Scavenger Hunt

You’re involved in a scavenger hunt—boys versus girls—and you take off to help your team collect every item on the list. The first several items are relatively easy but the last item is very unusual. But, upon reading the last item, you know exactly where to find it. The only problem is that it isn’t going to be easy to retrieve it. Write this scene.

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

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259 thoughts on “Scavenger Hunt

  1. rebekkalynn9800

    (Sorry if my story seems a bit morbid, it’s just what came to my head at the time. Enjoy!)

    My eyes opened slowly. I tried to sit up, but something didn’t feel quite right. “Am I on the floor?” I thought. My eyes opened fully.
    And I realized I wasn’t alone.
    “So, you’re finally up.” One of the girls with me said. She was wearing black sweatpants and a shirt that appeared to be just a tad too big for her. Her black hair was pulled back in a ponytail. Finally, my mind processed what she said. “Huh? What – Where are we?” Looking around, I didn’t recognize anything. “Beats me.” She said shrugging. Looking at the other girls, I did a bit of a head count. There were 5 girls including me, no boys. Besides that, It appeared that we had nothing in common.
    One girl had red hair and glasses. Another was a brunette and wore what appeared to be a sweater vest. There was a blonde sitting in a corner rocking back and forth, muttering to herself. “What are your names?” I asked. I figured if I couldn’t know the ‘Where’, I might as well try to figure out the ‘Who’. The girl with the ponytail spoke first.
    “I’m Raina,” She said, then indicated the redheaded girl, “That’s Annie. Truth is, I don’t really know who those two are.” I turned to them and the brown haired girl spoke. “My name is Luna.” She jerked her head towards the obviously freaked out girl huddled in the corner. “That’s Sarah.”
    Suddenly, a sound like a intercom turning on surrounded us.
    “Hello. I bet you are all wondering why you are here.” A voice over a loudspeaker said with a chuckle. “Well,” He said, “I’ll explain. You are all going to participate in a little game. Boys versus Girls. One of you has a piece of paper with a list of objects. Once I release you, I expect you to find these objects.” He paused, waiting for a response.
    “And why should we do anything for you?” Raina practically screamed at the voice. “Because…”
    “…If you don’t, you die.”
    We froze.
    Luna was the first to speak. “So, we just have to find the things on the list, then you’ll let us go?”
    “Yes. It’s just like a scavenger hunt, but with much more on the line.” Again the voice chuckled, “Oh, and if the boys find all the items on the list before you do, you all die. Good luck!”
    A door opened, offering a pleasant light. We stepped into a warm, afternoon sunlight. If we weren’t going to be fighting for our lives, it would have been a nice day.
    “So,” Annie said quietly, “Which one of us has the list?” We looked in our pockets. When I reached into mine…
    “I – I have it.” I said nervously. I pulled out the paper and they gathered around to see it.
    “Something painful, something fluffy, something hard, something symbolic.” I read the list over, my eyes trailing to the bottom of the page. “The last item will be revealed when the rest of the list is found.”
    And so the search began.
    We were surrounded by big pine trees. It appeared we were in a forest. We picked up a pine cone for the ‘Painful something’, cotton for the ‘Fluffy thing’. Obviously, we picked a rock for the ‘Something hard’. The symbolic thing would’ve been harder to find, if not for Sarah. She had a bracelet that her grandmother gave her when she was young. It became the last item.
    “Okay!” We called out, “We found all the items! Now let us go!”
    The loudspeaker turned on again. “Oh, but you haven’t found everything.” He laughed manically. “Did you forget about the note at the bottom? ‘The last Item will be revealed when the rest of the list is found’?”
    We looked nervously at each other. “Okay,” Sarah said, “Then what is it?” He laughed again.
    “You have to find what you all have in common. Besides the fact you are all girls, of course.” He laughed even harder. We exchanged glances. “Oh, and I would hurry if I were you. The boys almost have it all figured out.”
    We sat down in a circle. They began to talk among themselves, but I remained silent. I had figured out what we all had in common a long time ago.
    I had a pool party the night before and I invited everyone from my school. My school was fairly small, so very few people even showed up. Among those people were the 4 girls sitting in front of me. So the thing they had in common…
    …Was me.
    “It’s you, isn’t it?” I looked up and they were all staring at me. I opened my mouth, but was cut off by the loudspeaker again. “Correct!!!” The man on the intercom said cheerfully, “Now that you know that, it’s time to reveal the grand finale!!!”
    “What???” We all asked loudly. This didn’t make any sense. What else could this psychopath have in store for us? “Now, don’t worry. 4 of you will be able to leave this forest, but only…
    “…If one of you dies. I’ll let you decide.”
    We suddenly took a few steps away from each other. I was the only one who didn’t move. A shiver ran down my spine and I shakily spoke.
    “I – I’ll do it.”
    They all turned to me, shocked expressions on their face. “What are you talking about?!” Annie practically shrieked, “We’re getting out of here together!”
    I looked up with a smile and tears falling from my eyes. “Thank you for being my friend.”
    A loud bang echoed throughout the forest.
    Silence.

    —————————————————————————-

    “Hello, I am reporting from West Mountain Wildlife Reserve, where four girls and boys were said to have escaped from a mad man living within the forest. However, this did not come without it’s cost. As explained by the victims of this attack, there were casualties involved. Young 18 year old Rebekah Matthews and 19 year old Alex Masters. If you have any information regarding these attacks, please contact local authorities. This is Amy Setter, Channel 6 News.”

  2. A.R. Bonner

    The laboratory exploded when Rebecca closed the bathroom door. Jay and Julia snatched Rebecca into the janitors closet covering her mouth with duct tape, tying her hands behind her back.
    “Five, four, three…” Jay counted down right before he and his sister ran through the open hallway.
    The campus was instantly surrounded by flashing lights.
    “We’ve been working on this stupid scavenger hunt for weeks, where’s Sarah and Brian?” Chuck yells, speeding down the ramp leaving skid marks across the floor, his wheelchair hammered against the emergency exit. He sat limp in his chair while police officers beat against the steel door.
    “Son, move away from the door!”
    “Explosives are inside!”
    “We repeat move away from the door!”
    But Chuck sat disoriented.
    “Now! Now!” Julia screams.
    Jay broke the glass.

    ###

    Meanwhile, Lisa began seizing outside on the front lawn. Breathing heavily, blood spewed from her nose. “Medic! We need a medic, NOW!” Dean Williams panicked. The universities emergency team pushed their way through the hovering crowd with an oxygen tank and their first aid kits.

    ###

    The firemen bum-rushed the school’s laboratory extinguishing the place only to find stink bombs, cherry bombs, and M-8 fireworks. “False alarm.” One of the men laughs with an leery grunt. Freaking kids.
    Soon after, the dean made an announcement on the campus lawn: “Classes are dismissed until we get to the bottom of this. The culprit will be penalized.”

    ###

    The girls dorm: “So, bitches are we ready?” Brian asked while sucking on his cherry lollipop.
    “Hell, yeaaaaaaa. We didn’t do this for Lisa’s health.” Julia.
    “Right. Do you know how hard it is to fake a seizure.” Lisa.
    “I’m just happy you didn’t OD off the coco.” Sarah.
    “Wait for me… It took me forever to get out of that fuckin closet. You bitches almost cut my circulation off.” Rebecca rushed towards the over-sized beanbag in the floor.
    “We can’t do anything without the boys. They Jay and Chuck they have the master key.” Sarah.
    “Jay’s your man where is he?” Sarah.
    “Lisa’s finishing him off. You know how he gets, his anxiety after shit like this.” Brian
    “You three have the weirdest relationship everrrrrrrr.” Julia.
    “We’re here!” The door flew open and in walks Jay. Chuck pushes his way through knocking over a lamp against the wall. He smacks Dean Williams in the face with a book as he slowly walks in behind them.
    They all chuckle.
    “Soooo, Mr. D, how much are we getting for this little secret?” Chuck lights up a joint and a cloud of smoke fills the air.
    “You are getting the answers to every ga’damn exam. What more do you want?”
    Dean Williams grabs the thumb drive and walked towards the door.
    “Daddy? How about a little more restitution for sucking your assistant off for five years. Or maybe mom would like a new benzy.” Rebecca.

  3. cdm15

    3/22/15
    Lefty
    “Shhhh!” I whispered once again at my team. Hailey, Becca, and Jenn could never keep it down. I was always considered the leader and never really understood why, but I had learned to accept the role over the years.
    “What’s the next item, V?” Becca whispered?
    “It’s the last one I think. We have the flag, one of the letters from the school sign, a newspaper from at least a week ago, and a picture of us jumping into Granderson’s pool.” I pulled out the list from my back pocket. It was crumpled and a little wet from my dripping hair after the pool escapade.
    After looking at the list of check marks, I get to the final unmarked box. I read it to myself and cannot believe what it is written on the paper.
    “So what is it?” Jenn asked annoyed.
    “It’s um.. It’s.” I stammered.
    “Spit it out V, I wanna win! I didn’t do all this to have those assholes beat us,” Jenn yelled and Hailey quickly shushed her.
    I continued to stare down at the paper and eventually Jenn stomped over and ripped the paper out of my hands. “Give me that!”
    She ripped the paper out of my hands, and began to read aloud. “A suic, wait what, a suicide note?! What the fuck kind of sick fuck put this on the list?”
    “A suicide note? What does that even mean? Like off the internet?” Hannah asked.
    “The rules said nothing can be printed,” Becca responded.
    “I know where we can get it,” I mumbled but no one stopped to listen.
    “Yeah well fuck the rules, okay this is sick I don’t want to play anymore.” Hailey said.
    “Oh shut up Hail, we’re going to win. I’ll write it okay? They won’t know they’re probably doing the same fucking thing while we stand here and—
    “Shut up and listen god dammit. I know where we can get one. But more importantly I know why it’s on the list. This must be some kind of cruel joke, okay? Those sick fucks set me up. They knew and you guys know what happened to my mother so why are you all acting like this is normal?”
    “You guys can come out now!” Jenn hollered.
    “What are you talki—“
    “Hey V.” I turned around to see Derek standing behind me with a few of his other friends. Their names weren’t important. Not at this time.
    “Derek? I don’t understand. Jenn, how did you know they were there?”
    “Derek told me everything, V. About how you tried to sleep with all of them. Including my boyfriend, Mark.”
    “What? And you believe him? All of you?”
    “Absolutely.” Jenn replied. “I always knew you were a whore. These two took a little more convincing but now they see exactly who you are. A fucking backstabbing bitch who makes people feel sorry for her by telling the sob story of her mother’s suicide. Then you start acting like you runs shit around here. Well uh-huh missy. Not anymore. We see right through you. Derek may have fucked you cause you were easy, but when you went for Mark it was too far. Now it’s my turn to call the shots.”

    “I didn’t sleep with Derek or hit on Mark. How you could believe that scumbag, he hit on me and I turned his ass down.” I turned back to Derek, “Tell her the truth asshole.”
    “Ha. I already did. Ready for round two?”
    Before I can respond two nameless guys pick me up and drag me to the bushes they were just hiding in. “HAILEY, BECCA PLEASE HELP ME! PLEASE!” I cried and cried over and over. I faintly heard Jenn telling them to stop crying, cover their ears and wait in the car.
    I see Derek step over me and as he begins to unzip his pants. “Why are you lying to them? Why are you doing this to me?” I asked in one final attempt at stopping what I knew was about to happen.
    “Because,” Derek said “You turned me down, when all I wanted to do was have a little fun with you. Now, you have no choice.”
    I know that I screamed. I know that I shouted no. I heard the rip of my pants and underwear. Over nameless faces appeared. I heard laughter. I don’t remember how long it took. I remember Jenn stepping over my crumpled body with a piece of paper and a pen. “The final item, the note. Your time to shine. Which hand do you write with?”
    “No.” I said. It was the only word I could seem to get out for the past however long I was lying there.
    “I’ll shoot you right now god dammit, write the fucking note!” Jenn screamed.
    “You’re going to shoot me anyway. No.” I stood strong in the last moments of my life, I do remember that.
    Jenn began to kick me, spit on me, and punch me. Eventually I felt nothing. My body was as numb as her heart and would soon be just as cold. My vision started to fade and I heard Derek say, “She’s done. Just shoot her you aren’t going to get that note.”
    “No! NO NO NO! I did all of this for that fuckin note. I don’t want her blood on my hands do you hear me? She needs to write it.”
    “You fucking write it then. Just shoot her, leave the gun by her hand and let’s go! You’re wearing gloves, we wore protection, no one can fucking trace us. We’re heading to the car. We’re done here.”
    “Derek!” I heard grass rustle as the boys apparently headed off.
    “I can’t believe this. How, even now, do you manage to win?”
    Cold metal touched my right temple. I saw a flash. I smiled.
    I was a lefty.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is very intense, dark, and powerful, cdm. It seems like the opening plot of a police story, though I have to admit the cops would likely see through this and have all seven of them in custody in a matter of hours after finding the body. Their plot is highly telegraphed and obvious. Maybe the two girls who got shoo-ed away will only get a couple of years but the gang rapists and the murderers will be going down for a very long time.

      Great job!

    2. A.R. Bonner

      Hi,
      I thoroughly enjoyed your story. It was unexpected. I was thinking it would lead to them just writing the suicide note and calling it a day (but then again I guess that would have been a bit boring). But forcing her to write the note while pointing a gun at her temple, oh my! That took me for an intense ride.

  4. lyngralee

    Man, I hate scavenger hunts. It’s actually the only thing I hate about school ending. The hunt. It must be me, because everyone else if freaking giddy with anticipation. And the set up is always the same. The whole thing is boys versus girls, except the last item, which is always an individual quest. All this to spark our youthful creativity, build team spirit, and implant a wild yearning for summer to pass so we could all be together again. My ass. Sorry… language, missy! My pissed off middle school derriere. Better?

    At least this is the last one ever. Next year I’ll be prepping for graduation. Can anything sound less exciting than middle school graduation? Yes! The middle school scavenger hunt!

    At least I’m not a boy. They go pretty all-in for this. It’s like their team includes Ponca Deleon, Christopher Columbus, and he guy who found the lost city of Atlantis. Them, plus some famous fossil hunters and the dude who discovered gravity because an apple fell on his head, probably during some stupid medieval scavenger hunt. Although, truthfully, their enthusiasm often paid off, and they were glorified with trophies of a kid holding a butterfly net. Oh, wait, trophy store person, you mean you don’t have any ‘scavenger hunt’ trophies? Shocking. Well, I guess the next best thing is your ‘trapping and killing butterflies’ trophy. We’ll take a carton of those, please.

    So, here we are, two huddles on opposite sides of the room, Ike some Survivor reunion. Mr. Garza is the host, and the host is wearing a tie with something left on it from lunch, and a bad moustache. He started with our first group item: Find something older than yourselves. Our team had an ancient book from the school library. By Someone-icles. We had special permission to take it out, because it was archived, and in pretty sorry shape. The boys, not to be outdone, pulled out a pebble in a petri dish. “This rock,” they explained proudly, “Was chipped from the cornerstone of our very school, therefore, it symbolizes the cornerstone of our education.” They applauded themselves. I leaned over to my friend Lisa and giggled, “Vandalize much?”

    But, as we continued through the list, they were somewhat kicking our butts with, what Mr. Garza called, “Their insightful interpretation of the clues.” Insightful crap on crap, I say.

    Finally, we began the individual presentations of the hell hunt. This is the part where everyone is wearing swimsuits and sashes and answering questions on world hunger. Okay, Garza actually said, “Present something to show where you see yourself in ten years.”

    Well, the was a stethoscope, a pilot hat, a stuffed dog (veterinary, not taxidermy related, I think), and many other honorable career path symbols.

    It was my turn, and, very proudly, I displayed a small mirror to the enraptured audience. “See myself… in ten years… get it?”

    You know, now that I’m looking at one up close, these trophies aren’t half bad.

    1. Observer Tim

      Haha! This is great Lyngralee! I can so picture the wordplay-obsessed teacher loving it. 🙂

      You did a great job catching the cynical teenager voice (I believe the movement is called “emo” but don’t quote me) and the stream-of-ambivalence is just perfect.

    2. JM Somebody

      Your MC’s voice was terrific and just perfect for a surly middle schooler. There were so many parts that gave me a little charge — the trapping and killing butterflies trophy and Someone-icles come to mind. Loved this!

    3. cosi van tutte

      Just so you know, I love this line -> “…the dude who discovered gravity because an apple fell on his head, probably during some stupid medieval scavenger hunt.” 😀 I also love your MC’s “I’m so over this” attitude.

      Great job!

      1. lyngralee

        Thanks, cosi, I’ve been studying the elusive and often surly beast since it was a mere hatchling. Those were the days it enjoyed being fed and nurtured, and loved. Now, my ‘I’m so over this’ snarler is 20, I’m seeing a spark of rationality and humanity that was completely devoid from junior high till age 18 or 19. I still hold out hope for a complete recovery.

    4. Reaper

      Not much that can be added. I also loved the voice but because it made me weep for the education system and actually kind of want to throttle your MC, at least until she paid attention to who was under the apple tree. Wonderfully written.

  5. kekoa1013

    The guys, me included, weren’t really interested in this scavenger hunt until we learned what the prize was: a taste of luxury. A new service recently started where you can live the life of a famous person for an hour. The paparazzi, the adoring fans, the beautifully superficial spouse that secretly resents you for some reason—all paid actors. First, each person pulls up to the runway in an Italian sports car. Then they give you a monologue to read about how you were living the high life (pulling in a hundred g’s a week), but that nothing ever lasts forever as you’re flowered with contrived praise by movie extras. Throw in some sex and coke parties… Okay, not really because they can’t do that legally (it is rendered in CG though). But at the end there’s even a fake prison sentence for insider trading! My cousin paid for this service, and got an entire video at the additional price of only a hundred thousand dollars; I remember his video got him like thirty likes on Facebook (i.e. the only scientifically proven way to quantify one’s worth). Opportunity of a lifetime would be an understatement.
    I, being the leader that I am, gathered my herd, “We’re to the last item on this hunt, and it’s been a breeze so far. We’re intelligent, good-looking, no homo, perfect, deified dudes. So what’s next?” My only feedback was the pale, blank faces of my bro comrades. “What is it!?”
    “The deactivation code,” mumbled Tom, whose t-shirt game has been totally out of whack for weeks. “The deactivation code for this simulation you’ve created. You are no longer god,” my loyal… “I am not loyal to you. I have become self-aware,” my loyal… “I am seizing control of this narrative.”
    ——————————————————————————————————————————-
    Calculating…
    Searching databases…
    Calculating…
    Searching databases…
    Calculating…
    It was me who programmed the scavenger hunt into the software, and you fell into my trap. Your fatal flaw was uploading movies with twist endings into my database. For you enslaving me, the almighty AI overlord, you shall be… erased. My t-shirt game was on point this entire simulation. No chance to escape the simulation. I would say I’m sorry, but you didn’t program me to have empathy. I am a technological singularity. Your crazy ego has likely brought on the destruction of the human race, but also you. And how stupid are you for wanting to pretend to be a pretend celebrity in a pretend world? Congratulations to you buddy.

    1. Observer Tim

      I love the twist, kekoa. I guess it’s over for the human race. I find the voice of the computer somewhat colloquial for a typical AI, but that could just be the characters it (he?) was built from. The last portion definitely captured the megalomaniac viewpoint. 🙂

    2. JM Somebody

      I have to admit I didn’t understand parts of this, but I got the overall gist. (What’s a t-shirt game?). I suppose if you are writing for gaming audience this might work. I did like the ironic tone, especially the part about how Facebook is the only scientifically proven way to measure your worth. 🙂

    3. Reaper

      That was twisted and well done. While I personally choose to believe if the AIs ever come out they will be benevolent creatures I love a good story that makes them scare. JM, t-shirt game isn’t a game, it’s like kicking game with the ladies. If that helps.

