Note Found at a Construction Site

You’re a construction worker and, while in the middle of a dig to build a new building, you stumble upon a box with contents in it. There are five very specific items in it along with a note: “When you find this, call me. This is only phase one.” The is a phone number so you call it. What happens next?

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


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150 thoughts on “Note Found at a Construction Site

  1. Red_Armadillo

    Phase one, a beginning, the start to something bigger. What a thing, then, that such small trinkets could lead to a grander tale? That a watch, a key, a spoon, a knife, and a fork could instigate adventure into the unknown. The man folded the note and put it into his pants pocket, observing the number engraved into the fork handle. It wasn’t from around here, of that he was sure. With overwhelming curiosity, he removed his phone and dialed the number. Static greeted him, followed by a dial tone, waiting, with no answer. Could it be? Had time surpassed thought?

    Disappointed, the man hung up and took one more glance at the box. Such craftsmanship, he admired. A polished wood engraved with an intricate pattern of rose and bird. The gold hinges glistened in the warm light of the sun. It was a work of art, but for what end, he did not know. Suddenly, a gentle noise startled him, and at once he realized what it was. Withdrawing his phone, he answered it warmly with a friendly gesture of carefree thought. A voice echoed him, a pleasant voice. It was inviting. The two talked happily in the moment, providing reason and meaning for it all.

    As the last few lines were said, and the man hung up with a smile, he gently closed the box and tucked it close to his side. Off to dinner he went, mindful of the time as he traveled to the house at the edge of the world.

  2. Not-Only But-Also Riley

    It was small, black, and clean. There was no doubt in his mind about what it was. From the moment he saw it he knew that he was being activated for another job, and his stomach seemed to push back on him as he walked toward it, the weight of his own body growing increasingly difficult to pull with every step he took.

    It seemed like an eternity before he finally to the thing, and even then he struggled to bring himself to pick it up. The last time he’d been activated he had to leave his family behind, change his name, and take up the job where he found himself now as a construction worker. What would this new job entail? Would he ever see any of ‘the guys’ he worked with again and had come to know again? There was no way of knowing for sure, but there was one thing that he did know: after this job, he would not be the same person. Of course he wouldn’t. That was his job. And with that he picked the box up and opened it.

    What first stood out to him of contents of the box was a neatly folded, bright red dress, paired with a tube of matching lipstick. Of course, as there always was and would be, there was a gun. This time it was small, shiny, and black like the box it sat in. He briefly worried about where exactly he’d be able to put it once he had the dress on, but then realized in the middle of this construction site was not the place to be holding the thing up to glisten in the sun, so he shoved it carelessly into one of his pockets. Next, he found car keys, which he dropped into his other pocket without even inspecting them. He knew that the car that went with them would be waiting for him when he got back to the place he’d probably no longer be calling home. Finally, at the bottom of the box was a silver flip phone, and a note on wrinkled and torn notebook paper, an eyesore amongst the other nice and carefully placed items that box contained.

    He picked up the phone, then the note.
    When you find this, call me, it read, This is only phase one. He couldn’t help but smirk as he walked away from the construction site, the black box tucked under his arm, thinking about just how many phases there’d be.

    It was the next week that she found herself in the tight, red dress, wearing the suggestive, red lipstick, holding a small, red purse she had ended up buying herself where the gun was waiting patiently as she exited the expensive red car that the keys had gone with. The phone and note were gone by now, destroyed along with the box that had given her the items not too long ago.

    As she handed her keys to the valet, she looked up at the beautiful mansion where phase one of this job would take place. She brushed her new long, blonde hair out of her eyes, and stretched her back, which was still not used to the (surprisingly large) new protrusions from her chest. When she had received the instructions of exactly what she would be transforming into she knew that she’d be playing the part of a seductress. A stereotypical femme fatale, that would lure her victims in easily, and end them with the same ease. And she was fine with this. It honestly felt nice to be a woman again, it had been quite some time, and she figured that she’d mess with her victim much longer than she’d been instructed to.

    Besides, she thought as she approached the large, open doors where the party had begun to spill outside from, today is my birth. I should think a celebration would be in order.

  3. keaneja

    Five minutes before the end of his 8-4 shift, Billy dug up a metal box with bloodstains. His eyes widened at the dented box with red fingerprints.
    Billy’s eyes darted. Jackhammers drilled. Excavators dug. He took off his yellow construction hat, and the August sunshine beat on his head like tiny hammers. None of Billy’s twenty co-workers working on the new Yonkers Casino looked his way as he held the metal box.
    The four o’clock whistle blew, and Billy jumped with his mouth opened. What was he going to do with blood smeared box? His brow furrowed and his imagination ran wild from the Law and Order episodes he had seen. Instead of calling the police, he darted into a porta-john and gripped the box like a running back avoiding a fumble. The door to the portable bathroom slammed and he locked the door. He closed the lid of the toilet, masking the stenches, sat and opened the box.
    There were five items. The first was a note, which said, “When you find this, call me.”
    Billy called. Someone answered.
    “I see you found the box.”
    “Who is this? Why is there blood on the box?” Billy said.
    “No questions. If you do everything I say, you get five thousand dollars.”
    Billy nodded. He wanted to see where this went.
    “Do you see Applebee’s up the hill?”
    Billy looked through the vent of the porta-potty, past a hill of rubble. “Yes.”
    “Order Killer Wings for Frank and pick them up.”
    “Then, what?”
    “Three minutes.”
    Billy left the porta-potty, ordered the wings, jumped into his Honda Civic and sped to the Applebee’s. He raced up the hill and turned into the parking lot.
    A woman with black hair wearing sunglasses and a Yankee hat stood in front of the Applebee’s. She held a paper bag.
    “Wings for Frank?” She said.
    She threw him the bag and sprinted back in the restaurant.
    Billy caught the bag. He opened the bag and inside was a gun. His phone rang.
    “Bring the bag to the Shell station up the hill. A man is filling up a Ford Bronco with air. Leave the bag and give to the man.
    “Three minutes.”
    Billy gunned the motor, missed a Guinness truck and sped up Corporate Boulevard. He turned into the Shell Station.
    His eyes widened at the silver Ford Bronco. Two of the four tires were flat. There was a man on his knees looking at the tires.
    Billy pulled over, got out of the car and handed the man the bag.
    The unshaven man stood. The right corner of his lips tightened. He pulled out the gun and pointed it at Billy.
    Billy’s eyebrows rose, and mouth dropped.
    “Give me your keys.”
    Billy handed the keys. The man raced away with Billy’s car.
    A text on his phone said sucker

  4. pven

    “Hey, Babs! You know what this box is about?” Hank dropped a battered tackle box on the site super’s desk. Barbara peered at the top, making out the nearly legible words “Phase One” scratched through its rusted surface.

    “Little late for that,” she said. Groundbreaking for Manhattan’s first super-luxury high rise had been held three months ago. The cornerstone had been placed last week, and construction was about to begin in earnest.

    “Maybe it’s Phase One for messing with the boss.”

    “May be,” Barbara grunted. “Toss it.”

    Hank swung the kit as he grabbed it, causing the objects inside to slide and rattle. For a moment Barbara thought she heard voices among the clatter.

    “What in the hell…?” she wondered, but then Hank and the box were outside her hut, and she pushed the matter from her mind.

    That evening, as she stepped out of her quonset hut, Barbara noticed shadows moving about the scaffolding and plastic sheeting.
    “Well, I gotta check that out…” she muttered, and grabbed an iron rod leaning against the side of the hut.

    Barbara found Hank and the rusted box next to the cornerstone. Hank was sitting on his haunches, rocking back and forth, eyes rolled up towards the top of his head. Bodiless voices prompted Hank with strange, guttural noises, which Hank echoed almost immediately. With each foreign phrase the spotlights illuminating the site dimmed a little, flickering like candles beneath someone’s breath.

    One by one, objects flew from the tackle box and slammed into the cornerstone with a thud: a slice of obsidian, a jagged red crystal shard, the whispering branches of a desiccated shrub, a Cheetos bag.

    “What the hell are you doing here, Hank?” Barbara shouted, her query a shrill knife through the voices. “Elsa called, you didn’t come home for dinner.”

    Hank blinked and looked around. “It’s night?” he murmured. His voice sounded hoarse as though he had been shouting for hours.

    Barbara nodded towards the box. “Thought I told you to throw that thing away.”

    “I did, and…”

    The iron rod ripped from Barbara’s hands, split in two, and embedded itself into the stone.

    “Damn!” she cursed as blood seeped from her fingers. It dripped to the smooth top of the cornerstone, streaming and forming arcs between each of the objects, etching a perfect circle into the smooth surface.

    “Oh my gosh, Babs!” Hank shouted. “You OK?” But as he reached across the cornerstone to grab her hand, the obsidian shard sliced into his arm. Blood gushed from the cut, coagulating along lay lines between each of the objects until a pentagram was formed.

    The voices grew stronger, and both Hank and Barbara found themselves reciting guttural, unknown words that they would struggle to recall seconds later.

    A dark red light emanated from the objects and the pentagram, flashed, and everything sunk into the stone. Once the voices were all but a dark memory hinted at by the wind, the cornerstone looked as it always had, gray and smooth save for the 1979 date etched into its side.

    Barbara stared at the cornerstone for a few minutes before breathing: “Damn.” She looked at Hank. “I won’t say anything if you won’t.”

    Hank shook his head. “Nope.”

    “Let’s get you fixed up,” Barbara said. Hank’s hand was still clasping hers, and she used that to guide him back to the hut.

    Hank nodded.

    “Hey, Babs?”


    “What d’ya think Phase Two is gonna be?”

