Don’t Delete Chain Mail

You delete a chain email that says if you don’t forward it to ten people, you will have bad luck for ten years. On your way out of the office, a black cat passes you. Then you find a parking ticket on your car. And, to top it off, your car won’t start. Was it actually the email? Write your response to the bad luck, as well as other ensuing events that make you wonder about hitting the delete button.

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

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

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408 thoughts on “Don’t Delete Chain Mail

  1. Amyithist

    Sighing heavily, I climbed out of my car and slammed the door shut. This had to be one of the worst days of my life. I pulled my purse out from the passenger seat and hurried through the maze of inanimate vehicles. My heels clipped through the puddles of freshly fallen rain and I found myself thankful that the sky was offering a much needed reprieve as I hurried toward the bus stop. I pulled my change purse out from the depth of my bag. Somehow, though I couldn’t begin to relay the exact events, the change purse dropped from my fingers and spewed over the wet ground.
    The asphalt was suddenly spattered with quarters, pennies, nickels and dimes. My dollar bills were clumped together and floating atop the puddle in front of my feet. I groaned and retrieved the sopping wet money, stuffing it in my jeans, just as the bus ambled up to the curb.
    Suddenly, the water from the street splashed up from under the carriage of the bus, spraying all over me. I gasped, screamed, and stood back, stunned. The driver opened the door, gaping at me with despondent, uncaring eyes. I frowned and stomped up the steps to the bus, handing him my wet money. He grinned at me. “Rough day?”
    I didn’t reply as I pushed past him and found a seat near the middle of the bus. It was practically empty, with the exception of a man sitting in the very back with his legs up on the seat. I slid into the vinyl arms next to the window and lay my head against the icy glass. I was exhausted. My day had gone from bad to hell in record speed and I wanted to get home.
    I closed my eyes as the rumble of the bus lulled me, promising myself I wouldn’t sleep. I was suddenly jarred awake as the bus pulled to a stop. Groggily, I lifted my head from the glass and peered out at the now pitch black city street. My heart jumped as I realized that I didn’t recognize the street. Oh NO! I’d fallen asleep and now… I was completely lost.
    I made my way to the front of the bus, passing a middle-aged man in a dated suit. I passed a younger woman, observing that she was dressed in a 50’s era dress. Puzzled, I continued walking. The bus driver looked up at me as I passed him. His face was contorted with worry. “Ma’am, are you okay,” he asked.
    I touched at my wet hair and sighed. “I just need to get home… but I don’t know where I am,” I admitted.
    “You’re in Bakersville,” he replied.
    I was two towns from where I needed to be. Groaning, I thanked him and stepped out of the bus. The clack of my heels echoed against the quiet street. Bakersville was known for being a rough neighborhood. I felt a singe of worry run through me as I jogged across the street to the other bus stop. I noticed a beautiful 1957 Chevy and walked over to it. It looked brand new!
    Behind me, a bell jangled and I turned to see a man stepping out of a drug store and approaching the car. “Nice ride,” I commented.
    He smiled up at me. “Thank you. I just bought it.”
    “Gotta love the classics,” I said, turning.
    He snorted. “Honey, this is brand new off the line.”
    I frowned and rolled my eyes. What a kidder, I thought, plopping down on the bench. A poster hanging on the inside of the bus terminal caught my eye. A poster of a pin-up-looking woman drinking Coca Cola glared back at me. “Vintage,” I said. “Nice.”
    After a few moments and still no bus, I made my way into the drug store. The little shop was quaint and surprisingly nice for this part of town. I made my way up to the counter where a sweet old woman was standing in front of the pharmacist. He looked at me from over her spray of cotton-candy like hair and offered me a warm smile. “May I help you?”
    “What time does the next bus come,” I asked.
    He frowned slightly. “Not for another hour or so,” he replied.
    I sighed and thanked him. The little store intrigued me, so I opted to hang around for a moment. Everything looked as though it had marched out of Back to the Future. I fingered a cute bottle of Ipecac.
    “When did this expire,” I heard the old lady ask.
    “October 14th, 1957,” the pharmacist replied.
    Wow, that was a long time ago, I thought. I felt an immediate pang of sorrow for the poor old lady. Who was taking care of her?
    “So, just two months ago, right?” She asked. Another undulation of sorrow tore through me. She must have dementia.
    “Give or take, yes, Agatha, but I’ll get you a new bottle. It expires March of 1958.”
    Stunned, I ran to the counter. “You can’t give her that,” I spat. The pharmacist looked back at me, somewhat frozen in front of the ancient looking icebox. “That’s over 55 years old,” I retorted.
    The pharmacist pushed his glasses back up on his face and stared at me. “I’m sorry?”
    The look of confusion sent a cold fear through my soul. “It’s…over…” My eyes flitted to the Coca Cola calendar hanging above the register. It read 1957…
    I swallowed and grabbed at the counter. “What is today,” I asked.
    “December 30th,” the pharmacist replied slowly.
    “What year?”
    “1957.” He gazed at me for a moment. “Are you okay, dear? Were you in an accident of some sort?”
    I shook my head. I was suddenly very dizzy as anxiety built in my chest. “I don’t understand…” The world began to tilt and I fought to stay upright but I suddenly teetered and fell.
    When I came to, my surroundings were very different. The walls in front of me were clean and stark white. The bed beneath me was narrow and starchy, but comfortable. I sat up and rubbed my head. At that very moment, a nurse bustled into the room. She wore a hat and pressed white dress…like something you’d see in the 50’s…
    I screamed, startling her. It wasn’t a dream! This was real! Somehow, I’d been transported back in time! Bad luck… this was HORRIBLE luck. I leaned back against the bed and closed my eyes. I tried to remember exactly when my luck had turned; there was the cat, the parking ticket, my dead car… and it all started after I’d deleted that damn chain email! I felt sick. How was I going to get back to 2014?
    “Are you okay,” the nurse asked, her eyes wide and frightened.
    I shook my head. “No! I’m not in the right time,” I cried. “You have to believe me, something is wrong.”
    The nurse shook her head, confused. “I don’t understand,” she said, blinking. “Is it my outfit?”
    I blinked at her. She smiled and flushed slightly. “I’m really sorry, but the hospital staff thought it would be fun to wear some vintage garb instead of the traditional scrubs.”
    “What…what year is it,” I choked.
    She frowned and approached the IV. “Year? Honey, it’s 2014. Well, almost, I mean we do have a couple of days of 2013 left, but…”
    I gasped and grabbed her arm. “It’s 2014? Are you sure?”
    She nodded, her eyes narrowing at me. “I’m going to go get the doctor,” she said slowly.
    “Wait, how did I get in here in the first place,” I asked.
    She frowned. “It was really awful, actually. The bus you were on had a terrible accident and you were thrown down the aisle. Don’t you remember?”
    I tried to recall the said accident, but my mind was blank. All I could picture was Bakersville 1957. “NO,” I said, beginning to sob. Her face softened and she rubbed my back.
    “It’s okay,” she soothed. “This happens a lot. I’ll go get the doctor. You lay back and we’ll see if we can’t get you something to sleep.”
    As the nurse left, I lay against the bed, confused and lost. The memory of the little pharmacy was so fresh in my mind…as if I had just left it. Had I possibly traveled through time? Or was it all a dream? I wasn’t sure. But one thing I did know: I’d never delete a chain mail again.

  2. PromptPrincess13

    Unlucky Me

    I leaned over my desk, papers slipping off the wood in circular free-falls while my fingers typed out a few words.


    Stall him. Please. I’ll owe you BIG time.

    I shoved the toothbrush I’d been holding in my left hand into my mouth, both hands now free, and quickly changed all my text to CAPS. I pressed my lips together tight, holding back the toothpaste frothing on the bristles.

    I pressed Send, my eyes glued to the little loading bar at the bottom of my Outlook window until it went. When it finally did, I raced to the sink and finished off the oh-so important task of vanquishing morning breath; in a record three minutes I was looking satisfactorily normal and back at my desk, opening a new email while slipping my high-heels on. It was a chain-letter. Of course.

    I’m not superstitious, but still, I clicked Reply. Or at least, I tried to. I wobbled on the shoe I had on while I wrangled my other foot into the other shoe, the thin heel unbalancing me and causing my hand to slip to the little red X next to the command I’d been trying to press.

    “Oh, come on.” I said, impatience straining my voice. “I don’t have time for this!” I was just about to retrieve it from my deleted items when my monitor went dead and my computer beeped out of functionality.

    I slammed the door behind me, dialing my best friend Amy as I went. She didn’t even let me get a proper greeting in.

    “You owe me. Big.” Was all she said, her voice coming out labored through my headset as I drove. I could just picture her face, eyes slitting down to pencil strokes, cheeks rosy with color, lips twisted like she was already thinking of what I’d have to do to pay her back.

    “Okay, okay, I will, what’d you do?”

    “Brought him coffee and donuts, on your behalf of course.”

    “You’re a life-saver.” I said and hung up as I got to my office. Sometimes, having your closest friend working at a bakery shop right across from where your sugar-addict boss’s office is, can really come in handy.

    I slinked into work, ducking my co-workers’ glares as I got into my cubicle. I promised myself I’d pay attention to my alarm clock the next day and rolled a pencil between my fingers as I got some paperwork I’d been neglecting in order.

    Just as quickly as I had gotten to my cubicle, I left it at quitting time. My boss couldn’t fire someone who was already gone for the day and had sent him sweets. I hoped.

    I’d just pushed the door open and started walking down the pavement to my car when a splotch of black jumped at me from a tree. I screeched and shook it off, staring in shock as it leaped off me. The black cat pawed it way into a bush, green eyes taunting between the leaves and branches.

    When I got to my car a white ticket was fluttering in the wind, messy writing scrawled upon its surface. I shoved it into my pocket and turned my car on. Nothing happened. I thumped my head on the steering wheel, the horn not even honking.

    When I finally got home, I found, from a telling smoky smell and a moody fire-fighter that I no longer had a home. A hair iron had been left on, razing my apartment into a charred frame of a structure.

    From that day on, I vowed to never wear high-heels again, forward every chain-letter sent to me, and stay far, far, far away from hair irons.

    I’d advise you to do the same.

  3. idontwantblocksanymore

    “Come on… Come on…” I grunt as I hit the gas once more. The old piece of crap wouldn’t start. I glare at my wrist watch. 5:45 p.m. Great. I slam my hands on the steering wheel as if to punish the green corolla and get out of it with exasperation. No, more than that. With annoyance and downright misery. “Sam, are you just gonna watch the devil steal your day…” I mumble to myself under my breath as I pocket the neat parking ticket I had just found on my car.
    As I stand in the empty parking lot, staring helplessly at my car wondering what to do next, I remember something. My eyes narrow and I stop breathing. For a whole minute my mind jumps 2 hours back and I remember reading a chain mail that Monica the telephone operator had sent me. And I vividly remember laughing to myself and hitting delete as I thought just how silly some people could get, passing along chain mails.
    My mind returns to the present. The back cat that just passed me, the parking ticket and now this. Could this be because I…? No, I don’t belive it. Don’t be stupid –I give myself a mental shove in the head as I start walking back to the office thinking I might be able to get a lift from someon.
    My heels click on the floor and I clutch my bag in my right hand. I walk determinedly as if everyone owes it to me to get me out of this trouble. Okay, may be my walk is a little too determined for as I take my next step the heel of my left shoe snaps. “Shit!” I almost stumble to the floor.
    Cursing, I pull of my shoes and take them in my left hand and start walking faster –my bubbling anger giving more power to my stride. I’m half way to the office when I meet Monica –seeing her only adds more to my annoyance. Her face is serious. “Mr. Patman wants to see you first thing tomorrow. He sounded rather annoyed at you. What did you do?”
    What the hell now. Damned chain mail! I ignore the question ask for her for a ride. ”She owes me” whispers a voice in my mind. We walk to her car and we reach our home in 10 minutes.
    Inside the house, I walk to my room and run the shower. I stand under the shower enjoying the hot water thinking that my bad evening and the bad luck of stupid chain mails is over. Then in a flash I remember that I had left my diary in the office! Several images run through my head -the foul comments about Mr. Patman, the oh-I’m-trying-to-be-hot selfies inside, the deep dark secrets… Oh no! Knowing my boss, the plump nosy snob- I know that I won’t get out of this unscathed. “Shit Shit Shit!”
    I step out of the shower already making plans to recover the bloody chain mail from the recycle bin and send it to 10 –or 50 what the hell?!- people first thing when I get to office tomorrow. I’m cold. But not from the shower. I imagine him leafing through my journal all my secrets, my thoughts unfolded before him. My heart is cold and empty. I’m not even sure if it’s beating anymore. I’m busted. I’m dead.

  4. mfdavis

    “Hey girl, after all your talk about not believing in bad luck, I bet you wish you had not deleted that email. I think you should go back to the office and get that email from the recycle bin and forward it to 10 people like it told you to do. Otherwise, you could be looking at 10 years of parking tickets. Oh what’s happening now?” asked my big mouth co-worker, Millie.
    “The car won’t start,” of all days for my car not to start. She would have to ask for a ride home today. “I’ll have to call AAA. There’s no one around in the parking lot to help me, everyone has left.”
    With all seriousness Millie begin to say, “Honey, go back into the office and send out those email, please. Can’t you see that bad luck has started? I think you can stop it, if you go send those emails.”
    “Millie, how can an email that can’t see, speak, or hear on its own have the power or force to move a police office to write a parking ticket when I parked in the wrong place hours before I got the stupid email. And I’ve known for weeks that I needed to get a new battery. Do you think the chain letter with no mind of its own knew, far more than I did, that my battery would die today and thus sent itself this very day?”
    “Well you listen to me, Missy. There are forces out there that you don’t know about and you don’t want to mess with them,” warned Millie.
    “Millie, I googled chain email on my break, and there’s a lot of information about email hoaxes and scams. I especially liked the website called Hoax-Slayer. You should read some of the stuff on that website. Also, this force that sent out the email was it a good or bad force that’s threatening to do us harm if we don’t comply with its wishes? It appears to me to be a bad one. So how do we fight evil or badness? I don’t think supporting its propaganda will help. Do you?” I dialed AAA and then looked her dead in the eyes, daring her to say another word to coerce me into sending that email to 10 more people.
    “You never were any fun either,” snarled Millie.

  5. frankd1100

    “Stak, did you get this email?” asked Nick, staring at one of his six trading screens.

    “I have forty-seven in the last two hours, Nick. What are you looking at?”

    “Bad luck chain letter. If I don’t forward it to you I get ten years of bad….”

    “Please send it to someone else. Watching the business crumble is bad enough.”

    Once a twenty-five person trading floor, five surviving traders sat in a subdued cluster around Nick.

    “Screw it,” he said, bending over the keyboard he highlighted the chain letter, hit ‘delete’ and it was gone.

    “Stak, mind if I get out of here?”

    “No, go for it my boyo! Market closes in fifteen and I doubt you’ll miss anything. Remember I’m out tomorrow for a long weekend at the Maine house.”

    “I’ve got you covered. Have a great weekend.”

    He took the elevator down to his spot on Parking Level One. Now that business had dried up he planned to give up the spot to save a thousand dollars a month.

    He stepped off the elevator to find an empty space where he’d parked this morning as he’d done every morning for the past ten years. With a sinking feeling he took the stairs down three flights to the parking office and found Chip at his desk.

    “Chip!” he said, “Someone’s stolen the Rover from my space.”

    “I’m sorry Nick. I thought they would have told you first. A sheriff took it away.”

    Nick turned without a word and found his way to the street where a steady rain soaked him to the skin. He’d forgotten to remove Nancy’s name from the title after the separation and she was exploiting his carelessness.

    On the walk to his apartment the sky cleared and the late spring sun caused a light mist to rise from the drying sidewalks. The scent of wet soil and dripping plants took him back to his youth before he’d made everything so complicated.

    He stood in line at the Seven Eleven juggling eggs, milk and coffee. The guy in front of him bought a fist full of mega-millions tickets and stepped away studying his picks.

    “How much is the jackpot?” Nick asked the clerk bagging his groceries.

    “Two hundred and fifty-million,” he said, glancing up at the clock. “The drawing is in eight minutes.”

    Nick bought a ticket and dropped it in his jacket pocket. He fixed scrambled eggs for dinner then opened his laptop while eating from the pan. Scanning the news a headline caught his eye. He put the pan down on the coffee table and opened the story. Retrieving the ticket from his jacket he checked it against the number on the screen and checked it again, then rechecked it. Finally, he called his lawyer.

    “Hello Ed,” he said as the lawyer came on the line.

    “HI Nick. Nancy after you for something new?”

    “Well, she will be soon, Ed. It doesn’t matter though. I just won Mega-Millions…”

    1. Kerry Charlton

      What a fun response, Frank. I wanted to hoop and holler for Nick. I got caught up with Nick and as the story was coming to a close, I was pulling for him. Nice, clean writing. Good to see you back.

    2. Observer Tim

      Hey cool, Ed’s going to get millions! Nick and Nancy probably won’t be too happy, though.

      It’s a fun take, especially since what looks like Nick’s good luck is going to probably pile up the stress horribly before it’s resolved.

      I also like the style of the opening conversation; it sounds like people who’ve known each other for a while. Very natural.

      My only criticism is that parking space, where it sounds kind of like he was used to finding the empty parking space there. Not sure how to recast it, though.

      Great job as usual, Frank.

  6. BezBawni

    “Oh, no,” I whispered in horror stopping in my tracks. I clicked back to the mailbox I had just checked on my phone and the tips of my fingers prickled unpleasantly. “No, no, no, please,” I chanted, but it was too late – I had done it, I had deleted the chain mail by mistake and cleaned up the basket. The email promising bad luck if I didn’t send it to ten people was gone and with it – my hope for a getting the job today. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly telling myself that I wouldn’t let some silly superstition ruin my day.
    “Don’t be ridiculous,” I said aloud to myself, “You’ll be fine.”
    I put my chin up, smiled and walked determinately out of my apartment. I locked the door and turned around ready to face the brand new day and the most important job interview of my life as a loud tearing sound made me freeze. Mortified, I turned around to see my beautiful silk blue skirt caught in the door with a hole gaping in it like a silent cry. With shaking hands I unlocked the door, went into my room, changed into slacks and repeated the ritual of leaving my apartment. When I succeeded brilliantly, I sigh with relief. See? No end of the world here.
    I stepped down the stairs into the humbug and the heat of the city when my good neighbor Mrs. Fregoso was coming home from her morning walk. She saw me from afar and raised her hand to greet me, just as I pointed in her direction and said in a menacing tone of voice, “Don’t you dare!”
    I darted towards Mrs. Fregoso who stood rooted to the ground with her hand frozen in the air. The black cat walking across the road behind her, and which she didn’t see and had no idea I was running to stop the damn animal from crossing my way, halted.
    “Stay there, don’t move, you bastard!” I shouted scurrying as fast as I could in my high heels past a close-to-heart-attack Mrs. Fregoso, but the cat ducked to the ground for a split second and raced forward.
    “Damn it!” I said, leaning forward to catch my breath, before turning around to my neighbor.
    “Hi, Mrs. Torino, how are you today?” I said, still a little out of breath. The old woman backed away from me muttering something in Spanish which didn’t sound too pleasant and hurried to get inside the building.
    I knew what the orange slip of paper on my windshield was even before I had it in my hand.
    “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I said. With the remnants of self-confidence and determination I got into my car, shoved the parking ticket into the glove compartment, and turned the key. When nothing happened, the world seemed to spin around me and explode, burying me under its enormous rubble of injustice. I tried again and again, but the car wouldn’t start. Feeling the tears pressing at the back of my eyes I looked at the watch – there was no way I could make it in time even if I took a taxi. I knew that coming to an interview distressed and late as I was would mean my direct ticket back home.
    I crawled out of the car and dragged myself back home whimpering noiselessly. What I didn’t know was that the company I was going to apply to would go bankrupt two months later, and I would be already working for a rising-star consultancy company with great prospects of career development.
    Deleting chain mails isn’t such a bad idea after all.

