors crave streamlined writing and avoiding ‘purple prose’. Nice job, love where you started.

    4. Cceynowa

      Continue this, please. You have a good thing going here, and can take it a long ways. I encourage you to explore the pathways you’ve started and see where it goes. Maybe even experiment with point of view from an inhabitant in the new world, or from the emerald eyed figure.

    5. Reaper

      There is a little bit of cleaning up on language and spelling in here. However, I’m going to stray from the crowd and say this needs no change and is a perfect length. You didn’t write a story so much as a message. You took a cliched idea of, “If you don’t like the world, change it.” and made it new because you covered it in a calm story and added in the ideas of, it’s easier than you think, and you just have to not be afraid.

      1. Geezer Muse

        I’m torn between more or not. The only think I might suggest is to leave a cliff-hanger at the end and have Elizabeth create her world and find out it’s worse hen the existing and have her struggle to fix the mess. Does she or not? Leave it there.

    6. DMelde

      This is a wonderful uplifting story showing the hope that we can change the world for the better — and keep it that way. Very well done.

  30. Witt.Stanton

    “Activate DAWN Initiative. Reporting: operative 0228640.”

    “Clearance granted.” The robotic voice intoned.

    “Open Sierra-Beta. File 962: Dylan John Rodney.”

    “Access denied.” Rodney groaned in frustration and slammed his fist down onto the silver console. He tried again.

    “Open Sierra-Beta, File 962: Dylan John Rodney.”

    “Access denied: System Reset.”

    “What? No, stop- cancel System Reset! Cancel!”

    “System Reset complete.”

    “Unbelievable…” He muttered under his breath, staring in frustration out of the pilot’s window. Earth was the size of a marble now, floating in a sea of darkness. The MIST Pod was drifting away and there was nothing he could do about it.

    “Welcome to the MIST system control center.” The emotionless voice greeted him again. Rubbing his eyes, Rodney sighed. This was the third time he had managed to reset the damn thing.

    “Hey, VEMO.”

    “Greetings, Former Commander Dylan John Rodney.” The Voice Echo Memorizing Operator replied, as always. Infuriating, as always.

    “Set up Pilot control.”

    “Action complete.”

    “Activate DAWN Initiative. Reporting: operative 0228640.” Glancing at his badge, Rodney hoped he had gotten the right numbers.

    “Clearance granted.”

    “Thank god…” Relief washed over him, and he absentmindedly scanned over the array of controls.

    “Request unknown. Repeat.”

    “What? Oh- shit.” Rodney paled. VEMO’s uncanny hearing always surprised him.

    “Request unkno-”

    “Dam- Cancel request!”

    “Request canceled.”

    Resting his head in his hands, Rodney waited for the adrenaline rush to slow and wished he could deactivate VEMO. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the clearance level. With a shaky voice he continued his conversation with the robotic security system in his space Pod.

    “Open Sierra-Beta. File-” He stopped him self and scanned on of the papers in front on him. With a sigh, he realized what he had done wrong. “File 967: Dylan John Rodney.”

    So, he mused to himself, sevens were unlucky.

    “Clearance granted. File 967 open.”

    He had done it. Finally.

    Sitting up straighter, he typed in a few quick commands, overriding voice control. With his status restored, he once again was Commander Rodney. Pushing all the scattered papers off his control panel, he slipped on his headset and started up the thrusters. The Military Issue Standard Travel Pod, MIST for short, glided forwards.

    It only took several minutes to get within 100,000 miles of Earth. The rest was easy.

    ” Load Long-Range Weapons. Sequence: M12.”

    “Are you sure you wish to proceed?”

    “Yes.” Rodney gripped the controls tighter. This was it.

    “Weapons engaged.”

    This was the moment he had been waiting for ever since he was exiled. No one understood him. Not one of those arrogant beings that called themselves ‘human’. They were arrogant, and cruel. Ignorant.

    None of them understood what they had done.

    Not a single one had tried to stop the military from killing those innocents. They called them aliens, a harsh term. A term the humans had used on the innocent creatures before they massacred them.

    The creatures that inhabited that small plan had not deserved to die. They just were different.

    Rodney was the only one in the military who had refused to obey the order. Because of it, he was exiled.

    So many had died because everyone was content to sit and watch others make the decisions.

    So that was how, without a shadow of a guilt, Former Commander Rodney could extract his revenge.

    “Fire.”

    The MIST Pod Command Station floating along side Earth exploded in a bright flash. In his Pod, he heard the VEMO shut down and his Pod power off. The entire system was destroyed. Forever.

    Staring at Earth, Former Commander Rodney felt like a God. He had changed the course of the universe so easily. So effortlessly. The power terrified him.

    As the oxygen slowly depleted in his Pod, Rodney stood at the large window and stared out across the black sky towards Earth.

    Darkness, always darkness, made up the everything in the universe.

    Then the sun rose from behind the Earth, illuminating him with a bright white light.

    1. Observer Tim

      Very dark, Witt. In both senses of the term. 🙂 The whole fight with the computer is classic, though the rest of the story is telegraphed a bit by the deep look inside Rodney’s head. I could see where, with a larger canvas to work on, you could turn this into a seriously creepy sci-fi apocalypse story. Maybe name the aliens and give them a more graphic fate, that kind of thing.

      All in all, 🙂 🙂

      1. Witt.Stanton

        Thanks for all the positive feedback! I really appreciate it. I wanted to keep the story short and sweet (okay, ‘short and creepy’ is a better way to phrase it) so I didn’t expand to much of the aliens, but I agree with you. This really does have the potential to make an epic book or movie. Thanks again. 🙂

    2. cosi van tutte

      Hi, Witt!