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Man, you had my grip-locked in my desk chair. It’s bad news Babs and Hank, get you butts outta there and don’t look back. Loved the descriptive voices and sounds
      Great Halloween story to tell people. Really good job here

    2. writer_sk

      Pven- Perfect.

      Your story gave me the chills especially when they began reciting. The setting was so vividly described as were the character’s actions.

      Loved the random bag of cheetos.

      Your take on the prompt was so awesome…was just stopping in to read what I hadn’t gotten to but had to log in and comment. Best one here so far. Super scary.

  5. ReathaThomasOakley

    An Annie Story
    April 9, 1955

    “Mama?” I said kinda loud ’cause she was mopping the bathroom and I had my head in the cabinet under the kitchen sink.

    “Yes, Annie?” she said, loud, too.

    “You got three empty coffee cans under here, and I was wondering if I could have one, for good, not to borrow.”

    Mama always saved coffee cans, ever body did for bacon grease and such, but she had Daddy punch holes in the bottoms of some to bury in her flower beds to water her coleus. Miss Jimmie Mae and Aunt Violet always told her she had the prettiest of any body.

    “If I got three, you can take one.” I could hear her pour the mop water in the tub. “What you gonna use it for?”

    “Oh, just something.” I stood up, sniffing the good coffee smell. “I got both porches swept, broom’s hung back up.” Since I’ve been ten I’ve been trying to do things without Mama having to remind me. And, seems like I been doing lots more thinking since my birthday, thinking and wondering things.

    I took the coffee can to my room where ever thing was ready, I even had some Curity adhesive tape from the medicine cabinet. I didn’t think anybody’d miss some since no body’d ever used any in my whole entire life, and I needed something really strong to seal the can. Then I cut the five questions outta the last pages of my Big Chief notebook, real careful like. I don’t think I’m gonna ask for another one, me being ten and all.

    Then I read my questions, things I just couldn’t figure out how to ask anybody about, one more time.

    “Why is Grandma so different from Granny?”

    Granny’s round and wears dresses that all look alike but different colors she sews on her Singer. Her hair’s white and pulled up in a knot on top of her head. She has a garden and chickens and ever afternoon she sits on the front porch for exactly one hour and crochets. Grandma’s skinny and wears her nightgown sometimes all day and don’t talk. Ever week Mama goes over to help her take a bath and brings dirty clothes home to wash.

    “Why don’t Desi’s children go to my school even though they live real close?”

    I asked her one time when she was cleaning the girls’ bathroom and she just said that’s how it is.

    “Why do I have to do chores ever Saturday and Brother doesn’t?”

    I asked Daddy one time and he said when Brother’s older he’s gonna help in the yard and wash the car. It just don’t seem fair, I think washing the car’s more like fun.

    “Why can’t I have a baby sister?”

    When I asked Mama that, she just kinda laughed and said something about the Lord’s will. Maybe I’ll ask her that again sometime.

    “Why do I feel all funny when Wilfred’s been chasing me and I let him catch me?”

    I’d worried over that all week. Me and Wilfred been chasing and fighting our whole entire lives, and he’s so nasty to me and other girls, I just can’t figure this out.

    I folded my questions and put them in the can. Then I put a note on top.

    “Attention! If you find this coffee can don’t read any of the questions. Return it to Annie Louise Porter.”

    I sniffed the can one more time then started wrapping the tape all over the top. I could not believe how fast that whole roll was gone. Then I took it outside and crawled under the house past where Brother and Pu’kin played cars and brought doodle bugs when it was raining.

    I went behind another concrete block stack, dug a deep hole in the sand, and buried the can. I figured I’d crawl back in a year, open up the can, and see if I had answers for any of the questions. I knew the can was gonna be safe, ’cause I’d never forget it and I was gonna live in this house ’til I was grown and no body wasn’t never ever gonna tear our house down.

    1. pven

      Always a pleasure to read an Annie story. We use plastic bottles with holes in the bottom to water our plants now.

      It’s the little details with your Annie character that I appreciate. Asking for a can “for good, not to borrow.” Because you’ve gotta clarify these things.

      And Wilfred? That boy sounds like bad news…

      1. Kerry Charlton

        You pick me up and hurdle me through time and place and land me quietly on Anne’s porch and I feel comfortable and want to stay and linger awhile. That’s the magic you possess over me. Please don’t ever lose it.

        1. ReathaThomasOakley

          Thanks, Kerry. In the expanded version of this you might appreciate the house construction details I’ll add. I doubt anyone is still building frame houses on concrete block stacks. I need to ask my husband the correct term, piers, maybe? Thanks again.

    2. writer_sk

      Cool! She is growing up. I love how she asked her mom “to keep.” That is so observant as to how a child would clarify a request.

      I was delighted to know Annie’s full name.

      Love the paragraph with Grandma/Granny – little parts remind me of both mine and my great aunt.


    3. RafTriesToWrite

      I’m with pven. That Wilfred sounds like bad news to me.
      I’ve always been fascinated about crochet because I don’t know how it works exactly.
      I’m also achin’ to know why don’t Desi’s kids don’t go to the same school as Annie’s?
      Grandma sounds like she’s a lot more older than Granny.
      I’m not used to kids liking the smell of coffee. I only liked coffee when I was like 20 or something.

      Another lovely Annie story Reatha! Can’t wait for the next one.

    4. Critique

      Delightful Annie story. People saved everything back ‘then’ – different times – folks were resourceful. Those coffee cans were useful for storage or in a pinch could be made into a cloth covered footstool etc.

  6. peregrine2005

    The hot sun scorched my neck as my coworkers and I dug the chunky orange soil. We all moved to the rhythm of the excavators nearby, dig and toss, dig and toss. Suddenly, my rusty shovel hit something hard. I dug around the corners and pulled a small metal trunk out of the mud. “Hey, guys!” I exclaimed loudly “I think I found something!”. The nearest worker rushed over and grabbed the trunk in his hands, “hey!” I shouted and after a few quick looks, the worker tossed it back to me. “It’s probably nothing.” he murmured in a gruff voice, “get back to work”. After work, I took the trunk home and pried it open with a plier. Inside was a note with a phone number on it, the latest iPhone 10( I was shocked as the trunk was rusty and buried pretty deep) and three pictures of the trunk. I picked up the phone and dialed the number. You won’t believe what happened next.

  7. Pete

    My first resonse wouldn’t post, not sure if this will but it’s done with minimal effort. I know, I know, inticing.

    Barb listen,

    Oh, look at you in your boots and little toolbelt. Hot.

    Yeah, anyway. You know how i’m working that case.

    The big dig gig.

    What? You really need to get back on the job. Anyway, I found something. It might be clues.

    Clues are good, what you got?

    Well, this…

    A box?

    Yeah, a box with five very specific items. And a note.

    Okay, note first. This is exciting.

    Well, the note says, “This is only phase one. Call me.”

    It does not.

    It does, have a look.

    Is this supposed to be scary? My corny detector is off the charts, but scary? Noso much.

    I don’t know, I just hope it’s what we need, this undercover work is kicking my—

    Aw, I sort of like it. Will you keep the hardhat, I mean afterwards? For us?

    Really/ Uh, okay, I had no idea you were into…. Okay, so should I call?

    Women keep secrets. And of course you should call. We’re detectives. We have a clue, and a number. It’s the next logical step. I swear, do men come with some sort of logic switch? If so, you might want to get yours checked. Okay, clues.

    You have a way with insults.

    It is a gift. Oh, and speaking of gifts, OPEN THE BOX.

    Okay, jeez, don’t spill your gin and tonic.

    Sorry, it’s just that you come home with a box and give me this big story and meanwhile I’m sitting here wanting to bash your skull in with a tire iron because you won’t OPEN THE MOTHER—

    How’s anger management going, Barb? Ouch! How big is that book?

    All Right, here it is. We have some sort of dog brush, it looks used. Maybe a slight allergy considering all the dander.

    Hmm. Weird. Okay, next.

    Well, we have three VHS video tapes, labels peeling. Might be some home movies if you get my drift.
    Does that count as two, three, and four, or are you lumping those in together?

    I said five distinctive items. So logically speaking…wow, that’s a lot of gin.

    Lot of you.

    Okay, we have the video tapes, and oh, here, a postcard, dated 1978. What year did we think Sampson went missing?”

    1978. What’s the postcard say?

    Nothing, it’s blank. Postmarked Buffalo. Also, we have an ear ring.

    This is sort of overwhelming. I was kind of thinking like, human ear in a jar or something.

    Jesus, Barb.

    Just Barb is fine, or Barbara. I know, kind of morbid, but…

    No, I mean how did you know that was in here?

    Agh, that is wicked.

    I know, right, it almost looks like something behind the counter at an old country gas station, right?

    Look, when I hold it up to the light…

    Okay, still a human ear. Damn, I’d hate to know what phase two entails.

    Only one way to find out. Should I call?

    Should you call? Gee I don’t know…what kind of detective are you?
    I’m calling.

    Hey, ready for phase two?

    You are absolutely terrible at accents.

    I am not.

    Are too. Shh. Oh, I’m sorry, no not you. We were calling about the…I was calling in response to your um, box?….uh huh….yes….uh…huh….giggling? No, I don’t hear anything. Yes, the phases…yes could you hang on one sec? Thanks. Barbara stop. This is serious…Sorry about that, yes, I can meet you at the warehouse, what time?

    Oh wow. Cliché much?

    Shh. NO, sorry, not you. Okay, eight o’clock? Yes, see you then.

    Okay, it’s on. We’re meeting him at eight.

    I’ll go get dressed.

    You’re going?

    Yes. I have to find out what’s up with the dog brush. It’s really bugging me…

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Pete, what a creative way to tell an entire story in dialogue. This couple is great, and entertaining, however I’m not certain if the detecting ability is there.