    1. Observer Tim

      Nice turnaround, BezBawni. It’s nice to see what happens when a superstitious person runs afoul of the dreaded chain mail.

      Poor Mrs. Fregoso suffered a name change, or was getting her name wrong another aspect of the bad luck? (Bad luck! Yeah, that’s what it was.)

      This is a fun story with a positive twist. I like it.

  7. snuzcook

    “You can’t do it,” Alex insisted. We were in my basement office. The place had been swept just hours earlier, but even so she was whispering.

    “I don’t see any other way.” I hit ‘send’ and sat back. Now it was up to all of them, those strangers out there that I had never met, that I was never likely to meet. It was up to them to spread the virus through the ether one e-mail at a time, times ten, times ten, times ten ad infinitum.

    “It’s done,” Milton said.
    Across the country Alice Foley logged into her e-mail and read the chain letter. Alice believed in luck, and the power of faith that throwing a harmless positive message to other people could somehow improve the world. She forwarded the message to her mother, her sister, her sister-in-law and seven members of her book club.

    Rhonda Simms opened her chain letter and waited three days before forwarding it to six co-workers and four PTA moms. James Maloy sent out fifteen forwards, spawning hundreds of forwards among the members of his extended family and college friends all across the country.
    It had been a week. Alex, Milton and I met again. After sweeping the basement for listening devices, we pulled up the tracking program. The colored map of the world showed large areas of blue growing as we watched, and areas of brown diminished steadily.

    “What’s that?” Milton pointed to an area just outside of Las Vegas. There was a notable concentration of brown that was not transitioning. “Looks like we’ve got an unbeliever.”
    Chris Futura packed his laptop into its duct-taped carrying case and headed out of the hotel. It had been the worst three days of his life. He lost big at the tables, and couldn’t even get a win on the nickel slots. He tripped on a black cat and broke an ankle. He found out his mistress was cheating on him. His wife found out about the condo in town and she was leaving him and suing him for 70% of his assets. His car was towed after an all night binge and he didn’t even know where it had been impounded. And worse yet, he was being audited for undeclared income on the past four years’ tax returns. It was as if some morality police had it in for him. He couldn’t catch a break. Funny thing was, he had always been lucky; it seemed like he could get away with anything. Lady Luck smiled and his pockets were overflowing. It all seemed to change when he deleted that chain letter from his e-mail. Suddenly there was no magic in his world anymore.
    “What should we do?” Alex frowned. I knew her inclination was to reach out to the poor schmuck and save him.

    “We don’t do anything. We’ve neutralized the Church spyware in 98% of the world. If we have to let them have Las Vegas, so be it.”

      1. snuzcook

        I enjoyed this prompt. I think that moment when each of us is confronted by a chain e-mail, whether a provocative “forward this to everyone who believes like we do” or a benign invitation to have good luck, is a moment of truth. The moment we comply with or deny the request concisely declares who we are. Do we have faith, and if so, in what? If bad things happen, will we assume there is a cause and effect? Why do people join a chain mail when the motivations of the original sender cannot be checked? Why were we chosen to have it forwarded to us? Is there a shadowy conclave that watches and plans the next message?

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Well, I guess I was wrong about you losing your job, Snuzcook. Now that you know how to destroy the internet, why not work for them as a consultant.? Think of the money. You could buy your way out of the slammer and pay off your ex-wife.

  8. snuzcook

    I get back from my holiday weekend exhausted. Trying to negotiate a divorce agreement with my soon-to-be ex has got to be a new definition of hell. After a dozen calls, her strident, nasally accusations left a rugburn on my nerves. I really lost it at the end, but it wasn’t my fault—Megan could always push me past my limit.

    At least in my cubical at work I can put that all behind me. I log into my e-mail and open one marked urgent. Really? A chain e-mail? What a waste of time. I am marking it for deletion when a wad of keys drops onto the desk and I jump. Nancy the receptionist is leaning over my cubical wall.

    “You left these out front.” She looks over my shoulder at the screen. “Did you send your chain letter yet?”

    “No, and I’m not going to. I hate those things.”

    “You really should. With all that you have going on right now you could use a little extra luck.”

    I look up at her with narrowed eyes. There is something malevolent about Nancy, and I wonder if she was the one to tip off Megan about my affair with the sales rep from out of town.

    “I make my own luck.” I turn away. I can feel her eyes creating little icy patches on the back of my neck as I blink the chain letter into my junk bin.

    “Yes, you sure do.” Nancy stalks away, an arctic tailwind swirling in her wake.

    I am thinking about Nancy and her possible connection to Megan when I head out the back stairs of the building at lunch. I nearly trip on a black cat on the way to my car. A pink parking violation slip is waving in the breeze on my windshield. I had pulled into the visitors’ parking since I was running late. Only Nancy would have reported me. I look up at the office window and see Nancy watching. I salute her as seems in keeping with the circumstances. I slam the car door and poke my key at the ignition. It won’t go in. There is a new crimp in the key, as if it has been bent in a vice—or maybe slammed in a strong metal desk drawer.

    I pull out my phone, punch the office number. Nancy answers on the first ring.

    “What did you do to my keys?”

    “Moi? I don’t know what you’re talking about. By the way, a police officer is here. I paged you but you had slipped out the back way. He says he needs to talk to you about a complaint your wife filed over the weekend.”

    “You really are a witch, aren’t you?”

    Nancy lowers her voice, cupping her hand over the receiver. “From what I heard, you could get ten years for the stunts you pulled.”

    “Ten years!”

    “See, you really shouldn’t mess with an office chain letter.”

    1. Observer Tim

      Wow, Nancy is one really vicious customer. What did he do to get on her bad side? The entire office must be terrified of her. Just through a few simple descriptions you’ve painted her as the self-righteous office sociopath. Great job!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Nice flow, snuzcook. Not a wasted work in your prompt. Evil Nancy! She definitelt in cahoots with Megan. I haven’t read your second prompt above but I going to take a guess between evil anf Megan, you’ll be fired before the prompt is over. Good story here.

  9. Jen

    I have time before our departure from the International Space Station. Grabbing my tablet I access my email; it’ll be twenty years before I’m back in range.

    ‘This Really Works’ read the title. I scan the contents. Pass onto ten friends . . . good luck will be with you in 24 hours . . . failure to pass this on . . . 10 years bad luck. I hit delete. Here I am 375 kilometers above the earth and I’m still getting this kind of crap.

    I move onto an email from my brother; my throat closes. How do you say goodbye for two decades? The answer, of course, is you don’t. The email is about picking up my sports car and at no point addresses the fact we may never see each other again.

    ‘Spaceman – You left her in a disabled parking bay. I’ve paid the ticket for you. Apparently they don’t recognize being a terminal moron as a disability in this state. And don’t worry, little brother, I’m sure by the time you get back my mechanic will have tracked down the part to get her started again. Chuck’

    I groan, my poor baby left to the ministrations of Chuck and his hick mechanic.

    I float through the living area to grab my last meal. The silver pouch reads ‘Roast Chicken Paste’. I break off the seal and begin to push the gloop into my mouth. It’s on the second swallow that I taste it, Creamed Spinach. My first instinct is to spit it out and puke up what I’ve swallowed. Not practical in zero gravity. I need to let Mission Control know.

    I float over to communications.

    ‘Johnson Space Centre, this is Commander Ryan.’

    ‘Roger, Commander Ryan, this is Mission Control’

    ‘I have a medical situation. I need an assessment about whether I can go into cryogenic suspension suffering from digestive food intolerance.’ I say. ‘I have eaten roughly two tablespoons of spinach from a mislabeled food pouch’

    There’s a long pause. Ten years planning, five years training and a lifelong dream are all endangered thanks to someone putting the wrong name on a food packet.

    ‘Commander Ryan’ says the speaker. I recognize the voice. Doctor Ho the Senior Flight Doctor for the Jovian-Europa mission is out of bed at 2am Houston time.

    ‘Sir’ I say

    ‘We are invoking Plan Omega, do you understand?’ He says.

    ‘Understood,’ I reply. Plan Omega the mission is still on, but no cryo for me. I get to spend the ten year journey to Europa sightseeing and living on recyclable waste.

    But before that, I’m going to find out who sent me that bad luck mail. I’m going to go through all of my deleted items, pull out every chain mail I’ve ever received and forward it on to them. And in the ten years I’ve got in front of me, I’m going to think up new ones.

    1. agnesjack

      Very nice, Jen. Totally unique — especially the ten years of revenge — but I have to ask: After she’s digested the nasty spinach, can’t she go into cryo then?

      1. Jen

        Thanks Agnesjack – thinking on my feet here I’d say the cryo process is something that can only be initiated at the ISS and waiting for the spinach to ‘work its way thru’ would have lost the flight window. If I ever extend this piece I’ll make sure that’s included 🙂

      2. Kerry Charlton

        Very imaginative take on the prompt, Jen. I personally like cream spinich , but then there’s not much put on my plate I won’t eat. I hope Commander Ryan brought the Harvard Classics along for the trip and a deck of cards. A really fun read.

  10. Observer Tim


    Sorry for a bit of housekeeping and something all the veterans know, but I got a query on my site and I hope this will help. Personally I’m happy with all the new bylines I’m seeing; new people means more stories and hence more enjoyment!

    The first time you post to WD, your submission has to go through a human moderator before it goes live. Since the moderator(s) appear to work Monday to Friday, this means new posts on the weekend especially may take a bit of time (perhaps even days) to become visible. Don’t fear, but make sure you have a backup copy of your story saved in a notepad/word processor program for the very rare chance it might actually disappear.


    1. Sue Neal

      Hi Tim,

      I’m the newbie who left the message on your site – thanks very much for this response. I actually ended up submitting my story twice because I thought the first one had gone missing – I stupidly hadn’t saved a copy, so the second version I submitted was slightly different from the first. I posted it several days ago, together with some comments on other people’s submissions, and was becoming a bit downcast when they didn’t appear, but your message is very reassuring. I will now be patient and wait, and won’t be put off from leaving further posts. Many thanks for such a quick response.


  11. sprattcm

    I’m not sure why I stopped. I’ve lived in this city so long; I’ve accepted the social blinders that scrub the destitute and the dissolute into oblivion. Years ago I would stop and speak to the homeless, offer some small comfort. I might pass them a few dollars or the half sandwich left from my lunch. In time, I grew jaded. My experiences transformed them from hapless victims of circumstance in an uncaring world into intemperate abusers of the public’s trust; a plague of locusts leeching a living from the ever-industrious colony of corporate ants.

    Any other day, I would have stepped around his outstretched legs on the sidewalk without even glancing up from my phone. Any other day, the morning status meeting and the flood of emails in my inbox from my east coast clients would have consumed every thread of my attention save the lowest bit of animal awareness I needed to thread my way through a busy street. Today was different.

    “John,” he said, but I didn’t hear him. When he called my name again, I became aware of him. In that strange way that our minds work, I also realized he’d called my name three times.

    “I’m sorry, do I know you?” I asked with a flicker of annoyance.

    It appeared I did. At least, I had.

    Three hours later, Martin sat across from me in the sleek stainless steel diner on 5th and Cort. He’d showered at my flat and was dressed in my castoffs that had been destined for the thrift store anyway. I sipped my coffee and tried to visualize the stream of events that had carried him from a promising career at a prestigious law firm in downtown LA to the street corner on which I’d found him. He’d hardly spoken, but I do not suffer awkward silence.

    “How long has it been, Martin? Ten years? You must have a helluva story,” I said.

    He avoided eye contact, affording me only the most fleeting glance before looking down again to the empty charger before him.

    I pressed him, “I asked after you the day you left the firm, but of course they couldn’t tell me where you’d gone. I just shrugged, shouldered a couple of your clients and got on with my life. At the time, I had guessed something better had come your way, but when I look at you now, I’m not so sure that’s true.”

    “Ten years,” he said so quietly I had to lean forward to be certain I’d heard him speak at all. “Yes, it has been ten years.”

    He spilled forth a tale of woe, dark and bitter, that could move a stone to tears. I listened to a litany of catastrophe so utterly tragic, that but for its obvious human toll, it might be comic. When he concluded, I nodded slowly as I digested all he’d shared with me. I reached in my breast pocket, pulled out a business card and pushed it to him.

    “I want you to talk to Carol Channing at my office here in LA. I’m going to have her set you up with one of the company flats. While I’m not sure I buy the bit about the alien probing, if half of what you’ve said is true then you deserve and hand up,” I pushed away from the table and stood. “Obviously, breakfast is on me. I expect I’ll see you bright and early on Monday morning?”

    Martin’s hands were shaking as he held the card. He looked up and nodded, speechless.

    “One last thing, Martin: The next time you get a chain letter like that, I should think twice about deleting it if I were you.”

      1. sprattcm

        Thanks Tim. I felt like I strayed a bit far afield on this one since I never addressed the specific things that happened to Martin, but really wanted you to get to know John through his interactions with Martin. Thanks for reading!

    1. Pattypans

      Your take is original, well set up, and well executed, sprattcm. I really like your first two paragraphs, though I think the first one could be tightened a bit. Also, blinders that can ‘scrub’ might be a bit of a mixed metaphor. I liked the blinders but then the scrubbing part felt jarring. But I think you did a great job on this piece.

    2. agnesjack

      I like that you told this story from the point of view of a character other than the victim. It was a very different perspective.

      At first I thought it would be revealed that John had sent Martin the e-mail ten years ago, but I’m glad you didn’t go there. It made it a much kinder story.

      I found the last line a little jarring, however, because it felt thrown in as a way to mention the e-mail. If the e-mail had been touched upon earlier, the last line would not have been necessary. I think it would have fit the tone of the story better if it had ended with Martin’s touching gratitude.

    3. Doug Langille

      From the first two paragraphs, the MC comes across as being a bit cold, nihilistic even. His act of kindness to Martin almost feels like redemption for both of them. That’s a lot of complexity in few words. Well done.

    4. sprattcm

      Agnes: Excellent point. That last sentence services the prompt not the narrative. I appreciate the input.

      Doug: I didn’t like John very much in the beginning. It’s gratifying to know you’ve witnessed his redemption. I’m pleased you liked it =)

      Thanks for reading!

  12. Ink-stained

    By Hannah E. Reed
    (H. E. Riddleton)

    The laughter from above was a terrible mockery. It was far worse than the cracks that broke my mother’s back or the four leaf clover that gave me a rash or even the grand piano that had fallen from a crane and landed on my head and damaged only my memory. It was far proceeding the pain of falling in love with a Russian spy or being sentence to death by fire squad, or even the gunmen missing there aim and I having to watch my beloved being gutted by the cannibals that had been summoned for cruel and unusual punishments.
    Who knew the world was such a dangerous place? I hadn’t known it, my Russian lover hadn’t known it, and they above hadn’t a clue either. But I would be just like them if I had only forwarded that damn email, but I thought it was screwy and worthy of only a digital junk pile, a dump that descended my despair. It had been one of those chain link messages, warning you to send this piece of crap to ten other people or you would be cursed with bad luck for the next ten years. Bull shit, right? I had thought so, but then I realized that everything we do is chain linked and over the past ten years, I was faced with a chain reaction of one bad thing after another.
    The bad luck started when I stepped on a crack that broke my mother’s back and she didn’t speak to me for months; I had tried to make it up to her by finding her a four leaf clover, but the clover was covered with an odd moss that sprung welts on my skin; after about two years of suffering from this strange skin ailment I had decided to consult an occult specialist, but on my way down the dramatic and dreary route, I had walked under a ladder and tripped on a wire, triggering the traumatic fall of the piano onto my cranium; my memory was gone, wiped completely away; for two more years, I wandered in lunacy because my mother wouldn’t take me in, thinking I was possessed by a demon of terrible predicaments, so they sent me to a mental hospital in Transylvania, a terrible place where I was haunted with shock treatments and bat bites and patients who believed they were werewolves and vampires. I was the only ‘sane’ one, so I was released within a year, or did I escape? Nonetheless, I was out and that’s when I met him, my Russian spy lover, the love of my life, but he was gone now and so is my life. May he rest in peace beside my bones.
    Here, I lay in Death, a malady birthed from my veins being yanked out of my arm, after I tripped over my IV, after being hospitalized from an infection by a poisonous parasite in my Peanut butter, in which I ate as comfort food after my Russian lover’s death. I sigh inside my coffin and I can still hear them laughing above my grave, ten of them I assume. They laugh with cruel humor at the irony of my demise, but what can I say: At least I didn’t start an epidemic of malediction.

    1. Observer Tim

      What a string of improbable bad luck! A fascinating tale. I especially like the last paragraph.

      One quibble – the sentences tend to be very long. Here is where a little control of the semicolon needs to be exercised. And also my usual bugaboo: in future please put two breaks after each paragraph, otherwise they tend to run together.

      1. Ink-stained

        Oh, but there is so much wonderful power in semicolons, they can lead a life of eternal break or make things last forever. Haha, but thank you, my Junior English teacher, last year, used to say the same thing too: that my sentences are way too long and whenever she found a short one she would put a little note beside it: “Good syntax”. Lol. But thank you and I will work on it and have a little talk with the semicolons about how we need to slow our relationship down a little bit. I think I’m becoming a little too dependent. Haha, But thank you for comment! And feedback, and I’ll remember to do the little paragraph thingy again. And by the way, I love the word “bugaboo”. :).

    2. agnesjack

      Wonderful last line. With all the misery we’ve seen in these posts, it’s nice that one of the protagonists realized that forwarding the e-mail would have increased that misery exponentially.

      1. Ink-stained

        Awww… Thank you so much, and yeah that just felt like the only thing that made sense. When I used to receive those silly chain linked texts, I would never forward them unless they bestowed good luck, but now being a strong believer in nothing really except Unicorns and Fairies and maybe Fate, I don’t see the point in them. Why bring misery onto somebody else, when you can just carry it on your own back and see where it will take you? Lol.

      2. Ink-stained

        Awww… Thank you sooo much. :D. And yeah, that just felt like the only thing that made sense, she could have gone back and sent the messages or she could have attempted to fight the bad luck herself and die trying. I wanted her to keep her humanity, not become a martyr, so thus, she had to speak ironically from the grave. And I mean, personally, I would never be a part of a chain reaction of misery, madness maybe, but misery never. And I mean, why curse someone else with bad luck when you can take it on yourself and see how far it takes you? Lol. 🙂

      3. Ink-stained

        Oh, Dear, I am sorry, my computer’s being slow and weird, so I guess the comment got posted twice in two different forms, haha, I guess choose the one you like best. Lol.

      1. Ink-stained

        Haha, thank you so much, and you’re right, a little too much emphasis on the Russian Spy Lover, I shall obliterate him a tad with a heartfelt salute. May he shoot up to the stars on Sputnik and beyond. :). Thank you for the feedback. :).

  13. Doug Langille


    Larry sat in the jail cell and tried to make himself invisible. The smell of piss, sweat and stale booze made him light-headed. An acrid mouthful of pre-vomit spittle coated his tongue.

    His twelve-hundred dollar suit started out the day as a prized symbol of Larry doing all the Right Things. Balanced diet and an executive gym membership rounded out the package. He married his high school sweetheart and spawned two-point-four kids, if you count the dog. Ladder-climbing the equities business at his uncle’s firm was on his Life Goal List.

    Good ol’ Larry was a Believer. You make your own luck. The Power of Intention was his secret weapon. He didn’t really intend on sharing space with a cage full of drunks and whores, but there he sat, in a blood-and-mud stained suit wearing a lone shoe.

    “Ya shouldn’t have deleted that email,” the passed-out wino beside him whispered. It was more of a belch, really, but who’s keeping score, anyway?

    An emaciated sack of bones with too much makeup and not enough clothes said, “Chain mail has to be forwarded. It’s bad mojo, Larry.”

