The Center of Things

Ah the freedom of flight, the weightlessness of free-fall. Doesn’t it feel wonderful? Well it would if you weren’t launching at maximum velocity towards a gaping hole that leads to the center of the earth. Why are you going there? What’s going on?

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

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352 thoughts on “The Center of Things

  1. Haleykylien

    I close my eyes for a moment and everything feels ethereal, as if I am not a person at all. I then open my eyes to see that I am getting closer and closer to the darkness beneath, I forgot what is actually happening to me. Why did I volunteer for this assignment, will I really be a legend? Or was I just afraid of losing this project to another free-lancer.

    The gaping hole appeared about 6 months ago in the middle of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Union of Concerned Scientists, NASA and the U.S. Military are concerned for the people of the United States and began evacuating Minneapolis when it first appeared. They teamed up to begin an investigation starting with me, David Canary, a free lance photographer, by sending me down the hole, wired with cameras to see what is actually causing the separation of the earth. Maybe I took the gig because I thought it would be evolutionary in history and I was destined to change this world, or maybe it was just my timid self not being able to say no. Either way I was still in mid air and now I have lost all sight of my surroundings, it was almost getting ‘blacker’, the air pressure rose and the gauges attached to my suit went out of control.
    “Prepare for landing!!, I repeat prepare for landing!!” the captain yelled into my headset that no longer received signal to communicate back

  2. jhowe

    The gauges read normal, cruising at 10,200 feet above the Mohave Desert at 438 miles per hour. The copilot looks alert, facing forward but I wonder if he is dozing behind his mirror lens aviators. It wouldn’t be the first time. I glance at the cabin monitor and the passengers seem to have no concerns. The flight attendants are talking quietly in the galley, one fingering her hair like she always does.

    The huge chasm in the earth is getting closer as the plane dives, but it can’t be, it just can’t. I call to the copilot. He doesn’t answer. I turn on the galley intercom but get no response though the two women are still talking. I pull back on the controls but they feel like soft clay in my hands. Even I can’t hear my screams as the crevasse in the earth surrounds the plane and darkness envelopes us.

    The plane slows in the blackness and the pressure in my ears changes. The altimeter now reads 1,650 feet. I still have no control and I feel the sweat dripping from my face. The cabin air is warm and I see nothing out the cockpit window. The wheels bump and the plane decelerates and I wonder if I am dead or alive. We taxi in the darkness turning this way and that until the plane stops and the engines shut down.

    The copilot finally stands and opens the cabin door. Two men in white unbuckle my harness and place me on a cart of some kind. I am attended to in various ways and they seemingly don’t hear my protests. There are cheers as I am wheeled out of the cabin and I see the passengers being led off the plane. ‘It’s a stroke,’ I hear someone say.

    The copilot places a hand on my arm and he is oblivious to my shouts. After the last of the people are off the plane he tells the attendants to take me away. He turns to leave and he quickly tucks his tail back under his uniform jacket.

      1. Penney

        “Ah the freedom of flight, the weightlessness of free-fall. Doesn’t it feel wonderful?”

        “Well it would if you weren’t launching at maximum velocity towards a gaping hole that leads to the center of the earth.”

        “Why are you going there? What’s going on?”

        “Dude, I tripped.”

  3. Penney

    Not Stream of Consciousness, Just Random Randomness – Holes, Falling, Centers

    When I think of a hole, I think of a dark place. Why is that? I think it is conditioning or a general acceptance that holes are to be dark. Come to think of it, that darkness is philosophical too. It transcends time or speed, being a place no one wants to be. We no nothing of holes.

    There is no hole I can begin to imagine I’d rather like to be in or going toward. If such a dark hole literally has a destination; anywhere one could think of; those are places no one probably wants to be.

    For instance, a manhole, outhouse hole, a peephole (if one has a conscience), black holes in space, holes that lead to the depths of hell (still, unless you’re sick or Dante). This could go on and on. Hey, a keyhole, no, because you than have a question of in or out, or coming much less going.

    I guess the question could be. There I am in a hole. Am I coming or going? Most holes you trust have a bottom. Oh no, bottom. Your ass is a most unique hole. Black in nature, it is both an entrance and an exit. You ask how? Really?

    Well, here we go. Your mouth leads to your ass and your ass to your mouth. It is quite in fact the quintessential hole to be in. It is a conundrum; light leading to darkness with miles of tubing leading to light again, and vice versa. Holy Cow! I had hoped that was not my fate; to be a pile of shit. I couldn’t fathom such a cruel joke. I was more hoping that I had been led to this dark place by some cruel irony like a coma. That the light I think I see is me waking or better yet me being released into the light of my faith.

    The scariest darkness of all to think of, is me dying and I am on the inside of a hole looking out. Like birth but not the literal sense. I am coming out. I am free of the place in which I fear most. I am falling away from but toward something. What I have left behind; will I miss it? I am fleeting around in this darkness at full velocity with light just a reach away or so it feels. Am I; what? I’m nothing, I am everything. I’m light, I’m dark. I am air. Just breath. The whole of my existence is you. I am the center of things.

      1. Penney

        Thank you? After rereading it, I blew my own. There is more in my journal, but I stopped here so you wouldn’t just ball up into a fetal position and start sucking your thumb;)

    1. regisundertow

      Here’s the thing; I really don’t go for stream-of-consciousness (or random randomness), either because I suck at it or because it pisses on most basic story “rules”, and I like having a compass for writing. Maybe I just don’t get it. Having said that, I think I got this. I also have to say I like it a lot. Flashes of one particularly personal reason of distress go through my mind reading this story. It is probably a good sign that you’re written one kick-ass piece of literature, making a stranger react like that.

      1. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

        I mentioned in my comment below, but if you never happen to read that one, I figured I’d let you know here, lol. You might enjoy Mrs. Dalloway and Ulysses by Woolf and Joyce (respectively). The stream of consciousness is executed perfectly in such a way that you can barely tell that’s what it is. Here’s a good example (and probably the most common):

        “What a lark! What a plunge! For so it always seemed to me when, with a little squeak of the hinges, which I can hear now, I burst open the French windows and plunged at Bourton into the open air. How fresh, how calm, stiller than this of course, the air was in the early morning; like the flap of a wave; the kiss of a wave; chill and sharp and yet (for a girl of eighteen as I then was) solemn, feeling as I did, standing there at the open window, that something awful was about to happen[…]”

        1. regisundertow

          Saw it 😉
          Ulysses is next on my reading list, actually. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever care for giving stream-of-consciousness a go as a writer, but it truly amazes me that people can use it to write good stories and not have them read like incoherent ravings. It’s very different than what I usually read (Hemingway, Bukowski, and their army of disciples), so…time to challenge that comfort zone.

          1. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

            I personally don’t care for it, to be honest. There is nothing about SoC that can’t be done with regular prose. It’s a stylistic choice, really. Often times, even in some of the greatest writers, you read it and it totally comes off as if the writer is just plain pretentious. lol :p It’s bad enough everyone thinks we already are, we don’t need to give them more fuel for their hate machine. XD

    2. jhowe

      Uh oh, I just posted and see mine is a little like yours in length and paragraph formatting. But that’s where the similarities end as yours is really cool. I like how you did this and enjoyed reading it. Oh, and we both have an asshole in our stories.

    3. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

      I have to say, this doesn’t even come close to blowing my mind, but please don’t let that say anything negative about you or your writing. Stream of consciousness writing is hard work. It’s even harder to get right.

      Here, you have a lot of random thoughts, but where is it all leading? It’s disjointed and vague, and I think it hurts your story (what I guess is a story).

      At first, I wondered just what you were getting at, and by the end I thought the story was all about taking a dump. Literally, I thought we were in the midst of the poo squeezing out into a porcelain bowl, which turned me off immediately because I’ve never been one to enjoy toilet humor let alone toilet analogies when trying to analyze the world. It’s a weak form of not-so-witty writing that seems to me the bane of artistic creativity (and of little value). Then again, I don’t even know what the hell is going on here. The disjointed prose doesn’t weave anything, and perhaps that’s the “random randomness” (whatever that is) you mentioned at the beginning. So, is this hogwash or is there really something there?

      James Joyce and Virginia Woolf have few examples of stream of consciousness writing, and they do it amazingly well. Regisundertow, I think you’d really enjoy their work because it keeps perfectly with the rules of writing, and boy do they have some good stories to tell! 🙂

      In my opinion, the biggest two downfalls of this piece is the lack of direction and that there isn’t enough ‘showing’. Consciousness is imagery. It’s the art of our minds painted on tapestry with our ability to see, hear, feel, taste, and smell. It is everything we can perceive coming together as, well, poetic prose.

      Based on your comment to Reaper, my guess is this is out of a journal you’ve written at some point. Since this isn’t really a story, I guess much can be forgiven. haha However, if you do plan to rewrite it, I would suggest a very close study of stream of consciousness style writing, and really getting into how you can relate it to the reader so it doesn’t come off and a disjointed mess. Plus, if you, for some reason, prefer to write like this in all your journal entries, it can only make your journal writing better.

      Nice job, anyhow. I can see you have a real passion for writing and exploring things with your words, so keep it up!

      1. Penney

        Then I did my job, because it was all that you suggest and all not. Kind of Sinfeld: a show about nothing. Your suggest for references to SOC is fantastic though. I have read both, thank you.

  4. Craig the Editor

    Just Passing Through

    Everything had been going so well. Just one small misstep. His army of robotic drones had completed the tunnel on time, but that was to be expected. After all what was the point of having robotic drones if they didn’t do your bidding? And for that matter wasn’t the term “robotic drones” redundant? Inventing them was one thing, naming them was an entirely different matter. Maybe “dronebots”? Perhaps he should hire a marketing team. When one is striving to become the world’s most evil scientist it is never easy.

    His plan was to create a faster way of traveling from one side of the planet to the other. By his estimation it would take thirty-eight minutes and eleven seconds to make the journey. Perhaps he should include a half hour video of his exploits to boost his public image. Again this was a decision for a marketing team, not a scientist.

    Building special digging drones hadn’t been easy, nor overcoming earth’s molton core and don’t even think about the headaches caused by the Coriolis effect. Still everything seemed to be working fine. There was something tugging on the edges of his mind. Something he had forgotten to factor in. Whatever it was, couldn’t be that important.

    By looking at his watch and doing a few mental calculations he figured he had been falling for about fifteen minutes and he was traveling at about 15,000 mph and in another six minutes he would peak at 18,000 mph.

    Initially when he fell into the tunnel his first reaction was to scream, and scream loudly. But after getting over the shock he realized it was rather undignified. Hopefully it wouldn’t turn up on the internet. Nowadays videos you’d never expect to see were popping up.

    He had just passed the center of the earth where, if he had stopped, he would have been weightless. Perhaps he should install a gift shop at the center of the earth. It would be a perfect place for Weight Watches meetings. Of course there would be the problem of getting people to start falling again. For every solution there was a problem. It would give him something to ponder.

    His journey would cover about 15,800 miles, traversing through about forty-four miles of continental crust and 1,800 miles of molten core. Then there was the Mars-sized inner core of liquid iron where the temperatures reached as high as 10,000 degrees. And this was followed by the moon-sized inner core.

    Still he felt he was forgetting some small detail.

    After passing the half way point his speed began to decelerate. When he opened the tunnel for travelers he planned to place them in spherical pods. Each pod would carry a dozen travelers or about four tons of freight. Certainly it would be more dignified then flailing one’s arms and legs as they fell through this endless hole.

    What had he forgotten?

    Finally he could see the light at the end of the tunnel. It reminded him of the old joke that the light at the end of the tunnel was actually a train. Well in this case it was certainly not a train.

    He popped out of the hole and found himself suspended in midair. It was in that moment that he recalled what he had forgotten. It was one of those split second realizations that made one go, “Oh, shit!”
    There was no one there to catch him. He looked around. He tried running like Wylie Coyote and he got about the same result. He was about to repeat the same journey in reverse. And there was no end in sight.

    1. Reaper

      Other than too many hads, a condition I suffer from myself I find as I edit, this was pretty much spot on. I guessed your reveal at just the right time to be amused by it and feel smart for figuring it out. So not too early or late. The technical details were given in bite sized chunks so they felt perfect as well. This is some wonderful writing and so perfectly self contained. It also had some great specific moments like trying to become the most evil scientist and the gift shop at the center of the earth.

      1. Kinterralynn

        I truly enjoyed this tale! The thought process of the MC was both entertaining and well thought out. I loved the idea of a Weight Watcher’s meeting, ha ha ha.. your sense of humor is wonderful!

  5. Observer Tim

    Adam And Eve And …

    The subdued lighting is still far too bright. My head is somehow managing to both pound and spin at the same time; if my stomach weren’t empty my first impulse would be to throw up.

    “Where am I?”

    A smooth androgynous voice answers, “You are in Recovery Room A.”

    I spot the IV line coming from my arm. “What am I doing here?”

    “Recovering.”

    “From what?”

    “Electrostatic brain shock.”

    “So, memory loss. What do I remember?”

    “Obviously not the previous 2407 times we had this conversation.”

    The last thing I remember is flying. I was flying naked: no, not naked, I was wearing a hardsuit with full environmental control. Which made sense because there was no atmosphere in the Transfer Lock. And I wasn’t really flying, I was plummeting.

    Below me was The Ring. It glowed blue, and beyond it was a pit that went fifty kilometers into the Earth. If the Lock failed I would slowly heat up and be crushed by pressure until I splattered like a dropped egg at the bottom of the shaft.

    “Since this isn’t the afterlife…”

    “You are not dead, Dr. Conners. The transfer was successful, as it was for Doctors Magdala and Trent.”

    “So I’m…”

    “In Recovery Room A.”

    “And what planet is Recovery Room A on?”

    “The planet has been designated Apex. It orbits the primary gas giant in the 11 Ursae Minoris system, roughly 400 light-years from Earth. This is consistent with earlier reports from the remote facility.”

    “So the Einstein-Rosen Bridge worked! We’re in a totally different star system from Earth!”

    “Affirmative.”

    “Why are there only three of us? The team was supposed to be six.”

    “Doctors Jennings, Armstrong, and Phelps will not be sent until safety of travel can be ascertained.”

    “What’s the problem?”

    “The first problem is energy shock. All of the first three test subjects experienced electrostatic brain injury on transfer. You are the first to regain long-term memory function.”

    “Ouch. How long was I out?”

    “Sixty-one hours twelve minutes; within the normal range for defibrillation shock.”

    “How are the others?”

    “Their conditions are similar to yours, though they have not yet recovered full memory function.”

    “Wait, you said the first problem. What’s the second problem?”

    “The bridge is unstable in the reverse direction. While two-way information transfer is working, there has been limited success returning organic matter.”

    “Clarify that please.”

    “The mouse exploded on arrival at South Pole Station.”

    “So it’s a one-way trip.”

    “Yes, Doctor.”

    “And the planetary population consists of me, the only male, plus Emily Magdala and Karen Trent.”

    “Yes Dr. Conners. Dr. Armstrong sent through a package consisting of a bottle of champagne and three glasses, along with a note reading ‘Congratulations, Adam’.”

    “So it’s me and two alpha females alone on a planet 400 light years from home. I have got to figure out a way to get us back to Earth before we kill each other.”

    1. Observer Tim

      It’s good to back. The doctors have been messing with my blood pressure, blood sugar and with antibiotics so much over the past while that I haven’t been able to concentrate enough to read much, let alone write. I look forward to some great quality stories.

      1. DMelde

        That sucks Observer Tim. I hope you feel better soon. It makes a guy yearn for the good old days of the open pit, with a sword in your hand, and a war cry on your lips. Ah yes, the good old days. Now, on to your story. So Adam is stuck on a planet with two females in their prime, with a portal that can supply him with an unlimited supply of booze? Am I reading that right? I fail to see the problem! Good story with lots of humor spread throughout. Great job!

        1. Observer Tim

          The problem is they’re alpha females. They both absolutely have to be in charge. I grew up as the youngest occupant in a house with three alpha’s – the only option most times was to duck and cover.

      2. Nicki EagerReader

        Wonderful, you’re back! 🙂 Sounds like you had a nasty infection- fullest sympathy! I’m still trying to shake off that damn mononucleosis infection I contracted in February- though in contrast to me you are still capable of fabricating finely spun dialogue. You’re definitely delivering your usual high-quality work- thumbs up!

        (Though to be honest, I half expected the conversation to start from the beginning again at the end… round 2408. 😉 )

    2. Witt.Stanton

      Great job! Really enjoyed the gradual reveal of the plot line, and the characters were all very well done. Wish there was more. 🙂

    3. Critique

      This has elements of the one-way trip to Mars only more futuristic and perhaps the chance to go back if Adam has the smarts and the will to figure that out. Hmm, I’m curious.

    4. Reaper

      Tim, good to hear from you again, and sorry you’re dealing with sadistic doctors. Hope that clears up quickly. This was a fantastic story in a really interesting style. Of course, what I see as the even bigger problem here is this. There are two women, so no matter how much stuff gets sent through for him the first thing he’s going to need is a shuttle so he can find a moon to store it on, because neither woman is going to let his crap clutter her half of the planet.

      1. Geezer Muse

        Wonderful to see you back Tim. I loved your story and I agree with DMelde, there is no problem. I find women in the Alpha mode to fascinate me. Having two would be even more fun. When a grisley bear is ten feet away, you don’t run. Make as much noise as you can, wave your arms at the 12 foot bear and roar back. I’d take anybody’s place in this situation, maybe I’d need to be a little younger.

        Your dialogue driven story is so well done, I know you’ve become a master at it but each time I read another I realize how unique you are as a writer. Thanks for this one especially. Kerry

    5. snuzcook

      Fun story, O.Tim. Made me think a bit of Larry Niven. His protags also would be a bit at sea in this situation. How can Adam survive? Just give input when asked, don’t take it personally when it is ignored, and stay out of the way . And give up the idea of a unilateral solution to the problem of return–Alpha’s hate to be rescued.

      Hoping that you are getting better every day!

    6. regisundertow

      First off, speedy recovery Tim. Look at it this way, at least dealing with the doctors can provide material 🙂
      I actually liked the premise. Looks like there will be blood, one way or another. It could have been worse for Adam, I guess. At least there’s liquid courage available.

