Crystal Clear

Entering the “Oracles Den” at the fair with your significant other seemed novel at first. When the oracle had you gaze in her crystal ball though and you see yourself five years down the road with someone you’ve never met, well things just got interesting. The real problem: Your significant other knows who the person is. Write this scene.

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383 thoughts on “Crystal Clear

  1. Red Hadan

    It started out as a great date. You know? That perfect wake up and feel your heart pounding because today maybe is the day that something really happens between us. I all ways liked saying “us”, I mean two letters two people. All that sappy stuff. Anyway Tim and I were walking around our town fair when we saw a mysterious both belonging to a mysterious old lady dressed up in the whole bandanna hippie look. That was hippie wasn’t it? She welcomed us to a table were she sat us down in front of a glass sphere. I gripped Tim’s arm excitedly. Maybe I would finally get to see how hot I looked in that wedding dress! The old woman waved her arms dramatically around the glass creating a green tinted smoke that made me smirk. how much more cheesey could this get? The pictures started to unfold and I saw Tim and a girl.
    “Is that your sister?” I ask chuckling at my own joke which for some reason Tim did not find funny.
    “No.” He said eyeing the glass with an odd mixture of emotions. I turned to face the ball again and realized that the girl was indeed not his sister but my sister! And were they holding hands?
    “What the eff?” I said but I really did not say “eff” I said what eff stands for. Just then Tim brought my sister in for a nice, long, awkward kiss. I gagged and pulled my hair. I looked at the real Tim or what I thought was the real Tim, he was deathly white but there seemed to be a smile hidden underneath.
    Oh God! What was going on! I ran outside of the booth tears streaming down my face. Why should I even believe in an old lady I just met? But still! I ran to a tree and collapsed at the base pulling out grass and my hair and then crying into my muddy hands. Tim came over and sat a few feet away. I grabbed my face and cried even more. Throughout the entire time we dated he had been a total jerk, and totally took advantage of me. I was just hopping that maybe today…. That today something REAL may happen not this entire fake, dumb, stupid, effed up relationship that I felt totally not involved in even though I was the girlfriend right? RIGHT? I looked up at him. He wore a smirk that infuriated me sooooo much. I stood up and smacked him as hard as I possibly could.
    “IT’S OFF YOU!!… You… You b*tch!” I ran away to my house were hopefully I had a tub of icecream waiting in the fridge.

  2. MCKEVIN

    The last thing Tracy needed was a lecture or a preaching to. He understood when the court of public opinion accused him of being an accessory to murders he didn’t commit, that it was good to have had friends by your side. He knew when Doug came out of hiding the whole misunderstanding would be resolve itself. So when Kindle called, Tracy knew it wasn’t personal and that he meant well.
    “Breathe T because you need to figure out why is this situation here.” Kindle stated.
    “What I need is for people to stop blaming me-.” Tracy said into the phone.
    “Okay don’t-.”
    “Then don’t tell me how to live my life!” Tracy warned.
    “Do you think you two should take some responsibility for what has happened here?” Kindle asked.
    “Doug and I didn’t kill anyone.” Tracy fired back.
    “T, are you sure? Why won’t you tell me what really happened?” Kindle asked hesitantly.
    Silence.
    “Thanks for filing Doug’s missing person’s report. I gotta go-. Tracy quipped.
    “T, wait! That didn’t come out right. I didn’t mean-“ Kindle tried say. Tracy ignored Kindle’s voice when he heard humming. He followed the sound to the second bedroom and Doug’s phone vibrated on a nightstand. He answered the call when he saw Tank’s face on the screen.
    “Tank, please tell me Doug is with you!” Tracy yelled into the phone.
    “Trace, the news interrupted my footballgame-” Tank said.
    “Tank! Listen to me!” Tracy continued.
    “Doug never came here.“ Tank said.
    “But he’s not here either!”
    “Hold up Trace.” Tank said.
    “What? Do you see Doug?” Tracy asked frantically.
    “Nah, but how are you using his phone?“ Tank asked.
    Tracy took a deep breath for patience then answered.
    “Doug’s in the Jeep and he left his phone at home.” Tracy said as he tried to keep calm.
    “Where he’d say he was going?”
    Silence.
    Kindle was still on Tracy’s phone. He saw something on the television and hollered to get Tracy’s attention.
    “Trace?” Tank asked.
    “ I’m here. He didn’t say Tank.”
    “That’s not like Doug.” Tank responded.
    “We kinda was arguing when-. Kindle just hold on!“ Tracy looked up at the television and saw Menai, Doug’s daughter being interviewed. She cried as she held pictures of her comatose mother Robyn in the hospital and her brother Junior laying in an alley.
    “Arguing about what Trace?” Tank asked agitated.
    Tracy was silent for an eternal minute and tried to processed his situation.
    “What the Fortune Teller said-“ Tracy said.
    “You two knew him?” Tank asked beginning to feel like he was pulling Tracy’s teeth.
    “He gave us a bullshit read-“ Tracy said trying to refocus.
    “So you and Doug killed-“ Tank asked afraid of the answer.
    “Noooo Tank!” Tracy yelled.
    “What was the last thing you said to Doug Trace?” Tank demanded.
    Tracy swallowed hard.
    “I said ‘F YOU’ because he didn’t want to talk. He said he needed five minutes to be alone and-”
    “Aw Trace! Why? You know him better than that-“ Tank hollered.
    “You weren’t there you don’t understand-!” Tracy fired back.
    “Course I don’t understand! I’M NOT Gay!” Tank screamed.
    “WHAT? Look, I tried to find out what had him so upset but he wouldn’t say… and gay ain’t got nothing-” Tracy hollered back not missing a beat.
    “Has Doug ever given you a reason to doubt anything about him Trace?” Tank demanded now angry.
    “No but-“ Tracy tried to say.
    “Did he not LEAVE HIS WIFE AND KIDS after they were together seventeen years for you?” Tank pushed
    “WHAT! If you mean did Doug choose me to be HAPPY then yeah Tank!“
    “Trace, I was Doug’s best man when he married Robyn and I was his Best Man when he married you! I’ve never pretended to understand this situation with you and Doug because I don’t! I’ve known him all my life and in that time he only wanted to be with women! That is until he met you! That man left his family for you AND YOU COULDN’T GIVE MY BEST FRIEND FIVE MINUTES? TRACE, are you that insecure or jus’ out of your fucking mind!” Tank yelled and ending the call.
    Click!

  3. Observer Tim

    Danger! Naughty Warning! Even though it’s one degree removed. I don’t normally like stream of consciousness much, but somehow it fits.

    STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS

    A crystal ball? Does this medium really have a crystal ball? And the name, the ‘Oracles Den’? Don’t they get that it should be in the possessive? It’s not like they have more than one: the only oracle is the scarecrow in the 1970’s era pimp shirt that looks like his girlfriend went mad with a Bedazzler.

    It is kind of cool that we can both see the smoke and fuzzy TV in the crystal ball. That’s actually a good trick. I wonder what movie we’re going to see edited clips from? This should be interesting, in a sick way.

    Nice close up. That always was my favourite part of you. And the way you’re working me is pretty impressive. Good to see that five years in the future you’re still just as athletic.

    Wait a second! Where’s my tattoo? From that distance you should be able to read the writing on the little heart! That’s not me!

    OMG! Oh! Emm! Gee! Is that Tara? What are you doing with the girl they just hired in the mailroom? Well, it’s obvious what you’re doing with her; she’s actually pretty hot. I never knew she was the type that would make that horrible squeaking noise, though. And I just love the way she’s bobbing in time with you. But where am I? Why am I even watching this? Oh, there I am, over in the chair, tied up. Why do I seem to be enjoying it so much? I never realized I was THAT kinky.

    There, you’re done now. I wonder what happens next. I guess she’s going to go wash up… no, she’s going over to me. And what’s that she’s saying? He IS nice, but I like you better. What’s that supposed to mean? Oh, right, I get it.

    NO! Why did the video stop? You were just getting to the good part!

    1. jmcody

      Hmmm, I don’t know quite what to say except that this was certainly well written and you used the stream of consciousness style effectively. Only you could mix commentary on grammar with such, um… let’s say naughtiness. What kind of medium is this anyway? I’ll bet a successful one, with lots of repeat business.

    2. jhowe

      Thanks for the naughty warning; I didn’t read it. Ok…I lied; I read it. I was very impressed. You took such a short piece and made it very cool. I loved the little reference to the possesive form of Oracles Den.

    3. lionetravail

      Very nice, original take on this. The SOC totally worked; I loved how the MC takes in stride: “I never realized I was THAT kinky”— it speaks to the fact that such an event IS likely in the future. And then you finish with “..just getting to the good part!:, which doubles down on this.

      This totally worked, and was naughty done in a deft and elegant way. Loved it.

  4. jmcody

    Hastily done, but its last call, so here you go. I’ll probably regret this tomorrow when I spot all the errors, but its now or never for Crazy Yolanda and the Oracle’s Den.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________

    THE WAR OF THE RODENTS

    It was the smell that hit Kate first – a fetid mixture of stale beer and dirty diapers with a hint of nacho cheese. Next came the shrieks, shrill enough to overpower the competing blare of ESPN.

    “Ma-Ma!”

    It was the same scene Kate had come home to every day since George had been laid off from his job. As soon as Ava saw Kate, she would burst into tears. No matter that moments earlier she had been contentedly eating potato chip crumbs off the dirty carpet.

    Kate dropped her laptop bag and ran to pick up the baby.

    “George!” Kate yelled over the din. The human form on the couch stirred.

    “What time is it?” George said, rubbing his bleary eyes.

    “Well, I’m home, so what time do you think it is?” Kate turned off the TV and bounced the crying Ava on her hip.

    “Oh crap,” said George, sitting up suddenly. “I have to go.”

    “So I’m guessing there’s no dinner.”

    “The guys are expecting me down at the…”

    “Right. The guys are expecting you. What about my expectations George?” Kate said sharply. Sometimes she was surprised at the bitter edge in her own voice.

    “Kate, let’s not do this again. Not in front of the baby.”

    “What about Ava’s expectations? Do you think maybe Ava expects dinner? Or maybe she would like to not be sitting in her own excrement right now?”

    “I just changed her. There’s something wrong with that kid’s ass.”

    “George…” There’s something wrong with YOU she wanted to say. “You are not…” marriage material.

    Not marriage material. The ancient words and well-meaning voices reverberated from somewhere in the past, from when she and George were dating. It was not like she hadn’t been warned. But he was funny and charming, not to mention good-looking, and there was no baby or mortgage to worry about then.

    “I’m not what, Kate? Go ahead, tell me all the things I am not.”

    Kate’s mind was a boiling cauldron of insults, all of which had been said before loudly and often. She mustered her last shred of self-control.

    “What exactly did you do all day?” she countered.

    “I did a lot of things. I babysat, for one thing.”

    “So you’re the babysitter now? My apologies. I thought you were the father.”

    “Kate, why do you have to be such a…” George stopped himself.

    “A bitch? Is that what you were going to say?”

    “No, actually I was going to say shrew. Why do you have to be such a nasty, sarcastic, bitter shrew?”

    Kate reeled. Usually George just stonewalled while she hurled insults at him. This was something new and unexpected, this counterattack.

    Shrew. This was no ordinary insult. There was something deeply disturbing about it, and something… familiar. Suddenly Kate couldn’t help but picture herself with a long, beaklike nose and razor sharp teeth, like a… rat.

    Kate gasped.

    “I… I shouldn’t have said that.” George began backpedaling.

    “The fortune teller…” Kate gasped again, clapping her hand to her mouth. “The Oracle’s Den…”

    “Wait, what are you talking about?” George was more confused now.

    “At the Fall Fair, five years ago!” It had been a whim, something fun to do. They were engaged and happy, and expecting only wonderful things.

    “You mean that crazy old bat with the crystal ball?”

    Somehow – perhaps through the magic of computers – Crazy Old Madame Yolanda had shown them an image of George five years in the future, with a woman who was not Kate. She was hideous, and yet strangely familiar, with a long pointed nose, wooly, close-cropped hair that could only be described as fur, and tiny, razor sharp teeth like a rat.

    Or a shrew.

    They had laughed it off. “She’s lovely,” Kate had joked. “I hope the two of you will be very happy together and have a whole litter of little rodents.”

    It wasn’t funny anymore.

    “Madame Yolanda was right.” She looked at George helplessly as the realization settled over her like the stench of Ava’s diaper. “You’re with a shrew.”

    “Oh, Kate, I didn’t mean it…”

    “I don’t want to be a shrew.” She shook her head. George looked at his watch and shifted uncomfortably, unused to this strange, repentant Kate.

    “I don’t want to be… this anymore,” she gestured to herself.

    “So, then… don’t,” George shrugged. “Look, I really have to go. Can we talk about this later?”

    Suddenly she knew the truth. All those well-meaning voices all those years ago had been right. Some people are just not marriage material. And if this was marriage, Kate decided, then she was the one. She was not marriage material.

    There was nothing left to say, no insult or accusation left to hurl, no feelings left to be hurt. A strange calm settled over her. She knew what needed to be done.

    “You know what…” Kate sighed. “Just go.”

      1. lionetravail

        By which, I mean, what a compelling story, JM, and man I want to kick that loser George right square in his squirrel feeders! Nicely written to evoke such an amazing antipathy, and don’t think I failed to see the Kate and shrew connection (wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more).

        Nice job!

        1. jmcody

          And thank you for the kind words! You are very astute, but I don’t think this Kate is going to be tamed, at least not without some high drama. I’m thinking of some kind of covert visit to Madame Yolanda. George is going to get that kick in the “squirrel feeders” (haha) hat he so clearly needs.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a compelling story of very real people, JM. They’re falling into the pattern predicted by the fortune teller. Kate has to work on being harsh and judgemental, while George needs a good swift kick in the arse.

      Excellent portrayal!

      1. jmcody

        Excellent diagnosis, Tim, and I agree with you wholeheartedly. Unfortunately I think these two are going to learn the hard way. Obviously Kate already knows she’s a shrew, but she blames George for that. And George just doesn’t have a clue.

        Thanks for the insightful commentary.

    2. Hiba Gardezi

      Lol! The others are right… someone better kick George in the butt 🙂
      He’s a total loser man! The complete opposite of your story 😀
      Great work ! It pulled me in and wouldnt let me go till the end. i LOVED IT 🙂

      1. jmcody

        Thank you Hiba! It seems there’s not much sympathy for George or his butt. I was wondering if anyone was going to defend him or even vilify the downtrodden Kate, since they are both such flawed characters.

        Glad you liked it!

        1. cosivantutte

          At least Kate wants to change even if she isn’t sure how to go about it. George just doesn’t care. The louse. 🙁

          By the way, great job on this story. You took what could have been cliché -the hassled working mother and the lazy bum father – and transformed it into something real and tragic.

  5. Girlwithalaptop

    Looking into the crystal I felt a laugh bubble into my throat. I have always had a respect for Gypies and fortune tellers, I mean I wouldn’t want to accidentally make one who actually has magic mad, but honestly I had never had a bigger urge to laugh in her face and slap her. I mean come on; I had the most perfect fiancé I could have ever asked for. He was kind, considerate, understanding, silly, and respectful, and he was more loving to me than my own mother was. Sure he had his flaws but he was still human so I look past them.
    I heard the chair next to me screech and a second later the blankets that covered the entrance to the tent swish open. I took a deep breath and stood up facing the woman covered in purple.
    “How dare you!” I yell “He is my fiancé! That-that man will never be in my life I don’t even know him for God’s sake!” I yell. I continued yelling and screaming. I expected her to stand up and tell me off but instead she sat there quietly, taking all the hatred I was throwing at her. When I finally ran out of breath she stood.
    “The Ball tells what the seer needs to see. You have been having doubts, no?” she asked smoothly.
    “No! Andrew is perfect. I would never second guess our marriage. I think your ball needs refreshing because it is completely and utterly wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong!” I shook. Instead of being offended like any other human would be she just smiled and left to the back of the tent. How dare she. I thought as I ran out of the tent looking for Andrew, for my fiancé, the fiancé that will stay my fiancé until he becomes my husband.
    “Andrew!” I yell. I search the empty streets of the closing fair.
    “Andrew!” I yell again.
    “I’m over here Mel!” I turn my head to the noise and jog toward it.
    Andrew was leaning on our black Jeep, arms and legs crossed looking annoyed.
    “Andr-“
    “Is it true?” He asked sullenly.
    “Andrew I have no idea who that guy was in the-“
    “No, have you been having second thoughts? I heard you and the woman talking. Are you?” He asked looking like a sad puppy. My puppy.
    “No. I would never have second thoughts about us. The lady was lying. I-“ I was suddenly interrupted by loud honking noise. As I turn to see the honker I feel Andrew wrap his arms around me and hold me tightly. I then see the man who was driving the car jump out.
    Blue eyes, dark brown hair, big smile, extremely handsome. It was the guy. Oh my god it guy from the crystal ball.
    “Andy! Dude long time no see how you doing man?” Andrew nodded hello.
    “Jonas, this is my fiancé Mel, Mel this is my brother Jonas.” BROTHER!?!?!

  6. Rise

    “At last, we reached.” Garfryium said. “My feet hurts.”
    “We all suffered, but it is a worth pain.” Locklyfe said. Her silk garb was tightly wrapped and her breasts jumped at her very bare move. “We carried this deserter through rust and bones. After we put him over the ironwood stump and restrain him with chains, we will triumph. This is a suffering worth fifty thousand golden coins.”
    The group rejoiced. Much of them held their weapons high, reenacting rites of old when our soldiers defeated the Grand General Maghuuhr and acquired the independence of our King.
    Our mission was long. We have rode nine days, from our village named Pyreborn to the heart of the neighboring kingdom, through the Chaindragon Valley. A place of stones hotter than bonfires and shadows colder than morning water. Believe me, nothing freezes more than morning water.
    Our campaign has ended with seven people overall, having more women than men. We rode a good forty-six feet until entering the Capital of Hoeh, which the gatekeepers was forced to let us in after Locklyfe destroyed his sword with bare hands. All my life I have been told about the horrors of that place. The men of the capital, my nan said, are not reliable. It’s a town of burglars, of wizards, of houses of dusty old bricks, of pathetic and beyond, and you shalln’t go there unless I say so.
    Hoeh were much more peaceful on that time. Under the afternoon sun we entered with high morale, with Garfryium in my left atop his horse glancing at the women. In my back I could feel a hand touching my sword, an old piece of steel long overdue. The edges had been lost for a long time, but it still was a gift given by my father, who was given to him by his father, and I did not wanted to trade for other, yet.
    The hand belonged to Kyrliia, a woman with a very beautiful light-brown skin. She was not accustumed with the winks and the shouting, and her green eyes glanced to her feet trying to hide.
    Our group took the deserter to the square and gagged him there. We had to make a circle around the man to protect him from the stones throwed by the peasants. The man was almost naked, with a long black hair covering his face. I could see that there was a cut across a tattoo, likely made with iron and fire, and I recognized it as the flag of the kingdom. A man, robed in an admirable silver garb and holding a sword taller than Garfryium, came to the square with ten soldiers behind him.
    “Is this Jothrum?” He asked.
    “Yes. All the two-thousand-forty-seven pounds of him.” Locklyfe said. For some reason, my hands were right at my knife.
    “Impressive.” Said the man. “Here is your reward.”
    He gave to Lockleaf a chariot. I recognized, in the perfect-brown woodwork, the wood as being pear tree. I could be wrong, but i did not cared.
    Bells began to sound and a multitude of peasants flocked to the square. “Fear no more, citizen! The deserter has been captured. You shall not sleep anymore with one eye opened, and you shall not fear when your husband leaves to the bar, and your son leaves to the woods! These bold men and women, from Pyreborn, has destroyed your shackles.” He then turned to us. “Don’t they deserve our gratitude? Today our town shall embrace them.”

    The dusk has came, without warning, furtive as the wind. The men were at the bar, shouting, dancing and satisfying their needs. I was sure that Garfryium was going to brag in the following morning about having banged a sizable number of capital women. The women I did not knew their whereabouts, nor wanted to know. If I found them, I would have to listen about meaningless things and have to “help” them carry their gifts. I hated to be made servant. I wasn’t built for that shit.
    Locklyfe was sitting upon a rock, on the lake somewhere in the outskirts of the capital. Deep into the woods, she were cleansing her weapons.
    “Nice blade.” I said.
    “Thanks.” Said she. “It’s time for you to change yours, isn’t? I bet it does not cut a leaf.”
    “Leave me alone. I don’t want another sword. I want a swordmaster-like blade, spell-crafted and with the red iron.”
    “Red iron comes from the dragons of the east.” Said her. “You have five of those serpent’s teeth.”
    “I do. Isn’t enough.”
    Locklyfe glanced at the sky and her breasts jumped again. I advanced and groped nicely, my hand slipping easily through the silk. Her neck was white as marble and I kissed it five times. She moaned, and kissed back. She then pushed me into the water. “You are good, Sir Wayne. Your efforts could be less worthless if you got an reputation behind you.”
    I laughed.

    The bell singed again. However it was a much thinner sound than before. We went to the sound, carelessy driven deeper into the woods by “something else”. Something entrancing. I never felt the chills in such awe.

    We ended somewhere far from the town. From an black tent, outworn and old, the sounds came. We entered to see all kinds of grotesque. In the left, there was a collection of bones hanged by chords. In the right, there were some powders and two candles, burning nicely and loading the air with scents of different flowers unknown to me. In the middle there was a person, with a grizzly hair and hands full of rings.
    “Sit down, my brethren.” He snarled. His/Her face was partly covered by a skull of a dire wolf.
    Locklyfe readily unscathed the sword. “You are a very powerful person. Lured us here from far away, being the one to whom the bell tolls.
    “I am the Oracle. Your destiny I can reveal.” Said he. “But you can leave whenever you wish. Not knowing about the future can bring good and bad. But how can you prevent the bad if there isn’t the knowledge to change?”
    We sat down on the hard chairs. The coldness hastily spread throught my body. The man took a fistful of a yellow powder and wrote six letters on the table. A ball, more transparent than glass and cleat as water, he took in his hands and put on the table. He moaned.
    The ball changed to several colours when he dropped powders over it. From the deepest blue, to blaze red, to emerald green. The visions were blurry.
    I saw a blaze in the northern woods. Men and women crashing the rooftops of their houses and a statue destroyed, with a dragon’s roar being heard. The flames were reducing our town. Mark of claws were found on the houses, and the dead flood the streets of earth. Nothing hurt more than seeing my brother killed in the middle of the square. A person of long black hair, with the claws of dragons, roared undefeated. Blood, Fire and Death the person spread through.

    The focus shifted, and I saw another black-haired person sitting on an throne. The throne was made of the brightest gold i have ever seen. The room of the throne were filled with halls and the gates of the household were wide opened. There were scars on his hand and neck.

    Locklyfe attacked me, with the sword cutting part of the tent, and I ran. She quickly caught up to me with eyes filled with rage. Our swords collided with each other, but mine was destroyed in a few hits. I unscathed my knife and hid in my left hand, while she did not talked to me. My hair was black but was not long as the person I saw. I knew something was watching us in the shadows, but I couldn’t know what. Locklyfe charged against me and slashed, but wasn’t me. She slashed Kyrliia through her upper chest to the thigh, and the girl fell. Kyrliia had long black hair but was too weak to desroy Pyreborn. A thunder went through the darkness as Locklyfe recovered her senses.

    Speachless, we buried her under a pear tree.
    “Fool. If you haven’t left, you could have tasted the local flavour.” Said Garfryium in the next morning.
    “Does anyone knows about Kyrliia?” Said a woman.
    “No.” Locklyfe said. “We are going back to Pyreborn.”

    We went home and brought the chariot and the coins with us. Locklyfe and I, after months without talking to each other, married. My happiness was brought to an end when I found my end at Kyrliia’s claws, five years later.

    1. Observer Tim

      You’ve created a fascinating world here, Rise, and told a great story. I certainly got the sense of the barbarian (?) warriors celebrating their victory.

      The only downside for me was the very shaky grammar. As an exercise, you might want to go over it with a fine-toothed comb and check that number and tense are correct in all the verbs. That would be a very good start. I can see signs of excellent storytelling, but you’re going to have to get either (a) lots of practice at the technical craft or (b) an editor.

      Keep on writing!

      1. Observer Tim

        Portuguese? Wow! You are already a lot better writer in English than I would be in the only other language I know (French)!

        I used the word barbarian (with a question mark) because in English culture (England, USA, Canada), people from a warrior heritage are often described that way. It is not usually a compliment.

        As for the grammar, lionetravail has some good suggestions. I can provide some help in that area, though it would be best to ask me specific questions or for help with specific passages. I’m not a teacher by trade, but I explain things for a living.

        The important thing is to keep practicing, and to find someone who can correct you without being harsh. I have done that for other people; if you’d like to explore the option, feel free to e-mail me at observer@telusplanet.net.

      2. Observer Tim

        This is what I’d do with the first sentence:

        “At last, we reached.” Garfryium said. “My feet hurts.”

        1. “… we reached.” should be one of these:

        “we have reached Hoeh.” – specify where, and the verb for a completed action.

        “we have arrived.” – again, a completed action, but you don’t have to say where with ‘arrived’. It assumes the same place you are now unless you tell the reader otherwise.

        “we are here.” – same as “we have arrived”, but less formal.

        2. “we have” can be shortened to “we’ve”. “we are” can be shortened to “we’re”. The apostrophe ( ‘ ) means you’ve run two words together.

        3. “My feet hurts.” should be “My feet hurt.” The verb is used as follows:

        Infinitive: “to hurt”
        Present: I hurt, you hurt, he/she/it hurts. We hurt, you hurt, they hurt.
        Past: I hurt, you hurt, he/she/it hurt. We hurt, you hurt, they hurt.

        Hurt can be used with an object as an action (I hurt my leg) or without an object as a state of being in pain (my feet hurt).

    2. lionetravail

      I will echo Tim’s comments- the story is rich in detail, but there are misspellings and grammar issues which make it more challenging to read. The story is interesting with cool images and concepts, but some sentences are not really sentences and confuse: “Blood, Fire and Death the person spread through.”

      I have found that reading something aloud, to yourself or someone else, helps alot- if it doesn’t sound like it makes sense, it means I need to edit more…. and I always find more to edit.

      1. Rise

        Thanks guys for the comments. Tim, I did not knew they were barbarians.

        Thanks also for the insight. It have been a challenge to me, since my mother language is portuguese and being self-taught in english. Just a question: Is there any way to improve grammar?

        1. lionetravail

          Portuguese?? That’s amazing- I can’t even imagine trying to write a story in one of my non-English languages!

          Mostly it’s writing and learning, but you have two reasonable options as you learn: most word processing programs set to English will put lines under words which are misspelled, or under sentences which are grammatically not recognized. That is not 100%, since if you mean to write “He went to sit down”, but type “He went to it down”, there’s no misspelling of the word, just something that doesn’t make sense- careful editing will still help.

          A second option is to write it in your mother tongue, in this case Portuguese, and have translation help to formally transpose it to English.

