Portal Games

After a grueling day at work you go home. The sweet allure of your couch and captain crunch is over powering! You arrive at the door, stick in the key, yank it open and … see a writhing horde of Minotaur chanting in the night and then one notices you and charges. You slam the door, wait a minute and try again. This time it’s a mountain with climbers clambering up the towering heights. One waves at you. What do you do? What’s going on with this door of yours? Do you go in?

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

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329 thoughts on “Portal Games

  1. Animelover1616

    This is a short story for My Little Pony fans!
    I do not own any of the characters or settings from MLP.
    No spoilers here! 😀 Thanks!

    “Wow” I say as I attempt to make some sense of this. I close the door one more time.. Praying to God that this will all go back to normal and I can watch Netflix and eat some Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I open the door and just my luck… a portal to Equestria. “Oh my gosh” I say, staring into the open, vast land. I see Sugarcube corner, The Golden Oak library, and Rainbow Dash’s house up in the sky. I step into the doorway. As I let go of the handle.. The door closes and disappears. I don’t even mind. As I take a step into the lush green grass, Something happens. There was a flash of light all around me. Surrounded in light. I felt pushing and pulling going on inside my body. I close my eyes to bear the pain. I feel it all calm down and the lights disappear. I take another step, watching the ground to make sure that doesn’t happen again. As my foot is in view, I see it. A black hoof. “What?” A black hoof? I look behind me.. A tail! I have a purple mane.. So I am a black horse with a purple mane.. “Awesome!” I was filled with glee. “Do I have a cutie mark?” I look… hmm.. Oh! A fork and spoon! cool. I continue to walk.. Okay I start to run. As I run.. I bump into someone. “Sweet Celestia, darling are you okay?” I was dazed. All I could see was a blurred vision of a purple mane and white hooves. “R-Rarity?” I say as my final words before passing out. When I wake up.. I am on my couch. I look at my feet.. Normal human feet. *Sigh* “It was all a dream. Maybe I should take up cooking.”

  2. pvenderley

    Steam wafting off their hides, the Minotaur horde jump and stamp in time, arms reaching out to the mountain they believe to be Olympus. There is urgency in their lowing, wordless voices, and supplication in their gestures. In their eyes, hope.

    “I do not have the brain cells to deal with this,” I murmur.

    How one of the horde hears me through his mates’ lowing, I do not know. But he turns around and, spying me, issues guttural sounds that I try to ignore.

    “Gih,” it pleads, and the other monsters turn their heads. “Gih uh ah hoihs!”

    “I can’t!” I cry out. “I had a really bad day at work!”

    It sounds lame, and I know it sounds lame as I slam the door in my supplicants’ faces. But I can’t overcome my own fears and exhaustion to think of anything better to tell them.

    I open the door slowly, peeking through the crack.

    Now I’m halfway up the mountain, watching Tenji and Jammer as they navigate a treacherous stretch. They’re looking for evidence of the gods, a long hidden temple that holds a key to a prophecy. Tenji sees me and waves. Jammer ignores me.

    They’ve been on the mountain for a while. Jammer’s pissed, anxious to find the cave that will serve as the entrance to the temple. But Tenji’s always been the cordial one. He’ll wait. I think he knows he’s going to be the one to get there first. I think he’s savoring the anticipation.

    I don’t give them my excuse. I’ve heard it once. I can’t bear to say it again. Especially to the patient, waiting Tenji.

    Pretending to shield my eyes against the sun, I close the door once more.

    I know she’ll be there next time I open the door. Cella. Ebon hair, alabaster skin, green eyes flecked with red, with power. The nymph within the cave that will set Tenji and Jammer on their actual quest, down through the forest to recruit the voiceless Minotaur. The one Jammer will fall in love with instead of me.

    I know all this, and yet I know none of it. Her voice is as unformed as the Minotaurs’, and her emotions are as raw and mysterious as an unanswered crush. But were I to pass through that door, she would be standing there: waiting, beckoning.

    “You dreamed us.”

    “You put us to paper.”

    “Bring us to life.”

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a beautifully reflexive and reflective piece. The siren song of the story demanding to be written is a strong one, and hard to hear when the other pressures of life have worn you down. This is an excellent and subtle motivational speech for the author. Great one, PVEnderley. 🙂

  3. FinnMacCoul22

    Reflexively I waved back. Good upbringing, I guess. The climber waved once more and went back to climbing. Friendlier than the minotaur. This was a weird chain of thought.

    Maybe I would have come up with some kind of explanation or rationalization if I didn’t still have the door open, wasn’t still looking at a guy climbing a mountain in what should have been my living room.

    And what did the climber see when he looked at me? Was he waving to someone standing in a rectangle suspended in the open air with a residential neighborhood behind him? If so, he was handling the situation admirably.

    I took a firm grip on the doorframe and stuck my head inside. Or tried to. My forehead bounced off something solid and I jumped back. I rubbed where I’d hit my head and squinted through my fingers when the pain subsided.

    There was a huge hand on the other side of the portal now, mirroring my own. Fingers and a palm were spread in front of the mountain. They moved away when I lowered my hand. I slammed the door shut and sat down heavily on my porch, with my back to what was supposed to be my front door.

    I looked up and down the street, wondering what it would have looked like to a bystander. No sign of anyone, which seemed for the best. I got back to my feet, a little wobbly now and gave the door a wide berth.

    A little scream escaped me as I kicked open my side gate. But the only thing there was my side yard. The scream helped though, and I did it again when I opened my back door. Just my kitchen, right where it was supposed to be. I checked all my interior doors, barely screaming at all by the end. They were all normal.

    I stood in front of my front door for a long time. I could have prayed, called somebody, had a drink, but I just stood there staring at the door. Not even really thinking, just literally standing. It was not time well spent.

    Almost reflexively, again, my hand was suddenly reaching out, turning the knob. Other than my hand the rest of my body was frozen, I couldn’t have screamed if I wanted to. The door swung open.

    My car, my street, the sun going down. Everything where it should be. Which proved nothing. I stepped outside. No invisible barrier stopping me this time. I took a deep breath and turned around.

    All I saw was my living room. But what was going to happen when the door closed? I reached for it again but my hand froze on the handle.

    Because I was standing there in front of me. Just standing there. I waved but I didn’t wave back. I slammed the door shut as his hand reached for it the knob.

    I flung it open and I was gone. Just a room. This time I knew it was over and stepped inside.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is mind-bending, Finn. The MC’s trepidation shows, and his solution of finding another way in is definitely believable. Breaking the descriptions into shorter paragraphs helps build the overall disjointed sense of the encounter. Nicely done. 🙂

      I was wondering about the little scream until I realized it was a ‘Ki-Yi!’ sort of scream like someone would use in karate.

    2. regisundertow

      Very interesting. One of the few stories where I can truly feel the MC’s bafflement at what’s going on. I can imagine any one of us would be acting the same way in his shoes. Opening the door and seeing himself was a “holy cow” moment.

    3. seliz

      I liked the comedic take on this prompt. You had me hooked at the, “Friendlier than a minotaur” line. The screams while checking the doors were pretty amusing too. All in all though, I’d say your main character handled the whole ordeal pretty well.

    4. Liams_Dad

      I loved the humor of your MC as he observed the situation. Great line regarding the mountain climber: “If so, he was handling the situation admirably.”

  4. wheeler04

    Daniel pulls into his driveway, totally exhausted from his day at work. His honors degree in Literature only netted him a job in a small publishing company as a proof reader. Now he’s looking forward to a weekend of reading manuscripts and hoping Mary doesn’t have plans of going out. He looks at the cardboard box sitting in the passenger seat which contains a dozen manuscripts and decides he’s too tired to carry it into the house. He grabs the manuscript on top and heads for the front door.

    The front door closes behind him as he searches the cold stone walls in vain for the light switch. Frustrated he turns and walks towards the living room and bumps head first into a pillar. As he checks to see if his nose is bleeding, his eyes begin to adjust to the darkness. The living room is now a vast banquet hall with a fireplace on the far wall, provides the only light. In the center of the floor, which is clear of furniture, is a circle of chanting Minotaur. The banquet table is turned on its side in front of the fireplace with the chairs stacked alongside of it.

    Minotaur? Stone wall? Pillars? Fireplace? Daniel realizes now that he’s no longer in Kansas.

    From the low light of the fireplace he notices his wife, Mary, peeking over the top of the table. He successfully creeps along the wall to Mary without being noticed by the Minotaur. He’s greeted by tearful, sweaty wife, who starts to explain the situations, however, Dan decides that explanations would have to wait until they’re safely out of there. Mary does point out that the Minotaur are afraid of fire but she has no torch and there’s nothing left in the fireplace. Dan thinks for a moment, checks to see if his cigarette lighter still works, then grabs the poker by the fireplace. He rips the title page off the manuscript, places it in his pocket, then impales the manuscript on the poker. They are ready.

    The Minotaur continue with their ritual as Dan and Mary make their way along the wall back to the front door. They’re halfway there when one of the Minotaur senses the escaping humans. His roar alerts the others and the chase is on. Just as the Minotaur are on them, Dan lights the manuscript which deters the attack. The script burns out as the couple reaches the front door. Dan opens the door as the Minotaur grab Mary. A short struggle results in Dan losing his grip on Mary and she is pulled back as Dan falls out the front door. He hears Mary scream as the door closes.

    Dan’s first instinct is to charge back in there, but he hesitates as two words keep echoing through his mind – “Fire, Weapon”. He runs to the car where he grabs another manuscript and his .32 automatic from under the seat. Praying he’s not too late, he runs for the front door.

    Dan bursts through the door shouting Mary’s name only to be met with a blast of cold air and a group of bewildered mountain climbers. He finds himself in the back of a cave, running towards the opening and the climbers. He stops when he realizes again something is amiss. Mary, one of the group, approaches Dan with a barrage of questions. What are you doing here? Didn’t you pass on climbing today? How did you get here through the snow dressed in a business suit? Why did he bring a manuscript? What’s with the gun?

    Dan, of course, couldn’t say that he brought the gun to save her from the Minotaur. He slips the gun into his jacket pocket as he tries to conjure up a story. However, Mary decides that explanations can wait until later. She gives him a spare coat and shows him some kindling that he could start a fire with while Mary and the others finish their climb. They should be back soon since from here there’s a ledge they can take to the top. One of the other climbers warns Dan about the dangers of causing an avalanche if he fires his pistol. With that, the climbers leave the cave to continue their trip.

    Dan stands at the opening and watches as the climbers move along the ledge until they disappear around the corner. The ledge is about six feet wide but very treacherous with the falling snow. He retreats back into the cave and starts gathering the kindling for a fire. He knows he’ll need pages from the manuscript to get the fire going, so he unclasps the pages and intertwines some sheets with the sticks. Once the fire is going, he sits down and begins reading the story.

    The title, “Murder on Sourland Mountain”, strikes Dan as quite a coincidence, since they are on Sourland Mountain now. Again he keeps the title page however as he reads each page he tosses it onto the fire. He gets through two chapters when he hears Mary’s voice.

    Dan walks to the cave entrance and sees Mary hurrying towards him, being pursued by one of the other climbers wielding a large hunting knife. Dan tries to step out onto the ledge but can’t get any traction with his shoes on the slippery rocks. Watching helplessly, as he reaches inside his coat for his gun, the climber catches Mary and brings the knife down on her. She screams as the murderer tosses her body off the ledge. Dan raises his gun and fires wildly. One bullet catches the knifer in the leg and he falls onto the ledge. Dan empties the gun without hitting him again. He rises and limps toward Daniel and the cave. Dan is ready for a fight, not caring if he lives or dies. Suddenly there’s a rumbling noise from above, following by a cascade of snow and rock. Dan falls back into the cave as he hears the muffled cry of the murderer being swept off the ledge. After a few minutes in sorrow, Dan decides to escape out the front door. With only the light from his lighter, he searches for the door in the back of the cave. He finds it and steps through. He’s back on his front lawn.

    Dan sheds the heavy coat and takes out the two title pages. “Murder on Sourland Mountain” was the second manuscript. He unfolds the first one, “The Savagery of Minotaur Castle”. Dan thinks for moment then races for the car. He removes the cardboard box from the front seat and dumps all the manuscripts on the lawn. He franticly searches through them, finally settling on one. He takes it with him to the front door of his house. Pausing to take a deep breath to calm himself down, he reads the title again, “A Guide to the Best Romantic Getaways in the Caribbean”. He reaches for doorknob.

    1. Observer Tim

      Dan has a remarkably cavalier attitude about destroying (burning) the source of his worldly income. It’s obvious both titles are sufficiently well-written to draw him in. 😉 This is definitely an original idea and nicely executed with lots of good description. 🙂

      The action sequences tend to fall a bit flat to me, mostly because they’re written in the same style as the description. What works really well for (a) is not so good for (b). The action sequences would be better served with more doing and less showing, and with generally shorter sentences and paragraphs.

      1. wheeler04

        Thank you, Tim, for your comments. I should have developed a more conflicted decision process as whether or not to sacrifice the manuscripts. I see now that Dan jumped rather quickly into his decision. I also agree that my action sequences do need work. I guess it came across more as a movie script than a narrative. I will definitely keep your advice on hand as I try future prompts.

  5. neko

    I’m not a leader

    “Dismissed!” The Hitler lookalike (with orange vest, mustache and pot belly) slammed his fist on the table. “All except for Karen.”
    There was no one named Karen in the room.
    As we filed out, he jabbed a finger at my chest. “Karen! You’re not dismissed!”
    “Um… I’m actually-’
    “I want you to prove yourself to me in this project! I gave you that leadership position for a reason!” He snapped. He flicked off a switch with his pinky, which had been in his nose a minute ago.
    “Um… I’m not a leade-”
    “Do well, and you’ll get a raise and promotion. Fail, and you’ll find yourself seeing no more dawns.” His voice lowered to a harsh whisper. His forehead beaded up as he convulsed in pain for no particular reason.
    “Oh, and if you want to wake up tomorrow, this conversation never happened.” He flashed me a feral grin before stomping out of the meeting room.

    “What did I ever do to deserve this?” I snarled as I stared at the hordes of charging Minotaur.
    “The meeting,” he growled, yellow eyes glowing.
    I looked behind me to see a three hundred feet drop from a cliff, ten steps away from my back. That was where they were pushing me to?
    Was there no way out? I stared at the edge. The distance between my future lover and myself decreased exponentially as I back away from the angry Minotaur.
    “The meeting,” it hissed again, and all the information came back to me.
    But then the Minotaurs vanished, and they were replaced by a door. The one I had entered through. I rushed out.
    After sparing a few thoughts to my beautiful first husband, the couch and close second, captain crunch, I decided to try my luck once more.
    This time, a mountain with climbers met my eyes and I groaned.
    “Remember the meeting?” The Minotaur’s voice still echoed in my ears. It was an inhumane sound of nails scratching against a chalkboard.
    The air was bitingly cold. As I stared at the mountain climbers, there was one that popped out with his ugly orange vest, huge mustache and pot belly.
    “Oh… that can’t be…” I whispered.
    I just had a grueling day of work. Or in other words, staring and being shouted at by my boss, with his trademark atrocious orange vest, huge mustache and pot belly. How he ever became the CEO of a tech company was unknown of, but it was probably not due to his looks.
    And I watched as the tiny figure, last in line, crawled up the hill.
    I knew. I just knew that the figure was me.
    And then reality slapped me across the face.
    The meeting. Oh, of course.
    Did I want to be fired? I watched as that last figure shot to the middle.
    Did I want a raise? The figure shot to the front.
    What was I going to risk? The snow tumbled down from the hill.
    I watched as I shot to the front and took my position, rounding survivors up and helping the injured.
    I am a leader and in control.
    Kuroha, looking down from up above, laughed and smiled as his plan went correctly. With a snap of his fingers, he restored that wooden piece of trash.
    He entered that atrocious man’s brain again. “I repaid you. You will now die.” The man convulsed in pain again, beads of sweat popping up on his forehead.
    He lay there, his heart no longer beating.
    Kuroha laughed. “Men nowadays. So easy to fool!” He moved the man’s pawn to the trash bin.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is an interesting take, Neko (love the name). Being manipulated by a god(?) can be such a nuisance; it’s obvious the MC has been there before, simply because she isn’t totally freaked out by it. This is a good concept and a well-done interpretation of it. 🙂

      There are a few places where I had some difficulty following the story (e.g. what is ‘that wooden piece of trash’?). Also, it would help my tired eyes if you could put an extra line between paragraphs, especially when the subject matter is unusual enough to require concentration.

  6. BlueJay91

    I’ve eaten cow meat before. The farmers should have fixed the splintered wood, but I was grateful they hadn’t. My ribcage always protruded during the winter, so I was very grateful to say the least. Slipping through the broken fence and tearing apart a calf was so satisfying. I’ve never been so damn satisfied in my life. Actually I can’t say that because when the shotgun shells had sliced through my fur and James fixed the gushing holes, I wasn’t just satisfied, but indebted.