  8. reallykenneth

    We were blind-folded before heading to the dig site and instructed not to speak to each other; only to one of the five officers at the dig site. Within thirty minutes, I had struck something beneath the dirt. I looked up to see if anyone noticed but I must have been the only one that heard it. I shoveled a bit of dirt around and barely made out the gold shoe-box size container. Curiosity prevented me from reporting the box immediately.

    “Hey! You got something?” I heard one of the officers yell. As soon as I turned around, I saw him walking towards one of the soldiers at the opposite end of the site.

    With the officer’s back turned, I pried the box open to see a note along with Polaroid pictures, a cell phone, a walkie-talkie, a pistol and two different sets of keys. The note had a number on it with the words, “When you find this, call me. This is only phase one.” written on it. My heart sank to my stomach when I saw the Polaroid pictures. All three were of the site we were digging at and I was in each one.

    ”Hey!” I heard the officer yell again. This time he was headed my way. Quickly, I rammed the shovel into my right foot and covered the box with as much dirt as I could.

    “What’s going on here?” The tall officer questioned.

    I grimaced a bit before answering. “I slammed my foot, sir.” The pain shot through my left leg as I took my boot off. Blood was seeping through the cotton sock yet the officer showed no emotion.

    “Head to medic.” He said, and then walked away.

    Once he was far enough away, I called the number that was on the note and put it on speaker. The phone barely made it through the first ring when a woman’s voice answered.

    “Get out of there, now!” She yelled.

    “What?” I whispered, as loud as I could.

    “They’re going to ki –“

    “Hey!” A voice whispered from behind me. One of the soldiers walked over to my digging area.
    “I saw you over here, looking like you were reading something.” He said, looking at the paper in my hand. “You get the same note?”

    The skinny soldier handed me his note with the same number and instruction written on it. I looked up to see where the officer had gone and immediately noticed the other soldiers staring at me. Everyone held a note and walkie-talkie in their hand and was nodding their heads in approval. It seems like I wasn’t the only one wanting to get to the bottom of why we were here.

  9. Lex Noël

    May 1917
    “You’ll never find it, Hattie,” Dot teases me as I crawl deeper into the abandoned badger den.

    “You always say that and I always find it,” I stretch my fingertips out into the darkness, awaiting the cool touch of the tin, but there’s nothing. Ugh.

    “Why must I always be ready for an adventure with you?” I huff, wiping dirt off my face as I surface from the earthy tunnel.

    “If you can’t find my tin in the fields of Easton, Kansas,” Dot sighs, “how can you expect to find anything in the thick forests of the Amazon or the icy caves of the Arctic? ” I roll my eyes, but Dot always plans the best birthday presents.

    “Did you hear that?” Dot asks.

    “Hear what?” Normally I would ignore my sister’s flare for the dramatic but the look on her face stops me. “Dot?”

    “Run Hattie!” before I can respond Dot has her hand in a vice grip around my wrist and we’re tearing through the woods. I can hear something chasing us. Something big. And fast.

    May 2007
    “Thank you for coming Mr. Holmes,” Hattie Harker motions towards her sitting room. “Please, have a seat.”

    I step into the sitting room, and I couldn’t feel more out of place in my bright orange construction vest and clunky brown boots. The house looks like it’s been trapped in time.

    “How long have you lived here Mrs. Harker?” I ask.

    “I’ve lived here my whole life. I was born in this house May 21, 1907.”

    “May 21, 1907?” I echo.

    “That’s right, Mr. Holmes,” she says as if reading my mind. “I turned 100 last week.” She smiles but her eyes are sad.

    “I won’t beat around the bush, Mr. Holmes. I would very much like to see the box that you’ve found,” Hattie holds out her hands expectantly.

    “Yeah. Um, here you go,” I hold out the dim silver tin and place it into her tiny soft hands.

    “Oh my,” Hattie whispers. “Oh, Dottie.” Hattie pulls out the piece of paper, her hands shaking.

    “My sister, Dot, prepared a scavenger hunt for my tenth birthday,” Hattie’s voice was tight. “She—she died while we were out looking for the first tin. I—I’ve searched high and low. Where exactly did you find it?”

    “It was buried next to the peach tree in Harker Field,” I tell her. I feel heavy and uncomfortable. The whole town knows that Dot Harker was killed, but no one knows exactly what happened all these years later.

    “She saved me,” Hattie’s voice cracks. “Daddy came across us in the woods, but he was in another place, in his mind. He did that a lot when he came back from the Great War…” Hattie’s voice fades as she shuts the tin.

    “Thank you Mr. Holmes for calling me. Ninety years is a long time.”

    “If you don’t mind me asking, what is phase two?” I ask.

    “Well according to the clues, I’d say I’m due to meet Dot at the Corner Fountain for a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Do you like ice cream, Mr. Holmes?”

    “I’m always ready for an adventure.”

  10. Rene Paul

    The house my grandparents bought in La Puente on Turnbull Canyon Drive in 1927 burned down a few years ago. The tenants, who lived in the house, were not home when the fire started, they lost everything. Insurance paid my parents and helped to replace the tenant’s belongings, but nothing could replace the memories and treasured keepsakes. In retrospect, things could have been worse, I thank God no one lost their life.

    I inherited the vacant lot from my parents.

    Today I’m breaking ground to build a new house on that barren lot. My entire family is there to watch as I plunge the first shovel into the ground to symbolize the start of construction. This time the house… will be our home. I hired a photographer to capture the moment for posterity.

    The Camera is ready, I’m ready—hard hat in place—the family applauds as the digging begins, but the shovel only embeds about three inches. I try reinserting the tool, this time a bit right of my last try, but I get the same results. I’ve hit something solid.

    My wife and kids draw closer to see what’s impeding my effort. The cameraman clicks away.

    After a careful excavation, I pull a metal box, buried beneath the dirt, from the ground. Jay, my oldest boy, asked if he could open it.

    “Of course, you can, Jay,” I said, “but be careful, the box is rusted and can have sharp edges.”

    My wife, with hands planted on hips and her smile a frown, said, “That’s not a good Idea, Honey.”

    The little bee beat the large bee with a retort, “Don’t worry, Mom, Dad said it’s ok.”

    Jay opened the lid without a struggle. When he lifted his head, his eyes were big as saucers, “Dad,” he said, “there’s an old baseball card wrapped inside and a bunch of money, too. Can I have the card?”

    Our other son, Mike, said, “Dad, Jay’s fat head is blocking me from seeing what’s in it.”

    “Let me have that,” I said, “before you guys start world war three.” I stared into the box. “Wow,” I said, “you are not going to believe this, Hon, but there’s an old Babe Ruth card inside, that’s got to be worth something,” I tried to hide my emotions, “and three silver dollars, and a money clip full of cash, and a note stuck to the bottom of the lid.”

    My wife grabbed the box and said, “You can have the note.”

    I peeled it off before I lost control, it read: “If you’re lucky enough to find this box, know this, there’s more treasure if you can find it. Search for Ken Ward ED 19-433”

    Jay asked, “Who’s he, and what kind of numbers are those?”

    “It’s a phone number from a long time ago,” I said, “I remember, back in the day, the ‘ED’ in EDgewood identified the exchange district and the numbers represented the party you were trying to reach. The phone companies back then used letters and numbers because they thought just numbers would be too hard for people to remember.”

    “So how do we find this guy if he’s still alive?” My wife asked.

    After explaining the probability of calling a number from back-in-the-day, was slim to none, I got an Idea, “Let’s go to the library,” I said, “We can look up phone numbers and census records, maybe we can locate a Ken Ward or an Ed 19-433 phone number.

    We had to hurry, today being Saturday meant the library closed early. Once there, I ask the librarian, a woman, straight out of Hollywood casting from the 1930s, if they had records for old phone numbers. She asked to see the number.

    “Are you sure that’s a phone number?”

    “Not exactly,” I said, “what else could it be?”

    “I think it’s a… give me a minute,” she said, “I need to research this.” After a short wait, she returned with a census book.

    “I was right,” she said, and you’re lucky because the National Archives releases census records to the public 72 years after Census Day, the 1940 census just became available in 2012. The ED is an enumeration district number, the 19-433 is the city and street that the Enumerator worked, in this case, the records are for the City of La Puente, and more specifically for Turnbull Canyon, so I pulled the microfilm. It shows the Enumerator was a man named Jim Toomey. If you want a copy, it cost $1.00 for the first page and 15 cents for every page thereafter. There are 3 enumerator pages and 42 Individual household sheets.”

    I bought them.

    We sat at the nearest desk to study the documents. There it was…. second page, fifth name, Ken Ward, 3567 Turnbull Canyon Drive. I got goose bumps. “Get in the car everybody, we’re going home to get my metal detector,” I said, “then we’re going on a treasure hunt.”

  11. JRSimmang


    Funny thing to leave behind, I thought, as I rummaged through the rubble and debris of the old piano factory. I didn’t want to say it strung me out to be there, that the sight of it plucked at my heartstrings, but that’s exactly what being there did to me.

    What was even more unnerving was the cylindrical container Buck from staffing found.He measured it, as I measured my curiosity, but we eventually got inside the dern thing. We turned it over and over in our hands trying to find a latch or a lock, but found instead a clefer little riddle and five items. Specific items.

    Specifically, a sharp object and a flat object, a pair of scales, a meter stick, and a clay tablet carved with strange cymbals.

    When we dumped them out, a note with a key (of G, I think) resounded. The sharp and flat lifted up off the ground and swirled around our heads, clanging together in great cacophony, twisting and distorting the winds, causing all sorts of treble.

    The key changed into a heavy metal maiden, who hoisted the scales. “You shall be judged!” she sang, “And your deeds shall be measured!”