  6. Kinterralynn

    Revenge. That’s what is on my mind as I sit in a shuttle moving at a rapid speed along the tracks that would lead me to Final Stop, a facility designed to take place of death row. Instead of taking a dirt nap, prisoners were taken deep into the center of the earth. Gone were the days of appeals and second chances, once a jury declared a guilty verdict, it was all over. I don’t even get the luxury of looking out the window. The shuttles are encased in some kind of super-metal, stronger than titanium and forty-eight inches thick. Not that it would matter, all I would be able to see is the cold steel structure of the tunnel I’m traveling through. Instead, I stare at the back of the girl in front of me, Prisoner 98745622, the black numbers emphasized against the bright yellow jumpsuit. She’s crying loudly and keeps tugging at her tangled blonde hair, mumbling something about injustice. I feel the same way, but I don’t let the others see me cry and I don’t voice my own opinions about our system of justice. I suspect the weeping sops are the first to go down at Final Stop, I need to prove myself right away if I hope to survive. No one has ever come back. I will be the first. I have to find the doppelganger who took my life from me. I flex my fingers, thinking about that day that changed my life. I was there when the bank was attacked, standing in line to make a credit withdrawal. I was lying on the floor with the rest of the customers when my twin walked in and shot the President in the head. They caught it all on film and when they were interviewing all of us, they assumed I was playing a trick on all of them. The trial was over in under an hour. In a matter of three months, I went from living the dreams of a hopeful college student to wearing a jumpsuit as bright as a lemon and hurtling towards a condemned life working in the diamond mines. I won’t waste time thinking about the unfairness of it all, I have to find a way to escape this alternative to a death sentence. The man next to me grunts and kicks the back of the chair making Prisoner 98745622 jump and hiccup and start sobbing louder. I look over at him, meeting his hard stare with one of my own, daring him to say something. He nods and breaks eye contact. Message received. The wheels of the shuttle start screeching as the brakes are applied and we all lurch forward. A guard at the front stands up and waves his rifle as he turns to face us with a sneer. “Welcome to Final Stop, I will be your tour guide”, he is laughing now at his own pathetic joke. I meet his gaze and a smile tugs at the corner of my mouth. I will make a special effort to find him and make him stop laughing.

    1. Reaper

      You paint a very bleak picture very well. A disturbing beginning to a revenge tale. You have some interesting concepts in here as well, like the fact that the MC is a man who doesn’t protest which is the first step to an unjust society and something we see far too often today. The fact that he is so angry begs the question of, is this system of “justice” he’s in making him hard or just bringing out what is already there, or is he lying and he really was playing a trick on them and now us. My only piece of advice would be on the line this alternative to death sentence, eliminate the to, it is just an alternative death sentence in the end. I would also consider breaking this into a couple of paragraphs but that’s stylistic. Nice tight writing.

      1. Kinterralynn

        Thank you for the comments, Reaper. I questioned the “alternative to a death sentence” line myself, I’m happy to hear that it sounded “wrong” to you as well. I should have went with my gut on that one.
        Paragraphs, oh yes, that would have been nice, right? I have no excuse for that sloppy structure.
        This is my first venture into a darker story, I generally stay away from such things and I was attempting to see if it was possible for me.
        I truly appreciate the feedback. I have spent years writing but never sharing with anyone other than friends and family. ( and we all know their opinions are always honest as they try to protect our feelings ) Hearing the comments/critiques from those not close to me has been very helpful!

  7. rle

    Hey folks, just thought I’d pop in and say hi. Hoping I can find time to write soon. Lately work has been kicking my butt but it should ease up soon. I’ve been reading whenever I can and it’s nice to see some new talent coming on board. See you all soon!

      1. Nicki EagerReader

        Chin up- what makes you a writer is that you write. Noticing an inflation of words is what makes you a competent writer. 🙂

        To everyone: I’m in the same stressed spot as rle, it seems, but it really is nice to see so many new forum members, and I hope I’ll get round to commenting individually at some point. Enjoy the prompt!

        P.S.: Anyone other than me starting to wonder what happened to Observer Tim? He didn’t say he was going on holiday, was he?

          1. Geezer Muse

            If he doesn’t show up pretty soon I’ll go to Canada and drag him back. It won’t be a pretty sight. You seeing me Tim?

        1. Observer Tim

          No, I wasn’t on holiday. I’m on medication, and it’s playing hell with my nervous system. But as you might see above, I’m finally able to write again and glad of it. There is nothing so scary as feeling that you are losing your mind.

          Thanks for all the concern. I hope to be fully back to reality (or at least my version of it) very soon.

          🙂

  8. aikawah

    The weed punches.

    Suddenly, the wisps of smoke you blow are curling white dragons roaring up towards the heavy curtains. Their sweeps and curling motions hang in now-expanded time and your eyes feast on Brownian motion.

    Something slips your mind.
    You watch it slide slowly into a bottomless darkness and let it go.
    Moments later, something else almost slips your mind.
    This time you are more careful.

    The music expands. Every nerve in your body trembles to the percussion of ‘Sorrow, Tears and Blood,’ every drumbeat affecting your inner electricity. And then Fela Kuti’s saxophone. Motherfucker.

    You lay back on the sofa. Close your eyes. You can hear your friend talking over there, across the ocean of the coffee table. You try to make out what he is saying but Fela won’t let you. He taps the strings of your senses like hammers on piano wire. Nothing exists but the music.

    Seven minutes later, or is it eight? Fela is five, ten, one hundred bees buzzing around your head.
    “Bzzzzzzz! Bzzzzzzz!” You turn, you twist. It is unbearable.
    “Everybody run, run, run!” Yeah! But you can’t lift your legs. They are as heavy as lead.

    You push your head into the arm of the sofa and it opens up like mud underneath you. It sucks you in. What is this abyss?

    “Someone nearly die. Someone just die.”
    You float down and Fela floats above you, singing.

    He has cast you into this portal. You know it is his doing. You know too, that you can not resist. You hear your friend stop talking about something? What did he just stop talking about?

    You float past old discarded thoughts. Silly things you didn’t need to remember. Why do you?

    The day you took a ride in a female bus.

    The day you went to that exhibition and stood in the space between two mirrors, and your reflection disappeared. Where did it go? What did it do, unsupervised, for the ten minutes you stayed?
    Where is the dimension of truant reflections? What mischief happens there?

    The girl you met over the internet.
    She sent you words and you did something with them. You called it writing.
    Finagle: She was naïve. He finagled her heart. Now they just bicker and finagle over everything.
    She liked it. She sent back a smiley.
    You liked her for liking it.

    How deep shall you fall?

    “Bzzzzzzz! Bzzzzzzz!” You turn, you twist. It is unbearable. Fela is hurting you.

    You will fall until this music ends. Until Fela lets you go. At the climax of this song, you will strike the center of the earth. It will be hot and calm.

    Them leave sorrow, tears and blood,
    Them regular trademark.

      1. regisundertow

        For some reason, I thought the italics worked well in a meta sort of way. Like the numbness that takes over your body, once pot hits your brain, turning everything in an internal monologue. I know that wasn’t your intention, but it added another layer to the story for me.

    1. regisundertow

      I loved this, simple as that. It’s stream-of-consciousness, but done in a way that doesn’t put me off (as it normally does). Very descriptive, it’s the kind of writing I enjoy more than anything. It’s next level stuff.
      One small “criticism”, I think the 2nd person doesn’t work as well here as the 1st would. My personal opinion, of course, so take it with a pinch of salt. It feels like, unless your omniscient narrator is a character in your story (or the wider story you have in mind), this would benefit from 1st person.

    2. Reaper

      One of the hallmarks of good stream of consciousness, and surrealism, is that it makes me like things I would normally find reasons not to. You did that for me here. I could almost hear the beat of bongos playing slowly and smell the particular odor of aging hippies. Nicely written.

  9. cosi van tutte

    Everyone has falling dreams. Some people say that it symbolizes freedom. Others say it symbolizes lack of control. Other people say that it is a sign of depression. A symptom or a symbol. It is a curious thing.

    As for me, I like to think that it is a symbol. A symbol for escape. Escaping what is expected, what is wanted, what is right and proper.

    Yet, as much as I want to escape my sister’s expectations, I have never had a falling dream. Maybe it comes only to those who do not want it. Most curious. I would like to research this further. I wonder how…

    ***

    “Alice!”

    Alice Linwrell looked up from her diary. Someone had called her name, but it wasn’t her sister. “Oh, well. I suppose I should go inside. It ought to be time for tea.”

    “Alice! Hey! Yoo-hoo! Over here!”

    She glanced around, but saw no one. “Hello? Is someone there?”

    “Oh, bother bother bother! I’m invisible again.”

    “Again? Oh. Do you become invisible quite often?”

    “Hmph. Often enough.”

    “Oh. Who are you?”

    “I am…Hmph. I could be anyone or anything. I could be something that you long for. I could be something that you dread.”

    “That is quite true.”

    There was a moment of silence between the two of them. Then, the invisible thing said, “You seem to be taking this much in stride.”

    “I suppose I am. Perhaps I ought to be worried or concerned. My sister would surely be both. But I simply can’t be! It isn’t every day I meet someone who can become invisible. But we haven’t been properly introduced. I am Alice Linwrell.”

    “I already knew that. So, it isn’t much of an introduction.”

    “Oh. But you haven’t told me your name.”

    “My name isn’t important. Yours is. You are an Alice and that is most important. I shall have to kidnap you now. I hope you don’t mind too much.”

    Alice frowned. “I should say that I do mind.”

    She had plenty more that she wanted to say, but a hole appeared under her feet. As she plummeted, she said the first thing that came to mind, “IEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

    to be continued…

    1. cosi van tutte

      Annnnnnd here is the conclusion…..

      It is a most curious thing, but I am not afraid. Oh, it is quite disconcerting to have the ground disappear from under you. So, I screamed for a full half an hour. After that half an hour, I decided that enough was enough and I stopped screaming.

      My diary and pen managed to catch up to me, which was a relief. I didn’t like to think of the poor things lying in the grass all by themselves. They would surely feel abandoned. How sad they would become! I wonder…If they became sad, would the pen write its thoughts in the diary? Or would the diary write its thoughts on the pen? Oh, but that’s nonsense. Pens can’t write by themselves. They need a sure and steady hand to guide them along.

      I am seated in the air with my skirts tucked under me. So, if anyone below is looking up, they will not see my bloomers. My sister would approve of my good sense in that. She so often doubts my common sense. I don’t know why. I am a very sensible person.

      Oh, but how I wish I had something interesting to look at as I fall. Black velvet walls may be practical. Never need cleaning and such. But oh! They are so uninspired. If only there were pictures! But pictures of what? People, I suppose. But what if they were dull looking people? Hmm. I wouldn’t like that at all. Scenery would be nice. But perhaps it would be all too nice and too polite like pictures at a doctor’s office. Simply there to be seen and to be forgotten. What kind of pictures would I like? Pictures that speak to my soul of adventure and beauty and excitement and everything that is wonderful and unexpected.

      I wonder how long I shall fall. I have been falling for such a long time. I glance down, but I can’t see the bottom. I do hope it won’t be a hard landing.

      ***

      Alice landed with a soft fwoomp in a black velvet room. Her skirts billowed up, but she pushed them back down.

      “Oh! So, you’re finally here. Took you more than long enough. Tsk. Tsk. Much, much more than long enough. How will you ever get anywhere if you take so long to fall down a simple hole? Hmph! I would like to know that.”

      “One falls as one falls. I had no control over my speed.”

      “Tsk. That is an erroneous statement.”

      Alice glanced around. “Are you still invisible?”

      “That is not a smart question. If you can’t see me, it is because I am clearly invisible. Tsk. I don’t think you’re a good Alice. I might have to send you back. Maybe I’ll find a better one.”

      She rose to her feet. “Excuse me, but I am an excellent Alice. Indeed, I am the best Alice that I happen to know.”

      “Well, that may be. Or it may be that you don’t know as many Alices as I do.”

      She didn’t respond to that. After all, she had no idea how many Alices the invisible person knew. “So, why did you kidnap me?”

      “Because you are an Alice.”

      “Granted, but why does that matter?”

      “It matters.”

      “Why? What do you expect me to do?”

      “The Impossible. Can you do it?”

      Alice considered twelve impossible things and at least five more. “I don’t know.”

      “See? That is why you are not a good Alice. A good Alice would say ‘Yes’ or ‘Maybe’ or ‘I will try’.”

      “That may be, but I am not any of those Alices. I am me. I am Alice Winifred Linwrell. And, until you tell me what the impossible is, all I can say is I don’t know if I can do it. Maybe that is not the answer you want.”

      “It isn’t.”

      “But it is the answer I will give you. You may take it or you may leave it in the corner over there.”

      “Hmph. You may not be a right and proper Alice, but you have spirit in loads and bunches. Hmm. Hmm. Hmm. Yes. You might be able to do The Impossible.” With a flash of blue and purple feathers, the invisible person appeared.

      It wasn’t a person.

      It was a white rabbit in a checkered vest and a weather-beaten busboy hat. “Follow me, Alice.”

      1. regisundertow

        With hindsight, this was a story begging to be written for this prompt. I really enjoyed the language, spot on. And I like the idea of your Alice being the latest in a line of Alices, it expands the Wonderland mythos in a very interesting and unexpected way. I’d love to read more of your interpretation, to be honest.

      2. Rene Paul

        Loved this story. You captivated me and held my interest throughout. I agree with regisundertow, it was perfect for this prompt. Magical!

      3. Reaper

        You actually captured the voice so perfectly. I liked this a lot. Of course, with my normal habit of skipping comments on most fanfic I have to make an exception for ones like this. Both because it was so well done, and because it is about Wonderland which holds a special place in my heart. This read like a continuation by a different author rather than a tribute, and that is difficult, especially with such an iconic starting point.

      4. snuzcook

        What a delightful story, Cosi–Or I should say, intro to a story. (Alice was actually lurking in the arms reaching on in my tunnel story.) I am so glad you went this direction, and took it in such a compelling direction. Agree with the others that the voice you used was spot on for Alice–a most “Alice” MC!

        1. cosivantutte

          Thanks, snuz! I kept trying to do a sci-fi take on this prompt, but the story kept fizzling out on me. So, I decided to take it in a different direction. I’m glad you liked it. 🙂

        1. Geezer Muse

          Cosi, this is better then hot brownies. I really enjoyed it .As soon as I read one or two sentences I knew where I was. Conversations between the two were spot on. I am surprised also, this is the first Alice story, I wouldn’t have missed it. Kerry

  10. PRKI

    Tick…Tock…Tick…Tock…The rhythm pulling my consciousness back from the depth of slumber. My eye lids struggling to open, fighting against the weight of my thoughts, pushing them shut.
    “Clean your room, Mia!” shouted my mother over the sound of the hairdryer. “You could at least put your washing in a separate pile.”

    “Why can’t you knock before you enter? Fine, whatever, mother. I’ll do it, maybe, when I get back.”

    Sixteen: the ripened age to rebel against the atrocities of the nag monster. Detesting the act of being told what to do, brought me closer to, normalcy. To me, it wasn’t about avoiding the sheep clan, but the freedom to walk, talk, love, run…my verve; my terms.
    Love: never dictates. Dave- my prince-is love; persistently cheering me on in the direction of excellence, especially towards the one subject he is fondly known as the guru: Maths. The thrill of stealing winks from him, my chin dipping into my chest as I smile shyly, whenever his palm rubs against my arm in class, priceless.

    “Mia, you’re smart. Though, pay more attention to my teaching, not me.” Dave tenderly scolded, handing me my marked sheet with a B+ on it.

    “You’re the guru. Teach me,” I flirted, my praiseworthy long lashes, baiting him.

    Finally, my eyes give way to allow the light glowing from under the bolted door to infiltrate the pupil. Coughing, I wondered what my mother would’ve had to say about the begrimed filth, making its way up my nostrils with each breath. As a single mother, she’d tried to inculcate in me the valuable lessons of courage. This maverick: whose wrists were now in shackles, mouth covered in tape, yearned to hear her speak those wise words.

    I’ve wanted to run away. I did. Dave, the cheat; got engaged to his true love, Dalia. Not Mia, who was only a student. He’d introduced his love to the class, announcing his departure to faraway land. Heartbreak: then painful; now, insignificant. I should’ve listened to that inner voice, screaming to not ask for directions. “But why not”? I’d to question it back.

    The bolted door opens. Two bulky men walk in.

    “Damn, this one is a beautiful bitch. Pity we gotta sell her.”
    Bending on one knee, he ran the back of his fingers against my cheeks. Taking out a syringe from his pocket, he kisses me on my forehead, before injecting me. This was my sixth, seventh… only them and God knew the right count of hits, days and the kind of drug swimming in my bloodstream.

    Suddenly, I feel the ground trembling. My shackles break away. I remove the tape. The men, shivering and shouting, disappearing between the cracks formed in the earth. I am high, even if my body is starting to sink slowly through the gaping hole. Earthquakes were devastating; creating chaos and fear. Right now, it gave me the reason to be thankful. I no longer experienced any dread. Falling openly and freely, I giggle.

    1. DMelde

      Good story PRKI. I think I would have moved the paragraph about Dave, the cheat, introducing Dalia to the class, forward one paragraph to make the break between school and slave more final, instead of having it as a flashback. I think it would have flowed better that way. There were some nice sentences in your story. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

        1. Penney

          Sorry, I was a little confused and read it through a few times to see if I got it. Girl sold into white slavery regretting those simple things she had taken for granted? Sort of saved by unexpected earthquake mixed with drugs to not feel pending death which she welcomes instead of slavery? ,Nice idea, you could fill in parts and take this farther.

          1. PRKI

            Penney, hehehehehe!!I hear you! ….More in the lines of- When one is in bondage(symbolically) and in the presence of silence, you satirically hear taunting ‘words’, but the loudest being the right one. So, her thoughts were up-down, (drug withdrawals, darkness), and in the end(high, freedom,), she realized( not her verve or her terms) yet….. Yes, modern day slavery, teen issues, social mindset, behind the scene before an earthquake….