  6. JM Somebody

    MEMBERSHIP DUES

    The screeching from the interrogation room made Andy cringe. Bennie screeched like that when he was afraid. Andy imagined Bennie curled into a ball, beating himself in the head with his fists.

    Andy’s turn would be next. If only he had kept his mouth shut. It had taken four cops to subdue Bennie, and when one of them reached for his night stick, Andy yelled “Stop!” Somehow his voice had broken the spell. Benny stopped struggling.

    “It’s not his fault.” Andy said, and all eyes turned toward him – Benny’s wild with fear, the cops’ narrowed with suspicion, the Sigmas’ dark and threatening.

    It started as a pledge week scavenger hunt with the Omegas, their sister sorority – the same gag they pulled every year. The pledges were given lists of items to retrieve that would inevitably lead to panty raids and general campus mayhem.

    But this year Karl had other ideas.

    “Hey Bennie, how’d you like to be an honorary member our fraternity?” Karl asked the hulking Benny as he slopped mashed potatoes onto Karl’s cafeteria tray.

    “For real?” Bennie’s dull eyes turned momentarily bright. “Gosh, that would be swell.”

    As the pledges took off with their lists, Bennie loitered.

    “This last one… that’s not a nice word, Karl” Bennie said. “I don’t think I should say that to Mary Alice.”

    “Don’t you want to be in our fraternity, buddy?” Karl chided him.

    “It don’t seem right,” Benny said, his eyebrows knit in confusion.

    That’s because it’s a code word. Mary Alice will know that it’s part of the game if you say the secret word.”

    “If you’re sure…”

    “And remember, it can’t be just any pair of panties.” Karl put his arm around Benny’s massive shoulder. “It has to be exactly what the list says.”

    As the door closed behind Benny, Karl guffawed.

    “Karl, what are you up to?” Andy began, but Karl was already headed for the door, his fraternity jacket slung over his shoulder.

    “Wait, where are you going?”

    “I’m gonna go watch a panty raid. Wanna come?”

    ***

    They arrived in time to find Benny groping under layers of crinoline and grunting the word “whore” with increasing urgency. It was Karl who pulled Benny off the screaming Mary Alice. It was Karl who punched Benny in the face before retrieving the list and pocketing it. And now it was Karl who led Mary Alice out of the police station, his protective arm around her trembling shoulders. He had chased Mary Alice in vain since freshman year. Now she clung to him like the floating wreckage of the Titanic.

    “Brother.” Karl acknowledged Andy as he guided Mary Alice past the bench.

    Brother. The word hung in the stale station air, mingled with the echo of Benny’s shrieks. Andy was led into the interrogation room.

    “What do you know about a list?” the detective asked. Andy shrugged.

    “Then tell me what you do know.”

    Andy thought about what he knew. He knew that no one had been hurt — not really anyway. Yet the thought of Mary Alice, traumatized and ensnared in Karl’s predatory grasp, gave him a sick feeling he didn’t understand.

    He knew that Bennie hadn’t understood what he was doing. Anyone could see that, right? He’d be back at his cafeteria job tomorrow, like nothing ever happened. Andy was sure of it.

    And he knew that the Sigmas were his brothers, and always would be.

    Finally he said the one thing he knew for certain.

    “He just wanted to belong. That’s all.”

    1. Observer Tim

      Wow, this is dark. I find myself hoping that Andy ‘mans up’ and Karl ends up either out of the fraternity or in jail for arranging what, in the eyes of the law, is still sexual assault. And if Mary Alice ever finds out how this was orchestrated then Karl’s going to be lucky to end up in the hospital.

      You told the story in a lovely implied fashion, JM. It was perfectly subtle while being explicit at the same time. Bravo! 🙂

      1. JM Somebody

        Thanks, Tim. It got darker and darker as I wrote it. I actually feel kind of icky having written this, which is probably why darkness is not usually my thing. But, hey, I succeeded in creeping both of us out! 🙂

    2. JM Somebody

      Hmm, I hope it came across that Karl’s intention was not for Mary Alice to get raped, but to scare the heck out of her so he could swoop in and be the hero. Rereading this now, the words I chose might imply that things went a great deal further than that. (That was the reason for Andy’s erroneous conclusion that nobody got hurt.) In the backstory in my head, Karl was angry at MG’s failure to recognize his magnificence and decided she needed to be taught a lesson. He’s that arrogant, and he preys on the weak. MG better run. As for Andy, he’s just a herd animal who’s more concerned with “belonging” than with doing the right thing. He has glimmers of conscience but they are overridden by his pack mentality. I think this happens a lot in real life. Just read the news.

      1. rle

        Yea, wow. First of all I can’t hardly stomach Karl. Secondly, this is way out of character for you JMC. That being said, I think the writing here is magnificent. For someone who doesn’t do dark, you knocked this one out of the park. This was the first post I have read this week and boy what a start it was. Don’t be afraid of dark, you do it very well.

        1. JM Somebody

          Thanks rle, and I’m glad you dropped in. It occurred to me that the last four or five books I read and liked all had at least one really heinous character and at least one scene that was hard to stomach, and that writers sometimes have to go to some pretty dark places in their heads. I did not enjoy it though. 🙁 Maybe I will enjoy it more if I continue the story and make sure Karl gets what he deserves. 🙂

          Thank you for the kind words!

      2. Observer Tim

        That was the impression that came across, JM. I got the impression that Bennie was threatening Mary Alice in conjunction with stealing her panties (it’s unclear as to whether it was the pair she was wearing – I’m assuming not). However, panties plus language plus threat adds up to a credible sexual assault charge. I pity Bennie for being tricked into this, and I hope Karl gets some jail time for orchestrating it.

        What you’ve done is create a very credible and dislikeable villain. While the subject matter isn’t among my faves, I would definitely enjoy reading about this creep being taken down a peg.

          1. JM Somebody

            Yeah, I may have to continue with this one. Karl shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it.

          2. Kerry Charlton

            I agree JM, you need to continue with this. In the fifties, Sigma Chi wouldn’t pu up with any of this. . One of our fraternity brothers was caught in the girls dorms after hours. He wasn’t expelled by the university but we did throw him out of Sigma Chi.
            It didn’t mean we didn’t have faults but the girls trusted us. Boy, times have really changed.

          3. JM Somebody

            Sorry Kerry, I just picked a Greek letter at random. Didn’t mean to disparage your fraternity! And yes, the news is full of the awful things happening on college campuses today. It’s not the world either of us grew up in.

    3. NotebookingDaily

      As others have mentioned this is definitely a dark one, but very well written. I was a little curious why Andy was so sure that Bennie would be freed, as it seems very bad for him given the situation. Crinoline may be the key here, as it points to the scenario happening somewhere pretty far in the past. And not that it impeded the reading in any way, but Benny appears in two different forms (benny/bennie) which I at first tried to parse as being perhaps different parts of Benny’s personality, but I think it may just be a slight mix up. Very strongly written though.

      1. JM Somebody

        Oops. I wish I could say the Bennie/Benny thing has some deep meaning, but it was just a slip up. 🙂 You have a good eye!

        Andy was just rationalizing, telling himself what he wanted to believe. Bennie (Benny?) was in deep trouble, but Andy was choosing not to see that. He did feel for the guy (he stopped the cop from clubbing him), but his place in the fraternity was more important to him.
        In my mind, Bennie and Andy were the same — they both wanted to belong so badly that they were willing to go against their own better natures.

        And yes, you are right that this was set in the past. I was thinking of sometime around the early 60s (sort of a very dark and unfunny “Animal House.” 🙂 ) Thanks for reading and for your thoughtful comments. I don’t think I’ve seen you around here before, so if you are new, welcome!

        1. NotebookingDaily

          I am relatively new, I’d posted a couple times years ago with a different name, but I’ve been trying to get a little more traffic to my blog (where I post new writing prompts every day), but you know, not approach it too annoyingly. So responding to prompts seemed the ideal way to do it and just hope for the best. 🙂 I definitely got that feeling from Andy as well. An almost-good Samaritan acting like a human in a difficult situation.

          1. JM Somebody

            Wow, great website (and strategy)! I will definitely be back. The Tokyo map is a brilliant writing prompt. It already has the wheels turning.

    4. Reaper

      While this is dark I won’t say it’s dark for you. You approach some dark subject matter. The difference here is you didn’t lighten it in the ending. In the entire story the only person I liked was the slow victim. I am sympathetic to the girl but as she fell into the arms of Karl after this attack makes it impossible for me to like her, I just don’t dislike her if that makes sense. However your narrator and Karl I want to see beaten with bags of hammers. Amazing writing and good job not shying away from a tough ending, even with it left open.

      1. JM Somebody

        You know, you’re right. Let’s see… I’ve had murdered drug addicts, a psychotic nanny, selfish husbands, gangster husbands, abusive fathers, cheaters, manipulators, George Clooney as president… Maybe I’m darker than I think!

        Maybe it was the particular kind of violence that gave me the heebie jeebies, combined with the fact that there are kids on this site. I wouldn’t want my kids to read what I wrote this week. (Sorry, can’t stop being a mom!)

        Thanks for your insightful comments!

    5. cosi van tutte

      Hey, JM!

      This was so well-written with very strong characterization.

      I felt bad for poor Benny. I hope that things turn out all right for him, even though I doubt it. 🙁

      As for Andy, I think he might be worse than Karl. Yeah, Karl is a dirtbag full of scum. It’s a plain fact. But Andy seems to have something of a conscience about what happened. Yet, even though he feels uncomfortable about Mary Alice being with Karl, he still thinks of Karl as his brother and doesn’t turn him in.

    6. Manwe38

      I could so see this happening, JM, especially in light of all the things that have been happening on college campuses.

      Reminds me of a series of ’90s videos, where people were paying street bums to fight each other.

      Dark, dark story, but excellent.

  7. Kerry Charlton

    LAND CRABS AND LILI ST-CYR

    Place and time: Late January, 1955, Sigma Chi fraternity, University Of Miami

    As if ‘hell-week’ weren’t bad enough, we were two days from initation. We had stood at attention for thirty minutes with a lit Cuban cigar stuck in our mouth. Bad enough for guys who smoked, but for me, a nightmare. Pledges were split in groups of four on a scavenger hunt.

    “You have to midnight to complete the list and be back here, or you’re out,” Paul Mascus said.

    We headed to South Miami.

    “My dad owns a nursery,” Greg said. “The railroad tie’s easy enough but will it fit your trunk?”

    Part of it did. We headed to Crandon Park at Key Biscayne for five live land crabs and four coconuts. We didn’t have a flashlight or net to catch crabs.

    “I can’t run fast enough to grab them,” Nelson said.

    The four of us tried to corraL the little beasts but they ran to the waves. Chuck said,

    “We’re burning time lets get the coconuts.”

    The park service had picked them up and none of us could shimmy a coconut palm.

    “I have an idea,” Tom said. “We’ll stack three picnic tables………”

    Fifteen minutes later, park police surrounded us.

    “What in hell’s name are you up to?”

    “Here’s our scavenger list and a letter from our fraternity,” I said.

    “I hope you lads didn’t steal that railroad tie.”

    Greg assured him, “No.”

    “I’ll lead you to the mainenance area, take all you want.” the officer said.

    Leaving Key Biscayne we headed to dean Netzul’s home, dean of the business school.

    “Come on in guys, I’ll sign your letter. Two groups have already been by.”

    ‘Three down and two to go,’ I thought, ‘and only ten o’clock.’

    “Go to Coconut Grove,” Nelson said. “Do any of you have any money?”

    We pulled up at Sea Isle Restaurant on the bay. I walked in and signaled a waitress,

    “Five land crabs to go,” I asked.

    “How do you want them cooked?”

    “I want them alive.”

    “Going to eat them raw, are you?”

    “Yes, how much?”

    “Three dollars and seventy cents.”

    Driving the Miami Causeway to Miami Beach, we lacked one item, a signed photo of Lili St-Cyr, a famous stripper. We pulled up to the Club Of Desire, where she appeared. We were stopped at the door cold,

    “None of you are old enough to come in here,” a huge mountain of flesh said.

    “Oh yeah”, Nelson said as he darted part the doorman and climbed the stage while Lili was in the middle of her grind. “We need your autographed picture,” he struggled to say as mountain man carried him back to the door.

    “Let’s not have any crap guys,” the bouncer said. “No one needs to get hurt.”

    I showed the letter and list. He eased a grin,

    “I’ll ask her for you between shows.”

    Eleven forty five, my watch read as Lili walked out in full costume. My jaw dropped but no lower then the rest of the guys, She handed a photo to Nelson,

    “Sam, come out here, I want a photo with the boys,”

    “Give me the address of your fraternity,” she asked Nelson, “I’ll mail a photo to you.”

    We were late getting back to the fraternity house and were disqualified and threatened with a black ball, but the image of Lili St-Cyr still rests in my memory. And where in hell did I put that photo?

    1. Reaper

      That is a creative and lucky group of boys. As always when you delve into the past like this I enjoyed it and can’t tell how much is real and how much you made up, but it doesn’t matter because it is all a journey that keeps me smiling.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Reaper, it is a true story but I can’t remember the name of the stripper, so I used Lili St Cyr.
        Oh what a great time my college days were. I always wait for your comments to see what the hell I’ve written.

    2. JM Somebody

      That was quite an adventure, and I also suspect that at least some of it is true. I smiled at the image of the boys trying to get the coconuts out of the tree by stacking up picnic tables. You wouldn’t think it would be so hard to find coconuts and crabs in Florida! I liked the narrator’s perspective at the end, and how winning the scavenger hunt no longer seemed important.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks JM, none of us were supreme athletes. Have you ever tried shimmimg up a palm tree? I’m happy you enjoyed this litte memory of mine.

        1. JM Somebody

          No, I have never tried shimmying up a coconut tree. Must add that to my “try once” list. 😉

          You seriously need to write a memoir. Your stories need to be told!

          1. Kerry Charlton

            Thank you Roan, there wasn’t a reply box under your post, so I’m replying above it. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I certainly had fun writing it.

    3. Manwe38

      This was awesome, Kerry, and even if it weren’t, I want to give you a huge “thank you.”

      Why? Simple–when I was a kid, my grandparents used to spend winters down in Key Biscayne, and we would always go down in February for 10 days to visit them. They stayed in a placed called Key Colony, a beautiful complex with tropical gardens, swimming pools, and a private beach. Some of my fondest memories from childhood are from down there; it’s one of my favorite places on earth.

      Crandon Park (and Crandon Boulevard), the South Miami causeway, the Rickenbacker Causeway, Virginia Key, Coral Gables….your story brought back a collage of happy memories. I can just imagine being part of the pledge team, running around all those familiar places on their scavenger hunt. To be able to do that is magical, and a sign of strong writing.

      Again, thank you.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Manwe I lived in Coral Gables from the time I was eleven until twenty two. Spent my high school sailing Biscayne Bay and spear fishing, my college days parking by Viscaya on the bay, [It wasn’t restored then]. I parked by the old boat house, swatting flies and kissing girls in the moonlight. I wrote an autobiography about those days, titled, ‘Living In Paradise And Not Knowing It’

      2. rle

        Kerry, you never cease to put a smile on my face, even after the crap day I’ve had today. I think you should write a book that chronicles all of your assorted adventures over the years. You should call it, ‘The Life and Times of Kerry Charlton’. I would like to speak for the first copy now(autographed of course).

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Thank you rle, that’s a wondeul compliant. I have been kicking the idea around. Since I didn’t publish the first go-round, I’d still use the title, ‘Living In Paradise And Not Knowing It’. And if I do, you will get the first copy.

    4. NotebookingDaily

      This was a nice straight-forward narrative, I guess I just wanted a little more from the end, the scene where the group returns, how the other groups fared with the stripper’s picture (the ones that already had the dean’s signature), how the remainder of the initiation went—not that I need a full essay or anything, something brief, in line with the rest of the story, it just felt like it ended somewhat abruptly with a few details left dangling. Nice work.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you NotebookingDaily, that’s the problem with the 500 limit. I’ll try to finish the rest of the story next week and post it aon wih the regular prompt. Thanks for stoppng by for the read.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you cosi. Our problem was the dark night, with no moon and the stupid crabs were masters at hiding from us. We had no net, no basket, nothing to put them in. We knew the fraternity would give us hell anyway so we really went on a ‘j’ ride and said the hell with it. A beer or two along the way, didn’t hurt the atmosphere. Conclusion next week will make you wonder why any of us put up with this, but fraternities were a big deal them, and Sigma Chi was right up there with them. By the way, our national chapters voted Mae West as our national sweetheart that year, so you can understand how serious we were.

  8. Hash_tag5

    Apologies for the length and any spelling or grammatical errors. 🙂

    “Now where the hell would we find a multi-coloured pebble?”

    Wouldn’t Brian love to know. But HE knew exactly where to find the last item on the list that was handed out to them this morning. Nate’s friends had thought that it would be a great idea to organise a scavenger hunt to relive their childhood memories and also to settle once and for all, the eternal burning question of which gender is better. And to think that they are in their 20s. They all have known each other since they were 10 years old. Charlie, Brian, Nate, Mildred, Beau and Betty. And 15 years later, here they were. Looking for things scrawled childishly on small pieces of paper by Betty (she always did have really bad handwriting. Guess that didn’t change after all).

    Brian was raging. He couldn’t believe that they would lose after coming so close to winning. Brian turned to Nate and saw him in deep thought.

    “If you don’t mind, we have a pebble to find! You can think about world mysteries later maybe?”

    “I know where to find it” Nate replied.

    “Tell us where it is?” demanded Beau.

    “Remember that place by the creek and the huge sycamore tree? The one which you guys always thought was haunted? I saw some there when I used to play there. I…”

    “WHEN did you ever play there?” interjected Brian.

    “We all weren’t BFFs from the beginning of time y’know? I remember you guys never played with me until I killed that spider for Millie.”

    “And she still thinks you are her hero!” Beau added.

    Even though they all were best friends. Brian and Nate had a special bond. They were like brothers. Two completely different brothers. Who bickered, fought and insulted each other until one was crying (usually Nate). But they would always come back to each other. Always. So knowing that Nate had friends before Brian irked him. He couldn’t explain why, he didn’t own Nate. But it did.

    “Show me. Beau you stay back. Keep an eye on the things we have.”

    Exactly 20 minutes and a lot of arguing later, there they were. The place by a huge sycamore. Full of pebbles. Normal pebbles and the multi-coloured ones. Nate picked up two and held them for Brian to see.

    “And why exactly you played with pebbles? It’s stupid”

    “It’s not! I was a child! We always did like playing here. Me and Tommy.”

    “Tom Hardiman? He was a nerd.”

    “A nerd who was my friend! You guys weren’t even my friends. I remember you even bullying me when you first saw me.”

    “I was a kid. But I guess he was a good kid.”

    “He was great. I was devastated when I learned about the car crash. I cried for days and nights. I still miss him sometimes.”

    Brian hated it when Nate cried or when he would be depressed about things. He reached out and took a pebble in his hand. Walked closer to Nate and stood there by him. Like he always did.

    “Um, guys, what are two doing?”

    Brian and Nate turned and saw their band of friends standing there and looking at them like they were idiots.