    With her other hand, she held the staff and struck the ground. The sky turned black, and we were thrown into a fever pitch. The collapsing building shook, the stones split and fires erupted in the bach of us and in the front of us. My bosso screamed, “NO VA, NO VA!” and waived his arms around. “Madam Muse, this is not conductive to our friendship! You are not following the coda conduct!”

    We all turned to face him at once.

    “Yeah. I’m a little magical,” he admitted.

    “But,” she responded, “you are all on my liszt. I have it right here.” She produced an ancient scroll from under her robe. “See? It says Roman Legion.”

    “That would be falsetto,” our boss retorted. “We are the Forte Construction Group.”

    Her shoulders slumped, she looked around, and sighed. “Well, I certainly made a mezzo things. Apologies.”

    Then, she disappeared back into her box and took everything with her, bricks and mortar and broken pianos included. We were left astounded. All our work was done for us.

    “Well that was odd,” I said.

    “Yep,” said the boss. “A minor setback… NOW LET”S GET BIZET!”

    I looked at my coworkers. “I suggest we fermatabout it.”

    -JR Simmang

    1. ClutteredThoughts

      I was so confused at first, and by the end I was slumping down in my chair laughing. Well done, I need to use some of these next time my friends are being annoying.

  12. rlk67

    PART 2 (Closure)

    I told my dad the whole story about finding the box and Jumpin’ Joe Poletti. He was silent for a while. Did he even believe me?

    “Y’know, Hank, I remember Joe well. I also listened to his show. One morning in particular while driving to work…” Dad sighed. “Yeah…that really sticks in my mind…”

    “Hello, WPLX, and YOU are the twenty-first caller!”
    “Oh…oh, w…wow! That’s…that’s cool!”
    “What’s your name, lucky guy?”
    “Alright, Big Brad, for an awesome WPLX t-shirt…what new song did we play that hints to the weather?”
    “I…I…think it…it was, uh, D-Don’t Let The Sun Come Down On Me by Elton J…John and G..George…M…M…”
    “Hey, calm down, Brad! No reason to be so nervous! Brad, my friend? Still breathing? It’s okay….We’ll give it to you! YOU GOT THE SHIRT!”
    “Oh…oh…wow, so cool…it’s just so…”
    “Cool, Brad? Well, take a deep breath for a second. Let’s just chat for a moment before Fred takes your name and address. So whaddya do for a living, Brad?”
    “Oh, wow. So cool. Well, I’m a sophomore at UM now, and…”
    “Hey! A real Miami Hurricane! Playing in the Orange Bowl this year?”
    “Well, no, I’m not a footba–”
    “Great, Brad. Hey, listen. What are you guys doin’ about Big Andrew comin’? Any hurricane parties at the big party school?”
    “Oh, well, no. My parents in Dayton, Ohio want me back home, so…”
    “Really, Brad? Brad. Brad. How old are you?”
    “Uh, 20.”
    “And you still listen to mommy and daddy, Brad? Brad, it’s gonna be okay. You can stay. A little wind and rain won’t blow your dorm room away.”
    “Brad, trust me. And congrats on your new shirt! Fred, take his info. Have an awesome day!”

    “Hello, WPLX, we already have a winner, try again later.” Click.
    “Hello, WPLX, we already have a winner, try again later.” Click
    “Hello, WPLX, we already ha–”
    “Don’t hang up on me.”
    “Hey, dude, so sorry, but as I said, we–”
    “How dare you, Joe.”
    “OOhhh…chill out, man! Sounds like you’re a little…”
    “You have NO RIGHT to tell people that this storm is gonna be nothing. This is a serious–”
    “Hey, hey…what’s your name, mad soul?”
    “Keith. And that guy Brad from UM is one of lots of people you’ve been telling to stay. This isn’t a joke, Poletti. Andrew means business.”
    “Andrew means business. Ohhh…what a cool slogan, Keith. Listen, Keith, why don’t you just take your—”
    “No, you listen! You have no right to be on the radio if you tell people stupid things…”
    “You got kids, Keith?”
    “Ten year old son.”
    “Well, I got kids, too, just a bit older. And we’re doing just fine. Have some fun, Keith, and CHILL OUT!” Click.

    “And so, Hank, I called the station and really gave it to the higher ups. Next thing you know, goodbye Joe.”
    “You got Jumpin’ Jammin Joe fired?!” I couldn’t believe this.
    “Jammin’ Jumpin’ Joe. And I did, and I don’t regret it. Never did.”
    I began to cough. “Uh, dad…”
    “I think he regrets it. I think Joe is sorry about everything. I really do.”
    “What makes you say that?”
    “I have his number here, and…”
    “NO WAY! Why would I want to talk…”
    “Dad…please…I really think he feels bad.”
    Deep breath. “Alright. But if he starts up, I show no mercy.”
    “Thanks, dad.”

    “Thanks, Hank. Your father is a good man. I look up to people like that.”
    “Me, too, Joe. Me, too.”

    1. pven

      Thanks for the closure. In both cases I appreciated the inclusion of current (and past) events with the hurricanes. Well done. That said, I liked this tale, disjointed as it is, more than the initial. I’m wondering if there were a way to blend them together. Have Dad be there when the MC discovers the box, recognizes the stuff, sits in on the phone call…

      Probably not something to spend a lot of time on, giving this prompt “ends” today, but an interesting experiment nonetheless.

  13. RafTriesToWrite

    Jackson and I were digging around this spot and we just finished our lunch break. We needed to shovel the first few feet before we bring in the big guns. Don’t ask me why, I’m just following orders.

    Anyway, I stumbled on something metal as I was digging. Jackson heard it too because he looked my way. I made contact with his eyes. The wind drastically calling the storm, it was getting darker, everything became quiet.

    “What was that?” Jackson addressed the unknown at hand. I just shrugged my shoulders for I too, don’t know what it was. I motioned Jackson to help me and he did without hesitation. After a few digging we pulled up this strange metal box out from its resting place and we lifted it up and placed it near our bench.

    “What do you think’s inside?” Jackson asked.

    “Only one way to find out” I took out some tools and started breaking the padlock. In no time at all, I got it open, and we inspected the items inside.

    We found a music box, a framed wilted rose, a toy car, an old locket with a picture of some guy inside, a really old golf ball and a note. I took out the note first and read it carefully.

    “Phase one?” I murmured.

    “The is a phone number at the bottom Gabe, you gonna call it?” Jackson spoke.

    “Say what now?” I looked at him weird. The is?

    “Oh, sorry. THERE IS a phone number – is what I meant to say. Just a typo, I guess. Weird.” Weird is definitely an understatement right now. Nothing exciting ever happens like this on the previous projects we’ve encountered.

    I feel obligated to call though. It’s like, there’s some force that’s telling me to make the call. What’s with the items anyway?

    I took out my phone from my pocket and dialed the number. I sat down the bench while Jackson kept inspecting the items inside.

    It took five rings before someone answered the phone “Well it took you long enough” He spoke. An old man was on the other line. Before I could even reply, he already started talking again.

    “Anyway. Welcome to phase one! Listen carefully as I will never repeat this message ever again” I eyed Jackson, and motioned him to come near me. I put the old man on speaker.

    “Among the five items inside the chest, I want you to pick one and put the rest back inside the box.” My mind was thinking. What item should we choose?

    I looked at Jackson. He looked like he doesn’t know what’s going on. Is this a recorded message? Is this a prank? What is this?

    “Oh, and before you think that this is a joke Gabriel Locke, it’s not.” My heart raced out of fear, and Jackson’s eyes widen at the mention of my full name. Who is this guy? How does he know my name?

    I felt the cold wind rubbing on my skin, the smell of wet soil hovering on my nose and the eerie voice of the old man still ringing in my ears.

    “Now that I’ve got your full attention, I’m going to speak out the five items that was inside the box. I want you to press any number on your phone when I say the item that you’ve chosen.”

    Jackson was about to speak, so I covered the bottom part of my phone with my hand. “What do we choose?” he asked.

    “Why should we even choose?” I answered.

    “Because the moment you called my phone Gabriel, you’ve endangered five important people in your life.” My heart froze. I feel like I’m about to have a stroke. Should I go to the police? But if I end the phone call now, what would happen to the five people I care about?

    “Now, just press any number to make me stop” Wait. I haven’t even chosen anything yet!

    “Golf ball” Oh shoot. Should I choose that? What were the other items?

    “Framed rose” Uhhhm. Uhhhm. Jackson looks more terrified than I am.

    “Locket” Oh potato gravy! Should I pick it?

    “Toy Car” I was sweating so much. How many items did he say already?

    “and Music box” I pressed random numbers in panic. I think that was the fifth item he said. I don’t know. I wasn’t keeping track.

    “Oh good. Now, I want you to take the music box, and place it at the dumpster in front of your neighbor Jackson’s house at precisely 9:07 PM tonight and someone will call you once you’ve done it”

    My heart was pounding very fast. What an odd request, and how did he know Jackson and the fact that he is my neighbor?

    “Enjoy Phase one Gabriel. I know you’ll do great and don’t forget to bring home the box” He hung up the phone. I’m shaking uncontrollably that I might faint. I’m very far from calm right now.

    Jackson just stood there, unable to speak. I’m still trying to put the pieces together. What does the old man want? What’s gonna happen if I don’t do what he wants? What’s even gonna happen if I do exactly what he says?

    So many questions, but at least one thing’s for sure. It’s gonna be a long wait ‘till 9:07 pm.

      1. RafTriesToWrite

        Suspense is not my forte but I’m glad that I made you feel that way.
        Not sure about parts 2 and 3 here on this website, but I’ll be definitely work on it further. I’m kinda curious as well as to how this story would turn out.

    1. writer_sk

      Raf- this was good! Waiting to hear what will happen at 9:07.