          A related, or third option would be to have someone, as Tim said, really work on editing for you- this would give you the chance to practice and learn as you write, probably enhancing your language skills as you go.

          So you earn extra kudos from me- as I said, I couldn’t even begin to write a story in another language, though I speak 2 besides English (and can understand another). Wow! In the beginning, I think I’d recommend writing it in Portuguese and having someone fluent in both languages translate it, and learn that way. Congratulations!

  7. lionetravail

    (Go figure, found another one inside of me AND the time to write it! Word Count: 638)

    Now Is The Winter Of Our Discord Tent

    “Please don’t make me,” I mumbled, shaking my head.

    “We’re already here; you can’t deny me this, you pathetic worm!” Beth demanded.

    “Sittin’ right here, you young puppies!” crowed the one Beth had said would read our future. “Are we doing this or not?”

    “Yes,” Beth said, even as I said: “No”. We looked at each other and I could feel the strength through her glare which had first attracted me to her, had drawn me to her, almost like moth to a flame. Almost, I now knew, because no flame was sadistically cruel when it burned a moth.

    “Yes,” I whispered helplessly. My heart thumped loudly in my chest.

    “Yes, Mother Hazel,” Beth repeated firmly.

    The old woman stood abruptly. In her left hand was something furry, and suddenly there was a jet of blood and a high pitched squeal as the crone drew a bright blade across its throat. I moaned as I realized what she’d done, and then she held the still-twitching thing so that its blood fell over the crystal resting on the table.

    I retched and felt my knees go weak, but Beth dug her nails into my hand so hard I whimpered and remained standing. “Stay with me, you God-damned sissy,” she snarled.

    The blood which coated the ball began to smoke and fill the tent with an acrid smell. The wrongness of it squeezed my chest so tightly I could only pant. Then the crystal seemed to suck the smoky air into itself with a harsh, heaving, rasping sound like it was drawing labored breath, and the tent chilled alarmingly.

    “Look, and look deep, for the veil of time parts but grudgingly!” crooned Mother Hazel as she discarded the dead thing in her hand like a used rag.

    “And vindictively,” Beth breathed, tip of her tongue resting on her lower lip.

    I couldn’t utter a sound.

    An image swirled into existence inside the sphere. There was Beth in what looked like a surgical gown, sitting on a hospital gurney. She held hands with a handsome man who was not me. The same cruel tilt of a smile was on both lips as they spoke to each other soundlessly. A woman in white came into the picture. Beth and the man kissed, and the nurse wheeled Beth through doors which opened automatically for them.

    The image dissolved, the bloody smoke in the crystal swirling before it re-formed into a new image. I saw myself naked, exposed, lying on my back on some kind of narrow, raised platform.

    I must have made some kind of noise because Beth hissed at me: “Silence, thrall!”

    A man in blue surgical scrubs and mask came into the picture in the globe and proceeded to slice open my belly from chest to pubic region. I gasped even when there was no blood which poured from the cut. I began to retch again, even though Beth’s nails dug in even deeper than before, but this time she couldn’t stop me.

    I fell to my knees and spewed the contents of my stomach onto the ground where they steamed in the unnatural cold inside the tent.

    “How far off is this?” Beth hissed at the crone, looking at me with disgust writ on her face.

    “Five years, no longer,” she replied as the ball finally went dark.

    “I have to delay my gift to the Master that long?” she screeched.

    I huddled on the floor near my rancid vomit, mind racing and utterly unable to move.

    “Only if you don’t want his kidneys when you’ll need ‘em, Dearie,” she said in a voice silky with cruelty.

    I felt their eyes turn on me like spotlights of disdain, and I felt hot tears start.

    Holy Mary, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

    1. jmcody

      Wow is right! This was incredibly imaginative and well told. The animal sacrifice and the blood on the crystal ball was inspired and did so much to amp up the tension and grab the reader by the throat. Yikes, this was creepy.

  8. MCKEVIN

    Chapter 11

    Fortyish eLawrence Washington still had an athletic body, chiseled good looks and was employed as a GS-12 FBI Field Agent restricted to desk duty because of misconduct. He was vested with the government and occasionally worked part time policing jobs to supplement his income although he didn’t need it. His military pension, government salary and other streams of income paid his ex wife fair alimony. Bored and seated in an unmarked squad car, a frantic call came over his police radio.
    “Code 3 All units respond! B-O-L! (Be on lookout.) for suspect and vehicle involved in the Navy Pier murder. Vicinity: Halsted and Roosevelt Roads. Driver: Possibly armed. Vehicle: Jeep black on black… ”
    Wash dropped his coffee out his window to follow the police dispatcher’s instructions. He was two blocks from the action. He hit warning lights, the siren and floored the gas pedal.
    “Tags on that Jeep vehicle N-B-5-8-8-8 over.”
    The police dispatcher continued over the restricted frequency. Wash made a left on Roosevelt, exited an alley on Halsted while he punched the tag numbers in his computer. He followed marked and unmarked detective vehicles looking for their targets. The information popped on the screen. Wash pulled out of formation, slammed on the brakes and came to a screeching halt when he read who it belonged to. He knew Tracy’s name too well. The information gave a current address but listed no phone number. The last time he’d seen Tracy E. Warren they parted on bad terms. He’d promised to do Tracy a work related favor but renege on it at the last minute. He knew Tracy was not capable of murder so the Navy Pier thing didn’t make sense. But his friend Doug would Wash thought to himself. He remembered how Doug attacked him because of the issue with Tracy. Wash’s wife used the whole fiasco as the basis for their divorce. He also knew if the police was looking for Tracy he would turn himself in. Now the dispatch call didn’t make sense either. He concluded the person driving the Jeep had to be Doug. He laughed thinking his capture would be the ultimate revenge. Wash entered the alley again driving slow while his head flipped left to right. He felt Doug close by. Wash spotted the Jeep parked deep in a carport under a porch. He stopped, pulled his gun and got out.
    “Driver let me see your hands!” Wash yelled.
    The Jeep door opened slowly.
    “Driver, step out with your back towards me. Don’t do anything but what I tell you! Move!” Wash said.
    The driver stuck his legs out.
    “Slowly! And keep your hands up where I can see them!” Wash ordered.
    With his hands in the air the driver stood with back to Wash. Something dropped to the ground and by reflex, the driver bent down to pick it up.
    POW!
    Wash fired hitting the driver dead center in the back. The driver fell forward. Wash approached him with his smoking gun still aimed at the back of the driver’s head.
    “Driver!”
    Wash was so close he saw the blood that pooled around the driver’s body. He moved in closer and kicked what he thought was the gun away. When Wash looked closer he saw he’d kicked a cell phone. He also saw that the driver was too young to be Doug. The driver struggled to breathe and his eyes were glassed over. Wash kneeled down to see how bad the driver was hurt. The young man was in shock.
    “Don’t try to move.”
    Wash said. He leaned over and picked the cell up and saw Doug’s picture staring back at him. The word “Dad” flashed across the screen. Wash heard a sigh and knew the driver was dead.

      1. MCKEVIN

        Thanks. I wish you see what I’m seeing. You’re getting bits and pieces while I’m watching this unfold. This is crazy. Lol. Tying up loose ends is harder than I thought. I had to create new characters to clear some stuff up. Can you believe that? I’ve added a nymph, corrected the license plates numbers etc. I love this. Thanks for reading. Lol.

      1. MCKEVIN

        If I quit rereading and just keep up with the story in my head versus the one on the computer, I’ll find out where I’m going. But for right now I am enjoying this ride. Thanks for reading and commenting. You have no idea what your words mean.

  9. keyhonay

    “Truth”

    Cristiana covered her face and ran out of the tent. I sat, still in shock from the image that we had all seen. The image in the in the crystal ball faded out and the spell it had on me broke at once.
    “I’m not sure how you did it but it really upset my wife,” I said standing up and turned to leave too find Cristiana. A hand that was more bone than flesh grabbed my arm. The grip was firm and cool as steel. I turned back and saw that the old Gipsy had risen and was holding my arm. I looked at her as she spoke, “Wait, chava, don’t blame the crystal for the future it shows.” I tried to yank my arm free from her grip; to no avail. She continued, “The future is set, now be a man and go to the one you love.” With that she let me go. I backed out of the tent rubbing my arm, eyes fixed on the old woman that was now sitting down.
    Once out of the tent, all of the sounds and smells of the fair assaulted my senses. I went to find Cristiana, but paused to glance back at the Gipsy tent. Beyond the tent flap was an endless void punctuated with the soft glow of the woman’s crystal ball.
    After searching the whole fair I went back to my car. Cristiana was sitting on the hood smoking a cigarette. She sat with her long legs crossed and her foot resting on the bumper. As I got closer she looked up, a look of uncertainty covered her face and she put her head down avoiding eye contact with me. “I’m sorry it was a bad Idea, I should have known better,” I said and put my hand on her back. I felt her body tense for a second and then relax. “It was all a trick. I know for certain I won’t be with anyone else in five years and for sure it won’t be with a guy. I’m not gay,” I said and forced a smile.
    She looked up at me, tears ran down her face. “It wasn’t a trick. ” My smile faded a little and she went on, “The man in the vision is me.” She reached out for my hands and took them. Looking in to my eyes she said, “I was born both.” I looked at her confused. She continued, “I was born with both sexes, you know with male and female parts. My parents decided that I would be a female so they had the male part removed. That’s why I am sterile.” She jumped off the car and started to walk away crying. I went to her and grabbed her from behind. Putting my mouth to her ear, I whispered, “We are what we are and our love is ours.” And kissed her cheek.

    1. snuzcook

      Your style for this was poetic, and it was just the right touch for a love story. So many twists, here, but they are twists not so much of unexpected facts–tho certainly you’ve given us a good one–but unexpected reactions. Nicely done.

    1. jhowe

      Hi Risclover,

      The word count was 500 but lately we all have been sneaking in a few extra if needed. They quit publishing the word count so it seems to be open for discussion. Welcome to the forum. Typically we get a new prompt every Tuesday so hopefully a new one will start tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing you on here.

  10. snuzcook

    NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT

    It was the same tent, the same painted outline of a hand with the palmistry lines on a worn-out A-board outside, the same cheesy banner above the entrance proclaiming The Oracle Den. And inside was Madam Zena. She was older and heavier but essentially the same. Her hair was a brassier shade of auburn, her tinted eyebrows were darker than necessary, and her rouge was too rosy on her pale cheeks.

    She accepted the cash from Raymond without smiling and only glanced into each of our faces before turning away to position a second chair at the heavy wooden table in the center of the tent. On the table sat the same large crystal ball on a carved wooden pedestal. Madame Zena sat herself on a chair and directed Raymond to sit directly opposite her in front of the orb. I took the seat next to him.

    “I can only show you one look beyond the curtain, a brief look at your future in five years. What you learn may not help you. It may even make your life difficult. Do you understand what I am telling you?”

    “Sure.” Raymond shrugged. He gave me a private eye-roll and I smiled back. Just fun and games, he thought.

    The glass darkened to blood red, then brown, then smoky gray. I leaned in to watch as the gray cleared to reveal a fuzzy image that slowly came into focus. It was a bedroom, a full moon shining in the window lit the room brightly. It showed Raymond in bed with a very flexible woman with short black hair. Her face was not visible, but the tattoo of a dragon was clearly visible on the upper, intimate part of her thigh. I also noticed a familiar wedding band on her left hand.

    “Wow. I don’t know who that is. I swear, Roxy. I’ve never seen that woman. Wow. Five years. I don’t know what to say. It must be some kind of joke. I mean…” Poor Raymond ran the gamut from smiling smugly to blushing, to trying to act outraged in order to hide his excitement. Of course, I knew who she was. It was my old roommate, Darla, who just this week admitted that she was thinking of divorcing her husband, Bruno, because she had found love with a young man at her sculpting class. Clearly she was not yet ready to make the leap.

    The Madame Zena draped a fringed cloth over the crystal to signal that the session was over. Raymond stood unsteadily.

    “Gee, Roxy. I don’t know what to say…”

    “Don’t worry about it, Ray. After all, it’s way in the future, right?”

    “Well, yeah…”

    “Why don’t you wait for me outside. I want to ask Madame Zena a personal question.”

    Raymond was obedient, and the tent flap closed behind him. I faced my mother at last alone.

    “You are a foolish child. This is not the way to be sure everything is all right”

    “But you saw. He was perfectly healthy. Five years, and perfectly healthy. Robust even.”

    “You cannot be sure. You must undergo the cleansing. You have been lucky so far, that is all.”

    “But you saw, the moon was full. I must not have been infected. I have not passed on the curse.”

    “Why don’t you come home, settle down with your own people.”

    “I can’t live like you do.”

    “Stop this lone wolf life you lead.”

    “Don’t say that. I am not…”

    “You may not be infected, but you act as if your life is cursed. Come home, let us take care of you.”

    “I’m not ready. I may never be ready. I’m not like you.”

    Raymond did not see my mother and I embrace, or the bundle of herbs that she tucked into my pocket for my protection, or the money I slipped into hers. When I met him outside, I was just Roxy.

    “Really, Roxy. I don’t know that woman. I don’t know why…”

    “Don’t worry about it, Ray. It was probably some kind of trick, just smoke and mirrors. Trust me, there’s nothing to worry about.”

    1. Observer Tim

      Very nice story, Snuz. I love the way the daughter’s state is hinted at but not explicitly revealed. The mother’s “come home” speech could be any mother talking to a wayward child. All in all, bravo.

      1. swatchcat

        The desperation of being caught in the act and not knowing what the images mean were captured well. I liked the mystery of the illness, was he dying and she was keeping it from him or better yet is she a werewolf or something that is bad for him to be around. So many ways to twist this. But, a few questions on writing? Would the lady look into their eyes or glance “at” their faces cuz sorry, reading that I thought gross, why would she look into their faces, just prying open and seeing into something. I guess I’m twisted. Oh, the word of the day is ” same”

        1. snuzcook

          Thanks for your comments, Swatchcat! My intent, which I left for the reader to decipher, was that Roxy has had a brush with a werewolf, and was checking to make sure her current lover will have no ill effects. Could be something more along the lines of a medical condition, or some other curse, but that was my intent.

          I think you have gotten to know me so well, with the comment about ‘the word of the day’! It is the number one biggest dope-slap I experience in all of the stories I write. When I go back a reread after a day or two and I invariably discover I repeated some word three or four times in a paragraph. Now I can name this condition–the WOD syndrome–and it will help me remember to avoid it and I’ll think of you when I do. ;0)

          In this story, the first three ‘sames’ were intended as written. The fourth just snuck in.

        2. snuzcook

          Almost forgot, Swatchcate!
          I appreciate your comment about looking ‘into’ faces. I never thought of it that way before. I have usually used it when a look was intended to be particularly perceptive even if brief. Now I will be stuck with your visual of flesh torn asunder. Love it!

  11. MCKEVIN

    I’m expanding my story for this week’s prompt. Here’s an update….

    “Hi I’m Jenny Goodhead your always on top news anchor at station W-L-I-E. We’re interrupting your regularly scheduled reading to bring you this developing news story. W-L-I-E’s crime reporter Matt Hardwood is live at a grisly murder scene in Navy Pier. What can you tell us Matt?”
    The camera shifted to a balding male reporter standing near Feona’s Oracles a fortune telling booth.
    “Jenny the city’s police department’s spokesperson Vernon Folks, stated that the department received an anonymous call that someone was murdered at Feona’s Oracles located here at Navy Pier….” Doug coughed as he listened to the reporter’s story then noticed the high tech security camera mounted over the cash register that displayed his profile.
    “We were advised earlier that the victim of this homicide is owner and Fortune Teller Feona Hunt. Mr. Hunt was shot in the head several times with a sawed off shotgun and pronounced dead at the scene. Also Jenny, the anonymous caller provided police a license plate number of NB5888 and stated the vehicle is a black on black 2014 Jeep. Department of Motor Vehicles is assisting in locating the owner…”
    Doug gulped his drink in one swallow. Most patrons of the bar were either in the window or had left the bar to get a better view. Doug disappeared into the bathroom and hoped he could exit Katy’s unnoticed. He locked the stall door behind him but it did little to drown out the chatter noise of the bar. He finished his business then exited the washroom just in time to see Feona’s body being brought out on a gurney on the big screen. More patrons hurried out. Doug headed for the back door and as he opened it a hazel eyed red head woman entered and yelled.
    “Someone left their lights on a black truck in the back parking lot.”
    “Ugh, that’s me. I got it. Thanks.” Doug said as he pushed past the woman and peaked around the side of the bar. He saw more police cars gathered outside Feona’s. He wondered if Tracy saw or heard the news. Doug wanted to get to his best friend Tank for help. He looked around the parking lot and got an idea. He popped the Jeep’s hatch and gathered some tools from the storage well. He spotted a Range Rover nearby. He quickly removed the plates from the Jeep and put them on Range Rover and vice versa. Doug pulled out the lot and headed in the opposite direction of Navy Pier. Tracy’s cologne lingered in the air and his jazz station was a distraction so Doug turned off the radio. He realized he didn’t even like jazz until he met Tracy. The quietness conjured up the news broadcast again. He knew if he’d seen it, Tracy, their friends and families had seen it. Sweat rolled from Doug’s forehead as he thought about the security cameras outside Feona’s and the high tech cameras inside Katy’s bar. He knew it would be just a matter of time before the police connected the dots.

      1. MCKEVIN

        I’m glad you like it swatchcat. My intention was to expand the prompt to 5-10,000 word short story with chapters being about 500 words.The above is half of chapter 7 and half of chapter 8. I’m almost finish and can’t wait to see how this ends. Thanks for reading and commenting. I’ll keep you updated. Lol.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Nice work, McKevin. Reads a little like Mickey Spilane work. Of course he’s innocent and been set up to get rid of him. I only have a tiny suggestion. Change the sawed off for a 38 police special. Sawed off 12 gage would blow his head off with one double round.

          Cant wait for the next part. Can you post it this week?

          1. MCKEVIN

            You know what Kerry? Okay I’ll tell you. I like that 38 Police Special thing. That will work and I’m changing it as we speak. Lol.Wait a minute! I just read the chapter where Feona gets his brains blown out. Sorry Kerry no can do. I have to stick with the 12 gage shotgun because of the “oozing” after effects. Lol The chapters are short so I’ll try to post 2 more before the new prompt okay? Note: The difference between Murder 1 and Manslaughter is “Intention” isn’t it? Jus’ askin’. I love you like a brother and ain’t nothing you can do about it. Lol.

    1. Hiba Gardezi

      NICE ! 😀 This makes me want to ask for more of it right now but its okay take your time dont want you hurry and mess it up ! This was a great continuation …very mysterious … lol!
      Keep it up 🙂 Cant wait for the next one 🙂

  12. AliceMowse

    Heather and David giggled as they entered “The Oracle’s Den” at the fair. David had been cynical, fiddling with his mobile phone while Heather talked enthusiastically about her love of all things spiritual. David quickly pointed out the bad spelling and grammar on the board outside the tent, telling Heather that there was no such thing as “psychic powers” and that whoever it was would be scamming them for £5, using tactics such as “cold reading” – getting her information from looking at their facial expressions, their clothes, asking leading questions and using their answers to prompt her response and next questions.
    “You’re probably right,” Heather chuckled. “But I’m feeling flush today after getting my student loan. It’s just for fun.”
    “I bet you’ll be her devotee by the end of it, thinking she can predict everything” David groaned, rolling his eyes.
    “If she can foresee that you’re going to end up with a rubbish degree because of your skiving, then yes.” Heather smirked.
    “Cow!” David laughed. Heather tickled his belly. “Hey!”
    “Love you really!” Heather smiled as she kissed his cheek.
    When they walked in, they were not just a little surprised to see instead of a woman in a turban and floaty skirts sitting there behind the crystal ball, a man. Heather was pleased however, because he was white haired, old and bearded. He had the appearance of a wizard, a Merlin figure, a granddad. He was sitting with his legs crossed, reading a book that looked like it was published in the seventies. He greeted them cheerily as he put down the book. He quickly engaged the couple in small talk about the fair for a while. He was clearly charismatic and even David warmed to him.
    “Okay, enough of that, chums,” the Oracle said as he rubbed his hands and cleared his throat. “Let’s get to the nitty gritty of what you’ve paid me for. I don’t need you to talk to me, just yes or no answers will do where appropriate.” Heather gave David a meaningful look. He just rolled his eyes again. “Both of you are students…let me see…” He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “One of you is studying politics…David I believe it is you, Sir. Hmm…looks like you’ve been getting some good grades…you are very well-read…although you struggle with self-motivation.” Heather struggled to stifle a laugh. The Oracle opened his eyes briefly and winked at her. “I see also that you two have a shared love of music…hmm…excellent taste if I may say so. “Heather, you have a grandfather who fought in the second world war.
    “Yes!”
    “He passed many years ago, although not in the war. He survived that and had your father about seven years later.”
    “Yes.”
    “You are a very kind person…religious, you like to go to church. Your lad…not so much, although you have many shared interests. I see you two working on an interesting project in the future and…hmm…you will both have some success and graduate with your degrees…thanking God and the angels for their information…” The Oracle opened his eyes, clasped his hands together and said “Namaste.” David was a little bemused.
    “We’ve not been here very long! Can’t you tell us anything more about our future?”
    “David!” Heather laughed, “You’re not supposed to talk to psychics like that!”
    “Oracle,” David urged on, “Can’t you see anything else? You don’t seem to know that much for someone who claims to be psychic- ” The Oracle angrily interrupted him midsentence.
    “I assure you I know enough! I just choose not to impart everything I am shown!”
    “And why not?”
    “Because I don’t think you would like it…”
    “Try me!” David laughed, folding his arms and sinking down more comfortably in his chair. The Oracle looked at Heather.
    “Sweetheart, what I am about to say is very sensitive. Do you want me to go on?” Heather hesitated briefly, but decided she was too curious not to know what he could sense.
    “Yes please.”
    The Oracle leaned forwards, resting his hands on the table.
    “I could see five years into your future. I could see you, Heather, with another man.”
    “What?” Heather looked bemused.
    “Who?” David laughed. “What’s his name?” The Oracle raised an eyebrow.
    “George Sherman.” There was a deathly silence. David and Heather looked at each other with startled and uncomfortable expressions. David looked back at The Oracle.
    “Go on.” David said, unable to steady his voice.
    “Heather, you will be very happy with this man. I see you two having a loving, equal soulmate relationship with each other.” Heather laughed out loud.
    “Oracle, I honestly don’t know how you know George Sherman, but that is never going to happen. My soulmate is sitting right next to me,” Heather smiled, taking David’s hands in hers. The Oracle said no more, just studied them silently for a few seconds with a curious expression on his face.
    “What else?” David asked, gripping Heather’s hand.
    “What else? That’s it, that’s all I saw. This time I am telling the truth.”
    David and Heather got up. David stormed out of the tent and walked off. Heather dawdled. The Oracle picked up his book, but before he opened it, he felt he had to ask Heather a question.
    “How do you know George Sherman? I am sensing he is a good friend?” Heather sighed.
    “He’s David’s best friend at Uni…look, I barely speak to George. He doesn’t even bother with me. I am in love with David. I could never betray another person. I am loyal to David. I could never love another.” She said quite matter-of-factly. The Oracle was still as he listened, but when she said those last few words, he just smiled at her and shook his head. He then opened up his book and continued reading where he had left off. Heather went to catch up with David.
    David was replying to a message on his mobile phone from Louse, a friend of Heather’s. She was asking him to join her rock band. He got very excited.
    “Wow! I’d love to! Awesome 🙂 x”

  13. tydra

    hello all…please let me know what you think, this is my first time 🙂

    The Oracle raised her gnarled hands above the crystal ball in front of her, the white vapor trailing small curls between her long fingernails. Murmuring softly to herself, her head dropped slightly in concentration, cocking to the side as if trying to listen to a distant sound.

    Richard tried to get comfortable in the hard wooden chair and placed his hand on top of Marion’s, giving it a slight squeeze. His wife smiled, rolling her eyes at him. She didn’t believe in the superstition of the common folk, but Richard always knew how to bring her around to his odd ideas. After all, the Oracles Den had been recommended by one of his closest associates.

    The haze around the crystal ball started to twist faster as tiny sparks of violet and green appeared within. Richard leaned forward to study the glass, wondering how the Oracle was controlling the light effects. Suddenly, the center of the crystal ball cleared up like whirled up sand at the bottom of a lake settling down. Richard eyes widened as he recognized himself in the muddy blur, a few grey strands of hair showing at his temples. He was walking down a road, grinning from ear to ear, talking to a woman in an elegant dress hooked on his arm. The pair stopped in their tracks, the future-Richard raised his eyebrows and turned around expectantly. The woman at his side spun fully into view.

    Richard’s forehead furrowed in a deep frown and he felt utterly confused. Who was this woman in the image? That face looked somewhat familiar although he couldn’t remember where he might have seen her before. Marion’s hand twitched beneath his, and she gasped quietly. He twisted in his seat to regard her, but she was staring at the crystal ball, eyes wide and unmoving. Turning back to the glass ball he wanted to get a closer look at the strange woman, but he found the crystal ball empty and dark inside as if nothing had happened to being with.

    Had he just imagined things? Richard glanced at the Oracle, her head still cocked to the side, but she had lowered her hands into her lap.

    “Did you just see that?” Richard asked his wife. Marion composed herself, raised an eyebrow and shot him a puzzled look. “See what, dear?”

    The Oracle straightened, her stained blindfold seeming to look directly at Marion. The Oracle pursed her lips, but then her mouth pulled slowly apart revealing a hideous grin. Richard leaned away from her as her shoulders started to shake. A snicker escaped her deformed teeth. Throwing back her head the sound gained volume, evolving into an uncontrolled cackle filling the hazy tent that sent freezing shivers down his spine.

  14. Cynthia Page

    (I apologize for the length. I kept trying to cut it down, but it wouldn’t stay cut. WC 1126)

    My Five Year Plan

    I pushed him into it, and now I regret it – sort of. It began innocently enough, with me teasing him about his scientifically biased mind, challenging his sense of adventure. When he scoffed and refused, I accused him of not caring about our future. When that didn’t work, I called him a scaredy cat. That did it. Since he spends all his time in labs and meetings, he has a fierce of defensiveness about his macho image. The truth was, I didn’t believe either, but I wanted his rigidness challenged. I should have known better. No good ever comes of challenging Nate. He is always right, even when he’s wrong.

    The shack on the edge of the county fairgrounds was not the usual location for a seer’s setup. I’ve seen elaborate tents, and gaudy trailers done up in filmy scarves, with images of stars, moons, and the zodiac signs, and I’ve seen some done in red or black with pentagrams, or swirls of colors that confuse the eyes. But this little shack seemed permanent, as if the seer was not a wanderer like the rest of the carny crowd.