    I’ve come a long way since then. Tonight, I was going to prop my feet on the coffee table and after I finished the crunchy yellow captain shit I would drink cold cow milk. I’d rather rip open a young calf, but James says, “You have to blend”.

    He says a lot of stuff. “Don’t eat all my food. Wear your own clothes. This is my room.” Sometimes I laugh, and sometimes I growl. It all depends on the time of the month, but then he always says, “I’m going to give up on finding the spell. You are going to be a human forever.” Sometimes I hate him, and other times he doesn’t mind sharing his room so much.

    He would get home thirty minutes after me. James is a very punctual wizard, so I had thirty minutes to do whatever I liked in the apartment. I opened the door to a dark forest. At first I thought I was dreaming. I had spent practically my whole life in a forest, but then I saw the fire. Dancing around the fire were huge beasts with Bull heads. More cows. My claws unsheathed and a growl rose in my throat. A Beast turned towards me and charged. He was too big and had too many friends. I slammed the door shut.

    What the hell. James had talked about the door once or twice. He had actually used it to get us to this city, from the forest cabin. When he opened it before, there hadn’t been any beasts. I opened it again and was met with a flurry of snow. I slammed the door shut and stamped the snow from my heels. I turned around to see two hunters round the stairs, but I was too late. They had already shot off bullets. The thing about these hunters is they never miss. The slugs buried into my thigh and chest.

    They were walking down the hall towards me and I had slid to the ground. One of them asked, “Where’s the wizard?”

    I just raised my middle finger, claw and all.

    He checked the clip in his gun and said, “I’m only going to ask one more time.”

    And Icy blue blast froze them in place.

    James stepped out from behind them and scooped me off the floor. As he turned towards the door, my vision was going dark.

    “Are you okay?”

    I just raised my middle finger, claw and all.

    1. BlueJay91

      Dang.. I uploaded the version that was riddled with mistakes. Just because I’m going crazy that this isn’t the updated version, I’m pasting the updated one right below this comment. Sorry for wasting space.

      I’ve eaten cow meat before. The farmers should have fixed the splintered wood, but I was grateful they hadn’t. My ribcage always protruded during the winter, so I was very grateful to say the least. Slipping through the broken fence and tearing apart a calf was so satisfying. I’ve never been so damn satisfied in my life. Actually, that night when the shotgun shells had sliced through my fur and James fixed the gushing holes, I wasn’t just satisfied, but indebted.

      I had come a long way since then. I was going to sit on the couch and prop my feet on the coffee table. After I finished the crunchy yellow captain shit, I would not eat a cow, but drink cold cow milk. I’d rather rip open a young calf, but James says, “You have to blend”.

      He says a lot of stuff. “Don’t eat all my food. Wear your own clothes. This is my room.” Sometimes I laugh, and sometimes I growl. It all depends on the time of the month. When we fight, he always says, “I’m going to give up on finding the spell. You are going to be a human forever.” He wins all our arguments. Sometimes I hate him, and other times he doesn’t mind sharing his room so much.

      He wasn’t going to be home until thirty minutes after me. James is a very punctual wizard, so I had thirty minutes to do whatever I liked in the apartment. I opened the door to a dark forest. At first I thought I was dreaming. I had spent practically my whole life in a forest, but then I saw the fire. Dancing around the fire were huge beasts with Bull heads. Great, more cows. My claws unsheathed and a growl rose in my throat. A Beast turned towards me and charged. He was too big and had too many friends. I slammed the door shut.

      James had talked about the door. He had actually used it to get us to this city from the forest cabin. Although, there weren’t any beasts when he opened it the last time. I opened it again and was met with a flurry of snow. I slammed the door shut and stamped the snow from my heels. I Whipped around when I heard boots on the stairs. Two hunters rounded the hallway corner, but I was too late. They had already shot the bullets. The thing about these hunters is they never miss. The slugs buried into my thigh and chest.

      They were walking down the hall towards me and I had slid to the ground. One of them asked, “Where’s the wizard?”

      I just raised my middle finger. Claw and all.

      He checked the clip in his gun and said, “I’m only going to ask one more time.”

      Before the hunter could raise the gun, an Icy blue blast froze them before.

      James stepped out from behind them and scooped me off the floor. As he turned towards the door, my vision was going dark.

      “Are you okay?”

      I just raised my middle finger, claw and all.

      1. Observer Tim

        This is strange and beautiful, BlueJay. You did a great job pairing the reveal of the MC’s temperament and situation. In the short time I read about her, I came to care for her. I hope taking her through the door regenerates her, or that James has some healing spells cooked up. 🙂

      2. regisundertow

        What I really liked here was how you handled your shapeshifter’s (is that what you’d call her?) animal side. Typically, in similar stories, the character’s animal aspect is paid lip service or reduced to condensed episodes of brutality sandwiched between mopping about the “beast within”. Maybe it’s the nature of your MC, but I can really tell that what I’m reading about is an animal with human skin as opposed to a human with a discrete facet that pops up whenever it’s convenient for the plot. Even though I generally dislike this trope in fiction, I really enjoyed it here.

        1. BlueJay91

          Thank you! I actually have a five month old German Shepard and every time I went to write this piece she was on my mind. So I wrote the piece as if she was the MC. Right now, she is very mischievous when left to herself, but she is also loyal and loving. I hope to do many things with this character in the future 🙂

      3. seliz

        I really enjoyed your take on the prompt. You managed to create great characters in just a short amount of time. I particularly like the main character, how he came off as tough and a smart aleck, but likeable as well.

  7. cosi van tutte

    This one turned out way different from what I had in mind when I started it…

    My boyfriend bought a house for me.

    I should have suspected something bad from the very start. He was too exuberant about it. Bouncing around. Declaring that it was the best house on the market.

    I should have known better. He gave me the keys to the place and told me that he couldn’t wait to see my reaction.

    I should have told him no thanks.

    I should have found my own place.

    But he was like a golden retriever puppy all dizzy with a brand new toy.

    I smiled at him.

    I took the keys.

    I went to my brand new home.

    It was…cute. That surprised me more than anything. I will admit I had expected all manner of worse.

    I hadn’t expected a cute white cottage with a flower garden and a picket fence.

    I liked it.

    No.

    I loved it!

    I ran to the front door, put the key into the lock, and turned it.

    I opened the door to a football field. Griffins and jackals and minotaurs all dressed in Detroit Lions uniforms chased each other from one end to the other. If they were playing football, they sure weren’t playing by any set rules.

    I closed the door and tried again.

    I opened the door to a blustery, snow-blown day with a mountain of a mountain plonked in the background. A trio of mountain climbers sat in golf carts, munching on chimichangas and passionately discussing the odds of the Tigers beating the Lions in a fair game of tennis.

    “Are you kidding me?” I said. “Neither team would win. They’d find a way to lose at the same time.”

    The mountain climbers rotated their golf carts to face me. The climber in the middle said, “You are not one of the brethren. You must leave.”

    The other climbers chanted, “You must leave. You must leave.” in a monotone.

    “Fine. I didn’t want to be here anyway.”

    I closed the door.

    I could have left it at that.

    I should have left it at that.

    Curiosity grabbed me by the toes and dragged me forward.

    I opened the door to a scene of rolling hills. “Well. This is nice.”

    Ten thousand Maria Von Trapps twirled their way up the hills. They all opened their mouths in unison and sang, “The hills are alive with the sound of music. With songs they have—”

    I slammed the door shut and ran to my car. I wanted to drive somewhere, anywhere. Preferably somewhere far away from that terrifying dimension.

    My cell phone rang. “Hello?”

    My boyfriend appeared right next to me. A big grin stretched wide across his face. He flipped his cell phone shut. “You love it, don’t you?”

    Now, how was I supposed to respond to that? “It’s a darling house. I love the picket fence and the—”

    He waved his hand in a dismissive manner. “Yeah. Yeah. That’s not what I meant. I meant…Well. Have you opened the front door yet?”

    “Yes. Yes, I have.”

    “Isn’t it wonderful? Portals to other worlds! It’s just like my home on Kezzanarf.”

    “Umm, yeah. About that.”

    His smile fell. “What? Is there a problem?” His eyes widened in confusion. “You don’t like it?”

    “Uhhh, I uhhh….”

    “You hate it.”

    “No! Hate is too strong of a word. I just would like to go inside my own home and make myself something to eat and watch some dumb tv and—”

    “You want an ordinary house? But…But this place is extraordinary! Every day will be an adventure. You have no idea—”

    “Darling. I have plenty of idea.”

    His smile returned. “Why don’t you open the door one more time?”

    He had such a hopeful look on his face I just couldn’t turn him down.

    I opened the door to a secluded beach of snow-white sand and glass-clear water. Gulls flew overhead, laughing and crying all at the same time.

    The waves rolled in and out in a soothing rush.

    “I know this place.” My words came out in a whisper.

    “This is where I found you.”

    I stepped out into the sand. So soft. So clean. I wanted to cry and laugh like the gulls.

    He followed me.

    I crouched and dug my fingers deep into the sand. It was a wonderfully familiar feeling.

    “A water monster hurt you. I found you lying on the sand. I thought you were dead.”

    “I remember. I thought that you were a monster. But I was too hurt to escape.”

    “I had to take your skin off before I could heal you.”

    “Wait.” I looked up at him. “My what?”

    “I tried to put it back on you, but I kept doing it all wrong.” His face blotched red. “I accidently tore a couple of spots.”

    I stood. “You did what?”

    “Like your elbows and your knees and—” He winced. “You don’t want to look at your feet. That’s all I can say about that.”

    “You tore my skin?”

    “Accidently. I’d never done it before. I mean, put a skin back on a—”

    “Is it here?”

    He didn’t answer. He just walked into the water and lifted a rock.

    I wanted to join him, but something kept me still. Fear? Maybe. Anticipation? I don’t think so.

    He returned to me with a limp, water-bedraggled dead thing in his arms.

    My heart raced. I looked back at the door. I could leave and forget this place. Forget about the thing hanging in my boyfriend’s arms.

    “Here.”

    I looked at him. At his face. I wanted to remember his face just in case.

    I took the skin from him and unfolded it. I laid it flat on the sand.

    Just as he’d said, the elbows and knees were a mess. The feet were hopelessly mangled.

    But I recognized it. It was mine. My skin. My real skin. I stroked the wet, oily fur. I could put it back on, but…I looked at the feet and felt sick. I’d never be able to swim again.

    “So.” he said. “Where do we go from here?”

    1. Observer Tim

      I really like the theme of this piece; move forward into the uncertain future or step back into the damaged past that you’ll never quite recover. And that’s only the final segment. There’s a lot of depth hiding in this piece, even in the seemingly silly parts. Great job, Cosi! 🙂

      1. cosivantutte

        Thanks, Reatha!

        You’re right. I have written a couple of little mermaid/selkie stories for previous prompts. I wasn’t really planning on this being another one. It just sort of spun out that way. 🙂

    2. seliz

      I liked how the tone shifted through the post. At first, the tone was light when she was talking about how she shouldn’t have taken the house, but as she open the door the last time, it was like the entire piece shifted to this serious and sad tale. Well done.

  8. Hiba Gardezi

    I take a deep breath in as I find myself turning the handle of my refuge.
    Smooth steel in my calloused palms.
    I stroke the door knob and … I turn it.
    I turn what I believe will take me to that box of darkness in which invade streams of liquid gold.
    The little lands of dreams in which bounces off the walls only my voice.
    The dusty stars over the long grass .
    But what will it be… tonight?
    Tonight.
    Open.
    The door lies open before my eyes now.
    And Minotaur are what I see.
    In a circle of at least a hundred horned beasts., they sing, chant across the sky’s dark mantel.
    I?
    You want to know what I do now?
    I close the door.
    I fear the roads it leads to.
    I fear the untold.
    I fear what I know not about.
    And that my friend is why I lose first my job and now my refuge where I am to sit and write and dream up lands of beauty, of truth, of darkness of lies.
    But lose not yours I tell you. For it is a precious thing.
    And… why did I just leave and know it was wrong to do so?
    Why did you not warn me, dear reader?
    I must return to what I love.
    Now I open the door.
    More confident this time.
    I sigh.
    No more beasts.
    There is a mountain and a child with a lopsided grin is one of the “professional” mountaineers.
    He waves.
    I wave back as I walk in.
    I close the door behind me just a little and pick up some climbing gear.
    I’ma do this.

    1. regisundertow

      I’m going to need to read this a few times, just to dig through the layers of meaning. At least I think I’ve pierced through the first one, but this is one of those pieces that could mean very different things to different people. I really like it, the prose, the word choice, the concept or a writer working through ideas, discarding worlds. I enjoyed it a lot.

    2. cosi van tutte

      Hi, Hiba!

      It’s always a pleasure to read one of your stories. 🙂 You have a consistently lyrical voice.

      And just so you know, there’s something strangely truthful and magical about this whole part:
      “I close the door.
      I fear the roads it leads to.
      I fear the untold.
      I fear what I know not about.”

      I can’t explain why it seems magical to me. It just is. 🙂

    3. Observer Tim

      You’d better watch out, Hiba; we’re coming to expect beauty and prose/poetry fusion from you with striking imagery and deep emotion, all carried in relatively few words. That’s a high standard to set for yourself. 🙂

      One of the things I draw from this is the lure and peril of being a writer; it is exactly these sort of doors that lead to fresh ideas and creativity. Of course, I also draw the sense of being a dreamer, because our dreams (good or bad) define us. And that is one of the things that makes this piece beautiful.

  9. jblearnstowrite

    Hi! Here’s my take on this prompt. Hope I’m not too late. It’s a direct continuation of my story on the previous prompt. 🙂

    ***

    The in-between is a place that resides in the gaps between realities. It is caught in the middle of the waking and the dreaming, a place that lies beyond the fringes of what the human mind is capable of reaching. It is where the headquarters of the Reality Engineers, the Cranium, is located.

    In one of the many doors within Cranium a portal opened. Lewis and Dave stepped out of it and into a long narrow corridor. It stretched on seemingly infinite and was filled with an innumerable number of doors that looked very much similar from the one they stepped out of. The floor was of white marble and the ceiling was made of clouds. In front of them, a man wearing an impeccable black suit and rimless glasses waited.

    “Good job on the Eraser,” the man said to Lewis. He then turned his attention to Dave. “And who is this?”

    “He’s Dave, our new recruit,” Lewis answered. “I can vouch for him. He’s good.” Lewis then turned to Dave. “This is the Watcher,” Lewis said, indicating the man in the suit.

    The Watcher adjusted his rimless spectacles on the bridge of his nose. He had gray eyes that rested beneath thick bushy eyebrows. Dave could not exactly tell how old (or young) the Watcher was since his appearance seemed to change albeit subtly. One moment the Watcher’s face was lined with wrinkles, the next his skin looked smooth and young. The Watcher extended a liver spotted hand towards Dave and said, “I’m sure you’ve been briefed?”

    Dave reached for the hand and answered, “Briefed about what?”.

    “Everything,” the Watcher replied. He sighed then spoke to Lewis saying, “Lewis, next time don’t recruit someone without briefing them first. It’s a smudge in my conscience when they die without knowing the what they’ve got themselves into. Guide him through the required paperwork then meet me in my office,” the Watcher said to Lewis before turning around and walking away. “Make it quick,” the Watcher shouted before he entered into one of the many rooms.

    “Brief me about what?” Dave asked. “What risks? Those Eraser things?”

    “How about we take a walk?” Lewis said.

    Lewis started walking left and Dave quickly followed.

    “What made you want to do what we do?” Lewis asked.

    “I’ve always wanted to do something important, something great,” Dave answered. “I don’t have anything back in…well, in the reality I came from.”

    “Reality 553,” Lewis interjected.

    “Right. 553.” Dave stopped walking. “How many realities are there?”

    “There are ten thousand realities currently logged in our database. We believe there are a lot more realities we haven’t discovered yet.”

    Dave started walking again, catching up with Lewis. “Ten thousand, huh? Which reality are you from?”

    “That’s classified and this briefing is about you, not me.”

    “Secretive guy aren’t you?”

    Lewis ignored the remark and said, “We are the Reality Engineers and our sole purpose is to maintain everything in working order – parallel universes, alternate realities, the multiverse all of them are basically the same thing.”

    “And this is your secret base?”

    “Correct. This is Cranium, our headquarters, it is at the heart of the Multiverse, the nexus of everything. It is outside the laws of all realities and is connected to each and every single one of them via these portals.” Lewis waved a hand at all the doors that lay at regular intervals along the long corridor.