    “Would it have killed ya to forward it?” squeaked the sizable rat that made its gauntlet-run from behind the shitter to under the aluminum cot. “Dumb-ass.”

    “Fuck-up”, mumbled the drunk, then proceeded to let loose a violent fart.

    The wraith-bitch frantically chewed on her nails and simply said, “Loser.”

    “Ten-years bad luck, my ass,” Larry said to himself and to his imagined jury.

    “Ten-bucks gets you mine, sweetie,” said the hooker.

    “I’ll give you twenty for yours, hot stud,” said the very skinny young man in a tube-sock dress. He mascara was dripping, so he wiped his face with his dollar-store blond wig.

    Larry could ignore the black cat and talk his way out of the ticket at traffic court. Bad luck? Nope. He just wasn’t focused enough. There were bigger fish to fry. Now, his car not starting created havoc, real problems.

    He stood outside his car waiting for the tow truck and cracked open his Emergency Smoke and lit it with the Emergency Match, ten years down the drain. It was dryer than his sex life and burned out just as quick.

    When the garbage truck arrived ahead of the tow truck, Larry had no inkling that this particular vehicle hid his secrets. He had no clue that the garbage man was an Italian hand-talker and that the tow truck driver was behind on his child support, buried in gambling debt. Larry’s super-intuitive intention mindset didn’t predict the inevitable fist fight.

    Standing behind his car at the arse-end of the garbage truck didn’t serve as the best way to achieve his Goals. Maybe it was the nicotine playing with his judgment. He was pretty sure that the cigarette was what was making him woozy.

    When the tow truck driver threw a southie punch, the Italian ducked and received only a glancing poke. He managed to stay on his feet, but still swung his arms around to hit the dump lever.

    The entire contents of seven city blocks worth of refuse poured atop Larry’s car. As the bin made its final heavy metallic clunk, one last item thumped and tumbled right on to Larry. He held the dripping object to his chest in complete shock.

    Larry had been so careful to make sure that his boss’s body was dismembered and dropped in nine different dumpsters. It clearly wasn’t in the Master Plan to be still in the city on Collection Day. Larry didn’t believe in Luck or Fate. Either he was in charge or someone else was. Deleting all the old email from his tormentor seemed like a good idea at the time.

    The Road to Hell is paved with Good Intentions.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      When I read this, Mickey Spillane, came to mind. They asked him one time, if he liked being a famour author? “I’m simply a writer,” he said. “It’s what I do.” ‘I, The Jury’, was his first book. This reminds of his style. I dont need to say anymore. KC

    2. don potter

      The vivid description of the drunk tank was one that can only be provided by a person who has been there. Or, someone who has read a lot of stories about drunk tanks. Kudos. The dismembered boss came as a complete surprise. Overall, a good read.

    3. Ink-stained

      Wow, I love this, its exploding with irony and the question of Fate vs. Coincidence. And I love the harrowing descriptions of the narrator’s fellow jailmates, hilarious! And then the last line is just exploding with that wonderful irony the prompt inclines. :).

    4. calicocat88

      Great description, Doug. I love the details and you really nailed the atmosphere of the entire scene. I felt the misery of this guy, could smell the room, see the characters. I agree with Don about the dismembered boss surprise. Wasn’t expecting that, lol! Very, very good!

      1. swatchcat

        Wow, you have a way with words. From the rat behind the toilet to the violent fart, you carried me through the jail cell but as I read through to the end I got caught up on little details. Why did the two drivers get in a fight in the first place? Was there an accident? Just two SOB’s in a mood to pick a fight right where he was stuck? Did I miss something? This could use some continuation to find out why Larry killed his boss or was he just responsible for disposing of the body and why? Tell us more.

  14. writer reader

    “Not again!” I exclaimed, as I read the email with its warning, text bolded, threatening me with ten years of bad luck if I did not forward the email to ten people.
    You may think it would be a simple matter to delete the email. You would do that, and perhaps whistle a happy tune too. But you did not grow up with my Aunt Sarah, you did not hear stories of angry powerful forces hounding people for years. I did.
    Those days we got postcards instead of emails and I remember how my aunt would tremble when they arrived. We, meaning me, my sister and my aunt would write out the addresses of people we did not know and stealthily drop them in the post box at the square.
    My aunt did not say it aloud but we knew she believed my parents would be alive if they had written the twenty postcards needed to ward off bad luck. Instead, my mother had laughed and torn up the postcard.
    My aunt sent us to different parts of the town to note down addresses. She did not want to bring bad luck to any of our friends.
    I have compiled email ids of strangers too. The problem is about my id. It is an office id so whoever receives the mail will know my identity. To overcome this, I have created ten other ids and I first send the mail to these ids (all belonging to me) from where I forward them to ten more people, from each id.
    This means that the original message is sent to a hundred people but every time I worry. Have I broken the chain by forwarding to my own ids? Will I have bad luck? Or am I living it now, single at thirty one and stuck in a dead end job?
    I stared at the email and suddenly, viciously, deleted it. For a while I felt happy, even elated but by the end of the day, I was tense and nervous.
    I stepped out of the office and a harbinger of bad luck, a cat, crossed my path. There was a parking ticket, my first in six years, and I had trouble starting my car.
    I hurried home and after a sketchy dinner, went to bed. Why had I deleted the email? Could the bad luck be warded off be forwarding some other mail chain?
    I did not step out of my house that weekend, not even for my weekly shopping. If I was to have bad luck, it would have to come and get me; I wasn’t going out to meet it.
    Monday was the best day of my life. Two colleagues grumbled about the janitor’s cat creating a nuisance, three others complained about getting parking tickets because of the faulty meter outside our office.
    A week, a month and half an uneventful year has passed. I now feel free to make my own luck, and to delete mail chains.

    1. Observer Tim

      Nice take, writer reader. It’s good to see the main character gaining redemption from her superstitious upbringing. The story is told matter-of-factly and directly, as such stories often are.


      My usual grumble; going from word processor to html plays hell with the paragraph breaks. You have to insert two to get proper spacing.

  15. writer reader

    “Not again!” I exclaimed, as I read the email with its warning, text bolded, threatening me with ten years of bad luck if I did not forward the email to ten people.
    You may think it would be a simple matter to delete the email. You would do that, and perhaps whistle a happy tune too. But you did not grow up with my Aunt Sarah, you did not hear stories of angry powerful forces hounding people for years. I did.
    Those days we got postcards instead of emails and I remember how my aunt would tremble when they arrived. We, meaning me, my sister and my aunt would write out the addresses of people we did not know and stealthily drop them in the post box at the square.
    My aunt did not say it aloud but we knew she believed my parents would be alive if they had written the twenty postcards needed to ward off bad luck. Instead, my mother had laughed and torn up the postcard.
    My aunt sent us to different parts of the town to note down addresses. She did not want to bring bad luck to any of our friends.
    I have compiled email ids of strangers too. The problem is about my id. It is an office id so whoever receives the mail will know my identity. To overcome this, I have created ten other ids and I first send the mail to these ids (all belonging to me) from where I forward them to ten more people, from each id.
    This means that the original message is sent to a hundred people but every time I worry. Have I broken the chain by forwarding to my own ids? Will I have bad luck? Or am I living it now, single at thirty one and stuck in a dead end job?
    I stared at the email and suddenly, viciously, deleted it. For a while I felt happy, even elated but by the end of the day, I was tense and nervous.
    I stepped out of the office and a harbinger of bad luck, a cat, crossed my path. There was a parking ticket, my first in six years, and I had trouble starting my car.
    I hurried home and after a sketchy dinner, went to bed. Why had I deleted the email? Could the bad luck be warded off be forwarding some other mail chain?
    I did not step out of my house that weekend, not even for my weekly shopping. If I was to have bad luck, it would have to come and get me; I wasn’t going out to meet it.
    Monday was the best day of my life. Two colleagues grumbled about the janitor’s cat creating a nuisance, three others complained about getting parking tickets because of the faulty meter outside our office.
    After a very lucky week, I vowed to always delete mail chains. Finally, I was free to make my own luck.

  16. Dirty Toupee

    Who the hell is Suckerpunch36? It was my fault for opening email from an address that I didn’t recognize. Luckily, it only turned out to be a stupid chain email and not a virus. “Be gone with you,” I commanded as I hit the delete button. No one with half a brain believes that stuff.

    Finally, it was Friday. When I got this position a month ago, I’d thought I’d found the answer to my prayers. It turns out my new dream job had insane hours, zero days off, cut rate benefits and not enough money to justify it all. After having just ended an 8 year relationship with Jason, my ex-boyfriend, I wasn’t in any position to quit. The only thing I missed about him, was his always prompt check for half of the rent. I was struggling now.

    In a zombie like haze, I stumbled out into the sunshine. I raised my forearm to my head to block the sun’s intense rays. It was the first time this week that I’d left the office while there was still daylight. I dropped my eyes towards the ground just in time to see a black cat scurry in front of me; seemed as though he had plans. I was officially jealous of a cat. I shook my head and unlocked my car. That’s when I noticed the parking ticket, flapping in the breeze under my windshield wiper.

    “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I muttered. I park here all the time, with no problems. I even had time left on the meter. I turned the key in the ignition and the engine sputtered and died. Nothing, no sign of life.

    “Alright, you win,” I said, as I glanced up and spotted the crowd, one block away at the bus stop, just as the last bus of the day pulled up. Sprinting wildly, I snapped my stiletto heel, but made the bus. I stood all the way home.

    I stopped by the dry cleaners and was informed that my boyfriend had already picked up my clothes for me. While hobbling home, I mentally chastised the neighborhood kids for all the litter swirling around my feet. It turned out to be my mail; and now my keys no longer unlocked my front door.

    I limped to the curb and that’s when I spotted him. Sitting in his car across the street was Jason, and he was having a good laugh. He got out and began to walk towards me, still laughing.

    “Let me guess,” I paused. “You’re Suckerpunch36.”

    “You got it babe,” he smirked. “Did you really think I would let you dump me with nothing but a goodbye and a smile?”

    “So, the ticket and my car, was that you too?”

    “No, that was just your bad luck, but I did enjoy seeing you running for that bus, nearly eating the pavement,” he made a tripping motion. “Don’t worry though, we’re done now,” he said, as he walked back to his car.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      It’s her lucky day, she’s rid of the jerk. That’s when her luck will turn. Your story flowed well and was a pleasure to read. Dialogue was also well done. The opening line is a grabber, well done.

    2. Observer Tim

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who occasionally talks to my e-mail while deleting it.

      It’s interesting to see that the ‘bad luck’ was actually orchestrated by Suckerpunch36. He should be glad he’s not in a thriller; otherwise, he might have ended up sprouting a couple of free bullet-holes.

    3. Ink-stained

      So it was her ex all along, I love how you foreshadowed it. Once a jerk, always a jerk, well usually at least. This was really good, and quite fun to read, funny as well. :).

      1. Dirty Toupee

        Sorry I took so long to respond. I got busy over the weekend. Thank you to everyone who responded. I appreciate all comments and helpful criticisms. This is only my second time posting here, so I was a bit nervous about it all.

  17. Sue Neal


    Hi – I’m new here and would really like to participate in this thread, but none of my messages are being posted. I re-submitted my story response, because I thought it had got lost, and I’ve also today posted some comments on other people’s stories, but my posts just seem to disappear and it’s now an increasingly long thread to keep checking. Does it take several days for posts to get approved, or am I doing something wrong? I’d be really grateful for a response. Many thanks.

  18. Kinterralynn

    Sara rolled her eyes and let out an exasperated sigh has she clicked on the delete button. Another doomsday chain email from her ex-sister-in-law. Autumn was about as sharp as a pillow. Sara activated her screensaver and pushed back from her desk “Bad luck” she muttered, “Whatever helps you get through your day, Autumn.”
    Outside the fresh morning sunshine had been overtaken by dark menacing clouds. A stiff breeze carrying the promise of rain and the sound of demanding meowing swept around her and she paused. Her eyes fell on the black tuft of fur curled around the front tire of her old car and she stepped forward, her shoe landing on a piece of discarded bubble gum. She squatted down and the kitten pushed his black nose against her fingers, scraping the skin with sharp kitten teeth and arching his back. Sara picked him up and brought him to eye level just as her gaze caught the fluttering of the ticket tucked under the weathered windshield wiper. She reached for it and her keys fell to the ground.
    Sara leaned down to grab the keys and smacked her forehead on the side of the car, she snatched the keys and marched over to the lamp post. She dumped the kitten at the base and stomped back to her car. Opening the door she heard mewing behind her and turned to see the kitten galloping across the near empty lot, heading right for her. Sara slid into the driver’s seat and slammed the door shut. She looked through the window at the kitten and jammed her key into the ignition. The old car groaned and sputtered and then made that tell-tale clicking sound. Illogically, she turned the key again, silently praying luck would shine on her this once and give the starter that one spark it needed. Clickety-Click-Click.
    Sara looked back out the window and saw the kitten was still there… staring at her. She rolled down the window.
    “What?!” She cried out, “I don’t have time for this! Go home!”
    The kitten mewed.
    Sara took a deep breath and opened the door, leaning out far enough to sweep the kitten back into her lap and then slammed the door again. The kitten began to purr loudly and Sara laughed to herself, the tension draining from her shoulders. The cell phone on the seat began to ring and she picked it up, staring at the name on the screen..
    “Oh my god, Sara! Don’t delete that email I sent you, you’re going to have seriously bad luck!” Autumn’s high pitched squeal made Sara move the phone away from her ear.
    “I already deleted it.” Sara said with little emotion, “I don’t believe deleting chain mail will alter the course of my future.”
    “I know a guy in Texas who deleted it and his house caught on fire!” Autumn protested.
    “My house is not going to catch on fire, Autumn!” Sara said impatiently, “That’s just stupid.”
    “Your car could break down, or a black cat could cross your path, or you could hurt yourself…”
    Sara started laughing then, “Oh Autumn, those things are what make my life interesting, why would I want them eliminated?” She was still chuckling as she hung up the phone and tried her key one more time.

    1. Observer Tim

      You have a lovely style, Kinterralynn. I immediately empathized with the main character (except the part where she dumped the kitten). I’ve never heard the phrase “sharp as a pillow” before. She seems like the sort of happy-go-lucky type who can get away with playing with bad luck.

  19. JustinT

    I was never superstitious, even today on Friday the 13th. My fear was getting caught reading and creating pointless memes to post on all my forums. That’s when I encountered an e-mail warning me to forward it to ten people or receive bad luck for ten years. I’d seen these e-mails before, telling me that the secret to the kingdom of Heaven was in forwarding, or that the love of their life would respond if they forwarded.

    Forwarding e-mails tend to play God.

    I turned off my computer and stood quickly to my feet, starving for the Friday night party my friend was going to hold. I was only excited to see my gal, who smelled like sweet oranges and wore nothing but a yellow sundress and sandals. The image of her forced my knees to buckle and I craved to touch her lips.

    I sprung from my office building, almost like a skip only to see the most peculiar black cat that I have ever seen. It passed me and hissed, then continued onward. In the back of my mind I remembered reading bad luck, but like I said, I wasn’t superstitious. I continued toward my car and unlocked it from a distance, observing my strut in the reflection from the vehicle.

    I was a God in a suit.

    But really, I wasn’t. I jumped in my car and noticed something white on the windshield. Great, I thought. This piece of paper would determine how many times I could eat out next month. I jumped out and grabbed the ticket only to realize that it was for illegal parking. I looked around my car to notice the handicap sign. I didn’t see it earlier.

    In my mind I was cursing the cop, the universe and even myself, but I as I rounded the driver’s side, it hit me. The e-mail was right. I got into my car and took a deep breath, refraining from knocking out my window in anger. If I did, then those anger management sessions were for nothing.

    So I began to take deep breaths.



    I went to turn on my car when I felt like I was stable enough to do so, but it didn’t start. So I tried it again – and again – and again. Then, as the lustrous f-word began to dive off my tongue, I pounded my head into the horn. This day couldn’t get any worse.

    All I needed was a boost. This wasn’t going to ruin my weekend because I had the sundress babe waiting on me. I stepped out of my car and grabbed my phone. I would call her. I would ask for a ride. We could use more time together.

    The phone rang twice before she picked it up.

    “Hello,” she said softly, almost nervously.

    “Hey babe,” I said with a jolt of excitement.

    “We need to talk,” she replied.

    “Yeah we do, because I need you…”

    “I don’t want to see you anymore,” she interrupted.

    That’s it. I threw my phone so hard that it shattered against the pavement, breaking into a hundred pieces. That phone might as well have been my heart. I leaned against my car and looked toward the ground, wondering if that e-mail was right. Perhaps it was God. I kicked myself off my car and made my way toward the office.

    I was going to forward those e-mails.

    1. Observer Tim

      Oooh! Serious anger issues here; I take it he didn’t get an A+ on his course. It seems to me he won’t have too much trouble finding ten people he doesn’t like.

      This was a beautifully direct presentation, JustinT, and in a crisp and clear style. Good job!

  20. wohisme

    I would never knock anyone else’s beliefs, God forbid. But, these doom and gloom chain e-mails are making me mental. I deleted yet another one earlier today and now I am in for 10 years, well another 10 years, of bad luck. I wonder if I can appeal to the chain email gods to have my sentence served concurrently.

    Like any thinking person, I regard all of it as silly superstitious bunk, to put it politely.

    Yes, it’s true that since deleting the email a black cat crossed my path, I got a parking ticket and my car didn’t start; luck had nothing to do with any of it.

    Take the black cat. First let me say that the whole black cat thing offends. Why not a white or red or a mixed fur cat? Why is it always a black cat? Why not just say a cat and leave it at that? At the very least, let’s say cat of color. In any case the cat crossing my path was easily attributable to the country’s ongoing feral cat problem not some dark omen.

    In fact an argument could be made that feral cats are, in away, beneficial to society and therefore good luck. Viewed through an unintended consequences prism, one could postulate that, absent feral cats, a large more dangerous rodent population might well exist. Then what have you got, 14th Century England and the dreaded Black Plague, oops and there it is again raring its ugly head, how about we just say plague.

    Then there’s the parking ticket, it made me see red and it’s going to cost me some green but I have no one to blame but myself. I parked illegally, I got caught end of story.

    Now about that non-starting car of mine, I got it cause I liked its looks, mea culpa. It’s a 1964 BRG Austin Healy 3000 with a “of color” leather interior. The car is awesome and the fact that, occasionally, its temperamental and hard to start is part of its charm.

    As an aside, I got my wife for the same reason, liked the looks and yes, she too is occasionally temperamental and hard to start but like the car once she gets going… awesome.

    What would also be awesome is if we could all get going and put this good luck, bad luck, silly, superstitious, nonsense behind us and, please, stop sending and/or forwarding idiotic emails!

    If we do, we’ll should all be better off…

    … knock wood!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Fun rant! Easy writing style and it makes me curious that when you’re wife does become ‘cranked up’, so to speak, what happens? Could you spare a dozen descriptive words in that area.

        The love of old cars is one of my weaknesses. Especially a black and white ’55 buick Roadmaster restored to a pristine condition. That sunny afternoon almost cost me $32,000.00. Luckily, my sanity returned. The ‘knock wood’ was a good ‘reverse touch’.

      2. wohisme

        Lorena Bobbit has nothing over my wife. I threw in the “awesome” description just to cover my ass, not to mention other parts of my anatomy…, such as they are.

        Thanks for your kind words, glad you enjoyed the rant. .

    1. Ink-stained

      Haha, wow, this is some funny stuff. The color advocating and indifference, the chain link email gods, and with no superstition implied lets all knock on wood together at the end. :).

      1. swatchcat

        I’ve been out for a while but every so often, I play the devils advocate for noticing tiny things that (myself included) need to be made aware of to improve our writing. That is, spelling and grammar checks/proofing for quality aside from just an excellent job of pouring out words. I agree with the rest, nice angle. It can screw up the best of stories however, when the last bits are clogged with error. “We’ll” is a contraction for “We will” but I think you’ve chosen and incorrect use for, We all.