    The inside was furnished with cozy love seats and soft chairs; a couple of seascapes hung on walls, but no scarves or images; not even religious icons to placate the local church-goers.
    A young woman with short cropped red hair stood facing the door to the next room, talking to someone. “You do your homework, young man. No excuses.” She turned to us and smiled. “Teenagers, they never want to apply themselves.” She gestured to a love seat behind the dark wooden coffee table. “Please have a seat. You are here for a reading, so let’s begin. Adam will not interrupt us.”

    She sat in a green plush recliner across from us and opened a cabinet door underneath the table. She brought out a simple cedar box and removed the lid. Inside a glass globe glowed faintly.

    “Oh, it’s expecting you.”

    I thought, Yeah, right. She must have hit a switch when she pulled out the box. Then she lifted the bare orb out and, pulling a plain dishrag from a pocket on the chair, set the globe on top of the bunched rag on the coffee table, which I know was solid wood. You can’t fake that smooth seamless shine in oak. But the orb glowed, even while it was in her hand. In fact, when Nate leaned in to get a closer look, it pulsed blue. The glass was clear and colorless. Nonetheless it appeared iridescent blue.

    “Is that some form of quartz?” Nate asked,

    “I’m not sure. My mother passed it to me before she died, and she said it was her mother’s, and her mother’s, and so on for many generations. So its origins are a mystery to me.”

    Nate opened his mouth to…I don’t know what, but the woman anticipated him.

    “No, I will not let you scratch it, even with a fingernail, period. Don’t even suggest it.” Her stern look shut him up. “Besides, its specific hardness is irrelevant to its use.” She had probably encountered rock hounds or scientists before.

    “Who is the reading for?” I might not have been in the room for all the attention she gave me.

    Nate said, “Valerie insisted, but I don’t believe in this stuff.”

    “You don’t have to believe for a true reading. Now, please take your left hand – you are right handed? – good. Take your left hand and hold it about an inch above the orb. Do not touch it, or you might get a shock. Just hold your hand steady there.” She said this as Nate gingerly brought his hand closer with the palm splayed out.

    As his hand settled into place, the orb flashed blue, green, blue green, and then swirled with smoky ribbons. Nate audibly inhaled and held it.

    “It’s warm,” he said eventually.

    “Yes. Hold steady until an image appears, then move your hand to the side, keeping it at the same distance. You should be able to see something soon.” Her eyebrows creased when nothing appeared.

    “Are you thinking of anything?”

    “No, I’m keeping my mind clear.” He prides himself on that ability.

    “Oh. Okay, tell you what. Think of a time at some point in the future. Just a time period, nothing more.”

    “Okay, four days,” he said.

    The orb cleared into an image of Nate in his lab coat holding up a flask of liquid.

    “No, that’s too soon. Obviously, you would be at work, which is much too predictable. Go further, much further.”

    “Um, three months.”

    Nate had chosen a time that would coincide with our honeymoon. An image appeared of a beach at sunset with two silhouetted people walking hand in hand. I could not see faces, but it had to be us.

    ”That seems too predictable as well. You are on vacation, it seems, which you probably already have planned. Now that the orb knows you, go further; way out there, say five years or so.”

    Nate said. “Okay. Five years. What will we be doing in five years?”

    He no longer sounded skeptical, though I can’t be certain.

    Then Nate yelped and pulled back his hand. “Ow. Damn, it shocked me.”

    “Did you touch it?”

    “No. A spark jumped out at my hand. Didn’t you see it?”

    “Try again, but move in slower.”

    Nate followed instructions, and as he got closer I saw jagged sparks coming off its edges. They seemed to be reaching for his hand. The woman noticed too.

    “Stop there. Now think of five years in the future.” Her voice was low, tense, and a bit hoarse.

    The image that slowly formed out of the green and blue ribbons was of Nate and a woman who was not me. It took me about three seconds to recognize my best friend from high school, whom I had not seen in six years. They were walking through a cemetery with an umbrella held between them. Their heads were close, and I saw tears on both their faces while they were in the crowd. They approached a car; he opened the door for her, and as she sat, she looked directly at him, winked and smiled.

    Nate’s confusion seemed genuine, and he appeared to not know her, but I am absolutely certain of that look on Naomi’s face. It’s her “We got away with it” face.

    I’m going to spend the next five years documenting and proving their attempt to commit a murder, and then I’m going to disappear before they have a chance to kill me.

    So far, Nate does not have a clue – I think. They haven’t met yet.

    1. Nicki EagerReader

      Nice story; I espcially liked the take on the seeress- refreshing.

      The reason you failed to cut it down, I believe, is because you constructed a great premise for something longer. There’s definitely potential in that story for some sort of crime-suspense novella- why don’t you go for it? I know I’d read it 🙂

    2. cosivantutte

      Your MC should run away now before Nate meets up with Naomi. Unless that starts the chain of events leading to her murder. Wouldn’t that be perfectly ironic? 🙂

      By the way, great job with your characterizations. His scientific curiosity about the crystal was exactly what you’d expect from someone like him.

      1. Cynthia Page

        Thank you. Since I have a science background, Nate’s character appealed to me. He seems familiar, like I can read his thoughts. I’m tempted to make him the victim of her paranoia.

      1. Cynthia Page

        Thank you, Tim. Imagery and dialog are my favorite parts of writing. Exposition trips me up. I’m still exploring how to write thrillers and crime stories. It’s details like veracity and believability that are hard.

        1. lionetravail

          I am still catching up, but just read yours now, Cynthia. I enjoyed the story, but also see what you mean about the exposition, especially at the beginning of this piece. I had the same issue, in fact: I just wanted to tell things at the start to set up all the important stuff I wanted readers to know.

          Then I asked one of my long term friends going for his MFA and teaching to read some stories, and he said “I’m going to be brutally honest because I know you can take it,” and told me all my exposition was like a stone around his neck. It was the best criticism I could have asked for, even if there’s a place for exposition in some stories. I look now for ways to avoid it.

          If you want to avoid it, write the story the way you want it to go, then look at the exposition and consider how you could include it in the story instead, as either action/dialogue between characters, or action. As an example, you could do your whole first paragraph as almost pure dialogue which brings out everything you tell. (In fact, working in pure dialogue will give you practice in making the story without ANY exposition.)

          Your starting paragraph could plunge us right into the rest of your dark story, and set the tone for Nate’s ultimate dislike of your MC to surface later as a reason for murder…:

          “Oh, come on, ‘Mr. Spock’. You said you’d go with me, right? Not everything has to be ‘flawlessly logical’ for God’s sake.”

          “You’ve been badgering me with this nonsense for the last few days Valerie, at every opportunity. It’s nonsense, plain and simple, and you’re just begging for trouble if you believe any of it.”

          “So what’s the big deal if we do it? Seems to me like you’re just being a big scaredy cat.”

          “I’m not, but why do you want to go borrowing trouble asking for some fake’s ‘predictions of our future’?”

          “Maybe I just want to know.”

          “Maybe you’re just more gullible and needy than I expected.”

          etc.

          1. lionetravail

            In other words, if the imagery and dialogue are your strong points (and they are really good), run with them as the means to give your exposition. (Not sure why it took longer to say that in the post just above, but okay.)

          2. Cynthia Page

            I see what you mean. I rewrote the first paragraph as pure dialog and came out only five words more than the original. I usually include gestures and some imagery to connect the reader to the scene, so it would still end with a much higher word count. Here are the bare bones of dialogue for the first paragraph:

            “It’ll be fun. Where’s your sense of adventure?”

            “Being conned does not appeal to me. Time is not mutable. It’s linear. In all the scientific experiments through the ages, nothing discovered has ever contradicted that.”

            “Come on Nate. Don’t you care about our future? Don’t you want to know if we’ll be happy. or if getting married might be a mistake?”

            “I care. I just think predicting the future is nonsense. Psychics are fakes and con artists.”

            “I know why you won’t go. You’re afraid you’ll see something that casts doubt on science. You’re too scared to even look at what you call bunk, for fear of contradictions to your precious science.”

            That did it.

          3. lionetravail

            Nice! sweet work with that! Glad if my thoughts helped at all… Just passing it forward, yanno?

          4. Cynthia Page

            Thank you!. My professor once said I’m too fond of disembodied voices, though, so I will need descriptives peppered in to give the voices bodies, hands, and eyes. Thank you for reminding me to use less expo. You were a big help.

  15. cosivantutte

    JR’s Macbeth witches inspired me to write another take on this prompt:

    She wore a black cape over her red dress. Her nurse told her not to wear red. “Wear brown or some sort of vague demure.” Juliet smiled. She pulled her hood over her head and ran out the door.

    She ran to his house. Her cape billowed about her frame like a scarlet tanager’s wings. Black on red and red in black.

    She found him waiting outside his gate. He was dressed all in brown even down to his boots. Together they flew to the fair in town. Black and red and sparrow brown.

    “Look, my love.” he said. “The Oracle’s Den.”

    She smiled bright. “Let’s see our future, my darling, tonight.”

    They sat together, side by side, in the tent filled with purples aswirl.

    “Look.” said the Oracle, a gray, cracked brook. “Into the ball. Into your future. Young lovers, have a look.”

    She looked before him and her smile fell fast. He stood with a woman. Hair as black as a funeral procession, skin as white as a bridal veil.

    “That is not me.” said Juliet.

    “No.” said the Oracle. “It is death.”

    1. snuzcook

      Very poetic, cosivantutte! It had that exotic quality that placed it on a plane somewhere outside reality, and then you delivered the twist at the end. I think the brevity was perfect in this case. Well done.

      1. cosivantutte

        Thank you so much for your comments!

        I based my story (very loosely) on Romeo and Juliet. I was planning to have him look into the ball too and see her with the guy version of death, but I didn’t want the story to lose its punch and/or rhythm.

  16. Amyithist

    The little caravan of traveling carnies weren’t indigenous to the small town, but that didn’t stop the crowds from coming out in droves. The days were full of festivities one would come to expect from a carnival; screams of delight as the old wooden coaster clanked and clacked with life that would soon be forgotten, howls of laughter as the clowns paraded through the crowds performing various acts, and the inevitable groans and grumbles of children as the lights began to turn out and parents took them away from the magic…
    But the nights were full of mystery and haunted anticipation. Every corner lurked with nightmarish possibilities. Every face possessed a hollowness of dreams that had been relinquished to a sad reality. But that didn’t stop me from following my husband, Gregory, through the front gates.
    The after hour invitation had come primarily out of desperation, but being the ever untamed Wildman, Gregory quickly accepted. Now, as we crossed paved paths carving through a forest of tents and curtained stages, I found myself wondering if we’d made a mistake.
    Empty popcorn bags melding with decaying leaves scattered across the asphalt. Our shoes clicked simultaneously as we made our way toward the very back of the venue; as clearly instructed by the dwarf at the front gate. I held onto Gregory as an icy wind whipped through the crevices of the cloth village. An eerie feeling settled over me as we approached the final tent.
    Backed up against the tree line and boasting a single flickering candle for light, it offered little solace to my trembling insides. I hesitated at the edge of the grass. The unease swelled through me as shadows passed over the red and white walls. “Kathleen,” Gregory hissed, “don’t fizzle out on me now, darlin’. We came all this way…”
    I knew what it meant to disobey my husband. The memory of his hand across my face chilled me deeper than the horrors that awaited me behind the tent. I set my reservations aside and followed him inside. The smell of burning wax and stale popcorn filled the air. Clowns dipped to bow to us and gestured toward a curtained section of the tent. “Through there,” one whispered malevolently.
    I shivered and sidled up next to Gregory. He didn’t offer any comfort as he fingered the curtain aside; revealing a cramped makeshift room with a table draped in black velvet and a peculiar ball glowing in the center. The room was oddly cold and as I stepped inside, my breath misted out in front of me. “Let’s get out of here,” I whispered through the dark.
    Gregory squeezed the back of my neck; hard enough for me to know we weren’t going anywhere until he’d gotten his fix. At that moment, an old gypsy hobbled into the room. Her clothing looked three sizes too large for her as she approached the table. She turned to face us and I nearly gasped at her appearance; one eye was crusted over with white goop; dead and unseeing it was a useless, gut-churning oddity. With her other eye, she studied us for a moment before nodding toward the seats positioned across the table.
    We crossed the short distance, my heels digging into the muddy grass as I rounded the chair and plopped into the hard seat. The woman held a tiny, shriveled hand out. She wanted money first. Gregory grinned as he dropped two gold coins into her palm. Satisfied, she pulled her own chair out and sat down.
    The ball glowed deeper as she rested her hands on its top. “I see a future for one but not both,” she rasped. She didn’t look up as she studied the depths of the crystal globe. “A violent, untimely end awaits one of you. The ball sees all…”
    Gregory huffed and sat up on the edge of his seat. “What are you talking about you silly old hag?”
    The woman’s head snapped up. Her eyes narrowed at him. “The ball sees all!” She hissed back. “It sees your past. It sees your future.” She turned her attention to me and offered a grim smile. “It sees it all.”
    “Whatever,” Gregory grumbled. He jumped from his chair. His face contorted with anger. “Let’s go, Kathleen. What a waste of fucking time.”
    “I’m sorry,” I murmured, starting after my husband.
    “Wait,” the gypsy held her hand up, pleading for me to stop. “Your fate is certain, my child. You will find true love; one that is not full of degradation and pain.” Her eyes flitted over to the curtain where Gregory hovered. For a moment, I could see the fear behind them.
    “Kathleen,” he seethed, “get your ass over here now.” As I approached him, his hand clamped over the back of my neck and he wheeled me out of the room. “Don’t bet on getting rid of me any time soon,” he whispered. “You know what I’ll do to you.”
    I winced as his grip tightened. Eyes followed us as we traipsed through the tent. The joyful chatter that had graced the space earlier in the night was replaced with heavy, vigilant silence. How did this end so badly? I thought as Gregory shoved me into the chilly night air.
    “That was a complete waste,” he growled, pulling his flask from the lapel of his coat. I cringed at the sight of the bottle glinting in the moonlight.
    “Please, Gregory, take it easy with the alcohol.”
    His eyebrow cocked over the lip of the bottle. He finished his swig, tucked the flask back into his jacket, and slapped my face so hard I fell back, hitting my head on the ground. My vision dimmed. Sounds became muffled behind a barrage of undulating pain. I tried to get up, but a voice from the dark urged me to stay put.
    I heard more than I saw; skin connecting with skin, grunts and rustling of feet striving for leverage against the other. Suddenly, a sound of bones cracking and twisting rose above the struggle. My heart fluttered at the sound of a body crumbling to the ground.
    Suddenly, a gust of wind whipped through the trees. A cacophony of dins vied for dominance over the other. The sound was deafening. I curled into myself, waiting… After a few harrowing moments, the sounds died away. I slowly sat up and found myself in an empty field. A few yards from me, Gregory lie in a ravine…dead.
    I looked about; confused as to where the tents had gone. It was as if the carnival had just…disappeared. As I pulled myself to my feet, I noticed a little piece of paper folded on the ground. I crossed over to it, my stomach churning against the fear swelling through me. I bent and picked the paper up. It was thick and, as I turned it in my trembling fingers, I noticed writing. I squinted through the dark: Gypsy Rose was elegantly written. I opened it and smiled at the message. “The ball sees all.”

    1. Kerry Charlton

      What a marvelous early morning treat for me. It was a breath-takong trip through your descriptive power as a writer.Even thought you set a course for an understanding finality, I held my breath while the ending unfolded. This is and I don’t use this word often, a masterpiece of writing KC

    2. snuzcook

      Well done, Amyithist! You wove the atmosphere around us well, and the final scene was eerie and mysterious. It’s always great when the bad guy gets his just desserts in the end, and the victim is released!

      1. Amyithist

        Thank you so much snuzcook! I played around with the ending a little, but I think this leaves a little more mystical oomph than the other I’d initially written. Thanks for taking the time to read my prompt!

    3. Observer Tim

      Wow, this is major league spooky, Amyithist. It’s a perfect tale for the season. Very nice to see Gregory get what’s coming to him, though I sense the MC will have a bit of explaining to do. However, that sacrifice is definitely worth it to be rid of the creep.

      And the ball (which sees all) did say she’d find true love…

    4. Critique

      Wonderfully descriptive Amyithist. You have amazing talent! I always enjoy your stories.
      The only tiny thing that I would change is ‘ her lone beady eye narrowed at him’ not plural ‘eyes’ as the crusted one might not be functioning at all.

      1. swatchcat

        I agree in most part with everyone. Your story as a whole was fantastic. The twist when we find out she is a battered wife, that shifts emotions while reading which I always think makes for good writing. The power of the ending pulls you to the end. Super. “But,” getting to the meat of the story was a little hard,sorry. I sort of got hung up on the questionable consistency of your traveling carnival. If not fixed to one place for instance how can there be paved walkways and wooden roller coasters but yet they reached the edge of grass and tree lines. The two uses of ” but” in the second paragraph sort of bothered me,too. Teach me if you could if I’m wrong.

    5. lionetravail

      Yowza, Amyithist!

      What a darkly told tale, but which came around nice and symmetrical. It had a nicely unhurried sense, and the language was really well chosen- from the clanking and clacking and discarded popcorn bags to the sounds of the unseen combat- all of which was very visceral.

      Nicely told 🙂

  17. snuzcook

    LEAVES BEFORE THE STORM

    Clusters of children hurtle down the Halloween sidewalks and across yards like autumn leaves before a storm. I watch for my daughter, Hope, dressed in filmy layers of blue and sparkly white to separate from the crowds. I watch for her protective shadow, the quiet man in a dark pea coat and billed cap, present but not interfering as the little girl embraces the traditions of childhood.

    From my window I can see the invisible cord that connects them, she leading, he following at a variable distance as if the link between them were a retractable dog’s leash. It makes me ache to watch them tonight even more than usual, seeing other parents with their children, all with a similar connection, but so very different. It makes me ache because I know that Andy is suffering just as I am.

    It was five Halloweens ago that this began. Andy and I were at a charity carnival at the community center just a few blocks from home. It was warm for October, and many last minute booths had been added to take advantage of the space outside as well as in the gymnasium. I dragged Andy into a cheesy looking canvas structure with the sign, “The Oracle’s Den,” at the entrance. I had an ulterior motive, but if he went along with it as he always did, trusting and good natured.

    The fortune teller did not disappoint; she was dressed in beads and scarves; in the darkened tent she appeared to be ageless. There was an aroma of rosemary and something else I could not place—a woodsy, exotic combination of fragrances that really set the mood. I started to ask questions, but she put up her hand to stop me.

    “I can only give you a glimpse of the future, but you can choose what future you wish to see. Do you want to know tomorrow, five years from now or twenty years?”

    “Tomorrow would be good. I want to know if I the car will break down again on the way to work.”

    “Oh, no, Andy. Let’s not waste it on something like that. Five years–that’s long enough to see really important things.” I knew what I wanted to know, what I wanted Andy to know, and suddenly I couldn’t wait to hear what she would say. Whatever she said, I would be able to use it for my own big reveal.

    She slipped our money into a pocket of her voluminous skirt and sat us both in front of her crystal ball. I was surprised to see actual images forming. I knew it was probably all hokum, but still, I found myself holding my breath.

    The swirls became images, and the images coalesced into people. There was Andy, wearing his pea coat and his Greek sailors’ cap outside in a park or a field. He was standing looking into what looked like a large white box. Then I realized that the box was a white coffin with its lid open. Inside was little girl with her hair in pigtails and a perfect, cherubic expression on her little face.

    I felt Andy beside me gazing into the crystal begin to protest when another person entered the scene. It was me, but I was heavily pregnant. I was joining Andy before the coffin in what appeared to be a small graveside ceremony.

    I couldn’t watch anymore. I jumped up and ran out of the tent. That was not the way I had planned things to go. It was a nightmare. How could I possibly tell Andy now that he was going to be a father?

    My recollections are interrupted as I see little Hope in her blue princess costume winding her way past the other children to run up our walk, her plastic pumpkin full of candy clutched in one hand. Andy follows behind, unhurried. I hear them come into the house; hear her footsteps running up the stairs, hear her calling for me. She bursts into the room and runs to me, slowing before we collide.

    “Oh, Mommy it was so much fun!” She wraps her little arms partway around me, laying her cheek on my belly as she loves to do. “Did you feel the baby kick today?” She always asks that question, ever since she learned such things are possible.

    “Not yet, honey. Not for a few more weeks.”

    “Oh, Mommy, I can hardly wait!”

    I see Andy’s tall figure pass the doorway. He looks in, and our eyes meet for a moment, his deep sad despair wrenching at my heart. But then again, I remind myself, as I help my daughter get ready for bed, it was all hokum, wasn’t it?

    A gust of wind tears a handful of leaves from the tree outside and tosses them against the window. For no particular reason, I shiver.

    1. cosivantutte

      Great job on this story. It has a very October feel to it.

      By the way, I love the fact that they named her Hope. She seems like such a sweet kid. I hope the fortuneteller was wrong. Poor little thing.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Your story reminds me of the attitude most peiple react to in looking into the future where we look for fame and adventure when we know it isn’t obtainable except through the grace of god and hard work. Broken dreams become nightmares, acts of retrobution occur as forms of punishment to the unlucky. It’s our dreams and shortcuts that fail us. Reality flies away when we search for the Holy Grail. The power you write into your dsaughter’s role in the story makes itvery poignant in it’s response.

        1. snuzcook

          Thanks, Kerry! Yes, the double-edged sword of seeking validation for the wonderful dreams we hope to have fulfilled, forgetting that life is made up of both joy and sorrow.

          And isn’t it interesting that when we are confronted with a prediction that is unexpected and plausible, we tend to believe it rather than live in uncertainty?

    2. Nicki EagerReader

      You’re on fire. Lovely atmosphere and description- I held my breath all the way to the end (which left me wanting MORE). Only one minor typo (“I had an ulterior motive, but if he went along with it as he always did, trusting and good natured.”- the IF made me stumble, but I quickly regained my stride on the smooth course of your writing). You wouldn’t like to tell us what (or how it) happens to Hope, would you?

      1. snuzcook

        Thanks, Nicki!

        The IF was a remnant from previous wording of that sentence–I never seem to catch all of them!

        This story is a question more than a statement. The prediction is similar to the witch with the magical eye in the story Big Fish–if you look into her eye you will see the moment of your death. Here it is a bit more sadistic, though entirely fantasy. The parents on the day they discover they will be parents learn that the child will only live a short time–but there is no information about how or why. They are helpless to even construct a defense.

        This story shows how the two parents react differently: The mother chooses to continue and take the risks and appreciate the joy; the father becomes paralyzed by his despair and helplessness because he cannot protect his family. And all of this because of a random prediction that appears to be true only because the mother is again pregnant and the child is of a certain age. What agonizing emotional choices have they made based upon a silly prediction?

        It is also interesting to ponder the mother’s regret in hindsight that she insisted on the 5 year prediction–either of the other options would not have had the same impact.

        These are just a few of my thoughts. The truth of Hope’s destiny is irrelevant to the question–so the reader feel free to determine her fate and consider how the family responds.

        In hindsight, I feel compelled to apologize for the cold presentation of a situation that many families in a different context must experience in hospitals all over the world. It was not my intent to make light of what can be a very real situation.

        1. Nicki EagerReader

          I didn’t think the presentation was cold at all- I though you handled a difficult topic very gracefully and with great sensitivity. Life has its saddening and unpleasant aspects, but then again without them, it wouldn’t be life (sorry for this trite remark). Personally, I find it wrong to shun such subjects, and it’s disrespectful to turn away from them and pretend they weren’t part of everyday life. Please don’t apologize for tinting your stories with all the colors of the rainbow. 🙂
          (Btw, I totally endorse the MC’s attitude to make the best of her (and her daughter’s life). Self-made prophecy holds true too often as it is, and your Andy is a great juxtaposition to his wife.)

    3. lionetravail

      Beautifully written Snuzcook- there’s a whole world there in this short piece. It’s achingly lovely in its melancholy, with autumn’s own sense of that emotion conjured in the fallen leaves blowing in the wind. The white coffin, echoing both tragedy and the halloween holiday, and sitting there so starkly in the recollection, is breathtaking in my mind’s eye.

      Just wow. The last sentence is the only part of this that I have any constructive comment on. The starkness of the gust of wind tossing a bunch of leaves against the window is gorgeous- the “For no particular reason, I shiver” line seems at first blush to finish the story well, but upon reflection seems almost too weak for how much emotion you’ve invoked for me in the rest of the story. I think the shiver doesn’t seem ominous enough, especially with the lead in of ‘for no particular reason’… I mean, both she and Andy are desperately worried, trying to tell themselves that it’s all hokum, but they’re chilled to the bone that the vision will see their daughter die. I want something which inspires even more dread than the shiver!

      My mind wants something that puts that hollow feeling in my stomach, and kicks the tear ducts (warmed up by the story to that part) into overdrive.

      (And you should give it to me. Soon. Please!)

      A gust of wind… tosses them against the window. The crumbly, dead sound is shockingly forlorn, and I can feel tears start even as I kiss her forehead.

      This is absolutely lyrical, Snuz. Great, great job.

      1. snuzcook

        Thank you for the suggestion, David. It actually speaks to such a deep question about why I write a given story. Am I ‘all in’ to elicit a specific response, or am I presenting a question and asking the reader to meet me partway and complete it themselves.

        It is a very valid observation, and I appreciate you raising it.

  18. Kerry Charlton

    THE CARNIVAL

    “I’m not interested in walking in this dingy tent and have some perfect stranger tell me what lies ahead in my life.”

    “But Paul, you promised.” Lauren said. Her blue eyes sparkled with love and the wispy look on her face, melted Paul’s mind.

    “Oh, all right.” The love of his love smiled sweetly. “But I’m not gazing in any stupid globe.”

    “Now Paul….”

    “Okay, globe it is but just wait ’till I get you to Lookout Mountain.”

    Lauren kissed him on the spot. “I’m looking forward to it.”

    Inside the darkness revealed a small woman, bent with age sitting at a small table, two chairs opposite her. A smoky globe revolved from color to color inside it’s crystal.

    “You have the look of a prince young man. sit and reveal your palms to me.”

    ‘God, she looks amazing and smells of stale tobacco,’ Paul thought.

    “Can I look over Paul’s shoulder?”

    “Of course, dearie, twenty dollars please.”

    “Your palms show a cold future,” the old woman said. We must turn to the globe, ten dollars more, young prince.”

    “Well if this isn’t a shill, I don’t know what is,” Paul said as he reached for his wallet. The crystal ball began to rotate on it’s stand as the mystic spoke,

    “Tell us one and all, Paul’s future five years hence.”

    The ball cleared instantly and a vivid scene evolved.

    From Paul’s lips, stumbled, “Oh wow I don’t know who the red head is, but double wow.”

    The scene revolved to a king size bed with Paul making passionate love to the gorgeous girl.

    “Dearie?” the small mystic asked.

    ‘Damn it Paul, that my Father’s girl friend, the cheap hussy.”

    “Your dad’s fling? I thought your parents were married.”

    “They are but I’ve seen him with her downtown a few months ago. So I see you’ve joined his party.”

    “This is make believe, Lauren. Did you tell your dad, you saw him with her?”

    “Of course not. I hate him for this.”

    “Well why are you upset with me?”