      This was an excellent story. It made me think of Ender’s Game, if Ender decided to go rogue. 🙂

      And just so you know, I really like this part:

      “Thank god…” Relief washed over him, and he absentmindedly scanned over the array of controls.
      “Request unknown.”

      😀

    3. regisundertow

      What I like about this story is how your MC on the one hand takes revenge on the alien genocide, but there’s something contrarian and very dark about him. I could easily see him carry out war crimes if justified in his mind.

    4. lionetravail

      Nicely done, Witt. Will add my congrats to the others, and suggest this might be something to take longer. If you lose the few ‘telegraphs’ in the form of exposition (ie, “So that was how, without a shadow of a guilt…”), I think you’ll be happy with the results- your writing is effective, so let it guide the readers to a thought/conclusion/realization. Don’t feel you need to shepherd the reader with out-of-story guidance; as I said, your prose speaks for itself 🙂

    5. Reaper

      Favorite line in this was about how many were willing to watch others take the action. Beautiful wording and such a true sentiment about what leads to all the bad things that happen in this day and age. While I would agree this could be longer and very interesting in an Ender goes rogue style I’m not so sure about losing the telegraphing. If it were a genre type story I would agree but you have the makings of a literary story here. You explore the person, not the actions, so what isn’t telegraphed is how far he is willing to go. The fact that he is dying at the end is the surprise as you study that he is willing to do so to make right what he felt was wrong. Because of that I thought knowing what he was going to do was a perfect fit for this.

      1. Geezer Muse

        I hae identical thought as Reaper does. This is a perfect gem just as it is and very powerful mind bender. To be able to do this with so few words, marks the writer as one who polishes each word to a gem. Congrat’s on this one. Kerry

      2. Witt.Stanton

        Thanks! I really enjoyed reading your comment, Reaper! Great feedback and analysis. Glad you liked it!

        For all of you that commented, I want to just say thanks for taking the time to read my story and comment. It really means a lot. 🙂

  31. Observer Tim

    THE ACT OF CREATION
    A metastory in dialogue

    “THIS IS YOURS NOW, CRAFT IT WELL!”

    I look at the blank new world. It is mine, I just wish the Inkling of Creation wouldn’t be so bloody melodramatic.

    “Come on, Tim, time to get creative.”

    “I’m not sure, Emily, I don’t feel that creative today.”

    “Then build on something you already have. You’ve been meaning to do that story set on Silent Stalker’s homeworld.”

    “Yeah, but an entire world?”

    “You only need alternate Los Angeles, some background characters, and Krista.”

    “What about the restaurant owner?”

    “Does it talk?”

    “You make it sound like a thing.”

    “Tim, we’ve been over this. The race is parthenogenetic: one sex, any two can reproduce. Shall we explore that?”

    “No Emily, I think that’s TMI.”

    “Which is just your name spelled sideways. We’ll leave that embarrassment for another time. Now, what kind of L.A. do you want?”

    “You know my inspiration: that girl I kept seeing in downtown Calgary.”

    “Then it’s shiny L.A. with bright lights, not Slumville USA.”

    “Right. I was thinking Chinatown.”

    “Good choice. Inspiration girl was Chinese, right?”

    “Not sure; all we ever did was trade smiles. I think she was from Viet Nam, actually.”

    “Not relevant to the story. I’m guessing with a name like Krista you made her white.”

    “Yeah, white. About sixteen, slender, brown hair to her shoulders, ratty tee and torn blue jeans. Doesn’t really know how she got there.”

    “Yeah Tim, Dr. Freud would like to talk to you about that.”

    “Stuff it, Emily. The girl is fantasy, I can make her look how I want. I like elfin, not underage. Anyway, this isn’t that kind of story.”

    “But you want to get inside this girl’s head. Any other parts you want inside?”

    “I get into the heads of all my characters. Krista’s trying to make the most of a bad situation; how would you feel if you were trapped in an alien world where you couldn’t communicate with anyone?”

    “What about her phone? Stalker does that.”

    “I broke Krista’s phone. This doesn’t work if she can talk to people. Otherwise, why would she end up with a job handing out samples in front of a restaurant?”

    “And yet she still connects with the people?”

    “Yeah. They like to hug and nuzzle her, and she likes doing it back. Sexualized, but not really sexual.”

    “I figured that from you, Tim.”

    “Come on! She’s too young, and there’s nobody else remotely human around. I mean, they’re all leathery skinned hawk-creatures with six arms, two of which they walk on. And the organs aren’t even compatible.”

    “You worked through the sex scene with Karen and Stalker.”

    “This is not that type of story!”

    “It never is with you. So Krista gets popular.”

    “Right, until the day she gets taken into the back of the restaurant. I’m not sure I can go through with that part.”

    “Then leave it implied. The restaurant owner takes out a cleaver…”

    “…And she becomes the most popular girl on the menu. Sigh..”

    1. Observer Tim

      Emily is one of the many imaginary people who helps me work from ideas to stories. I was going to give her a line about “killing your darlings” at the end, but I couldn’t make it work without making her sound a bit too callous. The only person she insults is me.

    2. Witt.Stanton

      Funny! I really enjoyed reading it. Great job interpreting the prompt in a new way! Really like the easy banter; it made me laugh 🙂

    3. regisundertow

      And so the creator argues with his muse ever on 🙂
      I love it. There’s always one story in every prompt that begs to be written, and this one is it for this prompt. I wonder if every story we write somehow materializes as an alternate universe. Scary thought.