  21. Kinterralynn

    Sara rolled her eyes and let out an exasperated sigh has she clicked on the delete button. Another doomsday chain email from her ex-sister-in-law. Autumn was about as sharp as a pillow. Sara activated her screensaver and pushed back from her desk
    “Bad luck” she muttered, “Whatever helps you get through your day, Autumn.”
    Outside the fresh morning sunshine had been overtaken by dark menacing clouds. A stiff breeze carrying the promise of rain and the sound of demanding meowing swept around her and she paused. Her eyes fell on the black tuft of fur curled around the front tire of her old car and she stepped forward, her shoe landing on a piece of discarded bubble gum. She squatted down and the kitten pushed his black nose against her fingers, scraping the skin with sharp kitten teeth and arching his back. Sara picked him up and brought him to eye level just as her gaze caught the fluttering of the ticket tucked under the weathered windshield wiper. She reached for it and her keys fell to the ground.
    Sara leaned down to grab the keys and smacked her forehead on the side of the car, she snatched the keys and marched over to the lamp post. She dumped the kitten at the base and stomped back to her car. Opening the door she heard mewing behind her and turned to see the kitten galloping across the near empty lot, heading right for her. Sara slid into the driver’s seat and slammed the door shut. She looked through the window at the kitten and jammed her key into the ignition. The old car groaned and sputtered and then made that tell-tale clicking sound. Illogically, she turned the key again, silently praying luck would shine on her this once and give the starter that one spark it needed. Clickety-Click-Click.
    Sara looked back out the window and saw the kitten was still there… staring at her. She rolled down the window.
    “What?!” She cried out, “I don’t have time for this! Go home!”
    The kitten mewed.
    Sara took a deep breath and opened the door, leaning out far enough to sweep the kitten back into her lap and then slammed the door again. The kitten began to purr loudly and Sara laughed to herself, the tension draining from her shoulders. The cell phone on the seat began to ring and she picked it up, staring at the name on the screen..
    “Oh my god, Sara! Don’t delete that email I sent you, you’re going to have seriously bad luck!” Autumn’s high pitched squeal made Sara move the phone away from her ear.
    “I already deleted it.” Sara said with little emotion, “I don’t believe deleting chain mail will alter the course of my future.”
    “I know a guy in Texas who deleted it and his house caught on fire!” Autumn protested.
    “My house is not going to catch on fire, Autumn!” Sara said impatiently, “That’s just stupid.”
    “Your car could break down, or a black cat could cross your path, or you could hurt yourself…”
    Sara started laughing then, “Oh Autumn, those things are what make my life interesting, why would I want them eliminated?”
    She was still chuckling as she hung up the phone and tried her key one more time.

  22. Amy

    I felt the rain turn to ice just two blocks down the road from my stationary Volvo, a pathetic black splotch against the pallid gray surround. Reliable, my ass, I thought, and cursed my rotten luck. It had been the day from hell; the decade from hell, really. Sometimes, it actually felt like someone was personally tormenting me. But it was too strange to be true. I figured, with all the people in this world, karma had better things to do than catch up with me. I tucked my chin farther into the collar of my coat and trudged on up the hill toward my apartment.

    The sleet had turned my ponytail to an icicle by the time I rounded the corner onto Laurel Ave. I could just barely make out the glow of the streetlamp outside my building. I squinted against the falling wetness that looked sharp as nails in the air and noticed a dark figure standing just outside the door. I couldn’t tell who it was, but something about the squared shoulders and lean frame felt familiar to me. As I reached the curb and stepped right in the puddle next to it, I looked up again and the figure was gone.

    I arrived at the doors and threw them open in my haste to get out of the sleet. A black cat darted out of the entryway and up the steps, almost running over my toes in the process. The same black cat I had seen every night for what felt like years. The strange part was, my building didn’t allow pets. I took the steps two at a time, anxious to dry my wet head, and shoved my key in the lock. It snapped in half when I tried to turn it, but after so times, I had begun carrying a spare set everywhere I went. I turned the spare and flipped the switch on the wall with no resulting light.

    At least there were some matches next to a tray of candles on the table, where I left them. When they flickered to life, a pair of eyes glowed across the table. The match slipped from my fingers to the floor.

    “I’d put that out if I were you. With the way things have been going, you’ll set the whole place on fire.”

    I stomped the match out hastily and backed away from the table. “What the-“ was all I could get out. His voice felt so familiar, like hearing a song from my youth. “Who are you?”

    “I believe we went through all this ten years ago. Don’t you remember? Something about an email? Anyway, I’m here to tell you your sentence has been served- you’re a free woman.”

    “What sentence? I don’t remember you,” I said, but even as the words left my lips, I knew they weren’t true. I did remember his ambiguous shadow, the dark cadence to his words. A name tugged at my memory. “Wait, you’re the guy… with the business card.”

    I rummaged through my bag for the card I had kept for ten years, when my bad luck began, and pulled it out. ‘K. Kismet, Proponent of Fortune’

    The lights flickered on in the apartment and I looked up to find him gone, again; the candles snuffed out and billowing smoke in his wake.

    1. don potter

      A well woven tale. Telling the story at the conclusion of the ten years is a different take. I particularly liked the man’s name, Kismet, since its definition is fate or destiny.

    2. Pattypans

      Amy, IMO this is a very well-written piece. It has strong verbs, great description, you really do a great job telling the story. And I’m so glad the MC had a spare set of keys! There’s almost nothing worse than not being able to get HOME when you want to, which made it a very effective device, metaphor, whatever you want to call it.

      The only things that didn’t quite work for me, and I’m sorry I don’t know exactly why, or how to explain it, are the last two paragraphs. We can probably chalk it up to the limitations (and challenges) of the 500 words. (See, I can do the red pen thing, too, ha!)

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Your first sentence is a real ‘grabber’, Amy. The writing is crisp, particurally effective in this story, also gentle in it’s take. The description of the sleet and the icicle pony tail is very colorful in it’s context. And of course, ‘Kismet’ is a nice touch.

        It calls for a longer story here. I felt a little wistful that the story ran out because of the 500 limit; I wanted more.

    3. Sue Neal

      I found this very atmospheric – love the way you set the scene and maintained the gloom and tension right through to the end. And a great idea – starting the story at the end of the 10 year curse. Impressive.

    4. jhowe

      I echo all the good comments you are getting. Great story. I liked how the cat almost ran over her toes instead of crossing her path. Much more interesting. I feel bad, but I almost expect a good story from you now… no pressure.

    5. agnesjack

      Very nice, Amy. Wonderfully vivid. I could feel the outside chill.

      I, too, however, would like to read chapter 2 — or rather, chapter 1, where she first obtains the business card. I wasn’t sure how it connected to the e-mail, but as others have said, with a 500 word limit…

      1. Amy

        Thanks everyone, for the comments. I wasn’t as happy with this one as with others because I didn’t feel it was completely cohesive and by the time I was finished editing, I was incensed at the limit and all its restraints. I wanted to go so much farther with this one! Anyway…

        @Observer Time- yes, I was thinking his first name was Karma or some variation of it
        @don potter, Dani, & MCKEVIN- as always, I appreciate your feedback!
        @Pattypans- I am happy to see you have busted out the red pen! Nice to see it in someone else’s hand for a change. The last two paragraphs were a classic case of “Oh crap-I’m already over the limit and I haven’t even finished it off yet”. Not the ending I was hoping for, but I still like it, under the limits. Sorry you didn’t, but I understand why.
        @Kerry & agnesjack- I, too, would have liked to expand on this, offering both a backstory and a more conclusive ending. Drat that limit.
        @jhowe- Despite your disclaimer, I do feel the pressure, so thank you. Haha

    6. Doug Langille

      Clean write and an original story as always, Amy. Kismet the Kat. Lol

      Some wee edits for you. There’s a missing word in the sentence where the key snaps. Also, I think you can lose the semicolons. I hate those critters.

      1. Amy

        Now Doug, what did the poor semicolon ever do to you? I know, I know- everyone always says, “No semicolons in fiction, Vonnegut says so.” But how can you just eliminate punctuation? I happen to think that it gives rhythm to sentences that you just don’t get from a period. Then again, I am a semicolon addict, and have been for years. So I say give those critters a chance! I respect your opinion and thank you for pointing out my missing word.

        1. swatchcat

          Nice story and much enjoyable. Funny thing about semicolons; there’s just never a good home for them;) My husband use to tell me to think of it as an oversized speed bump. There is that stupid breath or one second pause with a comma,(one Mississippi) but with a semicolon(one Mississippi, two Mississippi) you need to take maybe a longer two to three second pause. Reading your lines that way does it sound as good or have the same intention?

    7. Ink-stained

      Whoa! That was really amazing, I have chills. :). I love the way you addressed the prompt and delivered it. Gosh, I still feel queezy in the stomach. :). Really great. :D.

  23. Dani

    Ever since the company had made it policy to open and read all emails it took me at least fifteen extra minutes to finish up my day. Some idiot (several of them actually) had deleted several company notification emails, and used that as their excuse for missing important meetings. Because of them I was sitting in my cubicle ten minutes after I should have been gone, reading about all the good luck I would get once I forwarded this email to ten of my closest friends. You may be wondering why I even bothered reading it. Well I was stationed directly across (in full view of) from the nosiest person in the company. If I went through and did an inbox clean without actually reading my emails, she would be sure to see it and report me. So once I had finished reading and learned about all the bad luck I would have if I chose to ignore the message, I deleted it. The last unread message was dealt with and I was ready to go home. I closed out my open programs and prepared to shut down my computer-
    “Jenny!” over-loud voice of my boss from behind me caused me to jump and spill my late afternoon coffee all over my lap. At least it was no longer hot.
    “Hi Mark,” I said as I mopped off my lap with some leftover lunch napkins.
    “I’m glad I caught you! I really need you to take care of this excel worksheet for tomorrow’s presentation. Can you stay late to work on it?”
    “Sure Mark, I’ll take care of it.”
    Two hours later after everything that could possibly have gone wrong with the spreadsheet had, I was on my way to the parking garage. The main power had been turned off right as I had finished working and the elevator was powered down. So I was making my way down nine flights of dark stairs to get to my car. Talk about a crappy day.
    As soon as I got to the parking garage I remembered that I hadn’t even parked in there this morning. Back up two fights of stairs and I walked out to the street nearly tripping over a black cat as it walked in front of me. For a brief moment the words “ten years of bad luck if you ignore this” flashed in my mind, but I shook it off. I was just having a bad day.
    A bad day that just got a heck of a lot worse I thought, as I saw the parking ticket fluttering in the breeze underneath my windshield wiper. I let out a sigh and started across the street toward my car, not even seeing the smart car speeding towards me.

    1. Observer Tim

      I’ve had these days, only without the parking issue. In fact, I had one yesterday: while trying to figure out why a spreadsheet didn’t work I was interrupted twice by people phoning me with bad news. If only I’d known I could reduce the effect by not deleting that e-mail.

      Great story, Dani!

    2. Amy

      Good story, Dani. You have an appealing voice here. I can never figure out why a spreadsheet doesn’t work. Maybe the smart car just missed her and crashed into her car. That’s what I’m going with. Enjoyable read.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I liked it Dani, and I have a little word of advice about Smart Cars. Eons of years ago, I had a football coach who gave me a tip. “Lean into the other player and meet him at a faster speed than he’s going.” So lower your left shoulder Dani, run straight at the Smart Car, and it’ll turn chicken on you.

    3. agnesjack

      I see you’ve touched a nerve with the excel spreadsheet. They can be pesky, can’t they!

      Nice job, Dani. My take on the ending, of course, is that she ends up in the hospital for a month, gets replaced at work by the nosy co-worker, etc., etc. After all, at the end of the story she still has nine years and 364 days of bad luck.

      p.s. to KC — I laughed out loud at your response on how to handle the Smart Car.

    4. Doug Langille

      Great story. I love how you set this up.

      I noticed a slew of missing commas, but I’m sure you’d pick them up in an editing pass. Also, the sentence with ‘over-loud’ in it reads funny. It’s incomplete and I think ‘overly loud’ is what you mean. The quoted phrase ‘ten years bad luck’ should be single quoted to distinguish from dialog.

      Write on!

  24. Dud

    “What a crock of dung, Barbara! You like that paraphrase, convoluted verbiage circa Al Pacino in ‘Scent Of A Woman’ don’t you, Barbara? No? Okay, I’m sorry but I did in fact delete it.” Barbara stared at me from her cubicle. She’s never liked me. Says I laugh too loud; I disrupt the office; other employees. Meanwhile it’s okay for her to prattle on about the cocoa butter she bought for a twenty percent discount. Or, her sister from Seattle who hates fish. Barbara’s little take on irony; loves to pontificate about her sister’s irony. Oh that’s important, isn’t it? That doesn’t annoy co-workers at all. No, nothing disruptive there, Barbara.
    Anyway, five on the dot, yo! Coors Lights are calling my name. Ha ha! A black cat under my car with a ticket on my window? Okay: one: yell at cat to move; two, take ticket and make a mental note to appeal it at four sharp on a Friday afternoon. One lame explanation usually gets it waived for me. Yeah, okay Barbara, things are going wrong. But are they, dear Barbie? I’m sitting on a stool at five oh four; you’re sitting at your desk late for no real reason…and here comes the Coors Light. Sweet dreams, Barb! Don’t let the bed bugs bite to all of you jokers scared of superstitions! What a joke! See you tomorrow. The suds are going down smooth tonight!!!

    1. seliz

      Well, Barbara doesn’t seem like the most fun to work with. Although, I can’t help feeling bad for her because of the, “you’re sitting at your desk late for no real reason” portion. Normally people like that have reasons for not wanting to go home, whether they want to admit it or not.

    2. Observer Tim

      Owie! It sounds like neither Barbara nor the MC would be any fun to work with. Of course, I have both of these people (or at least their archetypes) working in the office with me, so it’s even more telling to see it in action.

      It’s nice to know schadenfreude can trump bad luck!

    3. don potter

      Every office with more than a few workers has a Barbara. Can’t be that bad if it only takes a couple of beers to get rid of her. If she drives you to martinis then you have a real problem. I like your unique writing style.

    4. Amy

      I like the easy humor of your monologue, but I’m not sure I get exactly who Barbara is. At first, I thought she was the author of the email, but the other comments suggest she is a coworker. Maybe both? Anyway, I think you could use some paragraphing to space out your thoughts and dialogue a bit. I agree with don potter about your unique style- fun to read.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        There are Barbara’s and Bob’s everywhere. They’ve been picked on, hurt by life and never had a fair shake with fate. Underneath these facades, may be beautiful people that hide from the world. They need attention, a friendly smile, someone to talk to and maybe, just maybe you will find a real person there.

        My suggestion to all of us,is look for an avenue to show the Barbara’s and Bob’s of the world, that we care. On your story, I find it rather poignant.

    5. Doug Langille

      Very fun and fast-paced read. I enjoyed this very much.

      I agree with the others on breaking the dialog in to their own paragraphs. Also: semicolons. I think ‘one’ is too many in fiction. I always assume that my stories will be read aloud. Semicolons have no use orally. 🙂

      1. Observer Tim

        Here is where I have to disagree with you, Doug. One use of a semicolon is to signal a tonal shift to an included aside or a sudden change of topic in mid-sentence, where that break is appropriate. It also avoids the awkward (to me, at least) construction of beginning a sentence with the word ‘however’, which it is the preferred punctuation for. It is voiced with a pause about halfway in length between that of a comma and that of a period (similarly to a full colon).

        1. Doug Langille

          Okay, I’ll set aside my sword and shield. You make a fair point. There is an oral presentation use-case for semicolons.

          I’ve been called out for using them in that they can hamper readability in business communication, journalism and fiction. I said ‘fine’ and started using conjunctions until I was told that my serpentine prose was confusing and unreadable. I said ‘fine’ and now opt for the reading level of middle school. Of course, now I end up writing a lot of shorter sentences, and get tossed about for that.

          1. Observer Tim

            I have no experience of what you were writing then, but now your prose is eminently readable. Anyone who tosses you about for it is either (a) hypersensitive or (b) off-base. Both very human traits, alas.

            I’m surprised nobody’s come after me for my overuse of fragments.

  25. don potter

    “Damn,” I said to the computer screen. “I can’t stand these chain emails. ‘Send this to ten people or have ten years of bad luck.’ It’s time to draw the line.” I hit the delete button.

    This simple act of opposition made me feel good, but then a wave of doubt swept over me. “What’s the problem here? When did I become superstitious?”

    I shut down the computer and straightened up my desk before leaving the office for the weekend. My car was parked on a side street about a block away. As I turned the corner, a black cat ran out from an alley and crossed in front of me.

    I approached the car and noticed something tucked under the windshield wiper. It turned out to be a ticket for parking on the street cleaning side. “No wonder there were so many empty spots this morning. Guess I didn’t have my head on straight. Read the signs next time, dummy.”

    I jumped into the driver’s seat and stuffed the ticket behind the sun visor. I heard the sick click of a dead battery when I turned on the ignition and took out my cell phone to call the auto club. There were no bars, and I had to walk to a nearby coffee shop to place the call. I sat at the counter, asked for a glass of water, and knocked over a salt shaker in the process. The waitress suggested I grab a pinch and throw it over my shoulder. I left instead.

    To pass the time while waiting for road service, I walked around the car to check for any dings or scratches. That’s when I noticed the mirror on the passenger side was cracked. “When did that happen? Was it there when I drove to work? Wait a minute. What’s today? It’s Friday the thirteenth. This is crazy.”

    The truck got there faster than expected. Soon the battery was recharged and ready to go. I wanted to give the man a tip but only had a twenty. He had change so it was not a problem. Strange how my palm itched throughout the entire transaction. Suddenly I sneezed several times and he offered a ‘God Bless you’ before driving away. As I returned to the car I stepped on a large crack that I swear was not there before.

    I quickly recounted what happened to me since deleting the email. The black cat, parking ticket, dead battery, cell phone not working, salt shaker, cracked mirror, Friday the thirteenth, the itchy palm thing, the multiple sneezes, and stepping on a crack. Ten superstitious events in less than an hour is more than a coincidence.

    I ran back to the office and turned on my computer. I went to the deleted file and found the email, which I fired off to the first ten people in my address book.

    “Please don’t be mad at me for sending this email to you,” I said after shutting down the computer again. “And I sure hope you don’t delete it.”

    1. calicocat88

      This encompasses one of my bad days, lol! This story is written where the audience can easily relate to it and feel for the MC. I like how you nailed all the “bad luck” indicators and how you let us into the MC’s train of thought so smoothly with the transition from not superstitious to paranoid. Great job 🙂 Down with chain letters!

    2. Amy

      That is a lot of superstitions! Your narrator seems to talk to his/her self a lot, but that’s not a bad thing. I talk to myself all the time. I actually heard the “sick click” of a dead battery not too long ago- it sucks. Good write.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        You wrapped the prompt smoothly and then added your own touch. Very smooth story Don. The ‘sick-click’ brings us all back to frustration and annoyance. Two words, can bring so many thoughts back. You got a lot in this story. Nice write.

    3. Sue Neal

      Hi Don – loved the growing crescendo of mishaps – and that’s an appealing touch in the character’s apology at the end. Would things have turned out differently if he’d thrown the salt over his shoulder, I wonder?

  26. Observer Tim

    This one’s for seliz.
    – – – – –
    The car is surrounded, but they seem to be ignoring me. So far. I crouch down on the floor, trying to be as small as I can and hoping none of them look in. I wish I’d forwarded that damned e-mail. I don’t believe in luck, good or bad, but right now I’ll take anything I can get.

    It’s Romero-Snyder Syndrome. There’s been an outbreak here in town; people appear to die, then they get up and start moving again. And the fever makes them little more than mindless husks, ravenous for any food they can get, even other humans. Especially other humans.