    Dave noticed they were now walking upside down, on the ceiling. Lewis approached a door numbered 1023 and opened it. Dave peered inside. A musky smell greeted him. Darkness lay beyond the doorway and from within the darkness he could hear voices chanting in unison. Dave warily stepped inside. It was difficult for Dave to properly describe the place due to the considerable lack of light but what he could make out was the place being some sort of stone chamber. Thick pillars surrounded them in a circle and further in was a raised platform where several hooded figures stood in an arc. One of them raised his head and pointed at Dave and the others mimicked the action. Their chanting grew louder as they approached their unwanted guest. Dave felt his pulse racing. He saw that the hooded figures were wearing bull masks and each one held a dagger. Dave hurriedly ran out of the door and closed slammed it shut.

    “What was that?” Dave asked, his chest heaving rapidly.

    Lewis shrugged his shoulders. “A different reality,” he said.

    “There’s something wrong in there,” Dave said. “That’s not normal. You guys should send someone to fix that reality.”

    “What’s not normal in your reality may be the normal in another’s. Cranium central is quiet meaning that no Abstracts are detected.”

    “Abstracts?”

    “That’s what we call the anomalies that, for some reason, breach the realities.” They were now walking sideways, on the walls, with Dave on the left and Lewis on the right. “There are currently four known kinds of Abstracts – the Erasers, the Vamps, the Worms, and the Insanities.”

    Dave walked to another door, this one marked 8756. He reached for the handle and pulled the door open. This time he was standing at the edge of a cliff and in front of him was a huge mountain. He could make out two figures climbing up on its side. One mountaineer looked at Dave and waved a hand. Dave waved back. He closed the door and turned to Lewis.

    “Those things, those erasers, where do they come from?” Dave asked.

    “We don’t know. Our scientists have done studies but the erasers’ origins are still a complete mystery. We have our hypotheses but nothing conclusive. Lewis and Dave approached the end of the corridor. “Here we are,” Lewis said.

    The door in front of them differed from the rest. This one was black with a huge zero painted in silver on its face. The doorknob was gold in color and was located at the center inside the painted zero. Lewis opened the door and motioned for Dave to step inside.

    “Welcome to Cranium central,” Lewis said, walking in after Dave.

    1. Observer Tim

      This continues interesting, JB. This is a fascinating concept that is definitely worthy of further exploration and you’re doing a good job revealing it. Nice job pushing the story forward, and overall good work. 🙂

      A place where I would like to see more from you is the descriptions. You’re good with the objective style of it, but it would help to spice up the word choices with words that carry emotion as well as information. Consider these: [1] A musky smell greeted him. [2] A musky odor assaulted him. In the same word count you get the additional info that the smell is strong (assaulted vs. greeted) and unpleasant (odor vs. smell). These kind of things help the reader get into your MC’s head without impacting the speed of the story. Though, as with anything, don’t overdo it or you end up becoming Robert E. Howard (great stories, but a tad over-written).

      Keep on learning, keep on writing! 🙂

  10. HalcyonTale

    I know this is wrong, i know this is crazy and filled with mistakes, but I wanted it to be so. I was really angry today so this is the residue. Please forgive me for this in advance.
    _____________________________________________________________________________________The Fenix Door.
    In the olden times there was a legend about a door, called The Fenix Door. Only a chosen one could have used that and he was called a Portaler. This power would have allowed him to go anywhere anytime, the portaler just needed to open the door with his right hand and had to imagine the place he wanted to go and he would reach there.
    (Continuation after the Prompt)
    It took him by surprise for he closed the door with a sudden push. He waited for a minute or so, at first he thought may be he was drunk but then he remembered that it was not possible because he never had anything and then he thought maybe he was going crazy. While he was dwelling over these thoughts, he heard a faint voice of a women, she was calling out his name. It was his wife, Hermione. He immediately got himself together, he understood it was no time to dwell on these thoughts, he needs to get his wife first. So, he slowly opened the door wishing to meet his wife, but the scene in front of him was something he could have never imagined. The room was huge(with a white background) and was filled with uncountable stairs, some from right, some from left, some in zig zag patterns and from many other different directions. The voice was getting louder, he knew that his wife was much more near to him, but he had seen enough movies to know that he would have gotten lost in this labyrinth of stairs, so he closed the door again. He again opened the door and this time the scenery was that of a bridge, a beautiful one. This time he started walking towards that bridge, after walking for a minute he came across a man, a huge man. Upon asking he said his name was Robbie and also explained him about the present conditions and about the door and in a mysterious voice said “You are Portaler Harry”. Harry ignored that man and also ignored the fact that how he came to know his name when he himself never knew it as the writer gave him his name just a moments ago. So Harry crossed that bridge and found another door leading him to his front porch. He was once again standing in front of that same door. Instead of immediately opening it he thought of something and in place of his right hand used his left to open the door. And as expected this time it was right place. He saw his wife sitting on a sofa and watching a movie about a wizard and his owl. He came to her and hugged her, to which Hermione pushed him and asked him to take a bath for he was stinking a lot.
    Harry now knew how to use his special skill and would usually use it to go to toilet when in emergency or to save travel cost. And from then on they both happily lived together.

    1. Observer Tim

      I’m not sure the anger shows, but it is fairly clear that you were distracted when you wrote this. The middle most of it was kind of jumbled together and emphasized “tell don’t show” which is the exact opposite of normal writer’s advice. In the end, however, where we find out the use Harry has for the portals, is definitely worth a smile. 🙂

  11. regisundertow

    A few references to past stories.

    The mountain and the climbers are from the Cadaver Concert prompt, Babalu is from What Did You Do? back in July and From Random Page to Story from June. It’s the same character several years later. Gustafson and the story concept are from a rejected draft for Creation Simulator, also the wife’s favorite story of mine.

    Hope you enjoy.

    ***********************************

    HEIGHTS

    Hospitals made him nervous. The acrid sterile smell choking the corridors, the blank white walls, the clack-clack of nurse shoes on the hard uncarpeted floors… They didn’t quite bring back memories to Babalu, but they made him nervous in the same way that calls from his clients in the middle of the night made him nervous. Sitting on a cheap, plastic lime-colored chair, he loosened the tie he’d been wearing all day and touched the wrapped child-sized box sitting beside him, trying to compose himself.

    He raised his head as he spotted the nurse’s silver hair from the corner of his eyes. She came down the corridor towards him, the severity of her face matched by the sense of purpose in the swing of her arms. He stood up and adjusted his tie the way he would for a judge entering the courtroom. So, the nurse exclaimed. It seems Mr. Gustafson is awake. He can see you now.

    Babalu nodded and let out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding in his lungs. He leaned towards the nurse whom he towered over and asked, What should I expect? She sucked her lips in and considered him for so long it made him feel like he had asked something stupid. What exactly is your relationship with Mr. Gustafson? She asked, not bothering masking her suspicion. Babalu had observed the same look and tone on people who had seen so much they got tired of hoping for the best. I’m a student of his. And a friend, he was quick to add.

    The nurse nodded again, looking him over. Pardon me for asking, she intoned, but no family of his has visited yet. You are not…related, then? Babalu grinned and replied, Unlikely, madame. I was born in Sierra Leone, as you can see.

    The ends of her mouth threatened to crease upwards at that. Her posture relaxed and she directed him to the right room. I’d take you there but I have too much work, she said by way of parting words. He thanked her, even as she was turning back to her station. He picked up the box and went down the way she had shown him.

    The room was warmer than the corridor. The air was accentuated by musk and sweet sweat, earthly smells that Babalu welcomed. It took a moment for Gustafson to register him, the brace around his neck limiting where he could look at. He smiled when he saw him, even though the smile was immediately buried beneath an avalanche of pain. Babalu walked softly to a small table in the corner of the room and laid the box on it. He looked at Gustafson and forced himself to smile. You look great, the brace really suits you, he said. It matches your eyes. Gustafson raised his eyebrows and replied, Don’t make me laugh. I think the painkillers are wearing off.

    Babalu studied his friend’s face. His left side was covered in a galaxy of black, blue, and purple, his eye swollen shut. A thin oily film of perspiration made his pallid skin glisten and the harsh lights from across the street created long shadows on his face, even dulling his marble-like mane. He picked up the chart at the end of the bed and studied it. You can read that? Asked Gustafson. Babalu nodded and continued reading, a little sigh escaping his lips. Putting it back, he said, My third job in this country was at a nursing home. They are not hard to read. This one says your body had a perfectly normal reaction to getting hit by a German-made vehicle. Exemplary. Gustafson lifted his right thumb up. Thanks, I guess, he said.

    Babalu came over to Gustavson’s good side and sat down. His face suddenly darkened. His otherwise pleasant features took an almost angry quality under the harsh lights coming in through the window. He made sure Gustafson could see him and that he had his attention, straightened his back and started. Allow me please to reconstruct what I suspect happened in the moments preceding your accident, as I strongly believe this was not a mere mishap.

    Gustafson stared at the ceiling. He sighed and his voice came out small and impotent despite the sarcasm, Are you going all lawyer on me now?

    Babalu ignored him and continued, This is what happened. At around 9pm yesterday evening, you closed the workshop as always, set the alarm, and started walking towards your residence, a thirty minute stroll on foot from the center of Göteborg. A normally pleasant trip, even in these crisp January temperatures. How am I doing so far?

    Gustafson cleared his throat and said, Exemplary, Sir.

    Satisfied, Babalu continued, This was no normal trip, however. Judging by the chart I just read and your mood at the Advanced Class yesterday…Babalu’s voice wavered. He balled his fists and tried to control his breathing. When he spoke again, his words came out softer, their jaggedness lost, Judging by the chart I just read and your mood yesterday, I’d conclude you had recently discovered you were suffering from an aggressive form of cancer. One you did not anticipate to survive.

    Closing his eyes was all the answer Gustafson had to give. That was enough for Babalu who lowered his head before saying, The driver just happened to be heading home as well. You stepped onto the car’s path.

    Silence followed. They didn’t look at each other, only stared into empty space, each of them lost in their own thoughts. There was no denying the accusations, but now that they had been thrown out in the open, neither of them knew how to deal with them. Eventually, Babalu stood up and went to the table at the corner of the room. He slowly unwrapped the box, opened it, and brought out an oval frame. A small stylized door attached to hinges covered the frame’s content. The border was intricately detailed with the bas-relief of a mountain range, anthropomorphic clouds and winds hanging over them and whipping them with fury. The door itself had a single peak curved into it, a sharp craggy edge that rose like a steeple from a deep valley and pierced the sky. The wood’s grain had been chiseled at in such a manner that different sides of the peak appeared alternately bathed in light or plunged in shadow by simply angling your head.

    Oh, is it finished? Asked Gustafson. Babalu leaned the frame against the wall and regarded it carefully before answering, Could be. I could be working on it for the next 10 years, if I didn’t know I’d lose interest.

    Gustafson make an approving sound and said, How about we have a look at it, then?

    Babalu nodded. He flipped a clasp on one side of the frame and pulled the door open. A breeze entered the room and snowflakes drifted to Gustafson’s bed. The frame was like a window on the other side of which rose the same peak that had been curved into the door, majestic and proud, sheer drops and ice walls against a night sky full of swirling nebulas the color of clay and amber and studded with playful stars. Mist rose lazily from one side of the peak and drifted like a flag. Babalu raised a finger at Gustafson and gently breathed into the frame.The grass growing in the valley shivered ever so subtly, while the ice covering the higher reaches of the peak glistened and shifted hues like salmon skin in the water. The mist clang stubbornly to the mountain, but finally dispersed to reveal Saturn with its rings rotating in a becalming manner, as big as the moon in the sky.

    What do you think? He asked, eagerness in his voice. Gustafson thought for a few moments and said, It’s definitely better than the minotaur pit. Don’t get me wrong, it was original, but the smell! Interesting idea by the way moving the stars and the planets in the sky, but you know how some people are with facts.

    Babalu snorted, Sure, but I’m not porting for them. This is for you, by the way.

    The old man went quiet. He closed his eyes and inhaled the invigorating snow, felt the stray flakes caress his face with its coarse stubble. The mountain hummed in a low vibration. Thank you, he finally said. It’s good work.

    Leaving the frame door open, Babalu came over to Gustafson’s side. Mr. Gustafson, he started, what you did…I wouldn’t count it amongst your better ideas. What would happen of the workshop? Who will run it? There aren’t that many people in the country anymore who bother doing what you do and half of them don’t do it half as well. Why do you want to throw it all away?

    He looked at his friend lying in bed, seeing the defeat in his eyes. He had observed it a few times in the past, when a student would prove beyond hope or when another of his guild fellows decided to abandon porting for more lucrative endeavors. Gustafson breathed out heavily and said, It’s awfully decent of you, it is. The truth is, I’ve always been an average craftsman at best. It took my entire life to get to where I am, but by the time I was confident enough the world had moved on. By the time I was confident enough, I had sacrificed so much I had nothing else left. Both of my brothers…They are expecting grandchildren, have I mentioned that? A girl and a pair of twin boys. And they’re both doing great. Anders just got his restaurant onto some fancy list with the best places to eat in the country, can’t remember what’s it called. The young one, Björn, is at a point where his company runs itself. He just works 4 hours a week, signing checks, then gets on a plane to London, he has a girl there. When my wife left me, she said she did it because it was clear where my priorities lay. She obviously disagreed with them. I was so busy making the Origami Sky, I barely noticed it when she left our apartment.

    Babalu nodded, thinking of his favorite of Gustafson’s pieces. A golden skyscape at dusk, clouds moving like boats in a gentle stream with a flock of gigantic paper cranes flying through them. Do you regret any of it? He asked. Gustafson laughed and then groaned in pain. Do I regret any of it? What a question…All of it. None of it.

    After Gustafson drifted to sleep, Babalu stayed by his side for a long time, observing the mountain. Behind it the sun was coming up, first illuminating the peak, then the drops, and finally the valley below. His eyes knew where to look and he spotted the two climbers coming up the glacier, their orange clothes and red oxygen bottles marking them against the stark snow. He made sure Gustafson was covered well before he left, leaving the frame door open.

    1. Observer Tim

      Very nice, Regis. I went back to reread the others, and this is definitely a fitting extension. You did a great job setting up both the physical and emotional settings. Like the portal(s), this is most definitely a work of art. 🙂

      The unmarked quotes took a bit of getting used to, but since I’m taking 1st-century Greek not that much (that’s how they ascribe quotes there, as carried down to 1511’s famous book).

      The problem with the Cadaver Concert prompt is that it was cut short by another, sillier, prompt. I would have loved to read your story then when it first came out. I hope you are [1] not nearly so badly hurt as your MC there was, and [2] recovering nicely by now.

      Finally, a thematic comment. This tale presents a wonderfully visual analogue to what we do as authors; we create our babies, some good and others not so much, but each one is still touching and hard to let go of. And each act of creation consumes a portion the creator if only through their involvement in the act of creating. Thanks for the philosophical insight. 🙂 🙂

      1. regisundertow

        Much appreciate your comments, Tim.

        The unmarked quotes are mostly a product of my love for Zoze Saramago and Yuri Herrera’s work, both of which play very fast and loose with punctuation and writing standards. I concede neither of them make for easy reading and I had to contort the prose to minimize confusion, but I’ll hopefully be able to do something interesting with this format one day. Just need to practice 🙂

        I had a minor foot injury back then that first got much worse, but it’s manageable now. No one in their right minds should be climbing, the amount of abuse a body suffers is stupendous.

        Spot on with noticing the analogue, that’s exactly what I was going for. There was another thread regarding how Babalu wanted to do porting for a living but sticking to his day job due to having a family to feed. That one’s not included here as I found it a bit hackneyed, but I’m guessing most people who write have entertained that thought even briefly.

    2. JosephFazzone

      A lovely tale. The descriptions were enticing. The lack of quotations on the dialogue seemed to slow it down for me since I went back a few times to make sure what I was reading. It’s a cool style, but I’m just not as familiar with it, so I was thrown for a second. Admittedly I should read a great deal more. There’s this great relationship mixed with the magic and secrets between them. You definitely feel that these two have had their share of adventures. Beautiful.

    3. JosephFazzone

      A lovely tale. The descriptions were enticing. The lack of quotations on the dialogue seemed to slow it down for me since I went back a few times to make sure what I was reading. It’s a cool style, but I’m just not as familiar with it, so I was thrown for a second. Admittedly I should read a great deal more. There’s this great relationship mixed with the magic and secrets between them. You definitely feel that these two have had their share of adventures. Beautiful.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I am still taking all of this in. I liked the style of it and breezed through the conversation, not evem realizing they were different. The story drove everything for me not the style. I would love to see more of this whem the opportunity presents itself.

        1. regisundertow

          Thanks, Kerry. It’s a universe that’s been sitting in the back of my mind for some time and it felt like the right moment to pay attention to it. Glad the style works. When it’s done properly, it should create immediacy. Seeing quotes on page tends to remind me that I’m reading a book. Of course, it’s a very fine line between immediacy and confusion, that’s where the crux lies.