    4. lionetravail

      Brilliantly handled dialogue and story of an introspective writer, with all the impish cleverness I’ve come to love from you, Tim. Glad you’re back on your writing-feet, if not both of the actual feet yet. Keep the good stories and times coming 🙂

      1. Observer Tim

        I do a lot of introspective self-examination so I know I’m pretty messed up on the inside. I come by it naturally (at least a partial genetic basis). The only solace I take is that (a) unlike most people I’m aware of it, and (b) I don’t let it out through any other venue than writing, and even then only in tiny bits.

    5. Manwe38

      This was great, Observer Tim!

      Question–was the ‘kill your darlings’ line you were thinking of reference to Stephen King’s line from his book on how to write? It’s one of the tips that’s always stuck with me…

      1. Observer Tim

        Yes, yes it was. I’ve only ever read the shorter essay, but the phrase stuck. When I read about how to write I fight to keep in mind that while I can tear shreds of wisdom from the essays, if I were to eat them whole I would end up writing like the author instead of myself.

        My favourite phrase of King’s is what he responded when asked where he got his ideas: “I get them in Utica.” There are things to write all around us; our goal as authors is to see them.

      1. Geezer Muse

        It isn’t fair Tim, or proper on the forum to cheat a have two people write your stories. It’s no wonder they’re so damn good. I tried it once with my imaginery friend in my head but he called me a goof ball, Irish idiot and refused to write wth me.

        Obviously you get along better with your’s. This is reality in spades and I enjoyed the banner back and forth from both sides of you mind. I only have one now, my brother took the other hald when I wasn’ looking. Kerry

        1. Observer Tim

          Ah, Kerry. I’m afraid I’ll always be a writing collective. I’ve had imaginary friends as far back as I can remember. They can’t be moved away from and they never forget your existence, both of which are demons that have haunted me from a very young age. What surprises me now is how many of them turned out to be girls, but that’s probably another demon.

          As for your situation, I’d say your imaginary friend is whispering in your ear when you’re not paying attention, inspiring that good ol’ Irish whimsy that I’ve come to know and love. Just because he’s sneaky doesn’t mean he isn’t there… 😉

      2. Observer Tim

        Thank you, Reaper. I’m glad you also read the subtext; this was a story I’d been meaning to tell, except I couldn’t figure out how to do so without sounding like R.L. Stine. There was a pretty girl I would pass every day at lunch, standing outside a Chinese restaurant (appropriately named Bourbon Street Grill) handing out hors d’ouvres in the street. One day she stopped being there, and that is one of the explanations my mind had for her disappearance. Now the story’s out, in a subtle and Timmish way… 😉

        1. snuzcook

          And with that comment/link-to-reality, you just made the story feel complete for me, O.Tim. It had actually left me disturbed a bit. Great fun listening in on your conversations with Emily. My, she has quite the talent for both busting your chops and doing the little nudge nudge wink wink to keep your writing effervescent. Fun piece!

  32. ReathaThomasOakley

    A brave new world

    You open your eyes, light forces you to close them again. The noise, the buzzing, settles into words.

    “He’s coming ’round, he blinked.”

    “Naw, he’s still out, we got couple minutes before Doc comes.”

    Nothing makes sense to you, who’s talking, who’re they talking about.

    Large hands slide under your body. One hand under your neck, another under your legs. They lift and move you from a hard surface to one more yielding. You hear more words.

    “You think he needs those? He ain’t gonna move, ain’t gonna get up and walk outa here.”

    “Doc says straps. You ain’t worked with him. He’s stronger than he looks.”

    Something tightens across your forehead, across your chest, across your legs. You open your eyes again, the white is not so bright.

    “Told you he was comin’ ’round. We got him strapped just in time.”

    “Can I give him water? He’s gotta be dry.”

    “You can try.”

    “Ira, open your mouth, I got a straw, but you gotta open your mouth.”

    You open your mouth, pull on the straw. The water feels so good, but you can’t swallow, it runs out of your mouth. Who is Ira.

    “Hey, Doc, you’re just in time. He’s coming ’round early this time. But, Ernie and me got him strapped down. This here’s Ernie, he’s new.”

    Who are these people, what’s happening, where are you, why can’t you move.

    “Howdy, Doc. I been over in rehab, never done medical or shock treatments. Looks like he bit his tongue bad, his wrists are all raw.”

    Your tongue, yes, you can taste blood and something like you’ve been chewing nails. You can move your hands and wrists, but not your arms.

    “Ira? Listen to me, don’t fight.” Ira again, you wonder who that is. “Ira, I’m your doctor here at the VA Hospital. You’ve been in two weeks this time.”

    Hospital, you think, that explains white, you must be on a bed, looking at the ceiling. You wonder if you are Ira.

    “Stay calm, Ira, you’ll start remembering soon. You were pretty bad before your wife brought you back, a few more treatments and you can go home. You need to stop thrashing. We’ll take restraints off when you stop fighting.”

    Wife, you think, you’ve got a wife.

    “Okay, boys, I’ve got more to check on. You know what to do. Call me if you have problems.”

    “Sure thing, Doc, me and Ernie can handle it.”

    You hear a door open and close, chairs creak close by.

    “Why they do that, wire the men all up? I watched through the window.”

    “Ernie, we ain’t supposed to watch. We just take ’em out and stay ’til they stop fightin’. These are the men what bad things happened to during the war. Ira here was a POW, can’t shake it off.”

    “But, to mess with their brains, make ’em forget who they are, don’t seem right.”

    “Well, Doc says after it’s like they got a whole new world ready for ’em, to do whatever they want with, kinda like Adam. Yep, kinda like Adam.”

    Like Adam, you think, a new world.

    “Hey, Ira, what you cryin’ for? Ernie, get a Kleenex and wipe off Ira’s tears.”

    (539 words. In memory of my uncle Ira.)