    The radio said there were three confirmed cases at City General. Well, there are at least 20 more in the street outside my office now, and probably more coming. Right now they’re just shambling around moaning, but any sign of life and they’ll get nasty. I try to crouch lower, but that’s probably impossible.

    At least that noisy cat has stopped its yowling.

    My hand slips and my elbow knocks the gas pedal. With a low rumble the engine finally comes to life. The moaning stops as they all turn toward my vehicle …

    1. JustinT

      I really enjoyed your story. I loved the idea of the walking dead. I was pulled into this story because I really felt like I was there, imagining being trapped and hearing the the moans from these “infected.”

    2. calicocat88

      I love this so much! Not a fan of zombies, but this kept my attention and I LIKED IT!! So you did your job right and you did it well. Catching the attention of someone with a zombie story who would otherwise shy away from cannibalism is a sign of some good writing, lol! Live long and write on!

    3. Observer Tim

      Sigh. Sorry, Pattypans, resistance is futile. Here goes:

      Slubloop waved its cilia in sequence, propelling itself through the water. It sensed a change in the medium in that direction, which usually meant food. If a paramecium could be said to hurry, it was hurrying toward its next meal.

      But the thing it approached was not a meal. It was a substance the Slubloop had never encountered before. Even if it had been told this was an electrical contact, it would not have understood. After all, it had no brain. It touched the new thing with its cilia, not out of curiosity but because it happened to be there.

      Immediately reversing direction it bumped into the other one. Microamps of current coursed through its body, causing its cilia to all stand out like a porcupine. The other paramecia would have laughed, if they could see Slubloop’s distress. Assuming they knew what a porcupine was. Or what humour was.

      In an instant Slubloop was granted full cosmic awareness of the import of its action. The short circuit it caused had started a cascade which totally erased the hard disk of a college student (whatever that was) and in turn brought bad luck on it for ten years (whatever years were). Slubloop didn’t really care though, because its membrane had dissociated, spilling all of its insides into the medium where they would serve only to feed its fellow microbes. Shubloop would have cried if it had tear ducts.

      “Shit!” said Steve. “I just spilled my bio-experiment on my laptop keyboard! And I was just about to send that stupid chain letter right back to Tim! What rotten luck!”

      1. Pattypans

        Tim, that was pure genius! I’m glad you didn’t resist!

        Now, if you will forgive what may sound like (but hopefully isn’t!) grammar-Nazi speak, you have ‘committed’ two similar grammatical errors in two of your conditional sentences, which should read as follows: “The other paramecia would have laughed, if they could have seen Slubloop’s distress, ” and “Shubloop would have cried if it had had tear ducts.”

        Granted, sometimes correct English sounds odd, or even incorrect, to American ears. (And I was born American, but alas, I am also an English teacher!) But it is what it is! Or so they say.

      2. Doug Langille

        Awesome, Tim you really made zombies feel credible
        That’s no easy task these days.

        My only nit, besides the rogue semicolon (I really hate those guys) is that you probably overuse the exclamation points. You write well enough to not need all of them..

        1. Observer Tim

          Thanks for the tips, Doug. I use exclamation points to signify an agitated emotional state, for good or ill. I probably shouldn’t but it’s as much a cue to me as to readers.

          And the semicolons are definitely my style. But I can see where you’re coming from – I’m engaged in a war against bullet points in presentations at work on similar grounds.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        You’re way over the top for me. I need a three hour credit couse in Zombies. I’m so far back in the last millennium, I don’t know nothin’ about Zombs. I’m almost afradf to ask you, for I fear you might tell me.

        1. Observer Tim

          It gets worse because of Romero’s movies. He correctly identified his shambling horrors as “ghouls” but was told to change it to “zombies” because it would be more recognizable.

          Real zombies don’t eat people (hey, maybe someone should write a book about that).

          1. Kerry Charlton

            Thanks for the que, Tim. I’m still gonna close my eyes and ears to ‘Zombs’. I do need sleep, you know. KC

  27. JustinT

    I was never superstitious, even today on Friday the 13th. My fear was getting caught reading and creating pointless memes to post on all my forums. That’s when I encountered an e-mail warning me to forward it to ten people or receive bad luck for ten years. I’d seen these e-mails before, telling me that the secret to the kingdom of Heaven was in forwarding, or that the love of their life would respond if they forwarded.

    Forwarding e-mails tend to play God.

    I turned off my computer and stood quickly to my feet, starving for the Friday night party my friend was going to hold. I was only excited to see my gal, who smelled like sweet oranges and wore nothing but a yellow sundress and sandals. The image of her forced my knees to buckle and I craved to touch her lips.

    I sprung from my office building, almost like a skip only to see the most peculiar black cat that I have ever seen. It passed me and hissed, then continued onward. In the back of my mind I remembered reading bad luck, but like I said, I wasn’t superstitious. I continued toward my car and unlocked it from a distance, observing my strut in the reflection from the vehicle.

    I was a God in a suit.

    But really, I wasn’t. I jumped in my car and noticed something white on the windshield. Great, I thought. This piece of paper would determine how many times I could eat out next month. I jumped out and grabbed the ticket only to realize that it was for illegal parking. I looked around my car to notice the handicap sign. I didn’t see it earlier.

    In my mind I was cursing the cop, the universe and even myself, but I as I rounded the driver’s side, it hit me. The e-mail was right. I got into my car and took a deep breath, refraining from knocking out my window in anger. If I did, then those anger management sessions were for nothing.

    So I began to take deep breaths.



    I went to turn on my car when I felt like I was stable enough to do so, but it didn’t start. So I tried it again – and again – and again. Then, as the lustrous f-word began to dive off my tongue, I pounded my head into the horn. This day couldn’t get any worse.

    All I needed was a boost. This wasn’t going to ruin my weekend because I had the sundress babe waiting on me. I stepped out of my car and grabbed my phone. I would call her. I would ask for a ride. We could use more time together.

    The phone rang twice before she picked it up.

    “Hello,” she said softly, almost nervously.

    “Hey babe,” I said with a jolt of excitement.

    “We need to talk,” she replied.

    “Yeah we do, because I need you…”

    “I don’t want to see you anymore,” she interrupted.

    That’s it. I threw my phone so hard that it shattered against the pavement, breaking into a hundred pieces. That phone might as well have been my heart. I leaned against my car and looked toward the ground, wondering if that e-mail was right. Perhaps it was God. I kicked myself off my car and made my way toward the office.

    I was going to forward those e-mails.

  28. GD

    The black cat scurried in front of me, as if it was getting delayed for a very important task. They say it is a bad omen, but who cares. Life’s too fast for all this nonsense.
    And then when I reached my car, there was a parking ticket waiting for me. How can anyone do this to me on such an important day? Anger and frustration started building up, but I controlled it. “Not today, not now”, I kept reminding myself. As I turned on the ignition of my car, it groaned, but didn’t start. That was too much. I stated laughing at my misfortune and looked up at the sky. “Is this your way of saying that I am too early for this. Well, there is no stopping me now.” I boasted to the Gods .
    I was 19 and was on my way to meet a publisher who had promised to publish my first book. Seeing my car in no mood to keep pace with my dreams, I took the help of public transport to reach my destination.
    “So sir, are we ready? “ My voice reflected my excitement.
    “Look Mr Stark,” His tone was a sharp contrast to mine.
    “Yes Mr Sharma” I waited with bated breath.
    “Well, your book, it’s a bit …. What we say…immature”
    I could hear his unspoken, trailing words: “Like You”
    I was there with him for the next one hour, arguing, pleading, begging, threatening, but the verdict remained the same. It was only when I stepped into the open air that it hit me. “It was the e- mail, wasn’t it? That chain mail, the one I deleted.”
    I rushed home and searched all folders, but my three fingers (on Shift-Delete-Enter) had determined the fate of the mail, and maybe, mine too.
    “Bad luck, papa.” My four year old daughter yawned, sleep taking over her senses. “You could have told me the story tomorrow. I already had one today”. Those were her last words before her mind was transported to a different world.
    “There is a reason sweetheart. That incident had happened exactly 10 years from today. Today the era of ‘bad luck’ is going to be over”, I said to my now-sleeping beauty.
    I glanced at my desk, looking at the dog-eared manuscript of my first novel, which had been rejected and insulted, over and over. “Tomorrow, we are going to have a new fate”, I whispered.

    1. Observer Tim

      Ah, the writer’s birdcage liner – rejection slips. Hopefully he kept up the writing during his ten-year hiatus from good luck.

      This could use a once-over to clean up some minor grammar things, but is otherwsie a good read. Keep on writing, GD!

  29. Sue Neal

    Hi – I posted a response to this a couple of days ago, but it just seems to have disappeared. Not sure if it was rejected or if I did something wrong. I stupidly forgot to keep a copy, but I’ve submitted a slightly different version today, in the hope that you’ll accept one of them. Both are just a word or two within the 500 word limit.

    If I’ve made a mistake in the way I’ve submitted my response, please can you let me know?

    Many thanks.

    Sue Neal

  30. Sue Neal

    “Hey, Marsha – take a look at this. It’s right up your street. D’you want me to forward it to you?”

    Marsha, the office psychic, sidled up to my desk and peered over my shoulder at the chain email, promoting a campaign against animal cruelty and promising me 10 years’ bad luck if I failed to forward it to 10 more gullible idiots.

    “That’s a load of malicious rubbish, Sophie,” Marsha declared. “I know you think I’m barmy, but I don’t believe in that kind of nonsense. It’s just a ruse to get you to circulate it. Deletez-vous – and you needn’t bother forwarding it to me!”

    So I hit the delete key, though not without a frisson of primeval fear.

    Later, as I left the building, a scrawny black cat crossed my path, and I recalled the email. Wasn’t a black cat supposed to be lucky – or was it the other way around? Then I saw the parking ticket pinned under my windscreen wiper, flapping in the breeze. “Thanks a bunch, pussy!” I shouted at cat, as its tail disappeared from view.

    But it was myself I cursed, not the cat, as I ripped the ticket from the windscreen. “Stupid cow – what do you expect if you park on a double yellow?” Mind you, I couldn’t help thinking it was just a tiny bit unlucky that a traffic warden, rarely seen in this neck of the woods, had chosen this particular day to pay us a visit.

    Climbing into the car, I hurled the ticket onto the passenger seat and turned the key. The engine gave a brief, asthmatic cough, then died. I tried the key again. Nothing. Nada. Not even a little wheeze. It was as dead as Monty Python’s parrot. “No!” I screamed, hitting the steering wheel in frustration and rage. More bad luck? Nah – the old jalopy was well overdue a service – like the ticket, it was all my fault, nothing whatsoever to do with email hexes or witches’ cats.

    Taking a deep breath, I fished my mobile out of my bag, intending to call the recovery service, only to find the battery was as dead as the car’s engine. My fault again – I’d forgotten to put it on charge. I stormed out of the car, slamming the door shut on my thumb in the process, and howled. Nursing my bleeding hand, I walked – very carefully – back to the building and took the lift up to my office on the 10th floor. It juddered to a halt between floors 5 and 6. I was alone in the lift – this was my bad luck, no-one else’s – and in the three hours it took them to release me, I decided I couldn’t stand 10 more years of this.

    Back in my office, before phoning the recovery service I logged onto my emails and went searching in my deleted items, compiling a mental list of 10 people I disliked enough to forward it to. But it wasn’t there…

    1. Observer Tim

      Hi Sue;

      I was looking forward to reading this, and now I know why. It’s a crisp, cleanly-written piece with a distinctive style. I can feel the protagonist getting more upset as it goes on. And of course, you had me with the dead parrot reference. The final peice of bad luck made me chuckle, which is damned impressive considering the day I’ve had (my father died today).

      P.S. Useless trivia: dd you know that the “Dead Parrot” sketch was actually inspired by an argument over a defective car? The circle is complete.

  31. PeterW

    Bad Luck by PeterW
    (Since my first person was subpar on the last few prompts, I decided to do third person =D)

    Maria sat in front of the computer, her mouth slightly ajar. Oh dear, she hadn’t really meant to delete the email. It was from a Mr. Cerendipity, who she didn’t know, but the email had said that he was just a poor man looking to spread his message of love, and Christianity and something else… oh dear, she didn’t really remember, but it also said that the receiver (that was her, she knew) would possibly encounter bad luck, if they (she) didn’t forward the email to ten other people… Oh dear.

    Maria’s arthritic knuckle on the pinky of her left hand tingled. She squirted some flowery white lotion into her other palm (with a heavily curved heart line and shallow stout life line). She rubbed her arthritic knuckle and padded her cheeks. She was quite lonely really. It was the first email she had received this week and she had deleted it. The black cat, James, heaved his fat little body onto the computer table, meowing sonorously. “Oh good kitten,” she said. James pawed the line between table edge and keyboard. Then he invaded her lap, pawing and circling, but his sinuous tail brushed against her noise, and she let out a high-pitched squeeze. “Meorroow,” and James was off.

    Ouch, his back claws had dug into her thighs as he had sprung. Maria apologized to James who was now licking himself in a pool of light; it was true she was slightly allergic to cats. She rubbed her thighs. Black cat hair floated through the clean sunlit air. The laptop computer sat on the kitchen table, its cord drooping down to the nearest socket.

    Cerendipity… the name, it sounded like ‘serpent’ to her. She thought of Eve in the garden with a serpent curled around her bare breasts, curling and coiling. Maria’s cheeks turned a bit pink. Shame on me, she thought, such wicked thoughts. Then she shut off the computer, but didn’t put it away; her son, he would know how to get in contact with Mr. Cerendipity. She wrapped herself in a thick shawl (though it was mid-morning and seasonably warm), and collected her grocery list (bananas, cat-food, a TV dinner, and perhaps a little cat toy, something special for James).

    Cerendipity… what would he think of her; deleting his email, not being able to forward it, and he was a fellow Christian. It was such a shame that she couldn’t email him back right away, and further, the talk of bad luck, well… She left her little townhouse, painted white, in a hurry, such a hurry that she left the door unlocked and slightly opened.

    Her car, the little Oldsmobile it was gone. Oh dear. She squinted. The street was bright and the cars were lined on the curb, but like a missing tooth, her little Oldsmobile was gone from its usual spot. Her mouth hung slightly ajar, slightly agape. She felt hot all over; oh dear, her little car.

    After the fifth or sixth dial she managed to dial her son on the cellular. “Mom”, he said, “you know I work in Cincinnati. Maybe you parked it somewhere else. And if you can’t find it, call the police, not”… and the cellular, low on charge, died.
    Oh dear, and poor Maria, in her heavy shawl, felt the sweat creeping all over her skin. A drop mixed with flowery, white lotion invaded her eye. Her left pinky knuckled ached. It was such a sunny day. Maria wandered the block, all lined with menacing, little, white townhouses. She imaged that poor Mr. Cerendipity, in a green, scaly suit, was leading her by the arm past all the glittering cars, which weren’t small, and weren’t Oldsmobiles. What would she explain to a big, brutish policeman?

    When she got back to her own little white townhouse, she was dripping from sweat and on the verge of tears. She saw the opened door. Her heart bumped up to allegro. How James loved to meow, how he loved to wind back and forth, and then put his plumb paws on the door, wanting out. She dashed in. “James, James, my kitten.”

    Of course, James didn’t answer (his usual feline response). Maria circled the house, double-time from the frantic walk about the neighbor, and quadruple-time from her normal short, cautious stride. “James, James, James, James, James, oh baby James.”

    Oh dear and poor Maria winding in and out of furniture, her left pinky knuckle in her mouth. Her white townhouse was clean, her windows all wide, the lanes of movement all clear except…. She went from pool of light to pool of light; then she went over the cord which drooped from the laptop to kitchen wall socket, oh dear.

    Maria lay on the ground the black cord somehow wound about her, and pulled tight on her face. Blood filled her mouth and she spat and spat onto pleated tile. She thought of Eve with the juice and seeds of the fruit between her teeth, and the serpent wound about her bare breast. How sensual and wonderful it sounded. How wicked and sinful it sounded. Maria tried to feel her own breasts underneath layers of shawl, a few winding of cord, and against the floor. But oh, it was too painful. Maybe, she thought, Mr. Cerendipity, concerned that she had not responded, that she had not forward his message ten times, maybe he was on his way to check on her, to say hi, to bend down and pet James, and say, “Maria, you are lucky to have such a nice house, such a nice cat, such a clean and sinless mind. Maria, Maria, Maria….”

    1. Kerry Charlton

      A rhythm of prose, perfectly paced, leading Maria to the edges of her existence. It’s a haunting piece of writing, PeterW. A trip for Maria from stress leading to the threshold of madness.There is a crescendo of suspense as if it were timed to music. Classical music, not what the radio plays today but more like Bolero. Fine writing, indeed. KC

    2. agnesjack

      This is heartbreaking and beautifully written. It has a lovely dreamlike quality, and a rhythm that seems to float on waves. I can see Maria so clearly. Very nice, PeterW.

    3. Yamna

      The story is enticing and captivating you can just feel yourself getting goose bumps while reading it. I dunno why but now i keep checking my surroundings for any lingering creepy people, that’s how scared and freaked i am after reading this. Its an amazing story that keeps you spell bound and now im your no.1 fan :).

    4. calicocat88

      This reminds me of Flannery O’Conner’s short stories. I love the way there’s a hint of symbolism throughout the whole story (not sure if that was your intentions) and an inside look into an old woman’s mind. Very powerful 🙂 Great job!

    5. Amy

      I enjoyed your allusions here, PeterW. An interesting voice. Just a few minor mechanical mistakes that could use a sweep. Just pointing out, though, that it is double the limit. I feel like we could all put out super descriptive pieces in that many more words. The true challenge lies in chopping your beloveds… or something like that. Still, an entertaining read.

    6. lailakuz

      Oh wow. Wow oh wow oh wow oh wow!! The plot is paced perfectly, the style is gorgeous and the sheer amount of thematic elements you were able to achieve in 500 some words is ridiculous. All I can say is Brava!

    7. Ink-stained

      Hmmm… Maybe I’m misinterpreting, but I am enticed by the idea of religion being somewhat Maria’s downfall. The presumably sinful thoughts sprung from the email’s sender became her death. The serpent and Eve, very darkly aesthetic.

  32. jhowe

    “I’m afraid I’m busy next month too,” said the well-padded brunette with the too tight come hither dress and bedroom eyes. I had been certain she would succumb to my charms. Oh well, her loss. The bleach blonde with the crooked eyes across the room looked promising although I thought I saw her an hour ago hanging on Ricky, the scarred Vietnam vet who owned the house where we partied on as the clock struck twelve.

    As I approached an overboobed redhead chugging Boonesfarm from the bottle, the cat squealed piercingly as I stepped on her black tail. I bent to comfort her and my pants split wide open. I heard snickers behind me and possibly someone wretched. No more commando for this guy, that was for sure. I backed to the door and made my departure amongst howls and calls for an encore.

    I pulled out my cell phone to call a cab and the battery was completely dead, not even a glow. Shit the bed. The bus stop a few blocks away was in the process of being pillaged by three hooligans with ill intent. I turned to walk the other way and was stopped by a bedraggled hand on my arm. “I’m pregnant with you baby,” said a soiled women wearing everything she owned. “I need two hundred bucks for an abortion.”

    The hooligans were looking my way, growing tired of the gnarled bus shelter. “How about ten?” I said.
    She took the money as I walked quickly away. “Your ass is showing,” she called after me. With luck I thought not possible an empty cab drove by and pulled over as I hailed it. I got in and gave the large black man my address and he took off like a shot.

    “Hey man, take it easy,” I said.

    “Fuck you,” said the driver. “I just found out my fucking wife is fucking my god damned brother.” His hands clenched the wheel and his rage tore on. “My fucking brother!”

    “Hey, calm down man, you’re going to get us killed,” I said. I searched for the seatbelt but there wasn’t one.