    4. Bushkill

      This was a rich take on the prompt. Emotionally engaging to be sure, but the idea of creating the portals as frames in a workshop was sublime. Loved it! Your use of language, lack of quotes, and hint of wood working knowledge added to the flare of the story.

      I also loved the rings of saturn being visible. Very neat application of the unique.

    5. BlueJay91

      You are a fine writer! I haven’t read your other pieces, but the details and dialogue where enough to hold my attention without knowing the characters backgrounds. Plus, it’s fun to read a piece wrapped in mystery. I can’t begin to explain how well you have a handle on description, so I’ll just say you inspire
      me to try much harder.

      I think you wrote well with the unmarked quotes. It was easy to adapt to the style because it felt like you slowly got the reader accustomed to switching between the characters dialog by adding details in between the conversations. Also, most of the statements were intricately cemented with the characters. For example, “He leaned towards the nurse whom he towered over and asked, What should I expect?”

    6. ReathaThomasOakley

      This has such a wonderful, timeless quality, almost fluid as the reader moves through it. The section with the frame is my favorite, the part where his wife left and he hardly noticed, the saddest.

  12. changeishard

    Harold approached the door of his penthouse apartment. He set down his briefcase and leaned against the door frame. His back was tight and he was weary after a long day at his desk. Being a hot shot lawyer was a lot more about sitting at a desk hunched over research than confounding people in the courtroom. He decided that dinner would be a bowl of Captain Crunch eaten while sitting on his couch watching CSI Miami. Feeling slightly cheered by this he inserted his key in the lock and opened the door.

    The usual view of his living room was replaced by a clearing in the woods. The grass seemed to have been stomped down by the repetition of hoof beats. A roaring fire in the night revealed a group of almost two dozen Minotaur dancing and chanting. Harold cocked his head and listened. They were chanting in Yiddish. Just as he was about to enter the clearing one of the chanters turned their head. The dancing shadow of the fire took turns illuminating and then darkening the mighty horns upon his head. Without warning, the creature began to charge.

    Harold stepped back slamming the door behind him. After a minutes hesitation he opened the door again. The Minotaur were gone, yet his living room had not returned. Snow billowed around him and he saw people scaling a mountain. The edge was steep and the climbers were weighed down with cables and ice tools designed to keep them alive and ambulatory. Closing the door once again Harold punched the door frame. Why was this happening to him?

    Reluctantly he opened the door once more. In front of him was an endless gaping maw of colors. The different hues shifted and blended in front of him. They combined and separated and transformed into colors never seen before. There seemed to be a vortex pulling him toward the center without moving him an inch. The scene was beautiful and horrific all at once. With tears in his eyes he stayed transfixed and immobile.

    From a distance he heard a voice calling to him.
    “Mr. Moyer…Mr. Moyer.”
    Harold felt himself turned away from the door. A middle aged woman was leading him away by his shoulders. In a sickeningly saccharine voice one usually reserves for the very young and the very old she continued “Looks like you found your way to the broom closet again Mr. Moyer, let’s see about getting you your meds.” The aid looped her arm through Harold’s and they headed off down the hall. Harold walked beside her in reluctant shuffling steps. He turned his head and glanced back as a male aid was shutting the door. A broom handle and mop bucket were clearly visible. The last thing he saw before turning the corner was a majestic purple phosphorescence rising up from the floor. Harold smiled.

    1. Observer Tim

      The joy and terror of old age; this is a lovely take on perception and hallucinations. I should have known something was up when he was going to watch CSI Miami (cancelled/ended 3 years ago). You did a great job with the descriptions, Change; it really displayed the scenes perfectly. At least Mr. Moyer still has his memories and his imagination. 🙂

    2. regisundertow

      Not bad, not bad at all. It took what was an outlandish prompt and turned it into a poignant tale of losing grip on reality via old age. Loved the “saccharine voice” description, I always found [i]that[/i] voice condescending and rude to the extreme.

    3. BlueJay91

      Great story! It was creative and full. Once the truth was revealed, I had to go back and reread to see if I had missed any hidden meanings. I tend to miss them when the details push the story along perfectly. Are the cables and ice tools just that or are they in reference to his life in the retirement home?

  13. Observer Tim

    THE VISIT
    Because people asked so nicely, this follows after “New Apartment” below.

    Joy’s glowing face and blue hair freeze on screen as the door opens. Selima steps in and flips on the entry hall light, pushing the door closed behind her.

    “Karen?”

    Silence. She steps over and touches the base of the lamp, which obediently illuminates the living room. She looks nervous when she sees the half-empty bowl of dry cereal on the coffee table.

    “Karen, are you here? Are you okay?”

    She purses her lips for a moment, then mutters to herself.

    “She said she was in the kitchen.”

    She pads over to the kitchen where a cell phone lies discarded on the floor. She picks it up and presses the power button a couple of times to no effect.

    “Explains why I didn’t get my scream. Where the hell has she gone?”

    She looks around nervously and starts down the side hall. Leans into both bedrooms in turn, then the bathroom. She frowns.

    “Karen? I came to check on you, to see if you were…”

    Dead.

    She whips her head around several times, trying to identify the source of the word. She reaches into her purse like it’s a safety blanket and pulls out a gun.

    “Karen? Where are you?”

    I grab her shoulders and push them against the wall. She stares right through me like I’m not there.

    What’s the matter, Selima? Can’t you see me?

    She raises the gun and fires it. Twice. I continue to press her shoulders against the wall.

    Why’d you do it, Selima?

    “I don’t know what you mean!”

    You gave me that statue of Kali as a housewarming gift. You knew it was the source of the evil. Then you called me just a little bit too late. Why did you want me dead?

    “I had to kill you. I deserved that promotion more than you did!”

    And that was worth killing for?

    “Yes! You always got everything: the promotion, the raise, even Marzuq couldn’t stop talking about you after he got you this place. You take everything you want without even trying! I’m not sorry you’re dead, even if you are a ghost.”

    I’m not a ghost, Selima.

    “Then what are you?”

    There are two things you can do when surrounded by darkness. You can run from it, or you can embrace it. I suggest you run from it.

    I let her go and she bolts out the door. I walk back to the living room, turning off the lights as I go; finally I sit down, pick up my bowl of dry cereal, and take the movie off pause. I’ll pop by her place later tonight when she’s asleep; after all, I’m living the dream.

      1. regisundertow

        The HTML going off made it a bit confusing, but I managed to follow with a little bit of backtracking. This is a very satisfying conclusion and answers in a very leftfield manner what some people would do if they were turned into wraiths (I guess that’s what Karen is now? Not quite a ghost? Anyway.)

  14. Travis Kennedy

    It’s the drugs, of course.

    That part of my brain running on autopilot reminds me that drugs are responsible for what I’m seeing on the other side of the door, but knowing that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.

    In retrospect, it probably wasn’t wise to swallow the entire bag of mushrooms on the subway; I could easily have waited until I was in the privacy of my own home and established control of my environment. Instead I timed it so my head would start to feel like it was filling up with warm helium as I walked in the door.

    Clearly I misjudged the timing, and now here we are. Captain Crunch’s eyes look up at me accusingly from behind my fingers, which are clutching the treasured munchie tightly against my chest like it’s trying to escape. I can feel the millions of tiny wood fibers rubbing against my fingers, and see that the Captain’s once welcoming smile has turned malevolent. Not even he is on my side; and just when the minotaurs have shown up, no less! I guess it’s moments like this when we realize who our true friends are. I kick the box down the hallway.

    Once I’m positive the Captain can’t see me anymore, I relax; I can’t deal with him right now. My top priority is those Goddamn minotaurs. The rational voice rolls in on a wave again, reminding me that minotaurs aren’t real. It tells me that the drug I’ve ingested is altering the chemicals in my brain and causing me to see things that aren’t there. It reminds me that this will pass; that any living creatures on the other side of that door are harmless. It tells me, in soothing tones, that the mountain climber who waved was definitely not my girlfriend’s grandmother.

    Everything is cool.

    I take a few deep breaths, and step gingerly toward the box of cereal at the end of the hall. The Captain is wearing KISS makeup now, but he looks friendly enough. I scoop it up with my palms, but I refuse to let my fingers touch the box. He’d be expecting that.

    I crabwalk sideways back to the door, avoiding the floorboards on either side of me as they appear to be vibrating. I can play it cool inside the apartment. Whoever is there must be on their way out, anyway; all of my roommates were supposed to be away for the weekend. My girlfriend too, which was a little disappointing since it’s my thirtieth birthday today – but hey, having the whole place to myself is why I bought the ‘shrooms in the first place!

    I turn doorknob slowly, feeling the gentle rubbing of old brass inside the fixture all the way up my arm. I hear the minotaurs scramble and shush each other on the other side of the door, and as I’m pushing it open it all falls into place.

    My thirtieth birthday. Everyone suspiciously out of town. My girlfriend’s grandmother.

    The singing begins.

    1. Observer Tim

      Sounds like the MC isn’t going to be the only one surprised by the party. I think the Captain’s behind it – he’s like that. 🙂

      This is very imaginative and strange; it reads like a hallucination. I like the voice and the atmosphere you’ve created, and especially the sense of unreality. Nice job, Travis!

  15. Amaria

    It had been a long day for Ginger when she reached her apartment. She was thankful to be able to crash on her sofa. Yet when Ginger turned her key to open the door, she was not greeted by her living room. Inside of what used to be her apartment was a dark cave. A large group of minotaurs were dancing around a fire pit, chanting in a language Ginger never heard of. One of the minotaur turned and saw Ginger at the door. The minotaur made a harsh cry, alerting the others. Suddenly the beasts growled and charged towards Ginger. Ginger screamed and quickly slammed the door shut.

    “What the hell?” Ginger said to herself. She looked around the hall to see if anyone was around, but found herself alone. Ginger found it strange that none of her neighbors heard her scream, or came out to see what was wrong. Especially Mrs. Smith across the hallway, who was always complaining about loud televisions. Ginger slowly opened the door again, bracing for the growling beasts. However, she saw not darkness but a shining light. As she open the door widely, she was greeted by the sight of snow-capped mountains. Three cloaked figures came into her view. They were climbing up the steep rocks. One of them turned to Ginger. His hood fell down and revealed his face.

    Ginger gasped. “Dad?” He looked the same as he did the day she lost him. His green eyes dazzling and his smile so gentle.

    “Come join us” he said.

    “Dad you know I can’t climb”, Ginger answered. “I don’t know how. You never got the chance to teach me.”

    “And you’ll never know if you can if you don’t try. Step onto the path. Don’t look back,” he answered.

    The sound of the alarm clock pulled Ginger out of her dream. She looked up and saw it was 6:00 a.m. She reached over to shut off the alarm. As she sat up, she thought back to the dream. She rarely had dreams about her father. He died when she was so young and her mother hardly spoke of him. Remembering what the doctor told her, Ginger grabbed the notepad from the nightstand and began scribbling down every detail she remembered from the dream.

    “I wonder what Dr. Leveque say about this dream.”

    1. Observer Tim

      Nice use of the dream trope, Amaria. While not explicitly stated, the fact that it wasn’t the driver of the plot made it fit in fine. It’s either a lovely story or the beginning of a story of personal growth; could go either way. I also like the subtle bits of Ginger sneaking in. Given it’s now her third time here, Dr. Leveque is going to be getting rich even though he is a slacker psychologist. 😀

    2. regisundertow

      There’s so many directions this could go into, infinite possibilities for character growth like Tim said. Very much looking forward to seeing how this progresses.

  16. rayner

    Opening that front door was like opening a door belonging to another world; a world only found in fantasy novels. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. They couldn’t be real. They belonged in mythology books. Standing in a clear wooded area surrounding a small group of trembling figures was a horde of minotaur. Their bull like heads were turned up toward the indigo sky, their massive bodies writhing as if doing some kind of dance, chanting in deep, low growls in a language he’d never heard. It was as if they were performing some kind of ceremony before a feast. It was both frightening and fascinating.

    As if sensing his presence, one of the minotaur looked at him. It charged. He slammed the door as fast as he could and scrambled away from it, nearly tripping over his feet but somehow managed to regain his footing. He anticipated the door to come clean off its hinges and stuck to the minotaur horns; for the minotaur to come stampeding out and trampling him to death, but nothing happened.

    Cautiously he approached the door and opened it. A gust of icy wind and bright sunlight hit him. The minotaur and clear wooded area had been replaced by a mountain, the peak obscured by dark swirling clouds. His jaw dropped. How was this possible? Two people in thick fur lined coats and wearing googles were climbing the mountain. One of them noticed him and waved. It was better than the horde of minotaur but still he closed the door.

    What was going on with his house tonight? If he opened the door for a third time, would his house be back to normal? Or would the mountain and its climbers still be there? Would the minotaur in the wooded clearing return? Should he open the door, or just go find a motel to stay in for the night?

    Out of curiosity, he opened the door for the third time. A dimly lit basement had replaced the mountain. A young boy and girl dressed in worn and sopping clothes stood near a porcelain claw foot tub that was filled with water. They were talking in hashed tones. He couldn’t make out a word they were saying. There was something about the atmosphere that filled him with dread. Something told him to close the door before the boy and girl noticed him. But it was too late. Abruptly they stopped talking and turned to look at him. Their eyes were hollow, their wet dark hair stuck to their pallid faces.

    “Leave now,” the girl said in a eerie monotone.

    “Or you’ll be next,” the boy added in the same tone.

    “She’s coming,” they said in unison.

    The stairs creaked as someone slowly descended. Not waiting to find out who “she” was, he slammed the door closed without hesitation. Maybe he would find a motel, stop by the store to pick up a box of captain crunch, and spend the night searching for a new home. That seemed like a perfect plan.

    1. Observer Tim

      A motel does indeed sound like a perfect plan, Rayner. This is a nicely atmospheric take on the prompt; the third segment pushes the creepiness through the roof despite being so short. Great job! 🙂

      My red pencil notes some issues with verb tenses, especially in the second paragraph. It looks like you changed the narrative style but didn’t quite catch everything.

  17. Bushkill

    Magic door

    The roar is deafening and I can’t decide if it is the guttural brutality of the scream or the grey and bloodshot eyes of the charging Minotaur that scare me more. I close the door and stand to the side so that the charging beast would not catch me with horn or forest of splinted door fragments.

    After a few moments of ear splitting silence, punctuated by the pounding of my pulse in my own ears, I open the door again.

    Wind blasts across my face, freezing my cheeks and leaving me breathless for the suddenness of it. A group of climbers waive to me from the cliff they are navigating just beyond arm’s reach. I move to close the door again, aghast at the frightful scenes that keep greeting me and count to three before opening it a third time.

    I scream, and it’s my story so a manly scream it was, I tell you, as a shark the size of a school bus launches out of the water and nearly lands at my feet.

    And the door gets closed again.

    Home is what I want. A soft couch and some comfort food. Perhaps a movie. I don’t want to live the experience. I want to watch it.

    I turn the handle and open the door again.

    Giants and a bean stalk.

    Close, slow count of three, and…

    Blistering heat and eye stinging smoke batter me as a troop of Confederate soldiers move across a small deadly space. The ping of a bullet ricocheting past crystallizes my thoughts into action.

    And close.

    Count to three…

    The smell that assaults me is off the charts. The mass of unwashed humanity and the stench that follows them everywhere is powerful beyond measure and is mixed with the distinct aroma of farm animals. Toward me gallops a horse complete with armor-wearing knight.

    Close the door and count one more time.

    The apocalyptic scene before me is mind numbing. In the distance a mushroom cloud rises and I can see ripples of heat racing my way.

    Close.

    Last time, really.

    Open to the beautiful sound of women singing. The waves crashing in the background and the moonlight dancing across their frothy curves only enhance the image for me. The Siren’s song is strong and I reach for the handle to close the door, but can’t grasp it in the mist generated from the waves.

    My hand slips off the knob and my knees buckle, dropping me into the doorway. The song pulls at me and I try not to look, but when I raise my head to find something to hold onto to pull myself up I am trapped by the emerald eyes of the brown haired Siren lounging next to the door.

    How did she get there? They had been on the other side, hadn’t they?

    The door closed again. This time, the sound of the latch catching echoes in an empty hall for I am here, on this side of the portal.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      I’ve been amazed at all the creative ways folks have used this prompt. I really liked how the reader can create the frame for this scene. Well done.

    2. regisundertow

      Hah! In the sea or in a portal, sirens will lure you to certain doom. Loved the use of all the mythology creatures. This is one of the few stories here that actually made me care about the portal’s source.

      1. Bushkill

        High praise and thank you for it.

        and to the other commenters as well, I very much appreciate your thoughts, insights, and accolades. The writing on this site is really quite inspiring and to receive the support and comments of its contributors is flattering, to say the least.

  18. jhowe

    The court appointed psychiatrist peered over her rimless reading glasses as Kenton Hendrix refused to speak. She stole a furtive glance at the clock on her desk and sighed.