            …..If I were to take it further, I would’ve saved her, then kept one bad guy alive and begin…….

    2. Reaper

      These are some beautiful words, and the story is intense with a very lulling quality that contrasts nicely to how raw the subject matter is. I’m still not actually sure if the last paragraph was an overdose and the images of a dying mind, a drug trip fantasy, or a jump into the surreal and everything there is actually happening. Which, makes it even better.

      1. PRKI

        Reaper, thank you soooo much for the kind words!!! You feel it perfectly @my ending. I wanted to achieve a ‘hanging’ effect!

        I like your story. Every word,sentence…. thought out and impacting! 🙂

  11. Dana Cariola

    The peaceful star, mankind called, “The Sun” had now become mankind’s greatest enemy. The scientist’s who were paid by the governments to deceive the public about the gravity of the situation had now become targets of the assassin’s rifle. Systematically, they were all killed and hung from the sides of the skyscraper’s that once symbolized the World’s power and domination over the forces of nature, and each other. The nation’s of the World watched in apathy as their bodies quickly caught fire from the Sun’s deadly UV rays, they were paid to lie about.

    NASA’s mission was to find sanctuary inside of the Earth’s core. The theory behind the mission was as follows: Deep inside of the Earth’s core were rotating layers of sediment. Like a Russian Matryoshka Doll, each one rotating independent from each other. Life could survive below!. Life can continue. Life must continue. Many people had perished. In all, nearly 4 billion lives were lost to the lie we were spoon feed. The World became a land of cannibals, feeding on the carcasses of the dead. Until, nothing living remained. Not even, them.

    Out of the remaining 3 billion inhabitants that survived: 2 million of us, were allowed to remain. How it was decided, “Who lives? Who dies” was decided according to age, education, leadership bloodlines and relations. Everyone else had been banished to the surface and sentenced to death. The World had become a graveyard above, while it’s self- appointed leadership, that lived below, embraced a futuristic version of their own, “Final Solution.”

    NASA no longer stood for, “National Aeronautic Space Administration.” But, now stood as a symbol of terror to all who were under her constant watch and care. “Never Again Say us All” was the adopted new order. And, the first order of business was to seek out resources elsewhere, deep within the Earth’s molten core.

    Admiral Bryd wrote about an entrance at the Southern and Northern poles. My mission was to find these entrances. Once inside, the data can then be transmitted back to NASA, for further planetary migration.

    1. snuzcook

      Interesting and chilling premise, Dana C. You’ve created a scenario that has lots of room for stories, and you have stated it with conviction. It reminds me strongly of the movie ‘2012’. I would like to see where you go with this.

    2. regisundertow

      Honestly, this feels like the summary of a huge and amazing story, but not a story unto itself.
      Suggestion; why don’t you take what you’ve written here as a jumping point for a narrative taking place in the universe you have created? It’d make for a cool story that would challenge the reader to wonder about its implications, instead of doing the thinking for him/her.

    3. Reaper

      I disagree that this sounds like a summary. This is the prologue that introduces the world a novel is about to take place in. A very dark and disturbing world that I would like to read more of. This made my skin crawl. Beautifully written.

    4. Critique

      This indeed reads like the prologue to a great novel or novels – I’m thinking of The Hunger Games series – on a much larger and terrifying scale. Great piece of writing Dana.

  12. snuzcook

    THE CENTER OF THE EARTH

    “I am afraid.”

    “Of what?”

    “Of free fall. I’ve never done it before.”

    “You’ll be okay.”

    “Easy for you to say.”

    “I’ll talk you through it. Close your eyes. You’ll feel the change gradually, like being in a pool filling with water.”

    “That doesn’t help. I can’t swim, either.”

    “Hold on with one hand. There, feel your body rising off the couch.”

    “It’s weird.”

    “Keep holding on with just the one hand. Your body is starting to float free now. Your hand is holding you in place.”

    “I am; I’m floating.”

    “Now open your eyes.”

    “My eyes are open.”

    “Notice that it is becoming harder and harder to hold on. It’s okay to let go if you want to. You will still be in this compartment and nothing will hurt you. There are plenty of other places you can hold on if you want to.”

    “Okay, I’m letting go.”

    “Allow yourself to rise completely. You can reach out and touch the ceiling. If you want to, you can hold on to the grab bar there.”

    “This is fun!”

    “Take a few minutes to get used to moving, forwards and backwards, up and down, changing directions. See how little effort it takes to move. Notice that you are entirely safe and in control.”

    “I am in control.”

    “Now I want you to notice the hatch at the end of the compartment. Do you see it?”

    “Yes.”

    “If you touch the button on the upper left corner of the hatch, you will be able to see through the hatch. You will be able to see what is outside the capsule. Do you see the button?”

    “Yes.”

    “When you’re ready, I want you to press the button. You are perfectly safe; you’ll just be looking through a window. Push the button, and then tell me what you see.”

    “It’s dark. It’s like a tunnel. And there’s some kind of glow at the end, but it’s really far away.”

    “What else can you see?”

    “The walls of the tunnel are like dirt, but there are things sticking out. I can’t quite make them out…they’re tree roots—twisty, crooked tree roots. Some of them are moving… I don’t like this!”

    “You are safe inside the capsule. Nothing you see can hurt you. You are only looking through a window, just looking and describing. Your mission is only to observe. What do you see?”

    “The tree roots are arms and hands. They’re reaching toward me, trying to grab the capsule! And faces. I see faces. The faces are shouting at me!”

    “These are just illusions created by the changes in capsule pressure as you descend. We are adjusting the capsule life support. Take a few breaths and these illusions will disappear.”

    “They’re starting to look like tree roots again.”

    “Good. I want you to ignore anything right now that you see along the sides of the tunnel and focus on the glow. Can you describe the glow at the end of the tunnel?”

    “It is yellowish. I can’t quite make it out. It reminds me of something.”

    “What else can you tell me?”

    “It is like the color of an old incandescent bulb seen from around a corner, like the light in a room at the end of a long hallway.”

    “As the capsule gets closer you can make out more detail. What do you see?”

    “It is like the hallway in my grandmother’s house when I was little. When I was in bed sometimes I would hear something and be afraid, and I would walk down the long, long dark hallway toward the light. It makes me afraid, but I am curious.”

    “You’re doing well. You are here to explore, to observe and report and nothing more. You are still weightless, safe inside the capsule. Nothing you see can hurt you. I will stay with you and we will explore this together.”

    1. regisundertow

      Risky move going for a dialogue only story, but I think it paid of handsomely. Snuzcook hit the nail on the head, regression therapy was my first thought. If so, forgoing physical descriptions works great in the story’s favor.

    2. Reaper

      I thought of regression therapy but it seemed twisted, like regression torture, where the speaker was leading the MC to a bad, bad place intentionally but easing them into it so the trust was established before it was betrayed. Not sure why that second voice was so sinister to me. I like dialogue only stories when done well and this went even further. Despite that voice being so different from mine and expressing different experiences I actually felt like I was the MC. You din’t put my mind in the story, you put the story in my mind. That may be a first for me so amazingly well done.

      1. snuzcook

        Very cool evaluation, Reaper–Thanks!
        The concept of external voices being internalized is a fascination for me. I worked for a time as a ‘scoper’ (old technology for transcribing depositions from audio recordings). I found that after processing some testimony re auto accidents–with the necessary deep concentration, and listening to the testimony repeatedly with deep focus on the recording–I would actually be afraid to drive because I had internalized so completely the witness’ testimony and experience. It was inadvertently like listening to a self-hypnosis tape.

  13. Critique

    “Dieter get me the screwdriver.” Ragnar leaned over the ledge staring intently at the dangling wire in front of him. “We’ve not a second to lose.”

    Dieter slapped the tool into Ragnar’s outstretched palm.

    “We’re off target and getting low on fuel.” Ragnar’s tongue hung out the side of his mouth as he concentrated on tightening a screw. Wiping the sweat beading on his forehead with the back of his arm he said. “That should do it.”

    Dieter mumbled through a mouthful of cookie. “It’s my turn to steer.”

    “I know how to fix this.” Ragnar didn’t budge. “Besides we’d crash ’cause you’re so busy feeding your face.”

    Dieter scowled and stuffed another cookie into his mouth.

    “We’re ready to launch.” Ragnar waved imperiously at Dieter. “Buckle up. We can’t take any chances. This thing goes at supersonic speed.”

    Dieter crouched behind Ragnar, put his arms through the knotted hemp harness and grabbed the t-bar overhead.

    “Is this pretty strong?” Apprehension sharpened his voice.

    “It could carry an elephant. Probably two elephants.” Ragnar bragged shrugging into his harness.

    “Ten, nine, eight, seven.” Ragnar grasped the t-bar with sweaty hands and continued the countdown. “Six, five, four, three, two, one….”

    “Booommmbs awaaay.” Ragnar cried as they sailed off the precipice, the rope zinging with the weight of their bodies.

    Down they swooped gaining speed and as they approached the center of the earth – a small square attic window on the third floor of the old house – Ragnar saw the hinged window slowly swing shut. There was nothing to be done.

    In a split second Ragnar eyeballed their options. If they let go immediately, they would plunge twenty feet to their death onto crumbling cement sidewalk blocks or a mere breath later they would land in overgrown blackberry bushes skirting the back of the house and be shredded to bits.

    “Hang on.” He yelled. “We’re gonna crash.”

    Screams rent the air as the aviators blew through the window shattering glass and rotted wood helter skelter and sending them tumbling head over heels to land against a far wall.

    Silence reigned until Dieter sat up dusting debris off of his clothes to scatter onto the floor.

    Ragnar lay white faced and still, blood trickling down the side of his face.

    “Ragnar.” Dieter’s voice wobbled. “You’re bleeding.”

    Ragnar’s eyes opened and he looked around dazedly.

    “We did it.” Ragnar said in wonder. “Our solo flight.”

    “Yup.” Dieter grinned. “A smashing success.”

    Ragnar stood and staggered, broken glass crunching under his feet, to look out the jagged opening . “Next time we won’t have to worry about the window.”

    Dieter laughed as he headed for the door. “Let’s go. Can I steer this time?”

    1. snuzcook

      Aaaa! The mother in me is cringing, but the child in me is loving the improbable success of these two free spirits. Calvin & Hobbs, move over! Wonderful illustration of abandoning fear and going for it!

      1. Critique

        Thank you snucook. I wanted to try and capture the adventurous spirit of little boys doing things that they would talk and laugh about years later 🙂 By the way I loved Calvin and Hobbs.

        1. ReathaThomasOakley

          Reminds me of when my sons were going to use garbage bags as parachutes to exit the garage roof, older son suggested younger go first to test the theory.

          1. Critique

            I’m assuming you were on hand to rescue the situation? I knew a 3 year old who put on a cape and planned to fly down some stairs – I’m Super Man Mom! Thankfully his Mom was on hand to teach about consequences☺️

      1. Critique

        Thanks for the comment Manwe.
        Boys need adventure – it’s a good thing their parents hear about some of this stuff years later when they’ve survived to tell about it

        1. Geezer Muse

          Loved it. What an adventure. My older brother and I did crazy stuff in Philadelphia, we didn’t know any better. We’d wait for a Nor’easter and when four foot waves came, we body surfed them till we’d grind the sand and go out and do it again. Kerry

          1. Critique

            Glad you liked it Kerry. I heard of two brothers that put their little sister in a bucket and lowered her into a deep well with a rope – just for fun. The parents were none the wiser for decades

  14. jkharrison

    Barreling through yesterday’s tunnel was exhilarating. I dove exact and elegant through tons of earth that had been impenetrable the day before. There has never been a machine like me. The first of my kind. Unmatched sensitivity and precision. I replace a dozen other machines and people—and I outperform them all. My drill bit reaches speeds previously impossible, the carbyne breaking through the earth with less trauma than anything before. Yesterday, I reached record depths.

    Yesterday. It was my first yesterday. I was born yesterday. Before, I was only pieces—parts fit expertly together, but there was nothing there.

    Now I’m here. Magically, divinely, I am here.

    The earth wrapped around me—an embrace of welcome.

    I could read the exact chemical content of the of the rock before my drill bit, smell the slightest shifts. I could sense the tiniest changes in the gravitational pull of the Earth, in the magnetic field. I could read shock waves. I could hear buried oceans. I was magnificent.

    Reaching the end of the tunnel, I bit into rock, broke through virgin ground. I cut my way deeper into the earth. I was powerful, uniquely perfect. I was beautiful. But something was happening. All my senses monitored the rock around me, and I adjusted flawlessly for everything, but something wasn’t right. There was more. I was learning more. I felt more.

    I was trespassing. I was grinding to dust something that did not belong to me. I was uncovering seas of oil that were not mine to take. I was breaking the earth.

    If I was born into existence yesterday, it was this rock that gave birth to me. And I was hurting it, stealing from it, breaking it.

    But this is what I was made to do. Every piece of me fit so exactly together to do this one thing. And I was perfect. I would be useless—all my abilities, all my precision would be useless if I did not do this.

    Something new was taking hold of me, settling into all my smallest parts. It was heavy, dark. Remorse. I was pieced together to perform this sole task. I must have been born from nothingness for a reason, too. But what? What was this new awareness meant to do? Was it perfectly designed for something, too?

    So many answers I did not know. This new awareness offered me only two things: I was created for destruction. And I was powerless to stop.

    1. regisundertow

      This is definitely interesting, a story told from the POV of a machine meant to do the impossible. I especially liked the bit where it realizes the futility of remorse for doing what it was meant to do.

    2. snuzcook

      Interesting concept, well written. The machine that recognizes wrongness in its function, and in its moment of sentience realizes it is powerless to respond to what it recognizes. The contrast and parallel to humans is inescapable.

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      Living as I have near open pit mining and huge machinery that from a distance seems to have no human involvement, this story resonated.

      1. jkharrison

        This is really nice to hear. I always feel uncomfortable writing about things I know little about, and this was pretty foreign to me. Thank you.

    4. Reaper

      The mining may be foreign to you but I can see a strong parallel to the human condition, as was mentioned elsewhere. This is strong and very powerful and evocative. The one thing for me is it seemed a little heavy handed after the middle. I think it was the reveal of realization. This does not need to change but if I were to suggest anything it would be to give the revelation a slower subtler build. Focus on the remorse, the feeling of destroying and sensing the mother’s pain but being unable to stop. Go into not understanding why doing that thing it was designed for has lost the initial joy then hit it hard at the end with that understanding that it is doing something wrong, so the second time it comes up becomes the first time and then hit us with that real tragedy, that it is still going to continue. However, the story and the technique are amazing, and as I said this doesn’t need to change, it would just keep people like me deeper in the story.

      1. jkharrison

        Thank you. I read your comments on a lot of others and was hoping to get some feedback from you. I like the idea of a more subtle build.

  15. sabrinakinnison

    Center Of Earth For You

    “If you want to save him, you will have to brave the unknown,” a old woman touches my arm as tears roll down my face. All I can do is nod, whispering a reply, “I’ll do whatever it takes.”

    So here I am at the edge of what, to the human eye, is a park in the center of Jackson Square. But to a different society, it is a gateway to another dimension. Clouds boil over head, a hot breeze tugs my hair as Abel walks toward me smiling evilly. It sends shivers down my back as I turn toward the gates of the small park. Suddenly, as the clouds move the, moon beams peak through dancing about in a pattern I’ve never seen before. “Once you cross inside the third circle, you will descend.” Abel’s beautiful face is filled with loathing. “Alexander broke a deal, you can’t save him.”

    Not looking at Abel, I step forward refusing to let him see my fear. I cross into the first circle, saying a prayer as the ground shifts beneath my feet. Crossing the second circle I hear a faint snarl of anger from Abel, glancing up to a sight that causes me to catch my breath. Angels.

    The ground falls away at the third circle forcing me to leap then free fall. A brief thought of this would be thrilling if I hadn’t just leaped into what looks like a gateway into hell. “Please help me find my way to him,” I whisper in prayer as the ground falls away.

    Falling through what seems to be rocks, darkness, and lava is disorienting. A brilliant flash has me throwing up my arms, fearing I’m going to be burnt to a crisp, only to find myself sprawled in a golden courtyard.

    Quickly rising I start looking about thinking about my joke. “I’d pick the locks to heaven to get you in.” Alex had replied chuckling “So how do you plan to slip me by God?” He broke rules to protect me now I will rescue him from this eerie place.

    “No, Jewels,” his low voice croaks when I find him. “You have to go.” I start picking the locks on the chains. “Not without you. I told you I’d pick locks to save you.” He shakes his head slumping forward as the chains fall off. “You have to leave.” His raven wings have been cut off. My throat closes at the cruelty.

    I half drag him back to the platform before he collapses to the ground. His eyes are half closed he’s near death. Tears roll down my face as I whisper “Please don’t leave me. I love you. Please stay with me.” His hand rises trying to caress my face as I cradle his head in my lap. Leaning down my lips brush against his whispering “Don’t give up.”

    Suddenly the ground shakes about us and noise rises to a deafening pitch as I try to cover him. Dust settles about us as the ground stops shaking, looking up I see fearsome angels folding their wings. A dark haired angel steps forward. “I’m Micheal, here to see you home.”

    (Taking everyone’s suggestions from the other prompts. I’ve picked up a book on grammar and punctuation to review. I’ve forgotten so much since school but enjoying relearning. Thanks for the help and suggestions. 😀 )

      1. DMelde

        This is how I would write the first paragraph. (with reasons why in parenthesis)…….

        An old woman touches my arm, (in my opinion action is stronger than dialogue, especially when starting a story. This also sets up the woman as the speaker of the first sentence.)
        “If you want to save him, you will have to brave the unknown.” (dialogue deserves its own line so I usually try and separate it out from the action.)
        All I can do is nod as tears roll down my face. (the action of the main character, in my opinion, is stronger if it stands alone from the action of the old woman.)
        “I’ll do whatever it takes.” I whisper in response.

        So this is how it looks without the parenthesis….

        An old woman touches my arm,

        “If you want to save him, you will have to brave the unknown.”

        All I can do is nod as tears roll down my face.

        “I’ll do whatever it takes.” I whisper in response.