    1. Observer Tim

      This one made me choke in sympathy, Reatha. This would be a horrble situation to be in, and the nightmare is palpble. That it has even a partial basis in real life is even more disheartening. I hope things worked out somehow for your uncle Ira, or at least that his misery was not prolonged needlessly. 🙂

      You did a great job with the second person perspective; it helped me identify with the main character’s situation even more.

      My red pencil says a few more question marks are needed in the upper half of the story, but it’s nothing scene-breaking.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks, Tim. I’ve not read science fiction for decades and never have read fantasy, so while I enjoy reading that here, and I could be mistaken about genre names, I usually have a different response to the prompts. This is based on real events in a real life, not a POW, his story too long for this, but he did say after each “treatment”, widely used after WW II, he was left feeling like a stranger in a strange land. He was also a fire and brimstone preacher!

    2. regisundertow

      Spooky story, might as well be in limbo. Very evocative of the confusion one must feel in that situation. There was one line, “to mess with their brains…don’t seem right”. I think it opened up the story for me, allowing a bunch of different directions this could go in. Maybe this is something you would consider expanding into a longer story?

    3. lionetravail

      Beautiful, Reatha- you made second person work so effectively I was about 1/3rd of the way in before I noticed it. Thank you for sharing your inspiration for it as well: my heart goes out to all our armed forces, especially those who’ve been so traumatized on any level.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks, so very much. I’ve known two people, who did not know each other, who experienced electroshock treatments in the 50s and 60s, in different states, and their stories were much the same. Hopefully, the techniques have improved, since I believe it’s still being done.

    4. Reaper

      Reatha, you always have a unique take and a beautiful voice. This was sad and somehow hopeful at the same time. Enough that I couldn’t tell for sure if the tears at the end were sorrow or joy. Very well done.

        1. Geezer Muse

          This is scary to read at three in the morning and rings true to a movie called ‘Snake Pit’ with Susan Hayward starring in it. It came out in the fifties and terrified all who watched but your written word is far more powerful than the movie was. I never worry about death but non-death which to me would be a far worse experience. You should be proud of this one because I feel honored to be able to read it. Kerry

          1. ReathaThomasOakley

            Yes, I know that movie and One Flew Over the Cookoos Nest, both more melodramatic than what I was told was the reality. I am honored by your comments.

    5. snuzcook

      A touching look at the fear, the justifications, and the promise of treatments in facilities like this over the decades. I don’t know enough about how many received ultimate benefit and how many were left further disabled. For the context you have described here, though, the disorientation of the patient is very clearly and compassionately revealed. I love the way you are able to use the attendants to inform us of what is going on from the practical and somewhat uninformed perspective. Thank you for sharing this true story.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thank you for reading and commenting. As to the attendants, I love to tell stories through dialogue, perhaps something to do with my involvement in community theater and a little success with playwriting.

  33. regisundertow

    THE GASH

    As reality finally caves in, my last conscious thought is of Magdalena.
    I’m not sure when our foundation finally cracked for good. It must have been some time after the Announcement. That, I know.

    I had taken a week off work. Gotten us plane tickets to the island, hoping to raise her spirits. Throughout the flight, I kept pointing at the landscape below, trying to play “guess the city” with her. She’d shrug, mutter “non so, non mi chiedere”, and would return to her journal. After the third city (Naples, pretty sure of it), I gave up. That first night, at the hotel, as the Mediterranean heat made the cotton sheets cling to our bodies, I heard her cry for the first time ever.

    The days were alright. There was the beach. We’d spend all day on the rickety rattan lounge chairs, getting irradiated. I had my Bukowski. She had her journal. Occasionally, we’d dive into the water to cool down, and return to not talking side by side. Things were much much worse when the sun went down. She’d prepare for going out for hours, the bathroom door half-open. I’d stare at her from the balcony, shirtless, rum in hand, getting drilled by mosquitoes. Even separated by glass, I could smell the coconut cream as she smothered her dancer’s legs with it. Her raven hair that I used to bury my face into reflected the light. Eventually, she’d come out of the bathroom looking like a goddess, point at the door, wave goodbye without smiling, and leave to return just before dawn stinking of cigarette smoke. I’d wake up in the morning to find her writing on the couch, her side of the bed undisturbed.

    I wish we’d at least have a nice good fight, like the day of the Announcement. You know, get a chance to unload the shit that weighted us down. Sounds funny thinking about it, now. Back then, it was her who started pressing my buttons. I just didn’t see the point in those arguments. How can you sit there while they tell us we’re nothing? That we’re some fucking…video game? Aren’t you angry? Aren’t you scared? Non ti frega un cazzo?! We’re nothing, Mirko! There is nothing!, her vocal chords threatened to rip themselves apart. I looked at her straight in her copper eyes, time suspended on a pinpoint. The TV was still blaring in the background with the revelation. So, what? I still got to go to work tomorrow, I whispered, struggling to keep my voice from breaking. We still got to pay the bills. She looked at me with a mixture of disbelief and disappointment. Her eyes turned glassy a split second before she marched out of our flat. I watched her from the window as she took long strides down the deserted road, kicking up summer dust, fists clenched, stiff arms swinging. In the building across the street, every TV set was showing the same story. Some people cried, some stood with their hands on their heads, some were laughing. I looked out across the city skyline to where the heavens had split open like a gash moments before. The Creator poked his ugly shiny head through it, observing. He made my eyes hurt, so I drew the curtains.

