Frog in Your Throat

You are flipping through the channels on TV one Saturday, waiting for your pizza to be delivered. On the coffee table sits an open can of soda. You don’t remember getting the soda, but you live alone and haven’t had anyone over recently, so it must be yours. You take a sip as the doorbell rings. You open the door and as instead of saying “Hello,” a croak come out of your mouth instead. Finish the scene.

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

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276 thoughts on “Frog in Your Throat

  1. busbender

    Coming to this whole thing as a complete newbie, but this one caught my imagination….

    Why is there nothing good on TV on Saturday nights anymore?, I thought. What happened to all the decent live shows? Where’s an episode of Noel’s House Party when you want it? I was harking back to the days of my late teens here, more than twenty years previously.

    I could see gloomy shadows of people walking up the road towards the house, but barely, outlined against the darkening blue of the sky. Orange light reflected off a face as it passed beneath the streetlamp. I should probably close the curtains.

    Pain shot up my leg as I cracked my knee against the coffee table. A clunking sound made me look down. That’s weird. I don’t even drink that stuff anymore. I picked up the can and felt the coolness of the drink slosh around inside; heard the fizzing. Almost full. Where did it come from? I looked around. Whatever. As the advert says, “What’s the worst that can happen?”.

    Fire erupted inside my mouth; searing pain like biting into one of those apple pie things from a fast food joint; watering eyes. An uncontrollable urge to sneeze went unfulfilled as the doorbell rang.
    Gasping cooling breath in and out, I staggered to the door and swung it open. Through blurry eyes I made out a vague shape against the darkness. Male, probably.

    “Hello sir, we’re from the local chapter of the Hedonistic Imbibers of Dextrose Fortified Non-Alcoholic Beverages. We left you a sample earlier and were wondering if you had enjoyed it?”

    I gestured at the can in my hand. “You idiots left me this filth”, I didn’t say. All that came out was a noise like a frog with lung disease who’d had one too many unfiltered cigarettes.

    “Oh dear. May I take a look at that?”, the man waved his gnarly finger at the drink. Examining the underside of the can, he tutted. He sniffed at the opening. His eyebrows, climbed way up on his forehead like the two hairy caterpillars they resembled. He turned to his colleague. “Goodness. I’m not sure it’s supposed to have chillies in it, despite what it’s called. This must have been one of David’s early knock offs before someone set him on the straight and narrow.”

    I couldn’t help but giggle as I realised the implications of what he’d said. It dawned on me that with the renamed “Obesity Tax” now trebling the price of (what did he call them? Dextrose Fortified Non-Alcoholic Beverages?) there were of course going to be black marketeers trying to cash in on people’s sugar cravings, clearly some more adept than others.

    “My sincere apologies,” said the second man. “It was not our intention to cause you distress. Please allow us to offer you an alternative.” He held out his hand with a white can in it. No writing to be seen.

    “Keep it,” I wheezed. “And thanks, but erm….not interested in joining your chapter. Have a good night.” The latch clicked softly as I closed the door.

  2. Cceynowa

    I’ve been soooo busy lately, that I’m just now catching up on writing prompts. Lucky y’all. 😉

    Kiss to Cure

    Jerry was having one of the worst days of his life. First off, his girlfriend dumped him via text message. Then the police academy had called and told him they had lost his drug test and that he would need to take it again, delaying his acceptance by at least another month. He couldn’t get his car to start, so he had to borrow his mom’s. And finally, once he arrived at work, no one would trade him cars for the night, which meant he had had to use his mom’s van to deliver pizzas. Seriously, he thought as he stomped up the steps of 1928 West Moreland, nothing says loser with a capital “L” like a pizza delivery guy driving a mom-van. Gritting his teeth against the misery that was his life, Jerry jammed his finger on the doorbell and plastered a smile on his face.

    Well shit, he thought, the day could get worse. Anna Marie Beauflure lived at 1928 West Moreland. She opened the door wearing high cut shorts, a low cut t-shirt, and (he suspected) nothing else. She had had a reputation for being a bit of a wild one in high school, but he had heard she had settled down and was successfully working her way up the ladder at some high fashion clothing company. Given the manicured lawn and large house, he guessed that she was indeed doing alright. “Hey there,” he said after nervously clearing his throat, “One large pineapple-bacon-olive-and extra green pepper pizza. That’ll be twenty-two-seventy.”

    Anna Marie had been placing Jerry as well. She smiled, remembering his shy nature and handsome face from their shared high school days. “CROOAKK.” Her eyes opened wide in horror, she covered her mouth with one hand and slammed the door in his face with the other.

    Jerry stood on the Anna Marie’s steps, holding her rapidly cooling large pineapple-bacon-olive-and extra green pepper pizza. However, he wasn’t seeing the closed door; he was seeing the small green soda can on the table behind her. He had just barely glimpsed the can before Anna Marie had belched a distinctly amphibian sound in his face. He had seen a can like that before, and he knew what it meant.

    He bent down to press his ear against the key hole and hoped that the neighbors were minding their own business. From within he could hear Anna Marie softly croaking, chirping, and gurgling to herself in an attempt to speak. “Anna Marie,” he called, “Please open the door. I can help you.” After a few minutes, she eased the door open and stepped back into her living room. Though her hands were protectively crossed over her chest and her shoulders were hunched, he took it as a sign that she wanted him to enter.

    “Okay,” he said closing the door behind him, “let me guess, you just drank from that can.” He pointed to the green soda can on the low marble topped coffee table. She nodded. “Have been out clubbing lately?”

    “Croak, ribbit, croakety, CHIRP!”

    “Oh, right. Sorry.” Her beautiful hazel eyes glared at him from under carefully plucked brows. “The thing is, and this is going to sound crazy, but that soda is a new kind of street drug that will completely destroy your throat if you try to speak.”

    Her eyes teared up and she pulled her phone out of her tiny short’s pockets. She typed, “WHAT CAN I DO?!?!” and showed him.

    “Have you ever heard the story of the Frog Prince?” She nodded her head in response looking skeptical. “Did you know that some scholars actually think there is some truth to it?” Her face took on a pained expression and he hurried to explain, “They think that the prince might have been drugged somehow and the princess’s kiss relaxed him enough, made him happy enough, that when his muscles relaxed the drug was able to leave his body more quickly.”

    Anna Marie motioned with her hand for him to continue. “Um, so, the thing is, you won’t be able to talk until the drug leaves your system, and the faster you relax, the less chance of any permanent damage. So what do you do to relax?”

    She threw her hands up in the air in frustration and then stopped, a pensive look on her face. She typed on her phone, “WILL A KISS WORK?”

    “Uh, maybe,” Jerry said hesitantly.

    Anna Marie grinned and slowly walked across the room towards him. He couldn’t help but notice that she definitely was not wearing anything other than a shirt. She pressed her body against his and pulled his face towards hers. The last coherent thought he had for some time was that the day hadn’t turned out so bad after all.

  3. cokeMug

    “Hello,” chimes an enchanting voice. You look up. There is a girl there, probably in her 20’s, wearing what looks like a cheap imitation of a Halloween princess costume. Her dirty blonde hair is swept into a bun and she is standing very awkwardly. It takes you a second to realize that her posture is just very good.
    You try to say hi back but all that comes out is another croak. The girl smiles. Feeling very uneasy, you decide to shut the door and disregard manners. Making a helpless gesture at the girl, you close the door and turn around to find some water. Your throat does not feel dry but it must be, why else would you be croaking? The table is littered with soda cans, wrappers, and empty water bottle but no water. You go to the kitchen to fill up an empty bottle when suddenly it is knocked out of your hands. What? It’s the girl. She must have gotten inside somehow. Of course, you groan, you did not lock the door.
    The girl is pretty weird. She appeared out of nowhere and is just staring at you. What? You gesture at her. She smiles again. Then she says, “it’s payback. A few lifetimes late maybe, but payback nonetheless.” With that she walks out the door. You suddenly realize what is happening. Of course! You are dreaming. With this realization comes relief and you head off to bed. Maybe going to sleep in a dream will lead to you waking up.
    Snuggling into your cold bed, you close your eyes. As soon as you relax you start to get flashes of odd images. Frowning, you open your eyes. Ridiculous. You turn around and go to sleep.
    A blond, willowy girl steps into the bedroom. She smiles. Finally, he will see. She thinks back to when there were animals roaming the land and more forest than land. She remembers coming across a very special frog. Oh how she loved that frog! So loyal to her. Always hopping about her feet or in her room. Never leaving for the hands of another. Not like her superficial friends told to be diplomatic and pedantic. She sacrificed so much just so the frog could be her true companion but he betrayed her. As soon as he became human he decided he would rather travel the world and spend his time in musty libraries than with her. How she woke one day and he wasn’t there. How she searched and searched until her eyes were tired.
    But now she had found him. And this time, she would be the one leaving. She smiled once again and left, satisfied. Behind her a man lay, his skin giving off a greenish tinge in the moonlight.

  4. Critique

    Ted shoved empty take out cartons aside on the coffee table searching for the TV remote. The pizza he ordered should be here soon. Where the heck was that thing? Rubbing his tired eyes he salvaged an open can of soda teetering on the table’s edge and absently took a long pull of the liquid – immediately spewing it out across the hardwood floor. He slumped onto the sofa, held the can at arm’s length and squinted.

    Toxic paint solvent.

    A burning sensation started in his stomach, spreading rapidly up his throat. He coughed, a gurgling squawking noise coming from his mouth. The can fell from his fingers, spilling its potent contents just as the doorbell rang.

    Shaken he crossed the room and opened the door. The same pretty young woman that delivered pizza last week – the one with the sprinkle of freckles on her nose – stood in the hallway holding a large pizza box.

    “Pizza delivery for Ted Prince.” She smiled recognizing him.

    Ted opened his mouth. “Croak… gaaaggh.” He gestured wildly at his throat.

    Her eyes widened in alarm. “Are you okay?”

    Ted froze when he looked at his gray complexion in the hallway mirror.

    His throat was on fire.

    Ted fainted.

    When he came to there was a pert freckled nose up close and personal – she was giving him mouth to mouth resuscitation while the MacAuley’s – the neighbours from next door – hovered with worried faces.

    Ted smelled paint remover and pepperoni.

    “Mr. Prince can you hear me?” She said. “The ambulance is on its way.”

    “What….what happened?” Ted asked his voice strangely hoarse.

    “Ted, you was croaking like a frog. Scared the crap out of us.” Mr. MacAuley leaned forward and dropped his voice. “You drinking solvent Ted?”

    Mrs. MacAuley piped up. “I know a few good counselors. No shame in that young man.”

    Ted slowly got to his feet. “It was purely accidental.”

    Mrs. MacAuley smiled slyly and winked at the pizza lady. “Looks like Olivia’s kiss of life turned you back into a prince eh?”

    A becoming blush spread over Olivia’s face and she fussed with her hair.

    Following a thorough checkup from the paramedics, Ted’s fatigue dissipated and sharing pizza with Olivia – paint solvent fumes in the air – well everything turned out fine after all.

  5. WanderingHog

    “Whore is it?!”
    “How rude, Sam!”
    “Matilda? Sorry I had some soda in my mouth.”
    “Open the door!”
    Sam couldn’t open the door, not because sam didn’t want to see her, but because Sam physically couldn’t move at all. This soda… it did something to him. Sam was under paralysis and he don’t know how long this would last.
    “I can’t move Matilda.”
    “Oh for god sake, I know it’s been months since I last seen you, don’t be bitter!”
    “No Matilda, I physically can’t move! Something’s happened to me, I think it might be the drink I had 2 seconds ago.”
    Suddenly the door collapsed like a pile of jango blocks and a red headed woman emerged from the rupture. This girl closely resembling the figure of a DC comic alien superhero has a face Sam barely recognized due to the reduced amount of pimples she has compared to Sam’s recollection of her last visit.
    “Woah! Didn’t know you weight lifted – way to be a man … Matty!”
    “What the hell are you?!”
    “What do you mean?”
    “You … you look like a turd!”
    “Oh that’s funny, just because you transformed yourself to Kalel’s sister doesn’t give you the right to bash me! I’m working on my figure okay? I mean I lost a whole pound this past month!”
    “No Sam… I mean you literally look like a turd!”
    “Oh that’s it, I don’t usually fight girls but you’re an exception give that you’re not one anymore. Once I get out of this paralysis I’m going kick your ass … Matty!”
    “Jesus Christ, what the heck happened to you!”
    “What do you mean?”
    She ran to the back of Sam’s house and after a few minutes of rummaging she came back with a mirror.
    “Look at yourself!”
    “Oh my god!”
    “Yeah! See, do you see?!”
    “I’m a turd!”
    “Yeah what the hell!”
    “That’s awesome!”
    “What?! Are you crazy?! You want to be a turd?!”
    “No but, that’s awesome how I turned into a turd drinking that soda. This means if I can make someone, preferably my ultimate nemesis… Chad, drink this soda, I can make his life shitty – literally!”
    “Oh that’s nice, but how the heck are you going to do that when you’re a turd that can’t move?!”
    “Oh my little sister, you’ll be the one to help me!”
    “No way! I’m not spending more time than I need with your stinking ass – literally. Stinking. Ass. Poop!”
    “Fine then I’ll tell mom!”
    “Yeah and while you’re at it tell her about the time you turned into human waste, bet she’ll hearing that. Heck you probably won’t need to, she’ll probably smell you before she can hear you”
    “God dammit Matty, help me!”
    “What if you drank the soda again, will you turn back into your old self?”
    “I don’t know, let’s find out”
    It didn’t work. In fact it backfired. Matilda’s life transformation went from a pimpled face brat to superwoman to poo. How tragic…

  6. cosi van tutte

    One last, really random one…

    “Hey, Mahrv! Look! It’s a microphoney!”

    “Yeah. And a phoney at the mike.”

    Slap! Pinch! Sock!

    “Ooooo-wooba-wooba-wooba!”

    Slap! Punch! Poke!

    “OW!”

    “OW!”

    “OOOOO-WOOBA-WOOBA—”

    Exhausted by the black and white antics on tv and a long, hard day at work, I fell asleep before the big, bald guy could finish his Wooba-ing.

    I opened my eyes to see the cranky guy with the bad bowl cut making sour, huffy faces at the camera. I shook my head. I’d seen that look on all of my customers today. I didn’t want to see it on my entertainment too. I shut the tv off.

    An open can of Heeeaaalthy Yooouuu Sooopaaa! Cola sat on my cocktail table. “Well. What the heck is that?” I picked it up and sniffed it. I wrinkled my nose in disgust. It smelled like aftershave mixed with fertilizer. “I don’t know where this came from or why it’s sitting on my table. I do know that I am not going to drink it.”

    I carried it into the kitchen and poured it down the sink.

    The sink promptly jumped off the counter and yelled, “OHMIGOSH! I FEEL SO ALIIIIVE!” It grabbed my best china and ran out the door, laughing hysterically.

    I stood there, riveted with shock. Darn it! I really liked that china set.

    1. Vangartist

      I dig the voice of your narrator, and for some reason I am left with an afterthought of Courage the Cowardly Dog. The jargon pulled me in quick, made me experience the noises, the tastes–finally,
      inexplixably, I am fully invested in this runaway sink!

  7. cosi van tutte

    This is kind of an odd one, but oh well… 😀

    He liked to sing along to Chinese music
    And dance to Begin the Beguine.

    She liked silence and flowers
    And dreaming of the Seine.

    They were friends before they were lovers
    But no one thought that they would last.

    He laughed from his toes to his eyelashes
    In guffaws and bellows.

    She laughed soft and polite
    Muffled behind her fingers

    Michael stopped writing and stared at that last line. “It isn’t right. It throws my rhyming scheme out of order. But what rhymes with bellows? Fellows?” He frowned. “I really don’t see how I could work that word in. Unless…”

    She laughed soft and polite
    Except when she was with her fellows…

    He scratched out the line with bold black lines and tried again.

    She laughed soft and polite. Soft and polite…

    “Maybe that’s my problem. Maybe I should rephrase that line to—”

    The doorbell rang.

    “Huh. If I change it to demure and light—”

    The doorbell rang and rang and rang and rang and rang.

    Michael came out of his writing daze. “What? Who could that be?” He walked over to the front door and opened it.

    A little girl in a green plaid dress and fluffy red hair stood on his doorstep with a large pizza box balanced on her head. “Hey there, mister! You want a piece of pizza?”