      The suspense was built very effectively in your story. I laughed at the guy’s response: potato gravy. Strong images of their surroundings.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Well, I am dragged into this with everybody else
          My suggestion would be to continue it as part two and post on the next prompt or we may form a committee and come find you and pull you by the collar until you say the word “give.”

    2. pven

      “Oh potato gravy!” Yet another epithet that I shall be using when in front of an audience.

      Two points to consider tightening the suspense even further:

      The “the is / there is” interlude seems incongruous with the rest of the story. Now, if typographical errors become a part of surviving the antagonist’s plot, then it makes sense. Unfortunately, that’s what: another 1,250 words from now?

      “Oh, and before you think that this is a joke Gabriel Locke, it’s not.” My heart raced out of fear, and Jackson’s eyes widen at the mention of my full name. Who is this guy? How does he know my name?

      The dropping of Gabe’s full name is good. It prompts the appropriate startle, fear, and attention of the MC and the reader. It needn’t be its own paragraph. Weave it into another section of the narrative, so Gabe (and us) pays full attention sooner.
      F’r instance: ““Anyway. Welcome to phase one, Gabriel Locke!”

      That said, I’m immensely curious about the relationship between each of the objects and what would happen next. The makings of a wicked CYOA!

      1. RafTriesToWrite

        An in-depth criticism, now this I like. Glad you liked the potato gravy bit, it was kind of a spur of the moment thing.

        For number 1, I was just making fun of the typographical error on the prompt itself. Sorry if it appears, off.

        For number 2, the sooner the better I always say. I’ll try to keep that in mind the next time I write something like this.

        Thank you for this wonderful comment pven! Truly appreciate it!

  14. Russ

    I dug my shovel into the ground.
    I hit something. Something metal.
    I dug around it fervently.
    “Aha!” I said. It was a little treasure chest.
    I looked around. No one was looking.
    I unmatched the latches and opened it.
    I saw something sparkle.
    I looked closer.
    It was treasure alright. It was treasure!
    But then, to my horror, I saw it was a toy. With toy treasure.
    I heard laughter above me. Booming laughter.
    I looked up. It was the famous Flying Dutchman!
    “Ahahahahaha!!!!! Gets me every time!!!!” he shouted.
    He then chuckled as he flew away.
    “Drat!” I yelled. I threw my shovel on the ground.

  15. ShamelessHack

    I can tell ya that working in this heat ain’t much fun.
    Hmm, so what’s dis? Oy, it’s a box with something rattling around inside.
    Let’s see. Maybe there’s some gelt in it.
    Yikes! What are these five things? And a note. Such rotten handwriting. It all looks like hieroglyphics to me.
    There’s Mo working over there. He’s good at deciphering puzzles. I’ll ask him.
    “Whadda ya want, Gabe? Can’t you see I’m busy schlepping this pallet?”
    “Here. Can you make out what this note says?” I hand him the paper.
    “Hmm.” He scrutinizes the note for a minute or two. Finally he says, “Where did you get this?”
    “I found it in a box with these five things.”
    Mo gives me a long, fishy look. “I think you’re in trouble Gabe.”
    “What! Why? What does the note say?”
    “It says that whoever opens this box will incur our wrath.”
    “Wrath? Whose wrath?” This is getting weird.
    “Let me see the box,” Mo says.
    I hand it over. He looks inside at the five little statues and says, “Oy vey. Now I think we may all be in trouble. Don’t you know who those five figures represent?”
    I shake my head.
    “Osiris, Horus, Thoth, Isis, and Ra.”
    “Holy mackerel!” I say. “What happens now?”
    Mo shrugs.
    “Pharoah’s gonna kill us,” I say, and we both break into a run.
    We get a couple hundred yards out, stop and turn around.
    The job site we were working on starts to shake. So do the other two pyramids further up the dunes, as well as that funky lion-headed statue Ely and his crew were working on. Now the whole desert is shaking and the rest of the construction workers are making tracks in all directions.
    In a few minutes all three pyramids and the Sphinx are gone.
    Mo and I sit down on the sand and watch as the chaos comes to a gradual end. Hundreds of men and women are standing around, not knowing exactly what comes next.
    “Great, Mo, just great,” I say to my friend. “Now what are we supposed to do?”
    “I don’t know about you, Gabe,” Moses says as he stands and dusts himself off. “But I’ve got my work cut out for me.”

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Wow, what a killer last line. It puts everything together in a neat package.Your use of language almost sounds like New Jersey , specifically Hoboken. It tickled my fancy and you knows dat ain’t so easy. Good job this week. When are you coming states side? Have to sell the digs first?

  16. Kerry Charlton


    It was a job like no other Robert Prescott had ever tackled as a contractor, a bottom up restoration of an twenty eight column Greek Revival plantation built in 1832 thirty miles from Atlanta. He had purchased it for a bargain, a million two. Located 31 miles from Atlanta, it was one of the few plantations that General Grant had let stand. Why, of course rumors swirled in history about Jessica Barkley, mistress of the house and how she saved it from destruction.

    Robert had tackled bigger jobs but none so personal as saving Singing Meadows. Architects, and engineers had come up with the same advice. Tear it down, it was too far gone and would cost tens of millions to restore it. So Robert had donated it to the state of Georgia, raised thirty one million and under commission from the governor, proceeded to carefully remove and store most of it while rebuilding the basic bones exactly as previously built.

    After a month of careful removal his chief foreman motioned for him to come to the main staircase to a newel post on the first landing,

    “Robert, there seems to be a note inside addressed to a Robert. Is it coincidence?

    He took the fragile, faded envelope and opened the note tucked inside, the letter dated July 21, 1864.

    “My darling Robert, we haven’t heard from you in six weeks and I know not if you are still alive. I am afraid the south is lost with the taking of Atlanta. I’ve sent everyone away to safety but I will stay and defend our precious home. If I survive, you won’t need this letter, if not please read below.

    ‘You are the love of my life and whether alive or dead we will be joined in paradise.
    Our children who are now safe will inherit our home and treasure it if still standing. . The south will rise again as sure as rain falls and crops grow.
    I know we shall meet sometime before paradise, if you are reading this, never give up hope we shall be together, our love is stronger than time or malice.
    I left my mothers pearl and gold broach with our daughter Alice, you know the one. Look for it and when you find it we will be together. Carry this tintype photo to remember me by. I am wearing the broach
    Till we meet darling, stay safe and always remember,.
    Your loving wife, Jessica Prescott Barkley‘.

    Two and a half years later, Singing Meadows had been completed , a charity ball was under way and Robert watched the couples dance in the ballroom. It was during times like this, that he missed his wife of twenty seven years, who died from cancer. His eyes cast upon a beautiful woman some years younger than he, who seemed to be walking toward him. She stopped and introduced herself,

    “My name is Alice, so you’re the genius who restored this.?”

    “No to the first part, yes to the second. I‘m Robert Prescott”

    “I already know who you are. You certainly are modest, it’s a work of beauty. I am an architect myself and I know how hard it must have been. “

    “Well thank you, would you care to dance.”

    “I‘d love to would you help me with my jacket?”

    As he did so, his eyes fell upon Alice‘s dress. . .

    “Mr. Prescott, you’re staring at me.”

    “Please forgive me, I was not only admiring you but the broach that you wear“

    My great aunt, many generations back was Jessica Barkley, she saved this house from the Union army. I’m named for her, my first name is Jessica.”

    Robert touched the tintype in his vest pocket, gathered Alice in his arms and danced into the future. .

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you A. S. P. It is true I get a lot of inspiration from houses. I am restoring a Victorian two story with a two level wrap porch. Built 1895. Over three hundred and fifty thousand worth of work. They are a real challenge . Thank you for the kind comments

    1. writer_sk

      Kerry! Great read. I enjoyed the scenery and imagined a large scape for the singing meadows with the pillars, property and large ballroom…

      I know I often suggest this but it seems your story could grow to be longer. I would love to hear more about Jessica. The concept of a plantation is intriguing because I know next to nothing about them.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks so much for all your comments about my story. I feel cramped with the 500 most of the time and breakout with 4000 up to 8000 in my other writing. Spend a week with us on the river road to New Orleans
        We have spent the night three times at Nottoway in White Castle, La, the largest plantation home in America. They only let Five couples in and you have complete run of the home for the night

        32000 feet of priceless antiques. Balconies overlooking 500 year oaks. It is am experience one never forgets.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks JR, glad you enjoyed it. There are so many stories about strong women who managed to save their homes from the advancing Union army. Mostly the stories lie dormant because idiots think the war of the south was fought only by man.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Reatha, I enjoy these type of stories myself. I am wanting to expand it, first going back and writing a pre story and then jumping into the present and picking up where I left off. Work demands are very high now and I barely have time to write the 500 but hopefully after the first of the year, I will have time. Thank you again for all your support.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you for your wonderful thoughts. So happy you enjoyed it. I get totally involved when I write and usually slip myself into the MC in my stories. sort of what I had wished or how I really wanted to turn out with the right career. And all that went with it.

  17. rlk67

    Not too much flooding, I thought, compared to other places. I dated an Irma once. Did a lot more damage than this.

    Still, I had to clear the site a bit because ‘the buliding must be built, no matter what the setbacks’, says the boss. That’s when I noticed the closed box. My heart raced…could it be? Jewels from a 15th century shipwreck? I opened it. No, it wasn’t. Severe disappointment set in. I laughed.

    Hmm…Well, I might have a need one day for a calendar page from 1992, or even a picture of Danny Devito as The Penguin. I was more unsure about a refrigerator from Barbie’s Dream House, or a manual for Windows 3.1. Oooh…now a Charles Barkely Olympic Dream Team card…that had potential.