    “Cause you’re all alike.”

    Lauren nodded to the gypsy and ran from the tent. Paul caught up with her.

    “I’m sorry we went there,” he said.

    “So am I. It’s hard to believe he’d do this to Mother.”

    “Maybe it’s not an affair, she could be related.”

    “Oh posh.”

    “You never know until you ask.”

    “Take me home Paul, I’ve got to find out.”

    “Wait here a moment, I left my wallet in the tent.”

    “It’s gone now, why bother?”

    “Wait here.”

    When he reached the gypsy’s tent, a closed sign was posted. He opened the flap and sat down.

    “Rachael?”

    She came from the rear, the same beauty of a red head.

    “Did you like my makeup?”

    “Incredible, but so were your computer graphics.”

    “Is she going to talk to her Father?”

    “She is, do you think he’ll tell her?”

    “I hope so, I’m dying to meet my half sister.”

    1. Critique

      My first clue that things were not as they seem was the phrase: ‘she looks amazing’.
      Lauren is in for a few big surprises.
      Entertaining and I liked the dialogue.

    2. snuzcook

      That was fun, Kerry! Nice twist! I suspect it will take some work to get the image of Paul in bed with her newly-discovered half sister out of Lauren’s head. Or maybe Paul and Red-Head are planning their future? Good response to the prompt!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you snuzcook. Two things are possible. Paul may fall dippedity for Rachael and the second is, maybe Rachael’s not really the half sister and is up to no good.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Amyithist. Frankly I didn’t see it coming either until the last paragraph. Then the auto kicked in and I just typed it, reread it and said “neat”.

    3. MCKEVIN

      Oh you got me on this one Kerry. I’m not going to even tell you what I thought was going on or how I thought it was going to come out. Lol. I was so far off base I’m embarrassed. Good one!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks MCKEVIN. I would really be interested in where you thought the story was going, because I was totally clueless also. Did you inject something in my mind, small as it is?

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Tim, it’s certainly a nice compliment coming from you. Maybe you should thank my ‘id’ for there’s skull duggelery afoot. Maybe Rachael is really evil.

    4. lionetravail

      Nice job here, Kerry! I love the plot, the reveal, and everything.

      .. the only thing at all ‘off’ for me is, I think, where you forced the plot of this to fit the prompt. What I mean to say is that the image of Paul and Rachael in the globe was clearly something which would upset Lauren… as far as a plan of what image to show, it seems to me it would skew Lauren’s initial impression into as negative a reaction as possible- that would interfere with her whole initial impression of learning about an unknown half-sister, right? If you were going to polish this one, I’d think of a more positive light in which to cast the red-headed hussy.

      I mean, I wouldn’t help a stranger- who happens to be the half-sister of the love of my life- to show said love of my life a vivid movie of me having sex with the stranger as a means towards introduction of a sensitive relation. Brrr. Nope, I wouldn’t. Of course, I value not getting kicked in vulnerable places by the love of my life 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you David. You’re absolutely correct except the whole thing was carefully planned by the evil Rachael. She duped Paul into this idea. Once she meets her half sister she’ll con her also. She wants her father’s estate. After she clears the debree around her father, including her step-mother, she’ll go for the kill and inherit everything. ‘Id’ wrote this as an introduction to the real story, well maybe.

        1. lionetravail

          Devious, and interesting as a twist, but woof, I still don’t want to be your MC. I think if you serialize this, that intent and backstory will come through, but your MC seems pretty cool with a woman who’s working to sabotage his relationship 🙂

          1. Kerry Charlton

            He may think he’s in for a cut of the inheritance but he’s dead wrong and I mean dead literally.

  19. Hiba Gardezi

    I know right? BOOOO! I’m sorry about not posting last week 🙁 but I had homework…and tests …and a debating contest…Ill stop the lame excuses. I just hope you guys enjoy this, please comment and criticize. 
    “The fair lights shined across the dark night’s mantel. Its vivid glowing eyes gazing down at us naively. The area was graced with illuminated colored tents and trees tangled with lights hanging over benches alongside a segment gilded with roses and lavenders.
    It was perfect.
    The fact that a moment a go his fingers had curled around mine made it even more perfect. Jason and I had known each other since, believe it or not 7 years.
    And it had been only last month that pumpkin head here had the mind to understand that I liked him too. I’d been pretty obvious actually. Leaving clues that other picked up on but he didn’t.
    My friends kept reminding me he’s a guy they take long. Always take long. But seriously how stupid can a guy get?
    Pretty stupid I guess.
    I didn’t care I still loved him. I kicked his leg
    ‘Hey what was that for’
    ‘Love’ I told him
    He grinned at me. His eyes literally glowed every time he looked at me as if this was something he had been waiting for all his life. He made me feel so special. As if I was something to be won. In truth I was a little girl in a big world getting way more than she was worth. But I got him all right and I was happy.
    He stopped, my hands in his, his grey eyes sucking in mine and our brains tuning out the rest of the world. He was all I saw and I was all he saw. He leaned in close sucking out my breath and kissed my neck. His lips cold like frost sent a beautiful shiver down my spine. I wanted more! And that was what I got he pulled me even closer in his arms. I was a tiny body wrapped in his big jackets. I smelled his doughy scent from his long hours working at the bakery. His raven curls crumpled under my palms.
    ‘Yo kiddos, a little too much?’
    We turned to face a burly African guy in a police costume.
    ‘Yeah’ he grunted ‘behave, don’t want any funny business in the middle of ma road.’ he shined his light it our eyes.
    ‘ I got my eyes on you.’
    He walked away.
    ‘Oops’ gale said
    ‘Now you better behave next time ’
    ‘Me? Man you were so asking for it’
    I raised my eyebrows though it was true, he probably didn’t know, he hardly ever knew anything.
    ‘Fine you are so utterly gorgeous I couldn’t resist’ he kissed my cheek.
    ‘Yes I know I know’ I said fanning my face haughtily ‘but it’s either controlling yourself or fair jail’
    He laughed his beautiful laugh ‘I rather take my chances’
    ‘So where should we go next?’ I said my cheeks hot
    ‘The ‘oracles den ’’ he said spookily
    He pointed to a rundown tent, its cloth, torn, burnt and wind beaten. Its striped bright carnival colors fading. Next to it a torn, moss covered sign on the floor read the oracles den. It’s washed out words glowing in the moon light.
    ‘Uh…there?’
    ‘Yeah… you scared? ’he grinned
    ‘No ’I tried to sound confident
    ‘Then why-’
    ‘Let’s just go in’ I pulled him towards the door flap
    He laughed as we entered the dim cobwebbed interior of the ashen floor, giving base to the fractured bones of the outline of the tent. A cracked light bulb barely allowing us to look at each other hung low from the top. Where it was getting electricity, I didn’t know. Through the dark I could barely make out the pale features of a woman perched behind a black table centered by a crystal orb. The woman’s face was somehow distant and faraway as if her soul was somewhere else and only her shabby body remained. Her eyes, black beads in the faint glow, were sunken with a mouth hanging open. On her head she wore a bright pink and yellow bandanna and lots of colored strings around her neck with some kind of paint splattered cloth wrapped around her in loose stitching with a blue belt.
    ‘Welcome spiri- ’she shook her head ‘mortals come …come…the oracle has foreseen you ’
    She pointed to two cane chairs in the corner. Jason pulled them over and we sat.
    ‘She’d like to know her future’ gale gestured to me.
    ‘No I-’ then he gave me that I knew were scared look. I was so going to get him. ‘I mean yes, I would’
    She bent her crooked back over her crystal orb which now began to glow even brighter. Her eyes turned hollow as she closed them rubbing her palms against her ball.
    ‘Look girl. Look in what do you see?’
    I looked in and the entire world began to fade I stood before a girl she was me in a long pink dress standing with a cute little baby in my hands .my eyes glowed so much at her sight that I could only believe I was her mother. Beside me stood a man staring at our baby, a proud father. I smiled at the images .this meant Jason and I would be together happily. i glanced at him only to be frowned at.
    ‘What’
    ‘That’s not me’
    I stared he was right it wasn’t
    Cold swept into his eyes and his jaw clenched.
    ‘You know who he is?’
    ‘Of course I know!’ He got up angrily ‘don’t act so oblivious!’
    ‘Jason!’
    ‘I thought’ his voice broke ‘ I thought you were finally mine …But you have another guy with you?’
    ‘No!’
    ‘I believed you’
    ‘And you should’
    He gave me one short look and walked out.”
    ‘But grandma what happens next?’
    A sizzling tear traces down my face.
    ‘Nothing’.

    1. Hiba Gardezi

      im sorry if this is kinda boring or a waste of your time or whatever. i havent written any kind of story with the tiniest bit of romance before and this isnt one of my best stories so i hope you can help me improve with your comments and suggestions.

    2. Observer Tim

      Hi Hiba;

      You did a fairly good job with the romance (though I’m definitely no expert); I can see the familiarity and intimacy between the two. That’s a big part of making it believable.

      I do have a bit of an issue with the end; the perspective shift is quite jarring and I had to read through it a couple of times to get it. I would suggest a clearer break – this is how I would do it, which is only one way of many.

      … and walked out.

      “But grandma,” says the tiny voice, “what happens next?”
      I smile at her despite the sizzling tear running down my face.
      “Nothing. Now go to sleep, little one.”

      Also, my red pencil has a couple of notes:

      1. ‘Shine’ is an irregular verb; its past tense is ‘shone’.
      2. ‘literally’ is a loaded word, only use it when you are describing something that really happened. If his eyes literally glow, they can probably be used as flashlights. A good replacement in this context would be ‘veritably’ (because its synonym ‘truly’ would be awkward), or it could be dropped altogether without hurting the sentence.
      3. When referring to times (i.e. “since, believe it or not, 7 years”) since refers to a definable event rather than a span of time. The fragment above could be fixed in either of two ways: either “for, believe it or not, 7 years” or “since, believe it or not, 7 years ago.”

      Keep on writing, Hiba. Don’t worry if the world prevents you – it does that sometimes. Just remember to always come back to it. Reserve me a seat for the gala when your first novel gets published!

      1. Nicki EagerReader

        About the “shined”- set my teeth on edge, too (shoneshoneshone!!!) but it wasn’t the first time I came across this form, so I looked it up in the Oxford American Dictionary (3rd edition), and what does it say?

        shine, v. (past and past participle shone or shined)

        I guess that means it’s grammatically correct to use “shined”, but I beg everyone here and now to humor me and PLEASE use “shone” -unless they want my eyes to boil and pop that is.

    3. Nicki EagerReader

      As you ask for it, let’s get started 😉

      First of all, I find it great that you’re turning your hand to a genre you say is new territory for you, and your story contains a couple of poetic elements that fit the picture. This story would probably be a nice character-/relationship-driven study but a few things really threw me off:

      1. PUNCTUATION. E.g. “I stared he was right it wasn’t”. Sloppy punctuation conveys sloppy thought and carelessness (in my eyes), and I automatically shun writing were quotation marks run amok (He gave me one short look and walked out.”). Mabye that’s unfair, because the story might still be painstakingly crafted, but neglected punctuation to me is code for “My writer slapped me on the page and didn’t read me over before posting.”

      2. Take it easy on the adjectives. Not ever noun needs modification. Same goes for adverbs and verbs, though they were fine here.

      Otherwise I liked the interaction between the two lovers (especially the teasing- very realistic) and some of the description you put in (“I was a tiny body wrapped in his big jackets. I smelled his doughy scent from his long hours working at the bakery.”)

      So keep up the flow! Only writing makes perfect 😀

    4. MCKEVIN

      I look for a good story when I’m reading not grammatical errors and stuff. You give me an with a good story I’ll buy his/her book. I enjoyed your story. You actually had enough to break into two chapters. Lol. I have 2 things to tell you. 1) Don’t apologize for your writing. If you the writer have problems with your words then why should a reader read them? If you the author write something that needs to be fix then fix it. 2. You cleared up the Gayle and Jason and I appreciate that and I also appreciate you sharing your story. Good job! See you at the next prompt.

    5. lionetravail

      Hiba, this isn’t boring or a waste of time! It’s a neat idea of how to tell a story, as well as taking a stab at romance- we all do some of these with different twists in how to do a story in order to experiment with the different tools: that’s why I tried a pure dialogue story this time around, and even a wacky second-person story last week.

      OT and McKevin and Nicky were all right in a lot of ways. I’d like to focus on one element to give you a good concrete example of what Nicky mentioned with respect to grammar and punctuation and adjectives. Here’s the opening of your story:

      “The fair lights shined across the dark night’s mantel. Its vivid glowing eyes gazing down at us naively.”

      So, at first read, it’s a luxurious turn of phrase, but it’s not really 2 sentences- it’s more like one, because the second sentence also is not a complete sentence. It also doesn’t make sense in its simple meaning- the fair lights shined across the dark night’s mantel (a mantel is the beam over a fireplace, and a mantle is a cloak or shawl)? Also, in the next sentence, Its vivid glowing eyes…. who or what is It? The fair lights? The night? It’s descriptive, but it doesn’t fit because you haven’t given us a metaphor or simile to make ‘eyes’ work. And ‘naively’? You might want to use these words to set the flavor of your piece, but they mix up the image that you’re shooting for, I think.

      As Nicky said, simple is sometimes best in terms of adjectives and adverbs, but even if you use them to give a particular feel to the setting, make them work well.

      How about something like this?

      “The Fair lights blazed under the cloak of night, striving naively to push back the darkness.”

      So, the I used some adjectives and adverbs here to try for some of the same feel you did- here, lights do blaze, and the ‘cloak of night’ is easily visualized. ‘naively’ here brings a sense of meaning for me- it says that, for all the lights are blazing in the first part of the sentence, it’s naive to consider that it’s making any real dent in ‘darkness’.

      Look for consistency in the metaphors and similes- you should use every word for a good reason 🙂

    6. jmcody

      Hi Hiba. The romance in this was very sweet and believable for your two young protagonists. There has been much discussion of grammar already so I won’t go there unless you want me to. I just wanted to tell you that you are a wonderful storyteller. I enjoyed the richness of your descriptions and the vivid details that brought it to life. Keep writing! You have a real talent that will blossom with time and practice.

  20. usedname

    I apologize for any possible mistakes in the story. I only re-read it a two times. It is also a bit long 🙁

    Wind and Fire

    I inhaled to rich scent of spice and smoke as I took another slim waist into my arms. The mirth of her laughter was only matched by her bright red smile. We stepped in time to the music, heel toe, toe heel, swayed by the field of dancers around us. Our moment was beautiful- but just that a moment. Without hesitation, I took one last glance at her hooded face then with a deep dip; I swapped partners with the pair beside me. Slowly, I began to feel the blood lust leave me as memories of war faded away into the spirited chorus.

    “Let man not fear to take thy white maidens hair, to make them gold, let the far winds blow.”

    The tension in my body ebbed away as I took in the colourful sights of the fair. The townspeople came out in white and all the shades of red to celebrate Aeris’s fiftieth year as a colony of The Fire Empire. We were unified in this place, air and flame crafters, under the rule of the Sovereign fire leader, of course.

    Here my uniform was a sign of honour and pride. In this group dance I was just another flame solider glad to be home alive. Not a feared murder in an ever growing army.

    I looked over to my commander, standing atop a barrel showing off his spoils of war. He was my saving grace. In his hands was his prized piece, threads of pure gold, chopped right from the head of an air warrior.

    If I hadn’t seen it myself, I would never have believed the legend. Not even two full nights ago as we docked in the shores of Aeris, we were attacked by a group of air crafter extremists. Hungry and weak from travel we were defenceless. That’s how those defector scum worked, only attacking when we were weakened, only at night when our fire magic was useless.

    I met near death when one warrior swung a iron blade inches from my throat. He was gruesome. The man easily towered me by a few feet. His shifty eyes changed from black to silver as he approached and his face was tight, pale and bare with his bone white hair pulled away into one long braid down his back. Before I could blink, my commander drew him back by the braid and in one swoop, sliced his arm and chopped the braid off. Instantly the attacker was gone, on one strong gust of wind he vanished into nothing, leaving behind a golden braid on the dock.

    A sudden shiver ran down my back at the thought of it. I stumbled backward as a small hand pulled me out from the crowd; it was the same hooded girl from moments before. Her red lips remained in a shrewd smile.

    “This way.” She whispered breathlessly. Entranced I let her lead me through the bustling crowd, if only to watch he lithe figure from behind. She paused at the front of a purple tent that read ‘Oracle’s den’. Regretfully, I pulled out of her grip and entered. The stink of dark magic was the first thing I noticed the second the old woman.

    “Is he the one?” she asked the old maid tentatively. She sat silently gazing into a clear orb in her hands.

    “Is he the one, who will lead me to my brother?” she repeated with added urgency.
    The old woman looked up through the thick folds around her eyes, she hesitated for a moment,”Ah- You,” she turned to me “Come here.”

    My body moved on its own accord towards her. The room lit up with the shadows of flames against the walls, where there was no flame. The two women both watched intently as a scene flitted against the surface of the glass. I gasped recognizing myself in the image, I was older and taller. A group of us soldiers were on the pier as the ship behind us was loaded. Then as my image walked forward, the man of my nightmares appeared in front of me. Short white strands clung to his face. It was twisted in pain and red blood streamed down his pale arm. My knees buckled under me as I recalled the exact same man just a couple nights before.

    “How far in the future do you think he is?” The young maiden questioned revealing her silver white hair from under the hood.

    “Five years at most”, the oracle replied staring at the alluring beauty.

    “Your payment.” The white haired maiden remarked holding out a lock of her hair. Without a second thought the oracle held out a concealed blade and cut the hair. Just like the air warrior she vanished into air leaving behind strands of pure gold in her wrinkled hands.

    Shite.

    “Come back to the oracle den sometime soon” she smiled a toothless grin at me as I ran out the tent screaming for my life.

    1. Observer Tim

      Very well done, usedname. You painted an interesting society here, with just enough information to incite my curiosity. Why are the fire and wind people at war? Are there other factions? Is there hope for some kind of reconciliation?

      There were a few grammatical glitches and awkward turns of phrase, which is to be expected in a quickly-written piece. I’d love to see how this turns out cleaned up and edited.

      1. usedname

        I just read it again , this time without the fog of tiredness, and cringed at some simple mistakes I made. I had really big hopes for the setting (the fire and air war) and found the word limit quite challenging. I have to say tho that it helped a lot as it stopped me from exposition bombing the reader. Thanks again for your comments Tim keep your red pencil sharp.

      2. lionetravail

        I agree, Usedname. This is a wonderful treat- a very fanciful society and mythology, and yet an essentially human story inside this. Granted, tighter editing will always help, but I think you have a great start to a much longer story.

        In what is a relatively small space, you’ve got a new social order, the threat of war, the romance of a ball and formal dance, the tired but patriotic soldier, and personal stories of loss- nice work! I think it’s definitely worth working on this to make it shine, and then ‘going long’ with it… there’s a ton of story to tell here.

  21. cjrhone

    INT. ORACLES DEN – NIGHT

    ( In the crystal ball, Fred is feeding ice cream to Heather on a couch )

    Sarah: What the hell?! That’s my sister!

    Fred: Oh, wow!

    ( Gorgania, a decrypted old lady with wild hair and colorful robes, speaks as she hovers her hands over the crystal ball )
    Gorgania: Yes! Your boyfriend leaves you for your younger, more attractive sister.

    Sarah: You left me for heather?! I can’t believe you would do something like that!

    Fred: I didn’t do anything!

    Sarah: Then what the hell is this?

    Fred: I don’t know!

    Sarah: Okay, we’re done, Fred. We’re done!

    ( Sarah storms outside )

    ( Gorgania removes her robes and facial mask, she is Heather )

    Gorgania:… Looks like our plan worked.

    Fred: Like a charm. You wanna make out?

    ( Heather swipes the crystal ball off the table, SMASHING it onto the ground. Heather and Fred make out on the table )

    END.

  22. lionetravail

    Dark Is The Glass
    (I was totally inspired to do this by Nvlwriter’s story idea, without stealing the exact idea. Hope it works as all-dialogue.)

    “Peer deep inta the glass, young Missy, and all shall be revealed as ye’ve asked.”

    “Well, I appreciate the young part, but I’m proud to be a ‘Mrs’, Madame Zelda.”

    “Yar, well, next ta me, ye’re still young, don’t ye know, har! Either way, the Fort Worth Faire be made prettier by yer presence; I’m honored ta have such an important person seeking what guidance I might have ta offer.”

    “It’s my pleasure, Madame, really. Between meeting and greeting all those people who are really there to see my husband…”

    “Oh, fer shame, Missy! They’re all ta see yer too!”

    “Well, I guess…”

    “Yar, yer blushing! Ye know what I say be true… Now, if ye’re still of a mind ta, peer deep inta the ball.”

    “Alright, I’m looking. What do I do?”

    “Wait and see, Missy, wait and see.”

    “How long… Oh. Oh my! Who is that man I’m seeing in the glass?”

    “I don’t know, Missy, do ye?”

    “No, he’s certainly handsome… he looks like he might be Greek, perhaps in his mid fifties or early sixties? He looks quite distinguished… wait, but that’s… is that my sister Catherine?”

    “I don’t know her Missy, but she looks like ye, don’t she?”

    “Is, is that me, older? Why am I with that gentleman and not my husband? What is this anyway, some kind of motion picture?”

    “Yar, Missy, it could be ye in some years, mayhap five or seven. As to ye’re other questions, not all be revealed in the glass: it’s curved, ya see, so some things be farther from ye’re sight than others.”

    “But this is all some kind of trick, isn’t it?”

    “Nar, Missy. I’ll tell ye true, ‘t’aint a trick at all, but it be only a glimpse of the future, not all of it.”

    “I, I understand what you’re saying, I’m just not sure if I believe such a crazy thought, that magic is somehow real in this day and age.”

    “Ye don’t have ta believe in the Unseen, Missy, but in the years ta come ye’ll remember the day when ye caught a glimpse of it: November twenty-first, nineteen sixty three. Yar, ye will, this I promise ye…”

    1. jhowe

      The dialog worked. I breezed right through it with no hesitations. I can picture the fortune teller, all wrinkled with bad teeth, a nondescript head scarf and possibly an eye patch. This was well done. Was Aristotle handsome? Distinguished, yes but handsome? Maybe so, I can’t remember.

    2. Nicki EagerReader

      This is how dialogue is done! Favorite line: ” […] not all be revealed in the glass: it’s curved, ya see, so some things be farther from ye’re sight than others.”

        1. Kerry Charlton

          So we now have a treat from all dialogue. I know how difficult it is for me but your vividness, full of descriptive dialogue is a pleasure to read, not a mis-stumble in the dialogue. I really thought this was magic before me.

    3. lionetravail

      Thanks everyone- I’m glad it worked.

      And, to Nicki, that was also my favorite line 🙂

      I felt I needed it, because I didn’t want the flavor of the end to be sinister, inferring some foreknowledge of the Kennedy assassination, but only the mystery of incomplete prophecy. Thanks for picking up on this!

  23. Marie Therese Knepper

    I want to wish everyone participating in NaNoWriMo great success. I’ve been busy working on a mystery/comedy novel. If I stick to the program I should have it done by December 1st. I can’t wait to read all your stories.

    Happy writing!
    Marie-Therese

    1. Jay Wilson

      I need a nanowrimo for the whole year, lol. My problem is I write it much too fast, and end up always having to go back and rewrite the whole thing.

      “How in the hell did I even think that was a good sentence/paragraph/chapter.” Is my usual comment to myself. haha

      Good Luck, Marie!

    2. Critique

      Wishing you success in your writing adventure!
      I’m participating in the NaNoWriMo as well with great trepidation. It just may the the ‘boot to arse’ I need to persevere.

    3. Observer Tim

      Go for it, Marie! I wish you all the best of luck and success. I’m giving NaNo a rest this year because there’s way too much distraction in my life right now. I know that’s a cop-out, but maybe next year.

    4. snuzcook

      Have fun, Marie-Therese! I have opted not to NaNo this year — I’m having trouble just keeping up with my weekly stories and commenting. I’ll be there with you in spirit!

  24. swatchcat

    Phantasmagorias

    The traveling gypsy show had pitched its wagons just outside of town. Although Pastor Alder had preached of the pagan ways, and how the town’s folk would all, “Burn in hell and damnation if you come under the influence those wandering jezebel and freaks cursed for all eternity,” many found their way to the outskirts of Chester Ville.

    Hoodoo, and conjuring was sure to be happening at the gypsy camp. Kids would sneak out making their way to the encampment enticed by the sounds of hooting and hollering. The glow of the bonfire vibrating off the walls of the elaborate wagons mesmerized them.

    It was one of the young betrothed couples that snuck off to see the gypsies that paid for their sin dearly. Jed and Harper held hands as they ran through the woods toward the meadow. Harper’s bellowing skirt and petticoats were damp from the dew that had accumulated. As they came to an opening in the branches, they slowed to marvel at the oddities. Amazingly from the glow of wagon lanterns and light from the fire within the circle shining through the spindled wheels, they watched as other people snuck from the perimeter. Men and women alike, came to the gypsies for various reasons; healing potions, answers from loved ones lost, and release from everyday monotony.

    Jed and Harper, forbidden lovers secretly betrothed, had come to see The Oracle. Known for conjuring of the dead and foretelling of the future, they had to see for themselves. Would they be together? Watching to see where the others entered the inner circle, they found a giant waving each sinner in one by one. Jed and Harper approached, nervous, and the giant bent down from the shadowy sky and waved them directly to gypsy woman to the left of the bonfire.

    “You come to hear my crystal ball? See what it says to you.” She encircled the two and scooped them up the steps by the small of their backs. “Enter, but beware. Madame Kira cannot take back the words of The Oracle.”

    The door creaked open to a dimly lit room. Herbs hanging to dry made the air thick with Oregano, Cloves and a hint of Lavender. A tin lantern lit the back corner where chairs circled a small table. “Sit, please. What do you want, tea leaves, palms, or Tarots?” Her voice was thick as molasses.

    “I said we want the ball mame, just the ball.” Harper held Jed’s hand tight while his other hugged her close. They sat nervously and placed the two gold bits on the table as they were warned to do by a friend.

    The glow came from the ball at the center of the table. Madame Kira chanted and clapped together wooden castanets. She swirled around the cramped quarters. A man jumped out of a cabinet, waddled to a wood stove, and added dried leaves to a pot and disappeared into the cabinet again.

    “Jed, please, let’s just go. We don’t need this.” Harper could hear Pastor Alder’s words echoing in her head.

    Suddenly images were cast out of the glass ball. Harper gasped and leaned into Jed. The images danced around the room with Madame Kira. She moaned and chanted some gypsy rendering the couple accepted as part of the show. Images appeared of Harper sipping tea on the veranda of Thomas Jessup’s plantation. Little children surrounded her and she looked happy. Jed was nowhere in the vision. Suddenly another image appeared, Jed was tied to a post and bloody welts oozed from every possible inch of his black skin. Harper began to sob and Jed tensed.