    “Uhh.”

    “It’s pepperoni and it’s real good.”

    “I’m kind of in the middle of—”

    “And it’s free.”

    Michael shook his head. “Wait. You’re…what? Who are you?”

    “Name’s Ethmerra. I come from the other side of the river.”

    “River? What? There aren’t any rivers around here.”

    “So, you want a piece of pizza?”

    “But…Why?”

    “Dummy. I’m handing out free food. Don’t ask why.” She giggled. “I’ll tell you later.”

    He opened the box.

    She giggled and did an annoying little bounce. The box stayed on her head, though.

    “I’m not going to have any. I’m just…Ugh.” The pizza just sat there. No steam. No heat. Just a cold lump of blah.

    “Ehh, I think I’ll—” He caught a whiff. Pepperoni. Hot melted cheese. Spiced pumpernickel crust. And the sauce…The sauce! “I’ll have it all!” He grabbed the box from the urchin’s head and wolfed down the entire pizza.

    Ethmerra giggled wildly and clapped her hands. “Yes! You ate it.” Giggle. Giggle. Giggle. “You ate the whole thing!” More giggling.

    “Uhh?” His stomach rumbled. “Urg.” His legs wobbled and bowed, sending him crashing to the floor. As he fell, his body transformed into something small and green. “Wrrrraaa?”

    Ethmerra clapped her hands three times and clicked her heels. She disappeared into a cloud of shamrock scented smoke.

    “Wrrrr? Wrrr?”

    The smoke dissipated within minutes, revealing the new and improved Ethmerra. She towered over Michael – a colossal red head in a mighty green kilt. “Aye, now I’ve got ye. I’ll be a-takin’ ye home to me father.”

    He widened his frogged eyes in shock. “WRRRAAA?”

    “He’s seen samples of yer writin’ and he wants more and more and oh so much more.”

    “Wrrr! Wrrrraaa! Wrrrrr!” Fury like he had never known brewed into a galactic sized storm in his chest. He slapped his webbed feet on the floor and told her what he thought about her father. Unfortunately, none of his words were understandable.

    She scooped him up into her hands, which infuriated him even more. “Don’t be a-fearin’. I will change ye back when we reach me father’s abode.” She smiled and set him on her shoulder. “Humans can nae cross our fair borders as is. Transformation, me laddie, is the key to our world.”

    She snapped her fingers and his laptop appeared in her arms. “Let’s be gettin’ home then.” She clapped her hands and they both disappeared.

    1. Observer Tim

      So… if your poetry’s too good you’ll be hauled away by the faeries? Cool concept; I think I’m safe but several people on this site aren’t. I hope her father rewards his muse/slaves well. This is fascinating and strange and wonderful, Cosi. And strangely enough it fits with the prompt in its own way. Love it! 🙂

  8. Vangartist

    He awoke the following morning to a foggy recollection of the night’s most recent dream. Only one one word was clearly occupying his disoriented thoughts—croak. A spark of sorts tingled, just beneath his skin. It was such a strong euphoria, a sensation of blinding proportions…He rushed awkwardly to his desk, still recovering from the dream-world. Grasping for his Macbook, much the way a claw crane dives for its elusive prize, he felt a sudden shiver of raw panic crawl up his spine as the contents of his dream trickled teasingly, crushingly, away. Why is this so important? He questions for a moment, only to replace his hesitation with determination to figure out why a short, uneventful, dull, dream such as this could cause such an overwhelming swell of emotion. He quickly typed only three words TV, soda, croak.

    There are three key factors of this dream he simply mustn’t forget:

    1. The act of flipping through channels represents his dissatisfaction with the complacent, docile act of watching television. He can’t find what to watch because he shouldn’t be watching anything at all.
    2. The act of waiting for his pizza to arrive was a less obvious hint, though after a minute of deliberation, he decided it was in fact the most important. He doesn’t take action to reach his goals, he sits and waits for them to arrive.
    3. He did not recall getting or even opening the can of soda because he is in denial of these habits he feels unable to escape. He drinks it anyway because it is convenient. However, now awake, he remembers the unpleasant taste of that first sip.
    4. The croak that came from his throat, while at the time a simple byproduct of carbonic acid, is now quite clearly recognized as the croak of a frog. Why would he croak? Because he had something to say, but didn’t know how.

    As an artist, it is his sacred duty to express this new-found desire for self transformation. Life is so much more wonderful and magical than the mundane drone of meaningless motions we make it out to be. Tempting as it is, he can never look back. He glances over his shoulder at his bedroom door. His studio only a few short strides around the corner, suddenly nothing is more important than the desire to paint. He thinks of that new blank canvas he bought, for a forgotten purpose (perhaps now found). It’s about time to jump back in the ring of life and do what he was put on this earth to do.

    Without missing a beat, he is standing in front of the towering stretch of fabric. Ready, waiting. He reaches for the paint set, now the the confidence and bold surety of the artist he is. Fully awake, finally. A deep, satisfying pull of oxygen to the longs, followed by five simple words spoken in solitude: “Time for this frog to croak.”

    1. Observer Tim

      Throw away all pretense of reality and the transformation shines in its intensity. Actually it’s more like inspiration than transformation, a lovely summary of the moment when art comes into being (i.e. artwork before the “work” starts). This is a very nice metaphorical take, Vangartist, right down to the end with a line that makes sense in context but no sense without. 🙂

      From a structural standpoint, I note the first paragraph is in a different tense from the rest without any reasonable explanation for the shift. The effect is a bit discordant, but I can’t tell whether that is part of the word picture or an oversight.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Since my wife is an artist and she tells me the strugles she has with inspiritation, this hit home like a side block. The transition from first paragraph, fades quickly as the story contnues. Sometimes, I feel the same when starting a new story, am I prepared, will it turn into a pile of useless ramble? It feels like launching an old, rusty tramp steamer. Oh by the way, I really liked it.

    2. regisundertow

      This is a lovely piece, almost meditative in how it takes a moment of inspiration and unfolds it. How many of us haven’t woken up with certain words lodged into our brains and the urge to do something with them? They just sit there waiting for us to build something around them. The pacing of your story is spot-on in reflecting this esoteric process.

    3. cosi van tutte

      Hi, Vangartist!

      Just so you know, I really liked your character’s psychological analysis of the dream’s main factors. And, I think everyone here has said those last five words at one point or another in regards to their own creations. Maybe not those precise words, but the basic idea. The whole “Time to get this show on the road.” I know that I have. 🙂

  9. ebersocats

    “OMG!, he said he was magic,” she croaked to herself. She got up to get the door and had trouble walking. She just sort of jumped. Alarmed, she looked down and saw she had frog legs. She was green all over. How could she pay for the pizza?, she wondered. Would the delivery boy take a credit card from a frog woman. Then it hit her. She had been turned into a frog. Her prince from the night before had turned HER into a frog.
    But she was hungry and wanted the pizza…at least, she thought she did. Then she wondered, “What do frogs eat? Flies. No. No.”
    The pizza delivery person knocked impatiently. She had to open the door or let her pizza get sent back. So she grabbed her credit card and jumped over to the door. Struggling with the doorknob, she told the delivery boy, “turn the doorknob to the left, OK?”
    He did and opened the door to see a frog-woman. Then he smiled and said, ‘If I kiss you…”
    She immediately said, “NO! you’ll turn into a frog”.
    He looked at her and said, “So what?”
    She thought this is the man or frog for her and kissed him.

    1. Observer Tim

      What a lovely romance story compressed into so few words, Ebersocats. I find I know your MC even after such a short acquaintance. I truly hope everything works out for her. 🙂

      It would be an interesting exercise to recast this in the first person. Given that the whole story operates within the MC’s mind, it may provide further insight into her character.

    2. cosi van tutte

      Hi, ebersocats!

      This is a charming story. Sweet and simple with just the right amount of words. Some stories need more words. Others need a lot less. This one is just right. Great job! 😀

  10. Observer Tim

    SHIPWRECK

    A bit long and not on prompt, but Regis asked so nicely. This follows after ANOTHER PLACE below.

    I dribble a tiny bit of citrus extract on the biscuit and take a bite; it serves as a source of vitamin C and, to some extent, masks the taste of the mould. I follow that with a prayer to JSS that I am on the right ship at the right time.

    Over the five years since I awoke in a gorse bush I have worked very hard to fit in. I speak four of the local languages well enough to communicate, and have amassed enough understanding of geography to recognize where I am. Homeworld. Earth. But somehow centuries before travel even within the star system.

    Six weeks ago I had no hope of getting home. Then I heard of the Grazia Maria. The name is correct; the time period is correct. The ship has sailed for the East Indies across the Atlantic; its voyage will be much longer than that.

    Montoya is watching me again. This has become more frequent as the days go by; three weeks becalmed in the Sargasso have not helped his suspicions. I have heard him whisper to some of the others, that I am a woman (correct) and that I am a witch (incorrect).

    I am spooling a line when he approaches. I do not trust him; normally he glowers without speaking.

    “Forwen.”

    “Montoya. Fine morning, is it not?”

    “It is. Perhaps there will be a breeze today.”

    “Perhaps. I have been praying.”

    “Pere Francisco will be pleased.” He’s sizing me up; something is definitely wrong here.

    He leans toward me and I take half a step back. My foot catches on a coil of rope; normally I could recover but Montoya is too close and pushing. I fall over and he lands on top of me.

    “Now we see!”

    He tears away my breeches, revealing exactly what he has suspected. I forego kneeing him and slam the heel of my hand into his solar plexus; he rocks up and away and gasps for breath.

    “You are revealed,” he growls. He sucks in a deep breath and shouts, “WITCH!”

    Eight sailors turn to see his accusing finger. I shout “No!” but they aren’t in the mood to listen. They’ve been looking for a scapegoat.

    I back away but Torrez and Alfredo grab me. I have no friends here, especially now that fear has beaten down their reason. Rough hands tear away my clothes and bind me to the mainmast, dangling by my hands so that my toes can barely touch the deck.

    The ship heels five degrees, which only fuels their wordless anger. The ship lurches and begins scudding forward as the sails fill. There’s a rumble in the air and my hair is starting to lift from static.

    Lightning strikes the bowsprit and a cloud of dark red dust boils up out of the sea. If I need confirmation that I am on the right ship, this is it. A frigid choking dust-storm mingles with damp spray and the ship darts into the face of it.

    Saint Elmo’s fire in iridescent blue sheets over the ship, lighting each piece of metal like a tiny lantern. The men on deck are choking and dying, wasting their last breaths crying for mercy that won’t be coming. I suck in what I can of the oxygen as it blows away and crystallizes.

    Eight agonizing seconds later the light fails and the ship comes to a jarring stop. It’s dark and the temperature is already well below freezing. I know where I am; if I stay here I become just another freeze-dried mummy.

    It takes seconds and effort I don’t have to pull my wrists free. Another second and I’m over the side, landing on the wet and rapidly freezing sand. I have one hope, and that is partly a guess. I run in what I desperately pray to JSS is the direction of the entry to the lower level.

    ***

    I look at the radar map over Peter’s shoulder. It has a three-dimensional map of the cave and all the artifacts: dozens more than their physical inspection revealed. But that isn’t what strikes me.

    “Peter?”

    “Yes, Tab?”

    “How far down are those marks?”

    “About forty centimeters.”

    “So they’re about fifteen inches below the surface; why do they look like wet footprints?”

    1. regisundertow

      “Pumping fist in air” Seriously, thank you for this. Awesome is thrown around so often it’s lost its meaning, but I’m right in using it for this story.

      1. Observer Tim

        I don’t use or see it much, so in context the word is really appreciated. In case you didn’t quite see it, this is the first obvious tie-in with the other SF stories I’ve been doing recently – referring to Earth as “Homeworld”.

    2. Beebles

      Ah, I did enjoy this. The image of the stern of ship in a rocky martian landscape and those footprints appealed to me professionally. Then it made me consider the difficulties of C14 on other planets. I must ask my regional science advisor about that one!

      1. Observer Tim

        Thanks, Beebles. Carbon-14 is a tricky dating technique to use, since it depends on nitrogen and cosmic rays to form, neither of which are easy data points to get when the atmosphere is essentially vacuum. That is why Dr. K (Peter) is not using it, relying instead on stratigraphy enhanced by GPR, and not hard-dating anything. K-Ar dating would be more accurate (presuming a decent geological history), but would be useless for events on a timescale of human history.

        The fossilized footprints are a direct result of compression plus (body) heat plus moisture; the SF supposition is that 22nd century GPR is sensitive enough to register the difference in density at least as “ghost” images.

        Odd that you used the term you did; we used to have “Regional Science Advisors” where I work, though they got re-named to “Research & Technology Advisors”. At one time I was an acting “Science Officer” which looks really cool on business cards in a Trekkie way.

        1. Beebles

          I see no reason why C14 wouldn’t work, thinking about it, if certain assumptions held true – i.e. the ship had been displaced spatially and not temporally. If the C14 was fixed when the ship arrived and there were no circumstances to alter the half-life then barring contamination issues a date BP should still hold true? There is no point to this I am just exercising my mind. Oh yes, shades of Red Shift was my other comment. Respect to the Science Officer – yes that is cool, or I am not.

          1. Observer Tim

            Good thought; I somehow completely missed the use of C14 to date objects from Earth where the rates of accumulation and decay are known. The results could be fairly accuarately determined for the crew, given that their ages could be estimated and their time since death evaluated. But what will poor Peter do when the results of C14 age don’t jibe with the date from the Captain’s log (see Bermuda Triangle story)?

            Thank you for helping me write my way out of a bit of exposition I was grinding my brain cells on. This is why I like talking science geek with people. 🙂

  11. snuzcook

    RED

    I can see a flash of red coming through the half-bare autumn trees from half a mile away. How many pizzas had been delivered since the first time I saw her? How many gangly kids with optimistic facial hair had shown up on my doorstep in her place? I could barely contain myself in anticipation. I found myself licking my lips, but it isn’t the thought of an extra large thick-crust Hawaiian special that makes me salivate.

    I have been afraid that rumors of the disappearance last week of the young woman jogging along the deserted path in this neck of the woods might have frightened her away. It had been all over the news. When they located items of the woman’s clothing with evidence of an animal attack, it was attributed to wolves. It’s funny how people revert to their ancient enemies or ancient allies when faced with the inexplicable. In this case, they had found evidence to link the woman’s disappearance to the recent re-introduction of a wolf pack in the area. Here in the isolated mountain town, we are far from the sentimentality of the environmentalists. It was easy to persuade the descendants of woodcutters and peasants who had always lived in the shadow of the maleficent forest that wolves might lurk among the trees to steal away the foolish or unaware.

    The little red car comes bumping along the last winding ruts of the road and parks beneath the gnarled old oak beside the house. I watch through the curtains as she gracefully, unself-consciously, unfolds her delectable little body from the tiny car, the insulated pizza carrier balanced in one hand. Because of a light sprinkle, she’s wearing her red uniform jacket with the hood resting lightly on her angelic curls. Up the three wood steps she springs. I hop into the old lady’s bed in the alcove of the one-room cabin as girl begins to knock.

    “Pizza, Mrs. Jonas!”

    “Come in,” I call in my most disarming, raspy old lady voice.

    Cautiously, she opens the door. “Mrs. Jonas?”

    “I’m in here, dear,” I croak.

    “I can hardly see you. You want me to turn on some lights?”

    “No, they hurt my eyes. Just put the pizza down and bring me my purse from the table so I can pay you.”

    She does as I ask without question, picking up the old lady’s handbag and coming right over to the corner where I am half hidden in pillows and quilts.

    “It’s $15.70,” she says. “You really sound terrible. Are you okay?”

    “Just a touch of bronchitis, my dear. Thank you for asking.”

    She bends in closer. “You know, you’re looking a little green.”

    “Just a trick of the light, being so deep in the woods, my dear.”

    …and closer. “And your eyes are looking really huge.”

    “The better to see you with, my dear.”

    …and closer. “And your mouth, it’s looking really, um, large today.”

    “You mean, like this?” I open my mouth with an enormous CROAK until my eyes disappear. In the blink of an eye I wrap my tongue around her and swallow her in one gulp.

    “The better to eat you with my dear!”