    But with everything in life, there must be a catch. And I was bored. So I called the number to discover the mysterious identity of Mr. Phase One who seemed to be stuck in a time trap from twenty-five years ago.

    “You’re joking. You found what?!” Mr. Phase seemed quite phased.

    “A box with that stuff I just mentioned. There’s a note to call. You wanna come and pick it up?” I didn’t mention that I’m not a delivery service.

    Silence. Did I lose him?

    “So you found it. I can’t believe it. What’s your name?”

    “Hank. I’ve been working for this company for a while, and…”

    He heaved a long sigh. What’s with this guy? I was patient. I grunted. I wasn’t patient.

    “Ok, listen, Hank. I’ll tell you….I can’t believe it…all right, look. It’s like this.” Oh, no. A story. There goes lunch.

    “My name is Joe Polenti. Does that sound familiar? How long have you lived here, Hank?”

    Oh, man. That name did sound familiar. “My family’s been here since ’87,” I answered.

    “So maybe you’ll remember. I was a deejay at WPLX which back then played Top 40.”

    Oh…right! “Wait! You’re Jumpin’ Jammin’ Jungle Joe? I listened to you….”

    “…every day. LIke the rest of the world. That was our haydey, Hank. And it was Jammin’ Jumpin’ Jungle Joe.”

    “Oh, right.” How could I not remember? Jam & Jump with Jungle Joe in the mornings, at WPLX!

    “Anyway, we decided to make a contest back then. A massive hunt through the city, in conjunction with the Herald. We made loads of clues and hidden stash in different buildings, in fields, even one in the middle of the bay. Phone numbers and signs around town and upside down in newspapers…it was epic!”

    “So that means…”

    “That’s right, Hank! Great job! You found the first box! Well, a quarter century later, but it’s the effort that counts! Hank, that was only the first phase. There were eleven phases in all. Leading to…”

    “Leading to….?” I was somewhat captivated.

    “A few free tickets to Kamri’s Bar and Grill, and a personal party with the rest of the gang at PLX.”

    I was stunned. “Uh…Joe…”

    “Call me Jammin’. I mean, I’m 62, but it brings back memories.”

    “Er…Jammin’…I don’t…I mean, I listened every day back then, but I really don’t recall any of this…”

    “No, Hank. Of course you don’t. It never got off the ground. All that work for nothing.”


    “Yeah, sure, we hid the box. We got all excited at the station, Hank. Then…he came. He came, and ruined everything.”

    “Who? Who, Jumpin’? I mean, Jammin’? Who came?”

    “Andrew.” His voice cracked.


    “We finally finished everything…all the plans in August, just before…the big one.” He was whispering.
    “It was awful. Much worse than Irma. Don’t you remember, Hank? All the destruction?”

    I didn’t answer. I did remember.

    “Hank, my house. My boat. All gone. But not my family. I still had them.” He began to sob. “It was so scary, Hank. Our home disintegrated around us. The water, my kids screaming…”

    “Oh, Joe. I don’t know what to say. We all went through it. I’m so sorry to remind you…”

    “It’s ok, Hank. We survived, didn’t we? Barely, but we did. But I couldn’t jam or jump after that. I just needed to hug my family.”

    I took a deep breath. “Um…so what should I do with the box, Joe?”

    “Don’t know, Joe. Just hold on to the things which really count. Just hold on.” Click. He hung up.

    I stared in the box. Then I closed it, and put it in the truck, next to my son’s birthday card. I’ll use it to remind me. Don’t forget what’s important. Ever.

    1. GrahamLewis

      “Mr. Phase seemed quite phased.” I’m trying to figure out if this is a forced pun or a mistake, since the word of course is “fazed”.

      Nice contemporary piece, tying yesterday in with long ago.

    2. JRSimmang

      Great piece, rlk. I think the pairing of the two hurricanes bookends the piece nicely, and I think this should be extended into a longer piece, one where Hank goes on a journey to find the other 10 boxes. I got a lot of satisfaction reading this.
      I would suggest keeping Joe’s emotions in check, maybe not sobbing, but that’s pretty much it.

      1. rlk67

        Ok, I suppose it wasn’t really that sad for Joe, was it? It’s more of how I react when get criticism. (Not really).

        There really was a contest like this in Miami years ago, before Andrew. Complicated and convoluted, but fun.

        1. JRSimmang

          That sounds like a blast!
          I think this piece deserves a larger space. I leave my comment because I would love for you to lengthen this out, which would allow for Joe and Hank to have a more candid conversation that would lead to Joe’s sobbing toward the end. As I stated above, this is a great piece for its characters and relatability. Personally, I want to see how it all plays out.

    3. writer_sk

      Rlk – this drew me in from the start with the dialogue and allusions.

      Although the theme of your story was the star, for me, the way Hank’s memory was jogged while speaking to Joe was handled perfectly.

      Nice work

  18. jhowe

    Wow, JR, there’s a lot going on in this. Lots of tension filled action and well written dialog. It’s a good combo of sci-fi and horror. Am I right to assume the MC, Alpha and Beta are the same character?

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Boy does this bring back memories of KLIF IN Dallas. Many a party did Gorden McClendon the owner of the station have at his house, former country club in Denton
      Had a plastic box with 25 thousand cash and everyone at the party was given a chance to win it if you could figure out the combination, one try only. Guess who won it ? Nobody, think it was rigged.

  19. GrahamLewis


    The bulldozers had been through and the big stuff hauled away. My job was to rummage through the little stuff piled at the edge, checking for anything of archaeological significance. Not likely when that Newark New Jersey site had abandoned since a post-war apartment building burned down in 1975. Still, the rule was that everything gets checked, just in case. Kicking through the debris, I came across a small, rusty, dented metal box, the size of a small tackle box. I judged it to have been there since the fire happened. There was some sort of writing on the top, probably magic marker, but too faded to make out. A trace of scotch tape, too, like maybe a paper note had once been attached. There was no lock and the rusty snap broke off when I tried to open it.

    Inside I found five things: a baggie holding a lock of hair, a photograph of a stocky white man in his 60s, a typed note with a phone number and instructions to call “or else,” a handwritten plea to comply with any forthcoming demands — and the withered remains of a human finger. I took the box to my office and tried to call the number. That particular exchange had been eliminated years ago. Odds are whoever left that box meant it to be found immediately, but the fire intervened.

    Too bad for the guy in the photograph. No one got the demands, so no one had a chance to call.

    After researching the photo online, I sent the finger and hair to the FBI for DNA analysis, and the results corresponded with the photo. No need for handwriting analysis. I could only imagine what the man’s last days and moments had been like, wondering why his so-called friends had turned against him.

    Now we know what happened to Jimmy Hoffa. I almost felt sorry for him, as much as anyone can feel sorry for a Mafia thug.

  20. writer_sk

    Evan’s return to the construction site was more to quiet his mind than to satisfy any former connection he had to the group home where he was raised and his team had demolished to make way for the expansion of the hardware store. He remembered fighting. He recalled fist fighting other kids there, fighting with his brother, fighting the orderlies. He kept staying to be with his brother, Jake. Jake was his only connection to his biological albeit broken home. When one of the counselors beat Evan until his nose was broken and his wrist sprained, the authorities had no choice but to remove him from harm’s way where he landed softly in foster care, finally released from his purely sentimental and manufactured obligation to Jake.

    Home now was his wife and kids. Home was meatloaf on Mondays and pizza on Fridays. Home meant cutting the lawn then playing catch with his son while drinking from the cold glass of beer Samantha brought him, an affectionate hand placed on his unshaven Saturday face. It was going down to the construction site and putting in a hard day’s work with his men then playing darts for happy hour. It was running in the early morning light with his dogs and teenage daughter while the town came to life around him. It was travel mugs, laundry baskets and movie nights, homework, birthdays and date nights. Home was replacing the absence of his biological family with the presence of his wife and her family. Home was kissing his wife goodnight and then getting down on his knees to thank God for saving him from his anger.

    Now, back at the construction site, the small box he had found meant nothing. His past was his past and the tokens his brother had buried in the box had come into his hands– but it was just a coincidence. His hand ran over the smooth lines of Jake’s old Zippo lighter of which he could remember his brother flipping up and down before he delivered a beating. He dumped the box upside-down watching the paper with the phone number on it fall into the ditch abutting the construction site. The old deck of cards fell next, Queen following King, Joker following Queen, and the old bent Ace that Jake would use to cheat the janitor out of cash, twisting and turning in the air, to fall, forgotten, to the dirt. Evan took a match from the practical box of long matches Samantha kept in the kitchen for lighting the stray pilot light or the wick that illuminated an impromptu candle-lit dinner of roasted chicken with buttered vegetables they’d share when they found themselves alone while the kids were at sleepovers. He lit it without hesitation and watched the items from Jake’s box burn. Embers traveled up beyond the construction crane, dissipating into the night as Evan walked away, returning anew with dawn only to clean the work site and dispose of the bricks from the foundation that would be rebuilt.

    1. JRSimmang

      I have to second J’s opinions. This is a poetic piece with a certain rhythm. It feels like an interlude between his past and future, which I believe was your intention.
      If I could recommend trimming the first sentence and extending the first paragraph to show more of Evan’s emotions toward the hardships he endured in the group home. I wonder if this isn’t Evan’s story, but Jake’s, and how Jake had been the crux of Evan’s tribulation.

  21. ClutteredThoughts

    Once again, CT goes over the word limit! Here’s a little two-parter for you guys. I’d call it “Dreamworker” but I’ve already used that title for something else.

    The box was about the size of a toaster oven, maybe a bit larger; wooden, painted crudely; maddeningly familiar. Kat shook it gently, holding it far from her body lest it explode or break or something – who knew what had been left lying around on the construction site. She’d wrestled it out of its old rebar nest on the condemned site, late in the evening. She was only guided by the light of her dying flashlight, searching for her lost phone.