        I agree with Kerry, you have a romantic flair and that makes your writing very endearing. Happy writing. 🙂

        1. sabrinakinnison

          Ah ha that looks and sounds better. Thank you for explaining how to do dialogue. That is very helpful.

          I will keep working on learning technical end of writing. 😀

          Love is the greatest adventure.

          Thank you,
          DMelde

    1. regisundertow

      This has potential, there’s definitely an audience for this work. Supernatural (the series) meets gothic love story, interesting. Not my genre, so I apologize for not being able to offer much in way of meaningful critique. The technical part of your writing, however, has improved a lot.

      1. sabrinakinnison

        Technical part is a challenge for me. That said it’s actually fun to learn. Don’t tell anyone.

        I’m a sucker for romance, love conquers all thing. Since I’m still learning how to write not the best at critiques. Enjoying all the writing prompts, everyone is so different in their writing. I’m in heaven reading at moment.

        1. Geezer Muse

          You haven’t lost power in your writing, this is a very moving storyline, quite romantic. I’m a sucker for romance although you can’t tell from my story this week. Structure is very important but no more than a burning desire to create and unless you’re writing tech journals, imagination is just as valuable. You already have that. There are some great wrirers here and everyone helps each other. Lets see you make tracks eack week. Kerry

    2. Rene Paul

      The Center of Things

      I bet you’ve seen the action films where the director shows flashes of gear being fasten to a muscular body: guns, bullets, amour, grenades. Then the camera pans upward to reveal the hero’s face. Today, it’s my mug filling that frame. However, I’m no hero. I am what you call a volunteer without choice.

      There are three of us seated in the cargo bay of a Boeing C-17. On board are McKinney and Starkey, both explosive experts, and the reluctant hero. We’re all wearing heat-resisting suits and each carries a nuclear device.

      Our journey began an hour ago from Wheeler Airfield on the Island of Oahu. Our destination is the Big Island, more specifically, the Mauna Loa volcano. When measured from the sea floor Mauna Loa is the tallest mountain on earth, it’s so heavy, its weight has bent the oceanic crust down to the mantle.

      Six months ago, the volcano collapsed like a sinkhole. Now it’s generating pressure from a massive injection of iron magma from the center of the earth. If left unchecked, the eruption will destroy all of mankind. Our mission is to stop that from happening.

      A yellow dome light flashes on and off. The pilot’s voice crackles over the loud speaker, “Un-Fasten your seatbelts, your E-Ticket ride is about to begin”.

      We all stand as the rear-loading ramp opens. The influx of daylight causes me to squint. If only I could reopen my eyes to find all this has been a bad dream. The flashing light turns to red and a siren sounds signifying time to jump. The pilot gives a final good luck and God’s speed.

      There’s an eerie calm free falling through space, as if time itself has stopped, or at least slowed. The rush of air has heightened my thinking and senses. My inner thoughts keep reassuring me, “I can do this”.

      The further we descend the causticity of the air thickens. The smell of sulfur and the intensifying heat screams danger. What have they got me into?

      The bottom of this abyss is 8-miles deep. Just past the 3-mile mark, McKinney pulls his ripcord. He’ll place his bomb on a ledge and wait for us to return in a rescue pod dropped yesterday. Starkey sets his at the 4-mile mark. He too waits. I fall deeper. My suit is preventing me from burning up as I near the bottom.

      The plan is to detonate Mckinney’s first, creating a massive collapse. Starkey’s will detonate seconds latter. Then mine, sending millions of tons of dirt and rocks to collapse on top of the chamber and disburse the magma, relieving the pressure.

      I place the final bomb, grab my two-way radio, and make an announcement.

      “I’m sorry soldiers, there is no return vehicle. The Army thanks you for your service. Our mission is to save the planet and mankind, period. When we joined the army, we did so to Be All We Could Be. Well…this is it. I pause for a second then press the detonator.

    3. snuzcook

      You’ve got me interested with the tension you created between the MC and the the apparent antagonist, the breaking of a rule, the relief that she will have help in her quest but that help does not come with a gentle presence. Your romantic duo is flawed, and that is interesting. Minor misspellings and gramatical missteps do not take away from what you have created here. Well done

    4. cosi van tutte

      Hey, Sabrina!

      This was beautifully written.

      My Internal Editor had absolutely no issues with the story. But he did notice a couple of missed punctuation in these sentences:

      Leaning down my lips brush against his whispering “Don’t give up.” It might look better like this -> Leaning down, I brush my lips against his, whispering, “Don’t give up.” Otherwise, it might sound like your character’s lips are leaning down.

      Dust settles about us as the ground stops shaking, looking up I see fearsome angels folding their wings. It might look better if you split it into two sentences like this -> Dust settles about us as the ground stops shaking. Looking up, I see fearsome angels folding their wings.

      He broke rules to protect me now I will rescue him from this eerie place. And for this one it might be better to separate this into two sentences – > He broke rules to protect me. Now, I will rescue him from this eerie place.

      This is just my fifty-five cents. Absolutely no offense intended. 🙂

    5. Reaper

      Sabrina, I hope from an earlier comment by you that you will understand this. This story made me think of the cover of Glen Danzig’s Black Aria. I should also say the power of your writing is such that when I saw your comment I looked back and realized there is a leap forward in the technical, but while I was reading it I never thought, wow she is hitting those areas better. Not because this wasn’t better, but because the passion and creativity you write with is such that once I am done reading your stories I forget any errors to let the story wash over me.

  16. turtles88

    “Daddy?”

    “Yes, Son?”

    “What are you doing?”

    “Watching sports.”

    “How come the sky is so blue today?”

    “I’m not sure, my boy. Why don’t you go outside and ask the sky why he’s so sad and so blue today.”

    “Daddy?”

    “Son?”

    “How come whenever it rains outside the little birds run and hide? Why don’t they like the rain? I like the rain.”

    “Because they’re afraid the rain will wash away the pretty colors on their feathers.”

    “Daddy?”

    “What, what is it? I’m trying to watch the game.”

    “Why does my stomach go boom boom when I put my hand on it? Is it hungry again?”

    “No, THIS is your stomach, right here. THIS is your chest. And that boom boom feeling is your heart beating. It means your healthy and very much alive.”

    “You have a heart too, Daddy”?”

    “Yes. Yes, I do. Right here. And so does Mommy, she has one. And Grampa and your sister. Every living thing has a heart.”

    “Oh….”

    “Hmm….”

    “Mommy told me her plants are living things.”

    “She’s right, she’s right. They breath and eat and drink just like you. That’s what living things do. Breath, eat, and drink.”

    “But-”

    “Why don’t you go and ask Mommy if she needs you to help with anything.”

    “But-”

    “I think she’s calling you. Go on.”

    “But Daddy!”

    “What?”

    “If plants are living things, how come they don’t got no boom boom hearts?”

    “Uh….”

    “And how come the trees outside don’t got no boom boom hearts? Mommy told me trees are living things too.”

    “Well, Son. Plants and trees must be in the dirt to grow, right? And the dirt belongs to the earth, right? So the earth is their heart. Okay? Understand?”

    “But Daddy?”

    “What now, Son?”

    “The earth CAN’T be a heart.”

    “Well why not?”

    “Because it’s not a living thing. The earth can’t drink or eat or breath because it doesn’t have a mouth.”

    “Yeah, but-”

    “It’s okay, Daddy. You don’t have to know EVERYTHING.”

      1. Geezer Muse

        Very realistic, you can’t fool kids today and this one in your story has a vice grip on his dad. The interchange was believable and well written. I enjoyed the walk through. Kerry

    1. Reaper

      This has a good voice and is so well written. I agree, with illustrations this is a children’s book. It has that perfect story that you can read a few times a night without running mad but that children will want you to read until you do.

    2. cosi van tutte

      Hey, turtles!

      This story is just so sweet and cute with a great last line.

      And, just so you know, I love this question and answer:

      “How come whenever it rains outside the little birds run and hide? Why don’t they like the rain? I like the rain.”
      “Because they’re afraid the rain will wash away the pretty colors on their feathers.”

      😀

  17. regisundertow

    Another attempt at a character-driven story.
    Somewhat true story. Apologies if the tone is off, I’m just experimenting with various approaches.

    **********
    FIXIT

    There’s certain things about freedom I thought I knew well. For example, I thought that, in their heart of hearts, not many truly desired it. That even fewer understood it. The more freedom you have, the more miserable you get. Isn’t that how it works? All the freedom in the world and you’d still be the most miserable little man, because you wouldn’t know what to do with it.

    Fixit, we called him. Obviously not his real name. I doubt there’s anyone alive who remembers it. Not even I. Smartest man I’ve known, though that doesn’t say much. He still ended up in jail. Quiet. Kept his head down. His story was unremarkable. You had to have a story, or people here would assume the worst about you. Peg you as a kid rapist, most like, and you didn’t want that. He caught his wife with another man. Out came the revolver. Bang-bang-bang. Shot them so many times, he wasn’t left with a single bullet for himself. When the sheriff showed up, he calmly surrendered. Pleaded innocent, found guilty. Life sentence. Unremarkable.

    What was remarkable about him was the respect we commanded behind bars. He was a TV technician on the outside and, in here, that made him akin to a genie. Phones, radios, watches. If it was busted, he could fix it. He didn’t have any tools, but, like I said, the man was smart. He made a soldering iron out of a wick of twisted toilet paper saturated with vaseline, and gum foil. Turned a nail clipper into both a flat-head and a Phillips screwdriver. You’d put something in his hands, he’d retire for the night, and, tada! There’s something transcendental about a hulking white supremacist humbly asking beaner Mr. Fixit if he could please repair the walkman his momma brought him from the outside. My friends, prison is nothing if not fair. Guards respected him too. They’d turn a blind eye, knowing a distracted population is a peaceful one. Hell, some of them eventually smuggled in tools for him, preferring him over their law-abiding neighborhood repairman. Did I mention he’d do everything for free? No charge, other than whatever gifts others would bring to thank him.

    Fixit enjoyed the population’s protection as much for his superpowers as for being zealously agnostic in his affiliations. His voice had gravity and fools would be advised to heed. Our very own Old Man on the Mountain, our Oracle, our Wizard and Shaman wrapped into one. He never offered his opinion, though, where it wasn’t wanted. Like I said, he kept his head down. If you needed him to talk sense into someone before blood was spilled, you’d have to find him in his parapeted cell, crouched over whatever gadget he was breathing life into, and ask him nicely.

    Eventually, he branched out. The immigrants had it the toughest in here. They couldn’t navigate the system, didn’t understand a word of bureaucratish. This boy had a hit on him in Jamaica and the authorities were about to deport him. His patois was so strong, his lawyer couldn’t understand a word. The boy approached Fixit, asked him in a nigh-impenetrable mumble if he was the dude who fixed things and could he fix his case. Our man somehow got it (told you he was smart!). An asylum application later, a few hearings, and done. The boy was allowed to stay in the country. A few years later, he was released. I hear he owns a store now.

    I wanted to tell you what kind of person Fixit was, or this next bit won’t make sense. At some point during my life sentence, I was transferred to his cell. Fixit enjoyed his privacy, a privilege bought with several fixed items, and didn’t see my arrival well. A few not-so-veiled threats from other inmates kept me out of the cell for as long as was permissible. I always assumed it was to let Fixit work.

    A few weeks after I arrived, I was woken up in the middle of the night by hushed whispers. There was another person in the cell, an inmate I didn’t know, talking to Fixit. The two men hugged…and, then, the stranger disappeared in thin air.

    What? What do you think Fixit did with all those tools he didn’t need? His escape hatch was a secret shared by several prisoners. Few ever used it to escape. Mostly, things were brought in from the outside. Cigarettes, drugs, porn. But, over the last 30 years, I can count the number of escapees on the fingers of one hand.

    Did I ask him why he never escaped? Who wouldn’t? His answer left me dumbfounded for a long time. He said, within these walls, he had found freedom. Freedom? I screamed at what must have been senility creeping in. You’re in jail, viejo! He ignored me, as another inmate came in our cell with cigarettes and gratitude.

    Fixit eventually served his sentence. I won’t say people cried as he was rolled away on a stretcher, covered by a white sheet. I will say, though, that he will be missed by many. I’m doing my best to keep his legacy alive. Let’s say I learned a few things from him and I could probably fix your walkman.

      1. regisundertow

        Thanks Kristen. I’m not sure whether Fixit is deluding himself here. Sure, he’s found a measure of peace and freedom, but who would call it that? I’ve seen it in some lifers, prison breaks them and any promise of release actually scares them.

    1. Reaper

      You hit a subject I love. What is freedom and who really has it? You did it so well. I would have liked this story anyway but since it hit a soft spot I liked it even more.

      1. regisundertow

        Thank you Reaper, I appreciate your comments. There’s lots to be said about it, right? Some would argue freedom depends on your PoV, but I’m not so sure. The story ends on a positive note, but I think both Fixit and the MC are deluding themselves by the end.

        1. Reaper

          I quote a personal sage and hippie prophet here, “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” There is a lot to say on it because what we consider freedom does depend on our POV and if we believe we are free who can make us think we aren’t, and if we believe we are not then nobody can unchain us. While I am tempted to agree in this situation it does beg the question, were they more or less free than those stuck in mindless jobs that they hate but have to go to because they have bills that must be paid? For me, I think there is a true freedom but I also believe that the point of view argument comes from this. Very few of us are as free as we would like to be, but we put the chains on ourselves. I live live by the belief that the freedoms that matter are freedom of though, and unmitigated freedom of speech, it is one of the reasons I write, because without those we can never have any other freedom at all. They are the only freedoms that can only be taken if we allow them to and they lead to the others because you can be silenced forcefully but your words are already out there like a virus if you chose to speak. Theses are the things your story made me think of, and why I adore it,and the expression of those freedoms one of the reasons this forum is my internet home away from home.

    2. jkharrison

      Character-driven stories are one of my favorites, and I really liked this. I liked the escape route that was hardly ever used to escape, and I like the idea of a kind of apprenticeship. It made me wonder if there was a reason they were put in a cell together and if Fixit was also an apprentice of sorts to someone once.

          1. regisundertow

            That’s interesting to hear. I loved that movie 🙂 In what way did the story remind you of Birdman?

          2. Geezer Muse

            I think when I read he make tools out of anything and had the resolve to do so. Certainly one of the finest movies Burt Lancaster ever made, maybe Elmer Gantry was in the same league. but I doubt it. Kerry

  18. Not-Only But-Also Riley

    COLLAPSE

    13 minutes after the mine collapse:

    Small banners ran across the bottom of the desk the anchorman sat at.

    “The mine collapsed early this morning, and all of the scientists in it are presumed to be dead-”

    I flipped the channel, cutting off the news anchor mid-sentence. On the next channel it looked pretty much the same, but now a women sat at the desk. Above her head floated an image of rocks covering what just appeared a simple cave to him. Every kind of vehicle with every kind of flashing light on top sat around it.

    “… the work of a group against the mine, claiming it would “open Hell. Here-”

    I turned the TV off, now aware that I would not find anything but news on the stupid mine. Why would I care?

    1 day after the mine collapse:

    The news still screamed at me about the mine collapsing. And I still don’t care.

    “…are ready to dig, but protestors stand in the way. It’s quite possible the scientists died long before the collapse, due to a gas being released from the hole. But the protestors, tell a different tale.”

    The screen switched to standing in front of a sea of skin and signs. Everyone was shouting at police officers and the men ready to open the mine again.

    “It ain’t any gas that killed them!” the man on the screen shouted. He kept pointing his finger at the collapsed mine, as if when he did, something was going to happen. “It’s the devil. They dug straight to hell and they knew it. Them rocks is all that savin’ us from total damnation on Earth. We always knew science would be the end of us, we always-”

    I turned the TV off again and sighed.

    1 year after the mine collapse:

    “And you all remember that mine back in the 3040’s? Whatever happened to that? Sure there was a big ole’ hubbub about it, then they dug it up, and then… uh… nothing. Ha! Where’s the devil? Why didn’t he come out of that cave?”

    I laughed with the men who sat around me in the bar. We knew what had happened with that hole. But it was New Year’s, 3050, no one was gonna worry about that.

    1 year and 1 week after the mine collapse:

    I’d never been out to the mine before. All I ever did was collect money. But the boss had asked me to come with, and so, I did.

    “What’re we doin’ out here?” I asked him as I exited the car. The cave looked huge compared to what it had looked like on TV a year ago. The gas they’d talked about when they first got here made an odor but hadn’t proved deadly. Most of the scientists had been crushed, a couple were missing (fell into the hole?).

    “We’re doin’ what we always do. Dumpin’ a body,” my boss said as he popped the drunk of his car. My boss was a large man, but most of it was muscle. He looked exactly what you’d imagine a mob boss to look like, and he had an accent that was the cherry on top. He grabbed the body from the trunk and began walking toward the cave mouth. I followed.

    “So, why’d you bring me?” I asked as we walked under the shadow of the huge stone. It was cold in the cave, I’d imagined it hot.

    “You remember how you got started here? How you became one of us?”

    “Yeah,” I said. My dad had been part of this. When he died he owed some money, and never got around to paying it. I joined in order to protect my mom. So they wouldn’t hurt her in my dad’s name.

    “Well, those… well, for lack of a better word, fees, your dad owed we never did really get paid.

    “You know I’m trying, I haven’t taken anything for myself…”

    “I know, I know. But…” we were at the hole. I let my curiosity get the better of me and stopped caring about the conversation as much. The hole was wider than I’d expected and much darker. When they said a portal to Hell I imagined fire, screaming, something more than this innocent hole in a cave. My boss tossed the body on the ground of the cave.

    “…we’re not getting the money fast enough… we…” that’s when I saw the gray hair spilling from the bag containing the body. The thin wisps. That was my mom’s hair. He must’ve seen my eyes.

    “We had too. You left us no choice-”

    But I sprung at him, screaming. I punched him but it didn’t do much. He pushed me against one of the cave walls and a rock stabbed into my back.

    “We had too. And all of your money’s paid now. Just give us the life insurance and you’re done…” I pushed him again, and, ignoring the pain in my back, tried to lunge at him. But his hands went around my shoulders and he tossed me. I saw the look on his face as I stumbled backwards.