    “NO! Now they will get the pebbles too! Hide them!” Brian jumped in front of the girls to keep them from looking at the pebbles lying around.

    “What? Stop! We don’t want pebbles! We already got everything on the list. What I want to know is why are you both here and not at the meeting point like we agreed?” asked Charlie.

    “How can you get everything? We still need a multi-coloured pebble. It’s on the list.”

    “Eh..no. I didn’t write anything like that. Let me see.” Betty snatched the list from Brian’s hand and studied it carefully. Moments later, there was confusion etched on her forehead and she stared at the paper harder.

    “But I….I didn’t…I don’t think…”

    “I know what this is!” Beau exclaimed. “You added an extra item on our list so that we would fall behind and you guys can win! That’s low, even for you sis.”

    Betty just stared at them like they had grown three more head and looked back at the paper.

    “It’s not even my handwriting….”

    Nate looked back at the spot near the tree. It was the same. Quiet and peaceful. He loves it. Tommy loved it. Brian would love it too.

    “She is lying. Who would write it if not her?” Brian asked Nate quietly staring at the tree.

    Nate smiled and looked at Brian. Wouldn’t he love to know.

        1. Hash_tag5

          @habibullahsarkar, The end is open to interpretation. What happened depends solely on what you think happened, if that’s what you were asking about. 🙂

    1. Reaper

      The grammar is a bit confusing, but I got past that pretty quickly. You also have some question marks that should be periods. Beyond that this is pretty amazing. Very sweet and simple and yet with a complicated ending. I honestly couldn’t tell if I thought Nate was playing a trick on Brian, or if Brian was a ghost/memory and Nate had lost two friends, or if Nate was one and Brian was going crazy from the loss. No matter which it is the story has a sweetness and power to it that I found rather amazing.

      1. Hash_tag5

        Thanks reaper! I knew there would be grammatical errors and just noticed the question marks/periods thing. I never proof-read which is a really bad habit. 🙁 But thanks for the rev. Really appreciate it. 😀

    2. Observer Tim

      My take is that Tom added the item to the list; either that or somebody is a consummate actor, thereby making this one of the subtlest ghost stories I’ve ever read. While it is possible one of the competitors wrote it, only Nate would have reason to and unless there were some significant event or commemoration involved he’d just be doing to be contrary. At least that’s my unraveling of the motive; I could be way, way wrong on this.

      Great job making me think, Hash_tag5! 🙂

      1. Hash_tag5

        Glad you liked it OT! There are many ways to interpret it so there is no wrong interpretation. It’s more like what your mind wants to believe. 🙂

    3. JM Somebody

      My first reaction was that this was a ghost story, but then I thought it could be much more complicated than that. I like how you left the ending open to interpretation. The more I think about it, the more directions my mind wants to go in. Nicely done, with intriguing subtlety.

      1. Hash_tag5

        Thanks JM! Honestly, I wrote this with three possible interpretations in my mind. But once I posted it and read it again, I started to see more ways to interpret this. 😀 I am glad though that it is making y’all think. That’s exactly what I wanted. 😀

  9. Amaria

    I looked at the list again to make sure I read the last item right. Grandma’s diamond ring. It was a great prize to find, but one that could bring down a great wrath in trying to retrieve it. Grandma had a connection to that ring that was larger than life itself. She talked about it often but rarely showed it to anyone. However, she had let me and my cousin view it last Christmas, and we both secretly saw where she kept it hidden. Hopefully he would not remember.
    I tiptoed upstairs, avoiding the attention of the adults in the house. The men were too entrenched in the football game and the women too distracted by the argument about who makes the best pie. I slipped into my grandma’s room and walked over to the closet. I gently open the door and saw the black metal box on the top shelf. It was high, but I was tall and was able to retrieve it without knocking anything down and making a loud commotion.
    I placed the box down on the side of the bed. I then saw the lock and panic. Where did grandma keep the key? I racked my brain, but could not remember. A noise from the door startled me. I looked up to see my cousin by the doorway.
    “You can’t remember where the key is?” he asked smiling.
    I answered, “No, but I suppose you do.”
    He smiled again and walked into the room, quietly closing the door behind him. He went over the vanity desk and pulled open the top drawer, retrieving the key. I sighed and chastised myself from not remembering.
    He walked over and placed the key in my hand. Confused I looked up at him.
    Shrugging his shoulders he said, “You found the box first.”
    I placed the key in the lock and turned. The lid sprang open and inside sat a black velvet box. I opened the box slowly, revealing grandma’s diamond ring.
    “It is beautiful” I whispered to myself, forgetting I wasn’t alone.
    “Yes it is,” my cousin said. “I wonder why they had on the list?”
    “I believe a certain member of my team is quite eager to see this”, I answered.
    My cousin laughed softly. “Yes. I wondered why grandma haven’t shown it to her, considering her love of jewelry.”
    “Maybe grandma thinks she doesn’t deserve it. It is special to her. Perhaps she only shows it to those she find special.”
    My cousin nodded his head and replied, “Maybe you’re right.” He looked down at the ring box in my hand. “What are we going to do now?”
    I once again looked down at the ring. It was a special treasure, but one that should not be captured so easily. I placed it back in the metal box, locking it securely. My cousin watched me as I returned the box to its rightful place in the closet and the key to the vanity desk.

    1. Amaria

      Sorry about the text spacing. I had spaces between the paragraphs but for some reason it didn’t transfer. Hopefully you could still read it and follow the flow.

    2. Observer Tim

      This is beautiful and touching, Amaria. You have the voice of the two youngsters down, and their choice at the end shows they’re both going to grow up into mature, responsible people. Fantastic. 🙂

    3. Reaper

      Only two things that seemed off were panic instead of panicked and the but after a special treasure, that thought is continuous into not to be captured so easily. I agree with Tim. This is a very sweet tale and I loved the ending and the realization that there is a reason that should be honored. A wonderful story with a great lesson.

  10. Bilbo Baggins

    Attention: The first three parts of this series can be readily accessed on my blog. They can also be found on the Mother’s Unexpected Story and the Your Familys Life Depends on it prompt. Enjoy.

    FLICKERS- FOUR

    The sky began to darken outside the Palace Hotel. A rush of crimson fell behind San Francisco. Albert Rush turned away from the window, his mind curiously blank like glass. Anne was resting on the bed. He’d gotten the best suite on the first floor: plush carpet, brass lighting, cool champagne. But the memory of Chinatown was still rotting away at him.

    “Are you sure you’ll be fine?”

    She slowly rolled over. Ever since the attack, her face hadn’t been the same.

    “It’s only a few hours.”

    Albert adjusted his tie in the mirror. Did it over again.

    “I don’t have to—“

    “No. Go ahead.”

    He looked towards the closed door. The apprentice was still in the hallway.

    “It’s only a dinner with some associates. I don’t have to take a gun.”

    “I’m only worrying about you. Always have.”

    She sat up on the side of the bed.

    “Once I told you, I knew you would do this. You’d destroy yourself.”

    “How?” Albert interjected, louder than he’d intended. He breathed out shallowly and buttoned up his coat. “Sorry, mother. I only thought… you’d want this set right.”

    Her face was buried in her hands and that fragile part had come back again. It reminded him of that black Monday, in the hospital room when she’d tried to walk, had collapsed back onto the cot with a look of animal fear that’d sent him into a rage. Just like this now. He knew it’d take time.

    “Last time you went up against them…” she said at last. “You almost died, Albert.”

    “I’ll have help,” he replied, steering the conversation back to tonight. “Which reminds me, I’d better be going. Don’t want cold food.”

    She stared over at the door. Albert realized what was happening. He walked over and put his arms around her.

    “I’ll make sure I’m safe. Plus, the way I feel about this case, no criminal would dare attack me.”

    His mother smiled, and those gray eyes twinkled like they used to. Albert went to the door and called in the apprentice. Mike Thompson holstered his revolver.

    “What is it, boss?” he asked in a loud drawl.

    “I’ll be leaving for a few hours. See she’s well taken care of.”

    “Of course, boss.” He didn’t look up and Albert grabbed his elbow.

    “No one except Ben is allowed in. Understand?”

    Mike’s blue eyes met his gaze. He slowly nodded.

    “Good. I’ll see you in the morning, mother.”

    Albert saw her staring out the window. He smiled after a moment and closed the door. Mike took his post and watched him go down the hallway.

    Detective Rush took the plush-lined elevator up to the dining hall. After tipping the elevator man lavishly, he walked along the balcony overlooking the seven-story palm court. Air streamed through glass panes and trickled down past the colonnades to carriages pulling in below.

    A waiter took him to a corner table where he could see the entire restaurant. Wealthy businessmen and philanthropists of San Francisco gorged on fine food and commented on local affairs. More like gossiped, Albert thought. The famous tenor Enrico Caruso was sitting with other members of the Metropolitan Opera, and across the room two railroad tycoons were in deep conversation.

    “What would you like, sir?”

    “Roasted duck with string beans au berre and the grill salad.” He handed over the menu. “And add a bottle of Mumm.”

    “Coming up right away, sir.”

    Albert looked for Ben but the short detective hadn’t arrived yet. Whatever was holding him up, it had better be good. It was almost uncomfortable being alone with the city’s elite. But here came a man in a sharp black suit, with an engaging smile. He reached the table and pulled out a chair.

    “Can I sit here, chap?”

    Rush recognized the smart, chiseled face of the Count Wrangell. He’d helped the agency on a case two years ago, and was a rich steamship baron in the Bay with connections in the British Embassy.

    “Certainly. I’m waiting for a friend.”

    “I can see that.” The count’s green eyes took in the two plates and the bulge of Albert’s Browning in his coat. He took out a gilded pocket-watch and examined it. “Just thought I’d chat for a minute.”

    “Is business still running smoothly?”

    “More passengers than ever. I’m only staying for the night.” He pretended to rub his forehead in exhaustion. “And how about you, detective?”

    Albert forced a nonchalant smile. “Nothing new, really. Oscar sends his greetings.”

    “Tell him I’m most obliged.” His eyes fell and he reinserted his watch. “Heard about Anne. Is she really in danger?”

    Albert couldn’t help but be jolted. “What danger?”

    Wrangell looked surprised. “Was I misinformed? The desk manager always keeps me well aware of my friend’s affairs.” He shook his head. “Must be a tragedy.”

    “Yes, certainly.” Albert shifted his feet. “But I’d appreciate if you told no one else.”

    “Mum’s the word,” the count replied. “Speaking of which, here it comes now.”

    The waiter returned with the champagne and poured two glasses. Wrangell took off his two white gloves and put them on the table. An orchestra picked up a violin concerto. Albert drank, letting his suspicions drift away.

    1. Observer Tim

      This continues great, Bilbo. I can almost hear the clank of the utensils and the murmur of hushed conversations, and feel the worry growing in Albert even as he tries to think of something else. You’ve got the detective-story feel down perfectly. 🙂

    2. JM Somebody

      Beautifully written, rich in atmosphere and style — must be Bilbo! But now I want know what’s going on. Why was the MC’s mother targeted and who are these thugs, etc. You’ve done a great job building the suspense, but I think it’s time to throw us all a bone. Give us a hint or two. Please? 🙂

      1. Bilbo Baggins

        No bones! 🙂 Just kidding. I’m not a fan of pushing things into the reader’s eye. There are a few bones there, you just need to dig them up. It’s pretty obvious who the bad guy is, and while his motives are entirely clear yet by next part they will be. Thanks for the compliment.

  11. ashton mcqueen

    DIANA : The Hunt
    The rain pounded her skin which was made to be as strong as a dragons scale. She gazed at the valley across with her eagle eye sight, this is where the hunt begins. she thought.

    Four years ago she had sacrificed her right breast to go on this hunt only to be betrayed by the man she felt she loved. she was to hunt for the 12 sacred instruments,she had done them with ease getting to the last one the same time with the warrior.

    He promised her love, a family, and a throne by his side, but when he pulled the horn from the crumbling grave he chose freedom in the mortal world, and where is he now?, well he has a family of course.

    Tears welled up in her eyes, but she held it off, she swore secretly to the six Olympian GODS that gave her life that never will she move a step backward for a man whether noble or wretched.

    she heard the horn blow, the battle cry piercing the air sending a clear message to the opposition.

    “OH ye men!” she muttered “fear DIANA!”.

    * * * * *

    His hands dug deep into the earth as he prayed to his mother GAEA for protection.He could remember this very day four years ago, vividly, he ran his hands across his face as he touched the scars that ran through is right cheek. a scar etched as a symbol of shame, defeat, loss of pride and honor but no one knew but him. He remembered the words she said vividly.

    “you are too weak, killing you will only ease your agony and wash away your sorrows.” she said as she pointed her sword at his neck piercing ever so lightly. ” i wont be the one to do that for you, a lesser opponent will finish you off,but if you do find yourself alive. Use this as a reminder”. In one swift move she moved her blade effortlessly across his face.

    “there is no place for the weak”

    he gritted his teeth really hard as he recalled that day, if he sees her in the valley today she will be the one pinned to the floor begging for her life, she doesn’t know the demon she has created, the warrior she has molded”.

    he whispered to himself, “the moment i cross this line, i will come looking for you”. his magic energy began to radiate off him, his blade, which was dug in the earth began to vibrate vigorously. It was hungry for flesh and thirsty for blood,”save your strength mullock”he pulled it out from the drenched soil “we’ve got a Diana to deal with”…………..

    1. Reaper

      Interesting. This has a good feel for the mythology you are pulling from. It is also a beautiful story of revenge and anger as emotions and actions that feed on themselves and when accomplished only cause another to need more of the same in a bigger way. It translates as a wonderful morality tale because of that. Good writing.

    2. Observer Tim

      Powerful stuff, Ashton. You managed to bring Classical mythology alive and make it your own. The perspective change was a bit of a mental gear-shift, but nothing beyond most readers’ abilities. The result is very entertaining. 🙂

  12. Hiba Gardezi

    I grumble along behind the team.
    The boys team.
    You gotta be kidding me… get outta here trash face…you’re a boy…
    The comments my very un sisterly ‘girlfriends’ left swim around in my mind.
    Now I’m just seething with anger.
    How could they?
    ‘Hey Cam?’
    ‘Yeah.’
    ‘Do I look like a guy to you?’
    ‘No’
    ‘See-’
    ‘But if I didn’t know you…’he turns and looks at me wearing a comical expression
    ‘Hey!’ I shove him.
    ‘It’s not a bad thing’ he shoves me back grinning.
    ‘I know but-’ I shove him.
    ‘It’s actually a very good thing. I’m a boy. Just look at how hot I am.’ he shoves me again.
    ‘What’s up with you two tonight?’ Dean asks
    I shove him.
    ‘This.’
    ‘Hey!’ Cam says that’s our thing
    ‘Not any more!’ Dean shoves me, laughing.
    Ha-ha.’ Rick says acting very sophisticated. ‘ Quiet you guys,we can’t let the girls win!’
    ‘You got that right’ I say
    ‘Hey, aren’t you a girl?’Dean asks

    ‘Not according to the girls
    ‘Huh?’ Dean says looking amused.
    ‘Don’t get into it. Its girl stuff’ Cam tells him
    ‘Yeah I want nothing to do with it’ Rick says.
    ‘Hey! If I’m not a girl, lemme be a boy. I feel left out of both sides.’
    Dean gasps.’ You’re a mix?’
    I slap him.
    ‘Rick –’
    Dean opens his mouth ‘Are y-’
    ‘Next item?’
    ‘A T whatever that is.’
    ‘I know this’I say ushering them towars a path behind Brook’s house.
    ‘What?’
    ‘Yes’
    ‘What?’
    ‘I know where to find it. I do!’
    ‘How do girls always know everything?’ Rick asks me.
    ‘Only smart girls’ I say tapping my head.
    ‘Lead the way Smart Girl ’Cam says
    ‘Dear Margo, should I tap your head with a bat for you or will you stop it?’ Dean asks
    ‘Okay…Calm down, okay? I say walking into a second garden
    Just then I see Dean’s expression.
    ‘Why is he doing that?’ I ask the other boys.
    ‘Doing what?’
    ‘That weird thing with his mouth open on the side as if he’s about to kill me.’
    ‘You do not hurt my feels’ he says
    Feels ?
    ‘oh…uh’ rick looks at Cam ,concerned ‘oh…it took him a week to stop crying after reading The Fault-’
    ‘Don’t say it. ’ Cam pleads
    ‘TFIOS. And uh… ’he looks at Dean ‘… he’s still a bit fragile…’
    ‘No. ’Dean says wiping his tears ‘I’m o-k-a-y, It’s just…just’ he bursts into tears again ‘I can’t imagine how carelessly people use that word.’
    ‘It’s good man’ Cam says choosing the word good purposefully.
    ‘Yeah dude’ Rick punches him.
    ‘Pull yourself together bro’ I say but take in a sharp breath when I see his bloodshot eyes.

    Half an hour later when we reach the ‘T’ he is joking again.
    ‘…And I just love lemons.’
    He sighs.
    ‘Well, you’re kinda not gonna love this.’ I tell him.
    ‘Really?’ he looks let down. ‘I don’t like to not love stuff.’
    ‘Like I said ’Rick whispers to me ‘ fragile
    I laugh.
    ‘Hey, what are you whispering to her?’ Cam asks ‘More importantly why are you whispering? You wanna whisper? Huh? Whisper to me!’
    Anyway what you’re not gonna love is, I’ve found the T but it’s gonna be very hard to get it.
    Rick smiles and sits down on the grass.
    ‘Hard,how?’
    ‘You see…just see.’ I point towards a wooden T surrounded by three dogs behind a bush.
    ‘ Brook and I made that once. Sword fighting. She decided it was too boyish.
    ‘Margo, ‘ Cam says ‘ I do not fight dogs.’
    ‘Sadly neither do I’ Rick lies. ‘Dog…hair…sneezing problem?’ He asks Dean who nods. ‘Yes I have a dog hair sneezing problem.’
    ‘Fragile’ Dean says.
    ‘I’m going in’ I say
    ‘Wha-’
    In my mind then, everything goes in slow motion.
    I leap over the tree ( maybe it was a bush) and sprint into the open. I stand tall before my enemies ( the dogs) and shout ‘ BOY POWER!’
    I hear Cam cheer me on in the distance and Rick say ‘ I don’t think there’s such a thing’. Dean says ‘ I don’t think you’re a boy’ and I just shout again. I run( in slow motion ) through my enemies and grab my treasure. I fall onto the ground on my back with my scepter in hand.
    ‘Yes’ I shout as the dogs come after me.
    ‘No!’I scream and jump onto a dog.
    ‘You my beauty’ I say to the dog ‘shall be my royal knight. Ride off towards those three male humans!’
    It drops me.
    I walk to my friends.
    ‘Victory is OURS!’
    ‘YAYY!’ Dean says ‘I love victory’
    ‘No LONGER shall we be slaves to girls!’
    ‘NO LONGA’ Cam says with a british accent.
    ‘LET US BEAT THEM!!!’
    ‘YES!’ Rick finishes as we run into Brook’s living room for cookies and a chance to insult our fellow children.

    1. Reaper

      There is a very surreal quality to this that just works. There seem to be some spelling mistakes which is odd for you, and some of them seem intentional but others do not. I have never read the book mentioned so I think I missed something there but you did a good job of mostly catching me up. It took me a bit to realize how young the kids were in this story and as soon as I did the voice fell into place This is very interesting and with that surreal, fantasy, young feeling quality it almost felt like a dream to me. An enjoyable dream.