    “That’s our time together, Mr. Hendrix.” The doctor rose and opened the office door. “You’ve done a marvelous job of wasting taxpayer dollars and absolutely nothing to advance your cause, whatever you believe that to be.”

    Hendrix sat until an armed guard came in, removed the shackle that connected his ankle irons to a floor mounted steel ring and led the prisoner from the room. In his cell, Hendrix sat on his cot until well into the night. At exactly 1:20 AM, a door began to materialize in the rear wall of the cell. When it was formed, Hendrix opened the new door and walked through.

    The wind howled and blew his long hair about his face. A large creature brushed past him and Hendrix lashed out. His blow met solid muscle and the creature with a bull head snorted and stomped his cloven hoof in anger. Hendrix quickly ran to the door and pushed through it just as the creature charged.

    Back in his cell, Hendrix waited a few seconds and opened the door again. A mountainous landscape greeted him, the air crisp and cold. A group of climbers toiled on a rocky crag. This didn’t interest him and once again he re-entered his cell, waited and opened the door again.

    Hendrix heard music and walked across a deserted street to a bar called Midnight Rendezvous. The plate glass window was streaked with dirt, the sidewalk littered. Through the window, he saw two men sitting at the bar, their drinks cradled in large hands. A dark haired woman wiped tables and gathered beer bottles. He saw no other people inside. The woman returned to her post behind the bar and gestured to the men. They gulped the drinks and paid before staggering out the door. Still dressed in prison orange, Hendrix ducked into a recessed doorway and waited for them to pass.

    Ten minutes later, the woman emerged and locked the front door with a key. She passed in front of the doorway where Hendrix lurked. He could smell her cheap perfume but she didn’t see him. He counted ten heartbeats and followed.

    ***

    “Where the hell is Hendrix now?” the assistant chief said.

    “In his cell,” detective Ryan said. “I checked.”

    “Did you get a good look at the body?”

    “Yes,” Ryan said. “It was the exact same MO.”

    “Copycat?” said the assistant chief.

    “I don’t see how,” Ryan said. “No one but you, the ME and two of my men know about the missing nipples.”

    “Then either we have a leak,” the older man said, “or Hendrix is going to walk.”

    ****

    Hendrix sat on the cot and rolled two rubbery objects between his fingers. A buzzer sounded and two guards motioned for the prisoner to follow. Hendrix rose and popped the objects into his mouth and chewed. The silent guards marched down the hall, the unshackled prisoner between them. A gray willowy mist, viscous and foul, exited the cell and followed its master.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        You’ve given me the chills here. If yiou wrote a screen play based on this tale, someone would film it and then you’d either have to hide or better yet, just spend all the money from the royalties. I agree with the rest, the last sentence is brilliant and just the right touch.

  19. Kerry Charlton

    THE LEGEND OF MARY CATHERINE COBB

    PART EIGHT

    John’s eyes scanned Cobb’s study with the broken glass, French door off it‘s
    hinges. hanging agape, furniture turned askew, oil lamps scattered across the long leaf pine floors. ‘This is real, it’s not a dream or a fantasy. My love, whom I hold tightly in my arms, I don’t want to lose her this time.’

    His thoughts shattered with her tear stained voice,

    “When I was a little girl, I dreamed I’d find my prince, not one lost in the far future. It seems impossible to me, but I want you for the rest of my being and then I realize in your world, I don’t exist.”

    She continued to drop tears upon her lovely face,

    “There is a place for us,” John whispered, “there has to be, God wouldn’t punish you after all you have been through.”

    “But I have to leave you again. I can not stay nor can I exist in a ghostly spirit any longer. Don‘t you understand? I have to forever be without you, my love.”

    ‘There is no forever in my thinking, never give up hope darling, one last kiss?”

    “Oh yes love, one more., one more,…………….”

    The bright light entered again and when it dimmed, Mary had left with it. The study returned as it had been, but when John opened the secret compartment to Cobb’s desk, the journal lay there turned to dust and ruin.

    ‘Not closure in my mind, never, never,’ John thought. ‘There has to be a way.’

    He walked down both sets of stairs, the great room had warmed to the season and he slipped into his small space he lived in. On his nightstand a letter was propped against a small reading lamp. The return address read ‘Tulane University, Medical School.’

    ‘Pathology report,’ he thought, ‘I’m in no mood the way I feel.’

    But he couldn’t resist the envelope, tore it open and speed read it. ‘It just can’t be,’ he thought and reread every line. Pathology did estimate the woman to be in her early years, cause of death, a large bullet wound behind the left ear. His anger rose to a level he had never felt before. Even thought he knew Cobb burned in hell, it still wasn’t punishment enough for his heinous crime.

    What puzzled him was the report on the other body, a boy about seventeen, shot three times or more in the back. Why would a lieutenant turn and let himself be killed execution style? Only it couldn’t have been the lieutenant in the Union Army. Not only from the age estimated but from the skull located, the report determined the bone structure indicated the boy was a Negro, probably a slave on the plantation.

    ‘Why the lieutenant patch without the body?’ he thought. ‘Maybe the lieutenant gave it to Mary as a souvenir. Okay, question two, why the slave? Of course, Cobb had him dig the grave and executed him to bury the secret. Perhaps.’

    John couldn’t sleep and waited for the morning sun to brew his coffee with. ‘What will I tell Miss Sarah? Tell her everything, she would know if I was holding anything from her and her trust would blow with the wind.’

    Before he left, he took the stairs down to the familiar basement. All was quiet, everything at rest until his eyes turned toward the open grave where a strong hemp rope was firmly attached to the large hook embedded in the ceiling cross beam., the hangman’s noose snug tight against the neck of a ghostly image of Chester Cobb. No movement except a swing back and forth of his corpse, a kicked foot stool below the body’s feet. Chester’s image lasted only a moment and then peace returned to the grave site.

    Some how, John knew this was the last of it, for there was no chill that morning, only a musty odor from a basement that had no ventilation. Heart broken though he was, he left mid-morning for his lunch invitation with Miss Sarah, his head full of secrets only he knew, or would fate lead him into a different time warp?

    To be continued.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Reatha, get ready for more to come. After reading T’im’s comments below, I’m taking this story in a whole new directions. Blame Tim for it.

    1. Observer Tim

      I’m thinking fate will lead him into a different time warp. I’m also thinking Chester’s too much of a villain to simply be dragged off to eternal torment without trying to drag his daughter along. And probably John too, since he had a part in it. The damsel is still in distress, she’s just harder to get to right now. 🙂

      Great job, Kerry. This remains fascinating and romantic.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Joseph. Due to Tim’s comments above, I’m going to expand it. I think he wants me to write a book and this is his sneaky way of doing it.

    2. Critique

      This is a novel in the making. I love a good romance and even better when historical/intrigue etc. involved.
      Sorry I’ve missed a few chapters in your story Kerry but will try to back track and catch up.

      Our Christmas crashed before it happened when my dear brother slipped hanging Christmas lights on his property and passed away. I’ve been away trying to be a help and comfort to his three children (their mother died 5 years ago after a short battle with pancreatic cancer). The worst – I/we never got to say good-bye to him.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I’m so sorry to hear about your brother.There is no understanding a tragedy like this. You have to gather what personal strength you can for your sake and your family. I lost my brother in early November. There is never a good time to lose a loved one. Remember, there will be better times Kerry

    3. regisundertow

      The story is picking up steam with every chapter. What started as a traditional ghost story is moving in all kinds of original directions. Very much looking forward to reading the next part.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Regis for your interest. The story is getting deaper as it goes. I may need to rework the beginning to make it stronger. Part nine is going in a different direction.

  20. Observer Tim

    UNWELCOME VISITOR

    After a day of listening to politicians babble nonsensically about how they were going to fix the recession, the reporter was glad to be home. I just flew in from Washington, he thought, then added sardonically, and boy are my arms tired.

    He balanced the groceries on one arm and fished out his keys. Once again he considered just kicking the door down, but that would be annoying to repair, and the neighbours would probably ask questions. Again.

    When the door swung he knew something was wrong. Gone was the modern apartment of a well-paid news reporter; instead a stone-walled ruin lit by torchlight stood before him. Seven bull-headed men were dancing around what should have been his fireplace.

    One of them spotted him and charged. He considered hitting it, but took the better part of valor and ducked back out of the apartment.

    His brow furrowed and he opened the door again. The opening hung impossibly over a snow-covered cliff. A group of climbers were making their way up the steep slope with ropes and pitons. One young man looked at him and waved.

    He waved back. “James! Are you having fun?”

    “Yes, sir! I want to get some good pictures from the top!” The young man patted the camera bag hanging with his other gear.

    He pulled the door closed again. Someone was up to something, obviously, and he was starting to suspect who. He opened the door again.

    Mud. The walls, floor, and ceiling were dripping with damp mud. A humanoid glob detached itself from the rest and started shambling toward him. He closed the door and sighed.

    Okay, he thought, Minotaurs, mountains, and mud. Telegraph it much? Now, how can I use this to my advantage?

    After a moment’s thought he opened the door again. The little cretin in the orange suit with the purple derby was smiling an insanely large smile at him.

    “Did ya miss me?”

    “Not at all, kltpzyxm.”

    “What! You didn’t say that right! You have to CAPITALIZE the name Kltpzyxm when you say it!” After a moment he added, “Oh, poot.”

    The little man vanished in a puff of logic and Clark Kent entered, closing the door behind him. Long day.

    1. regisundertow

      Had to google Kltpzyxm too, but it all clicked eventually. Always loving the superhero stories with their unique tone. I think I’d recognize your writing anywhere.

  21. Reaper

    Well, this went weird.

    Her Ring

    Mom always told Jimmy, the number of keys on a person’s ring directly related to the power they held.

    That might be why she kept every key she ever came by. The ring reminded Jimmy of the ones jailers carried in old low fantasy movies.

    If one went by her theory, Jimmy’s mom had a lot of power. Too bad she lived her life so broke that when she died, the week before, the only thing she left him was that damnable ring. It was joking about it that kept him from shedding the tears that threatened to fall.

    Jimmy loved his mother, crazy as she was. So, without question he dropped his own meager collection onto the ring with the others. That was yesterday.

    Today he returned to work, then made his way home. His thoughts were of prepackaged food, like mom used to make. Then he could crash on the couch.

    Hungry, tired, and missing his mother he fumbled with the keys and slammed one that felt right into the slot.

    Jimmy opened the door and was sure he must already be asleep. Because his apartment was replaced by a dirt pit filled with Minotaurs. As he tried to make sense of that, one of the beasts spotted him and charged. Jimmy slammed the door, causing the keys to drop to the floor.

    Shaking, he bent down, lifting them. He had every intention of opening the door and finding out what was going on with the mad cows diseasing his home. He fumbled with the keys again and unlocked his door, it opened onto a mountain scene with climbers scaling the heights.

    One turned and waved at him. Clearly these extras from the Swiss Miss container thought his summer attire inappropriate for their demesne, but were too polite to say so.

    Retrieving his keys, Jimmy stepped through a door that swung closed behind him. As his breath fogged the air in front of him he realized his mistake. Turning to face the cabin he stepped out of an idea struck him. He shuffled through the keys until he found one for a car belonging to one of his “uncles” growing up.

    Sliding that into the door he exited the Camaro, in front of a bar.

    The enormity of what he had washed over him. The truth of the power his mother left him sunk into his heart. He walked towards the tavern. Thoughts of drinking the pain away flooded his head. Yet, he stopped at the door.

    Searching through the keys he found one linked to the last time he was truly happy. He slid it into the building’s lock and stepped through.

    The home he shared with his mother, until he was five, stood abandoned. Thirty years later its only occupants were cobwebs. He was home.

    Jimmy slipped to the floor, tears finally flooding from him. A grown man, but inside was a boy who missed his mommy.

    “I love you mom.”

    He whispered the words as saline streams left his face and made dust-mud flow along the floor. Below that boy who cried for his loss, deeper still and waiting to be discovered was another. Down there was a child awakening to a world left by his guardian. A child just beginning to wonder where these keys would take him next.

    1. Observer Tim

      Touching and fantastic, Reaper. This is a beautiful story and an idea I wish I’d thought of. What would you do if you could unlock any door you’ve been through? The concept is mind-bending and the execution of the story tugs severely at the heartstrings. Bravo! 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        What a marvelous theme for a story. Oh, you can do so much with this. The raw emotion you’ve written this with, belongs in everyone’s heart. Wouldn’t that be nice in today’s world. I’ve always wanted to go back, if only for a day. With your chain of keys, we all could. The expressions of love for one’s Mother brighten my day, my week and my new year. Thank you Reaper.

    2. Critique

      A touching story Reaper. Interesting how abandonment/hurts from the past – childhood – have a way of catching up with us in adulthood. His mother perhaps suffered from schizophrenia? and one can imagine what kind of scenarios Jimmy grew up with. Even so, Jimmy loved her and he’s realizing the power she bequeathed him with in the key ring.

    3. regisundertow

      Oh, damn. That was so poignant, so touching and heart wrenching as well. Wonderful insight into the emotions at play, which I hope don’t come from experience.

  22. Critique

    Portal Games

    Galena shifted her purse onto the other shoulder and loud grumbles erupted from her stomach. A bowl of Captain Crunch with thick cream and milk – her favorite go to snack – would fix that and her steps quickened.

    The elevator door pinged open on the third floor and she heard loud thumping that grew louder as she approached apartment number 302. Her brother from out of town must be visiting. Twisting the key in the lock Galena pushed the door open and a deafening blast hit her square in the chest. Her jaw dropped at the sight before her.

    Four enormous creatures with heads like horned bulls, bodies like men and cloven hooves for feet dwarfed her tiny living room. They were stomping energetically to David Bowie’s, “Dancing In The Street” blaring from her stereo – one had his head tilted back and was shaking the last of her Captain Crunch into his mouth.

    At the line, “So come on, every guy, grab a girl” one of the creature’s clad in a loincloth, whirled, and hit his horned head against a wall sending chunks of drywall flying in every direction. Lowering his bullish head the glowing red eyes glommed onto Galena standing in the doorway. Nostrils flaring he flexed muscled arms and lurched towards her.

    Quicker than a wink, Galena backed out, slammed the door and sprinted for the elevator. A splintering crash followed by a chorus of an unearthly roars accompanying the booming lyrics, “It’s an invitation across the nation, a chance for folks to meet” – not if she could help it – leant wings to her feet as she veered left towards an exit.

    Halfway down the hall a door opened suddenly, someone grabbed her arm and whisked her unceremoniously into the apartment and shut the door quickly and quietly behind them. Panting for air and terrified she looked up into wide brown eyes and recognized a fellow tenant, Virgil Theseus. They’d met several times coming and going. He was holding a finger to his lips.

    Virgil’s fingers clamped like a vice on Galena’s arm as they stood close together holding their breath while the room vibrated around them from massive bodies on hooves thundering by.

    Finally all they could hear was David Bowie warbling, “Everywhere, around the world, they’ll be dancing, dancing in the street”.

    “That’s my stereo.” Galena said in a shaky voice. “Those creatures were in my apartment.”

    “They’re gone now.” Virgil said and released her arm and just a quickly grabbed it again as Galena slumped weakly against the wall to keep from falling. “Here, you should sit down.” He led her to a chair in the living room.

    “The Minotaurs are clones that escaped from an underground laboratory.” Virgil handed Galena a glass of water. “Their eyesight is poor and despite the myths, they don’t eat humans.”

    Virgil dug a cellphone out of his pocket, read something then sat down across from her. “You’re safe.”

    Galena sipped the water eyeing him in disbelief. “How do you know all this?”

    “I’m a scientist. That’s where I work.” He waved his phone at her. “These guys are being apprehended as we speak.” Virgil watched her carefully then said. “I need for you to keep this quiet.”

    “It’s the least I can do since you saved my life.” Galena managed a smile. “They trashed my apartment.”

    “My company will pay for everything.” Virgil stood to his feet and held out a hand. “Let’s go check the damage.”

    At his doorway Galena stopped and looked up at Virgil. “Would you tell me more about your work? Take me to your laboratory?”

    Something shifted between them as Virgil stared intently down at her face. “Why don’t we go for dinner and discuss it?”

    1. Observer Tim

      This is sweet, Critique. Love knows no season, love knows no clime; romance can blossom any old time (with apologies to the Eurythmics). You did a great job diffusing the terror of the minotaurs while leaving the tension otherwise intact. The end result is like one of those musicals that were so popular in the middle of the 20th century (1930-1980). Great job! 🙂

      I was going to call you on “Dancing in the Streets” (I thought you meant “Let’s Dance”), but I notice that Bowie did do a fairly famous version with Mick Jagger.

  23. cosi van tutte

    It was midnight and the Lady of the Moon smiled down on her beloved followers as they gathered at The Moon Edged Inn.

    Horvonoth the Dreaded Wise set his pint on the table. “All right, men. It is time for action. We have all memorized our lines and rehearsed our parts. The Lady of the Moon awaits our performance.”

