Flat Tire

You’re traveling in a rental car when you hear the thumping of a flat tire. You pull over and discover the thumping is not coming from a flat, after all, but from the trunk. What or who is making the noise?

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


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211 thoughts on “Flat Tire

  1. Eric ShanRick

    Shawn grinned from ear to ear as his drove his fancy azure blue Lexus past a heavily forested area. Today was shaping up to be his luckiest day yet. Just this morning a friend had let him “borrow ” this amazing car and right after that he came across a wallet holding $5000. He Blasted his favorite songs on CD player and hummed as the days sunshine highlighted his silky hair. His session of relaxation was broken once he heard a loud banging sound.

    ” What the hell”?

    Shawn killed the music and slammed the brakes. The sound returned with a louder and faster pace. Shawn got out the car and stared at the back of his trunk. He stared in confusion before his eyes widened in a moment of realization. His smiled returned and he quickly opened the lid.

    ” I forgot all about you ! I hope you’re nice and cozy down there. It’s probably been a bumpy ride for you.”

    There she layed. A brunette beauty bound, bruised and terrified. Her mouth gag locked away any cries of help and her cuffs killed any sense of freedom. She cried heavily and her eyes were a mix of pure terror and unbridled rage.

    ” I’m sorry about what happened to to your husband and all. He seemed like a good guy but once he found out about what I did in the past, I had no choice but to kill him. Can’t have him running his mouth where it isn’t needed. The love of your life is gone but look on the bright side. You’re still alive aren’t you ? Maybe it’s because of your cute face but I decided not to kill you. I’m taking you to my headquarters where you’ll either be recruited or sold off to guys far less decent than I am. Yes, if you try to run away or resist once you get there you’ll just be killed but even then you’ll get to meet your husband. I suggest you take advantage of the options held before you and take your life in a new direction,Amanda.Make your husband proud.”

    Shawns chesire grin was the last thing Amanda would see for a while once the trunk lid came to a close. ‘Perhaps he’s right’, she pondered to herself. Maybe she should join whatever sick bastards this man grouped with and let them train her. Mold her. Turn her into the cold hearted killer she would need to be to take her revenge.

  2. Le Floof

    ‘Help Me’

    Night fell, the sun kneeling before the darkness. It was raining, though barely recognizable, as the windshield wipers bump from side to side. The thumping of the machinery blended in with the faint pummeling in the distance, which had gone unnoticed by the driver whom had the appearance of luxury. The man was dressed neatly in a tuxedo that matched the color of the current sky, eyes as bright as the sun -yet they have a distinct dullness to them, and lips that’d always curl into a knowing smirk at the most wrongful of times. His face held a grim expression; though the only sense of amusement is that dreaded leer. Many would think he had no happiness behind that simper of his. His heart was beating at a leisurely pace, much like the man’s tire. Although he ignored it, the repetitive sound bothered him; thus he pulled over. The wipers splashed the small beads of liquid to the dirt; the unnamed man forced his door ajar, stepping a lavishly lengthy leg onto the jagged ground. It was then that the man came to awareness of the pounding, despite the fact that his driving took a halt. He grew cautious; perturbed.

    For once, his usually classy demeanor turned into one of disturbance. The man’s breath quickened; as did the beating of his heart. The slender fingers of the man’s hand brush against the lustrous surface, ultimately finding absence of rough edges to the opulent vehicle. Soon enough, the back of the car’s thrashing sounds suddenly attacked the man’s ears in an unnerving way. Hands quivering, the skin of his digits come in contact with the fabric of his pocket. At the moment, the repetitive blesses of his -previously- wise decisions swam through his mind. In his pant pouch sat a spare set of keys, in which he rarely ever used. It was as if the dark shadow of suspense clawed at his shoulders with the most sinister smile spread upon its face. The dark, sleek trunk opened with a pop; a gasp of breath soon following; an upper body of a woman rose. She looked frightened -much more frightened than the man who found her. Her face was pale, almost looking gray, which displayed her great amount of fear; her wide, dark eyes held a well-distinguishable, terrorizing expression, one of doom; as for her hair, it was convoluted in such an intricate way.

    Both adults knew not of how she’d gotten into this nameless man’s trunk. Regardless, the woman stood to her wobbling knees, scrambling out of the carpeted contraption with multiple tremulous breaths. She landed her bare feet onto the dangerously-rough road, resulting in her descent. Through her eyes, the last thing the man could see was a specific, strong emotion; an emotion that he could not decipher, yet could sense how she felt. She gave off an aura -a peculiar one- that held all of her dilemmas and issues. Her final words were: “Help me,” before her world went black.

  3. agnesjack

    Having trouble posting. Changed one curse word. Maybe that was it.

    James was on a roll. He’d cheated his ex-partner out of the multi-million dollar Conway contract and it felt great.

    Fred, he thought, you’ve always been a loser, buddy, ever since college. Loser, loser, loser. Always playing by the rules. Ha!

    Damn, he felt good. In twenty minutes he would be signing the contract that would put him on the map as a real player.

    When you play with the big boys you’ve got to look the part, he thought as he put the rented Mazerati into gear and pulled out onto the highway. He’d maxxed out his last credit card for the rental, but it would all be worth it.

    “Let’s see how fast this baby can go,” he said pressing down on the gas, but as the car accelerated he heard a loud thumping that almost made him lose control.

    “What the hell is that? Flat tire?”

    He slowed, pulled onto the shoulder and got out to look. All the tires were fine, but as soon as he pulled back onto the highway the thumping started up again.

    “Oh, for chrissake!”

    He pulled over again and checked that his bag on the back seat hadn’t fallen over. Then he opened the trunk and stood there staring for about five minutes.

    “Sweet baby! This really is my lucky day.”

    There were two moneybags and the one on the right, the larger one, had been placed upright causing it to slam back and forth between the side of the trunk and the other bag. There were no names on the bags, so they didn’t’ seem to be from a bank. Whose were they? Must have been the previous renter. Well, that would mean they would be looking for them. They’d be able to get his name from the rental agency. Or could they? If it was stolen cash, then they wouldn’t want to draw attention to it. These and other thoughts were tripping over themselves in his head.

    “Man, I sure could use some cash right now. I could impress Conway and his partner with an over the top expensive dinner and get the best suite in a hotel, instead of going back to sleep in the airport waiting for my plane home.”

    He wanted to open the big bag but not there on the side of the highway, so he drove on to the next rest stop and went into the men’s room. In the stall farthest away from the door, he sat on the toilet with the bag on his lap.

    “Here goes, James, your golden ticket,” and he unzipped the bag.

    It had a funny smell — the purple cloud of dust that enveloped his face. He was disoriented for a second, then took a wad of toilet paper, wiped his stinging eyes and peered into the bag.

    There was money, all right. A lot of it, and it, too, was covered with the purple dust, as were his hands, white shirt and just about everything else.



    Poor James didn’t become a player that day. It took three months for the dye to eventually fade from his face and hands, and by that time Conway had signed with his ex-partner Fred.

    And despite all of James’s efforts, he was never able to completely wash the dye off the money.

  4. M.P. McCarthy

    “We’ll take the Nissan Versa”. The rental car attendant had given my wife and I multiple options when it came to the cars the company offered. Most where high priced fancy cars, sports cars and convertibles. We just needed reliable transportation. We settled on the compact four-cylinder fuel sipper.
    I had recently heard that you should take time date stamped photos of rental cars before you drive them off the lot so that if something happens you will have a “before” photo of the car’s condition. I was doing just that when I could have sworn I heard a faint thumping noise. I couldn’t tell exactly where it was coming from and it stopped as soon as it started. “Did you just hear that, Jen” I asked. “Hear what?” she said. “I guess it was nothing”, I said.
    We finished putting our luggage into the car and headed out. We had just flown for four hours and we now had about a two hour drive ahead of us. During the flight, I could have sworn I had heard the same thumping but I dismissed it as airplane noise.
    The small car handled surprisingly well. We stopped at a small diner about an hour into our trip. A small meal and bathroom break and we were refreshed and ready to continue. It was warm outside and with the windows down we cruised along Interstate 91, happy to be that much closer to our vacation destination.
    I heard the thump again, this time just a little louder. It sounded like we had a flat tire. Although I didn’t feel any change in the way the car was handling, I figured I had better pull over and check.
    “What are you doing?” Jen asked as I pulled off to the side of the road. “I think we might have a flat” I said, “I heard a noise”.
    We came to a stop and got out to have a look. I could see right away that the tires had air in them. I opened the small trunk. There was nothing there. “I must be going crazy” I said, “I keep hearing a weird thumping sound”. “You ARE crazy” she playfully chided. She gave me a quick kiss and jumped back into the car. “Let’s go Crazyman” she said.
    I got back in the driver seat and resumed our journey.
    An hour later, we reached the resort.
    We checked in and found our bungalow. “Wow, this is nice” Jen said. I couldn’t have agreed more.
    I heard the thump again. This time, it seemed to be coming from my suitcase!
    I quickly unlocked the bag. I hadn’t said anything to Jen because at this point I was starting to wonder what the hell was going on. I thought maybe I WAS going crazy, or maybe I had something wrong with me like a brain tumor or something. Upon opening the suitcase, I felt panic creeping in.
    There was nothing there.

  5. Critique

    A Day to Forget

    “$100 bucks!” Armand flushed with frustration as he fished for bills in his wallet and handed them to the placid faced taxi driver.

    “That’s correct. It’s a 45 minute drive from the municipal airport into the city and this car rental.” The driver gestured towards the rundown facility. “You couldn’t find one closer?”

    Armand mentally kicked himself. Served him right for going cheap. From the looks of the derelict rental place it could be the cover for a drug operation. For a few more bucks he could have rented from the airport and been on his way. Cheryl his seven year old daughter would be heartbroken if he missed her birthday party. He hadn’t missed one yet. It was going to be tougher – and more expensive – now that she’d moved with her mother a thousand miles away to be closer to the grandparents.

    Half an hour later Armand navigated city traffic in a small gray car, peered through the pouring rain at an unfamiliar street sign, and realized he had no idea where he was and that his phone was dead. No GPS help.

    Turning into a nearby strip mall parking lot Armand heard a thumping sound. He hit the steering wheel with the flat of his hand and cursed loud and long. Great. A flat.

    He parked the car, turned it off and a faint noise – distinct from the rain – came again from the back of the car.

    Pulling the trunk lever he got out, walked behind the car, and lifted the partially open trunk lid. Lying widths ways inside was a rolled up blanket and protruding from one end was what looked like a doll’s arm. Armand tugged cautiously on a corner and yelped when it fell away revealing the terrified face of a small child.

    “I’m not going to hurt you.” Armand said and attempted to open the blanket. “We need to get you out of here.”

    The child shrank back, eyes wide with terror.

    He heard sirens and two police cars careened into the parking lot and screeched to a stop behind Armand. Several policemen jumped out.

    “Get down! Face to the ground.” An officer shouted pointing a gun to Armand’s head.

    Armand stood frozen with his mouth open.

    “Get down!” The officer ordered again. “Now.”

    Armand found himself surrounded by uniforms, guns pointed at his head.

    “Is this your car?” Another officer barked. Two more police cars sirens wailing roared onto the lot.

    “It’s a rental.” Armand spoke into the wet pavement, afraid to lift his head. “There’s a child in the trunk.”

    “We know.” An officer snapped handcuffs on Armand’s wrists then grabbed his arm. “Get up.”

    Armand stood awkwardly to his feet.

    “Peter Barrow you’re under arrest for the kidnapping and forcible confinement of a child.”

    A police woman was talking in soothing tones, trying to lift the screaming kicking child out of the trunk.

    “My name’s not Peter Barrow. What’s going on?” Armand demanded. “I just found the kid. I know nothing about this.”

    “Save it for the chief.” The officer led Armand to a police car and pushed him inside.

    After four hours of interrogation shivering in his rain soaked clothes on a metal chair in a sterile room with no food or drink, the police concluded he was no criminal and told him he could leave. Seems the real criminals had rented the same car Armand was driving, panicked and fled abandoning the little boy – unbeknownst to the rental agency – in the trunk. They were still at large.

    “You can’t drive the car. It’s been confiscated –its evidence you see.” The nice lady at the reception desk told Armand and handed him his cell phone wrapped in plastic and his carryon bag. “You left this behind.”

    Armand didn’t bother responding.

    He could use a stiff drink or two. A hot meal. Then he would borrow a phone and convince his ex to come and pick him up.

  6. maxime

    We were on those roads that don’t seem to end. A line of concrete in the middle of nowhere. Sort of deserted road where barely nobody drives by, and even less stops by.
    “Do you hear that sound?” James said. He turned off the radio.
    I rolled my window down to check if I could hear anything. It wasn’t one of these fancy renting cars that we have these days with all the options and GPS, we were too broke for that.
    The one we managed to rent for a couple of hundreds bucks for the week ahead was rusty, almost falling apart. The rancid smell inside the car was giving us hints on how the cigarettes used to smell twenty years ago.
    He was right, there was that pulsating sound of a dying tire, vibrating on the road.
    “Pull up on the side, we need to check that out.”
    The sound didn’t stop when the car did.
    We tapped on the tires, none were flat at all, but that haunting sound Tchoump Tchoump Tchoump was still there.
    We done a round of the car, scanning every part to know where it did come from.
    “It seems to come from the trunk” said James knocking it, ready to open it.
    “- wait…you’ve put your bag in there right? When I picked you earlier, or did you leave it on the back seat?
    -I’ve put it in there.
    – Do you think that someone at the airport might have sneak something in? a bomb or something?
    – No buddy, he smiled, don’t be ridiculous, it’s not like I’m famous or important.
    He opened the trunk and indeed, nothing important happened.