    The same man, no higher than the average man’s knee, waddled from the cabinet again tugging on the old woman’s skirt, “Zee mazic lamp, it does not work.” She slapped him away like an annoying fly and hissed like a snake to make her point. “But Madame, zee lamp!” She knew and did not care. The spirits, they had spoken. The images disappeared and she stop spinning. “This union, it cannot be. Now go.”

    1. Observer Tim

      Captivating tale, swatch. At the end I’m left with the impression that Jed is black and Harper is white, but that could just be my mind trying to put a familiar spin on the story. If so, it’s a sad but very real social commentary.

      My red pencil says “billowing” not “bellowing”; that’s the only typo that actually threw me.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Your descriptive powers are well at work in your story. I have the same thoughts about Jed and Harper as far as black and white. A period piece before the Civil War would have met with instant death for Jed, or worse, being boiled alive. Your story was tightly written with action and description. The scene of the gypsy camp placed me in the story, and in the tent, with the little man running in and of the cabinet, really raised the hair on the back of my neck. Good work here. I always look forward to your tales.

    2. MCKEVIN

      Whoa! Look at you pulling out all the bells and whistles. Lol. This was good and if you don’t expand this you have to be out of your mind. Jus’ kiddin’. Lol. The imagery and mystery were off the chart. Good job!

    3. lionetravail

      This is a really well done story, Swatchcat. I got the same feeling as earlier commentors, including the adroitly handled accent of the fortuneteller (which put me in a creole mindset). I have a couple of thoughts to share.

      1. There are a few places where the word ‘which’ might be better than ‘that’- It was one of the young betrothed couples that snuck off to see the gypsies that paid for their sin dearly. (It seems like It was one of the young couples WHICH snuck off might work better… also, they didn’t really pay for their sin in this story- they were just shown a future, rather than paying the way the Reverend meant.)

      2. This sentence of exposition: It was one of the young betrothed couples that snuck off to see the gypsies that paid for their sin dearly- I think is extra, and distracting. You’ve got this great action sequence which starts right after that: Jed and Harper…. First, your explanation tells us the outcome of their sneaking off to the gypsies is going to turn out badly; why spoil the surprise twist you end with? Second, they actually don’t pay for their “sin” (whether it’s sexual stuff already done, or running to the Hoodoo), but instead get a warning that their future ain’t so bright. If you choose to avoid the sentence, you eliminate both those difficulties.

      I think it’s a great story, and you give a sense of what’s ‘sinful’ in a proper society, but when you say sin, there’s some blur for me: is the sin running to the oracle, as in Thou Shalt not suffer a witch to live, or is it the sin of their union, premarital intercourse, interracial relationship (all of which were problematic in that period)? I think if you decide which issues you want to play with, you could play with the ending to exploit the dangerous tightrope that Jed and Harper are walking on- not only do they get a ‘the future is crappy’ reading, they could get in trouble for EVERYTHING they’ve done: running to the fortuneteller AND getting caught as an illicit couple. And that could lead to Jed being tied up to a stake, and bring it all around full circle again.

      Hmm. I guess all this is by way of saying you fired up my imagination and got me very wrapped up in your story, you know?!

      1. swatchcat

        Lionetravail, thank you for all your notes. I guess I’m guilty of cramming several ideas into one thing,especially when trying to respect the challenge of the original purpose of the 500 word limit. The sin is all encompassing but yes, it could be narrowed. As for the paying for the sin warning at the beginning, that is me again cramming alot in a little space. Their future told is what actually happens, so they do pay. More pages needed for the idea. Wait I’m thinking, she gives into society expectations and marries a white man( but is she really happy)and Jed pays for bucking society and trying to keep their love alive. She is weak he is strong but a fool. Ah Ha! Now I have to go move on this.Thanks. Oh, the whiches and thats suggested I get and that’s my poor grammar eeping in.

  25. Herald Harbinger

    Twisted Sister

    The last time I saw a fortuneteller I went home with a black eye and stitches. The crew working the crowd prior to the show got their facts mixed up. When Madam Marmalade called me to the stage, she started fabricating a story about a romantic exploit with some lady named Denise who lived in Omaha. The next thing I knew some towering, corn-fed, blunderbuss charged the stage screaming, “That’s my wife you jackass!”

    Understandably, I was less than excited when my fiancé suggested we go see Mystic Queen Thelma on our vacation in New Orleans. We were on Bourbon Street and saw Thelma’s blinking neon sign that read “Oracles Den”. Shaped like an arrow, it pointed down some narrow stairs that ended just outside a pieced together tent stuck between two buildings.

    “You know this is a sham?” I said.

    “I don’t know. It might be fun. What if she can see something about the wedding?” Rain said.

    “What…are you getting cold feet?” I teased.

    “No,” she said looking at the ground dragging her toe through the line of red brick dust across the threshold of the tent. “I’m just afraid that…you know…what if my sister….”

    “Rain,” I interrupted. “You’re crazy. Your sister’s not going to try to upstage your wedding day.”

    Rain had an identical twin sister, Kerri, whom I had never met. Supposedly, only those closest to them could tell them apart. Each struggled for her own identity. From Rain’s perspective, Kerri always had to outdo her every choice and accomplishment. In high school, Rain was salutatorian while Kerri was valedictorian. Rain was accepted at Cal State, but Kerri got a full ride at Harvard. Rain rarely had a boyfriend, and Kerri frequently dated the business elite. Now Rain was afraid that Kerri would once again find a way to outshine her.

    “Derek, you don’t understand. She does it all the time…without fail. I just know she’s going to find a way to do it again,” she said.

    “Our wedding is less than two months away. What could she do in that amount of time?”

    “Humor me,” she said and pulled me into the tent.

    The air was thick with incense. Everything was lined with black satin. A person was sitting at a circular table in the middle wearing a black robe with a hood covering the individual’s head and face. I could only assume Queen Thelma was under the hood.

    “Please take a seat Derek McMillan. See what the spirits will reveal.”

    “How’d you know my name?” I said. “Do you have microphones outside?
    Thelma did not respond. She only stood and motioned for me to sit in front of a large crystal ball.

    “Go on. She won’t bite,” said Rain.

    I reluctantly took a seat and looked into the orb. It immediately filled with smoke.

    “Nice trick,” I said.

    Thelma said, “Gaze into the mist. Open your mind to the spirits. Reveal to no one what you see.”

    I continued to look into the fog, and surprisingly, an image started to come into focus. I was in bed next to Rain in some island bungalow. She was naked, asleep and beautiful.

    I jumped from the table. “How’d you do that?”

    Thelma said, “The spirits have spoken. Tread wisely Mr. McMillan. Now go!” Thelma stepped back and disappeared with the help of a fog machine and strobe light without asking for payment.

    Leaving the tent and returning to the street, Rain asked, “So how was it?”

    “Weird. Let’s just say we can plan on a romantic trip sometime in our future.”

    “Oh yeah? I like the sound of that. Maybe someplace warm?”

    “Maybe.” Trying not to reveal too many details, I asked, “You ever been tempted to get a tramp stamp?”

    “What? I hate tattoos! My sister got one a few years ago, and it’s awful.”

    1. Observer Tim

      Great story, Herald. At least Rain has a chance to act to forestall the event (marriage, affair, or cuckolding) in advance. You kind of telegraphed the reveal with the comment about the identical twin, but I’m not sure how you could introduce the element without doing so.

      1. Herald Harbinger

        Thanks Observer Tim. I agree with your note. However, I do wonder if we are biased because we know the premise of the prompt as we read each other’s submissions. I’ll ask my wife to read it without any foreknowledge of the prompt and see if I say too much in advance.

      1. Herald Harbinger

        Thanks Critique. Derek wanted to know if Rain had one, and when she displays her distaste for tattoos, my hope was readers would understand that Derek only asked because he saw one in the vision. We also learn that the identical twin has one. It’s Kerri in the bed.

    2. lionetravail

      Nicely told story- I agree with the prior comments, including OT’s earliest one. I think you could mention the sister early, but maybe leave out the ‘identical twin’ part of the descriptor. Put the twin part into the reveal, as in: (and this is just a suggestion on the ‘how’ which came to me)

      “What? I hate tattoos! My sister got one… awful.”

      “Huh. She older than you? Younger?”

      “Neither, actually, she’s my twin.”

      Whoops. ‘Tread wisely’, the fortuneteller said? No freaking kidding!

  26. Critique

    Mandy shuddered dramatically, clung to my arm and pressed against my side as I pushed aside the burlap flap and led her into the Oracles Den.

    “It’s for laughs babe.” I patted her hand. “Doesn’t mean anything.”

    Mandy and I had been seeing each other for a few months now. She was fun, could cook a mean linguine, and had the most luscious lips God ever created on a woman’s face.

    We had to let our eyes to adjust to the dim interior. Lit candles lined two sides of the small rectangle table and behind it sat the clairvoyant. Her head sported a purple turban, and she wore a shimmery black outfit and had used a heavy hand with the black eyeliner. Between her claw like fingers – tipped with assorted colourful nails – was a crystal ball about the size of a large bowling ball mounted on a translucent square block. She smiled and her bracelets jingled musically as she waved us to the seats in front of her.

    “Is this your first time?” she purred.

    We both nodded.

    “Who would like to go first?” She looked at me.

    Mandy poked me with her elbow. “Your idea. Go for it Ted.”

    “Ted. I want you to relax, focus on the lights in the ball and when I ask, you tell me what you see okay.” The clairvoyant’s voice was slow and sonorous.

    Feeling stupid I sat forward obediently and looked into the ball.

    “And what’s your name dearie?” The purple turban leaned to Mandy.

    When Mandy replied she told her: “Hmm. Mandy I want you to sit back in your chair, relax your shoulders, and think about each breath moving in and moving out. Deeply. Slowly.”

    “Okay Ted, tell me what you’re seeing.”

    My eyes were crossing as I stared into the swirl of light and shadows.

    “Uh, I think I see some red and green colors.” What a bunch of hocus-pocus.

    “Lets have a look.” The clairvoyant moved in, her turban almost brushing my forehead as she peered alongside into the crystal ball.

    “I see in five years time your future involves a tall red headed woman, dimpled cheeks, and Celtic music. She’s a singer.”

    “There are shamrocks, and a journey to a distant land.” The clairvoyant waved her hands over the ball. “This woman will be your life companion.”

    Mandy’s gasp distracted me from the curious account.

    She sat holding clasped hands to her mouth, eyes wide in shock.

    “Mandy. What is it?” Regrettably she had drama queen running through her veins.

    “I know.” Mandy’s voice rose tremulously.“I know who that woman is.”

    “Come on Mandy.” I couldn’t believe my ears.

    “It’s Mom.” Mandy cried. “It’s me Mother.”

    I remembered the pictures Mandy had shown me on facebook. Her Mother with those legs, those lips… she was sizzling hot. And a voice like an angel – I knew because I’d listened to her, devoured her on YouTube many times. Guilt pierced my gut like arrows from a bow.

    I glanced back when I followed Mandy out and the clairvoyant lifted her hands with bracelets jangling, and shrugged as if to say, “That’s what I saw. Believe it. Or not.”

    1. Observer Tim

      Nice one, Critique. The imagery was well-presented and the reactions believable. I found out a lot about Mandy just from her comments.

      One thing does make me scratch my head; why does Ted have to be told it’s Mandy’s mom when he’s been ogling her on the internet?

      1. Critique

        Thanks for commenting O Tim.
        I’m thinking Ted’s denial about the attraction to the Mom stalled his brain so he didn’t catch the significance at first – or (most plausible), the author could have inserted a sentence or two to clear that bit of confusion up 😉

    2. lionetravail

      It’s a novel idea and a guilty-feeling story, and rich because of it. It has just a bit of that son “Stacy’s Mom” vibe to it, only from the POV of Stacy. Sounds like mom is a biotch to he daughter.

      I like the switch of the mechanic to the medium telling what she sees, and letting the others interpret, rather than them seeing themselves. OT’s comment is a good one- you’d want to address this before you’d submit it somewhere for contest or pub.

          1. Kerry Charlton

            I loved it Critique. Your description of the tent and the gypsy were dead on. The Mom thing was my initial thought in my own story. At the last minute I changed the red head to a half sister. Great minds think a lot.HMMM.

  27. Trevor

    Please comment your thoughts on my story. Be completely honest! I really struggled with this one, so I apologize if you don’t like it.

    You Can’t Change The Future

    We should never have gone into The Oracle’s Den. I could tell from the look of the small building that it was no good. The black paint was peeling and the posters on the walls were twisted and macabre. But Amber, my wife of two years, was into everything horror. That was the whole reason why she asked me take her to our town’s Halloween fair. So I just went along with it.

    We sat down at the round table in the middle of the room and a tall, beautiful woman walked out of a back room, which was separated from the main room by a black curtain. I had to admit, the woman’s beauty caught my attention. Her hourglass figure seemed almost unreal. She looked like she was from the cover of a fashion magazine.

    “Hello. I am Misty. Would you like to see your future?” Misty introduced her. There was a heavy European accent in her voice. It made her even more attractive. She put her hands over the crystal ball which was in the center of the table and stared at it intensely. Her blue eyes seemed to glow even brighter as she stared at the glass ball on the table. Her solid red lips seemed to mouth something, but I couldn’t make it out.

    All of a sudden, a scene appeared inside the crystal ball. I was in a bookstore, one of my favorite places to be, and was looking through the horror section as usual. Just then, a young woman with short brunette hair snuck up behind me and hugged me around the stomach. I turned around to face the woman and gave her a long, passionate kiss. Amber gasped in surprise while I sat in disbelief.

    “I can’t believe it! That’s Kayla!” Amber exclaimed as she jumped up from the table.

    “Who’s Kayla? I’ve never meet that woman before in my life!” I asked Amber. Her eyes were wide with dismay and she was pacing the room.

    “She’s another waitress at the coffeehouse! We’re friends! Why would she do this?” Amber exclaimed, her voice shrill and upset. Amber was a waitress at a coffeehouse in town, which explained how she knew Kayla.

    “This is what will happen five years from now.” Misty said, her voice low and serious. She had a vindictive grin on her face, like she enjoyed seeing Amber suffer.

    “No! No!” Amber shouted, getting up in Misty’s face. But Misty remained unfazed, staring blankly at Amber with her illuminating eyes. Then, in a sheer act of rage, Amber grabbed the crystal ball off the table and threw it across the room. The glass ball shattered, sending shards of glass flying across the room.

    “Amber!” I screamed out, shielding my face from the flying glass. But before I could stop her, Amber had ran out of the Oracle’s Den. I took one last glance at Misty before I ran after her. She had the same calm, spiteful countenance and was waving her fingers at me, as if trying to seduce me.

    When I found Amber, she was already waiting in the car. I tried to talk to her, but she refused to say a word. I could tell from the scowl on her face that she was still furious about the shocking revelation Misty’s crystal ball disclosed. So we rode in silence and went straight to bed as soon as we got home. Even though we were in the same bed, it felt like we were thousands of miles apart.

    The next morning, I woke up and found the bed empty. Presuming that Amber was making breakfast, I went into the kitchen. But the kitchen was empty and still. “Where could she be?” I thought as I started to make the coffee myself. “She doesn’t work on Saturdays.”

    As I sat down at the kitchen, sipping my warming beverage, I heard a loud slam from the living room. It sounded like a clap of thunder. I rushed to the living room and saw Amber standing in the doorway. Her hair was stringy and messed up, like she had gotten it caught in a vacuum cleaner. Her face was twisted in a look daze, as if she had no idea where she was.

    Then I saw it. The pistol in her hand.

    “Amber? What happened? What did you do?” I asked, my voice shaking with terror.

    “I….I had to do it. I had to. She was going to ruin us, Henry. I couldn’t let her do that!” Amber shouted back at me. I noticed that she was starting to tremble. Her right hand, which she was holding the gun with, shook violently.

    “Amber…..did you kill Kayla?” I was backing away, preparing to make a run for it if Amber decided to turn the gun on me next.

    “I had to!” Amber’s voice was suddenly blaring and high. “She was going to steal you from me! She told me she’d always loved you and that she was going to have you no matter what. She was asking for it!”

    Just then, the lights went out. I was plunged into complete darkness, unable to even see Amber’s figure in the pitch dark room. I screamed out to Amber, but she didn’t respond.

    Just then, I heard the scream. That bloodcurdling scream that seemed to echo throughout the room. Then, I heard something thud against the ground with a sickening squish. I stood there, incapable of moving. It was like my legs were paralyzed with fear.

    Then, the lights came on-and it was my turn to scream. Amber was lying on the floor, a large wound in her stomach. Dark blood oozed from the cut, spreading out onto the white carpet, turning it a black red. I collapsed to the floor and vomited onto the carpet. Just then, I heard soft footsteps approach me. I looked up and saw a familiar face.

    “Hello, Henry.” Misty said, leaning over me. The smile on her face was the same condescending grin she had back at her booth. The only change to her was that her usually bright eyes were dim and savage. Clutched in her hand was a blood soaked dagger.

    “Why did you do this?” I asked, weak with grief. Misty smiled and pressed the knife against my throat, drawing blood.

    “You can’t change the future, Henry.” Those were the last words I would ever hear.

  28. Trevor

    Please comment your thoughts on my story. Be completely honest! I really struggled with this one, so I apologize if you don’t like it.

    You Can’t Change The Future

    We should never have gone into The Oracle’s Den. I could tell from the look of the small building that it was no good. The black paint was peeling and the posters on the walls were twisted and macabre. But Amber, my wife of two years, was into everything horror. That was the whole reason why she asked me take her to our town’s Halloween fair. So I just went along with it.

    We sat down at the round table in the middle of the room and a tall, beautiful woman walked out of a back room, which was separated from the main room by a black curtain. I had to admit, the woman’s beauty caught my attention. Her hourglass figure seemed almost unreal. She looked like she was from the cover of a fashion magazine.

    “Hello. I am Misty. Would you like to see your future?” Misty introduced her. There was a heavy European accent in her voice. It made her even more attractive. She put her hands over the crystal ball which was in the center of the table and stared at it intensely. Her blue eyes seemed to glow even brighter as she stared at the glass ball on the table. Her solid red lips seemed to mouth something, but I couldn’t make it out.

    All of a sudden, a scene appeared inside the crystal ball. I was in a bookstore, one of my favorite places to be, and was looking through the horror section as usual. Just then, a young woman with short brunette hair snuck up behind me and hugged me around the stomach. I turned around to face the woman and gave her a long, passionate kiss. Amber gasped in surprise while I sat in disbelief.

    “I can’t believe it! That’s Kayla!” Amber exclaimed as she jumped up from the table.

    “Who’s Kayla? I’ve never meet that woman before in my life!” I asked Amber. Her eyes were wide with dismay and she was pacing the room.

    “She’s another waitress at the coffeehouse! We’re friends! Why would she do this?” Amber exclaimed, her voice shrill and upset. Amber was a waitress at a coffeehouse in town, which explained how she knew Kayla.

    “This is what will happen five years from now.” Misty said, her voice low and serious. She had a vindictive grin on her face, like she enjoyed seeing Amber suffer.

    “No! No!” Amber shouted, getting up in Misty’s face. But Misty remained unfazed, staring blankly at Amber with her illuminating eyes. Then, in a sheer act of rage, Amber grabbed the crystal ball off the table and threw it across the room. The glass ball shattered, sending shards of glass flying across the room.

    “Amber!” I screamed out, shielding my face from the flying glass. But before I could stop her, Amber had ran out of the Oracle’s Den. I took one last glance at Misty before I ran after her. She had the same calm, spiteful countenance and was waving her fingers at me, as if trying to seduce me.

    When I found Amber, she was already waiting in the car. I tried to talk to her, but she refused to say a word. I could tell from the scowl on her face that she was still furious about the shocking revelation Misty’s crystal ball disclosed. So we rode in silence and went straight to bed as soon as we got home. Even though we were in the same bed, it felt like we were thousands of miles apart.

    The next morning, I woke up and found the bed empty. Presuming that Amber was making breakfast, I went into the kitchen. But the kitchen was empty and still. “Where could she be?” I thought as I started to make the coffee myself. “She doesn’t work on Saturdays.”

    As I sat down at the kitchen, sipping my warming beverage, I heard a loud slam from the living room. It sounded like a clap of thunder. I rushed to the living room and saw Amber standing in the doorway. Her hair was stringy and messed up, like she had gotten it caught in a vacuum cleaner. Her face was twisted in a look daze, as if she had no idea where she was.

    Then I saw it. The pistol in her hand.

    “Amber? What happened? What did you do?” I asked, my voice shaking with terror.

    “I….I had to do it. I had to. She was going to ruin us, Henry. I couldn’t let her do that!” Amber shouted back at me. I noticed that she was starting to tremble. Her right hand, which she was holding the gun with, shook violently.

    “Amber…..did you kill Kayla?” I was backing away, preparing to make a run for it if Amber decided to turn the gun on me next.

    “I had to!” Amber’s voice was suddenly blaring and high. “She was going to steal you from me! She told me she’d always loved you and that she was going to have you no matter what. She was asking for it!”

    Just then, the lights went out. I was plunged into complete darkness, unable to even see Amber’s figure in the pitch dark room. I screamed out to Amber, but she didn’t respond.

    Just then, I heard the scream. That bloodcurdling scream that seemed to echo throughout the room. Then, I heard something thud against the ground with a sickening squish. I stood there, incapable of moving. It was like my legs were paralyzed with fear.

    Then, the lights came on-and it was my turn to scream. Amber was lying on the floor, a large wound in her stomach. Dark blood oozed from the cut, spreading out onto the white carpet, turning it a black red. I collapsed to the floor and vomited onto the carpet. Just then, I heard soft footsteps approach me. I looked up and saw a familiar face.

    “Hello, Henry.” Misty said, leaning over me. The smile on her face was the same condescending grin she had back at her booth. The only change to her was that her usually bright eyes were dim and savage. Clutched in her hand was a bloody dagger.

    “Why did you do this?” I asked, weak with grief. Misty smiled and pressed the knife against my throat, drawing blood.

    “You can’t change the future, Henry.” Those were the last words I would ever hear.

    1. lionetravail

      It’s a good story Trevor, and the sense of increasing desperation comes through well.

      It is a pretty serious leap from worrying about a crystal ball vision to murder though, and though Amber is obviously upsettable, I’m not sure you telegraph just how screwed up she is that she’d commit murder of a friend based on the set up.

      Aso, i’m not sure why Misty kills Amber at the end, and then says you can’t change the future when she just did.by killing both of them.

    2. Observer Tim

      This is a fascinating and enjoyable story, Trevor, though not without a few bumps.

      Amber’s got a heck of a temper on her; if the story were longer, it might not hurt to develop that a bit before this event.

      Misty’s actions are completely baffling to me. The only way I can resolve it is if she had planned the entire episode, including Amber killing her co-worker, from the beginning. If so, a statement hinting in that direction (e.g. “Just as I planned.”) would be very helpful.

      Paragraphs 2-4 could use some clean-up work. In descriptive paragraphs it’s often better to use longer sentences to slow the reader down and make them pay attention to what you’re describing. Also, you can probably trim some of the space prepositions out (e.g. “… crystal ball which was in the center…”); just ask yourself if they’re really necessary.

      Also, Misty’s introduction is both stated in dialogue and described; you only need one or the other. As a reader, I like the dialogue better.

  29. Colonel Plops

    Marilyn Manor: Carnival

    The manor was cheap for the size. But Henry Stoker had to make the joke that immediately made his pregnant wife, Georgia, turn away from it.

    “It’s so cheap, you’d think someone had died in it or something,” he said as they entered.

    “You really think so? That someone died in here?” Georgia asked taking the question to seriously.

    “No one’s died in here,” the relator, an overweight, balding man in a suit jacket much to tight for him assured them.

    “It was a joke anyway sweetie,” Henry calmed Georgia, putting his arm around her. Joke or no joke, the house belonged to the Stokers only a few weeks later.

    It was their third day there that Georgia encountered Juliet, a young, quiet girl who knocked on the door so loud that one would think she’d lived there all her life. Georgia ran to the door, excited to have anyone to talk to since the house was out of the way, with no neighbors, Henry was at a meeting. But she was surprised to see the girl dressed in the maids uniform rather than someone handing out flyers about how she should try the pizza place down the street, or someone offering to cut the overwhelmingly high grass.

    “I’m Julie… or, I mean, Juliet,” the girl introduced herself to Georgia.

    “Why, hello Juliet,” Georgia greeted the odd girl after collecting her thoughts, “and what is it you’d like?”

    “I was the- uh- previous owner. I sold you this house. My boss was the owner before me, but she left the house to me when she- uh- ummm… well, died.”

    “I’m sorry Juliet,” Georgia said, wanting nothing more but for this girl to leave and take her awkward way of talking with her. None the less something in Georgia felt sympathy for her and she kept in the spirit of her normal hospitality.

    “It’s fine. Well, but, there is one thing.”

    “What’s that?”

    “I’ve worked here for so long. And, this might sound weird but, I really miss the place. Not just the place, but, working in this old place. I- I want to come back. I’d work for free if you wanted me to…” Juliet’s speech turned into a mumble that didn’t end until Georgia interrupted it.
    “Come in girl, I understand. We can talk.”

    Juliet soon had a job, and, Georgia soon didn’t mind the girl since her way of speaking had just been nerves and she somehow seemed like she belonged in the old place. Henry, while surprised to see a maid when he arrived home, grew to like Juliet too. It wasn’t until the day Juliet took off sick that Georgia grew concerned about Juliet’s presence.

    Georgia was taking Henry’s office things to the basement. As far as she knew, she hadn’t even been in the basement yet! But, as she carried a box full of paper, oh though she was sure the basement would hold some kind of surprise since it had been so cheap (at the best a rat and at the worst a dead body), but when she heard circus music she grew concerned.

    “Hello?” she called out into the music. It began slow, but as she continued down into the basement it got louder and clearer, as if an entire circus was down there.

    “Come down.”

    “Who’s there?” she was almost to the bottom of the stairs. She could now smell popcorn, cotton candy, smoke; she could smell an entire circus.

    “The Madame is in. Come down,” the voice responded. When Georgia reached the bottom of the stairs she was no longer on a home, but outside, at night. A carnival sat on the cold muddy ground, but in the center was “The Oracles Den”. Georgia knew this was where the voice that called her down was coming from. She looked at the small tent carefully. A sign hung on it: Madame LeClair is in.

    “Come in darling, you must be freezing,” the voice suddenly startled Georgia from her concentration and she stepped into the tent, curious.

    “What is this place?”

    “You should know, you bought the place darling,” the small red headed lady said through a yellow smile. “Sit, and I’ll show you you’re future, that’s why you’re here right?”

    “Umm… I just wanted to-” Georgia wanted to go back upstairs.

    “Nonsense, you wouldn’t have come here if you didn’t want to know, now sit!” Georgia obeyed her and sat. “Now,” Madame LeClair set her hands on the crystal ball and closed her eyes. “Look.” Again, Georgia obeyed and looked into the ball. She saw Henry. She saw Juliet.

    “I love you,” Henry said.