    I tried picking up a fight with her at the hotel, before another one of her nights out. No matter how much I tried to provoke her, though, she wouldn’t bite. She wouldn’t even look at me in the eyes, just slightly off-center and to the left, her gaze drifting away at every chance. You’re fucking one of them inbred clowns? That what you’re doing out there every night? Lame, for sure, but I didn’t know what else to use against her. Va be’, she’d simply say in a defeated tone. Yes, I’m fucking an inbred clown. I’m fucking all of them inbred clowns at the same time, senza goldone, nel culo. I might even post the video online. That what you want to hear? But the fight had gone out of her. I tried to say I was sorry, tried to hug her. Fight or no fight, she shoved me on my ass and marched out on me for the last time. I never saw her again. The next night, terrified out of my wits and stinking of alcohol, I got the story from a busboy. That a giant hand had appeared simultaneously in millions of places around the world and moved buildings, raised mountains, emptied lakes, and pulled people into the gash. I went back to my room and slept until they kicked me out days later. What’s your problem? I laughed, as I was being dragged naked across the lobby. Nothing fucking matters!

    I obviously read her journal. Bunch of theories in bold and underlined questions and sketches of lovers kissing and torn passages out of philosophy books that gave me a headache. I took to wandering the increasingly empty streets, reading her thoughts, oblivious to the gash and the hand. As I drew closer to the end, as her handwriting become more illegible and her thoughts became sharper, it occurred to me with no sense of surprise that I was left alone. Just me and the crumbling simulation falling apart around me. And now, as reality finally caves in, I shed a tear for what I’ve lost.

    1. Observer Tim

      I’d meet you at the end of the world, but I know you won’t be there. This is a touching and depressing tale of armageddon, made even moreso by its brevity. Great job, regisundertow. You made me cry for the characters and the world they lost.

      1. regisundertow

        Thank you Tim, always looking forward to your comments. Been picking up a couple of books on writing lately, hopefully my writing will get tighter in the future.

    2. lionetravail

      This is wonderfully surreal- love the imagery, which blurs the setting and story for me like one of those paintings where you see different images depending on the angle you look. Wonderful use of language and the first person present, which makes the MC’s despondent desperation so immediate. Nice work, with great feelings evoked.

      1. regisundertow

        Thanks Reatha, glad you enjoyed it. This story has been kicking around in my head for some time in various forms, I’m happy this one merited your response.

    3. Reaper

      I think lionerravails comment is pretty much perfect. The artistry of this is amazing. So much that when I went through I saw a couple of lines that seemed strangely worded and I was going to give an example of them but when I went back I couldn’t find one of them.

      1. Geezer Muse

        I’ve always been haunted by the end of the world and used to think joy and hope and a gentle transition to God and then as I got older, the doubts increase. I’ve never been able to express my thoughts but you have in a terrifying manner that probably a lot of us fear. Your words express it all, all the doubt, the anxiety, hopelessness and perhaps evil and despetrate measures as life ebbs. I’d say this was brilliant but probably the word’s not strong enough. Three in the morning dulls the senses but not to this. Kerry

        1. regisundertow

          Kerry, I’m scared out of my mind of what’s out there. To paraphrase Sagan, whether there is a plan or not, whether this is the only life we have or we’re caught in a divine cosmic machinery…either scenario is terrifying. Not with regards to the “endgame”, but with regards to the here and now and how we react to it. I spent my teens reading Lovecraft and it’s only now, after a number of deaths in the family, that I feel I’m getting where he was coming from. It was never about alien gods and body horror, it has always been about our insignificance in the grand scheme of things. It’s an anxiety that needs to be put on paper, or I’ll go nuts, just like the characters in the story.

          Honestly, I’m very appreciative of your comment. I’ve been stressing as to whether people would relate or care to go down that path.

      2. regisundertow

        Thank you, Reaper, truly. Just trying to apply a few of the techniques I’ve been picking up here, glad to hear they’ve worked.

    4. snuzcook

      I love the way that you place the reader in the nightmare, slowly with the relationship issues that are common enough, then the way that the MC reveals the end of the world through his own experiences of loss and ambivalence. I felt like I had a sun-headache reading it, like I was on a good vacation gone bad and just wished I could go home–by way of being present with the MC. Well layered telling, Regis!

      1. regisundertow

        Thanks Snuzcook. I kept wondering how people would react to finding out nothing is real and that their world was about to end. It was scary realizing that most of us wouldn’t actually do anything.

  34. Pete

    I signed up for Becoming God because I needed some filler for second semester. It was that or Galactic Equations so it was kind of a given.

    Our Professor was an ancient Clyborb whose scales were gray with age and his wings sagged to his tail. Actually Professor Rip turned out to be pretty chill, even though he constantly reminded us that half of our grade was riding on our planet creation.

    We plotted for weeks, and admittedly I slept through most of the lessons, but on the day of reckoning I looked over to my bare bones planet, pulsing with life and waiting to be designed.

    I looked over my shoulder, at the other pupils and their spheres.

    “Hey what are you doing with yours?” I asked my best friend, Vendir. He shrugged. “Fucking Dragons man. Gonna be awesome.”

    “Dragons.” I nodded. “Rock on.”

    I’d give his world a day or two. Meanwhile the hot girl I’d been checking out all semester looked to be thinking things through. “What are you considering?”

    “I don’t know yet,” she said, her large yellow eye flashing. “Maybe Slayshas?”

    Vendir groaned. “Oh please, just a bunch of flying girlie crap.” On cue a fourth of his orb went up in flames. “Shit!”

    “Smaller, Vendir,” Professor Rip bellowed. And watch your beak.

    I turned to my orb and let out a sigh. “I guess I’ll go with humans.”

    The entire class gasped.

    “What?”

    “Humans?” Vendir said, crafting a new set of dragons. “Dude, are you like, mental?”

    “Why?” The class was still staring at me like I had two eyes or something.

    “Because humans suck, dude.”