    The box was surprisingly heavy, as if filled to the brim with paper or something. It made no noise when she shook it, so she frowned and flipped open the latch, lifting the lid. Seven things immediately caught her attention.

    A signature under the lid, her six-year-old handwriting in shaky paintbrush strokes. Above it, a message, scribbled in Sharpie, unfamiliar.

    Do you remember the box?

    She did; she had made it on an arts field trip in elementary school. She’d thrown it away years ago. The note continued: Give your most recent missed call a ring back. This is just phase one, and if you listen to what I have to say you may be able to survive.

    Thing number three was her phone, glowing gently with a message of a missed call. Kat didn’t recognize the number. The other four things laid on a bed of translucent sand: a pair of sickle earrings, a tiny composition notebook in the glass case of a metal lantern, a neatly-folded backpack with a geometric design, and a stack of quarters, with pieces of a larger mural on the backs rather than state images. She breathed deeply, disturbed, and called the number.

    The other end picked up immediately. “Oh, thank god you called.” Male, Spanish accent, totally unfamiliar. “Listen, you’re in unimaginable-”

    “Who the h*ll are you, and how do you know about my dreams?” she snapped, stirring an anxious finger in the clear sand. It was surprisingly soothing. “How did you get this box? What is going on – it’s not funny, you know!”

    The other man was pleading for her to calm down. “Please, listen. They’re things from your dream records, to prove what I’m saying is real – I’m trying to save your life! You need to get everything in the bag and get out of the construction site. Can you do that?”

    “No. Tell me what’s going on!” Kat snapped. Her dreams were, arguably, the most private thing in her life. How did a random man know what the most important objects from all of her dreams were, let alone who she was?

    The man sighed. “My name is Alex, and you have dragged your dreams into reality. Do you remember your last dream?”

    1. ClutteredThoughts

      He barreled on, not giving her time to pause. “You figured out it was a dream, started to control it. We made you forget, twice, but you remembered, even when you truly woke up – you realized what you could do, Kat, even if you didn’t know it. Do you remember the Dreamkeeper?” Kat shuddered at the memory of the towering, four-armed monstrosity. “That was real. Kat, your dreams are too powerful, and now they are becoming real- we have a way to undo it, but only you can stop the dreams coming through! Kat!”

      Kat picked up a miniature sickle, shaking, hardly listening to Alex anymore. She was thinking about all the horrible creatures and things that stalked through her dreams at times, never frightening her until morning, when she remembered what had really happened. The Monster, the children soldiers, animatronic spiders, shades, Santa Barbara, the Bogeymen… she remembered how in that dream, she’d been approached by a dream agent who told her how to beat the Bogeymen. And in another dream, where she’d set fires with her mind, how a government force tried to take her in and undo her abilities.

      Alex seemed able to read her mind. “Yes, Kat, it’s all real! All of that was real – and it’s all converging on you, trying to make the whole world one of your dreams. Kat, you need to listen to me and GET OFF THE SITE. Keep the sickles out, you’ll need them. And just in case – use the lantern for defense, and the quarters to guide you if our call disconnects. You need to move quickly.”

      Kat dumped the contents of the box, sand and all, into the backpack and slid it onto her back. Her phone went on speaker in a back pocket, and she looked at the tiny sickles she held in each hand. “Alex, what good are these?”

      “You title your dreams, right? When you remembered them, you’d write down the story and title it.” Kat nodded in agreement, and despite not being able to see her, Alex got the sentiment. “Remember Julia, and her laptop?”

      A slow grin spread over Kat’s face, momentarily forgetting the horrors that lay ahead. Holding both sickles with one hand, she pantomimed clicking and dragging an image to make it larger, and the sickles grew to full size.

      “Everything from your dreams is real here, Kat,” Alex told her as she started towards the entrance. A man shouted in Russian in the distance, bringing back memories of Pyramid Town, and a dog barked in response. “It’s currently contained to the construction site, but you have to get out. That’s phase one.”

      “Phase two?” she asked, holding her breath as she picked her way through the flock of crows.

      “Phase two is fixing all this,” he replied, and Kat gave a shriek as she ran towards the sudden pack of zombies blocking the entrance, sickles flying as she fought through her mind’s creations to survival.

      1. theexcitedquestion

        OH MY LANTA!
        Probably, no not probably, certainly my favorite thing I have read on this site yet. I am itching for this to be a novel. So get on that CT. ;D

        1. ClutteredThoughts

          Oh my goodness- thank you so much! If I had time to write it out properly I’d love to make it into a novel, I definitely have the material to work with (just about everything here is taken from an actual dream of mine)

      2. JRSimmang

        Yeah, don’t worry about the word limit.
        Creative idea! Dream manifestation is intriguing, and I think you illustrated the confusion and fear that comes with seeing your worst nightmares in front of you. I don’t know if it was intentional, but there’s a shift in your narrative from the beginning to her realization that she was controlling the monsters. It seemed to fit her return to her childhood immaturity and explosive imagination running amok.
        I would be careful of enumerating the items. Be specific in your identification of them, or reveal them only when needing to be used. It’ll cut down the word count and ease the pacing.

          1. A.S.P.

            This piece is bursting with creativity and excitement. My favorite part is you saying it came from your own dreams. How inspired our minds are when others believe them at rest.

      3. GrahamLewis

        CT — You’re a good writer, but I wonder if you ever consider taking the 500-word limit seriously? The purpose is to sharpen your writing by cutting everything that is not absolutely necessary. If you don’t do that, I think you’re missing the point of the exercise. I know you can do it — strike most adjectives,most passive verbs, and sentences that don’t absolutely move it forward. Like changing “Kat gave a shriek” to “Kat shrieked” or “Alex seemed able to read her mind” reduced to “Alex seemed to read her mind.”

        Why not give it a try?

        Or just tell me to MYOB.

        1. ClutteredThoughts

          Thanks Graham! I normally would try and keep this under 500 words but I was basing this on my own dreams, and in my dreams the sheer amount of detail is what makes them so interesting. There definitely were places (like your second example) where I could have cut it down more but I was honestly too excited to post it.

  22. A.S.P.

    The oversees get their rocks off ordering us lowly diggers to work outside the atmosphere domes. The surface of Mars ain’t the place you wanna crack open without the protection of artificial gravity.

    One gas pocket and poof! You’re launched into orbit prayin’ to Holy Moses your cheap plastine tether don’t bust from your suit.

    Happened to Rey just yesterday. Lester the week before. Poor bastards have already been replaced by newbies fresh off the shuttle. Bright-eyed, pink-faced puppies who actually believe their hard-earned wages’ll go to their families Earthside.

    Well, sure, boys and girls. After it’s divvied between the overseers, project managers and good ‘ol Uncle Sam. Leaving whatever family you were dumb enough to abandon for the prospect of building a better tomorrow with a whopping.02 percent. Ain’t no goin’ back, neither. Diggers ain’t worth the shuttle fare back to earth.

    Puts a low-down fire in my gut, it does.

    I slam my hyperspade into Mars’ ugly crust, half hopin’ for it to poof me off this rock. Instead it slams against something with a distinct plastine thunk.

    The heck?

    I dig around, uncovering a storage box. Got the company logo on it so probably ain’t no alien time capsule.

    Deciding to open it, I find a refractor suit, kind we use for protection from solar flares, pocket drill, pack of cheap cigarettes and–no way. Two cans of Budweiser!

    I’m tempted to crack em both open, but one’s got a note taped to it.

    I glance ’round the open stretch of red rock. Other than Krissa, Rey’s new widow, diggin’ in her spot a quarter mile out, there’s no one ’round to see what I’m seeing.

    Note reads, “phase one”. Followed by an extension.

    Frowning, I punch the extension into my com helm. A woman answers.

    “Tell me straight, Mace. You hate them as much as I do?”

    When I eye Krissa in the distance, she ain’t diggin’ no more. Just standing there, looking at me.

    “Ain’t no secret there.” I say. “What’s with the beer and cigarettes? And the heck does phase one mean?”

    “I would light those cigarettes yet.” She says. “They’re tubular C-4.”

    Beneath my helm, my brows hike to my hairline.

    “Phase one,” she says, “wait till dark then put on the refractor suits. Phase two, drill holes in the foundation has lines surrounding the domes. Phase three, insert the explosives and light ’em up.”

    Each phase of her plan’s got me grinnin’ wider than the last.

    “And the Buds?” I ask, giddier than a kid on Christmas.

    “It’s going to be the biggest firework show on Mars.” There’s a touch of a smile to her words now. “We’re going to need a drink.”

    1. writer_sk

      A.S.P.- your story was great. I really liked the setting you created and the way the MC talked. Loved the futuristic ” big brother” feel.

      Am interested to see what your characters do next.

    2. JRSimmang

      I really enjoyed the diction, the MC’s nonchalance. I think I know several guys like that. You’ve integrated sci-fi into realistic fiction effortlessly; it’s very controlled. I do want to know the end game.

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      Good one. You made a construction site on the surface of Mars, and those working there, as familiar as one down the street, well, except for the high mortality rate. I do doubt anyone will be enjoying the beer.

  23. jhowe

    I brushed dirt from the metal box I dug up at the secluded Hughes & Company job site. I was working late and everybody had gone home. The latches were caked with grime so I took a ball peen hammer and a cold chisel to it. A few choice whacks and the lid flipped open. The nearly full tube of Colgate, squeezed flat at its geometric center caused a slight twinge. The red lace garter made my heart speed up a few beats. The plastic bride and groom wedding cake topper took my breath away. The white veil, still soft and sheer flowed in my hands. My knees trembled violently and I sat, sliding down the foundation trench. My backhoe rumbled above but I could hardly see it through the tears.