    Davsamnor of No Title Worth Mentioning lapped up the foam on his ale.

    Horvonoth gave him a spectacular glare. “I said, the Lady of the Moon awaits our performance.”

    Davsamnor stopped in mid-lap. “Oh. Jolly good and right-o.”

    “Let there be no flubs this time. I’m looking at you, Shoonashoo the Flea Mongrel and you too, Abernathkway the Pitiful Wreckage.”

    Abernathkway threw his empty pint at Horvonoth’s head. “I tol’ you! I ain’t no pitiful an’ I ain’t no wreckage neither! I ain Abernathkway the Splendid Spiffy Wha’.”

    Horvonoth knew better than to argue with Abernathkway after he had a pint or two. “Of course. What you said. Now, I want everyone to put their pints down.”

    Shoonashoo growled and furiously chugged down his ale.

    “I want to make sure that we’re all warmed up and ready to go.”

    Davsamnor smiled a drippy smile. “Well, ol’ chappie. I must say that I am nost…err, most decidededed…Well. I’m just smashed.” He flopped face first onto the table.

    Horvonoth sighed. “There goes our tenor section. But maybe we can make this work. Shoonashoo. Please put your drink down. I want to see if you can sing his part.”

    Shoonashoo belched, wiped some excess foam off his face, and sang, “My lady is a fair maid and there is none but fairer than she.”

    The front door opened and a puny human entered the Inn. “What the—? What is this? What happened to my apartment? Why are there minotaurs in here? Why does it—”

    Shoonashoo picked up his Bossano sword and charged at the intruder.

    The human squeaked and ran away. He slammed the door shut.

    Shoonashoo snorted and returned to his group.

    Horvonoth smiled and said, “It was a little pitchy, but I believe that it will do. I feel good and confident about tonight’s performance.” He pumped his fist. “Let’s do this!”

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Boy the memories came flying back, thank you. In college, the fraternities put on a songfest to see which one was the best. We’d practice twicea week half drunk trying to sing on the second floor of the Sigma Chi house. What good times, what memories. We did win first place one year singing ‘The Creation.’ Don’t ask me how a bunch of drunks managed that!

  24. Doug Langille

    THE WAY HOME
    ==============

    Gwen barely could focus on the oncoming traffic as she headed for home. What a bitch of a day. All I want to do is rip off this bra and put on the give-up pjs.

    A tractor trailor passed her on the inside lane of the on-ramp and blinded her in a mess of slush and salt. She laid on her horn as she braked. “Asshole,” she yelled uselessly.

    Yup, it was that kind of day. And now the most important thing on her mind was an evening date with the couch, some TV and a bowl of Capt’n Crunch. Ah, the single life again.

    Well, mostly single. Tonight, Dennis would have the boys at his house. If she could ignore the teenage mess, maybe–just maybe–she could relax.

    Gwen shuffled up the walk, barely conscious, and unlocked the door, fully expecting a hungry cat and a darkened hallway.

    Instead, she opened the door and was smacked in the face with the barn odour of cowshit mingled with the pungent sting of damp stony mildew. Torches flickered on either side of her foyer as she took a step inside. Strange shadows danced on the smooth stone walls. She heard snorting and chanting.

    Ahead, where her living room would normally have been, was a large fire, flames licking an open starry sky. Circled around it danced five cows on their hind legs–except they were human legs. Her mind corrected itself as the male endowment of the beasts waggled in their own rhythm as the bull-men moved to their music.

    Gwen snapped her hand to her mouth to stifle both the giggle and scream that comes with absurd horror. Of course, she was too late.

    One of the creatures heard the noise, turned and with an angry snort, and charged the smallish woman in the fashionable yet functional office wear.

    Frozen for a half-second, Gwen yelped for real and stumbled backwards out the door. It slammed shut and all was quiet.

    Gwen turned and looked across her lawn to the street. It was already well-dark and a few cars passed. Nothing was wrong with the world. You’re just tired, girl.

    She shook her head, laughed at herself and opened the door again.

    Instead of cattle and labyrinths when she opened the door, a blinding whiteness greeted her. A swirl of wind drug her inside and she instantly felt cold.

    Gwen turned around and the door was gone. Every direction was a sea of ice, snow and sky. In front of her stood a rock face and behind her lay the open abyss of altitude. A thick blue rope dangled and her eyes followed it upwards. A trio of mountain climbers hovered, clad in winter gear and sunglasses, their icy beards reminding her of her own exposure. She shivered and one of the men, the one closest to her, turned around and waved.

    He smiled and spoke to her. She shouldn’t have been able to hear him. It was too windy. The snow stung her face. Her ears stung with frostbite. But she heard him just the same.

    “Wake up, Gwen,” he said. “Wake up now.”

    Horns blared and Gwen opened her eyes. She gripped her hands on the steering wheel, yanked right and the yellow light filling her windshield jolted left. She hit the brakes and her tires slid on the slush, only catching on the gravel shoulder in time to stop her car’s tumble down the embankment.

    Gwen sat there, head down on the wheel, and sobbed. Another truck slammed past, its wake shaking the car and depositing fresh slush. The wiper blades snapped back and forth in their mindless pattern. The heater fan blasted in its own race to keep the window clear.

    She looked at her left hand, feeling the nakedness of her ring finger. I can do this. I’m just tired, that’s all.

    Gwen cracked open the window, turned on the radio and pulled into traffic.

    She was almost home.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a very touching story, Doug. Normally I’d rag on you (playfully) for using the dream trope, but that would be hypocritical for me this week. Instead I’ll say that you did a great job depicting both scenes and you tied them together with a heart-wrenching reality. Falling asleep at the wheel is nasty, especially in winter; Gwen’s a lucky lady, though she may not feel it at the moment. 🙂

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      You made Gwen so very real, and familiar, from the give-up pjs to falling asleep when almost home. That reference to the bare ring finger brought back my distant past.

    3. Critique

      Doug I enjoyed this well-written story because you nailed the stress factors Gwen must have been living with. Home alone snuggled up on a couch with comfort food and some mindless TV would be a welcome respite.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Very powerful story in your description. Thank God for the voice in the dream . To fall asleep driving is a terror. So many times we push the envelopement and die. Every teenager and adult needs to read this kind of story. The old, ‘this won’t happen to me,’ never works.

  25. Beebles

    Shit.

    This is Carrick’s work. For the past week the bastard has been two steps ahead of me. I am exhausted with chasing his tail and all I want is some rest and some proper food, or even just the captain crunch, defying decay in the cupboard in the flat. Of course the cupboard isn’t there anymore; nor is the flat. I thought I had thrown him off the scent in Rome but he must have found my trail. Now he’s waving at me from the Karakorum. By the time I reach him he’ll be through the door of some refuge and gone. Triple shit!

    I slam the door and sink to my haunches on the landing. The jagged grin of the key in my hand mocks me. Useless. I need to find another one, but I am so tired.

    ‘Oh? Hi there. Are you looking for Michael?’ The girl is at the top of the stairs, groceries in her arms, half hidden by a shroud of strong black hair.

    ‘Oh yeah, Michael. Do you know him?’

    ‘Sure I live across the hall.’ She points and I clock the door. ‘He doesn’t usually get back till late. He didn’t say he was expecting anyone.’

    Her smile is kind and striking. Shame.

    ‘Oh he’s not.’ I say, rising so that I am looking down into pearl white eyes set in cinnamon skin. ‘I … found a key, by the way, while I was waiting,’ I hold out my hand. ‘I don’t suppose it’s yours?’

    ‘Oh?’ She comes over and I breathe in the spice and honey of her perfume. Her thick black eyebrows are exclamations of her beauty. ‘I shouldn’t imagine,’ she says. ‘Hang on, I’ll check. Could you hold these?’

    I accept the groceries and as her hand touches mine I want to blurt out my name. I suddenly want her to know me. To be the first thing she thinks of when she wakes tomorrow. She rifles in the pocket of her slim fit jeans and brings out a bunch of keys. They tear me from this net she has unwittingly cast.
    ‘No! Here it is.’ She holds the bunch up by a key resembling the one in my hand. She smiles again and I stare hungrily at the key, then at her.

    Damn Carrick. Dam The Bureau. I’ve been chasing this shifter for five years, room to room continent to continent. So who cares if someone else knows how? The guy’s just a joker, a teaser, hacking into reality. He’s not dangerous. He meddles with The Bureau for kicks and we try and kill him for it.

    I had it all worked out too. A sandy beach. My feet sieving the sand and the weapon in my pocket. I can hear a woman calling, ‘Now, Carrick darling, take the jelly fish away from your father’s head. It will drip on his face and wake him up.’ He wouldn’t have been expecting me to arrive there, in his past. Well fine. Today he’s lucky. I’ll give him a head start. I deserve some me time.

    ‘Are you alright?’ The girl is looking at me with dark angelic concern. ‘Look, why don’t you come in and have a drink while you’re waiting? I’m sure Michael won’t be long.’

    I realise I am sweating. I’m tired. I nod and she goes over to unlock the door. I could still take the key.

    ‘After you, Aaron’ she says. The lights just round on the left.’

    I stumble into the dark apartment. My hand searches for the switch. Aaron? How did … ? The door slams and I am in the dark. From the other side I hear her.

    ‘By the way, Carrick says hello … and goodbye.’

    In the darkness, something snorts in my ear.

    1. Observer Tim

      Very nice, Beebles. I like the way you built the weirdness, and especially the subtle creepy vibe from the cinnamon girl even before she turned on him. I wish I could quantify the style choices that made that perfect, because if I could I’d steal them. In a shot. And the ending was classic SF-horror twist. Excellent! 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I was ready for anything, a love affair, some bottomless pit, blood and gore and you end it with a snort. I’ve never referred to a story as delicious, but I will this time, damn the hot fudge sundaes.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Yep, another fantastic use of the prompt. Maybe I’ve just got more time to read this week, but I’ve found so many stories, like this, to be outstanding.

    3. regisundertow

      Indeed, classic SF. This felt like it shared DNA with the classic Phil K. Dick stories or more recent cyberpunk tales that have grit flowing out of every pore, like Looper. A simple story, yet its value is in the details of the universe all this is taking place in.

  26. Kerry Charlton

    GIRLS FROM THE NORTH

    Most people would have flinched at half men, half beasts singing fraternity songs through the night but by living on campus in the fraternity house, Brian had become used to anything. He walked in and joined his brothers in ‘The Sweetheart Of Sigma Chi.’ It was always the one line of the song the girls fell for, ‘The blue of her eyes and the gold of her hair, are a blend of the western sky.’ Brunettes and redheads joined also and made their own verse

    When all else failed the song did the trick. Sometimes Brian wondered the wisdom of pining his girlfriend Alicia, eliminating the “pining” so to speak of other coeds available at the University Of Miami. From New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago and Washington, they came to play in the sun and surf. Being local and raised in Miami, Brian knew every beach, cove and moonlight spot on Biscayne Bay.

    In addition he had his own boat, if you could call a 16 foot run-a-bout a real boat. The girls reeked of money, innocence and social manners, not in that particular order. They detested being handled without finesse and Brian had a kingdom of it. It certainly didn’t come from his father, a former blue blood of Philadelphia. At least his Dad had been until the great recession and then the blue spilled out and the red entered. It was his advice, “Get all you can while it’s still available.”.

    Brian’s mother taught him what women liked, certainly not sex in her opinion but Brian managed to temper her advice and blend it in without the girls really noticing it. It always amused him at dance parties at the fraternity house, he took command on the dance floor twirling the girls in a jitter bug, swing, tango or close dancing as the music changed. He had a dreaded cotillion to go to when he was thirteen, white gloves and all.

    In college he thought, ‘God bless cotillion.’ The problem became Alicia with the Sigma Chi fraternity pin on her starched blouse. She thought no hands allowed. Brian had other ideas, not that he pursued the girls further than the dance floor on which he reigned supreme. The moonlight beaches were reserved for his best girl.

    And then came the fraternity dance held in the middle of Biscayne Bay on a sixty foot catamaran leased for the evening, complete with a five piece band and six kegs of beer.. His brothers could not understand his ways, not drinking but he did. By eleven that night most of the guys were hanging on the rails, polluting the bay while the girls gathered around Brian, dancing in pairs with him.

    Alicia had her fill, stormed the dance floor, kicking and screaming at all the humanity. Brian saw his fraternity pin take flight in a tall arch over the side of the catamaran railing straight into the bay. It was the worst night of the nineteen year old student life, for now he was fair game for the rest of the girls.

    In retrospect, as Brian married and got older, had five daughters and eight granddaughters, he understood Maurice Chevalier in two songs he was famous for,

    ‘Thank God for little girls for they grow older every day.’

    And when he got older,

    ‘Thank God I’m not young anymore.’

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Yes, except I married the girl I pinned in college. It’s easier to write about the 50’s then it is to explain the innocence. I’m happy you enjoyed it.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Joseph, I’ll tell you the kind of man my Father was. He lost everthing he had and lived in his mother’s house for four years with my Mother, brother and sister until he started to recover. I asked him once, what the best time of his life was. He startled me, “When I was dead broke and made my way back.”

      1. Kerry Charlton

        GiGi to you also! I went on my own little flashback. Where are the catamarans in today’s world? I’m glad you got a kick out of this and thanks for stopping by.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Doug, sometimes they’re real and then sometimes they are ‘pigments’ of my imagination. So glad to see you back! Keep your stories coming.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a great story, Kerry. I love the heaping slice of Americana with frosting and a couple of scoops of ice cream. It reads like a pocket memoir, with that lovely spirit of wistfulness and hope that characterized life in the days before the seventies. Thanks for taking me back. This is a sure smile. 🙂 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Beebles, oh we had a jolly good time then but I wouldn’t want to revisit because I’m sure my memories are spiced with things I wish that happened and not what did happen. Memories are best left in full view but untouched.

    2. regisundertow

      Definitely loved the melancholy flavor and the reminiscing mood of this story. You transported me to that era, even though I’m culturally miles away, and I think this speaks volumes to your skill at writing understated description.

  27. Observer Tim

    NEW APARTMENT

    It’s good to be home after that day of work. I’ve decided to forgo unpacking for one night. It’s going to be me, an Inside Out DVD, and a bowl of Cap’n Crunch taking a break in the apartment of my dreams. What more can a girl ask for?

    When I open the door my jaw drops; there are no boxes in sight, but no furniture either. The walls are stone and the flickering torchlight reflects off the horns of a dozen minotaurs. Their chant of “Ka-ren! Ka-ren!” stops and the nearest one looks over at me. His head lowers and he starts to charge.

    There is no way an apartment door could stop a linebacker with a cow’s head but there’s no thud, crash, and gored me. I’ve got to be hallucinating. I open the door a crack and peek in.

    Icy thin sunlight stings my eyes and sucks my breath away and I get pushed partway inside by the wind through the doorway. Or is it outside? A group of parka-clad strangers is pushing toward me, their faces obscured by goggles and oxygen masks. Behind them the ground slopes away to an emerald vista dotted with cotton-candy clouds. The lead figure gives me a thumbs-up as I pull the door shut again.

    Third time lucky? I open the door and my apartment is there like I left it this morning. I quickly step in switch the light on, creating a pool of gold that punctuates the shadowy field of boxes.

    As I walk toward the kitchenette to get a bowl my phone rings; Selima starts talking as soon as I pick up.

    “Hey Karen, how goes? Liking the new home?”

    “Yeah, your realtor is an ace; it’s a great location and the apartment is everything I dreamed of! I think I’m a little overtired, though; I had this weird hallucination when I came in.”

    “Weird? How so?”

    “You’ll think I’m crazy, but I thought I saw minotaurs.”

    “Minotaurs? Like guys with bull heads?”

    “Yeah. But I closed the door and got my bearings and they were gone. Like I said, overtired.”

    “And you’re in the hall now?”

    “No, I’m in the kitchen.”

    “Karen, get out of there.”

    “What? Why would I do that?”

    “Because that’s not your apartment.”

    “Of course it is; it’s the apartment of my dreams, just like the realtor said.”

    “That’s right; the apartment doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to your dreams. Get out while you can.”

    “You realize how stupid that–“

    A barely-visible hand reaches out of the shadows and flips off the light. Selima’s voice sounds in my ear.

    “Karen! Run!”

    The phone signal drops out, cutting off my last bit of illumination. In the darkened room I can sense movement. I’ve had this dream before; running won’t help.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Hi Tim, You are at your very best here. The first sentence grabs the reader and throws him into your story. The tension starts to build from that point, ascends until it bursts at the last line. Rod Sterling would be proud of you!

      1. Observer Tim

        When I was conceptualizing this story, I had the realtor with Karen at the door with an explanation something like this:

        “Dreams can’t hurt you. Usually. And they shouldn’t kill you. Well, not much. But if they do kill you’ll just wake up. Probably. I think.”