    As I squat on the bed, I can feel the weight of the jogger and the gristly old lady still struggling briefly in my big drum of a belly. As the tasty young girl crowds in beside them, I close my eyes and meditate upon my next move. First I need to dispose of the Little Red Riding Hood Pizza delivery car. Then I will need to find a place to hole up for the winter, now that I have eaten well. It should take the entire winter to digest these three. In the spring I will find another place to call home.

    First I’ll have to come up with some kind of false evidence to explain these two new disappearances. Too bad I can’t blame it on wolves again. That’s always been a good cover, always been so believable. Little did they know how very wrong they were.

    1. Observer Tim

      There’s probably a nice pond the Big Bad Bullfrog can hide in somewhere; preferably one with a waterfall so he wouldn’t have to break the surface ice. This is incredibly clever and strange, Snuz! I love the way you inverted the fairy tale; I was expecting a wandering Herpetologist to come and rescue Red, but I guess she’s not so lucky this time. 🙂 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Oh, this is one of your best, the big, bad froggie. Yipes, it’s still dark but I have Miss Kitty lying across my desk ready to chase and eat any frogs that wander by. She is highly trained in green lizard eradication and I’m sure she could adapt. This is such a good story. When you think of the classic fairy tales, horror comes to mind. And this is a great horror tale except from the frog’s point of view. Great job.

    2. regisundertow

      This comes a few hours after reading an article on the wolf as a misunderstood symbol, very appropriate. I really enjoyed this. The understanding of where this was going was enhanced by the pleasure of seeing the tale re-enacted in a manner that doesn’t draw attention to its modern setting, but treats it as a given.

    3. ajhaughee83

      I really enjoyed this. you did a great job slowly introducing the evidence (so to speak) of who the main character was and keeping with the original as well as having your own flair. very nice!

  12. Kerry Charlton

    DOUBLE JEOPARDY, A CONTUATION

    PART 5, FINAL REVENGE

    CHAPTER THREE

    Brad approached within thirty yards of his six clones.

    “I want you know when you listen to Montgomery, he is treating you like a thoughtless piece of hardware to be sacrificed if need be. Do any of you have the slightest idea who I am or what I stand for?”

    He searched six pair of eyes and noticed a slight understanding in one of them,
    ‘Maybe’, he thought, ‘I might be able to approach him.’ He signaled his request to M and he mouthed go ahead. Brad walked to him and whispered one sentence in the clone’s ear and then returned unscathed. Taking inventory, he had his three bowie knives who the clones now were acutely aware of and his Calvary sword.

    The clones were armed heavily with chains, swords and mace. Al, meanwhile was still in repair mode for al least tem minutes. ‘Can I stall?’ Brad thought. ‘Probably not.’ The one clone stood slightly back as the other five prepared to rush Brad. In a split second the remaining clone charged the five from the rear while Brad moved in from the front.

    Confusion arose as to who was whom. Two clones lay dying, Brad wasn’t sure if the good clone was alive until he read his glance. The two stood side by side fighting the remaining three. Brad was hand to hand with two knives slashing and cutting with accuracy. He stepped back to see a remaining clone running and the good clone who had pulled a blade from his side. The other two lay still.

    “So it’s one to one again, “M shouted across the square. He still held the rope in his left hand but tied it to a fallen tree limb and lit a candle and placed it under the Kemp.

    “It might last five minutes give or take one. Your job is to kill me before and rescue your sister. Your traitor clone lays dying in the field.”

    Brad ran toward Montgomery remembering their last battle when Jen saved his life. M was a better swordsman, had the better blade. If he didn’t end it in time all was lost. He slashed and hacked the Calvary sword. M blocked each parry and ran his sword through Brad’s right shoulder. ‘He teasing with me,’ Brad realized. He retreated fifteen yards, but M closed the distance quickly knowing how Brad was deadly with the Bowie.

    What Montgomery didn’t realize, was Brad’s one usable arm was his left. He was safe he thought. Brad ran sideways and then forward and gained space between Montgomery. His left hand held the last Bowie knife and when Montgomery turned his way, Brad knife buried itself in M’s neck and severed the main artery.

    Brad sprinted toward the rope, it parted before he could reach it and he heard the blade travel down the guillotine and fall ‘whoosh- thump‘. His heart sank as he walked toward the instrument of death. The dying clone had managed to crawl to the guillotine and fell across Jen’s body with his dying breath. The blade had severed most of his chest but had stopped before touching Jen. He moved the clone carefully, untied his sister and held her for a long time, cradling her in his good arm.

    The horizon turned to purple, early light appeared along with Al..

    “Sorry I’m late boss, I see you didn’t need me.”

    “Al, keep it up and I’ll take your charger away.”

    And a chuckle from Jen and a smile. She looked at Al and her brother,

    “How are you two with washing dishes”

    “Arms too short,” said Al.

    “Lousy,” Brad announced.

    Part one and two below

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a trip down memory lane in more than one way. I remember when this saga began; that’s an advantage of clones, they can keep the tale going. I wonder if this is really the end or if Montgomery has more clones of himself in reserve (one of which may have to take over being him).

      This also reminds me of the adventure serials I used to watch as a kid, though I doubt even Republic could have afforded more than one or two clones. This looks like Episode 12, where the good guy wins through a mix of willingness to act and sheer heroism. Great job, Kerry! 🙂 🙂

    2. snuzcook

      Wonderful continuation of the story, Kerry, and a nice ‘gasp’ moment before we discover that the noble clone had sacrificed himself. I suspect we’ll be hearing from this cast of characters again!

  13. Kerry Charlton

    DOUBLE JEOPARDY, A CONTINUATION

    PART FIVE, FINAL REVENGE

    CHAPTER TWO

    Brad pulled his Rover within sixty yards of the circle of clones, stepped out with his great, great, great grandfather’s Union Calvary sword, three bowie knives secured behind his belt and a prayer. The Rover idled in readiness beside him.

    “Brad, Brad, there’s too many, you’ll be killed,” Jen’s voice split the midnight air.

    “Don’t worry baby, I’ll get you out of here.”

    “Is that all you brought with you, a trick car and one sword?” Montgomery smirked?”

    “Not quite, Al you want to join me?”

    The back lid of the Rover snapped open, a small ramp slid to the earth and an indescribable quandary of metal, bolts and small windows rolled down the ramp and made it’s way to Brad’s side.

    “Al, this is Dr. Montgomery holding the rope.”

    A mechanical voice spoke, “Good evening Dr.” A lazar beam landed fifteen feet to the left of Montgomery creating a scorched trench seven feet deep.

    “Quite impressive Dr.” M spoke, suppose we travel back a hundred years.”

    A quick whirling sound emitted from Al, “Time travel shield set Brad.”

    Scenery changed dramatically, Rover disappeared but Al stayed by Brad’s side.

    “Keep your little junk-yard friend, you’re going to need him,” M announced.

    Montgomery’s clones charged waving Irish Darts and battle axes. Six darts flew at close range like small javelins, six lazars melted them, but the battle axes were another story. M’s clones held the huge weapons like tomahawks and were within forty feet when one lazar created a trench twelve feet deep.

    Two bowie knives had taken two clones down, three fell in the trench but one leaped it and charged Brad. He side stepped the swing but the axe split Al into two pieces. It was a small revenge to slash M’s remaining clone across the throat, severing his head from his body.

    Brad secured his two knives from the dead clones and faced Montgomery,

    “Six down, seven to go, mad man.”

    “Don’t you ever refer to me as mad. What will you do now, without your wizard.”

    Brad glanced sideways, the larger part of Al hobbled to his smaller part and went into repair mode.

    “He’s taking a break for a moment, he’s tired.”

    “I bet he is.”

    “Can I speak to my clones?”

    “You’re wasting your time, but go ahead, they’re well programmed.”

    [To be continued]

  14. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

    Gargoyles

    I was still awake that morning, and I stared through the window at the sky. It was still on the dark side of dawn, and the stars spangled in the sky, winking at each other as if each had an inside joke that the other knew. There was still an hour or so before the sun rose, but there was a faint blue outline against the horizon warning that the day would come whether any of us were ready or not.

    That’s when the knock came at the door.

    There’s a reason I love being a night owl. Not only are there fewer people awake, but as anyone who routinely stays up at night can tell you, there’s a certain measure of comfort that comes from it. As the night sky becomes a deeper shade of blackness, as the moon rises and smiles down on the dark world, you feel relaxed because you know there is only you. No one else is around or awake to bother your life, and so you have only your thoughts and your time. A serenity unknown to those who dredge through the day with thousands of other busy bees buzzing around them.

    In that moment, when the hard hollow knock vibrated the door, I felt a jolt of fear strike through me like lightning through water. My heart rattled in my chest, and I felt a sudden and inexplicable wetness roll across my tightening skin.

    I looked at the door, sure that I had imagined it. I didn’t know many people, and of the people I did know, I hadn’t the faintest clue why they’d knock on my door at the tail end of the night. I only existed in other people’s lives to the extent that I was a mere acquaintance. I was not of the same group who you would call if your car broke down or you needed a lift to the hospital. My name wouldn’t even register if you saw me standing in line in front of you.

    However, as another set of knocks penetrated my evening, my silent luge down a hill of self-reflection and inner thoughts, I turned to the door. I half-expected someone to call another’s name through that barrier, perhaps it was a drunk neighbor who had gone to the wrong place. After all, it had happened before.

    Alice from 3B came by one night. She’d apparently spent much of her afternoon and evening drinking at a gathering nearby, and had responsibly walked home. I couldn’t say for sure if it really was her decision or someone had forced her because she had smelled as if she might be the cask in which whiskey had been distilled, but instead of finding her way to her own place, she knocked on my door.

    I had opened the door, and there she was, standing small at five feet, and dripping with sexuality. I had never really met her, only seen her once or twice when passing her in the hallway, so I knew she wasn’t there for me. She might have been looking for Sam, who lived a door further down, but she found me instead. She didn’t seem to care either, because she tried to push her way in.

    Now, I wasn’t perfect. Just like any red-blooded man, I’d readily accept an offer for the horizontal mambo as quickly as I’d accept a million dollars. However, and I supposed this was what sets me apart from any other man, I didn’t sleep with drunk women. I wanted them to want to be with me, not just think they want to because I happened to be more attractive as a result of their inebriation. Call me crazy or call me stupid, but that was important to me.

    Anyway, I looked upon that closed door as a third set of knocks cut through the silence. I yawned, picked up a can of orange soda, and sipped it. The warm drink fizzed in my mouth, and as I swallowed, I wondered when I grabbed the drink. I couldn’t remember going to the kitchen, and what was even odder is I never drank warm soda. Aside from having a needle shoved into my arm or the fear of drowning always bugging me, the only thing that bothered me more was warm soft drink.

    I set the drink back where I found it, and moved to the door. Through the spy-hole, I saw a woman wearing a blue hat with a dark blue bill and red and white domino at the center. The rest of her attire included a black polo shirt with a small, red horse logo on her breast and tight-fitting jeans. Blonde strands hung out from the hat in soft twirls as she moved closer to the door to peek through the spy-hole with her emerald eyes. She was stunningly attractive, which, for the record, was intoxicating.

    For a brief moment, I reared back thinking that she might see me, but I realized I had no reason to care. I was more concerned with why this random stranger visited me at such a late hour. Stranger than that was her persistence. Most people only knock a few times, but she wanted me to answer her.

    As she brought her hand up to knock once more, I opened the door. She smelled as beautiful as she looked. Her perfume had the fresh quality of a summer meadow but subtle hints of vanilla and ginger offered her up as more of a sexy villain than a wholesome schoolteacher.

    She smiled. “Kurt?”

    I nodded and started to talk but nothing more than a hoarse croak escaped my lips.

    She made an exaggerated frown with her face, which might turn most ugly, but she made it look good. “Frog in your throat?”

    I wanted to tell her that I, in fact, did feel as if there was a thick globulous gluey substance in my throat, but I couldn’t. My voice only croaked more. Therefore, I pointed at my throat to mime my affliction, and she nodded.

    “I know, doll.”

    I shook my head in confusion.

    “Baby, listen. This is only the beginning, but I have a proposition for you.”

    I had no idea what she was talking about, but when I felt the skin on my hand burning, I looked down to find my skin turning grey. I looked back up at her for answers, but she just continued with what she had to say.

    “Five years ago, you drove a car through an elementary school cafeteria,” she said, getting right down to business. I had no idea who she what or how she knew it was me, but her confidence suggested she wasn’t guessing. She continued, “You killed seven children and wounded fifteen others. You left three teachers injured and one fully paralyzed.”

    I stood, silently waiting for her to get to the point. I thought she wanted money or something. That’s what happens when you do something stupid and the victims confront you. Human nature says that people do one of three things. They call the police, try to hurt you worse than you hurt them, or they’ll try to get money from you. Now, she obviously didn’t call the police or I’d have found a person with a different kind of uniform standing at that door. That only left two other things, and I had hoped it was money.

    She said, “I don’t want any money.”

    Shit.

    “What I want is for you to pay for what you did,” she said, and I saw the faintest glisten of tears outline her eyes. “I want you to suffer for taking my little Janice away from me.”

    I am a monster. I know this. I fully understand that I made the choice to drink and drive that day, and that’s why I have a healthy respect for anyone who has friends or family that will encourage them to take a cab or walk home. This is where my respect for Alice came from, and the reason I helped her home. I had always wished that someone were there to help me before I drove that day, and I knew I had to be there for her and anyone else.

    This is also the reason that I knew Janice. In fact, I knew the names of all twenty-two children and the four adults that had their futures stolen by me.

    Janice, as the news had reported, was a star student with near perfect grades and a bright future ahead of her. She was the lead in the school’s orchestra, which they called the Small Symphony. The girl was also on the soccer team, and had won several awards for being active in the community. She had even started a lemonade stand to raise money to donate to help the homeless. All this at only ten years old.

    The girl was beautiful like her mother, too. They both had blonde hair and fair skin, but that was where they diverged. Janice had dark brown eyes that, from the pictures, looked flecked with gold. It was as if there was a treasured mind hiding behind them, just waiting to bring good things into this world, and my decision to drive that day took all of that away.

    “You have less than a minute to prove how sorry you are, but you have to do it without your words,” she said, shifting on her feet. “I’ve come to realize that talk is meaningless. I want you to show me that you feel real contrition for murdering my baby.”

    I knew it would be hard. For years, I’d been reticent to the people around me. It’s easier to keep everyone at arm’s length than to allow anyone to become emotionally attached. For me, it was nearly impossible to show emotion. However, if I didn’t, then something bad was going to happen to me. I didn’t know what, but something.

    I looked her in the eyes, which were now red pools of emotion. Her irises were now a deeper shade of green, as if now seas of ocean water thrashed by a storm of my sins.

    At that moment, I felt water glisten on my eyes as well. It wasn’t from knowing that something bad was going to happen, but because I wanted to tell her how sorry I was for taking her child’s life. I wanted her to know that I never meant to hurt anyone, and that I deserved whatever fate she had planned for me. After five years of guilt, five years of pain, I was ready for it to end. I wanted her to be the one to take me, too, because if there was anything I could do as my last offer of my sorrow, it would be to do this one thing and help her move on.

    I fell to my knees, and looked up at her. Streams of tears trickled down her face, and her eyes met mine. I felt the weight of her emotion bearing down on me like a comet coming to destroy the world, and I had to look away. I had no right to show her my emotions when hers were so much more powerful than mine were. In fact, I felt like I had no right to feel this pain. It was all my fault, and she didn’t deserve to see contrition from that man that killed her daughter.

    I glanced at my hand, and it had turned to stone. Fear should have turned me into some kind of blubbering monster that would do anything to survive, but that wasn’t me. It was never me, but at that moment, it most certainly wasn’t me.

    I watched my arm harden, and the veins solidify. As my cells changed, I felt no physical pain. My other hand began to change, and a sudden numbness claimed my legs. I felt a stiffness in my back, and chest, and in my final moments before I fully changed, I looked up once more.

    The last thing I saw before passing from that world to the next was a small sense of satisfaction in her eyes. I saw a dark happiness in them, but she was happy nevertheless. Maybe what she’d done to me had changed her forever, but I don’t think it started there. I don’t believe that was what marred her soul, for I had already tainted it when I mowed through that wall and killed all those children. I had snuffed out her light with my darkness a long time ago. Perhaps my demise, my exit to my now preternatural existence, made her darker, but I think in a way, it also healed her. And in a way, it healed me, too.

    1. cosi van tutte

      Hi, Jay!