    The bag was laying down here in the middle of the trunk. James took the bag out of the car, sticking his ear on the bag. There was no sound coming out of it.
    The palpitating noise intensified when I took a knife to tear up the bottom of the trunk.
    I dropped the knife down, walked a few steps away from the car, when I saw it.
    The car had a heart.
    It sounded like it knew, the motor went furious like smashing gas and brake pedal at the same time. The car drove off on its own, crushed the brake and managed to turn around back in our direction after a growling 180° drift.
    At the second the car started to drove on its own, James and I were running into the fields away from the road as if our lives depended on it. Well, our lives depended on it.
    The roaring car was far behind us.
    “Come on Jimmy” I shouted. He was about five meters behind me. I don’t know where we aimed to run to, there was nothing on sight but at the time it felt like the right thing to do.
    It came near and nearer to us, his pistons blustering. The car was laughing at us.
    The bullying heap of steel ran over James. I didn’t see it but heard him fall, couldn’t turn my head, I didn’t want to see this, the crushing sound of bones cracking under the wheels.
    It was now pursuing me and somehow I knew it was the end. The sound blasting off my ears, it tapped its front on the back of my legs, I fell backward onto the car. It braked, I hit the floor like a bin bag dropped on the ground. It passed over me, breaking me apart. Not once but several times.
    It then came back onto the main road.
    Weeks later an assistance van drove by after the renting company tried to contact us a few times to get their car back. The van was going to the petrol station nearby to check if we didn’t leave it there when he saw our car here, parked on the side of the road. Pure coincidence as usually nobody drives around.
    And nobody ever did.

  7. pven

    The guys got this idea to go paintballing in the old Star-Vue Drive-in that night. Nobody’s used it for decades – not even for swap meets, so it was pretty much a wasteland.

    “No flashlights,” Sam said. “No headlights. Just the full moon.”

    We were bored. We were teenagers. Of course it sounded like a good idea.

    We broke into the theater lot about 11 PM. The plan was to park by what was left of the snack hut. But we never got that far.

    We were about a quarter of the way into the lot when I heard a thump. Thump. Thump.

    “Dude, what was that?”

    “Probably hit something. This asphalt’s pretty cracked up.”

    “It came from the trunk.”

    Thump. Thump.

    “Dude. From inside the trunk.”

    So Bill stopped the car and we listened. For a while we heard nothing but then, a cry: faint, raspy as the weeds rubbing up against the car doors: “Can’t breathe!”

    “What the hell…?”

    We piled out of the car and watched Bill open the trunk. This kid — a high school freshman from the looks of him — popped out of the car. His hair was wild, his hands were beat up and his fingernails were torn. “Can’t breathe!”

    “Who are you?” Bill asked. “And how’d you get in my car?”

    The kid looked around.

    “Wanted to see the movie.”

    “What movie?” Bill said. “This place has been closed for decades!”

    The kid looked at us.

    “Can’t breathe,” he said.

    “Yeah, sure. Sam. Get him some water.”

    We mostly had beer in the car, and a few of us debated if we should just give him that. Something was better than nothing, right? When I came back, he was gone.

    “Turned my back, and he just disappeared,” said Bill. “Freaking weirdo.”

    We wrote it off as some homeless kid, grabbed our gear and hiked the rest of the way to the snack hut.

    The place was pretty much rotted out. The stairs to the projection room had collapsed and the ceiling was cracked and sagging in two or three places. There were holes in the walls where windows or copper wiring had been. And that’s where the kid was, standing a little behind and a little above the remnants of the snack bar. In the darkness we could see some details that we hadn’t noticed before, like the fact that he glowed a little, and that the frayed edges of his clothes and his hair moved like they were floating in the stale air.

    “Wanted to see the movie.”

    “Uh, kid…”

    The kid whipped towards Bill and shrieked: “YOOUU LEFT ME TO DIIIEEE!”

    He slammed his fists on the top of the snack bar and a horde of rats disgorged from the hold, squeaking and snapping at the air about them. Roaches poured from the holes in the walls. I screamed and emptied my cartridge at the verminous mass charging me. Behind me, the others just ran.

    I caught up with them just before the car. The kid was there again, hovering over the open trunk.
    “Can’t breathe,” he rasped when he saw us, and I felt the air around me thin, as if it had been used too many times for too many purposes.

    “To hell with this,” Bill said, and turned right into the weeds, swinging his rifle like a scythe. “That freak can keep the car.”

    We followed the path he made toward the main road, sneaking glimpses over our shoulders lest the kid snuck up behind us. But the kid didn’t follow, perhaps linked somehow to the car and the snack bar.

    Back on the road, Bill looked solemnly at each of us.

    “No one talks about this,” he said, then turned towards home.

    1. pven

      Curiosity got the better of me, and I did a little research at the local library.

      About a month before the drive-in closed, a group of kids had come in, sneaking a freshman that they were hazing in the trunk of their car. They’d promised to sneak him in for the first showing, but after shoving him in the trunk decided it would be fun to drive around for a while and let him out for the second show.

      But then they thought they’d get some extra laughs by leaving him in the trunk while they got some snacks. Where they’d gotten distracted by girls, and…

      They wouldn’t release the name of the kid who had died, but shortly afterwards there were arrests for the manslaughter of Jacob Mueller, and those articles showed pictures of both the driver and the victim. And I can’t swear on it, but yeah. I think the kid that night was Jacob, still hoping to catch that show.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I loved the idea of how you split the story in two to explain the ghost. It makes it far more powerful this way and is a clever idea I will store if there’s any room left in my brain.
        By the way it would be a perfect script for the twilight zone or a 1940’s radio script for “Suspense.”. Google the radio show. KC.

  8. Lacharmoure

    Ugh! The bitter cold January air was stark reminder of reality as I trudged through the slush to get to the rental they had assigned me all the way across the lot. My pack seemed heavy, the frozen air hurt my lungs, and the sound of Ohare air traffic droned in my ears from above. It was a weird kind of numbness. My senses were being pushed to their limits but my mind was not fully registering any of it. Only a few days, was what my mind kept telling itself. The funeral was tomorrow. Tomorrow I would be at a funeral. A funeral for a child. My sister’s child. What do you say to someone whose world has shattered?
    I clicked the button and the Ford Escort blinked at me as I approached. Teal? Not really blue, not really green? It was going to be a fun three hour skate to Portage. With the slush and snow, and this fine piece of machinery I would be lucky to make it there tonight. I threw my pack in the back seat and plopped down in the driver’s. Peeling my gloves off my already frozen fingers, I fumbled to turn my phone back on. I had forgot to turn it back on after the flight. My mind was working so slowly, drunk with burden. Beep, bling, ring, tingle-tingle, vibrate … A barrage of texts, voicemails, emails, words with friends alerts, sale reminders, information, and more information sounded off. Information I would deal with later. I turned the key. I had to get going.
    The night was darker here. Maybe it was just darker tonight? The rhythm of the windshield wipers combined with the visual of the little white flakes falling and blowing against the windshield was mesmerizing. I caught myself not blinking for long spells. Just as I was thinking the trip was going smoothly the sound started. A thump?
    At first I thought I had imagined it. Then it happened again and again. The car seemed to be handling fine but I wasn’t sure what else it could be. Maybe I had a flat? Perhaps I had run over something? Could it be snow just built up around the tires? I decided I better pull over to investigate.
    I pulled off on the next exit ramp, put my gloves back on and got out to see what was causing the noise. The icy air hit me like wave. If I had been sleepy before the chill was a quick wakeup call. Christ, I hope I don’t end up stuck on the side of the road. I considered how unprepared I would be for a freezing night on the roadside, no food, no water, and my “warm clothes” weren’t really up to Michigan winter standards.
    The tires looked fine. No flats. No ice chunks. I couldn’t see anything stuck anywhere? As I bent down and knelt on the ground to make sure my economy rental car wasn’t dragging its muffler, a dead body, or anything else, I heard it again. Three thumps. Thump … thump … thump …!
    It was from the trunk?
    I slowly pushed myself up off the ground watching the trunk like I thought it was going to spring open at any minute. I let out a half laugh, half sigh as I realized how ridiculous I was being. This was the Midwest. It’s winter. Some critter probably figured out a way to get into the trunk to stay warm and just now realized I am driving his cozy home across state lines. I envisioned opening the trunk to find a worried looking family of squirrels perched in a trunk full of acorns. However as I approached the trunk my vision changed and I knew my luck I would open it to find a very angry rabid raccoon. Either way I had to open it. I went to grab the keys.
    I should have upgraded. I am sure the deluxe economy car has a key fob with trunk release but my teal skate does not. Taking a minute to prep my lightening quick reflexes I approach the trunk insert the key and …click it is unlocked. I push the lid up and step back in one swift motion ready for whatever jumps out. Or so I thought …
    Nothing “jumped” out but rather sat up slowly stretched and then step out to stand in front of me.
    “Bloody hell! What day is it?”
    I stood there puzzled. My mouth was open to speak but my brain had not formed a question yet. Before me stood a tall, attractive, blonde man … who had just climbed out of the trunk of my car?
    “Well, cat got your tongue? What day is it?” he asked me seemingly unfazed by the weirdness of the situation.
    “Wednesday,” I mustered the courage to say.
    “Damn. That makes it the twelfth? Freakin’ angels and their jokes. They think all this tom foolery is okay, They think my job is just to lolly gag around and they can disrupt my schedule … Like my part doesn’t matter none.” He was waving his arm and pacing as her ranted on. He stopped to pull a small note pad out of his pocket. “Oh crap, Gilcrest, I missed my connection with that poor sod. Hope he wasn’t a noble man. Pollack, I was supposed to be there today.”
    I stood still shocked by his arrival out of the trunk, still taking in his presence, trying to make sense of his ranting. Then one word snapped me to attention. Pollack?
    “Did you say Pollack?” I asked him unsure it this was all even reality. Maybe I had simply lost my mind? Maybe I had fallen asleep and was sleep driving, cruising down the freeway at 70 miles an hour unconscious? Dreaming of attractive men popping out of the trunk?
    “Yes, I am running late.” His voice snapped me back to reality again, too clear to be a dream. “We need to get going.” He said as he walked over and closed the trunk.
    “Pollack? That is my sister’s name. How do you know my sister?” I was now starting to feel fear, real fear. This was not a dream and I had a man, possibly a mad man, standing in front of me. He knew where I was going?
    “I do not know your sister.” He paused and looked me in the eyes.
    There was a strange calm that his gaze brought with it but I tried not to let it unhinge me. “You just said the name? Why did you say her name?”
    His voice was calm and his gaze was paralyzing. “Yes, I did say Pollack, but I have yet to meet them. I was supposed to be there today. I am running late. I will explain more on the way but we need to get going.” He walked over to the passenger side and got in the front seat.
    I stood there confused, concerned, torn. What do I do now? He is in the car! My phone is in the car! I realized I was standing on the side of the road in the middle of the night freezing and a stranger just got in my car. I’ve been car jacked?
    Not a big fan of freezing to death, after about 10 minutes, I decided to get in the car. As I climbed in the driver’s seat he smiled at me. God, he really was handsome. I guess there were are worse people I could be car jacked by?
    “About time,” he quipped flashing me more of that alluring smile, “Did I mention I am late?”
    “Where do you want me to drive you?” I asked. Maybe if I drove him to his destination he’d let me go.
    “Oh, didn’t I explain? We are going to the same place.” His expression changed to one more serious and somber. “You have a funeral to attend and I have a soul to pick up.”

  9. writer_sk

    PART 1

    The Trunk

    The white squalls closed in on Matthew’s car as he pulled over and stepped in a good foot of snow. His concern had been a flat tire, now it became the blinding blizzard. He crouched near the back tire to examine it and was startled by a thump from the trunk. He opened the trunk and the eyes of a man covered in rope, dirty and dying of starvation blinked nonstop, unaccustomed to the light of day. Matthew untied the corpse-like figure, sat him upright and poured bottled water sip by sip into his dry mouth. He wrapped him in a blanket, lifted him out and into the car’s front seat with little effort. As he put him down he recognized him.

    “Wait a second, O’Neill? Conner O’Neill, right, buddy? It’s me, Matthew Sugrue.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Second shot trying to get by the f**ching commercials pounding me
        Does anyone know what on blazes is going on?
        Back to your story. This is a marvelous entry into an epic. Description of the poor man in the trunk and the “white out” as we called them in Philadelphia. I am begging for more. Hope you manage tot. Kerry

  10. RafTriesToWrite

    The air breathed a heavy evening breeze in this fine afternoon drive. I’m in this lovely rented car, back in my home country and I couldn’t wait for my brother’s wedding.