    Chakir rolled her eye. “Have you paid any attention this year?”

    “Yeah,” Vlendir said. It’s cool at first. They worship you and stuff, but then they like, do stuff to each other. Fighting—I think it’s called—about how you look or what to call you. They fight about land and names,” he sighed. “They’re a prideful lot, and more trouble then they’re worth. They even fight about the pigment of their own skin. LIke one is better or something. Trust me, humans wreak havoc on a planet.”

    “Kind of like Dragons,” I said, nodding to the smoke tendrils leaking from his planet.

    “Shit.”

    “Language.” Professor Rip moaned, standing to the side, his tail sweeping along the floor as he read a medical journal.

    Chakir leaned closer, dropping her ears. “Kerto please, it’s hopeless.”

    I studied her planet, swimming with life. Her Slayshas glided along the craters, sand drifting from their sweeping strides. Others whistled melodious mating calls as they all seemed to bask in unity. But something was missing. I looked back to my orb, thinking again about the mysterious humans.

    “I’m doing it.”

    Professor Rip slithered up behind my wing. “Well Kerto, I do dmire your ambition. It’s not often that a student attempts such an undertaking. But just remember, with humans, there’s no going back.”

    So I did it. I mixed the water and land and trees and plants and animals. It was exhausting work, because humans are fragile and I had to provide the perfect atmosphere. The whole class watched on with intensity as the slacker found his muse.

    My labor paid off. My planet was unworldly. It was hard to believe that I came up with it on my own. With its crazy green and blue, swirls of cloud cover, it was epic. The class gathered around it with fangs out, adoring my breathtaking creation. Even Professor Rip seemed to be impressed.

    I was so getting an A.

    Then came my humans. We watched as they roamed the lush habitat, taking in their surroundings. Their spindly necks craned and they’re skin was so smooth and magical and their multiple eyes were glazed and bewildered—innocent. Everything was calm.

    I’d done it.

    “They’re beautiful,” Chakir whispered. And they were. The class gathered and I beamed with pride. But Professor Rip only swished his tail.
    The next day disaster stuck. It was the first time I ever saw death.

    “What is it?” I asked.

    “Disease,” The Professor said. Something about Rip was different. Grayer. I worked to through the night to fix it but then came the flooding. After that starvation. While the other planets grew stronger and populated, mine hovered in turmoil.

    Then the wars started.

    “They won’t share?”

    “No.” Professor Rip said without looking up.

    “Should I start over?”

    “There’s no time.”

    Chakir shrieked. We all watched in horror, having never seen such acts. “Why are they….fighting?”

    “Religion.”

    “What’s that?”

    “They’re fighting over what to call you,” Chakir said, turning away and covering her face.

    One group overtook another, then that group overtook their captors. The world tipped one way then the next. The class screamed for the humans to stop, but the humans would only look ahead. They never learned. I was devastated. Why didn’t I do like everyone else and just go with a boring red sphere with a bunch of Clybs? Just mimic our planet? Ugh.

    Just as I was going to kick my planet to mind waste, Professor Rip stepped in. He looked old and tired, his scales wilted. He sat a hand on my spikes. “It’s okay, Kerto, no one can help them.

    “I failed.” I said to the Professor.

    “No, you didn’t. We can all learn from this project.”

    “It was so beautiful,” I said, slumped.

    “It was.”

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Pete, I’ve been reading, and sometimes writing, here since January and in my opinion this is one of the best pieces I’ve read. The classroom world was created so fully and believably, then came the beautiful Earth. Amazing.

    2. jkharrison

      This was incredible. I wasn’t sure it was going to be my kind of story at first, but it pulled me in. I liked the concept and I think the moral was told beautifully.

      1. Pete

        Thanks guys, I really apprecitate it. I’m not big on science fiction so this was the best I could do. Thanks for putting up with my grammatical mishaps as well!

    3. regisundertow

      Write a book on this, already. Seriously. Then, let us know so I can buy a copy, I’ll read the crap out of it.
      Just one criticism, the moralizing is clunky. The story is great, the language is great, but as soon as you spell out the moral of the story, it feels like I can hear the underlying story mechanics groaning. Other than that, this story is amazing.

      Oh, also start writing that book, dammit! I want to read more!

    4. Witt.Stanton

      Overall, this quite simply was an amazing story. Amazing. One suggestion, though, is to not spell out the moral so much. Let readers interpret more. Other than that, it’s once of the most imaginative stories I have read yet. Good job.

    5. Observer Tim

      Wow. I really like this, Pete, especially the way you managed to put in so much information about the creating species while ostensibly telling a story about humans. Great job! 🙂

      I am with Witt.Stanton about the moral message. You could carry that off just as well by just letting the narrative flow.

      1. Pete

        Thanks guys, looking back I have to agree that I did hammer home the message. i was trying to show how foreign it was to all of the students and went overboard. But hey, it’s just a prompt, right?

    6. Reaper

      I like this Pete, especially the it was beautiful and with Humans there is no going back. The idea of religions fighting each other over what to call their creator is a dear one to me so it struck a chord that sat very well. While I agree the moral was a bit heavy handed I see an easy fix that would make it flow with a bit more subtlety. When you have the friend go over all the things that humans fight over take out the mention of fighting over what to call the creator. Then when the girl says it later on it is an oh yeah moment that builds on what was said before, instead of a slap with a thought that was already stated. It also makes the shock of the MC seem genuine and understandable. As it is repeated it makes him seem like he should have known. That’s my thought on that, the thought on the story is that it is beautiful.

      1. Geezer Muse

        Sorry to get in so late with a comment. I wouldn’t have missed this one for the world. One of the best prompt stories I have ever read. I’m really proud of you, Pete.