    “I love you too-” Georgia’s jaw dropped and without even thinking her hand swung out and hit the ball. It was stronger than her and, oh though it hurt her to hit it, it fell to the ground and shattered. Madame LeClair’s hands were brought up quickly and her eyes opened in time with her gasp. For a minute she had lost her smile, but it came back quick.

    “Fierce aren’t we?” she laughed.

    “I- I’m sorry. What is this? Who are you?”

    “That’s the future darling. I show it, don’t make it. Don’t blame me.”

    “What’re you?”

    “I’m a ghost, died here. There’s plenty here. In life this circus was my domain. Now it’s your basement. There’s plenty of us here. You’ll meet more. In fact, there’s one among you right now.”

    “Who?”

    “Nothing struck you odd about that Juliet girl?”

    Then the circus was gone. Georgia was alone, in the basement that still faintly smelled of popcorn.

    “Is everything all right?”

    Georgia jumped at the voice and turned around to see Juliet standing at the top of the stairs.

    “I thought you weren’t coming in today? I thought you were sick?”

    “Nah. I feel fine. I figured you could use some help bringing the office stuff down here.”

    Georgia laughed uncomfortably.

    “Yeah. I could use some help. Wanna go up and get that next box?”

    1. Colonel Plops

      This actually began as another response to last weeks prompt (it’s going to be a three part story when I’m done) and this is part two. Part One, called “Marilyn Manor: Killer” is posted on my blog and if you guys want I can post it on here too, just tell me. There is also an upcoming part three!

    2. Observer Tim

      This reads surreal and creepy, Colonel. It’s a very enjoyable take, especially the mixing of the two prompts. The initial part was a bit choppy; it might be better told in the dialogue-heavy style of the later part.

    3. lionetravail

      This is pretty interesting, and I’ll echo OT’s congrats on melding the two prompts to one story. I love the idea of a ghost-carnival in the basement of a house- talk about an interesting haunt!

      I think it needs a little something… the part about Juliet and her relationship to the carnival needs more description, I think. She’s got to be ‘real’, and not a ghost, if she’s doing chores, etc. Her fascination with the carnival that she’d be willing to work for free is great, but needs more explanation, or perhaps more mystery about the carnival than the circus ghost explaining everything. Like, for example, if Georgia were also affected by the otherworldly carnival in the same way as Juliet because of how eerie/beautiful/how it brings back good memories or nostalgia, whatever, it’d make this that much more powerful and internally consistent.

  30. MCKEVIN

    Doug suggested we visit Chicago’s Navy Pier as a peace offering to last night’s horrible argument. I agreed to go because we said things we couldn’t take back. I know all couples go through ups and downs and our road to marital bliss had been rocky at best. Doug had divorced his comatose wife, left his teenage children against both family wishes in order for us to happen. My baggage included my ex, a psycho FBI agent named Washington who’d made life with Doug a living hell.
    “Let’s go see our futures okay Tracy?” Doug asked staring at Feona’s Oracles booth.
    “Sure.” I said appreciating the truce. The room smelled like a new car when we entered. Feona had one lazy eye, didn’t wear the Fortune Teller’s turban and was seated at a red card table paying bills.
    “Welcome. Please, sit.” Feona said pointing to two high back chairs.
    “How much?” Doug asked getting straight to the point.
    “Two for twenty!” Feona said staring at me while Doug emptied in his pockets.
    “Here ya go!” Doug said throwing money across the table.
    “Join hands; focus into the ball of life and concentrate.” Feona instructed us while packing Doug’s loot in his shirt pocket. Feona trances off while I tried not to laugh.
    “Your time together is short.” Feona said opening his eyes while releasing our hands.
    “What?” Doug asked.
    “I knew this wasn’t a good idea.” I said scooting away from the table.
    “A stranger will make you happy.” Feona said pointing to me.
    “What did you see?” Doug asked. His tone agitated like last night. Doug channels his anger by driving fast. Everyone hates when he does it although he’s a good driver mad or otherwise.
    “It wasn’t you! The person’s initials are S and E.” Feona blurted out.
    “I can’t believe-“I said standing up.
    “When?” Doug asked.
    “Five years or less.” Feona stated.
    “How’ll it happen?” Doug inquired.
    “I can’t hear this!” I yelled heading to the door.
    “I don’t think-”
    “I didn’t pay you to think!” Doug said to Feona.
    “I’m out!” I said slamming the door behind me.
    “Trapped and you’ll burn to a crisp in a head on truck collision. There’ll be no survivors. Doctors will unsuccessfully try to contact your friend. He’ll suffer a nervous breakdown when he learns of your death. The new person will show him comfort. Do you have a will?” Feona asked.
    “Enough!” Doug hollered as he left without shaking Feona’s hand. He was pissed.
    “I’m driving!” I said as Doug opened the door and rushed past me. I saw Feona shuffling playing cards with a weird look on his face. I caught up to Doug thinking the experience was a waste of time and money.
    “You’re not taking this seriously are you Doug? I don’t even know anyone with those initials.” I laughed opening our Jeep’s doors.
    “Nah Tracy and as long you’re driving we’re fine.” Doug said.
    “Right! Do you know anyone with those initials?” I said fastening my seat belt.
    “The only person I know with S and E for initials is my ex brother in law.” Doug said staring out the window.
    “The guy who you also argued with last night about driving too fast?” I didn’t know Doug’s ex brother in law but I laughed at the thought as I pulled out into traffic.

    1. Observer Tim

      Intensely emotional take, McKevin. You did a particularly good job with the dialogue. Now I’m wondering whether the future was changed or not by the MC’s decision to drive.

      The only thing that threw me was Feona, and it’s my fault not yours. I kept changing him into a woman until a stray pronoun reminded me.

      1. MCKEVIN

        Lol. I wondered about my characters future also. So I continued the story in my own personal stash but I’ll be sharing bits and pieces. (Call me Selfish.) I did post one of the short chapters above. Thanks for reading and commenting and keep reading and writing.

    2. lionetravail

      I agree, good and intense. There was a tense shift to present at one point (which might be a typo, an ‘s’ for a ‘d’); “Feona trances off”.

      Some confusion for me though, and it may be this morning’s migraine so apologies if it is- your main character who’s telling the story as narrator says “I’m out”, and leaves, slamming the door, but then your MC somehow knows what’s going on inside when Feona tells Doug the bad news.

      The ending is great, leaving the threat hanging despite the foreknowledge, and is a nice touch.

      1. MCKEVIN

        I struggled with the very issues you brought up. Those issues have corrected in my expanded short story. Thanks for keeping me on track. Note: I knew I was going to expand this week’s prompt in my personal files. I intended to leave chapter 1 open so that I could continue the story. I also knew you’d like it because I take some cues from you and your writings. Thanks again.

      1. MCKEVIN

        11 02 2014

        Dear Hiba Gardezi:

        Thank you for reading and commenting on my submission for this week’s prompt. Your words are encouraging and brought a smile to my face especially since I had decided to expand the piece. I’ve provided the forum with an update above. Thanks again. You do me proud.

        McKevin Webster
        Your Colleague and Fellow Best Selling Author
        lol….

  31. aadairc

    A ratty old board hung over an open door at the end of the street vendors. It said, “Oracles Den”. I was intrigued and Stacy was set. We walked through the open door and my nose began to crawl; incense. The room was small, maybe 8 feet by 8 feet. There were sheets hung over the window that muted the natural light causing an eerie glow to settle upon the room like the morning dew. There was one small table in the center of the room covered with cloth.
    “Welcome.” The Oracle, I presumed, looked like a gypsy. Her skin was sun-worn and leathery. She had high set cheek bones and sliver eyes that were framed by her jet-black hair.
    “Welcome to the Oracles Den”, she continued. “You’ve come to test the Fates and glimpse the future. Take a seat, if you dare.”
    “Oh this is perfect!” Stacy exclaimed. “I’ve always wanted to do something like this. It’s like fortune telling.” She whispered in my ear.
    “Sure,” I reluctantly replied. “If you want to.”
    She nodded and sat down eagerly. “So how does this work exactly? Do you read my palm or draw some cards or something?”
    “Not quite my dear. I use the crystal ball to see into one’s future. But it’s not yours I’m interested in. It’s his.” She turned her attention to me.
    “Me?”
    “Yes dear boy. I can’t help but feel something…special about you. Would you mind?” She said motioning toward the crystal ball that sat in the middle of the table.
    Stacy seemed a little put off to find the Oracle disinterested in her. I didn’t blame her. “Sure.”
    “Good. Now have a seat and look deeply into the center of the crystal ball my boy. Focus on the center of the ball and I want you to try and picture your future. Try and focus on where you’ll be in several years.” As she spoke the ball got cloudy and began to swirl. “Good, good, it’s working. Keep focusing my boy, right in the center of the ball, it’s almost here.”
    I felt funny. Heavy. I couldn’t stop staring at the crystal ball. I’ve never been hypnotized before, but I’m guessing it felt something like this. And that’s when I saw it. Small at first, then growing in size were two figures in the ball. They were walking together, their backs were to me, and they were holding hands. I could tell I was the guy, but I had never seen the girl before. The figures stopped and faced each other. They were laughing. My figure looked at the girl and took her face in his hands and kissed her. She kissed him back.
    “How could you?” Stacy yelled, tears rolling down her face.
    “What? This isn’t real. It’s obviously fake. I don’t even know that girl. I’ve never seen her before in my life.”
    “Yeah, well I do know her. And it’s not fake. That’s my sister. I can’t believe it.” She turned and ran out leaving me confused and alone with the Oracle.

  32. nvlwriter

    When Death Comes Calling

    The clunking of horse’s hoofs stopped abruptly as the carriage came to a halt in front of Ford’s theater. I stepped down from the coach and held out my hand to help the First Lady as she stepped out. The president had several prior engagements and had asked his wife to meet him here. I was honored that out of all the people she could have asked to escort her she specifically asked for me; an enthusiasm that my wife did not share.

    Ever since that cursed day that I allowed my wife to talk me into visiting that awful woman’s parlor I’ve heard nothing but allegations and complaints. I dismissed the woman as the fraud that she was after her outlandish prediction of my standing with another woman other than my wife, and especially with Mary Todd, who by the way is now Mary Todd Lincoln. Why Margret admires that witch-woman so, I’ll never understand. A prophetess I believe she called her. Hah, Madame Blavatsky is nothing but a common seer, a shyster and a con- artist and that’s exactly what I told her that day. But I do have to admit the woman does have some sort of spell over, not only my wife, but most of the ladies in Washington. You’d think that the wives of Senators and representatives would know better. I’ve even heard that Mary Todd Lincoln has had that she-devil over at the White House for private meetings; séances no doubt, such foolishness. The Bible clearly warns about silly women and idle time.

    Walking arm and arm with Mrs. Lincoln we smile for the crowd and make our way into the grand theater. As we enter I’m impressed with the restoration that has been made as I glance around at the splendor of the high ceilings and the many elegant decretive features that stand out. You wouldn’t believe that this place had nearly burned to the ground by the looks of it now.

    We were led to the balcony level where the president was waiting and as we walked passed the president’s bodyguard, John Parker, I smiled and nodded having known him for many years. “Thank you Harry.” Mr. Lincoln said to me as I led the First Lady to her seat. “I’m a blessed man having friends such as you.”

    “It’s my honor Mr. President.” I said as Mrs. Lincoln took the seat next to her husband.

    “Won’t you join us?” The president asked.

    “I would be honored Mr. President, but I really must be meeting my wife. Good evening to you sir.” I managed to say with a bow of my head. Then I exited.

    Upon being greeted with a stone cold stare by my wife at the front entrance I knew that this was going to be a long evening.

    “Did you enjoy your little fling with the president’s wife?”

    “Margret, don’t start that again…especially here in public.”

    “Well, you certainly didn’t mind flaunting yourself around in public with her.”

    “I’ll not even dignify that with a response.” I said gritting my teeth.

    “It’s just like Madame Blavatsky said. You’d stand with Mary Todd.”

    “Now don’t start that nonsense again. I told you there is nothing between us. I’m simply a trusted friend.”

    “Well I remember what Madame Blavatsky said…”You’ll stand with her and her life is shattered in the shadow of her house, when darkness falls upon her and her spouse.”

    “I said stop it Margret, it’s all nonsense…sorcery I tell you. You’ve been bewitched”

    “What else could it mean Harry? You’re going to break up their marriage!”

    “Stop it, this is nonsense! I told you that that woman is a charlatan…” The sound of gunfire rang through the theater as shouts screamed out. I looked around half stunned at all the commotion and saw a man leaping from the balcony and landing on the stage. “Sic semper tyrannis!” The man screamed and then ran across the stage and disappeared though a doorway backstage.

    My Latin was rusty but I was sure that the translation was “Thus always to tyrants.” Then it slowly sank in and I stared toward the president’s seat in the balcony. I could see that my deepest fears were true. The president had been shot. I turned and stared at my wife in disbelief but could not respond to the horror in her eyes.

    “Madame Blavatsky was right.” She said. “…her life is shattered in the shadow of her house, when darkness falls upon her and her spouse.”

    I stood in stone silence as the masses around me stormed past and out the front doors and as I turned my head I saw her, if only for a fleeting moment I saw her. She stood just outside the curtains that hung down near the entrance staring at me with those eyes, with those soul-piercing devil’s eyes. Madame Blavatsky was there…or was she? Could this be one of her tricks, one of her spells? My knees got weak and I could feel my head beginning to spin and I felt my wife grab me just as I began to fall.

    When I woke up my wife was standing over me and was frantically fanning me with her hand-fan. “Are you alright dear? You look as if you’ve seen a ghost.” She said wiping the sweat from my brow.
    “A ghost?” I said as my wits slowly returned. “No…it was no ghost, it was the Devil herself.”

    1. Observer Tim

      Great historical take, nvlwriter. I knew what was coming at “Ford’s Theater” but the result was still entrancing. Not sure Madame B would be happy being portrayed as a villain, but that is the side effect of one’s works being glommed onto by the occultist movement.

    2. lionetravail

      Very cool idea here! I always love a well done story which builds on history or legend, so nicely done. If I would make one suggestion, it would be to eliminate the exposition/explanation text which interrupts your otherwise engaging narrative: things like- ” The president had several prior engagements and had asked his wife to meet him here. I was honored that out of all the people she could have asked to escort her she specifically asked for me; an enthusiasm that my wife did not share.”, or like “Hah, Madame Blavatsky is nothing …about silly women and idle time.” This is more explanation than revealing it through dialogue or action, as you do elsewhere in the piece, and (at least in my opinion) is less active and interesting than your dialogue and action.

      One other suggestion, which is hard to do in pieces like this- you could work the story to hold the identities and location and period in secret, and then stage the reveal that it was Lincoln all along as a truly powerful reveal and the twist of the story.

      Example to incorporate all the above:

      I held out my hand to help the woman from her carriage. “Mary, so wonderful to see you again and to allow me to escort you to the theater this fine day.”

      She dimpled in delight as she took it and stepped down. “Oh, but what must your wife be thinking, Harry? It’s deliciously scandalous for a wedded to be so gallant to a married woman, don’t you think?”

      “Frankly, my wife may make what assumptions she likes,” I said airily as I took her arm and led her inside. “They’re of little concern to me.”

      Not to take anything away from this very fun story you wrote, but what I tried to do here was just an example of how to leave the context of the story and the identity of the characters vague for now… when you get to the point of…. “There was a gunshot, and a man leapt from the balcony to the stage…”, you can knock the ball out of the park with the character saying to his wife something like: “Dear God- President Lincoln’s been shot!” to shock us with the ending. Obviously, the story is stand-alone as it is, but you could amp up the power of it significantly by revealing the context only at the end.

  33. Reaper

    Quantum String Chaos Ripple Effect ‘or’ That’s What She Said

    It was like watching internet porn with the soundtrack of a silent movie.

    Bill was one of those guys with strong beliefs on everything. Chief amongst them, until a man put a ring on his woman’s finger she was fair game. His current girl had not yet come to grips with how the world worked. She had also been “taken” when Bill met her. He made short work of getting her to trade up. She harbored some latent beliefs that needed breaking if the relationship was to last.

    Her suggestion of the county fair seemed good, quaint even. When Samantha squeed over the tent marked ‘Crystal Blue Persuasion’ Bill knew there were going to be problems. Still, it was the third date so he relented.

    The gypsy fortune teller, a woman selling hokum and showing too much skin, insisted the crystal ball wanted to show Bill something. I’d have her fixed up in a week, Bill thought. Then he looked.

    It was slightly embarrassing because Samantha saw too. The vision started with a newspaper dated exactly five years in the future. Bill was with another woman, thirty seconds in he was with her, with her. Samantha was obviously absent.

    From the clothes the woman wore, briefly, Bill could tell it was a first date. By the time ‘sex date’ time came his girl would be showing a lot less skin or kicked to the curb. So Bill knew the vision was of him and a slut he intended on fixing. He wondered where Samantha had gone but not for long.

    “That’s my ex-wife!” Samantha exclaimed.

    Well that answered that. Bill had never paused to consider he was stealing less attractive lesbian. Then he was distracted by the festivities and how disturbing it was to see the woman talking and have no idea what she was saying. Then it got even odder.

    As the couple uncoupled the woman started tying future Bill to the bed. He had never let a woman do that before, and definitely not face down. The woman said something and this time he did not have to wonder what it was as a flood of images conveyed the idea.

    Samantha with a black eye.

    Samantha kneeling demurely in church with Bill lording over her.

    Samantha shaking her head and sending her old, deviant ‘friends’ away.

    Samantha crying on her cell phone with her mother’s number showing in the screen.

    Samantha in the kitchen cooking dinner while she wistfully looked out the window.

    A note, signed by Samantha, apologizing to the ex. It explained how trapped she felt, how she had always felt more physically attracted to men but should have followed her heart and stayed with her wife.

    The bedroom returned as a shadow, cast by something huge, fell over hogtied future Bill. The woman spoke again, this time present Bill could read her lips. She spoke the same words Bill had said to countless misguided women in lesbian relationships.

    “All you need is the right man.”

    1. jhowe

      Whoa, I think future Bill is gonna get nailed. Who knows, maybe he’ll like it. This had some power in it Reaper, I liked it. I loved those five sentences that all started with ‘Samantha…’

    2. lionetravail

      Hee! Bill’s so unlikable from the get-go that seeing him get his (dare I say it?) comeuppance (hah, actually grinning here about that word choice) in the future vision is just awesome.

      Samantha is, in contrast, a very milquetoast-type character at the beginning, but the crystal ball images, presented just as a series of images and no exposition, gives her such a rich persona that it’s impressive as hell how you did that.

      Great story, great twist at the end, and fantastic ending line.

    3. Manwe38

      Great ending here….loved the setup, and the fact that you had the guts to make your MC so unlikeable.

      I wonder how Bill’s soon-to-be…new…experience is going to change him…

    4. Observer Tim

      Poetic justice at the expense of legal justice; this is a well-told tale, Reaper. Normally I sympathize to some degree with anyone who ends up a victim, but in this case I’ll make an exception. You painted his character that well. 🙂

    5. snuzcook

      Nicely done, Reaper! Plenty of unexpected twists and satisfying image of the bad guy gets his in the end (sorry!). If I had to ponder the implications, I guess I would wonder if this is a cautionary opportunity for Bill to choose a different path, or just a way to torture him for the next 5 years with a certainty of what is coming?

    6. Reaper

      So I am having another one of those weeks. Thank you everyone for the comments. I stopped commenting and have been quietly reading. Working too much and not loving the job but needing the money desperately. It is eating into my writing time and sadly my time for here too. I have been reading and finding some amazing stuff but right now I can’t keep up and feel bad about that. However I’m glad this story touched some people’s funny bones and senses of justice. Now back to trying to hobble together the next thing for sale. And Lionetravail I’m glad you scratched the surface. I’ll try to be more active on the next prompt but I can’t make promises. Please know these stories are keeping me sane though.

  34. jhowe

    One thing New Orleans had plenty of during Mardi Gras was fortunetellers. Psychics, visionaries, soothsayers, seers, whatever one wanted to call them, there was an abundant supply. The Oracles Den had been suggested by a colleague and there we were, me and Madame LaPerte standing there with our hands up and my girlfriend Lisa with a snub nose .38 pointed at us as the raucous Bourbon Street activities could be heard through the thin wooden door.

    “Lisa, what the hell?” I said.

    “Shut up Bobby,” she said twitching the gun back and forth between me and the Madame.

    Madame LaPerte’s raised hands shook and she looked like she might faint. “Miss Fisher, if I could explain…”

    “Shut up you little tart.” When Lisa called Madame LaPerte a little tart she wasn’t that far off. The Madame was petite, mid-thirties, pretty in a ‘come up and see me some time’ kind of way and she had a killer body clad in a revealing gypsy costume.

    “Lisa, I don’t know how she did it, but I was definitely not in bed with her.”

    “I have eyes Bobby.”

    “It’s a fake,” I said. “It’s gotta be.”

    “It takes place in the future dumb ass,” Lisa said, her gun hand trembling. “Who knows what you’ll be doing in five years when I’m at work.”

    “Miss please,” said the Madame, her thick black eyeliner running down her cheeks. “He’s right, it is a fake.”

    Lisa shoved the barrel into the Madame’s bare midriff and said, “How’d you like me to put a hole in this cute little stomach of yours bitch?”

    “But it’s a trick,” the Madame pleaded, backing away until she hit a wall. “I do this to get extra money.”

    “How’s that?” I said. Lisa seemed to be listening now.

    The Madame wiped a blackened tear from her cheek. “There’s a projector in the crystal ball. There’s also a camera that I operate from under there.” She pointed to a row of buttons under the table edge.

    “How’d you make it look like I was in bed with you?”

    “It’s a sophisticated video shop program. I take your picture from several angles with this button and the program transfers your image to a pre-made film. There are twelve different body types I can choose from but it’s only your face that gets shopped in.” The Madame looked at us with pleading eyes.

    “Then what.” I said.

    “I don’t usually do it with couples. I usually do it with the man and demand money or else I show it to his wife,”

    “Is that so?”

    “Yes, please just leave. You owe me nothing.”

    “What do you think Lisa?”

    “I think we have enough.” She tossed the gun in a waste basket. “It’s plastic. You’re under arrest.”

    I moved behind the Madame and cuffed her. She twisted around and glared at me as I read her the Miranda Act. “This is extortion!” she said.

    “No,” Lisa said. “What you do is extortion. This is a set-up.”

    “Let’s take her in and grab some gumbo,” I said. “I’m starved.”

    We walked her out the door and down the sidewalk garnering our share of stares from the crowd. With her hands cuffed behind her back, her taunt breasts were like beacons clearing a path with their powerful aura. A few guys threw strands of plastic beads, catcalling and shouting obscenities.

    “You know,” Lisa said steering the Madame towards the car. “I kind of liked being your girlfriend a little.”

    “Yeah, and a feisty one at that.”

    “You have no idea.”

    “Well, one crooked fortune teller down and something like 500 to go in this town; what do you say we do it again tomorrow?”

    1. lionetravail

      Great twist, Jhowe! This was very entertaining, and a ‘realistic’ rather than magical take on the prompt, and it’s a great con idea. (Makes a note to be careful during his next trip to New Orleans.)

      I love that some guys threw strands of beads at the path-clearing beacons as they marched her away: such a great injection of humor into the sexual-criminal tension of the scene, and very slickly done.

      The only quibble question I have (and I ask, in case anyone has advice on this so I don’t make procedural mistakes in future stories) is why would the female cop use a plastic gun in an undercover situation? Would using the cop’s real one be considered threatening a suspect into making a confession and make the arrest invalid?

    2. Observer Tim

      This is really fun, jhowe. It’s a beautiful sting. I’m not sure whether or not it would count as entrapment, but my current guess is not. The story could have gone in any number of directions based on the medium’s reaction. Bravo.

    3. snuzcook

      I loved the set up–you had me grinning as soon as the gun showed up. It was a deliciously unexpected turn of events, and then the twist and reveal of the badge was great. Thoroughly enjoyed it!

  35. Observer Tim

    NERA

    The tent was lit by patio lanterns, packed with mystical tchotchke, and filled with enough fragrant smoke to gag a bylaw officer. My eyes and mouth started watering immediately under the assault of the overpowering aroma of spiced coffee.

    “Ah, welcome young lovers!” said the wizened hag that emerged from the haze. “Would you like Mistress Emilia to read your future?”

    Karen squinted a bit. “Mistress Emilia? Aren’t you just Emily from the Crafty Carafe?”

    “No, no, I am far more ancient and learned than she. I just happen to have her good looks.” She cackled maniacally to punctuate the statement; one of her wrinkles peeled loose and she smoothed it back down. “Now, shall I read your future Karen, or young Tom?”

    “Do Tom. I’m sure his future will be more exciting than mine.”

    Emily turned an oversized eye on me and pulled out a wand with a blue LED on the tip. She swirled it around so it drew light patterns in the air while she chanted nonsense syllables. Finally she produced a small paper cup half-full of the sort of spiced coffee that Crafty Carafe was becoming famous for.

    I downed the coffee in one gulp; it tasted vaguely of cinnamon. My head immediately began to feel a bit light.

    “I was going to say inhale the aroma and let it transport you; hopefully you didn’t get too much.”

    The room started swirling and rocking from side to side. I found myself seated on a folding chair as she guided my hands to the surface of a crystal ball.

    An image came into view; I was out on the beach at Morris Point with a girl I’ve never seen before. She was everything I’ve dreamed of, including some of the nightmares. Her body was obsidian black down the left side – skin, hair, eyes and everything – and pearlescent white down the right side. Her proportions were… imagine a renaissance sculptor’s idea of Venus and you’d be just a bit on the dowdy side. And what was happening? Well, Morris Point doesn’t have the nickname Make-Out Point for nothing.

    Karen’s voice interrupted the vision. “NERA! You little HUSSY!”

    Mistress E and I both looked at her.

    “Karen? You know this girl?”

    “I know her all right. But she shouldn’t be able to know you because she’s NOT REAL!”

    “What do you mean?”

    “She’s a fantasy! An illusion! Nera K. is the imaginary personification of my sense of sexual inadequacy and natural bi-cu-ri-” She trailed off and turned beet red. In a tiny voice she continued. “That’s what my therapist says.”

    In the half-light and the smoke, now that I’d been primed to notice, I could see that Nera K. looked exactly like Karen, except for the colouration. I lightly clasped her shoulders and she trembled.

    “Karen, how long have you been seeing Nera?”

    “A couple of months. Ever since we, you know…”

    “Is that why you’ve been trying to avoid being alone with me?”

    She gulped. “Yeah. Kind of silly, huh?”

    “No. But she’s something we can work through – together.”

    Mistress Emilia chose that moment to break the mood. “And if you want to work on that repressed bicuriosity, I know a girl who can help.” She handed Karen a card.

    Karen blushed even deeper, moreso on the left than the right.

    1. Cceynowa

      This is a fun read Tim, I laughed more than I should have at him downing the coffee — an excellent little detail, along with others, that gave depth and body to the narrative. Thanks for sharing!