    The sun glistened at the rear view mirror and the sound of the waves crashing beneath the cliffs calmed my nerves. Why was I nervous in the first place? Probably because I get to see my family again, after all these years, only now I bothered to come back.

    At least I’m coming home now right?

    I hit a bump, then heard a thump. Instinctively I stopped the car and went out to look at my tires. I couldn’t have a flat tire. Not now. Even if there’s a spare at the trunk, I wouldn’t know how to change it.

    I checked all four tires, but none of them were flat.

    “Weird” I breathed. As I was walking back to the driver’s seat, I heard the thump again.

    I stopped and looked around me. Where’s that sound coming from? Then I heard it again, two more times. My deductive skills tell me that it was coming from the trunk. I unlocked the hatch from under my seat then proceeded to go to the trunk.

    My heartbeat was rising as I nervously put my hands on top of the trunk. I closed my eyes and opened it slowly. I smelled something quite resembling a newspaper filled with dog urine.

    Then I heard a bark, a cute tiny baby bark. I opened my eyes and saw a cute puppy locked inside a cage. Now who would do that?

    Who locks their puppy in a cage inside the trunk?

    I took the puppy out, as it wagged its tail when I was opening its hatch.

    “What a cute puppy. Yes you are” He was definitely cute, but he smelled.

    I noticed a dog tag, and inspected it. Cody was written, but no number, or return address or whatsoever. I investigated the trunk and looked around for clues. I saw an edge of what looks like a folded piece of paper underneath the cage, so I took it and unfolded the paper.

    It was a note, it read: Grant, congrats on your wedding. I hope you’ll accept my wedding gift, I’m sorry that I will not be attending your wedding, seeing as I cannot be physically there anymore. If this doesn’t get to you in time, it will eventually. I hope you find the joy that you’re looking for in your bride or wife, depending on when you get this. Thank you again. You know, for, everything and don’t worry. It’s never your fault.

    P.S. I know you like puppies, but if you don’t like the name, you can always change it.

    – Your Good Friend Cody Simmons

    Who’s Cody? And why was the puppy named Cody as well? I drove to our home faster, with the puppy sitting on my lap, and told Grant everything. He called Cody that evening but it wasn’t Cody that picked up.

    Grant told me Cody was like his “fling” back in college, when he was experimenting on “who he is” as a person. He never told this to anyone but me, not even our parents know. Cody was a sweet guy, they were together for months, but then Grant met Chloe and now they’re getting married, Cody became resilient and distant, and pretty soon, they stopped talking to each other. All Grant got from that phone call was Cody’s lawyer saying that he died two days ago, he was found on his bed not moving with some pills on the table beside the bed, a note and oddly enough, a legit last will and testament.

    Grant was to come for the reading of the will in a few days because he was mentioned there. Well actually, it was only Grant and Cody’s parents.

    I couldn’t sleep that night. Cody must’ve still had strong feelings for Grant. So strong that he chose to end his life, than to spend it knowing you can’t be with the one you love.

    That’s just rough.

      1. writer_sk

        Hey raf. I can’t post mine either. It’s annoying! Hey so your descriptions of driving outside were perfect!! You described the setting so well and the MC’s feelings. I found myself thinking I should have had more lead up before the thumping in my piece.

        Anyway I noticed you misuse the word “resilient” otherwise good job. I like the tradgedy of lost love. I your setting choice of driving to and arriving at a wedding. stories that include a wedding or a destination wedding provide so much substance/opportunity for emotion and conversation.

        Can I suggest removing the part about mc using his deductive skills because it goes without saying.

        Nice work, once again.

        I enjoyed it–full of heart and soul.

        1. RafTriesToWrite

          Hey sk!
          Yeah, I was thinking of other synonyms that could fit well with a person being “distant”, and resilient was the first thing that came to my mind. I may or may not have searched the meaning before I used it in that sentence. Probably should double check the word before I use it.

          I thought the “deductive skills” part would make it seem straightforward than it originally would. It appears that it wasn’t needed after all. I’ll take note of that, thanks for pointing it out and thank you for reading. I really appreciate it.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Raf, lots of layers to this story. Also lots of sadness. Too bad people can’t always be open and honest. Great you figured out how to get this to post.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Hello Raf, nice piece of work. First two paragraphs set
        the scene so well. It driver the reader forward. Good little piece of advice from reader. About the unnecessary sentence.

  11. Turkey Girl

    The sleek black sedan was waiting for me at the Enterprise rental store. I’d just claimed my keys. With a smile, I led my five year old son Allen to my rental car. As he jumped into the back seat and I buckled his safety belt for him, I wondered who was more excited about our trip to DC, me or him. Closing his door, I sat down in the driver’s seat.

    The car not only looked new, it smelled new. Rolling down my windows to get rid of the smell, I started the engine and pulled onto the road. Within a few minutes I was cruising down the highway, listening to the radio with my hair blowing out the window. My husband would probably be waiting for me at the hotel. I knew he didn’t like to be kept waiting. My rental car sped down the road. I took the exit for the hotel and soon found myself in the outskirts of the city. I turned around to tell Allen we were almost there when a noise interrupted me.


    I sighed. Surely a rental car wouldn’t get a flat tire. With the rhythmic thumping urging me to stop, I pulled over and stopped. Getting out of the car, I checked the tires. None were flat. Shaking my head, I got back in the car and drove a few more yards, then stopped again. The thumping had not stopped. I got out and walked around. What was making the noise? I traced it down to the trunk. Opening it up, I looked inside.

    In front of me sat a very crude bomb, controlled by a cellphone. It was already under ten seconds. I ran to the door. “Allen, we have to go now!” Grabbing my son, I pulled him out of the seat. He struggled to get out of my grasp.

    “But it’s hot out, Mommy. I like it better in the car.”

    I shook my head. “No, listen, honey, we have to get out of here.”

    Someone grabbed my arm. I whirled to see who it was. A minivan had stopped next to my car, and a tall dark man was pulling me away from my car and my son. I jerked away away, but it was too late. There was a blinding flash of orange light, and I was thrown backwards into the man. I screamed Allen’s name, but it was too late. I lost consciousness to the sound of the man laughing.

    When I came to, I was stuck in a hospital room connected to countless IVs. A nurse was cleaning some instruments in one corner of the room. I didn’t let her go on. There was something I needed to know.

    “Where is my son?”

    The nurse walked over to me. “I’m sorry. He was too close to the car. There was nothing we could do.”

    I shook my head. “Why? Why did someone put a bomb in my car?”

    The nurse shook her head. “I’m sorry ma’am. I don’t know. I’m afraid you have to stay here for at least a week. Do you have somewhere to go?”

    I nodded. “The Residence Inn.”

    The nurses jaw dropped. “The one just inside the beltway?”

    I nodded. “Yeah. What about it?”

    The nurse hesitated. “I’m not sure if I should tell you.”

    I grabbed her arm. “Tell me.”

    She sighed. “The building was blown up a few hours ago. No one survived. The place is in ruins.”

    I nodded slowly at her words. I knew they were coming after me. They would try to kill me again. Escaping from a group of terrorists who have a fatwah on you is extremely hard. But laying in that hospital bed, I swore that before I died, I would get my revenge on the man who killed my son.

  12. Old Rock Candy Mountain

    Flying into the Syracuse airport has always been a treat; the connector from JFK being the cherry-on-top. Syracuse weather being what it is and the near-certainty that one will be traveling white-knuckled upon a puddle jumper typically places me somewhere between the territories of severe anxiety and total mental breakdown. Self-medication, therefore, is a must.

    After draining three highball glasses at the Uptown Brasserie in Terminal B, I felt prepared. The anxiety had faded to a dull roar and the excitement for the upcoming family reunion began to peek through the haze. My mother’s side of the family is large – the perfect example of a post-war, sans-contraceptive parental unit. She’s one of six and I’m one of eleven cousins and so the reunions are always quite a production. I boarded the plane with a faint smile on my face and to my greatest pleasure the flight passed without any incident.

    The line for Hertz Rental Car was short – one bedazzled, middle-aged woman stood in front of me chatting with her daughter about the sweaty inhabitant of the middle seat that had refused to move for them. I had an hour to kill before my car was ready and so I stopped into Middle Ages and ordered a beer before setting off to find my vehicle. I took it at a draught and ordered another. Before I knew it I was loading my aged duffle into the trunk of my electric-blue hot rod. The Hertz representative at the counter had reserved a Nissan Versa for my trip – “something with a little zip!”

    As I swerved off of Airport Boulevard and onto I-81 towards Nedrow, I almost immediately began to hear a loud “THUMP THUMP THUMP” and swore as I swung back across two lanes of traffic to check the tire on the rental. I never opt for the insurance – if you do you’re a sucker.

    Having consumed roughly a fifth of Wild Turkey at JFK and another 32 ounces of Milk Stout before finding my way to my vehicle, both my driving skill and judgement were considerably impaired. As I approached the shoulder, I misjudged the distance to the guardrail and slammed into it, sending my zippy new rental car into a roll with such force that it collapsed like a Genesee Cream can beneath a boot-clad foot. Somewhere during the stomach-lurching crash, my vision flickered and faded into blackness. I lost sensation in my extremities. Only upon coming to a screeching halt did the trunk of the rental pop open.

    My last few remaining breaths left my body as my eyes looked out across the I-81 median from the trunk of my car. Trapped, I saw cars veering onto the shoulder and people come running towards me. I lashed out at the trunk of the car with my last breath and closed my eyes forever.

    1. writer_sk

      Old rock candy mountain- wow. I like the use of sarcasm setting the tone right off the bat.

      Excellent writing.

      Story does switch between tenses – (was and is)- just a note.

      The action kept moving. I enjoyed your longer sentences. Your story was packed with metaphors and descriptors. What an ending – it jolted me.

  13. writer_sk

    It won’t allow me to post my story. I can’t figure out why. What is the name filter? Anyway, I offer you my haiku instead:

    white snow falls against gray sky

    car trunk monster fights — thump thump

    silence; snow melting

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Hey, Sarah, a few suggestions on getting a story to post. JR wrote in a comment to me, Hitchc#ck, I think, to get it through. That name actually tripped me up once. Another that stopped a story was, s3xy, just as a description. So, look for any words that could possibly be misinterpreted or cause giggles in an 11 year old boy. I don’t think I’ve actually ever written anything non-PG, except for a poem that got an honorable mention in a WD competition, so I was surprised when my stories didn’t post.

      Great haiku, by the way, fantastic use of the prompt.

  14. kitten_girl5

    Sighing, I turned down the music and rolled up the window as I slowed down to get off at the next exit. As my rental car’s tank was filled with gas, I ran inside to get a quick snack because I had a schedule to keep. Standing impatiently in line with my bag of peanuts I tapped my foot. As I was paying, I looked up at the selection of cigarettes and sighed.
    If there was ever a time to continue the destructive habit I’d dropped a year and a half ago it would be now. As the man was about to ring me up I spoke, “And a pack of Camels, please.” Nodding at my I.D., he got down a pack and placed it in the bag with my snack.
    “That will be $7.54.” Handing the man a ten, I told him to keep the change and left the store.
    As I continued my drive, I took a drag of my cigarette and felt my body relax instantly as the familiar nicotine coursed through my system. I knew I would regret this later, but I needed a cigarette if I was supposed to make it through this day.
    A couple hours later I heard a loud bang from the back of the car and groaned as it continued. Pulling over to the side of the road I went to check for a flat tire when the bang came again. This time it was obvious that it wasn’t just a flat as I heard cursing and another bang.
    My eyes widened as I realized that there was a person in the back of my car. “Hello?” I called out, not sure if this was the smartest idea, but sure that I was going to need bail money if I was caught with a man in my trunk. “Is anyone in there?” It seemed like a stupid question, but I was already screwed if someone answered, so sounding stupid didn’t seem like the worst of my problems.
    “Yes, there’s someone in here, and this someone would like to be let out if you don’t mind.” The voice made me jump. It was definitely there; It’s difficult to miss that level of sarcasm, and I was definitely having the worst day of my life. Of course, it could have been worse, I could have been in a trunk.
    “Sorry,” I couldn’t help the sarcasm in my voice as I continued, “My routine check of the trunk didn’t reveal a person last time, so I didn’t know you were there.”
    Moving to the from on the car and making what I should have known was a mistake, I popped the trunk and turned around.
    A man in his early thirties with short dirty blonde hair climbed out of it with more agility that I would have expected of someone trapped in a trunk for what was at least a couple hours. Looking around, his gaze finally landed on me. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t what happened next.

    1. A. J. Kidding

      That cliffhanger!
      I loved how you set the atmosphere proportional to your character’s nature.

      I feel like the “blonde haired man” actually snuck inside of the trunk while the MC was in the store… maybe to hitch a free ride or perhaps… rob him?
      My main theories:

      1. The man was ecaping from somewhere and decided to hide in the trunk
      2. The man hid there for a ride
      3. The man wanted to rob your MC
      4. dirty blond hair>hippie>on drugs> doesn’t know what he is doing 🙂

      What happened next??? :)))

  15. Smileyface256

    I gun the engine and grin as the motor roars and the surge of power presses my back against the seat. Today is my lucky day; the rental place gave me a brand new Dodge Charger because they didn’t have the car I’d originally reserved. The speedometer climbs up to ninety and I check my mirrors. No cops, no other cars in sight. Just straight open road…like a drag racing track.