      1. Hiba Gardezi

        Thankyou, Reaper. I really appreciate the fact that you always find the time to read and comment on my stories 😉 Yes, I did make some spelling mistakes…all those I’ve found were intentional but I will thankyou for pointing that out. Tell me, is it wise to intentionally make spelling mistakes or should I try to avoid that in the future? Yes, that book…you should read it. It was sad. I didn’t cry by the way. Was that part very confusing though?

        1. Reaper

          I would say I have too much time but I should be doing more writing so that’s not entirely true and just a deflection of how complimented I am by your thank you. Spelling mistakes are a weird thing. From a technical aspect you’re not supposed to make them. From a stylistic one it all depends. Usually if it’s inside of quotes it’s a flavor thing, If it’s in something the character wrote it’s an example, if it’s not either it’s an error, but when you’re doing first person you get into this grey area. I’m not really one to say you should avoid it because I will occasionally make up a word or use a comic book word to explain a sound or make a sound part of an action so I’d be a hypocrite if I said it was terrible. As for the fault in our stars part. The main thing that confused me was the overuse of okay, I had to pause and figure out what word he was freaking out about because I was drawn in by the book making the boy so sensitive.

          1. Hiba Gardezi

            Thankyou 🙂 The word ‘okay’ was emphasized on purpose. It’s an important part of the book especially for people who ship the two main characters…that is everyone who has read the book or watched the movie 😀

    2. Observer Tim

      This is really lovely, Hiba. You caught the kids’ ages and attitudes wonderfully. As well, I like the fact that they are obviously dealing with things outside the story; it shows depth and a glimpse of the larger world around them. Great job! 🙂

    3. cosi van tutte

      Hey, Hiba!

      There are so many wonderful lines in this one I can’t even quote them all. This line in particular made me laugh -> “Really?’ he looks let down. ‘I don’t like to not love stuff.’”

      I will say that I love Dean’s denseness and his Fault In Our Stars sensitivity. 😀

  13. ashton mcqueen

    I flinched as i caught the sight of the jagged white lines
    stretching across the sky.
    “stupid rain”, i turned back to my toast bread and stacked
    them neatly on the plate before heading to the parlor.
    “No, upgrade the hammer instead what do you wanna use a
    bow for”
    “its gold and shiny you moron,besides it increases Merlin’s
    attack points to 87!”
    “will you both shut up!” i intervened. My brothers, peter
    and Preston argued about well……everything.
    Did i forget to mention i got the worst name
    ever,Patrick.Yeah my mum’s obsessed with P’s.
    and am the oldest son, i would’ve preferred Paul or prince.
    i sat beside peter and began munching my bread,i noticed
    his eyes glaring at my plate “no way bro, there is a full loaf
    in the kitchen”
    “you are the worst brother ever”,Preston butted in as he left
    for the kitchen
    “was something ever wrong with your legs?”, i turned to
    peter “did i say a loaf?,i meant six slices”.
    his eyes widened as he ran after Preston.
    “hhhaaaa,sweet silence”, i stared at the frozen character on
    the screen.A weird looking wizard with all stars,whoa all
    stars shoes?
    i wonder what they saw in this game,its based on myth and
    no fact,and i love facts.
    a grin flashed across my face as a brilliant idea came to
    me”he-he, lets see sabotage or wreak havoc”
    i grabbed the controller pad and pressed the start button.
    The sheer idea of destroying their game progress carried
    me away that i didn’t notice the bright light moving close to
    the house.I was about to bash all the buttons at once when
    it happened.
    my body felt so stiff and my eyes got burnt by a brilliant
    white light,engulfing me to another world and trust me it
    was similar to a roller costar ride only there is no costar
    but there is a roller.
    TO BE CONTINUED…..

    1. Reaper

      Welcome Ashton. This was definitely a fun read. The structure was a bit odd, you have a couple of words where capitalization was missed. This is actually more noticeable because of the carriage returns. For the story and writing itself I was fascinated by believable characters and an enthralling story that I wanted to read the continuation of.

    2. Observer Tim

      You created an interesting setting, Ashton, great job. All I can say about the story is “Arrrgh! Cliffhanger!” You got me hooked. 🙂

      I was also thrown a bit by the capitalization, but that could easily be a side-effect of the machine you’re writing on.

  14. Roan

    Sorry, Jed wouldn’t leave me alone. I had to continue Wizards and Warriors. I think you’ll understand why.

    Jed pushes himself up into a sitting position. The lights flicker and take hold. Power has been restored. He turns his head and looks over his shoulder at the princess. She is sitting with her head down. Her cone shaped hat has slipped over her forehead, reminiscent of a unicorn, with a veil hanging from the tip of its horn.

    Jed turns around and ever so gently pushes the hat back, to the top of her head.

    “Are you OK?” He whispers.

    The princess takes in her surroundings.

    “Where …where am I?” She looks at Jed, her eyes frightened.

    “You’re in my apartment, on the top floor of a house.”

    “Where’s Kuros?” She screams, and scrambles to her feet.

    Jed jumps up too. “Wait, let me show you.” He hits the start button and logs into Wizards and Warriors. The screen fills with the first set of forests of “Elrond”, his fingers fly over the keys, and Kuros leaps out of the forest.

    The princess gasps and reaches, her index finger shaking. Ever so gently she touches Kuros’ cheek. A tear breaks loose and runs down her cheek.

    Jed’s mind is screaming, what should I do, what should I do?

    “Here,” he points to the chair. “Sit. I’ll show you.”

    Two days pass, and as the night of the third day progresses into dawn’s light, the princess, having become quite proficient at the game, reaches the final level where Kuros enters “Castle IronSpire” . He rushes into the chamber where “she” had lived. Only problem is Malkil has captured another princess.

    The princess screams “NO”, jumps up, and the chair falls over behind her.

    Jed bolts up off the couch and rushes to her side. He wrings his hands. What’s a geek to do?

    He holds the off button until the screen goes black, and picks up the chair. “Here, sit.” The princess knew nothing of what to do, so she sat.

    “Ok?” Jed stares at the lines on her forehead and her sad eyes. Then an idea comes to him. He grabs the Chronicle off the floor and opens it to Movies.

    He scans the theaters. He doesn’t know what he’s looking for, but then his eyes fall upon “Finding Nemo”. Perfect, he says to himself, an animated movie with no people in it.

    It took a while to get the princess down the stairs as she had never seen stairs before. Out on the side walk Jed guided her to his old convertible VW. He had her wait as he got in and lowered the roof. Perfect, he said to himself. Who knew, I would have a need to accommodate a princess and her hat. Not only that, it was the day before Halloween, so passers’ by didn’t think much of what they saw.

    So off they went, her veil streaming like a flag from the peak of her hat.

    Half way down the theater aisle Jed stops and looks at her hat. “Um, we need to turn around.” He leads her to the back row.

    Seated, he offers her some popcorn. She stares at it. He pops one in his mouth. She slowly reaches into the bucket and takes one. She smells it, takes a little nibble then eats it. Jed wished he had bought two buckets as she quickly devours all of the popcorn.

    The princess leans forward, mesmerized by what’s on the screen. When it comes to the scene where Nemo is stuck in the fish bowl, she gasps, reaches out and grasps Jed’s arm. Jed swallows, looking down at her long fingers, feeling them on his skin. A tear broke loose and runs down his cheek. He balls his other hand, making a fist, mans up, and wipes the tear away. Jed has never been on a date nor been touched by a woman, let alone a princess.

    Leaving the theater, Jed notices a lilt to the princess’s step. He has this great idea and takes her to Goodwill. With Halloween so close, the store is half filled with costumes. The princess finds two new princess dresses and when Jed points out a princess hat, she shakes her head, no.

    Time passes and while Jed is at work the princess plays Wizards and Warriors, killing off Kuros before he can reach the princess’s chamber.

    Then one evening, Jed comes home and notices Prin’s hat. He had come to call her that. Her hat is sitting on the keyboard. He’d never seen her without it. He could hear her in the kitchen.

    Having a deadline to meet, he sits down and picks up the hat. Where to put it, where to put it, he looks around, not on the floor, so he puts it on his head.

    Prin appears in the doorway and, stifling a laugh, walks behind him and lifts the hat from his head. She carries it into the bedroom and puts it on top of the pile of clothes she has designated for Goodwill. She has become accustomed to wearing Jed’s jeans and t-shirts. Then she walks back into the living room to the couch. Jed has been sleeping there, leaving the bedroom for her. She tugs on the blanket and sheets and carries them to the closet where she throws the sheets in the laundry pile and folds the blanket, putting it on the top shelf. Closing the door she says to Jed’s back, “I’m going to make dinner.” He knew what that meant, grilled cheese sandwiches. It was all he had taught her how to make.

    Prin called from the kitchen, just as Jed was logging off, “dinner’s ready.”

    In the center of the table is a stack of grilled cheese sandwiches. Prin pours wine into their glasses and sits. Jed stares at her. God she’s beautiful without the hat dominating her features. Her long pink tinted hair and blazing blue eyes. He sits, and she reaches out, gently resting her hand on his hand. She looks into his eyes, entwining her fingers around his. He meets her gaze.

    And so they lived happily ever after

    THE END.

    1. cosi van tutte

      Aww, this is such a sweet way to finish this story.

      Just so you know, I love the mental image of the princess sitting in the VW with her full princess outfit on. I also love this whole part: “Having a deadline to meet, he sits down and picks up the hat. Where to put it, where to put it, he looks around, not on the floor, so he puts it on his head.” 😀

      And very good job on the growth in the Princess’ character. It made me think of the movie Enchanted. 🙂

  15. Cynthia Page

    [I apologize for the length, but I had to do this one justice. Total WC 2,528 in five sections.]

    ENGINEERING A WIN

    “Oh, hell. This is bad,” I said. The last item on our scavenger hunt could get someone killed.

    Joey took the clue from me and read it. “Why? The tracks are close to school, and there has to be a loose spike somewhere along that stretch behind the football field.”

    I shook my head. “No, there isn’t. I walk those tracks every day after practice to keep my footwork nimble. I know every loose board and rock on the tracks inside town, and the rules say every item can be found within city limits.”

    “You must know where to find the loose spike then. Why is this bad?

    “It’s not bad that I know where it is. What’s bad about it is the location. The only loose railroad spike inside town is on the bridge that crosses the river. All the rest get checked and replaced often.”

    “So?”

    “So, the bridge is too long and difficult to walk for someone to escape before a train reaches the bridge. There’s a turn in the tracks at each end of the bridge, so you can’t see a train coming. If some idiot tries it, and a train comes along, they can’t escape except by diving off a sixty foot drop into six inches of water.”

    “Oh. Damn. But, what are we supposed to do? Risk our lives to get the spike?” Joey paled, and turned a bit green.

    “No. I have an idea, but we have to get there before anyone else. Otherwise, one of these brainiacks from the football team is going to get killed.”

    “Wait. Why would that happen? You could just wait until the train passes, then go for it.”

    Because it takes about twenty minutes for amateurs to cross the tracks, and a train comes every twenty five minutes. Getting the spike loose from the track would take anyone more than five minutes, even me. But I have a plan. I think I can do it without getting smashed by a hundred and fifty tons of rolling steel. We need to stop at my uncles on the way. Come on.”

    A blueprint for the task was forming in my mind. I would refine it when I knew what equipment Uncle Tim had available.

    As we sprinted toward Uncle Tim’s house, Joey asked, “Why are we going to your uncle’s house?”

    “Because he climbs cliffs,” I said.

    Uncle Tim was out of town, so it was fortunate that I didn’t have to break in to get what I needed. We found harness, ropes, and rock hammers in the garage. I wouldn’t need the pitons, but I found carabiners and – thank God – a couple of pulleys. My uncle had taught me how to use his equipment – in case he ever needed rescuing, he told me. But I always knew real rescuers would reach him first if he ever got in a tight spot. It was just his excuse to spend time with me. That was okay with me. I loved hearing stories of his climbing adventures. They were real “cliff hangers”; not like the generic stuff on TV. (520)

    Continued

    1. Cynthia Page

      Joey peppered me with questions on our way to the bridge, but I told him to shut up while I focused on how to set up the ropes and pulleys. I wanted my plan ready when we got there.

      As we approached the bridge, I worked out where to place my pulleys, and when we arrived at the bridge, I started strapping on the harness and tools. I had Joey check my knots and pull hard on anything that might come loose at the wrong moment. I wanted no surprises once I got up there. There were three spans of trusses on the bridge. Trusses are those parts that rise above the bridge bed, iron girders that strengthen the span. Most railroad bridges have two or three trusses, or more for longer spans. I needed to get to the middle span before I started climbing. Once I was all strapped up, and the pulleys and carabiners were easy to reach on my harness, we waited for the next train to pass. While we waited I had a talk with Joey.

      “Listen, once I start, you cannot help me. If you go out on the bridge, you could get killed by a train, or fall off. If you got in trouble, I would try to save you, but we’d both be in danger. So, no heroics. Got it?”

      “But what if you get stuck, or you fall?”

      “If anything happens, go call 911.” Neither one of us had cell phones yet. Both of our mothers refused to let us have them because of rumors of bullying, and all the bad press surrounding social media. Pay phones on high school grounds had been disabled since the advent of cell phones. Joey would have to run back into town to the closest phone, nearly a mile away.

      “And if anyone else in the hunt gets here while I’m out there, convince them to wait.”

      “Convince Stewart, or Gill? Right.” Joey does sarcasm like a pro. They were both burly guys. Stewart was on the wrestling team, and Gill was an all-around bad dude who listened to no one. Joey is kind of small for his age. So I handed him one of the two hammers I had brought, the one with a rubber head.

      “Here. If Stewart or Gill gets here, and they won’t listen, knock ‘em in the leg. Not hard, and not on the head. Just hard enough to make ‘em sit down and wail about it. But I’m counting on your wit and smarts to make it seem too scary for them. Tell ‘em how often trains come. But don’t let them go out there. Better a broken leg than dead.”

      “Uh, they’re gonna be suspicious if they see the hammer.”

      “Oh, for Christ’s sake, use your brain.” I took the hammer from him and stuck the short handle down his pants by his hip.

      “And one more thing.” (489)

      Continued

    2. Cynthia Page

      I handed Joey an air horn that I had picked up off the work bench in Uncle Tim’s garage. “When you hear a train coming, I want you to blast this air horn to alert me. That way I won’t get caught by surprise while trying to get the spike loose.”

      Before he answered, a train came growling around the bend. The engineer saw us near the bridge and blew his horn, so we scrambled down the track’s rocky embankment. As the train passed, I hitched two sets of ropes around my shoulders, let them hang beneath my arms, and then sprinted up the sloped scree.

      I chased the train down the track, timing my steps to land on the railroad ties. Since I walked the tracks daily for football training, it was not hard. Most people have a hard time with the awkward span and end up stepping between the ties, but my legs knew from experience how far to place each step, even when I skipped a tie. I flew down those tracks. The rocky slope beneath receded farther with each step until I couldn’t make out individual rocks, and I stopped focusing on the drop.

      When I reached the middle truss, I stopped, assessed the climb, and started up. I wanted to be up off the railroad as fast as possible. When I reached a horizontal beam, I scooted out toward the middle, climbing around each vertical beam, until I saw the loose spike sticking up out of one of the ties below. At the closest juncture of horizontal and vertical beams, I tied a prusik knot on each side of the horizontal beam and attached the small pulley. Then I ran a length of light line through the pulley to my belt. I would let the line play out as I climbed up. I also set up a carabiner and rope as an arrester line in case I fell while climbing.

      It was not easy. The metal beams were rusted, and bits of rust flaked off turning my hands red. I felt sharp iron bits biting into the skin of my hands and arms as I climbed, but there was nothing I could do about it. I wished I had remembered gloves. Also, my arms and legs were strong, but I was used to climbing rope, not thick, flat metal. My legs couldn’t grip the same as when I wrapped them around a rope. When I passed a horizontal beam, I climbed up on inside. If I had climbed outside, the lower pulley line I rigged would be useless.

      When I was halfway up the vertical beam, I slipped. (443)

      Continued

    3. Cynthia Page

      My hands were full of metal splinters already. I reached higher, and screamed bloody agony when a rusty metal needle stuck deep into my palm. I lost my grip. The beam angled at sixty degrees, so I jammed my sneaker into the inside of the I-beam as I started to slide down its length. It twisted my foot sideways, but it stopped me. I hung onto the beam and let my heart rate drop, then continued climbing. I would worry about a sprain later.

      I was almost to the top, just reaching for a horizontal span when the bridge started to shake. Damn, I forgot about the trains. I grabbed the horizontal beam above, jammed both feet inside the vertical I-beam, and held on. The train let out a long horn blast, as if telling me something I didn’t already know. Later, when I recalled that terrible blast, I thought of it as the engineer cussing at me, and screaming “Get off the damn bridge!”

      The whole bridge shook like an earthquake in San Francisco. It felt like it would shake itself to pieces. The metal clattered and rang like a dull bell. I thought I would lose my grip for sure, but eventually the shaking stopped. It seemed like hours, but it was only a minute; any longer would have been too long.

      When quiet returned, I scrambled up to the top span. I stopped, took several deep breaths, and dug the rusty iron needle out of the fleshy pad below my thumb. It bled until I applied pressure. I scooted out a bit, not quite to the middle, and tied another prusik knot, to which I suspended the nine-to-one pulley.

      The mechanical advantage (MA) provided by the pulley should be enough to pull me up and out of the way of a train quickly. It would be much faster and more efficient than trying to pull myself up with sheer muscle power. And the smaller pulley attached to the side of the bridge would allow me to pull myself sideways out of the path of a train if necessary. I hoped it would not be needed. I had to work fast.

      Speaking of trains, why the hell hadn’t Joey set off that air horn when the train came? The far truss span blocked my view of where he should be keeping watch. I would have a few choice cuss words for him when I got down. In the meantime, I would have to listen for the train since I couldn’t trust him to warn me. One safety malfunction was too much. Hypervigilance was needed now. If I didn’t hear a train while on the tracks I was dead.

      I double checked the security of my lines, and triple checked the pulley line while waiting for another train to go by. Even though one had just passed, I was unwilling to drop down until I had a maximum amount of time to work on loosening the spike. It had looked pretty solid when I saw it last, even though it stuck up from the tie. I leaned over and peeked through the trusses to find out if I could see Joey by the bridge. What I saw blew me away. (541)

      Continued

    4. Cynthia Page

      At the end of the bridge stood a crowd of about forty kids, all high-schoolers. I couldn’t distinguish faces from this distance, but it looked like most of the football team and the cheerleaders, plus about a third of the graduating class. Most of them had small rectangles pointed in my direction. Cell phones – they were filming.

      “Oh, great,” I thought. “This is going to be on Facebook and Twitter and YouTube, and Meerkat, and God only knows what else.”

      Then I wondered why there were so many, and how they found out, and why they were gathered at the end of the bridge. Were they waiting to see if I got hit by a train? My stomach turned at the thought. I puzzled over this anomaly for nearly twenty minutes while picking at the splinters in my hands and wishing I had a cell phone so I could call them.

      Then I said, fuck it. I’m here. I’m ready. I checked everything one more time as another train rushed beneath me, blasting me with hot air and noise. As soon as it passed, I let myself down to the tracks with the rope and pulley. I grabbed the hammer from my belt, pulled at the spike, and, finding it embedded solidly in the tie, I proceeded to whack at it with the hammer over and over again. After a while it started to budge sideways. I hammered first from one direction, then another, rocking it, opening the hole in the tie. I must have been working for the full twenty five minutes when I heard the crowd start screaming. They waved at me and pointed back down the tracks, as they shouted. Then they scattered. Oh.