    2. snuzcook

      Very fun, Tim! And I like the way you went with it, that it was not a divisive experience, but one that oozes reconciliation. Love Emilia smoothing down the wringle, and Tom gulping what should have been inhaled.

    3. lionetravail

      This is great, OT- it skirts the truly mystical experience with a hint of the possible (how did Karen see Nera in the glass if Tom was the one ‘drugged’, as seems to be suggested?), but puts it in the realm of the psychological.

      I think this is great, because for me this is a very character-driven romp in characters with a vivid reality to them.

      I sense very interesting things in Tom’ and Karen’s futures with the little revelations they experienced. Frankly, I want there to be much more story 🙂

      1. Observer Tim

        Very astute, David. The reality stretch is that the coffee blend is mystical, as has been the case in the previous stories with Emily (A Few Sips Off/Emergence, I Think I’m a Clone Now/My Twin); it allows those gazing into the crystal to see the future predicted for the subject. She’ll probably name the blend “Foresight in Crystal” or something like that.

        The meeting between Tom and Nera will likely be gradual; his first glimpse is at the very end of the story. 😉

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Fun read for a Sunday evening. Black and white and bi at the same time, would make an interesting conquest, but you try and I’ll watch. Enormous amount of fine imagination and story twist here. Your imagery went over the top in this. Greatr job.

  36. lionetravail

    Faire Today, Gone Tomorrow (980 words)

    I’d been looking forward to the obligatory ‘Faire date’ as much as a root canal, and now I was there.

    “Oh honey, look!” Maggie gushed, pointing at the fried dough stand. “Have you ever had it? It’s so awesome! I’ve loved that stuff ever since I was a kid!”

    All you needed was one look at her chunky figure and you could tell that was true, but her throttle-worthy, Alvin-the-chipmunk chattering was almost enough to distract you from noticing. “Mm hmm,” I ventured as she pulled me to the vendor.

    “Two please, and make sure there’s plenty of powdered sugar on each one,” she said all in one breath to the poor oil-spattered fool before turning to face me. “The sugar’s the best part, I always say, because it’s the part that smooths out the fried taste…” and I tuned out the rest of her drivel as I wondered again just how I’d ended up here with her.

    Then she turned back as the guy handed over two sugary heart-attacks and her butt pressed firmly against my hip and I remembered exactly how it all started: I just wasn’t sure why I hadn’t ended it yet. It was probably because I didn’t really want to hurt her or her feelings, but I was feeling more trapped than a bachelor in a room full of Kardashians.

    Maggie turned back to me and shoved one of the snow-covered turd things at me, oil already dribbling down her chin and powdered sugar across the bridge of her nose. I took it gingerly between two fingers as she turned abruptly to the right and yanked me to follow without warning.

    “OMIGOD!” she squealed, pointing as she jerked to a stop after only a few steps.

    I heard echoing squeals from over at the “Catch-A-Greased-Pig” stall as I reluctantly followed her finger to a booth with a sign: ‘Esmerelda’s Fortunes- Enter the Oracle’s Den at Your Own Risk!’

    “You’re kidding me,” I said. “Really?”

    “Yes, we’re going!” she said, and pulled me behind her. I did manage to toss the sweet-fried fat into a garbage can without her seeing before we got to the small tent. There was no line, and Maggie went right in, her hand manacled around my wrist leaving me no choice but to follow.

    Inside, there was a woman even uglier than my date sitting on pillows behind a low table with that cheesiest of props, a crystal-freaking-ball, in front of her. “I will perform the reading, and you will pay me what you feel it’s worth,” she intoned in a surprisingly deep voice. At least it was surprising until I saw “her” Adam’s apple move.

    “Well that’s kind of insane, isn’t it?” chittered Maggie. “What if I don’t like my reading, or he doesn’t like his? Don’t you have some guarantee? How do we know this isn’t just bullcrapadoodle?”

    Bullcrapadoodle? Oh. Dear. God.

    “You will pay me what you feel the reading is worth- no more, no less,” Esmerelda said calmly in response.

    I interrupted whatever Maggie was going to say. “Fine, do mine.”

    The cross-dressed or -gendered Oracle’s gaze met mine as Maggie burst out with a torrent of words at me I couldn’t follow, and his/her eyes narrowed during a brief glance at my date. “Look into the glass with me,” he/she said quietly, leaning forward.

    I leaned forward to see.

    Realizing no one was listening, Maggie stopped and said: “Wait, I wanna see too!”. She leaned in as well.

    In the glass, images seemed to swirl, and I thought better of Esmerelda’s prop. Then I saw myself in it, walking along a busy city street at night,. It seemed well lit by streetlights, flashing advertisements, and neon, and I looked older. I had one of those spiky and messy hairstyles instead of my regular buzz cut, but it was definitely me. Wow, I thought. Some serious tech went into this hokey thing, and…

    And then I saw a dude come out of one of the bars and meet me on the street. I saw the me in the glass reach him and it looked like both were smiling at each other.

    “Roger?” gasped Maggie in disbelief.

    “No, that’s me,” I said.

    “No, I know that, the other guy! He’s my last ex, Roger Thisby, he moved to New York because he said he had to get away from me, and OMIGOD, gross!”

    I looked back in time to see older me and Roger start kissing right there on the busy city street.

    “No effing way!” I breathed.

    “Your future, young man,” the Oracle said to me, as the crystal ball went empty and he/she leaned back.

    “Ew, ew, ew!” Maggie squealed. There was again an answer from the Greased Pig booth from outside. “You’re going to be gay in the future with Roger Thisby? I am so out of here! Goodbye, closet-boy!” and she stormed out.

    I stood there watching the empty entrance in disbelief for a few moments. Esmerelda did not rush me.

    Eventually I turned to him/her. “Really? I’m going to be gay in some big city in a few years?”

    The Oracle shrugged. “Who really knows the future?” he/she said philosophically. “Yoda said something about it always being in motion, or something like that.”

    I thought about that for a while, then nodded. I sure as hell didn’t know about the future.

    I took out my wallet and gave him/her all the cash in it, somewhere upwards of two hundred dollars.

    Esmerelda’s eyebrows rose questioningly at the wad of bills.

    I looked over my shoulder at the empty entrance, then back. “Yeah, keep it all. I don’t know the future,” I agreed. “But my present is looking a damn sight better than it did before I came in, and that’s worth the price right there.”

    1. swatchcat

      Although my first instinct is this is a bit harsh, I then think that that is just good writing because you evoked emotions. It’s funny that the Oracle sort of saved the MC from a situation he was too cowardly to get out of himself. Nice writing.

    2. Observer Tim

      This is great, David, realistic though just a wee bit politically incorrect. The presentation was wonderful; I half-expected him to reveal that the vision was staged to freak out the girl he obviously didn’t want around. As an added benefit it blew the shock reveal of my story – now I have to go back to the Well of Weirdness for another idea…

    3. Cceynowa

      The “reality” of the conflict you presented stuck a chord with me, in a good way. This is an edgy piece, hovering above several societal hot topic buttons, but masterfully presented without (in my opinion) actually pushing any. Well told.

    4. snuzcook

      *cackling with delight* That was great, David! I break into a cackle when it is funny and I feel guilty laughing at the same time. The answering squeals of the pig booth were a great touch. I recognized Maggie fondly right down to the sawdust clinging to her over-strained shoes. Well crafted twist. Well done!

    5. jhowe

      Leave it to a heart doctor to write about fried dough with extra sugar. There were so many clever tidbits in here that really added to your story. I enjoyed reading it a lot.

    6. MCKEVIN

      You are all on a roll aren’t you? “Cleva just clevah!” as Eryca Badu would say. Lol. I thought the fat girl was going to turn into a sexy siren and MC would become obese meat. The gay angle was straight out of left field. No pun intended. Very good. Had you submitted this one to Reapers’ earlier link you would have taken lst place. Good job….

    7. lionetravail

      Thanks everyone! I appreciate all the comments and critique. I was striving for Ccey’s description- including a bunch of issues while avoiding being judgmental on any. I was thinking of them more for color and to blur some of the traditional inherent prejudices and all, and was just the direction the story wrote itself.

      Snuzcook, you have no idea how glad I am this made you cackle :). My wife, too, was cracking up when the end came, and she basically guessed the ending before it happened (there’re good reasons we just passed our 20th anniversary).

      And McKevin- great puns 🙂

  37. Jay Wilson

    Faces

    When I entered the Oracle’s Den at the more than hinky Hubert’s Halloween Horrorland, I expected a cheesy reading of my future. One that would tell us that we have a child on the way, which was obvious given Lilly’s condition, and would tell us about our long life of happiness. I didn’t get that. Instead, I met face to face with a much more frightening future.

    Madam Brunswick sat opposite us at a table draped with a gold and purple cloth of Arabian design. She floated her hands over the crystal ball sitting at the center of the table, and a rather fake looking storm brewed within it. She hummed for a moment, and then parts of our lives began to play within that glass orb.

    I was surprised by the magic, but it was short-lived because I realized Lilly had to be in on it. I subtly looked around the room for a projector or a DVD player. Then I stopped as soon as I began to see memories we never recorded.

    Inside that orb, I saw myself walking through the house. I grabbed a beer from the refrigerator, tossed the cap into the trash, and went into the adjacent room. The area had been decorated pink with a crib in the left corner and a changing table to the right. Lilly stood at the window. Her back was to me at first, and she bounced softly as if comforting a baby. She eventually turned around, and that’s when it happened.

    I nearly jumped out of my seat when I saw her face, because the woman in that orb was not Lilly—and the baby wasn’t a baby. Well, physically they were human, but their faces were frightening. Their cheeks were sucked in tight, their eyes had gone to leave dark voids, and their lips peeled back to reveal sharp teeth. There was no sound coming from the crystal ball, but I imagined the kind of dark growls or high-pitched ululations they might make, and it all absolutely terrified me.

    “You guys seeing this?”

    “Of course, honey, that’s us.” She said. “Awe, and look at our daughter, she’s so pretty.”

    “Are you serious?” I said, “This has got to be some kind of joke.”

    I looked up at Madam Brunswick, and she finally opened her eyes. She looked down upon the orb and her eyes grew wide with fright. She shot up from her seat, and began shaking her hands.

    “Out! The both of you! Out!”

    As I stood I said, “Wait? So I’m not the only—”

    “Out!”

    “Jeez.” Lilly said, “Fine, we’ll go, but we aren’t paying.”

    I said, “Wait a minute, I need to ask her something.”

    Lilly said, “Can you believe that woman?”

    My heart pounded hard, and I couldn’t find the words to answer her.

    “Come on, let’s go. There’s more to see here.” She said, and grabbed my hand.

    We walked in silence for most of the time—or at least if there was talking, I didn’t notice it. We stopped to pay a couple games, and I could help but stare at Lilly as she tossed a ball at absurdly heavy jars. Her face looked absolutely normal, but I knew what I saw.

    When we arrived at the house of mirrors, it took Lilly considerable effort to convince me to go in there. I wanted to leave, and she insisted that we stay a bit longer. Honestly, I had two very frightening things on my mind. The first was that I was going mad and what I saw in that orb was just my mind screwing with me. The other was the fact that what I saw might’ve been real, that Lilly was not Lilly at all, but something else. Something darker. If the latter was the case, then I had to go along with anything she wanted. I couldn’t let her know that I knew what I saw because if she was in any way dangerous, then my life was on the line.

    Lilly grabbed my hand and we descended into Hubert’s Magical Mirror Maze. The first hallway, oddly, didn’t have any mirrors, but as soon as we entered into the main room, they were everywhere. They came in all shapes and sizes, turned us fat and skinny with big heads and small ones. There was on distinct and frightening difference, and it was that the mirrors showed exactly what the Oracle’s crystal ball did. Lilly’s face wasn’t Lilly’s face. It was that monster.

    Panic pushed my heart into overdrive. I felt like I had to get out of there, but the mirrors disguised the exit. I looked around, glancing from mirror to mirror, and I occasionally caught a glimpse of my own face, which was stamped with worry and fear.

    Lilly grabbed my arm and said, “What’s the matter, boo?”

    “I—I’m not feeling well. I need to go.”

    “What?” She said, as I yanked my arm out of her grasp.

    I back away from her, and she gave me a funny look. I heard the laughter of children, and then three little ones suddenly ran past me. In reality, they were just kids, but in the mirror they were those things.

    Lilly tried to grab me, but I backed away again. “Seriously, what’s going on with you?”

    I said, “You stay away from me.”

    Lilly suddenly became strangely calm. She said, “You see it don’t you.”

    “What?”

    “You see what I really am.” She said, “You see what all of us are?”

    “I—I…”

    “I knew it. I knew we couldn’t keep it from you forever.”

    That was the last thing I remember before passing out. I’m not sure how long I was out, but I woke up later trapped in a room. The place reminded me of a padded room for the insane, but I was not insane. They’d locked me up to keep their secret. Or did they? Had I been there the whole time?

    A knock on the door tears me away from the story I’m writing on a piece of paper. I look up at the small window, and a woman’s face appears, but I know that’s not who she really is. She claims to be a nurse, but I see what she really is. She can’t hide any longer from me. None of them can.

    “Time for your medication.” She says, and opens a small hatch at the center of the door. “Come on.”

    I shuffle to her, and accept the small paper cup from her hand. The pills rattle at the bottom of it, and I toss them back with a quick swig of cold water she also offers me. She smiles, and closes the hatch.

    I return to the table, and start writing again. Soon, I tell myself, I’ll escape this place and find a way to stop them. I’ll find a way to kill all of them and save humanity from these demons. Until then, I have to make them believe that I’m crazy or whatever it is they want from me. I just need to make them happy, and once they let their guard down, I’ll kill them all. Every single one of them.

    1. JRSimmang

      You’re still “The Doc,” Jay. First, the name of the carnival made me laugh. I felt the tension pulling the entire time. There’s always a fine line between reality and fantasy, and perhaps we only see what we want to see. The ending was wholly satisfying. Thanks for giving me the hebejebes.

    2. Cceynowa

      Your attention to detail, as always, draws me so deeply into your narrative that I get chills! For some reason, maybe due to the psychology and smooth writing of the tale, I am put into the mind of Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” a personal favorite of mine. Well done.

    3. Observer Tim

      Great horror take, Doc. You’ve once again taken a mundane (if slightly strange) situation and turned it into full-bore surreal horror. This reminds me somewhat of “They Live”, except I don’t think the MC is going to go all Rowdy Roddy on the monsters. Or he might…

    4. snuzcook

      I love the way you structure the drop into scaresville. Nice ordinary day at a normal reality-bending carnival, then, oops!, reality slips out from under the MC but the reader can believe it’s really just the MC having an hallucination, and it’s a down hill slide from there. Well done!

    5. lionetravail

      I think JR said it perfectly in his comments- this is just great, and precisely because the either/or of madness or the demonic is wonderfully vague and blurred, yet leads to true horror either way it falls out. It’s believable either way, which is why this is such a powerful, engaging, and entertaining story- a real winner!

    6. MCKEVIN

      Nice. I really enjoyed this. I thought he was going to eventually see himself as one of the monsters. However, I like your ending better because you left it open for expansion. Good job.

  38. JRSimmang

    DOUBLE, DOUBLE, TOIL, AND… YOU KNOW THE REST

    Three, a novelty, which made me feel uneasily like MacBeth. And here I thought they just left off the possessive apostrophe.

    “Welcome,” said the ugly one with the mole.

    “To,” said the one-eyed ugly one.

    “Your,” said the last ugly one, the one with the hunched back.

    “Futures,” they all said in unison.

    Theresa, my girlfriend, stood there, mouth agape but smiling at the women (?). I couldn’t help but chuckle. I whispered under my breath to Theresa, “just don’t ask me to kill a king…” She responded by elbowing me in the side.

    “Hello, ladies.” Theresa has always been fascinated with fortune readers. Last year at the carnival we stopped into no less than 10 different tents, each with the same archetypal psychics: flowing sleeves on patchwork dresses, stringy hair, wild eyes, voluptuous lips, missing teeth. I, on the other hand, couldn’t wait to scoot on out of here.

    They motioned for us to sit down; I took Theresa’s lead. We sat on purple and black poufs, which were hard to keep balance on. Theresa, always graceful, was able to maintain her posture. The one with the mole crooked her lips, One-eye burned some sage, and Quasimodo sat in the chair in front of us.

    Hunched-back started, “I am Eliza-Bethany, the lady to my right [One-eye] is Madame Szagrada, and the pretty one,” she sniggered, “is Lady Zalast.”

    Theresa introduced us. “I’m Theresa and this is Wally.” She leaned in and cupped her hand to her mouth, dropping her voice to a whisper. “It’s short for Walter.” I let ‘ugh’ escape from my lips, met with another elbow to the ribs.

    Zalast joined Eliza at the table, and Szagrada soon sat thereafter. They joined arms and spoke again in unison, which was more creepy this time, less novelty, “We know all, see all, touch and feel all. What is your question?”

    Theresa leaned in, putting her elbows on the table, a habit which adored me to her. “I want to know,” she leaned in my direction, “the identity of the succubus who will, in five days’ time, devour my soul and attach herself like a parasite to Wally.”

    “Or probably just-” I stopped myself short. What did Theresa say?

    The three ladies leaned toward their crystal ball, and the air in the tent began to spark. Literally. There were little lightning bolts jumping around.

    “Uh, ‘Reese? What’s going on?” I gripped the pouf. “Am I missing something?”

    Szagrada started humming, her left hand swirling over the crystal sphere; Zalast mirrored her on the other side. Eliza-Bethany opened her mouth, but what came out wasn’t her voice. Her lips did not mouth when she asked, “who is seeking counsel of the Triad?”

    “Uh, ‘Reese, I think it’s time to go,” and I stood. Theresa turned to me quickly, and I froze. Literally. She freaking froze me with a spell or something. Her eyes turned blue, but not just any blue. There was no white left, and the blue was like the blue crest of the blue jay but solid and pure. They smoked from the edges, these tendril-wisps wrapping around her head, shrouding her face.

    “You will go nowhere, Walter,” she announced, in a voice that was a collection of thousands of voices. she turned back to the three ladies and spoke. “I am Amphora, the Vessel of Gurung. I have been selected to uphold the Covenant of Wel. Grant unto me your wisdom, Triad, so that I may keep the Covenant pure.”

    I couldn’t tell if my eyes were playing tricks on me, but hey, my girlfriend froze me with her sorcerer eyes, so it wouldn’t have been too far-fetched. The ladies in front of me began to merge into one glowing being.

    “Your request has been granted, young Amphora.” They had conjoined completely now into one brilliant specter of light. The crystal ball on the desk shook then shattered, and an image formed from the smoke within. It swirled into a tornado, but there was no wind. Inside, lightning tore through it, scorching the tablecloth. Theresa waved her hands in front of her and blew into the raging storm.

    “Timor,” she muttered. She regained her balance on the pouf and dropped her hands into her lap. The look on her face terrified my being. After what felt like an eternity, she softened and focused on the singular, pulsating light. “Triad, I thank you for this privilege. My desire has been fulfilled. May the gods bless you.” When she finished, the tornado shrunk back into the rapidly reforming crystal ball. The three women unmerged, and I felt my fingers unfreeze.

    I flung myself onto the pouf, anxious, scared shitless, and sweating. “What the hell, ‘Reese?” Her appearance had recovered back to the woman I knew and fell in love with. “You’re a fucking witch?”

    “Sorceress, if you want to be technical.” The Triad guffawed. In unison.

    “So that. THAT. Was real?”

    “As real as you want it to be.” She replied, a coy smile on the edges of her lips.

    I searched the air around me for the right words, struggling to find any at all. “What… do we… do now?” I sputtered.

    “Get to work. Timor doesn’t like to fight.” She got up, dropped a twenty in the psychics’ bowl, bowed, grabbed my arm, and took off. “And I know just where to go to get what we need.

    My girlfriend was a sorceress. I had to ask, partly because I think my brain was still frozen. “Can you, umm, shoot fire out of your fingertips?”

    She held out her hand, snapped, and a small flame burned quick. “Of course,” she said. “Can’t you?”

    -JR Simmang

    1. Jay Wilson

      “Of, course, can’t you?” I liked it. It had a serious tone to it, but you also kept it lighthearted, mainly due to the MCs personality, who really worked for this, btw.

      I also loved the three witches. They have always been my favorite part of that play, so I read the beginning more than once just for that reason. 🙂 Great job, J.R.

    2. Cceynowa

      Like, duh, can’t you snap flames out of your fingers? jeez…. I simply adore the juxtaposition of Reese’s assured sorceress-personality and her innocent/cute girlfriend-personality. A fun read all the way around!

    3. lionetravail

      Awesomely constructed story, and a great last line as others have said. I’m quite happy with the start, too, and the set up for the MacBeth references which are spot on entertaining. The pacing is great, and the reveal to the MC that his girlfriend is a witc…er sorceress… is pretty much perfect and so easy to visualize.

      Do I smell a new cable series? 🙂

    4. JRSimmang

      Thanks, people of the WD. With NaNoWriMo just around the corner, I’m worried I have too many stories floating around in my fishbowl head. Fantasy is new for me, but it sure is fun.

      Doc, of all the tragedies, MacBeth has been the only one that I have turned to religiously since I first read it.

      CC, Swatch, Snuz, I appreciate the reading of the girlfriend. The story is truly about her, not Wally, and I wanted to make sure to let her personality shine through.

      OT, any pointers on modern fantasy? I’ve tried Dresden with no success (probably because I started it mid-series).

      Lion: know any good script-writers?

      1. lionetravail

        You know, there is a woman who’s web advert has appeared on this site- I checked out her website already once, but am not ready to launch in that way. However, she seemed to be real- WD may be able to more easily identify her from the people they’ve promoted.

      2. Observer Tim

        References:

        In terms of modern fantasy I find stand-alone or short-series works are often better than big series, and I prefer those with a liberal dose of humour. Some of my favourites are:

        Good Omens (Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman)
        Kent Montana series (Lionel Fenn)
        The Nome Trilogy (Truckers, Diggers, Wings: Terry Pratchett)
        Illuminatus! (Note, this is a VERY DIFFICULT READ)

        In terms of TV, I enjoyed Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural for a while, though I think both should have capped around 3 seasons (even though that would have eliminated “Once More, With Feeling” – arguably the best episode of Buffy ever).

        Superhero stories generally fit into this genre, mixing fantasy and science fantasy (and a wee bit of sci-fi). I’ve always been a great fan of these, mostly because of the mixture of genres.

  39. cosivantutte

    Wow! This one was a lot longer than I was expecting it to be, but I wrote it a lot faster than my usual story. So, here it is:

    Tony wrapped his arm around my shoulders. I leaned against him and smiled dreamily. Tony and I are going to live happily ever after. I thought as we strolled past a troupe of wandering troubadours. And we will hold this day as a treasured memory even when our hair is dulled into gray.

    “Hey, babe! Look at that.” Tony stopped in front of a shed-sized mound of rocks. A wooden sign stood before the mound. “Oracles Den – Enter at your own risk.”

    “Oracle. Isn’t that the same thing as a fortuneteller?”

    “I dunno.” He lowered his arm and walked to the weathered slat door in front of the pile.

    I didn’t follow him.

    He looked back. “Come on, babe. Let’s go inside.”

    “I don’t believe in going to fortunetellers.”

    “Oh, come on! It isn’t real. It’s just pretend. No different than the blacksmiths and the knights and the fair maidens walking around here.”

    I thought about the blacksmith hammering over the hot fire. That sure didn’t look like pretend to me. “Can’t we go get a hot dog or the medieval equivalent of a hot dog instead?”

    “Come on, babe. Just this one time. I swear I’ll never ask you to do it ever again. Cross my heart and hope I get a stone spit in my eye.”

    I still hesitated.

    “Come on. What harm can it do?”

    “It can’t do any physical harm, I guess.”

    “Exactly what I mean.”

    “But I’m not worried about physical harm. It’s the spiritual—”

    “Babe.” he whined. “Don’t go on about all that. This isn’t real. Trust me. Believe me. If I’m wrong, I’ll let you drag me to your church on Sunday from now on.”

    “And if you’re right?”

    He shrugged. “No harm done.”

    I sighed and walked over to him. “Whether you’re right or wrong, I will make you pay for this.”

    He grinned. “I love you, babe.” He opened the door and I followed him inside.

    Darkness. Candles. Incense. A middle-aged woman sat at a small round table with a crystal ball plunked in front of her. A black veil with silver stars covered her head.

    I backed away from Tony. “I don’t like this. Please can we go?”

    She made a come hither gesture with her fingers. “Come, girlie, and see your future.”

    I shook my head.

    “Come on.” whispered Tony. “Remember what I told you.”

    I mentally said the Act of Contrition as I walked over to her table. I sat across from her.

    “Look, girlie, into the beautiful crystal. It will tell you your heart’s true desire. It will show you your own true love.”

    Tony walked up behind me. “Uhh, excuse me, but I happen to be her own true love.”

    She arched a penciled eyebrow at him. “Then, you have nothing to fear. Look, girlie. Look good and deep and you will see what is true.”

    My face burned with shame as I obeyed her. The candles’ light flickered and swirled inside the crystal. Spiraling, spiky fractals. My heart raced with fear. I shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t be doing this.

    I gasped. I saw myself in the heart of the crystal. But I wasn’t alone. I was in another man’s arms. And I was happy. Deeply and perfectly happy. Tears poured out of my eyes. “Who is he?”

    “Your heart will know him when you find him, girlie.”

    “You were right.” Tony’s voice sounded as tight as a guitar string ready to snap. “This was a stupid idea. I shouldn’t have brought you here.”

    She cleared her throat. “That will be nineteen dollars and ninety-nine cents.”

    He slapped a twenty on the table. “Keep the change, you money grubbing faker.” He grabbed my hand and yanked me out of the chair.

    I pulled my hand away from him.

    He reached for my hand. “Come on, babe. Let’s get out of here. Let’s go home.”

    I backed away from him. “What’s wrong?”

    “I don’t want to discuss it in front of her. Let’s go.”

    I walked outside with him following me. “All right. Tell me what’s wrong.”

    He closed the door and kicked it.

    “Tony. Look at me. Talk to me.”

    “I saw that man in the crystal.” He didn’t turn around. “I know that man. I know him.”

    “You do? Who is he?” I hated how eager I sounded, but I couldn’t help it.

    He didn’t answer and I understood why.

    “Tony, I love you. You know I do.”

    “I know what I saw on your face when you looked into that crystal.” He turned to face me. “If I tell you who he is, I’ll lose you.”

    I couldn’t deny it. So, I didn’t try. I didn’t say a word.

    “I love you, babe. I really do. I know I can be a jerk and a clod, but I love you so much.” His face crinkled up with sorrow. “But I know you deserve better than me. That guy in the crystal…He’s one of my co-workers at the Dancing Gandies bar. He’s a lot like you. Always talking about God and church and stuff.”

    Off to our right, a knight in shining armor reunited a lost child with its parents. The parents made happy exclamations and such, but I didn’t hear a word they said. “What will you do?” I asked.