    2. Critique

      Fantastic. Every line drove the story forward. Now I want to know what happened to Karen? Did she outsmart whoever it was that flipped out the light? I hope she did 🙂

    3. regisundertow

      First came the laughter at “Ka-ren! Ka-ren!”, but by the last paragraph I was getting goosebumps on the back of my neck. I’ve always loved the use of dreams as a framing device, but it never occurred to me that nightmares could have a hand at propelling the story too. Fantastic stuff, Tim.

  28. JosephFazzone

    I shut the door to stand and ponder. Pondering is what I do. I’m a man of inaction. I sit and wait and procrastinate. My mind is flooded with possibilities, you see? Do you see? Well, that may be, but here’s the crux, the kick, the nitty and the gritty, tide not waiting for no man, the bottom line…the shtick…the circle of…

    Where was I? You see my mind shifts and flounders, in fits most confounding, and my aim may be true, if I knew what to do, but to sit and wait, and procrastinate. Did I just see what I thought I saw? A mountain, and some climber, and that chill rattled my bones making my joints ache.

    Out of the blue, something askew, another kink in the works, my stupid landlord, so portly and old was asking for last month’s rent. I took a look askance, and in seeking the chance to throw his attention elsewhere. All I did receive was his glare not easily deceived which led me to believe I shouldn’t bark up this particular tree.

    “Did you see that?” He asked without a blink.

    “I think it was…”

    “Zounds!” He gasped staring at my door. “Quite horrific!”

    We stood in awe of the black seep that oozed from beneath the door. The odor was odd, a faint hint of the sea, brine and barnacles and something fishy.

    My guess was all I had. “Dishwasher is running amuck.”

    “I’ve seen that slime before”, he whispered decisively suddenly wielding an ebony baton.

    Inspired by the heroic stoic stance of this humble landlord, I decided inaction, would again be my action. I would sit and wait and procrastinate.

    He activated a switch with his thumb, poles shot out from both sides extending it to a staff. The ends, then split, and arcs of azure electricity could be seen dancing between the poles. It gave a low hum of immense power. The flickering light danced upon his very satisfied grin, his eyes afire with righteous vigor. His humility had melded into this herculean example of the ultimate hero personified. He was bravery incarnate.

    “Ready?” He whispered.

    I was too scared to move, so I did nothing, as I usually do.

    He must have taken that as a ‘ready’ signal. With a battle cry worthy of the Iliad, he threw open the door to face an inky blackness which surged through, its slimy black tentacles ensnared him; the baton fell to the floor with a clatter.

    He looked at me with wild eyes begging me to grab the baton and save him.

    I decided to do what I normally do…

    At least now I won’t owe him any rent. And then it hit me, I was homeless. I was humming the chorus to Amy MacDonald’s song ‘This is the Life’, “…where you gonna go, where ya gonna sleep tonight.” It was now time to act!

    And act I did. I shut the door. I texted my brother who lives down the street, and asked him if I could crash at his pad. That was one problem solved.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      This is meticulous, mischievous, melodious, melancholy, memorable, meretricious, meritorious, mermerizing, misbehaved and momentous. Oh, and by the way, brilliant and funny and slightly deranged. A wonderful response to the prompt. a madman duel of words.

    2. thejim

      I like the way it flowed, and the story you told. Even with the rhymes, the story was strong.
      It had a fair, like you didn’t care. In sort of a type of sing-along song.
      So I give you a thumb up, and now I’ll shut up,
      Cause there’s nothing more to see here. Now move along, move along.

    3. Observer Tim

      Wow, the power of positive procrastination. I see people have complimented you on the various aspects of the MC’s voice, and all I can do is echo them. It’s like there’s a whole weird world going on around him and he just looks the other way; the effect is Pythonesque in its strangeness and implementation (if you don’t get that, googling the word brings up the right reference). All in all it’s a very entertaining read. 🙂

    4. Beebles

      What a superbly frustrating MC! Remind me not to get into a pickle with him as my wing man. This was lyrical, I kept reading song titles in the prose. It reminded me of what is lacking in my own story telling sometimes. And then you mentioned the Iliad … well, nuff said. Great Joe.

  29. cosi van tutte

    Today has been a grade A winner of a day. Every single one of my customers hated me.

    They called me stupid. They called me ignorant. They called me a lazy lubber of a slob. One of them spit all over my pens.

    Then, I got called into Big Man Boss’ office.

    He hated me. He called me stupid. He called me ignorant. He called me a lazy lounge lizard with no tail. Whatever the heck that means. He said that he was four days away from firing me so I’d better straighten myself up or get ready to package myself out.

    Five o’clock couldn’t come fast enough.

    But my day of woe hadn’t ended just yet. I was stopped by five different cops for driving too fast, for driving too slow, for driving too crooked. Whatever that meant. For driving with an expired out of state license. And for having too many dangly things hanging from my outside mirrors.

    I just wanted to go home and drop into my sofa and binge on Cinnamon Toast Crunch straight out of the box. No milk. No bowl. Just dry and wonderful Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

    And, after dealing with all five of those annoying cops, a traffic jam, three suicidal deer, and an obnoxious guy in a convertible hot dog truck, I made it.

    I was home.

    I cried.

    I kissed the ground.

    I ran to my front door, unlocked it, whipped it open, and just stood there like a gummy mouthed goomba.

    Five dangerously muscled minotaurs stood in a sort of circle around a bonfire, chanting something about Hoosha moosha oobee doobie day. The largest and ugliest member of the group looked up. The plastic beads in his dreadlocks clicked cheaply against each other. “Ohhh–SHA!”

    The other minotaurs looked at me. “Ohhh-ho-ho-ho!” They all picked up their spiked maces of death and ran at me. “Ohhh-SHAAAAA! MEEEE-HOOOOGA!”

    I did the only thing I could do.

    I slammed the door shut and waited for the spikes to do their demolishing worst.

    But nothing happened.

    Any other day, I would have just plain run off to my Aunt Bertha in Beulah and stayed with her.

    But this was not any other day.

    This was a rotten, no good for anything day.

    I wanted to sit on MY couch with MY box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and watch paint dry.

    So, I waited for fifteen minutes before I opened the door again. I fully expected to be brained by five different maces.

    But no.

    Nothing of the sort happened.

    Instead, I stood there and stared at a scene of blonde-headed guys scaling a mountain and yodeling their lederhosened heads off. Not literally. Although, given how this day had been running, I honestly wouldn’t have been much surprised.

    One of them stopped in mid-climb and waved at me. “Oh la! Fritz has come to join us.”

    The other blondies chorused, “Oh-ho-ho-ho-deee-lay-heee-hooooo! Fritz has come to yo-deee-lay–”

    I slammed the door shut. Yodeling has never been my thing.

    I opened the door after a couple of minutes and gaped in horror.

    Same mountain.

    Same darn blonde yodelers.

    “Ohhhh-hoo-ho-hooo-deeeeee-lay-hoo-deeeee-lay-heeee—”

    I slammed the door shut, locked it, and returned to my car.

    I really hoped that Aunt Bertha had a box or two of Cinnamon Toast Crunch in her pantry.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      This is as zany as Joseph’s. My suggestion, call him up, meet for a drink or two, tell the world to back off and catch the next plane to Bermuda. I had an Aunt Bertha, she wasn’t a real aunt but took care of Aunt Libby, you would have liked her, Bertha, not Libby. I enjoyed this tale immensely.

    2. Observer Tim

      This story screams “slacker” in every way except authorship. The MC’s reaction is just perfect, from the description of the day to the reaction to the door and the obsession with Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Really great job. 🙂

  30. Trevor

    Word Count: 666

    The Portal Door

    I gasped as I opened the door and saw the destruction that lay inside. The living room looked like an atomic bomb went off. The glass coffee table was overturned and shattered. The couch cushions and throw pillows were strewn around the room. Even the curtains lay on the floor by the front window in a heap. Immediately, my thoughts went toward one person.

    Lori.

    When I first met Lori, my intentions weren’t the purest. At the time, I was going through financial troubles and needed help keeping up with the rent. I placed an online ad and, when I saw that well-paid journalist Lori had applied, I saw only dollar signs. But from the moment Lori moved in, my original and greedy intentions were abandoned. Lori and I hit it off and I began seeing her as a friend rather than a simple housemate helping me pay bills. She was like a sister.

    So seeing the house in disarray and Lori nowhere in sight sent chilling, morbid thoughts into my head. Alarmed, I ran around the house calling out her name. When I ran into her bedroom, I gasped when I saw it.

    The door had never been there before. It stood just beside Lori’s bed. The wood was red and a yellow triangle adorned the center of the door. On impulse, I ran over and flung the door open. What lay on the other side made me shriek in surprise.

    A gang of bizarre creatures were in a field beyond the door. My shriek caught their attention and, before I knew it, they were charging me. I slammed the door shut just before they reached me. My breaths came in short bursts as I tried to comprehend what I had seen. When I realized the creatures weren’t trying to bust the door down, I decided to take another peek. Slowly, I turned the knob and opened the door once more.

    This time, however, I was created to a large snow-covered mountain. Snow was falling down in sheets. I turned to see a group of mountain climbers hiking toward the peak, bundled up in thick coats. One turns to me and waves, seemingly oblivious to how weird this situation was. After providing a sheepish return of gesture, I slowly closed the door again. I knew what I thought was happening was crazy, but it was the only possibility that came to mind. Every time I reopened the door, a new location stood behind it. I didn’t want to believe it, but the door had to be magic.

    Then a more sinister thought came to mind. What if something came out of the door? What if someone took Lori into whatever place it came from? Was that what the mess downstairs was? Lori’s abduction? I had to find out. I had to open the door again.

    As soon as I opened the door, I saw Lori. The new scene was the rooftop of a building. It was nighttime and other florescent buildings could be visible on the horizon. There was a helicopter on the building and Lori was being dragged over to it by two large men. From her cries, I could tell she wasn’t going of her own free will.

    “Please! Please, just let me go!” Lori was screaming, tears running down her face. But the men just lifted her up to the man who was waiting in the helicopter. He wore a black leather jacket, black sunglasses, and wore tight black pants. He wrapped an arm around Lori’s waist as he pulled out a cloth and shoved it over Lori’s mouth. She struggled for several minutes before finally passing out in the man’s arms. Once she was unconscious, the man cradled her body in his arms as he pulled the door close. With that, one of the henchmen patted the helicopter’s side, signaling the pilot to fly off into the night sky.

    And that was the beginning of my journey into that strange city.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a great introduction, Trevor. You’ve created a great situation and one that definitely calls for an ongoing treatment. Very nice. 🙂

      My red pencil notes some rough verb tenses and a few instances of repetition that can be patched up with an extra editing pass.

      My style advisor wants to caution you about the telegraphing. Each time the MC opens the door, we get told what to expect; that unfortunately weakens the following paragraph. Having the MC guess the entire scenario before the third opening utter wrecks the surprise and suggests you might want to get rid of that entire paragraph.

    2. regisundertow

      That’s definitely interesting. Not sure how I feel about a helicopter in a story that hints at the occult, but everything else definitely works for me. There’s a sense of China Mieville and New Weird here that’s very attractive.

  31. ReathaThomasOakley

    The Girl at age twelve
    (440 words)

    “You sulkin’?” Mama don’t never just sit on the floor with her head down, Mama don’t hardly ever sit atall, but she’s pulled her ole brown suitcase out from under the bed.

    “What…” Mama jerked up her head like she didn’t know I was looking at her. “Jest thinking, that’s all. You got all yore work done?”

    “Yes, mam. I hoed the squash, even watered the runner beans ‘long the fence.” I sat down on the floor beside her. “You look sad. You been lookin’ at them pictures and papers again? That what makes you sulk?” She took the little key she always wears on a ribbon round her neck and locked the suitcase.

    “Sulkin’? That’s yore granny’s word.” She tried to smile, but I could see tears ’bout to spill outta her eyes.

    “Mama, when you gonna let me see what you got hid there, what you don’t never let me see? I let you see what’s in my special box under my bed.” She reached over and hugged me real tight. “Granny keeps her special chew in a cigar box, but she don’t lock it. She don’t need to, ’cause I ain’t never gonna touch chew.”

    “What I got’s different. There’s things what ain’t fit for girls to know, women things we learn when we ain’t girls no more.”

    “But, Mama, I come sick five months ago, and Granny says that makes me…” Mama squeezed me so tight I didn’t know if I could breathe.

    “I know, I know,” Mama gave a little hiccup laugh. “That’s what I been worryin’ over. The time’s done come for you to learn things, but I wanted to protect you.” Mama reached over and put her hands on the suitcase. “This here top’s like a door, a door that when you open it you see lots of things, some good things, some real bad things. Sometimes I see a whole herd a bulls…”

    “Mama, I’m scareda bulls, I like the pop-it-beads in my box, better.”

    “They ain’t real bulls, Girl. Jest big scary things we gotta face, things ’bout our people, ’bout our past.” Mama patted my face. “Sometimes I see a big ole mountain I gotta climb.”

    “I ain’t never seen a real mountain, Mama, but if we see one, I’ll help you climb it.” That made Mama laugh. I like when Mama laughs.

    “Oh, Girl, I love you. I tell you what.” Mama got up from the floor. “Let’s go see what yore granny’s cooked up for supper, then tomorra I’ll start showin’ you what’s in the suitcase, what’s behind the door. What us women gotta do.”

    1. cosi van tutte

      Hi, Reatha!

      And we’re back to The Girl’s side of things. 🙂 Kudos to you for being able to switch back into her voice after being with Horace and Sue Ann for the past several prompts.

    2. JosephFazzone

      Great story! I get a lot of understanding for the relationship between the two just by the conversation, and it’s great how you sew the prompt in seamlessly making it just a normal everyday thing to talk about minotaurs and mountain tops.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks, I do try to use the prompt in some way, even when at first I can’t see any place to go with it. I did want to get back to The Girl so I can link everything and be done with it.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Reaha, your writing is so real it amazes me. The depth of emotion runs through every sentence. This is what we all try to achieve, but you, you can do it with ease. That is a rare and valuable talent to have.

          Please don’t dump your characters. It doesn’t have to end, does it?

          1. ReathaThomasOakley

            Kerry, thank you so much, your comments to everyone are always so encouraging. I’m trying to get everything I’ve posted this past year in one place. I’ve written the stories here and poems on Poetic Asides using various computers and my iPad in several states and even in a few countries so my stuff is everywhere. I’ve got an outline of The Girl story done and where I have holes, I’ll try to work around the prompts. Thanks again.

    3. ShamelessHack

      (Voiceover): “In our last episode we—wait a minute! What happened to you? You’re bandaged from head to toe!”
      “Is unfair.”
      (Voiceover): “What do you mean, unfair?”
      “Writer’s Digest. Is unfair.”
      (Voiceover): “To who?”
      “To me, of course.”
      (Voiceover): “But why?”
      “Watch. I show you…”

      It was freezing.
      It surprised him that he was still able to walk on two feet as he approached the front door to his house. He was cold and he was exhausted from another grueling day at the Frostbite Falls Geegaw Factory.
      “Gee, I could sure use some Cap’n Crunch,” he said out loud, hunger gnawing at his belly.
      He put the key in the lock and swung open the door. Fifteen minotaurs charged at him. He swung the door closed just in time.
      “What were those?” asked his best friend, who had just flown in and landed at his side after dive-bombing a cumulus cloud a few of the nearby houses.
      “I dunno,” he said. “Lemme try this again.”
      He swung the door open. A mountain climber crashed down from the sky and he slammed the door quickly, leaning his back against it.
      He looked at his diminutive friend. “Should I try again?” he asked.
      “Sure,” said the small sidekick, adjusting his aviator goggles.
      Once again he swung open the door. A tall svelte Russian woman was standing on the other side, towering over a short mustachioed man wearing a black trench coat and a double peaked hat. In the man’s hand was a round black bomb, its fuse burning down quickly. He looked as if he were about to throw it.
      The door slammed in his face and the bomb went off.
      “Oopsy.”
      “That’s all you can say, Bullwinkle? Oopsy?”
      “Well. And I’m sorry. Sorry I didn’t get to that Cap’n Crunch…”

      (Voiceover): “Well, it’s unfortunate that you and Natasha got blown up, but none of this is Writer’s Digest’s fault.”
      “Da, it is. Is fault of Writer’s Digest.”
      (Voiceover): “Lk, thr’s nt mch we cn do abt—HY! Wh stl ths vwls?!”
      “Never underestimate the power of a schnook.

      1. Observer Tim

        Is fault of pesky Moose and Squirrel. Very clever, Hack. It’s good to have you back after the holiday break; you got a nice heaping spoonful of silliness here. I could easily see this being a commercial for the cereal back then. Nice! 🙂

    4. Observer Tim

      Wow, nice atmosphere, Reatha. We’re back to the girl now, and it’s obvious from the first line of text. I can feel her mother’s sadness in the dialogue. This sounds like the ultimate mother-daughter talk is coming, but with a twist. Great one! 🙂

      I found it a bit difficult in a few places with so many lines broken by description; when you expand this, you might want to mix that up a bit. Just a thought, and a tentative one because this piece is so well done.