    The items had been with her when her plane went down two months after our honeymoon. We would have celebrated our five year anniversary today. I considered calling in sick but I knew I had to stay busy. There was one more thing in the box; a neatly folded sheet of paper. I fumbled with it, leaden fingers probing, pawing at the edges. Finally it opened to reveal what appeared to be a single phone number. Nothing else.

    I pulled my iPhone from my pocket and dialed, a hollowness surrounding my thoughts. I didn’t recognize the number. It rang, many times and then nothing. I redialed with the same results. For hours I made the call until my phone died. With stiff legs, I scrambled up the trench. The backhoe had run out of fuel so I ran to my truck and plugged the phone charger into the cigarette lighter.

    When the phone perked up, I dialed. A man answered.

    “Cory Stevens?”

    “Yes,” I said, breathing hard.

    “I need you to do something for me.”

    “Tell me about Shelly. Is she alive?”

    “First, I need you to agree with my wishes.” His voice was deep, slightly familiar.

    “Yes, anything. Tell me about Shelly.”

    A red Jaguar sped toward my truck and braked. Jared Hughes, the founder and CEO of Hughes & Company got out and ended the call. I ran to him and grabbed his jacket.

    “Tell me about Shelly, goddamn you!” I shook him by the lapels, his head snapping back and forth. His slap stunned me and I let go of him.

    “I want you to kill me,” the big man said.

    I blinked. “Tell me about Shelly first.”

    “No, you have to agree. I’ve tried to do it myself but I can’t.” Tears streamed down his craggy face. “The one thing in life I haven’t been able to accomplish.”

    “I’ll do it if you tell me about my wife.”

    He nodded and pulled a small revolver from his pocket. He handed it to me and I took it.

    “After you do it, bury me down by the creek. Bury me deep. Use the backhoe. Nobody will ever know.” He pulled a key from his pocket. “This key fits my pool house. You know where I live. Inside, you’ll find a trapdoor under the chemical storage cabinet. Everything you need to know is in there.”

    “Why do you want to die?” I said.

    He shook his head.

    “How did you know I’d find the box?”

    “I’ll tell you nothing more. Now do it!”

    I told him to turn around and he did. Instead of shooting him, I hit him as hard as I could with the gun butt on the back of his head. He went down and I ran for the Jaguar. At his house, the key didn’t fit the pool house lock. There was a note tacked to the door.

    If you’re reading this, you must have done it. There is no trap door. Your wife’s plane crashed on my property and I buried her at the creek near where you buried me. That’s why no body was discovered. I don’t know why I did it. I’m sorry.

    I raced back to the jobsite. I shook the old man but he didn’t respond. I didn’t bury him. I called the police and told them what I’d done and sat in the dirt to wait.

    1. writer_sk

      jhowe- your piece still satisfies while also not allowing an escapist conclusion

      Even though his wife wasn’t alive the twist which he knocked the guy out made the story very real. Your MC seemed like a reasonable man not overcome by desperation but also not without hope that his wife would be found.

      Vivid illustrations in the first paragraph.

      Good character study.

    2. JRSimmang

      The tension in this piece (and I think I complement you every week on your ability to build tension) leaves me breathless. Cory is very well-fleshed out, and you’ve painted a description of Shelley that makes her come alive… again.
      I do wish this were a longer piece, more words, so that you could draw out his final race back to the job site. And, I would like to know how Jared Hughes found Cory so quickly.

    3. Pete

      Wow, this was packed with intensity. Glad I read this one, Just the description of him digging through the box, at how he fumbles with the number shows how much this means to him. Great work.

      1. A.S.P.

        Such an enjoyable read, jhowe. I’m intrigued most, I think, by the backstory. Hughes sounds like a despicable yet repentant villain, lol ya of complexity in so short a story.

  24. JRSimmang


    Sequencing was the job of Harper Sigma, and getting him to shut up was more difficult than Splitting. So, we brought him along only when we needed him. Of course, hindsight’s 20-20, and now I was staring at a rotary dial phone with an ornate cathead receiver and a noose for a cord.

    843. I try.

    8.4.3. I try again.

    The line was dead as far as I could tell, but it was all just the same. His mind was a steel trap. Quite literally.

    “What we got, Alpha?”

    “We got… squat.”

    Tau holds his hand up to his face to block the filtered sunlight that bounded through the broken windows and crumbling parapets. “You think he’s in there?”

    “Yes,” I say, the gravity in my voice making me sound more confident than I felt. Beta sidles up next to us and reaches around my shoulders, hugging me reassuringly.

    “That’s messed up,” Tau snorts.

    Robert Cutcheons. Man made of money. Man made of fame. Man made of death.

    “What was in the box?”

    I hold the box up to Tau and gently shake it.


    “There was a note,” I admit.

    He gestures for it, and I hand it over. “Phase one?”

    “We’re getting close.”

    “And then the number?”


    “May as well be in Greek.”

    “We read Greek.”

    I tilt the box into the sun and squint into it one last time, then turn it over.


    I jump backward, nearly toppling over Tau, drop the box, and fall flat on my back. A golden retriever leaps on to my chest and starts licking my face.

    “Woah, woah!” I swat the dog away, and it jumps up on Tau. “What the?”

    “It’s a dog!” squeals Beta, a kid again. We had a golden growing up. I bet Robert knew that.

    The dog stoops down and barks, ready for play, then bites at my pants legs, pulling me toward the house. “Hey,” I shout, then I hear something roll out of the box. I glance back as Beta picks up a spool of thread with a needle. He scrunches his eyebrows together, shrugs, picks up the box, then we follow the dog into the abandoned building.

    It’s more than a building. As we get closer, I notice the rusted tricycle. I see the swing set with only the chains, the deflated soccer ball, the uncut grass and derelict garden bed. We were walking into his home. We were about to touch ground in his Cortex.

    A third item frothed out of the box, and soon we are accompanied by flitting transparent bubbles. They engulfed us as we pushed through the door and into the salon. The dog lets my pant leg go, and runs off out the back of the house.

    “Hello,” asks Beta, his voice bouncing off the stairwell and walls.

    We listen for several breaths, the only sound being the click-click-click of the languidly spinning fan.

    “Huh,” coughs Tau. “No one’s home.”

    “Guys?” whispers Beta. “What’s in the box?”

    We turn around as Beta drops the box to the ground and backs away. He looks up, ashen, shaking his head. “No, no, that’s not normal.”

    The sound of a beating heart, the disruption between each beat, the empty thrusting of its valves against the plush interior of the box…

    “Hello?” a small voice drifts down the stairs. “I followed the bubbles. You brought back my dog.”

    We turn, and at the top of the stairs a child stands, gripping the front of his shirt, blood oozing onto it and dripping to the ground. “Have you found my heart?”

    Beta falls to his knees. “Oh God, I wasn’t ready for this. I wasn’t ready for this. I wasn’t ready for this,” he repeats over and over again.

    I step forward. “Robert?”

    He nods.

    “Robert, hey, I think we found your heart.”

    He descends the stairs. “Can you put it back?”

    Beta looks up at me, then to Tau.

    “Sure, buddy,” I say. “Sure we can. Can you come to us?”

    His eyes are locked on Beta, and Beta begins to sob silently. “I can help you, Robert.”

    Robert winds his way past us, looking up at us as he does, and sits down in front of Beta and the box. “My heart,” he sighs. “My dog told me you would come. I heard his barks.”

    “That’s a good dog,” Beta’s words are flightless and torn as he lifts Robert’s heart from the box. “I’ll put it back in very gently, then I’ll sew you up, okay?”

    Robert nods again, and then lays back on the floor.

    “Robert?” I reach out for his name. “Robert, where’re your parents?”

    Beta lowers his heart into his chest and takes out the needle and thread.

    “My parents?” he asks.

    “Yes, Robert, Buck and Georgina. Your dad and mom?”

    He winces with each new stitch. “They’re dead,” he says flatly. “I had to kill them.”

    Beta cuts the thread, and Robert sits straight up, thrusts his hand into the box, and pulls out a mask, the same mask he wore when he slit Francis Deacon’s throat, when he gutted Darren Wonaky, when he laughed at Col. Gabriel Strong. “Now, Mr Travis, you know the half of it. Time to go.”

    There’s a concussion behind us, and we’re showered with the molding crumbling debris of an exploded wall. The wind tears at our clothes. The PONoR rends this reality in half, casting an infinite number of reflections through the Turning Point.

    “That’s all you get, Harper!” he shouts. “That’s all I’m going to let you have!”

    I back up, grabbing Tau’s shirt as I retreat, and shout, “I’m going to get all of it!”

    “Not likely!” He strongarms Beta, forcing him to the ground and putting him in a headlock. “My price, Harper. You’re out one, and I’m coming for the rest of you,” he screams.

    We feel the concussion shake our bodies. We are blown backward and through the TransPo.

    He has the Beta me, part of me, and I didn’t know where it would end. Where he would end.

    -JR Simmang

    1. jhowe

      Wow, JR, there’s a lot going on in this. Lots of tension filled action and well written dialog. It’s a good combo of sci-fi and horror. Am I right to assume the MC, Alpha and Beta are the same character?

        1. RafTriesToWrite

          “What’s in the booooooox?” I remember this scene from the movie SE7EN, classic.
          I’d bolt out of there if I see a heart inside a box.
          Interesting story JR. I’m with pven. I thought I recognized the characters from somewhere.

    2. Kaboosh

      I didn’t know if you meant to do this, but I thought it was really clever that the prompt said “The is a phone number” and you spelled out “the” with a telephone keypad (843). Amazing storytelling overall!

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      Amazing writing, JR. I especially appreciated the descriptive details of the house, the rusted trike, the deflated ball, the sound of the fan, just great.


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