    My smile grows as the speedometer climbs up to 95, 100, 110–THUMPthumpthumpthump. The tires squeal, the car fishtails and if there was another vehicle around, I would be a pancake. I skid to a halt, leaving parallel trenches dug through the dirt off the side of the road, brake pedal against the floor, breaths louder than the 8-cylinder engine.

    I could have died. I literally could have died. I’m never breaking the speed limit again.

    I’d be surprised if there’s anything left of that blown tire. My knees shake as I climb out of the driver’s seat and survey the damage. At least, what I thought was damage.

    All four tires are fully inflated.


    What little semblance of calm I had is gone.

    Thump, thump, thump, thump.

    I’m afraid to open the trunk. No, I’m terrified. Did some creepy guy get in somehow before I left? Maybe it’s just an animal…a dangerous animal…


    Or it could just be someone who needs help. Yeah. Right. Maybe.

    I consider just getting back in the car and continuing my trip. No, no, bad idea. The…whatever it is in the trunk could get out and…do things.

    Or if there’s an innocent person in there, they could die and it would be my fault.

    I dig my giant flashlight from one of my bags. Before I can think of backing down, I yank open the truck and find–


    I probe the space with my flashlight, lift up the carpet. Nothing but a spare tire.


    I jump back and scream. The driver’s side door is shut.

    The car starts. I slam the trunk closed and see no one in the driver’s seat. I try to open the door but it’s locked from the inside. My frantic attempts to get in come to a halt when I see them: two red glowing orbs, piercing my soul. Dread, darkness, madness seize my mind, paralyze my body. The tires spin, cover me in dirt and grass.

    I gasp as the feeling releases me and I can wipe the dirt from my eyes. The car is gone.


    I manage to hike to a farmhouse and get a ride home. The rental company wasn’t bothered by the loss of the car. The guy at the desk said those things just…happen sometimes. For a tiny fraction of a second, I swear his eyes gleamed red.

    1. A. J. Kidding

      This was amazing!!!

      Definitely didn’t expect a supernatural element, really had goosebumps for a moment. I love how you described the car, and the full enjoyment from it.

      Stunning prompt, mr. Smileyface256!

    2. theexcitedquestion

      “Hello welcome to paranormal Car rentals! Just sign here to get on your merry spirited way”
      “Do I need to be worried about anything.. paranormal happening?”
      “No of course not! Well, I mean as long as you follow the contract! Basic stuff, have insurance, drive safe, and don’t break the law. Other than that you will be fine. But just know, if you do break the rules…. we know…. we always know. The contract will be void and you will be left in the dirt.”
      “Sounds easy enough! Thank you.”
      “No sir *eyes glow red* thank you”

  16. ShamelessHack

    Once upon a midnight dreary,
    As I drove on, weak and weary,
    In a Toyota fresh from Avis,
    Fresh from Avis’ Cleveland store.
    As I drove on, felt like napping,
    Suddenly I heard a tapping,
    Actually a loudass rapping,
    From behind the left side door.
    “Tis some deadbeat in the trunk,” I pondered.
    “Just some drunk, and nothing more.”

    I really should have felt much finer,
    More like Seinfeld or Rob Reiner,
    But each passing truck-stop diner,
    Made me sadder than before.
    Eagerly I wished the morrow,
    Vainly I had sought to borrow,
    From this car surcease of sorrow,
    Sorrow for the lost Lenore,
    For the rare and radiant hooker
    Whom her pimp had named “Lenore,”
    That’s her name, don’t wear it out.
    Yes, you heard it. Yep:

    Presently my soul grew bolder,
    I no longer felt much older, and
    Pulled up on the roadway’s shoulder,
    I jumped out to find out more.
    I yelled out, “You’re outed punk!
    Now climb out from your hidden bunk!”
    Here I opened wide the trunk…
    Darkness there, and nothing more.

    Was I being over cautious?
    And why was I now so nauseous?
    Had my burger at that truck stop,
    Spent some time upon the floor?
    Holding back my rising bile,
    That dark trunk seemed purely vile,
    Filled with mocking empty promise,
    Promise of the lost Lenore.
    With her g-string and her pasties,
    Yes, you got it:
    That Lenore.

    Back into the Camry sitting,
    Thoughts of suicide now flitting,
    Through my doubting fevered head
    And now more likely than before.
    Drive did I, like twenty more blocks,
    When I heard some really loud shocks,
    Coming from the dashboard glove box,
    Much much louder than before.
    “Damn it,” said I, “What a lemon!
    Was this Camry made in Yemen?”
    I won’t let my soul be hemmed in!”
    Here I ripped off glove box door…

    Out of box there squeezed a bird,
    Had my fevered vision blurred?
    And had this Raven dropped a turd,
    A turd upon the Camry’s floor?
    Then with zero hesitation,
    Said black birdy manifestation,
    Took up its now present station,
    Next to me on driver’s door.
    Blocking view of outside mirror,
    At my left shoulder on the door.
    There it sat,
    And nothing more.

    Well now, wasn’t that a hoot,
    A big black bird with big black snoot,
    I wiped the bird crap from my boot,
    Though I felt chilled down to my core.
    “OK, birdy, you seem tame,
    Wanna play a human game?
    Why not tell me your bird name?
    Say your name and nothing more!”

    Then the bird said, “Nevermore.”

    Startled at the bird’s reply,
    I looked the Raven in the eye,
    Though the name that it had uttered,
    Meant just nothing at its core.
    “If that’s your name, then tell me please,
    And tell the truth, don’t me appease,
    Lenore’s fair hand, will I soon squeeze,
    Squeeze the hand of my amor?”

    Quote the Raven, “Nevermore.”

    Here I jerked the wheel of steering,
    Anger pushed my mouth to sneering,
    I felt my right foot push the pedal,
    Gas pedal down onto the floor.
    “Don’t give me that, my feathered Matey!”
    As the Camry zoomed past eighty,
    “Tell me, tell me when will I kiss,
    Kiss my lovely little whore?”

    Quote the Raven, “Nevermore.”

    Here I shouted, “I’ll have her never?!
    If that’s the case hold tight your feather,
    I’ll kill us both! We’ll go together!”
    The speedo said: one hundred four.
    “Change your answer, say I’ll have her,
    Say our love will last hereafter,
    Or now we die, us two together!”

    Quote the Raven, “Nevermore.”

    My hands came off the steering wheel,
    To strangle bird, who made a squeal,
    And flew right out the window seal,
    And sailed away in the night’s shore.
    But I was driving much too fast,
    And my next thought, it was my last:
    “Lenore, my whore, my love is vast!
    We’ll meet across from our death’s door!”

    Quote the Raven, “Nevermore.”


    And the Raven, never flitting,
    Still is sitting, still is sitting,
    On the wreck of rented Camry,
    Down there on the valley floor.
    And his eyes have all the seeming,
    Of a demon’s that is dreaming,
    And the twilight o’re him streaming,
    Throws his shadow on the driver’s door.
    And my soul from out that shadow,
    That lies floating on the Toyota’s door.

    Shall be lifted,

    1. gamingtheblues

      That was actually quite brilliant. Quirky, charming, and excellently written. The humor was spot on, the rhyming scheme almost never missed a beat and even the near misses were bloody close. I do not as a rule find many things funny enough to laugh out loud…but at least twice you managed the feat to which I can only say Bravo! I recommend everyone here read this one. (well…all adults ;p)

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Reatha, I don’t think so. To top Hack, you’d have to bring Lanore along with you. Guess where she is?. Hack boy, I’m really sorry about it but once you described her, I bribed her.

    2. writer_sk

      Hack- Amazing. You’ve outdone yourself. Just awesome. Your poem was lyrical, funny and serious. It captured the man’s longing and desperation. It was so inventive to have the bird come out of the glove compartment.

      My favorite part, though, was the smart rhyming. I laughed at the turd part and enjoyed how you rhymed “lemon and hemmed in” Just an impressive piece all around.

    3. pven

      Magnificent and macabre.

      I could tell right from the first few lines that this would be a hoot. And then: “Tis some deadbeat in the trunk…” oh, dear lord.

  17. A. J. Kidding

    *Ring, ring.

    The crusty lids of my eyes separated with difficulty, only to reveal a mobile device that was going berserk on the desk.

    “Crap, I am late…”

    I slithered out of bed, and reached the maximum of my hand’s range to grab the phone.

    “He… hello?” my raspy voice answered the call.

    “Christ almighty, Ben! You have a flight in twenty-two minutes. Where did you go yesterday? Nevermind, just grab your documents and go; I don’t care what you’re wearing right now, just make sure your gonads are covered. You will buy clothes when you arrive. Everything is set up, a rental car is waiting at the NY airport, go, go! Call me when you’re in the cab, I will try to hold off the flight if I can – WE CAN’T SCREW THIS DEAL UP YOU HEAR ME?”


    I am not sure if he ended the call with his finger or just threw his phone at the wall. Deal. New York, right.

    The cab driver was looking at me most of the time. I wore nothing but brief boxers and business shoes without socks.

    “I am in the cab. Yes. Yes, ok.”

    Got on time, and after an awkward check-in process I was on the plane. Managed to sleep for a few hours. Landed alright, proceeded to exiting the terminal. When the TSA looked at me, those weren’t gazes of surprise; it was like I was one of the reasons humanity was destined for failure.

    The rental car kiosk was just at the exit of the airport. Hello, ID, keyfob, red Mazda 6. It was just after sundown, God I hated driving in the dark. Why would the client want to meat thirty miles out of city limits? Whatever, I was there to deliver the papers and collect a signature, nothing else.

    Ten minutes into my driving session, and a floppy-thudding noise interrupted my road-focus. A flat, seriously? Screw it, it’s a rental – I will just stop at the nearest gas station and get a new tire along with some clothing.

    Thud, thud, THUD, THUD!

    “SON OF A BASKET BISCUIT” I lost my cool, and stopped in the emergency lane. Just as I opened the door, the banging continued – I wasn’t even looking at my tires. There was something in the trunk of the rental!

    “Hello?” I yelled out cautiously.

    A muffled reply sounded from underneath the trunk lid. I wanted to open it, but I couldn’t grab a hold of anything for self-defense besides my briefcase. Would a rock from the side of the road do? Absolutely.
    I pushed the button in the back, and… wow.

    There was a person gagged and tied in the back of the rental. Not just any person, it was me!!! We were both looking at each other for a moment, and the bastard kicked me with everything he had. I lost my balance, and started falling down in an adrenaline-infused slow motion. Just as my back hit the pavement, the back of my head landed directly on the rock I held a moment ago.


    *Ring, ring.

    The crusty lids of my eyes separated with difficulty, only to reveal a mobile device that was going berserk on the desk.

    1. JRSimmang

      Interesting take on the prompt, A.J. You show the monotony of the MC’s life well, and the return to the morning is rewarding for that reason.
      I couldn’t tell if this was satire because of the diction (“Son of a basket biscuit, wearing nothing but [boxer briefs] and business shoes sans socks), so I wanted to know how to read this piece. I would consider tightening the narrative by getting rid of unnecessary wording (“…only to reveal my cellphone going berserk, Ten minutes on the road…”). I think you’ve got the bones of a good story here.

    2. Rene Paul

      I agree with JR, but it kept my interest, especially when he opened the trunk to find himself as the stowaway. However, for me, the ending didn’t do justice to the twist you developed. Perhaps, it was a look-alike from a competitor, out to thwart the sale, or, another side of you–the super salesman side! Sorry, random rambling thoughts. Good premise.

    3. gamingtheblues

      There is a term that is not used much any more but still works on occasion. That term is “purple” writing. In short it is where a piece uses almost too much prose or too many adjectives. I would suggest that the beginning of your piece is just a little purple =) On the other hand I loved the diction and the humor in the piece and found it quite interesting and would be curious to know more about how the main character is finding himself in a “ground hog effect.”

    4. ReathaThomasOakley

      Hmmm, after reading the story, and the comments, I think I should read it again. I do think MC should have pulled on jeans and a shirt, I doubt he’d have gotten on the plane. Interesting take.

      1. A. J. Kidding

        Thank you all for your wonderful comments!

        I have to come clean – this… was a tricky write for me. I started writing it, and only halfway through I started thinking about what should be in the trunk of the car.

        JRSimmang: I went with the PG-rating wording on this one, because I wanted to reflect the character holding himself back from actually cussing 🙂 Also, you’re definitely right about the wording, I seemingly changed the tempo back and forth too much, and it didn’t quite turn out as I would have wanted. (it sounds chaotic

        GamingtheBlues: Wonderful Tip, sir, thanks to you I learned something new today 🙂 I also thought about the “G.H.D.” effect, but I thought that I should just keep it to a singular dream experience.

        Rene Paul: The truth is I really got frustrated with this one 😀 I wanted it to end as soon as I started writing it, this is why I “cheaped out” with a dream-like sequence XD

        Again, thank you all for reading; I hope to produce better “shorties” in the times to come.