    5. regisundertow

      Bravo. What else is there to say about the Girl’s story that hasn’t already been said? I’m looking forward to these tales every week and every week you deliver.

  32. thejim

    Steve gently closed the door. He paused, took a deep breath and opened the door again. This time an old western bar has neatly been placed in his kitchen. He slowly stepped into his house. It seems as if a bar from the 1800s has invaded his happy home. In the background there is faint piano music, the noise of people moving about but there is no one around.

    A bright light flashes like a strobe light and the bar fades away. Steve is back in the center of his kitchen.

    A laugh echoes across the room and Kevin is sitting in a chair eating last of Steve’s Captain Crunch.

    “What didja think? Way Cool, right? I mean way cool! I bet you never seen that before? I am a genius! Right, you know I am! Wooohoooo!!!”

    Kevin slips out of the chair and set the bowl down. With the excitement of a child he tries to explain.

    “OK here’s how it works. I have 4 lenses in each corner of the room and then one fish eye right here in the center pointing straight down. They are all connected, wireless, to the main controller. Each one of the lenses contains 2 types of lenses. One is a camera with Infrared and motion detection so it is watching any movements that are going on within the optical view. The infrared allows for any ambient light so it will get a more accurate read on any movements. So as you move it automatically creates a wire frame of you and sends it back to the controller then it will alter the confines to reflect your movements and sends that back to the second lens and it projects the scene around you. There also some more technobabble stuff that is way over your head but what do you think!”

    “You have created a real life 3D simulation!”

    “Yes sir I have.”

    “That is way cool!”

    “There are a few things I need to work out a few bugs but I am close to having all 5 senses involved like smell and touch too.”

    Kevin went on for most of the night with barely taking a breath. Then as quick as he talks he picked up his things and left.

    A month later Steve got a call and within record time he was standing in front of Kevin’s door wondering what he might see when it opens. The door swung open.

    “Get in here, Dude, I think I got it but I need someone here with me to verify it.”

    “What did you figure out?”

    “I got smell and touch. I am going to load up this cool alien space ship game I have been working on It’s really cool you have to fight off these huge monster aliens and steal the ship and fly it back to earth, really cool.”

    Steve loads the game and the inner hallways of and space ship forms around them.

    “Come on let’s check it out”

    As they made our way down a hallway all the lights started to flicker.

    Oh, man.”

    As quick as it started flickering it went away.

    “Oh, cool, maybe just a small glitch, looks good now, come on let’s explore.”

    The apartment door opens and Kevin’s sister Susan walks in.

    “What’s going on, Kevin! Did you blow a fuse again?”

    As the lights come back on Susan looks around the empty one room apartment. She sees 5 cameras and a smoking, makeshift game console. She unplugs it.

    “He better not burn this place down.”

    Grabbing the DVD she let Kevin borrow two weeks ago she snatches a box of Captain Crunch, and locks the door behind her.

    1. Observer Tim

      I hope Kevin and Steve have infinite replays. Either that or Kevin’s cracked the code and broken out of the Matrix. Clever and mind-bending, theJim. The dialogue style did a nice job of making the characters distinct. My one quibble is that a separator of some sort would be helpful at the shift to the sister’s perspective. 🙂

  33. Witt.Stanton

    The harsh, cold wind sliced across my face, freezing whatever I had left exposed. My wrists burned, and I struggled to pull my gloves on tighter, bracing myself on a small crevice as I felt my breath hitch. Already seven miles up, the world beneath us seemed to have shrunk into a layer of clouds and a distant horizon.

    The belaying rope dangled between my knees, pulling taunt as my partner twisted to glance down at me. “How you holding up?” Sam shouted, pausing his ascent to adjust the straps to his summit pack. The rest of the group had gone ahead, and we could see them now on the ridge above. “I know the wind’s a bugger, but you gotta push through it, man.”

    I could barely hear him over the howling of the wind through the mountain peaks, reverberating up from the valley below us. “Let’s keep at it. The only way’s up,” I laughed, trying to steady my breathing. Talking hurt, my breath being snatched away with each word.

    “That’s the spirit. We’re already past the half way point, so next few miles will be a breeze.” He pointed up, but I could’t tilt my head far enough back to tell exactly where. My scarf was bundled around my neck. “Expect the next stop at the next headwall.”

    My partner continued his ascent, and I followed behind, letting a runout trail form between us. If there was anything that made me nervous, and honestly not much did, it would be faulty equipment. Something totally out of my control.

    Sam was dialed in and knew the route by heart, but I didn’t and, looking down, I could see my belay rope slowing fraying, the white inside showing through. That was very bad. But I didn’t want to waste Sam’s supplies by trying to save myself.

    It isn’t easy to accept your fate, even if you choose it.

    Damn, I was terrified.

    I should’ve planned this better. I hadn’t had time to zero out, and now with the altitude sickness setting in I was regretting this. In retrospect, the Minotaur may have been the better option of the two.

    Well, at least, that would’ve been a quick death.

    A mile later, I felt my rope finally snap. The tension suddenly gone, I felt myself enter a free fall as the glowing sun crested the mountain peak, illuminating the valley with bright, white light.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is nice and subtle, Witt. I agree with the MC; he should have gone with the Minotaur. That way he wouldn’t have died tired. The imagery and casual use of climbing terminology gives a strong impression that you’ve been there (not dead, mountain climbing). Great job. 🙂

    2. regisundertow

      As a fellow climber, I loved this. Interesting how you chose to handle the background story, it raises a whole bunch of questions on how and why your MC got himself into that position.

    3. Reaper

      I liked the way you focused in on one scene. I wasn’t expecting the brief flashback but it fit very well. Even with the fantasy elements to it this had a bit of a Hemingway feel to it. I’m not usually fond of him but some writers do well in that style and you seem to be one of them.

  34. Pete

    The plan is not to wake up Julia when I get home. Not with her all-important meeting tomorrow. I can only imagine the litany of crap I’ll catch if she comes stomping out to find me half lit again. No I have to be stealth.

    But my ninja skills are diminished, from the four, maybe six Jager bombs after Dave had called with his express tax refund. So I’m clumsy in my approach, not that it matters, there is some serious thrashing going on in our beloved 13B.

    “Surprise, baby!” Julia says as I walk into the mayhem that is our living room. Seconds Later I’m floored. Literally. Someone clomps me in the head with an axe. Figuratively. Actually it’s a guitar, but one shaped like an axe. In the hairy clutches of my favorite beast.

    Surprised? Astonished. I cannot believe Julia would think to go to all the trouble for my birthday. What kind of cool chick? Fakes being mad at me then books a Gwar concert in the living room? That’s my Jules.

    Rocking out. I scramble to my feet, thinking this might be the best day of my life, as Julia takes to our dining table to dance.. A beer bottle sails over my head and crashes the mirror. A drizzle of spit and sweat fall over the room and I have to duck again as my lava lamp hits the door with a splat. Things are getting wild. I catch a glimpse of two donkeys getting it on in the corner of the room. Freakier still is my buddy Carl licking yogurt off the couch, mumbling something about his bride.

    Well, if it’s going to be that kind of party…

    I tear off my shirt off, just about to jump into the mosh pit when I’m shoved out the door just as the building shakes on the other side of the door. I stumble back, watching dust and rubble spew from the doorway.

    “Julia, what’s going on?”

    No more music. I get to my feet and shoulder the door, nearly plummeting to my death. The freaking floor is gone. As in not there. Just like the one below that and below that and well, you get the point. I hear my name and lift my head up to find Julia, all face paint and gorgeous, hanging off the chandelier like a trapeze act.

    She’s got Muffin, her squeaky little Pomeranian under her arm. Somewhere in the distance I swear I hear a chicken clucking. I close my eyes. Open them again. Almost hurl off the ledge.

    “Corey!”

    I try to get a grip on my nerves because I don’t do well under pressure. Then I take a few steps back for a practice run, counting my strides.

    “Corey, today.”

    “Oh, right.”

    I back up, get a running start and take a blind leap for the chandelier.

    Success. Only now we’re both on the chandelier, dangling. Julia gives me a look, the one she gives me when I leave the refrigerator door open.

    “Now what?”

    I look down. Nothing but drop. Freaking Gwar. It was just like them to come to your place and take the floor.

    “Okay, swing my way,” I say, thrusting my hips at her. For some reason I find this hilarious.

    “Your fucking wasted, aren’t you?”

    “Dave…Jager….”

    The chandelier gives a little. Plaster sifts down on us, graying Jules hair and making her look like a smoking hot grandma. But no time for boners. Muffin yips.

    “Come on baby, swing.” I say, thrusting again minimal giggling. She does. “Okay, now back.”

    We gain some momentum. I feel like Indiana Jones right up until the chandelier chain slips, about to come out of the ceiling. We have to spring for it. Lunging for the ledge at the doorway. Julia tosses Muffins to safety just before we both catch the ledge under our arms. I look at Julia.

    “We’re so evicted.”

    The cops arrive with some questions. They call in some black vest guys. News trucks ascend and then it’s chaos. Julia’s going on about her meeting but I can tell by the looks of things that I’ve done well getting her off that chandelier.

    My buzz is wearing off, probably because the back of my head hurts like a mother. Serious guys arrive, feds maybe. Black trucks saw horses. Apparently a good party is now considered terrorist activity. We watch as the livestock gets hauled off by the bomb squad while Carl, found some six stories below, is going on about the death of his bride, our three-piece sectional.

    Julia and I have no renter’s insurance and no other option but to tell the truth, over and over and over again to the disbelieving faces of the agents. That Gwar came to our house, took the floor and fled.

    So much for the security deposit.

    1. jhowe

      I’m exhausted. Then I looked up The Gwar and now I’m doubly exhausted. Two zany prompts combined to create one intense story. Nice. I loved the line, “…the litany of crap I’ll catch if she comes stomping out to find me half lit again.” That says so much about the MCs attitude about Julia’s reaction to his drinking. Very entertaining story.

    2. Observer Tim

      Okay, I had to look up GWAR too. OMG. You’re right, they probably would steal the floor. Until I figured out the story’s from the adjacent prompt I was seriously thinking what the…? Of course I was still thinking that afterward, but metal does that to me. This is truly strange and entertaining, Pete. 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Double prompt reply is imaginative. Also looked GWAR up. Gad! what’s happened to music? A fun story to read and meditate on. Where’s my iron pants?

  35. seliz

    She was bathed in moonlight, the pale light illuminating her slender form. Long black hair cascaded down her back as she knelt in the grass. Her lips moved fast, speaking words with a rhythm all their own.

    “And now my work is done,” Mara whispered to the wind. With a sigh, she straightened her shoulders and lifted herself from the grass.

    She walked through the moonlit yard, her hips sashaying as she went. A peaceful smile played at her lips. When she reached her home, she gently pulled the door back, only to be met with a roar of noise.

    Beasts filled her home, half man half bull, but all raw muscle and rage. Minotaur.

    Abomination with carnal nature, she thought with disdain. As if sensing her thoughts, the Minotaur closest to her let out a hiss from his flaring nostrils. Putting his head down so his horns were level with her chest, he charged.

    Narrowing her eyes, she stood her ground. It wasn’t until his horns were almost piercing her flesh, that she slammed the door in his face.

    “Really, such carnal beasts. They only know rage and lust,” Mara murmured to no one in particular. The wind rustling around her was the only reply.

    She smirked and pulled the door open again. Mara was met with a blast of cold air. Snow flurried around her. Her breath caught in her throat when she looked down at the jagged rock tumbling down below her. A man clung to the mountainside, digging his fingers in the rocks for hold. If he was surprised to see her, he didn’t show it. He simply smiled and waved.

    Not returning the wave, Mara pulled the door closed once more.

    “Now that was just mean. You know I can’t abide the cold,” she called. “Must you always play these games? You should know by now that I’m not one to be trifled with.”

    With that, she closed her eyes and began to hum. The melody was soft and sweet at first, but then the tone changed. Her voice lowered and the song turned sour. The wind whipped around her hair as she hummed. A moment later, the door was thrown open with a slam.

    Wooden houses towered over her as Mara stepped over the threshold. The streets were empty and only the sound of distant wailing could be heard. The stench of sewage, mud, and death were overwhelming. Crinkling her nose, Mara searched for her assailant.

    He leaned in a doorway and watched her with sparkling brown eyes. He was handsome with a strand of dark brown hair falling across his chiseled face.

    “Why here?” he asked, watching her closely.

    “Oh darling, I can take you anywhere,” she said, the hint of a threat on her lips. She stepped closer to him, but he stopped her by pulling out a large oak staff. He spun it around him at such speed that the air rippled around him.

    She narrowed her eyes and flicked her wrist. The staff flew from his hands and landed with a thud at his feet.

    “Merely a toy,” she laughed. “Is that all you’ve go-“

    Before she could finish, he was at her side with a hand on her throat.

    “You forget, witch, that I am no ordinary warlock, but also a warrior trained. What is your magic against steel?”

    Mara’s eyes darted down to the blade pressed at her abdomen. Pulling her gaze up to meet his, she began to hum softly.

    At the sound, his brow furrowed.

    “What is that? That is no spell.”

    Before she could answer, children’s voices took up the song.

    Ring around the Rosie. Pocket full of posies. Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.

    At the word down, the man’s face grew boils the size of eggs. His hands blackened, as he yelped painfully.

    “The plague? You gave me the plague?!”

    He dropped to his knees wheezing.

    “You forget that I am no ordinary witch, Bartholomew. Only a fool would mess with the daughter of the moon.”

    “And only a greater fool would love her,” he countered.

    She laughed and snapped her fingers. The town disappeared, along with the plague in Bartholomew. She helped him to his feet and wrapped her arms around him.

    “I’ve missed you, darling.”

    “And I you,” he said, kissing her forehead. “Although, you are truly something else.”

    “Me? I’m not the one who hasn’t heard of a thing called a phone,” she smirked.

    1. Observer Tim

      You came back strong, Seliz; I love the beautiful poetic imagery you wrapped the story in, and the subtle way you incorporated the reality shifting/witchcraft. All in all a really good one; welcome back! 🙂

    2. Reaper

      Seliz, it is nice to read you again. This is wicked and amazing. You have this wonderful way of making a story romantic and still have me begging to read more. Your talents are so rare. Welcome back.

      1. seliz

        Thanks, Kerry! I’m defiantly glad to be back and see so many people still online. I think we help push each other to be better writers, so it really is a great online community 🙂

  36. jhowe

    The first clue that should have told me something is wrong is my craving for Cap’n Crunch. I’m a world famous goddamn personal trainer for crying out loud. So where did this box of artificially flavored processed sugar come from anyway? I must have picked it up at the store for some reason. I suppose one little taste won’t hurt. I can do a few extra hours at the gym tomorrow after I whip DiCaprio’s ass into shape at 10:00.

    Holy shit that was good. I need another box of that real soon. So this is what a sugar high feels like. I pick up my pace and head for home. The muffled sounds behind my front door concern me but not overly so. My head is spinning and my mouth is coated in yellow sludge. I need an energy drink pronto.

    What the hell is that? Some kind of cyclops or centaur or maybe a satyr? Whatever the hell a man with a cow head is called. I should have paid attention in mythology class. Uh oh, one of them sees me and here he comes. Damn they’re fast. I slam the door and lock the deadbolt with my key. I think it had hands but I can’t remember. To play it safe I lean into the door, but no crash comes.

    I decide to give it a few minutes or so before I open the door. I rush back to the store for a box of Cap’n Crunch and a Red Bull. I need to work on these cravings after I get through this bizarre day. I listen at the door – nothing. I slip in the key and slowly turn the knob. Well fuck me, this can’t be right. I dip into the box and find it empty as the wind howls and snow blows all around me. Is that DiCaprio? He’s repelling down an ice cliff, wearing fur, with seven or eight Arikara Indians shooting arrows at him. He looks at me and waves. I hide the cereal box behind my back. He raises his eyebrows – I think he saw it. He definitely needs to get that scar looked at.

    An arrow twangs into the wood door beside my head and I slam the door again. Whatever’s going on will have to wait. I need another box of Cap’n Crunch right now. And maybe a half liter of Mountain Dew.

    1. cosi van tutte

      Hi, jhowe!

      This story was short, sweet, and hilarious.

      This whole paragraph made me grin like crazy: “An arrow twangs into the wood door beside my head and I slam the door again. Whatever’s going on will have to wait. I need another box of Cap’n Crunch right now. And maybe a half liter of Mountain Dew.” 😆

      1. Kerry Charlton

        You got every one of my funny bones rattling. I’m trying to imagine who would be good in the part. John Belushi comes to mind. Do you think he’d take the part if we dug him up? I echo all the other comments in spades.

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