    “Don’t tell me to calm down asshole.” He increased his speed, rounded a corner and drove toward an apartment building with the apparent goal of ramming it. At the last second I dove to the floorboard and covered my head with my arms. The crash was deafening.

    I kicked open the car door and debris tumbled onto my legs. I looked into the driver’s seat and the big man looked bad; probably dead. Voices shouted and a siren wailed in the distance. I stumbled out onto the floor of the building and managed to squeeze out beside the ruined cab onto the street.

    “Hey buddy, are you ok?” said a man from the sidewalk. As I ran my pants continued to tear as the siren grew nearer. I rounded a corner and headed towards my apartment. A mile and a half later I made it, my pants tattered to the knees, I was almost completely exposed. Some kids loitered on the steps to my building. One of them snapped my picture with his cell phone as I entered. “Facebook fodder,” he said.

    My keys were gone. I leaned my head on the locked door and screamed. I used every ounce of strength I had left and hefted a concrete planter and heaved it at the door. It crashed open, splintering wood flying. I walked in, marveled that the lights turned on and fired up my computer. I retrieved the e-mail from the deleted files. It was from my asshole cousin who always sent me these stupid things. I read through it again, saw the part about bad luck if I didn’t forward it to ten people and forwarded it to everyone on my list.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I don’t know what to say, jhowe. This is classic frenzy. You must be exhausted and gut-wrenched from writing this story. I don’t know how you can think of all this misery and place it in a 500 word story. I’m worn out, just reading it. Good job, whew!

    1. calicocat88

      Wow! Whoever this guy is, he got it bad. I like the humor in this and the way the events are stacked one after the other. The split pants–priceless! And that is precisely why I’d be terrified to enter a cab. Great job! Enjoyed the read.

    2. PeterW

      This is some advice for everyone who writes on this forum: Never start off a story (or prompt) with dialogue. Set the scene, set the characters first. =D

      Overall though, this was very fun to read. Keep up the great work jhowe!!!!

      1. Svapnaavasthaa

        I tend to disagree… the right opening dialogue can tell you more than any paragraph of exposition. If a woman has to say “I’m busy next month too,” it means some desperate sleaze-ball won’t leave her alone and is far, far too interested. I dry paragraph from his perspective wouldn’t have summed that all up so neatly.

        I’ll concede that the wrong dialogue will detract, but if you carefully craft it, it’s all good. I think it’s a bit like life, too. We don’t meet a person and instantly get into their heads; we learn about them through conversation- what they say and what is said back.

        1. PeterW

          I respect your opinion Svap, but if you start the story with “I’m busy next month too,” she said etc… then the reader has to back track over the dialogue to get its meaning. “I’m busy next month too,” means nothing without character or scene or context…

          And from someone’s website (I just searched “why not to start with dialogue”)

          “When a reader first picks up a story, they are like a coma patient—fluttering open their eyes in an unfamiliar world, wondering, where am I, when am I, who am I? The writer has an obligation to quickly and efficiently orient. Which is why writers should avoid opening with dialogue.” Jane Friedman

          However this does not mean you shouldn’t have dialogue in your story. =D

          1. Pattypans

            Hard and fast rules as far as writing technigue are a slippery slope. I think it works in this (by necessity) very short story. Just my two cents, for what it’s worth. (Two cents, probably.)

          2. Amy

            An interesting debate going here. Yes, agents and editors alike shake their heads at an opening line of dialogue. It’s the same for opening with someone waking up or a dream sequence. But I think that a lot of it is subjective. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I agree with Pattypans that it isn’t as big of a deal in a very short story.

          3. Pattypans

            Amy, it’s very helpful to know the sorts of things that editors and agents consider no-no’s. I appreciate this tip, and would welcome any others along these lines.

          4. jhowe

            I’m loving the comments and advice as I need all I can get. I was more worried about the course language I used than the opening line but nobody said anything about that so it must be ok to throw in a curse word or two if it advances the story. Thank you everyone for helping and commenting.

          5. agnesjack

            Great discussion. I do see your point, PeterW (I searched for the web reference you mentioned – Jane Friedman was actually quoting Benjamin Percy, and if you go to the link she provides, he elaborates on his point), but I also believe in the idea of “never say never.”

            I’m also grateful to you Amy for your knowledge and advice. By-they-way, I thought your tips on what NOT to do in a query letter were hysterical.

            That said, I once wrote a two-character piece that was all dialogue with no ID tags, just as a writing exercise. Here are the two opening pieces of dialogue (if you will indulge me). What do you all think?


            “He won’t help. It’s always been that way. The baby doesn’t sleep through the night and I’m exhausted, but, you know, it’s my responsibility. I work, too, you know. Not just him. He said he wanted the baby, too. He said that, but now he won’t help. I’m just so exhausted. Sorry, I’m using up all of your tissues. Sorry.”

            “Don’t be sorry.”


          6. Pattypans

            Amy, I read your post about query letters, and it’s great. I’m not that far along yet in my writing–yet. If you have any more pointers like the one above about specific things that are offputting to editors and agents in one’s actual writing I’d love to know.

          7. don potter

            It’s your story, tell it the way that best serves the tale. “I’m busy next month” related what you wanted me to know. I did not feel uninformed without having the benefit of a set up preceding the dialogue. We must be aware of the ‘rules’ but should not be afraid to bend or break them in the interest of good storytelling.

      2. Observer Tim

        If I could find a couple of pennies (curse you, Royal Canadian Mint) I would also toss them in contrary to this advice. Dialog is one of many tools of storytelling, just as linear forward is only one style. It must be used carefully however, because of the risk of losing the reader.

        In this case it works well, and I definitely echo your praise of jhowe’s work.

          1. Observer Tim

            Last pennies shipped out Feb 4, 2013. After that date merchants could choose to accept them or not. Our money is now copper-free.

            And with cuts to various police services, our coppers are now money-free, too (sorry, I had to).

        1. Observer Tim

          For the pennies, it’s because they cost too much. The government is trying anything possible to save money. So now, while electronic (e.g. interac) prices stay the same, cash is generally rounded to the nearest five cents.

          At least it’s boosting arithmetic skills (accentuate the positive, even if there isn’t any).

          1. Pattypans

            I’ve heard (and this is not limited to Canada) that some coins are, or will be, worth more for their metal content than for what they can buy.

    3. Observer Tim

      Here’s a guy living out the second-worst day of his life. And it’s only that because he didn’t manage to meet Terry Pratchet’s fellow who speaks in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. I doubt he’s the sort of person I would like when he’s having a good day, but this was a truly awful situation.

    4. Amy

      Another giggler, jhowe. I, too, found the “overboobed” description quite funny. Had a good time reading your story and forgot, momentarily, about the details of the prompt. Props to you for constructing something I could get lost in, even if it was just for a few minutes.

    5. Ink-stained

      Man, this guy’s life sucks, but I wish that he hadn’t given into the email’s decrees and had been triumphant until the end, seeing how far he could go, you know, before he died. That would be kind of fun to test actually. Haha, somebody send me a chain link email, let’s see what crazy ironic shit I’ll encounter. Perhaps, I’ll be impaled by a Unicorn, my noblest of friends, my secret guardians which whom I live in harmony with as their princess. That would be fun, to die by the horn that created me. Haha, sorry, a little sleepy and silly. Damn medication, I really miss being an insomniac and an anxious freakazoid. Okay well anyways, really great writing, I loved the “Overboobed” thing and the Taxi cab, oh and the homeless lady claiming that she’s pregnant with his kid so she can get money. Hilarious, wait, does that kind of stuff really happen? Lol. :).

  33. Sue Neal

    “Hey, Marsha – have you seen this one? It’s right up your street. D’you want me to forward it to you?”
    Marsha, the office psychic, sidled up to my desk and looked over my shoulder at the chain email, promoting a campaign against cruelty to animals, which threatened me with 10 years’ bad luck if I didn’t forward it to 10 more gullible idiots.

    “Oh, I think that’s just malicious nonsense, Clare – I know you think I’m barmy, but I don’t believe in that kind of stuff. I’d delete it if I were you.”

    So I hit delete – but not without a frisson of primeval fear.

    As I left the office, a black cat crossed my path, and I wondered if that was supposed to be good luck or bad – I couldn’t recall, but luck definitely came into it somewhere. They were witches’ cats, weren’t they? Must be bad – unless they were white witches, of course. But wouldn’t white witches have white cats?
    “Stop it!” I screamed. All this superstitious rubbish, I thought. We make our own “luck”.

    Then I saw the parking ticket pinned under my windscreen wiper, flapping in the breeze, laughing at me – shit! Black cats were clearly bad luck. Very bad. But no, no – luck didn’t come into it. It was my own stupid fault. I shouldn’t have parked on that double yellow. Not bad luck – bad management. Still – traffic wardens don’t come down here very often – so it WAS rotten luck to get caught out today – wasn’t it?

    Cursing the cat, the email, the traffic warden, Marsha and my unlucky self, I ripped the ticket off the windscreen, unlocked the car, collapsed into the driving seat and turned the key. The engine gave a pathetic asthmatic cough, then died. I turned the key again. Nothing. Not even a wheeze. Nada. Dead as Monty Python’s parrot. Unlucky? Nah – it was overdue a service. Just a weird coincidence. I fished my mobile out of my bag to call the recovery service, only to find the battery was flat as Twiggy’s boobs – what else was going to die on me today?

    My temper rising, I clambered out of the car and slammed the door shut, but opened it again pretty sharpish – because I’d closed it right on my thumb. I howled with pain and rage. Nursing my injured thumb, I walked – very carefully – back to the building. My office is on the 10th floor, so as usual I took the lift, which juddered to a halt between floors 5 and 6. I was alone in the lift – making my own bad luck, no-one else’s – and in the three hours it took them to release me, I decided I couldn’t cope with 10 more years of this.

    So before calling the recovery service, I booted up my computer, clicked onto my emails and went searching in my deleted items for the email, compiling a mental list of people I disliked enough to forward it to. But it wasn’t there….

  34. Trula

    Black cat, parking ticket, dead battery, too weird. Zoe saw Debbie walking to her car. That’s funny. She’s usually the first one out of here. “Hey Deb,” Zoe flagged her down like she would hail a taxi. “Could you give me a lift home?”
    “Car problems?”
    “Yeah. The battery is dead.”
    “No problem. Jump in.”
    As she settled in the passenger’s seat Zoe started connecting the dots. Debbie’s uncharacteristic facial smirk, and non typical body language read volumes.
    “So Debbie. Do you own a cat?”
    “You still dating that traffic cop?”
    “Is my battery still under the hood of my car?”
    Debbie started laughing. “Did you get my email?”
    “Yep.” Zoe gave Debbie a love tap on the arm and joined in the laughter.

  35. agnesjack

    To all my E-mail Friends and Family:

    First, I want you to know that the cat that tripped me as I was coming out of the post office wasn’t completely black, it had white paws, and my ankle was completely healed in less than a month.

    Second, I fought the parking ticket and WON, because the meter guy had a faulty timestamp on his little device. So… no harm, no foul.

    Third, my car was a piece of junk, so when it didn’t start, it was no surprise to me.

    Fourth, I needed a new barbecue grill anyway, so when it toppled over while I was charbroiling two huge, expensive steaks, because the metal post had rusted through, I was HAPPY, O.K.? Of course, my wife wasn’t too thrilled with the scorched azaleas, but I told her they’d grow back — unlike my eyebrows.

    Fifth, the demotion happened because my new boss wanted to bring in some “of his own people.” Actually, I had a lot less to do, which made my job MUCH easier.

    Sixth, the house was too big for us anyway.

    Seventh, my ex-wife did nothing but complain about money, so it was good riddance as far as I was concerned.

    Eighth, I LOVED sleeping in my car. As a matter-of-fact, I was lucky I had an old model, because it was much roomier than the newer cars.

    Ninth, I read a lot more when I went to the library to get warm, and they’d let me stay all day if I hadn’t gone for too long without a shower, and if I didn’t fall asleep.

    Tenth, being arrested for vagrancy several times the last couple of years was no big deal because of the free meals in jail.

    Eleventh, now that the ten years are up and I’m back on my feet, if any of you ever sends me one of those chain e-mails again, I WILL hunt you down.


    1. calicocat88

      Very unique, very funny! I like how little by little you find out how Fred’s life panned out. And really, I loved his almost positive sounding perspective on the whole thing. I never answer those silly e-mails either and vaguely this is the exact kind of scenario that I can imagine happening to me. So personally, I feel this is realistically written, lol! Good job 🙂

      1. agnesjack

        To All,

        I’m glad it made you all smile. I loathe those e-mails, so this was my ironic take on the prompt. It’s definitely how I would react. (I’m female, but I thought it worked better with a male voice.)

      1. agnesjack

        Ah yes, I can see that. Thanks, Doug.

        Your comment actually made me laugh, because my late husband used to write in the margins of pieces I’d written, “Death to all commas!” I’ve always had a tendency to over use them.

    2. Ink-stained

      Very clever, email those fuckers back! Lol. Goodness, I’m sorry, I don’t usually have this terrible of language, it must be a mood, I really am no potty mouth. Lol.


    Friday 5:30pm…
    I checked my emails one last time before leaving out from work.
    Damn, three rejection letters from publishers who won’t publish my novel “Problems Solved!”
    Three work due assignments and one request to work overtime Saturday from my boss Mildred. She doesn’t understand I’m a “WIP” with many works in progress. I replied quickly.

    “Due to a previous engagement I cannot attend Saturday overtime. MCKEVIN.”


    I was about to delete a chain letter when I smelled Mildred standing behind me.
    “Don’t you hate those?” She said.
    “What, cheap perfumes?“
    “Chain letters, and the big guns said everybody Saturday. “
    “Any day but-“ I lied rereading the chain letter.
    “Just tell me why?“ Mildred asked.
    The letter also said “Send to ten people for good luck.” That’s when the marketing idea hit me.
    “I’m having a book announcement party and if I cancel, l’ll lose money. Surely, they understand that.”
    “And why wasn’t I invited to your little party?” She said.
    “Check your personal email?”
    “Always. I didn’t see-“
    “I’ll send another one right-”
    “Mildred, please let me get back to my work.“
    “Right!” She said and disappeared.
    There were over a hundred names on that email and if only half of these people forwarded an announcement letter, that’s fifty times ten. That’s five hundred to be multiplied by ten. My fingers typed with a mind of their own.

    “STOP! You are invited to MCKEVIN WEBSTER’S self publishing online book announcement party. “Problems Solved!” his latest work, will be discussed and those attending will receive a ten percent discount on advance orders. Remember this letter sends out and sends back good luck to you. Your email address enters you in the free copy raffle.


    If you can’t beat them, join them. I left work and a black cat hissed me as I exited the back door. I didn’t flinch.
    “Not today cat and you can keep your ten years of bad luck too.” I said moving on .
    I reached my car and saw Smallster21, run over the cat. She didn’t stop or look back. I got in, turned the ignition and my car stalled. I went into prayer mode.
    “Our father…. Amen”
    The car started and I rushed home before anything else could happen.

    Saturday 2:30pm …
    Other writers and I skyped the party from our living rooms using GooglePlus. I’d hung streamers, balloons and used my printer to make book covers which I strategically placed for viewers to see. Friends posted videos from the party on YouTube and said the party was a success although no one knows how many people tuned in.

    Monday 7:45 am…
    I opened my work email.
    Seven work assignments due and one “CONGRATULATIONS” letters that I opened first.

    Dear MCKEVIN:
    I’m happy to inform you that Publishers America has decided to give “Problems Solved!” the chance it deserves. Welcome to Publishers America, and congratulations on what promises to be an exciting time ahead.
    Max MakesUaMillionaire

    “Thank you Max!”


      1. Kerry Charlton

        I loved Max’s last name, “Makesuamillionaire.” It’s a funny original take on the prompt. Everybody gets rich if we write long enough,yeah, rite! Smallster isn’t gonna like you having her run over a cat! Fun read MCKEVIN

    1. calicocat88

      I like the “different” vibe this sends off. Mildred can’t be a real person…can she? She’d drive me insane! lol! But that’s the way of the carefully crafted character. If they stick in your head, you must have done something right 😉 Great job!

    2. seliz

      I really enjoyed this. I’m glad that despite the bad luck, things worked out in the end. Mildred reminded me a lot of my boss, so I kind of wish there would have been a part where Mildred gets her own bit of bad luck. 😛

  37. Kerry Charlton


    I looked at the office clock on the wall; eleven fifteen at night. Staring at my computer screen, I had worked twelve hours straight on a new construction bid, but I couldn’t go any more. Figures and measurements circled my mind like Apache’s attacking a wagon train, except the only arrows launched, were sharp pains in my neck and shoulders leading to my restless leg syndrome.

    My computer chimed signaling a new email. Curiousity arouse and I clicked it. The usual gobleydunk nonsense from a right-winger friend of mine appeared with a warning not to delete the gobley. Forward to ten people, it said, or I’d be sorry. I pushed delete anyway.

    “Good riddence,” I said. “Go to cyber space and circle the moon if you will.”

    An explosion of sound erupted from my hard drive. An eerie glow grabbed my computer screen and the light expanded through my office. The screen had risen above the hard drive and attached itself to my office wall, slowly encompassing the entire area. I felt an inward pressure sucking my body toward the throbbing, pulsating screen, now the size of the entire wall. I tried holding onto my desk but I lost my grip from the constant pressure moving me closer and closer toward the turmoil.

    The screen became a swift running river on the wall, illuminated so I could tell there was no bottom below the frenzy of the water, only cascading, pulsating water, now racing past me with white caps.

    I thought of my wife at home, waiting for me. I had told her, I might be late but now I feared I wouldn’t be anything to anyone.

    My hands felt the thrusting water in front of me as it splashed over my face. The river felt freezing and I realized if I were drawn into it, I would drown from the effects of hypothermia. River water had risen above my knees and I felt my body swept away into the freezing, wet darkness of the wall.

    The river had risen over my head and despite being a champion, speed swimmer in college, the water swept me toward an eternal darkness. The forty degree temperature and the lack of oxygen, caused me to become disoriented, for my eyes gazed at a young woman swimming toward me; her face glowing and illuminating her way through the turbulance, until she held me, pressed her mouth on mine and breathed life into my lungs.

    The turbulence surrounding us, ebbed to stillness as she she swam with one arm around me, out of the river. Upon reaching the throbbing screen, her hand rose throwing a thunderbolt through the wall as it shattered to nothingness. She lifted me in her arms as if I were a feather and walked through my office wall and placed me on my couch.

    She unfurled her wings, covering my shrivering body and I felt my strength return.

    “Who are you?” I said.

    “My name is De`sire`e,” she said. “Do you recall praying for help from us?”

    “I, I can’t remember.”

    “You’ll be alright now,” she said.

    “How can I ever repay you?”

    “That’s the easy part,” she said. “Vote Republician.”

    1. jhowe

      Carrie, you did it again. Your imagination is remarkable. The river/wall, the freezing water, the winged republican. And you managed to include restless leg syndrome, which I’ve never heard mentioned before in a story.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you jhowe. This particular story is a product of automatic writing, I happened to slip into. It’s happened a couple of times before. The first time, it was scary but this time, I just typed and went along for the ride. It wasn’t relaxing however.

        I was there in the office, also the rushing river, I felt cold penetrating my body and shutting my mind down. I first started thinking angel rescue but ny fingers typed in the winged Republician. A winged Democrat wouldn’t have had the same punch.

    2. calicocat88

      I agree with MCKEVIN. Surprise ending and beautiful description–took me into another world, ethereal and mystical. The words you used fit perfectly into the story’s illuminant quality and I may have just sensed some “sparkle” and “shimmer” around this one. Wonderful feel this story left with me. Loved it!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Gosh, Calico, coming from you, this means a lot to me. This forum has so many good writers, it’s inspiring to read them all and try to write something the rest of the writers would enjoy. It’s pushed me to try to write as I always wanted to. Thank you for reading and commenting on my story.