        P.S. Do forgive me if I have missed to comment on your own work, I have very small breaks between work hours… to write, to comment.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          A. J. There are no apologies needed on this forum
          Frankly, I enjoyed the hell out of it as a theme. Sort of like ground hog Day. Gives a good analysis of present day business. It’s more accurate than most people realize.
          Keep them coming, I liked the idea also.

    5. RafTriesToWrite

      What are gonads? I asked my laptop, figuring it won’t answer me, I turned to google. Now I’m informed.
      Oh, and SON OF A BASKET BISCUIT? Lovely use of the expression.
      I love the mysterious vibe going on with the trunk especially when Ben opened it. What a “before I fall” moment to end the story.

      But here’s what I want. I want to know how Ben gets out of the loop.

  18. Amyithist

    I’m nearly 40 miles out from the nearest town when I hear the noise. It’s faint at first, but when I twist the dial on the radio, it becomes louder. Persistent.
    Frustrated, I pull the Nissan to the side of the road and punch the flashers on. A cold wind bites through my thin windbreaker as I climb from the warm vehicle. I jog to the back of the car and take inventory, but neither tire is blown.
    “What the hell…”
    There it is again!
    Only the sound seems to be coming from the trunk.
    I sigh. I should have seen this coming. I don’t know why it comes as much of a surprise. I look down at my watch. It’s nearly 5 pm. The horizon is darkening in the east and the moment I’ve been waiting for is fast approaching. But it isn’t time yet.
    I walk to the driver’s door and yank it open. I pop the trunk and walk back. The sound has stopped.
    When I look down at him, his fear is tangible and leaves me feeling oddly titillated.
    “Samson. Nice to see you’re awake.”
    He tries to speak but the gag chokes the words back into his pathetic mouth. My smile widens.
    “If you’re wondering what’s in store for you, don’t. It might spoil the surprise.”
    Before he can attempt another sound, I slam the trunk down. I consider knocking him out again but it tickles me thinking about him in there. Aware. Afraid.
    As I slide behind the wheel, the sound picks up again. I turn the radio on and twist the knob until Green Day’s American Idiot drowns the sound of Samson’s incessant flopping.
    I turn the flashers off, check my mirrors, and pull back out onto the highway. I have a few more miles to cover. And Samson has a few more things to think about before I let him go. Maybe this little “ride” will teach him to think twice before sleeping with another man’s wife!

    1. A. J. Kidding

      I loved the “revenge concept”.

      The only thing that bothered me with this prompt is that it sounded like the driver isn’t supposed to have prior knowledge that something might be in the trunk… I could be mistaken.

      Otherwise, your story feels very satisfying in a morbid kind of way, nice job!

    2. JRSimmang

      I’m with AJ here; the revenge aspect sets this story apart. I think you’d be able to get away with more showing and less telling. For example, the sentence “his fear is tangible… titillated.” could be rewritten to give us a sense of the fear and elation (wide- eyed and biting wildly at his gag, his whimpers barely audible… I felt the tingles of ecstasy prickle my fingers…). You came in well under the word limit, so you have some room to expand.

    3. Rene Paul

      Hey Amyithist, Nice touch with the revenge aspect, but if he caught a man with his wife would he just want to scare him by tossing him around in the trunk of his car and then let him go? I agree with A.J., the narrative leads the reader to think the driver didn’t know what was going on in the truck, then we learn he put the guy there in the first place.

  19. Kerry Charlton


    It wasn’t only the eighteen hour flight from Moscow that bothered Brian Rothchild but the issue that the conference in Moscow had brought small results. When the president hired him as an expert on Russian culture, it turned into high danger as his job description was a front. A recruiter for native Russians as avenues for information had brought him dismal results.

    His car, a Jaguar F type SVR , boasted a top speed of 200 miles an hour, despite the custom armor installed. It purred like a jag should on the drive to Fairlington, fifteen miles south of Washington. But he noticed a thumping by the rear end and pulled to a stop on the service road. Puzzled by a set of perfect tires, he hit the trunk button to investigate.

    Spread across the trunk floor lay a blonde, mouth taped, hands and feet tied behind her. Her eyes had closed from the effort of kicking the trunk lid. He removed the tape, she awoke and pleaded,

    “Please don’t hit me any more.” [in Russian}

    He replied in her native tongue.

    “Young lady, I would never hurt you, let me help and untie you.”.

    He did so but she was too weak to stand and he carried her to the front passenger seat,

    “When you catch your breath, tell me what happened.”

    “Mr. Rothchild, I refused to be a part of it so they tied me up and forced me to your trunk. They plan to kill you tonight and me along with you. Better start your car and get out of here.”

    “Name‘s Brian and your‘s?”

    “Anna for short.. They’re driving two black Escalades and there’s six of them heavily armed.“

    “Okay, move away from the side door, we’re armored, but the glass may or may not stop a high power rifle.”

    “Hurry up, I recognize the headlights coming.”

    The Jag took a swing off of 95 and turned west on loop 405. Late night traffic was light and Anastasia watched as the analog speed indicator hit 160 MPH.

    “Wow! This is one hot baby.”

    “You have no idea, Anna. It’s hotter than I am. There’s a U up here, we’ll cross

    over and wait for them.”

    “They’re not playing games, I’m serious.”

    “And so am I.. Watch and hold on.”

    Wait they did for three minutes and a half. He stroked her hair lightly,

    “A kiss before dying?”.

    She slipped over and melted her lips upon his. It was a brief kiss but lit desire in both of them. The Escalades slowed for the turn and the Jag roared off in the opposite direction.

    “Were you serious?“

    “No, but I didn’t think you’d kiss me any other way. Watch the screen.”

    The screen slid over, another took it’s place.

    “Push command please.”

    “What is it?”

    “A rocket launcher command post. We’ll go three more miles and turn around on the shoulder and arm it.”

    “Does it know how to tell the cars apart?”

    “Yep, it can even compute what size dress you wear. Here’s the turn.”

    Anna could hear a whirling noise as the hood tilted to the passenger side and two

    rocket launchers rose in front of the engine.

    :“Push the homeing command ”

    The split screen showed the two SUV’s through the dark.

    “One mile“, Brian said “watch the launch.”

    The roar was ear-splitting and twelve seconds later the screen became white with the explosions.

    “Lord, that was awful,” Anna whispered.

    “Remember, they would have killed you and me for the hell of it. You’re a double agent, aren’t you?”

    “Yes, please take me to your place, they’ll be watching my condo.”

    “Is it Anastasia?”

    “Yes , my father calls me Anastasia.”

    ‘Then I shall also.”

    . . .

    1. A. J. Kidding

      Now this is a 007 movie I would definitely watch. 🙂

      Awesome action sequence, dynamic-but-engaging plot.

      Although I did feel that the romantic element was a bit out of place… otherwise well done.

    2. JRSimmang

      This is a step out for you, Kerry, and it’s just as enjoyable as your semi-autobiographical stuff. Brian is bold and more Connery than Moore. I think Ana’s playing him, though. Too weak to stand, but strong enough to slide over and kiss him? Hmm, looks like she may be in on the game…

    3. gamingtheblues

      I disagree with the criticism, even the mild ones about the romance. At first I was a little thrown because there was a beat and style to the piece that did not fit with your normally tight and frankly musical writing, but as I came to understand the purposeful humor that was always just under the surface, the entire experience tilted and became quite enjoyable. Yup this is definitely a step out of your normal wheel house but it still screams your unique humor and almost scary self awareness.

      Wonderful in a word.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you so much gaming. I used to write like this a lot but seemed to have swung away for some reason
        I am very comfortable with this style and it certainly keeps me more interested. Dames. Gun molls. Pigeons, private eyes , booze and dice

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Hello Reatha. Thanks for the great comments. Why would ask about the girls? You should know better. In fiction my alter ego is always going to capture the ladies. The more beautiful and dangerous, the better. I would like to continue this. Do you want me to price out the car for you? As close as I can afford is my Chrysler 300.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks writer. These are fun for me. Bond like, beautiful women neat cars. By the way Anastasia is a very dangerous woman as you’ll see later when I bring them back.

    4. pven

      I’m gonna be the lone chap who says: you started out so well, then you lost me at the “one hot baby” line.
      Perhaps I just didn’t like the character: gets a girl in the car and he’s gotta show off. I’d rather he fire the rocket launchers and be done with that. Yes, I get this is an adult male spy fantasy, but IMO it would have been much improved if you’d interspersed your snappy dialogue with more descriptive paragraphs like the first two in this piece.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Pven, this is the of review I do appreciate. A.J
        Mentioned it also and I took his advise and rewrote it adding some other detail to the story. I have a tendency to start out as you mention and then speed up in fear I won’t get the story told in the 500.

        But more important is the style and staying on course. Thanks so much for taking your time and helping me.

  20. gamingtheblues

    Robert pulled into the parking lot of the motel as the sun was just beginning its downward course through the blazing afternoon sky. Clouds of dust and grit partially obscured the view through the grimy windshield and he sighed, looking up at the dull orange, buzzing sign proclaiming “vacancy.” His heavy boots clumped in the dirt as he grunted and exited the vehicle. The car, a 1983 Buick Skylark with 357,000 miles on it creaked appreciatively as he left. He was not a remarkably tall man, nor overly large, but his body for what it was had…..substance, and he gave an impression of density.

    “Help ya?” The woman behind the counter was as tired and windswept as the sign outside and she spoke without taking her eyes off the magazine clutched in her hands. “It’s sixty nine, ninety ni….” Her eyes rose finally and her voice waand died as she

    1. gamingtheblues

      Her eyes rose finally, her voice first wavering and then dying in her throat as she looked at him.
      “I…I…” She cleared her throat and stared helplessly up at him, unable to speak.

      Smiling gently he reached over and took her hand, squeezing it reassuringly. “it’s alright…Matty? Isn’t it? His voice was rough and low, but soft. “I understand, and don’t you worry about it. Sixty nine, ninety nine was it? Here is enough for two nights. I will take room,” and here he took one of the keys hanging from a peg board along the wall, “room 121. Is that alright? Good, Yes” As she nodded mutely he passed her a small pile of bills. “No no, don’t worry about the change Matty, we are good friends are we not? Yes.”

      He did not turn around as he walked back out of the office nor did he see her put her head on her arms and start to weep quietly, but he knew. And sighed again.

      He drove to the diner that was across the street and entered, sitting down in a booth that overlooked the motel and the two lanes of blacktop. The waitress that bustled over was young and pretty, blonde ringlets bouncing and he did not fail to notice the way her hips swayed just so as she walked.

      “Hey hon, getcha some coffee?” She began brightly, before meeting his eyes. Holy shi… She stammered and almost dropped the menu she held out to him. His eyes were pools of liquid blue fire. They seemed to dance and shimmer and she saw herself in them, reflected and dancing… she saw herself… A hot blush rose to her cheeks and her hand crept to the base of her neck.

      Twenty minutes later he walked out with a huge bag of carry out food and dropped it onto the passenger seat. He would have to remember to throw it in the trash around the corner when no one was watching. As he pulled out into the road, blinker on to go back across the street he heard a loud thumb and thud from the rear of the car and cursed mildly under his breath. Another damn tire blown.

      Pulling back into the parking lot of the motel, he parked and went to inspect the damage. No damage. What the hell? As he rounded the car for a third time, the pain in his gut and head ramping up considerably each time he circled, he heard another thump and a muffled cry of pain from the back of the car. Eyes flashing, he unlocked the trunk and looked in.

      A girl lay curled up on her side inside the trunk. A scuffled backpack lay open next to her. She was just a kid, no more than 12 and probably closer to 10. Her face was drawn and dirty, framed by a sheets of filthy auburn hair that ended near her shoulders. The pain in his head flashed as he looked down on her and she pulled back from him.

      “Please….help me.” She whispered, and then looked into his face. Her eyes rolled back in her head, and she fainted. Robert stood there looking down at her for a long, long time. Finally he bent, and carried her into his motel room.
      Later, with the girl sleeping quietly on the small bed in the center of the room, Robert slipped out and gently closed the door behind him. He should get rid of her. He knew that Something though…there was something gnawing at his instincts and he sighed again What to do with the girl would have to wait.

      It was dark now and he walked across the road to the diner which was closing down, the last patrons waving good bye to the cook and the pretty blonde waitress pulling her jacket on over her uniform. When she saw him through the glass waiting in the parking lot, she blushed again and waved, a huge smile on her face.
      When he pushed her up against the rough concrete wall behind the diner she gasped and murmured, running her fingers through his thick hair. “Yes, oh..” Her fingers running down his back and pulling him tight against her. He could smell the hot oil in the dumpster that was next to them and the smell of burgers, onions, and her. God he could smell her and couldn’t help himself anymore. His hands were up her skirt and she wrapped her arms around his neck. Putting his mouth against the hollow of her throat, he pulled his head back and the moonlight glinted off of the long, sharp teeth right before he buried them in her neck. She cried out.