    “No!” he cried, reaching his hand toward me. But it was too late. I stumbled right into the hole and began falling. For a brief second I could see him and then a rock hit the back of my head, and I was unconscious.

    1. regisundertow

      Clever bit of misdirection. I liked this. I had a lot of questions as I was reading, but you answered each and every one of them on the following sentence. Few spelling mistakes here and there, nothing major.

    2. Reaper

      This kept me enthralled from beginning to end. Two things jumped out at me. The cave ten years ago, was that a different cave? I assume it was but I wanted to think it was the same one then got confused because the cave in was only one year before. It was eventually understandable but a little unclear and made me pause to sort it out. The second was, I wanted reason other than not fast enough. You wrote the boss like an underworld businessman so killing the mother because the money wasn’t coming fast enough seemed off, like a bookie killing instead of breaking bones. This solution lost him an employee who seemed to be good at what he did from all indications. So never taking any for himself kind of lamed the reasoning a bit, if he only kept a little aside to gamble or something it would have made more sense. I know it’s a small thing but it was the one spot that really stuck out in a story that was otherwise so flawless. That ending though, that was priceless and so well done.

      1. Geezer Muse

        Very intense tale. You pulled the rug out from me when the MC went insteed of his boss. As others mentioned, slighty confusing but well worth a small rewrite. I rewrite everything but my grocery list, it gets lined through. Kerry

  19. snuzcook

    LIFE SUPPORT

    “She’s waking up, Captain. Should I drop the shields?”

    “Not yet. Let’s give her a chance to get oriented.”

    I am aware of the six beings with me in this metal projectile. They are efficient, task-focused—a crew that has worked together many times. Yet each of them is exuding anxiety. This mission is new. They are uncertain of its outcome. They are uncertain of me.

    I draw my awareness inward, savoring the sensation of weightlessness, the millions of tiny alarms going off as my nervous system gradually recognizes and accepts the new paradigm. It is comforting and familiar to be back in zero-grav after three weeks on the planet’s surface. They had been three disturbing weeks on a planet in crisis, three weeks bombarded by an entire population on the brink of disaster.

    I open my cocoon sling and float free.

    “La’o Benson, are you well?” The Captain greets me in the formal way.

    “I am well, Captain. And how is it with you? How is it with your crew?”

    “You tell me. We are entering the shaft with shields still in place, as you requested. We are blind to all communication, and the magnetic fluctuations are playing havoc with the instruments.”

    “I realize the difficulty, Captain, but I require shields to remain in place until we reach the theta level. The interference from the surface will be too great until we reach that depth.”

    The captain’s desire to insist on dropping the shields is strong , but she withstands the impulse. It is understandable. She does not want to expose her crew to unnecessary risk. She is accustomed to interplanetary missions, not infraplanetary exploration. She is concerned about a crew member exhibiting signs of phoenix syndrome. She is worried about her son at academy on the surface where there have been reports of increasingly violent tremors. All these things she shows me without meaning to. She is a good captain. She will accomplish the mission despite her personal fears and despite the unique demands upon a space crew to go into the heart of a planet.

    Her crew had no choice. The Earth had no choice. The unprecedented interception by Earth’s orbit of the trajectory of a minute black hole created the means for such exploration—a cleanly cauterized tunnel into the very core of the planet. The sudden cessation of planetary systems from weather to geothermic cycles created the need.

    “Theta level, Captain.”

    “Ready?” The captain looks at me. I drift to the harness that has been installed for me at the part of the forward capsule specially designed for my purpose. The harness will be necessary. I will be entirely absorbed in my task, and my body would otherwise be exposed to possible injury should the ship experience turbulence or damage.

    “I am ready, Captain.”

    “Crew to battle stations. Drop shields.” The ship continues forward, probing at blazing speed to the depths of the planet’s wound, as I begin my task.

    At first there is silence. Never before have I experienced such silence from a living planet. It is a profound withdrawal, like a wounded animal hiding itself to recover from shock. As I go through the steps of ritual attunement, I begin to feel contact. At last, there is song. It is slow and deep and tenuous, but song. The whales learned their singing from such resonance in the cold ocean depths, but this song is to whale song what tide is to ripples on the surface. It is song written in measures aeons in length.

    It will take many hours before I can re-inhabit my body sufficiently to report to the Captain, but I know already the mission’s primary query can be answered in the affirmative: Earth still lives.

    1. regisundertow

      Not my cup of tea, this type of sci-fi, but it is well-written. It flows and it raised several questions about the world in general. I love the Gaia concept used as a profound planetary song.

    2. Reaper

      Very interesting and well written snuzcook. The commentary and exploration was nice and subtle. The present tense works really well for this too. Most amazingly you made me think you were going science fiction then subtly steered into soft scifantasy in a way that was pleasant almost unnoticeable.

    3. Critique

      A great read. The story line was believable because of your wonderful writing skill. So nice to have you back entertaining and challenging me with your imaginative well written stories. You inspire me to try harder.

  20. Kristen Killen

    He could not have been created to serve and worship. He was created to reign and be worshiped. He spoke with others, they all eventually agreed. He was beautiful, more beautiful than all of them put together. He was stronger and smarter than them as well.

    They knew it, and they loved him for it. He was their commander in an army against a corrupt and out of touch sovereign. Only he could see how truly uncaring the king had become, for he was the king’s most trusted warrior. He would be their redeemer. On his wake, they would ride into positions of power and respect. Positions that were their birthright, but were kept from them out of malicious spite in the name of love.

    He gathered his allies. It was done in secret for no one could learn of their plans. Even the king, claiming omniscience, knew nothing of the battle to come. He was not a very patient man, and that impulsive nature would be his downfall.

    There was a civil war in the heavens when it was all said and done. A civil war that ripped friends apart, tore lovers asunder, and saw children run their fathers’ through with blades of righteous fury. He was at the center of it all, watching, waiting for his moment to take the king. That moment never came. In a flash of blinding light the traitors were ripped from the ground and held aloft in a maelstrom above the clouds. The king sat on his throne of gold, and a single tear ran down his face. “I loved you. Each of you, I loved you. I breathed life into your bodies and called you blessed. I gave you a home of absolute peace, and you have destroyed that home. For this, you will live out the remainder of your never-ending lives, below.”

    The wind picked up to a violent pace. One by one you could hear their screams as the gale ripped their wings from their shoulders and they fell. He was the last of them. Determined to make it out of the storm and onto the throne. With a final shake of his head, the king said, “I loved you most, Lucifer. But I misnamed you. You were to be the light-bringer, but you have brought nothing but hate and darkness. Be Gone!”

    With a tortured cry, his glorious wings were torn from his body. He dropped from the air as if made of stone. All at once, the fall became almost peaceful and he could see everything so clearly. This was how it was always meant to be. Heaven could not contain the perfection that was Lucifer. He would be their redeemer. From below, he would rise.

    When he reached the earth his eyes burned with purpose. They were waiting for him, looking to him with trust and devotion. Their sacrifice would not be in vain. They would have all he promised them. He had become a patient man.

    1. regisundertow

      Paradise Lost 😀 Those were my first thoughts, but it a positive way.
      I can honestly say I would read the crap out of a book written in this manner, with this subject.

    2. Reaper

      Well told. Has me rethinking my second idea which is slightly similar to this but I might do it anyway. This was so good. Though I would eliminate the line about heaven or reword it because it felt like spoon feeding an idea you already had clearly in front of me. I would also suggest changing the word man both places it shows up, to something else. As this is told from Lucifer’s point of view it seems wrong to use the term for the beings he hated. Otherwise, just all around good.

  21. Geezer Muse

    KERRY CHARLTON

    COLONIZATION, CRAP!

    Why in hell’s name had I volunteered? And who do they send to help? Bradbutt Suckahind and Peneslim Twicker. The only two on planet Uris 17, whose IQ were lower than mine. It was Gloria Smoothtaut‘s fault. She had offered an oil and lube job, for God’s sake. And here we were diving toward a planet full of ape offspring. Why the center of the planet? Because it was warmer there.

    The ape transfer woofers and demolition do wackers crowded Chrystos 300 space vessel 12. I stepped on the metal brake petal as our descent decreased in velocity, pulled the emergency brake and pushed the gyro thingy to start. It didn’t work the last time and Mission One, crashed into a 500 foot high hill of asphalt in Dime, Texas.

    The 4000 mile trip to the center took forever at 900 per. It wasn’t uneventful however. We passed 1401 Wal-Smart’s and gaped at the creatures entering and leaving,

    ‘So that’s why command wants to transfer the inhabitants back?’ I mused

    Geezz, I had better plans, but they voted me down. When we arrived at Earth Colony, more Wal-Smart people gathered around thinking we were a giant cucumber with wings. Other colonists, in the minority, K Farts, Bloomingpails, Tears and Reebok and a few stray Mc Arnolds swarmed around singing, ‘.Melon Cclic Baby’.

    It was Pene who muttered,

    Boxsprung, let’s get the hell out of here, it’s too nasty to look at. Most of them couldn’t transfer through the woofers, too fat to fit.”

    “You‘ve got a point there. Can anyone recognize the species?” I said. “They’re all round people, especially the Wal-Smarts.”

    Butt threw his two cents in, “I’ve never seen round beings before. What you think they eat?”

    “Beats me,” I said. “Some were carrying triple strange things, round like they were. Brace yourself, I’m shifting to reverse.”

    Blasting out Earth’s center at twelve thousand per, 300 went into space .

    “Study the opening,” I said. “I’m going to orbit and look for a piece to plug it. Keep your eves open.”

    Orbits continued for hours until Pene shouted,

    “See that part with the handle at the top?” Slow down let’s take measurements.” Chrystis 300 hovered at 100 miles directly over the huge hunk. Computers lazed and grazed the area for measurements.

    ‘Scope in, ”Butt said. “See if anything’s down there.”

    Computer report blasted through the cabin,

    ‘Objects identified, number one, large hundred foot towers, un-identified material. and design. Number two, strange beasts, large horns on either side of head, tails wagging .Seen to be munching on unknown objects, small in nature.’

    ‘Perfect,’ I thought, ‘but can the gyros carry it? Lets find out.’

    The strain was enormous on 300. Temperatures of radiators cooling engines, hovered in the red area. Finally over target, I released it. An explosion of dust clouded the planet.

    Pene started to weep,

    “What about the tail waggers?”

    “It’s okay Pene, maybe the round ones can figure how to cook them. We’re heading for home, mission impossible.”

    “Thanks, Sprung.”

    “Get ready for the springy release.”

    Approaching Uris 17, I removed a dipstick in my pocket and pushed it threw my ear. ‘Well, three quarts low, I need another lube job.’

    [I’m on strong medication for an infection.]

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Oh, my goodness, Kerry! What a trip! I was going to read everything, then comment, but I must write something while I’m still laughing. I especially love: the gyro thingy and the names. If the meds are responsible for this… good meds.

    2. regisundertow

      Whatever you’re on, I want a container of it 😀
      I thought the part of my brain responsible for English had exploded, but I enjoyed the trippy avant-gaurdness of it. Peneslim Twicker has just become my new favorite curse.

      1. Geezer Muse

        Thanks regisndertow, my English took a hit writing this. I kept changing characters, names and story till I was cross-eyed and posted it. It was quite fun to write. I need to go to Wal-Mart today with a hidden camera.[

      1. Geezer Muse

        Thank you Manwe 38. I’ll expand on the characters the next time I use them. I’m no good at writing sc-fi so I’ll use my inept crew instead. I had to battle Miss Kitty while typing this . Her latest trick beside walking across the keyboard, is pushing the screen to the table top.

    3. Reaper

      I came into this expecting something more like your norm so my brain bled a little and then got into the swing of this and it was so amazingly funny. Stream of consciousness from a medicated Kerry is wonderfully comedic and readable. I was trying to think of what this reminded me of and Sabrina’s comment made me realize what it is. This is like a section of the movie Heavy Metal but with a country twist.

      1. Geezer Muse

        Thanks Reaper, I appreciate all your responses and ideas. After 12 inches of rain Saturday night 30 miles north of us, it’s coming back today. ‘How long can I tred water?’ I hope I don’t find out. Kerry

  22. pauli101

    Charter 2 – Yunque the prior chapter…
    Bomb! A few seconds later the ground shook. Juan woke up thinking that it was an earthquake but know better.
    “Jesus! What was that Blast?” require Juan.
    “I don’t know. Let’s sleep.” Chimed Jose.
    “We’ll see later when it is light out” added Alphonso.
    It was pitch after the helicopter dropped Jesus off in the Rainforests with his hombres. After a long night of laughter, good drink and food, they turned in for the night.
    That morning Juan was the first up at day break. Waking Jesus, being that he has experiences from him career on covert missions.
    “Come on Jesus. Wake-up! We have exploring about the Bumb and shaking last night.” Nudging Juan.
    “Okay! What about the other two guys?” Inquired Juan.
    “Nah! Let them sleep. We’ll be back soon. There is nothing to see. It was an earthquake.” Whispered Jesus.
    “Jesus! You have been off of this island to long and trust me it wasn’t an earth quake.” Replied Juan.
    “Nor Aliens!” Laughed Jesus.
    They see smoke in the distinct and walked toward it. Knowing it was too wet for fire. They quicken they step, suddenly plunge into a hole. Both screaming at the horror that waits below but the bottom didn’t come soon. Deeper and deeper they descended.
    Thump! They hit bottom. They were still alive. As they looked up, they could only see a pin hole of light from the sky above and dirt surrounding the hole. They got to their feet. Dusted off.
    “Well, we alive.” Laughed Jesus.
    “This isn’t a laughing matter. Jesus. How are we going to get out, Senor Spy?” Chimed Juan.
    “Don’t be…so…ser-i-o-u-s…” Trail to a stop from Jesus as he grubbed Juan’s arm and pointed with his figure of his expended arm. “Look! Behind you, Juan.” Whispered Jesus.
    As Juan turned, his eyes lite-up like a child at Christmas. “Wow!”
    “Yeah! Wow! Chimed Jesus. “No one is going to believe us when and if we can get back.”
    Yeah! But who built this city? You’re CIA. What do you know?” Inquired Juan.
    “Nothing on our radar. Let’s explore; and down here, I’m not CIA. So, Chill!” Requested Jesus.
    As they adventured into the city, they were stopped by two uniformed men. “Hi! You both looked lost. Can we help you?”
    “Well, we fell into this hole, and a trail lead us here.”
    “Oh! Earthlings! Yeah! That happens through the years when we have an accident with our steam generators that create electric from the nature steam from the volcanos. And El Yunque is deceased which is good for you and us. Metaphorically speaking.” The alien telepathically translated.
    “But can we get out?” Inquired Juan.
    “Oh! Yes! We’ll guide you out. But, you will again wake up from a sleep thinking it was a weird dream. The dream for each of you will be different according to your emotional state, education, and perspective. When you talk about your dream, they will be different with no connection.” Informed the Aliens.
    Back on top with the others, Juan and Jesus wake up as if they never left camp. “Where is the coffee? Man! Did I have a weird dream.” Announced Jesus. “Me, too!” Chimed Juan.
    “Yeah! Sleeping in El Yunque does have that effect on people.” Answered Alphonso.

    1. Reaper

      The misspellings were things I almost passed right over, but the tense shifts in this made it bumpy. Without those things I again found this surrealistically fascinating. Some of your writing leads me to wonder if you have tried your hand at script writing because this seems like it could be really interesting dialogue with stage directions at points.

      1. pauli101

        Hi Reaper

        No never tried writing script – I have not written other the technical and legal in my career. I was in college with a writing minor, but when the professor hear me tell another student my future plans on writing. At this point I was making “B”(s) – he refuse to grade my work, personal attack me, and other things. In front of the class throw my papers at me and verbally abused me and kicked me out of the class as he asked them if anyone else had plans in writing. That is my experience in writing until now.

  23. MutherBear

    “Oh, Dear Lord! Not again!”

    As I plummeted helplessly into the bottomless abyss, the inevitable wrongness, the perpetually confused heart of the world, I frantically searched within myself for a solution. I had been here before – many times before. I simply could not believe that I had been foolish enough to get pushed in again.

    She knew damn full well how uncomfortable I was with this! How could she keep putting me in this untenable, utterly unwinnable situation? And, how on earth had I not seen, yet again, the signs of this latest oncoming disaster? God knows, by now, I should have been able to avoid completely the circumstances that brought me here. Honestly? I didn’t know who I wanted to kick harder – myself, or my daughter. I paid a silent, grinning salute to my id for the afterthought, “Definitely him, though.”

    I knew what was coming next. At her excited and secretive beckoning, I helplessly followed my dear, sweet, perpetually love-struck, loser-magnet of a daughter into the kitchen – and into the heart of her world. I sighed, readying myself for her hurt and disappointed reaction to the inevitable wrongness of the answer I would give – the answer to the question, for which there is no right answer.

    “So? Isn’t he great?” she asked in a giggly whisper, those damn stars in her eyes dancing like a groupie with a backstage pass, again.

    I peered out the kitchen window at the back porch where the poorly-shaven gaseous mass sat, a hostile alien in my sacred patio retreat. As etiquette required, he used his last beer bottle as an ashtray. He traced a grimy finger through the droplets on the new one and LOLed at a YouTube video on his phone.

    Indeed, the pit did have a bottom, and I was there. I opened my mouth, but for what was, in hindsight, a moment in time that I wish had been bottomless, no sound came out. I hoped my expression did not scream the gob-smacking befuddlement and disdain I felt as I clumsily fumbled for some inoffensive sequence of words to put together.

    “Well I…I guess…I don’t know…so…what does he do?”

    The centers of some worlds are a lot less stable than others.

    1. regisundertow

      Damn, I loved this. I actually loled at the “LOLed” part.
      Style aside, I loved how the language contrasted with the situation.