      Just so you know, this line fascinated me: “I’ve come to realize that talk is meaningless. I want you to show me that you feel real contrition for murdering my baby.” It made me wonder: How can you show something like that without saying a word?

      Also, this description is just beautiful: “Janice had dark brown eyes that, from the pictures, looked flecked with gold. It was as if there was a treasured mind hiding behind them, just waiting to bring good things into this world…” 🙂

    2. snuzcook

      Such a tragic story, Jay. For me, it seemed a description of a person who has become fossilized emotionally because of guilt finding a type of redemption in transformation from emotional fossilization to physical. I like that you leave the reader with the question what impact this act of revenge has upon the grieving mother.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Every word written here fit in a perfect story. I think if I could write with this sort of passion, it might make me complete. There are so many things I want to say about this story but it’s not necessary, every reader will find them and that’s what makes you a word artist, my friend.

    3. JosephFazzone

      An amazing story! I really connected with the character, he is me in some aspects at least with the late night, and being the satellite friend. I also really enjoyed how I felt bad for both characters, sad, and somber, but there was a beauty of forgiveness there. Just an outright awesome story, man. Thank you.

    4. Observer Tim

      This is deeply metaphorical and gripping, Doc. The transformation within the MC from self-destructive guilt to the sense of forgiveness is beautifully handled. What he needed to begin his healing was not forgiveness but a clear understanding that he wasn’t alone in suffering. Very nice! 🙂

  15. snuzcook

    DESTINY

    It’s been another stupid Saturday night in this backwater town–another stupid, boring week at my stupid, boring job fixing stupid, boring people’s stupid, boring copiers. I’ve always known I was destined for greater things. I’ve always known I was intended to make a difference in the world. But my parents were old long before I was out of high school and there was not much life left in them. They had only small plans and small expectations, and formed me to fit them. I grew up in too small a house, too small a school, too small a town, squatting in my too small a life while wishes and dreams buzz around my head like flies.

    The pizza should be here any minute. My usual. I sit here on my stupid, broken down couch waiting for the sound of the delivery guy’s scooter.

    There’s an open JUMP soda can on the table, which is not unusual, except that it’s full. Old Nanny Black stopped by when I was leaving for work and insisted on coming in. Just because we’re some kind of distant cousin on my mother’s side, and I rent this stupid apartment from her, she seems to think she can waltz in any time she wants, whether I’m home or not. I always know when she’s been here because she leaves bundles of twigs and bone and shell around. She’s a weird old lady. Some people say she’s a witch. I’ve been told she’s the granddaughter of some famous chief. My mother said she grew up on the rez up river like a hundred years ago when the town was just a bunch of houses around a trading post. Whatever, she seems to be fascinated with my life, my stupid, boring life.

    I could use the JUMP’s caffeinated carbonation right now. So what if it’s luke warm and probably flat. So’s my life. As I gulp down a few bitter and sweet mouthfuls of the stuff, I hear the scooter sputtering outside.

    Normally the sound makes my mouth water, like one of those stupid dogs. Today the familiarity of it just irritates me. I can just bust from the need to change. I open the door onto the tired, gray street and the tired gray, sky and tired, gray old Buzz Smith on his tired, gray delivery scooter that belches little burps of exhaust and dies. I am suddenly filled with rage.

    Buzz ignores the sidewalk and tromps right through Nanny Black’s flowerbed. I open my mouth to yell at him, but instead a huge CROAK explodes from me. A gust of wind out of nowhere sweeps dead leaves and litter into the air. Buzz gives a tiny yelp as the wind picks up his skinny body and his scooter and whisks them out of sight over the houses. I open my mouth again but instead of “what the fck” another huge CROAK comes out, and the wind strengthens. This time the houses themselves seem to disintegrate and disappear. Another CROAK erupts from me and the streets and cars and telephone poles are gone. All that is left is bare ground and a single figure, standing unphased by the wind, watching me. It is Nanny Black leaning on a crooked cane. She gestures, as if to say, ‘continue.’

    I try to hold it back, but another huge CROAK nearly tears my insides out, and instantly as far as I can see, a thick forest appears: Talk hemlocks and huckleberry bushes heavy with fruit and stands of fern as tall as Nanny Black. The air is thick with dampness and the fragrance bark and leaves and something more, life! I feel pins and needles all over my body. A cedar bark cloak covers me, and a heavy wood mask sits on top of my head.

    “Finally!” Nanny Black says. She raises her cane and does a pirouette. A cloak of glistening black feathers covers her body. She turns as if to leave, and looks back expectantly. I go to her in funny leaping bounds, and she leads me deep into the shadows of the trees.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I’m not so sure I’d like to be a hop toad, but your story was a gas and cute. Such imagination running through your brain. It was a very easy and happy read.

        1. snuzcook

          Thanks, Kerry. Personally I loved the visual of poor old Buzz and his burping scooter flying off into the air like Pecos Bill himself and picked them up and tossed them.

      2. snuzcook

        Thanks, Jay!
        I mixed so many different themes in this story–
        =the egocentric desire to wave one’s hand and make all the annoying parts of one’s world disappear,
        =the idea that an iconic spirit can reside within a person and eventually reveal itself (or be revealed by a powerful teacher) to fulfill its true destiny and power,
        =that we can limit ourselves by identifying too closely with our circumstances,
        =that the spirits of the earth will not long tolerate a toxic presence and will wipe it away

    1. cosi van tutte

      Hi, snuz!

      Great story! I love the repetition in the first line and the whole feeling of boredom and resentment in that whole first paragraph. And the last two paragraphs are absolutely magical. 😀

      1. snuzcook

        Interesting, Regis!
        I was drawing very loosely from the Pacific NW Coast icons of Raven as trickster and Frog as transformer. But placing Baba Yaga in this setting is fascinating–picture a NW Coast plank house on chicken (or duck?) legs like Baba Yaga’s house?

        1. regisundertow

          Aha! My mind went automatically to European fairy tales, but your inspiration gives the story so much more meaning. Still, why not have Baba Yaga, chicken-leg house and all roaming the great NW forests? Russia is just across the Pacific and it’s a new connected world.

    2. Observer Tim

      Very nice transformation story, Snuz. It’s nice that the MC doesn’t really figure out what’s going on, or that in order to enter a new world you have to get rid of the old one. Also, I love the feel that this change is just the first step on a longer journey. 🙂

  16. Kerry Charlton

    DOUBLE JEOPARDY, A CONTINUATION

    Synopsis: Dr. Montgomery, a mad scientist, and his star pupil, Brad Pennington have fought four wars, during which Brad’s wife, Piper, has been murdered before his eyes. In part four the battle was fought at the river front of Philadelphia, pre-civil wartime. What was to be a final battle between the two adversities ended when Brad‘s sister Jen threw a bowie knife across an alley, and it landed in the center of Montgomery‘s chest, as he leveled his sword to Brad‘s neck. Was he real or only one of his clones?

    Part Five
    FINAL REVENGE

    It had been two weeks since Jen had been kidnapped by Dr. Montgomery. The police, private detectives and even security forces at the university loaned to Brad, sitting chair of the science department, had scoured Philadelphia looking for clues. Brad read the crumpled note once again,

    ‘When you are contacted, you will have forty minutes to show, or I’ll slice Jen’s head from her body.’ And why had he not heard a word? Was she already dead?

    The doorbell rang twice. Brad answered without hesitation. A pizza delivery boy waited, “$11.65 cents please.” Brad stuck a knife through his gut and ripped upward. As the boy fell dead to the floor, Brad read the ticket,

    ‘If you’re alive to read this, you’ve won round one. Meet at the fisherman’s market at eleven tonight. M.’

    Brad pulled the boy’s face off and recognized his own image. ‘How many were there this time?’

    In his garage, sat a Range Rover, not unusual from the exterior. The university had issued it three months ago, feeling somewhat responsible for Montgomery’s continued madness. He had been chair of science and had gone unnoticed with his clone experimentation until Brad turned the professor’s secret experiment lab into the authorities.

    Putting the six hundred horsepower into drive, Brad choose an indirect passage to his meeting, for he understood the professor‘s madness completely. Still, two Hummers closed fast from the rear as Brad pushed two switches. As they drew closer, TV screens inside locked each vehicle in radar. First left and then right, rocket launchers appeared where tail light had been. Automatically released, Brad hit acceleration and the twin screens lit into fiery explosions.

    Two more Hummers appeared directly in front, charging at full speed toward his vehicle. Two more launchers disposed them quickly. Driving slowly between the wreckage, titanium reinforced tires gingerly climbed over smoking ruins and dead clones. Brad approached the area of Philadelphia most of the citizens had never seen and those that had, stayed away at all costs.

    Eighteenth century Philadelphia had hosted a fisherman’s market but 200 years of disuse had turned it into a no mans land teeming with the unwashed and the underbelly of the uncaring ’City of Brotherly Love.’

    In the background of what was jokingly referred to as ‘the square’ , sat a sixteenth century guillotine. As he observed with his night vision glasses, Brad’s sister Jen appeared, tied to the base with her head in the v-shaped holder under a blade attached to the top by a large hemp rope. As his eyes narrowed into vision, the man standing next to the instrument of quick, painless death, was none other then Montgomery himself. The hemp rope nestled in his left hand while in his right, gleamed a cavalry sword from the French Revolution days.

    Circling the still figure of Montgomery were twelve clones, six of the mad professor and the other six, exact duplications of Brad himself.

    [To Be Continued]

    1. cosi van tutte

      Yay! I’m so glad you returned to these characters, Kerry. It’s been a while since their last outing. 🙂 I hope you continue it. 🙂

      And just so you know: I’m not sure why, but I really like this phrase -> “…the uncaring ’City of Brotherly Love.’

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks cosi. I liked the phrase also and now I’m very comfortable with my characters and it’s easy to write about them. Part two is above with the final part tomorrow. Happy reading.

  17. undiscoveredWA

    Oh God. Here I was, another dreaded Saturday night. It’d been three weeks since I’d gone out on a Saturday. I couldn’t have a repeat of that Saturday. That one terrible Saturday. So here I was. Sitting in the living room that had slowly accumulated a multitude of stray socks, dirty dishes, and the lingering scent of leftover fried rice. All because I couldn’t face the Saturday night traffic. The traffic filled with drunk teens and irresponsible adults. The traffic that caused my wife to be in the hospital for nearly a month.
    Sighing heavily, I reached for the phone. Another night of pizza couldn’t hurt.
    “JJ’s Pizza, what can I get for you?”
    “Yeah, can I get a large meat-lover’s pizza? Actually make that two. And some Diet Coke.”
    “Yes, Mr. Lerman.”
    “Yeah, thanks.”
    I realize it probably isn’t good that the local pizza place knew my name and address already, but I guess it had been a kind of life goal. I may not have been to work in the past couple weeks but at least the pizza guy knew my name. A true accomplishment.
    Stretching my arm as far as I could without getting up I grabbed the remote and flipped the channel to America’s Funniest Home Videos. I needed some humor in my life. I craved it. These couple weeks had been tough, what without my wife, and my job hanging on by a thread. I couldn’t exactly repair roofing with a broken ankle and fractured wrist.
    As the minutes ticked away I grew more and more impatient for the pizza to arrive. Getting around the apartment was difficult with those damn crutches and even harder to stand in the kitchen and cook myself anything other than a microwave dinner. I desperately looked around for something to drink. There had to be something. The place hadn’t been cleaned in forever. Ah yes, an unopened can of ginger ale. I wasn’t really sure how it had gotten there as I hadn’t been to the store since my mother had come to check up on me and she didn’t believe in drinking pop.
    What the hell. I popped the tab and took a swig. Just then the door buzzed.
    “Damn it,” Groaning I heaved myself up and grabbed those annoying ass crutches. Meanwhile, Tom buzzed the door impatiently.
    “I know it’s you Tom, calm down for God’s sake,” I thought as I dragged myself through the apartment to let him in with my pizza.
    “That’ll be $10.85.”
    “Shit,” I tried to say as I had forgotten my wallet in the family room but what came out was totally different. A sort of croak. Only then did I realize it was the loudest, nastiest burp of my life.
    Tom looked at me with disgust only to bust out laughing. I couldn’t help myself, I broke out in laughter.
    “You better pull yourself together Mr. Lerman,” Tom said still laughing, “Lila comes home in three days and I don’t think this is what she wants to come home to,” and he nodded toward the pile of shoes and trash stacked by the door as I retreated to grab my wallet.
    “Will do, thanks Tom,” I said as i handed him the cash, “And thanks for the laugh.”
    “You have a good night, Sir.”

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a lovely tale of redemption for a man who is slowly falling apart. It’s nice to see a story that can subtly remind us that humour isn’t something you watch, it’s something that happens all around and you have to learn to recognize it. Now all has to do is pull up his sock and start picking up his socks… 🙂 🙂

      This guy could really use a knee crutch. I’ve been on one for four months now (broken ankle with extensive peripheral damage) and it’s really helped me get around. I failed Crutch 101 at the hospital because I can’t walk on my armpits. Can’t say much about the broken wrist; hopefully it’s on the same side as the ankle. 😉

  18. regisundertow

    Bit out of my comfort zone here as I actually tried to plan the story in its entirety before writing it, instead of seat-pantsing it via 57 drafts. Hope you enjoy.

    HUSH

    August grit and asphyxiating heat followed him into the house as he pushed the kitchen door open. Chaff clang stubbornly on the legs of his overalls, but it was the caked mud underneath his boots that forced his wife’s eyes to turn into saucers. She pointed at them, her arm thrusting and stabbing the air. When she realized he wasn’t looking at her, she stomped her own feet to grab his attention. He turned surprised, the basket of half-withered corn cobs spilling some of its contents on the now muddy floor, its surface now stained by dirt and grass and seeds. His brain made the connection, he eased the basket on the floor and rushed outside to the porch.

    The radio was turned on when he returned, classical music. He cleaned the mud off the floor and approached her. She was sitting at the dinner table, staring at the laptop and typing furiously. He brushed her cheek and squeezed her shoulder. She smiled in return but held a finger up. Her typing picked up pace, ideas struggling to materialize on the screen before they disappeared back into the ether, until finally a single emphatic stroke punctuated her thoughts. She turned to him and lowered her chin, her eyebrows forming question marks. He sneered. Same news as every day. She could read dying saplings on his chagrined mouth, a murderous heat on the copper map of his skin, and a dying crop in his steel-gray eyes. She stroked his salt-and-pepper shoulder-length hair and nodded, the ends of her lips struggling to rise. She brought the tips of three fingers together, thumb, index and ring, and motioned them towards her open mouth. He let a long sigh out and opened his right hand to reveal a tattoo in block letters; YES.

    She liked to sit on the porch in the evenings, when the heat became bearable, a tall glass of water with lemon and mint leaves (when she could get them) in her hands. He used to give her at least an hour alone before joining her. He believed it was necessary for a good marriage to have a date with your own thoughts, get to spend some time in your own head before coming up for air again. Nowadays, though, that was all most people could do, wander around in their own minds until they broke or became too comfortable in them. Kids…they got used to conveying concepts, arguments, abstractions with just a few flicks of their wrists and a nose twitch. They were brought into a world that was ready for them. His generation, though, had struggled. God knows they had struggled. He remembered wanting to shove his hand down his own throat and uproot the dead words out in those early first days. He remembered screaming without sound until his body lost the struggle and collapsed amongst splintering corn stalks, his timberless sobs like insult to injury.

    He also remembered her, a woman who had always felt more comfortable creating words with her fingertips than her vocal chords, cradling his head, her breathing feeling the void. He had focused on that breathing, its ebbing and flowing rhythm more beautiful than any poem, anchoring his sanity to this new quiet earth.

    He took his seat next to her and held her hand, as she gazed across the thinning fields. He stared at her, her body in quiet repose and tranquility, a thin film of sweat on her skin, and wandered how long they had together before the monster in her marrow took her away. She had tried to teach him how to use the laptop, but he barely understood the tractor computer, let alone that shiny gadget with its curves and total absence of angles. She insisted it was important, that it would help him get his own words across easier. Rediscover communication. He had thought she meant it would help him conduct his business, negotiate prices with younger buyers. Now, as he stroke her liver-spotted forearm, he wondered how fast he could learn.