      1. JRSimmang

        Gaming, I have to admit I’m not a fan of VampLit, so I come into this thread a little jaded. I’m wondering who Robert is, what his motivation is, and why he’s driven into a small town with a child in the trunk. I also want to know why he’s keeping her in the trunk when he cares for her. Dracula, to me, is one of the greatest villains and archetypes. He represents a tragic flaw, an inability to change our primal selves, for the harder we run away from him, he only seems to get closer. I think Robert could be Dracula, the way he inadvertently manipulates the women around him, his demeanor, his trap.
        If I could suggest tightening the narrative by removing instances where Robert’s internal dialogue sneaks into the action sequences.

        1. gamingtheblues

          Actually, and honestly I am quite to blame for any misunderstanding, Robert did not put her there, nor does he care for her at this particular moment. He will not decide what to do with her until he speaks with her. I wrote this as a introduction chapter for a much larger book even if the idea for that book i was only to create style if you gather my meaning.

          Therefor, I found problems with the word limit in both directions— my desire to flesh out the characters and the story, vs the tightening required by this format as you mentioned. And the love child of those two bashing heads has created the questions you asked.

          This didn’t start out as a vamp piece, but as most writers know, the words have legs and go where they will and we only hold their damp and often dirty hands to try and guide them there.

          1. JRSimmang

            In a novel, you’ll have room to build the character from medias res. I believe you have the spark of an idea with plenty of material to kindle it into a fire (woah, cheesy metaphor).
            Robert feels to me to be annoyed by his immortality, and that could play to an interesting creature.

          2. Kerry Charlton

            I’ve only got a couple of comments, one of which is …..This story terrified me. I felt like I needed to run and hide from Robert. That takes enormous whete rrad it and ho from tjere. it leads you. amount of talent to do that.
            Secondly follow your soul with this piece and see where it leads you flaws and all, don’t lose the pace
            Let it sit s couple of days, and then go over it

      2. ReathaThomasOakley

        A most interesting take on the prompt. I do wonder how Robert can do what he does with just one look, but wondering about a character keeps us reading. Well done.

      3. pven

        Two lines made me curious:

        “the pain in his gut and head ramping up considerably each time he circled,” was the pain brought about by hunger? If so, why wait until the waitress got off her shift to eat? Why not pick up someone else?

        “He could smell the hot oil in the dumpster that was next to them and the smell of burgers, onions, and her.” Does feasting on his victims pass along those vestiges of food that Robert misses? For example, through the scent of the waitress Robert is able to imagine he’s eating a hamburger?

        And then: “It was dark now” I hope it was dark earlier. This guy doesn’t seem like the sparkly type.

  21. Rene Paul

    “Stop it, Mother, I don’t want to talk to you right now.”

    “What—is what we did starting to bother you?”

    “Leave me alone, and NO, it’s not bothering me, you are!”

    “You are alone, Willard.”

    “How can I be alone with you howling in my ear all the time? What are you trying to do… lay a guilt trip on me? It won’t work because it’s your fault, I’m doing this to placate you Mother, and remember, I… have… no… remorse… or morals, thanks to you!”

    “Darling… do you need a hug?”

    “NO! I need you to leave me alone. LEAVE NOW and get out of my head!”

    The light of day had departed long ago and a dense fog now embraces the blacktop as Willard drives his Chevy off the road and onto the shoulder. He makes a sudden stop, turns, raising his right hand over the back of his seat and swivels his body as if to speak to someone seated on the back bench. The seat is empty.

    “You can stop the banging now, we’re almost there.”

    Willard turns back around and puts both hands over the steering wheel and bows his head, “Mother… oh, Mother… are you still here?” He waits for a reply, nothing, “Good… then stay gone.”

    He drives another five miles, then maneuvers his ‘64’ Impala into the back lot of an unlit warehouse and parks it against a short brick wall, he exits the vehicle and limps over to the rear and unlocks the trunk and lifts the lid.

    “There you are, right where I left you. Tell me, was that you making all that thumping sound? I thought I had a flat tire. Trying to get someone’s attention? Well, it didn’t work, I’m still here and there’s nobody else coming or going.”

    The black duffle bag comes to life, Willard watches in amusement as the bag reminds him of popcorn bursting in a microwave oven, there’s kicking, punching, and a lot of yelling and squirming.

    “I hope the ride wasn’t too hard for your delicate body, it was quite bumpy, I do apologize.”

    The crass attempt at regret seemed shallow.

    “Ok… ok… you can yell all you want now because nobody can hear you, not here, we are miles from anywhere. And I’ve kept you up so late, past midnight and well past your bedtime. So, calm down, no worries… I’ll get you out in a minute.”

    Willard lifts one end of the bag and pulls it over the rear bumper, hanging it halfway out of the trunk, then he yanks the other end and the whole bag and its contents spill onto the pavement with a thud; the popping ceases.

    “That’s better; it’s good to relax. Gee, I just realized I don’t know your name, let’s call you, Mommy, ok?”

    The rock gravel parking lot makes it hard for Willard to drag the duffle sack to the back door of the deserted building, he stops for a moment, the toll of a hot August night creates a shortness of breath in his weak lungs and perspiration to fall from his head.

    He recuperates and continues the slog, he reaches the two steps that lead up to the back door.

    “Now what are you going to do, Son?”

    The demon in his head has returned.

    “You’re not strong enough to lift her up the steps by yourself.”

    “Watch me, Mother, I’m a lot bigger and stronger now than when you had your way with me.”

    “Oh my, are we talking back to Mother? Willard, as usual, you’ll try, but like always, you’ll fail.”

    “Shut up, Mother, or I’ll kill her the same way I killed you, and I’ll bury her, next to you, under our house. And just for fun, I’ll stab your rotting corpse again.”

    “Big words from a little man, especially one that’s a coward.”

    “That’s it, I’m not helping you anymore, and since I’m such a coward, I’ll let her go and she can kill you right where you live.”

    Willard unties the duffle bag and releases the little girl being held inside. He places a revolver in her hand, kneels, and points it at his own forehead.

    “Pull the trigger, Mommy.”


    1. gamingtheblues

      I like the psychological take on the prompt that you went for in this piece. Quite disturbing and uncomfortable. I think that that you should pull back on exposition (a character or author “telling” us details) and instead show us more

      Ie… Where the killer says to his “mother” I’ll kill her the same way I killed you, it would have been more effective had you flashed back to a scene of him actually stabbing his mother, maybe even having the corpse in his flashback taunting him while he does it.

      You do a good job with setting tone and the scene though, and just felt a little pulled out of it in a few spots.

      Good job on the prompt and keep writing!

      1. Rene Paul

        gamingtheblues, thank you for a detailed critique, its why I submit my story prompts, I’m here to learn. I agree that it’s always best to show action than to tell it, however, in this case, my story was well over the 500 words so I decided to tell. I totally agree with a section that pulls the reader out, IE, I struggle with the flow from dialogue into the verse starting with: the light of day. My wife hated this story, it’s not the type I usually write, so it pushed the limits for me. Thanks again.

    2. JRSimmang

      It’s difficult to write the deranged mind, especially because part of you slips into it while it’s happening. We writers are the perfect guinea pigs.
      That being said, I think the dialogue here, as in most of you other work, flows nicely and isn’t perfunctory. To help you, you may consider using the character’s actions to describe the scene, eg. ‘Willard’s eyes had barely adjusted to the dusk before the fog settled in and completely blinded him to the road.’ I find that when I have trouble transitioning, it’s because I’ve lost my MC’s consciousness, removed myself from his or her perspective.

      1. Rene Paul

        JR, Thank you so much for your expertise and sharing it with me and the rest of us storytellers. You are absolutely spot on with your recommendation about getting out of the mindset of the antagonist before proceeding with the transition paragraph of the MC. Lesson appreciated and hopefully learned!

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      Well, the ending took me by surprise. Even in a story like this I laughed at, do you need a hug. Mothers, even those in the brain, are pretty much the same. The description of the movement in the duffle bag was unique and telling. Good job.

      1. Rene Paul

        Thanks, RTO, I needed a little-lighthearted dialogue that could also be taken for a twisted mind. Glad you liked the story. By the way, the ending was inspired by wife saying you should put your nutcase out of his misery. Thus… BANG.

  22. JRSimmang


    Victory goes to those who make winning easy.
    A good battle is one that you will obviously win.

    Sun Tzu, The Art of War 4:3:13-14

    Doylestown as a sh!tshow, by far the worst place John had driven through. Though, The Zen Den was enjoyable. He swigged the last of his latte before tossing the empty cup on the ground and opening the trunk. Ringing Rocks was a national park. Someone would be around to clean up after him.

    He hooked the red wire into the main receiver, flipped on the main screen, adjusted the knobs, and lifted the satellite rod. He typed in three sequences then waited for link.

    Daisy White hugged her daughter. “How was school today, sweetheart?” she asked, and hoisted her into the carseat.

    “Fun,” her daughter smiled.

    “Oh, yeah? Why was it fun?”

    “Bliddlettfft,” she responded, which made complete sense to her 2-year old self, but not to Daisy, who chuckled and kissed her daughter on the head.

    “Well, I’m so glad,” she said as she got into the driver’s seat. “You want to grab ice cream?”


    Daisy and her daughter drove by the Capital twice every day. Her daughter always pointed up at the magnificent cupola and shouted every word she knew and recognized.

    Today, Daisy was forced to pull over to check for a flat.

    “Where in the h3ll can I find good service!” yelled Mac Duress. “I’ve been standing here for an hour, and no one has even said one godd@mn word to me!”

    He stood up, grabbed his tax papers, flipped off the clerk, and stormed out of the building.

    He sat in his car for twenty minutes on Facebook before he turned it on, ran three red lights, and screeched to a halt in traffic next to Winslow Park.

    “Fu-k. FU-K!” He slammed the steering wheel, moved ahead a car’s length, then signaled to pull over to the side. “Why? WHY? do I get a fu-king flat tire here? HERE?!”

    There was one thump from the trunk. Then, two.

    Then, he was staring face to face with a silver briefcase.

    “And if anyone asks to look in your trunk, what do you do?” the modulated voice on the other end of the line asked John.

    “Shoot them,” he said evenly.


    “The throat.”

    John chuckled at the body he left on the side of the road as he depressed the red button.

    Daisy had time to say one last goodbye to her daughter as fused hydrogen first blinded her, then ripped her flesh from her bones and the bones of every other person surrounding her.

    Mac laughed out loud, his last thought being that he wouldn’t have to be stuck in traffic any more.

    John checked his readout. 14 points. 14 soft targets. 14 ways to upend a nation.

    -JR Simmang

    1. gamingtheblues

      Oy. This was incredibly uncomfortable to read. Some of my favorite books have been political thrillers or even popcorn thrillers (ie.. The Jack Ryan Series) There was something very…real though about this thogh (Perhaps with the relevance of our times) that those books and movies on similar subjects do not always have. The writing was good, believable and full of tension even if I have been looking for more uplifting fare myself these days!

      Nicely Written.

    2. Rene Paul

      Nice work JR, I wasn’t sure where this was going but as usual, you tied it all together and made a nice tight mini-drama from the pits and pieces. Always enjoy your work.

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      JR, you are on a roll this week! As was mentioned, this was a bit uncomfortable to read, but I couldn’t stop and the structure and writing were very well done.

    4. writer_sk

      Hey JR!

      First off the visual of the skin ripping away from the bodies is going to stay with me. That said I think it’s appropriate to graphically describe the violence created by a bomb.

      I thought the tone was set at the beginning with the bomb set up. You created a sterile and businesslike tone that stayed beneath the rest of the story. I could feel the inevitability of the situation throughout.

      Finally I like how you made each person’s section separate.

      Nicely done.

    5. RafTriesToWrite

      You’re on fire every week JR! I admire that.
      I have yet to read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. It’s sitting inside my box of books to read, along with some non-fiction and romance novels.
      I loved this as well. I have one concern though…
      Is it really “depressed” the red button? Or is it just a typo? Because I think it kinda works either way for me. Weird.

  23. jhowe

    Harbang Rockovicz sat silent in the spacious back seat of the Desoto. The driver looked straight ahead, white knuckles gripping the wheel. In the passenger seat, Theodore sat, humming tonelessly. Theodore turned suddenly and Harbang averted his eyes but not quickly enough.

    “I thought I told you not to look at me,” Theodore said through wet, cracked lips.

    “No sir, sorry sir.” Harbang’s left ear stun from the latest drumming Theodore had bestowed. He did not want another one. Harbang heard the faint thumping from inside the trunk, each one weaker than the last. He feared his twin might be running out of breathable air.

    “Do you want to rejoin your brother in the trunk?”

    The driver cranked the wheel and applied the brakes as a fawn ran from the roadway. “Idiot,” Theodore said. “Are you trying to get us killed?”

    Actually, Harbang did want to join his brother. At least they’d be together before they were shot. He had no doubt that was their fate. But there was no sense voicing that concern. Theodore did not like witnesses and he and his brother were in the hot seat. They never should have taken the money. They should have known there was no way out if they did.

    “So tell me, Harbang, are you more comfortable in the back seat?” Theodore toyed with his revolver, spinning the cylinder.

    “Yes, sir.”

    “It was good of you to reveal where you had hidden the money.” Theodore craned his neck forward. “Turn in here, idiot,” he said to the driver.