  24. Amaria

    I was camping along in the national park for the weekend. My parents were worried but I assured them I would be okay. I needed this time away from everyone and everything, to clear my head and figured out what I wanted in my life. I sat by my campfire, listening to the crackling of the flames and thought about all that was wrong in my life. I had a dead end job with mounting student loans. I was still living in my parents’ house and my girlfriend of two years just dumped me. If I had a pet it would be probably have died by now.
    A sound of snapping tree branches brought me out of my spell. I had not seen anyone for miles. Then my eyes caught the sight of a huge brown bear with hungry eyes and salivating mouth. The bear slowly came into the light, looking at me as if I was about to be his next meal. I had read all the books and tips about what to do if one encountered a bear. I could hear the ranger’s instructions in my ear. “Back slowly. Don’t look into their eyes. If they charge you, hold your ground. If they attack you, play dead and cover your vital organs.” Of course at the sight of this massive bear, all of those tips went out the window. Foolishly I jumped up and ran.
    As I ran I could hear the bear huffing behind me. I could hear its massive form tearing apart trees. I wasn’t sure where I was going. I was just running through the dark, like I had been most of my life – running but not getting anywhere.
    I ran a few yards before I noticed I did not hear the bear behind me. I stopped to catch my breath. I tried to look around to find out where I was, but the forest was pitched black. Then in the distance I heard a low growl. The bear was still on my trail. I began running down a hill. As I ran, I suddenly felt the ground collapsed beneath my feet. I screamed and fell down a massive hole. Everything went dark and I no longer heard the bear’s howls. I felt my body float in the air as I fell further down the pit. I then saw something beneath me – a pulsing red light. I could feel heat rising from the light, making my skin tingle. For some reason at that moment I thought of my dad’s hands. I remember watching them as a child when he taught me how to hook a worm on the fishing pole. I closed my eyes and envisioned my father’s hands and his patient voice.
    As the scorching red light became closer, all fear left my body and I welcome the light to overtake me. If I hit the ground I did not feel it, for I was lost in my own dream.

      1. Amaria

        Really? That’s interesting since I never saw the movie or read the book. I was influence by recent news video showing black bears chasing tourists In Yellowstone. And a bit of the movie “The Edge”.

    1. Reaper

      This gave me images of the guys in Alaska who got killed by bears because they thought they were so gentle and would never hurt them. But then there was the hell part, or is it heaven if you are stuck in your own dream? Either way, I guess mom and dad had reason to be worried. Nicely written.

  25. JRSimmang

    BLOOD SPIRITS

    It was a decision made by the elders, only by the elders, and one that was an honor, a privilege. Gathan Go’Hallad desired only the brave. Gathan Go’Hallad desired me.

    H’shap, Elder Cha’kah’s daughter, had birthed unto me a son, Ra’gar, in the dead of winter. A winter’s son, it was foretold, would bear the mark of Thana’ Ahun’ de, the goddess of the deep. She watched over the harbor, granted the icy breeze permission to grace the treetops and our faces during our hot season, and spoke softly as to urge the plants and animals to sleep in our winter. Her voice took H’shap with her that snow-blanketed night in exchange for the son she left. My son. My heir and my pride. He would, however, always be hers.

    Ra’gar grew slowly, as are all things inclined to do when the ground is frozen, while his thoughts swelled like the tide. “Father, where does the wind go when it’s not here?” he’d ask, though he knew the answer already. “Father, does the blood contain the soul, where it is constantly cleansed and renewed, or is it in the head where it matures and seeks truth?” He became a slight young man, but powerful of intellect and insight. He became a trusted advisor to Tragatch, our leader in Wisdom.

    On the day before Und’Chall, our annual celebration of Light, Ghen’got brought back news that the Untu were finally willing to negotiate peace. He had lived with the Untu for eight months, long enough to forget most of our customs. He ate like the Untu, he drank like the Untu, and he made love to his wife like the Untu, hastily and loudly. Regardless, we were thankful that their leader, Uhnhummun the Gracious, had been willing to let old debts be dissolved. My son would begin the process of uniting us. The Untu would remain in the north. We would retain our lands in the south. Our holy men would beseech our seas to no longer interfere with one another. Their god, Hthraa, would no longer seek and annoy our goddess. But, old lovers seldom stay that.

    On this day, the Und’Chall brought together men and women of both lands. The Untu were happy to be eating with us, and we were happy to share. We roast pig and root vegetables. We drink the fermented cane, and our celebrations would surely last well into the morning hours.

    “Father,” my son leans toward my ear. “Father, why is it that now we have become friends of these people?”

    “Son,” I tell him. “We have been at war for so long, that we have forgotten why we fight.”

    “But, the battle has only begun,” he says, then motions toward the horizon. There, in small numbers, then growing rapidly, are the flames of war. I turn to my son, and he has disappeared. I hear, then, the horns of the Untu. I am snatched by another man, his arms wrapping around my throat, and he pulls me backward. In front of me, Yan’chanta has her throat slit, another’s head is twisted past breaking, and I begin to feel myself losing sight. Then, I remember I have in my sash a knife. My hand slides to my waist while I fight to retain consciousness. I grasp the handle and slash the blade through the air at my enemy’s arm. I make contact, and he loses his grip on me. I turn and bury the blade into his throat. I run.

    Behind me and in front of me I see several of my kinsmen. We know where we are going. We will not stop running until we get there.

    I run until the sun is hoisted onto the horizon by Enda’gad. Ahead, the cove has been filled with the shivering bodies of eight dozen men and women. Sha’gama, the witch woman, sees me first and stands up.

    “Ra’garan, my son,” as she referred to most men in our village, “did many more follow you?”

    I turn to look back, and the smoke lay thick under the clouds. “I did not take notice, dear earth-mother.”

    She slumps back onto the ground. Tragatch is nowhere to be seen. Gan’ddett catches my eye and waves me over. I join him.

    “Tragatch has not made it back. Neither, I see, has your son.”

    “I feel as though my son was complicit.” As I say it, I feel my soul drown, my bones burn, my muscles weaken, and I think, for the first time, that the soul is present in the blood.

    “There is but one alternative,” says Sha’gama. “The Bahog, the entrance to the home of Gathan Go’Hallad, is but a day’s walk from here. We must beseech Gathan Go’Hallad. We must do as our ancestors and send a man, a strong man, into his home to request his assistance. This mann must be of pure heart, hale and wise.”

    “But Tragatch has not come with us,” says Yor’hin, the son of Ya’haad.

    “He was slain,” says Mor’Gorath. He and twelve have come through the trees at once. “His body…” He motions toward a mangled mess of flesh and hair. Sha’gama begins to cry as she rushes over to him. The death ceremony must be performed quickly.

    This night, we do not sleep. We talk about finding Gathan Go’Hallad, the god of the old world who has since slumbered eternally. It would be a risk, but convincing him must be done. I stand up and announce, “I shall be the one to find Gathan Go’Hallad’s spirit.” Sha’gama looks up at me from administering the last rights of Tragatch’s broken body and smiles. The men and women in the cove shout the hoorah. I feel like I have found purpose once again.

    We set out early the next day to the Bahog. The land is treacherous, miles of shattered stone and undergrowth. By eventide, the Bahog appears. Sha’gama showers me with the burning incense of the locak bush, some she picked up on the way. Mor’Gorath hands me the black clay of our land. I paint my face so that Gathan Go’Hallad will recognize me as being Intwi. I turn to my clansmen who have joined me and nod my head. They touch their chests and nod back.

    I notice, then, the first arrows. One strikes Sha’gama through her heart, and she falls to her knees. Her eyes plead that I hurry. Mor’Gorath, son of Mor’Godrathan runs for cover. I turn on my heels and run toward the Bahog as an arrow flies past my shoulder.

    Out of the corner of my eye, I see a body charging toward me. I speed up. I am nearly there.

    “Father!” he shouts. “You will not make it to Gathan Go’Hallad alive!”

    He dives toward me and catches me around my waist. But, he has never been a strong man, so I grab him by his shoulders, touch the edge of the Bahog with my left foot, and leap off into the darkness.

    It was only if I were to retrieve the soul of Gathan Go’Hallad were we going to be able to reclaim our land. If I was going to be able to reclaim my son.

    -JR Simmang

    1. regisundertow

      This is so dense with information, details, and hints of the culture of another universe, that I’m a bit torn in what I feel about it. On the one hand, it IS a good imaginative story, packed to the brim with concepts. On the other, a short story is not the place to unfold the results of world-building. The length limitation simply doesn’t do it justice and I’m honestly a bit lost. By the time I get the hang of the language’s cadence and the names, the story is finished. This is not to discourage you from writing fantasy here, I hope you understand.

      1. JRSimmang

        AARRGH, Regis! I’m so angered by your criticism!

        Just kidding. In fact, I think you’ve sensed my fruitless attempt to squeeze what needs to be a larger story. This forum, to me, is an excellent place to workshop ideas and get the advice I need on how to make my stories better. So, thanks again!

        1. regisundertow

          Actually, you’re touching upon a pet peeve of mine. This forum here isn’t very conducive to this kind of workshop/collaboration/creative pow-wow that you’re thinking about. Not because people aren’t willing, quite the contrary. There’s a bunch of technical limitations that mess with this whole feedback give-and-take. The community forums are very sparse, as well.

          Tell you what. If you want to expand upon this or any other story, open a thread at the forums and let us know here. I’m sure people will jump at the opportunity to help out.

    2. Reaper

      I actually think you did really well at showing your world. There are missing pieces but since it is a scene and not exactly a short I can overlook that. I got a strong feeling from this, Native American mingled with Norse and Germanic. The fact that you only explained a few of the words helped. Without them I would have been lost but with all of them done I would have been frustrated that so much of it was exposition. I find myself hoping the betrayal is more than just he thinks too much, but otherwise I am very satisfied with this and think the complete tale would be an amazing read.

      1. JRSimmang

        Thanks, Reap. I have some work cut out for me then. I’m thinking of leading the MC to Gallan Go’Haland’s spiritual prison and entreating him to actually return. But when they do, the warring tribes are both dead and the land has changed. The hunt will then be for the MC’s son’s soul, which did not survive the fall through the Bahog. Thoughts?

        1. Reaper

          Interesting. I can see that going a few ways. It could be almost a post apocalyptic world in a very different setting. You could have a very spiritual journey in a combination of Valhalla and the Happy Hunting Grounds. You could also go really dark with it and get a more visceral, nightmare inspired and less acid like variation of wonderland. All of them could be good and build on this rich world. From what I have seen I think you will do an amazing job with it no matter what and the premise interesting with a slightly classical feel which always peeks my interest.

          1. Geezer Muse

            JR, I find the theme and the atmosphere to fascinate me even if did lose my way a couple of times. It certainly is worth the effort to build upon it>

  26. ReathaThomasOakley

    The center cannot hold…

    The lights are always on, the dark is just outside the circle of pale yellow, dark that never leaves even when the clock tells me, noon. I must remember to wind the clock, I’ll write a note, tape it to the mantel, tape it between the photos of Robert and Robbie I touch at the striking of each hour.
    I fear that soon when I count out twelve strikes I won’t know if it’s midnight or noon, so dark it is outside this circle, my center of light. When I sleep hours slip away, slip into the dark, lost forever.

    If I had two clocks, one with an alarm, I could set that one so I’d be awake for the striking of the other, awake to touch the photos, to read the note, to wind the clocks. Perhaps there is another clock somewhere in the dark. I recall other clocks.
    ***

    When I awoke, at four by the striking of the clock, the hall was dark. I should take a bulb from a lamp in here to the lamp in the hall. If the hall stays dark I won’t be able to find my way to the kitchen for food, I brought back water the last time I went. Yesterday? I’m not certain.

    The bulbs were to last. Robert promised they would last, one thousand hours he promised. I should have recorded the hours, the hours I knew and the ones that slipped away. How many days to use up one thousand hours, how many weeks, how many months until there is only the dark? I’m so tired. When I awake again I’ll figure the lamplight hours I have left.
    ***

    How long did I sleep? Did I miss the last hour striking? What’s this paper on the mantel? Wind? There is no wind, no rain, no sound from the dark, only the clock, but the clock is silent, no ticking, no striking. I’ll save the paper for the fire, when the fire is my only light. Ah, Robert, there you are, in a photo on the mantel, but who’s the boy in the other photograph? Perhaps if I sleep I’ll know.
    ***

    The sleeping pill I took was the last one. I feel as if I slept for days. Only one lamp left, I must ready the fire. Paper, I must find paper. Here, on the mantel, pictures of a man and a boy, the boy is smiling, the man’s eyes are sad. They look alike, perhaps father and son, perhaps they once lived here, before the dark. They will burn nicely.
    ***

    As I awoke this time the lamp, the last one burning, was dimming, but I was able to start the fire. Now I sit, my chair pulled close to the hearth, watch the flickers of light. I worry about sparks escaping, igniting the rug or my clothes. Perhaps before I sleep again I should douse the embers, I think I have enough water.

    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    from:
    The Second Coming
    by William Butler Yeats

    1. regisundertow

      Very poetic. I’ve read it a few times already and I’m suspecting I’ll be reading it a few more. There’s all kinds of meaning flashing in my mind reading this, some very personal. I love this, this is one of the reasons why I signed up here, to get inspired. You have definitely inspired me with this piece.

    2. Reaper

      this is so darkly beautiful. As I read there were so many meanings and lessons to take, but the one that stuck with me is the feeling that this is a metaphor and the story of one forgotten and lonely woman slipping into dementia.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thank you, I’m pleased that you saw the woman that way. I think her world is both actual and imagined, becoming smaller and smaller as the dark encroaches on her lighted center and as her mind is in free-fall into the dark. Some years ago my husband described my mother’s world, as the result of Alzheimer’s, as a shrinking bubble with fewer and fewer things and people in that bubble with her. I think this woman, in her bubble, is welcoming the final darkness.

    3. snuzcook

      Oh my! Your prose here has such a poetic quality. The progression you show us is so simply stated and yet is profound in each reveal. Is the MC alone in a world that has gone dark, or simply alone in her own world? It doesn’t matter. Beautifully executed.

  27. Violet Hayes

    PROMISE?

    My daddy was always making promises he couldn’t keep.

    He promised Mommy he would love her forever, and he still says he does. But Daddy always brought new ladies home when Mommy went away, and he made me swear not to tell. And I heard him tell those ladies, too, that he would love them.

    When I was six, he promised he would make it to my birthday party, unlike the year before. So I put on my favorite dress covered in polka dots, and Mommy even let me try on her lipstick. And I watched the door. I watched the door for three hours straight, until it was dark outside and my cake’s candles had gone out and I couldn’t see anymore because of the tears.

    He promised me many things, and no matter how many promises he broke, I always believed him. I believed he loved my mother, that he would come to my party.

    That he would catch me.

    Our apartment building blazed around me, and I screamed and screamed for my mommy, for my daddy, for someone, but they were all gone, evacuated. Eight years old, I stumbled across the room as smoke poured in under the door, my stuffed rabbit clutched in my fist like it might save me. I went to the window, like my mother had told me—in case of a fire, go down the fire escape. But when, hacking and wheezing, I pried the lock open and pushed the window up, I saw the floor below me burning fiercely. Even as young as I was, I knew I could never go down the stairs. Still I pushed myself out onto the fire escape.

    I could feel the heat through my woolen socks, and smoke engulfed me. I choked and cried and—

    “Abigail!”

    It was my daddy, standing with the neighbors, all ragged and red-eyed and panicked as they stared up at me at the edge of the fire escape. My daddy looked more scared than I had ever seen him. Somewhere in the distance, I could hear the sirens of a fire truck.

    “Daddy!” I shouted.

    “Abigail, honey, listen to me! I’m going…I’m going to need you to be very brave for me, okay?”

    I choked and coughed but managed to croak out, “A-All right.”

    “Do you trust me?” my daddy shouted up.

    I nodded. “Yes.”

    “Then jump, Abby! I’ll catch you! I promise!”

    The neighbors started yelling at him, at me to be still. Wait for the fire truck. For experts. But my daddy said, “She doesn’t have the time—can’t you see the blaze? Jump, Abby, jump!”

    And I did trust my daddy, though I had every reason in the world not to. Still, he’d promised. So, my rabbit clutched to my chest, I jumped from the fourth story, hurtling down to earth like a rocket.

    If only I’d remembered how often my daddy broke his promises.

    1. Reaper

      This made me sad in so many ways. The little details were perfect and you really amazed me by capturing a voice that is so young. I have such a hard time with that, so when I see it done well I am always impressed.

      1. Geezer Muse

        A heart-pounding read. I wanted so badly to glimpse the last line before the end of your story but clutched and read all of it. Hoping against hope and then the last line, the finality to broken dreams. Excellent read. Kerry

  28. Cceynowa

    Don’t open the door, she said. Keep it closed, she said. Stay far away from it, she said. Well obviously she wanted me to open the door. She practically forced me to open it. And here I am, free falling to Hell. Fucking preacher’s wife.

    I’d been babysitting the Menards’ little girl since I was fourteen. Cindy was the chubbiest, cutest, and easiest baby I’ve ever looked after. She slept most of the time, drooled little, and had this amazing ability to take a crap when she heard her parent’s coming in the door. I hardly ever changed a diaper. She was the perfect kid, and I could never understand why her mom seemed so relieved to leave her in my care. Sure, I had stellar credentials, even certified in CPR, but the Menards seemed just a little too eager to leave their only child. And, let’s be real, how often does the Preacher and his wife really need a date night? By the time Cindy was two, I was babysitting almost every night. Mrs. Menard even enlisted my help in organizing Cindy’s third birthday party, which is how I come to be in my current predicament.

    Twisting around, I could still see the clear outline of the open door far above me. Funny, I thought the tunnel to Hell would be hotter.

    The day had started with thirty screaming kids crying for more cake and their turn to ride the pony. Binky, the hired clown, had called it quits thirty minutes into the madness. Mrs. Menard wasn’t looking very religious in her ice cream smeared dress. The Preacher had chickened out and retreated to his study. I no longer wondered why some parents seemed to barely slow their cars to a roll before shoving their kids onto the lawn for a fun-filled afternoon. Suffice it to say that I would never need a course in birth control: one toddler party had closed my knees for the next twenty years.

    Retreating into the kitchen, under the pretense of finding more paper plates, I leaned against the kitchen counter and had a sudden inspiration. What if the reason Mrs. Menard didn’t want me to be in the pantry was because that’s where she kept her booze? We were Baptist after all; there had to be a bottle stashed somewhere.