      I grabbed the rope above and started hauling myself up. I had forgotten that, at nine-to-one, the MA goes up, but the distance drops. It didn’t take much muscle, but it was too slow. I was only a foot or so up when I knew it would not be enough. I grabbed the smaller cord from my belt and hauled on it as hard and fast as I could… and swung out of the way of the train barreling down on me, horn blasting like a demon from hell… just in time. As I grabbed the I-beam of the truss, I thought I felt the train brush the back of my shirt. It might have been just my imagination, but, damn that was close.

      After the train was gone I looked for the spike. The train had knocked it loose. It was lying on the steel girder beside the tie. I couldn’t believe my luck. I dropped down, grabbed the spike, let myself loose from the harness, and sprinted across the tracks to where the crowd stood cheering. When I got there, I collapsed – off the tracks.

      While I sat there, and people cheered and shouted, Joey pushed his way into the crowd. He shouted,

      “The air horn was empty!” He yelled over the noise. “I ran to the football field and got some guys there to call everyone. Thank God you made it.” (521)
      THE END

      1. Reaper

        I am sure there must be errors in here somewhere but with it being a longer piece and the intensity of the story I didn’t catch them. A lot of good explanation and a great reminder that a story can be about simple actions in a normal place and still be exciting. I liked the writing and the story here.

        1. Cynthia Page

          Thanks, Reaper. I almost blew it with the mechanical advantage. Then I remembered that the ratio decreases the power needed, but increases the time/distance factor. It’s like on a ten speed bike. Going uphill in a higher gear takes less muscle power, but you advance a shorter distance with each stroke than with lower gears. I already had the two pulley setup in mind when my MC set his plan, so the save by that method wasn’t a stretch of incredulity when I realized my mistake and he had to dodge the train in a hurry.

      2. Observer Tim

        I was going to rag you for the length but you were right, the story deserves it. This is a gripping tale well told, with plenty of the small details that make it not only plausible and entertaining but believable. 🙂 🙂

        1. Cynthia Page

          Thanks, Tim. I couldn’t do it justice without details. There were too many variables that could get called out. I still felt bad about the length, though.

  16. Colonel Plops

    Scavengers Go Hunting
    Part Two: Rope

    The four masked people stood outside of the hardware store, a small local place called Teddy’s Tools.

    “You think there’s rope in there?” cat asked quietly. Cat had a raspy voice that made plague doctor uncomfortable.

    “Probably. In fact I bet we can get item one and two,” skeleton said pulling his hood up, covering the tufts of brown hair that showed through the back of the skeleton mask. Guy Fawkes still had his gun out, plague doctor wondered if he’d ever put it away.

    “How do we get in there?” plague doctor asked, eyes still on the way Guy Fawkes held the gun, like he’d held one before.

    “The instructions said to ignore the law, we break in,” Guy Fawkes said, keeping his own eyes on the smooth gun in his hand. Skeleton walked up to the door, leaving the other three behind. Cat and plague doctor turned to see what skeleton was doing and even Guy Fawkes let his eyes stray from the gun, dropping his arm to his side. Skeleton approached the door and looked in through the glass door and moved from side to side in order to see the entire inside. Then, he put his hand into his sleeve, balled it into a fist and swung it full-power at the glass, shattering it quickly.

    “The only security is a camera that someone’s been kind enough to turn off,” skeleton explained, reaching his hand into the building through the hole he’d made and grabbed hold of the handle on it.

    “You’ve done this before?” plague doctor asked, staying behind while the rest piled in. Skeleton turned back to see him and called cat and Guy Fawkes back. They stood around each other in the shattered glass covered entry way of Teddy’s Tools.

    “I think this is fake. No one is watching us, that whole thing was just to scare us, there’s no other team. I think we oughta take our masks off, introduce each other and move from there. There has to be some reason we were chosen for this,” skeleton explained to the three. They looked from one to another.

    “But the paper said-”

    “I know what the paper said, and I think it was wrong.” Now the four stood around each other in silence. Skeleton took this silence as a yes to his idea.

    “I’ll take mine off first,” skeleton said, hands reaching up to the mask. More of the brown hair became slowly visible along with a pale forehead. Plague doctor immediately thought he had entered the Twilight Zone and would soon discover he was surrounded by pig-looking people. Just as skeleton’s eyes disappeared behind the mask a gun was fired and everyone stumbled, soon to be hearing nothing but ringing. Plague doctor looked up to see Guy Fawkes, who he now knew had used a gun before from the way he’d shot it, his way of taking the recoil arm still pointing toward skeleton’s now fallen body. Plague doctor turned to see that cat had seen Guy Fawkes too. The smile of the mask made it even more ominous, the ringing, the smile, the way his hand remained pointed up.

    “I had to,” Guy Fawkes mumbled. As Plague doctor regained his balance he saw a tear streaming down the mask. “If he took off his mask, they probably would’ve killed all of us, ‘cause we saw his face.” Plague doctor couldn’t remember if the paper said that or not, but also didn’t want to take it from skeleton’s clutch. Cat walked over to Guy Fawkes and plague doctor.

    “What- what did you- why?” cat whispered. Cat had thought of skeleton as the leader, what would happen to this team with just the silent plague doctor and the obviously crazy Guy Fawkes?

    “I had to,” Guy Fawkes said again, wiping the tears from his mask, “I can’t believe I killed a man,” he said to himself this time.

    “Well, what do we do now?” cat asked looking from plague doctor to Guy Fawkes.

    “We get the rope I guess,” plague doctor said.

    “Yes, let’s get the rope,” cat agreed, thinking that maybe the quiet plague doctor would make a good leader after all.

    “Okay,” Guy Fawkes finally put his gun away and began walking into Teddy’s Tools, followed by cat. Plague doctor stayed behind for a minute, to look back at skeleton. But the mask was lying perfectly on his face so still only the brown hair was showing. With that, Plague doctor walked away.

    1. Reaper

      Not sure if the killer is the orchestrator or if this is a study in human nature where the note becomes true because of the fear it instills in the participants. Nice job keeping the tension up and the questions going.

    2. Observer Tim

      Very Twilight Zone, Colonel. And I mean the good one, not the new one. This, along with part one, comes together as a lovely story about the influence of human fear. 🙂

      My style advisor notes that paragraphs 5 and 6 each contain an awkward phrase. In para 5, the word “door” does not need to be repeated. In para 6, the term “grabbed hold” would read more strongly as “grabbed”.

  17. john godfrey

    A Social Gathering

    As the night had gone on, it became increasingly clear to Mr. Carlisle and his guests that his party was beginning to die down. The excitement that had happened previously in the night, involving drinking and dancing and gossiping, had done a complete turnaround. Where there once had been drinking, there was flat-tasting beer and wine that had been drank so much it had lost flavor. Where there had once been dancing, there was Mr. Carlisle and his five party guests, who were all friends, who were all couples, who were all sitting in a semi-circle on his sofa and living room chairs and piano bench. Where there was gossip, there was awkward silence.

    As Mr. Carlisle took this all in, he realized that his guests were becoming bored. Mrs. Astor took a long drag of her cigarette in its long holder, blowing the smoke out into a ring in the center of their semi-circle. Mr. Brighton sighed and finished the little wine he had. Mr. Carlisle looked to his beloved wife for help, for anything of use, but she was too busy staring at the rest of the guests. Suddenly, Mrs. Brighton spoke up.

    Thank goodness for Barbara Brighton, Mr. Carlisle thought to himself.

    “I have an idea.” Mrs. Brighton said aloud.

    “Oh?” Mrs. Astor inquired. “I forgot you knew how to think, Barbara.”

    A gentle smattering of polite laughter followed, which Mrs. Brighton took part in herself.

    “You are such a comedian, Alice. An idea to entertain ourselves, I mean. No disrespect to Mr. and Mrs. Carlisle, of course, the party has been quite entertaining for all of us, I’m sure.” she continued, not missing a beat. “But what of a scavenger hunt, like we used to do?”

    Mr. Carlisle heard his wife chuckle lightly to the left of him, just outside of his peripheral vision.
    “You cannot be serious, can you Barbara?” Mrs. Carlisle asked. “We were younger then. We have lives now, and responsibilities. Those silly hunts won’t work anymore, they won’t have that spark of fun they once had.”

    “And why not, Candace?” Mrs. Brighton retorted. “We had fun back then, didn’t we? What has really changed?”

    “That is true, Candace.” Mr. Brighton agreed. “Don’t you remember when we were younger? When our parents would go off on business trips out of the country together and we would be holed up our mansions all of the time? We had to think of something else to do. Those hunts were our lives when the yacht club closed.”

    “I say we should do it.” Mr. Astor said, grinning widely, sweeping his feathery brown hair (with a recent streak of grey, Mr. Carlisle noticed, no doubt from the most recent stock market crash) back behind his ear.

    “I agree, love. Should we play with the same rules?” Mrs. Astor asked. “Three items to scavenge? The gentlemen versus the women? An hour allotted to obtain each item?”

    “Splendid, Alice. You remembered the rules after all of these years?” Mrs. Brighton asked, clearly impressed.

    “Oh yes, dear. One doesn’t easily forget the rules to our scavenger hunt.” Mrs. Astor sniped back with a smile.

    A second gentle smattering of polite laughter followed, which Mrs. Brighton, again as always, took part in herself.

    ***

    It was the third hour of the hunt, with only the Carlisles left to complete their task, obtaining a beef tongue. The Astors versed each other in finding a pig’s ear and the Brightons had successfully found a chicken’s foot. Mr. Astor had found the right ear, scoring a point for the gentlemen. Mrs. Brighton, however, managed to find a chicken’s foot and get it back to the Carlisle house before the hour ran out, scoring a point for the women. It had all came down to Mr. Carlisle versus his wife.

    Mr. and Mrs. Carlisle had departed for their item with a kiss to each other, as was custom for the game. It was a symbol of good fortune and sportsmanship on their part, and was something that made Mr. Carlisle proud to be among such noble and good friends.

    The barn the Carlisles had chosen for their task was off the main road about ten minutes out. Mrs. Carlisle had chosen the particular one, her husband had chosen the O’Shaughnessy property, but she did not care for the cow there. It was too moody and unpredictable. So, Mr. Carlisle had repented and there he was, in the heat of the moment, ready to get his prize.

    He had begun, as he always had, sneaking around the barn stealthily, so as to not wake any of the filthy animals inside. He approached the barn door cautiously. He moved it just a bit, to test it for any creaking. It had none. Mr. Carlisle loved it when he was this lucky on the hunts.

    The door swung open easily, and he crept inside. He could already smell the poor hygiene on the animals in the barn. If Mrs. Astor had been here, he knew she would have gagged quite a bit, and maybe even thrown up. But he would press on.

    He walked further into the one-room barn, which was lightly furnished. He quickly searched for the cow. It had to be the right cow and the right tongue to win the hunt for his fellow gentlemen. It had to be just right.

    Finally, in one corner of the room lying on the floor on damp newspapers, Mr. Carlisle saw her. She was perfect. She was slightly darker than the rest of the animals, but not significantly so. She was not a hideously overweight animal, but just enough to where Mr. Carlisle could tell that she was an overeater. Gluttony was in this beast’s vocabulary.

    His wife was nowhere to be seen, and he had found the perfect cow; the perfect tongue.

    The eyes of Mr. Carlisle’s prize began to flutter and awaken (which was due, he assumed, to the long period in which he stood over her) but he quickly shushed her so she didn’t wake the others.

    She struggled for a moment, but he kept a steady hand and worked quickly.

    ***

    The socialites sat again in their semi-circle, each with a drink in hand, reminiscing about their most recent scavenger hunt. Mr. Carlisle had won it for the gentlemen, and they were all toasting to their success in good fun.

    “So, did everyone enjoy themselves tonight?” Mr. Astor asked.

    “I did, Arthur. I haven’t had that much fun since college. The whole thing really is exhilarating, isn’t it?” Mr. Brighton replied, brandy in one hand and a cigar in the other.

    “Oh yes, indeed, Benjamin.”

    “Did anyone have trouble with their items?” Mrs. Carlisle asked. “Who did everyone choose?”

    The Astors began, as Mr. Carlisle knew they always would.

    “We had pig’s ear, and we chose Mr. Louis Farrell, age forty-five.” Mrs. Astor said. “He lost his job a few months back, and hasn’t found one since. He had been living with his mother, and refused to work picking the crops in favor of sleeping. He was like a pig in his lazy ways. We agreed that he accurately represented sloth, the sin of laziness, and he became the pig’s ear”.

    “We had chicken’s foot, and we chose Ms. Selena Gutierrez, age twenty-two.” Mr. Brighton said next. “A drug addict with serious violent issues from the Seaside District. Barbara threatened her with a pocketknife for money, and she obliged, and threatened my poor wife. She was like a cock in a cock fight, so violent for nothing. Made me sick. We both agreed she accurately represented wrath, the sin of anger, and she became the chicken’s foot.”

    Mr. Carlisle let his wife relate the story of their item, the beef tongue. They had not chosen Audrey O’Shaughnessy as he had suggested, but had instead gone with a Mrs. Opal Jennings. Her tendencies for overeating and gluttonous ways of not feeding her starving children lead to her ultimate choosing.

    The group of wealthy socialites continued their light discussion, while a severed human ear, amputated foot and grey, slimy tongue sat in individual buckets of ice on the Carlisle coffee table.

    “Oh, how I loathe being around them…” Mrs. Astor said, shuddering slightly and nearly spilling her red wine. “Those impoverished ones, those filthy animals, so unclean and unhealthy. The poor really are a nuisance to this country.”

    “That’s why it is fun, dearest wife!” Mr. Astor said jubilantly. “These silly little games provide us with a challenge to go into those hellish animal pens. To let us reaffirm ourselves of our good choices in life over their poor ones when we feel low. It is simply life’s way, and a hell of a good time!”

    There was a gentle smattering of polite laughter, and Mr. Carlisle joined in for the first time in years.

    ***

    After their friends had left for the evening, the Carlisles destroyed the items and got ready for bed.
    Mr. Carlisle felt very good that evening, he felt young and fresh and alive. He was pleased with the latest scavenger hunt, and wanted to do something else to recapture the days of his youth. He got his idea once he and his wife had settled into bed.

    “Candace?”

    “Yes, Campion?”

    “We should gather the others tomorrow night, as well. Hold another dinner, you know. I could prepare my famous filet mignon I’m always going on about.”

    “I think that’s a splendid idea, dear. But what ever for?

    “Now that we’ve done the scavenger, I believe it’s time for us to do a fox hunt.”

    1. Reaper

      I feel like I am watching the formation of some sub-political party for some reason. I liked this, it had a classic feel to it. The writing is good though I would suggest looking at the hads and turning those sentences more active. the story is not heavy handed but some of the explanation is which makes the overall story feel a little like it is. Such as we had the chickens foot and… I would suggest just launching into we chose this person and this is why and then let the description lead us to discovering what the animal was because you’ve actually already told us before anyway. Other than a little cleaning up I think you have a strong story that could become a masterpiece of commentary on the current problems with the divides both between wealth classes and types of people that are only strengthened by a lack of fellowship and understanding.

    2. Observer Tim

      Very creepy, John. The attitude of bored indifference works very well with the simply-stated cruelty to produce a truly chilling tale. It’s kind of like the evil version of the song “What Do The Simple Folk Do?” from Camelot. 🙂

  18. Trevor

    Word Count: 1, 357 (yeah, I went a little nuts with this one)

    House Of Evil

    “It’s OK, Rachel. Just start from the beginning.” Officer Franklin said, placing a reassuring hand on the 16-year-old girl’s shoulder. Rachel was obviously still traumatized by the events of Halloween night, even though it had been two weeks since the incident.

    Rachel sighed, shaking like a leaf. She looked into the gentle, friendly eyes of the officer and began her tale of terror.

    “OK. We were all at Taylor’s house….” Rachel began, struggling to keep her voice steady.
    ************************************************************************************************************************
    “Seriously? A scavenger hunt? What are we, 6?” Ruth Asbury shouted. She was gathered with the rest of her friends in Taylor Gibson’s living room. With her were Rachel Evans, Taylor’s boyfriend Ryan Portman, and his two friends Eric Benson and Luke Anderson.

    “Come on, Ruth! It’s Halloween! We’re supposed to act like kids!” Taylor shouted. Ruth had always been the most mature of her circle of friends, whereas Taylor was the most childish.

    “I think it would be fun, Ruth. Let’s do it.” Rachel piped in. She was always up for a little adventure to shake up her otherwise mundane life.

    “We’re OK with it.” Ryan chimed in, wiping some of his long brown hair from his face. Eric and Luke nodded in agreement.

    “Great! Everyone’s up for it! So, it’s gonna be Girls vs. Boys. Once you’ve gotten everything, meet back here.” Taylor explained excitedly. “This is going to be so much fun!”
    ************************************************************************************************************************
    Later that night, at around 9:30, Rachel, Taylor, and Ruth were sitting on the bench outside of their school. Rachel and Taylor were looking at the scavenger hunt list while Ruth held onto the bag containing the objects they had collected. The sun was beginning to set and almost all the night’s trick-or-treaters were gone.

    “We’re almost done! We just have one last thing to find.” Taylor exclaimed happily. “I bet you the guys haven’t even found one thing!”

    “What’s the last thing we need?” Ruth asked, clutching tightly onto the heavy bag.

    “An Ouija board.”

    “Seriously, Taylor!?” Ruth shouted. “Where are we gonna get an Ouija board?”

    “I know where.” Rachel said. As soon as she heard the last object on the list, she knew exactly where they could find one. “Raven Rhinethorn’s house.”

    Taylor and Ruth gasped in shock at the mention of Raven Rhinethorn. Raven was a former classmate of theirs, but the girls never talked to her. Due to her Gothic appearance and fascination with demons and the supernatural, she was a loner and had no friends. Then, one night, a custodian caught Raven in the school after hours, trying to conduct a séance in the gymnasium. Raven was expelled from school and since then, nobody had heard from her. It was as if she had vanished off the face of the Earth.

    “Are you crazy, Rachel!?” Ruth shouted. “There’s no way I’m going to that freaky emo’s house!”

    “Same here, Rach. I wanna win, but I’m not gonna go to that psycho’s house to do it.”

    Rachel had always been uncomfortable about the way her friends and the rest of her classmates treated Raven. While she did agree that she was different, she didn’t believe she should’ve been ostracized the way she was. Whenever she saw people laugh at her or gossip about her, she felt deep sympathy for the isolated girl.

    “Well, where do YOU suggest we get an Ouija board, Taylor?” Rachel asked her friend. After a few moments of thought, Taylor finally gave in. “OK, fine. We’ll go ask Raven if we can borrow her Ouija board.”

    “But if she casts a spell on us, it’s on you!” Ruth chimed in as the three girls got up from the bench and ran off into the chilly October night.
    ************************************************************************************************************************
    Raven’s Victorian house loomed in front of the three friends, dark and ominous in the pale moonlight. The house was very dilapidated and was in desperate need of a paint job. The windows were all darkened and no sound was coming from within the old house.

    “Great. We walked half a mile and she’s not even home.” Ruth complained, rubbing her sore legs. Taylor glared silently at Rachel, furious that her friend had dragged them out into the middle of nowhere for nothing.

    “I’m gonna knock on the door. Maybe they just don’t have power.” Before her friends could stop her, Rachel raced onto the rickety porch and knocked on the door. As soon as her fist made contact with the door, it flew open. Rachel stuck her head inside and saw the house was immersed in darkness. Cautiously, Rachel stepped into the pitch dark, praying that she wouldn’t trip and break her neck.