    She heard it before he did. The glass shattered on the wooden planks and her hand went instinctively to her throat. He jumped up and pushed out his open palm at her. He only moved when she nodded, her eyes on the verge of weeping. He ran inside the house, picked up the shotgun from its closet, and disappeared into the fields. He could navigate with his eyes closed if he had to, but the sound split the night like thunder and showed the way clearer than a searchlight.

    The girl, she mustn’t have been more than 5, was sitting naked in a clearing where the sun had melted away the corn long ago. Her singing turned into a gasp as he broke through, his face ecstatic and glowering in equal measures. He didn’t break his pace, forcing her to retreat and shield herself, even as she squealed for help. He stood over her and furiously tapped his throat, then pointed at her.

    What do you want from me?! Who are you?! she screamed.

    The question hit him in the chest and dropped him to his knees. The world spun around him and he had to grasp the soil to steady himself. He let the shotgun slide from his shoulder to the ground. His right hand moved to his neck, pulling his collar down to reveal another tattoo that read ZECHARIAH JOHNSON. His left hand extended out.

    1. Observer Tim

      I note that when you’re uncomfortable it doesn’t impact some points of your style except to bring them into sharp focus. I love the tone of this; it’s like Kafka, or Philip K. Dick on a good day. All the little details help bring the story and setting into focus. The social comment is subtle but well-played; now I’m wondering whether the people silenced themselves and the fear is a social convention or if the silence fell on them due to an outside influence. Brilliant and thought-provoking: it belongs in an avant-garde Spec Fiction magazine. 🙂

    2. snuzcook

      Wow! So much implied here, so much told, so much left un’spoken’. Your prose is beautiful, Regis.
      I confess to being unsure of my interpretation of the broken glass. At first I thought it was broken by a sound–as if the voice of the child were an unworldly frequency that could break things from a distance, and that somehow that was related to the silence of the man and woman. Then I thought maybe she had thrown a rock at the house, in a child’s misguided way of reflecting a community shunning these two. They do seem to be in their own little world together.
      Intrigued…

      1. regisundertow

        Thank you, Snuzcook, I really appreciate it.
        The broken glass comes from the girl’s voice, it really is that powerful (hence the “splitting the night” bit). Re-reading that part, I can see it’s not clear enough, thanks for pointing it out (I should stop writing so late).
        The glass is a bit of a metaphor. In my back story, there’s deep communication issues between him and her that started way before the silence. The glass has been broken between them and they’re both trying to fix it in vain, although the silence isn’t helping things.
        I do like the idea though that they are outcasts in their community. Might be worth exploring.

      1. regisundertow

        Many thanks, Doc. The problem with not planning is that, when it works, you feel like the wizard in Fantasia; amazing things happen and you got no idea how. When it doesn’t work…well, you feel like the wizard after he’s messed up.

        1. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

          True, my only problem with planning is that when you go somewhere, it’s because you went there, not because the story went there. It’s a subtle difference, and people can argue all day that their story took the reigns, but at the end of the day, it was planned and obvious

          1. regisundertow

            I see, I see. For what is worth, my favorite authors tend to use a hybrid approach; putting post-marks on where they roughly want their story to end and then go wild drawing within the lines.

  19. Observer Tim

    A FROGGY MORNING

    The air conditioner’s busted again so I’m sweating like a pig. Mister Warner (I don’t think he even has a first name) says I gotta pay the rent or I’m out on the first. But for now it’s ten AM and I’m watching the TV. You might think a loser like me ain’t got cable, but I do. It’s what connects the rabbit ears to the back of the set.

    Anyway, like I said I’m watching the morning news through the static when I hear a knock at the door. I stand up and chuck back the last of the RC. Only after the stuff hits the back of my throat do I remember that I used that can to put out a cigarette.

    I call out, “Gak! Hck!”

    When I pull open the door a little man in a dark suit pushes in past me.

    “Hello sir or madam I represent the Dreams Come True Foundation where we make your dreams and wishes come true I can see you’re busy right now so I’ll…”

    I point at my throat.

    “…get right to the point our people have had our eye on you for quite some time and we know that you have an interest in music and we’re prepared to offer you…”

    I try to interrupt him but all that comes out is a rasp.

    “…a once in a lifetime opportunity to have the singing career of your dreams in exchange for a one-time payment of nine ninety-nine plus your immortal soul that’s right less than ten bucks and all your dreams of stardom can come true just imagine…”

    I grab his lapel and point at my throat.

    “…you could be a household name like Elvis or Prince or American Standard your voice could make you millions no billions and women would be fighting for your attention and you wouldn’t have to live in a small run-down apartment you…”

    I gesture like I’m strangling myself. He reaches around and slaps my back without missing a beat.

    “…could live in a large run-down apartment or even an apartment that isn’t run down with hot and cold running everything and your voice would be smooth and dynamic whenever you sing so whatta ya say pal are you willing to sign that paper and change your life?”

    He’s holding out a pen and a form with a big smile on his face. I think, what could go wrong, this guy just saved my life. I sign.

    “Thank you, sir. Enjoy your new singing career.”

    He shakes my hand and I try to thank him but it comes out wrong.

    “Crrrr-oooaaak!”

    He points me toward the hall mirror; staring back at me is a big green and yellow frog.

    “Enjoy your new life!”

    He steps out the door and pulls it to. Immediately I burst into song.

    Hello, my baby
    Hello, my honey
    Hello, my ragtime gal

  20. pauli101

    “Hello,” croaked out of my mouth when I opened the door and greeted the pizza delivery person. She got a strange looked on her face, and dropped the pizza there on the floor in the hallway. She pushed me back into my apartment and started putting her hands all over my butt, back, and up my shoulders.
    When she started getting too frisky, I was able to gather her hands and push her gently away toward the closed door behind her. We stood across from each other just staring. I was concern in saying anything for if I did will I croak, again?
    “What are you? My name is Pam.” Came out as a giggle from the delivery person’s mouth. I did not answer directly in fear I would cause her to swoon and raised my shoulders as I grabbed at my throat.
    I again gently pushed Pam aside as I proceeded to open the door to the hallway to recover my pizza off the floor. It was intact, no damage.
    Pam’s eyes followed and when she realized that she throw my pizza on the floor, she became very apologetic and offered it as free of charge, so I took her up on her offer with a nod of my head.
    As I entered the apartment she squeezed past me to leave. Pam’s embarrassment was red on her face as it hung low. Her giggling as she walked the hall, turning back asking the some question “what are you?”
    I shout the door behind her and laughed. Placed the pizza on the courter in the kitchen and proceeded to the bathroom and check out my throat and if I stilled croaked.
    My throat looked fine as I opened my mouth. I crooned a croak again as I spoke. I was looking in the mirror at my reflection when I swoon.
    Collapsing on the floor.
    I got up and croaked again; and I collapsed again.
    I became concern so I dashed out of my apartment in the walk-in clinic down the street.
    At the hospital, the nurse asked me my name and as I proceeded to answer I crooned a croak. As she swoon to the floor, she asked “What are you?” Being alarmed I turned and ran home.
    Once inside my apartment, I decided to eat my pizza and think about what has transpired this evening about my croaking and people swooning; and free pizza.
    Wondering if every time I croon if people will react the same. I decided that on Sunday I will try again.
    In church I crooned and everyone swoon. “I was king of the world!” I thought and I left happily croaking as I walked home watching people swoon.
    A month past and I just crooned my croak. I got rises in my pay. Women and men flocked. I was asked everywhere, and the people who invited me, paid for it all. No more weekends at home alone. The problem with this new life, it was getting old.
    I decide to stay home one evening. I was exhausted. I was wishing that I was normal again. I fell asleep on the sofa.
    A loud boom came from outside like a start of an earthquake. I woke abruptly and ran out of the building thinking I would meet others clamoring for their sanity. I was alone.
    As I walked back inside I tripped on a toy laying in the hallway and I left out a yell. No croaking. It was gone. I was back….

  21. cosi van tutte

    A lone figure stood underneath the street lamp. Her long fur coat was the color of night and her hair the color of new stars.

    She had seen him in the amphibian house at the Koolanka Zoo. It was one glance in one moment. She saw him.

    He did not see her. Not even when she followed him all the way home.

    And now, she was outside his home. Waiting for the right moment.

    And it came. With the smell of spoiled meat and soured milk, her moment came.

    “Gaah!” he yowled.

    She smiled and entered his house. The living room was empty. But she could hear him. His lovely voice trailed out from the kitchen.

    “I can’t believe it! Another dead fridge.” He slammed the rubber-rimmed door shut. “Why? Why can’t I keep a fridge longer than a month? Am I cursed? Do I have bad vibes that kill electric appliances?”

    She picked up his pop can and whispered a soft melody of warm water, fresh reeds, and neap tides into its insides.

    He strolled into the living room with his cell phone pressed against his ear. “Hi. Is this the Bingo Bango Pizzeria on West 12th Street?”

    She set the can back on the table and drifted into a shadowed corner.

    “Yeah. Well. I want a medium Macaroni In His Hat pizza with extra noodles and…What? No! I said a medium, not a Mondo Large. Me–di–um.”

    He was so close. So much closer than he had been at the amphibian house. She wanted to reach for him, feel his clothes, grab his hair, and whisper her melodies to him. But he could not see her. Not yet. And she could not touch him.

    Not yet.

    “Yes. Yes. No. No, I don’t want anchovies. No. Easy on the garbanzo beans. No. I don’t want a gallon sized Pepsi. Or a Coke. I don’t want any drinks.” He picked up his pop can. “Yes. No. Just the pizza. No breadsticks.” He swirled his can as if it were a fancy beer. “That is a good deal, but no. I just want my pizza.” He took a long sip. “Yeah. That’s my phone number and—” He scrunched up his face and rubbed his stomach. “—yeah. That’s my address. Ungh. How much?”

    The air conditioning came on and blew her fur the wrong way. She shivered and pulled her coat tight around her body.

    “Yeah. Thanks.”

    She leaned against the wall and watched him.

    He paced.

    He held his stomach and winced.

    He tried to tell himself that he was hungrier than he’d thought.

    He had himself almost convinced.

    But she knew the truth.

    And she watched.

    And she waited for what she knew would come.

    The doorbell rang. “Hey, dude.” called the voice on the other side of the door. “It’s the pizza dude.”

    He answered the door, paid for his pizza, and opened his mouth to speak. “RRRR-BIIIT.”

    The pizza dude stared through his limp blonde bangs. “Dude?”

    He cleared his throat. “Sorry. I meant to say, RRRRRRRRR-BIIIIIIIIT.”

    “Uhhhh, dude. You look totally unrighteous.” The pizza dude looked down at the money in his hand like he was thinking of giving it back. He stuffed it into his fanny pack. “You’re like turning green. That is so radically uncool.”

    “Turning RRRRRRRRR-BIIIIIT?”

    “Like, dude. This is so too far out for me. Later.”

    “Wait! RRRRR-BIIIT leave me! I don’t RRR-BIT what’s RRRRRRR-BIIT!” His body shrank into something small and long-limbed. He tried to speak English, but his words were all gone. Ribbits were his only language now and he ribbited with all of his might as if that could change anything. He frantically hopped around the room, ribbiting loud panic.

    She transformed into a tall, sleek, fox creature. Her heavy coat clung tight against her bones. She strolled over to him and gently scooped him up into her thin, bony hands. She sat back on her haunches and admired his new form. His body was a rich emerald color with a clean slick shine. A yellow star-spot marked the middle of his forehead. “You’re beautiful, my darling.”

    He stopped ribbiting and held still. His small heart pounded out a non-human rhythm.

    “I’ve been looking for someone like you.” Her opalescent eyes shimmered green and pink joy. “And I found you. And now you’re mine.” She put him into her narrow mouth and carried him out into the night.

    1. Observer Tim

      Why do I get the feeling this isn’t likely to work out to the MC’s benefit? Either that or becoming human again is going to be a lengthy and fascinating adventure. I love the way you mixed in just enough of the magical world to make the whole thing strange. Great job, Cosi. 🙂

    2. snuzcook

      I’m back, briefly, and I’m so glad that this is the first story I read on this post. You’re in high form, Cosi! Wonderful fairy tale tone to the story, lovely imagery. For some reason, the pizza dude dialogue didn’t quite feel right to me, but regardless, this story has got to be one of my favorites.

      Love the way you ended it! The image of a fox (or other predator character) carrying a frog unharmed in its mouth rings a bell, but I can’t for the life of me place the archetype it is pinging for me. Love it.

      1. cosi van tutte

        Thanks, snuz!

        I’m glad you liked it. As for what the ending reminds you of…It rings a bell with me too. Maybe something from a fairy tale? I’m not really sure. 🙁

    3. Beebles

      Loved the story, the gentle feel and the contrast between him and her. She put me in mind of a Miyazaki creature for some reason – probably the long fingers and the fur.

      1. cosi van tutte

        Thanks, Beebles!

        Your comment made me smile. Especially this -> “She put me in mind of a Miyazaki creature for some reason.” It’s a wonderful compliment. 😀

    4. ReathaThomasOakley

      Love your MC and the cross-species love story. For some reason as I read the first part I thought of Cat People, one of my favorite horror movies.

    5. regisundertow

      When I was a kid, I happened across an Eastern European animated movie that involved animals. It was a fairy tale, but shot in a way that was completely unsuitable for children. The darkness underneath the cuteness was almost too much and it messed with my little brain. Now, I tend to enjoy them. This story featured flashes of that same feeling. Go below the surface and terrible dark things are implied, and not just the “I’m gonna eat you” variety.

  22. SheepCarrot

    As soon as I’m through my apartment door, I kick off my shoes and call the pizza place for delivery. What a day! The weird nerdy creep from my psychology class—or was it history?—had the nerve to ask me out when I was trying to get him to write my term paper that’s due on Monday. I’m pretty sure I embarrassed him with my rejection, if the shade of red he turned was any indication, but seriously…he needs to stay in his league. You know—with all those girls that have braces, coke-bottle glasses, and the same complexion as the pizza that should be here any minute.

    I take a sip of pepsi from the can on the coffee table and make a face. It’s flat and warm…in other words, gross! It must be left over from breakfast….or dinner last night. I toss it the same time the doorbell rings. I check my hair and makeup in the mirror before going to the door. Kimberly said that the delivery guy yesterday was a total hottie, and I wouldn’t want to ruin my chances. She said he flirted with her, and everyone agrees that I’m so much prettier.

    I swing the door open and lean on the door frame. I can’t believe my eyes! Kimberly was right! I’ve never seen such a perfect specimen of masculinity before, like the gods combined all the best features of my favorite movie stars together into him just for me.

    He smiles and I want to swoon. “Pepperoni with extra cheese?” His voice is as beautiful as he is.

    I open my mouth to say something, but the only sound that comes out is a croak…not like I have laryngitis kind of a croak. No, a full froggy toad-like croak. I slap a hand over my mouth, my eyes wide. What just happened?

    “Are you okay?”

    I shake my head. I can feel the panic starting to rise, along with the humiliation of losing my voice in front of this gorgeous man. Maybe I can just whisper. Another croak.

    He frowns at me. “You’re starting to look a little green…”

    I spin around and run back inside, checking the mirror again. Sure enough, my skin is starting to take on a green tint, but that isn’t all. My features are changing—my nose is flattening out and my head is changing its shape. I hold my hands out to see webbing growing between my fingers. The whole while the world around me seems to grow around me though I get the feeling that I’m actually shrinking. I scream in horror but it comes out sounding like a bullfrog.

    The pizza guy is standing over me, and his hand descends and picks me up. He holds me up so I can see myself. I’m a frog…a big, fat, slimy frog! Not even one of those cute ones from the rainforest that comes in pretty colors. “You really shouldn’t be so quick to judge,” he says in a low tone. “You couldn’t see the good in that young man, and humiliated him after he spent weeks trying to get up the courage to even talk to you.”

    I blink my bulbous eyes and try to ignore the fly buzzing around the room. This can’t be real. I’ve got to be having a nightmare. I’ll wake up and everything will be fine.

    “You’re not dreaming,” he says, setting me down. “This can be undone, once your heart changes and you can gain his forgiveness.”

    I start hopping toward the door. I’ve got to find the nerd—I just know I can make him forgive me! The pizza guy’s voice follows me, his tone mocking. “He works at the new Chinese restaurant down the street! But I’d be careful if I were you—I hear frog legs are their specialty!”

    1. cosi van tutte

      😀

      Hi, Sheep!