  35. DMelde

    Humanity Trial Case – (The State of Texas v. Susan Mundell)

    (Opening Statement of the Prosecution)

    Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, March 29, 2032, was a normal Monday in Austin, Texas. People were going back to work after the long Easter holiday. The sun was shining. The flowers were just coming into bloom. It was early spring in Austin. Sometime after eight o’clock that morning, Susan Mundell was escorted from her hospital bed into the operating room for a total cloned organ transplant. Ms. Mundell suffered from a rare tissue disease that slowly, over many years, destroyed her body, making her more and more dependent on machines in order to stay alive. Her doctors, in a last ditch effort to save her life, replaced her heart and lungs, her liver and kidneys, her stomach, her large and small intestines. The result was a total system failure. Ms. Mundell’s body proved to be too fragile, and on March 29, 2032, Susan Mundell died on the operating table at Seton Northwest Hospital in downtown Austin, Texas.

    Less than two weeks earlier, on March 17, 2032, St. Patrick’s Day, a second set of doctors had performed on Ms. Mundell a whole brain emulation, uploading her mind to a computer on the Rothwell server, belonging to the Eco congregation. After Ms. Mundell’s death, her estate, on behalf of the computer simulation, sued the state of Texas for total control over Ms. Mundell’s estate. It is the state’s contention that nothing extra-ordinary happened that Monday when Ms. Mundell died on the operating table. She did not become immortal because of a computer simulation of her brain. Ladies and gentlemen, we will prove that Ms. Mundell is dead and her whole brain emulation is nothing more than a computer program.

    (Opening Statement for the Defense)

    Good morning, my name is Timothy Gunn, and it is my pleasure to represent Susan Mundell on this very important case. Susan worked, despite her illness, for over forty years during which time she scrimped and saved in order to build up her estate. Susan Mundell is not asking for anything more than what she has worked so hard to attain.

    Today she is, quite literally, in the fight of her life, but what is life? You, the jury, will have to decide. Is it static and never-changing, like the state of Texas would have us believe? Or is life dynamic and evolving, as Susan Mundell has demonstrated. You will hear experts in the field of Neuroimaging and Magnetoencephalography testify that Susan Mundell’s 3D mapped brain activity is indistinguishable from any other living human being. She has both short-term and long-term memories. She is capable of complex cognitive tasks. Susan is more than just a lump of grey matter. Her mind is a dualism of the physical and metaphysical. Whole brain emulation doesn’t result in a copy of the original mind, but rather, it is a splitting of the original mind into two identical halves.

    We stand on the cusp of a brave new world where whole brain emulation is becoming commonplace. Will we treat people like Susan Mundell as parasites on society and as slaves of the state? Or will we treat them as human beings deserving of our respect. How you decide will help shape our world.

    1. Cceynowa

      This reads as so believable that it is scary. Don’t give ’em ideas! Seriously though, this is a great short bit of (hopefully) fiction. Excellent writing.

    2. jkharrison

      I loved reading this. I can practically see how this kind of courtroom drama would unfold in the media–all the social media arguments, the biased spins from different networks. The passionate protests. I always enjoy when something leaves my mind building from it. Great story.

    3. regisundertow

      Awesome! I love it when people forgo normal storytelling conventions. It reminded me of the zoology passages in Moby Dick, for some reason. Great way of telling a story and suggesting a wider universe.

    4. Observer Tim

      This is creepy, surreal and thought-provoking, DMelde. The whole concept opens up whole new areas in law. This is brilliant. 🙂

      A part of my brain says that the State of Texas should be the defendant and Susan Mundell the plaintiff, unless the State is arguing that Eco is engaging in fraud by claiming she is still alive. That would require a bit of legal digging if you took the story further, which I heartily encourage.

      1. DMelde

        Hi Tim,

        I imagine this case was heard in district court due to the major issues at stake and the size of the estate. The estate originally petitioned in probate court for the deceased to have control, which triggered the transfer to district court. (The deceased lacked standing, so the estate had to initiate the request on her behalf.) District court refused to hear the case (because of the dead thing) and the state filed a counter-claim stating she was old, cold, and dead. This story is about the counter-claim lawsuit filed by the state of Texas where Texas is the plaintiff and the estate is the defendant. I took liberties on wording the story, otherwise it became too cumbersome.

        I was intrigued by readers’ replies to this story. Imagine if I had gone the other way with a body that lived and the brain had died, being replaced with an artificial brain chip (that replaced the entire brain), simulating the brain’s structure that kept the mind intact. Would it have mattered? Is it only our body that makes us human? If the body is dead, so is the mind? How much of the body has to die? Too philosophical….there are many ways this story could be told….

        Thanks for being so ‘thoughtful’. 🙂

    5. Reaper

      DMelde, you have hit on a few things that I find very, very scary. It is stories like these that really make me cringe and see good horror, not the ones with twinkling vampires or other monsters, though those can be good too. Just some strong writing, and I love that you have a nice little barb in there with the mention of evolution and the case taking place in Texas. That made this even better for me.

      1. Geezer Muse

        Nothing is bent to extreme terror more than a plausible story loaded with dynamite. I’m in total agreement, as realistic as possible and a brilliant decision to set the scene in a court of law. You’ve outdone yourself on this one. Kerry

  36. Cceynowa

    Knight in Blue Denim
    Word Count: 590
    ___

    “Mick ain’t been the same after gettin’ thrown last spring.”

    “Why is that?”

    “‘E said ‘ed seen a new world; a world where the horses were docile, ‘is spurs were gold, and all the women were ladies.” The old cowboy looked me in the eyes, “You wanna know what I think?”

    “Yes.”