    3. seliz

      “The usual gobleydunk nonsense from a right-winger friend of mine appeared with a warning not to delete the gobley.”

      Best line ever. That cracked me up, because that’s how I see it when I get chain mail! A very good piece and interesting ending. I wasn’t expecting that!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Seliz, you hit my theme straight on. The political issues in our country have descended to an enormous pile of gobleydunk. Thanks for your comments and reading my story.

    4. Observer Tim

      Now that’s a dangerous e-mail. The bad luck is immediate and potentially deadly.

      Alas, I could not fulfill the request of De’sire’e, as we are a tad shy of Republicans on this side of the thin red line. Hopefully she’d save me anyway.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        She probably would, Tim. She was only nineteen, with perfect skin, the back of her neck, reminded me of a beautiful swan, and her green eyes burned with the look of an Irish miss. Double eyelashes and an Audrey Hepburn look about her. So sorry you didn’t get to meet her. Pull the right handle and I might be able to arrange it!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Coming from you, Don, that’s quite a complient. I really appreciate your reading my stories and I don’t see a whole lot of difference in our style of writing. I really let the style of a story suit the story and I don’t think about a writer’s voice.

        You’re more likely to hear a writer’s voice in the comments made on other wrirers.
        I wait each week for the prompt and pounce on it like a hungry animal until I have my way with it.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Doug. I tend to write a lot about the ocean, waves and rivers not in a friendly sense of humor. A recurring nightmare makes its way constantly into many of my dreams. They always start the same.

        I’m on the beach at Avalon. I look up and see an enormous wave out to sea. Judging it’s height at two hundred feet, I start running away from the shore. There’s no one on the beach except me. The wave comes faster and faster and always crashes down and drowns me.

        Any suggestions?

  38. seliz

      “Are you guys getting these chain e-mails?” I asked to my co-workers, peeking my head above my computer to see their reactions.
      Jessica spun around in her chair, “Yes! I don’t know how they are getting through the server. It just started this week!”
      “It’s just so stupid,” I said gathering my things for the day. “All I do is delete them.”
      Jackie, who had been typing feverishly at her desk, stopped.
      “You do what?”
      Jessica and I shared a look.
      “Delete them.”
      Jackie spun around in her chair looking exasperated, “Did you even read what it said? If you don’t forward it you will have 10 years of bad luck.”
      “Right,” I said. “Either way, I’m out for today. I’ll see you girls tomorrow.”
      As I made my way across the parking lot, a frantic voice behind me called, “Wait don’t go!”
      Jackie hurried across the parking lot after me.
      “I really think you should forward that e-mail. 10 years of bad luck is a long time.”
      “I appreciate the concern, but I’ll be fine,” I said, turning towards my car.
      “Stop!” Jackie cried clutching my arm. “A black cat.”
      I stared at her a moment, speechless. Then nodded, “Bye, Jackie.”
      She continued to follow me to my car, “I get it you don’t believe in them, but you’re young. When you get to be my age, though, and see the world a little more, you’ll know how real they are.”
      I bit my lip to stop from snapping at her, and dug out my keys.
      “Look! I told you,” Jackie said smartly from behind me. She was pointing at a ticket that was left on my car.
      “What is this?” I said, crinkling my nose. “How did I get a parking ticket? We don’t even have metered parking.”
      “Ten. Years. Bad. Luck.” Jackie said, her eyes practically bugging out of her head.
      I spun around to face her, my patience running thin.
      “Jackie, bad luck doesn’t exist. Especially not bad luck caused by chain e-mails. There are enough things going on in the world to be concerned about. I don’t have time for this.”
      Jackie’s mouth opened and closed in shock.
      “Besides, this isn’t a ticket. It’s a coupon for $5 off happy hour.” I said, as I slid into my car. “I guess some people just make their own luck.”
      Jackie scowled and turned away, tripping as she did.

    1. Observer Tim

      I would not want to know this MC; especially if they consistently create bad luck in those around them for ten years. Either that, or their non-response is creating bad luck for Jackie. That would just be cruel.

      Or maybe the MC is right and you do create your own luck.

      Either way, the dialog does a good job of driving the story.

    2. calicocat88

      Your characters feel like they can be developed more–meaning I want to get to know them better from how good they were in here. I like them so far and their dialogue is very natural. I like how you made the spin of the “bad luck” into good luck. I always wondered how the symbols for bad luck were just that instead of for something good. So this one made me happy 🙂 Good job 🙂

    3. seliz

      Thanks everyone! I was a little nervous posting a piece so heavy with dialogue (either it can make a piece really good or really terrible), so I’m glad you guys enjoyed it. I personally HATE chain mail, so I had to spin it around a bit 😛

  39. LadyCatrina


    My eyes followed the words on the screen and without another thought I delete it. None of my friends would appreciate chain mail form me and my life can’t get worse anyway. I shut down the PC and a little green light blinks until finally going out when the screen turns black. I grab my bag and on my way out Thomas asks me if I shut off the computer. I nod and step outside. Thomas supervises the computer and he doesn’t trust people like me.
    Dust clouds my feet with each step and a skinny black cat rubs against my leg. I stop walking and kneel down, my fingers stroking the cat’s satin fur. For as long as I can remember animals have come up to me regularly; they are my friends and I am theirs. With people of course it’s the complete opposite. All of my human friends are so old that they could care less about the curse and don’t believe it anymore. But everyone else separates themselves from the slightest sign of a curse-or, even worse-a witch.
    The sun is hot on my shoulders as the cat slinks away and I continue walking to the street. I remove the parking ticket from my windshield and slide onto the seat. I rest my head against the warm steering wheel; I’m so tired. Nobody ever realizes how exhausting side show work can be. As in every organization, there are certain groups that everyone knows they belong in. Sideshow belongs to sideshow, and that is where I will always be.
    I pull my keys from the strand around my neck and insert it into the ignition. Silence. Sighing, I grab my bag and step back onto the sidewalk. I do usually walk, but since it rained this morning I’d decided against it. The cat is at my side and I smile at her. We are walking through the street when I see them; the carnival dancers. The cat bumps against my ankle, reminding me she’s still here. They are standing in in their practice leotards. I see the kids whisper and point as I walk past them. The other dancers look away, pretending not to see. After we’ve passed the group something hard hits the back of my foot; a rock. I look down and see blood smeared against my skin. Now none of them are looking but I hear their laughter. I keep walking like I always do and the other adults ignore it just like they always do. The satin black cat licks the blood on my foot, and for the first time I wish that they would all disappear. Suddenly the wind blows, harsh and strong, and I begin to shake. So does the cat, who is resting against my foot. The dancers crash to the ground from the force. Then the air steadies and I begin to calm down. No one else was affected by that; just the dancers. I look down at the cat, who is licking her paw and watching me. I stare at her, my eyes wide.
    “What did we just do?”

    1. Observer Tim

      The description is exquisite and the imagery is intense. It reads like the account of someone slowly learning that they have some kind of power. My only quibble is that there is no mention of the bad luck, only symbols of it. Beautiful nonetheless, Lady C.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I couldn’t have liked your story any more than I have. Your prose is so heart-felt as you describe the MC’s walk through life. Finally, help arrives. The cat is a nice touch as the reader realizes, the MC has been adopted. “The meek shall inherit the earth”, I’m not so sure about, but in your story, there’s hope. Love and hope, the two powerful weapons to defeat the darkness. An A+ on this one. I really enjoyed it.

    2. jhowe

      That was a good story. The cursed MC or the witch or whoever she is who wears her keys around her neck is a little burned out with her job in the sideshow. The dancers should have known not to mess with this lady.

  40. Pattypans

    I never forward chain mails, because they are seldom, if ever, worthwhile. I am not superstitious, either. So I didn’t think twice about deleting the “If you pass this on to ten people, your secret desire will come true” email, despite its warning “but if you don’t, you will have bad luck for ten years.”

    Ten minutes later I locked the door to my studio and cocked my head at my newest creation, a sea grass and driftwood basket displayed in the window. As I headed to my twelve-year-old Volvo a darling little black kitten crept up to me, purred, and rubbed against my ankle. I’d never seen it before. “I’ll call you Sapphire,” I told her, “because you’re so black you look blue.”

    I didn’t notice the paper on my windshield until I opened the dented car door. Thinking it was another flyer, I yanked it from under the wipers. Oops. I couldn’t deny I deserved the parking ticket for forgetting the new no-parking-after-six-o’clock- on-Friday rule. I sighed, as much at my carelessness as at the unnecessary expense.

    But when my trusty Volvo wouldn’t start, I was perplexed. Looking off into the distance, I saw the gas station, which made me look at the gas gauge. That explained it. Empty. Past empty, not that I understand how that could be possible.

    Hoping the gas station could lend me a jerry can, I got out, locked the door, and gave thanks for the coolness of the shade trees on the way, since it would be a pretty long walk. Then the call came.

    I’d almost given up on ever hearing back from Diego, the charming owner of a beautiful little gallery in Austin. He had capital, exquisite taste, and very high standards as far as what he would show and offer. Many artists didn’t want to work with him because they feared being too tied down to a schedule. He seemed to sense my relaxed way of working to my own rhythms, yet turning out plenty of new and different pieces. I’d thought we’d clicked—professionally, that is—and I just knew it was the break I needed. Now he was calling to seal the deal. And it was way better than I’d dreamed of before I’d almost given up dreaming of it. He offered me a ten-year, non-exclusive contract to create for his gallery, with an option for becoming a partner if things went well. My hand went to my mouth, at first to stifle a whoop of joy, then to squelch a gasp.

    I panicked.

    Suddenly that stupid chain mail had leaped into the eye inside my head. Ten years, I thought. What if this opportunity only seems wonderful, but turns out to be dreadful? True, I’d done my due diligence on this guy, but what if this turned out to be ten years of bad luck disguised as my dream come true?

    I told him I’d think about it and get back to him.

    1. Pattypans

      Sorry about the formatting, folks. Only part of that was meant to be in italics. I see I need to brush up on my html…or maybe the html instructions could show what the beginning and end marks need to be.

    2. Observer Tim

      This is a gentle train of thought piece. The reader is left guessing whether the bad luck is real or not, kind of like real life. That’s is how it works its way into the “real” world…

      Good story Pattypans; don’t sweat about the formatting. It looks like you missed the /i (in angle-brackets) to end the italics. Unless it has major consequences or affects the sense of the story, nobody’s too worried. We all have little glitches.

      1. Pattypans

        Thank you for your kind words, Tim, and also for the formatting advice. I used to know that about the slash, but couldn’t remember whether it was before the i or after it, and maybe a few other things too, and was too lazy to look it up.

        As for the story, I wanted to show my protagonist’s personality: simple yet complex; creative, quirky but not irresponsible, taking ‘bad omens’ in stride without even bothering to think about them as many others do (and as the prompt wanted us to, hehe); yet then, seeing her dream-come-true materialize and worrying about whether it might become a nightmare! That bit of seemingly pessimistic thinking after all her breeziness shows how she (like all of us) is not all one way or another. Many of her reactions are completely in line with what you (and she) would expect, but then, in this big-deal thing, they’re completely different.

        I think most of us have those seeming inconsistencies in our personalities and reactions. Does that make sense? Do you (and this question if for anybody who wants to take the time to answer) think that came across in the story?

        1. Kerry Charlton

          I liked your story Pattypans and only hope the MC receives the courage to go ahead with the offer. The biggest problem I have noticed in life is grabbing the brass ring when it comes and presents itself. Failure is only failure, but there is no chance for success or happiness unless you put your doubts aside and grab the ring.

    3. don potter

      Bad luck begins with attitude. Your character was doing just fine until she thought about the bad things that might happen. I hope she just keeps creating, and stays out of the business of predicting results.

  41. Observer Tim

    I awoke on the pavement as a piano crescendo faded in my ears. Three Jennies were staring down at me as they slowly merged into one.


    I shook my head a couple of times. “Jenny?”

    “Are you okay, Tim? A piano fell on your car.”

    “A piano?”

    “Yeah, they were moving it to the second floor of the Arts building and the crane let go. I think you were knocked back.”

    I looked at my car, now a Baby Grand Smart. The parking ticket still flapped under the one remaining windshield wiper. I tried to remember what brought me to the parking lot.

    “There was a bottle of Aspirin in my car. I tripped over Inky.”

    “Mrs. Grundy’s cat?” I nodded. “Let’s go back to my room.”

    She helped me up and we made our way across campus to her dorm. Along the way I tripped over my loose shoelace and fell face-first into a slab of cake being moved between buildings. When I stood up some workmen went by with a ladder, which I hit my head on. As we got inside I heard a boom behind me.

    Jenny looked back. “Small plane crash. The world has really got it in for you today, doesn’t it?”

    “Yeah, I guess. What’s going on?”

    “Well, let’s see. It’s Friday the thirteenth and there’s a full moon tonight. Did you do anything else unlucky?”

    “No. Oh wait, I deleted that chain letter.”

    “You deleted a chain letter on a paranormal nexus day? Ouch!”

    Jennifer Nelson was my girlfriend, a foreign exchange student from fairyland. She was a wood sprite who used magic to assume human form, and she knew about this magical crap, so I trusted her. When we got to her room she took out my laptop while I collapsed.

    “We’re in luck! It’s in your Deleted Items. Okay, one, two, three, … , twelve! Oh no, you’re the thirteenth link in the chain. This is really bad. You’re going to have to send it on.”

    “But I don’t forward chain letters.”

    “You’d better forward this one. It says ten years’ bad luck! Look what it’s done the first day!”

    The fire alarm went off and the sprinklers activated in her room. She took out an umbrella and held it over the laptop.

    “Come on, Tim. You have to send it, not me. Otherwise the luck doesn’t break.”

    I picked ten names from my contacts list – people I didn’t particularly like. I made sure Steve, my lab partner, was one of them. Admittedly his dumbass stunt in chem lab had introduced me to Jenny, but other than that he was a total screwup. When I hit ‘send’ nothing happened.

    “What’s wrong with this thing?”

    “I think you have to apologize for deleting it.”

    “Apologize? To an e-mail?”

    “Just do it, Tim.”

    I felt like an idiot. “I’m sorry for deleting you, chain letter. Please let me send you on.”

    The message went into my outbox. At last it was over.

        1. Observer Tim

          Glad you like her; she is definitely the one in charge in this relationship. I am still trying to figure out what she gets out of knowing Tim.

          It felt a little weird to name the MC after myself, but my name is common enough that it had to happen someday.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Hilarious story Tim. I liked the flow and the easyness of your style. And The “Bany Grand Smart’s” a nice touch. You have good tatse in girl friends, “wood sprites.” My speciality in girl friends are Angels. I need help all the time.

        1. Observer Tim

          Ever since I took some theology courses a few years back I’ve had a hard time imagining angels as female, since we were taught that as creatures of spirit they’re beyond that sort of thing.

          On the other hand, the world of faerie is extremely keen on the whole male/female thing, sometimes to the extreme.

          I too need help frequently, though.

      1. Observer Tim

        I find fantasy works best when it spices the story rather than dominating it. I try to keep things within what I know of the medieval laws of magic (as above, so below; everything has a price; blood for blood; etc.) but have fun anyway.

    1. seliz

      This was great. I love that while it still follows the prompt, it also showcases the characters. Jenny seems like a very interesting character and the way that Tim and Jenny interact is great. Good job!

    2. jhowe

      Have you ever noticed that most wood sprites are hot? I wonder why that is? Regardless, that was an action packed well flowing story with well written dialog. Is it dialog or dialogue? Probably can use both, right?

  42. calicocat88

    (Okay, I know now using these characters is a no-no, but this is the last time. Honest.)

    “You don’t look particularly well, my friend,” Averman slid across the cramped booth in Pizza Hut, snagging the last piece of supreme pizza. He and Will had already eaten half the slices when Dante left to go to the bathroom. They were supposed to save him a piece, but what was that saying? Losers weepers.

    Will was slumped down in the booth opposite, picking at left over crust. “What am I supposed to look like?”

    “Healthy,” Averman said. “You’re supposed to be a happy healthy delinquent like the rest of us. And personally I won’t have you moping around when you’ve got a hot chick like Sara Mather’s groping around in your pants.”

    “Don’t. I don’t want to talk about her,” Will felt his stomach lurch at the sound of Sara’s name. It had been two days and still the word of her death hadn’t reached everyone in town. It was only a matter of time.

    Averman frowned. “Since when?”

    “Hey, hey,” Dante slid in the booth next to Averman, his eyes narrowing at the empty pizza pan. “So this is what it feels like to be stabbed in the back by your best friends.”

    “Will ate ‘em all,” Averman mumbled, his cheeks suddenly full with the piece he had just crammed in his mouth.

    Dante said, “Yeah, I bet.”

    Averman swallowed. “If you wouldn’t have taken such a long piss you’d have gotten another piece.”

    “Whatever,” Dante rolled his eyes and leaned over the table at Will, “So, what happened last weekend?”

    “We’ve already established that Will doesn’t want to talk about it,” Averman.

    Dante looked between Will and Averman. “What happened while I was gone? Will?”

    Will could feel every cell in his body freezing. Would his friends forgive him for what he’d done? He killed an innocent girl. He looked at both his friends and let out a slow breath.

    “We slept together,” he said.

    After a pause, Averman said, “That’s my boy,” and took a long sip of his coke.

    Dante frowned. “Did something happen?”

    “Of course something happened,” Will snapped. “We’re not normal Dante. I mean, at least you can kiss a girl without wondering if you’re going to smash her head in without even touching her.”

    Averman gawked, the straw hanging out his mouth. “You smashed her head in?”

    Will made a hushing gesture and leaned over the table with Dante, Averman following suit. “We were…having sex and she started making weird noises. I thought it was because she was, you know…” Dante nodded sympathetically while Averman turned red. “She started clawing my back really bad and screaming a lot, and when I looked down she wasn’t moving.”

    Dante’s eyes widened.

    “Maybe it was so good she passed out,” Averman said.

    “She’s dead, Averman,” Will said. “I saw her. Something inside my head did this. It must have, I don’t know, let loose too much or something and exploded her from the inside out.”

    “What makes you think she’s dead?” Dante said.

    “She stopped breathing and had no pulse,” Will said. “And her eyes were all red and blood was coming out.”

    Averman grimaced. “Out of where?”

    “You think this has something to with that chain letter you trashed?” Dante asked. “I mean, first you get fired, then the blow out on the Ford—“

    “Don’t forget the cat,” Averman said.

    Dante said, “Yeah, what happened there?”

    “I hit the damn thing on the way home,” Will said.

    “Was this before or after you screwed Sara?” Averman said.

    Will sighed. “Before.”

    “Karma of the cats, my friend.”

    Dante was suddenly springing from his seat, “Holy Shit!”

    “What? What is it?” Averman turned around on his knees looking over the booth. “This is not good.”

    Will craned his neck to see what the other boys were looking at and almost threw up. Sara was walking through the doors with two policemen beside her, not a scratch or sign on her that gave away to the other night’s events. She spotted Will and pointed the police in his direction.

    Dante and Averman crashed back down into the booth, both wide-eyed and pale. Will felt like invisible hands were pulling apart his ribcage.

    “You slept with the wrong chick this time, Willy Man,” Averman said.

    “Come on,” Dante was sliding out the booth, jerking Will with him. “Best friends don’t let friends go to jail for crappy sex.”

    1. Observer Tim

      Yikes! Remind me never to piss Sara off. This is one ugly bit of bad luck!

      Personally, I have no problem with your use of these characters, so long as it’s used to develop their backstories and not just for the prompt’s sake. Especially if it helps you get to know them. Even a fictional character has a life beyond what’s written in his or her primary venue.

      1. calicocat88

        Thanks Observer Tim 🙂 I do most of my serious writing for these characters in my other writing time. I just like to put them in these situations and see how it pans out for them. Thank again!

        1. Kerry Charlton

          I really grooved into your story, Calico. Your dialogue is so good in this. There’s not a wasted word anywhere in this tale. It’s gritty, sispenseful and realistic to the core.