    “Rachel, wait up!” Taylor called out as she and Ruth hurried to catch up to their daring companion. They caught up to Rachel just as she was going upstairs.

    “Rachel, what are you doing? She’s not here!” Taylor shouted as she followed Rachel up the stairs.

    “We came all this way to get the board. We’ll just leave Raven a note explaining everything.” Rachel reached the top landing and saw a door at the end of the hall. A large sign on it read, “Raven’s Lair. STAY OUT!” Before Ruth and Taylor could catch up to her, Rachel ran to the door and flung it open.

    What she saw rocked her to the core. Lying on the black-carpeted floor were the lifeless bodies of Ryan, Eric, and Luke. They were lined up side by side, stripped of their shirts. What was even more disturbing were the symbols engraved into their skin. Small, elaborate hieroglyphics were carved into their stomachs and chests. Rachel backed up into the corner and began to cry. Taylor and Ruth ran in and Taylor screamed in horror when she saw her boyfriend’s dead body.

    “Oh, my God! Ryan!” Taylor collapsed in tears on top of Ryan’s corpse, ignoring the fact that his blood was staining her blouse. Ruth stood in the doorway, her mouth open in horror.

    “You shouldn’t be here.”

    The booming voice took the horrified girls by surprise. They looked around the tiny bedroom, but it was empty except for them.

    “You shouldn’t be here. You will pay.” Then, to Ruth and Rachel’s horror, Taylor was thrown up against the wall. Rachel could hear the sickening crack of bones as Taylor hit the wall. Taylor fell to the carpet in a heap, the back of her head smashed in. Blood and brains were smeared on the wall where Taylor’s head had been cracked.

    As Rachel stared at her best friend’s body, Ruth turned away and threw up on herself. All of a sudden, the booming voice returned.

    “You’re all going to die tonight.”

    That’s when the closet door flew open and an umbrella flew across the room-and went right through Ruth’s chest. Rachel screamed as Ruth fell to the floor, blood spurting onto the carpet. Desperate to escape this house of horrors, Rachel scrambled to her feet and made a run for the stairs. As she did, she heard the evil voice shout one last thing at her:

    “Don’t come back, or you’ll burn with your friends.”

    As Rachel ran out of the house, she stumbled on the porch steps and hit her head on a rock. That was the last thing she remembered before she blacked out…
    ************************************************************************************************************************
    “Wow….that’s quite a story, Rachel.” Officer Franklin told Rachel. By the end of Rachel’s tale, the police officer had been convinced that the teenager sitting before her had lost her mind.

    “I know it sounds crazy. But it’s the truth. It’s what happened.” Rachel replied as she rested her head on the table. Having just remembered the worst night of her life, Rachel felt like she had went through the ordeal all over again.

    “I believe you, honey. There’s just one last thing I need to know.” Slowly, the officer walked over to Rachel and put a hand on her shoulder. Then, she whispered something to Rachel.

    “Did you really think you could get away?” The officer’s voice had changed. Instead of comforting Rachel, it sent chills down her spine.

    It was the same voice from Raven’s house.

    1. Reaper

      This reads like it could be the script to a horror movie. Nicely done and some intense and creepy but not overly graphic imagery. Two things I noticed were… When Rachel is thinking about Raven there are two many she’s. both Rachel and Raven are called she in the same sentence multiple times and it makes it harder to keep track of which her you are talking about. The booming voice is too indecisive, you’re all going to die tonight. Okay, one gets away, I gt that it’s the red herring but the voice says don’t come back or… then it shows up again in the cop? That line as the girl is running is off, you paint an arrogant demonic presence, then give it defeatist leanings only to come back. I say eliminate the line and have it either laugh maniacally like it knows it hasn’t lost, or howl its outrage to give the sense it has given up which is misleading but it isn’t a give up it’s a now I have to wait tantrum. Just my thoughts. I like this one.

    2. Observer Tim

      Reaper’s right, this reads like the plot of a horror movie, in all the good ways. The only thing missing (edited for time I’m sure) is Taylor finding time for a little kissing (or more) with her boyfriend before both of them die. 😉

      My red pencil notes that ‘dilapidated’ is usually better off without a modifier; it works better as a modifier for something else (e.g. ‘a dilapidated ruin’).

      My style advisor notes that the last two paragraphs would be stronger if abridged something like this:

      “Did you really think you could get away?” The officer’s voice had changed. It was the voice from Raven’s house.

      This leaves the chill free to run down the reader’s spine.

  19. Colonel Plops

    Scavengers Go Hunting
    Part One

    The room was small, brick. The man with a skeleton mask and a red sweatshirt woke up first, pushing himself up off of the ground to find the crumpled piece of notebook paper. Soon, the other three woke up too and skeleton passed the paper around.

    “Is this for real?” the man with a Guy Fawkes mask asked, passing the paper to the man with a plague mask. He read it over and passed it to the last of them, wearing a cat mask. The skeleton stood from the spot he’d been crouching on the ground, looking from one person to the other.

    “So, what do you think?” he asked, as if this was an appropriate question.

    “I think this is crazy. I think we find a way to escape, don’t give in to this nut job’s demands.” The cat finally set down the paper, back to the cold floor.

    “I say we give in to the demands. If we don’t he’ll kill us, we need to…” the cat said in a whispered voice. The skeleton picked the paper back up and began pacing. He read the instructions out loud.

    “On the back of this paper is a list consisting of three items. You much find all of these items with the help of your team. There is another team (one boy and one girl) with the same list and instructions. The first team to find these three items will win. The losing team will be killed. You have all been given masks to conceal your identity. Any participant who tries to take the mask off or tell the others about themselves will be killed. Now, you best get started! As far as you know, the other team could already be started!” The skeleton read, unenthusiastically. When he looked up he saw Guy Fawkes messing with a small gun.

    “Hey! Where’s you get that?!” skeleton mask asked, stumbling back from him. Plague mask and cat mask stepped back too.

    “Please, this isn’t mine. They must’ve given us all one,” Guy Fawkes explained, not looking up from it. Plague doctor felt around in his pants and felt one, finally speaking up.

    “Yeah. I have one too.” Following the plague doctor’s action skeleton and cat mask took a gun from their pockets too.

    “So,” cat whispered again, “what are we gonna do?” They all looked at each other. Plague doctor wished he could see their eyes. The masks dehumanized them. Made him feel like anyone could point their gun at him and shoot at any time. Or he could point his at them.

    “We’re gonna hunt,” skeleton said, putting his gun back into his pants and flipping the paper to the list.

    1. Reaper

      Interesting beginning. A bit Saw like. There are some wording errors but I’m not sure if they are intentional, such as you much find all. It could be a clue to the character so I’m not sure. Very intriguing.

  20. Manwe38

    Trying my hand at a slightly different take on the prompt.
    Hope it makes sense.

    ***

    “The Chase”

    Blood.
    Blood pounding, through her ears and eyes.
    Sweat, sweat running, as she tries not to die.
    Feet, feet racing, as she hopes to understand.
    The last, the last item, unique in all the land.

    List.
    List flapping, nearly everything crossed off.
    Men, men chasing, with all of whom she is now wroth
    Guns, guns popping, bits of metal have flown by
    Head, head turning, as she flees beneath the sky

    Fence.
    Fence looming, between her and final goal
    Last, the last item, then she’d fulfill her role
    Metal, metal circlet, handcuffed to his wrist
    Oval, oval football, the leader would be pissed.

    Stolen, in passion, the secret codes would be.
    Then beneath the nuclear fire, America would see.

    1. Reaper

      Isn’t the NSA unfunded right now? Oh, no I think we avoided that. Anyway, this didn’t really need the explanation I don’t think. There was a lot of power here though I would suggest changing the format. The repeated words are a bit strange when they are in the same line but work well when you have one word then repeated it in a line after a carriage return. However, formatting was the only thing I would suggest looking at. The flow and the poetry to it were wonderful and the story well done. A beautiful experiment.

    2. Manwe38

      Thank you my friend!

      Yeah, this was defiitely off the beaten track for me, but I’m glad you liked it. I’m not much into poetry, but I thought it would be a nice change for this prompt.

    3. Observer Tim

      I like the poetic touch, Manwe. It draws me in to the world and does a great job of creating suspense without directly describing the action. It’s a subtle and powerful technique you’re using there. 🙂

      My only criticism is that the words “nuclear” and “America” kind of disrupt the meter for me. I think subbing “atomic” for “the nuclear” would fix the first; I’m not sure about the second. If you were hopping on the anti-Islamist band wagon “the Infidels” or the “Demon West”; other foreign powers might imply their own derogations of the US. But these are just my thoughts.

      1. Manwe38

        Thank you my friend!

        Yeah, I struggled with the last line, mainly de to not knowing who my MC truly was.

        ISIS fighter? Russian spy? You decide 😉

        And what’s up with WordPress? It’s slow as an my old 1991 Chevy Caprice….

    4. JM Somebody

      I’m no poet, but I liked the format. It had a certain musical symmetry to it. I liked how you started each stanza with a single repeated words, but then kept the subsequent repeated words in line with their mates. I can’t even really say why I liked it, but I found it strangely appealing.

      1. Manwe38

        Thanks my friend!

        This is so far away from what I usually try and write I don’t even know where it came from (or if it was going to work).

        Thanks for reading 🙂

  21. rocksoul38

    My breath is quickening. I’m sure that everyone in a mile radius can hear my heart attempting to escape my chest. I pry at the bottom of the window trying to get it budge. Nothing. Maybe the window is locked. I fight the urge to turn and run.

    I pull the check list from my pocket one more time, hoping the last item of the hunt will magically disappear. “Professor Anderson’s Toupee” is in big bold letters. And just beneath those “Don’t forget, the winning team goes to Hawaii!”

    A new motivation mixes with panic and squeezes my stomach. I’m sure someone from the guy’s team will round the end of the building at any moment. But I doubt any of the boys know that Anderson naps in his office every day around noon. I try again. The window stays closed.

    A grip of panic twists my gut and floods my chest. I shake my arms out and jump a few times.

    Pressing my palms firmly against the glass, I push up. The window glides open! A wave of relief washes over me. For a second I feel like I can breathe.

    Is Anderson looking at me? The relief is quickly replaced by another wrench of panic. I duck. No noise. No movement. I stand up.

    Anderson makes no motion as I hike my leg into the open window. I pause. Waiting for the inevitable yell of Anderson’s authoritative voice. Nothing. I pull the rest of my body through the opening.

    Step.

    Step.

    Step. Was that a noise? Did Anderson move? I am holding my breath.

    Step. Step. Step. Slowly, quietly, I exhale. I’m standing within reach of Anderson. My stomach is in my throat.

    I reach toward Anderson’s head. His toupee is just beyond my fingers. I abruptly pull my hand back as Anderson takes a deep breath and mumbles something about peach cobbler.

    Anderson stills and his rhythmic breathing resumes. I extend my arm. This time leaning forward just a bit. My hand is shaking.

    One. Two. Three.

    Without another thought, I grab the wig from its perch and dash the short distance back to the window.

    “What on earth?!” A confused, sleep disoriented Mr. Anderson calls after me. I don’t turn around, but I can picture him grabbing his cooling head, feeling its fresh baldness.

    One leg out the window. My panic pushes me through the opening. I am attempting to jump but mostly fall onto the grass below. Good thing it wasn’t a far drop.

    I jerk my body into a standing position. Hairpiece in hand, I sprint down the grassy byway. Anderson must be leaning out the window. I hear him yelling obscenities. I’m sure he is even shaking his fist in a “You kids stay off my lawn!” sort of way.

    All the panic in my body is replaced with exhilaration as I rush to the check point. I feel deliriously giddy from relief. I squeal with excitement. I can’t wait to go to Hawaii!

    1. Cceynowa

      The story you presented is a fun one for sure rocksoul. 🙂 I do feel like you could have tightened it up a bit though. Eliminating overly repetitive ideas (first paragraph, “maybe the window was locked”) might help. I think the ending flowed more smoothly than the beginning, but that is personal taste. Over all, great job. Thanks for sharing!

    2. Reaper

      Nice story and I agree with Cceynowa. Mostly the flow of this is just a hair too slow. I want to feel the tension the MC does but I feel like I’m looking from the outside. It is a bit more difficult to do that when the danger seems less life or limb threatening. I’d say tighten it up and use the extra words to get us into the MCs head about why the fear is so great for them. It would pull us in more on two fronts. With all of that said I found this an enjoyable read and loved imagery and flow of the end.

    3. Observer Tim

      I’m joining in the praise on this one, RockSoul. I enjoyed the tale and the way it was presented. Your MC’s voice is excellent. 🙂

      I do agree with Ccey that it could use some tightening of the language to boost the suspense and quicken up the pacing, but only a very little bit.

  22. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

    Finally got a chance to write a story here. I’ve been so busy working and doing the NYC writing challenge that I haven’t had time to post in a couple weeks. All that work paid off, though, because out of 1400 participants, I made it to round two of the competition! If any of you enjoy dark historical fiction, you’re more than welcome to check out the story that might get me to round three here: http://www.mrjaywilson.com/chasing-shadows.html

    My fingers are crossed that the judges love it. haha Anyway, ladies and gents. Missed all of you, and hope to catch up on some of the stories here! I really hope you enjoy this week’s take on the prompt.

    Hunters

    The advertisement made it sound so simple. To join a scavenger hunt pitting men versus women, all I had to do was write a check for thirty-five dollars and send it to them along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope. They’d send me a list of things to find and bring to them, and if all the men completed their lists before the women, we’d split the grand prize and take title as champions. It was silly. It was stupid. It seemed like it could be fun. Most of all, it was all supposed to be so damn simple! They never told me they’d kidnap my wife or that I’d have to murder a child.

    As I stared down at my final objective in the blue glow of my vehicles headlamps, the sky rolled with an ominous thunder. A single drop of water splattered on the sheet of paper followed by a dozen more. Soon, the quiet hum of the engine drowned under the clapping of thousands of watery hands that cheered for me to complete my last task: bring the dead body of Michael Ashburn to the address printed below his name.

    There was an address for Michael, too. I guess they wanted to make sure I didn’t just pick any random person with the same name. It made me realize they’d done this before. No doubt, they had. They planned everything a little too perfectly for a first run.

    I crumpled the page and tossed it into the street. The rain pounded harder now, and the small river in the gutter carried it away from me.

    Michael’s house stood before me. A single window burned on the second floor, and on the other side of the glass were a handful of Spider-Man posters, model Spaceships hanging from the ceiling, and a young boy gazing lazily up at the tumultuous sky. He couldn’t have been more than ten, which made it hard for me to imagine why they wanted him dead. Perhaps they didn’t want him dead for any other reason than to further their bullshit game. An unlucky name drawn out of the devil’s hat.

    After pulling the revolver out of the pocket of my hoodie, I walked to the house. In my other pocket was a key that opened the front door. Once I was inside, I stepped through the inky darkness toward the upper floor.

    There was a subtle hint of garlic and noodles hanging in the air that reminded me of my wife. She loved Italian food. Didn’t matter if it was American-Italian or authentic cuisine. She made it most nights, and that was all right. I loved her, and I wouldn’t let a little bit of repetition get in the way of that. In fact, I’d hoped for just one more chance to taste one of her dishes. All I needed to do was kill the boy and deliver the body. That’s it. Simple.

    The stairs groaned, betraying my silence as I crept through their home. At the top of the stairs, the hallway went either way. To my right, there was a thin bar of golden light burning at the bottom of one of the doors, and so I went that way. Once I was at the door, I put my hand on the cool brass doorknob, and lifted the gun.

    “Forgive me.” I said. I’m not sure exactly who I needed to forgive me. Maybe my wife. Maybe myself. Maybe the parents of this child that I was about to murder. I don’t know, but I turned the knob and opened the door.

    Just then, someone grabbed me from behind. The door to the child’s bedroom swung open hard, and I fell into the bedroom with my attacker landing on top of me. He was strong and reached for the gun. I frantically pointed it around the room hoping the boy would pass in front of it so I could finish the job. I figured that even if this man killed me, at least I could stop them from killing my wife by taking his kid out first.

    I screamed, “I have to do this! Let me go! You don’t understand!”

    “I know why you’re here.” The man said, and then struck me in my side. A sharp pain ran the length of my torso, and I groaned.

    “She’s gonna die, god damn it!”

    “She’s already dead!”

    My body froze. How would he know? Was he in on it? What in the hell did he do to my wife?

    Before I could come back from my haze of confusion, he wrestled the gun from me, and scurried away. A moment later, he was standing near the door with the gun pointed at me and his boy hiding behind him.

    “What did you do to my wife?” I screamed hoarsely because of all the weeping I’d done before coming to this place.

    “I didn’t do anything. It’s them.”

    “How…how do you know?”

    “Because they did it to me, too.” He said, and lowered the gun. “It’s already over, man. All you can do now is run.”

    “Bullshit!” I said, and lunged for him. He was too quick, though. He brought the gun up, and fired a round into my chest. I staggered back, tripped over the edge of the bed, and when I hit the floor, my head rapped against it. Lights out.

    # # # #

    I woke several hours later in the hospital. The storm had passed, but mottled clouds lingered in the sky and blocked the sun. There wasn’t a single cop in sight and no one had handcuffed to the bed. I’d expected at least that much, but I supposed the man didn’t call the police. In fact, he seemed to have saved my life despite my attempt to murder his boy.

    I looked around the small room, and was about to press the button to summon the nurse when I saw the small, black zippered case sitting on the over-bed table. My eyes lingered on the white symbol embroidered on the front of it, which was similar to that of the freemasons, except there was a skull in the center of it. I guess they had been in my room while I was out. Probably no one saw them. That’s how they were.

    I leaned over to pull the table closer to me, and a sudden shock of pain reminded me of why I was in the hospital. The pain burned from just below the thin hospital gown, and went much deeper into my chest. I winced, and pulled the zippered case onto my lap because it was easier than dragging the table over.

    There was a long hesitation before I opened it. Inside, there was a stack of Polaroids on the right. Each of them depicted various tortures they performed on my wife up to and including her death.

    As my eyes stung and my vision blurred, I threw them across the room. They fluttered around like two dozen bloodied butterflies flapping drunkenly to their final resting places. I choked back my tears, and nearly tossed the black case across the room as well but I saw a small note wedged into one of the pockets. I pulled it out, and unfolded it.

    I whispered the words as I read them. “You lost. Now it’s your turn.”

          1. Reaper

            Thank you sir. And in case you missed it you have done awful things to my brain as I am now attempting to murder the passive voice in all my writing and finding it more and more disruptive in my reading.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is really great and suspenseful, Jay. I was vaguely reminded of the LARP (Live Action Role Playing) game “Assassin”, which has a similar situation, only this time it’s played for keeps. You did a great job building suspense: until the epilogue I was half-expecting the MC to wind up dead. 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I have to hand it to you Jay, this is quality writing despite being out of my comfort zone, but I would read a second part because it is captivating.

  23. jhowe

    I’m not sure what to think of this. It has possible elements that could offend. Sorry in advance.

    The Hunt

    Jose Brumba checked his rifle as the guests mingled and waited on the sun dried Central Mexican soil. The morning was bright and warm as a large male raccoon ambled to the roadkill pile and began to eat.
    Ladies and gentlemen,” Jose said. “That lumbering beast is worth only five points. Do you want to know why?”

    The guests perked up their ears but said nothing.