    “Right now? I’m going to kiss you.” And he did. As he pulled away, he smiled sadly. “I’ll see you on Sunday.”

    1. JRSimmang

      Thanks for sharing, Cosi. The characters here are certainly believable, and the setting you created is palpable. It’s refreshing to know the MC, despite the eerily accurate crystal ball reading, decided instead to continue being happy with Tony. I think the conversations could be cleaned up a little, perhaps shortened, and this’ll be a nicely polished piece.

        1. swatchcat

          Even though there are no edit options I still go back to my original and clean up where suggestions were made,it is a good learning tool. Besides going over old files of stories that sound better is fun to. This was doable but yes it has issues. Still good, thank you for submitting.

          1. cosivantutte

            Sorry if it sounded like I shuffed off JR’s advice about editing. I didn’t mean it like that at all.

        2. JRSimmang

          Not at all, Cosi! We play Editing Roulette every time we submit. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone back to a story I’ve published here only to hang my head at my Bedford shrine, crying ribbons of ink, begging for forgiveness, while the Purdue Owl hoots incessantly outside my window.

          Wow… that got graphic…

          1. cosivantutte

            Crying ribbons of ink, huh? Yep. I’ve been there. 😆 Only in my case, a cat yowls outside my window.

    2. Observer Tim

      This is beautiful, Cosi. I hope that Tony’s change of heart lasts; otherwise he’s just postponed the tragedy a bit.

      On the editing thing, I keep “cleaned up” versions of my stories too. First it’s great practice at editing and tightening, and second it gives me a record in case I want to take something further.

      1. cosivantutte

        Thanks!

        I’ve been wondering: Obviously, because these stories are visible to the general public, they would be considered published. What if I took one of my prompt stories and expanded on them? Would I be able to publish it?

        1. Observer Tim

          It would depend on (a) the publisher and (b) how much you expanded. Different companies will have different rules about that sort of thing. This is a form of publishing, albeit an informal one, but I don’t know enough about copyright law to see where ownership (right to republish) lies on blog posts/comments – it could either be the author or the site, or some strange combination of the two.

    3. lionetravail

      Your MC’s thought/line about the blacksmith in the beginning is, literally, perfect- it changes the tone of the whole story right there, and is brilliantly done: “That sure didn’t look like pretend to me.”

      Also, great characters, and I love the transformation in the boyfriend here. Even more, I love that there’s hope that he can ‘change the future’ by trying to be more of the guy your MC needs. Well done story on a lot of levels!

      Also, I’m sorry to have duplicated (all unconsciously, I assure you) your “Enter at your own risk” sign in my own story- I’d like to file that under “Great Minds Think Alike”, if that’s okay with you 🙂

      1. cosivantutte

        Thank you for your comments! This was a different sort of story for me. I generally don’t mention God or religion in my stories (no particular reason why not), but it felt right for this one.

        As for your copycat line: Not a problem. 🙂

      2. cosivantutte

        As for the blacksmith line, I almost changed it because I was worried that people would be like “Huh? What blacksmith? Did I miss something here??” 😀

        1. lionetravail

          I am so glad you didn’t! Really, that one line was like the part in the movie where ominous music starts playing in the background, and you know it’s not all chocolates and roses going on. It was a perfect ‘frame shift’, if that makes sense…. kinda like trying to inject a sense of unease without saying “the character felt uneasy”. It was visceral, at least for me, and an ideal way to make that felt.

    4. Critique

      I enjoyed this cosivantutte. The story and your characters were believable. Good job 🙂
      I think streamlining the dialogue some would make it a crisper read.

      1. cosivantutte

        I’m glad you liked it. It was one o those stories where I was like “Ehh. Don’t bother me. I want to finish this.” 😀

        I did go over the dialogue today and cleaned up the parts that were bugging me. so, I think (in my questionably unbiased opinion) that it sounds a little better now. 🙂

        1. Hiba Gardezi

          I really loved this the MC and the other charactes were pretty convincing. this was deeply enjoyable ! Tonys reaction to the crystal balls revelation was my favourite ! he didnt even get mad at her 🙂 it shows how much he loves her. this was sweet

  40. thatbillguy

    Will watched the swirling light in the crystal ball with heavy eyes. His skepticisms faded quickly. It felt like he was lying down in a comfortable chair, a slight numbness all over, like breathing the gas at the dentist’s office.

    Startled, he came to his senses and found himself somewhere else.

    The hospital room, clean, neat and medicinally scented was a sharp contrast to the dusty tent in the middle of the town fair that smelled of animal sweat and funnel cakes. He shifted on the uncomfortable chair beside her bed and chill bumps stood out on his arms against the cool, light breeze from the air conditioner.

    The woman in the bed lay still. Her pale face was relaxed and her dark hair was bundled to one side on the pillow. She looked less real and more like a delicate porcelain doll, peaceful and beautiful, but empty somehow.

    A LCD monitor traced a jagged line across its face. It beeped intermittently each time the line rose with her heartbeat. Then, there was a flutter on the screen and the arcs and beeps increased.

    Her eyes opened. She was looking at him.

    She touched his face, traced the lines and features there desperately trying to find some familiarity in the way her hand moved or the way his sun weathered, unshaven skin felt against her palm. A tear rolled from his eye and she brushed it away with gentle pass of her thumb.

    A memory of her as a young girl running and screaming “Daddy, daddy,” with the delighted squeal of someone that loved another so completely, everything else in the world simply disappeared and he was the only solid and real thing left, rushed into his mind. She flew into his arms, and hugged him with soul bearing desperation, soaking in the happiness and safety she found there.

    Then the memory was gone. The emotionless drug induced stare returned as her unblinking eyes watched him. Her hand, now wet with tears, fell away from his face. She was gone again. For the briefest of moments her adoring, love filled smile and wide, innocent eyes had been with him again.

    But she was gone now. He knew it was probably forever this time.

    He shook his head and wiped tears from his face. His wife stood nearby, sobbing. He gently put his hand out and touched the tight bump of her belly where his daughter grew.

    1. Observer Tim

      I’ll agree with JR, this is tragic. No parent should ever have to face the loss of a child, regardless of the circumstances; generations are supposed to flow in the opposite direction.

      My red pencil says ‘skepticism’ should not be pluralized.

    2. lionetravail

      nicely written and imagined story. two comments (OT’s red pencil)- soul-baring is the easy one.

      there is a small bit of confusion for me, given where the story started and ended. was the crystal ball a dream, the rest a painful reality? was the interval in the hospital a vision in the crystal ball? and the tense in the last line… it seems to be at some time before the hosp scene, but i’m not sure if he is still there or back where the crystal ball is.

      i think with some tightening up this story is a beautifully written winner.

      1. thatbillguy

        I never really polish anything here… I write it at work on lunch, so it’s usually really quick. So that is my excuse for fat-fingered typos 🙂

        On the confusing parts, what I had in mind was that they are at the fair and the vision happens directly to Will. I didn’t set it up, because it was just a scene from a bigger story (that probably won’t get written).

        Once in the vision, he experiences the events first hand, before being sent back to the present. (I did take a some liberty with how far he saw into the future). Once he is back, he realizes that his wife saw the same things he did.

        If I ever re-write it, I will definitely take the the observations into account (every little bit helps). Most likely this is the end of it.

        1. lionetravail

          This being the end of it would be a shame, I think. You’ve got the ability to tug on heartstrings and tap into a lot of emotional response with this, and it would play with almost any audience.

  41. Pete

    I’m up on the Ferris wheel with McKenzie Cooper. Yes, the McKenzie Cooper. Miss Popular. Cheerleader. Watcher of those horrid reality tv shows. Queen of selfies–albeit insanely hot selfies, but nonetheless.

    She’s wearing my jacket and texting like crazy. What’s new? I’ve worked my ass off to make the football team and by some sort of cosmic senior year good fortune I’ve found myself in week three of our relationship—a relationship that seems to come second to the pink phone in her hand. And now I’m just biding my time because in just a few seconds…yep….there it goes….we wrench to a stop.

    McKenzie looks up from her phone and I scoot closer, smiling. To our left is the town, a few small buildings and the rinky-dink courthouse, our school looming like a prison in the distance. The sunset spreads out in front of us and I’m just about to slide my arm around her when she perks up, all green eyes and lip gloss.

    “Oh, so look at this.”

    I’d paid my buddy Colton twenty bucks for this little romantic moment but once again her phone blocks my well timed advance. “It’s an iphone, I say flatly.

    McKenzie slaps my leg. “No silly, Ashlee sent this app to me. Something called The Oracles Den.”

    I reel in my rolling eyes. “The Oracle Den?” I ask, then peek down to Colton. He gives me two thumbs up.

    “Yeah, she says. “It supposed to give you a glimpse the future.”

    “Oh,” I say, my tongue flailing free itself from clenched teeth. How gullible is she? Yet still I lean closer, and if you saw her, you wouldn’t blame me. She giggles and opens the app. I can almost hear the sun sighing, packing up its extraordinary display and sinking to another hemisphere.

    Her phone comes alive. Some genie like dude welcomes us to—yep, you guessed it, The Oracle’s Den.

    Lame.

    “Enter the date you would like to see,” says the cheap, tinny sounding voice. Wow.

    “Let’s do next year, when we get out of this stupid town,” she says, typing away.

    She enters September 3rd, 2015 and there we are, walking together on campus and holding hands. By the looks of things we’ve uh, you know, done stuff. She leans over and gives me a kiss. Not real McKenzie, Oracle McKenzie. Real me is speechless.

    “How can that…?” That’s all I get out. The Ferris Wheel lunges forward. Colton shrugs, motioning with a flashlight towards the line behind him wrapping around the cotton candy shack, holding teddy bears and hot dogs and barrels of soda.

    “Cool, huh?”

    “Uh, yeah, do it again.”

    “Okay, let’s do five years from now.”

    Five years? Does McKenzie Cooper think we’ll be together five eternally long years from now? She enters the date and the crystal ball thing spins. Again, there she is, all dressed up and looking hot. Then I see me, wearing a tux. Wait a minute…this is a wedding.

    It’s a wedding alright, but not ours. I see McKenzie’s Mom (also hot) walking down the aisle. The Ferris Wheel jerks again but neither of us dares to look away from that phone. McKenzie’s Mom stops at the altar, her eyes her groom: My Dad.

    That’s when McKenzie drops the phone. It drops like a brick onto the bald head of the guy below us and then clangs off a wooden spoke and to the ground. McKenzie, pale as death, recoils, unclasping her hand from mine like it’s a contagion, her eyes stuck to mine in horror. Without her phone I think it’s the longest she’s ever looked at me. But it’s not a good look.

    “I think I’m going to be sick.”

    “Me too.”

    1. cosivantutte

      Oh, I love this one soo much! 😀 The ending made me laugh out loud, especially “McKenzie, pale as death, recoils, unclasping her hand from mine like it’s a contagion…” Great job!

    2. JRSimmang

      You got me, hook, line, and sinker. Clever updated take on the prompt, too. Perhaps that’s why so many teens can’t rip their eyes from their phones nowadays. They’re planning for the future!

    3. Observer Tim

      Nice twist, Pete. At least she didn’t reject him. I could see an inverse Parent Trap starting here, where the two of them eventually fall for each other while trying to prevent their parents from getting married.

    4. lionetravail

      very cool twist on the take, and nicely written. love the app idea! seems like a potential growth moment for the MC and McKenzie- one hopes they take it.

    5. MCKEVIN

      Now that was a really creative spin on the prompt. If I knew how to build apps I would build a Fortune Telling app for sure. I also liked the twist at the end. Good job.

  42. lionetravail

    At the risk of shameless self-promotion, but with the new prompt coming up there may be less visits to last week’s site I’m choosing to repost this here.

    Dear friends, I have been fortunate enough for one of my stories to earn third place in the Morning Rain Publishing Freaky Flash Fiction Contest (which Reaper was extremely kind to share the link with us a couple of weeks back). The link: http://morningrainpublishing.com/third-place-2014-freaky-flash-award/

    Thank you all for your words of support, the kind comments and congratulations, and your friendship in this community, and especially to Reaper for posting the opportunity to all of us here a few weeks back.

    David/Lionetravail

      1. jhowe

        I read your story this morning. I’ve been anticipating it all week. It was an amazing combination of superb dialog and crisp, dramatic narrative with a cool twist at the end. I’m really glad one of us made it into the top five. I sent one in but it didn’t make the top ten. Dang. Did they supply the art work?

        1. Cceynowa

          Thank you for posting the link! I’ve been waiting, rather impatiently actually, to read your story. Your narrative was excellent, and the dialog added a great deal to the story. Great job!

        2. lionetravail

          They did, and it looks really fantastic for all the stories so far. And thanks- sorry to not see you in the top 10 also! (Would love to see it- your stories are always great.)

          One thing I’ve come to realize is just how subjective these things are, so let’s all keep our fingers crossed and keep on plugging.

      2. lionetravail

        I am only coming to realize I need to have one, so last week I set one up but it’s without any content at present. I have a facebook page under my name, “David Hoenig”, and am working on the blog page to get more things on it.

        Thanks so much for being interested!

    1. Reaper

      That was pretty intense there. Congratulations again and I’m still envious!

      You mentioned that it is subjective and you’re right but I wouldn’t focus on that.You see a lot of things about how judges are different and style for contest or content. Winning something is amazing and you should focus on being proud of it. The fact that you did so in a format where the judging is subjective only makes it more impressive. It’s hard to write to the style of a group and unknown judges. So you wrote something that random people you don’t know chose over others. That says you either have the right style or wrote across boundaries. That is something I personally find very impressive. Congrats again man, was glad to get to read it.

      1. lionetravail

        Thank you so much for all the kind thoughts and support. BTW, I’ve barely scratched the surface of your recently published “Old Odd Ends” (work, then holidays, then travel for anniversary), but I’m liking it a lot so far… Mister Edward certainly seems to be a ‘creepy bastard’!

  43. Mallory Terry

    I wasn’t expecting to see another woman in the crystal ball. I was expecting to see my wife, of twenty years, Claire, by my side. I’m not even sure why she wanted to come into the “Oracle Den” and get our fortunes told in the first place. But when I saw the expression in those crystal clear blue eyes and that gasp escape from her frail lips, I knew she knew who this woman was.

    I tightened my grip on her shoulder and looked at her, waiting for some sort of explanation. She didn’t offer any. She just stood there with her eyes glued onto the ball. The Madame giving us our reading even had a look in her eyes. I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out what everyone was seeing. I couldn’t figure out if I was missing something because that’s sure how it felt.

    “I’d like to leave now, Kirk.” She took my hand and began walking out of the tent and back into the blinding sunlight. I squinted, trying to let my eyes readjust from the darkness of the tent. I heard the hustle and bustle of the fair around me but I could hardly see it approaching. And I knew Claire couldn’t have seen it coming either because I know she would have moved.

    Right when I heard the scream, one that sounded like someone was hurt, that was right when her hand slipped from mind. That was the last time I felt her grasping me. The loose horse and buggy made a beeline down the street and Clair stepped right out in front of it at the exact time it passed, hitting her side and throwing her to the ground and running over her. I heard the screams, I saw the people running, but I was frozen. I swear I couldn’t move or I would have. I was in that single place on the steps of the tent with all the people yelling and running around me, in slow motion.

    That was the last thing I remember before waking up in the hospital to the bright lights and the nurse with the face of the woman in the crystal ball.

    1. Nicki EagerReader

      Well told story- it was terse and enticing, with an opening line that sucked me in and some very touching lines that conveyed believable emotions (“That was the last time I felt her grasping me”). Possibly room for some MINOR improvements (“RIGHT when I heard the scream, one that sounded like someone was hurt, that was RIGHT when her hand slipped from mind.”- may be just one of my quirks, but I dislike those kind of word doublings). Thanks for a good read!

    2. Cceynowa

      I liked this a lot Mallory. I’m left wondering how the wife knew the nurse though. I was expecting her to reveal she was dying of cancer or something, and her nurse was the woman in the crystal ball… your ending was much more shocking and drew me more emotionally into the tale. Thanks for sharing! (I agree with Nicki, btw… my go-to-filler-word is “just.” I make myself reread for it in my own writing and 95% of the time I can leave it out totally and the sentence is improved for it.)

    3. Observer Tim

      This is touching and tragic, Mallory. If a story is going to have a dark ending, this is the kind I’m most fond of.

      The focusing on the hand in the second-last paragraph is a little confusing to me because the metaphoric sense of a grasping hand is one of control, as though the MC were being released. Perhaps a softer verb like “touching” or “caressing” might be a slightly more effective choice, given that the MC seems to truly love his wife.

    4. lionetravail

      Great story, MT. Poetic and tragic, and a wonderful example of how foreknowledge might be responsible for the way things turn out- the ‘lyrical’ part is that the MC and his wife wouldn’t have left the tent had she not seen the woman and recognized her, and hence ensured her doom. nicely told!

    5. Reaper

      This is wonderfully tragic. Nice melancholy yet happy ending. I agree that the future created itself and that is always spooky. I also think the second to last paragraph could use some cleaning up. For me it was more a lot of I heard the scream instead of she screamed and things like that. It is an action packed paragraph and the word choices made it more passive. I’m very good with not knowing how the wife knew the nurse, and honestly I felt that was an intentional twist you took on the prompt. They don’t have to be exact and I think you went with a storm off because of jealousy not over knowing the woman and that just added something to the story for me. Wonderful take.

  44. Cceynowa

    Planning for the Future
    (Word Count: 604)

    The mist cleared at the center of the orb. I saw myself sitting with another woman at a small table. Our surroundings were hazy, but we appeared to be laughing at a shared joke.

    “Hey! That’s a cool trick!” I nudged Daniel with my shoulder. He was staring into the orb as well, but his expression was far less amused.

    “What is this? Some kind of joke?” I could see he was getting angry, and I moved away from him. Lady Sabine, however, continued to calmly smoke her long stemmed pipe, seemingly unconcerned.

    “Daniel, I don’t know how she’s done it either, but it’s well worth our five bucks. Let’s go get another ale,” I attentively laid my hand on his arm. He pulled away and I flinched.

    “Do you know her? Are you planning something? Scheming bitch,” He knocked over the wooden stool on his way out.

    “I don’t understand,” I said to the fortune teller. “I don’t know that woman.”

    She smiled, I noticed her lower front teeth had a notch carved out for the pipe. “The orb sees all, and knows all, but can only show a moment in the future,” she paused then asked, “Do you wish me to read the cards for you?”

    I hesitated. Entering “The Oracles Den” had been Daniel’s idea. He’d jousted, fought with broad swords, and had been drinking ale since we arrived at the Renaissance Festival. I had followed along in his wake without protest, but the fortune teller had given me pause. I was afraid of what she might reveal. “How much?”

    “For you? The bracelet you wear,” she gestured to a beaded bracelet I had bought earlier.

    “Sure, okay,” I fumbled for the bracelet’s latch and handed it to her. She fastened it around her wrist and pulled a deck of tarot cards out from under the table. She handed me the deck and asked me to shuffle and cut it. She then laid three cards on the table.

    “Choose your past.” I selected the middle card. She flipped it over, “The Sun, full of fortune and happiness, a marriage with golden promises. Choose your present.” I chose the far left card. “Five of Swords, you are feeling defeat. Facing many battles, more are coming and you struggle. Now, your future.” She flipped over the remaining card. “Four of Swords: your battle is not over, you are making ready with the sword by your side. See the swords along the wall? They are your past battles. Be warned, if you fight, you may go into exile.”

    She grasped my hand suddenly and pulled me close. Her voice dropped in pitch and I felt my vision focus acutely inward, “Know this, if you follow through with your plan you will be successful. You will be happy, but you must be careful. Seek out the woman in the orb; she will help you.”

    I yanked my arm away and she fell forward across the table, breathing deeply and steadily but otherwise unmoving. I hurriedly left and went to find Daniel. He was at another beer tent, “Sweetheart, what happened?”

    “I knew her,” he slurred.

    “I gathered,” I said gently, “who was she?”

    “My ex-wife.”

    I had no idea he had been married before. I studied him from across the table and let my thoughts explore new possibilities. He was a big man, heavily muscled from his work in the rail yard. I had known that I would need help, at least in hiding his body, but who would be willing? For the first time since our honeymoon, fortune seemed to be smiling on me.

    1. Nicki EagerReader

      I wasn’t sure if this was going to be one of those run-of-the-mill Girl-finds-true-love-in-a-crystalball romances but the last paragraph absolutely knocked my off my chair! You might want to try to condense the middle a bit to make the story flow more swiftly- that might fit better to the nifty ending (just my opinion!). Can’t help but find the MC sympathetic… 🙂

      1. Cceynowa

        Thanks Nicki! I was torn on my middle section as well, but I kept it long simply because I liked the fortune teller so much. I wanted to give her more “air time” even though I felt like her tarot reading drug the story out a little long. I hope it didn’t distract too much, but I can definitely see what you mean. I’m glad I was able to surprise you!

    2. JRSimmang

      This is fun, CC. I felt the middle section was much needed exposition, but it’s probably because I like the fortune teller too. I thought the reactions of the MC are genuine, as are the reactions of the secondary characters. So… Daniel is going to bite the dust?

    3. lionetravail

      well done, Ccey! great take on the prompt. the twist was great, and escept for the crystal ball actually working, you could portray this so easily as a real life slice of life where your MC reads into vague “predictions” what she wants to see. Really well done.

      1. Cceynowa

        Hmmmm…. you have me thinking now…. I (secretly) am fascinated by horoscopes and such simple because I enjoy figuring out all the different and varied ways they could apply to me. In psychology it is called the “Barnum Effect.”

        1. lionetravail

          Yes! Exactly that… with a slight tweak of the story, you could make the whole idea of whether or not there is anything real to the future-telling completely vague, leaving more uncertainty as to whether it was prophecy or just the interpretation of it which caused the future. It would change the flavor a bit, but the subtlety of the change and mystery of “is it real or not” could make it an even more believable tale with just that hint of maybe-magic-exists. It would probably find wider appeal for mainstream publication without ‘real magic’ working, but you definitely have skillz to pull it off.

    4. Reaper

      Okay, it’s not often that I am completely shocked by a reveal and can still see where I should have seen it. This is one of those. There is a nice twist in the fortune teller saying to be careful. There is an indication that the ex might not be the right choice for the job and her going headlong into it leaves it open to a betrayal. Nice twisty and well told story here. I loved it.

  45. yaxomoxay

    Cold and sleek, painted with inevitable darkness.
    At first, Thomas put the gun in his mouth but a visual dream of the bullet cracking his white teeth had him change his mind. It was one of those dreams that often trouble miserable people whenever they have their eyes open. He decided to go for his right temple, the one that drills each time he has headaches, which was now a daily affair. Everything was set up. The books were in order, disposed as a pentagram. He was in the middle of the pentagram, facing Frank Herbert’s Dune, his favorite and the last book he would ever read. To his back there was a Bible and The Princess Bride. He considered that he was no Wesley; he let his Buttercup leave. He made her leave, for God’s sake, just for a night of passion.
    Thomas decided that his family, his kids, should not see his self-inflicted departure so he tilted the only family picture in the room to face the other way. When his hand reached for it, he saw their faces, but he didn’t see them. It was so greyed out that reality seemed as detached as during that trance at the Oracle’s Den last year. But that was past, and thinking about it he smirked at the idea that he could say that he had a past, and a present, but soon he would’ve had no future.
    He walked back to the center of the pentagram, almost limping, what would be his final place to make his last decision: kneeling, or standing? Kneeling felt like an execution, standing felt too quick and inelegant. He chose to knee, after all it was going to be similar to an execution.
    The metal in his hand now felt warm, he held it for long now. It was go time, and he had no last words to say, and no one was there to record them anyway. Thomas’ armed hand reached for the head so fast that he didn’t even consciously notice the movement; it was all so gray looking, even the candles.
    Thomas ended there, with his favorite books and his sorrows. More importantly, Thomas was unable to hear the phone that rang just eight seconds after he pulled the trigger, missing the most important call of his life. His Buttercup wanted to get back together, despite of what the Oracle’s Den prophecy said.

    1. Mallory Terry

      Wow! The build up of this story was amazing. I was not expecting the end. And that’s what I love while reading; being built up higher and higher and then being completely surprised. I really like your approach on this. Great job! 🙂

    2. Cceynowa

      Wow, and wow again. This was really well done. I like how the most important call of his life would have been the one to save his life if he hadn’t of ended his life…. deep stuff. Thanks for sharing!

    3. Observer Tim

      Very dark, yaxomoxay. You gave a powerful look into the mind of someone who is lacking in the ability to forgive themselves. Now the compulsive side of me is curious about what the other two books are (it takes five to make a pentagram).

      1. yaxomoxay

        The other two books are obviously “Twilight” and “Fifty Shades of Grey”!
        Just kidding. I would say Umberto Eco’s masterpiece, “The Name of the Rose” and “Hackers” by Steven Levy (non-fiction, great book).
        Now, I shall ask: what are your five “pentagram” books ? 🙂

        1. Observer Tim

          Mine would be the Bible (AV, aka King James) up front, because if that couldn’t stop me from pulling the trigger nothing could; also the fact that it is considered “obsolete” by scholars has a certain appeal. To my right hand would be “The War of the Worlds” (providence) and to my left would be Gleick’s “Chaos” (order in disorder). Behind me would be “Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science” (critical thinking) and “Metamagical Themas” (mathematics & wonder). Yes, I know there is no book on romance here; there’s a reason for that.

          I wouldn’t pull the trigger because there’s too much universe left to live through.

          1. yaxomoxay

            Nice!!! Very nice indeed!
            I’ve had the character put the Bible behind on purpose, as a refusal of the Creation and God’s gifts. It is a significant thing because the character is going to kill himself due to his belief on what black magic (the Oracle’s Den) said, as opposed to God’s true teachings. I weighted about this particular for quite a decent amount of time, being afraid that it was a sort of paradox. Then I decided that after all, the character KNOWS where the truth (and life) is, yet he decides not to see it when it matter the most.

    4. lionetravail

      grim, sad, and nicely written. these stories always make me so sad, because it’s repeated in real life so often.

      Poignant is the word that strikes me. Good story.

    5. Reaper

      Take what Cceynowa and Observer Tim said and add my voice to them. You developed the character really well with his book choices and I want to know more about him from those other two books. Amazing, deep, dark, and just makes me shudder. Such a sad tale.

        1. Reaper

          You know that is a difficult question. There are so many great authors and books. I would build mine on fiction and I couldn’t see it as an end of life thing, but a definition of it. I would say at the top of it would be Orwell’s 1984, on my right Stephen King’s (yes I know this was cowritten) Blackhouse though anything from the tower series would do as well, that is kind of the epitome of his greatness to me. On the left Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Back right would be any collection of short stories by Poe that included both Hopfrog and the Tell Tale Heart. Back left, this is the tricky one honestly because so many authors have a place in my life but I would probably say one of the Dresden Files books by Jim Butcher, likely the most recent one. Though if I were trying to stave off dark thoughts I would also be clutching The Artist’s Way and First Break All the Rules as two of the only nonfiction books that might help remind me to keep fighting.

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