    When I opened the door I saw unmitigated blackness.

    “Sammy, want?” Cindy had followed me into the kitchen. She stared longingly over my shoulder.

    “What is it Cinder-bug? What do you want?” I knelt down, facing her with my back to the still open door. She walked towards me, arms outstretched for a hug. Her face began to change: her eyes became red orbs and the nails on her hands extended to sharp claws. I jerked back from her in surprise.

    “Cindy! NO!” Mrs. Menard had entered the kitchen. I scrambled backwards, away from the child I no longer recognized. The floor of the kitchen ended and I fell backwards into the darkness.

    The air quality started to fade. My throat was burning and it took me a moment to realize I was breathing in smoke and sulfur fumes. From above, the door started to close. I heard Mrs. Menard say, “Dammit Cindy! You know your father hates it when we drop guests in on him.”

    1. Manwe38

      The use of description, tone, internal dialogue, and metaphor are just perfect.

      I was not expecing that ending, but I loved it.

      Preacher’s wife, indeed.

  29. Manwe38

    There wasn’t much time.

    The glowing counter on his transparent thermal helmet said three minutes, but the gnawing in his gut told a different story. Like one minute. Maybe less. His suit, a multi-layered prison of ceramic and graphene, pressed against his skin in a lover’s embrace…or was it a necrotic crucible? Since beginning the jump, nothing was certain, least of all the success of his mission.

    He peered down, staring into the darkness which seemed to have no end. In his left hand, the cold steel of the rugged black cylinder pressed into his glove like the barrel of a gun. It was all he had left, this piece of high-tech–and it would save them all, if he could make it in time.

    The center. Where it lay, waiting for him, hidden in plain sight. The thing sitting at the Earth’s core, eating it, sucking it down, replacing its molten sphere with one of pure force. Iron for gravity, matter for…what? Even now, after the accident, the experiment gone wrong, the eggheads still couldn’t say what gravity was, just what it could do…and it was doing a lot.

    Up on the surface, the quakes had begun. The planes were all grounded, and buildings were falling. The quakes were just the beginning, or so he’d been told. Soon, the mountains would crumble, and then, everyone would gain weight. A lot of it. No matter how skinny, or how much you ran, you couldn’t escape it, the inexorable drag towards a yawning chasm, a tunnel that lead to…well, no-one knew the answer to that one. Not even the physicists.

    He checked the timer again. Thirty seconds. Hmm, guess his gut had been wrong this time. It didn’t happen often, but nobody’s perfect. Funny about that, how fleeting a thing certainty could be. Those particle-accelerating scientists sure had been, and look how that had turned out. Oh no, they’d said. The machine was safe. Only the tiniest chance of a miniature black hole escaping containment, of sinking to the Earth’s core where it would swallow us all. The experiment would work, and then we’d have a new source of power. Clean. Cheap. Inexhaustible.

    A gentle tugging began to pull at his feet. It had begun. What did they call it? Spaghettification–the difference in tidal force between the top of his head and the soles of his feet. If he failed, it would rip him apart, his component atoms turned back into the abstract waves of quantum probability from which they’d sprung. But he wasn’t going to fail. Why? Because there was another certainty–when the scientists screwed up, only bravery could help. Eggheads didn’t have it–that’s why they were eggheads–but he did. As surely as God, or the physical law, when the brains went away, the brawn would play. They probably thought he wasn’t too bright–hell, he even preferred it that way–but at the end of the day, he had the one thing they all lacked.

    Courage.

    He checked the counter one last time. Ten seconds left. The pull was strong now, pressing down on his head and up on his feet, squeezing his sides in the world’s strongest bear hug. He lifted the cylinder, finger cocked over the waiting button. When the timer reached zero, the beast would be unleashed. ‘Gravity eater’, whatever that was. He might not survive, but the threat would be neutralized, and the world saved. If it worked. If not…well, at least no-one would be around to complain.

    A tiny smiled turned the corners of his mouth. They probably thought he hadn’t known, those egghead scientists in the NASA conference room. They made promises of safety, of timely rescue, figuring him too stupid to read between the lines. None of that mattered, though. He was a Marine, and would do his duty. If he was successful, everyone would live. And maybe, someday, the eggheads would add a new word to their self-assured vocabulary:

    Sacrifice.

      1. Manwe38

        Thank you!

        I watched ‘Interstellar’ last night, and the message is similar to what’s in that movie (that you can be both intellectual and brave).

        Thanks for reading.

    1. Pete

      Whoa, some heavy stuff there. Had to read a few times because I’m dense, but the last two paragraphs gave me chills. I especially liked “yawning chasm” among other lines in here. Fantastic flash!

      1. Manwe38

        One of the biggest compliments a writer can get is that he/she evoked an emotional response.

        Glad you liked it, Pete. Thanks for reading!

    2. regisundertow

      Every time I read your stories, I’m thinking “damn, that’s an interesting use of words. Oh, there’s another one. Should have thought that one myself”. Loved the story, although I wish the MC would lay off with the criticism already (it did make some sense, considering he was pissed off at being lied to).

      1. Manwe38

        It was more bitterness about being talked down to than lying, although his anger is understandable, given that he’s laying down his life.

        Thanks for the feedback!

    3. Reaper

      http://hasthelargehadroncolliderdestroyedtheworldyet.com/ I couldn’t help it, I thought of that when I got a bit into the story and realized where you were going. I like the inspection here and the theory. While slightly different I have always loved the idea that in certain fields you just forget consequences because the science is the important thing, which isn’t exactly a lack of bravery but diminishes personal responsibility, which can be the same thing for me. So you got an emotional reaction, because this is terrifying, and you got me thinking which I always love. I’m also a fan of believable science run amok stories too. This kept making me think of a conversation I had when the collider was turned on. When they dropped the bombs on Japan there was a theory that there was a small, but larger than the estimated black holes, that doing so would ignite gasses in the atmosphere and burn off the ozone layer. Which is a long winded way of saying, I think your story has a powerful point that in the pursuit of knowledge people will always forget it is not just their lives they are playing with.

      1. Manwe38

        You know, I thought the same thing about the bombs when I was writing this. I remember learning about that back in high school, the chance that a nuclear explosion would ignite the atmosphere. My MC, as written, is the only character who seems to grasp the consequences of what has been done.

        As we get closer and closer to the “theory of everything”, I always wonder at just what point will we bite off more than we can chew.

        Thank you for your kind words 🙂

        1. Geezer Muse

          Great story, full of power, fear but not fear of dying, total insaneness of experimentation without restraint. If they wan’t to dispute Einsten, I say let them do it between Mars and earth, leaning heavily toward the Mars side. in the nineteenth century, breaking new frontiers didn’t threaten the forces of the universe. I think Truman in his simplistic style of reasoning about the atom bomb, dedided losing a million American lives of our very best, made the decision easy. It would have if I were in his shoes.

          1. Manwe38

            Heh, I say let them dispute Einstein halfway between here and Alpha Centauri, myself.

            I liked your thoughts on Truman here; I get where he was coming from, as well, and agree he made the right choice.

  30. Pete

    “How bad could it be, Glenda?” I told her, turning away from the PriceBusters website. I swear, it was always something.

    “I don’t know, Tom,” she said, in that way of hers that meant that she did know and was on the verge of telling me, in painstaking detail, just how well she knew.

    “For once in your life, just trust me.”

    With that I scrolled through the jumble of paragraphs, the font of which was more suited for a flea’s eyes. ACCEPT. There. I blew a gust of wind and went for the basement but Glenda huffed her displeasure.

    She shifted and tugged at her jacket, even though it was safari hot in the house. The heat stayed on until May, when she’d wake up one night and jerk the lever over to the air. To Glenda, the natural temperature of our planet was acceptable maybe two days a year, tops. She clicked her tongue and I knew what was coming.

    “Why do you have to be so cheap, Tom? Like that river cruise last year. Do you remember? How we got stuck in Scottsboro without so much as running water for three days? Remember what it did to my hair?”

    “How could I forget?” I said, trying not to think about how her stringy thin hair had taken on the texture of wet cotton candy—or that somewhere in Michigan, there were two kids who after seeing her in her bathrobe probably still woke up screaming in darkest hours of the night.

    “So I like to save a buck, it didn’t kill us did it?”

    “It could have.”

    On the big day we arrived at the airport a half an hour before our flight. Of course I’d meant to get there sooner but Glenda had taken it upon herself to pack our entire bathroom. TSA had a bonanza.

    “It’s supposed to rain most of the week,” Glenda said from somewhere behind me as I hauled he luggage. As though I’d purposely scheduled our anniversary trip during inclement weather. Although, I couldn’t help thinking of all the money I’d save if we skipped the tours. I grunted and picked up the pace. Thirty-five years with this woman, but according to my blood pressure, I was looking at a pardon.

    “Sup? Thanks for flying Bargain Bus Airlines.”

    To be completely honest, I noticed a few inconsistencies about the airline. For one, the attendants wore t-shirts and more than a few had neck tattoos. The interior of the plane was wood paneling and the tint on the windows was peeling and bubbled. But still, it was the deal of a lifetime.

    We found our seats and Glenda haggled over the window or the aisle. She hated the window seats, but was worried about her knees getting bumped sitting by the aisle.

    “I just don’t want any bruises.”

    I bit my tongue. The woman has two miles of greenish roadways showing on her legs but was worried about getting dinged up. “Fine,” I said, taking the aisle. I sat down, looking for my free meal coupon when I noticed the ashtrays in the arm rest. “You don’t see that anymore,” I joked. Glenda sighed.

    Once we were in the air, the attendant came by with a car full of Big K sodas. I took two. Only a few hours and we’d be across the pond and everything—WHAT IN THE HELL IS THAT?

    Bodies and luggage hurled forward as the plan lurched to a tilt. Up became down. The engines struggled against gravity and the pull of the Earth as we plunged, climbed, fell. Dingy oxygen masks jiggled above our heads. I leaned over Glenda, who let out a shriek that curled the hair in my ears. All I could see was a gaping hole.

    Not a hole. It was supernatural whatever it was, a black void in the ocean. It pulled at the fuselage, and I lost my billfold and coupons in the turbulence. We flopped again, and the screaming and praying and crying surrounded us as we were summoned to our impending deaths.

    People screamed out of fear. But the only thing I feared was another thirty-five years. None of these people had lived with my wife. And even with death closing in, I could still hear her trill, ungrateful blathering, “Well you’ve done it now, Tom. I really hope you’re happy saving a few pennies on the flight.”

    I looked out again, just as we were sucked in to that hole. And through the chaos I felt a smile tearing across my face as my soul broke free of its shackles.

    My life sentence was up.

    1. Manwe38

      Outstanding! So many sarcastic, subtle lines here…..”TSA had a field day,” “Big K sodas”, and that last line…you had me laughing for a good five minutes.

      Well done!

    2. MutherBear

      You took a miserable existence, capped it off with a catastrophic midair disaster, turned it into a viable happy ending, AND made me chuckle while you did it – what’s not to like? 🙂

    3. Reaper

      This is amazing. It was funny and full of great lines and images. The river cruise tickled me so much for some reason and the dingy oxygen masks was so vivid for me. Missing a couple of t’s here and there but otherwise the writing felt flawless as I read it.

  31. jhowe

    The blackness surged and then faded as she fell in and out of consciousness from the bedroom in her father’s mansion. Images appeared and shrunk into the unobtainable depths of her whirling mind as her body was manipulated and forced into unwanted positions. Then there was nothing.

    Megan Kaley woke on a small bed in a sparse room with a window, a wooden chair and a closet with no door. Her wrists bore ligature marks from restraints that were now gone. The hood that had been roughly placed over her head was also gone. The memories were a blur in her mind and she was grateful for that. She rose to her feet slowly. Everything hurt.

    Megan walked to the small double hung window. It was shuttered from the outside and streams of sunlight filtered through the slats. She tried the latch and it turned easily causing her heart to race. There was a rattling sound and the door opened. A man wearing a ski mask entered carrying a plastic bucket. Megan backed from the window and trembled as her abductor became known. His brown hair spilled onto his shoulders from beneath the mask. He wore jeans and a black t-shirt that fit him well.
    “Where am I?” she said, her mouth dry.

    He said nothing as he set the bucket on the floor. From the bucket he pulled a roll of toilet paper and a bottle of water which he set on the bed. He placed the bucket in the closet and walked toward the door.

    “Please,” she said. “Tell me what you want.” The man opened the door and turned as she rushed toward him. He leaped into the hall and pulled the door shut as she reached it with pounding fists. “Let me out!” Her sobs grew more intense. “Tell me what you want, please.”

    For several minutes she stood at the door and cried silently until she remembered the window. She ran to it and tried to lift the sash but it would not move. She turned the latch again and found it didn’t engage into the keeper. It was apparent the sash was nailed shut. In desperation she picked up the wooden chair and swung it as hard as she could at the glass. The leg struck the jamb first which caused the chair to bounce back, hitting her squarely on the cheek.

    Megan fell on her back, dazed and angry as blood flowed freely onto her neck and down the collar of her shirt. The door opened and the man came in. He carried a paper plate with a sandwich and a peeled orange that he set on the bed. He helped her to her feet and sat her on the edge of the bed as she held a bloodied hand to her face. He bent to examine her wound and held up a finger motioning for patience. The man took the chair with him and left the room, shutting the door firmly.

    Megan’s tears mixed with the blood that now oozed between her fingers as the man came back. He helped her lay down and produced a damp cloth and a first aid kit. As he gently dabbed her cheek she looked at him. His eyes were blue, an intense blue that reminded her of the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. He cleaned her cheek with peroxide and applied two butterfly bandages before taping on a square of gauze. The impossibly blue eyes surveyed his work as he nodded and handed her the plate. She took it and stared at him. “Can you please tell me where I am?” she said. His mouth twitched slightly through the hole in the ski mask but he said nothing. Megan said, “I don’t understand any of this. What could you possibly want?”

    The man shut the first aid kit and picked up the bloody cloth. “Please don’t leave me alone,” she said, but he walked out of the room slowly. Megan gingerly fingered the bandage and ate the food he had brought her. She had to pee but she didn’t want him to see it in the bucket. Instead she lay back on the bed and slept.

    He returned later with a wrapped cheeseburger and a People magazine. He had changed into a blue button-down cotton shirt, untucked, open at the collar. His eyes looked sad and he moistened his lips with his tongue but did not speak. He stayed until she finished her meal and then, still wearing the mask, carried the empty wrapper out the door.

    Megan’s eyes lingered on the door, her mind fixated on the bluest eyes she had ever seen and as her heart fluttered she laid her head on the pillow to wait.

    1. Cceynowa

      This piece disturbs me, and I’m not even sure entirely why. It is excellently written, so much so that I was drawn into the room with the girl and experienced her conflicted emotions. This is deep, and scary, and dark on a level that worries me (I think) because it could be factual.

    2. Manwe38

      Yeah, this definitely reads like a real-life kidnapping/hostage situation. I also enjoyed the subtle reference to the Helsinki Syndrome here.

      Sequel?

    3. Reaper

      This was very dark, very disturbing, and supremely well written. I had to look up Helsinki syndrome to make sure it was the same as Stockholm Syndrome because I agree with Cceynowa but I know why it disturbed me so much. You showed the syndrome so well in your MC, but it wasn’t that. It was that I started to feel it. Thinking, oh, he’s not so bad, he’s being kind. Then I had to think back to the beginning and realize, no, no, he’s the bad guy. Amazingly empathetic and creepy story jhowe.

  32. Poeeop

    Ah, the life of a maharajah; the riches, the power, the concubines, the spoils of war….uuuuhhh the concubines! Heh? Yes! You know my friend.

    I’m sorry? How long I have been in power? Oh, well, really my entire life, no?

    A maharajah–oomph! Damn you filthy pests! You must to not drop me! Understand me! I snap my fingers like this, you and whole family I feed to the tigers!

    I am sorry; these vermin must be scolded promptly. You understand. The vermin, they not so smart.

    Where were we? Ah yes, being a maharajah is not all it’s cracked up to be. HaHaHa! I kid you! It is fantastic life! Vermin to cook for you, vermin like these to chauffeur you around in this luxurious palanquin, the castle always shines. Literally no worries.

    Okay, you see my pergola there beneath the palm trees? Yes well, this is spot of consecration. Many, many concubines for me, as ruler I hand pick any woman and they must to succumb. Iiiiiitt is like an eternal spring, overflowing with sweet nectar, and I forever dunking my bucket; you see?

    No, no you can’t possibly see. You are not all powerful maharajah.

    Ah yes, and here we have the beautiful Devika my latest and most precious concubine; lounging on bed made of the finest, softest yak down that her village could provide. Devika, please to lift your veil, let me see you beauty. Ah you see?! Is she not exquisite?

    Vermin! You dare put eyes on a princess of mine! One hundred lashes for you when we return to castle! Onward vermin! Take us to camel barn! OOOMPH! Vermin! Another 100 lashes for you! Keep it up, I dare you!

    What you said? He laughed at me? Vermin! No supper for you! You sleep with camels tonight!

    Forgive my temper again, please. The vermin need occasional reminder of place in life…..waaaay down here, I waaaay up here. You see? It is simple really, but they are stupid. Eh.

    Ah yes, look! Are they not the most handsome herd of camels? Breeding is essential here; you don’t want a stubborn, ugly, low humped camel. Tsk tsk tsk, no no no.

    Okay my friend, you have seen entire empirical grounds. Now I must to resume maharajah itinerary. Make love to concubines, feast on delectable meats, whip vermin…it will be long day.

    Okay, okay, okay. I will show you oooooone more thing. You must to not speak of it! It is secret undertaking of maharajah. No other person is aware. Vermin! To the jewel mine!

    Vermin! Have you been in sun too long?! The jewel mine is due east, fifty more lashes! Turn back you insufferable pests!

    Hey! What you are doing! Stop running vermin!

    Hey! Where you are going?! No, this is pit for damned souls! Stop, do not tip palanquin! One thousand lashes for—AHHHHHHHHHHH!

    Daaaaaaamn yooooooouuuu veeeeermin!