    “I think ‘e died. Like one of those outta body things, and ‘e saw hell.”

    ____

    Mickey Wright, county champion bronc buster, never felt the ground. His skull struck the packed rodeo arena sand with an audible thud. He didn’t hear the crowd gasp in horror, the announcer say a prayer, or the ambulance’s sirens race away from the Fair Grounds. Instead he heard the gentle swirling of air as he floated away from his body’s aches, pains, and worries. He felt himself rising above all he had known. Later, when he was asked to describe it, he said it was like his heart had been inflated, and it had lifted his body, like a child’s lost balloon trailing a colorful party ribbon into the sky.

    When he felt his assent slow, and he opened his eyes, he discovered that he was no longer surrounded by a gawking crowd or choking on arena dust. Instead, he was in a meadow blanketed with budding clover. At the meadow’s edge a pure white stallion grazed. In the distance, rising above the surrounding forest’s canopy, he saw a stone tower.

    Standing, he bent to wipe the dust from his legs, only to discover his chaps were gone. Instead, he was wearing his finest starched denim, his champion buckle, a crisp white shirt, and polished boots. His spurs were golden, his sweat stained Stetson now white, and his calloused hands were scrubbed clean. The stallion nickered softly as if approving Mickey’s attire.

    Leaving the meadow, Mickey began walking towards the stone tower. The stallion followed. Approaching the base of the tower, Mickey stopped to listen. He could hear a woman singing; her voice sweeter than any voice he had ever heard. Hesitantly, he called out, “Hello?”

    “Up here!”

    Craning his neck, he saw an angel leaning out the top most window of the tower. “Ma’am,” he said. “Can you tell me where I am?”

    “Come inside. Careful though, the door can only open from outside.” She pointed to the heavy wooden door at the tower’s base. He opened the door, braced it, and began to climb the spiraling staircase. His spurs clicked against the stone.

    “Are you a knight?” The lady waiting at the top of the tower was the most beautiful he had ever seen. Her hair was silver-blonde, her figure slim, and her eyes the color of storm clouds in late July.

    “I’m a cowboy,” he said.

    “What does that mean?” She suddenly seemed scared. “I can only leave when a knight comes who will save me.”

    “Save you?”

    “From being alone.”

    He removed his hat and said, “I can save you.”

    “Promise?”

    “Yes.”

    Smiling, she hurried across the tower, intending to embrace her rescuer, when the world was suddenly filled with blinding white light. He felt the faintest touch of her hands and saw the familiar look of heartbreak cross her face.

    His chest burned, his eyes rolled, and his throat ached.

    “Hit him again!”

    Electricity surged through his body. A masked face appeared over him. “He’s coming around. Mickey, can you hear me?”

    Tears began to fall down the young cowboy’s face. He was alive, and had one more broken promise to remember.

    1. Cceynowa

      Okay, so this submission doesn’t exactly follow the prompt… I intend to write another later that does more closely… BUT my step-daughter has become more and more interested in writing. The above submission is my version of the story she told me about how she sees her dad (my husband) as a Knight in Blue Denim. He saves her, and he saves me…. so I took that idea and rolled with it for this week’s prompt. Thanks for indulging me!

      1. pauli101

        Hi Cceynowa,
        It is exciting when people comment on “following the prompt”… I find in my reading wonderful stories like this one that “don’t follow the prompt”. We are here to create and explore our writing and stretch our brain cells. I for one ready need to get free and write better and times I’m sure some of us don’t follow the prompt. It is a beautiful story. I like it. It is great your taking interest in writing and encouraging your daughter. Happy successful writing ahead.

        1. Cceynowa

          That’s okay Jhowe. Honestly, I had “knight in blue denim” bouncing around in my head over and over the past few days, ever since my step-daughter read me her story. I decided yesterday that no matter the prompt this week, I was going to work with that idea. The above is the result. Thank you for the comment(s)!

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Such a great story. I’m pleased you are still working with your stepdaughter. Tell her she had a wonderful idea and name for her dad.

    3. lionetravail

      great idea for this, really like it, but I esp love the punny title and its nod to Knights in White Satin 🙂

      only comment- ‘ascent’, if you’re planning to pursue publication with this.

    4. regisundertow

      True, it doesn’t follow the prompt, but it’s a worthy story. A very sad one as well. There is a lot of potential for expanding it, I think. I can’t see the cowboy not doing anything about his broken promise.

    5. Observer Tim

      This is beautiful, Cceynowa. Given that this appears to me to be an extremely hard prompt to follow literally (more of a writing exercise, actually), you did a wonderful job! This will be a hard act to follow. 🙂 🙂

      And thanks for taking the hit of being first out of the gate for us. 😉

      P.S. My red pencil says “ascent” not “assent”.

    6. Reaper

      This is very beautiful. I don’t know how old your step daughter is but she sounds amazing. Mostly I doubt anything I am going to say here is a conscious choice for her, again depending on age, but it might have been for you in doing your own version of the tale. I felt like I was reading a very original cross between the Dark Tower/Talisman and Rapunzel with some some very good western thrown into the mix. As I said, very original, you gave me the feel of those things but nothing that felt like it wasn’t your own. There is also a very nicely done question of what is the difference between heaven and hell because of the opening and then the cowboy obviously feeling like he was coming back to hell because of his broken promise. Very beautiful and intelligent. I feel better for having read this.

      1. Geezer Muse

        This is such a stuning presentation. Great appreciation to your daughter for her story and your tale of mystic beauty. I am totally enchanted by your prose and color.

    7. snuzcook

      What a lovely concept, and a lovely rendering! I have never really considered a story actually using a cowboy in the setting where a knight would be, even tho the icons are used interchangeably in many stories. Well done!

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