      I really like this story. It’s a wonderfully twisted take on the Beauty and the Beast with excellent characterization and a great last line.

    2. Observer Tim

      I’ve heard of fairy godmothers before, but a fairy pizza guy? I guess it’s appropriate considering his dreamy appearance. Hopefully the MC leans her lesson. This is a very clever take on a classic morality story, SheepCarrot. 🙂

    3. snuzcook

      Nice, Sheepcarrot! Every good fairy tale has to have a clear moral message, and yours is ‘delivered’ right on time. Agree with other comments that this is a wonderful twist on the Frog Prince tale. And the irony of the Chinese Restaurant, like fighting a dragon to win true love, makes for great reader speculation. Well done!

    4. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

      A frog take on beauty and the Beast. I like the story, and your main character’s character, but i didn’t find it a little hard to swallow that she was able to handle the change so calmly, so to speak. Good story, carrot. Always a pleasure.

  23. turtles88

    Drip, my youngest frog comes to me and asks, “Hey, you got a ten? I need some money.”

    I glance over at him and look him up and down, “Why are you dressed like a homeless lumberjack?”

    He looks down at himself and fixes his shirt, “I told you already. Me and the boys are going down to the pond to get croaked.”

    I grab the remote and turn on the tv. I flip through the channels and stop on a technicolor show where I see Ben Cartwright shooting someone, “Why you want money? I thought the insects at the pond were free.”

    “They are, they are. I just need some money for the the pizza guy.” He gets up and walks around the coffee table and grabs my soda.

    I put down the remote, “Pizza guy?”

    Drip takes a long sip, “Yeah, I ordered some pizza. The pizza’s fifteen bucks and I got five.” He finishes off the soda and tosses the can behind his shoulder. It rolls underneath the armchair.

    I take out my wallet and give him seven dollars.

    He quickly counts it and frowns, “You only gave me seven. I said ten.”

    “That’s all I have.”

    Drip pockets the money and leaves, slamming the front door behind him.

    1. snuzcook

      This one made me think, Turtles! Definitely making a statement about parenting a teenager, but both characters come out a bit toady. Puts me in mind of transformation, and the way a parent can take on all the attributes they dislike in their changeling child. But then, that’s just my personal resonance.
      I enjoyed this!

    2. regisundertow

      This should have been pretty straight-forward, but, depending on your worldview, there are tons of things to take away from the story. And here I was, thinking this prompt was a waste of time, then stories like this come to change my mind-

  24. JosephFazzone

    The croak had echoed down the long corridor that led to my apartment. I covered my mouth in embarrassment. The delivery guy just stared at me. I felt the span of an infinite lifetimes rise and fall between the gaps in our conversation. He stood there looking at me, and I him. We were stuck in limbo.

    “Croak!” He finally said, and a click and whir was heard, and the delivery guy’s mouth opened wider and wider, and eventually, the servos could be seen along the jaw turning the mechanism past the point a normal jaw opened. A door opened in the back of his throat and out jumped an ordinary frog sitting on his tongue. It regarded me with its large coal black eyes.

    “Ri bit, croak, higgup!” The frog said.

    Imagine my surprise when my own mouth opened. The frog jumped into my mouth, and I could feel it open something in the back of my throat. I stood there in terror as I felt it work its way down my throat. After a moment, it came back, and I could hear a different frog this time who said, “Croak, croak, ribbit, higgup!”

    The other frog blinked, and then vanished into delivery guy’s mouth. It came back with a small black square and handed it to me. I felt my hand move even though I wasn’t controlling it. I retrieved the square and then placed it in my ear.

    “Now you can hear us, human”, the frog in the delivery guy’s mouth said.

    I couldn’t talk with my mouth cranked open, so I merely nodded.

    “I’m sure this is coming to as quite a shock”, the frog in my mouth said. “I must apologize for the inconvenience, you see every once in a while, we get lodged in the back our vehicle’s throat. We had to call out for pizza.”

    So that’s why I ordered it, I didn’t remember why I did, but that was all secondary to my bigger concern at the moment. A frog is driving me around town apparently.

    “We found a way to bypass your normal defenses, not all humans are good vehicles for frogs.” The delivery frog said. “We keep a close contact with those of us who have vehicles close by. I was happy to help get you unstuck, Tadipokus.”

    “Thank you, Ohi” Tadipokus said as he jumped back into my throat and slam the door.

    Slowly my jaw closed, and was back to normal. I rubbed my jaw for several moments before I said, “What the hell is going on?”

    “Since Tadipokus will be resetting the board soon, I see no harm in explaining”, the frog said shrewdly. He stared at me a moment, and then said, “Many moons ago, we reigned supreme over all the land in The Green Sphere, or as you call Earth. We were the first out of the water. We were the smartest, and the honor was ours. We took the land, and created a paradise. Then you humans and other creatures crawled out of the sea and at one point we lived in harmony. One day, a human named Eve had a run in with an idiot for a snake, she ate some fruit, and things got ugly. The balance was tipped that day, and the lust for knowledge overtook the placidity that humans had started out as. You no longer could find peace, or satiate the terrible hunger that knowledge never fills.”

    A fly buzzed by, at least two or three times past the frog who merely batted it away. And I was so hoping that his tongue would flip out, and snatch the bug out of the air. It would have been a more frog-like thing to do. This one definitely didn’t do that.

    “You took the world for yourselves, and hunted us down, worse you made us a plague in Egypt. We became the frog and not the prince. We were disparaged, and sought our revenge.”

    “In the early 1900s a man named Ford created a fully functional horseless carriage, and it dawned on Phyl Chloro, perhaps the greatest frog of our time, to exact our revenge. We found a way to integrate our technology into your bodies.”

    “You use us like cars?” I asked incredulously.

    “Well, sort of”, it said. “Some of you, yes, but some of you are used as a status symbol. Just like some humans buy fancy cars to show status, some of us like to jack into celebrities or athletes. That Jamaican sprinter is one such example. Elded Yellowspot, one of our greatest drivers of all time calls him his own.”

    “I got it!” Came a muffled voice from within my head.

    “Okay”, the frog clapped as he turned to walk back into the delivery guys’ throat. He stopped and he turned back towards me. “You are reliable model. Hopefully you won’t break down anytime soon. Sorry for the inconvenience. We now return you to your regularly mundane and boring existence. Enjoy the pizza.”

    He waved and disappeared back into the man’s throat. The mouth closed back to normal, and the delivery guy blinked and handed me the pizza.

    “That will be twelve fifty”, he said.

    I nodded and handed him the money. Thanked him, shut the door, placed the pizza on the coffee table, and slumped on the couch. My experience with pizza taught me to let it cool down some before eating so that I don’t burn the roof of my mouth. I turned on the TV, and saw that there was a documentary about frogs. I don’t know what drew me to the program, but I was hooked. Frogs sure are pretty cool.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is thought-provoking and surreal at the same time. The mental twist is clever, and the voice of the story brings back memories of some of my favourite SF from when I was a lad (e.g. the stories in “Fifty Short Science Fiction Tales”, 1963). This is positively awesome! 🙂

    2. snuzcook

      What a fun idea, JF! The things that could be happening in the most mundane moments, if only our memories weren’t wiped clean on the spot. And the retelling of history mixing evolution and Eden from the frogs’ perspective was quite clever!

    3. regisundertow

      This was indeed a lot of fun to read. It could have been self-conscious at parts, but you circumvented this with humor and irreverence. Loved it!

    4. ajhaughee83

      I think my favorite part was when the fly went past and the frog ignored it, truly showing how different these frogs are from the standard perception. Great detail and a very interesting read overall.

  25. Beebles

    Dunno about this. A bit hackneyed? What ‘dya think? Anyhow I really must get on.

    I live alone.
    There is a reason for that.
    There is a brown sofa in the living room of the flat. It is old fashioned, high with a valance to the carpet. It is stained yellow in places; the seat cushions mostly. The stains match the wall colour. It still smells of cigarette smoke if you press your nose firmly against it and inhale … deeply.
    The TV is on, making noise. Smiling people are winning money. They won’t have to live in a flat like this.
    In front of the sofa is a low narrow table of dark wood. It bears a Kim’s Game of objects. It draws my attention. Let’s play.
    There is a plate decked in crumbs from … ginger biscuits? A magazine sprawled with anorexic girls in clothes that are too expensive for the likes of you or me. There is a mug, soiled with the remnants of cheap powdered coffee. A pen and a newspaper with rings around jobs, local jobs. There are the pair of glasses I found under the sofa.
    And there is a can. A soda can. It is new; it wasn’t there when I came in. It is open. I kneel next to the table and bring my nose to its sugary mouth. I inhale … deeply. Cola. I examine the outer surface without touching it, without breathing on it. My heart skips a beat.
    There is lipstick on the rim.
    I pick it up and I take a moment to explore the bark-like pattern of the labia preserved on the metal, before licking it off with my tongue. Then I press my lips down around the mouth and drag them across the surface to remove every last vestige of the residue. Then I drink greedily. It only takes two deep gulps to finish it, tipping my head right back. I can feel the gases in mu stomach. I run my lips over it again to make sure I have it all.
    The doorbell makes me jump. I spring from the floor and I am at the door in three, four long strides, money at the ready. I know who it is. The delivery boy is young, wearing a fluorescent coat and woolly hat. He is breathless from the climb. He is slightly chubby.
    ‘Pizza for one?’ he asks and in response I offer him a huge belch, like a fat frog on a lilly pad on a stagnant pond. It smells of cola and hunger and contorts the boy’s flaccid face. I give him a note and tell him to keep the change. He departs eagerly and I quietly close the door and return to sofa.
    I freeze, a slice of pizza in my mouth and my heart in my throat. There was a noise from down the corridor. The shower has stopped and the latch rattles for a while before the bathroom door finally creaks open.
    ‘Just a minute!’ she calls.
    Scared, excited, I hurriedly collect the pizza and slide back under the sofa.
    As I said, I live alone.
    Just not here.

    1. Observer Tim

      Congratulations on totally twisting the story in just three words. The idea may be a bit hackneyed, but you pulled it off so well I don’t think anyone’s going to care. 🙂

      As a creeper, the MC is taking a pretty dangerous chance by answering the doorbell and assuming that the regular inhabitant doesn’t notice. I was going to call you on the use of the term ‘labia’ which is mostly used in a more specialized context, but on completing the story your MC is more likely to think of the term…

    2. snuzcook

      I admire the way you wrote your MC–the almost canine or vulpine sensual approach to the couch and particularly the soda can went from animal-like to down-right creepy. I like the descriptive terms you use that I found novel — the Kim’s Game (had to google Kim’s Game) array on the table, the labia of lipstick. I grew a brain cell or two with those and found them spot on. Love the twist at the end.
      Didn’t feel frog-like to me at all, but that was irrelevant to enjoying your story.

  26. Pete

    Brock Blumenthal sat half submerged in a kiddie pool. Puddles of the murky creek water shimmered with sunlight flooding through the open windows. It was a gorgeous Saturday afternoon and the apartment was brimming with flies.

    The flies were due to the assortment of Domino’s pizza boxes on the coffee table. The pizza was part of a settlement resulting from scalding hot marinara sauce that had left Brock with calloused vocal chords and mangled tongue that slipped in and out of his mouth without control, and the creek water was from two blocks away, complete with lilly pads, sticks, and tadpoles.

    Brock’s mother stopped by once a month to get things in order. While she couldn’t stomach a sponge bath, she was content to spray her amphibious son down and get his bills squared away, dumping in a fresh couple of Mountain Dew bottles of creek water. For this she took a very modest cut of his settlements. For her troubles.

    It was a shame what he’d been through after all, starting with those lesions and skin condition derived from some odd, still-to-be-determined locker room fungus. How it happened on Homecoming at that. Then came the pizza burn, followed by a slew of other freak accidents that had her all but convinced that grandchildren were out of the question. And it was a shame too, she thought, eyeing all the trophies on his shelf.

    Brock didn’t feel like much of a star. His back was itching and his skin hurt. His mother had been by yesterday, but he was sure the half empty bottle of Mountain Dew wasn’t hers. His tongue whipped out of his mouth. Just the thought of that divine green bottle made his warts pulse. The sweet taste and sugary kick were enough to make his tongue flicker. But then again, Brock had never, so far as he could remember, left an unfinished bottle of Mountain Dew to sit and flatten. He lunged for the dew when the doorbell rang.

    Brock’s eyes widened. Two full moons on either side of his leathery head. Brock hopped to his feet, splashing lilly pads and trailing water to the door. This better be the pizza, he thought, and no screaming delivery boys this time.

    Mom. Again. All worked up as she brushed past and snatched up the remote. Brock tried his best tell her that he was watching a Friends marathon but could only manage a croak.

    “Oh hush Brock. Wait ‘til you see this. The Prince is in town!”

    The Prince. It was enough to make his tongue stick. Brock plopped down into his pool with a splash.

    “Hey. Watch your tadpoles.”

    “Ribbit.”

    “Rribbit,” he slurred again as she pointed to the screen. A fluff story about Edward Swinney, the local boy gone Hollywood. Another Movie? And they still were still calling him “the prince”?

    Come on. Eddie Swinney was nothing more than a drama geek. Back when Brock was the quarterback. Before his skin took on the texture of Rice Krispie treats. The one he’d heckled from day one in gym class. Weggied relentlessly. Teased and harassed and never did a thing about it until Homecoming when his own date, Jill Haley, inexplicably walked over and kissed him, on the lips no less, and catapulted him into stardom.

    Brock flopped around in his pool. Eddie looked to have grown a few inches and beefed up considerably. And the babe with him, smoking hot. He scooped up the runaway poles with webbed hands—a rare skin condition triggered by bad batch of hand lotion. His own mother gazed at the TV with stars in her eyes.

    “He is a good-looking boy, you gotta admit.”

    Brock felt his chest expand.

    “Oh don’t get all puffed up about it,” she said, shutting off the television. “Think of all the luck you’ve had, with the settlements and such.”

    She tossed a hand back to him. “And your skin, it’s looking…” She wasn’t even looking. Still eyeing the hunk on television.

    Brock groaned.

    A commercial break. She stood, wandered to the door. “There, there, now you just sit back. I’ll go get you some more creek water. You’ll always be my prince, Brock.”

    1. Observer Tim

      This story is both entertaining and disturbing. It seems obvious that something else is going on behind the scenes, and now I find myself wishing there was a continuation to tell me either [a] why this happened to Brock, or [b] how he ends up getting over it. It would work nicely as a cross between “The Frog Prince” and “Beauty and the Beast”; I suspect Jill is somehow behind it, but can’t tell for sure. 🙂

    2. regisundertow

      There’s something about this story I can’t put my finger on. It reminds me of other things I read, but it’s without doubt unique. I think this is the mark of a tale that sticks with you. There’s a certain disturbing atmosphere about this, hiding between sentences and within the vibe that I find very alluring.

  27. jhowe

    Two Saturday’s ago, at 9:45 PM, S. Hack sat in his living room, watching On Demand yoga; the one with the Swedish chick. The doorbell rang and he opened the door, knowing it must be the pizza delivery guy. He blinked when he looked out and saw a woman sitting on his couch, in his house. How could he be looking out, into his own house?

    “It’s about time,” she said, her head tilted, coquettish vibes abound.

    “Uh…” S. Hack said, transfixed by the blond wearing a white yoga outfit.

    She rose gracefully and took the pizza box he held. “How much do I owe?” she said, her accent divine.

    “Uh…” he said, looking behind him and seeing his living room and the empty couch. The yoga chick on the TV swayed her hips and tented her fingers, humming. He looked in and there she was, in person, standing expectantly.

    “I’m afraid I have no cash,” she said, pouting. “What are we to do?”

    “Uh…”

    “I know,” she said, reaching behind S. Hack and pushing the door shut. In his living room now, the proper one, he thought, he sat on the couch.

    “Uh… I’m S. Hack,” he managed to stammer out.

    “He speaks,” the yoga chick said, smiling with brilliant white teeth. “I’m Maya.” She snapped her fingers and music started, really cheesy new wave stuff. She started with truck twisters. “This is a wonderful exercise, a good warm-up. Won’t you join me?”

    “Uh…” he said. She grabbed his hand and pulled him up. Together they twisted.

    “On your hands and knees, S. Hack.” Maya had to push down on his shoulder to encourage him. His knees cracked loudly. “Downward Dog,” she said, lifting his torso into a concave arch.