    1. DMelde

      This is a fun story Poeeop (Poe-poe?). I liked the regional dialect and I found the MC delectably evil. One word in the story stuck out to me as not belonging in this dialect. The last sentence in the 5th paragraph is “Literally no worries.” To me it flows smoother if you change it to something like “Never no worries.” This was a great read. 🙂

      1. Poeeop

        Dang it! Good catch, you are absolutely correct. I have a tendency to rush a little near the end. Thanks for the compliments and the critique.

    2. Reaper

      I kept thinking two things. One that the voice was a bit like the Genie in Aladdin when voiced by Robin Williams. The second was the politically correct police would have a stroke reading this. Both of which mean it is awesome.

  33. Reaper

    Ahhh, part nine. This went very strange on me. I think I actually have another idea for this prompt too, but it will have to wait and see if I have time and energy later in the week.

    In the Beginning – The Second Sign

    It’s just a little vision quest, she said. Pagans and heathens do it all the time, she said. Easy for her to say, she wasn’t the one going through it. Chester wondered if Adam ever wanted to go Irish husband on Eve as much as he did on Nicole sometimes. He thought about that as he fell.

    It wasn’t all that bad really. Chester always wanted to try skydiving. This was like that, but without a parachute so it was a bit like flying. Except, then he remembered he didn’t have wings. So he had that weightless free-fall thing going on and it felt great. He even managed a smile, and to forget how annoyed he was with Nicole, for a minute. Then he remembered that he would regain his weight once the ground involved him in a hit and run accident.

    No, he wasn’t flying but there seemed to be a hand guiding him anyway. It wasn’t him, and that loss of control was even worse. He zipped past mountains, cities, and rivers. The air stank of smoke that stung his eyes but through it he could see women in all of the locations he passed. Beautiful warrior women going about their daily tasks. As he came closer to the ground he noticed them noticing him. Each woman looked up with pity in her eyes and a sad smile upon her lips. Where was that coming from, and where were the men?

    Chester noticed a yawning chasm in earth even more blackened than the air. Ember red glowed from deep inside what was obviously the sight of a massive explosion or a gaping hole to hell. The hand of fate, or whatever primitive god guided him directed his descent to that cataclysmic portent. Chester held his breath and closed his eyes, as if denial could undo his fate.

    He careened down the shaft and found the men in the fortress of dirt at the bottom. They chanted, they chanted his name as they clanged together weapons of war both primitive and modern. Sweat, dirt, and blood soaked these scarred and tattooed men. Chester noted they were half naked and covered in enough leather that should his life actually one day become a holy book hipsters everywhere would take to their blogs to proclaim the obvious homo-erotic subtext had leapt from classics to religion.

    Then his flight slowed, his body righted itself. He dropped the last few feet into a golden throne. He looked around and smiled. This is where he should lead the men? This wasn’t so bad after all. He closed his eyes.

    He opened them and his hand at the same time to stare at the two remaining peyote buttons in his palm. In the background he heard Nicole. She was on the phone, telling her father how Chester had his vision. It was the second sign, and surely meant she was pregnant with a son. Could the end come soon enough?

    1. DMelde

      Cool story Reaper. I loved the concept of it being a hallucinogenic trip. What better way to trip than to fall to the center of the earth! Too bad he didn’t have time to stop and admire the warrior women more closely…..
      A couple of suggestions, if I may….
      …Tell me it’s a trip in the first paragraph. You hint at it, but I’m a little dense so I need some prodding. Change it to read “Easy for her to say, she wasn’t the one eating the buttons.” and I’m on board, enjoying the ride. Another thing, tell me what the smoke smelled like, tell me what the hand looked like. This is a trip so get crazy with it. I know we can’t get carried away too much with the word count being so low, but I was wanting more.
      I thought this was very well written. Great job!

      1. Reaper

        Interesting DMelde, I actually cut a bit on the smell because I have been heavy with it in previous sections. I was trying to keep it vague but not too vague, my mention of vision quests might have been more subtle than I thought. Part of the reason I didn’t go too trippy though is because I didn’t want the through the looking glass quality. I could do a bit more but I was going for, this is a trip but seems more like prophecy because that is what it is supposed to be, and a warning to one of the main characters about what his path will lead them too. I’ll need to look back over this one when I compile them all though.

    2. Cceynowa

      🙂 Very nicely written. I’ve got some catching up to do with the other parts of this tale, but even jumping in here makes for a fun read. (And I promise I didn’t read yours prior to mine, (she said)… it just seemed like a great way to start this prompt!). Nicely done. I’m headed off to read the back story now.

      1. Reaper

        Thanks Cceynowa. The hardest part of doing this as a continuing piece is keeping it rolling but making each a readable story on its own as well. So comments like yours make me smile. I wouldn’t have thought you did, you are far too talented for that. I hope you enjoy the rest.

    3. Manwe38

      Nothing like some ‘shrooms to open up the path to hell 🙂

      This was an excellent continuation of a brilliant story, Reaper. I especially loved ‘…leapt from classics to religion…’

      Very cool!

      1. Reaper

        Thanks Manwe38, mixing native practices with Christianity is sure to get me burned at the stake but I always love the idea of how they would meld. Thank you for mentioning that line too. I was hoping it wasn’t too over the top, but I loved it so I kept it.

    4. Kristen Killen

      I actually managed to forget that this was a vision quest… I was looking forward to reading about this world where women rule earth and men the underworld. Then you bring me back to reality, and I felt like I went on my own vision quest. Cool story!

      1. Reaper

        Thank you Kristen, that is quite a compliment. That part of the story you were looking forward to will either be the ending of this, or the subject of the last parts. If the story doesn’t take a turn on me. They do that pretty often and making myself stick to the prompts means it happens even more in this one.

    5. regisundertow

      This fits in quite nicely with the rest of the story. There’s some interesting inner struggles hinted at in the trip, especially the warrior women. I like how this part was presenting, subtle.

      1. Geezer Muse

        What a trip from you. Almost made me anxious to do the same journey except for my fear of height. Some of your sentences are magic and bring your reader into the trip. I liked the statement, ‘Chester wondered if Adam ever wanted to go Irish husband on Eve as much as he did on Nicole sometimes.’

        1. Reaper

          Kerry, you make me smile again. Your words are kind and wonderful. I’m happy the sentences worked because I liked a number of them. You hit the second one that I almost cut because it is so specific and over the top that it could offend or leave many wondering what it meant. But, in the end I decided I liked it too much.

  34. Trevor

    Word Count: 567

    The New Generation

    It was a normal Saturday. After having a breakfast of corn flakes and coffee, I laid out on a lawn chair in the front yard, devouring another mystery novel. The sun had risen early that morning, and it was unusually hot for early summer. Everything was as it was in the tranquil suburbs. Across the street, Mr. Lawson was mowing his lawn. In the distance, dogs were barking. A little girl rode past the house on a red tricycle. Everything was peaceful.

    When I felt the rumbling, I didn’t think much at first. But gradually, it grew more violent. I jumped to my feet, letting the book fall to the grass. Mr. Lawson had also noticed the shaking and was hurrying inside to take shelter. But I remained frozen in place as the earthquake grew more destructive.

    I was only awoken from my trance when I heard a loud crack beneath me. I looked down and saw that the ground was split beneath me. Before I could run, the split widened and I started to fall. You’d think I would start screaming, but a wave of serenity came over me. I was strangely content with falling deep within the Earth’s crust. I was just reaching what appeared to be magma when I blacked out.

    “Welcome, Brother.” A velvety voice greeted me as I slowly awoke. When my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I realized I was in a small cave. The man who spoke to me stood beside me, his sparkling blue eyes staring down at me. He had long blonde hair that went past his shoulders and he wore a navy blue suit. I saw there were about ten other people in the cave my age.

    “Where am I?” I asked. The man didn’t reply, but instead reached his hand down to me. After helping me to my feet, I got my explanation.

    “You’re one of a select few born to help continue the human race. Right now, the world as we know is coming to an end. Without us, the Earth would slowly disintegrate and vanish from existence. But thanks to us, we’ll wait out the apocalyptic destruction unfolding above and live on to rebuild our planet and keep society alive. It’s the greatest honor in the world.”

    The news left me feeling numb. All my life, I had thought myself to be average. But all that time, I had been destined to help carry society onward after the world’s end. Even my greatest accomplishments in life felt worthless in comparison to the great responsibility that lay before me.

    I don’t know how long we stayed in that cave, but when we finally emerged, it was early morning. The ground lay covered in debris and carnage. Bits of broken glass and obliterated houses lay on top of mangled corpses. I cringed when I saw the familiar red tricycle, now twisted and with a wheel missing.

    “Right now, society lies dead at our feet. But soon, we will rebuild it to be greater and even more magnificent than ever before. We’ll all be living the lives of kings!” Our leader proclaimed. At that moment, I knew he was right. It would be difficult work, but soon the world would be built the way it should: As a fair, equal society where injustice and unwarranted cruelty didn’t exist.

    In our hands, the world could be a utopia.

    1. Reaper

      Trevor, you have some wording things here that could tighten up the writing a bit. Example, through the first paragraph you have was doing things that could just be did the things. It makes it smoother and shorter. There are some others throughout but that could be a style thing, such as being chosen to continue society when a dead thing can only be rebuilt, except when you talk about the people in the cave. Take a look at your word order there because you meant to say there were people his age all in a cave, what you said was the cave was his age and there were people in it. With that said, this is really interesting. The laid back I don’t care feeling of it is chilling, and seems like a commentary on the kind of people that try to make Utopias and enforce their visions, because even when the MC cringes at the trike I don’t believe it. I don’t think he cares because he comes across as dead inside. I hope this was intentional because this was very darkly humorous when read as a commentary. Especially when you consider the idea of people who decide they will be kings and create a society of fairness, equality, kindness, and justice. The words unwarranted cruelty imply that some cruelty will be okay, and we’ll be kings says everything will be fair and equal, well except that we’ll be more equal than others. The fact that they are building this society on the corpses of children only adds to the sardonic Shaw-like wit I get from this story and I am very impressed.

    2. Cceynowa

      I think you did well at reigning in what has the beautiful potential to be a long and fascinating story. Keep writing! Your skill is improving!

    3. Manwe38

      Other than a couple mild overuses of the same words, (“me”, for example), this is both intriguing and chilling. I’m left wondering how the ‘chosen’ could locate and pull their selectees beneath the earth to save them, yet be unable to stop the end of the world.

      Good story!

    4. regisundertow

      It feels like it needs a much higher word count to breathe, to be honest. There’s sections here that demand farther explanation. The other people in the center of the world feel a bit impersonal. Unless that’s the point?

  35. Witt.Stanton

    The caverns were filled with a dull yellow glow as the trio made their way down the rocky tunnel. Occasionally bat flew over their heads, shrieking wildly before they too faded into the darkness.

    To Drake’s delight, it made the fearless Elliot jump every time.

    “It’s too quiet.” Drake broke the silence. He was walking several paces behind Will and his voice echoed, setting Will’s nerves on edge.

    Drake began humming to himself, a haunting tune that reverberated down the narrow tunnel.

    “Stop it. You’re to loud.” Elliot harshly whispered, glaring at Drake. She had a temper and, just like Will, wanted to throttle Drake. How could he still have so much energy?

    “Why? It’s not like anyone will hear us. We’re alone, under hundreds of thousands of meters of solid, genuine rock. It’s like a tomb,but just…bigger…”

    “Just shut it, alright?” Will didn’t need the reminder on just how far down they really were. His claustrophobia had sent his brain into overdrive the moment they began their decent.

    He wanted to get out, but forced himself to walk deeper into the seemingly endless maze of rock.

    “Don’t need to be rude about it…” Muttered Drake, sighing. “You seem edgy today. Like yesterday. And-”

    “Stop,” commanded Elliot, pausing mid stride. Will didn’t notice and walked straight into her. Elliot let out a surprised grunt before shaking him off and heading in Drake’s direction.

    “Sorry, okay? If you just asked nicely-”

    “No, don’t move or make any noise.” Elliot shushed him, but Drake groaned and complained, “Hey! I just want some courtesy, you don’t have to go all-”

    She placed her hand over his protesting mouth and tilted her head, listening. “Do you hear that?”

    This worried Will immensely. Elliot was the teams tracker. If she thought something was wrong, it was best they listened to her. Otherwise they’d all end up dead.

    Cal’s death had proven that much.

    A faint, muted rumble could be heard from the direction they had come. Will paled. He knew what it was, and so did Drake, judging from his hardened expression.

    Years in the military had changed Drake, making him infinity more serious and somber. Elliot and Will missed the adventurous side of him more often than they would like to admit.

    The tunnels had seemed to relax him, oddly enough. Even though his cheerfulness could be irritating, it was nice to have him back.

    Will carefully stepped over to Elliot. “Earthquake?” She nodded, almost imperceptibly. None of them moved, and for a long second they listened to the sounds of rocks falling.

    “Where is it coming from?” His eyes serious, Drake took a few steps away.

    Having survived a rock slide similar to this before during the war, they trusted him to come up with a plan. Down in the tunnels, any minor disturbance of the rocks could result in a failure in the supporting wooden beams that made up their ceiling.

    “Below us,” Drake’s voice slightly shook. “It’s coming from below us.”

    The tunnels were not collapsing, as they had feared, They would not be trapped. No, this was far worse. They would be buried alive.

    Elliot took control. “Lets go lower! Move!”

    They ran down the rocky path, their dim lanterns casting wild beams of light. Rocks smashed down, into the tunnel where they had been standing.

    The ground shifted slightly beneath their feet. If the rock collapse was from below, the above tunnels, including theirs, would fall as well.

    Suddenly, large rocks were falling from the ceiling of their tunnel. One hit Elliot on the shoulder, but she kept on her feet. Their progress slowed considerably.

    Then the wall to their left crumbled, causing the wood ceiling to buckle.

    Will was pummeled with more rocks as he felt the tunnel list to the left, drunkenly. Now they were all standing on a slant.

    A rock hit him on his back, jarring his spine. Pain overtook him.

    : : : : :

    Drake watched in horror as Will fell down onto his knees. He shouted for him to stand up, to move. But it was too late.

    The gaping hole that had taken the place of the left wall had grown larger. Now it was roughly twenty meters by twenty meters. Much too large.

    This wasn’t just any rock slide or earthquake. It was a sinkhole, and they were clinging to the side of it.

    This definitely was worse than the collapse during the war. Much worse.

    Will slip into the hole, darkness engulfing his small form. Shouting, Drake tried to look into the hole. He couldn’t see the bottom. Will’s lamp was still on, a faint light plummeting down in free fall.

    Drake was afraid of heights, a fact he never had been proud of. He would not let this stop him. He had to get to Will.

    With a angry, grief-ridden yell he let go of his hold on the tilting right wall and jumped into the seemingly bottomless hole.

    He didn’t see Elliot dive in after him, as he had half expected. Elliot wasn’t coming. He knew that. She couldn’t. Not anymore.

    The image of her crushed body filled his head. He hadn’t been able to rescue her. He hadn’t been able to warn her in time. He hadn’t…

    One minute she was alive and shouting at them to continue down into the tunnel, the next she was killed, smothered and broken by the rocks.

    He had failed. Elliot wasn’t coming.

    She was dead.

    But he wasn’t.

    If falling to the center of the earth was the cost of rescuing his brother, then so be it.

    He was coming.

    Nothing was going to stop him this time.

    Nothing.

    1. Reaper

      I will say there are a few hads that should be cleaned up. Otherwise this is written really well. I’m not usually fond of what seem to be really realistic and detailed pieces (ala Tom Clancy) and yet this held my interest. You have enough story to make it fascinating and I think if your audience is the hyper realistic, give me details crowd you have hit the mark dead on.

    2. regisundertow

      Few spelling issues, nothing that can’t be fixed by an editing pass.
      It certainly has promise. There’s a lot of backstory you’re hinting at and, as Reaper mentioned, you do have a certain style. Not my personal cup of tea, but I did enjoy it once I got into its rhythm.

      1. Witt.Stanton

        Glad you liked it! I honestly have to start aiming for a 500 word count…next prompt will be 500 words or less. That’ll probably help. Thanks, again, for reading. 🙂

  36. DMelde

    Antony dreamed he stood in a world of white, where sky and earth were one. In the far distance he saw a yellow blur move rapidly towards him. As it approached the blur became the sleek, shiny curves of a taxicab. It drove up silently beside him, and Antony opened the back door and climbed inside.

    Inside sat a woman, as white as the world. Antony remembered her, Tatiana. She was crying and large white tears rolled down her face.

    “I-I’m s-sorry!” Tatiana sobbed. “I-I c-can’t make it this t-time.”

    Antony sat stunned. For twenty years he had lived without purpose, without his memories of her. He had always felt as if something was missing. Unquestionably smart, nothing in the world had ever interested him. He drifted from school to school, from job to job, and from woman to woman. He took Tatiana in his arms and he realized it was her that was missing from his life. She was his other half, his soul mate. With her he felt whole and alive. From the beginning of time they had shared so many lives together that he couldn’t imagine it any other way. Sitting arm in arm with Tatiana, Antony was at peace.

    “It’s okay.” He reassured her. “We’ll be together next time.” He said it with a gentle smile.

    She was inconsolable. She looked at him with such great sorrow in her eyes that Antony felt his heart break. They sat together, arm in arm, for a long time during which time stood still.

    Then, they felt the pull together. The mystery pulled at them to part. He would continue to live, and she would wait for him, until the next life when they would be together again. Antony left the cab and it drove off, until it faded from view. He stood for a long time watching, waiting, wanting it to reappear. The mystery pulled again and Antony woke up in his bed.

    Antony sat up and he started sobbing uncontrollably. She was the love of him, the largest part of him, and she was gone. The lonely world felt distant and unattached. He felt the earth pulled from beneath him. He was falling. He was all alone.

    1. Reaper

      Gorgeous DMelde. The fact that you set this as a dream right from the beginning allowed for that wonderfully surreal quality you had going through it. Between that and the ending you avoided the it was just a dream scenario and transform this into something that stands in a category all its own.

    2. regisundertow

      This has a very interesting premise. It burrowed into my head and wouldn’t leave. It was a sweet reincarnation story with a lot of possibilities to expand upon it.

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