          1. calicocat88

            Thanks Kerry 🙂 I love the way you say “grooved” into the story. Made me laugh! I was hoping the dialogue worked and wasted wording is a fear of mine, as is the realistic aspect of things.

    2. seliz

      Interesting take on the prompt. I like that you did mention the chain mail, but that the entire piece wasn’t centered around it.

      I wish I could use my MC for some of these prompts, but personally, I don’t think I’m there with her yet. I’d be afraid I’d lose a bit of who she is (zombie apocalypse and chain email’s don’t always go hand in hand…or do they?). Either way, good job with the prompt, I enjoyed this!

      1. calicocat88

        Thanks seliz 🙂 I tend to have a habit of making the prompt distant in the stories (not always good for me since I can easily get carried away) and I’m glad you liked that about it. I know what you mean with the MC’s. I am very careful with these guys and I’m so paranoid about them changing for the worse or just not knowing them well enough. I think the zombie apocalypse would do just fine 😉 Personally zombies scare the bejeebles out of me, but people seem to like them a lot these days, lol! Glad you enjoyed the story!

      1. calicocat88

        jhowe, I’m glad I could make you happy with pizza 😉 I appreciate you guys always commenting and letting me know if I’ve utterly failed the prompt or created decent entertainment. Makes the heart feel good 🙂 … … … not the utterly failed part, that is, lol! Thanks!

    3. don potter

      As I was reading the thought crossed my mind that I didn’t like the story, but I kept reading to the very end. My reflected take is I don’t care for the characters; however, I do like the way you craft a tale.

      1. calicocat88

        I respect your opinion, don. Not everybody is going to like your stories or click with the characters. I personally target the YA fiction readers so I expect a lot of people to actually dislike the characters and their storyline. What means a lot to me is that you liked the way I “crafted” it. I sometimes wonder if I’m sloppy at it so this was nice to know 🙂

      1. calicocat88

        Lol! Thanks MCKEVIN 🙂 I wasn’t really going for “sick” when I wrote it, lol, but I guess it is pretty rough. I agree too. People aren’t perfect and all have flaws and issues and make memorable characters if done right. With Will’s deck he was dealt in life, I figured as a teenager this could possibly be the kind of thing he’d have happen to him. Glad you liked it 🙂 Makes me happy!

  43. JRSimmang


    I gave up and dropped my hands in my lap. Mondays.

    After a few minutes, letting the heat settle on my shoulders, I got out of my car and started walking down the street. That black cat was still staring at me.

    “Yeah, yeah, bad luck, whatever.”


    One of the perks of working downtown was accessibility. So I didn’t drive out to my favorite lunch spot. So what? I’ve never taken the time to just explore the places around me. And hey, I’d be saving gas, which was nice because now I owed Boston Municipal $30.

    It was busier than I thought it would be, people hustling and people bustling. Downtown is deceptive like that. You are never quite sure how many people are there.

    “Oof,” she said as she sailed into me, knocking me off balance, and straight into the gutter. Of course there was water and other floating pieces of interest, which were now attaching themselves languidly to my trousers.

    “Hey!” was all I could manage to shout.

    “Oh my God, I’m so sorry.” She extended her hand.

    “It’s okay. Thanks. I got it.” Perhaps I was a little snarky.

    “Oh, uh, well sorry again.”

    “Ugh.” I tried to brush off the little bits of something unrecognizable. “What is this, condoms?”

    Yeah, condoms.

    The woman who knocked me over was already on her way, and people were still just hustling and bustling all around me. Nice, I thought, people are so nice nowadays.

    I wandered around downtown for another couple minutes. When the bird shat on my shoulder, I knew it was time to go back. I checked my watch to make sure I wouldn’t be too early headed back, but it apparently got waterlogged during my swim in the Semen Shallows. My cell, too. So, there was that.

    As I sauntered back, still shaking water out of my shoe, I twisted my other ankle, tripped into a row of hedges, covered myself in twigs and mulch, managed to somehow lose a shoe, tear my shirt, and get arrested.

    Oh yeah. While I was screaming obscenities at the world, a couple officers picked me up. They offered to take me back to the homeless shelter, but when I got belligerent, they thought jail would be a better place to “walk off the drunks.”

    So, I spent the night in jail. It’s not like I was getting anywhere anyway. My car wouldn’t start.

    The next day, I was let out. Nice of them. Apparently, I was right. I wasn’t homeless. I got a warning not to shout so many bad words. Then, they kicked me out the front door, right into the inky blackness of that cat. At least I thought it was the same cat. It walked right up to me, and I thought to reach out and pet it. That was when it bit me. Right on the hand.

    “Damnit! You little-” and I shoved my hand in my mouth. That was about the time Rick showed up.

    “Hey, brother. Heard you was in jail.”

    “Thanks, man. Get me out of here.” I stood and got into the car.

    “When you didn’t come back from lunch, I got a little worried,” he said to me. “Unfortunately, there’s only one thing you can do to fix it.”

    I cleared my throat. “What?”

    “Send the email I sent to you.”

    “Send the what?”

    “The email, you dipshit. I sent it to you. You send it to ten people, and I don’t count.”


    “It’s a little button in the top bar. It says ‘Send.’”

    “No, I know how to send an email, ass. How did you know I deleted it?”

    “Call it a hunch.” And that was when the truck t-boned us. I was left alive, because bad luck can’t touch you when you’re dead.

    -JR Simmang

    1. Observer Tim

      I agree with calicocat; of course the curse will keep him alive.

      It’s amazing how many cruddy things can happen when the ball starts rolling. Condoms (presumably used) in the gutter! Remind me never to visit downtown Boston…

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Poor Thing! Poor Thing! His needs a weekend at Sweet Sally’s Resort and Casino. What else could possibly happen to him? You’ve rolled them all out in 500 words, JR. That takes talent and that’s something you really have. Your story may send me into a bout of depression but they’re always Sweet Sally’s to go to.

  44. nelleg

    Sorry for length.

    “That damn email!” Darla grumbled to herself.

    “Excuse me ma’am, did you say something?” The bald man with a beer belly that was towing her car spoke.

    “No! Let’s just get this done I don’t want to stand in this rain any more than I have to.” Darla snapped back at the man.

    The events of the day ran through her head.

    The morning started off fine until she checked her email and saw one of those annoying little email curses. This one said she needed to forward it to ten people or else ten years bad luck. “Just ten years, hah they must not know me.” She just laughed it off and deleted it.

    She then turned the news on. The weather man said there will be rain and dropping temps throughout the day. “Looks sunny to me, what an idiot. I wish I could be wrong 95% of the time and still have my job.” Darla grabbed her purse and keys and headed out the door leaving her umbrella by the door.

    She walked down to her car parked on the corner and there she saw a pink little paper on her windshield. “Stupid corner deli when will they learn that I won’t eat there. I wish they would stop putting crap on my windshield.” When Darla pulled the paper off she noticed it was a parking ticket instead. “What the …..? Everyone else parks here illegally why can’t I? The meter maid must have PMS.” She got in her car and threw the ticket in the glove box.

    Darla turned the key to her 1991 Ford Topaz that she named Mona. The car sputtered and stalled. “Crap! Come on Mona you can do this.” Darla pumped the gas and turned the key again and this time the car started with a little jitter. “I knew you could do it, 210,000 miles won’t stop you.”

    Darla reached for the radio knob and it came off. “I need to get that fixed one of these days.” The traffic report blared through the speakers about a traffic jam but Darla turned off the deafening racket before she could here where.

    Darla finally made it to work an hour and a half late due to a massive traffic jam on the interstate. When she walked in her boss ‘Geoffrey with a G’ was sitting on her desk drinking his coffee. “Late again Miss Jennings.” Darla rolled her eyes recalling the other 3 times this week and the four times last week she was late. “I’m sorry Miss Jennings but I’m afraid that you are not a good fit with our company………” Darla stood in shock as the overly skinny man rambled on about being responsible and reliable. “Please turn your in your badge to Carl at the front desk. Oh and the best of luck in the future.”

    Darla handed her plastic key card to Carl with shaking fingers and then walked outside to deluge of water coming out of the sky. She huddled under the awning for a moment to see if would let up anytime soon. She felt something slimy brush across her leg and she looked down to see a rain drenched black cat. “It’s now or never and she ran out into the parking lot to her F5 parking spot. Just as she got to her car she dropped her keys into a puddle that had formed in front of her door. She retrieved them and jumped into Mona. “Unbelievable!” She turned the key and nothing, not a sputter, not jitter or a shake. “Not now, Mona!” After repeated tries at the ignition Darla finally grabbed her phone and dialed 411 and asked for ABC Towing. Twenty minutes later there she stood in the rain watching her car being lifted up. “It had to be the email.”

    1. seliz

      Poor Darla had terrible luck! She should have asked if she could finish up a few things at her desk, and forwarded the email then. A good read. Like jhowe said, very believable.

    2. don potter

      Funny how, when things don’t go as planned, we try to point the finger at other people, outside influences, and things as silly as not passing on a chain email. With human nature being what it is, I guess this is the way we’ll continue to react.

      1. nelleg

        Exactly. It must have been the email. It couldn’t have anything to do with Darla not listening to the weather man or traffic report or parking illegally in front of a business she refuses to patronize or that she is diving a 20 year old car with over 200,000 miles and she had been late for work 7 times in 2 weeks.

    3. Observer Tim

      I just spotted something that will need your attention if you take this story farther. Hopefully it is the gentleman (and his truck) towing Darla’s car, not his beer belly. It just jumped out at me today for some reason.

  45. bk78

    Raindrops dotted the windshield and with them fell my tears as I sat in the Home Depot parking lot wondering what the fuck I was going to do. I pulled out my phone trying to think of someone to call. When the screen lit up the damn email was there glowing back at me as if it were trying to sunburn my face. “Ten years bad luck” rang in my ears as if the words on my screen were shouting inside of the cab of my Subaru outback.

    Then I noticed the name—the tiny text identifier of the spam-mail sender. It was Alex.

    The phone went black as I threw it against the window and bent over the steering wheel, screaming with hot angry sobs. I should have known it was Alex all along when Chris said the money had been stolen. That fucking psycho was always in it for the money. He could say all he wanted about karma and mercy, he was in it for the cash just like everyone else.

    I racked my brain, searching for some shred of logic to how Alex could have found me. My mind raced through the times that I thought I saw his face, but all I could remember was the last time we spoke.

    “Tell them, Molly,” I chill ran down my spine as his voice echoed in my head.

    “You know they won’t take it if they know how I got it.”

    “They have a right to—”

    “A right to what?!” I had spat in his face, “a right humiliate me more than they already have? A right to know just how low I’ll stoop to give them what they want?! Why Alex? So they can force me to do it again?!”

    “Molly,” I remember his voice had been gentle, “if they knew they’d have to stop. They can’t make you pay if they know it’s coming to this. They can help you.”

    “Help me?” I had laughed coldly, “you mean lock me up with doctors or put me in fucking jail?”

    The dreams had made me realize it. When the night terrors started, I realized Alex was following me. He stalked me the way I’d done to the little girl, Maria. All it took was my warm smile in a j. crew cardigan. An offer to help her find her mother. The man in sunglasses took her and I left with half a million dollars.
    I heard a knock on the window of my car door. My sobs turned to laughter as I welcomed whoever it was. Maybe it was Alex, or the little girl herself. Maybe it was the police or Christopher or the creditors. I opened the door of my unstartable car and stepped out into the pouring rain. In the empty parking lot I fell to my knees. Nobody stood there to wake me from my nightmare. No one had come to find me at last. Nor would they for ten more years.

  46. Svapnaavasthaa

    The clock says 4:57: almost quitting time. One last email check… what’s this? That chain email again? I’ve deleted it three times this week. Now the last person was paralyzed in a car crash and the one before that had her house burn down? Delete- again!
    Quitting time! I’ll just gather my things and be off.
    The elevator is dead. I broke a heel earlier, so I’m in my emergency sandals, which makes the stairs much easier.
    The glass door to freedom opens and I breathe in the crisp air. I can’t wait for fall, with all those red leaves. Summer is nice, but some more color would be nice too. Then there will be snow- I just love snow. And the spring buds will come after that…
    “Oh! Sorry!” There I go again, all absent-minded. I almost toppled that man over. Wait, what’s that? “Oh! How did you get up there?” The malnourished black kitten mewls at me from the tree and clings to me as I bring him down from his perch. “You’re lucky I found you, little guy!” I did just lose Oscar two days ago… and my apartment’s lease allows a cat. “I think I’ll call you Providence.” He purrs; I think he likes it.
    We walk to my car to find a ticket. I forgot to renew my parking pass today! Oh well; I’ll just pay the fine and get the pass tomorrow. But for now… “Let’s go home, little buddy.”
    Apparently Providence gets carsick… everywhere. I’m not sure what he survived on, but it certainly isn’t pleasant coming out. Providence is too curious for the windows to be down; I don’t want him to get hurt. Luckily, my apartment isn’t far away.
    I’ll just let my car air out… get Providence cleaned up… some nice kitty food… here’s your potty … and… time for the car-scrubbing of the century. Looks like someone took my car’s music player; good thing it’s dead. Providence’s mess must have kept them from taking the car.
    Oh no! I don’t have any dinner… I don’t want to have to drive in this stinking car… I guess I’ll get my walk in for tonight a little early.
    Oh no, a mugger! I knew I shouldn’t have taken the ally shortcut. It’s a good thing I don’t have my purse! I only have $100 to give the mugger, but he’s satisfied.
    I’m just too exhausted to bother trying to get dinner now. I’ll just go home and curl up with little Providence. Even if he did crap on my duvet and barf on my pillow, he’s my new little angel…

    “It is she, the Optimist!” some dark thing hissed, hidden from sight by the dark veil of the underworld. “The contract of misfortune breaks with her!”
    “We could keep trying,” his portly companion suggested with a lazy shrug. “I’m sure we can break her.”
    The lithe demon hissed. “That’s what you said about Job, and look how that turned out!”

    1. Observer Tim

      It’s kind of cute (in a sick way) to see how much trouble little Providence is causing. But in this case the last four lines make the story for me. Nice twist.

      For the sake of my sanity (or what passes for it), when you post again (notice I didn’t say if) please put an extra carriage return after each paragraph. Otherwise they tend to run together and I might miss out on some of the interesting nuances.

      1. Svapnaavasthaa

        Providence is actually based on my cat, Gandalf, as far as car-sickness is concerned. It’s pretty horrible.

        I’m glad you like the twist. I checked your site, and it seems you have some experience with the unexpected.

        As for the formatting, this is my first (published) post (my first post actually didn’t get put up yet) and I didn’t know how it would look published. It looked nice in MSWord… So, next time will definitely be better!

    2. jhowe

      The Optimist was very persistant not to let her bad luck get her down. When her car wouldn’t start she decided to get her walk in a little early. Great stuff. At least she had her emergency sandals when she needed them.

      1. Svapnaavasthaa


        I’m generally a pessimist (which I usually pessimistically refer to as a ‘realist’), so this was a fun exercise. I do have the back-up shoes in common with her, though. It’s an essential part of daring to wear heels.

      1. Svapnaavasthaa

        Well… when I wrote her, I wanted an optimist- someone that would find the bright side no matter what (it’s only 500 words, so I didn’t feel too bad about making her 2-dimensional).

        If we examine what the demon thinks of her (he said it, not me), he likens her to the Biblical figure Job, who, as far as I have heard, was most certainly not naive. I suppose with no further development of her, we’ll have to take the demon’s word for it.

    3. Ink-stained

      Whoa, super freaky twist. Haha, but the freakier the better. And I love the odd flow you created in your story, the sporadic course of the words was truly intriguing. I bet you have some Gemini in you charts, which is a very good thing for writer’s to have. Lucky Ducky. :).

      1. Svapnaavasthaa

        I’ve never written a stream of consciousness before, so I’m glad it’s well-received! I had to go back and change things a few times when I realized I’d switched to a narrative, but I think it came out well.

        Also, I’m a Sagittarius. 🙂

  47. Mallory Terry

    “Ugh!” I sighed aloud. Why was everything going wrong on me today? It started with the parking ticket on my car. That same car wouldn’t start. And now, this – me standing on the side of the road because my tire blew out. This car was cursed. It had to have been. I got out my cellular and dialed my friend, Mike. Mike knew what to do. Thirty minutes later Mike arrived. In that thirty minutes I had lost my compact mirror and broke the heel off one of my $300 pair of shoes.

    Mike fixed the tire and within thirty more minutes I was ready to drive home. When I arrived home, I hoped nothing would go wrong. I got inside and went directly to take a shower and clean the dirt off my legs from sitting in the grass. The shower started and I smiled. When I got in, it was all cold water. No hot water. I screamed, “COULD THIS DAY GET ANY WORSE?” I hopped out of the shower only to find I didn’t have a towel. I ran around my apartment soaking wet to find one. I finally did and opened the closet to the hot water heater. It was broken. I rolled my eyes.

    I decided it was time to go to sleep. I just wanted all this bad luck to stop. I laid down in the bed and closed my eyes. I wondered why everything was happening to me today. Was it karma coming back to bite me? Was it bad luck? What the heck was it?

    That is when I remembered… the chain letter at work, the one I didn’t forward to ten people. They said I’d have ten years of bad luck if I didn’t forward it. That explained the black cat at work, the parking ticket, the car not starting, the blown tire, the shoe’s heel, the compact mirror, the hot water heater and the towel.

    I jumped out of bed and ran over to the computer. I got onto my e-mail and forwarded that sucker to ten people, not even bothering to see which ten people I choose.

    I walked back over to my bed satisfied and slept soundly that night. I woke up the next morning, got dressed and everything seemed to be going smoothly like normal. Normal, that was, until I got outside to where I had parked my car. It had been towed…

    1. Observer Tim

      I guess bad luck takes a bit of time to go away. I definitely feel sorry for this woman. I can picture her running around the apartment dripping on the rug and … maybe I should stop picturing it now. Never mind.

      At least it should hopefully work out without too much more damage.

    2. MCKEVIN

      Nice. I was waiting for the MC to look up in the sky and pray to the email God and scream “Why don’t you just kill me and be done with it!” Lol. Good job.

  48. catreeves16

    “Bad luck for ten years?” I scoffed as I deleted the recent email. “There are bad experiences, not bad luck.”

    I stood up and grabbed my coat off the back of the chair. I noticed the large coffee spill this morning did not stain it too badly. Walking outsideof my downtown office, I took a deep breath of the crisp autumn air. The bushes next to the entrance rustle and shake and a large, black cat darts down onto the sidewalk. It startled me, so I stood for a minute wait for my heart to slow.

    “Hi, Christy,” a low voice said in my ear.

    I turn and see my coworker, whom I don’t know very well. Jack tends to keep to himself and has a reputation around the office for being interested in some unusual things.

    “Hi, Jack” I reply.

    “I hope you forwarded that email. I wouldn’t want you to have bad luck for the next ten years.”

    “I didn’t, actually. Wait . . . how did you know about that?” I asked.

    “I just know,” he answered as he walked off. I shook my head. Weird.

    I turn and start walking the opposite direction to my car parked on the next block over. As I near my car, I see a small, rectangular piece of paper fluttering the the slight breeze.

    “Oh, no,” I groan, seeing it is a ticket for $115. I sigh. knowing I was only ten minutes over the parking allowance. Of course, this just fit my day. From start to finish it has been horrible.

    I slip into the car, fit the key into the ignition, turn it and . . . click, click, click . . . .

    1. Observer Tim

      I enjoyed this take on the prompt, essentially an expansion of the main situation. I sense Christy is either going to have to dig that e-mail out of her Trash folder, or she is going to have a very long ten years…

    2. MCKEVIN

      Nice. I wonder what chapter 2 reads like because 1) I’m curious did Jack send the chain letter 2) What’s his motivation for doing so and 3) How does the MC overcomes the curse? Good job!


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