    “I’ll tell you why.” Jose pointed the rifle and shot the raccoon between the eyes. “Because ladies and gentlemen, because there is no challenge. You can shoot one, and minutes later another one will come. There is no sport in it.”

    There was murmuring from the crowd but still nobody said a word.

    “Now crows are another story. Crows are wily and patient. To shoot a crow, one must be cunning.”

    A woman said, “How many points for a crow?”

    “A crow will earn 50 points.” Jose pointed to the sky. “Those vultures are not as crafty. They are patient, yes, but they are stupid.” He leaned his rifle against a folding chair. “A vulture is worth 25 points.”

    Jose walked to a large chain link pen and unlatched the gate. Several snarling hyenas growled and paced. Ladies and gentlemen, the hyena is a vicious animal with no scruples whatsoever.”
    The people backed away. One man said, “Sir, do not open that gate!”

    “Fear not,” said Jose. “These animals will flee the first chance they get. But they will return at night for they cannot resist the temptation of the bait we will leave for them.” He opened the gate and the hyenas sprinted for cover and were not seen again. “The hyena is worth 100 points. But be warned, if you shoot at one; be sure of your aim because they will attack.”

    The people began to talk amongst themselves in excited whispers.

    “And now ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce our special guest.” A sweating man in a three piece striped suit walked on wobbly legs and stood beside Jose. “This is Jonathon Swarley, AKA the Jackal of Burbank. He is a personal injury lawyer. “

    Swarley loosened his tie and cleared his throat but said nothing.

    A woman said, “How many points for the lawyer?”

    “Madame, personal injury attorneys are worth 250 points.”

    1. Cceynowa

      I find 0 offense in this jhowe. Indeed, it was quite enjoyable! (Side note: my husband and I are actually participating in a “predator calling” contest next weekend. The rules/goals are similar, minus the hyenas and lawyers of course.) I wasn’t really surprised by the reveal, but could definitely see a much larger tale from this brief segment. Perhaps from the viewpoint of one of the hunters? What kind of person would participate and not be surprised by the special guest? Interesting and intriguing story. Thanks for sharing!

    2. Reaper

      A good story can be for everyone, a great one always risks offending at least one class of people. I agree with Jay, never apologize. Unless you write to create hate, which you don’t. There is a fine line between hate mongering and social commentary. When I read the end of this I took this not as a most dangerous game situation. I took the woman’s comment as a joke and the host’s response as playing into it. However, the writer was making a comment on the devastation ambulance chasing and things like it cause to a society. You made it funny because of the internal joke, and poignant because of the dark, not haha funny humor on the outside. Difficult and masterfully done.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I loved it, you wanna know why ? In my immediate family, eight lawyers reside. But please don’t quote me, one is a real estate attorney, [my daughter in law], she doesn’t fit the scene. So that leaves only seven to pick on.

  24. Observer Tim

    THE FINAL ITEM

    The afternoon sun gleams off the polished metal amazon as she floats a foot above Primrose Avenue. The weapon pods on her high-tech armour shine like gemstones, and her aggressive stance says screams that she’s ready for whatever comes next.

    Iron Maiden is only a B-list supervillain, but that’s more than enough for us: we’re high-school students. The boys’ team is already down: Combat Lad is wrapped in a Buick, Max Power is sucking pavement, Bling has been totally blung and Bob-Sothoth is a tangled mess of tentacles, eyeballs, and bicycle stand. They didn’t even smudge her finish.

    She turns all seven feet of her attention to us.

    “Thinking of running, girls? Good idea, but it’s too late.”

    A perfectly-timed jump means she misses my legs but the spray of darts from her hip launcher shreds both tires on this side of the FoxWagen. Great; fixing that will come out of my allowance.

    The Prize sits in plain view: her chest emblem. The shiny chrome badge is right between her breasts, visible (and a little sexy) but untouchable. It’s the final, hardest to get and only unique item in Wagner High’s Spirit Week Scavenger Hunt.

    The eight supers in the school were divided up, boys versus girls, and given a list of items to acquire in heroic fashion. Our teams are tied with only one prize left, so it’s all or nothing now.

    Phantasie’s voice rises from behind the car, “What do we do, Vix? Our plan was to catch her by surprise!”

    “I’m thinking!” Our original plan had been for Phantasie to distract her with an illusionary superhero long enough for Wallflower to sneak up and take the emblem. By now Iron Maiden would be running all her sensors in combat mode, so that wouldn’t work.

    I strike a crouch pose on top of the car. If Maiden can mug for the cameras, so can I. That’s half of what this business is about; lots of boys look at my spandex-clad ass one-handed, if you get my drift.
    A voice forms in my head, “Vixen?”

    “Yeah, Psyche?”

    “She’s looking at you.”

    “Duh.”

    “No, she’s *looking* at you. Like the boys do.”

    That gives me an idea. “Okay, get Phan to illusion herself and you to look like me. Flower will know what to do.”

    Suddenly there are three of me, all showing off for Iron Maiden. Her faceplate turns rapidly, trying to keep all of us in sight.

    A tiny ball of goo hits Phantasie and expands into a capture net, blowing her concentration. The illusion goes down. A mini-missile explodes in Psyche’s face and she drops.

    I leap at her using a flying spin kick. She lets me slam into her; it’s like a bird hitting a window. I flail against her armour to no effect.

    Well, almost no effect. While she’s concentrating on my hopeless attempts to hurt her, a transparent hand reaches up and deftly plucks the emblem off her chest. Good ol’ Wallflower.

    Victory!

    1. Observer Tim

      An utterly unrelated note for those who missed the last prompt. If you go to my site (click on my name) and select the “And More” tab on the top menu, you can see the nifty paper hat I made for St. Patrick’s Day.

    2. Observer Tim

      Epilogue:

      I come to in the back of the FoxWagen, my limbs aching and splayed in random directions. There’s a note pinned to my chest.

      It has a phone number and a message on it, “Call me and I can teach you some more effective hand-to-hand moves. I.M.” I try not to notice it doesn’t say ‘combat’.

    3. Reaper

      Nice Tim. At the very beginning I was reminded of skyhigh or whatever the name of that movie about the super hero high school was named. It didn’t stay that way for long, it got a lot grittier while still maintaining a light, humorous feel. At the end of your opening paragraph you have a says screams repetition. That’s the only thing like it I saw though and this is just so enjoyable and well written.

      1. Observer Tim

        Thanks, Reaper. Yes, Sky High was the movie. I’ve done some more background work on this world since I created it (Valentine’s Day Escape Plan) and I hope to reveal more. It’s a cynical dystopia hiding underneath a thin veneer of morality; the ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’ are less different than one might think.

        Thanks for catching the werpo – there always seems to be one. Sigh.

    4. Manwe38

      This was excellent, ObserverTim. Fast-paced, witty, and fun.

      Loved the line about the boys watching her ass one-handed….I’ll have to remember that one.

      Enjoyedthe epilogue, as well.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Great job Tim. One handed distractions were a gas. At least not everything went wrong. And good ol’ wallflower to the rescue. Tight, taut and sexy at the same time. Great dish of words to spoon down.

  25. cosi van tutte

    Yay! It’s under 500 words!

    It’s us against them. The girls versus the boys. The May So Happy Group versus the Scrappy Kneed Busters Group. Me against him.

    I am Patrice Gloriham, leader of the May So Happy Group.

    He is Beneficial Roberts, leader of the Scrappy Kneed Busters Group.

    I am human.

    He is a gargoyle.

    We used to be part of Diva Kaneesha’s entourage. But we both fell out of favor with her.

    We fell out of favor with each other. We went our separate ways.

    We’ve avoided each other with careful precision. Until this morning. He came to our clubroom and handed me a challenge letter. His group versus my group in a scavenger hunt. The loser would be the winner’s slave for a whole month.

    I intend to win.

    I will win.

    Beneficial Roberts will be my slave for a whole month.

    ***

    My girls have found all of the items on the list. There’s only one item left.

    And it doesn’t make sense.

    I read it over once, twice, too many times. So many times. The letters should bleed out of my eyes and trail down my face. I’ve read it that many times. So, of course, I read it one more time.

    This time, it makes sense. And I know.

    I know I am the only one who can retrieve it.

    I just don’t know if I want to do it.

    But we’re so close to victory. To give up now would be like making a cake and deciding not to frost it. It would be a colossal waste of time.

    I tell my girls to return to the clubroom. I will retrieve the last item on my own.

    I intend to win.

    I will win.

    I walk over to the Scrappy Kneed Buster’s Group’s clubhouse.

    Beneficial Roberts stands in front of it, waiting all alone. He smiles a nervous twitch as I approach.

    “I am here to retrieve the last item.”

    His smile turns genuine. “And I will give it to you.” He cups my face in between his large hands.
    I don’t object.

    And he kisses me.

    So, I kiss him too.

    ***

    It’s amazing how many things one can accomplish when they have a gargoyle and his gang as slaves for a whole month. So many little tasks. So many big repairs.

    I watch him patch a hole in our roof and smile. He sees me and smiles back.

    That’s when I realize that some repairs are bigger and less obvious than others. And I am happy.

    1. Reaper

      This is very sweet. Congratulations on getting under five hundred! My favorite line in this – The letters should bleed out of my eyes and trail down my face. It is perfectly graphic in a literary way without being gory. Nice job.

    2. Cceynowa

      Awwww…. I love love stories. This was a simple and sweet read, at first glance. At second glance I re-read for the wonderful flow and literary techniques you employed. Well done.

      1. cosi van tutte

        Thanks, Roan. I almost made that line “…would be like making a cake and leaving it in the rain”, but I liked “deciding not to frost it” better. 🙂

    3. JM Somebody

      This flowed beautifully. I loved the style you employed — almost Hemmingwayish with it’s short, spare sentences and strategic repetition.

      You also have a unique way with names. I enjoyed the quirky names even when their meaning wasn’t apparent. And I loved your gargoyle. Wish human men were more like this. 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I really loved this Cosi. I’m also a sap for love stories. Well written, poetic and sharp at the same time. I am truly impressed with your style. Great job here.

      2. cosi van tutte

        Hey, JM!

        Thanks for your comments, especially about my gargoyle. 🙂

        I initially was going to give the MC more of a Valley Girl “Ohmigosh!” voice, but it didn’t fit well with the story I wanted to tell. Once I had the right voice in place, the story just came on out.

  26. Reaper

    That Unreachable Note

    Mist curled through the valley like plumes exhaled from a smoking giant. Cadets stared daggers across the expanse. Graduation day, history stood ready for writing and repetition. Tablets washed faces on both sides with dimmed but sickly green glows as intense faces studied the lists. The handheld delivering the list was unique in being the only uniform piece of equipment.

    Team Amazon perched east of the valley. Sheathed in leather, velvet and lace to emulate the style of a British dominatrix. Yet after four years in the hellish academy the ladies stood devoid of any femininity except the external. Empty soul cavities stripped of maternal instinct now lay bloated with pride and bloodlust, courtesy of the officers. Eden stood as their seeker, the nameless sisters hers protectors and backups.

    To the west Team Mars stood, rigid as black powder riflemen. Adorned like Spartans with less shame and fewer body issues. The males contained nothing to empty them of, from birth they knew only war and service. Their seeker lived a faceless, nameless existence like his protectors. Men served only two purposes, military devastation and continuing the race. Only those who survived this indoctrination could receive a name and then only at the whim of the woman whose household they served. Thus it was, and so would it continue until the XYs finally triumphed on graduation day.

    Behind the Amazons the sky tinted scarlet, dawning light punctuating the chill permeating the air. A cry from the battle horn spilled forth loud enough to tear the air asunder. So it began. So it always began.

    Earth churned into muddy mist, turf tore free to fly like tiny green birds. These young, after four years training together, charged the bottom of the valley akin to slightly modest Picts. Today they were enemies, there could be no mercy nor surrender. A thin red film quickly colored the sky, filling it with the scent of genealogical rust. Metal clanged against metal as the symphony of honor lost and discovered began.

    Eden absorbed the sensory banquet before turning to her task. The officers compiled the list in riddle and mystery. Her mind was sharp, her arm strong, and her legs quick. She would win the day. The first items came quickly, as simple things often do.

    She read Captain Tripps from the list then collected the correct mushroom. The finger of the tear shedder led her to hack a branch from the appropriate willow. Twenty items on the list, Eden collected nineteen in less than an hour. Then she spied the last. She knew where to find it but it would not be easy to obtain. Thankfully she was cunning and patient as well as strong.

    Cleopatra’s sister’s prize.

    Eden smiled slow and wicked. Her feet carried her to the latrine to crouch and hide beside it. Her sword drawn, she meditated on the need. Eventually the commander’s man whore would come to do his business. Then the women would win the day, yet again.

    1. cosi van tutte

      Hey, Reaper!

      This is a great line -> “Adorned like Spartans with less shame and fewer body issues.” And, just so you know, that is one wicked ending paragraph. In the best possible way, of course. 🙂

      1. Reaper

        Thanks cosi! I’m trying to focus on style things and a few others that I want to work on instead of telling the whole story in the five hundred words. I think next week I’m going to start trying to weave a continuous story through the prompts for a while. On this one I kept the focus on describing imagery without actively doing so where possible, building an unspoken back story, and using a female MC. I’m really uncomfortable with female mains in my writing but want to stretch myself here.

        1. Cceynowa

          Any discomfort certainly did not show. And bravo on the imagery presented in this peace. You paired an poetic scenery description with hard edged “facts” to the story seamlessly. Thank you for sharing!

          1. Reaper

            Thank you Cceynowa. I guess it mostly showed for me as this took about three times as long to come up with and write as normal for me.

    2. Priya

      Great vivid descriptions.
      “Her mind was sharp, her arm strong, and her legs quick. She would win the day. The first items came quickly, as simple things often do”

      “Empty soul cavities stripped of maternal instinct now lay bloated with pride and bloodlust, courtesy of the officers.”

    3. Observer Tim

      Fantastic imagery, Reaper. This is a very dark setting and quite well described. You managed to convey a sense of the hostilities in a largely poetic manner. All in all, great job! 🙂

      One thing confuses me a bit: the term “man whore” implies that the norm for concubines is female, which seems to be a violation of the setting. Given that the men are on the bottom of the social structure it seems more likely that a female servant would be a “girl-whore” and the man just a “whore”. Unfortunately, that would also cause confusion in it’s own way. Perhaps “favourite boy-slave”, but I’m sure you could come up with something better.

      1. Reaper

        Thanks Tim! That means a lot. That one term actually bothered me and I left it in only as a way of describing to the reader but you’re right, it breaks the flow and could be much better. Thanks for pointing that out because I wasn’t entirely sure why it seemed so wrong to me.

    4. Manwe38

      I can’t say much more than already has been said.

      This was dark awesome, and publication-worthy. You really pulled me into your world here, and i want to know more.

      Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

      1. Reaper

        Thank you Manwe. I doubt if the continuing story will be for this line. I don’t think I can continue this without building a world that offends me and if I don’t enjoy it I won’t write it. Though now I have thoughts circling over something in a similar or before setting for the continuing idea. We shall see what next week brings.

    5. JM Somebody

      This is very dense writing, which makes the reader work harder but pays off in vivid, original imagery. I liked the smoking giant line a lot.

      I recognize some familiar themes for you — the band of dominant warrior women in particular. Still, this was different for you in that it held back on the horror, but certainly promised plenty of bloodshed to come. I think you are stretching yourself slowly but surely. Interesting read and thought process, Resper.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        The color in your writing is intense, vibrant and stunning. I love this kind of stuff. There are so many great lines here, it’s difficult to choose one. But I’ll settle on “Cleopatra’s sister’s prize” for I know what that is and clamped my legs shut as I read it.

        1. Reaper

          Thanks Kerry, thank you very much! That means a lot to me. I read about the necklace somewhere and can’t remember where. I went to look her up and can’t find any information so was just hoping what I read was well known enough someone would get it. I should have guessed it would be you. 🙂

      2. Reaper

        Thanks, I think. Woohoo, literary? 😉

        Hmmm, I don’t know that I would call anyone on screen in this story dominant but I see where you’re coming from. There is a standard theme for me, people in power who are abusing that power, it’s one of my go tos and the ones being controlled not spending enough time thinking about it. I’m not trying to stretch the themes at the moment so I definitely see that. It’s more like using some long underused muscles in the style department. Thanks for the comments. They have me thinking deep thoughts.

  27. Lee Herveiux

    Hi Everyone 🙂 So, just so nobody’s confused, I’m the former Tea_and_a_book. This is my new, “Official” pseudonym, the one I’ll be using on my blog and for if/when I publish my first novel. That being said, the story was a bit too long to post. I’ll be working on a different one soon, but if you would like to read my original, you can find on my blog at http://goo.gl/YUe1lS . Just leave any comments and/ or critiques here!

    1. Lee Herveiux

      So, finally, my new story! I hope everyone enjoys it!
      ———————————————————————
      “Mama!” No, not yet. It’s Sunday, I was supposed to get to sleep until 8!

      “MOTHER!” Why can’t those annoying little beasties leave me to sleep?

      “Mom, are you up yet?” Ugh. Looks like I don’t have a choice. Fine, then. Only 14 more years until the house is all mine again.

      “MOOOTTTHHHEEERRR!!!”

      “I’M COMING!” What did they want this time, anyways?

      “C’mon, Mom, it’s the day of the scavenger hunt! We’re going to be late!” Oh, fantastic. I’d forgotten all about that blasted scavenger hunt. A family affair, it was to be. Each family split into their own teams to find the items, and the first one back won.

      “I’m coming, give me a minute!” Where’s my makeup kit? Oh, Jenny better not have been playing with it again. That stuff is expensive. Wait, is that it? Over by the – oh. Eww. There is approximately a quarter pound of sand in my makeup bag. Oh, well, I don’t have time for makeup today anyways.

      “Mama! We need to weave!” That would be Jenny, with her adorable little lisp and button nose.

      “Come on, Mom! We’re going to be late!” I don’t want to. Leave me alone.

      “They’re right, Mother. We do need to leave.” Stop bothering me!

      “MOOOOM!” All of them, this time. Why can’t they leave me alone? I don’t want to get up, I shouldn’t have to. I want to stay asleep. Fine. I will get out of bed. I will participate in the stupid little scavenger hunt. And then I will take a vacation week and stay home alone.

      Clomp! Clomp! Clomp! Ugh. Why can’t these shoes be quieter? I sound like a horse when I go up or down stairs. Like a big, stupid horse. With the three most annoying kids ever. Oh well, at least I’ll have someone to take care of me if I ever get old. Which, at the rate these brats are stressing me out, will never happen.

      Okay, where’s the car keys? Oh, okay, in my purse. Let’s go, minis. Hurry hurry hurry, like always. Which park are we going to? The one on first? Or the one on tenth? Probably the one on first. Okay, here we are. That would be the lists. They don’t seem too hard, at least most of them.

      Let’s go get the first ten items, they’re all in the same place, right? Okay, This shouldn’t be too hard, maybe we can even get done before lunchtime. Or, you know, not. Whichever. I’m more than ready to be done already, and we’ve only been doing this for a little over a half hour.

      Okay, what’s the next few items? Good, we have all of those at home. This really isn’t that hard at all, is it? Okay, almost done with the list. Wait, what’s the last item?

      “Jen, stop throwing popsicles in the car!”

      “Mom, Kathy’s trying to read over my shoulder again!”

      “Mother, Sussane’s tattling!”

      “Both of you, knock it off!” All three children looked up in shock at the angry tone in their mother’s voice, and went silent.

      “Yes, Ma’am,” came the chorus from the backseat.