    “Ow,” he said.

    “That’s good. Now lift up your left leg.” He did, kind of. He posed on hands and knees, his leg in the air. “Now bark,” she said, giggling. “Just kidding, you’re doing fine.”

    After the lesson, she took a slice of pizza from the box and bit into it. She cocked her shapely hip. “I hope you enjoyed that – perhaps it suffices for payment?”

    “Uh… ok,” he said. She walked him to the door and he went through, into his living room.

    “What just happened?” S. Hack said aloud after the door was shut, and then shouted it again. On TV, Maya arched her back, her pelvis protruding. She winked. When the credits started rolling Kerry shook his head and then he scratched it. He picked up the remote and chose another yoga show, Crown Chakra Yoga this time. As Maya started to sway, he took another long pull from the Jim Beam bottle and waited for the doorbell to ring.

    1. ShamelessHack

      For the record: The “S. Hack” that jhowe features in the story above is NOT Shameless Hack, author of the story below.
      jhowe is referencing his cousin, Shiftless Hack, a lapsed alcholic running for Congress.
      Shameless Hack is a reformed Hare Krishna, currently under house arrest in West Texas.

      1. jhowe

        By all means I was referring to Shiftless Hack. Who else? Did you notice I have Kerry’s name in the final paragraph? I’ve featured him before, so I changed all the names but that last one, which I missed, to S. Hack aka Shiftless Hack.

    2. Observer Tim

      Given how well this fits with Hack’s story, astounded either by the serendipity of it or by your ability to write and post the whole thing in 5 minutes! 🙂

      This is clever and entertaining as usual, JHowe. Very nice. 🙂

  28. ShamelessHack

    Once upon a weekend dreary,
    While I pondered weak and weary,
    Wond’ring when my pizza would show up here at my chamber door.
    While I nodded, half besotted,
    Having smoked a joint of pot-ted,
    Suddenly the doorbell rang out,
    As it had those times before.
    “Finally!” I thought I swore,
    But words did not from my mouth pour:
    Just a “croak” and nothing more.

    “Wht th hll,” I tried to speak,
    But sounded like a rasping freak,
    Straight away I stumbled forward, forward to my chamber door.
    “Hly Jsus,” I did utter,
    “O fk ths sht,” I did mutter,
    “Ths is Klem’s flt,” I did stutter,
    Here I opened wide the door—
    Pizza, pig and batting eyelids,
    Stood there in the open door:
    A female pig, dressed like a whore.

    “Hello there, you handsome frogga,”
    Said the hot pig with the pasta,
    “Got your mushrooms and anchovies,
    Pepperonis and much more.”
    There I stood my face a-sweatin’,
    Fearing truths that kept me frettin’,
    Finally the facts they set in:
    Now I’m Kermit, nothing more.
    Now I’m just an am-phi bi-an,
    Standing at the open door,
    Who owes the pig $12.84.

    “Keep the change, hon, from this fifty.”
    The pizza pig was sexy, pretty,
    Suddenly I felt a stirring,
    Below my waist–above the floor.
    “Oh wow Kermit,” said Miss Piggy,
    “You’re excited now to see me,
    And I can see your tadpole teeny,
    See it clearer than before!”
    Then I looked down at my tadpole:
    It was puny,
    That’s for sure.

    “Sorry Piggy, ‘though I wanna,
    My frog body just ain’t gonna.”
    “HMPH!” said Piggy, much offended,
    Not used to this kind of flaw.
    Then she grabbed the pizza’s edge,
    And took it to the window’s ledge,
    Then tossed the pie into a hedge,
    And turned her wrath on me once more.

    “So long, Kermit,” she was puffin’
    “All you frogs are good for nuttin’
    Girls like me deserve a winner, not a toad like you, you bore.”
    When she left, my grief was keener,
    Left me crying tears much greener.
    “Oh Miss Piggy, please come back here,
    I’ll do better than before.”
    But the silence that she left behind her at the open door,
    Sure was quiet, nothing more.

    Now I contemplate my Visa,
    Missing Piggy and my pizza,
    Knowing now I messed up bigger, huger than I had before.
    Salty tears ran from my eyelids,
    Dreams were shattered, yea’ they died big,
    Hopes of baby pig-frog hybrids,
    Flew like ghosts right out the door.

    And now my soul, turned green with sorrow,
    Croaking on my chamber floor,
    Shall be lifted, nevermore.

  29. ShirleyVegas

    Frog In Your Throat
    “Come on! Where are you?” I checked the clock for the umpteenth time. “Thirty minutes or less” they said. Where was he? It had been twenty-seven minutes since I made the call.
    I placed the remote beside me on the couch, I was too nervous to even look at the TV anymore. I glanced at the clock, again. Twenty- eight minutes.
    What the hell was I going to say to him anyway? He was just so cute. The way he drew the little smiley face instead of a dot over the i in his name, Kris. Only last time it wasn’t a dot, it was a little heart. Did he like me too?
    I looked at the open wine bottle on the counter, one glass already poured, next to an empty one. If he didn’t accept my offer of a glass of wine, as he usually placed my pizza on the counter, it would at least let him know I was interested, wouldn’t it? If the feeling was mutual he’d take the hint, right? He’d ask me out, right?
    Suddenly my mouth was dry. I swallowed. Nervously, I took a swig from the soda can on the coffee table.
    “Groooh!” What the heck was that? It tasted nasty! Like an idiot I took another gulp just to make sure. I looked at the can, just a regular Pepsi.
    The doorbell rang. Oh my God, it’s him! I exhaled deeply, took an extra deep breath and walked purposely to the door, catching my reflection in the hall mirror, I looked amazing. I opened the door, it was him. He smiled that Colgate smile at me.
    “Hi Ashley.” He beamed.
    “Brrrowwk!” I smiled back demurely. Hang on a minute, what did I just say?
    “You okay?” His face bore a puzzled look.
    “Brrrowwk!” I replied. What? That was supposed to be” I’m fine, how are you!”
    “Okay Ashley.” He thrust the box at me, for me to sign the credit card slip. He never did that!
    I reluctantly accepted the pizza, and signed my name. I generously gave him a ten dollar tip, what else could I do? He took the slip from my hand.
    “This is my last shift.” He informed me. “I have finals coming up. I have to hit the books hard. I was going to ask you if you wanted to see a movie with me.”
    “Brrrowwk!” I responded.
    “Well there’s no need to be such a bitch about it! You could have just said no.” He turned and walked briskly toward the elevator. I watched as the doors slowly closed behind him.
    I eyed the Pepsi can on the coffee table.
    “Don’t put it in the fridge! You’ll drink it!” Meghan had warned me.
    “No I won’t!” I argued.
    It was just a gag, designed to find the thief who had been stealing my sodas from the office refrigerator.
    “Well it works.” I tried to say, but all that came out was “Brrrowwk!”

    1. Observer Tim

      She could have salvaged that one by grabbing her throat or faking distress or something like that… It’s worked on guys forever. 😉

      But that said, it’s a beautiful example of what happens when two different subtle plans collide, and a well-told story. The dialogue could use a wee bit of tightening, and I’d love to see extra spaces between the paragraphs, but all in all a good job! 🙂

      1. ShirleyVegas

        I did have more dialogue Tim, that’s normally my favorite part of writing, but I chopped it to make it fit into the 500 word criteria. I wanted to say more about the coke can too, but it had to go! Thanks for your comments. appreciate the feedback. 🙂

    2. ajhaughee83

      I loved this! You did a great job showing how a girl would be thinking in this situation. I totally felt her pain! And it was clever how you explained the frog voice. Nice job!

  30. ReathaThomasOakley

    Sarah, the 1905 Girl
    (525 words)

    Sarah clutched her throat and staggered out the back door to the garden where her aunts Mildred and Edna were. She tried to scream, but made no real sound, just a feeble croak. As her aunts rushed forward she felt herself falling, falling.

    “Sarah, Sarah Girl,” as if through a veil she saw Edna standing over her and realized she was on the kitchen table, struggling to breathe. “That’s good. Now listen, we gotta do somethin’ what’s gonna hurt some, so you gotta breathe in what Mildred’s got.”

    Sarah tried to turn away from the burning leaves under her nose, but Edna was holding her head, and soon she stopped struggling. As if in a dream she could hear her aunts.

    “Cane juice, that’s what’s in the jug. Why’d she drink it? Cut me off ’bout a foota that rubber tube from the still. Knife sharp yet?” Mildred’s voice, but the words didn’t make sense.

    “There’s the sweet tater pie what Winnie promised. Reckon the juice was left with the pie and Sarah brought ’em both in.” Sarah tried to speak, to ask what this all meant.

    “Lie still, Girl. We gotta do this, breathe in again. I know it’s hard, but you gotta little time ‘fore your throat’s all closed up.”

    Sarah tried to take one more deep breath, was suddenly aware of a quick, sharp pain in her throat, and then sweet, fresh air filling her lungs.

    “Sarah? Girl? It’s ’bout over. In a bit I’ll stitch you up, but for now you jest breathe.” Sarah felt loving hands wiping her face with a cool, damp cloth. When she awoke again, she was in her bed, Mildred and Edna sitting next to her.

    “What…” she tried to ask, but the word sounded strange.

    “Don’t try to say nothin’ yet,” Edna took her hand and smiled. “For a while you gonna sound like that ole bull frog out back.”

    “Girl, you gotta listen to us,” Mildred stood. “I’m afeared that Horace done opened up some bad things. We heard tell of a white woman runnin’ through the cane brakes, a white woman with yeller hair.”

    “And folks call us ‘witches’…” Edna interrupted.

    “Hush,” Mildred whispered to her sister. “Girl, we think it’d be best you go home, back to the hills.” Sarah shook her head. “Or, up to Cassadaga, we got kin there.” More head shakes.

    “Or,” Edna started, then hesitated. “Or, you know we can help you like we do other gals, like yore mam and her mam does. We all know how to help gals in trouble.”

    Sarah clutched her still flat stomach, and turned away from her aunts.

    “No,” she said and the word came out clear. “Never.”

    “Well, you think on it,” Edna said. “Get yoreself some sleep. We gotta clean up the kitchen.”

    “And, don’t never eat nor drink nothin’ ‘cept what we give you,” Mildred added as they left the room.

    Sarah kept her face turned to the wall.

    Oh, Horace, she thought as tears rolled down her face, oh, Horace, how could our love be so bad. What’s gonna happen to us and to our baby?

    1. ajhaughee83

      I think you did an excellent job of putting personality into the dialogue. And enough accent to make it interesting but not too much so that it was confusing.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks so much for reading and commenting. A bit of explanation for newer contributors. I posted my first story here, set in 1960, on Feb. 2, just checked, and introduced The Girl, a great granddaughter of this Sarah. Since then most of the weekly stories have been about this family. However, I’m not as skilled as Reaper, so not all have been.

    2. Observer Tim

      Very nice, Reatha. I love the way you gave us the events on the surface and told the story in the background; that’s a hard technique to pull off and you did it masterfully. I’m really enjoying both the episodes and the overarching story. 🙂

      While reading this a thought struck me: you have two settings for this story now, 1905 and 1960 (or so). I wonder what’s happening now, or if the story is firmly rooted in bygone days…

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks, Tim. I haven’t abandoned the Girl from 1960. When I last saw her it was 1970, she and her cousin, the museum director, have discovered Sarah’s skeleton in the attic of the historic house museum. I’m trying to get to Sarah’s murder, then hopefully I can move back to the attic. However, I liked the Girl better in 1960, rather than 1970. Next week? Who knows.

    3. snuzcook

      I’m loving these characters, Reatha, and the (for me) delightful invocations of magic and destiny and karma. Your stories have wonderful dimension and density–dagwood rather than tuna (forgive me–must be time for breakfast). Well done!

  31. Observer Tim

    ANOTHER PLACE

    “…no tribble at all.”

    As the closing credits start I look up at the clock. Where is he? A girl needs a big hot Hawaiian on a Saturday night; if he doesn’t deliver in two more minutes it’s free. I take a swig from the can on the coffee table.

    Wait, didn’t I order some sodas with the pizza because I’m all out? Where did this can come from? And what the heck is Redworld Cola?

    Lightning fills the apartment like a giant flashbulb and the whole place shakes. When I can see again the lights are out. Great. Hopefully I can still get Netflix on my laptop.

    There’s a knock on the door. It’s probably a neighbour; no way the pizza guy could climb to the fourteenth floor in the dark that quickly. I shout an acknowledgement.

    “Glaahack!”

    Something’s stuck in my throat! My panic is heightened by the sound of a fierce wind. Is it getting colder? My balcony door shatters outward off its hinges. It’s bloody freezing!

    The hallway door bursts open and a man in a TV-style space suit rushes in. I don’t care where the costume party is; I gesture toward my throat and gasp. He’s rushing toward me as I black out.

    I wake up on a cot in some kind of storage room. The space suit man is fussing over me; his helmet and gloves are off and his fingers are pressing lightly against my neck.

    “Eighty-five. Oh, she’s awake.”

    “Thank God.” A dark-skinned woman, also in a space suit with no helmet, is coming over. “Are you all right, Miss?”

    “I think so. What happened? Where am I?”

    “You’re in a storage locker.” She points at the man. “He’s Peter, I’m Sela. You’re going to be all right; we just have to find you a suit.”

    “A suit? I have a couple in my closet…”

    The man raises an eyebrow. “An environment suit?”

    “Ix-nay, Peter…”

    “Don’t bother, Sela, she’ll find out soon enough.”

    I look between them. “Find out what? Did terrorists attack?” That would explain a lot.

    “No, dear. You’re on Mars.”

    “Mars? Yeah, right; what’s really happening?”

    The woman looks at me seriously. “What’s your name, Miss?”

    “Tabitha Smith; my friends call me Tab.”

    “Stand up, Tab.”

    I do. My balance is way off and it feels like I weigh practically nothing. I stumble and start falling very slowly until Peter catches me.

    He smiles paternally. “One-third gravity.”

    “How did I get here?”

    “We don’t know. There seems to be some kind of space-time anomaly generator that draws things here. We’ve found a sailing ship, several aircraft, and even a dead mammoth. Your apartment appeared while we were exploring the place; lucky for you it did.”

    “Why?”

    “Because the Martian atmosphere is only one percent of Earth’s, and that little bit’s almost all carbon dioxide. On top of that the temperature’s around minus ninety.”

    I take that in. The whole situation is too weird to even freak out over.

    “Okay, how do I get home?”

    “Unless this thing is somehow two-way, you wait for the next supply ship, which will be in four months.”

    “Just a second. How did you two get to Mars?”

    “We’re part of the colony mission.”

    “Colony mission? But nobody’s been to Mars yet!”

    “We got here nine years ago. What year is it, Miss Smith?”

    “Twenty-thirteen.”

    He gulps. “Then you’ve been transported in time as well. We’re over a hundred years in your future.”

    Okay, now it’s too much. I start giggling. “Do you think they kept my pizza warm?”

    1. ajhaughee83

      Two things I absolutely love (1) Star Trek reference. Ten points. (2) I love how you went in a completely unexpected angle and started to delve into a new world you created.

    2. snuzcook

      Nice one, Tim! Great way to tie in previous prompt stories. I was really a bit worried about your MC’s situation until the last line. Clearly, she’ll be okay. OR she’s already gone round the bend…

    3. regisundertow

      Tabitha Smith of Mars, has a nice ring to it 🙂
      I like how it used the prompt as a springboard for something so unexpected and different. Great job in referencing the Bermuda prompt as well, that would explain a lot, although I was hoping for another story regarding the ship in the cave.

        1. regisundertow

          Really looking forward to seeing where this is going, then. I love the implication that there is a whole world connected via time avenues superimposed on ours and that traversing them is normal for certain people or beings.

  32. Bushkill

    Frog in Your Throat
    word count: 506

    Something was keeping me down. I was depressed, not myself, struggling to find my place in the world. It’s as if I were in a fog.

    I had let things go a little. Or had I? Who could tell? I mean, I couldn’t exactly remember how it was supposed to be anyway.

    I walked past the kitchen noticing the over large pile of dishes storming up out of the drain to seize the corner. It had already knocked over a phalanx of empty bottles and was reforming for an assault on the toaster and coffee pot. The neutral zone around them had already been breached. It was only a matter of time.