    When they stopped, the driver got out and opened Theodore’s door. The hideous man emerged with the gun in his hand. He motioned for Harbang to open the trunk.

    “Take the shovel and dig, Harbang. Make it deep… and big enough for two.” He dug, for hours he sweated and watched his brother, laying limp on the ground, no sign of life. His back quivered with spasms and his hands bled until finally Theodore was satisfied.

    “Roll him into the grave,” Theodore said, prodding with the gun barrel. Harbang bent to grasp his brother when there was a sound similar to a melon being split in half. Theodore fell and rolled into the hole, landing head first, his bloodied head twisted behind his shoulder. The driver stood, trembling, the shovel in his hand. Harbang gently took the shovel from him and smiled. He bent and put his hand on his brother’s cold, lifeless forehead and closed his left eye. He and the driver lifted the body and gently placed it in the back seat of the car. Harbang then picked up the shovel and began to fill in the grave.

    1. GrahamLewis

      I had a DeSoto once, and they are indeed spacious. What made you choose that model of car? To set the time frame?
      Interesting cast of characters, and intriguing hints of a back story and more to come.

    2. gamingtheblues

      I felt shades of Casino here heh, and I always am down for a good mobster story. The betrayal at the end was interesting and I would like to know how and when the driver decided to turn on his boss. This feels like a chapter out of a much larger novel.

    3. Rene Paul

      Ok, jhowe, nice work. I thought the twin was going to say I lied about the location, to buy more time to gain an upper hand on Theodore. I liked your ending, it played well for the genre.

    4. JRSimmang

      Is Harbang pronounced as it’s spelled? It’s an interesting name, Korean maybe?
      Solid narrative, as usual J, though I admit I’m a tad perplexed. Why did Harbang close his left eye, and whose left eye was it? Also, when did the driver get the shovel? This 500-word limit compresses stories that I think deserve more, and this is one of those pieces. There are some nitpicky adjustments I would recommend (tonelessly to tunelessly, describe hideous, where Harbang was sitting before, etc.), but other than that, I think this story’s end has been penned well.

  24. JRSimmang


    Alma Mater Weekend kicked off on Friday evening, though most of the Mu Epsilon had been rabble-rousing for several days already. Henrick Davvies, on the other hand, would make an appearance and then be off again. He was headed to Maine, and he had to drive through New York. It would be nice, he thought, to see the old gang again.

    The Silver Ghost Henrick was borrowing from his brother was proving to be more car than he could handle. He wondered why his brother was selling it, and didn’t know who would buy. It didn’t respond as well as his horses and it rattled the nearby windows and doors as it careened through the city streets. People didn’t seem to mind, however. A sign of the times, he supposed.

    He also supposed that the rattling sound he heard each time he hit a bump was a flat tire, until, that is, he put the beast in park, got out, and kicked each of the tires.

    “This blasted thing,” he muttered as he kicked the boot out of pure spite.




    Henrick took a step back, looked around at all the passers-by, nodded to the two ladies walking arm in arm, chuckled to himself, and reached out to the boot.

    “Hello?” he whispered.



    He unlatched the buckles, fingers unsure and suddenly forgetting how to open a lock, and undid the belting. The trunk creaked open, it’s fine leather catching the sun and tossing it back to Henrick.

    At the bottom of the boot, a simple Mineralite bowling ball lolled and sat ponderously, staggering to a stop.

    “A bowling ball?”

    He reached in and picked it up. He had never held a bowling ball, never thinking too much of the game in general, and he didn’t know his brother played the game. He rolled it over in his hands, and his fingers stopped on a crack. He ran his finger along the length of it, circumnavigating along the arc. He was mesmerized by it’s internal flecking and marbling. It was a piece of art. And, he had cracked it.

    He cracked his brother’s bowling ball.

    A Packard blasted its horn as it rocketed past him, and in the same moment his hands felt weightless and the sound of crunching Fall leaves sent a shockwave up his body.

    On the ground, the bowling ball, in two perfect halves spun.

    Nestled in the Mineralite rubber, an empty eye socket stared up at him. Henrick stared back, not realizing that he was face to half-face with a skull. He knelt down, touched the smoothness of the skull, and rolled to sit next to the ball.

    He noticed then, and only then, the signet emblazoned into the forehead.

    Patton Davvies tossed his breeches, overturned his nightstand, upset his paper piles, tore open his desk drawers, and yelled at the top of his lungs.

    “Pat! Pat!” shouted his wife. “What has gotten into you?”

    He sat down on the floor, trembling from a ghostly chill. “My Adelaide,” he repeated over and over again.

    His wife paced to him, knelt down, and put her arm around him. “My dear, dear Patton,” she whispered. “Adie’s buried next to your mother.”

    He stopped, met her eyes, and said very slowly, “Not all of her.”

    -JR Simmang

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      JR, another good one. I appreciated the clues to the characters’ positions in society, like the Silver Ghost, (thought I knew what it looked like with the leather and buckles, Google proved me correct) their names, the mention of horses and breeches, the image of the signet in the forehead, and the custom bowling ball. The meeting of the brothers should be interesting.

  25. GrahamLewis


    Roy Jeffers made a good living as an antiques dealer, because he went out of his way and he knew a good deal. He had learned that the best stuff was found in old rural estate sales and little crossroads stores. One Halloween morning he was heading out from his Atlanta home when his usually-reliable van quit. No problem, he rented a car.

    His route took him from highway to byway to two-lane road to bumpy dirt road, deeper into the backcountry. In late afternoon, after several lucrative stops, he pulled in for gas at a little bump in the road, Lanes Crossing. He noticed an old and long-closed general store across the road. One last stop before heading home. The attendant pointed him to the owner’s aged widow. For $50 she gave him a key, her blessing, a and warning. “Ain’t much in there but take what you want,” she said, “but if I was you I’d hurry home. Strange things happen on these old roads at night, especially on Halloween. Roy took the key, nodded, and smiled. “Stupid hicks,” he thought.

    Almost immediately he found a dusty sealed cardboard box with a cellophane front. “Amaze Your Friends,” it read, “With Percy, The Real Ventriloquist Dummy”. Worth a good $50 bucks alone. Then an antique derringer, worth a good $250. Already a 600% profit. And more and more. He returned the key with another smile. “Stupid hicks. He piled his treasures into the trunk and headed home as night fell. The GPS quit and he wandered deeper and deeper into the dark night. At midnight he was more lost than ever. On top of that he heard a familiar thumping from the rear. Damnation, a flat tire, way out here. He picked up his cell, but got only the final chirp of a dying battery,

    “Oh well.” He got a flashlight from the glove box. Tires were good, and the thumping continued. From the trunk. He opened it, and the light showed Percy sitting up and pointing the gun at him. “But,” Roy said, “you’re just a dummy.” Those were his last words as the gun went off.

    Percy dusted himself off and climbed from the car. “You’re wandering around these roads on Halloween night, and I’m the dummy?”

    1. JRSimmang

      RL Stein had written a story about a living ventriloquist’s dummy. Since the 2nd grade, I’ve been terrified of the d@mn things. So, thanks. Thanks, Graham, for reigniting those fears.
      Your MC is interesting and readable, and you were able to keep interest with your eclectic mix of conflict points. Liked the last line, too.

    2. gamingtheblues

      I found this story to be rather engrossing, especially the beginning. It was well written and felt realistic. I think the story would be better served though to remove the mention of Halloween and to draw out the ending a few more lines. Compared to the beginning it felt a tiny bit rushed and the Halloween angle actually distracted me a little bit.

      While we try to stick to the word limit, the writers around here are quite flexible when the story deserves more words than the rules officially state and I would definitely like more of this.

      I LOVE the dummy though with its tiny sardonic and humorous edge and would have liked to have a bit more tension with the reveal.

      1. GrahamLewis

        Thanks Gaming.
        I know that the Halloween was sort of telegraphing it, but I thought I’d make it seasonal. And I thought it needed some traditional link to magic.

        Getting rushed toward the ending is an old issue with my writing, I’m not sure why it happens. I can’t blame it on the word limit, though, since I had over 100 words left to play with.

        1. gamingtheblues

          A rushed ended is often typical of writers who are very invested and excited about that story that they are writing at that moment. To the point where they are eager to reach that reveal or moment of release so to speak, as quickly as a reader would be. Passion is never something to be upset by though, and a few re-writes or re-reads with a mind to that the fact might help with fleshing out that moment of catharsis.

          Keep writing!

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      Graham, I liked this, and the Halloween setting, sort of a cautionary tale for adults featuring an obnoxious MC. My fear of ventriloquists goes way back to an old TV show, possibly Hitchc0ck, where the magician is actually the dummy controlled by the little person on its knee.

  26. writer_sk

    Hi Reatha

    Totally encompassing! You’re good at writing horror. Your story built the suspense very effectively. The parents were so sinister.

    This is a complete story the way it is but I’m interested in a part two just to learn what/who is in the trunk.

    Great work.

  27. Russ

    Thump, thump.
    What was that noise? Must be a flat tire.
    I turned into a residential neighborhood and parked.
    I got out of the car.
    But strangely, the thump sounded again.
    At first I thought it was an animal, or some person.
    I looked around the car. Nothing.
    I heard the thump again. It was comin from the trunk. I knew it.
    I slowly opened the trunk.
    Out jumped a white rabbit. It quickly hopped away.
    I looked back into the trunk to find a well-dressed man scrunched up in the trunk.
    “Ah, thank you very much. It seems I landed in your vehicle,” the man said.
    “You landed? In my vehicle?”
    “Yes, you see I always do this… disappearing trick. Well first of all, I should explain that I’m a magician. And, well, I disappeared for my audience. And I ended up, I suppose, in the trunk of your car. Dreadfully sorry.”
    He climbed out of the car and brushed himself off.
    “This is a joke, right?” I asked.
    “Ah, what? A joke? Definitely not. It’s this trick I do. It fools everyone. You see, I stand flat on the ground, throw down this bean, a little smoke pops out of the floor, and then I go somewhere else.
    It’s the bean that does it, you see” he added. Unfortunately, I only have a few left. Ah, well I better be heading back home. Now where was it you said we were?”

    1. Russ

      I tried to show a pause in the magician’ so dialogue. Does anyone have some good tips on showing a pause in dialogue?
      And I noticed I left out a quotation mark in there too.

      1. JRSimmang

        Russ, you could go with the old standby… the ellipse. Or you could even – and I wouldn’t use this one often – the dash! The dash is used as its name implies- to show a quick pause in dialogue.

        I would also recommend adding a space after each paragraph. It makes it easier to read, and we naturally slow down to read.

        I enjoyed the twist you added at the end; you used the prompt creatively.

        1. ReathaThomasOakley

          JR has good advice. The dash can also be used when speech is interrupted, or to indicate overlapping dialogue. My frustration has been when I write on a computer I lose formatting when I paste here.

          Clever take on the prompt.

      1. gamingtheblues

        Oh and adding to what JR already suggested, you can also use natural pause sounds depending on your character that people really use in life. Uhh… umm.. er.. or even commas and action verbs. Ie..

        “You see, I always do this…” the magician paused, stammering for the words and tapping his fingers against his collar bone, “er.. disappearing trick.”

    2. Rene Paul

      Real nice, and fun, take on the prompt. You’ve already received some good feedback on a well-written story but here’s my nitpick item for consideration: I think you could leave “or some person” out of that line. That’s it. Like I said, nitpick! Well done Russ!

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Russ, right on this page, under Related Posts, there is an excellent article on Voice, which includes diction. If you search for Voice, or Writing Dialogue, here, there are other great articles.

        My advice on capturing how a character speaks, or even thinks, would be to imagine that person actually talking, and write it that way. Or, if your character reminds you of your Aunt Mildred, imagine her talking.

        Keep writing!

  28. cosi van tutte

    It was late at night. The dashboard clock was stuck blinking at 12:00. So, it could have been any time at all.

    I wanted to get home. It had been a long, hard drive and I just wanted to be home in my own house in my own bed.

    No one was there waiting for me, of course.

    Not for me.

    Never married.

    Never had kids.

    Didn’t even own a dog or a cat.

    But I wanted to get home.

    I turned onto the exit ramp and was rounding the long curve when I heard it. The unfortunate, irritating flap and thump of a flat tire.

    I almost burst into tears.

    Why? Why now? I just wanted to go home!

    I completed the turn and pulled into the nearest park and ride lot. I didn’t bother with a nice parking job. I just pulled into the lot and turned the key.

    I got out of the car and checked all four tires.


    None of them looked flat.

    Not even questionable.

    I rubbed my forehead and considered curling up in the backseat to catch a little bit of sleep.

    But I wanted to go home.

    I walked around the back of the car.

    The thumping started up again.

    If I weren’t so tired, I would have thought things over and proceeded with caution.

    But I was tired. And thinking long, complicated thoughts was the last thing I wanted to do.

    I stuck my key into the trunk’s lock and turned it.

    The trunk popped open.

    I took a step back in surprise.

    A creature with large, somber eyes and black, furry wings lay huddled up in my trunk.


    It raised its head.

    And we sized each other up.