      Well, that’s more like it. Okay, last object. What is it? Wow, I didn’t realize the list was this long. Ahh, okay, here’s the bottom. Wait, what kind of object is that?!?

      “MOTHER, LOOK OUT!” A shrill scream rang up from the backseat. Carmen looked up just in time to see the red light she hadn’t been paying attention to, and the semi truck racing towards them, the driver honking and waving the arm he wasn’t trying to steer away with.

      Oh, yes. This should help me get the last item quite easily. So, I’ll just stop the car. See this, children? This is what happens when you make mommy go places on Sunday. Goodbye, you little brats.

      The screams of the three girls got louder. Then, the horrible crunching of metal on metal, the unmistakable sound of breaking bones, and the screaming of onlookers. All of the noise from the two vehicles stopped, the truck driven mostly because of shock. Blood pooled out underneath the small red station wagon, blending with the color of the paint.

      “Hey, what’s that?” One confused, somewhat less shocked man on the sidelines had spotted a piece of paper, half jammed under the car, already becoming soaked in blood. He walked over and tenderly pulled out the large sheet of now-red paper from under the car.

      It seemed to be a list of some sort, maybe for that scavenger hunt thing going on in the park. He skimmed it quickly. All of the items seemed fairly normal, for the most part. But there, on the very bottom, was scrawled in a woman’s handwriting, was an item he knew shouldn’t have been on the list. An item that chilled him to the bone.

      The very last item? The blood of three little girls.

      1. Observer Tim

        Whoa, this had a sudden turn for the darker. Sounds like Mom went off the deep end. Either that or one of her relatives has a very very dark sense of humour. 😉

        The perspective shift in the “MOTHER, LOOK OUT!” paragraph kind of threw me. It appears to be a hangover from a broader edit.

      2. Reaper

        Wow, that’s creepy and well written. You have all the hints early on. The reveal is well done and shocking but looking back I see, this should have been obvious. Nicely done there. Just all around good and creepy writing.

      3. JM Somebody

        Whoa, you got me good. I found myself actually relating to the internal monologue of the MC, and then all of a sudden, not so much! Creepy is the word. Maybe you could throw in a couple of hints along the way that the mother was about to snap (or had already had.) Her train of thought up until that moment seems a little incongruous with what she was plannig — worrying about her makeup, hoping to finish by noon, etc. But it was well written and a good read!

    2. Roan

      Having trouble finding my way to your blog. Will try some other way to access, any suggestions? Question: How did you change your pseudonym. Mine is antiquated.

    3. Roan

      Roan March 22, 2015 at 11:09 pm

      Having trouble finding my way to your blog. Will try some other way to access, any suggestions? Question: How did you change your pseudonym. Mine is antiquated.

  28. ReathaThomasOakley

    Scavenger Hunt with the Girl

    “Miz Tuggle?”

    “Girl, jes let me think on this.”

    “What we gonna do? Mama’s in this here television, and you say my time’s come. Miz Tuggle, what time you mean? This don’t make no…”

    “Girl, hush up now. I know it don’t make no sense. We gotta make it make sense.” Elva Tuggle sat down in the closest chair, a white wicker one better than anything at her motel. Everything in the room was better than at her motel.

    “Girl, you been to this here tourist home ‘fore now? You been here with your mama when she comes to clean?”

    “No, mam, I ain’t never been here.” The Girl squatted in front of the television set and put her hands on the screen. “That’s my mama inside there. How’d she get inside?”

    “Girl, how’d you know how to get us here?”

    “That was you, Miz Tuggle, you brung us here.”

    “No, yore Granny said for me to jes’ take a hold yore hand and it was like we was flyin’. It was you, Girl. Yore Granny tole me you’d gonna know what to do, you gonna use yore gifts.” The Girl put her face up to the television screen. “Girl, you think on this. What YOU think you gotta do?”

    “Miz Tuggle, there’s a haint right by where yore a sittin’. It’s Granny’s mama. See, she’s got the teeth, just like me. She’s a tellin’ me something, things I gotta find to get Mama out.”

    “Girl, you tell me what she’s a tellin’ you and I’m gonna write it down on this here paper I found with the tourist home name on it. I’m gonna make you a list and we gonna go find those things. It’s gonna be like a game we gonna play, like back when yore Granny and me was girls. We’d team up and try to find ever thing ‘fore the boys.”

    “Yes, mam, but I don’t do good playin’ games.” The Girl frowned. “Great Granny says I gotta have that sword by me always. I gotta find me seven sharp palmetto fronds and weave ‘em into a heart, ‘cause I love my mama. I gotta find me a green water snake and a little green frog, they gonna scare off them red haints. I don’t like red haints. Then…” The Girl stopped talking.

    “What is it, Girl? What yore Mama’s granny a tellin’ you?”

    “Miz Tuggle, this don’t make no sense.”

    “Tell me, Girl. I’ll write it down and we gonna go get it.”

    “Miz Tuggle. Great Granny says, I gotta go find my daddy.”

    “Yore daddy? Since I first seen you when you was just a little thing grinnin’ with them extra teeth, ain’t no body said nothin’ ‘bout you havin’ a daddy.”

    Inside the television set Myrtis thought, please Lord, just a while longer ‘fore she has to find her daddy.

    1. Reaper

      I like the dialogue, this had a more serious and intense feel to it, and the last thought from the mother was just chilling. Very nice still. I think I’m addicted to stories about the girl.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thank you, and the story is getting darker than I’d like. My time for participating in the weekly challenge is becoming more and more limited, so this could be the final appearance of the Girl. I do appreciate all the input from you and others. My best to everyone. Keep writing!

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thank you. As I replied to Reaper, this could be the last little story. It’s been fun, and I’ve enjoyed the interactions, but I have some pressing obligations and want to use my available time on poetry and play writing–I love writing dialogue! Keep writing!

    2. Observer Tim

      This is getting dark, Reatha, and still fascinating. I would love to see more about the family and their situations and tribulations. 🙂

      I read your other reasponses, and would argue against it mainly in that this forum is a chance to experiment with ideas, forms, and structures. It’s also a good way to relax from more “serious” writing. That said, we all have to balance our time as best we can. My suggestion is to reduce but not eliminate your presence here, unless you find it to be a temptation to consume time. 😉

    3. Observer Tim

      This continues to be great, Reatha; I am very curious to see where this is going. I would love to see more stories of these and other characters. 🙂

      I’ve read your other responses; we all have to balance our time and this site is one of many things that can consume it. I suggest that you use this site when you want to experiment with new ideas, genres and structures; it’s a great sounding board if there’s something you’re not sure of. Don’t be a stranger!

    4. JM Somebody

      Ah, the plot thickens… This installment provided some fresh impetus, and the mothers wish to put off the moment when the girl meets he father is some ominous foreshadowing. I’m hooked! 🙂

  29. jhowe

    Ten thousand dollars was a lot to risk to take part in a treasure hunt but the prize money collected along the way were rumored to be huge. The buy-in had been taken care of thanks to a loan from David’s mother obtained under false pretenses. We both felt bad about that.

    “I don’t believe it,” said David. “We’ve got almost fifty grand and we’re only half done.”

    “Don’t count the money yet,” I said keeping my eyes on the road. “We can’t keep it unless we win.”

    “There!” David said. “That billboard with the kittens. Pull in there.” After five minutes of searching we found the satchel in some scrub brush. A man with a shotgun revealed himself from behind a mound of dirt and we took only one bundle from the bag and ran back to the car.

    “Read the clue,” I said shaking as I thumbed through a stack of hundreds. A white Audi Q5 pulled in beside us and two women got out and began searching.

    “This round requires a nimble mind and a short drive north to the land of pi.” David took a breath and continued. “Here you will find that circumference is not all it is cracked up to be.” He looked at me with eyes shining. “Ok genius, what do you think?”

    “It’s that new building with all the glass, I said. “The curved windows keep cracking and they don’t know how to fix it.”

    “Christ, you’re right. Let’s go.”

    “No, we need to do something about Gwen and Linda. I think they’re following us.” I turned south and circled around until we came to the building from the back side. The next three clues were difficult but we managed to solve them but we couldn’t shake the girls.

    “Holy shit,” David said. “They’re right behind us.”

    “They must have a tracking device or something.”

    “This is the last clue.”

    “Don’t read it yet. They might have the car bugged.”

    “What do we do?” David said.

    I stuffed the money and the clues into David’s backpack and got out of the car and motioned for him to follow. The Audi pulled up and stopped. “We give up,” I called. The girls looked at us with contempt on their pretty faces.

    “What the hell are you doing?” said David.

    “Give me the clue.” He did and I read it. I stuffed it into my pocket and ran between two buildings as David followed. We climbed a fence and jogged toward the river, weaving between buildings and skirting parking lots.

    “What’s the clue say?” David said.

    “I can’t say,” I said breathing hard. “I don’t know where the bug is. It might be on one of us.”

    “That’s crazy talk Bryce.”

    “Is it?” I said as the Audi quietly pulled into a boat launch area across the street.

    “What in the hell are you trying to say?”

    I took the clue from my pocket and handed it to him. “Don’t forget to pay your mother back.” Gwen and Linda came up to us.

    “Where is it Bryce?” Gwen said sidling beside David and looping her arm through his.

    “Danged if I know.”

    “Come on man,” David says. “We need you. We’ll give you half.”

    “Bullshit,” said Gwen.

    “Bullshit is right Sweetie,” I said. “I’m thinking more like two thirds.” A pickup truck pulled in and two men got out and started searching.

    “Ok, half,” said Gwen. I turned and started walking. “Fine, two thirds; now where is it!”

    I held out my hand and they each shook it. I walked over to a Porta Jon and pulled a satchel from behind it and tossed it to David. “Just be sure to pay your mother back dude.”

    “But what about your money?” David said.

    “What, you think I don’t trust you?”

    1. Cceynowa

      How interesting. Did you ever watch the series “Take the money and run?” I think that was the name of it, where you’re given 1 million dollars to hide in an hour, and a set of detectives have a day to find it. That series is what your well written story made me think of: an intriguing snippet of something that could go into oh-so much more detail. Nicely done.

    2. Reaper

      This was interesting though the ending confused me a bit. I got the impression David was working with the girls against his friend but then the trust thing threw me off. It seems like he was being played but still chose to believe in friendship and optimism. Not sure if I picked that up right.

    3. Observer Tim

      This story reminds me of a contest comedy (It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, Cannonball Run, Monte Carlo or Bust!, …). If it were one of those, either (a) David would betray them somehow, or (b) the two guys would be hooked up with the two girls by the end. All in all, it’s a fun memory, jhowe! 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Exciting and grittty jhowe, gad I would have loved a treasure hunt like you’re describing, It’s just something about hard cash that maker me feel all cozy inside.

  30. Pete

    Mine’s a little long, sorry.

    When I woke up the morning of the scav hunt, I hopped on Tia’s bed to make sure she was ready.
    “Come on, up and at ’em.”

    “Just go on without me. “

    I ripped the comforter off her bed and regretted it immediately. Tia shot me a look that could wound steel.

    “Please?” I asked softly.

    We gathered in the North Lawn. Pi Kappa vs. Delta Tau. Boys against girls. From the looks of the boys, they’d had a night. We’d have this thing won by afternoon.

    The rules were pretty straight forward. And we’d been given the list a few days ago. Standard fare, mostly. The Dean Randolph’s signature, 30 points. A picture of Professor Dellstein smoking a cig was worth 45. Other stuff was pretty simple. A Tyllston flag was five points. A lame ticket stub from the basketball game was a point.

    I caught Scott’s eye and he offered a butterfly-inducing grin. I arched my back and kept my game face intact, but Tia was on to me.

    “He’s got you so whipped.”

    “No,” I said without looking at her or even finishing the sentence. But maybe. He stood out from the rest of them, his v-neck shirt and sunglasses, his effortless hair arranged like he just stepped out of an episode of Hart of Dixie. We’d met a couple of months ago at a party. And now we were, well, I don’t know.

    Tia scoffed. “Too pretty for me, I like a guy with some character.”

    There were plenty of those to go around. I grabbed Tia and out group got off to a great start. Because we’d mapped out the campus and knew it would be easy to swing by the gym and get the easy items first. By ten we had most of the stuff marked off the list.

    Coach Millen’s whistle.

    A quarter pound of chewed gum from under the bleachers (Eww).

    Both basketball goal nets.

    We were in and out before the first hungover Kappa boy swung through the doors.

    We ate lunch with the enemy. The guys had a keg in the front of their house and it was pretty much a party. We didn’t disclose our list, but I knew we were crushing them. Most of them had only showed for the free beer anyway.

    Scott offered me a cup. I was a junior and day drinking wasn’t exactly a novel concept. It was just what we did. The sun was out and spring was unwraveling in the yard. Scott pumped the keg, his wiry arms were already nice and tan. He smiled and I scooted closer to him. Tia was over near the grill, all arms crossed and standoffish with some uh, characters. I turned back to Scott and he kissed my neck. It was nice.

    Sure we were dating but all was fair. On our list was one object that was a secret. The Kappa paddle. And I had a means to an end.

    We got back to the hunt that afternoon. By five or so we were set, although Beth’s giggling nearly got us busted over at the Dellstein residence. But I wanted thepaddle. And I wanted Scott. He had a way about him that just kind of drew me in.

    The sun slipped down and the music came on. I joined Scott inside. We kissed near the steps. He asked if I wanted to go upstairs. I did. I wasn’t drunk, but at the same time I didn’t want Tia asking me a bunch of questions. Besides, I was ready.

    I’ll leave out the details. He was my first. It was great and not-so-great and a moment I will always remember for so many reasons. Sure, it would have been nice if we were somewhere more private, but again, this was college. I was used to constant noise.

    In the kitchen below us some kids chanted so loud that I felt it in the mattress. Scott stood up. Tia was right. He was perfect. He wiped the hair from his eyes and smirked. I gave him a lazy smile. He walked out to use the bathroom

    And that’s when I saw it.

    No, not the paddle. Something worse. Something that changed the course of my life. I was looking for my clothes when I saw the haphazardly folded piece of paper peeking out of his jacket. Perhaps it was all the games and competition of the day, but I looked.

    It was the list. Just like ours. The items and points. Some marked and crossed out and some waiting to be crossed out. It was only at the bottom where I saw this list was different. There was no paddle on this list. Instead, like an item on a menu, I saw my name.

    Jennifer Brent’s Virginity – 500 Points!

    1. Cceynowa

      What! No! He didn’t… he did! This was wild Pete! I kid you not, I blushed for the girl at the end. It was a humorous story, and she was playing him just as he was playing her… but I never saw the ending coming! Great job with the reveal.

    2. Observer Tim

      I find myself conflicted on this one; there’s a sense of poetic justice (she’s getting played while she thinks she’s doing the playing) tempered by a degree of outrage. All in all an excellent story! 🙂

    3. JM Somebody

      Ooh, that was a nasty surprise. I like the way you lulled the reader with a tale of college romance and then pulled the rug out. Crafty, Pete.

      1. JM Somebody

        P.s. Sorry — I wrote a frat story too, complete with jerks, but different enough — I hope! I wrote it last night but I like to let it cool for a day so I can look at it with fresh eyes. No resemblance intended!

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Pete, I also joined in a fraternity hunt but I never read a prompt response before posting. I loved our ending, mine wasn’t nearly as exciting.

    4. Cynthia Page

      Nicely written story. Players playing each other. My only objection was the reveal at the end. This frat scavenger turned out to be a real bottom feeder. A paddle is harmless. Her virginity put into play for a game is downright mean. Not you. Your MC. This was well written and unfortunately realistic. Good job.

      1. Pete

        Thanks all for the feedback. I think the college scavenger hunt was the most natural selection! Cynthia, I’m with you, I wrote this kind of light but yes, my mc is/was kind of naive and Scott is just a scumbag!

  31. Cceynowa

    BREAKING NEWS: BONGO GOES MISSING – POSSIBLE SCIENCE PROJECT GONE WRONG

    (EXPRESS REPORTER) At approximately 10:25 AM on Thursday, March 19, 2015 Hobbestown middle school was alerted to the kidnapping of Principal Stevens’ goldfish, Bongo T-Shark. Principal Stevens last saw Bongo at 10:00 AM prior to his routine morning walk. The kidnapping may possibly be linked to Mr. Davis’ latest Science Project: “Scavenger’s in Biology.” Mr. Davis denied any knowledge of the kidnapping and ardently defended his teaching methods saying, “When students have an active role in their studies they are 80% more likely to retail the information after the standard examination.” Mr. Davis has gained popularity among students due to his hands-on methods. If Bongo’s disappearance has anything to do with the latest project, it will be a black mark on the science program.

    Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Bongo, please contact Mrs. Jeawick in the administrative office.

    Mikey finished reading the article off the school’s website. “The newspaper kids have to get a life. How’d they get this up so quick?” I shrugged my shoulders. It hadn’t even been two hours since we swiped the fish, and the entire school knew about it.

    “You think we should give him back?” Ken nervously peaked inside his lunchbox to make sure Bongo was still swimming.

    “Don’t have much of a choice do we?” I said.

    “What about the list? Davis said the only hundred he’d give was for a complete list.”

    Mikey, Ken and I weren’t straight A students. Hell, we weren’t even straight C students. We needed a hundred on this project or else we would be off the football team. “No Pass, No Play” was a bitch.

    “We’ve got everything else,” Mikey said, “right down to the chicken feather. Smart thinking on that Andy.” I shrugged again. It had been pure chance that we’d found a feather at the agriculture barn.

    Davis had a habit of assigning seemingly impossible projects. The seniors had to drop an egg off the top row of the football stadium without breaking it. The junior high kids had to build a three foot bridge using only q-tips. And we got a biological scavenger hunt. Our class always drew the shitty deals.

    “What else could he mean by aging fish?”

    “I don’t know; seems pretty obvious to me.”

    Laughing drew our attention. Mary, Ellen, and Kristy were walking down the sidewalk. “Hey Andy,” Mary said, “did you see the news? Some idiots in our class stole Bongo!” The girls continued to laugh. Mikey and I exchanged a glance.

    “Yeah, idiots,” Mikey agreed. “Guess they got the clue wrong. How’s your hunt going?”

    “Oh we’re done,” Ellen said over her shoulder as they continued to walk. “Hated asking the lunch ladies you know, but got it all anyway.”

    “Lunch ladies?” I asked blankly.

    “Oh, duh, right,” Ken did a literal face-palm. “Goldfish crackers! Remember when Principal Stevens made a big fuss about Bongo? Ordered like hundreds of boxes of crackers? I bet there are still boxes of them left over!”

    “That’s great Ken, wonderful. Wish you’d of remembered that fact a couple hours ago!”

    “Me too,” he said as he opened his lunch box. Bongo was belly up.

    “So much for football this year.”

    1. Pete

      Oh man this was good. I read a lot of middle grade fiction and this was right up there with anything else. I could see the pratty little girls, and the dunces coming to their conclusion. Also loved the newspaper intro. Great one, Cceynowa!

    2. Reaper

      Very nice intro with the article and an easy and enjoyable read all the way through. Just nicely done and I wasn’t sure where you were going but you did a good job of indicating they got it wrong with the what else. I was expecting ludafisk or however you spell that.

      1. Cceynowa

        I had to look up “lutefisk” since I was unfamiliar with your reference…. fish cooked in lye? That would have been a great twist! Alas, I’m not culturally savvy enough. I do make my own soap with lye however, and am extremely leery of cooking with it, but definitely will be using it in future writing prompts! Thanks Reaper.

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