    I sighed and grabbed the remote. Turning the tv on, I slipped into a mind-numbing viewing until hunger gripped me and I was forced to find food. The kitchen says no and it only takes a moment to dial the local pizza delivery joint for a pie.

    As the time ticks by, I reach for a soda on the coffee table. Here too, a phalanx of cans stand in honor guard fashion. I raise and shake each nodding happily when I feel something finally slosh around in one of them.

    As I upend the can, the doorbell rings and I gulp the rest. Sniffing and snuffling to wipe the soda that had sprung forth from my nose in the excitement, I head to the door, coughing between each sniff to clear my throat.

    When I open the door my eyes are watering from the effort and I am bathed in a transcendent light. My pizza has arrived and it is by far the lesser of my two interests. For holding the cheesy goodness is a brown haired, brown eyed, blue shirt and khaki clad goddess. Her hair flows from under her ball cap and washes over her shoulders like a tropical waterfall. Her eyes sparkle, I think they sparkle because mine are still slightly awash in pain induced tears, and I am left breathless. Or more so, since I had been choking a moment earlier.

    When she told me what I owe it was as if a chorus of angels were singing, so precious the sound of her voice. I am overcome. I say thank you, but all I can muster is, “CROOOOAAAKKKK.” I grab my throat as she tilts her head sideways with a curious look.

    I try again, “Ribit.” Horror washes over me and I gasp for air, futilely. I sink to my knees holding my throat while my brown haired goddess springs into action. She assumes the Heimlich position. Her third attempt jacks me up off my knees and rockets my head back into her belt buckle I saw stars surrounding the small tree frog arcing from my throat.

    She squats to see that I am alright and I am again unable to speak as her beauty startles me into silence. A wry smile flashes across her face and she leans forward and kisses me, “Till we meet again, my Prince.”

    1. Observer Tim

      If she was a regular delivery person I’d order pizza more often regardless of the carbs. Plus she knows first aid and has a sense of fantasy! This is an enjoyable and fun take on the prompt, Bushkill! 🙂

    2. snuzcook

      I’ve never read a more accurate description of my kitchen during overlapping ‘projects’! I greatly enjoyed your superlative style here, Bushkill!

  33. Reaper

    Chapter the 28th. Trying to think of a second story for Jay on this one.

    In the Beginning – Parole

    One of Peter’s few joys was the television in his single bed “apartment”. Only the most politically correct of terms in this not prison for those deemed mentally unfit by the beautiful people of normal society. Peter thought the term crazy as a shit-house rat needed to come back into style. He had never been politically correct, by any stretch of the imagination. Probably why he was going to survive while most of the planet burned.

    That was not something Nicole or her now defunct husband told him. No, this information came from a different source. Saturday mornings he sat down to the different religious programming on his television, which sat unused for most of the week. Saturday’s were reserved for getting right with God though. The rest of the week, Peter spread His word. Even a dutiful servant needed his faith replenished on occasion though.

    It was a Saturday, much like this one, when one of the televised prophets first spoke to Peter. Telling him that he would survive this coming storm if only his faith was strong enough. Since then the preachers looked directly at him and imparted personal messages more and more often. Even that couldn’t keep him tuned in though.

    The Word was too big for one man to spread. Unless that man was Peter. He did not know if it was the medication they insisted he take, the power of the message, or just the onset of adult ADD, but the talking heads would speak, in cryptic messages, of the prophecy for a moment and then move on to the boring pleas for money. When that happened, Peter changed the channel.

    He sat, waiting for his pizza. On Saturdays the orderlies (guards, his mind insisted) allowed him to eat in his room. He always asked for pizza, and they always brought him the shoe shaped instant variety that chewed like leather and tasted like old shoes.

    He reached down and took a sip of the soda on the table in front of him, as he changed the channel again. His didn’t remember obtaining it, normally cans were forbidden. He also wasn’t a fan of cherry-lemon-lime. It wasn’t in a box though, and beggars couldn’t be choosers. He was setting the can back down when the knock came at the door.

    Peter kept himself from singing, “Pizza, pizza, pizza” as he rushed to the door. He flung it open with a smile. Then he croaked instead of speaking.

    Nicole stood on the other side, smiling and holding his street clothes. He was sure she must be a delusion. Then the smell of her perfume hit him, and her voice a moment later. She held the clothes out to him.

    “Special dispensation to let you live with the daughter of a holy man. I need your help, so it’s time to go home. Your ministry work will continue when you attend group sessions.”

    Peter croaked again. He wanted to dance but a little, happy hop was all he could manage. A few minutes, a change of clothes, and an electronic ankle-bracelet later and he was on his way back into the war.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      I really liked the descriptions of the TV preachers. I don’t think the ones on now are as entertaining as those in the past. Before I think about the story content I need to reread previous episodes. I still don’t know how you keep up with everyone.

    2. SheepCarrot

      I’m constantly amazed at how you’ve been able to work every last prompt into your storyline so seamlessly. The weirder the prompt, the more I look forward to how you manage to incorporate it. Love it!

    3. Observer Tim

      This one is particularly well done, Reaper. I like the tiny little social commentary in the first paragraph and Peter’s sense of anticipation plus ‘go with it’ attitude. It seems to fit well the the bigger story, too. 🙂

      I am curious how you’re going to fit all this together at the end; that will be a tremendous exercise of the writer’s craft as well.

    4. snuzcook

      Your wonderful talent from introducing characters from the inside out is always a pleasure to read, Reaper. I look forward to each installment as they evolve around the prompts. Love the fact that they are written in the prompts, but not of the prompts… ;0)

    5. regisundertow

      Beautiful, as always. I got a Cape Fear-vibe, with Peter biding his time until he got released. I get the feeling whatever hardship he endures (pizza benefits aside) must be justified in the face of the atomic bomb he’s planning to drop once out.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Damage is afoot with Perer on the street again. There is no way in hell I could keep up with this. Your mind must work with more coga and wheels then I have. I may have whirley -gigs like you do , but not the encyclopedic brain to go with it. I liked the easy taste of this chapter, especially the preachers learning tio speak directly to him through a mass media. You need to teach a class in memory power. I will be your fiest eager pupil.

  34. Trevor

    Word Count: 530

    Unwanted Attention

    It was just a normal Saturday night. I was camped out on my worn-out couch, binge watching cheesy horror movies on Netflix, a Domino’s pizza on its’ way to my apartment. It had been a very hectic week at work and I decided that I earned a late night of fake blood and bad acting.

    When I heard the familiar buzz of the doorbell, I started toward my door. But as I forced myself off the couch, I noticed something on top of my TV set. I had been so focused on watching Jamie Lee Curtis run for her life that I hadn’t noticed it.

    A can of Coke. I didn’t remember opening up a can or leaving it on the TV. But hours of mindless movie watching had numbed my common sense, so I thought nothing wrong with the peculiarly placed can. I grabbed the can and took a quick swig before hurrying to meet the pizza boy at the door.

    “One pepperoni pizza, dude.” The young, greasy haired teen said when I opened the door. “That’ll be 10 bucks.” The boy handed me the hot pizza box and I set it down on the couch. It took some time, but I finally found a $10 bill in my underwear drawer.

    “Thanks, man.” The delivery boy replied, a broad smile on his face. I tried to thank the young man for his friendly service, but instead of a relaxed, “No problem,” a loud croak escaped my throat. My hands flew to my throat, alarmed by the sound that just came out of it. But meanwhile, the young teenager at the door giggled.

    “Nice one, dude! Totally sick!” I was confused by the boy’s aloof attitude toward what was happening. I tried to say something else, but once again, my voice came out as a squeaky croak. That sent the kid into a fit of laughter.

    “Even better, bro! You’ve got mad skill.” Now I was starting to realize why the guy was laughing. He was mistaking my croaks for burps. Not only was my inability to talk frightening me, but it was gaining the irritating attention of this immature, pimply-faced freak. I had to figure out how to regain my voice and get rid of the douchebag.

    Suddenly, an idea struck me. I raced over to the coffee table, grabbed the can, and downed the whole thing in one gulp. It took only a few seconds for my stomach to bubble. I rushed over to the door, where the teen was still busy cackling…

    And belched right in his face. The force was enough to blow some strands of his dark hair out of his eyes. The boy stared at me with wide eyes, obviously shocked by what he had witnessed.

    “You like that one?” I said, breathing a sigh of relief that words had finally passed my lips. The boy broke into another fit of giggles, but before I could hear much of it, I slammed the door shut and locked it behind me. Then, I finally sat down on the couch, grabbed a slice of pizza, and hit Play.

    I settled for bottled water with my pizza.

    1. ajhaughee83

      Your description of the belch at the end reminded me of that old stereo ad where the guy is in the chair and the speakers are blowing his hair and tie way back. Nice.

    2. Observer Tim

      What a wonderfully college-level immature reaction from the MC. You nailed the voice of the delivery boy and the attitude of the MC. The bottled water comment at the end is precious. Great job, Trevor! 🙂

  35. AndromedaK

    My neighbor, Mrs. Johnson, stares at me in confusion, seemingly unable to break the silence.

    “Are you alright, Mrs. Johnson? To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?” I tried to be kind, but the old lady freaked me out sometimes, and I could come up with no good reason for her to be here, at my apartment.

    She stared at me in bewilderment, and I begin to wonder if she went off her meds again. Soon the confusion in her expression changed to a look of accusation. Her harsh glare was practically tangible. She was staring at me in a way no one ever had before, with the path of her eyesight constantly thickening in the air, a glower that continuously became more vindictive.

    I was sure I had a perplexed look on my face, and I hoped it looked to Mrs. Johnson as sincere as it was. I tried to apologize as politely as possible, but it seemed like she was becoming even more insulted with each word I said

    She spoke again, this time with a tone full of what was almost hatred. “I came here only to bring you your mail. Once you began this prank, I decided I would stay until I got the apology I deserved. But I was wrong; I don’t want to wait for an apology because I’m clearly not going to get one. I will not be made a fool of by yet another mindless teenager!” She turned on her heel and waddled away down the corridor.

    “Wait!” I called down the hall. But she was already gone, surprisingly quick for a woman of her age. “I’m twenty-one!” I jumped back and fell down to the floor, caught off guard by some sound that had echoed through the hallway. It was a deep sound that vibrated throughout the corridor, through the walls, through the carpet, and then finally through me.

    “Is someone there? What was that?” I shook my head, not willing to accept what I already knew. It was more than just any echo; it was my echo.

    I stood up quickly and unsteadily, and began running. I wasn’t quite sure where I was running to, but I was definitely in a hurry. When I reached the end of the hall, I spun in a frantic attempt to turn towards the stairs. I needed fresh air, and immediately. But there was something on the floor, something slippery. I lost control and went tumbling towards the drywall, my momentum carrying me farther than I thought it possibly could. I was flung towards the wall, and I braced myself for the impact. But it never happened. Instead, I felt the shattering of glass, and I went plummeting down from the eighth story of my apartment building, the wind cold on my face. Then everything went black.

    1. Observer Tim

      The MC’s cluelessness about (his) condition really makes this story. I’m not sure he really needed to die at the end (or get nastily knocked out from a seven-floor fall). All in all a clever and entertaining take! 🙂

    2. snuzcook

      I particularly was intriqued by this image: “…with the path of her eyesight constantly thickening in the air, a glower that continuously became more vindictive.” Nicely done! I love the idea of thickening the air.
      I invite you to play around with different words than ‘constantly’ or ‘continuously’ to hone the phrase into sharp clarity.

    3. regisundertow

      This was an interesting story. I like how you flirted with surrealism (Dostoyevsky’s The Double came to mind for some reason) without being too obvious. Very subtle and low-key, which is how I personally like my stories. I’ll echo what others have said about your MC dying, only because it doesn’t seem to be serving any obvious story beat (emphasis on obvious) and because it doesn’t allow for an arc to develop fully. I’d be interested in hearing what you intended though, I think it’d clear it up for everyone.

  36. Dana Cariola

    The deliver kid from Papa John’s, erupted into laughter when that obscene noise crept out of my mouth. I suddenly found myself in a fog of confusion, as I tried to recover from my humiliation. This pimpled-face kid continued his uncontrollable laughter. My eyes widened to the size of cue balls, unsure as to what was happening to me.

    “Aww, Dude….That was gnarley!….How’d ya do that?” he asked, as he slowly began to regain his composure.
    Once again, rather than utter out a single syllable, to answer his question. It happened again!

    “Never mind!…It’s $10.50 for the pizza, man.” he said, shaking his head. Then stretched his arms out to hand me the pie.
    The wrinkles on my forehead cringed together tightly, and I raised one eyebrow up.
    The loud sound of laughter filled the neighborhood. As this skinny kid, once more. Lost it! He grabbed at his stomach as if he were in pain, and stumbled back into the stucco wall. His loud snorts and screeches, echoed throughout the small community. I watched in horror, as the porch light went on – one by one.

    I waved my hand for him to get the hell out of here, throwing the money for the pie on the ground. Then slammed the door behind me. I made a beeline for the bathroom mirror! There, I looked into the mirror and attempted to speak.a word. Any word! And, much to my surprise. I did!

    “What the fuck just happened, John? Those words came flying out of my mouth. “I can talk!…Hot Dam…I can talk!”
    I raced to the front door to see if that punk was still crouched down on in my flowerbed. I was gonna let him have it. But, he was gone. So, I went back inside to my cold pizza trying to recall what I had done just before the bell rang.

    And, remembered. Soda can!…That fucking soda made my voice sound like that. I grabbed the can and tossed it out back into the alley way. Fearful I would lose my voice again. I turned on the CD player and did my best Bruce Springstein. The neighbors shouted out in protest, as the bass and treble from “Born to Run” rang out through the neighborhood, as did my voice.

    1. Observer Tim

      Superbelch cola is pretty annoying; I think I’ve had it once or twice. Nice story, Dana, and a great way to make the prompt realistic. The only place we didn’t connect was when you said Springsteen and “Born in the USA” hit my head faster than “Born to Run”. Either way, it’s a great moment at the end of a great story. 🙂

    2. snuzcook

      Wonderful images here. I especially like visual the porch lights all around the neighborhood going on and the MC being mortified. Also love the last line!

  37. ajhaughee83

    How about a little Halloween tribute?? :0)

    “Croak!”

    I stepped back in shock at the vision before me. It was Melinda. But her appearance was completely altered. Instead of my girl with the soft brunette curls and bewitching hazel eyes, a creature with a mass of tangled death black hair and thick charcoal rimmed eyes stood at my door. She had a venomously smug grin on her face as she stepped across the threshold.

    “Hello, Jeremy.”

    “Croak!”

    “I see you have had a little taste of the concoction I left for you. Excellent.”

    I grabbed at my throat instinctively knowing it was already too late. I backed against the foyer wall trying to get some distance from this stranger in my house.

    “Oh, my love,” she chuckled disdainfully. “I came to have a little chat with you.” Melinda strode forward within a foot of my shaking body. “I wanted to let you know that I went shopping yesterday. I was having a wonderful time picking out some new boots when I happened to look out across the street and what do you think I saw?”

    I looked down and noticed with terror that my skin was turning a startling emerald hue. I turned my hands over and over staring in utter disbelief.

    “I said what do you think I saw, Jeremy?” she howled with her nose almost touching mine. My head began to swim. I was certain that I was not breathing.

    She laughed. “Well since you are having a hard time speaking I will tell you. I saw you! And I saw you with a new blonde friend. No one I had met before. I was about to walk on over and ask you to introduce me to this interesting person. But then I saw you kiss her. Imagine my surprise! How wonderful for you to have such a close acquaintance!”

    The color drained from my face as I gasped for air. She found out. I told myself this would never happen. I was so careful. I had gotten cocky. My heart hammered in my chest as my limbs began to compress and my spine started to curve forward.

    “Croak!!”

    “Yes, sweetheart. I know. After an entire year of being together we really didn’t know each other very well after all, did we? Well you are about to know me a lot better, darling.”

    My form continued to shrink as she spoke until I was level with her shoes. Slick green skin covered my body and my eyes protruded disturbingly from my face.

    “Croak!”

    Melinda picked me up gingerly and held me level with her face. “Turns out I need a key ingredient for a little something I am whipping up for that blonde friend of yours. Frog legs!”

    1. Observer Tim

      That’s what he gets for playing around on the wrong girl. In a way he wins; he gets to be with both girls… sort of.

      You did a great job telling the story with an economy of words and believable dialogue. Nice one! 🙂

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