    It looked mostly human, but it was almost impossible to tell if it were male or female. Its facial features were somewhere in between.It wore a short white toga over its unhelpfully androgynous body. Its legs and feet were bare, with the exception of a light layer of the same black fur that lined its wings.

    “What are you?” I finally managed to ask.

    “I want to go home.” It held out its hands to me. “Take me home.”

    I hesitated.

    I had no idea what this thing was or where or what it considered home.

    I wasn’t even sure it was real.

    “Please.” Its eyes teared up. “Take me home.”

    I rubbed my forehead again.


    I lowered my hand. “I’ll take you to my place and then I’ll figure out what to do with you in the morning.”

    It smiled a shy, uncertain smile.

    “But get out of the trunk. You can sit in my back seat.”

    It nodded and crawled out.

    It was surprisingly taller than me by a good four feet.

    “All I ask is that you don’t kill me or bite me or whatever when I’m driving. Got it?”

    It nodded.

    “Good.” I sighed. “Let’s go home.”

    1. JRSimmang

      This was -oddly- heartwarming. I found myself smiling at the end. I think you handily created a personality for the (Greek mythology?) monster in such a short span; I could almost hear its squeaky voice! Nice opposition of content as well. The beginning sets us up perfectly for your MC’s response to the monster in the trunk.

    2. gamingtheblues

      I agree with JR. That was oddly endearing and perfect for the short format we work with here. The reasons for the narrator’s malaise and life choices don’t matter, only that they exist and I can almost see someone who is so tired and probably depressed being so worn out that…ok..fuzzy winged monster…wants to go home with me… sure… why not.

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      Cosi, great set up, I felt your MC’s weariness and loneliness. Who knows what new relationship might develop. (Been trying to remember the candy ET loved.)

      1. cosi van tutte

        Thank you, Reatha!

        On a side note, did you ever give The Girl stories a full ending? I know that you had two timelines going at one point, which converged into The Girl’s present day. I just can’t remember if you ever ended it.

        (By the way, my Internal Editor, who is a major Reeses’ addict, says that ET loved Reeses Pieces 😉 Just so you know.)

  29. dustymayjane

    Lucky Dog

    “Dang! Why me?” I was already pushing the limits to get to Annie’s on time. The last thing I needed was a flat. This would be the last time I rent from CheapCars.com. I pulled over to the shoulder, stopped the engine and pounded on the steering wheel for good measure.

    The rain pelted me as I rounded the front and back bumpers, realizing that the tires looked fine. Another thudding came from somewhere in the car.

    “What the heck?” I pulled the keys from the ignition and returned to the rear of the car. I opened the trunk, hesitantly at first, from which I heard a tiny voice along with the thudding. The voice, not human, seemed to cry out at the sight of me.

    “Aw, it’s alright. No need to be scared.” I was soaking wet but the little yellow puppy was dry and warm. His whimpering turned to gleeful yips and his tongue lapped the rain from my face. His tail continued wagging. “Who left you in there? Huh, little g…uy?” I saw that it was indeed a boy and he managed to wet on me, as puppies will do in their excitement.

    I carried him into the front seat with me and started the engine, cranking up the heater. I looked at him and he looked at me with love in his big brown eyes. Well, Annie would just have to understand. The fancy restaurant I’d reserved for dinner would have to wait for another night. My suit was soaked with rain and dog pee.

    I pulled out onto the road again and wondered what Annie would say. I didn’t even know if she liked dogs. My plans to propose tonight during a romantic dinner may have been altered but I guessed that if Annie turned out to be a dog hater, the deal would be off anyway.

    I thought more and more during the last few miles to her home. Satisfied that fate had imposed an opportunity on me even if it was a sad case for the abandoned puppy in the trunk of a rental car.

    The puppy waited politely, with his pink tongue hanging out, making him look happy and oh, so lucky. The ring was tied to a string around his neck and he stood dutifully as if he knew he had a job to do. I rang Annie’s doorbell and pressed against the wall, out of immediate sight. Holding my breath, I prayed Annie would fall in love with the sweet animal, just as I had.

    As soon as the door opened a tiny crack, the pup was inside and being loved on by my Annie. I heard the oohing and awing from outside as the door closed. I was cold and still very damp. But it seemed Annie had taken to the pup. How long, I wondered, before she found the ring?

    I waited for what seemed an eternity. Nervous and anxious, my insides roiled and a sneeze escaped. The dog test was a success and now I had to know her answer to my most important question. I opened the door and met Annie with eyes bright and bold. She looked at me and a smile bloomed. The puppy was wetting the floor at her feet and the ring was in my beloved’s hand held to lips so sweet.

    We held each other and Annie only confirmed her agreement to my proposal with a shake of her head and a kiss on my lips and one for the puppy that she now held near our faces.

    “I love him John! How did you know I wanted a dog?” Annie beamed.

    “Just lucky I guess.” I replied and the name for the yellow puppy was decided.

    1. gamingtheblues

      A tad sappy in terms of word choice in a few spots that perhaps I would change to turn it into a more serious story…but this was honest and sweet, an imaginative and over all enjoyable take on the prompt. One of my favorites for the week. Nice job!

  30. rlk67

    “I hate Mickey Mouse!” shouted Tommy. “I wanna go space mountain first!”
    Ariella chimed in. “M-I-C, K-E…”
    “Shut up or I’ll feed you to Goofy!” Tommy sulked.
    I needed this? The plane trip to Orlando was bad enough with the fighting, now in the rental?
    “Ariella ripped the front of her seat,” sang Tommy in his SuperTattletale identity.
    “Did not!”
    “Did too!”
    Father’s handbook rule…wait for six rounds of ‘Did not-Did too’ until intervening.
    “I told you this isn’t our car! Just stop….”
    Anne hummed peacefully. She already informed me she was going to practice her Meditation 101 and leave the grunge work to me. I was jealous, but she refused to share.
    “It’s part of a writer’s mind, Max,” she informed me while packing. “Getting into another world…you wouldn’t understand.” She’s right, of course. I have no clue what she mumbles while in her ‘writer mode’.
    Tommy’s shouting invaded my wavelength. “Hey, Popserella…what’s that noise?”
    Oh, no. When a child asks ‘what’s that noise’, 11 times out of 10 things go south.
    I took a deep breath…it’s all in the presentation. “Whaaat noooooise?” I might as well be dramatic.
    “The noise from the back! Do we have a flat tire?”
    “M-O-U-S…” Ariella was attempting a grand finale, but I couldn’t wait.
    “The car’s driving fine! Where’s the noise coming from?”
    Tommy climbed on his seat putting both knees on screaming Ariella’s shoulders and pressing his ear awkwardly into the sloped back window.
    “I think it’s from the trunk! What is it, Popserooni?”
    Anne slowly turned to me. “Let’s pull over,” she said in the voice of a solemn preacher. “And let’s remain calm and happy.” I shivered, and really hoped her eyes wouldn’t roll back.
    I sighed. “All right, but first, let’s guess what’s in the trunk. Tommy, what do you think–”
    “ARIELLA’S HEAD!” He snorted hysterically.
    “It’s not my head! It’s not!”
    “IT’S ARIELLA’S HEAD! LOOKING BACK AT US! OOOOHHHH!” He began to choke from laughter.
    “Moooommmy! It’s not my head!”
    “Tommy, enough!” I slowed the car. “Ariella, what do you think is in the trunk?”
    She sniffled. “Not my head.”
    “Is too.”
    “Well,” she squeaked, “I think it’s Tommys head.”
    “OOOOHHHH….sooooo creative!” Tommy looked serious. “COPYCAT! COPYCAT! NOT ALLOWED!”
    I stopped the car, and popped the trunk. Anne grabbed my arm. “Max…be careful,” she whispered. Groan.
    The kids and I got out of the car and slowly walked to the trunk. “Don’t be nervous, now,” I said slowly. “Maybe it’s just…”
    “Ariella’s head!” whispered Tommy. I gave him a stare and mouthed, Quit it.
    We stood in back of the trunk and I inched the door up. Tommy looked unsure of himself, and was almost ready to run.
    Suddenly, I screamed just for the effect and pushed opened the lid. The kids jumped back startled.
    The trunk seemed empty, except for one item in the middle. I smiled.
    “Ariella, get a little closer and tell me what you see.”
    “M-me, daddy?” She approached closer.
    “Lean in a little, honey. I grinned at Tommy. The bulb went on over his head. Ahhh, the big smile. “What do you see, Ariella?”
    “I see a mirror like the one mommy carries in her–”
    “No, honey, what do you see in the mirror?”
    Her eyes widened. “Uhh…my head?”
    “IT’S NOT! MOOOMMY, IT’S NOT! IT’S A MIRROR!” She began to sniffle.
    I tried to contain myself. Then Anne gave me…her look.
    That was all she had to say. Tommy screeched, Ariella bawled, and I would never hear the end of it.
    I must learn how to meditate.

    [I wasn’t sure about this prompt, so since I teach, I cheated and presented it this morning to a group of 6th graders. When asked what they thought might possibly be in the trunk, one exceedingly nasty kid kept shouting back, “YOUR HEAD!” Fine. Maybe not mine, but someone’s head it was.]

    1. JRSimmang

      6th graders are often an inspiration for me as well (I teach those beasts, too!). I’m glad they served as your muse here. The voice you gave the kids certainly sounds like sibling bickering, and the whole story feels like home.

  31. ReathaThomasOakley

    Flat Tire

    Bella twisted the ragged corner of her blanket and slipped it through the gap where her front teeth had been just three days ago, right before the trip began. She tried to suck quietly so Daddy, in the front seat, wouldn’t hear. From some place way back there was the fading memory of her binky being ripped from her mouth and Daddy’s voice, always Daddy’s mad voice. Now his voice was mad, but it was Mommy he was mad at.

    “I told you, I warned you, but would you listen, would you ever listen–”

    “Hank, please.”

    Bella put her fingers in her ears, but their voices weren’t gone, they were never gone. She turned over and pulled the blanket over her head, the corner still in her mouth, and slipped her fingers between the seat and seat back, trying to make the space larger. It didn’t take long until she could hear the faint knocking sound. Earlier, when she’d first heard it, she was worried it was a flat tire.

    “Daddy?” She’d sat up and scooted to the edge of the seat. “I hear something, you think maybe you got a flat tire?”

    “No, baby, Daddy’d know,” her mother’d answered. “Ain’t that right, Hank?” She’d touched his arm. “Tell Bella, Hank, tell her.”

    “Yeah, no flat, this piece a sh–”


    “Lay back down, get to sleep, we got us a long way to go, Bella.” His voice’d been almost mad, so she did what he said, but still heard what he’d said next.

    “Stupid name, what were you hoping for, some movie star? ‘Stead you got that.”

    Now, the sound had started again, not a flat tire, but something in the trunk, and it was easier to open up more of the space. She wished she’d been able to pack some toys or books, a big book she could push into the gap to keep it open while she–

    Quickly, she gathered the rest of the blanket from off her legs, kept the one corner in her mouth, and stuffed it into the void, smiling to herself.

    Pretty smart, she was thinking when the blanket started moving by itself, as if being pulled. She tried to hold on, but whatever was in the trunk was stronger than she was. She put her entire arm, up to her elbow, into the opening, holding on to the blanket, when suddenly the movement, and the knocking, stopped, replaced by a soft whisper.

    “Bella,” she thought she heard. “Bellllla.” She stopped sucking the blanket corner.

    “Yes,” she whispered back. Then tried to jerk away when something warm touched her hand, then grabbed her wrist.

    “Don’t be afraid, l won’t hurt you, I’d never hurt you.” Bella stopped struggling and went limp as she felt herself being pulled along with her blanket.

    Later, much later, she thought she heard her mother, as if from far away, calling her name and crying, but by then it no longer mattered.

    1. writer_sk

      Hi Reatha

      Totally encompassing! You’re good at writing horror. Your story built the suspense very effectively. The parents were so sinister.

      This is a complete story the way it is but I’m interested in a part two just to learn what/who is in the trunk.

      Great work.

    2. JRSimmang

      Reatha, you’ve shown us once again that you’re deftly able to maneuver different genres. Bella is well-fleshed out, her quirks adding to her dimensions, and you’ve learned the lesson from Hitchc*ck well: never show the monster.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        JR, thank you. I liked Bella and wanted something better for her. And it was when I included Alfred’s last name in a story that I first encountered the site’s word filter.

    3. Rene Paul

      Hey, ReathaThomasOakley, really nice story, goes to show how well executed a prompt can be with so few words. I need to learn this artful way to write. One nitpick, did you intentionally use -mother’d and voice’d – as part of the narrative voice?

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks, Rene, and you asked an interesting question. While the narrative voice is often different from dialogue, I believe it should stay close to the MC’s style and word choices. Because Bella is six or so, I wrote the narration to reflect that. As I’m working on the Annie stories, I’ve been looking closely at the narrative voice, and because Annie is first person, I’ve had to determine her audience. And, the next person you ask could give a totally different answer, but thanks for asking.

    4. pven

      A little Serling and Gaiman — I did not expect this from you, Reatha. I expected a different twist; you’d done a great job setting up the story to deal with domestic abuse (which always breaks my heart when you go there, as well as you do).


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